Thursday, January 30, 2020

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 31-01-2020

2 Sam 11:1-10, 13-17 / Mark 4:26-34

Our eyes are such a wonderful gift. With our eyes we can see and appreciate the beauty around us, we can look at where we are going, and we can also evaluate a situation by a visual judgement.

Eyes are like windows to the mind and the heart, and we can block what we don't like and let in what we like or desire.

In the 1st reading, when king David was strolling at his palace roof, he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful.

He made inquiries about that woman and he found out that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

From admiring her beauty, David went on to desire for her and so he had her brought to him and he slept with her.

One thing led to another, and eventually it lead to the conspired death of Uriah, who was one of David's faithful army commanders.

It all began with David's eyes. His eyes lingered on for too long on a beautiful woman who was bathing.

We too need to guard what we are looking at, and have control over our eyes, otherwise there can be tragic consequences, like what happened to David.

May our eyes be always on the Lord God, so that we will see goodness and beauty, and also go to the help of others who are in need.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30-01-2020

2 Sam 7:18-19, 24-29 / Mark 4:21-25

In this time of anxiety and concerns over the spread of the virus, we are also brought to look at life squarely and seriously.

In situations where there is mortal danger and the fragility of life is exposed before our eyes, we come to certain realisations and are brought back to basics.

And inevitably, we will turn to God as we ask for His help in such a distressful time. Because it is in times like these that we realise who God is and who we are.

And those were the first words of David in the 1st reading when he spoke to God, "Who am I, Lord, and what is my house, that you have led me as far as this?"

David was thankful that God had already showered him with blessings, and God was going to bless him and his descendants even more.

David was like a light that God puts on a lamp-stand, so that people could see God's blessings in David.

We too have the light of Christ within us, and we too must stand up and let the light of Christ shine in times of darkness, so as to bring hope to our troubled world.

With the light of prayer, let us invoke the Lord for His blessings on us and on the world, so that the Good News of salvation will bring about hope in a time of anxiety and fear.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 29-01-2020

2 Sam 7:4-17 / Mark 4:1-20

If seeing is believing, then there is more than meets the eye. Because we may not comprehend everything at first glance or at the first encounter.

So seeing does not necessarily equate to understanding, and looking does not necessarily equate to comprehending.

When Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seeds, the people knew what He was talking about because they could see it happening almost every day.

But when Jesus was alone, His disciples asked Him what the parables meant. They knew there was something more than just a story about the sowing techniques or where to plant seeds.

And even for David in the 1st reading, he thought that the next obvious thing to do was to build the House of God, now that things are more settled and in place.

But man does not see as God sees, nor does man think as God thinks. And hence the prophet Nathan was sent to David to help him understand the plans of God.

So there is always more that meets the eye and the mind.

Whatever plans that we make and think that it is the most obvious or natural thing to do, let us bring it before the Lord in prayer.

God will reveal to us more than we can see or think, and even lead us to understand and comprehend the ways of God.

Monday, January 27, 2020

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 28-01-2020

2 Sam 6:12-15, 17-19 / Mark 3:31-35

With a health issue looming over us, there are more and more precautions kicking in.

Although we are told not to be too alarmed, yet we can't help being concerned about how infectious the virus is.

In an anxious time like this, we must comply to the precautions and stay calm.

And in an anxious time like this, we must also turn to God and implore His help and His blessings on the medical personnel attending to the victims and that a cure for the virus be found quickly.

We want to see God coming to our aid, and we must not doubt His presence among us and that He will hear our prayer.

In the 1st reading, we hear of how David brought the ark of God to the Citadel of David with great rejoicing, dancing with all his might and offering holocausts and communion sacrifices to the Lord.

The ark of God was a profound sign of God's presence among His people, and David believed in it.

For us, the profound sign of God's presence is in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Blessed Sacrament.

We must have the faith to believe that God will hear our prayers and grant His blessings .

So let us stay calm, let us hold on to our faith, let us keep praying and trusting in the Lord.

If we believe that God is with us, then let us not give in to fear.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-01-2020

2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10 / Mark 3:22-30

In a certain sense, we can say that life is rigid. For example, what is done cannot be undone, and what is said cannot be retracted.

Even in this age of information technology, what is posted on the internet cannot be taken off. As it is said, the internet remembers.

The second part of today's gospel passage can be quite troubling when Jesus said : Let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

We might immediately sit up and ask if we ever committed a sin like that. Anyway what does "blaspheme against the Holy Spirit" mean?

When we read the preceding verses, then we will understand why Jesus said that.

Because the scribes were saying that Jesus cast out demons with the power of devil himself.

They were saying that what Jesus did was not the work of the Holy Spirit but the work of the devil.

In effect, they were saying that Jesus was the instrument of the devil.

Not only did that sounded ridiculous after the explanation of Jesus, but it also showed that the scribes utterly refused to acknowledge the good that Jesus was doing.

Yet in the 1st reading we see a different picture. The people acknowledged that the Lord was with David  and they proclaimed him to be their king.

From today's readings, we have to ask ourselves if we have acknowledged the good in others and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the good that they do.

We also have to ask ourselves if there is any sin that we knowingly and repeatedly commit and are not willing to repent.

Well, what is done cannot be undone, and what is said cannot be retracted.

But with the Lord there is mercy and forgiveness. Only if and when we repent.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

3rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 26.01.2020

Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Matthew 4:12-23
The one prominent colour of the Chinese New Year festive season is the colour red.

Chinese New Year paints the town red, and not only the town but also the heartland and almost everywhere else.

The decorations are red, the covers of the goodie containers are red, the dresses are red, the ang pows are red, and giving out ang pows can get you in the red.

Whatever it may be, red is a vibrant and joyous colour. Teams that wear red jerseys are often popular and successful.

Red is also associated with passion and energy, that is why fire is called red-hot.

But red is also a symbol of warning and danger. When traffic lights are going to turn red, we better stop, and not to charge across.

For this Chinese New Year, the colour red has taken on the meaning of warning and danger.

Quite unexpectedly, the coronavirus pneumonia, or the Wuhan virus, has gotten into Singapore and caused some alarm.

We are advised to take precautions and not to be too alarmed. 

The gospel does not mention the colour red, but it gives out a light of vibrancy and energy.

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee and He settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, and hence the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled: 
“The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light, on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

And with that Jesus began His preaching with the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”.

With the urgency of that message, Jesus wasted no time as He went on to call His first disciples, Peter and Andrew, and James and John.

He then went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.

Jesus was like on fire, red-hot, full of vibrancy and energy, and like how the prophecy puts it: the people that lived in darkness has seen a great light, on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.

According to the Chinese zodiac, this year is the “Year of the Rat”, and we wonder what kind of year this would be.

Already the image of a rat is not a pleasant and inspiring one. We don’t have to see a rat to understand this. Even when we say that we smell a rat, it doesn’t mean anything nice and good.

But there is a saving grace of the rat. There is the 2007 animated movie about the Rat who can cook - “Ratatouille”. Then there is of course the famous Mickey Mouse, and also the cartoon series “Tom & Jerry”.

So it seems that things in life can go one way or the other. There is a choice to be either a smelly, dirty rat that brings about a cry of disgust, or a cute and adorable “Ratty” or “Mickey” that will bring on a smile of happiness.

And that is what Jesus came to do. He came to bring light into our darkened world and to heal the spiritual disease and illness that had darkened our lives and made us look like smelly, dirty rats.

We can choose to remain like those smelly dirty rats, or we can choose to let the light of Christ shine on us and make us into a likeable and lovable “Mickey Mouse”.

But we are not just called to stand around and look cute like “Mickey Mouse”. If at all, we are to be like a prayer mouse that will build up the prayer house.

And we need to build up this prayer house especially in this time of a health issue. 

We need to pray for the medical personnel attending to the victims of the coronavirus pneumonia (or the Wuhan virus) and we pray for God’s blessings that the virus will be contained.

We pray that the light of Christ will shine a way for the medical research to cure the disease.

And just as Jesus came to cure all kinds of disease and sickness among the people, may He also cure the victims of this current aggressive virus.
Let us be that house of prayer, calling upon God’s grace and blessing in this time of need.  

Friday, January 24, 2020

Chinese New Year 2020, Saturday, 25-01-2020

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
Acts 22:3-16 / Mark 16:15-18

Gathered in this Mass in thanksgiving as we celebrate the Lunar New Year, we welcome the Year of the Rat.

But that already sounds strange. We don’t really welcome rats nor do we like them at all.

And when we say that we smell a rat, we know what that means.

Life can be difficult for the smallest of the zodiac animals.

Besides the possibility of being kicked and stepped on by the other zodiac animals, rats (or white mice) are also used for all sorts of laboratory experiments.

But that is also the greatest contribution of the rats to humanity.

Rats and mice used in scientific experiments and research are sacrificed for the good of humanity.
Today’s feast of the conversion of St Paul tells us that the early Church smelled a rat in Saul (later known as Paul).

Saul was like a big rat that the early Christians feared and like a rat with sharp teeth, he persecuted Christians.

But with his conversion, St. Paul not only did good for the early Church by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, he also gave us a valuable lesson on the power of God’s grace.

With God’s grace, everything is possible and St. Paul’s conversion bears testimony to that.

As we begin the New Year with thanksgiving and asking for God’s blessings, may our hearts also be moved by the grace of conversion.

May we see goodness in everyone and give thanks for everything.

If even a rat can be of some good to humanity, then every person has some good to share with others.

May the year of the Rat bring forth an abundance of goodness in us, and may it bring forth an abundance of good from us to others.

May the year of the Rat be a blessing for all of us, and may the Lord our God protect from all danger and evil and grant us blessings of peace and joy and may we be God’s blessings for others.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 24-01-2020

1 Sam 24:3-21 / Mark 3:13-19

To overkill means that the amount by which destruction or the capacity for destruction exceeds what is necessary.

The analogy that can be used here is like burning the whole house down just to get rid of ants.

In the 1st reading, we get a picture of an overkill when king Saul set out with three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel to search for David and his men who wouldn't have numbered more than fifty.

Saul was all out to get David's life. But when David had all the opportunity to get even with Saul and even to take his life, David just cut off the border of Saul's cloak.

David knew better that he must not raise his hand against Saul, for as king of Israel, Saul was the anointed of the Lord.

David could have given in to the thirst for revenge but he chose the way of the Lord and not the way of evil.

When Jesus appointed the Twelve, they were to be His companions in that they were to learn from Him the ways of the Lord. They would be sent out to preach and with power to cast out devil.

The power of evil in the world is great, and the destruction it caused to lives is massive.

But like the companions of David and the Twelve apostles of Jesus, we must persevere and persist in the ways of the Lord. Let us remember that we can only overcome evil with good.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-01-2020

1 Sam 18:6-9; 19:1-7 / Mark 3:7-12 

When others achieve success and gain popularity, the expected thing to do is to congratulate them.

But do we really want to congratulate them? Do we really feel good at other people's success and popularity? Or do we actually feel jealous, just that we won't show it.

And if we were their superior or senior or of a higher rank, we might just want to show our resentment at the success and popularity of others.

King Saul was not only jealous and resentful of David's success in the battlefield and his subsequent popularity, he got very angry and even intended to kill David.

The behaviour of king Saul was certainly not surprising. His behaviour shows the dark side within us.

If we were king Saul would we do likewise, or would we do otherwise?

The 1st reading has this lesson for us, i.e. people who are jealous and resentful of the success and popularity of others will not experience their own success or popularity.

When we learn to be happy and even rejoice in the success and popularity of others, we will be contented and even happy with ourselves.

Then we will also realise that life is a journey where we help others when they fail, and congratulate them when they succeed.

After all, life is a celebration, not a competition.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 22-01-2020

1 Sam 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 / Mark 3:1-6

In any situation, the outcome depends on the decision of the leader.

Whether his decision is correct or not, a decision must be made and the decision will be proven by the outcome.

In the 1st reading, the battle between David and Goliath depended on a decision that was made by king Saul.

Saul had told David that he cannot go and fight that giant Philistine because David was only a boy and Goliath had been a warrior from his youth.

But when David said that the Lord who rescued him from the claws of lion and bear will rescue him from the power of the Philistine, Saul relented.

And from that decision, came this great inspiring story of David and Goliath, which is often used as an example for overcoming overwhelming odds.

As a leader, Saul was not too proud to change his views or obstinate in his opinions.

To be obstinate is to stubbornly refuse to change one's opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.

In the gospel, the people were watching Jesus to see if He would cure the man with the withered man on the Sabbath.

And when Jesus asked them if it is against the law on the Sabbath day to do good or evil, to save life or to kill, they said nothing.

It grieved Jesus to find them so obstinate. The people were just so bent and crooked in their opinion and views about Jesus that they can't see anything else.

We too have our views and opinions about persons, but let us ask the Lord Jesus to open hearts so that we can open our eyes too.

May we never be too proud of our views and too obstinate in our opinions.

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-01-2020

1 Samuel 16:1-13 / Mark 2:23-28

If we were to think of an example of a dilemma, then we need look no further than in the 1st reading.

The prophet Samuel was in a dilemma. A dilemma can be described as a difficult or perplexing situation or problem.

He was told by God to anoint someone that He had chosen to be king. Yet Samuel was well aware that he was under the watchful eyes of king Saul.

Though he was faced with such a dilemma, God was the one who showed him the way out of that situation.

The solution is none other than that of a religious one - to offer sacrifice. Well, what other solutions would one expect from God other than a religious one.

Certainly, with God it is always a religious solution.

What we heard about in the gospel was a religious problem - the picking of corn on the Sabbath, which was something forbidden, though we are not sure where was it stated that it was forbidden.

We too have our religious problems in our day, e.g. "Is it ok to work on Sundays?"; "Can priests be involved in politics?" ; "Why can't women become priests?"

These questions may sound simple but the answers are certainly difficult.

These and such other questions indeed put us into a dilemma for answers.

But like in the case of Samuel, God is always offering us the religious solution rather than a logical rational answer.

When we turn to God to show us the way out of a dilemma, God's solution far surpasses our human logical rational thinking. Though it will certainly entail some sacrifice.

For God's ways are far above our ways, His thoughts far surpasses our thoughts.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-01-2020

1 Sam 15:16-23 / Mark 2:18-22

Every piece of equipment, or device, or gadget, comes with an instruction manual.

Depending on how that equipment, or device, or gadget works, the instruction manual can be anything from a booklet to just a piece of paper.

The manufacturer would always advise the user to read the instruction manual first, so that the operation can be done correctly and safely.

If we were to skip reading the instruction manual and jump into the operation of the equipment or device or gadget, then we do it at the risk of our safety and possible damage.

In the 1st reading, king Saul was given a mission by the Lord to go to war against the Amalekites and to exterminate them totally.

King Saul obeyed only half the command of the Lord. He spared the king and also from the booty he kept the best sheep and oxen, which according to him was intended to be offered as sacrifice to the Lord.

But the prophet Samuel pointed out the fault of king Saul when he said: Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices, or in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim.

Samuel made it clear to king Saul that his disobedience is a rebellion against God and hence it was a sin equivalent  to sorcery and idolatry.

In other words, a half-obedience is nothing less than a rebellion against God, just as a half-truth is more damaging than a lie.

May our obedience to the commandments of God be a total acceptance of His will and may we not be deceived by the devil to justify our half-obedience.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 19.01.2020

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 / 1 Cor 1:1-3 / John 1:29-34
The month of January this year is a rather unique month. Because there are two new years in this month.

On the 1st of January, we celebrated the New Year with countdowns, fireworks, parties and well wishes.

In a week’s time, we will celebrate the Lunar New Year, with “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, bak-kwa, pineapple tarts, yearly visits to the elders and the usual aunties’ questions like “When are you getting married?” or “When are you going to have baby?”

Whether it is the 1st of January New Year or the Lunar New Year, we want to begin the year happily and happily ever after, or at least happily for the rest of the year.

So we will wish each other “Happy New Year” or “Xin Nian Kuai Le”. That shows our hope and our desire for happiness in life.

And for us, we would certainly want to come to church and pray for blessings. Whether Christians or otherwise, we have this religious inclination to ask God for blessings. And essentially we are asking for protection and happiness.

Yes, we ask God to protect us from danger and evil, whether visible or invisible, so that our hearts will be at peace and that we can live our lives happily.

And God will surely want to bless us. God will certainly not withhold His blessing on us, or put a limit on His blessings on us.

But as much as God wants to bless us abundantly, blessings that will overflow from us to our loved ones, there is one thing that will block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

That one thing is none other than sin. Sin is the blockage and the obstacle to God’s blessings on us.

But sin is not a blockage or an obstacle that happens suddenly or that is caused by an external force or party.

And we know very well what is the cause of sin. Sin is caused by ourselves, and by our sins, we block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

And before we say that there is no point praying anymore because God doesn't listen to our prayer and that He lets bad things happen to us and we get angry with God, let us ask ourselves, “What is my sin?”

And when we can honestly identify our sin, then we will be angry with ourselves, because by our own doing, we block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

But even if we are able to identify our sin, we may not be able to overcome it. Our willpower and determination have been put to the test and they have failed us. That’s simply because the tempter is just too strong for us, and so we fall again and again into sin.

And God is not somewhere out there watching us and not helping us. God did something.

That something is in the gospel, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and he said, “Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

It is so strange that this profound title of Jesus, the Lamb of God, is such a gentle and humble title. Why not more profound titles like Mighty God, Powerful Deliver, Eternal Saviour or Lion of Judah. 

So this gentle and humble Lamb of God is going to take away the sin of the world, this Lamb of God is going to remove this massive blockage and obstacle to God’s blessings on His people.

But this is actually the fulfilment of the promise of salvation.

In The Exodus of the Old Testament, it was by the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb that God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt.

And it is by Jesus, the Lamb of God, that we will be delivered from the slavery to sin, and the blockages and obstacles to God’s blessings will be removed. 

So the solution to the massive pains and problems of the world is the gentle and humble Lamb of God.

The problem is big and massive, but the solution is simple and humble.

That seems amazing but the following example will help us to understand.

The door is much smaller compared to the house. The lock is much smaller compared to the door. The key is the smallest of all, but the key can open the entire house.

The key to understanding Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins is through the Sacrament of Confession. It is said that Sacramental Confession is the greatest form of deliverance.

That is where Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sins of the world.

So let us go for Confession regularly, and to let Jesus the Lamb of God take away the sins that block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

That is the key that will open our hearts to God’s abundant blessings of peace, joy and happiness.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-01-2020

1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22 / Mark 2:1-12   

There is always some kind of excitement and also anxiety whenever a country goes to the polls to elect the leaders for the country.

It is also a defining moment for those elected as well as for people who are going to decide who will be the leaders for the government of the country.

In the 1st reading, it was certainly a defining moment for the people of Israel, and more so in their relationship with God.

They asked Samuel to give them a king to rule over them. But that was not all. They want a king to rule over them, just like the other nations.

And to be just like the other nations, the people were willing to give the king so much authority, despite Samuel's warnings.

In doing so, they have rejected God from ruling over them.

Yes, it was a defining political moment for the people of Israel, and in their relationship with God.

Yet as time went on, it was the king who abused his authority and even led the people away from God.

But in the gospel, Jesus showed what the authority of God was all about.

God's authority is used for forgiveness and healing. God's authority is always an authority of love.

So whenever we have to make choices and decisions, let us always choose the way of God which must be discerned in prayer.

Let us submit to God's authority and live the way of love.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-01-2020

1 Sam 4:1-11 / Mark 1:40-45

When we want to put something to the test, it usually means that we want to see how well it works even under extreme and demanding conditions.

From there we can gauge how good it is and under what conditions it works well and under what conditions it does not.

We will also be able to judge whether the product description matches the performance and whether it meets up to our expectations.

In the 1st reading, when the Israelite army went to take the ark of the Lord of hosts, they had their expectations.

Since the ark was the presence of God, they had expected God to fight for them and grant them victory.

In a way, the Israelites were putting the Lord God of hosts to the test. It was something they should not have done as it was just their expectation and it was not the Lord's intention.

Not only were the Israelite army terribly defeated, the ark of God was also captured by the enemy. It was a shameful and terrible military defeat as well as a religious defeat.

The leper in the gospel may sound rather demanding when he said to Jesus, "If you want to, you can cure me."

But the leper was not putting Jesus to the test, nor did he had a demanding expectation. Rather he was in dire desperation.

In curing the leper, Jesus wants us to know He will help us in our time of need and desperation.

We don't have to put Jesus to the test. But in Him may we find peace and rest.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 15-01-2020

1 Sam 3:1-10, 19-20 / Mark 1:29-39

Not many of us can say that we can hear of the voice of God so clearly as in the way we can hear each other when we are in a conversation.

But God speaks to us in many ways and through many means - in prayer, through the holy Scriptures, through people, through events and situations.

Yet to know that it is the voice of God requires discernment, and we want to know what God wants of us and what is His will for us.

In the 1st reading, when the Lord called out to the young Samuel, he thought that it was Eli who was calling him.

And Eli had to take a while before he realised that it was the Lord who was calling out Samuel.

In the gospel, Jesus got up long before dawn and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.

He too need to listen to the voice of His Father to know what is God's will for Him and what to do next.

We too need to pray, and with a simple prayer like "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" may God reveal to us what His will is for us and how to carry out His will.

As much as we may not be that certain about what God wants of us, let us offer up to the Lord our plans to carry out His will and ask for His blessings to guide us.

Monday, January 13, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 14-01-2020

1 Sam 1:9-20 / Mark 1:21-28

The main reason for us to come to church is to pray. The church is the House of God and we come before God's presence to offer Him our prayer.

So besides coming for Mass, we also come at other times to spend a time of prayer with the Lord.

And when we are burdened with difficulties and worries, we will certainly pray, not aloud but with words from the heart that are uttered under our breath.

Like Hannah in the 1st reading, we are also speaking under our breath with our lips moving but our voices are not loud enough to be heard by those around us.

But God is listening to our prayer just as He listened to Hannah's prayer. And like Hannah we too will be consoled and uplifted after that time of heart-felt prayer.

Yes, we want to pray and God wants to listen to our prayer.

But there are times when the burdens of our hearts are just so heavy that they block out and suppress any voice of prayer that we want to make.

In the gospel, the unclean spirit that possessed the man not only blocked out and suppressed his voice of prayer, it even had a voice of its own.

But Jesus expelled it with this command: Be quiet. Come out of him.

Jesus is also commanding the other "voices" in our hearts to be quiet - the voice of difficult, the voice of worry, the voice of anxiety and the other voices that drown out our prayer.

Let us also command these "voices" to be quiet and to be expelled by Jesus, so that we can truly offer to Jesus the prayer of praise and thanksgiving and to be uplifted by His love.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 13-01-2020

1 Sam 1:1-8 / Mark 1:14-20

In life there are misfortunes. It may be a setback, an illness, a recurring problem, and misfortunes come in all forms and circumstances.

Being unfortunate is one thing. But being taunted and made fun of, being jeered at and despised for that misfortune can be quite unbearable.

In the 1st reading, Hannah had that misfortune of being barren. Even though her husband loved her, his other wife who had children taunted and annoyed Hannah for her misfortune.

She could only weep at her misfortune and even her husband could not console her that much.

Listening to Hannah's misfortune will certainly remind us of our own misfortunes or problems.

And we would certainly be hoping for solutions, or at least some consolation.

In the gospel, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, it was certainly not good news.

But with that, Jesus went on to proclaim the Good News from God as He said, "The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good New."

And He even called His first few disciples to embark on this mission.

What Jesus wants to tell us is that in our misfortunes, difficulties and problems, God is close at hand to console us and even help us with solutions.

We must believe in the goodness of the Lord that in our misfortunes, difficulties and problems, the Good News of His love will console us and we will be able to find solutions.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Baptism of the Lord, Year A, 12.01.2020

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 / Acts 10:34-38 / Matthew 3:13-17
As a matter of fact, about 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. That is quite a lot of water. 

With 70% of the earth’s surface covered with water, it means that only 30% is dry land. But we don’t really feel that there is so little dry land, because we are on dry land most of the time and it is only when we go to the beach or when we go on a cruise that we see quite a bit of water.

Not only the earth’s surface is covered by 2/3 with water, the human body has up to 60% of water. The brain and heart are composed of about 73% water.

So when a person is lovey-dovey, we say that the person is so mushy. Well that’s because the brain and heart are getting all watery. 

So water is indeed important to the Earth as well as to human beings. It is said that we can survive for more than 3 weeks without food, but we won’t last more than a week without water.

But of course that doesn’t mean that we are like fishes that need to be surrounded by water. In fact being submerged in water for too long a time will cause some problems.

Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord highlights once again the importance of water. There is no doubt that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan.

In the gospel account of the baptism of Jesus, as soon as He was baptized, He came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down upon Him. And a voice spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rest on him.”

It is an account that we have heard numerous times and we have also seen those images of the baptism of Jesus. 

But there is one rather natural action of Jesus that we may take for granted and it does not really catch our attention.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, He came up from the water. He didn’t go swimming or went diving. He came up from the water, and we might think that it is only natural. There is nothing really significant about that. 

But it was only when Jesus came up from the water that astonishing things began to happen.

Jesus went into the water to be baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus immersed Himself into the water so as to immerse Himself into the reality of human life and to become like one of us in all things but sin.

But Jesus came up from the water so as to lead humanity into a new revelation and a new mission.

In coming up and out of the water, Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit as it descended upon Him. He was also proclaimed as the beloved Son of the Father. 

The second reading tells us that after His baptism, God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power, and Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.

Jesus came to free captured humanity from the prison of sin and the darkness of evil.

With our own baptism, we too have come out of the water to follow Jesus our Master to live righteous lives and to be rays of light that shine out into the darkened world.

We too are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as children of God and to be children of the light.

But when we lose our focus on Jesus and forget our baptismal promises, we slip back into the waters that we came up from.

And those are not clean waters. Those are the waters that have washed away our sins and so we get submerged into “sinful waters”. 

But even if we don’t slip into the “sinful waters”, living out the Christian life is challenging enough.

Just as the Earth is covered 70% by water, we find ourselves surrounded by “sinful waters”.

Here is where the analogy of the ship comes in. Ships don’t sink because of the water around them. Ships sink because of the water that gets into them.

Therefore as we come up from the water and sail in the ship of salvation, we must not let what’s happening around us get inside us and sink us back into the sinful waters.

Like Jesus, we have to come up from the water to sail in the ship of salvation. 
We must also help others get into this ship of salvation, because Jesus came not to break the crushed reed or snuff out the wavering flame. 

Jesus came up from the water to save us. May we also come up from the water and asked Jesus to save us from the sinful waters.

May we also stay in the ship of salvation, the Church, and help those to come up from the water and find salvation.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Friday after Epiphany, 10-01-2020

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

One thing that will drastically affect our life is our health.

As it is said, health is wealth, but certainly not vice versa. Because the fact is that wealth cannot buy health.

And if our objective in life is to accumulate wealth at the expense of our health, then there might come a time when we have to use our wealth to try to recover our health.

And we know that health-care expenses can deplete our wealth in no time, more so if it is a chronic disease.

In the gospel, leprosy was seen as a contagious chronic disease. It was progressive and the afflicted would slowly die from the disease and also die from isolation.

So for the leper who approached Jesus, he was desperate as he cried out, "Sir, if you want to, you can cure me."

Covered with leprosy and with nothing left, Jesus was his last hope. A rejection will be like an execution.

The reply of Jesus was astonishing as well as astounding when He said, "Of course I want to! Be cured!" And the leprosy left him at once.

We do not want to be a desperate near-hopeless situation to cry out to Jesus for help. In life we have enough of distress and worries to wear down our health and our wealth.

But as the 1st reading says, only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God can overcome the world.

Jesus believed that He is the Son of God, the Saviour who will heal us of our sins and our afflictions. Yet He would always go off to some place where He could be alone and pray.

If we truly believe that Jesus is our Saviour, we too will want to spend time with Jesus in prayer. With that we will be able to overcome our health and wealth issues.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Thursday after Epiphany, 09-01-2020

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

Quite a number of us gathered here attend Mass almost daily. We attend Mass daily because it has become a spiritual staple diet for us.

So we come to Mass to listen to the Word of God and to receive Him in Holy Communion.

Also we experience the strength to live out of faith and we also find peace from the noisy world.

The Mass is indeed a celebration of love - God's love for us and we can only respond with love and to live lives of love.

So it goes without saying that if we come for daily Mass, then we ought to be more loving and to grow more and more in love for God and for others.

Yet, if that is not the case then we need to do some serious reflection and examination of our spiritual lives.

So we need to examine our conscience. Am I growing to be more loving and forgiving, patient and kind, faithful to the truth and persevering in faith and hope?

As the 1st reading puts it, anyone who says "I love God" and hates his brother is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen.

So let us pray that at every Mass we will be filled with God's love and be filled with the Spirit so that we will proclaim God's love in our lives.

May it begin with today and may it be fulfilled today even as we listen.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Wednesday after Epiphany, 08-01-2020

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

The word "ghost" will certainly give rise to uncomfortable feelings and scary thoughts, and certainly we won't want to hear "ghost stories" at night and have nightmares.

As it is generally understood, ghost may mean an apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifested to the living in some kind of vague, unclear, hazy or ill-defined image.

In the gospel, the disciples in the boat thought that Jesus was a ghost when they saw His walking in the water.

Added on to that, the wind was strong and the sea was rough and we can assume that they were trying to stay afloat and certainly all was not calm and peaceful.

In such chaotic moments, logic and rationale usually gives way to fear and anxiety and inevitably the imagination would run wild, so even though it was Jesus, the disciples thought that it was something scary.

Yet the 1st reading tells us that where there is love there is no fear. Yes, God loves us and we belong to Him.

God's love is perfect and His perfect love drives out all fear, because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.

So when all around us is in turmoil and in chaos, let us be still and be calm. Let us be still and know that God loves us.

May God's love drive out from us all that cause us to fear and be anxious and to worry.

May God's love also grant us peace of heart so that we will grow in love.

Tuesday after Epiphany, 07-01-2020

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

We are a week into the new year and just how are things turning out and getting along?

All those well wishes of a happy new year seem to have faded off as we trudge into the first week of the new year.

Even further away are all the Christmas greetings of peace and joy.

Yes, it seems that we have gotten back to life and to reality.

As we look at the challenges ahead and wonder what more bad news are going to come, the 1st reading brings us back to what we need to remember and what we need to do.

It says: let us love one another since love comes from God, and every one who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

We need to be reminded of that and we also need to remember what we celebrated at Christmas.

God's love was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son, so that we can have life through  Him.

And Jesus showed what life and love is about as He fed those five thousand in the gospel.

To live is to love, and it is love that will give life to the world, and it is love that will feed the hunger of the world.

Let us be alive with God's love as we get on with life and with reality.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Monday after Epiphany, 06-01-2020

1 John 3:33 - 4:6 / Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

In every hospital, there is an A&E Department. As the name indicates, it is where accidents victims are sent to and emergencies cases are attended to.

The images that we can imagine are probably what we have seen in movies, or if we have been there, we would know what the place is like.

For example, it could be an old lady with an ECG monitor, a man in oxygen mask, a young mother grieving over the death of her child, etc.

The underlying question of the patients and their loved ones seemed to be this: Why is this happening to me?

This is also the same question that we will ask when we ourselves become ill or when our loved ones become seriously ill.

On this Monday after Epiphany, the gospel proclaims to us that in Jesus, we see God our healer.

But physical illness and suffering can be alleviated by medicine. A greater suffering is the suffering of the heart, an emotional and a spiritual kind of suffering.

That kind of suffering and pain can only be addressed with the healing that Jesus came to bring.

The prophecy of Isaiah gives us an idea of what is this kind of healing when it says: The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.

In other words, Jesus the true Light shines on us to heal our broken and hurting hearts so that we can get up and walk in the light of love.

The healing light of Christ continues to shine in the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick.

Let us open our hearts with confidence in the light that God our Healer wants to give us.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Epiphany, Year A, 05.01.2020

Isaiah 60:1-6 / Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 / Matthew 2:1-12 
By now we would have opened up all our Christmas presents. We won’t be able to curb that curiosity of tearing up the wrapper and see what the gift is. 

Usually the presents and gifts are wrapped up. Presumably the more valuable the gift, then the wrapper would be adequately matching. 

But it can be difficult to guess what the gift is from the wrapper, just as we can’t judge a book by its cover. 

So now that we have opened up all our presents, some we will find useful and valuable, some we might think of “re-gifting” (but we have to remember not to give it back to the person who gave it to us). 
As for the rest, we may want to put it in a bag and label it “For the church”. Somehow the church seems to be like a recycling centre. 

And of course those wrappers would be thrown away and forgotten. They are not valuable anyway. 

But those wrappers have an interesting purpose. They were used to wrap the gifts, and being so, they conceal a mystery of what the gift is. 

So the wrapper may be nice and elegant, but the gift is ordinary. Or that the wrapper can be ordinary but a gift is extraordinary. 

As we reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas, we come to see what mystery really is. 

In that Child sleeping in the manger, is the Word-made-flesh, Divinity wrapped in humanity, royalty concealed in poverty. 

The wrapping is poor and humble, but a gift is the greatest treasure. 

Today’s feast of the Epiphany is about mystery being concealed and revealed. 

The main characters in the Epiphany story are the wise men from the East. They could also be kings as the hymn goes “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. And we can take it that there are three of them as there are the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

They had seen a star beckoning them to a revelation of the infant King of the Jews. They had expected the infant King of the Jews to be born in Jerusalem, and presumably so, as Jerusalem was the capital. 

When king Herod came to know about the wise men and their intentions, he was perturbed. If those wise men were some kind of wrapper, then Herod certainly didn’t like the gift.  

Then Herod used another wrapper, a wrapper of deceit and manipulation, and used the wise men as his agents and informants to know the whereabouts of the infant King of the Jews. 

But the deepest lesson that the wise men have for us is that when they saw the Child with His mother, they fell to their knees and did Him homage. 

They saw beyond the wrapping and they saw the true gift.  
They saw royalty concealed in poverty, that’s what the gold symbolized. They saw Divinity concealed in humanity, that is what the frankincense symbolized. They saw eternity concealed in the temporary, that is what the myrrh symbolized. 

So in this feast of the Epiphany, the Lord Jesus is revealed as Saviour of the world, and the wise men represented the nations of the world who have come to do homage to the king. 

We also learn from the wise men to look at the wrapping and to understand the gift. Whatever they had expected of the infant King of the Jews, when they saw Him, they saw royalty, divinity and eternity. 

So whatever presents we got for Christmas, let us reflect on them and maybe see what the wise men saw in the Child in the manger.  

A teenager was complaining to his uncle, that what he got from his parents as a Christmas present was a Bible. 

The uncle, being a man with seen quite a bit about life, said to the teenager. “A book is the only gift that can be opened again and again. Open the Bible and that will be many gifts for you.” 

Yes the Bible is a gift from God and will lead us to many gifts, just as the star revealed to the wise men the gift of the Saviour of the world. 

But the wise men are not just wrappers in the Epiphany story. They are also gifts to us to help us understand God’s revelation. 

And may we also be gifts to others, so that we will be the change that we wish to see in others.  

When we can do that, then we have become gifts from God to others, we have become God’s revelation to others. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

4th January 2020, Saturday

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

We are already into the fourth day of the new year. If we had made new year resolutions, then how are those resolutions coming around?

If we had made new year resolutions, then how many of these are about our spiritual lives?

Although some people say that making resolutions are futile because they are not going to be kept, yet it is still good and even necessary to make one.

It is still not too late to make a spiritual resolution in order to have a direction in our faith.

The 1st reading gives us a direction for a resolution - to live a holy life and to be holy just as God is holy.

It also tells us how important holiness is in our lives. To be holy is to belong to God. To be sinful is to belong to the devil.

To be holy means to be loving to others because God's seed of love must bear fruit in us.

Just as in the gospel, Andrew followed Jesus and saw where He lived and stayed with Him.

Then with love in his heart, Andrew went to tell his brother Simon Peter.

May we also see God's love in us and that He lives in our hearts, and may we go forth to live our lives in love.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

3rd January 2020, Friday

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

If we had made a new year resolution, maybe it might be helpful to see how that resolution is coming along.

If by the third day into the new year and we are falling short of the resolution, then we may want to think about it again.

After all a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something, and we have to gauge the level of our determination.

We may have to admit that we do not have much success with new year's resolution, or for that matter of fact, most resolutions.

Because the reality is that very often, our determination and will-power fail us, and no matter how good a resolution is, we procrastinate and keep delaying until the year comes to an end and our resolution turns to ashes.

The 1st reading seems to suggest a spiritual resolution as we enter into the third day of the new year.

It tells us that we must purify ourselves and try to be as pure as Christ.

We might think that it is not possible because we know that we had fallen into sin and we know how weak we are in the battle against temptation and sin.

But in the gospel, John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus wants to take away our sin, and no matter how much or how often we have sinned, Jesus wants to take all our sins away.

That is His resolution for us. Let us make that resolution to let Jesus take away our sins by going for regular confession, so that our hearts can be purified and become like the heart of Jesus.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2nd January 2020, Thursday

1 John 2:22-26 / John 1:19-28         

As we began the new year yesterday, we celebrated the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.

That title of Mary has two meanings. One is proclaim the divine Motherhood of Mary. The other is to proclaim the Jesus is God, Jesus is divine.

So the fundamental teaching here is that Jesus is one with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

But because Jesus became one like us in the flesh, that makes it rather difficult to explain the profound mystery of the Incarnation.

It would be easier to explain and accept that Jesus was a created human being and gradually became a holy person.

But in the mystery of the Incarnation, God became man in Jesus Christ, and being like one of us in all things except sin, He suffered and died to redeem us and save us from our sins.

That is our fundamental belief. That is also what the 1st reading reiterated and what John the Baptist spoke of in the gospel.

As we enter into the second day of the new year, let us profess this belief, and let us live out our belief for the rest of the year.