Saturday, November 30, 2019

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A, 01.12.2019

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Romans 13:11-14 / Matthew 24:37-44
We have come to the first day of the month of December. This is the first day of the last month of the year. And looking at the next 31 days, we can expect a busy busy time ahead. 

But first things first, we need to look for those Christmas decorations. It’s only 25 days to Christmas and we better get started with the decorations.

But things are not going to be so straightforward and we have to be prepared for that. 

Even as we put up that outdoor Nativity scene and the Christmas tree, there were some issues. Some lights didn’t work, some parts don’t fit, and some things were missing.

So when we are putting up the decorations at home or in office, and if we find the top half of the Christmas tree and the bottom half is missing, then we just have to settle for a miniature Christmas tree.

And if we find the bottom half but the top half is missing or have a problem, then maybe we have to settle for a Christmas bush. We can still have the lights on it and do something creative out of it. 

Whatever it might be, the age-old wisdom saying tells us to “expect the unexpected”.

Yes, we have to expect the unexpected, not just in putting up Christmas decorations, but expect the unexpected as we put up our lives expectations.

Certainly we have expectations in life. We expect to have a white and bright Christmas, our children to do well in school, to get a big fat year-end bonus, and all in all we expect to have a good life.

But will that be so? Are we prepared to expect the unexpected?

And are we listening to what Jesus is saying in the gospel, that we are to stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that we do not expect?

And Jesus makes us recall the story of Noah. Before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, taking wives and husbands, right up to the day when Noah went into the ark and they suspected nothing, till the Flood came and swept them all away.

Added to that is also the image of a burglar in the night. These are uncomfortable and disturbing images. That is not what we expect to hear as we begin this festive and holiday month of December.

But that is not bad news as we might be inclined to think. In telling us to stand ready and to expect the unexpected, and to look and think deeper about the things around us, Jesus is telling us this:
That in preparing to expect the unexpected, we can be open to the God of surprises, the God of joyful surprises.

One of the decorative plants for the coming festive season is the Poinsettia. The plant’s colours of red and green make it a pretty decorative plant for Christmas.

There is a story behind the popularity of this plant for this season. 

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give to the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the church sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
He said, “Pepita, I'm sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves Jesus will make Him happy."

Pepita didn't know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. 

As she walked through the church to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the Nativity scene. 

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red colours, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the 'Flowers of the Holy Night'. 

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes seen as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent His purity.

So as we hear this story, maybe we are expecting to hear of a miracle, a happy ending, and indeed it was a happy ending. So it was up to our expectations. But is there anything that was unexpected?

The poinsettia is actually a weed that grows in the ditches and wild places of South America and Mexico. Because this lowly, common plant became so striking around Christmas each year it has been used to celebrate the holiday in South America for centuries.

The poinsettia is well-known not for its flowers but for its brilliantly colored leaves. The flowers themselves are “unremarkable”, but the top-most leaves change to colours of red, pink, coral or white as the days get darker and shorter.

And that is rather unexpected isn’t it? So it is not so much the flowers, which usually get the attention, but rather it is the leaves that are attractive.

And that is the pleasant surprise, because not only a lowly weed was elevated to such a high status, it is not so much the flowers but the leaves that catch the attention.

So as we begin the season of Advent, let us find time to be still and to be quiet, so that we can be prepared for the unexpected pleasant surprises that Jesus wants to give us. 

It is these unexpected pleasant surprises, like how the poinsettia leaves turn from green to red, that we can believe that swords will be turn into ploughshares, spears into sickles, the profane into the profound, the secular into the sacred, as we begin our Advent preparation.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 29-11-19

Daniel 7:2-14 / Luke 21:29-33       

It is often said that what we see is what we get. But on the other hand, there is always more than meets the eye. 

What we see will give us first impressions and opinions. But when we start to think about it, we will discover deeper meanings and even the mystery behind it.

The 1st reading talked about Daniel seeing visions in the night. That might already give us some ideas of the meaning of those visions might be.

For one, it would not be that clear in its meanings because the night has always been mysterious and things cannot be seen clearly and there is always something hidden.

But what is obvious is the power struggle of the earthly kingdoms and the rise and fall of empires.

But as Daniel gazed into the visions of the night, he saw something more than just earthly. 

Coming from the clouds of heaven was one who was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and his empire shall never pass away nor will it be destroyed.

It was like a vision within a vision, something more than meets the eye.

In the gospel, Jesus used the buds of a fig tree to tell us that there is something more than just summer is near.

It is the kingdom of God that is breaking forth and manifesting itself in the midst of the ordinary.

Yes, there is always something more than meets the eye. If we don't see a deeper meaning in it, if we don't see the kingdom of God happening in it, we may just be settling for something less.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 28-11-19

Daniel 6:12-28 / Luke 21:20-28              ` 
To be thrown into a lion's den is to be in a place or state of extreme disadvantage, antagonism, or hostility.

And usually it is not the strong and mighty who are thrown into the lion's den, but the weak and the innocent.

And no doubt about it, not many have survived and come out alive of the lion's den. Death is almost certain and a horrible death at that.

The prophet Daniel was thrown into the lion's den by his accusers who were actually just jealous of his high rank and he also enjoyed the king's favour.

So they laid a trap under the guise of religion and the king unsuspectingly signed the decree, and which he could not revoke.

So it can be said that the conspirators were more vicious and inhumane compared to the lions in the den.

But once again, God came to the help of the innocent and those who are faithful to Him; God rescued Daniel by sending an angel to seal the lions' jaws and saved Daniel from certain death.

There will be many lion's dens that we might be thrown into by those who are against us for some reason.

Like Daniel, let us remain innocent and faithful to God's ways and trust in the Lord's saving help.

In doing so, we will survive the lion's den and live to proclaim the mighty and marvelous works of God.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 27-11-19

Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28 / Luke 21:12-19                   

Graffiti is writings or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.

In this country, graffiti is a crime as it is the damage to property caused by: spraying, writing, drawing, marking or applying paint or another marking substance to a person's property without their consent.

And there can be no question of doing graffiti in high security places like Parliament House,  military headquarters and other dignified places.

In the 1st reading, there was graffiti in, of all places, the royal palace, where king Belshazzar was having a great banquet with his noblemen, their wives and singing women, and they were using the sacred vessels looted from the Temple of Jerusalem.

But that was no ordinary graffiti. It is what is understood as "the writing on the wall", done by the hand of God.

Those words " Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin" were meant for king Belshazzar and he would know what it was all about and what was going to happen.

In the gospel, Jesus tells of another hand, but not that of God. It is the hand of injustice and persecution. It is the hand of evil and hate that wants to stop the Good News from spreading.

It is a hand to be reckoned with, but Jesus will also be at hand to defend us and help us bear witness to Him.

We just have to hold on to the hand of Jesus, and He will write His name on the walls of our hearts.

Monday, November 25, 2019

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 26-11-19

Daniel 2:31-45 / Luke 21:5-11     

We often say that the past is history and the future is mystery. Sounds rather poetic.

And good poetry often makes a reflection on the harsh reality but puts it across beautifully.

So as much as we know the history of the past, we do not know the mystery of the future.

It is because we do not know the future, we tend to live in anxiety.

And we may secretly like to think that if we know what is going to happen in the future, then we may be relieved of this anxiety.

Well, king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about the future. And Daniel interpreted that dream for him.

But did it quell his anxiety?

Similarly in the gospel, the people asked Jesus about the time and the signs of the future.

And Jesus did tell them something about the future, but did it quell their anxiety?

It is not good to be too anxious about the future, but yet we can turn that anxiety into something creative.

We can use that anxiety to build the foundations of our lives so that we won't be thrown about by the worries of what is to come.

The prophet Daniel mentions in the 1st reading of a stone, untouched by human hands.

We, of course, know that the stone that he was talking about was that stone that was rejected by the builders but which became the corner stone.

May Jesus be that corner stone which forms the foundations of our lives.

It is in Jesus that we can have the security in a future that is mystery.

Because with Jesus we can truly live in the HERE and NOW. Without Jesus, we will be NOWHERE

Sunday, November 24, 2019

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 25-11-19

Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20 / Luke 21:1-4

Faith is not a passive or inert aspect of our lives. Faith responds visibly to something that might be expected to produce manifestations of an emotion or feeling.

Having faith would also mean participating readily or actively in the situations around us so as to reveal the presence of God in those situations.

In that sense, if we have faith then we would not be so easily influenced, acted upon, or affected by some external influence, and just being swept along with the flow.

In the 1st reading, the four young men faced a dilemma. They were exiled in a foreign land but were selected to be trained for the service of the king.

They were given food from the king's royal table, but it was food that had been first offered to idols and hence for the Jews to eat that food would be to defile themselves.

As exiles in a foreign land, going against orders would mean certain death.

But their faith in God made a way for them and as it turned out, God blessed them for their faithfulness.

In the gospel, that poverty-stricken widow put in two small coins into the treasury, and as Jesus commented, she put in all she had to live on.

In both cases of the four young men and the poverty-stricken widow, they could have just submit to their thinking and taken the easy and sensible way out of a difficult situation.

But their faith made them face the difficult situation and in doing so the presence of God was manifested in those situations and circumstances.

The world needs to experience the presence of God. That is why God chose us and gave us the faith. By our faith may we let God be present and may we call upon His blessings for our world.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Christ the King, Year C, 24.11.2019

2 Samuel 5:1-3 / Colossians 1:11-20 / Luke 23:35-43
The brain is without doubt one of the most important organs in the human being. Not just for human beings, but for most creatures as well.

But as much as the brain is an important organ in a human person, it does not mean that men and women think alike.

We should know by now that men and women have different thoughts about the same thing. They may be looking for a car, and men will look at the engine and the techy stuff. The women on the other hand will look at the colour, the shape and the feel of the seats, etc.

So men’s thoughts are certainly different from women’s thoughts. And also men’s memory is certainly different from women’s memory.

It is said that women always worry about the things that men forget, and men always worry about the things that women remember. (Albert Einstein).

Oh yes, men tend to forget about birthdays (but not their own), wedding anniversaries, their children’s age and other important dates and events.

Women on the other hand, remember things for even as long as 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

An elderly gentleman was having dinner with an elderly couple, and when the wife went to the kitchen, he asked his friend, “Even after being married for 70 years, you still call your wife ‘honey’, ‘sweetheart’, ‘darling’. What’s the secret?”

His friend replied, “To tell you the truth, I forgot her name about 10 years ago, and I am too scared to ask her!”

Yes, men forget too many things, and women remember too many things.

But what about Jesus then? He is God but He is also a man. So does He forget a lot of things, like other men do?

But since Jesus is God, and God created women, as well as their brains and memories, does He remember a lot of things like women do?

Whatever it might be, we can say that Jesus chooses what to remember and what not to remember.

Jesus chooses not to remember our sins when we ask Him for forgiveness. There is this story that a religious nun told a priest about her visions and conversations with Jesus. So the priest said to her, “The next time when Jesus appears to you, ask Him what was my greatest sin.”

A week later, the nun came to see the priest again, and so he asked her, “Did you ask Jesus what was my greatest sin?” The nun replied, “Oh yes, I did ask Jesus, and He told me that He does not remember it because He forgave you that sin.”

That was a smart answer. But that is also the truth. Jesus does not remember our sins whenever we ask for forgiveness.

And that is one thing that we must believe about Jesus the King of mercy and forgiveness. And when we say that we forgive, we are not expected to forget, but at the same time, we choose not to remember the pain and the hurt. When we choose not to remember that, then healing can begin.

So Jesus chooses not to remember our sins because He wants to forgive us and heal us with His mercy.

But Jesus also remembers. He remembers those who turn to Him to ask for mercy and forgiveness.

In the gospel, the good thief defended the innocence of Jesus. And he also made this astonishing request: Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom. 

It was an astonishing request because the inscription on the cross that read “This is the King of the Jews” was meant to mock Jesus.

But the good thief not only defended the innocence of Jesus, but recognised Him as a King when he said: Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

And Jesus replied with: Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.

The good thief had done wrong, and he admitted it, but Jesus chose not to remember his sins. Rather, He chose to remember His promise to that good thief to bring him to paradise.

The good thief implored Jesus to remember him, and Jesus did.

The good thief actually taught us how to pray to Jesus, by asking Him to remember.

Jesus, the King of love and mercy will remember us when we ask Him to.

Jesus will not want to remember us for our sins. But He will remember us when we turn to Him with a simple prayer like how the good thief prayed: Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 23-11-19

1 Maccabees 6:3-13 / Luke 20:27-40

The ambition of man can be so astounding and amazing, and can even have no bounds.

Man has even gone out of his world and gone to the moon and even explored the solar system.

Yet he may have gone so far out of himself that he may not be able to see what is so near and so important to him.

In the 1st reading, we heard how king Antiochus had great ambitions in his military campaigns.

But when everything fell apart, he also fell into a lethargy from acute disappointment and melancholy until he understood that he was dying.

He regretted the wrong he did, especially the wrong he did to God in Jerusalem. He regretted, but was it too late?

We too have our ambitions in life and plans for the future. But are these plans just about the future or are they about eternity?

As Jesus said in the gospel, God, is not God of the dead, but of the living.

If our lives and our plans are all just about ourselves, then we may not know who the God of the living is.

King Antiochus is showing us a very important lesson today. Don't wait till it is too late and end up regretting. Because it might be for eternity.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 22-11-19

1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59 / Luke 19:45-48   

If we were asked what is the most significant item in the church, just what will our answer be?

Would we say that it is the tabernacle, where the Sacred Species are kept? Or would we say that it is the crucifix, or the stained glass, or the statues?

All these are certainly significant enough, but there is one essential item that makes the church a holy place and a house of prayer.

It is none other than the altar. It may look rather ordinary, much like a table, but it is on the altar that the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered.

Without the altar, then there will be no sacrifice, and hence there will be no Mass.

In the 1st reading, we see how significant the altar was. The people rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made.

The altar was dedicated, and the people prostrated in adoration, and they celebrated for eight days the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings.

It was such a contrast in the gospel, where in the Temple, there was some selling and business going on, such that Jesus had to say that according to scripture, the Temple is a house of prayer but some people had turned it into a robbers' den.

Let us remember these words of Jesus and let us always have reverence for the House of God and for the altar of sacrifice.

The respect and reverence we show is also an indication of the faith and love we have for God.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Presentation of the B.V. Mary, Thursday, 21-11-119

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-11-19

2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31 / Luke 19:11-28

Whenever we hear of the term "Judgement Day" just what are the feelings and thoughts that we get?

It is certainly a day of reckoning, a time when we have to give an account of our lives, and only we ourselves know what kind of an account to give.

Because out of our own mouths we will pronounce judgement on ourselves.

In the gospel parable, that was what the master told the servant who kept the pound and did nothing with it.

Knowing what was expected and yet not bothering about it certainly calls for accountability and punishment.

So what is expected of us? The 1st reading gives a terrible account of what it means to be faithful to God and to do what is expected of us.

We may not have to face that kind of physical torture and torment when it comes to keeping faith in God.

Yet in our trials and temptations, we will surely face the spiritual torture and torment of the evil one to sin and go against God.

The evil one will also entice us with lies and deception to take the soft and easy way and slowly walk into the blindness of darkness.

Yes we need to pray that the Lord will deliver us from evil and to grant us the grace to live a holy life so that we can sincerely give an account of our lives on Judgement Day.

Monday, November 18, 2019

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-11-19

2 Maccabees 6:18-31 / Luke 19:1-10   

Generally speaking, as one grows older, one also should get wiser.

Given that with age, comes experiences of life that makes one see clearer and think deeper.

Such was Eleazar in the 1st reading. Being one of the foremost teachers of the Law and advanced in years with dignity, he was put to the test of faith in God.

But he resolved to die with honour than to live in disgrace. He would not even pretend to eat the forbidden food.

As he said, "Such pretence does not square with our time of life. Many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners' way of life. I would only bring defilement and disgrace on my old age. I shall leave with the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable and holy laws."

Eleazar would rather die than to be a scandal for others, especially for the young. Not only was he wiser with age, he was also noble and dignified when it comes to death.

In the gospel, Zacchaeus, the senior tax collector, had also come to a point in his life when he had to decide how to live the rest of his life with dignity and self-respect.

His eagerness to see Jesus was a sign that his heart was yearning for peace in his life.

Jesus came to seek out and to save what was lost. May we also seek out Jesus in whatever stage of life we are at and not lose any more time in our journey towards salvation.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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

1 Macc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64 / Luke 18:35-43

In life, there will be misfortunes. That seems to be like the unwritten rule of life.

So in life we will experience the spectrum of sickness and suffering, of anxieties and troubles, of oppression and persecution.

The 1st reading ends off with this line - It was a dreadful wrath that had visited Israel.

Indeed it was a dreadful wrath as those who wanted to stay faithful to the Lord would have to face the possibility of torture and death.

It is most unfortunate that just because one believes in God and wants to remain faithful to Him, he would have to pay for it with his life.

But it is in times like these that faith is tested and proven.

In the gospel, the blind beggar had had his share of misfortunes - he was blind, he had to beg, and when he called out to Jesus, he was scolded and told to shut up.

That would have been enough for anyone to lose faith, but for that blind beggar, it was then that his faith was tested and proven.

He not only received his sight, but his faith has also saved him.

May we see our misfortunes as opportunities for our faith to be tested and proven, and may our faith in God also bring about salvation for us.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 17.11.2019

Malachi 3:19-20 / 2 Thess 3:7-12 / Luke 21:5-19
If we ever need a reason to get a new luggage and winter clothing, then now is the time to get it. Because there are sales and sales at every shopping mall and every other shop.

But there is a reason behind the sales of luggage and winter-clothing. And that’s because the school holidays have begun, and it is like an exodus from the country to some exotic place, where it is cold and with snow, that is why the winter clothing and luggage.

Even going to a usually dry and hot place like the Holy Land would require some warm clothing, especially during this time of the year.

And if we have not made any holiday plans yet, then we can consider going there. It is not that far, not that very expensive, quite safe, and we can end up being quite holy as well.

And while we are there, we can also check out some of the holy sites. One of the holy sites that the tour guide will bring us to will be the site where the Temple of Jerusalem was.

There we will see for ourselves what Jesus meant  by “not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.”

There was nothing significant left of the Temple. There is not a trace of the fine stonework and votive offering that the people in the gospel were admiring.

Furthermore, on that very site is another building, so that Temple of Jerusalem, and what it was like, is left to our imagination.

However, there is something of the Temple that is still existing, and survived the destruction and the test of time.

As we ponder on what that is, when it comes to destruction, and the test of time, usually it is not one stone left on another, as Jesus would put it.

And Jesus said more than that in the gospel. He talked about turmoil and distress, persecution and revolutions, disasters and tragedies.

It is certainly something that is dark to hear on a bright sunny day.

But in spite of the rather dark overtones, there is an underlying message of hope. Because Jesus tells us this, and we have to keep it carefully in mind: 
You are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.

So in the face of devastation, there is consolation. What seems to be hopeless, there is hope. It is a consolation and a hope in the assurance and promise of Jesus.

Coming back to the site of the Temple of Jerusalem. Virtually nothing much is left of it. Nothing much except for one thing, and that is, a wall.

It’s called the Western Wall, aka the Wailing Wall. Jews and Christians, as well as others, go there to pray and slip in a prayer written on pieces of paper. That is no ordinary wall and there is a story to it.

When the Temple was being built, the work was divided among the different sections of the population. The building of the Western Wall was given to the poor and it was considered the least significant part of the Temple. To put it simply, it was just a retaining wall, to prevent soil erosion, among other things.

The poor worked hard to construct it, as they could not hire labourers to do the work. Also all the labourers were hired by the rich. So stone by stone, the poor constructed the Western Wall.

When the Roman army was destroying the Temple in 70 AD, God said that the work of the poor, shall not be destroyed, and the angels descended from on high and spread their wings to protect the Wall. 

The Temple was the symbol of the Divine Presence among the people. So even when the Temple was destroyed, the Divine Presence did not leave that Wall and it still stands to this present day. 

That Western Wall, that Wailing Wall, is deemed as holy. That is the symbol of the Divine Presence. 

So the Wall is a symbol of the Divine Presence for the Jewish people. That Wall, although it is a reminder of devastation, it is also the symbol of hope. 

That Wall, the work of the poor is also the symbol of the promises of God. It has endured to this day and hence it has a message for us.

Jesus promised us that He will defend us and be our protection. Jesus is the Wall that surrounds us and keeps us safe.

So whether we are going for our holidays, or preparing for the festive season, let us always ask Jesus to surround us with His love and keep us humble and dependent on Him.

In our trials and difficulties, let us turn to Jesus and ask Him to be our strength and to stand firm like that Western Wall.

Let us stand firm in our faith and endurance, so that like the Western Wall, we can be a symbol of the Divine Presence in the world. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 16-11-19

Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9 / Luke 18:1-8 

There is no doubt that God listens to our prayers. And God would certainly pay attention to earnest and persevering prayers, and of course prayers made with faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the 1st reading assures us, God will keep His children from all harm.

With faith in our prayer, we will see amazing miracles, we will be like horses at pasture, we will skip like lambs, singing our praises to the Lord our deliverer.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 15-11-19

Wisdom 13:1-9 / Luke 17:26-37   

The world of nature is both beautiful as well as powerful.

The sun, the wind, the sea have a potential to be reckoned with. The stars, the moon, the mountains capture the attention and imagination with their quiet attraction.

In primitive religions, nature worship is generally about the worship of nature spirits that are considered as present in the natural phenomena, and is the source of modern religious beliefs.

The 1st reading begins by saying that naturally stupid are all men who have not known God, and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is. It continues by saying that if charmed by their beauty, men have taken things for gods, then men must also know how much the Lord of these things excels them since the very Author of beauty has created them.

But with science and knowledge, the mystery of natural phenomena is logically explained away, and where once upon a time, man is subjected to nature in the form of nature worship, now nature becomes subjected to man.

But that doesn't immediately mean that man now recognises God as the Creator of the world and all things in it.

Instead man now sees himself as the master of the world and even sees himself to be like a god who can abuse and destroy and waste away the natural resources of the world and even disfigure the beauty of the world.

So modern man doesn't search for God anymore. Rather they look for ways and means to make a profit from the world for their own selfish gains. Man doesn't need a God, because he sees himself as a god.

As for us who believe in God and we know that we are stewards and care-takers of the world, let us pray for the conversion of sinners who think and live like gods.

As much as they have no excuses not to know who the true God is, we also do not have any excuses not to pray for their conversion.

Let us remember that the God we believe in is the God of love and He wants all men to be saved.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 14-11-19

Wisdom 7:22-8:1 / Luke 17:20-25

Books and movies about prophecies and predicting the future are usually of much interest to people.

Maybe because it is our human tendency to want to have a hold on the future in order to have a sense of security.

Yet we may get so engrossed about the future that  we may lose hold of the present.

We may forget to live in the here and the now.

That was what Jesus meant when he said that the Kingdom of God is among you.

In other words, God's Kingdom is in the present and the now; and God's name is "I AM".

God wants to be present in the now of our lives and it is in the here and the now that God reveals Himself to us.

Our present situation and circumstances may not be very rosy. We may be struggling with our difficulties and worries.

Yet it is in those difficulties and worries that God wants to make Himself present and to reveal to us His saving power.

It is only when we walk with God in the present that we can have the hope and the courage to walk into the future.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 13-11-19

Wisdom 6:1-11 / Luke 17:11-19

"Thank you" may be just two words, but it is easy to forget to say them and at times even difficult to say them.

We can forget to say them when we don't appreciate the good deeds that people do for us, or we may just take them for granted.

We can forget to say "thank you" when people give way to us when we are going in or coming out of the MRT, or when others give way to us on the road.

And we might find it difficult to be thankful, especially to God, when we are going through a rough time and we feel that He isn't helping us or answering our prayers.

But with whatever little faith that we have, we must believe that God only wants the best for us, and when we pray, we also must believe that God is listening and that He knows what we want.

If we can thank God even if our prayers are not answered according to the way we want it, then we can be sure that our faith in God has deepened, and that we can trust Him enough to say that He knows what He is doing and that He knows what He is going to do.

Thankfulness and gratitude are the expressions of our faith.

May we do our best in thanking God and believe that He only wants to do the best for us.

Monday, November 11, 2019

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-11-19

Wisdom 2:23 - 3:9 / Luke 17:7-10     

Our beliefs and our destiny have a connection.

Our beliefs shape our destiny, not just in this life but also in the next life.

Because out of our beliefs flows our actions, and our actions slowly form our habits.

Our habits shape our character and by our character we build our destiny.

The 1st readings tells us that God made us imperishable; He made us in the image of His own nature.

But it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world.

In other words, sin has distorted our beliefs.

Sin has also robbed us of our destiny, which is to be fully human and to be fully loving.

That is why Jesus reminds us in the gospel that we are merely servants.

No doubt, we are made in the image of God's nature and God's nature is love.

Hence, to love God and love others is our duty. We are servants of love and we can't expect a reward for it.

When we heed the call to this duty to love, we begin to build our destiny in this life and as well as in the life to come.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 11-11-19

Wisdom 1:1-7 / Luke 17:1-6

The examination of conscience is a spiritual exercise in which we examine ourselves before the Lord in prayer and see how we had been in union with God and what sins we have committed.

One question that we have to honestly ask ourselves is this: How many lies am I living out today?

Yes, lies. Not just spoken lies, but also lies in actions, e.g., hypocrisy, craftiness, being cunning, being scheming, etc.

More importantly, we need to ask ourselves: How did my life get so cluttered with so many lies?

The answer, simply is that, we deceive ourselves into believing that one little lie will be alright for just this once.

But the truth is that one little lie will begin to complicate our lives. And it will multiply until our whole life becomes one big lie.

Essentially, that is what the 1st reading is saying: that Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul, nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin.

Yes, the Spirit of the Lord shuns a person of deceit and lies and deception.

The plain truth is this: if we can live with one sin, then we can live with many sins.

And Jesus warns us in today's gospel that an unrepentant sinner is an obstacle to others and we have to watch ourselves of the sins we commit.

So if we really desire to be truly wise, then inevitably we must be at odds with sin.

Because true wisdom, the wisdom that comes from God is at odds with sin and deceit.

It is only with divine wisdom that we can see that virtue, honesty, faithfulness and humility is truly the way of life.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

32nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 10.11.2019

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 / 2 Thess 2:16 – 3:5 / Luke 20:27-38
We know what the riddle is, and it is always fun and challenging to solve a riddle.

A riddle is a question that is intentionally phrased so as to require ingenuity and creativity in solving it.

But if ingenuity and creativity is required to solve a riddle, then ingenuity and creativity is also required to think up a riddle.

So here comes a riddle. Why is the math book so sad? Answer: Because it has so many problems.

Yes, a math book has so many problems, and it can be said that the math book is like a book about life.

Life also has so many problems. But while the math book has the answers to the problems at the end of the book, the book about life does not have all the answers so readily available.

So the book about life is like a math book that does not have the answers at the end of the book.

We can try to solve the problems about life with ingenuity and creativity, but there is no guarantee, there is no certainty, that our answers are correct.

In the first reading, we heard about the seven brothers and their mother facing a big problem. They were forced to eat something which their religious law forbid.

As they were savagely tortured and put to death one by one for refusing to obey the king’s orders, they were united in one answer, that is, that God will reward them for their faithfulness in the afterlife. They believe in God’s promises that they will rise from the dead.

That is not just an ingenious or creative answer. Rather it is a faith response to the promise of God to a life that is beyond this world. But it takes a lot of faith to believe that, as the seven brothers and their mother had courageously shown.

In the gospel, there were the Sadducees who don’t believe in the afterlife or in the resurrection. For them, this life is all there is, so they must get the best out of it and enjoy the most out of it.

They would have known about the story of the seven brothers, but they twisted the story and made it into a question for Jesus, hoping to debunk the belief in the afterlife and in the resurrection.

So they came up with a story about seven brothers, the first married a woman, but he died childless, and according to a writing from Moses, the next brother must marry the woman, but he too died childless, and it went on and on till all seven brothers died, and finally the woman herself died.

Now the question of the Sadducees: At the resurrection, to which of the seven brothers will the woman be wife, since she had been married to all seven?

That was a tricky question, but it was an earthly question, and Jesus gave a Heavenly reply.

But how much of what Jesus said can be understood, well, that’s another question.

A woman came back from church and told her husband that the priest said in the homily that in heaven they would not be husband and wife anymore. The husband replied: That is why it is called heaven, and how I look forward to go there.

So Jesus tells us that our life in heaven is the life of the resurrection, and as much as our life on earth is a preparation for the life in heaven, let us also not be confused that the things of earth are going to be like the things above.

That was the Sadducees’ problem, so their book about life is like a math book that don’t have answers at the back or at the end. Their book is like a sad math book that only has problems but no answers.

Our book about life also has problems, but our faith in the Risen Jesus tells us what the answer is – that there is life beyond death, it is a new life in heaven, it is the life of the resurrection.

So the earthly death, as much as it can be quite disturbing, it is also God’s wonderful way of giving us the glorious new life of heaven.

And so while on earth, we prepare for this finality of death by our daily dying for our earthly desires and sinfulness.

So we die to anger, bitterness and resentment. We die to unnecessary complaining and useless arguing. We die to the laziness so that we can make a commitment to Jesus and keep running the race. We die to the addiction to our mobile phones so that we can have time for communication with God in prayer.

It is through our daily dying to selfishness and sin that we solve the problems in the book about life and come to see that the final question about death is actually the answer to a new life in God.

And may God, who is not God of the dead, but God of the living, write our names in the Book of Life and welcome us into the eternal life of Heaven.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Dedication of Lateran Basilica, Saturday, 09-11-19

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

The Lateran Basilica was built around 324 by the Roman emperor Constantine, and it is the cathedral of the city of Rome.

The Lateran Basilica is the official church of the Pope since the 4th century.

It is also called the "Mother of all churches" and on Holy Thursday, the Pope and priests will celebrate the Eucharist there.

This feast reminds us that we belong to the universal church, with Christ as the Head of the Church which is His Body.

Hence, we acknowledge that the Church is not just a building, but the body of believers who are scattered all over the world, yet spiritually united in the body of Christ.

We also acknowledge, in the celebration of this feast, that the Pope is the head of the Church and we pledge our obedience to him and our unity with the whole Church.

May we continue to be united as Church and as the Body of Christ and be a sign of salvation to the world.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 08-11-19

Romans 15:14-21 / Luke 16:1-8 

Many a times, our best ideas come about out of a desperate situation.

It takes an urgency to get us to try out ideas that we may not have even thought of before.

Such was the case with the steward in today's gospel parable.

It might sound rather confusing to us that that master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.

But the point here is not about the steward's dishonest but his astuteness.

Jesus is focusing on the urgency and energy with which a worldly man secures his future at a time of reckoning.

And He even urged that we, the children of the light, should learn from that, and ensure that our own future is not in jeopardy.

We must not be dishonest or immoral; in fact we are called to be upright and moral especially when we are faced with so much temptation to enter into the dark side.

But we are children of the light. We must believe that the light will prevail and scatter the darkness. Then the truth of each person will be revealed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 07-11-19

Romans 14:7-12 / Luke 15:1-10       

We can see the same thing and yet have our individual and differing points of view and opinions, and we are entitled to our opinions.

And our opinions are neither right or wrong, because we see it from our own angle and perspective.

But when we impose our opinions on others and put a judgement tag to it, then that is where other moral issues may arise.

Others may be influenced by our judgements, which are actually mere opinions, and they in turn will subscribe to the same judgement.

The 1st reading has this to say: You should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done. We shall all have to stand before the judgement seat of God. It is to God therefore that each of us must give an account of himself.

In the gospel, when the tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what He had to say, the Pharisees and the scribes complained, and made a judgement when they said: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

And even when we hear the parable of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine in the wilderness to look for the missing one, we might think it is rather absurd to do so.

But if we are that missing one, then we will certainly change our opinions.

So instead of letting our opinions turn into a judgement, let us judge ourselves first. Then we will be able to give an account of ourselves before God.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

31st Week,Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 06-11-19

Romans 13:8-10 / Luke 14:25-33

To express some spiritual realities, it may be helpful to use ordinary and understandable everyday life experiences and realities.

When St. Paul wanted to talk about sin and its consequences, he used the idea of a debt as an analogy.

He put it in such a way that when we sin, we owe God something. Maybe that is where we get this idea that we will have to pay for our sins.

Today's 1st reading tells us to avoid getting into debt. It means that we must not owe anyone money or borrow things without returning it back.

It also means that we must avoid getting into sin and to "owe" God an explanation for not keeping His commandments.

And we know what God's commandments are. And we also know that they are not impossible to keep.

And we also know that to love God and love neighbour will be for our good and our salvation.

Yes, we know that in keeping God's commandments we live in the freedom of truth and love.

When we sin, we not only put ourselves in debt, we also do not know the cost of our sins.

Hence Jesus tells us in the gospel to "work out the costs". If we have a sinful intention or motive, do we know what is the cost and can we ever pay it?

The debt of sin is painful and destructive. But the debt of love cannot hurt anyone because it is the answer to every one of the commandments. Hence, let us continue to love God and our neighbour.

Monday, November 4, 2019

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 05-11-19

Romans 12:5-16 / Luke 14:15-24   

A banquet is a formal feast, often involving main courses and desserts. A banquet tends to serve a purpose such as a charitable gathering, a ceremony, or a celebration, with speeches here and there in honour of the occasion or the guest of honour.

And so in our minds, the guests coming for a banquet would be formally dressed, they will be polite and well-mannered, and may even be distinguished persons or people of high standing.

And that's why in the gospel, one of those gathered round the table said to Jesus, "Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God." And the rest at the table would certainly agree.

And then Jesus told a parable that certainly astonished and puzzled those who were at the table.

In that parable, those who were invited to the banquet started to make all sorts of excuses not to go.

In the end, the host, in a rage, sent his servants to all the odd places and to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

And as if that is not surprising enough, the servants were sent to unlikely places to force people to come to the banquet.

So what is this parable telling us. Among other things, let us not be surprised at who might go to heaven, and who might not. Yes, it may just surprise us.

Also, we are God's chosen people, and we are first in His guest list to come to the banquet of the kingdom of God.

Let us take this invitation seriously, otherwise we might just be surprised that we are not at the banquet of the kingdom of God, and have to spend eternity in regret.

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 04-11-19

Romans 11:29-36 / Luke 14:12-14   

We have heard it said that “With great power comes great responsibility”. The meaning is that if we have the ability to do something, then we have the responsibility to do it for the good of others.

Similarly, it can be said that with a great gift comes responsibility and accountability.

So when parents give their children the great gift of freedom and independence, then the children must make the responsible decisions that they have to be accountable for.

In the 1st reading, we heard that God never takes back His gifts or revokes His choice.

When we think about what is the great gift that we have received from God, it is none other than the gift of freedom to use our intellect and will in obedience to His laws and help others do follow God's ways.

But when we sin, then we abuse the gift of freedom and God can take back that gift of freedom and we become like animals.

But He won't take back His gifts, just as parents won't chain up their children and lock them up just because they make a mistake by abusing their freedom.

Yes, God won't take back His gifts because it is through those gifts that we can also come back to Him through conversion and repentance.

But let us also not take God's gifts and mercy for granted. Because the time will come for us to be accountable and we will have to take the responsibility of how we have used our intellect and will to obey God and to do good for others.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

31st Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 03.11.2019

Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2 / 2 Thess 1:11 – 2:2 / Luke 19:1-10

For the past couple of days, most of us have been quite busy, in the spiritual sense.

We have been quite busy spiritually because we have been coming to church for the past couple of days.

Friday was the Feast of All Saints and being a day of obligation, we have to come to church for Mass.

Saturday was a memorial for All Souls, and although it was not a day of obligation, we would visit our departed loved ones at the columbarium or cemetery, and go for Mass and offer prayers for them.

And Sunday, of course, we come for the usual Sunday Eucharist.

So we have been spiritually busy, or spiritually occupied, for the past couple of days.

And with All Saints and All Souls coming one after another, that should make us do some thinking and reflection.

All Saints make us think a bit about heaven and that’s where we hope to go one day.

All Souls make us think about death and about the souls in purgatory. And also is that where we are quite like to go? So we better pray for the souls in Purgatory, because if we were to go there, then there will be others praying for us.

But maybe we don’t think about the afterlife that much and that often.

What is more real for us is our health, as we go on in years, especially in the sunset years.

A man was talking to his wife about health and old age. He said to her: My dear, never let me live in a vegetative state, totally dependent on machines and liquid from a bottle. If you see me in that state, I want you to disconnect all the contraptions that are keeping me alive. I would rather die.

The wife looked at him admiringly and said. Okay, I will do that.
And then she went to disconnect the TV, the cable, the computer, the laptop, smartphone, the PlayStation, and then she went to the fridge and threw away all the bottles of beer.
As for the man … he nearly died.

So the afterlife is a future concern and the present life is an immediate concern.

But if the future concern and the immediate concern has no connection whatsoever, then that is really a serious concern.

In the gospel passage, the senior tax collector Zacchaeus was a wealthy man. So his life was comfortable and his immediate concerns were taken care off.

So why was he anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was? He even climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass by that way.

So it wasn’t just curiosity. There was an anxiety. But what was the anxiety? Probably it was an anxiety that arose out of a feeling of being empty.

Zacchaeus was wealthy but maybe he was feeling empty. Zacchaeus had plenty, but maybe he was feeling hungry.

That empty hungry feeling made him climb a sycamore tree, so that he could quell his anxiety.

Whichever way we might want to look at it, in Zacchaeus, we see this reality, and that is, when it is not God’s time, you can’t force it. When it is God’s time, you cannot stop it.

So for Zacchaeus, the time had come. The crowd could not stop him. And climbing up a sycamore tree was not a problem, although it was very strange and even funny for a wealthy senior tax collector to be climbing a tree.

And Jesus also knew that the time for Zacchaeus had come, because when He reached the spot, He looked up and said: Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.

Yes, when God’s time has come, there will be no wasting of time.

So it was an anxiety that led Zacchaeus from his temporary concerns to an eternal concern.

We too have our temporary concerns, as well as our spiritual concerns. For example, we may have been offering prayers and Masses for our departed loved ones, and yet we do not know for sure whether they are already in heaven.

But that is not to be our concern. Our duty is to remember and pray and offer Masses for our departed loved ones. And if they are already in heaven, then they will offer up all our prayers to God, especially for the departed forgotten souls and also for our salvation.

So it is time for us to look beyond our temporary concerns to our eternal future.

Jesus came to seek out and save what was lost. And if today Jesus were to pass by our way, let us not waste any more time.

Let us ask Jesus to save us from our temporary concerns and to set our hearts on our eternal salvation.

All Souls, Saturday, 02-11-19

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

As we gather on this special day of prayer for our departed loved ones and for all the faithful departed, our thoughts go back to the past.

It is in this past that memories of our departed loved ones are recalled, the moments that we shared with them, and the mark that they left in our lives.

They have departed and are no more with us now. But we remember them in our hearts and in our prayer.

And our faith tells us that they exist in another spiritual realm, and that if they are in Purgatory and undergoing purification, we are able to help them by our prayers, and that is why we offer Masses for the departed.

We commend them into the hands of God who will lead them to His holy mountain where He will remove the mourning veil and the shroud of death and wipe away the tears from every cheek, as we heard in the 1st reading.

Yes, that is our God in whom we hope for salvation. And that is also the God that the departed hope for salvation.

And it is a living hope for us and for the departed, because the 2nd reading tells us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and that is the proof that God loves us.

So whether in life or in death, our hope is in the God of love who saves us from eternal death.

And Jesus tells us in the gospel that He will not lose any of those who were given to Him and that He will raise them up on the last day.

So it is with faith and hope that we pray for our departed loved ones, the faithful departed, as well as the departed forgotten ones.

In the mystery of life and death, we commend the departed into the hands of God as we remember them in prayer.

And the God of love, who is the God of the living, will grant eternal rest to those who put their hope and trust in Him.