Thursday, August 30, 2018

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 31-08-18

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

To be late for an appointment is rather careless, to say the least. To be late could mean that we don't really take care to be early for the appointment, or at least to be there on time.

And it may also mean that we don't take much into consideration how the other party feels about having to wait for us if we are late through our own fault.

More so if we have an appointment with someone of importance. All the more we will want to make sure that we will be ready and early for the appointment.

In the gospel parable, it was the bridegroom who was late. But it was the duty of the ten bridesmaids to wait for him.

The wise ones were careful to be prepared with extra oil for their lamps. The foolish and careless ones didn't consider the unexpected circumstance that the bridegroom would be late.

So to be wise is to be careful and to be ready for the unexpected. To be foolish is to be careless and not be bothered about unexpected situations. But whether wise or foolish, there are consequences for better or for worse, as the gospel parable tells us.

But to wise is not just about being careful and ready for whatever situations.

As St. Paul puts it in the 1st reading, wisdom is about understanding the cross as God's power to save.

The cross may look like foolishness, to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the Greeks madness, but to those who are called to faith, it is the power and wisdom of God.

It is not too late for us to understand the meaning of the cross, the power and wisdom that God grants through it, so that we will be careful and ready to meet the challenges of life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30-08-18

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

When we have to keep watch and stay awake especially when we are guarding something precious, it is a heavy responsibility.

In the military, if a soldier is caught sleeping while on guard duty, he will be severely punished.

But it is not that we have to stay awake and keep watch all the time. If we were to do that, fatigue will set in and we will lose attention.

But when it is our turn to keep watch and stay awake, then we have to be on alert and be responsible for the duration of our watch.

So when Jesus tells us to stay awake and be on alert, He is asking us to be on the watch as to when He is telling us something and wants us to get it done.

We see that watchfulness and alertness in the 1st reading as St. Paul says that he never stopped thanking God for all the graces that the Corinthians received  through Jesus Christ.

He kept thanking God for enriching the Corinthians with teachers and preachers and the strong witnessing to Christ by the Corinthians.

He further encourages them that God will keep them steady and without blame until the coming of Jesus Christ.

Learning from St. Paul, we know that by giving thanks constantly, we are already on the watch and alert for the coming of Jesus.

Let us be faithful and keep giving thanks and we will be rewarded by Jesus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Passion of St. John the Baptist, Wednesday, 29-08-18

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

It is easy to stand with the crowd, but it takes courage to stand alone.

Such can be said of St. John the Baptist. He had the courage to break away from his priestly heritage (his father Zechariah was a priest) and to go off into the wilderness to live a solitary life.

When his time came to carry out his mission, he was the lone voice crying out in the wilderness, calling the people to repentance and baptized those who repented.

Shortly after he had baptized Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist had denounced king Herod, telling him that it was unlawful to marry his brother's wife.

No one dared to point that out to cruel and unpredictable king Herod, for fear of their lives. No one but St. John the Baptist who had the courage to stand alone for it.

And in the end, it was because king Herod who wanted to be with the crowd that St. John the Baptist was innocently beheaded.

But in the end, it goes to show who was the coward and who had the courage.

There are many various situations in life that we rather not face. But courage doesn't mean that we are not afraid; rather it means we face what we fear or dislike.

And courage doesn't always roar. Often it is just that little voice telling us to try again.

May St. John the Baptist pray for us that we will face the difficult people and the difficult situations courageously, even if we have to stand alone for it.

Monday, August 27, 2018

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 28-08-18

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

When it comes to observing religious duties, we like things that are straight-forward.

We like to know when are the days of obligation, when are the days of fasting and what to eat and not to eat and how much or how little can we eat.

These religious observations are important as an expression of our faith, and we should know if we had done our religious duties that is required of us.

What is also important are religious duties that cannot be measured or that cannot be spelt out straight-forward.

And these are what Jesus pointed out in today's gospel passage - justice, mercy and good faith.

And that is when being a disciple of Jesus gets rather difficult.

Because there is no measure for justice when it is understood as a loving tolerance to those who have done us wrong.

There is no measure for mercy when it is understood as an act of kindness to those who make mistakes.

And there is no measure for faithfulness when it comes to keeping our word and loyalty to others.

Where the letter of the law end, the spirit of discipleship begins.

Let us observe what the Church teaches and yet may we also have the spirit of discipleship - justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-08-18

2 Thess 1:1-5, 11-12 / Matthew 23:13-22

People go to Church for many reasons. Besides going there to pray and to worship and thank the Lord, one of the things they would look for is good preaching.

And people would even go to different services in different churches just to hear something inspiring.

Which may be well and good. The question is, what happens after that is what really counts. After hearing the Good News of salvation, how do they respond?

In the 1st reading, St. Paul praised the Thessalonians for their response to the Good News of salvation.

They broke from idolatry and became servants of the living God, and they looked forward to the coming of Christ.

That was quite different from the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus was addressing to in the gospel.

They heard the Good News but what they did and how they acted were far from what it meant to be saved.

We have heard the Good News. It is not interesting news; it is not extraordinary news; it is not updated news.

It is the Good News of God's love for us, the Good News of salvation.

Let us act upon it, and then by the way we live our lives, others will believe we are saved.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 26.08.2018

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18 / Ephesians 5:21-32 / John 6:60-69
One of the things that make human beings unique from the rest of the other creatures is that we have logic and we also have emotions. In other words, we are rational as well as emotional.

Although we are rational and emotional beings, the relationship between logic and emotions are often inversely proportional. In other words, if we handle a situation logically, we are less likely to be affected emotionally. But when emotions run high, the logic goes way down and we can act illogically.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that what is cut and dry logical is devoid of anything emotional. An example could be this:
Wife: I have a bag full of used clothing that I would like to donate.
Husband: Why not just throw in the trash? That would be much easier.
Wife: But there are poor starving people who could really use all the clothing.
Husband: Look, anyone who can fit into your clothes is not starving.
(Husband is recovering from a head injury)

The conversation was logical and rational but somewhere emotions got involved. Now if something that is logical and rational can trigger the emotions, then something that is illogical and irrational will all the more disturb our emotions.

Not everyone is that logical and rational all the time, but everyone has emotions. In fact, our primary emotions can be put into the acronym H.A.S: Happy, Angry, Sad.

So, everyone HAS emotions.

And these emotions are stirred especially when we are confronted with something illogical and irrational.

And as we read the gospel, that is what seems to come across between Jesus and His listeners.

Jesus had been saying that He is the bread of life and that the bread He gives is His flesh for the life of the world.

His listeners began asking questions like: How can this man gives us his flesh to eat? They were not amused by it, on the contrary, they were confused by it and even angered by it and hence they said: This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?

Jesus was aware of it, but instead of quelling and resolving the situation, He prodded His listeners further with a provoking question: Does this upset you?

And in the end, many of His disciples left Him and stop going out with Him. They were certainly not happy with His intolerable language. They were angry and sad that it had to come to such an end.

If such intolerable language could cause such an upset, we can imagine the consequence of intolerable actions and behaviour.

Well, actually, there is no need to imagine. The recent reports of abuse by the clergy in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, USA has left many bitter, upset and angry.

It came out at a time when we thought that everything was flushed out and healing and reconciliation can begin, and then came this report. Is there any more reason needed to leave the Church?

Not only are the people of God hurt by what was stated in the report, the members of the clergy are also hurt, just that they can’t say or do anything about it and neither can they leave the Church although it is not impossible to do so.

But recently one priest wrote about his feelings and reflections about the repercussions of the reports and the following are excerpts from what Fr. Jonathan Slavinskas wrote:

Every morning when I put my collar on I pray for a deeper awareness of the great responsibility and magnitude of what it represents. I am aware of my sinfulness and unworthiness to even touch it. Some days more than others it should probably burn me.

Having been a high school and college student when the scandal first broke in the Northeast, I probably should have questioned my sanity on why I would move forward with a response of “yes.” Nonetheless, I knew the constant scrutiny and the shadow that would be cast. I knew firsthand the eyes of suspicion that would follow from the moment the title “Father” would be used. I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

As each year passed from the first initial reports, I felt as though healing had begun and the Church could move forward learning from the past and focusing on transmitting the light of Christ in a new way.

This week I have been walking around with a heavy heart. I have been completely angry and frustrated as a result of the Pennsylvania abuse reports and the McCarrick situation. My continual prayer has been with the victims. These feelings of disappointment and sadness have brought a feeling of paralysis. My honest questioning of “why stick around” has run through my head.

As each news story continues, my heart is torn more apart as I hear about the pain that was perpetrated. As a result of grave sin, the collar has become the complete opposite of what it is supposed to represent. As I walked around with the collar today, I wondered how many people had been keeping up-to-date with it all. How many people would glance at my collar and simply wonder, “Is this one too?”

This morning, I didn’t want to put my collar on. I was ashamed. I was tired. I was angry. I didn’t want to be painted with the same brush that it has now come to represent.
This morning, as I visited sick parishioners in the hospital, I walked by a room with a woman standing outside. As I continued to the elevator, she came from behind, asking if I was a Catholic priest. I was ready to take the hit... but as I turned and said “Yes,” with tears in her eyes, she asked if I would anoint her 50-something-year-old brother who was actively dying with cancer. No matter what I have thought about the collar these past few days, she saw it as a sign of hope and the presence of Christ. If I decided not to wear it, her brother would not have received the Sacrament he needed and her entire family might not have experienced a sense of comfort in Christ as we gathered in prayer around him.

The collar is not about me. It is about Jesus Christ. It is about us remembering that we are not journeying alone while in this world. Again, I am certainly unworthy to wear it, but I realize I’m called to wear it not for myself, but for the sake of others. As I put it on, I now must remember that I must fight harder and stronger to grow continually into a holy priest of God, being a bridge and not an obstacle.

Just some excerpts from Fr. Jonathan Slavinskas about how the scandal had affected the Church and him.

Yes what had happened was intolerable, we are upset, angry and sad. Is there any more reason to continue to stay with the Church?

We have logic and emotions, and with that we have to make decisions.

For Fr. Jonathan Slavinskas, he decided to stay. For Joshua in the 1st reading, and for Peter and the rest of the Twelve, they too decided to stay.

As for us, we know that the Church is not perfect, from the clergy to those in ministry, right down to the ordinary laity.

Yes, we know all that, we can even feel all that. But in the end, what is our decision?

Let us believe that the message of salvation and eternal life are still proclaimed by the Church, and let us stay on in the mission of healing and reconciliation.

Friday, August 24, 2018

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-08-18

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

The style of preaching by most Catholic priests, including myself, has always been the brunt of jokes.

Maybe that is because most of the time it is sober, monotonous and also quite straight-forward (not that dramatic).

The congregation is free to listen or do whatever they may choose to. But they are certainly not forced to do whatever that is being preached and neither are they cornered to go along with the crowd.

In fact, the positive side of the style of Catholic preaching is that the listener can have the freedom to think and reflect and decide.

Yet, whatever opinions there may be about the style of Catholic preaching, priests know that they have to preach the Good News, and not good suggestions or good advice or good opinions.

And the Good News is that where the Church is, there is the throne of God, there is the step on which He rests His feet, and it is there that God dwells with His people, as we heard in the 1st reading.

Hence good preaching by the priests should lead the people of God to live in peace and to love one another and to radiate joy and freedom.

Yet if Catholics feel that religious obligations are a burden and serving in Church is a means of self-glory and getting into the lime-light, then priests may have to ask themselves if they practise what they preached.

The cornerstone of good preaching is humility and service. Indeed to step on the pulpit and preach demands that the priest speaks as a humble servant of God.

Only then will people listen to what the priest has to say about the Good News.

Let us pray for priests that they will serve God and preach to His people with humility.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Friday, 24-08-18

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

In the Bible, the fig tree was a symbol of peace and prosperity. and it still is.

The fig tree has large leaves and it was the Jewish custom to sit under the shade of a fig tree and to meditate on the blessings of God.

So when Jesus said that He saw Nathanael (or Bartholomew) under the fig tree, He meant to say that He saw him meditating.

So what was Nathanael meditating about? Probably he was meditating on the blessings of God as well as on the promises of God, especially the promise of the coming of the Messiah.

In his encounter with Jesus, Nathanael saw in Jesus the One who could look into him, who could look into his heart, the One who could understand him, the One who could fulfill God's blessings for him.

And what Jesus can do and did for Nathanael, He also wants to do for us.

Jesus wants to bless us and give us peace and joy.

Let us prepare our hearts to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

Let us pray for a clean and pure so that we can offer our hearts worthily to Jesus our King and Lord.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-08-18

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

We have heard it said that love is many a splendored thing.

Indeed, it truly is, and every human heart longs for that many splendored love.

But the problem comes when the longing becomes a demand for love.

Demand for love makes it a terrible thing.

So love moves from beauty to tragedy when the demand comes in and that is where loving turns into hating.

Yet true love is indeed a many splendored thing when it comes from God.

That love is expressed in the 1st reading when God spoke to His people through the prophet Ezekiel: You shall be My people and I will be your God.

It is a self-giving love and it is also a love that makes no demands, but only invites others to give and to share in it.

Like the wedding banquet parable in the gospel, God does not force us to love Him.

He invites us to come to Him and be loved by Him and to be His people.

It is in God that we see that true love is indeed a many splendored thing.

May we learn to love as God has loved us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Queenship of the B.V. Mary, Wednesday, 22-08-18

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

Eight days ago, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

In the course of these eight days, the Church meditates deeper on the mystery of the Assumption, and on the Octave of the Assumption (8 days later) the Church concludes the reflection with the  celebration of the Queenship of Mary.

In short, it could be said that God assumed Mary into heaven to share the victory of Christ and to reign with Him in glory as Queen of Heaven.

So the proclamation and celebration of Mary's queenship in essence points to the Kingship of Christ.

In celebrating the queenship of Mary, we are also reminded that we are the Chosen people of God and we are also His royal children.

So as God's Chosen and royal people, all that we do and say must be geared towards giving glory to God.

Mary showed us how to do that in the gospel when she responded to God's call by accepting God's will.

In doing so, Mary gave us the concrete example of obedience in the form of servanthood.

We are not just the Chosen and royal people of God. We are also the Chosen and royal servants of Christ the King.

With Mary as our queen, let us offer ourselves in service to the Church, so that in all that we do and say, God will be glorified and exalted.

Monday, August 20, 2018

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-08-18

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

It is quite surprising and amazing how we easily accept society's way of segregating us into classes.

And we also subconsciously divide ourselves against each other.

For example, the one driving a bigger car would expect the one driving a smaller car to give way.

The ones who have more money will get better and faster treatment.

The 1st class passengers get to leave the plane first, just like the 1st class passengers were the first to leave the sinking Titanic.

Yes, all of us are equal, but some have made themselves like gods.

Such was the case of the king of Tyre in the 1st reading.

Such will also be our case if we don't watch our pride, because pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18), just like the impending tragedy that was to befall the king of Tyre.

And if we think that we can feel more secure by having more material possessions, then we will surely fall because we will trip over the stuff that we are dragging along.

We like to think that with a lot of material possessions, we can be first.

But as Jesus said in the gospel, those who are first will be last.

May Jesus always be the first in our lives so that we will know that we are all equal in His eyes.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-08-18

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

In the book of Job 1:21, there is this quote from Job: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

Job's tribulations began when all his possessions and children were taken away from him, and his response was rather stoic, although it was nonetheless a statement of faith.

Yes, we came into this world with nothing, and we will depart from this world with nothing. No matter how much or how little we possess, we can't take anything with us. We even have to leave our body behind.

That is the obvious truth and we face that reality day after day as we see death consume our loved ones and friends.

But even in life, what we possess for now may not be ours always. Our fortunes will change, our health will change, our relationships will change, either for better or for worse.

For the prophet Ezekiel, he was deprived suddenly of the delight of his eyes, in that his wife died suddenly. 

Ezekiel had to accept that as part of his mission as a prophet, as it will be a sign to his people of what God would be taking away from them so that they will learn that He is the Lord.

The rich young man in the gospel had yet to learn that whatever he possessed was given to him by the Lord. Whether he will eventually learn that he can't take all his wealth with him when he dies, we do not know.

But it is a point of reflection and a reminder for us. Naked we came from the womb, naked we will depart. Whatever we possess is given by the Lord and it must be used to do good.

The Lord is our only true treasure.  He is all that we ever want, He is all we ever need.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

20th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 19.08.2018

Proverbs 9:1-6 / Ephesians 5:15-20 / John 6:51-58
Ever since the earliest human beings uttered a sound from their mouths in order to express something, the art of communication was born.

And that art of communication is constantly evolving and refined, from the oral to the written, together with the tools of communication, like letters, telephone, emails and video-conferencing.

But even with modern and advanced means of communication, there are those perennial problems of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Although miscommunication and misunderstanding can be serious problems, there are also funny sides to it, like this one:

Wife asked her husband to give her the newspapers.
Husband: How backward you are! Technology has developed so much and you are still asking for the newspapers? Here, take my iPad.
Wife took the iPad and with it slammed it on a cockroach.
Husband fainted!
Moral: Whatever the wife ask, give her without arguing. Show your smartness in the office, not at home, otherwise there can be serious consequences.

Also, words may not be necessarily understood at face-value. When the mother or wife says “Fine”, better think again – it may not be that fine at all. 
Or when the boss says “Up to you”, it actually means that you better ask him, because it is up to him, not up to you.

So with all the complexities of miscommunication and misunderstanding, we may get an idea of what was going on between Jesus and His listeners in the gospel. Well, actually not what was going on, but more like what was going wrong.

For the past couple of Sundays, we heard Jesus saying that He is the bread of life. His listeners understood it as ordinary bread, though they would have wondered why Jesus calls Himself the bread of life.

But in today’s gospel, Jesus goes on to say that the bread that He shall give is His flesh for the life of the world, and that His flesh is real food and His blood real drink.

That really stumped His listeners and hence their objecting question: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat.” Yes, how can it be possible?

On the logical and rational level, there seems to be some kind of miscommunication and a lot of misunderstanding. As it is said, the longest distance between two people is misunderstanding.

But Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said, and both in the literal and mystical sense.

While His listeners understood the bread in the ordinary sense, Jesus was talking about His flesh as bread in the mystical sense.

Because human intelligence can only grasp that much about the bread that Jesus was talking about. It was a case of understanding a bit and misunderstanding a lot.

And that was why the listeners asked that question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They have come to the edge of the cliff of their understanding, and they can’t go further, and they won’t go further. They just cannot believe it.

But we believe, and hence we can understand what Jesus said about the bread that He gives is His flesh. And that’s why when we come forward at Holy Communion to receive the Body of Christ, we respond with an affirmative “Amen”. 

Yes, we believe that we are receiving the Body of Christ, we are receiving the flesh that is from the Heart of Christ.

But it is not just mere human intelligence and logical understanding that led us to believe. It is by the gift of faith and divine guidance that led us to believe.

And if we truly believe, then we would be coming for Mass every day to partake of this Divine Bread, so that our faith will be strengthened and we will let Divine Wisdom guide us to recognize the will of the Lord and to live our lives according to that will.

The will of God is that we come into communion with Him through Jesus our Bread of life, so that we can be in communion with the people around us.

But communion can only happen when we address the problems of miscommunication and misunderstanding. So we have to think before we talk. And there is a rather funny logical way to it:

If the person is junior to you, count to 10 and then talk.
If the person is equal to you, count to 30 and then talk.
If the person is your senior, count to 50 then talk.
But if the person is your mother or your wife, keep counting; better not talk.

The logical way is counting. But the mystical and spiritual way is praying.

And what better way to pray than to come for Mass daily.

When we believe that Jesus is our Bread of Life and when we come into communion with Him, we will live in Him and He in us.

Then we will be ready to face the miscommunications and misunderstandings of life and bring about an understanding and a communion.

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-08-18

Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13, 30-32 / Matthew 19:13-156

There is truth in the proverb quoted in the 1st reading: The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; and the children's teeth are set on edge.

The truth is that children learn from their parents, and in those Biblical times, the father is the head of the family and he sets the example and so naturally the children learn primarily from him.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said that this proverb will no longer have any reason to be repeated, because now, the man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.

So it will have to be a personal accountability, and no one can no longer say that he sinned because his father had sinned and the sin is passed down to him.

But as much as there must be a personal accountability, then fathers, as well as parents and teachers and those who have an influence over children must also be accountable for what they are teaching the children.

This accountability becomes greater and heavier when we read what Jesus said in the gospel about children: Let the little children come to me, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.

So let us be aware of what we teach to the little children. Our responsibility is to teach them the ways of the Lord and to show them God's love and mercy.

When we have fulfilled our responsibility, then it will be for them to be accountable when they come of age.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-08-18

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

We are familiar with the proverb "Great oaks grow from little acorns". Indeed, everything has a humble beginning.

Great cathedrals were once started from a single block of stone. If Rome wasn't build in a day, then everything will have to grow and be built day by day.

Humble beginnings must always be remembered, so that however glorious or whatever greatness is achieved, one won't get too proud or conceited.

In fact, as nature would show us, the taller the tree, the deeper the roots. The greater we become, the more we must remember how we began.

In the 1st reading, we read how God favoured His people and blessed them with abundance. But as the 1st reading tells us, they became infatuated with their own beauty. Their vanity made them think that it was all their own achievement and that also made them turn away from God and turn to the other nations for more wealth and fame.

They forgot that it was God who provided for them and it was His blessings that made them famous and prosperous.

Because they forgot their humble beginnings, God treated them as they deserved - they were covered with shame and reduced to silence. They were humbled so that they can remember the covenant that God made with them and turn back to Him.

Similarly for us, in whatever state of life, we must remember our humble beginnings and remember that it is God who brought us to this blessed moment.

So whether in marriage, or as a single, or as a religious or priest, minor or governor, peasant or president, let us continue to turn to the Lord our God for His blessings and guidance in life.

It is God who will make us great and prosperous; we just need to be humble and remember our humble beginnings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-08-18

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

It is very humiliating when others treat you as some kind of commodity. It is not just humiliation but also a total disregard for the human dignity and for the human person.

When we are treated as a commodity, it means that we can be bought and sold for a price and the owner can do whatever he wants with us.

In other words, it means that we are not human beings; we are just things that are to be used and when we are of no use, we can be thrown away.

When Jesus told the parable of the servant who owned an enormous amount of money, the king had intended for him and his family to be sold in order to pay the debt.

That servant was treated as a thing but when he pleaded for mercy, the king cancelled his debt and treated him as a human being.

Well, that servant ought to have treated his fellow servant who owed him a much lesser amount, with the same dignity that the king treated him.

It has been often said that to forgive is divine; yet to forgive is also human.

Yet when we don't forgive, we become less human, if not inhumane.

And when we take forgiveness for granted, then we will become like the people in the 1st reading.

They took God's mercy and forgiveness for granted and hence they were exiled and were treated like things and not like human beings.

As we are forgiven, so too must we forgive, if we want to live and be treated as human beings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Assumption of the BVM 2018, Wednesday, 15-08-18

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

Last Monday, the 13th August, we had our usual monthly Rosary at Mary’s shrine.

The turnout was more than usual because the Inquirers from the RCIA journey were invited to see for themselves what the monthly Rosary is all about.

They had begun the journey in early July so it is only slightly more than a month that they had been coming to the Church, and they are still not that familiar with the practices of the Catholic Church.

So for some of them, if not all of them, the Rosary at Mary’s shrine was probably their first encounter of such a practice.

They would have their queries, like, “Why are Catholics praying to a statue? Is it a deity?”or “Who is this Mary? Is she the Mother goddess or what?”

Of course all their queries were addressed or will be addressed along the way. But it would be difficult to explain the feast of the Assumption to them.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. But it was only in 1950, 15th August, that Pope Pius XII officially declared Mary’s Assumption as an article of faith.

In other words, the Church has boldly declared that Mary is in heaven, body and soul, a declaration that is definite and irreversible. It was a declaration not just on the authority of the Church but also under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

With this declaration, our faith in the saving power of God is reinforced. Mary is the first to be saved by the saving work of Jesus, and the first to enter heaven body and soul, hence assuring us that we too will join her one day, and that would be at the resurrection on the Last Day.

At the same time, our faith in Mary’s intercession is also reinforced, because from heaven she continues to pray for us as our Heavenly Mother, a mission that she received at the foot of the cross and that she continues even in heaven.

Mary is not a goddess or a deity. She needs to be saved by Jesus and in her Assumption, God is showing us that Mary has received the fullness of salvation.

And let us also pray with her for the salvation of all peoples. That’s what the Assumption means for us. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 14-08-18

Ezekiel 2:8 - 3:4 / Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

The prophet Ezekiel was one of the 3000 upper class Jews who were exiled in Babylon in the year 597BC.

It was while he was in Babylon that he started to have visions and gave prophetic insights.

One of which was about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586BC.

Of course, at that time, the people were just too obstinate to accept Ezekiel's prophesies, especially those who were exiled in Babylon.

Because the Temple was still standing then, they thought that God will bring them back. They would never had expected to die in a foreign land.

Yet, as we heard in the 1st reading, what Ezekiel saw written on the scroll was clearly an indication of what was to come - "lamentations, wailings, moanings".

If only they had not been so stubborn and obstinate, they might have been spared; if only they had hearts like little children, they might have listened.

Indeed, children are sensitive enough to sense the seriousness of a warning and they will follow as they were told.

Yes, we need to have the simplicity and also the sensitivity of children in order to hear and understand and act on the promptings of the Lord.

As Psalm 8:2 would put it - From the mouths of children and of babes, You have found praise to foil the enemy and the foe.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 13-08-18

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

Tilapia is one of the three main types of fish caught in Biblical times from the Sea of Galilee. At that time they were called "musht, or commonly now even "St. Peter's fish". 

The name "St. Peter's fish" comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish.

And if we go on a tour to the Sea of Galilee, then one of the items in the itinerary would be a meal of the fish at one of the restaurants by the Sea of Galilee.

It is a common fish, but it became the means of solving a sticky problem between the tax-collectors and Jesus, with Peter being stuck in the middle. 

The fish that he caught that had a coin in its mouth resolved the problem. It was so ordinary and yet so amazing.

Whereas the vision of Ezekiel in the 1st reading was so astounding and awesome with the glory of the Lord shown in majesty and splendour.

But for most of us living an ordinary life and being ordinary people, that kind of vision would be almost out of the question.

Yet God will still reveal Himself in the ordinary situations in our lives and in the ordinary people around us.

So when we meet with a problem, let us remember that it was a fish that solved the problem for Peter.

And God will give the solution to our problems through very ordinary things.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

19th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 12.08.2018

1 Kings 19:4-8 / Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2 / John 6:41-51
Human beings have very simple and basic needs, and they are food, clothing, and shelter. When these needs are met, then the next level of needs come in and they are security, achievement and affection. And then finally it could be self-fulfillment and contentment. That’s a simple way to put it.

Understood in that way, the very basic needs in life is to have something to eat, something to wear and somewhere to go back to. Generally speaking, we all have that, so it can be said that our basic needs in life are met.

When these basic needs are met, then comes the longing and yearning for security and comfort, for achievement and success, for affection and love.

Come to think of it, the Singapore National Pledge has elements to these when it says: “to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.”

So in life, we must know what the essential and primary needs are. When these needs are met, then we can be happy and contented and we will begin to realise who we are and understand the meaning of life.

So we know and understand the basic and essential needs of life and that will enable us to find happiness and fulfillment in our lives.

What is not so easy is to understand is this desire for more, this feeling of not having enough, and not being enough. As much as this “not enough” may drive us to strive for more, yet we must also be careful that it does not draw us down the slippery slope of greed and selfishness.

But in the 1st reading, we read that the prophet Elijah said this: Lord, I have had enough. Take my life.

Certainly, it was not because he was feeling contented, that he had enough, and so he wants to go back to the Lord.

On the contrary, he had no food, no shelter, no safety as the troops were hunting for him. As a prophet, he had his success – he worked miracles, he stopped the rain for 3 and a half years, he called down fire from heaven in his victory over the false prophets.

But now, being stripped of everything, except his clothing, and in danger of losing his life, he cried out to the Lord, “I have had enough”. With no meaning and direction, with no safety and security, with nothing left, then it would be better to end it all. 

So he sat under the furze bush and he wished he was dead. He went to sleep and maybe wishing that he won’t wake up.

But an angel came along with bread and water woke him up and told him to eat. He ate but then he went back to sleep again. But the angel woke him up again and told him to eat and drink and get moving.

So he got up, ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he made that 40-day journey to Horeb, the mountain of God, where he will experience the power and might of God, and regain his direction and mission as the prophet of God.

When Elijah thought of ending it all, God provided him with a simple meal of bread and water and that was enough for him to get up and get going.

So if that simple bread and water was enough for Elijah, then what will it be to make us know that we will have enough and that there is nothing more we shall want?

Jesus tells us in the gospel that He is the living bread that has come down from heaven. He even says “I am the bread of life” and “anyone who eats this bread will live forever”, and “everybody who believes this will have eternal life”.

Now isn’t that more than enough? When we come up for Holy Communion, we partake of this living bread from heaven, this bread of life, and if we believe, we will have eternal life and live forever.

But that is if we believe. So do we truly believe? Because if we do, then we will also know that all our needs are fulfilled and we too would want to tell others about this living bread, this bread of life.

And the meaning and directions of our lives would also be clear, as we know where we are heading towards and who we are heading towards. 

There is this story of a student who came before a holy man and asked him to pray for him for good exam results.

The holy man replied, “Sure, I will pray for you for good results. When you get the good results, then what?”

“Then I will go to the university.”
“Then what?”
“Then I will study hard and get a good degree.”
“Then what?”
“Then I will look for a good job with a good pay.”
“Then what?”
“Then I will work hard and get promoted.”
“Then what?”
“Then I will get married and have children.”
“Then what?”
“Then I will save up for my retirement and enjoy life.”
“Then what?”
“And then … and then …”

So when our physical and material needs are fulfilled and we have enough in life, can we truly say that we are contented and happy with life?

Jesus says that He is the living bread which has come down from heaven, that He is the bread of life.

So even if we have enough in life, or when we, like Elijah, feel like shouting “I have had enough!”, Jesus will come to us offering us the bread of life.

This is the only bread that will give us the strength to journey from this life to eternal life.

Let us receive worthily this bread from heaven, and let us also tell others about this bread of life.