Wednesday, January 30, 2019

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 31-01-19

Hebrews 10:19-25 / Mark 4:21-25

Most churches would have a couple of holy-water fonts at the entrance.

It is a practice of Catholics to dip their fingers into the holy-water font and sign themselves with the holy water.

More than just a pioustic and devotional practice, there are also a couple of spiritual meanings in that act.

One of which is that we want to use the holy-water to cleanse and purify ourselves before we enter the House of God.

When the pierced Heart of Jesus flowed out blood and water, the blood symbolizes the life that Jesus gives us, and the water symbolizes the forgiveness of our sins.

So when we mark ourselves with the sign of the cross with holy-water, we are asking God to cleanse us and purify us of our sins as we enter into the House of God.

And the 1st reading gives us a deeper meaning of the House of God. The House of God is not just a building that is consecrated to God, it is also the Body of Christ in concrete form, literally speaking.

That is what the 1st reading meant when it said: Through the blood of Jesus, we have the right to enter the sanctuary, by a new way which He has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, His Body. And we have the supreme high priest over all the house of God.

So let us be aware of this mystery as we enter into the House of God. We are the living Body of Christ. In no lesser measure is the House of God the Body of Christ. It is a House of prayer and worship. It is there that we the living Body of Christ come into communion with Christ.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 30-01-19

Hebrews 10:11-18 / Mark 4:1-20

It is a known fact that in some countries that are so-called "traditionally Catholic", church attendance has declined and in some cases declined drastically.

If that is disturbing enough, then what is more disturbing are the statistics from the survey done in the Church in our own country, about two years ago.

From those statistics, what is glaring and alarming is that two out of three Catholics are not going to church anymore.

If we think that the survey is rather skewed in that it is inaccurate and misleading, then we may just have to look around us and be honest about the reality of things.

We know of at least some members of our own family, as well of those of our relations and friends, who have "dropped out" of church.

Collectively, they can come up to quite a number. So what is happening? Why are they not coming to church anymore? Or have they gone to another church or what?

Well, the reasons are as many as the seeds in the gospel parable that do not end up bearing a harvest.

But just as the sower will continue to sow, so must we continue to pray for those who have left the church.

More than that, we also need to take stock of our faith and ask ourselves if we are bearing fruits of love and bearing witness to the joy of our life in Christ.

When others see how we live out our faith, then they will know whether they are missing out on anything or not.

Monday, January 28, 2019

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 29-01-19

Hebrews 10:1-10 / Mark 3:31-35

Sometimes religion can be thought of as some kind of barter trade between the deity and the devotee.

Religious rituals and sacrifices are performed in order to gain some kind of favours from the deity.

So someone may have gained a sum of ill-gotten money and to offset the guilt, he makes a donation to a religious institution in order to ease his conscience.

Or he may perform some religious rituals in order to ask for favours and to be granted what he desires.

Yet, we read in 1 Samuel 15:22 that the prophet Samuel told king Saul this, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

So what God is asking of us, over and above everything else, is our obedience to Him. With that, our religious rituals and sacrifices will fall into place and find their meaning in our faith.

And this is reiterated in the 1st reading when it said that God wanted no sacrifice or oblation or holocaust but that we do His will.

And in the gospel, Jesus would tell His disciples that whoever does the will of God is His brother and sister and mother.

So as we pray to God for our needs and intentions, let us also remember that God's will must also be done.

Obedience to God's will will give us peace of heart and mind. And that is what we really want.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 28-01-19

Hebrews 9:15, 24-28 / Mark 3:22-30

The war between good and evil is an age-old war.

It is portrayed in books and in movies. But it is not a war in which the outcome is uncertain.

It is a war that the devil is waging against God, but in the end God will be victorious and the devil and his demons will be condemned to an eternal punishment.

But at stake is God's creation, namely mankind. The question is how many souls will the devil be able to drag down to hell in the end.

Jesus came to save mankind from the snares of the devil. But because He came as a man, He was also subjected to the taunts and the traps of the devil.

In the gospel, Jesus had to face the accusation that He was an agent of the devil and that the devil, or Beelzebul, was in Him.

But in the end, it was on the Cross that Jesus proved who He is. It was on the Cross that He cancelled the sin of mankind and showed Himself as the Mediator and the High Priest of the new covenant.

As Mediator and High Priest, He offered Himself as the ultimate and eternal sacrifice for sinners so that mankind can be saved once and for all.

As we look at the Cross and meditate on the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross, let us give thanks to God for His saving love through Jesus.

In the war between good and evil, let us be on the side of good and continue the mission of Jesus in saving souls for God.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

3rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 27.01.2019

Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10 / 1 Cor 12:12-30 / Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
There are some words which have more than one meaning, and they are called homonyms. Some examples are:
- Point: The pencil has a sharp point. / It is not polite to point at people.
- Right: You were right. / Make a right turn

And then there are some words which may have a clear meaning but we respond and react to it differently.

For example, the word “tomorrow”. It may give us a kind of hope and something to look forward to, eg. Tomorrow we can try again / Tomorrow the parcel will arrive / Tomorrow it will be completed. 

So the word “tomorrow” gives a sense of continuation, as well as, a sense of progress and growth and expectation.

But tomorrow can also generate an attitude of complacency and a lack of urgency.

We may put off to tomorrow what we can or must do today. Since we think there is a tomorrow, then we will think that we still have plenty of time. We daydream about tomorrow and we forget about reality of today.

So we begin to procrastinate and we push to tomorrow what we can really do today. So we procrastinate and we get lazy, and we become careless, and things begin to pile up from yesterday and the day before, and it gets more and more.

Even when it comes to paying a debt, some people can say “Tomorrow I’ll pay”.  But for them, there is always another tomorrow. Meanwhile today we see in their Facebook, photos of them having fine dining or having a holiday in some exotic place.

So for some people, tomorrow is another word for procrastination. Tomorrow is another word for wait. Tomorrow is just another word for “no time”, “no hurry”, “no urgency”. 

But for St. Luke, the author of today’s gospel passage, that was not his attitude. As much as many others have undertaken to draw up the accounts of Jesus, he decided to write an ordered account for Theophilus.

But he didn’t wait for that perfect time, that perfect environment, that perfect setting to do it. He listened to the promptings of the Spirit and then he got down to doing it.

As it is said: When you pray, God listens. When you listen, God speaks. When you act, God works.

St. Luke acted on the promptings of the Spirit and with power of the Spirit, we have the gospel according to St. Luke, to give us an understanding of the life and mission of Jesus.

But St. Luke got his inspiration from none other than Jesus. He wrote that Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in Him, began preaching and teaching and His reputation grew.

He then came to Nazara, His hometown, and at the synagogue, He read that passage from the prophet Isaiah, that the Spirit had anointed Him to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

And then finally Jesus stated the purpose of His mission and the urgency when He said this text is being fulfilled today even as they listened.

So it is clear that for Jesus, the healing and the salvation of souls is not for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. It is for today and here and now.

And even as we listen to what Jesus is saying the Spirit is already anointing us and prompting us.
Because we know of someone who is in need of Jesus and yet are we procrastinating, are we dilly-dallying, are we dreaming about it and not acting on it? But today is the day and the time is now!

Or for that matter, maybe it is we ourselves who need Jesus. We may be saying: Tomorrow then I start praying / Tomorrow then I stop watching porn / Next month then I go for Confession.

The bigger the spiritual problem, the longer we wait, the longer we procrastinate, the longer we delay, then the deeper and bigger the problem will be.

We always assume that there will be a tomorrow but we forget that God did not promise us tomorrow.
What we have is today and the Spirit is prompting us to bring Jesus to those in need of Him.
To our aged parents who are waiting for a visit from us.
To our children who are waiting for us to teach them how to pray.
To that lapsed Catholic who is waiting for someone to bring him/her back to Church.
To that person who is having an immoral life and waiting to be shown the way of truth with love.

So there are these people who are waiting to hear the good news and waiting to experience peace and joy in their lives. 

For ourselves, and for them, tomorrow might be too late. Salvation is urgent and there cannot be any procrastination. 

The Spirit is prompting, so let us listen and let us get going – not tomorrow, not the day after, but today.

Sts. Timothy and Titus, Saturday, 26-01-19

2 Timothy 1:1-8 / Luke 10:1-9

When Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was elected Pope in 1978, he took on the name John Paul II.

He also had something peculiar in the design on his coat of arms.

Besides the usual emblem of the cross, there is the unmistakable blue-coloured letter M on the lower half of the shield.

In doing so, Pope John Paul II made a public demonstration of his devotion to Mary and of his constant need for her intercession.

Indeed the faith of Mary and of her intercession, as well as that of other women in the Bible, had been a pillar of strength in the Church.

In today's 1st reading, we hear of St. Paul affirming the faith of two women - Lois who was Timothy's grandmother, and Eunice who was Timothy's mother.

It was these two women who sowed the seeds of faith in Timothy.

In the current situation of the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the role of women in the family and in the Church is highlighted.

If ever someone answers the call of God to serve as a priest or a religious, we can be quite certain that the answer to God's call was most likely influenced by the mother.

It is the faith of the mother that nourished and strengthened the faith of her child in answering God's call.

May mothers find their inspirations and their role model in Mary, who is Mother of the Church, and may their prayers strengthen the faith of the Church.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Conversion of St. Paul, Friday, 25-01-19

Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22 / Mark 16:15-18

Of all the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to St. Paul, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles has many accounts of what St. Paul did and said.

The letters of St. Paul describes the meaning of a Christian life and spirituality. There is no doubt that the letters of St. Paul was very influential in the time of the early Church as well as even now.

What is really surprising is that St. Paul, when he was known as Saul before his conversion, was a feared persecutor of Christians and that he was even sent by the high priest and the whole council of the Jewish elders to the neighbouring Damascus to capture Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

What is even more surprising is that Jesus would choose such a man, who was there at the stoning of St. Stephen, and with so much blood of Christians in his hands.

So it was there on the road to Damascus that a bright light shone around Saul and he fell to the ground and he heard a voice and then he realized that in persecuting Christians he was actually persecuting Jesus, and subsequently he was struck blind.

And it was ironic that he was healed of his blindness by a Christian called Annanias. The very people that he persecuted was also the ones who healed him.

The conversion of St. Paul reminds us of what Jesus taught us in the gospel - to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

As much as the Christians at that time feared Saul the persecutor, they prayed for him and he became St. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.

And in the account of the healing of St. Paul's blindness, it was also a Christian who healed him.

So let us believe that in praying for our enemies, Jesus will shine His light on them. May we also be courageous to offer them healing and reconciliation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 24-01-19

Hebrews 7:25 - 8:6 / Mark 3:7-12

People came to Jesus for various reasons. Some have heard about Him and so they have come to check Him for themselves.

Others may be curious for the spectacular; yet others may be desperate because of some particular need, eg. for healing, for deliverance, for enlightenment, for direction, etc.

Whatever it was, the reasons were many. And the bottom line is that they want something from Jesus.

As it was then, so it is now and it will always be as such. It is like some kind of consumerism mentality.

Whatever Jesus can give, people would want, and they will want more and more. And they may even crush Him in order to get what they want from Him.

As we heard in the gospel, He even had to get onto a boat to keep Himself from being crushed.

Yes, we all want something from Jesus, and we might not be that ready to take "No" for an answer.

But as we reflect on the 1st reading, it is clear that Jesus is the high priest appointed by God to be the mediator between God and man, and hence His power to save is utterly certain.

Yet as high priest and Saviour, Jesus had to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sinners in order to save them.

Hence, if we truly believe in Jesus as our high priest and Saviour, then we too would follow Him in doing what He had done - to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice so that Jesus can continue His saving work in us.

Hence, it would not be so much as what we want from Jesus, but what we are willing to give up and offer to Him as a loving sacrifice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-01-19

Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17 / Mark 3:1-6

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. We are to bear witness to the love and truth of Jesus and not to assimilate the sinful and immoral practices of the world.

So the wheeling and dealing, and the scheming and stabbing practices of the world have no place in our lives and our work.

It also has no place in the sacred place of worship and prayer.

But as we heard in the gospel, when Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, there were some people who were watching Him to see if He would cure the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath and hence find something to use against Him.

Eventually they went out to plot against Him and discussed how to destroy Him.

What makes it all so shocking and disgusting is that all this was happening in the sacred place of prayer, right there in the synagogue, and from there the evil grew and multiplied.

As we come into the House of God to offer worship and praise and thanksgiving, let us cleanse ourselves of sin and all evil thoughts and that was what we did at the beginning of the Mass.

Let us also let the Word of God purify us with His love and truth as we come into union with His in Holy Communion.

And as we go off, let us keep Jesus in our hearts and bring the Good News of God's love to the world to heal the world of sin and evil.

Yes, we are called to be in the world, but let us always remember that we belong to Jesus.

In this wheeling and dealing, scheming and stabbing world, it is our mission to bring God's love and truth to counter it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 22-01-19

Hebrews 6:10-20 / Mark 2:23-28

One of the reasons why some people do not wish to embrace a religion is because of the obligations to the laws and practices of the religion.

In as much as they may believe in a supreme divine being, they prefer to remain as "free-thinkers" - free from religious obligations, and perhaps, moral obligations.

And we ourselves may at times find our religious obligations and laws rather cumbersome and inconvenient, and we may even think that some are like a nuisance.

But laws and obligations have a purpose. They are meant to help those who need black-and-white instructions to what needs to be done and what needs to be observed.

More than that, they also help us know where we are in our spiritual life, and to find a direction in our relationship with God.

Hence we must remember that our God is not a God of laws and commandments and obligations.

He is a God of relationships, and Jesus is the expression of that relationship.

And if Jesus is the master of the Sabbath, which is a holy day, then He is leading us into a holy relationship with God and with each other.

It is in this holy relationship that we will understand the laws and commandments and obligations.

Over and above, let us be holy, just as our Lord God is holy.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 21-01-19

Hebrews 5:1-10 / Mark 2:18-22

New ways of doing things are interesting and exciting. From cooking with firewood to gas cooking or electric cooking is really a leap of a change.

Yet new ways are not always immediately understood and accepted, even though they may be more effective and productive.

In fact, new ways are often viewed with suspicion and grilled with questions and they will be heavily criticised when a small fault happens.

The way of Jesus in proclaiming the Good News of God's love was certainly unconventional and revolutionary, but it also irked the other religious groups of His time like the scribes and Pharisees.

While the religious attitude at that time was concerned with religious purity and keeping the rituals, Jesus came along and feasted with the sinners and those considered impure.

Jesus made God's love incarnate - people, especially the sinners, could see, hear, touch and feel the love of God, and they were told that God loves them all, sinners or not.

As how the 1st reading described that a high priest is taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, so that he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain.

So Jesus, the Son of God, the high priest of God, feasted with all alike to celebrated God's love for them and to lead them back to God.

Although He was Son and high priest, He learnt to obey through suffering and He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

So fasting and penance are still ways to express our love for God; but in Jesus, the way of obedience brings about a deeper meaning to fasting and doing penance.

The way of obedience is not just a new way; it is the way of Jesus who is THE WAY.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 20.01.2019

Isaiah 62:1-5 / 1 Cor 12:4-11 / John 2:1-12

There is this interesting and amusing thing that is trending on social media. It goes by the heading #10yearschallenge.

Essentially, it has two photos of the same subject, but the time gap between the two photos is 10 years apart, meaning to say that one photo was taken recently while the other was taken about 10 years ago.

With the two photos placed side by side, we will immediately notice the interesting and amusing change, especially when the subject is a person.

The background may be similar, the posture may be similar, but the difference is in the hairstyle (bushy hair vs receding hairline), the physique (skinny vs pot-belly).

What comes across obviously is change. For better or otherwise, the change is obvious as well as relentless. Almost everything will have to undergo some kind of change.

As much as change is relentless and unavoidable, the question is about the expectation of the change. For example, in a marriage, the wife might expect the husband to change from his bad old habits of smoking, drinking and gambling. But he does not and maybe even change for the worse. Or that the husband might expect the wife to remain pretty, shapely and docile. But whether she remains like that or not depends.

But whether with persons or with situations, change is inevitable. The question is about our expectations about what will happen with the change.

The gospel passage is about the event known as the Wedding at Cana, and among the guests were Mary, as well as Jesus and His disciples.

All was going well and expected to go on well when something happened – the wine ran out. Those four words “They have no wine” were certainly anxious words spoken by Mary to Jesus. 

At the happy wedding celebration, something changed, and that change brought about an anxiety and possible embarrassment for the wedding couple. It was certainly not a good way to start the first day of a marriage.

Other nasty things could also have happened, like finger-pointing, blame-pushing, voice-raising, but none of these would change the fact that there is no more wine.

So how? There were possible options but Mary chose the best option and that is to let Jesus know with those four words “They have no wine”.

The reply of Jesus was quite unexpected – “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.” Jesus was almost saying that He can do nothing about it.

But the response of Mary is even more unexpected, as she tells the servants “Do whatever He tells you”. Just what was Mary expecting?

As it is, change is constant and inevitable, and change is either for the better or for the worse.

To say that things cannot change is like saying that things can only change for the worse.

To say that things can change and change for the better is to have hope. And that hope is in Jesus who changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana when they ran out of wine, although He had said that His hour has not come yet.

But what is it that made Jesus change His mind? So the miracle is not so much the water changing into wine but rather Jesus changing His mind. So what made Jesus change His mind?

One reason could be what Mary said to the servants – Do whatever He tells you. Jesus would have heard that and so maybe He reconsidered His earlier decision. 

The other reason could also be that the servants took the trouble to fill those six big stone jars with water. It was an ordinary and even mundane task but the servants did as He told them to.

And with that Jesus changed His mind and water changed into wine.

What we can learn from the wedding at Cana is that, like Mary, let us have faith and hope in Jesus that things can change and things will change even if we think that Jesus is saying “No” to our prayers. Well, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus showed that He can change His mind.

The other thing that we can learn is from the lowly servants. They did as they were told. In a way, we can say that they helped Jesus change His mind. If they didn’t fill up the water, there will be no wine.

And so we may have prayed and prayed and prayed, but we have no answer. But we must keep on praying. And have we tried all possible means?

How about writing in a petition? It is surprising that some people have desperate needs but did not think of writing a humble petition form to Jesus.

Well, let us keep praying and writing and things will change and change for the better. 

Jesus will not take 10 years to answer our prayers or take that long to change His mind.

He is just waiting for the jars to be filled with water and with our prayers.

Friday, January 18, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-01-19

Hebrews 4:12-16 / Mark 2:13-17

It is understandable if non-Catholics have certain assumptions and expectations about Catholics.

Because we are the largest as well as probably the most prominent Church and also the Church that the media will use for its interests.

Hence Catholics are expected to be good people and living saintly lives and doing good deeds.

But when the opposite happens, then Catholics and the Catholic Church are in for bad publicity.

That was what happened when Jesus called Levi the tax collector to be one of His disciples.

The assumption was that if Jesus were a teacher and a holy man, then He should be choosing good and respectable people to be His disciples.

Yet what Jesus said in the gospel reminds us of who He is and what the Church is all about.

He did not come to call the virtuous but sinners.

Hence the Church is also for sinners just as the hospital is for the sick.

Yet the Church is also a sign of salvation.

The Church must always look to Jesus the high priest who has been tempted in every way that we are, though He is without sin (1st reading).

Let us be confident then that we shall have mercy from Him and find grace when we are in need of help.

And let us be that sign of salvation that the world is looking for.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 18-01-19

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11 / Mark 2:1-12

In this fast-paced world, it can be difficult to see what life is all about and it can be difficult to see where life is heading.

It is like flying a jet and trying to figure out where we are on the map at the same time.

But illness and affliction grinds our life almost to a halt.

Then we begin thinking and reflecting.

But for the paralytic in the gospel passage, thinking and reflecting probably only made him more depressed.

Because during that time, illness and affliction were always connected with sin, be it a personal sin or the sin of an earlier generation.

Hence, the paralytic man could only dwell in his own guilt and unforgiveness.

Either he could not forgive himself or he could not forgive his parents or ancestors who sinned and caused him to be in such a state.

But as he came face to face with Jesus, he had also come to acknowledge his sins and to ask for forgiveness.

In our present age, many illnesses and physical afflictions can be cured.

But the illness of the heart, this sin of unforgiveness, whether towards self or towards others, can only be healed by Jesus.

We just have to come before Jesus and acknowledge it and present our burdened and hurting hearts to Jesus.

God wants our hearts to be at rest in His peace.

The 1st reading reminds us that that is God's promise to us.

In God alone will our hearts be at peace and we will rest in His love.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-01-19

Hebrews 3:7-14 / Mark 1:40-45

Certain words can bring back memories that we would rather forget and experiences that we would rather not remember.

For example, the word "repeat" may recall that time in school when we had to stay back for another year at the same level to redo that level because we were lazy and didn't meet the mark for the exams.

Or the word "drunk" may remind us of that occasion that we had a drink too many and said and done things we regretted.

In the 1st reading, the word "Rebellion" and that phrase "Day of Temptation in the wilderness" reminded the people of God of how they complained against God and challenged and even tested God.

For that they suffered the consequences and that generation wandered in the desert and never saw the Promised Land.

But if they didn't learn their lesson, then those words will only evoke bitter memories and they will only dwell in shame and regret.

Similarly, when some words make us recall shameful and regretful memories, then we may not have learned the lessons and we are trapped in the past.

But just as Jesus healed the leper and freed him from the past memories and experiences of rejection and bitterness, Jesus also wants to heal our past so that we can learn our lessons from them and move on and grow in love and faith.

We just have to invite Jesus to re-visit those past memories and experiences together with us and we will see His presence there and helping us to come have a closure and be reconciled with those memories and experiences.

Then like the leper who was healed, we too will experience healing and salvation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 16-01-19

Hebrews 2:14-18 / Mark 1:29-39

At times it is a good thing to just take a look and reflect on our surroundings as well as who are those surrounding us.

It is said that we can be affected by our surroundings and our environment.

And we can also slowly become like those who surround us.

When God became man in the person of Jesus, we need to reflect deeper about what it really means and what Jesus had to go through.

Yes, Jesus is God, yet in the mystery of the Incarnation,  Jesus also became one like us and He was literally surrounded by sinful humanity.

As we heard in the gospel, from the time He left the synagogue, He was healing those who were afflicted physically as well as spiritually, from Peter's mother-in-law who had a fever to those who were oppressed by demons.

Jesus was surrounded by sinful humanity who were also suffering from the effects of their own sin.

Jesus came to forgive, to heal, and free those oppressed by sin and evil. He came to change the surroundings to bring about peace. He came to change each of us so that we turn away from sin and turn to salvation.

Jesus knew what damaging effects sin can cause and He brought about salvation..

We too, know the destructive effect of sin and so we turn to Jesus to save us from sin.

Let us go with Jesus to that lonely place and surround ourselves with prayer. May we find our peace in Jesus and bring the good news of salvation to a sinful and suffering humanity.

Monday, January 14, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 15-01-19

Hebrews 2:5-12 / Mark 1:21-28

The learning process is indeed a slow and long process.

Most of us have at least 10 years of schooling but we all know that learning is a life-long process.

Yet there are still certain questions that we don't have any answers for.

For e.g. in the gospel passage, why is there a man possessed by an unclean spirit in the synagogue of all places?

Or why is there so much evil and terror and horror in the world despite the fact that Jesus had already came and He is supposed to bring us peace?

The 1st reading puts it wisely: At present, it is true, we are not able to see that everything has been put under His command.

But in Jesus we also saw how He was subjected to evil in the forms of suffering and death.

Yet He overcame death and conquered sin and He is now crowned with glory and splendor.

So if there is anything we need to learn about life, we need to turn to Jesus and learn from Him.

In the midst of the troubles and evils of life, let us stay close to Jesus and learn from Him to be humble and gentle of heart.

For His yoke is easy and His burden light and He will lead us into victory.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 14-01-19

Hebrews 1:1-6 / Mark 1:14-20

As we begin Ordinary Time in the Church's liturgical calender, we can also say that we have begun the year in the chronological time.

After all we are already 14 days into the new year and we are making plans and considering the options to determine the direction ahead for us.

We will certainly pray about what we need to do and ask God to help us in our decisions.

Yet we often lament that we don't "hear" anything from God and that God don't seem to "say" anything.

We often associate speaking and hearing with words.

The 1st reading says that at various times in the past and in various ways, God spoke through the prophets and finally He spoke through His Son.

So God did "speak" but it takes a quiet heart to "hear" His voice.

In the gospel, Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John to follow Him.

They were able to leave their nets and boats because they heard His call in their hearts.

Let us begin Ordinary Time with quiet hearts so as to hear the voice of God.

It is in the ordinary, the monotony and the mundane that God often speaks to us.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Baptism of the Lord, Year C 13.01.2019

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 / Acts 10:34-38 / Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
There are many important days in our lives, important days that we will always remember, and important days that we should not forget.

Certainly, we will remember our birthdays, the day that we came into this world. So whether we celebrate our birthday in a big way or just quietly, we will remember that day for as long as we can.

That’s why on the first weekend of every month, we have birthday blessings for those who are celebrating their birthdays in that month. We give thanks to God for the gift of life and we also invoke God’s blessings of love on those celebrating their birthdays.

The other important days that we should not forget are the spouse’s birthday, especially the wife’s birthday (otherwise it is going to be D-Day), or the wedding day and other significant days. 

But it is said that the two most important days in our life are the day that we are born and the day we find out why (Mark Twain).

It is interesting to say that the other most important day after our birthday is the day we find out why we were born.

And we can see why that day is important as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, which has a more festive feel to it, but nonetheless, a birthday celebration fitting of Jesus.

Today, as we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, it is more solemn and has a more spiritual feel to it.

After His Baptism, and when He was at prayer, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the voice of God proclaimed Jesus is. 

John the Baptist would describe the mission of Jesus as baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire.

So it can be said that the two most important days in the life of Jesus is His birthday and the day of His baptism. Because the day of His baptism is the day of revelation.

In the 2nd reading, we heard that Jesus came to do good and save all who have fallen into the power of the devil.

And the 1st reading has this to say of Jesus: He does not break the crushed reed, nor snuff out the wavering flame.

Which brings us to this question. We can remember our birthdays, but do we know when is the day of our baptism?

If we don’t know, then it is good to find that out from our baptism certificate, and if we have misplaced that baptism certificate, it would be good to get a copy of it.

Actually, it is called a “Baptism Extract” and that would be needed for marriage, for priesthood, for entry into religious life, for school registration and catechism class registration. Oh, and also for booking of niche in the columbarium.

So it means that the day of our baptism is an important day, not just in the administrative sense, but also in the spiritual sense.

At our baptism, Jesus washes us clean from sin and saved us from the snares of the devil. That’s why it’s said the baptism is necessary for salvation - we are saved from evil and become united with Jesus. 

And with that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do good and to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is our Saviour.

So the good that we do is not just out of human compassion, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, what we do will lead others to Jesus and to salvation.

But a deeper question to ask ourselves is this: Is Jesus my Saviour? Do I know why I am born and what my baptism is all about?

More so if our life is like a crushed reed and a wavering flame, all the more we need Jesus to save us.

We just need to cry out like how Peter cried out when he was sinking in the water: Jesus, save me!

And Jesus will save us. He will not break the crushed reed nor snuff out the wavering flame.

And when we acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour then we will know what our baptism is all about.

Because we will be empowered by the fire of the Holy Spirit to go out and bring Jesus to those “crushed reeds” and “wavering flames”.

We don’t have to shout aloud or make our voices heard in the streets.

A simple and non-intrusive statement to those “crushed reeds” and “wavering flames” like “ I think Jesus can help you” would be enough for the Holy Spirit to bring them to Jesus.

When we begin to proclaim Jesus in word and in action, then we will know that the two most important days in our lives are the day that we are born and the day that we are baptized. 

Saturday after Epiphany, 12-01-19

1 John 5:14-21 / John 3:22-30

The question of the origins of pride and envy is like the chicken and egg question. We are not sure which come first but what we know is that one leads to the other.

But what we are sure of is that we are afflicted by these two capital sins.

Our consolation is that it is not just we are afflicted by it but so too were the apostles of Jesus.

They were envious of one another and they quarreled about who was the first.

But John the Baptist was different. If he were ambitious, seeking recognition or power, he would have resented it when Jesus started becoming more popular than he was.

He had made a name for himself as "the Baptist". Yet today's gospel also mentioned about Jesus baptizing.

But John did not feel threatened or envious of Jesus. In fact, he even said that "this joy I feel is now complete". He even encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus by pointing Him out as the Lamb of God.

Finally, he makes his exit with his most gracious and profound spiritual statement: He must increase, and I must decrease.

So must it be for us. One way to know how we are handling our pride and envy is our response to other people's success and accomplishments.

Our response or reaction speaks volumes about the spiritual state of our hearts.

Today, John the Baptist reminds us that our mission is to make Christ known and loved, not ourselves.

The 1st reading warned us to be on guard against false gods, and that is what pride and envy are.

Let us pray that our pride and envy will become smaller, and our love for God and others become greater.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Friday after Epiphany, 11-01-19

1 John 5:5-13 / Luke 5:12-16

Epiphany comes from a Greek word which means the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something.

In Church terms, it means that God reveals to us a mystery, and the feast of Epiphany means that Jesus is revealed to the world as its Saviour.

Jesus in turn reveals to us the mystery of our lives.

As we come face to face with the evil and sufferings of the world, as well as the illnesses and pains of our own lives, Jesus reveals Himself to us as our Healer.

In the gospel, we heard of how Jesus healed a leper.

But more than that, Jesus is also telling us that He wants to heal our spirit.

Amidst the noisiness and turbulence of this world, we need rest for our tired and worried hearts.

Jesus showed us that in the midst of His very busy mission, He would always go off to some place where He could be alone and pray.

He Himself needed rest for His tired body and a prayerful silence in which He discerned His Father's will.

This is also the revelation for us - we need ample rest in order to live and function properly as human beings.

We also need to be alone with God in prayer just as Jesus did.

Only then will we comprehend the mystery of our lives and the mystery of God's love for us

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Thursday after Epiphany, 10-01-19

1 John 4:19 - 5:4 / Luke 4:14-22

Whenever we listen to a speech or read a passage, it is not that difficult to know what is emphasized and what the main point is.

The word or phrase that is repeated frequently usually express what the key point is.

In the 1st reading it is quite obvious what this high-frequency word is and what the key point is.

It is also the one and the same thing, and that is "love".

The gospel text may not have this word in it but it expresses what the mission of Jesus was all about - a mission of love.

He expressed that love in reality and at the same time He also pointed to the greater reality of love.

He gave sight to the blind, but He also wanted to liberate people from the greater blindness and darkness of the eyes of the heart.

He healed the crippled but He also wanted to free people from the shackles that cripple the spirit - fear, anger, hatred, resentment, envy, greed, lust, pride, selfishness, etc.

Jesus is love and He came to us with love. Love is His Word, love is His Way, love is His Truth.

We are called to be a people of love and a Church of love. Can others see that in us?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Wednesday after Epiphany, 09-01-19

1 John 4:11-18 / Mark 6:45-52

To have a good memory is certainly something we can be proud of.

Although most of us may not say we have a good memory, by and large we remember quite a bit.

But there are some things that we just can't remember. Yet there are also certain things we don't bother to remember.

For e.g., can we remember last Sunday's gospel reading? Or yesterday's gospel reading?

Is it because we can't remember or was it because we didn't really bother to remember it?

Today's gospel described how the disciples had to battle a storm and then they were terrified when they thought they saw a ghost walking on water.

The gospel concluded by saying that they were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant, and that their minds were closed.

They had seen a revelation of Jesus in the miracle of the loaves.

They may not have forgotten but they did not see beyond the miracle. They probably were excited by the miracle and did not ponder on its meaning.

Memory may be somewhere in the mind but remembering is in the heart.

When our hearts are open to God's persistent revelation, then we will remember how God has showed us His love.

The 1st reading tells us that as long as we love one another, God will live in us and His love will be complete in us.

God's greatest revelation to us is His love for us. May our hearts be open to His revelation and also be instruments of His revelation.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Tuesday after Epiphany, 08-01-19

1 John 4:7-10 / Mark 6:34-44

Generally speaking, we have two types of reactions to a situation.

Either we react to it emotionally, or we react to it rationally.

When Jesus saw the large crowd, He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He set Himself to teach them at some length.

It was understandable that Jesus felt for the people, or if we wish to say, He acted from His emotions.

But it went to the extent that He ignored the rationality of feeding the crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish.

His disciples seemed to be more rational, especially when it was going to cost them 200 days' wages, since the average wage for a day was 1 denarii.

But Jesus challenged His disciples to gather what was available. And from what was available, out came a miracle.

Essentially, today's gospel passage continues the Epiphany message that God is our Helper and Provider.

Yet like the disciples, we often use too much of our rationality.

But what the Lord is asking of us is our availability.

To serve the Lord is to make our hearts available for Him.

Hence, we have to feel the promptings, especially the challenges the Lord is giving us, just like He challenged His disciples when He told them: Give them something to eat yourselves.

It is not so much our rationality that matters when we serve the Lord, but rather our availability for Him to do great wonders through us.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Monday after Epiphany, 07-01-19

1 John 3:22 - 4:6 / Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

Whenever a leader gives an inaugural speech, the opening lines are important.

Because the opening lines of a speech of a leader or someone in authority, will indicate his conviction, his rapport with the people, his vision, and in a way who he is.

The opening lines of Jesus as He begins his ministry may not sound very impressive.

As much as it may not sound very impressive, nonetheless it is very important.

Its importance lies in the fact that it is the truth.

Having celebrated the birth of Jesus and His revelation to the world, we must now live in the light of His saving love.

Hence we have to turn away from lies and deceit, anger and revenge and gossip and slandering.

More than that, we must repent our lives and live in love and forgiveness, mercy and compassion, understanding and charity.

That is what repentance is all about. That is what the kingdom of God is all about.

That is why Jesus came for us and that is what we are all about.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Epiphany, Year C, 06.01.2019

Isaiah 60:1-6 / Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Matthew 2:1-12

We are already 6 days into the new year. And if we had made those New Year resolutions, then I hope that they are coming along well.

But what really is a New Year’s resolution?
Some say that it is a “To Do” list for the first week of January. After that we can forget about it.
Some say New Year’s resolutions are the same as last year’s because nothing will ever change.

I made a New Year’s resolution, and that is to simply remember to write 2019 instead of 2018 on the date. The success rate is so far 95%.

So actually, making resolutions, whether New Year or otherwise is a good thing, as long as we keep it simple and achievable, we will hit our targets.

But maybe the problem comes from the understanding of the word “resolution”. Its original meaning is “a breaking into parts” and “a process of reducing things into simpler forms”.

When we understand resolution as such, then we can see that we actually have the solution to our problem. But if the solution doesn’t seem to work, then we may need to “re-solution” – meaning that we need to relook at the solution and simplify it further.

But of course, it may not be as easy as it sounds. The question is how to simplify the solution further in order to make it work.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany means a revelation or a manifestation. It means that the newborn Saviour was revealed to the whole world through the wise men.

But it was not as simple as it sounds. The wise men saw the star and they knew it was a special star – it was the star of the infant king of the Jews.

So where is this infant King of the Jews? Well, just follow the star. The solution is as simple as that. But not really that easy!

Because obviously at times, they couldn’t see the star and that is why they ended up in Jerusalem because they supposed that the infant King would be born in a big city.

Well, at least the wise men were wise enough to ask for direction. Their question of where is the infant King of the Jews had its answer with the help of the star. Now they just need a bit of help from the Jewish scripture scholars.

The search of the wise men began with a question “where?” – the answer was to follow the star. But that answer also needed to be reduced to a simpler and relevant form – the prophesies of the Jewish scriptures.

In this whole Epiphany event, the wise men are the real heroes. Because without them, there will be no Epiphany. Without them, Jesus would not be revealed as Saviour of the whole world.

In the Nativity scene, the three of them look so royal, so finely dressed, so elegant and dignified, compared with Mary and Joseph and the shepherd, and not to mention the cow and the donkey.

But in reality, they would be worn out as well as stressed out. Having made the journey of a thousand miles over desert sands, they were foreigners in a foreign land, and they were taken advantage of by King Herod to be his agents and informants of the whereabouts of the Infant King of the Jews.

As we come to think of it, the wise men can be called our ancestors-in-faith. Because they, like us, were non-Jews, but they embarked on a search for the king who will give meaning to everything.

They had a resolution when they started off on their search, and that is to find this king.

This feast of the Epiphany celebrates who they have finally found and what was revealed through them. Indeed, the wise men are the essential characters in this feast of the Epiphany.

But the Epiphany continues, and like the wise men, we are now the essential characters in this on-going Epiphany.

But the question for us goes further back. Have we found Jesus? Or are we even searching for Him? Do we even believe that Jesus is the King who would give meaning to everything?

And even if we are searching and finding for this king, would we give up because of the obstacles and difficulties?

On this feast of the Epiphany, it would be a good faith practice to incense the home since one of the gifts offered to Jesus is frankincense.

Just as the scent of the incense permeates into all corners of the house, the scent of incense also permeates into the corners of our faith.

The scent of incense will also make us recall the journey and the quest of the wise men.

Their resolution was to follow the star and find the king. May we too, like them, find the king we are searching for. And then we will find meaning to everything.

Friday, January 4, 2019

5th January 2018, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 3:11-21 / John 1:43-51

In the beginning, there was love. In the end, there will still be love.

In between however, love will be put to the test in order to see if it will stand the test of time.

The first test came about when Eve was tempted and both she and Adam failed in the test of love.

From then on, love was continually tested with Cain cutting his brother Abel's throat, as the 1st reading recalled.

But we don't have to cut someone's throat in order to kill or murder someone. That's also too gruesome for us to do it.

The 1st reading puts it starkly in the reality of life - to hate your brother is to be a murderer.

It also reminds us that our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.

God is love and His love is eternal, and He has created us in love and calls us to love.

We must believe that only love will stand the test of time, whilst everything else will come and go.

And when we come face to face with the God of love, may we offer Him hearts that are filled with loving acts for our neighbours.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

4th January 2019, Friday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 3:7-10 / 1:35-42

Can we imagine a world where the only light that we have is sunlight?

Which means to say that after sunset, there is no electric bulbs to light up and probably the only light that is available is candle-light or the kerosene lamp.

Well, it is not that difficult to imagine if we were to go to some rural area where there is no electricity and after sunset there is only fuel lamps to give light.

That would mean that when it is coming close to sunset and last-light, we have to get ourselves prepared for the darkness of the night.

If we are not prepared for that darkness of the night, then it would be better to stay put and not move around till sunrise.

In the gospel, the meeting of Jesus and the two disciples happened at a particular time. The gospel has this detail that it was about the tenth hour, which means it was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

In the context of the gospel, there were no electric bulbs to light up for the night. So it means that 4 o'clock in the afternoon is time to call it a day and to get ready for the night.

For the two disciples, it was a time to decide as to what they want to do after that meeting with Jesus.

As for us, we know that Jesus is the true light. We too need to decide what we want to do to prepare when the darkness of life envelopes us.

Would we still want to rely on the security of the artificial lights or would we place our trust on Jesus the true light.

May we not rely on artificial lights but follow the true light so that we will not be afraid the dark nights of life.

3rd January 2019, Thursday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 2:29 - 3:6 / John 1:29-34

A magnifying glass is a common and yet an amazing thing. Whatever is too small for the eye to see, we just need to get a magnifying glass and all the small details will be visible.

But besides enlarging the small details that the eye won't be able to see so easily, there is another aspect to the magnifying glass.

When it is put under the sun, it can focus the rays of the sun to a particular spot on the ground and if held there for long enough, the spot will start to burn. But do be careful of the fire hazard when doing this!

John the Baptist had a kind of spiritual magnifying glass. He was able to point out Jesus as the Lamb of God. He was able to see the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and rest on Jesus and he knew then that Jesus was the Chosen One of God.

His spiritual magnifying glass enabled him to see what others could not see immediately.

But at the same time, his spiritual magnifying glass kept him focused on his mission and what he was sent to do.

But we too have a kind of spiritual magnifying glass. The 1st reading tells us that everyone whose life is righteous is begotten by God.

And if we are begotten by God, then we too have that spiritual magnifying glass to keep focused on God and to do what He wants of us.

That spiritual magnifying glass is none other than prayer. Prayer keeps us focused on God, and through prayer, God will also make us His instruments to set other on fire with His love.

So we do have that spiritual magnifying glass of prayer. Let us use it for the glory of God.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2nd January 2019, Wednesday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 2:22-28 / John 1:19-28

John the Baptist was really a strange prophet. He had a strange wardrobe, and an even stranger diet.

We don't read about him working great miracles or wonders.

In fact, he didn't even identify himself as John the Baptist.

When asked who he was, he replied with who he was not.

Even in the last resort, he borrowed a passage from the prophet Isaiah, in order to give an answer about what he came to do.

Yet, Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest of all the prophets.

Simply because John the Baptist diverted the attention from himself to the one who is to come.

We too are called to be prophets by virtue of our baptism. We can learn a lot from John the Baptist about how we should carry out our prophetic role.

The temptation to get attention, the praise and even the glory is indeed very strong, and some have succumbed to it.

But let us remember that we are just a voice that cries out in the wilderness of our world to make a straight way for the Lord. Just that, and no more.