Thursday, October 31, 2019

All Saints, Friday, 01-11-19

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

As we celebrate this feast of All Saints, it may be necessary to ask this question: What is a Saint?
There are a few immediate answers to that question, answers like:
- Saints are people who live holy lives.
- Saints are people who love God.
- Saints are people who are now in heaven.

So these are the obvious and immediate answers to the question “What is a Saint?”

But the most important and fundamental answer to that question is this : A saint is one who believes that there is a heaven and that there is a God.

This is fundamental for a Saint, especially when the Saint was in this world. To believe that there is a heaven is fundamental because that is the hope in the journey of life on earth.

So the destination is not on earth but in heaven. It is a hope for an eternity in heaven.

Not only to believe in Heaven is fundamental, but together with it is also to believe in God who is calling the Saint to come home to be with Him in heaven.

So to put it simply, a Saint is one who believes that there is a heaven, who believes in God who is in heaven, and who is now with God in heaven.

And just as the Saints heard and answered that call from God to come home to heaven, we too are called to be with God in heaven, a call that we hear loudly today.

And if we believe in what the Saints believe in, then we will live our lives according to the Beatitudes, which we heard in the gospel.

It is because we believe that there is a heaven and that there is a God, we would want to be gentle, to do what is right and just, be merciful, be pure in heart, be peacemakers and accept sufferings and offer sacrifices for the love of God.

The Beatitudes are blessings that God gives us to help us on our journey to heaven and that we live our lives according to God’s ways and not to the ways of the world.

So let us continue to believe that there is a heaven, that God is calling us to be with Him in heaven, and also that all the Saints in heaven are praying for us, so that one day we will join them in heaven to praise God forever.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 31-10-19

Romans 8:31-39 / Luke 13:31-35

It is a historical fact that King Herod was a man who wanted, at all costs, to have no trouble in his territory.

He saw Jesus as a trouble-maker and he wanted Him out of his place.

Hence he could have sent the Pharisees to warn Jesus and to frighten Him.

But Jesus was not going to turn back, and He was adamant in completing His mission, even though He could see where it was leading Him.

Jerusalem had a long history of killing the prophets and Jesus could see that He was the next in line.

But He also knew that God was with Him and hence He had to complete His mission.

And that is also what the 1st reading is telling us.

In the face of persecutions, who can be against us when God is on our side? What can ever come between us and the love that God has for us?

St. Paul was certain that neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, not any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God.

St. Paul's certainty lies in Jesus Christ who is the visible love of God.

May we also be certain about the love of God, and put our faith in Jesus Christ who promised to be with us until the end of time.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 30-10-19

Romans 8:26-30 / Luke 13:22-30           

The desire for happiness is in every human being, and we devote our energies in search of happiness.

So we try to obtain and possess what we think will give us happiness.

It may be achievements, possessions, financial security, status or position.

But after obtaining and possessing what we think might bring us happiness, and we are still not happy, then we might wonder what the problem is.

Even in the spiritual aspect, when we pray for something and we don't get it, we might wonder if we are using the proper words to pray properly.

And we might even want to try out those "powerful" prayers that are said to be able to pierce the heavens and make our prayers heard.

But this state of unhappiness and the search of this elusive happiness can be turned into something good.

But that requires us to love God first and then God will co-operate with us and the Holy Spirit can then help us in our weakness.

The Holy Spirit will show us what true happiness is, and that is seeing good in everything, because our love for God will help us see that goodness.

So whenever we see the narrow doors in the path of our lives, let us not despair.

Rather, let us know that our love for God and the help of the Holy Spirit will help us see that the narrow doors lead us to true happiness.

Monday, October 28, 2019

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 29-10-19

Romans 8:18-25 / Luke 13:18-21

Whenever we sigh, we can be telling others a few things.

We may be bored, as when we sigh in a long boring meeting; we may feel helpless in that we cannot change a situation and so we sigh; we may be frustrated that we cannot get something to work, and so we sigh.

But sighing is not as serious as groaning. Groaning could mean that we are heavily burdened and undergoing pain and maybe even struggling to stay alive.

The 1st reading says that the entire creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth.

Not just creation but we too are groaning inwardly. The groaning here is the longing to be set free. But to be set free from what?

It is to be set free from the clutches of the world that makes us want to think that all in life is just the here and now.

Yes, we are subjected to the worldly thinking that the temporary is the eternity. And people do succumb to the clutches of this worldly thinking and they live wildly with the pleasures and desires of life.

But for us, we know that salvation lies in eternity. And St. Paul says at the beginning of the 1st reading that he considered the sufferings of this life can never be compared to the glory that is waiting for us in eternity.

Still, we need to struggle to believe in that salvation that God has promised those who remain faithful to him.

May our faith be like the mustard seed and the yeast in the parables in the gospel. May our faith keep growing, despite the groaning, and one day reach the eternity of heaven.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, Monday, 28-10-19

Ephesians 2:19-22 / Luke 6:12-19

Some ancient Christian writings have it that St. Simon and St. Jude went together as missionaries to Persia, and were martyred there.

This may explain the lack of historical information on them and also why their feastdays are usually put together.

Even the gospel accounts do not say much about them.

St. Simon is called the Zealot (or Zealous) maybe because of his patriotism and nationalism.

St. Jude is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand or close to his chest, which according to some accounts, was used to preach the Good News

Devotional prayers to St. Jude helped people, especially newly arrived immigrants from Europe to the US, deal with the pressures caused by the Great Depression and World War II and other political and economic and social changes.

St. Jude is also invoked as the patron saint of desperate cases.

So even though we may not know much about the historical facts of these two saints, we know that they are praying for us.

We also have recourse to them in our needs, especially to the intercession of St. Jude.

They also remind us that we have to keep faith in Jesus and trust in Him always.

They even laid down their lives for Jesus in order to witness to Him.

May we also put forth our needs through the intercession of St.Simon and St. Jude, and may we also offer our lives to God in this Mass.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 27.10.2019

Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19 / 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 / Luke 18:9-14
The month of October can be called the “R&R” month. So what does “R&R” mean? Is it rest and recreation, or is it rest and relaxation?

That would be nice actually - rest, relaxation and recreation. But those are the kind of things we can think of doing only upon retirement.

But back to what “R&R” means. For students, and they can forget about retirement for now, “R&R” means revision and results.

October is the month for revision, as the year-end exams are looming. May St. Jude help those who are desperately revising and feeling hopeless.

And for the students who have taken the PSLE exams, October is the month to start praying for good results, as the PSLE results will be out in a month’s time.

So whether desperately revising or waiting anxiously and nervously for the PSLE results, it would be very helpful to pray to Saint Jude, patron saint for desperate cases. Saint Jude’s feast day is tomorrow, Monday, 28th of October.

So that’s why October can be called the “R&R” month. It is the month for revision, it is also the month to be prepared for results.

As much as revision and results seem to be the main concern for students, revision and results go beyond from school life to working life, from studying to making a living.

There are other words, like assessment and appraisal, but in essence it is a revision, or a review, so as to see what are the improvements that can be made in order to achieve the desired results.

But more than just for schooling and making a living, a review and a revision of life can help us to grow and to live life well, especially in the spiritual aspect.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable of two men who went up to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

The Pharisee’s prayer was more like a review of his state of life and his good deeds. 

He was like an “A” student and scored top marks for praying, fasting, paying tithes, and for keeping the Commandments.

So that Pharisee did pretty well. But only according to himself. We wonder who he was praising, God or himself. And we know what is said about self-praise.

And when Jesus told this parable, He made it a point to say this: The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself.

It is strange to say prayers to yourself. It is like praying to yourself. Can that be called prayer in the first place, if the prayer is just to yourself? 

So the Pharisee was actually talking to himself in prayer.

Whereas the tax collector was talking to God, and his prayer was simple: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

And Jesus concluded the parable by saying that the tax collector went home at rights with God, but the Pharisee did not.

And through the parable, Jesus teaches us again that anyone who exalts himself will be humbled and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted. 

And through the parable, Jesus invites us to review our prayer life and the results of our prayer.

It is rather embarrassing to realize that there are times that we are talking to ourselves in prayer. That is like praying to ourselves, and if our prayer is not answered, then we should know why. Because we are like coming before God, but not talking to Him, but talking to ourselves.

Yet, we learned something from the tax collector’s prayer: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

God loves a humble sinner, and God is merciful to those who have failed in life, those who are desperate and in despair. God comes to those who need Him. 

And when we are desperate, and despair and feeling hopeless, then the saint to turn to is Saint Jude, whose feast day is tomorrow. 

Saint Jude knows what is despair and desperation. 

He has the same name as the man who betrayed Jesus. So devotion to St. Jude began much later and was slow to pick up. 

And then, a for a time, between the 13th century to the 18th century, he was revered, but persecution broke out, and devotion to him fizzled out.

It revived again in the 1920s during the Great Depression, when people were desperate, and in despair and feeling hopeless, but they found God’s mercy through devotion to Saint Jude. 

And Saint Jude will pray for us, if we are humble enough to ask him. 

And through Saint Jude, let us humbly make this prayer: O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-10-19

Romans 8:1-11 / Luke 13:1-9                       

To die a peaceful death is indeed a great blessing from God.

And to be surrounded by close family members and to have received the Last Rites and Viaticum would be something that is deemed as a perfect end to life on earth.

And a happy, peaceful and blessed death is one of the petitions that are found in most devotional prayers.

Yes, we do pray for a peaceful and blessed death, and if God willing, without pain or suffering.

But when we hear of a sudden tragic death, or a life that was ended by some kind of disease, or an untimely death, we may wonder if it was some kind of punishment.

In the gospel, some people told Jesus about the deaths of some Galileans, who were probably tortured and executed, going by what Pilate did with their blood.

Jesus in turn recalled the eighteen lives that were lost when the tower at Siloam fell on them.

Jesus also made it clear that those who lost their lives tragically were not more sinful than the rest of the other people.

In fact, those who lost their lives through persecution, those martyrs who witnessed their faith with their lives, are blessed by God.

Whichever the case may be, whether tragic death or peaceful death, let us through our repentance be prepared to face death.

It is a great blessing from God to know that death is the passage to the eternal life with God.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 25-10-19

Romans 7:18-25 / Luke 12:54-59

Our shadows are quite interesting when we come to look at it.

It has always been with us and yet it is not a reflection of ourselves as what we see in the mirror.

Our shadows change in shape, in definition and in intensity, although it is always dark.

In a way, we can say that our shadows may be a symbol of our dark side.

There is always a dark sinful side in us, and even as we try to grow in holiness, it seems that we have to struggle more with our sinfulness.

As it is, the brighter the light, the darker the shadows will be.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul shared with us this experience of the spiritual struggle within him.

After saying that he did the wrong things that he didn't intend to, he ended the sharing by saying in that wretched state of his, the only one who could come to his rescue was Jesus Christ our Lord.

We, more than anyone else, should know what that means. Just like we can't get rid of our shadows, neither can we fight against our sinfulness on our own; we need Jesus to rescue and save us.

The clear sign of our sinfulness is our shadow. But the clear sign of the saving power of our Lord Jesus is when His light is shining on us like the noon-day sun, then our shadows are little.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 24-10-19

Romans 6:19-23 / Luke 12:49-53           

Every person grows with age. The growth is just not physically, but also intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

Although a person's growth can be measured most obviously by the age, it does not necessarily mean that with age there will be maturity.

It also does not mean that as one gets older, one also get wiser, or mellower, or holier.

And if one is not formed in good moral principles, then, as the 1st reading would put it, they are like slaves of sin, with no obligation to righteousness.

The result would be actions that are embarrassing to say the least, and even at the far end, it would be actions that result in destruction of self and spiritual death.

The 1st reading reminds us that we have been set free from sin, and with God as our Master, we are lead to our sanctification and ending with eternal life.

In short, it is clear that sin leads to death, but when we surrender ourselves to God and walk in His ways, we are rewarded with eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord.

So as we grow in age, let us also grow in wisdom and understanding, and be a spiritually matured people.

Let us continue to grow spiritually by walking in the ways of the Lord and walk towards eternal life in Him.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-10-19

Romans 6:12-18 / Luke 12:39-48       
To be responsible means to be answerable or to be accountable to someone or to a group of people.

A responsible person is able to consciously make decisions, and behaves in such a way as to seek to improve oneself and also to help others do likewise.

Most importantly, a responsible person accepts the consequences of his or her own actions and decisions.           

Servants are expected to be responsible persons, otherwise they will be sacked by the master.

In the gospel parable, the responsible servant is obviously rewarded by the master by being placed over everything the master owns.

Whereas, the irresponsible and untrustworthy and unfaithful servant is obviously punished.

And we too must see ourselves as servants of the Lord, and the 1st reading reminds us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies or command our obedience to bodily passions or desires.

We must be responsible for our actions because we are accountable and answerable to God and also to the people who will be influenced by our actions.

God gave us this great gift of free will and choice. Let us be responsible in using it to do God's will and be obedient and faithful to Him.

God will reward us for our obedience and faithfulness, and for being responsible for what He has given us.

Monday, October 21, 2019

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 22-10-19

Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21 / Luke 12:35-38               

If we have a good boss, a boss who takes care of us, sees to our well-being and our welfare, who is fair but firm, corrects us gently and helps us go learn and grow, then indeed we should be happy and thankful.

Not only would we be happy and thankful, we would also want to do our best in our work. That is a way of showing our gratitude to a good boss.

In the gospel, Jesus talks about the attitude of servants who were waiting for their master's return from a wedding feast.

They would be dressed for actions, with their lamps lit, and ready to open the door as soon as the master comes and knocks.

The servants would have this attitude if they know that they have a good master, and hence they would be willing to stay awake and keep waiting, no matter how late into the night.

And the master indeed is a good master, a master who would put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them.

We may find it astonishing for a master to do this. But we may recall that at the Last Supper, Jesus got up from table, wrapped a towel round His waist, took a basin of water and washed His disciples' feet.

And when we think further about it, Jesus also willingly took up the cross and offered His life to cancel out our sins and to save us.

Jesus is our Master and our Saviour. Let us realise how good He is to us. Let us be thankful and show our gratitude by serving Him with all our strength, with all our mind and with all our heart.

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 21-10-19

Romans 4:21-25 / Luke 12:13-21                       
Most of us have bought some kind of insurance. It may be accident insurance, hospitalisation insurance, life insurance, etc.

These insurance policies give us some kind of assurance that when things go wrong, then there will be at least some kind of financial coverage to help us see through a difficult time.

But whatever insurance policies we might have, they cannot be compared with the promises of God.

In the 1st reading, we heard that God made a promise to Abraham, that he will have a son even in his old age and that he will be the father of a great nation.

Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had the power to do what He had promised.

As we think about what God has promised us, we must come to realise that the greatest promise is the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Yes, through Jesus Christ, God has promised to take care of us, protect us and guard us and to be with us always.

So our security is in God and God alone, and not in what we own, even if we have more than we need.

It is in sharing what we have with those in need that we make ourselves rich in the sight of God.

To be truly rich is to stand firm on the promises of God, and like Abraham, draw strength from faith and give glory to God who is always faithful to His promises to us.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mission Sunday, 20.10.2019

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Ephesians 3:2-12 / Mark 16:15-20
Whenever someone asks us “How are you?” most probably we will reply with “I am okay” or “I’m fine” or “I’m good”.

In a way, we are expected to reply like that. And in a way, when we ask others “How are you?” we expect likewise replies. 

What we don’t expect is when we ask someone “How are you?” and they reply with something like this:
- Do you really want to know?
- What do you want?
- Overworked and underpaid.
- Compared to who? 
- Next question please.

When someone is not having a good time, asking that person “How are you?” may just open the floodgates to something that we do not expect.

The fact is that everyone has their own battles to fight, and it is not just one battle but many battles at the same time. 

The question is that do we want to fight their battles for them, or do we just want to stay out and mind our own business?

When Jesus sent His disciples to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news, He was like sending them out into a war zone.

That are devils to cast out, there was snakes to pick up and clear, enemies will put poison into their drink and they will have to attend to the sick to cure them.

And these are not their own battles. These other people’s battles and they need not get involved.

But as disciples of Jesus, we have to understand that Jesus sends us out to fight other people’s battles.

But when we fight other people’s battles in the name of Jesus, then Jesus will also fight our battles for us.

We just have to do what Jesus wants of us and He will give us what we need from him.

As the Church celebrates Mission Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus will send us out into the lives of people, so that He can teach them His ways, and so that we will walk with them in His paths. That is the vision of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading. 

That sounds good and neat. But the reality is that not every day is a good day. But there is something good in every day.

And we, the disciples of Jesus, must be able to see that, to see that there is something good in every day, and to help others to see goodness in every day, and also to see goodness in their lives. 

But of course, the human tendency is to look for what we think is good, and we lament at what we think is not good or what is bad.

But good thing or bad thing, it is hard to say isn’t it? The following story might help us to understand what this means. 

Once upon a time, there was a king. The king liked one of his servants very much because he was faithful and always gave very useful advice. Therefore the king took him along wherever he went.

One day, the king was bitten by a dog on the finger. The wound got worse and worse. He asked the servant if that was a bad thing. The servant said, "Good thing or bad thing, hard to say". In the end, the finger of the king was so bad that it had to be cut off. The king asked the servant again if that was a bad thing. Again, the servant gave the same answer, "Good thing or bad thing, hard to say". The king became very angry and sent the servant to prison.

One day, the king went hunting in the jungle. He got excited when he was chasing a deer. Deeper and deeper he went into the jungle. In the end he found himself lost in the jungle. To make things worse, he got captured by natives living inside the jungle.

They wanted to sacrifice him to their god. But when they noticed that the king had one finger short, they released him immediately as he was not a perfect man anymore and not suitable for sacrifice. The king managed to get back to his palace after all. 

And he finally understood the servant's wise quote, "Good thing or bad thing, hard to say". If he hadn't lost one finger, he could have been killed by the native people.

He ordered the release the servant, and apologized to him. But to the king's amazement, the servant was not angry at him at all. Instead, the servant said, “It wasn't a bad thing that you locked me up.” 

Why did the servant say that, we might ask. Because if the king hadn't locked the servant up, he would have brought the servant along to the jungle. Since the natives found that the king was not suitable, they would have used the servant for the sacrifice. So "Good thing or bad thing, hard to say".

Well, as we look at the world that Jesus is sending us out into, do we see it as a good thing or a bad thing?

Good thing or bad thing, it is hard to say. But as the prophet Isaiah saw in his vision: swords will be hammered into ploughshares, spears into sickles, nation will not lift up sword against nation, and there will be no training for war anymore.

Yes, let us lead others to Jesus, so that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.

That is the Good News that people want to hear. Let us go forth to proclaim it joyfully and courageously.

Friday, October 18, 2019

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-10-19

Romans 4:13, 16-18 / Luke 12:8:12

There is always this question about the meaning of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and what does that entail, because Jesus said that such a thing cannot be forgiven.

For us, we believe that the Holy Spirit is one of the Persons of the Trinity, and that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son into our hearts to lead us and to direct us in the truth.

But if we knowingly and constantly ignore the call to faith and outrightly suppress the truth within us, then we are obstinately rejecting the Holy Spirit, which is actually rejecting God Himself.

But it is not likely that we are absolutely that stubborn.

However, to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is a more serious matter.

Because that would be like ascribing the working of the Holy Spirit and something holy to that of the working of the devil and the unholy.

They commit it, persist in it, even though they know what they are doing is not right at all.

It is like their eyes and hearts are so tightly closed to the goodness of divine love, so much so that the light of goodness had become darkness, and goodness had become evil.

May the Holy Spirit open our hearts and heal our hearts of sin so that we may see goodness and love in everything and everyone.   

Thursday, October 17, 2019

St. Luke, Evangelist, Friday, 18-10-19

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

St. Luke was not one of the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus, but he is venerated as the Evangelist who wrote the fourth gospel as well the Acts of the Apostles. This is the traditional view of the Church.

Although he was not mentioned in the gospels, he was featured in the epistles of St. Paul of  the New Testament.

He was mentioned in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14. And he was also mentioned in the 1st reading of today. St. Paul mentioned about him in only five words - Only Luke is with me.

And that said volumes about St. Luke because St. Paul was suffering persecution and abandonment and his only source of consolation was that he had the company of St. Luke, and by mentioning that, it showed how much St. Paul appreciated him.

Furthermore, it was nearing the end of St. Paul's life in Rome that St. Luke was keeping him company and that was a testimony of how much St. Luke was involved in the ministry of the early Church as well as of his faith and character.

St. Luke knew first hand the challenges and difficulties of the mission of proclaiming the Good News and also the commitment and the sacrifices that are involved.

So as we read about his account in the gospel of Jesus sending out His disciples, we can sense that it was from the depths of his missionary experience that he wrote it.

Yes, we are being sent out to proclaim the Good News but it is like lambs being sent among wolves.

Yet in the midst of danger and difficulties, let us keep in mind how St. Luke kept St. Paul company.

It is in keeping company with each other in unity and peace that we are able to face the wolves and proclaim the Good News of God's saving love.       

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-10-19

Romans 3:21-30 / Luke 11:47-54               

To be reprimanded is not a pleasant experience.

But when someone is reprimanded, it is because something wrong has been done, and the fault is pointed out so that some corrective action can be done.

In the gospel, Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees and the scribes and those who claim to know the Law of God.

More than just a wrong-doing, it was something really terrible as lives are lost as prophets were killed and slaughtered and persecuted.

Blood was shed, and it was the prophets' blood, prophets who were sent by God.

Being reprimanded like this should have an awakening effect, but on the contrary, the Pharisees and scribes began a furious attack on Jesus and tried to force answers from Him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch Him out in something He might say.

Before we shake our heads in disgust, we also need to know that when we are reprimanded, we too will get defensive and try to get off from it.

But from the 1st reading, let us remember that we have received the free gift of grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus who was appointed by God to sacrifice His life so as to win reconciliation through faith.

So whenever we are reprimanded, let us hear the voice of God, and let us know that it is Jesus who wants to correct our faults and heal our wounds of sin, so that the mercy and compassion of God can flow into our hearts.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 16-10-19

Romans 2:1-11 / Luke 11:42-46

We know we should not judge others least we ourselves be judged.  That is what Jesus taught us.

So what exactly is meant by judging others? Because there are times when we are not too sure if giving an opinion is already coming close to giving a judgement.

In the biblical understanding, judgement is about a person's spiritual and moral condition.

It is not so much about a person's actions but rather about the person's essence, his very being.

So to say that someone is evil, or that he is malicious, or that he is selfish may mean that we are saying that is his very being, that is his very essence.

That is tantamount to putting a judgement on the spiritual and moral condition of that person.

We can only judge the actions, but we cannot judge the person's spiritual and moral condition.

The 1st reading tells us that no matter who we are, if we pass judgement, then we have no excuse.

Because a person's spiritual and moral condition is between that person and God, and we have no right to make any judgement about it.

Even in the gospel, Jesus judged the actions of the Pharisees but He didn't say that they were evil or malicious or devious.

But whether it is about the character of a person or about his actions, let us refrain from making judgements.

Let us act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God. That is what we must do.

Monday, October 14, 2019

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 15-10-19

Romans 1:16-25 / Luke 11:37-41

It can be rather difficult to explain why some people believe in God and yet there are also others who don't.

As for those who don't believe in God, the 1st reading tries to give an explanation.

It says bluntly that what can be known about God is perfectly plain since God Himself has made it plain.

Ever since God created the world, His everlasting power and glory, however invisible, have been there for the mind to see in the things He has made.

The problem is that the impiety and the depravity of men keep the truth of God imprisoned in their wickedness.

But that is not confined to just those do not believe in God. Even for those who say that they believe in God, they have to be aware of this "wickedness" in them.

As Jesus told the Pharisees in the gospel: You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness!

So even people who believe in God, even religious people, can succumb to the internal wickedness as those who don't believe in God.

But for us who believe in God, it is necessary for us to clean out this wickedness in us, and there is a solution.

As Jesus said in the gospel: Give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.

So if we say we believe in God, then the proof of it is that we will give alms and serve the poor.

Not only will it cleanse our hearts, it will deepen our faith in God who cares for the weak and the poor and helpless.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 14-10-19

Romans 1:1-7 / Luke 11:29-32

There are many lessons we can learn from the events of history and from the peoples of the past.

These events also help us to create a greater awareness of our current situation and we also see that we have many advantages over the peoples of the past.

We may feel anything from feeling sorry to being critical of the people in the gospel passage.

They were asking Jesus for a sign when THE sign was standing right before them.

Jesus could only ask them to reflect upon the events of their own history and upon the lessons of their past, and He quoted two figures of the past for their reflection - Jonah and the Queen of the South.

Similarly Jesus is also asking us to reflect on the events of our history so as to be more aware of our present spiritual state.

Events like our baptism and our experiences of God all point to God's love for us and His mercy and forgiveness of our sins.

We don't need more signs from God. We only need to remember and reflect upon the marvelous deeds He has done for us.

May we also respond to the call of Jesus for repentance and conversion.

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 13.10.2019

2 Kings 5:14-17 / 2 Timothy 2:8-13 / Luke 17:11-19
One of the popular religious practices of Catholics in Singapore is going for pilgrimages, if we can afford it.

And there are numerous pilgrimage sites that we can go to, as well as a good number of pilgrimage tour agencies that will handle all the arrangements to make the pilgrimage as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

And of course, going for a pilgrimage can also be an opportunity to get souvenirs, whether it is from Holy Land or from Lourdes or from Fatima or from the  Camino de Santiago.

And those souvenirs are typically religious items like statues, medals, rosaries and pictures. And we can even bring back water from Lourdes in little bottles.

But no matter which pilgrimage site that we go to, we are not likely to bring back two or three cartons of soil.

Maybe if we go to Holy Land, we would be contented with a small container of some grains of sand from the Holy Land, but not two or three cartons of soil. You are going to have a lot of explanation to do at a customs.

In the first reading, we heard of Naaman the leper. He went to Israel to look for cure and when he returned home, he had two mules carrying soil from Israel.

But no one was asking questions or laughing, and they dared not. Because Naaman was the commander of the mighty army of Syria, and he and his army often made forays into Israelite territory to pillage and plunder and bring back captives.

But this time he brought back soil. And we know why. He was healed of his leprosy, and more importantly he came to know who the Healer is. 

But why the soil and not the waters of the Jordan in which he had immersed himself seven times and was cured of his leprosy.

In those times and even now, the understanding is that soil, or land, is a very profound sign of the Divine promise of inheritance, that it was God who gave the people the land. 

So Naaman brought back soil from Israel as a reminder that it was in Israel that he was cured of the dreaded leprosy, and with that soil he was going to build an altar to worship the God of Israel.

Of course that is a very profound reason. But the soil was also a reminder of his mortality and that how the disease of leprosy had nearly brought him to his end, if not for the intervention of God.

But the soil was also a lesson of humility that he learned in Israel. When he was told to wash himself in the Jordan seven times, he raged and fumed. But his servants persuaded him to do it. After all it was such a simple thing to do.

But he needed to be humble and surrender himself to God. Of course, never talk about surrender to army generals. They won’t want to hear about it.

And incidentally, the Latin word for ground is humus, and from that word comes one of its derivatives and that is humility.

So it is in surrendering with humility that Naaman was cured, he found God, and he gained a thankful heart.

It is said that God has two dwellings: one is in heaven, and the other is in a humble and thankful heart. 
So Naaman’s leprosy was cured and his heart was healed in that he now had a humble and thankful heart.

In the gospel, Jesus expressed surprise and disappointment that only one out of ten who were cured of their leprosy came back to give thanks to Him.

And that man was a Samaritan, a foreigner, and just like Naaman, he also received a humble and thankful heart. He threw himself at the feet of Jesus. He knelt on the ground before Jesus, the ground that had the same soil as Naaman took back to his country.

Today’s readings remind us of a spiritual disease, a spiritual leprosy that eats away at our faith and love, causing us to be proud and selfish. 

And we can see the spots on this spiritual leprosy in our hearts. 
- this resentment, this bitterness, this anger, this hurt
- this immoral relationship, this lustful addiction, 
- this greed, this selfishness, this pride 
Yes, we know that there are spots of our spiritual leprosy. God wants to heal us but we must desire for it, we must know how to get it.

Back in the year 1917, in the land of Portugal, and in an obscure town of Fatima, Our Lady appeared to three peasant children from May to October, on the 13th of each month.

Her message was clear and urgent - Repentance, Confession, penance and prayer, especially the Rosary.
Because so many souls are lost to the devil and yet so little prayers are offered for the repentance and conversion of sinners.

Today is the 13th of October, the anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima. We don’t have to go to Fatima and bring back soil to express our desire for healing.

We begin by responding to the call to prayer, especially the prayer of the Rosary. 

May the prayer of each bead of the Rosary cleanse us of our sins and may God grant us a humble and thankful heart.

And with a humble and thankful heart, let us offer reparation for the conversion of sinners, as we remember the prayer taught by our lady and Fatima - O my Jesus forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, take all souls to heaven especially those in need of your mercy.

Friday, October 11, 2019

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 12-10-19

Joel 4:12-21 / Luke 11:27-28

As much as we see so much sin and evil happening around us, yet the great consolation is that the world has not become like hell. And it won't! Certainly not.

That is because the good that is created in every human being will keep resisting evil and keep it from being overwhelming.

So though evil may be widespread, yet it can never conquer all and have the last triumph.

Evil may win a battle, but that does not mean that it has won the war.

God gave His people a promise through the prophet Joel in the 1st reading.

The Lord will be a shelter for His people, a stronghold for the sons of Israel (Joel 4:16)

So in the face of evil, we have to stand on God's promises, otherwise we will not stand at all.

We can only remain standing in the fight against evil when we listen to the Word of God and keep it.

The Word of God urges us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us.

When we keep God's Word and live it out in our lives, then evil will lose its power and its sting.

Indeed, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it, for they will bring love and peace into the world.

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 11-10-19

Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2 / Luke 11:15-26               

The presence of evil in person is often given a medical or psychological rationalisation in that it is an ailment that can be treated through medication and therapy.

As much as medication and therapy may be helpful, but from the gospels, it is clear that evil is caused by powerful demons that live in or occupy or possess a person who has given in willingly to these demons.

But when a person wants to be freed of these evil inhabitants, then we will understand why Jesus cast out demons.

Jesus came to break the power of evil over persons who want to be converted and to be freed from the power of evil.

But evil spirits or demons need embodiment, meaning to say that when an evil spirit is driven out of a person it will immediately look for another person to inhabit.

In the gospel, Jesus said when an evil spirit comes out of a person, it searches for another place of rest, i.e. another person to inhabit. Not finding one it goes back to the person it came out of and finds it ready and waiting. It even thinks of that person as its former "home". The spirit re-inhabits the person and brings seven other demons making the state of that person worse than before.

Hence for true conversion to happen, there also must be a continuing repentance.

Driving out the evil spirit is only the beginning. Jesus must be welcomed into the heart to make the heart His home and to keep the person protected from the infiltration of evil spirits who would want to occupy and possess the person again.

This is also a reminder for us to always consecrate our hearts to Jesus, to His Most Sacred Heart.

In our on-going conversion and repentance, we beseech the Lord Jesus to also make our hearts like His.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-10-19

Malachi 3:13-20 / Luke 11:5-13

Whenever we are faced with overwhelming odds, we may tend to say: If we can't beat them, then we might as well join them.

Whether said in jest or in resignation, that statement portrays the powerful reality of the contradictions of life.

Examples of the contradictions of life are - the rich gets richer, and the poor gets poorer; those who do evil get the benefits, whereas those who do good end up as losers.

That was the lament of the people in the 1st reading. They tried to be good people and they tried to be faithful to the Lord.

But they ended up getting disappointed and said : It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping God's commandments?

Because the arrogant seemed to be blessed and the evil doers prosper!

But the prophet Malachi reminded the people that God sees and He knows and He remembers.

In the end, for those who fear God, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

Malachi urged his people to persevere. In the gospel, Jesus also urged us to persevere in asking, in searching and in knocking.

In other words, we are to persist in doing good and walking in the ways of God.

In the face of the contradictions of life, we need to persevere in our faith and to persist in our prayer.

We must believe that God wants to bestow His bountiful blessings on us who are faithful to Him.

So let us keep the faith, persevere in doing good, persist even in the face of evil and believe that God will always bless us.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 09-10-19

Jonah 4:1-11 / Luke 11:1-4

Whenever we think about God and justice, we may have this idea of divine judgement and punishment.

When we look at all the evil that is happening around us, we will immediately think of the evil that affects us personally, and also the wide-spread evil like terrorism.

We might like to think that God will one day send forth His judgement on those evil-doers and they will get their retribution.

Such might be the thoughts of Jonah as he began his mission, and secretly he wished divine retribution upon Israel's most hated enemy, the Assyrians, the people who lived in Nineveh.

Yet when it did not happen, he began to sulk and he began to talk sarcastically as we heard in the 1st reading:

Ah, Lord, is not this just as I said would happen when I was still at home? That was why I went and fled to Tarshish. I knew you were a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, relenting from evil.

Nice words, but may not be so as it came from a fuming Jonah who wanted to see the people of Nineveh punished.

So now, what is our reaction when God does not seem to punish the evil doers, or gives them another chance, or when He seems too patient with them.

But let us remember that for any true conversion to take place, there must be compassion and mercy, which will lead to reconciliation.

That is the justice of God - God is merciful and compassionate. What He can forgive, He will not punish.

And that is what we ask for in the Lord's prayer, that we will also be merciful and compassionate, and we forgive others just as God forgives us.

Monday, October 7, 2019

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 08-10-19

Jonah 3:1-10 / Luke 10:38-42     

Whenever we are given a task to do and we are told to get it done immediately and quickly and to hurry up on it, we will certainly feel anxious and stressed up as well.

We would rather be told "Take your time" and we think that would be a consolation, and so we will relax and take our time.

So we will think that we can take our time, and that we have lots of time, and then we will procrastinate and become complacent.

So actually, to "take our time" may not be good for us and may not work for us.

In the 1st reading, the people of Nineveh were told that only 40 days more and Nineveh will be destroy.

They could have said "wait and see" or "still got time" but that would have been disastrous for them.

When they heard the message, they wasted no time in getting down to repentance and were serious about it, from the king right down to the lowest creature.

In the gospel, Mary chose the better part of listening to the Word of the Lord.

But to listen is also to act on what we have heard. When the Lord speaks, we cannot but listen. And when we have heard the voice of the Lord in our hearts, let us not take our time to act on it.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary, Monday, 07-10-19

Acts 1:12-14 / Luke 1:26-38

The month of October is also called the Month of the Rosary.

The 7th of October was originally celebrated as the Our Lady of the Victory to commemorate the naval victory of the Christian fleet over the invaders, a victory that credited to the intercession of Our Lady and the praying of the Rosary by the faithful in aid of the Christian soldiers.

The feast is changed to Our Lady of the Rosary to emphasise the spiritual dimension of the feast, and in particular, the praying of the Rosary and the spiritual benefits.

The Rosary is a versatile prayer. It is a physical prayer, a vocal prayer and a mental prayer.

It is a physical prayer because as the beads of the Rosary are run through the fingers, it is a prayer in action. Even holding the Rosary in silent prayer is a physical form of prayer.

It is a vocal prayer as when prayed by two or more people. Hence it is a community prayer where the voices are united and raised up in prayer and in praise of God.

It is a mental prayer when the mysteries of the Rosary are meditated upon and it leads to a union with God and graces are bestowed.

And all three, the physical, vocal and mental prayers, can be done at the same time, and that is why the Rosary is such a versatile prayer.

The Rosary is also a simple prayer and a difficult prayer. It is simple enough for children to learn to pray it, yet it can be difficult as the monotony of the prayers can make distractions possible.

But in praying the Rosary, Our Lady prays with us and for us.

The first mention of Mary is at the Annunciation, which is the beginning of fulfullment of salvation.

The last mention of her is in the Acts of the Apostles, where she is praying with the disciples.

And Mary still continues to pray with us and for us. Let us continue to pray the Rosary and to help others to pray it too.

The Rosary has brought about abundant graces. The powerful form of prayer is what we need, what the Church needs, and what the world needs.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

27th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 06.10.2019

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 / Luke 17:5-10
To come to church every week certainly requires faith. Whether it is a strong faith or a weak faith, a deep faith or shallow faith, that’s another matter.

But it will certainly require faith to come to Church week in week out and to pray for our needs and offer up our petitions.

And we also want to believe that God answers prayers. That is our faith in God and that is also why we keep coming to church.

But we have gone through that experience when we prayed and prayed, and nothing happens, and we wonder how long more do we need to keep praying.

Some people have stopped coming to church because they prayed for an urgent need and nothing seems to happen. They get angry and frustrated and so they gave up and stopped coming to church.

And these people are not strangers to us. They could be our family members as well as our relatives and friends.

And when they ask us why their prayers are not answered and what is the use of coming to church anymore, we are lost for answers. We don’t have the answers. Yes, everything happens for a reason, but the hardest thing is waiting for that reason to come along.

And if they turn around and ask us, “Have your prayers been answered?” we won’t be able to give them an immediate affirmative “Yes”. It is not likely that we will be so confident about saying “Yes”.  

But we take consolation that in the Bible, there are passages where people cry out to God, they vent at God, they may even be shouting at God.

The first reading from the prophet Habakkuk is not a stoic emotionless prayer to God. We can feel the tension as Habakkuk says:

How long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen. To cry oppression in your ear and you will not save? Why do you set injustice before me, why do you look on where there is tyranny? Outrage and violence, this is all I see, all is contention, and discord flourishes.

To speak like that, or to shout like that, to God, it’s certainly not how a creature talks to the Creator.

But when the house is on fire, there is no time to be polite or courteous. Habakkuk was desperate as he prayed, and yet God does not seem to answer or do anything.

Still in the end, God answered and what an answer it was as God said:
Write the vision down, inscribe it on tablets to be easily read, eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive. If it comes slowly, wait, for come it will, without fail.

So we have it there in God’s own words, that He will answer prayers, whether they are desperate and urgent, or routine and ordinary. Yes, God will answer prayers and He will do something.

But that would certainly require that little faith in God. 

In the gospel, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. And that was because they had their failures and Jesus was sending them out like lambs among wolves.

And Jesus told them that they only need to have that mustard seed faith and God will work wonders.

Yes, faith moves mountains, but doubts create them.

So we have that mustard seed faith to move mountains. There is no need to ask for an increase of faith. Because if faith were to increase so too will doubts.

And faith in God includes faith in His time. Yes, all will be in God’s time.

Well the hot and hazy month of September is over.

We prayed for rain and that the haze will go away. Well God answered our prayer and we are enjoying cool clean air. But we must continue to pray that the cause of the haze will be resolved.

And just a side comment: If we pray for rain, then we better not complain about the mud. It is part of the package.

Of course faith makes things possible, but possible does not mean easy. We must remember that.
So we must persevere and persist in our prayer and keep that mustard seed faith.

Yes prayer is bringing our wishes and worries to God. But we must also have the faith to leave them there with God. 

Yes God will answer our prayers. If it comes slowly, then wait, for come it will without fail.

With our mustard seed faith, we will see how our prayers will be answered.

And with our mustard seed faith, let us trust in the Lord that He will work wonders in His time.

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 05-10-19

Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29 / Luke 10:17-24

Euphoria is a powerful emotion that has amazing effects on people.

With euphoria, there is a lot of adrenaline pumping around and people can rise up to unexpected levels to meet whatever challenges and difficulties and to overcome them.

When people are experiencing euphoria, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Such may be said of the seventy-two disciples that Jesus sent forth to preach the Good News and with authority over devils and to heal the sick.

As they went, they saw for themselves the power of the Good News in the conversion of sinners and their repentance.

They saw how the name of Jesus expelled devils from those who were possessed and brought about healing of the sick and restoration for those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Indeed a powerful light shined whenever they spoke. Not only were the people euphoric about the wonders they worked, the 72 disciples were euphoric too.

So when they came back high and rejoicing, Jesus brought them down to some sobering.

They must not forget who is the power behind those wonders.

In the 1st reading, it was because the people of Israel forgot about God that He had to be a constant reminder of Israel of their sins and also that He is their redeemer.

May we also not, in our euphoria of our success and achievements, forget that it is God who gave us those gifts and blessings.

It is in remembering to thank God always that our names will be written in heaven.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 04-10-19

Baruch 1:15-22 / Luke 10:13-16       

Have we ever wondered why it is so difficult to be obedient?

Certainly obedience is a virtue, and more so if obedience to something that is good for us, then all the more there should be no issues with it.

Furthermore, there is also such a thing as obedience-training, as in the military, or like how some pet dogs are sent for obedience training.

Whichever might be the case, the tendency to disobey and to do things our way, is inherent in humans, even though they may know that disobedience will have punishing consequences.

The 1st reading gives an account of the disobedience of the people of God. But that is just one of the many accounts of how the people of God had not listened to the voice of the Lord and not followed the commandment of the Lord.

And so with that, it was one disaster after another, being conquered by enemies, internal turmoil, injustice and oppression and suffering.

The 1st reading points out the cause of this disobedience - each wants to follow the dictates of his evil heart, and collectively it spells disaster for a nation.

And this evil streak of disobedience continues in the gospel with the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum heading towards destruction.

All this sounds terribly bleak and depressive. But the good news is that God is compassionate and merciful, and He still wants to save His people even though they have sinned and turned away from Him.

So God sent one prophet after another, and God also sent one saint after another.

Today the Church celebrates the feast of a great saint, St. Francis of Assisi. We may think that St. Francis is about poverty and loving nature, calling them Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and talking to birds.

But St. Francis is a messenger of peace, and the hymn "The Prayer of St. Francis" (Make me a channel of your peace) tells us why he is such a great saint.

Just as disobedience brings about chaos, obedience brings about peace, and he discovered this through his life of poverty and self-surrendering to the Lord in obedience.

God told St. Francis what to do with his life and he obeyed and he found peace.

May we also listen to what God wants us to do with our life. When we obey, we will find peace, just as St. Francis did.

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

Nehemiah 8:1-12 / Luke 10:1-12   

Whenever we hear of this word "law", we may immediately have a few assumptions.

We might see the law as a restriction of our freedom and an obstacle to doing what we like.

Or we can see the law as giving us direction. It helps us to decide what is right and good, especially in the area of social order and morality.

In the 1st reading, we heard that when the people listened to the reading from the Book of the Law, they were in tears.

The Book of the Law refers to the Torah, which is the first 5 books of the Jewish scriptures, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

So the Book of the Law was not just about rules and regulations. It is also about God's love for his people and how He rescued them from slavery and danger.

The people were in tears because they realized how far short they were in keeping the Law especially in their unfaithfulness and sinfulness.

Yet when we understand the Book of the Law and the Bible as a testimony of God's love for us and how He would protect and save us, then we would be willing to be sent by Jesus as labourers of His harvest.

Yes, the harvest is rich but the labourers are few, but that is because we have yet to understand how much God loves us and that we need to witness to God's love for us to others.

Indeed the kingdom of God is very near to us. God's love is all around us. Let us labour to make known that love. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Guardian Angels, Wednesday, 02-10-19

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

We are very familiar with the material world, the world that is experienced by our senses and comprehended by our knowledge and rationale.

Yet as Catholics, we profess in one part of the Creed the existence of the visible and invisible.

There is the existence of the invisible, the spiritual world, and it is on this spiritual world that we reflect about angels and guardian angels.

Generally, angels are understood to be messengers of God. Other roles include the protecting and guiding of human beings and carrying out God's tasks.

A guardian angel is an angel assigned to protect and guide a particular person.

The belief is that guardian angels serve to protect whichever person God assigns them to, and present prayer to God on that person's behalf.

We come to this belief from what Jesus said in the gospel that even the children have guardian angels who are always in the presence of God.

The 1st reading also affirms that God sends His angels to guard us and to bring us to the place that He has prepared for us, i.e. to be with God in heaven eternally.

May we always be aware of the existence of the spiritual world and especially our guardian angel who is always by our side.

Let us also remember the traditional Catholic prayer to one's guardian angel :
Angel of God, my guardian dear
to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side
to light, to guard, to rule and guide.