Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Saints, Thursday, 01-11-18

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

There is no doubt that everybody wants to be happy in life. Though we know that there is eternal happiness in heaven, yet we also wish for happiness in this life.

So when we are asked if we are happy with life, it will depend on how we are feeling at that point.

So happiness, in the common understanding, can mean lucky, favoured by fortune, being in advantageous circumstances, prosperous, of events turning out well.

But in the biblical sense, happiness is understood as a blessing. So the gospel passage can be read as "blessed are the poor in spirit", "blessed the gentle", "blessed the merciful".

Today as the Church celebrates the feast of All Saints, we look at the Saints celebrating eternal happiness in heaven.

But we are also reminded that when they were in this world, they chose to see every experience, event, situation, circumstance as a blessing from God.

For the saints, there were no blessings in disguise. Everything is a blessing. And because everything is a blessing, they already experienced happiness on earth and at the same time they long for that eternal happiness in heaven, and that eternal happiness is to see God face to face and be in His presence forever.

That is the ultimate blessing for the saints. Because they saw themselves as children of God, and they believed that Jesus promised them blessings when they live by His teachings, they inherited their eternal blessings.

Jesus also promised us the same blessings. God has called us to be His children and He bestows His blessings on us even in this life.

Let us see every experience, event, situation, circumstance as a blessing, let us give thanks to God, and we will be happy in this life as well as in the next.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 31-10-18

Ephesians 6:1-9 / Luke 13:22-30

In a written exam, usually there is the question and the answers are marked according to how well the question is answered.

If we think that is difficult, then how about the other way round - the answer is stated, and we have to provide an appropriate question for it.

That may be more difficult, because very often finding the right question is more difficult than finding the right answer.

In the gospel, we heard about someone asking Jesus this question: Will there be only a few saved?

And from the answer Jesus gave, we know that the question needs some rethinking.

Jesus only said what kind of people will be there.

In other words it is those who dedicate themselves to the Kingdom of God who will be in heaven.

The 1st reading also stated a particular group of people who will be saved.

They are children who are obedient and honour their parents.

It even highlighted that it is a commandment that has a promise attached to it.

So the answers to salvation and eternal life can be found in the Bible.

It is for us now to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to do with the answers that we have.

Because the answer is as important as the question.

Monday, October 29, 2018

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-10-18

Ephesians 5:21-33 / Luke 13:18-21

All things on this earth, living or otherwise, follow and adhere to the law of nature. It is this law of nature that gives order and even beauty to creation.

But if this law of nature is not followed, then the result would be chaos and confusion.

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If it does otherwise  and rises in whichever direction it wants or decides to stop whenever it wishes, then there will be total disorder.

Similarly, if mountains decide to move and trees decide to uproot and move about, we dare not think how to live in this world any more.

Hence when Jesus talked about the kingdom of God and used the imagery of a mustard seed and yeast, He is also saying all creation submits to God's law of nature and with that there is order and beauty in creation.

That is also a remind for us, who are endowed with intellect and will, that when we follow the laws of life that God had given us then there will also be order and beauty in our lives.

Yet, by our freewill and freedom of  choice, we determine whether there will be order or disorder, beauty or tragedy in our lives.

Hence the first line of the 1st reading tells us what should be our rule of life - Give way to one another in obedience to Christ.

Yes, it is in obedience to Christ and His law of love that we humble ourselves and let others go before and ahead of us and even above us.

That is the law of life; that is the law of love; let us follow it and there will be order and beauty in our lives.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 29-10-18

Ephesians 4:12 - 5:8 / Luke 13:10-17

To have a good posture, the back needs to be straight and the head held up and looking straight.

So if we find ourselves always looking at the ground or the floor, it means we need some straightening up. Also we can't be looking straight and yet being hunched.

In the gospel, we hear of a woman who was bent double. It is difficult to imagine what being bent double is.

But whatever it is, it can be quite certain that for that woman to look straight it would take a lot of effort. Needless to say, for her to look up is almost like impossible.

So for eighteen long years, that woman was in that kind of condition. Inevitably people would avoid her because of this appearance and some would think that it was some kind of spiritual affliction.

But despite all this suffering, the woman still kept her faith. She was there at the synagogue where Jesus was preaching.

Jesus saw her, and also saw her faith despite her suffering, and He healed her. And at once she straightened up and she glorified God.

We may not be bent double and we may even have a good posture. But at time, the troubles of life make our eyes look down and we see nothing more than our troubles.

But like the woman in the gospel, let us keep our faith in God and keep believing that Jesus will lift up our eyes and our hearts to see the wonders of God.

And may we also help others to lift up their eyes and hearts to God. More than just a good posture, we need a strong faith to keep hoping and believing and help others to hope and believe in the saving and healing love of Jesus.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

30th Sunday, Year B, 28.10.2018

Jeremiah 31:7-9 / Hebrews 5:1-6 / Mark 10:46-52

Words that that have similar meanings are call synonyms. Sometimes they are called related words.

Though they may have similar meanings and may be related in some way, they also have distinct meanings when it comes to usage and understanding.

For example, the words “light” and “bright” have similar meanings and may be related in some way. But a bright picture does not mean that there is a light shining from it. Similarly a bright tone of an instrument has nothing to do with the brightness of a light.

The same can be said of quiet and silent. A quiet person may mean that a person is pensive and thinking about things but may not be silent about everything.

And it is said that there is a big difference between a quiet woman and a silent woman. A quiet woman is a wonder. A silent woman is a time-bomb. When the mother or wife is silent, we better wonder why.

In the gospel, we hear of a man who may come across as a quiet and a silent person. And we can even wonder at this person.

He has a name, yet it is not a name. The gospel says that he is called Bartimaeus, but it is quick to clarify that it means “son of Timaeus”. So what is the name of the son of Timaeus, we are not told; just that he was called Bartimaeus.

He has no name, and he has no sight – he is blind. And he is a beggar. So Bartimaeus is quite a poor thing – he has no identity, no faculty, and he is in poverty.

Going by Social Economic Status (SES) Bartimaeus is really at the bottom. He has no say in things, and he can be called a quiet and silent person, as he spends his time thinking about how unfortunate and desperate his life is, but there is no one who would listen to him.

But when Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing that way, he began to shout and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”

But when he was told by the crowd to keep quiet, i.e. to shut-up, he shouted all the louder.

The crowd was irritated by his shouting, so they weren’t listening to what he was shouting out, nor did they see the meaning of what is happening.

Bartimaeus, who has no identity, no faculty and living in poverty, meaning to say, a “nobody’ with nothing to offer, was given a revelation of who Jesus is.

Jesus has a name and He has a background – Jesus of Nazareth. He also has a mystical title – Son of David. And He is the one who will look with pity on the poor, the desperate, the helpless and the hopeless, people like Bartimaeus.

The crowd didn’t catch, the crowd didn’t see it, and in their irritation, they only want to silence Bartimaeus.

But Jesus heard it, Jesus saw it, and things are going to change for Bartimaeus.

As we reflect on the gospel passage, we may find ourselves identifying with the crowd. Often, our irritation and frustration blinds us to see and hear the needs of others, and we silence the deeper meanings of the situations and experiences of our lives.

A 40-year-old man visited his old father who could no longer see very well.  As both of them sat in front of the father’s house, a dove flew in and perched on the window.
The old man asked his son, "Is that a dove that perched on the window?". The son replied, "Yes dad".     
After a short while, he asked the son the same question a second time and got the same answer. 

When he asked the same question the third time, his son became angry and rebuked him saying, "This is why I hate visiting you, you keep repeating questions!"

The old man was silent for a while, and then he asked his son to go into his bedroom and fetch his old diary. The son did as he requested. Then he asked him to read page 2 of the diary. The words read:
"My son is 3 years old today. As we sat in front of the house playing, a dove flew in and perched on the window. My son asked me 30 times if it was a dove. I gladly replied "yes" to each question. I cannot explain in words how happy I am that my son has learned to talk. What a wonderful day to remember!"

The man held the diary and stared at it, and was quiet and silent, and then he apologized to his father.
The old man spoke again, "Enough son, one mistake cannot make you less a man, but repeating the same mistake over and over again can kill any man. I've chosen today to teach you the final lesson before I depart from this world. The lesson for today is “Patience”. Always be kind and considerate to the less privileged, this is how you'll stand out in eternity. Be nice to everyone on your way up, you'll definitely meet them again on your way down!"

So the person we looked down on today may turn out to be the person we need tomorrow. Let’s learn to walk in patience and understand each other even in adverse conditions.

If the crowd had succeeded in silencing Bartimaeus, then we would never have heard of that revelation: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.

It is a revelation that is meant for our reflection and meditation.

When we know who Jesus is, then we will know who we are, and we will look to the Lord Jesus for mercy, and we will also look with pity on the poor, the desperate, the helpless and the hopeless, people who are like Bartimaeus. They are always around, if only we look and listen to them.

Friday, October 26, 2018

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-10-18

Ephesians 4:7-16 / Luke 13:1-9

As we look at our world, we may notice a certain disparity.

There are the first world countries, i.e. the developed countries, and then there are the developing countries, and then there are the third world countries.

Some people have come up with this weird idea  that God had blessed the first world countries and left out the underdeveloped countries.

Maybe that idea is implicitly connected to the age-old thinking that misfortune has a certain connection with sin.

It is because of this sin that a person or a nation forfeits God's blessings.

In today's gospel passage, Jesus out-rightly rejects this sort of thinking.

Yet Jesus went on to say that if His listeners do not repent, then they too will perish.

In other words, a person or a nation that rebels against God is on the road to disaster.

Even for our nation, we may have come this far because of a strong pragmatic direction and determination.

Yet we also cannot deny that God has blessed our nation with progress and stability.

Hence we have to always look back at the spiritual values of faith and morality.

For us Catholics, the urgency is even greater.

As the 1st reading puts it, each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.

We should not be tossed one way or another and carried along by every wind of false teaching or deceit.

Rather we should live by the truth and in love so that we shall grow in all ways into Christ.

May Christ be our only way and our only goal.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-10-18

Ephesians 4:1-6 / Luke 12:54-59

There is a song with the opening lines that goes like this :
"I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows."

In a way, that is a good reminder for an awareness of the things we see around us.

We may have seen flowers and lighted candles, sunrise and sunset, and we just pass them by without thinking or reflecting.

We may have also seen many other things and passed them by without reflecting and wondering.

We have seen wars, violence, oppression, injustice, poverty, death and we just pass them by. 

We are numbed by it and have become numbed to it.

Or we have seen a smile, a helping hand, care and compassion and understanding, and we have also become indifferent to it.

Jesus is reminding us to look, to observe and to reflect on the signs in our lives and then to act on it.

May this prayer of St. Francis help us in our reflection : 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-10-18

Ephesians 3:14-21 / Luke 12:49-53

Very often when we want to settle a problem quickly, we tend to look for compromising solutions or the easy way out.

So in order to handle a problematic child, we tend to give things and money instead of spending time with the child and trying to understand the real needs of the child.

And when we see something not right being done, we tend to look away and pretend not to see.

We tend to play-safe and not to get involved, as long as it does not concern us.

Even if it does concern us, we will want to protect ourselves first.

But that was not what Jesus did.

Jesus knew what His Father wanted Him to do and say, and He was committed to His mission.

Jesus did not want to have conflicts. In fact, he came to gather people into the peace of God's kingdom.

But when conflicts and oppositions came, He refused to compromise.

For Jesus, there are no play-safe and guarded options or messages.

He was on fire for love and truth, for righteousness and justice.

If we are to follow Jesus, then we too must be prepared for conflicts and oppositions whenever they arise.

Yet the first conflict and opposition will come from within ourselves.

We have to be prepared to go through the fire that Jesus brings so that we will burn away the option of compromising solutions and the easy way out.

Only then will we understand the freedom and peace of living in the truth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 24-10-18

Ephesians 3:2-12 / Luke 12:39-48

We all know how unpleasant and frustrating it is to wait for someone or for something.

We just have to remember the last time we missed the bus or the train, and we have to spend the unproductive time waiting for the next one to come.

Or if the delivery person or the repair-man tells us that he will come between a certain time.

We may have no other choice than to just sit around and wait.

Not only can it be boring, the time is like wasted away.

Yet as much as we don't like to wait, let us also realize that the Lord is waiting for us.

He is waiting for us to respond to His promptings and to use the gifts and talents that He has bestowed upon us to reach out and serve others.

There is always someone waiting for us to help them in their troubles, to show love and care, to listen and to share.

In the 1st reading, we knew why St. Paul was so zealous and fervent about his mission.

Because he knew that what was entrusted to him was a gift of grace from God.

He knew that much was entrusted to him and much was also expected from him.

The Lord has entrusted us with His love. May we not wait any longer to put His love into action.

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-10-18

Ephesians 2:12-22 / Luke 12:35-38

We usually like to be notified in advance if someone wants to pay us a visit.

Then we will tidy up our house or office and prepare something to welcome and entertain our guests.

But if someone visits us without prior notice, then we may be caught in an inconvenient or untimely situation.

But for those servants in the gospel passage, they knew that their master will return from the wedding feast, just that they did not know when would it be.

Jesus is telling us to be ready and alert always and He will visit us in the form of persons whom we don't usually pay much attention to or whom we don't usually have time for.

We must be ready and alert and be aware that it is in such persons and situations that Jesus is paying us a gracious visit.

Because whenever Jesus pays us a visit, it is always a visit that comes along with His blessings of love and peace and joy.

It may be at an inconvenient and unexpected time, but it will always be a God-filled and blessed moment.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 22-10-18

Ephesians 2:1-10 / Luke 12:13-21

It can be said that life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, without realizing that everyone has a different question paper.

Who among us can say that we never desired to be richer, higher and have more.

We get these desires not out of nowhere, but from looking at others and then wanting to get what they have and even be who they are.

In the gospel, Jesus has a teaching for us that will help us in looking at life when He says: Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man's wealth is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs.

Then He tells a parable about a rich man who had a bountiful harvest and made plans for securing his future with his wealth.

And he was called a "fool" because he thought that his wealth was the security for his soul, without realizing that his wealth may belong to him but his soul belongs to God.

We can say that the rich man failed in the exam of life because he was foolish enough to think that his wealth can save him.

But as the 1st reading will remind us, that is by the grace of Jesus Christ that we have been saved through faith. Not by anything of our own, but by a gift from God. Not by anything that we have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.

Let us not be so foolish as to fail in the exam of life. We must realize that there is no greater wealth in this world than peace of mind and that God loves us with so much love and He is so generous with His mercy that He has already given us a place in heaven.

We only need to be grateful and thankful to pass the exam of life.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mission Sunday, Year B, 21.10.2018

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Ephesians 3:2-12 / Mark 16:15-20
It can be presumed that if someone wears a cross, that person could be a Christian or at least know the meaning of the cross.

But of course, that presumption does not apply to those who wear the cross like some kind of ornament or decoration and say and do things that do not reflect or have no connection of being a Christian.

No doubt about it, the cross is the profound sign of Christianity and of being a Christian.

But apart from the Christians, we would be able to pick out the Catholics quite easily. Because more than just the cross, some Catholics would wear rosary bracelets, rosary rings and also medals.

And talking about medals, there is a variety to choose from: Jesus, Mary, St. Christopher…

One popular medal is the St Benedict’s medal. Not only the religious article shops would have it, even the goldsmith shops have it. It goes to show how popular the St Benedict’s medal is, and we can see why.
The two sides of the medal are quite elaborate. One side has the cross with Latin inscriptions that are invocations for protection against evil. Maybe that’s why it is so popular.

The other side has a figure of St Benedict, in which he holds the book of the monastic rule on one hand and the cross on the other.

Then there are two other minor but interesting details. On one side of the figure of St Benedict, there is a raven carrying off a loaf of bread. On the other side of the figure of St Benedict is a cracked cup with a snake coming out of it.

The story is that some evil people wanted to kill St. Benedict so they poisoned his bread and wine. But when St Benedict made the sign of cross over the poisoned bread and wine that he was about to consume, a raven flew in and carried off the bread and the cup cracked. Then he realized that his food was poisoned.

That story brings us to what Jesus said in the gospel when He summoned His disciples to go out to the whole world to proclaim the Good News to all creation.

He talked about the signs that will be associated with believers – they will cast out devils, have the gift of tongues, pick up snakes in their hands, be unharmed should they drink deadly poison, lay their hands on the sick who will recover.

What Jesus said can be taken literally or figuratively as well as spiritually. But in whichever way we want to take it, the emphasis is on the signs that will be associated with believers.

In short, as Jesus sent His disciples to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News, He is also saying that there will be snares and dangers, but there also will be signs and wonders.

The purpose of these signs and wonders is to confirm the message of the Good News. Though there are snares and dangers, but Jesus is the Saviour and His saving power will prevail over evil.

But if we are wondering where are these signs and wonders today, then maybe it is also an occasion to ask ourselves, if we are proclaiming the Good News actively and courageously.

Because we are the most profound sign of the Good News. The purpose of Mission Sunday is to awaken us to our mission to be the Good News even in the face of indifference and opposition, and then we will see the signs.

Earlier on we heard about St. Benedict who led a holy life and led people to God, and though evil people tried to kill him, God protected him from harm.

Another interesting story is about Pope Leo the Great and Attila the Hun. One of the greatest threats to Europe during the 5th Century came from Eastern Asia. The Huns led by Attila had swept through Asia and in the year 452 was on the verge of invading Italy. 

The Huns were savage and barbaric in every aspect, killing men, women and children, plundering, sacking and destroying. Attila the Hun was especially and utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering and famous for ripping apart his enemies and drinking their blood.

Rome which was then the seat of the crumbling Roman empire waited in helpless terror for utter destruction. The pope at that time, Pope Leo, knew he had to defend his flock and so he decided to go and meet Attila the Hun at the risk of his life and try to negotiate for peace.

Before he set off, Pope Leo prayed to Jesus for help in this desperate and dangerous situation. And with that, the venerable and simple old man went forth to meet the merciless young destroyer who only knew how to kill and plunder.

It was a tense meeting as the Pope pleaded with Attila to stop the bloodshed and spare Rome and the innocent people, and at the same time wondering when he was going to lose his life.

Then in a spectacular and surprising turn of events, Attila ordered his army to stop attacking and return to their base camp.

Many speculations were offered for this sudden and unexpected change in Attila the Hun. Could it be that a sum of money was given to him to stop him from attacking? Or could it be that his army was short of supplies and worn out, and also there was a famine and plague in Italy at that time?

But another story has it that when Attila’s servants asked him why he suddenly changed his mind, he told them this: While the Pope was talking to him, there appeared above the Pope’s head, two figures with drawn swords, and they seemed to threatened to kill Attila unless he consented to do as Pope Leo had requested. Those two figures were said to be St. Peter and St. Paul.

Well, the fact was that Attila and his savage hordes turned back and Rome was saved at the mitigation of Pope Leo. The interesting point in all this is that although Pope Leo knew that he could lose his life, he also believed in the power of prayer and the saving power of Jesus. And that was enough for Pope Leo to stop Attila the Hun.

The month of October is a dedicated month of prayer, especially the prayer of the Rosary, and Pope Francis has called for a “Special Prayer Campaign for the Church” for protection from the attacks of the devil and for forgiveness and healing for the sins of the Church.

Let prayer be our mission and let prayer also lead us into mission. May we also be signs of the Good News and may we also be the signs and wonders of the saving love of Jesus.

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-10-18

Ephesians 1:15-23 / Luke 12:8-12

The term blasphemy may be generally defined as anything from defiant irreverence to intentional sacrilegious acts .

Hence it can mean acts like cursing God or wilfully degrading things relating to God.

It can also be attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good that should be attributed to Him.

Yet we believe that God is love and forgiveness and He will forgive us even if we had committed the most heinous sin.

So what did Jesus mean when He said that "he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven"?

The purpose of this phrase was to strengthen the disciples in the face of persecution and to deter them from falling into apostasy (giving up the faith) out of cowardice or doubt.

It was also meant as an admonition - a sin can only be unforgivable if repentance is impossible.

So in other words, it is not whether God will forgive; it is a question of whether we want to repent or not.

Because along with repentance is also the trust in God's love and mercy and forgiveness.

To be able to declare that is to stand before others and witness to God and all that He has done for us.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-10-18

Ephesians 1:11-14 / Luke 12:1-7

When we can understand what hypocrisy really is,  then we may also realize that it  is not a private affair.

Because the hypocrisy of the individual affects other people and it also distorts the opinion and impression of others.

Hypocrisy not only comes in many disguises; it needs many disguises.

For example, indifference or contempt may masquerade as innocence when we say "I don't know"

Legality wears the makeup of legitimacy when it is stated that abortion is legal.

Opportunism puts on the apparel of kindness to cover up ulterior motives and vested interests.

But hypocrisy can only survive as long as there is fear.

Jesus tells us in today's gospel not to fear because fear causes anxiety and unrest.

Fear also makes us blind and we can't see our self-worth before God, and it blocks us from receiving God's love.

Let us offer our fears, our anxieties and worries to the Lord, so that what is covered will be uncovered and what is hidden will be made clear.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

St. Luke, Evangelist, Thursday, 18-10-18

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

To serve God by proclaiming the Good News is never an easy task.

From the 1st reading, we get to see that St. Paul had to struggle and endure a difficult time.

His band of co-workers had split up and some had even gone against him.

His only consolation was that St. Luke was with him, and he made it a point to say it.

From the few occasions that St. Paul mentioned him as his beloved physician, and from what St. Luke wrote in the Gospel and in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we get to see what the person of St. Luke was like.

He was a committed friend of St. Paul, and he paid special attention to those that were forgotten or pushed aside by society.

He wrote about Jesus reaching out to the poor, the lowly, the outcasts, the sinners and women.

What he knew about Jesus, he wrote it in his gospel, and he certainly carried out in his life.

His commitment to St. Paul in his time of need bore witness to that.

As we read the gospel according to St. Luke and meditate on it, a challenge is also awaiting us.

We too have to write another account of Jesus.

It is going to be an account that is not written in words but in actions for all to see.

From that gospel of our lives, others will be able to see who Jesus is.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 17-10-18

Galatians 5:18-25 / Luke 11:42-46

For those of us who have "green fingers" and like to plant things and have some space around the home to do so, then we would know about creepers and climbers.

Creepers are plants with weak stems that cannot stand upright and spread on the ground. Examples are pumpkins, watermelon and sweet potato.

Climbers are plants with weak stems and they would need the support of a stick or a fence. Examples are grapevine, money-plant and cucumber.

If we had grown cucumbers before, then we will notice, as well as be amazed, how the "branches" seem to "know" where the supports are and reach out for it slowly. It seems like those "branches" have "eyes".

The 1st reading tells us that if we are led by the Spirit, then we will experience the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And surely we want those gifts. But we must also reach out to the Spirit in order to be led by the Spirit.

But we also know that our hearts have the "eyes" to know where the Spirit is leading us to and what the Spirit wants of us.

And the 1st reading also tells us that in order to reach out and to be led by the Spirit, then we have to crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

If the climber plants "know" how to "look" for support and growth, then let us look to the Holy Spirit and let our hearts be directed by the Holy Spirit and grow in the love of God.

Monday, October 15, 2018

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 16-10-18

Galatians 5:1-6 / Luke 11:37-41

Different cultures use different cutlery or eating utensils for eating and serving food. Also the crockery may differ in shape and size and material.

So usually, Western food is eaten with forks and spoons and knives and Chinese food is eaten with chopsticks and bowls.

But even if we try to eat steak with chopsticks, it may not be very gracious, but nonetheless, it can be done.

Because in the end, it is the food that is to be eaten and not what we use to eat it. The cutlery or the eating utensils and the crockery is not that important in relation to the food.

In the gospel, the Pharisee was surprised that Jesus had not first washed before the meal, and obviously the Pharisee showed his disapproval, and Jesus noticed it.

But Jesus used this occasion to teach about religious observations and customs.  If religious observations and customs do not purify and sanctify, then we are just concerned about the externals.

And Jesus also tells us this: Give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.

Jesus highlights the act of almsgiving, that when done out of love, has the power to purify our hearts.

As we heard in the 1st reading, what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

Let our almsgiving be done out of love for God and neighbour, and our hearts will also be cleansed.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 15-10-18

Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31 - 5:1 / Luke 11:29-32

As human beings, we desire for independence and freedom. Even as babies, we would want to take the first step on our own towards whatever direction we want to go.

And with that we want to experience the freedom that we gain from our independence.

Yet if independence and freedom is understood in a warped way, then it would result in warped actions.

Because with independence and freedom comes greater responsibility and accountability. There will be no one to fight your battles for you and you can't push the blame on anyone else for something you did wrong.

Yes, the price of independence and freedom is constant vigilance and alertness in case we go astray and end up doing something crazy.

The 1st reading said that when Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free. The reading also urged us to stand firm and not to submit again to the yoke of slavery.

To remain free would mean for us to remain in Christ and to belong to Him and committed to Him.

Without Christ, we can do nothing and we would also end up as nothing.

We have seen enough of signs to tell us that people who want to go their way without God won't be able to find peace and joy that easily.

Yes, the price of independence and freedom is to stand by Jesus and depend on Him totally. That is hardly a price at all.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 14.10.2018

Wisdom 7:7-11 / Hebrews 4:12-13 / Mark 10:17-30
Whenever the word “freedom” is mentioned, many ideas of freedom will start to arise.
- Students want freedom from exams (maybe the parents too)
- Prisoners want freedom from the jail
- Teenagers want freedom from their parents

There are more than enough examples that say the same thing, and that is, people want freedom from restrictions, or freedom without restrictions.

But can there really be freedom without restrictions? And can there really be freedom from restrictions?

There can be freedom of speech, but can we say whatever we like? In fact, freedom of speech can reveal who are the fools and who are those are wise.

Modern people like to think of freedom as the complete absence of any constraints or restrictions. But let us think of the fish. The fish absorbs oxygen from the water, not from the air.

If the fish wants to be “freed” from the water, and go on the land to explore the freedom there, then it will surely not be able to live. It will die.

So freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions, but to understand the right restrictions, those that help us to grow and to be joyful persons.

In a way, it can be said that the rich man in the gospel was searching for freedom and the joy of life.

He ran up to Jesus (that showed how earnest he was) and knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Eternal life can be understood in many ways, but primarily it is a life of peace and joy, the kind of life that we can even live here on earth, so that we can have a foretaste of what eternal life is about.

The rich man told Jesus that he had done whatever he could but he was still not satisfied. Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him. And then He gave him this direction: to sell off everything he owned and give the money to the poor. 

Jesus promised him an eternal treasure in heaven, and then he will have the freedom to follow Him.

But at this, the man’s face fell and he went away sad for he was a man of great wealth. He wanted to do more, but he couldn't live with less. His great wealth was also his great restriction. 

We may not have great wealth, but we surely have possessions. More than just material possessions, we have our ambitions, our obsessions, our compulsions, our desires. 

These can be our restrictions and if we can understand this, and control them, then we will have the freedom to live joyful and peaceful lives.

Back to the fish and here is a story about fishing.
A man was fishing by the river. He had been fishing for a few hours under the hot sun and had a few beers. Soon, he dozed off. 
Suddenly, there was a strong tug at the end of his fishing line. A big fish had taken a bite and was hooked to his line. The sudden tug woke the man up and in his confusion, he lost his balance and fell into the water. The man struggled in the water, with the fishing rod in his hand and the fish still hooked to his line.

A boy who was strolling by the river with his father, was bewildered by the strange sight of the man and the fish both struggling in the water. He turned to his father and asked, “Daddy, is the man catching the fish or is the fish catching him?”

Yes, what are we catching? Or putting the question in another way – what is catching us? Usually what we possess can in turn possess us.

Today, at St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will canonize Pope Paul VI, and also Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.

Pope Paul VI died of a natural death but Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot to death by a single bullet to the heart when he was celebrating Mass.

Archbishop Oscar Romero served during a time of intense political turmoil and religious persecution in the country. He spoke out against the injustice, corruption and crimes of violence of the government.

Although he received death threats, he continued persistently to speak with the voice of God.

He even said this: If they succeed in killing me, I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realise they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the People of God, will never perish.

And with that his life came to an end on 24 March 1980, which is the eve of the feast of the Annunciation.

Archbishop Oscar Romero may not possess much, but even the life he had, he gave it up courageously. And he is rewarded with eternal life.

His message still persists even in our times, with those words: Hopefully, they will realise that they are wasting their time.

Well, hopefully, we will not be wasting our time thinking too much about our possessions or what we possess.

Let us ask the Lord to grant us the wisdom to know what true freedom is and to let go of what is restricting us from that freedom.

As the 1st reading puts it: I prayed and understanding was given to me. I entreated, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

May the spirit of Wisdom lead us to true freedom so that we can be witnesses of a joyful and peaceful life, and also be witnesses of the eternal life. 

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 13-10-18

Galatians 3:22-29 / Luke 11:27-28

In the Mass as well as in devotions, there are always hymns of praise.

These hymns are sung to praise and thank the Lord and they are usually sung with feeling and emotion.

Also dynamic and emotive hymns are preferred in order to appeal to the emotions of the people and also to elicit a more fervent response from them.

But where the emotions and the feeling fade off, that is where the real action begins.

Our hymns of praise  must also  be translated into acts of love for God and neighbour.

That was why in response to the acclamation of praise, Jesus sobered down the emotions to focus on doing the will of God.

As we offer this Mass in honour of our Lady, let us remember that she heard the Word of God, pondered on it and did the will of God in her life.

May we who honour her also learn from her and do God's will in our lives.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-10-18

Galatians 3:7-14 / Luke 11:15-26

Very often, life is like a paradox; it can be filled with so many strange contradictions.

We might think that  when something good is done, people would be simply happy and even rejoice and celebrate.

But yet for every good that is done, there are criticisms and even slanderous remarks that are made that leaves a sour and bitter taste in the mouth.

But that should not be very surprising to us, isn't it?

Because it happened to Jesus. He was doing something good by casting out demons.

Yet some people could even say that He was in cahoots with the devil. Absurd, isn't it?

Maybe it can be said that the most difficult demons to cast out are those that like to criticize, to find fault, to argue regardless of the facts or the truth.

That kind of demonic behaviour exists in each of us.

In this Eucharist, let us ask Jesus to cast out that kind of demonic behaviour in us.

Let us ask Him to cleanse the temple of the Spirit that is within us.

And with Jesus in our hearts, let us gather people into the unity of the Spirit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-10-18

Galatians 3:1-5 / Luke 11:5-13

In forensic psychiatry there are two major areas of criminal evaluations. These are Competency to Stand trial (CST) and Mental State at the Time of the Offence (MSO).

Forensic psychiatrists work with courts evaluating an individual's competency to stand trial, defenses based on mental diseases or defects (e.g., the "insanity" defense), and sentencing recommendations.

Putting it simply, although it may be over-simplifying things, the forensic psychiatrists determine whether those on trial are mad or bad.

In the opening lines of the 1st reading, St. Paul seemed to be asking the Galatians if they were mad or bad.

Because they are turned away so quickly from the truth of the gospel and entertained other forms of practices and teachings that St. Paul had to ask if they were mad or if they were under some kind of spell.

Furthermore it was because they had believed in the truth of the gospel and hence they received the Holy Spirit. But now they turned to other teachings and practices thinking they could get more of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed the simple and profound truth of gospel is that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins to save us. Believing in that would open us to live our lives in the Spirit.

And if we live our lives in the Spirit, then what Jesus said in the gospel would certainly be true: Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.

We just need to persevere and persist in believing the truth and to believe that the Holy Spirit would lead us along the way.

Believing in something else may mean that we are either mad or really bad.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 10-10-18

Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14 / Luke 11:1-4

Unity is indeed a very powerful sign. In the secular sense, unity is a sign of solidarity and brotherhood.

When the Church stands united as one, it is not just a sign of solidarity and brotherhood; it is also a sign of God's presence that unites all in one heart and mind.

Furthermore, the Church is to be a sign of unity, uniting people with God through worship, through charity and proclaiming the Good News of God's saving love for all people.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul understood the importance of unity especially in the proclamation of the Good News.

Hence he took the effort  to meet up with the elders of the Church, people like Peter, James and John, and he also brought along Barnabas and Titus so that all would have a common understanding and solidarity in the work of proclaiming the Good News.

All seemed well and good and in harmony until Peter did something which Paul thought was wrong. Peter had been eating with pagans but he stopped and kept away from them for fear of those Jewish Christians who would criticize him for eating with the uncircumcised.

Needless to say, there was a confrontation between Paul and Peter. It would seemed that the unity that was forged with so much effort was breaking up.

Yet the issue would be resolved and unity would be restored. But that would not mean that the unity would not face any more challenges again.

There would always be challenges to the unity of the Church because the powers of evil are out to break up the Church and to scatter the believers.

But as we reflect and pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, the very first two words "Our Father" would would tell us that we must be united with each other because we believe that God is our Father and we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Unity can be achieved with forgiveness. But without forgiving each other, we would be torn apart and scattered. So let us forgive each other, just as God has forgiven us.

Monday, October 8, 2018

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 09-10-18

Galatians 1:13-24 / Luke 10:38-42

One of the causes of dissatisfaction and discontentment in our lives is that we look away from our own turf and we begin to envy the seemingly greener pastures that other people are in.

We begin to look at others and start to dream about their cushy lives, their exciting jobs, the nice things they have, their happy families, etc.

We allow these distractions to come in because we think that who we are and what we are doing is insignificant, boring, frustrating, unrewarding and unrecognized.

That is simply because we are dissatisfied and unhappy with what we are doing.

In the gospel, Martha complained about her sister, maybe because she was unhappy about not getting any recognition and attention.

She was simply distracted from what she was doing.

Jesus was not saying that sitting around and listening to Him is more important than cooking and cleaning.

Jesus is saying that whatever we are doing, we just have to be focused and count our blessings and give thanks to God.

That is the one thing that is important and that is also the one thing that is needed in our lives.

Because that is also the one thing that will bring out satisfaction and happiness in our lives.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 08-10-18

Galatians 1:6-12 / Luke 10:25-37

So very often we hear of this word "miscommunication". And that word kicks in whenever something is  not done or done wrongly.

Miscommunication essentially means a lack of clear or adequate communication. The problem may lie in the words being used or maybe a mistake somewhere in the line of communication.

Yet miscommunication do not happen by intention. It is just that something is spoken wrongly, or written wrongly, or heard wrongly. We may call miscommunication an honest mistake.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul emphasized that what he preached was the Good News of Christ. And there cannot be more than one version of the Good News.

He warned that if anyone preached another version of the Good News, then that person is to be condemned.

Because that is not miscommunication. That is distortion and even deception. That kind of distortion and deception of the Good News is certainly aimed at what people would like to hear. It would certainly win people's approval.

What St. Paul is saying is that in preaching the Good News, one must not look for the approval of man but rather the approval from God.

Similarly living out the Good News and keeping the Commandments of God is not justifying ourselves or chalking up points with God.

Rather it is about loving God and showing that love to our neighbour in thought, word and deed.

Anything else would be a distortion and even a deception.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

27th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 07.10.2018

Genesis 2:18-24 / Hebrews 2:9-11 / Mark 10:2-16
The month of October can be called a “spiritual” month, and it is spiritually inspiring as well as spiritually exciting.

October began with the feast of St. Therese “The Little Flower” who taught us the spirituality of doing little things with great love.

Following that, is the feast of the Guardian Angels, and it is comforting to know that each of us have a “PA” – Personal Angel, to light and guard, to rule and guide us.

And then towards the end of the month is the feast of one of our favourite saints, St. Jude, the Patron Saint of desperate cases.

But besides being dotted with the feast days of great saints, the month of October has a special dedication. The Church dedicates the month of October to Our Lady under the title of “Our Lady of the Rosary”.

Today is the 7th October, and if it is not a Sunday, it would be celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady of the  Rosary.

This feast has its origins in the year 1571, when on this day, the small and outnumbered Christian fleet defeated the mighty Ottoman armada at the Gulf of Lepanto, thus stopping the invasion of Europe by the Ottoman empire.

That victory was dubbed as miraculous and credited to the intercession of Our Lady, as the Pope at that time, Pope Pius V, called for a Rosary Crusade to help the Christian fleet. It was said  that the Christian soldiers fought with swords on one hand and rosaries on the other.

Hence the 7th October was dedicated to Our Lady and later it became the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and then later the whole month of October became known as the Rosary Month.

It is obvious that the Church is telling us something about the power of the prayer of the Rosary. It is simple enough even for children to pray it, and at the same time, it has the depth for those who wish to deepen their spiritual life.

But as much as the Rosary is a simple prayer, at the same time, it is also one of the most difficult prayers. We cannot assume that simple equates to easy. In fact simple can be difficult and challenging.

For those of us who have prayed the Rosary, we know how difficult and challenging it can be. The simplicity can turn into monotony and a lethargy, and we begin to think that nothing is happening and we can find it boring.

But the monotony of the Rosary has a calming effect and gives our tired hearts and minds the peace and rest that we long for.

At the same time, the prayer is also slowly etched and seared into our hearts. For those of us who have prayed the Rosary long enough, we can already pray it by heart. Yes, the Rosary is already etched and seared into our hearts.

A priest was sharing his vocation story. As a cradle-Catholic, he went through Catechism classes and all that, but dropped out of Church in the late teens and early 20s. (it’s the usual case with cradle-Catholics)

He went on the wild side and was having a time of his life when he “hit the wall” and everything started to crumble with one setback after another.

Feeling lost and afraid, he decided to go back to the religion of his childhood days, and he went to a church and tried to pray. But he was just too tired and disappointed to pray.

Then he heard the Rosary being prayed and then he remembered those early years when his family prayed the Rosary every evening and he was surprised that he could still remember the prayers. Well, it was the beginnings of the stirrings that led him eventually to the priesthood.

But that was because the Rosary was already etched and seared into his heart during his childhood days.

That’s why it is so necessary to teach our children and our youth to pray the Rosary (whether they like it or not!) We must give them the means of prayer, so that in the time of crisis, they will know how to go back to God.

Some have argued that teaching young children to rattle off the prayers is nonsensical and meaningless. Well, besides the etching and searing effect of the Rosary prayer, there is another spiritual effect.

In Psalm 8, there is this verse: Your majesty is praised above the heavens; on the lips of children and of babes, You have found praise to foil Your enemy, and to silence the foe and the rebel.

Yes, the prayers of children and of babes are heard by God, and brings about blessings and protection for us when we teach them to pray the Rosary.

As Jesus said in the gospel, it is to the little children that the kingdom of God belongs.

Well, the Rosary brought about a miraculous victory in 1571; it will also do the same for us now. Not just only for us, but also for the Church and for the world.

Well, we know that the Church and the world are in quite a messy state.

That is why Pope Francis is calling for a “Special Prayer Campaign for the Church” for the whole month of October, with a great emphasis on the prayer of the Rosary.

He is calling on us to pray for the protection of the Church from the attacks of the devil, as well as for forgiveness and healing for the sins of the Church and to fight abuse.

And we also need to pray for the sanctity of marriages and for the unity of families. As Jesus said in the gospel, we need to go back to “the beginning”.

Yes, we need to go back to the beginning, back to our faith origins, and begin to pray, especially the Rosary, whether as an individual, as a family or as a community.

As Pope Francis said: This is our power; not to dominate or to cry out more loudly according to the logic of this world, but rather to exercise the gentle power of prayer.

Yes, let us begin to pray, let us pray the Rosary, and God’s protection and blessings will be upon us.

Friday, October 5, 2018

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 06-10-18

Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17 / Luke 10:17-24

We like things to have a happy ending. If it is a story book or a movie, a happy ending will earn our approval.

Even in life, whatever we undertake, be it projects or assignments or whatever tasks, we would like it to have a happy ending, so that we would earn the approval of others.

In the 1st reading, we have finally come to the last chapter of the book of Job. The book of Job has often been the assigned reading for those who have questions about innocent suffering.

Well, the book of Job closes with a happy ending with the fortunes of Job restored and he lived to a ripe old age and full of days.

Yet, Job did not find the answers as to why he had been afflicted with sufferings and tragedies. His consolation, besides his restoration, was his realization of who God is (but now I have seen You with my own eye ...)

He realized that everything happens under the watchful eyes of God, and God's plan for us is always for our good and not otherwise.

In the gospel the 72 disciples came back to Jesus rejoicing that even devils submit to them when they use the authoritative name of Jesus.

But the time will come when the whole strength of the enemy will come at them, and they will be persecuted and they will even have to face death.

It may not be that kind of happy ending that people wish for, yet for whatever ending it will be, they will accept it willingly.

Because the true happy ending will be that their names are written in heaven. May we willingly accept our difficulties and sufferings in life and realize who God is, so that our names will also be written in heaven.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 05-10-18

Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5 / Luke 10:13-16

If nothing happens by coincidence, then it is only natural that we want to know what is the link between the various events and experiences of our lives.

We would want to know why such an event happened in our lives and why we had certain experiences.

Although we know that everything that has happened has a meaning and a purpose, yet we can be rather impatient to know the answers immediately.

Especially so when misfortune and tragedy happens. We won't be just asking for answers; we will be demanding for answers and demanding it furiously too.

For the character of Job in the 1st reading, he too was demanding for answers from God as misfortune and tragedy befell upon him one upon another, although he had insisted that he had not done anything wrong.

And this time God spoke. From the heart of the tempest, the Lord gave Job his answer. Yet the answer was a series of question that began with "Have you ... ".

In the end, Job realized who he was and in his own words "I had better lay my finger on my lips. I will not speak again."

When we can realize what Job had realized, that God had a perfect plan for everything in our lives and that His ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts, then we too in humility would lay our finger on our lips.

If we ever open our lips, then it will be to praise and thank the Lord. And may those who hear us glorify the Lord, be edified and do the same too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 04-10-18

Job 19:21-27 / Luke 10:1-12

The hymn "Make me a channel of your peace" is a popular hymn. It is also called "The Prayer of St. Francis", because the words are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi whose feast day we celebrate today.

There are many inspiring stories of St. Francis of Assisi, but there is one rather amazing story of St. Francis and the wolf.

The Wolf of Gubbio, as it was called, was a large wolf that terrorized the city of Gubbio,  devouring livestock and then attacking and devouring human beings, until it was tamed by St. Francis, acting on behalf of God.

When St. Francis and the wolf went back to the city, the townsfolk gathered in the city marketplace and were shocked to see the ferocious wolf behaving as though his pet. When St. Francis reached the marketplace, he offered the assembled crowd an impromptu sermon with the tame wolf at his feet. He is quoted as saying: "How much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through fear?"

St. Francis brought about reconciliation between the townsfolk and the wolf and brought about peace.

In the gospel, Jesus told His disciples that He was sending them out like lambs among wolves, but it was to bring the message of peace and to bring about reconciliation.

May we remember that our mission is to proclaim the message of peace and to bring about reconciliation, and may St. Francis of Assisi pray for us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 03-10-19

Job 9:1-13, 14-16 / Luke 9:57-62

Sometimes, what is not said is more important than what is said.

For example, in job advertisements, they may talk a lot about the salary, the fringe benefits, the prospects, etc.

But it is only when we have taken up the job that we realize that there were other demands that were not spelt out.

But whenever Jesus talks about following Him, He doesn't play down the cost of discipleship.

He tells us of the cross and its hardships.

And in the gospel, He seems to be telling the three potential disciples to "Take it or leave it".

Christian discipleship is not for the half-hearted.

Jesus is like telling us to look before we leap, and when we have looked long enough, we must also have the faith to make the leap.

We must believe that we don't make the leap alone; Jesus makes the leap with us.

Let us ask Jesus to give us the faith and courage to be follow Him and be His faithful disciples.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Holy Guardian Angels, Tuesday, 02-10-18

Exodus 23:20-23 / Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Stories about angels appeal very much to children, as well as to adults. Pictures of angels often show them with big wings, but also at time they are portrayed like chubby little children with cute wings.

Whatever it may be, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to teach about angels:
#328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.
#334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.
#336 From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.  

Today's feast of the Guardian Angels affirm this teaching and it also reminds us that we have, since our existence on earth, a spiritual being, who is with us as our guardian and who at the same time stands before God in heaven.

It is our guardian angel who prays with us and with Mary, the Queen of Angels, prays for us, and helps us to follow Jesus and do the will of God here on earth and helps us on our journey to heaven.

Let us acknowledge our Guardian Angels with this prayer, and let us also teach this prayer to our children and to those who need to know that there is always an angel with them.

Angel of God
My guardian dear
To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen