Wednesday, July 31, 2019

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 01-08-19

Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38 / Matthew 13:47-53

Israel's experience of God while in the wilderness was so dramatic and spectacular as compared to our experience of God in the present times.

They saw the presence of God in smoke and thunder, in cloud and fire, in the radiance on Moses' face, in wonders and miracles.

God was journeying so closely with them that they know when to continue their journey and when to stop by the indication of the cloud that covered the tabernacle.

On the other hand, our experience of the presence of God seemed to be so bland and flat.

There is no smoke and thunder, no cloud and fire, no wonder and miracles. There is also no need to talk about what is radiating from our faces.

Yet, there is no doubt that if more is given, then more is also expected.

Hence if the more the profound signs of God's presence are manifested, then the lesser will there be room for doubts and unbelief.

We are called to walk by faith and hope for the eternal things that we cannot see.

Yet, we also must be like the householder in the gospel who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.

In other words, we must believe that God had revealed and manifested Himself to His people in the past.

As for the present, we must pray that with faith we will be able to see Jesus in the Sacraments. That is the one thing necessary and that would be enough.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 31-07-19

Exodus 34:29-35 / Matthew 13:44-46 

Our faces and our feet are at the different parts of our body, and depending on our height, they vary in the length apart.

Yet, when our feet are hurting from the shoes we are wearing or whatever, somehow our face shows it.

Oh yes, we can hide our feelings, but not for long. And more so if it is the feelings and emotions in our heart.

What we feel in our hearts will show on our faces, and it will show through the make-up and the masks we might want to put on.

Moses couldn't hide the radiance and the glory of God which he experienced, and it showed on his face.

What Moses experienced challenges us to look at ourselves and to ask what others see in us.

We may not like what we see of ourselves in the mirror, maybe because it reminds us of the hurt, the pain, the resentment that is gripping our hearts.

Yet we must also remember that God has planted the treasures of His love in our hearts.

In this Eucharist, let us ask the Lord to heal us so that we can let go of our sinfulness and to realize the treasures of God's love in us.

And may God's love in us be reflected on our faces too.

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-07-19

Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9, 28 / Matthew 13:36-43

Moses is certainly one of the great figures in the Bible who can say that he knew how God has protected him.

Throughout his life, from the time as a baby, to his fleeing from Pharoah, and the returning to Egypt to lead his people out of slavery, Moses knew how God's hand was protecting him.

It was through all this, that he came to know God as a God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.

And when the Israelites sinned against God and in spite of the evil that Moses saw the Israelites committed, yet Moses turned to God to beg for forgiveness and mercy for his people.

The situations that we find ourselves in are not that different from that of Moses.

We are confronted by our own sinfulness, the sinfulness of others, and on the larger scale, the sinfulness of the world.

Or like how the gospel puts it, we see more darnel, we see more weeds than wheat.

But we are reminded that we must not let evil overcome us. Instead we must conquer evil with good.

So let us not be discouraged with our acts of charity. We shall reap when the time comes, as long as we persevere in our good deeds.

Because God, from whom all good flows, will never allow the good that we do, to be destroyed by evil.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

St. Martha, Monday, 29-07-19

1 John 4:7-16 / John 11:19-27 or Luke 10:38-42    

If cooks and chefs are ever in need of a patron saint, they need not look further. And not just cooks and chefs, but also homemakers and those in the hospitality industry.

Because St. Martha would be the first and obvious saint for those in these professions.

Indeed, her name means "The mistress" or "the lady", from the feminine of "master", and in many obvious ways, she lived up to her name.

In the gospel of Luke, she was caught up with all the serving and got distracted and complained.

And Jesus gently chided her that she worry and fret about so many things but only one was needed.

In the gospel of John, Martha was again seen to be complaining and even blaming Jesus for not coming earlier, otherwise her brother Lazarus would not have died.

But it was she who made that profound faith statement: Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has to come into this world.

St. Martha was of great service to others, yet she was also a woman who put her faith into her service and her life.

So she is not just Martha but St. Martha. May we learn from her to serve with faith, so that in all people and in all things, it is Christ whom we are serving.

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 28.07.2019

Genesis 18:20-32 / Colossians 2:12-24 / Luke 11:1-13
If we want to know how much parents love their children and what they will do for their children, we just have to ask those parents who are applying for their children’s admission to Primary school under Phase 2B.

For those of us who have already experienced that, we will surely empathize with these parents who are going through that process.

It is a high-anxiety, stressful and nerve-wrecking experience for these parents.

And not just for the parents. Even the priests get involved in the process.

Parents request the priests to write letters especially if it is for application to a prominent Catholic school. Parents and their children come and ask for prayers that the application will be successful.

The priests also pray that the application will be successful, otherwise the parents will say that the prayer is not powerful enough.

Of course, some applications are successful and some are not. And for those that are not successful for Phase 2B, they will have to go through the “now-or-never” Phase 2C balloting where the chances are even slimmer.

So the parents are anxious and stressed, the priests also get anxious and stressed. At stake for the parents is the admission of their children to the preferred school. At stake for the priests is the faith in the power of prayer.

For parents and for priests the critical question is: Will God hear the prayers? And will He answer the prayers?

It is not just a question for parents and priests. It is also our question. Every one of us will have the experience of a stressed-out, high-anxiety, nerve-wrecking time of our lives.

So how did it all those episodes turn out? Were our prayers answered? Did we ask for bread and got a stone? Did we ask for fish and got a snake? Did we ask for an egg and got a scorpion?

In the 1st reading, we heard of a rather amazing, and maybe amusing, story of Abraham who stood before the Lord, and he was pleading and negotiating with the Lord not to destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham pleaded that why should the virtuous man be destroyed with the wicked? And he went from 50, to 45, to 40, to 30, to 20 and then finally to 10.

The boldness and persistence of Abraham was really something, and it takes a lot of faith and courage to do this with the Lord.

Yet in doing this, Abraham taught us something and the Lord God also showed us something.

Abraham believed in the mercy and compassion of God, and God also showed that He relented when Abraham appealed to His mercy and compassion.

And we might even wonder: if Abraham had gone further down to 5, or even to 1, will the Lord still relent?

And Jesus also gave us a very encouraging teaching about asking, searching and knocking. He says: For the one who asks always receives, the one who searches always finds, and the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.

Yes, it is very encouraging indeed. But if that is so, then why is it that some people say that their prayers were not answered?

And maybe we are the ones who say that God does not answer our prayers. And so our faith is shaken, we get angry with God, and we wonder if we should still continue believing in God. What is the point in believing in God when He doesn’t hear or answer our prayers?

Maybe we prayed that our child be admitted to the school of our choice, but got rejected. We get disappointed. Or maybe we prayed to get that $54 mobile phone and went to queue for it but we didn’t get it and were disappointed. 

We asked, we searched, we knocked and all we got is zero. So how? So what now?

Maybe we should look at our prayer and see what it is about. Very often we state our needs first. We tell God that we want this and we want that.

But we forget to acknowledge God for who He is, that He is our Father, as in the prayer that Jesus taught us, which begins with the words “Our Father”.

And we also need to acknowledge that God our Father is merciful and compassionate. That is the “soft spot” of God, and because we appealed to His mercy and compassion, God will certainly show us how merciful and compassionate He is.

So our prayer should go like this:
O God our Father, You are merciful and compassionate. Have pity on me as I place this prayer before You.

Oh yes, God will hear and answer our humble prayer and He will even give us the Holy Spirit who will teach us how to pray.

Then we will know how to ask, how to search and how to knock.

Friday, July 26, 2019

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-07-19

Exodus 24:3-8 / Matthew 13:24-30

We may know of some people who have left the Church because of a bad experience.

The bad experience can be anything from being told off by a priest to an argument with another Catholic in Church.

And their common grouse is this - How can Church people/ Catholics be like this?

Yes, how can Catholics or people who go to Church be like this? Just what is the Church all about?

Well, ideally we would think that the Church is made up of good and nice people who would not give any kind of trouble whatsoever.

After all the Church is called the Holy Catholic Church.

Yet if Jesus came for sinners, then the Church is also refuge for sinners and a place where sinners will slowly learn to be saints.

The Church is essentially the font of God's grace for these kind of people, and no one in the Church can ever say that he is without sin.

In other words, the Church is certainly not a garden without weeds or darnel, as reflected in the parable in the gospel.

Even Jesus Himself did not weed out people like Peter and Judas, and He even gave hope to sinners who want to repent.

May we acknowledge that we are indeed sinners but let us also acknowledge the power of God's grace.

May we journey on in repentance and conversion and may others see the Church as a sign of salvation.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-07-19

Exodus 20:1-17 / Matthew 13:18-23

Whether out of defiance or out of frustration, some people say that rules are made to be broken.

But if every rule that is made is to be broken, then certainly chaos will set in, and there will be no law and order at all.

But of course, that is the extreme case and not likely that such a situation will happen.

Nonetheless, if rules are broken, then it is necessary to look at the rules that are broken and to see if they are still relevant and applicable in the present day situations. If not, then the rule needs to be changed or removed.

In the 1st reading, we hear of God giving His people what is generally called the "10 Commandments".

God gave His people His laws which was not meant for His pleasure but for His people's happiness and to have peace in their lives.

Even though the purpose of God's laws is clear, yet God's laws have been broken over and over again because people think that having it their own way will bring them freedom and happiness. But as we should know by now, it was not the case and never the case.

And just like the parable of the sower, the seeds of God's law must be sown in our hearts so that we can bear  harvest of peace and happiness in our lives.

It is in keeping God's laws that we will know what true freedom is.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

St. James, Apostle, Thursday, 25-07-19

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 20:20-28

The first martyr of the early Church was St. Stephen. He was only a deacon when he was seized by his persecutors, questioned and then dragged out to be stoned to death.

 A great persecution against the Church followed after that. It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

This is the James, whose feastday we are celebrating today, as the Church remembers and honours him.

Herod did not randomly choose James to be executed. James was the head of the church in Jerusalem. 

So by putting James to death, Herod was sending a message to the early church, that killing church leaders meant nothing to him and that he will continue to do so.

So James had his seat of authority in the church of Jerusalem. It was an honour bestowed upon him.

But he was also willing to drink the cup that Jesus drank, the cup of suffering and death.

In the end, James followed his Master who came, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

May the martyrdom of St. James and the celebration of his feastday bring us blessings from the Lord and give us the courage to follow Jesus to offer our lives in loving service of others.

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 24-07-19

Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15 / Matthew 13:1-9

The grass on the other side always seem to be greener. Or so it seems. Until we get there.

And then the grass from where we came from would seem to be much better and greener and then we will start comparing again, and wishing we could go back there.

We have to admit that we are often not satisfied and contented with where we are at and with what we have and we keep imagining there is a better place elsewhere.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the Israelites had their freedom from slavery in Egypt. But now out in the wilderness, they began to complain about hunger and the lack of food.

Just hardly two months after they had left Egypt and now they were saying that slavery in Egypt was better than freedom in the wilderness.

The Israelites have a long way to go in order to learn that the Lord is their God, and that whether it was in Egypt or in the wilderness, the Lord God is teaching them something.

We too, have a long way to go in order to learn that the Lord is our God in whatever situations we are in and wherever we are at.

We may find ourselves on the edge of the path of life; we may feel that we are on rocky ground; we may find ourselves getting mangled by the thorns of life.

But there is always a reason for where we are at and the difficulties we are experiencing.

Yet, even in the face of difficulties and challenges, we are fed with God's grace and given strength to produce a harvest in spite of adverse conditions.

So let us listen to God's Word, let us be filled with the Bread of Life and let us produce a harvest of joy.

Monday, July 22, 2019

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-07-19

Exodus 14:21 - 15:1 / Matthew 12:46-50

Most animals have some form of intelligence, but by and large, they act from instinct.

For example, cats and dogs would chase after anything that moves. It could be out of playfulness, but their instinct is to chase and hunt down the prey that is running from them.

We human have a much higher form of intelligence, and with that higher intelligence, we should discern how we should act and not just act from instinct.

But in the 1st reading, we hear about how human beings can just succumb to their instinct and chase after their enemies without thinking or discerning just because they have the might and power to do so.

Pharaoh's mighty Egyptian army of soldiers, horses and chariots and horsemen can just crush the unarmed Israelites in no time at all.

They were so blinded by their instinct that they chased after the Israelites into the sea without thinking that the waters were separated by a supernatural power.

It was only when they got stuck in the middle of the sea that they realised that the Lord was fighting for the Israelites against them.

But it was too late, that when Moses stretched his hand over the sea, the returning waters overwhelmed Pharaoh's army and not a single one of them was left.

God has given us intelligence so that we can discern and think how to act and not just act from instinct.

More importantly, we discern what God's will is for us so that as His children, we will be obedient to God and do all for God's glory.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

St. Mary Magdalene, Monday, 22-07-19

Songs 3:1-4 or 2 Cor 5:14-17 / John 20:1-2, 11-18   

Mary Magdalene's appearance in the gospels was rather sudden, her name may mean that she was from the town of Magdala (thought to have been on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee).

According to Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9, Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons". That could mean that she was under some kind of serious diabolic possession or influence.

But despite her centuries-old infamous reputation which was depicted in religion, art, literature, and in recent prominent fictional books and movies, it is largely agreed today that there was no solid biblical or extrabiblical evidence that suggests she was ever a prostitute,  or a secret lover or wife of Jesus, or mother of His children.

The gospel of Luke has it that after Jesus delivered her of the "seven demons", she followed Him and joined the band of women who supported Jesus and His disciples out of their own means.

But it was at the crucifixion, burial and Resurrection that Mary Magdalene became prominent.

She was there at the foot of the cross with Mother Mary and the beloved disciple John; she was at that burial of Jesus; and she was there at the tomb very early on the first day of the week.

And it was there and then that Jesus appeared to her and called her by name.

In Mary Magdalene, we see a slow and silent transformation from the moment she was delivered by Jesus to the moment He called her by name at His resurrection.

She had a dark past, and maybe even after that was disregarded and labelled with rejection.

But in the events of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection, Mary Magdalene displayed faithfulness, courage and love even beyond death.

So if every saint has a past, then every sinner also has a future. But just as Mary Magdalene put her future in Jesus, may we also put ours into the hands of Jesus and hear Him call us by name.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 21.07.2019

Genesis 18:1-10 / Colossians 1:24-28 / Luke 10:38-42
In our casual conversations, one of the topics that will certainly come up is the weather.

Needless to say, the one word that will be used to describe the current weather is “hot”. And it is not just hot, it is like so hot. If that is used on a person, it can be quite flattering, but used for the weather it is sweltering. Nothing new to our country actually.

But we shouldn’t be complaining. Because not that long ago, just a few years back, there was the haze. Remember the haze? Sounds like some horror movie title.

Although it was choking us, there were people who saw beyond the haze and were joking about it.

Remember the joke about the new ice cream that is called – Haze-gen-daz?

Or that one about not leaving the fish and the meat in the open? Because they will become smoked salmon and smoked ham.

Or about this classroom joke:
Lecturer: Why are you late for class?
Student: I was in class the whole time?
Lecturer: How come I didn’t see you?
Student: Oh, must be the haze.

Oh yes, it was quite bad, and coupled with the heat, it was hot and hazy, and no one was laughing because they were all coughing.

And in that kind of situation, the best thing is to stay indoors with air-con. Going out is just asking for trouble.

In the 1st reading, we heard of Abraham sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day.

And in that region where Abraham was, the hottest part of the day is indeed the hottest, and the only thing to do was to be inside the tent and human activity is reduced to just breathing.

And then Abraham saw three men standing nearby. Now, Abraham could have slid further into his tent and pretended not to see them and wait for them to go away. To go out in that heat is to ask for trouble.

After all, why must those three men be moving around at that hottest part of the day? That is crazy.

But Abraham immediately got up and welcomed them and served them. Well, it was his obligation, as was the custom, to provide hospitality and service to visitors.

Abraham had enough of valid reasons to remain where he was and do nothing. It was the hottest part of the day, it was all so utterly inconvenient for him and his household, it was unexpected and troublesome. 

But Abraham chose to do what was right and just. It was the hottest part of the day but he chose to do the most inconvenient, difficult and troublesome thing.

It was at that hottest part of the day that the Lord chose to appear to Abraham, and Abraham chose to respond with best of himself.

And with that Abraham received the best blessings from the Lord, the gift of a son, as promised by the Lord.

But in the gospel, we heard how the heat in the kitchen got Martha worked up and she resorted to complaining to Jesus about her sister Mary not helping her with the serving.

Like Abraham, Martha had welcomed Jesus to her home, although she probably had no prior notice of his visit.

Like Abraham, Martha went ahead to prepare the serving. But she got distracted with all the serving, and then resorted to complaining to Jesus about Mary not helping her.

The word to note here is “distracted”. Martha got distracted, she lost her focus, and resorted to complaining in a bid to call for attention to what she was doing.

Whereas Abraham was focused on serving his visitors and eventually got his blessings, Martha got distracted and lost focus and had to learn the lesson of the better part.

So is the “better part” about just sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him speak, and doing nothing else?  

What is this better part then? For Abraham, it was at the hottest of the day, he chose to welcome and serve his visitors, instead of remaining in his tent and do nothing.

It was inconvenient, troublesome and unexpected but he responded with his best. And it was at that hottest part of the day that the Lord came to visit Abraham and because Abraham chose the better part, the Lord gave him the best blessings.

And that is the lesson that the Lord is teaching us. He comes to visit us at the hottest part of the day, when it is most inconvenient, most troublesome, and most unexpected.

It is in the hot and hazy situations of life that we have to choose the better part and to respond with the best of ourselves and do what is the good, the right and the just thing.

With great tribulations come great blessings, and when we respond with the best of ourselves, the Lord responds with the best of His blessings.

The better part comes with the heat, the haze, the inconvenience, and it is troublesome and unexpected.

But when we choose it, the Lord will bless us abundantly, blessings that will not be taken from us.

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-07-19

Exodus 12:37-42 / Matthew 12:14-21

When it comes to talking about power and authority, we cannot deny that power and authority is mighty.

It can acquire status and wealth and even mobilize armies to go to war.

But besides the high and mighty, there are also ordinary people who fall into the temptation of resorting to power and might to get things going their way and also to get people to accept their ways.

They will either brawl and shout to get their ideas and their ways across.

That was the way of the Pharisees which we heard about in the gospel. They used their authority and influence to plot against Jesus and how to destroy him.

It is a typical case of power and authority being abused and misused.

What about Jesus? As quoted from the prophet Isaiah: "He will not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smouldering wick until He has led the truth to victory".

Indeed the way of Jesus is gentleness and compassion.

Let us remember that whatever power and authority we might have over others must be exercised with gentleness and compassion.

With power and authority comes the obligation to serve with love and truth.

May our lives be rooted in love and truth so that the crushed may be healed and the faltering may be strengthened.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-07-19

Exodus 11:10 -12:14 / Matthew 12:1-8

The sight of blood is never a pleasant sight. Whether the blood is in the tube as when it is collected for testing or in a translucent packet as for blood transfusion, the sight of blood can be quite squirmish for some people.

More so when blood is being splattered when an animal is slaughtered, or when there is a serious accident and the blood is oozing out from the victims, it can be quite a terrible sight.

In the biblical sense, blood is not just a fluid that is contained in the body of a human being or an animal.

It is a sign of life from God. When Abel was killed by Cain, his blood cried out to God (Genesis 4:10)

In the 1st reading, the blood of the lamb that was slaughtered by each household on that first Passover in Egypt was to be smeared on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.

Because that night, the Lord will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt.

But the blood of the lamb shall serve to  mark the houses that the Israelites live in, and when the Lord sees the blood, the Lord will pass over them and they shall escape the destroying plague that the Lord will strike the land of Egypt.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who shed His blood on the Cross to save us.

At every Mass, the blood of Jesus marks us with salvation and washes away our sins.

Let us meditate deeply on the Cross, and may the blood that Jesus shed to save us always remind us of the new life that we have in Him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 18-07-19

Exodus 3:13-20 / Matthew 11:28-30

In our common understanding, the name of a person is used to identify the person.

However the biblical understanding of a name is that it points to the person himself. The name is not just a means for a cognitive identification but the name is the person.

When Moses asked for the name of God, he was given this mysterious and enigmatic name - I Am who I Am.

The "I Am who I Am" was revealed to Moses as the God of Abraham, Issac, Jacob.

Yes there is so much we know about God and yet there is also so much more that is waiting to be revealed to us.

God is more than a name; He is a mystery that keeps revealing Himself to us.

There is this poem by Helen Mallicoat and this can be helpful for our reflection on what God is revealing to us at this moment in time.

"I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking: My name is I Am.

He paused. I waited. He continued :
When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I Was.

When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I Will Be.

When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is I Am."

Indeed, God is the Lord of all eternity, yet He is also the God of the "Now", the God whose name is I Am.

And God is saying to us: I Am with you now.

And He is telling us to come to Him, with our labours and burdens of heart and He will give us rest.

Not just in the past, not just for the future, but now!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 17-07-19

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12 / Matthew 11:25-27

Anything that seems extraordinary always catches our attention.

It may be the northern lights of Norway, double or triple rainbows over a magnificent waterfall or some natural phenomena that have the element of light is always magnificent and wonderful.

In the 1st reading, the burning bush, blazing but not burnt up, is so magnificent and wonderful that it caught the attention of Moses, such that he was compelled to look at that strange sight.

But it was no ordinary natural phenomenon. The burning bush was a divine manifestation, and when it caught the attention of Moses, it beckoned him to draw nearer.

But the burning bush was not just to get the attention of Moses nor for his entertainment.

Whenever there is a divine manifestation, there is always a call to mission.

From that encounter with God in the mysterious burning bush, Moses received his mission.

We may not have any experiences with a burning bush like that of Moses.

But there are burning issues in our lives that are also calling for our attention and action.

We may have tried to block out those issues or pushed them aside. But let us be like little children and look at those issues in simplicity and with wonder.

It could be that through those burning issues that God is revealing Himself to us and giving us a mission.

Monday, July 15, 2019

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 16-07-19 (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel)

Exodus 2:1-15 / Matthew 11:20-24

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and in Singapore, there are the communities of the Carmelite Fathers at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, and the cloistered nuns at the monastery near the Church of St. Teresa.

The title of "Our Lady of Mount Carmel" is given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as the patroness of the Carmelite Order.

From the late 12th to the mid 13th century, there were Christian hermits living on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land and they were called the Carmelites, and they built a chapel there and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Since the 15th century, popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel also known as the Brown Scapular.

Associated with the Brown Scapular are the promises of Mary's special help for the salvation of the one who wears it with devotion to our Lady.

The Brown Scapular is a miniature of the part of the habit that the Carmelites wear, which is a piece of long brown cloth that covers the front and the back right down to the feet.

It is said that the Scapular is given to the early Carmelite by Saint Simon Stock.

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is known to many Catholic faithful as the "scapular feast," associated with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

It symbolizes the wearer's consecration to Mary and affiliation with the Carmelite Order.

Certainly, Mary would be the model for one who wears the scapular and the spiritual values of the Carmelite Order would be the way of life.

But devotion to Mary and whatever spiritual disciplines would certainly have its foundations in the teachings of Jesus, in whom is the fullness of love and truth, and who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

May our devotions and our prayers lead us closer to Jesus and help us to worship God worthily in the Eucharist.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 15-07-19

Exodus 1:8-14, 22 / Matthew 10:34 - 11:1

Whenever and wherever there are oppression and persecutions, as well as violence and wars, it would be necessary to look at how it all started.

Of course there are many reasons for such injustice and even bloodshed, besides the finger-pointing and blaming of every involved party.

But at the root of it all, are two factors that are always present - insecurity and intolerance.

That can be seen in the 1st reading, the Pharaoh was disturbed about the Israelites becoming so numerous and strong.

He was actually disturbed by his own insecurity and that developed into an intolerance against the Israelites.

So the solution was to oppress them with hard labour and then slavery. Then finally came the persecution - to kill all the baby boys born of the Hebrew women by throwing them into the river.

So it happened during the Pharaoh's time; it had happened in the past, and it is still happening.

It had happened and is still happening to nations, to countries, to societies, to communities, to families, to individuals.

And lurking behind the insecurity and intolerance is fear - fear of the other or others.

The way to overcome the fear is to heed the teaching of Jesus to take up our cross and follow in His footsteps.

Because the truth is in what Jesus said: Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it.

When we understand this teaching and follow it, then our fear will turn into freedom.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

15th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 14.07.2019

Deuteronomy 30:10-14 / Colossians 1:15-20 / Luke 10:25-37
We have heard of this phrase “the road less travelled”. Actually it is part of a longer sentence that goes like this: Two roads diverged into the woods, and I – I took the one less travelled. And that has made all the difference. 

That is the last sentence of a poem by Robert Frost. And that sentence summarizes what the poem is about. It is about the choices in life, and essentially it is about the two choices.

One is the well-travelled wide road which is an attractive choice. The other is hardly a trail and obviously more difficult and less appealing.

The human inclination would be to go for the wide and easy road. After all that is the obvious choice and most have chosen to go that way.

The road less travelled obviously means difficulty. But the road less travelled has this message: Life is difficult.

Yes, life is difficult. But that is a great truth, in fact one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.

When we truly know that life is difficult, when we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer really matters.

Of course that won’t make life any easier, but when we accept and are prepared that life is going to be difficult, then choosing the road less travelled will make all the difference.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable of a man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. That man was travelling alone. He seemed to have taken the road less travelled, because others would have travelled in groups, and probably taken a safer longer road.

And it was on that road that the man fell into the hands of brigands, they took all he had, beat him up and then made off, leaving him half-dead.

And then on that same road, came along a priest, and then a Levite. Both were religious persons, but both chose to pass by the wounded man, for whatever reasons.

Then came along this Samaritan traveler, a non-Jew, and as we may know, Jews and Samaritans want to have nothing to do with each other because they were enemies.

So this Samaritan traveler, a rather unexpected character in the parable, did the rather unexpected thing. He was moved with compassion, he went to help the wounded man, bandaged his wounds, carried him on his mount to the inn and told the inn-keeper to look after him and paid for the expenses.

So it was on that road from Jerusalem to Jericho, probably a road less travelled, that the lawyer, who tried to disconcert Jesus, had his question addressed.

He had asked Jesus “Who is my neighbour?” and Jesus let the parable address his question.

And then Jesus had a question for him too – Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

The lawyer’s answer says it all – The one who took pity on him.

So the lawyer’s question of “Who is my neighbour?” was addressed by his own answer.

And his own answer also addressed what a true neighbour is. A true neighbour is one who has pity and compassion on someone who is in need.

This parable is often called the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The term “Good Samaritan” has come to stand for those who want to help others in need.

Yes, Good Samaritans are those who take the road less travelled, in that where others pass by those in need, they go and reach out and help, like how the Samaritan helped the wounded man in the parable.

So we understand the term “Good Samaritan”. And like the Samaritan in the parable, we also have taken the road less travelled.

We have taken the way of Christianity, which is no doubt, a difficult way.

And in walking this way, others will know us as Christians. But will they call us “Good Christians”, just as we call that Samaritan in the parable, the “Good Samaritan”?

To be a Christian is to make the choice of walking the way of Christianity, which is already the road less travelled. So we will be called Christian.

But to be a “Good Christian”, that would mean that we embark on a more challenging way – the way of love and compassion.
And religion is about love and compassion, without which then religion is hollow and Christianity would just be a name without a meaning.

So we are not just a Christian or a Catholic. We must be a “Good Christian” and a “Good Catholic”, who will be a neighbour of love and compassion to those in need.

The way of love and compassion is a difficult way and a road less travelled. But we walk that road because we are following Jesus, our “Good Shepherd” who is love and compassion, and He want us to follow Him and to be a neighbour of love and compassion to those in need.

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-07-19

Genesis 49:29-33; 50:15-26 / Matthew 10:24-38

One of the real tests of family relationship and unity, and especially of sibling relationship and unity, is when the parents pass on.

With the passing of the parents, one of the areas of contention will be that of inheritance.

And no doubt when it comes to money and what they can get, sibling rivalry can turn really ugly when they bring each other to court in order to get more than their share and even to cut off the other siblings from the parents' will.

But in the 1st reading, with the death of Jacob, the matter at hand was not about inheritance and how much the twelve brothers are each going to get.

In fact, other than Joseph, the other eleven brothers were fearing what they could lose - their very lives.

With their father not around any more, they feared that Joseph will begin to exact revenge on them for the ill-treatment he received from them in the past.

And here is where Joseph showed what kind of a brother he is to them, and he also taught them what is the essential factor in sibling unity and relationship - forgiveness.

And with that he touched their hearts and their fears were dispelled and the lesson of forgiveness is one that they will pass down to the next generation.

Indeed, forgiveness must be proclaimed from the rooftops, and to forgive and to be forgiven is worth more than hundreds of sparrows

May forgiveness begin with the family. In that way, we declare Jesus and become His witnesses to those closest to us.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-07-19

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30 / Matthew 10:16-23

We have heard of this term "bucket list". A bucket list is a sort of wish list of what we would like to do before we pass on from this world.

Of course the wish list can be really long and some of the items in it may not be achievable even.

So some people may say that they want to do certain things before their life comes to an end but how determined are they about it, that's another question.

But some people are dead serious about the things they want to do before their life is over and done.

Like Jacob and Joseph in the 1st reading. It had been over twenty years since they last saw each other. And when they came to know that each was still alive, they would certainly have that wish that they would be able to see each other, even if that would be the last thing they would ever do in life.

As we feel the emotions of Jacob and Joseph in that meeting, where their wish in life was fulfilled, that would also lead us to reflect about the last thing or things we would want to do in life.

More than just want to travel and see the world and eat every food that is reputed to be good, there must be something more when it comes to the last things of life.

Certainly we want to be forgiven of all our sins and be reconciled with God and others and be at peace at our final moments.

We want to stand before God, humble but firm, and with the hope that He will call us His good and faithful servants and let us into His kingdom.

As Jesus said in the gospel: The man who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-07-19

Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5 / Matthew 10:7-15

Doing something charitable or magnanimous would be easier if there is some motivation.

But if it is done just for the sake of ourselves, and only we stand to benefit, then of course we can't call that charity or for the good of others. In fact, that would be rather selfish and self-centred.

So if something charitable or magnanimous is done for someone or for others, the motivation is greater because we want that someone or those persons to benefit and feel happy about what we did for them.

In the 1st reading, Joseph had a choice of how to treat his brothers for the harm they had done to him for wanting to kill him and then selling him off as a slave.

He could have taken the opportunity to take revenge on them, now that he has power and authority over them.

But he took pity on them and forgave them. More so when he heard that his father is still alive, he knew that his father would also want him to forgive his brothers.

But over and above everything else, Joseph forgave his brothers because he knew that God had arranged for this to happen. In other words, he forgave his brothers because he wanted to do it for God.

Similarly, if we were to forgive others, do something charitable for others, or do some good for others, let us do it because we want to do it for God.

And as we offer to God all  the good that we can do, then God is glorified and we too will receive blessings from God.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 10-07-19

Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24 / Matthew 10:1-7

The hardships of life often has the effect of hardening our hearts.

And as we face the hardships of life, it is inevitable that what arises in our minds is the person or persons that caused our hardships.

So it may be our boss or supervisor, our colleague or peers, our subordinates or family members, but with resentment and bitterness we will blame them for our predicament.

"People can live through great hardships and yet perish from hard feelings." (Solzhenitsyn)

In the 1st reading, we hear about Joseph who had the authority in Egypt to sell grain to all comers during a time of great famine.

It was this Joseph that his brothers had sold into slavery much earlier and he went through many hardships before God raised him to fame and authority.

And now his brothers were bowing before him though they did not recognize him. So it could be pay back time and Joseph could give his brothers a greater hardship than the famine they were facing.

But Joseph did not give in to resentment and bitterness against his brothers. In fact, after hearing their conversation, he left and wept.

In the gospel when Jesus called the apostles and sent them off to proclaim the kingdom of heaven, it was going to entail great hardships from difficult people.

But for the sake of the kingdom and because the kingdom is close at hand, they cannot give in to resentment and bitterness.

Neither can we. Because the kingdom of heaven is close at hand, let us soften our hearts so as to let the kingdom of heaven take root in us.

Monday, July 8, 2019

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 09-07-19

Genesis 32:23-33 / Matthew 32-38

We hear the word "blessing" often. Just what is a blessing?

A blessing is primarily God's favour and protection over His people. It can also be a prayer asking for divine favour and protection as is usually done by a priest. It can also be like the grace said before and after a meal.

The source of blessing is from God and a person, whether a priest or a lay person, can be the instrument to invoke the blessing from God.

In the 1st reading, we heard of this rather rather strange wrestling between Jacob and a mysterious person, and from what is described, is understood as a spiritual being, which is revealed later as God Himself.

As the wrestling went on towards daybreak, Jacob's hip got dislocated, but he held on to that spiritual being, and he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

And Jacob indeed got a blessing, actually two blessings. His name was changed to Israel, meaning that he was strong against God, and that he will prevail against men. His other blessing is that he had seen God face to face and lived to be blessed by God.

So the pain of the dislocated hip was nothing compared to the great blessing he received.

We all want blessings from God; in fact we need it to live out our faith and trust in God.

Yet, let us also remember that great blessings come after great tribulations, just like how Jacob got his hip dislocated but he got his blessings.

We had our share of troubles in life and tribulations. But God will rain down His blessings on us. And with God's blessings, let us also go forth and be labourers in God's harvest.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 08-07-19

Genesis 28:10-22 / Matthew 9:18-26

In a time of anxiety and distress, it is difficult to see what God is doing or even where God is.

But that is because we are looking more at our own concerns and desperate for solutions rather than to be still and to listen and feel the promptings from God.

Yet, it is precisely when everything is spinning and in chaos that we need to stop and look and listen.

In the 1st reading, Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. But it was not a journey of leisure or a business trip.

Jacob was fleeing from the elder twin brother Esau after he had tricked his father Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau.

So Jacob was running for his life and he was not ready for any kind of God-experience until he had to rest for the night.

And there in a dream God spoke to him and made him the promise that he and his descendants shall be a blessing for other nations and that God will not desert him.

Only then did Jacob realized that God was with him and that "the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!"

But in the gospel, we hear of two people who knew who to look for when life was bleeding away or came to a dead end.

In their turmoil and distress the official and the woman with the haemorrhage had the sense to turn to Jesus for healing and salvation.

May we always turn to Jesus in our turmoil and distress for He has promised to heal us and save us.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 07.07.2019

Isaiah 66:10-14 / Galatians 6:14-18 / Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
It is said that if we want to have peace, then we must prepare for war.

That is the battle cry of mankind from the earliest times when man used sticks and stones against each other, to nations lifting swords and spears in confrontation, to modern weapons of mass destruction and annihilation.

But from the countless wars that have been fought, the one lesson that never seems to be learnt is that war does not prove who is right, but only who is left. And by then, not much is left.

All this is because there are assumptions that the world makes and they have become like “operational principles”.

For example, loud is strong and quiet is weak. So we shout down our opponents.
Size and numbers are the measure of strength and might. So, the bigger the better.
Punishment and humiliation are necessary for law and order. So pain and shame is the call of the day.

These are assumptions that the world has recourse to in order to solve a difficult situation.
But history has shown over and over again that these assumptions and the presumed solutions have not worked for the better.

Hence as much as the world yearns for peace, at the same time it prepares for war, because in the end, war is still the preferred choice to solve a problem.

So what does Christianity has to offer in the midst of all these loud and aggressive assumptions?

In the gospel, Jesus talked about a rich harvest, yet the labourers are few.

This rich harvest can be seen as a harvest of peace and salvation. Yet the labourers for this harvest are few, because most of the labourers prefer a quick harvest of violence and aggression.

And Jesus knows fully well the dangers of sending workers to harvest peace and salvation.

He tells His disciples this: Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

How more graphic and vivid can Jesus describe what the dangers of working for peace and salvation can be?

Being like lambs among wolves is like a suicide mission, there is zero survival chance. Nothing is going to be achieved and all is going to be futile.

And here is where we have to listen to Jesus – be like lambs among wolves.

In other words, as disciples of Jesus, we are not going to fight fire with fire. We are not going to follow the ways and the assumptions of the world.

In the face of violence and aggression, and surrounded by fierce wolves, we are called to be meek and gentle lambs and offer peace.

So we don’t let people tear us into pieces; rather we draw them into our peace.

Let us remember that peace is not the absence of conflict, but it the ability to resolve conflict by peaceful means.

Only when the power of love overcomes the love for power, then there will be peace. Because where there is love, there will be peace.

So in order to have peace, we must prepare for love. Peace is the only battle worth fighting for.

It is a battle that we can win only when we listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and to be the labourers and the channels of peace.

We must let the peace of Jesus heal our violent and aggressive inclinations, so that what He says to us, we too can say to others, and that is “Peace be with you.”

Jesus has given us the power to tread underfoot the serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy.

And because Jesus is our Good Shepherd, we must be His lambs of peace and not become wolves of war.

And so to Jesus we pray the well-known and profound prayer:

Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring Your love
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in You
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there's sadness ever joy