Thursday, November 29, 2018

St. Andrew, Apostle, Friday, 30-11-18

Romans 10 : 9-18 / Matthew 4 : 18-22

Most of us would shy away from the limelight and rather work behind the scenes.

Well, that is until we have basked in the limelight and gotten a taste of the attention and the applause.

 After experiencing the taste of the limelight, it might be difficult to step back into the background and go back to being behind the scenes.

We often call it "cannot let go".

St. Andrew was always referred to as the brother of St. Peter.

That title gives the impression that St. Andrew was someone who was always behind the scenes, someone who tags along behind St. Peter.

Even today's gospel seemed to imply that idea when it tells of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, in that order.

But in the gospel according to St. John, it was Andrew who first followed Jesus, and it was Andrew who told Peter that he had found the Messiah.

St. Andrew's role in the gospels may be few but nonetheless significant.

Besides being the first to follow Jesus and leading Peter to Him, St. Andrew was also instrumental in pointing out the boy with the barley loaves and the fish that later led to the miracle of the multiplication of loaves.

In St. Andrew, we see a reflection of ourselves and our mission.

Following Christ is our top priority and leading others to Christ is our mission.

But stepping back in order that God can continue to work through us must also be our conviction.

When we can do that, then we know what it means to let go and let God.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 29-11-18

Apocalypse 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9 / Luke 21:20-28

We can learn good lessons from nature just by observing and reflecting.

For example, the darker the night, the brighter the stars. And cloudy skies make beautiful sunsets.

So nature has a way of telling us that tribulation will give way to celebration, and distress will give way to success, just as the dark of night will give way to the light of day.

These lessons from nature are actually reiterating what we heard in the 1st reading and the gospel.

The 1st reading began with tribulation and destruction, but following that were songs of victory and rejoicing and the celebration of a wedding feast.

In the gospel Jesus talks about a time of great tribulation and distress and destruction of the city of Jerusalem and her inhabitants.

But He also talks about the coming of the Son of Man in power and great glory, and a time of liberation.

So the lessons of scripture tell us that God who foresaw our tribulation, has prepared us to go through it, not without pain, but without stain.

The trials and tribulations in life do not build character; they merely reveal it.

So let us be patient in tribulation, let us rejoice in hope and let us be constant in prayer. That will be enough to be able to see bright stars in the dark night.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 28-11-18

Apocalypse 15:1-4 / Luke 21:12-19

We may remember that during our school days, there are occasions when the teacher would give us a "surprise" test.

It was certainly not a pleasant surprise at all, as we will be caught unprepared, and if we had not been keeping up with our studies, then the result won't be a surprise at all.

But in such a "surprise" test, that's when it shows what we know and how diligent we are in our studies.

In life there will be surprises, and like those "surprise" test in school, they are not usually pleasant at all.

What Jesus said in the gospel is certainly far from pleasant. In fact, it is painful to know that we will be persecuted for doing the good and right thing, which is actually quite surprising.

What is painfully surprising is that the persecutors are not strangers but relatives and even family members. They may even be friends and colleagues.

But in a time of the test of our faith, let us not be that surprised by who will be against us.

But in test of our faith, let us also be assured of who will be with us. Yes Jesus will be there for us to give us an eloquence and a wisdom that will not only surprise our opponents, it will even surprise us.

So let us prepare for the surprises in life, and we will know who Jesus is, who our friends are and who we really are.

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-11-18

Apocalypse 14:14-19 / Luke 21:5-13

Prophesies about the end-times or about the end of the world may sound alarming. Yet contrary to expectations, it may not have produced the desired results.

There is no widespread panic or alarm, nor great numbers seeking forgiveness and mercy or even nation-wide or international movements of reformations.

In fact, the wrong-doings and acts of evil seem to continue to rise and fill the world from end to end, with no sign of repentance in sight even.

So end-time prophesies has just become another topic of conversation, and we may also have become numbed to its message.

The 1st reading gives the image of two harvests. In the first harvest, a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand reaped a harvest.

This is to symbolize the gathering of the righteous, and they are gathered by the love and mercy of God and vindicated for their faithfulness.

The second harvest seems to be at vintage time, when all the grapes are ripe, and this harvest is reaped by the angel with a sharp sickle and put into the winepress of God's anger.

This to symbolize the judgement of the the wicked and evil-doers and their subsequent punishment.

What must be stated is that God is love and mercy and forgiveness, and He waits patiently for sinners to repent and be reconciled with Him.

We may take a while to realize the message of repentance and forgiveness but let us not take forever. Because forever in the wrong place is a very very long time.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

34th Week, Ordinary Time,Monday, 26-11-18

Apocalypse 14:1-5 / Luke 21:1-4

The number 144,000 has been the topic of discussion and speculation. Of course if that number is understood as literal instead of symbolic, then many absurd problems will arise.

One absurd fundamentalistic opinion would be that there will be only 144,000 that will be saved and these are the chosen ones for salvation.

But as it is, the number 144,000 is the product of 1,200 multiplied by 120 and the meaning here is that the number 12 represents God's people and hence 144,000 represents the multitude of God's people in heaven - actually a countless number.

As the 1st reading puts it, they are the people who "never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found on them."

Yes, these are the people who know the cost of following Jesus and were prepared to pay the price and indeed paid the price.

The poverty-stricken widow in the gospel also knew what it meant to present an offering to God - and that means everything.

Her two coins were of little value but it was her all and her everything, and that was why Jesus said she had put in more than anybody.

We may think that it was absurd that the poverty-stricken widow would want to give her all and everything.

But would we also think that it was absurd that we would never allow a lie to pass our lips and that no fault can be found on us?

The "144,000" didn't think it so, because they knew the price of following Jesus and were prepared to do so. May we also think likewise.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Christ the King, Year B, 25.11.2018

Daniel 7:13-14 / Apocalypse 1:5-8 / John 18:33-37
It is not too presumptuous to say that we all like music. After all, it is said that music is the universal mean of communication; it is a language that we can understand.

And with music comes songs. Songs makes things easy to remember and songs create memories as well as recall memories.

Just to make sure that I know what I am talking about and that you know what I am talking about, I will sing the opening lines of a song and you fill in the rest.
- The hills are alive, with the sound of music
- With songs they have sung, for a thousand years.

That song from the movie “The Sound of Music” (1965) recalls memories, especially for the pioneer generation. When my parents went to see this movie, as my mother would recall.

Good songs and good music leave a memory in the heart and resonates with life. Without a song or music, then life has stopped, figuratively and literally.

But music has a certain mystery. The music is not in the notes but in the silence between the notes.

The person who said this is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was the one who composed the classical “Ave Maria”. That hymn expresses what he said – that the music is not in the notes but in the silence between the notes.

Because a good musician will listen to the last note and how it resonates in the silence and it is this resonance that will inspire or lead, to the next note.

So that’s what it means by the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between the notes.

So, good music is different from noise. Noise also has notes, but it is jarring and loud and almost without silence between the notes.

In the gospel, we hear of what is like a confrontation between noise and music, with the noise trying to drown out the music.

Pilate was rattling with the noise of the world, but Jesus kept to the music of His kingdom which is not of this world.

Jesus Himself declared that He is a king and that He came into this world to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth will listen to His voice.
And so what is this truth then? Truth is certainly more than a fact or an expression of a reality.

Truth is like the silence between the notes, a silence that tells us what the music is about, a silence that resonates in the heart, a silence that recalls memories and creates memories. 

So truth is like good music or a good song, that makes our hearts come alive with love.

But more than that, we know that God is truth. Truth is the very essence of God, and Jesus came into this world to bear witness to the truth. So the truth is made flesh in none other than Jesus.

And those who are on the side of truth or want to stand on the side of truth will have to listen to the voice of Jesus in the silence of their hearts.

But there is this loud jarring noise of the kingdom of the world that wants to drown out the soft gentle music of the Kingdom of Jesus.

The kingdom of the world wants to flaunt its power and might, whereas the Kingdom of Jesus is about gentleness and humility.

The kingdom of the world seeks attention and gratification, whereas the Kingdom of Jesus is about service and sacrifice.

The kingdom of the world presses for freedom without restrictions: pro-choice (aka abortion-on-demand), safe sex, free sex, same-sex marriage, and to do whatever.

The Kingdom of Jesus is the acknowledgment and our commitment to Jesus as our King and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

But the loud noise of the kingdom of the world often drowns out the music of truth and love of the Kingdom of Jesus. And so we get distracted and discouraged by that jarring and overwhelming noise of the world.

Even the prophet Elijah was discouraged when he faced the persecution from his enemies and he ran away and hid in a cave.

But he was told to go out of the cave to meet the Lord.
First came a strong and mighty wind that smashed at the rocks around. But the Lord was not in the wind.
Then came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Then came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And then there was a still, small voice, and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went to meet the Lord.

So as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, we are reminded that His Kingdom is not of this world.

His kingdom is that of truth and love, and we need the silence of prayer and the silence in prayer to hear His voice of truth and love.

Then we will remember the sweet music of the kingdom of Jesus, the music that will recall for us our commitment to Christ our King, and to live our lives in truth and love. 

Because truth and love will prevail and only the kingdom of Jesus will stand in the end.

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-11-18

Apocalypse 11:4-12 / Luke 20:27-40

When we talk about death and the after-life and heaven, we are obviously talking about matters  that are beyond human comprehension.

But at the same time, we also try to use human understanding and experience to describe the after-life and heaven.

So we will use terms like eternal rest, eternal joy and happiness, the heavenly banquet, in order to have an idea of what it is like.

But one of the most difficult topics to discuss is about relationships in the after-life.

What will happen to family relationships and spousal relationships and friendships in the after-life?

It is truly intriguing and we can speculate and wonder about the question that the Sadducees posed to Jesus.

But if we are going to speculate on that question and try to formulate possible answers, then we may have missed the point.

The important point is that in the after-life in heaven, everything is focused on God. Nothing else matters.

God is the God of life, for in God all are alive, and it is from Him that all will continue to draw life, even in the after-life.

Even on earth, it is the God of life that unites us together with His love.

So our relationships must be rooted in God who gives us the fullness of life and love.

Only in God will we be fully alive and our relationships will also be loving and life-giving.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-11-18

Apocalypse 10:8-11 / Luke 19:45-48

No matter how wonderful or awesome someone or something might be, after some time we will get used to it.

Whether it is a new relationship or a new interest, after a while, the initial fervour will cool off.

And then we begin to take it for granted and become rather casual with it.

It can even happen to something sacred and holy. And that was the situation that Jesus was addressing in the gospel passage.

The Temple, which was the house of God, which was also a profound sign of the presence of God among His people, was being taken for granted and even the religious authorities were rather casual with it.

The Temple was not just a building but it was to be a house of prayer where God meets His people.

But Jesus made this remark - "you have turned it into a robbers' den.

We may not be so brazen as to turn God's house into robbers' den. But we may be complacent and take things for granted because we have gotten used to it and become casual in our relationship with God.

Jesus reminds us that God's house is to be a house of prayer and worship. Our attitude in the house of God also reflects our relationship with God. May we not take that for granted and become too casual or used to it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 22-11-18

Apocalypse 5:1-10 / Luke 19:41-44

In the year 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem was captured after a long siege and destroyed by the Roman army, and the Temple which took 46 years to build was razed to the ground.

Needless to say, the revolting Jews were slaughtered and the rest of the survivors were deported. It was certainly a great tragedy for the Chosen People of God.

Yet it was not the first time that it had happened. Back in the 586 BC, the city was captured by the Babylonians and the grand Temple of Solomon was razed to the ground and the inhabitants were deported to Babylon.

We can't help asking "What was wrong? Why must this happen to the People of God?"

The key to that question lies in what Jesus said today - if only the message of peace is understood. Yet it seemed to be hidden from the eyes of the people and Jesus even shed tears over this.

But the symbols given in the 1st reading are certainly not hidden from our eyes - the 7 horns symbolize the fullness of power; the 7 eyes symbolize knowledge and wisdom and the four prostrating animals represent the cherubim, the spectacular angelic beings who surround the throne of God.

Yet the most prominent figure is the Lamb that was slain, the Lamb that was worthy to take the scroll and break the seals, because the Lamb was sacrificed and by its blood bought men for God.

There is no doubt that the Lamb is Jesus who was crucified and by His precious blood He has saved us.

So the message of salvation is given to us and it is a message that is brought to us by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

Let us heed this message of salvation. The alternative will be the tears of destruction and it will cost us our blood.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Presentation of Mary, Wednesday, 21-11-18

Zechariah 2:14-17 / Matthew 12:46-50

The feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an event that is not recorded in the gospels.

But it is found in an extra-biblical source called the Infancy Narrative of James.

According to that text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne had been childless, but then they received a heavenly message that they would have a child.

In thanksgiving, they brought the child Mary to the Temple to consecrate her to the Lord.

It was believed that Mary remained in the Temple to be formed and prepared for her role as the Mother of God.

The focus of this feast is to show that even in her childhood Mary was completely dedicated to God. It is from this account that arose the feast of Mary's Presentation.

A further reflection on this feast would also make us think about the environment at home and the formation that we are giving our children and our family members.

The Christian home is to be a sanctuary of prayer where the members can grow in holiness and in the ways of the Lord.

When our will is nothing less than to do the will of God, then together with Mary, we will present our lives as an offering that is pleasing to God.

Monday, November 19, 2018

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-11-18

Apocalypse 3:1-6, 14-22 / Luke 19:1-10

One of the famous religious paintings is by William Holman Hunt. It is called the "The Light of the world".

It was an allegorical painting that represented Jesus carrying a lantern and knocking on a long unopened door that had  overgrown weeds.

It represented what the Lord was saying in the 1st reading: Look, I am standing at the door and knocking; if one of you hears me calling, and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him.

The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, and the night scene represented the need for light.

Yet Jesus is carrying the lantern and persists in knocking on the door.

He knows that the door of the human heart will eventually open to him.

The tax-collector Zacchaeus in the gospel was one example of the door of the heart opening to the light of Christ.

Let us also persist in praying for ourselves and for those in need of conversion and salvation.

The persistent knocking of Jesus and the light of His love, coupled with our fervent prayers will open the hardest of hearts.

The reason why Jesus came is to knock on our hearts and to seek out and save what was lost.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 19-11-18

Apocalypse 1:1-4; 2:1-5 / Luke 18:35-43

The book of Apocalypse (or Revelation) is written in a graphic style and filled with imagery, which is called apocalyptic literature, and it is certainly something for the imagination.

Yet before the imagination starts to run wild, we need to remember that apocalyptic literature has a purpose and aim.

Besides the heavily laden symbolic language which is understood only by the Christian community, its aim is to encourage and strengthen the community in times of persecution.

It also serves to remind the Christian community that in the end, God will judge and punish the wicked and evil doers and those who are faithful will be vindicated.

That is the message of the 1st reading. Yet the 1st reading also ends off with a warning to the Christian community of Ephesus.

And that is their love was waning and they have less love now than before, and they were told to reflect and repent in order to love as before.

The gospel also calls for a deeper reflection and subsequently to a repentance.

The crowds sees Jesus as someone from Nazareth (Jesus the Nazarene) but the blind man addressed Him as "Son of David" which is a royal title for the Messiah or Saviour.

We too may have lost some of the fervent love for Jesus over time and we need to repent of our indifference and lukewarmness.

It was faith that healed the blind man in the gospel. It is also faith and a deep love for Jesus that will save us.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 18.11.2018

Daniel 12:1-3 / Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 / Mark 13:24-32

It is said that the world is a stage and we are all actors.

That is of course just an analogy, because there is a big difference between the drama of the real world and the drama in the movie world.

If we were an actor in a movie, we will get to look at the script, the role we have to play, what the story is about and how it ends.

Generally speaking, a good movie is not just about action and romance and a happy ending. A good movie has a hopeful ending.

Because a good movie rekindles hope for a troubled humanity, hope in a dark reality, and hope for a glorious eternity.

We would like to act in those kind of movies, especially if we are acting the part of the good guys who initially had to go through a rough patch but persevered and overcame the odds and are victorious in the end. And maybe get to win Oscars and awards too.

But the drama of the real world is not like that of the movie world. In a movie, the action, the thrills and the spills last for about two hours and then in the end it is a happy ending.

But in reality, the troubles and the struggles of life don’t last for two hours. It can be anything from two months to two years or more.

In the gospel, Jesus described a scene that looks like something from an action movie or a science-fiction movie. He tells about a time of distress, a darkened sun as well as a darkened moon, falling stars and the heavens in some kind of turmoil.

These descriptions give an uneasiness to say the least, and on the other end, it may be frightening enough to make us look for some kind of religious security. 

But like in a movie, all these will pass and make way for the glorious and mighty coming of our Saviour and His angels, and everything will be made right and vindicated.

It will be a glorious and happy ending. All the evil and bad guys are destroyed and the good guys live on happily ever after.

All that sounds good, like a movie with a happy ending. But the drama of the real world is different from the drama of the movie world.

We all have tasted the bitterness of the troubles and struggles of life. Our faith gets shaken, our hope gets darkened, our love gets weakened. Illness and sickness ravage us physically, and worry and fear weigh us down emotionally and mentally.  

At times we wish we were like those superheroes in the movies who seem to be able to rise above and overcome the troubles and dangers that the world faces.

Talking about superheroes, last week saw the passing on of the comic book writer, Stan Lee, who created the Marvel superheroes Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man, the Avengers, Black Panther.

One interesting point in his superhero creations is that he created all his superheroes with some vulnerabilities in each of them.

He said this of his superheroes: 
I thought that it would be great to do superheroes that have some kind of life problems that anybody would have.
No one has a perfect life. Everybody has something that he wishes was not the way it is.
Just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean your love life will be perfect. I don’t think superpowers automatically means there can’t be any personality problems, family problems or even money problems. I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.

In that sense, Stan Lee made the connection between the real world and the movie world. So for all the action and the drama in movies like The Avengers, Spiderman, Hulk, Ironman there are those aspects of vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

And then we can understand that the movie superheroes are also just human beings with some kind of superpowers.

We too are human beings and we too have a kind of superpower. We have that superpower of prayer that keeps our faith firm, our hope alive and our love burning.

It is with that power of prayer that will keep us going in the troubles and turmoil of life, and keep us loving when evil and bad people seem to be overwhelming.

Yes, with the superpower of prayer we will endure and persevere till we see the saving power of Jesus. And we will also be able to help others to endure and persist and believe that the promise of Jesus to save us will never pass away.

Life is certainly not like a movie, but like a good and inspiring movie, the happy ending is that Jesus will be there waiting for us. 

So let us keep praying, let us keep loving, let us keep believing and let us keep hoping for that glorious and happy ending.

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 17-11-18

3 John 5-8 / Luke 18:1-8

There is no doubt that God listens to our prayers. And God would certainly pay attention to earnest and persevering prayers.

And if we think that God is not answering our prayers, then maybe we have to see what our prayers are all about.

In other words, we have to listen to our own prayers, for a change.

Prayer is not about trying to change God's mind or God's will.

It would be rather absurd to assume that if we say long and persistent prayers, God would finally give in and grant us what we want.

That would make prayer look like some kind of magical method that can make God do something.

Rather prayer is an act of faith and it is the source of strength which will empower us.

It is with prayer that we will continue to strive for justice and work for peace.

It may mean that we come to realize and accept that some things cannot be changed immediately.

It may also mean that we put our trust in God and believe that with God, nothing is impossible.

Whatever it may be, our earnest and persistent prayer should bring our wills to conform to God's will.

It is God's will "to see justice done, and done speedily".

Thursday, November 15, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 16-11-18

2 John 4-9 / Luke 17:26-37

Birds are generally nice to look at. Whether they are flying or perched on a branch, most birds look beautiful.

Except one species - the vultures. Short of saying that they are ugly, they look gruffy, like a bunch of uncombed feathers, they look a little hunched. Maybe when they are flying, they might look better.

But if looks are not good, then their diet is revolting. Vultures are scavenging birds of prey. But they don't hunt. Rather they eat anything that is dead or rotting.

In today's gospel, Jesus mentioned about these birds when He says: Where the body is, there too the vultures gather.

He was talking about the end times when the disciples interrupted Him and then He gave them this graphic image.

Putting it simply and directly, vultures gather where there is death and the dead are left in the open, and they feed on the dead.

But the vulture, as much as it may not be a pretty sight, but it is, at the same time, a symbol of God's judgement on evil. In the end, evil will be devoured by the vultures.

Yet, we also need to take this as a warning sign. If we don't repent of our sins, then we are dying spiritually and waiting to be consumed by the vultures of God's judgement.

So let us repent and do penance, and fly towards God with wings powered by love and good deeds.

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 15-11-18

Philemon 7-20 / Luke 17:20-25

We often look to the extraordinary for reassurance that God is in our present situation.

In other words, we wish that God would work a miracle to resolve a troubled and desperate situation.

And when we are in distress, whether in illness or in danger, our instinct will be to look here or look there for an immediate solution.

The Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God was to come. Their idea of the kingdom of God is not that different from our idea of a God of quick solutions.

We want God to show His power and might, to bring about retribution to the evil people, and protect us from harm and danger. After all if God is king, then He should be doing all this to show what His kingdom is about.

Yet God is more often found in the quiet: in quiet endurance, quiet joy, quiet kindness and goodness.

The kingdom of God is present when there is forgiveness and reconciliation and acceptance, like how St. Paul urged Philemon to forgive and accept Onesimus, his former slave, to be his brother.

Yes, the kingdom of God is found in the ordinary and quiet, humble acts of love. May we have quiet and love-filled hearts to see it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 14-11-18

Titus 3:1-7 / Luke 17:11-19

A story has it that two angels were sent to collect the prayer petitions of the people.

One angel was given a basket to collect the people's needs and requests, and the other angel was given a basket to collect the thanksgivings.

On their way back to heaven, the angel carrying the basket of the people's needs and requests was full and over-flowing, whereas the the angel carrying the people's thanksgiving was light and there were few thanksgiving.

That is not surprising isn't it. By and large, people are more concerned with their needs rather than the need to give thanks.

In the gospel, even Jesus expressed disappointment that those who were healed of the dreaded disease of leprosy did not come to give thanks.

In the 1st reading St. Paul instructed Titus to remind his people that was their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government.

If that is considered a Christian duty, then all the more it is an obligation and also the very essence of being Christian to give thanks to God for His blessings and graces.

What more will God not give since He had already given His only Son?

We only need to give a basket-full of thanks and praise to God.

In turn we will receive blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace.

Monday, November 12, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 13-11-18

Titus 2:1-8, 11-14 / Luke 17:7-10

In a company where there are job positions, the job title is important. Generally speaking, the job title describes the position of the person in the company.

In our modern society, there are no slaves in the commercial or domestic sectors. After all we abhor slavery and the idea of being a slave or being treated like a slave is abhorrent to us.

Even the job title of a servant implies that it is low-class job position with a low pay and not much prospects.

The servant that Jesus was talking about in gospel passage was actually a slave (slavery was a fact of life at that time) and probably the only slave in this household,  and he got mostly hard labour - plowing, looking after livestock, as well as cooking and household chores. His was a pretty hard existence.

There are only two things that were required of him - duty and obedience. If these are not met and fulfilled, he will be punished by his master. There was no question of his master having to thank the slave for doing what he was supposed to do.

And that is the point of what Jesus is saying in the gospel. Since God is our Master, it is our duty to do what He wants of us and we must pledge our unconditional obedience to him.

So even if we adhere to the manner of life which flows from healthy doctrine as stated in the 1st reading, i.e. reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy, sensible and chaste, etc., there is nothing to boast about or to claim credit for.

Because it is God who gave us the grace to be faithful to our duty and the obedience to follow His instructions.

We will be happy just to hear Jesus say to us: Well done good and faithful servant, welcome into My Kingdom.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 12-11-18

Titus 1:1-9 / Luke 17:1-6

People who are given the responsibility of teaching and formation have an honorable as well as a tremendous task on their shoulders.

But the fundamental requirement is that they have to practise what they preach.

Whether as parents or teachers or priests, they form and teach others by their example, especially the young.

The young may not listen to words of wisdom but they will surely observe our actions and examples.

It is by our actions and examples that they form their character and habits in life.

So it is from us adults that the young learn how to forgive or how to be revengeful, how to love or how to hate, how to be generous or how to be selfish.

If the young learn from us either the good or the bad, then we as Christians can also be a source of inspiration or a source of scandal to others.

For that reason St. Paul urged Titus in the 1st reading to choose church leaders carefully.

It is by their life and example that they lead and teach.

In the gospel Jesus also told us to watch ourselves and to be aware of our actions and examples.

We also have to realize that our actions and examples flow from our hearts, and Jesus must be there, in our hearts.

So if Jesus is not there then our actions and examples are leading others nowhere.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

32nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 11.11.2018

1 Kings 17:10-16 / Hebrews 9:24-28 / Mark 12:38-44

One of the devices that had developed rapidly with technology is the camera. Modern day cameras are so advanced from the cameras of the past.

In the past, when we talk about camera, we are talking about a device that takes still photographs with film that needs to be developed (or “wash” the film) and then we put the photos in the photo-album.

But nowadays, we take so many photos but they are not in photo-albums anymore, but somewhere in the handphone or computer, and we forget all about them.

And then there are those different species of cameras: action cameras or “go-cams”, car-cams, surveillance cameras, security cameras, and of course the camera in our handphone which can take photos as well as videos.

And these cameras are almost everywhere – in public places, government buildings, places of interest, places of worship. Some are out of requirement, some are out of surveillance. 

But no one would install a camera for entertainment. That can be done on the handphone camera and then upload it on Youtube. No need for a high-tech camera for that.

But where there is a camera, or more like a video-cam, we know that we are being watched, and yet we don’t know who is watching us. 

And so we will instinctively put on decent behavior. We certainly won’t want to be caught on video doing the wrong or awkward thing for everybody to see on the Internet. 

Well, that brings us to another point of reflection, and that is, what would we do if no one is watching or looking at us?

Will we do the good and the right thing, even if no one is watching or looking at us?

In the 1st reading, the widow had the choice to ignore the request of Elijah. It was a time of famine, there was only a handful of meal for herself and her son, and then Elijah had to come along.

Although the widow was obligated to provide for Elijah because of the culture of hospitality, it took more than just generosity to provide for Elijah. It called for sacrifice. No one else was looking. She didn’t have to do it. 

But she sacrificed a part of that meagre portion for Elijah. And as it is said: It is through what we give that we live. 

That widow gave, that widow made the sacrifice, and in doing so, she and her son lived on, beyond that last meal, just as Elijah had said.

So too did the widow who dropped in the two coins in the Temple treasury. It was all she possessed, all she had to live on, and yet she made that total sacrifice.

No one saw, no one noticed, no one bothered, yes, no one except Jesus. Yes, Jesus saw, and it became a teaching for His disciples, as well as for us.

Jesus taught us that whatever we do, no matter how little or insignificant, or unimportant, will not go unnoticed by God. Yes, God sees, just as Jesus saw and He noticed, and that widow who was not named became an instrument of teaching for us.

It is said that what we do behind someone’s back, we do in front of God. Taken in the negative sense, we know what that obviously means.

But when taken in the light of generosity and sacrifice, then we know that God sees and notices the little and humble acts of goodness that lead others to feel the boundless love of God.

Circulating in the Internet is this news about the memorial service of a Hong Kong actress who died recently. Reading on, we will come to understand that it was a requiem Mass for the late Hong Kong actress Yammie Lam who was 55 years old at the time of her passing.

Yammie Lam, known for her beauty, rose to fame in the late 1980s appearing in TV series and movies. She was well sought after, by producers and directors to be in front of their cameras. She was a big star.

Then in 1998, she was involved in a car accident and hurt her hands and neck. Her health began to falter and she was reportedly also suffering from mental illness and was seeking treatment.

Then in 2006, she was declared a bankrupt and began living on financial aid. Needless to say, the lights and the cameras were not on her anymore.

But in that depressive darkness, someone befriended her, brought her to church, where she found the light of God and was baptized in 2013, in the same church where her funeral Mass was held.

The Vicar General of the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, Rev. Dominic Chan who celebrated the Mass, said this of Yammie Lam: She suffered a lot. But thanks to her religion and her persistence towards life, we have a big reason to believe that she is now in heaven.

Yes, may God grant eternal rest to Yammie Lam, and not forgetting also the kind and generous people, who are not named, who had helped Yammie Lam find God and find back the hope in life.

Yes, like the two unnamed widows in today’s readings, these unnamed heroes sacrificed their two coins of love to help another fellow human being in need.

They may not ask for credits or to be recognized but we know one thing, God sees, God notices, and God will bless them for their generosity and sacrifices. 

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 10-11-18

Philippians 4:10-19 / Luke 16:9-15

We know that money can wield power and exert influence and no one can be spared of the temptation and the lure of money and the luxuries of life it can buy.

Hence the love for money and the greed for it is the root of all evils imaginable.

Over the topic of money there can be prolonged discussions on it as well as endless worries over it.

Even in today's readings, the topic seems to be on money. St. Paul talked about money but it was not about his worry over it; rather it was to be used for service and for how he managed with whatever he had.

He had been through his initiation (his experience of Jesus) and he was ready for anything, whether full stomach or empty, whether in poverty or in plenty.

There was nothing he cannot master with the help of the One who gives his strength.

Indeed, when we understand the teaching of Jesus about money, we will be able to manage money and not let it manage us.

And if we cannot be trusted with money which is not ours, then how can we be sure we won't lose what belongs to us?

When we give in to greed, we will be the losers; but when we live by honesty and integrity, then we show who is our Master.

We serve Jesus our Master when we can be trusted even in small things.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Friday, 09-11-18

Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 / 1 Cor 3:9-11, 16-17 / John 2:13-22

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome because it is the head and mother church of all churches in the world.

The fact is that the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Pope’s cathedral because St. John Lateran's Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope.

The first basilica on the site was built in the 4th century when the Roman emperor Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family.

That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the Church where popes were consecrated until the popes returned from Avignon in the 14th century, after which they resided in St. Peter's.

The dedication of this Church is a feast for all Roman Catholics because St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics since it is the pope's cathedral.

This church is the spiritual home of the people who belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

In celebrating the dedication of the Pope’s cathedral, we show our unity with the Pope and our love and respect for him, as well as our obedience and faithfulness to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It also shows that we are united with each other in the  Universal Church. St. Paul described this unity in the Church in the 2nd reading as God's Temple with the Spirit of God living in us and uniting us.

Henceforth, it is our duty and mission to keep ourselves free of sin and defilement so as not to turn God's house into a market or, worst still, into a thieves' den.

More importantly, we must be united in heart and mind, and worship in Spirit and truth, so that the Church would be like what is described as the Temple in the 1st reading - with living waters flowing out to bring about healing and reconciliation, and bearing fruits of life and love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 08-11-18

Philippians 3:3-8 / Luke 15:1-10

Quite often we misplace things. Not just anything but things that we need to use, things that have some kind of sentimental value to us, things that might not belong to us even.

As much as we are careful to keep those things, there are times when out of careless or forgetfulness or distraction that we misplace those things.

And when we realize that they are missing, we embark on a frantic search for those things. A good example would be the keys or the wallet.

When those kind of things are lost, we will feel the anxiety that our security is at risk.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable of a search - a search for a lost sheep and a search for a lost coin.

We may think that the parable may not make much sense as we would measure the worth of one sheep over ninety-nine sheep and one coin over nine coins.

But Jesus wants to point out to us that that is how God feels when one of His children is lost.

God feels that urgency of an immediate all-out search. But the search can only take place when we are willing to be sent out for the search.

But if we don't feel that anxiety or urgency, then nothing will be found.

Yet we must also remember that when we get lost in the jungle of life, we would also wish that someone would care enough to come and look for us and give us back some hope.

Let us feel the anxiety and urgency of those who are lost in life. In looking for them and helping them, we will also find our way to God.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 07-11-18

Philippians 2:12-18 / Luke 14:25-33

Very often it is difficult to see the big picture of what we are doing things for.

We can only see as far as what we are doing here and now. We don't know what are the ripple effects of our actions.

So we get bored and tired with our mundane and routine actions - we cook, we clean, we work, we take the same bus or train day in and day out.

Then we begin to complain about the monotony and we may even begin to argue that we are doing more than the rest.

We can't seem to be able to see more than what we are doing or to see the bigger picture of life.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul urged the Philippians to work for their salvation "in fear and trembling' because it is God, who for His own loving purpose, puts both the will and the action into them.

So God had a purpose for them in the good that they are doing. And God also has a purpose and a plan for us as we continue to carry the cross and walk the way of Jesus.

As St. Paul says of himself in what he did and was still doing for the Philippians: This would give me something to be proud of for the Day of Christ, and would mean that I had not run in the race and exhausted myself for nothing.

St. Paul was able to see the big picture of God's plan and purpose in the little things that he did.

May we too see that picture in the monotony, the mundane and the routine that we do day in day out, and may we believe that whatever we are doing in not wasted.

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 06-11-18

Philippians 2:5-11 / Luke 14:15-24

One of the main distractions in our prayer time is that our minds are filled with thoughts about almost anything and everything.

But it is not just about anything and everything; it is anything and everything about ourselves.

Our thoughts will just surface when we want to settle down for prayer and we will start thinking of the things we have not yet done and the things that we want to do but have not found the time for.

And on top of that there are also the worries and the anxieties of life that come flooding in and often we feel that prayer time is a distressful time instead of a peaceful time.

We get discouraged because we feel we are not going anywhere in prayer and we may eventually give up on prayer.

Yet the gospel parable tells us that God is inviting us to sit down at the banquet with Him and feast on the riches of His love.

Just as the 1st reading said of Jesus in that He did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself  to assume the condition of a slave, we too need to empty our hearts in prayer and to know that we can't solve all the problems of our lives just by thinking about them.

We have to put it into the God's hands in prayer and then to let God's love and peace fill our hearts.

When our hearts are filled with God's love and peace at prayer, then we will know what to do.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 05-11-18

Philippians 2:1-4 / Luke 14:12-14

One of the ways to motivate people is to entice them with rewards.

Organizations use that strategy, companies use it, society uses it and even the family would use it.

This idea of rewards springs from the fact that we usually ask ourselves before we embark on a task: What is in it for me? What am I going to gain from it?

At the back of our minds, we are already thinking of the possible reward, the kind of returns, the expected gains and the tangible as well as intangible benefits.

Yet all that points to our self-centeredness and our ego, our pride and our desires that are connected to it.

And that is what the 1st reading as well as the gospel is addressing.

St. Paul urged the Philippians that if their life in Christ meant anything to them, then they would be united in heart and mind, and there will be no competition and conceit.

Also nobody will think of his own interests first but everybody will think of other people's interest instead.

In the gospel, Jesus went further against the grain of human behaviour by teaching the way of total giving without even thinking of getting anything in return.

The point is that all we do should be for God and before God. After all whatever we do and whatever we give is not ours but given to us by God in the first place.

So if all that we do is for the glory of God, then we won't be looking for rewards and returns. Then we will truly feel the joy in doing whatever we do and giving in whatever we give because we know we do it for God and before God.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

31st Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 04.11.2018

Deuteronomy 6:2-6 / Hebrews 7:23-28 / Mark 12:28-34
Every coin has two sides. That is an obvious and forgone statement actually. Who doesn’t know that a coin has two sides.

In the past, one side of the coin is called “head”, and the other side is called “tail”. That is because one side has the figure of the head of a person on it (usually side profile) and that’s why it’s called “head”, and the other side has the value of the coin.

So when something is to be decided by the toss of a coin, the choice is either “head up” or “tail up”. Of course if we want to confuse someone, we can say quickly “heads I win, tails you lose”. (which means the same thing actually). We can confuse the children, but not that easy to confuse the adults.

But the present coins don’t seem to have a “head” and we can’t say which side is the “tail”. It is like saying that the coin has no head no tail. So the lingo for the toss of the coin has to be updated. Maybe the coin toss is not used anymore.

The present coin may not have a “head” or “tail” side, but whichever side it is, it is still of the same coin. So, the simple coin tells us something really basic and fundamental. 
And that is there are two sides to everything, and one is not more important than the other. 

In the gospel, the scribe puts this question to Jesus: Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus answered that question with the first commandment, and with the same breath, He also added the second commandment.

In effect, Jesus is saying that these are two closely connected answers to the same question, just like there are two sides to the same coin.

And just like one side of the coin is not more important than the other, the two commandments complement and complete each other.

In other words, to love God is also to love our neighbour. We can’t say that we love God whom we can’t see, and don’t love the neighbour that we can see. God and neighbour are like two sides of the same coin.

There is an old saying that expresses this teaching:
“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see;
I sought my God and my God eluded me;
I sought to serve my neighbour, and I found all three: My God, my neighbour and me.”

A religious nun was writing about her vocation story and she recalled a childhood experience that probably planted the seed for her vocation. She wrote: 

I never liked Tracy, though she lived two doors from me, and she is about my age. I thought she looked funny and strange (later I came to know that she has “Downs Syndrome”). I never liked to talk to her, much less play with her.  

One day, my mum invited her and her mother over for lunch. My mother made me sit directly across the table to Tracy. I frowned and showed my displeasure but my mum glared at me and she was not going to change the seating arrangement.

I sulked over my lunch. After lunch came the dessert which is mango pie, which was my favourite. My elder brother knew that I was sulking and to taunt me further, took a double share of the pies. There was a piece for everyone at table, no more, no less.

When the tray of pies was handed to Tracy, there was only one piece left and it was obviously for her. Tracy looked around the table and she looked at my empty plate. And then she passed the tray with that last piece of mango pie to me and said only two words, “You take”.

I felt terrible then, but I took it. But something in me made me cut that piece of pie into half and I gave one half to Tracy.

When I did that, something strange happened to me. Tracy didn’t look funny anymore, neither did she look strange. She has become my friend. That was one of my early experiences of love for neighbour.

It is a nice and heartwarming story that tells us that when we love our neighbor, God’s love will grow greater in us. Yes, love for God and love for neighbor are the two sides of the same coin.

God is in the neighbour and the neighbour is near, and often, very near.

Last Friday was All Souls Day and we remember our departed loved ones with prayers and Mass offerings.

A woman wrote this reflection, which was prompted by the recent death of her mother. She wrote:

Mum lived nearby. It would have been easy for me to drop in for a chat over tea but I always postponed it. When mum called me over the phone, our conversations were brief and hurried. I feel ashamed when I think of the many times I cut her short with, “Sorry Mum, but I am busy now.” 
The world is filled with daughters like me. I hope that many of them will read this and learn from this.

Oh yes, we sure can learn from what this woman said because we too have treated our parents or our children or people who need our love and concern in the similar way.

But today, Jesus reminds us that love for God and love for neighbour are two sides of the same coin. They complement and complete each other. 

When we understand that, then we too are not far from the Kingdom of God.  

Friday, November 2, 2018

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 03-11-18

Philippians 1:18-26 / Luke 14:1, 7-11

By and large, we have the etiquette and the decorum to be shown  our seats in a function or at a dinner reception.

We certainly don't want to be embarrassed to take a seat we assumed to be ours only to be told otherwise.

Nonetheless the parable of Jesus tells us that we have this innate desire to be honoured and maybe even exalted.

Because it cannot be denied that we liked to be looked up too. For some it may even be an obsession.

But for all the adulation and limelight that we might get, what and how will it matter in eternity?

In the 1st reading, we hear of St. Paul's dilemma.

He wants to be with Christ but yet he know he had to stay on for a while in order to help the early Christians progress in their faith.

Yet St. Paul also knew that all praise and honour is to be given to God alone.

So let us be aware of our tendency to be in the limelight and receive the applause.

Yet all this does not matter in eternity. What matters then is that we continue to praise and glorify the Lord.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

All Souls, Friday, 02-11-18

Isaiah 25:6-9 / Romans 5:5-11 / John 6:37-40

When we talk about a possibility, we are talking about chances, likelihood, probability, prospect.

When we talk about reality, we are talking about the state of things as they actually exist, something factual and there is almost no question about it.

So between possibility and reality, there is much of a difference, and yet there is some kind of connection.

Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of All Saints. That feast points us to the reality of heaven, that there are people there, and that it is possible for us to be there too if we live a life of holiness and are worthy in the eyes of God.

So heaven is our hope, it is our possibility as well as our reality.

Today we remember our departed loved ones and all those who have gone before us, and who are termed as "All Souls".

For them, they have faced the reality of death and they journey on towards the life of heaven. For these "Souls", heaven is not just a possibility but a reality.

But for this possibility to turn into reality, these "Souls" need our prayers to help them enter into heaven. In other words, these "Souls" are waiting to be "Saints" and they look to us, and even cry out to us for this spiritual help.

All Souls Day reminds us that it is our spiritual duty to help these "Souls" with prayers and Mass offerings.

We must remember these "Souls" because when they become "Saints" in heaven, they will remember us.

That is not just a possibility; it is a reality. It is their hope. It is also our hope.