Monday, September 30, 2019

St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, Tuesday, 01-10-19

Isaiah 66:10-14 / Matthew 18:1-5

St. Therese of the Child Jesus was a French Carmelite nun. She is also known as "The Little Flower of Jesus".

She lived during the second half the 19th century (1873-1897), a rather short life of only 24 years.

Yet the shortness of years is certainly complemented by the great impact her life had on the spirituality of the Church and also in the life of holiness.

Her spiritual orientation of a hidden life coupled with simplicity and humility endeared her to many who desired to live a life of faith that wants to do small things with great love.

For St. Therese, every little act of love is like a little flower that is offered to Jesus, hence she is also known as "The Little Flower of Jesus".

Her childlike attitude is also an inspiration for many, especially in the area of prayer.

In "The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux", she said there were so many lovely prayers and that she could not possibly say them all and did not know which to choose, so she would behave like children who cannot read.

"I tell God very simply what I want and He always understands". "I say an Our Father or a Hail Mary when I feel so spiritually barren that I cannot summon up a single worthwhile thought. These two prayers fill me with rapture and feed and satisfy my soul."

Such is the childlike simplicity of the Patroness of the Missions as she prays for missionaries even though she had never set foot on a foreign land.

From St. Therese we learn that simple prayers are indeed powerful prayers. Yet simple prayers should also form us to have a childlike simplicity and humility.

And like St. Therese, we should be like arrows that remain hidden in the quiver of God. And just as He used St. Therese to fulfill His plan, let us also be ready always to fulfill God's will for us.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 30-09-19

Zechariah 8:1-8 / Luke 9:46-50

The relationship between God and His people is often like that of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman.

But as it was often the case, and as it is often the case still, it is a love relationship that is certainly not love at first sight.

God loves His people and it was He who chose them to be His own.

Yet God's Chosen people was also often portrayed as a woman who scorns this loving and sincere suitor and instead flirts with other men.

But God the suitor does not give up on His beloved and relentlessly continues to go after her and win her heart.

As we heard from the 1st reading from the prophet Zechariah, the Lord God says this: I am burning with jealousy for Zion, with great anger for her sake.

Yes, God still loves His people and wants to win back their hearts even though they have sinned and turned away from the Lord God.

Does all that sound rather incredible and even impossible that God should be like this?

Does it also sound rather incredible and ridiculous that one who has the heart of a child would be the one who is great in the eyes of the Lord?

What is incredible and ridiculous and impossible for us is certainly not for God. We only need to turn back to God in love and then we will realize that nothing is incredible and ridiculous or impossible.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 29.09.2019

Amos 6:1, 4-7 / 1 Timothy 6:11-16 / Luke 16:19-31
It is not too presumptuous to say that everybody likes to hear stories because stories are very appealing. 

A story can be anything from a fairy tale to a real life story. 

It also can be a happy or sad story, an inspiring or depressing story, a funny story or one that ends with this line, “the moral of the story is … “ which is a teaching story.

Stories capture the attention and the imagination, and the characters become alive in our minds as the story unfolds.

In a sense, it can be said that the Bible is like a book with many stories.

For the past few weeks, we heard of one story after another. For example there is the story of the dishonest but astute servant, the story of the prodigal son, the story of the shepherd who left the 99 in the wilderness to look for the lost sheep.

But it is not likely that we will hear of any “ghost stories” in the Bible, although these will capture more attention and generate more imagination, and maybe more interest in reading the Bible.

And the best time to tell ghost stories is at night and during funeral wakes. But most probably the purpose is to keep the children quiet and from running around.

So it is not likely that we will find any “ghost stories” in the Bible, although the Bible has many stories of angels and devils.

The parable that Jesus told in the gospel is certainly not a ghost story, but it does capture the attention and the imagination. After all, more than half the story is about the afterlife and about salvation and punishment.

And since it is Jesus who is telling the story, then we need to pay attention to it, because it gives us a glimpse of what our afterlife could be.

The story begins with the lives of two men on earth. One was a rich man, and he had all the luxuries of life - good food, good clothing, good housing and even good health and he was enjoying himself.

Then at the gate of his house, lay a man called Lazarus who was as down as the ground on which he laid. He was hungry, dirty and sickly. Dogs came to lick his sores not because he got some comfort from them but because he just couldn’t chase them away.

Then death came in for both of them and subsequently a reversal of fortunes in the afterlife.

Lazarus was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham, while that rich man was crying out in agony in flames. He was burning in pain and in a fire that does not go out.

Although it was a reversal of fortunes, the story is not saying that the poor will go to heaven and that the rich will go to hell. That is certainly not the point of the story.

Whether rich or poor, the question is about where is God in their lives.

For the rich man, luxury was his god. He loved his luxury and he used his luxury only for himself. He knows that Lazarus was at his gate, but there was nothing for him. The luxury was all for himself. His life on earth is about “me, myself and I”, and so in the afterlife he suffers and he suffers alone.

Lazarus may be among the poorest of the poor, but his name gives us an indication of where God is in his life.

His name, Lazarus, means “God-is-my-helper”. So that tells us that despite his poverty, he still looks to God for his help. And he is finally comforted and it was an everlasting comfort.

So the point is not about where the rich and the poor will go after death. The question is where God is in our lives. 

If God is our helper, we would certainly want to help others in need. So if we are rich we will love God and use our riches to help those in need, and not to love our riches and use God for our needs. 

And if we are poor, but if God is our helper, then we will still put our faith and our trust in God, and live according to His way, and not to resort to cheating and lying and dishonesty as a way out of poverty.

So the question is where is God in our lives? Is God our helper?

One of the evils of the world today is to tempt us to love our riches and use God for our needs, instead of loving God and using our riches to help those in need.

Today, 29th September, is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. There is this prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel composed by Pope Leo XIII in 1884:

St. Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in battle. 
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

There are a couple of stories of why he composed that prayer. 

One story is that he had a vision of a legion of demons attacking the church. Another was that he heard a conversation between the devil and God.

The devil said that he could destroy the Church if given enough power and time, and God permitted the devil to do so and even let him pick his time, and the devil chose the 20th century.

But whether 20th century or 21st century, in every age and time, the devil is going all out to make us love our riches and use God for our needs.

But like Lazarus, may God be our helper, and let us pray to Saint Michael the Archangel to be our protector against the devil.

Let us remember that what we do now will have a bearing on our eternity.

Friday, September 27, 2019

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 28-09-19

Zechariah 2:5-9, 14-15 / Luke  9:43-45

Whenever we talk about a house, we would imagine it as having walls that would determine its size and boundaries.

Who can ever imagine a house that is without walls? What kind of security would that house have?

So it would certainly surprise us when we heard in the 1st reading that Jerusalem was to remain unwalled. What kind of city would that be if it is without walls for protection and security?

Yet the Lord was quick to add that He would be the wall of fire for her, all round her, and He would be the glory of the city.

Indeed, if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain would its watchmen keep vigil, and in vain would its stone walls offer any protection.

Jesus said in the gospel that He would be handed over into the power of men.

Yet Jesus also knew that His security and protection will be on God alone, and that God will save Him out of death and raise Him back to life.

May we also know that if God does not watch over us, then all other physical means of protection will be in vain.

With God in our midst and watching over us and protecting us, let us give thanks, let us sing, let us rejoice in the Lord our Saviour.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-09-19

Haggai 1:15 - 2:9 / Luke 9:18-22           

There is this rather serious question, but the answer is rather funny. The question is: How to avoid getting stressed at work? The answer: Don't go to work.

Whether we find that funny or not, work is serious business. That's where we get our livelihood, that's where we do something meaningful, that's where we keep ourselves busy and occupied and find fulfillment.

So whether work is stressful or not, it depends on how we take it. But one thing for sure is that work is hard.

There is something about work in the 1st reading and it is given as a short and sharp command: To work!

Through the prophet  Haggai, God is telling His people to get down to work. What work? It was the work of rebuilding the Temple.

And it was going to be real hard work to rebuild the Temple that was going to be more glorious than the former Temple.

And God wanted the Temple to be rebuilt, and He was going to supply the people all the gold and silver and whatever that was necessary.

So why the urgency then? The Lord of hosts speaks: The new glory of this Temple is going to surpass the old, and in this place I will give peace.

So the Temple was going to be a symbol and a channel of peace for the people. But they must work for it.

So too, whatever our work is, whatever we are working for, wherever we are working, let us also work hard for peace.

To work for peace is the meaning and fulfillment of our lives. And the Lord will give us whatever we need to achieve that. So let us get down to it and work hard for peace.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-09-19

Haggai 1:1-8 / Luke 9:7-9     

It is not too difficult to understand it when it is said that the state of our life is nothing more than a reflection of our state of mind.

Simply it means that what we think is reflected by how our life is.

In the 1st reading, the Lord, through the prophet Haggai has this to say to His people: Reflect carefully how things have gone for you.

And the reflection goes like this: You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm. The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes.

But this state of life of the people is only a reflection of the state of their minds.

For they were saying that the time has not yet come to rebuild the Temple of the Lord, and they have left it in ruins.

But on the other hand, the people were more concerned about their own dwellings and about their own welfare, and neglecting the things of the Lord.

But their own concerns over the things concerning the Lord have brought them nothing but a constant lack and shortage of what they laboured for.

So through the prophet Haggai, the Lord had to remind His people - When God is glorified, the people will prosper. If not they will labour in vain and for nothing.

Let us remember this too, for when we put the Lord above and over the rest of our concerns, He will bless us and we will prosper and be at peace.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 25-09-19

Ezra 9:5-9 / Luke 9:1-6     

Whenever we talk about cause and effect, we will understand that it is meant to find out the cause or causes from what was manifested or the effects that are seen.

This is especially important in medical science as the manifestations of effects of a disease is analysed so as to determine the cause of the disease.

If we lived during the time of Ezra of the 1st reading, we may wonder if that was the time of the end of the world.

There was war and destruction, and the people, from the king downwards, were given to the sword, to captivity, to pillage and to shame.

But when Ezra saw all that happening, he knew what was the cause as he said this: My God, I am ashamed, I blush to lift my face to you, my God. For our crimes have increased, until they are higher than our heads, and our sin has piled up to heaven.

So the cause of the turmoil and the distress that were happening is clear, and that is the sins of the people were overwhelming, and hence the effects were also overwhelming.

In the gospel, Jesus gave His apostles the power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases.

This is to clear the obstacles that evil and illness have caused so that Good News of kingdom of God can be proclaimed.

So as we see the turmoil and distress of our present world, let us turn to God and ask for mercy and forgiveness.

The Good News is that God wants to save us. May God save us from what causes us to sin so that we can truly receive healing  and forgiveness.

Monday, September 23, 2019

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-09-19

Ezra 6:7-8, 12, 14-20 / Luke 8:19-21   

Everybody needs to have a place to go back to, a place where we can feel secure and comfortable, a place where we are at peace and at rest in familiar surroundings.

Whatever we may want to call this place to be, whether it is our home, or our shelter, or our refuge, it is a physical place.

Without this physical place, we may feel rather lost as we wander from place to place but nowhere to call our own.

So the people greatly rejoiced when the Temple was completed. It was a place where the people can worship and pray, a place where they find their identity as the people of God.

It was the house of God, and it was there that the people can experience the presence of God.

So it was not just a building that was completed. It was a place where the people could see that God was with them and where they could come and be with God.

It was also a place where the promises of God to His people were renewed as they listened to the scriptures.

But as they listen to the Word of God in the scriptures, they must also put the Word into practice.

When we listen to the Word of God and put it into practice, then we will have security and peace as our hearts rest on the Word of God and on God's promises.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-09-19

Ezra 1:1-6 / Luke  8:16-18

During the 60s and the 70s, there was an emphasis to pray for the conversion of Russia.

During that period, Communism spread and threatened not only the democratic governments but also the Church.

At that time who would believe that in something like 30 years, the mighty Soviet Union would break up and the Berlin Wall would crumble and Communism would lose its sting?

If 30 years seemed like a long time, then how about 70 years?

That was how long the Jews were in exile in the foreign land of Babylon.

But when Cyrus, king of Persia came into power, he made the surprise decision to let the Jews go back to their homeland and even offered to help them rebuild the Temple.

So 70 years of darkness and hopelessness gave way to the long-awaited light.

When we go through the dark and rough period of our lives, let us reflect on how often God has delivered His people from bondage.

God's marvelous light shines through the dark and hopeless periods bringing about freedom and joy.

God's light is to shine through us. May we be lamp-stands so that others can see the light of God.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 22.09.2019

Amos 8:4-7 / 1 Timothy 2:1-8 / Luke 16:1-13
All of us have habits, and each of us have our own peculiar habits. Some habits have some common features while some can be quite unique.
Some need to sleep as early as 9 o’clock in the evening, while others can stay awake late into the night. Some must have breakfast in the morning, while others will combine breakfast and lunch and call it “brunch”.

And some habits are called good, while other habits are called bad.  

It is said that mothers have this bad habit of talking when no one is listening. By the way priests also have this habit of talking even when people are sleeping.

But whether it is a good habit or a bad habit, most of our habits are formed when we were young and they stay with us.

So from young, we are told things like: don’t talk with your mouth full, do your homework, stand up straight, don’t bite your nails, comb your hair. These are old-fashioned good habits.

And along with that are habits that help in character and moral formation, like, be honest, don’t cheat, don’t lie.

In the gospel, Jesus tells a parable of a steward who was denounced for being wasteful with his master’s property, and so he was going to be dismissed.

The steward did some quick thinking and came up with an idea to have some means of livelihood after his dismissal.

He deliberately and dishonestly altered the debtors’ accounts to make it look like as if he was lowering what was owed to the master.

Up to here, our possible opinions about the steward’s character would be that he is dishonest, that he is cheating and that he is lying.

And also it was probably not the first time that the steward was doing it. He had probably done it before and gotten away with it. But he was found out and so he was denounced as being wasteful with his master’s property.

But what we don’t quite understand is that, why did the master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness, and since it is Jesus who is telling the story, then that’s what He’s also saying.

But the next line might help to clarify what Jesus is saying, that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light. 

To set the record straight the master did not praise the steward for his dishonesty. Rather the master praised the steward for his astuteness.

In telling the parable Jesus used this point to capture our attention and curiosity, and in doing so He’s also making us do some thinking.

Firstly, bad habits like dishonesty and cheating and lying don’t happen overnight. They usually start as a little bad habit but if it is not nipped in the bud, then they grow bigger and bigger and can have devastating effects.

That is the clear moral lesson from the gospel parable, and in the 1st reading the bad habits became serious issues as the needy were trampled upon and the poor was suppressed.

Yes, bad habits feed the bottomless pit of greed and selfishness. The result is obvious, there is injustice and that causes innocent people to suffer.

So much about the dangerous bad habits. What about the good habits then?

And here Jesus gets down to the point as He says: “The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?”

Honesty and integrity are not just good habits, but they are precious values that build trust between people. 

And more than that, honesty and integrity show our faith in God and that He is the top priority in our lives, and that He is above and over all others.

But good habits and values cannot be possible without prayer. Because when we come before the Lord, we cannot pray for blessings and yet play around with bad habits.

God has entrusted to us the power of prayer and we must use it faithfully and fervently so that goodness will prevail over evil.

Saint Paul would urge us in the 2nd reading:
My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone - petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving - and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our Saviour He wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. 

Yes, prayer is a powerful gift from God. Let us use it to cultivate a good habits and values.

Let us also use prayer faithfully and devotedly so that there can be peace in this world and that there will be salvation in the next.

Friday, September 20, 2019

St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist, Saturday, 21-09-19

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9:9-13

If we were asked in a Bible trivia, which of the apostles was a tax-collector, we would almost unanimously say it was St. Matthew.

And today's gospel passage recorded the occasion when Jesus called Matthew who was sitting by the customs house to follow him.

Yet we might want to take a moment to think about why Jesus called a person who was a tax-collector and why Matthew responded to the call.

Going by sound reasoning and public-relations, Jesus shouldn't have called a tax-collector who was considered an outcast at least, and a traitor at worst.

Calling a tax-collector would only erode His credibility and tarnish his public image.

On the other hand, for Matthew to have responded to the call would indicate that there had already been a yearning for a meaningful life and to walk the straight path of truth and justice and mercy.

The call-story of St. Matthew reiterates the fact that no one is unworthy or too sinful to be rejected by God. Everyone is called by God for a special and unique purpose and mission.

Yes Jesus came not to call the virtuous but sinners. And the call is first and foremost a call to repentance and conversion.

In St. Matthew's gospel, that is also the message. Jesus is the promised Messiah that has come to save us.

May we open our hearts to the call of conversion and repentance so that God's plan of salvation can be fulfilled in us.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 20-09-19

1 Tim 6:2-12 / Luke 8:1-3   

We know that in mathematics, zero multiplied by any number the result will still be zero.

That is the basic mathematical formula and it needs no further explanation nor can there be any argument.

If that is the mathematical principle, then the similar thing can be said in the spiritual sense.

St. Paul would put it like this in the 1st reading: We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it.

That is so true isn't it. We came into this world with nothing, and whatever we have obtained or gotten in this life, it is a fact that we cannot bring it with us to the next.

And St. Paul tells us that as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that.

He also warns us that people who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.

Yes, we must avoid all that, and we must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.

We see that kind of simplicity in the gospel as Jesus and His disciples went through the towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

With them are several women - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and others - who provided for Jesus and His disciples out of their own resources.

Indeed, we don't need much in life. Having food, clothing and shelter, and faith in God is enough.

And if ever we are down to nothing, then God will come up with something. We are nothing, but God is everything. That  is the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Let us be contented with that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-09-19

1 Tim 4:12-16 / Luke 7:36-50

There are many things that money can buy, but there are also many things that money cannot buy.

One thing for certain is that money cannot buy mercy. Mercy can only be given, it cannot be bought or demanded.

But as much as there is no connection between money and mercy, Jesus often used the example of money to teach about God's mercy, love, generosity, forgiveness, etc.

In today's gospel, Jesus used a simple example that involved money to teach the Pharisee a simple truth.

A creditor had two men in his debt: one owed him 500 denarii, the other 50. Both of them were unable to pay, and he pardoned them both.

Obviously, the one who was pardoned more will be more grateful and will love the creditor more than the other.

Using that example, Jesus declared that the woman's many sins must have been forgiven her and that was why she showed such great love.

So it comes down to simply this: how much we love is much we have been forgiven.

But more than that we must keep loving more and more.

As St. Paul tells Timothy in the 1st reading: in this way, you will save both yourself and others as well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 18-09-19

1 Tim 3:14-16 / Luke 7:31-35

As much as there is a difference between childish and child-like, most of the time, it is the childishness that is most prominent.

When Jesus was looking for a description for the people of His generation, He used the analogy of a children's game.

When children play games, they expect everyone to play by the rules. So when they play pipes, they would expect others to dance, and when they sing dirges, they expect others to cry.

So even children have their expectations and when those expectations are not met, they will become childish and start complaining or throwing tantrums.

Jesus and John the Baptist did not meet the expectations of the people of their time and the people called them names like "possessed" and "glutton" and "drunkard".

Even though the people are adults, when they are not matured with wisdom, then they can be really childish and begin to call others with derogatory names.

As it was then, so it is now.  When people don't mature with wisdom, they become childish and not child-like

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells Timothy that he wanted Timothy to know how people ought to behave in God's family, that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe.

Spiritual maturity enables us to have a child-like obedience to the truth, so that we won't succumb to childishness and complaining and calling others names.

May we also live out that truth with love and be witnesses of God's wisdom to our generation.

Monday, September 16, 2019

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-09-19

1 Timothy 3:1-13 / Luke 7:11-17

If there is a gospel passage that we would rather not use at a funeral service, it would be the gospel passage which we have just heard.

More so if the deceased is a young person or a child.

After all, parents should not be burying their children; it is usually the other way round.

But when parents have to bury their children, then it's because of something tragic.

It could be a disease that slowly ate away that young life. Or it could be a fatal accident that tore a young person from the parents.

Whatever it is, the grief is certainly doubled or tripled.

So does today's gospel passage have anything to offer?

We human beings can do a lot, but we certainly can't bring the dead back to life.

Yes we admit that we can't do anything about death; but at Naim, God showed He can.

In the face of death, God breaks the hopelessness and opens new possibilities.

At Naim, it was physical death. In our day, it may be the death of a marriage upon divorce, or the death of a job when it is lost, or the death of a relationship when a quarrel or hurt cuts in.

Yet in the face of death, of grief, of pain, of sorrow, God is telling us that He has the last say.

Because in the midst of these situations, God will visit His broken people and raise them to a new life

Sunday, September 15, 2019

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 16-09-19

1 Tim 2:1-8 / Lk 7:1-10

At times we can't help but feel amused when we think about why God would want to use human beings to do His work for Him.

For example, God doesn't need doctors to cure people. He could do this directly if He wanted to.

Yet God decided that scientists who discover medicine and doctors who use the medicine to be the ordinary instruments of healing.

Similarly, God does not need our prayer to make governments and leaders to act responsibly and justly.

He could do this directly Himself. Yet, as we heard in the 1st reading, He gave us the responsibility to pray for our government and leaders.

But whether it is governments or leaders, citizens or followers, all have a responsibility when it comes to authority.

Even in the Church, the clergy has the responsibility to exercise proper authority especially in the matters of faith and morality, and the lay people have the responsibility to obey the church authorities as well as to pray for those in authority to exercise it in humility and service.

Even the centurion in the gospel knows what is authority and responsibility.

Yet he was humble enough to recognize the higher authority of Jesus and pleaded on his servant's behalf.

If the centurion had that kind of faith and responsibility, then we the disciples of Jesus cannot be anything less.

We must pray for those in authority, that they will use it in service and humility.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 15.09.2019

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 / 1 Timothy 1:12-17 / Luke 15:1-32
One of the things that children love to do is to play games. We are not talking about those video games that are in the hand phone or computer.

We are talking about those interactive games that are played with others, and children have that kind of imagination to make a game out of nothing.

For example, in the game of “Catching” no equipment is used, but that will be laughing and shouting and even screaming as children run around and try to catch each other. They can have so much fun just doing that.

And when they get tired and want to change to another game then that is “Hide-and-seek”.

All the children would go hiding, and then the seeker, after the countdown, will go looking for them.

It is quite an interesting game, in the sense that those children who are hiding would always want to peek out of their hiding place to see where the seeker is.

So the purpose is not to hide until the seeker cannot find anyone. Rather those who are hiding will somehow give away their hiding place, and the seeker will somehow be able to find those who are hiding.

Hide-and-seek is a simple game, but so much human dynamics and emotions are involved, such that we can say that it is quite as sophisticated game.

In the three Parables that Jesus told in the gospel, there are also elements of the “Hide and Seek” game.

He talked about the shepherd leaving the 99 in the wilderness and going after the missing one till he found it.

He talked about a woman who lost a drachma, and would light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it.

And of course the last Parable, which we are quite familiar with, the parable of the Prodigal Son, or parable of the lost son.

We may think that those three Parables are more like “lost and found” rather than “hide and seek”, especially the parable of the lost son.

Yet the interesting thing about those who are lost in the maze of life, or lost in their sins or whatever, are not just wanting to stay lost, or that they are quite happy about being lost.

In fact just like the game of hide-and-seek, those who are lost may be hiding and silently calling out to be found.

We can see this in the Book of Genesis. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and fell into sin, they hid themselves from God.

God came to visit them and God called, “Where are you?” Only then did Adam and Eve came out of their hiding place. So it can be said that Adam and Eve were hiding, but they were also waiting to be found.

God seeking the sinner is a recurring theme in the Bible. We see that in the first reading as God said to Moses, “Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostasised. So God sent Moses to seek the people when they had sinned.

And in the second reading, Saint Paul said that he used to be a blasphemer and did all he could to injure and discredit the faith.

But when he was blinded on the way to Damascus, it was Jesus who sent Ananias to heal him and baptized him.
And in the gospel, the tax collectors and sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what He had to say.

But it was Jesus who first looked for them when He said that He came to seek and to save those who are lost.

So those who are hiding in sin are not contented with hiding on in sin. Whether silently or crying out aloud, they want to be found. Just that they are not saying outright that they want to be found.

But those sinners may not be easy to handle, and we might just want to be a Pharisee or a scribe and tell them to get lost.

But let us remember that the greater the resistance, the deeper the conversion. The resistance is essentially a struggle with their own sins and they are fighting a battle within.

Saint Monica had to pray 30 years for the conversion of Saint Augustine, but what a great saint he became.

Jesus sends us out to those who are hiding in their sins so that He can seek and save those who are lost.

Let us be kind and compassionate and gentle in seeking out sinners.

When we meet with resistance or even hostility, let us remember what Jesus said: there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Saturday, 14-09-19

Numbers 21:4-9 / Philippians 2:6-11 / John 3:13-17

Life is surrounded by symbols, and these symbols point to a deeper aspect of life which is called mystery.

In the case of religious symbols, they point to the truth of life which is encompassed in mystery.

For example, the lotus flower is the religious symbol of Buddhism, and it expressed the teaching that mankind can rise about the worldly desires, just as the lotus flower rises above the sludge.

For us Christians, the profound symbol of our faith is the cross.

Yet, the meaning of the cross may not be that explicit because it points to a deep mystery of life and love.

At first sight, the cross is an instrument of death and suffering.

It can be a stumbling block because we want to avoid suffering.

But with Jesus nailed to the cross, what the cross was meant to do is no longer as important as what God meant it to do.

In the cross, we see the love of God for humanity, that God came into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world.

In the cross, we see God offering His love and His life for us.

In the cross, we see healing and the forgiveness of sins.

In the cross, we see the invitation to discipleship, as well as the cost of discipleship.

In the cross, is not just the symbol of Christianity, but the reality of Christianity.

When we accept the cross, then we will enter into the mystery of life and love.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-09-19

1 Tim 1:1-2, 12-14 / Luke 6:39-42

When we want to send well-wishes to someone, we would say things like "wishing you blue skies and everything nice" or "may you be healthy, wealthy and wise" and other similar nice things.

Those are well-wishes, and we sincerely wish for someone what we ourselves would want for ourselves.

In the 1st reading, what St. Paul wished for Timothy was something profound and unique when he said: wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

We might think that it was a rather overly religious kind of wishing and only religious superiors and bishops and cardinals who use those kind of words.

But when we think about it, it is precisely those grace and mercy that we need most in our lives.

It is by God's mercy that we are spared the punishment from our sins, and it is something that we don't deserve and it is only God who grants us His mercy unconditionally.

It is by God's grace that we are saved and the fact is that we can't save ourselves from our sins. Only God can do that for us and He did it through Jesus our Saviour.

And it is by God's grace and mercy that we won't pick on the splinter in the eyes of others because we know we have a plank in our own eyes.

Indeed, God grants us His grace and mercy unconditionally. It is something that we don't deserve or have a right to it.

If we can see that, then God's grace and mercy will give us the peace that is the greatest blessing from God.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-09-19

Colossians 3:12-17 / Luke 6:27-38

When it comes to clothes, we can say that life is too short to wear boring clothes.

But that doesn't mean that we can wear whatever clothes we like and go anywhere with them.

Because we still have to keep the rule that dressing well is a form of good manners.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul has quite a bit to say about clothes: You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.

And he continues with this: Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love.

Just as we would wear clothes that matter, then we too should put on those spiritual clothes that will bring out the best in us.

And just as clothes symbolise an identity, our spiritual dressing would show others who we are, that we are children of the Most High.

God our Father has clothed us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and covered us with His love.

With these spiritual clothes, we should then be able to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who treat us badly.

Just as dressing well is a form of good manners, let us also do the good that God wants of us.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 11-09-19

Colossians 3:1-11 / Luke 6:20-26

As Catholics, we can't pretend and we also don't want to pretend that we don't want the material things of this world, especially the luxury goods of this world, e.g. a nice big house, a big car, a big bank account, etc.

There is a materialistic streak in us, and we also want to have the things that will give us some creature comfort.

We certainly don't want to think that in believing in God, we will have to face poverty and hunger, or sorrow and distress.

On the contrary, we would want God to eliminate all sorrow and distress, and pain and suffering from our lives.

In the gospel, what Jesus is highlighting is the truth of life, and that is, over and above everything else, we must long for God, trust and depend on Him alone.

That is also what St. Paul was telling the Colossians in the 1st reading - that they have been brought back to the true life in Christ, and hence they must look for the things above and not be stuck with the things of earth.

He even used the word "kill" with reference to the evil desires and sinfulness of this world.

Yes, of all the people in this world, we Christians must put to death the things that imprison us to this world and rise in order to live the life of Christ in us.

For in Christ we have everything; without Christ then all that we might have is as good as nothing.

Monday, September 9, 2019

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-09-19

Colossians 2:6-15 / Luke 6:12-19

Living in a fast-paced and high-stressed society like Singapore, it is inevitable that we will experience worry and anxiety.

Hence one of the resulting afflictions could be that we will have sleepless nights even as we lie in bed at night.

Weighing heavily on our minds might be those difficult decisions to make, or bugging problems that don't seem to have any solutions.

So although we might be lying in bed, yet our minds are running and racing all over the place.

In our minds we might be running through all the options that we take on for an action plan.

But in situations like these, we may miss the obvious and necessary first option.

Very often we may just miss out God as the first option. In fact, we often put God as the last option, and that's because everything else has failed.

In the gospel, we see that Jesus did not spend the whole night thinking; rather He spent the whole night praying.

For Jesus, God was always the first option and also the only option.

Like Jesus, we should also ask God for His blessings before we begin any task and ask for His continued blessings on the work we are doing.

For us, God must always be the first and only option. Any other options will result in sleepless nights.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 09-09-19

Colossians 1:24 - 2:3 / Luke 6:6-11

It would be strange to hear people say that they like to suffer. We might think that they are a bit masochistic or something.

Because suffering is synonymous with pain, and whether it is suffering or pain, it is a physical evil that afflicts the beauty of humanity.

Yet in the 1st reading, St. Paul makes an astonishing statement: It makes me happy to suffer for you.

And he gives the reason for this - in his sufferings, he makes up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church.

But St. Paul struggled on, even though wearily, because he was helped by the power of Christ which drives him irresistibly.

In other words, it was the power of Christ's love that made St. Paul accept suffering gladly and lovingly for the sake of the Church.

Even for Jesus, when He did the good and right deed, what He got in return was indifference to say the least, and on the extreme end, a murderous plot against Him.

Yet Jesus accepted that persecution and suffering because He came to do good and to save what was lost.

Today's readings remind us that when we do the good and right thing, not only may we not be thanked and rewarded, we may even find ourselves being criticized and ridiculed.

Yet we must keep doing the good and right thing, even when we face opposition and suffering, because the power of Christ's love will drive us on, just as it was for St. Paul.

We must remember that suffering and pain, and even evil, is not going to be eternal.

What is eternal is the power of Christ's love that will drive us to do the good and right thing on earth, so as to reach the glory that is waiting for us above.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 08.09.2019

Wisdom 9:13-18 / Philemon 9-10, 12-17 / Luke 14:25-33
One of the main themes of science fiction movies is about future. We may even say that science fiction movies is about the future.

As much as the future is mystery, science fiction movies depict the future with fantasy.

One way to put this fantasy into the movie is having a time machine that can transport human beings back to the past or into the future.

One such movie, and its sequels, is the movie “Back to the Future” where the characters time-travel from the present to the past and then to the future.

Of course all that is fantasy, but at the same time it is also interesting to see how the present or the future can be changed by changing the past. But again, all that is fantasy.

The past is history, and we cannot change that. The future is mystery, and we are curious about that.

We are curious about the future, so that we can be careful about the present.
And some will even have recourse to horoscopes and fortune-tellers in order to have a glimpse of the future.

There is this joke about young man who is single and was unhappy about his life.

So he went to a fortune teller to see what his future will be like.

Fortune teller read his palm and said, “You will be unmarried and unhappy till you are 45.” So the young man asked, “After that?” The fortune-teller replied, “After that you will get used to it.”

Of course we should not consult horoscopes or fortune-tellers. Because the first reading tells us this: What man indeed can know the  intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord? The reasonings of mortals on unsure and our intentions unstable. Who then can discover what is in the heavens?

Yes we do not know what lies ahead, and for those who are obsessed about the future, they live in constant anxiety and feel unhappy about the present.

In the gospel, Jesus does not talk about the future. Rather He talks about the demands of discipleship and about carrying the cross.
We might be thinking: That’s the usual stuff, so what else is new?

Then Jesus tells us two parables. One is about building a tower, and another about fighting a war.

The two parables may tell us something about our present as well as something about our future.

So for all that we are planning and labouring, what are we building actually? For all the skyscraping towers that we want to build, will they actually help us get to heaven? After all, the monuments of today are the ruins of tomorrow.

With the gift of wisdom, we will come to see that what we should be building are not towers of achievements but bridges of relationships.

Yes, it is the relationships that we build with Jesus and with each other that will form the bridges to the future as well as to eternity.

And about the parable of fighting a war. We may remember that Saint Paul tells us to fight the good fight. In other words we must choose wisely what battles to fight, so that we will fight for God and not end up fighting against others.
Fighting for what God wants will give us victory in eternity. Fighting against others will only bring us agony and misery.

So Jesus has given us a glimpse of the future as well as a glimpse of eternity with those two parables.

And besides that, the Bible tells us that our future is in the hands of God, and Heaven is our eternal home.

We all have a seat in the eternal banquet that God has prepared for His children.

In order to have that hope of a glorious future and eternity, then we must listen to what Jesus is telling us.

We must give up our curiosity and obsession of the future, carry our cross today, be disciples of Jesus and follow Him into eternity.

Friday, September 6, 2019

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 07-09-19

Colossians 1:21-23 / Luke 6:1-5

Let us say that this morning, or later in the morning, we meet someone and wished that person "Good morning".

But what we get was a sullen silence or a cold stare, or some unwarranted reply like: What's so good about the morning?

There will be two things that we might want to do;  either we get into a tangle of heated words with that person, or we just let it be and walk away from that sticky situation and be at peace with ourselves.

So in almost every situation, there can be a reaction or a response.

A reaction can be quite scorching, much like a volatile chemical reaction; a response would be more gentle and sublime.

In the gospel, the Pharisees reacted to what the disciples of Jesus did.

But Jesus responded to their reaction; He made them think and reflect about what they said.

So in all kinds of situations, we have a choice : we can either react scorchingly, or we can respond sublimely.

In the 1st reading, even St. Paul would urge the Colossians to have a new way of thinking and acting because of their faith in Christ.

A reaction to a situation would only result in tension.

But we can only give a Christian response when we stand firm on the solid rock of faith and not drifting from the hope promised by the Good News.

Jesus is the master of the Sabbath. Let us let Him also be the Master of every situation. That is our best Christian response.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 06-09-19

Colossians 1:15-20 / Luke 5:33-39

One of the things in life that is not that easy to accept is change.

Maybe because we have our reservations about change. We wonder if it will be for the better or for the worse?

For e.g., when we change our electronic gadgets like our handphones or computer. There is a whole lot of relearning to do and we spend quite a bit of unproductive time getting used to it. And we may end up not liking the change at all!

Even Jesus acknowledged that change is not all that easy to accept when He said in the gospel that "The old is good".

But yet Jesus did not say that the new would not be good.

Hence the example of the new wine in new wineskins is indeed a good illustration.

The new wine, over time, would be just as good, and maybe even better than the old wine.

Jesus came to renew all creation. He came to renew all humanity so that mankind can now have a deeper life and existence.

In the beginning, man was made in the image and likeness of God. But sin distorted that image.

But now because of Jesus, mankind is recreated in the image of God again.

For that reason, St. Paul says in the 1st reading that Jesus is the first-born of all creation.

So it all simply comes down to this - God became man, so that man can go back to God. That indeed is a wonderful change

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 05-09-19

Colossians 1:9-14 / Luke 5:1-11

To be in the deep end has a few meanings.

To be thrown into the deep end is to prompt or force one to begin doing something very complex and/or unfamiliar, especially suddenly and without guidance, assistance, or preparation.

But positively speaking, if you throw someone in at the deep end, you make them learn how to do a job or task by starting with the most difficult parts.

Or if  you jump in at the deep end, it means that you choose to do this yourself. Sometimes you learn more by jumping in at the deep end.

In the gospel, Jesus told Peter to "put out into deep water and pay out the nets for a catch."

Peter knew what the deep water was, but he had worked hard all night and caught nothing.

Nonetheless, he did as Jesus told him to and with that, a miraculous catch of fish.

For us, the deep end is often shrouded with darkness and fear. It is at the deep end that we feel insecure because of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, and we would avoid the deep end.

But should we find ourselves in the deep end, then the 1st reading has this to tell us:
God has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that He loves, and in Him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

We will learn something when we are at the deep end. Because Jesus is there at the deep end. And He will show us miracles if we just listen to Him, as Peter did.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 04-09-19

Colossians 1:1-8 / Luke 4:38-44

Very often we hear people say that they are busy. And of course we too have said that before.

But it is good to ask ourselves, just what are we busy with.

If we are busy with the right things, then we will feel productive and that what we are busy with is heading towards a direction.

But if we are busy with the wrong things, then we may just be running around in circles and not really going anywhere.

In the gospel, we heard about a day in the life of Jesus, and it was a really busy day.

From the synagogue, He went to Simon's house and healed Simon's mother-in-law of her fever.

Then after sunset, those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to Jesus, and laying His hands on each He cured them.

But just when everyone was looking for Him and to make Him stay, Jesus said, "I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do."

Jesus knew what He had to be busy with, and even though He can fulfill the needs of the people, He kept focused on what He had to do.

May we also think about what we are doing and what we are busy with. Let us pray that we know what the Lord wants of us and let us get busy with that.

Monday, September 2, 2019

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 03-09-19

1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11 / Luke 4:31-37

No one likes to live in a state of oppression and without freedom.

It is like living in a dark and dirty confined chamber, almost like being in a prison.

Furthermore, the stress and anxiety of a sudden torment out of nowhere will make life like a living hell.

That was probably what the man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil was experiencing.

How he got possessed, we were not told, but we can be certain he was looking for a way out and be freed from this possession.

That was why he made his way to the synagogue to look for Jesus, and it certainly took a great deal of effort on his part, as he had to fight with the unclean spirit who would be trying to prevent him from going there.

But once in the presence of Jesus, the unclean spirit had to expose itself and now it was its turn to break free from the presence of Jesus.

Indeed, Jesus is the true Light who scatters the darkness of sin and evil, and brings us Truth and Love.

The 1st reading reiterates this by saying that we don't live in the dark, and that we are sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to darkness.

But we must also keep encouraging each other and be the light of Christ to each other, so that darkness and evil will not oppress or possess us.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 02-09-19

1 Thess 4:13-18 / Luke 4:16-30

Debuts are important in that they form the foundations for the next step ahead.

It is usually associated with the first public appearance, as in the case of a performer, or a beginning of a course of action.

So it may be an actor, a singer, a musician or a footballer, that first formal public presentation may be a make or break situation.

Because if the debut comes crashing down, it may mean the end of a career or aspiration or dreams.

In the gospel, Jesus made His first "debut" by preaching to the people of His own hometown.

It was going quite well and they were even astonished by the gracious words that came from His lips.

Then things suddenly turned and in the end the crowd got so enraged that they hustled Jesus out of the town and even intended to throw Him down the cliff.

If it were us, we would have been very bitter about this and given up the whole mission altogether and never talk about it again.

Yet Jesus moved on with His mission. Because He had the conviction of who He is and what He came to do.

May the Spirit continue to anoint us with His power and may we  follow Jesus to bring Good News to the poor and may we bring about a new beginning of the Lord's favour.