Tuesday, March 31, 2020

5th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 01-04-2020

Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28 / John 8:31-42 

The fiery furnace of tribulation is something we will come across in our lives. Not just once, but many times.

It is in this fiery furnace that our faith in God is tested, our faith in prayer is tested, our faith in others is tested, and our faith in ourselves is tested.

The fiery furnace comes in all forms: the loss of a job, the hurt from a broken or painful relationship, ill-treatment and accusations from others, etc., and especially during this time of the COVID-19 outbreak.

And we often get trapped in the flames of doubt, despair, anger and resentment.

In the 1st reading, when the three young men were threatened with the fiery furnace, they stuck to their faith in God.

In doing so, they were freed from their fear of death.

They believed in God, and that set them free to face and get over the fear of the fiery furnace.

It is also by believing in God and in His Word of truth that will set us free.

By forgiving those who hurt us, we are freed.
By praying for those we wrong us, we are freed.
By not nailing judgement on others, we are freed.
By loving others, we are freed.

The flames of the fiery furnace may not go off, but by believing and living in the truth, we live in the freedom of walking together with our God in that fiery furnace.

Monday, March 30, 2020

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 31-03-2020

Numbers 21:4-9 / John 8:21-30           (2020)

In life, we will always have stress, which of course we do not welcome at all.

More so when stress turns to distress, then we will get all flustered and frustrated.

In the 1st reading, we heard how the Israelites were in distress, but that was due to their own grumblings at God and the consequence was the scourge of the fiery serpents.

But out of this distress, arose the intercession of Moses which brought about healing for the people.

For Jesus, His greatest moment of distress was when He was nailed to and lifted up on the cross.

But it was also on the cross that He revealed His full identity as Saviour.

The cross was also His throne of glory.

Whenever we sink into the depths of distress, or face trials and difficulties that wear us down, let us remember this.

That in times of great distress, God is closest to us in His full power to lift us up so that we can see His glory.

The times of distress are also the time in which God reveals His saving love for us.

That is somehow difficult to believe, just as it would seem strange that by looking at the image of a bronze serpent on a standard would bring about healing.

But as we look as Jesus being lifted up on the cross, then we will understand. Then we will believe.

Because we are looking at our Saviour who came to heal and forgive and save us.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

5th Week of Lent, Monday, 29-03-2020

Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 / John 8:1-11     (2020)

One of our most common weaknesses is our tendency to participate in gossips, regardless of whether we are the initiator or the contributor.

Gossiping is already bad enough. But the damaging aspect of gossip is that judgement is also involved.

Whenever we gossip about someone, it is quite likely that the person's reputation is tarnished and his character is smeared.

Another aspect is that these kind of judgement can also literally cost a life, as we heard in the 1st reading.

The two elders bore false witness against Susanna but Daniel would want to have no part in it.

In the gospel, Jesus showed us what to do when we encounter a gossiping or slandering session.

His initial silence when asked for a judgement on the adulterous woman showed His one concern.

His concern was not so much for Himself as in how to get out of a sticky situation.

His concern was for the woman who had already suffered so much degradation and came to the point of almost losing her life.

So the next time before we initiate a gossip or even make our contribution, let us remember this scene of Jesus stooping down and writing in the sand in silence.

By our silence, others would know our opinions.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

5th Sunday of Lent, Year A, 29.03.2020

Ezekiel 37:12-14 / Romans 8:8-11 / John 11:1-45

The world today is such a different world from what it was just two months ago.

If only we could have stepped back into the world of two months ago, we will realize how much we have taken for granted.

In this short span of two months, we have learned so many new things, things that are uncomfortable and embarrassing, things that are strangely reversed.

We came to know of a new virus, COVID-19, and almost instantly we are immersed into the world of medicine and science. Before this we might not even know the difference between a virus and a bacteria. 

Also in a strange and funny way, the lowly toilet paper suddenly became as important as banknotes  and cheques.

In some countries, supermarkets are open but the shelves have become strangely become empty. 

Also in some countries, people are beginning to be difficult to recognize because almost every other person is wearing a surgical mask. So facial recognition on those electronic devices and gadgets will have problems.

And we have learned new terms like social distancing (which sounds like a contradiction of terms) which actually means physical distancing, and which is also now known as safe distancing. We also now know how long one meter is.

We have also come to know of other terms like Stay-Home-Notice,  Leave-of-absence, Quarantine Order, Etc.

Indeed the world today is so much different from the world of two months ago.

And for all of us, our world will change one day. It is that day when we close our eyes to this world.

And that was the case with Lazarus. His illness became mortal and he eventually closed his eyes to this world as death wrapped up his life in this world.

In the darkness of the tomb, all life is absent and the only thing present is the stench of death and decay.

Death has the force to separate the dead from the living and that distance is final.

We too feel a bit of that distancing as we are advised to stay indoors and not to go out unnecessary.

This mode of life is certainly a far distant from what we were used to two months ago.

We may feel that as our movements are becoming restricted, things are also rather distant from us

But not everything is so distant ….
Sunrise is not distant
Love is not distant
Family time is not distant 
Kindness is not distant
Creativity is not distant
Learning is not distant
Conversation is not distant
Imagining is not distant
Reading is not distant 
Relationship is not distant
Praying is not distant
Meditation is not distant
Resting is not distant
Work from home is not distant
Hope is not distant
Cherish what we have. 
Safe-distancing and restrictions are opportunities to do what we always wanted to do.

And as Jesus called out to Lazarus with those four words, “Lazarus, here! Come out!”, it is also a call to us.

Jesus calls us by name, calls us to look at Him and to come towards Him.

Jesus is our Life and He is the Resurrection.

When we keep our eyes on Him and walk towards Him, we too will be able to walk out of the darkness of fear and death and into the light of life.

It is having the hope in Jesus who is our light of life that we have the courage to keep walking in the darkness.

And as we walk on, may this be our reflection:
When all this has passed, I will never take for granted again, a coffee with a friend, exercising in the park, going to social events, going for Mass on Sundays or even weekdays, full shelves of food at the supermarket.

I will not take for granted going to a restaurant for a meal, a simple handshake and to say hello, and to sit comfortably next to each other.

I know that when this has passed, the world will be different. I hope and I pray that it will be a kinder world, a more thankful world and a world closer to God.

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 28-03-2020

Jeremiah 11:18-20 / John 7:40-52

One of the most convenient ways to come to a conclusion is to make an assumption.

In logic an assumption is a proposition that is taken for granted, as if it were true based upon presupposition without preponderance of the facts.

So whether it is a correct or an incorrect assumption, we usually begin by saying "I think ..."

But when the assumption is wrong, then the conclusion is also wrong.

In today's gospel, there were a lot of assumptions made about Jesus and specifically about His identity.

In the midst of these assumptions, an unexpected challenge came from Nicodemus.

He challenged the people to give Jesus a hearing and to discover for themselves who Jesus was.

But the assumptions far outnumbered and eventually drowned out the challenge.

We too have our own assumptions about who Jesus is. We also need to verify our assumptions about Jesus.

It is about moving from "I think that Jesus loves me" to saying "I know that Jesus is loves me".

We also need to be careful about making assumptions. For as the 1st reading puts it : But You, Lord of hosts, who pronounce a just sentence, who probe the loins and heart.

Making assumptions are not just out of convenience; we may not want to face the facts that are within us.

4th Week of Lent, Friday, 27-03-2020

Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 / John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

The study of theology, may sound rather difficult, but after a while one might assume to have understood it reasonably well.

One might have that assumption until one has to stand in front of a class to teach catechism to children and teenagers.

Then realisation will be of how little is actually understood, especially when one has to use simple language to get it across.

If understanding a subject like theology is difficult, then trying to understand a person is certainly no less easier.

And it would be easier to just make assumptions and presumptions and subsequently make conclusions about a person. That would also save a lot of time and energy.

And that was what they did to Jesus. From the little they knew about Him, they immediately made their conclusions.

Anyway, for someone preaching the dangerous message of love and claiming that God is His Father, He better be silenced. That was their assumption, presumption and conclusion.

And Jesus was silenced by their conclusions. But for just three days.

So as the 1st reading puts it : The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning.

We too could have said things about others with our misguided reasoning and silenced them with our conclusions.

We too could have said things about others that were based just on our assumptions and presumptions.

Maybe we need to ask ourselves why are we doing that so often.

When we realise how little we know about ourselves, then we will also realise how little we know about others, and also how little we know about God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 26-03-2020

Exodus 32:7-14 / John 5:31-47

In life, when the going is tough, and we are besieged with overwhelming problems, one of the things that will cross our minds is to quit.

In a boxing match, they would call it "to throw in the towel".

So whether it is in the work-place, or in a marriage or even in serving the Lord, when the going gets real rough and tough, we will be tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits.

In the 1st reading when God wanted to punish His people for idolatry and to make Moses the founder of another great nation, Moses could have considered that offer.

After all, ever since he brought them out of Egypt, he had nothing but problems after problems from them, and he could have just called it quits and abandoned them.

Jesus could also have walked out of the descendants of those people that Moses had to deal with.

They were as stiff-necked as their fore fathers and refused to believe in Jesus, despite His signs and miracles.

But in Jesus and also in Moses, we can see a genuine love and compassion for their people.

For Jesus, and also for Moses, all their many words had only one purpose - it was for the salvation of their people.

We will meet with difficulties and problems from stiff-necked people.

But we are called to look at and learn from Jesus and Moses.

They showed God's love and compassion to their people.

May we learn likewise and do the same.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Annunciation of the Lord, Wednesday, 25-03-2020

Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 / Hebrews 10 : 4-10 / Luke 1 : 26-38

St. Augustine was quoted as saying : God does not ask of us the impossible. He may ask us to do the difficult thing, but He will make it possible.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the proclamation of the Good News of salvation.

It is not only a joyful event, it is also a very profound event in God's plan of salvation.

Yet for Mary, it was not just an event ; it was for her a mission.

And if she said "Yes" then it was going to be a life-long mission. And it was going to be difficult.

But God assured her it was not going to be impossible.

Mary put her faith and trust in God as she accepted her mission.

We live in difficult and fragile times. We have wars here and epidemics there and all sorts of weird things everywhere.

Trying to believe and live out the Good News is not only difficult, but seemingly impossible.

Believing that there can be peace that there can be joy, that there can be love, can be difficult.

But let this celebration of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Good News of our salvation, remind us that difficulty is not synonymous with impossibility.

We join Mary to say "Yes" to God because we want to believe that God is greater than any difficulty and impossibility.

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 24-03-2020

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 / John 5:1-3, 5-16

It is difficult to see any good in a bad and depressive situation, just as it is difficult to imagine that a beautiful butterfly can come from an ugly caterpillar.

Much more difficult it will be to see or even imagine anything glorious coming up from something that is destroyed.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Ezekiel gave a vision of the Temple from which life-giving and healing waters flow.

But the problem was that just a few years back, the Temple had been destroyed and now Israel is in exile in Babylon.

But that prophetic vision was fulfilled when Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross, and He became the Temple of God, and from His side flowed blood and water which symbolized life and healing.

That prophetic vision strengthens us when our faith wavers and we lose hope in a situation of turmoil and depression, and in a way, that is the situation it seems like now.

Because in a seemingly hopeless and despairing situation of being nailed to the cross, Jesus still issued forth His life-giving and healing grace.

This grace is given to us whenever we meet with struggles and difficulties, so that we can look forward with faith and hope to the glory of the resurrection.

Jesus is not just our Healer. He is our Saviour who leads us to see the beauty in the ugly and victory over vice.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

4th Week of Lent, Monday, 23-03-2020

Isaiah 65:17-21 / John 4:43-54

It is often easier to talk about concepts and ideas rather than to talk about reality and experiences.

This may sound strange but for those of us who are in the teaching and presentation business, we find it easier to talk about lofty and high-flown concepts and ideas.

To talk about reality and the human experience would require some thinking and reflection in order to find the right expressions.

In the gospel, Jesus seemed to be talking about the lofty ideas of faith and belief rather than to give the people the signs that they needed.

But the court official begged Him with these words : Come down, before my child dies.

But that phrase "come down" was not to tell Jesus to stop talking up there in the air.

Rather it was an open invitation for Jesus to come and reinforce the faith that the court official had in Jesus.

The court official too had to "come down" to the essentials of his faith and believe in Jesus, and to obey Jesus to go home and believe that his son will live.

Even the 1st reading of the promise of the new heavens and new earth are expressed in the human longing for joy and gladness.

The season of Lent is to help us to renew our faith in God, especially in these troubled and difficult times

A renewed faith in the power of Jesus can bring about in a renewed faith in the wonderful and amazing things that God will do for us.

A renewed faith combined with the powerful love of Jesus can indeed bring about forgiveness and healing, which is so much needed in our world.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

4th Sunday of Lent, Year A, 22.03.2020

1 Sam16:1, 6-7, 10-13 / Ephesians 5:8-14 / John 9:1-41
The units of measurement are helpful and even necessary in order to know the size, the weight, the power and the capability of objects and equipment.

But there are other units of measurement that do not exist on their own; in fact, they takes their  measurement from their counterparts. 

Take for example, cold and heat. There are measurements of heat but there are actually no measurements of cold. 

So we may say it is -20 degrees Celsius, but it is taken in reference to the measurement of heat. So cold is only a word used to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy and it can be measured, and cold is not the opposite but the absence of heat. 

Similarly with darkness and light. Going by the same reasoning as above, darkness is the absence of light. Darkness cannot be measured, whereas light  can (lumens) because light is energy. So darkness is just the absence of light, or the lack of light.

Similarly with blindness and sight. There is no measurement for blindness, but there are such terms as long-sighted or short-sighted.

And with blindness, all the person can ever “see” is darkness. Not being able to see, the world of the blind person is in constant darkness.

In the gospel, the disciples questioned Jesus about the cause of the man’s blindness. Was it his sin? Or was it his parents’ sin?

The reply of Jesus was rather puzzling, when He said, “Neither he nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

Jesus proceeded to heal the blind man and gave him  sight. But Jesus did not do that to show that He was just a miracle worker or faith healer.

Jesus showed that He is the True Light, the light who has come to scatter the darkness of the blind and give him sight.

Similarly in these chaotic and trouble times, it seems like a darkness has enveloped the whole world, as what we are seeing are reports of rising numbers of infections and deaths, hard times ahead for the economy and the reality of a recession, and essentially it is a darkness that we are staring at, with fear lurking around in that darkness.

But it is in these times that Jesus wants to show us that He is the True Light. He wants to open our eyes so that we can see what God wants us to see.

In the first reading, God opened the eyes of the prophet Samuel, so that he could see what God wanted him to see, that the unlikely David was the chosen one. 

So what does God want us to see in this chaotic and trouble times?

The below reflection (anonymous) may shed some light to the present situation in our lives and to what is happening in the world.

You made the whole world stop spinning for awhile,
You silenced the noise that we all have created
You made us bend our knees again and ask for a miracle. 
You closed Your churches so we will realize how dark our world without You in it. 

You humble the proud and powerful. 
The economy is crashing, businesses are closing. 
We were very proud, we thought that everything we have, everything we possess was the result of our hard work. We have forgotten that it was always Your grace and mercy that made us who we are. 

We’re like running in circles looking for some cure to this disease but in fact it takes humility to ask for Your wisdom. 

We’ve been living our lives like we will be here on earth forever, like there’s no heaven.
Maybe these trials are Your mercy in disguise. 
Maybe this virus is actually Your way of purifying us, cleansing our soul, bringing us back to YOU. 

In the past You serenaded us with Hosea’s song:
“Come back to me with all your heart
Don't let fear keep us apart
Trees do bend though straight and tall
So must we to others' call
Long have I waited for
Your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life”

You have been patiently waiting for us. We’re so sorry for ignoring Your voice. For our selfish ways. We all deserve this. We have forgotten You dear Father. 😔

.. We’ve forgotten that You’re God, You only need to say the word, and our souls shall be healed.

May this present darkness help us to see the presence of the True Light, Jesus Christ, and may our minds and hearts be enlightened, so that we will see what we need to see, do what we need to do and continue to walk in the Light of Christ.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 20-03-2020

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34

When we read books like the "7 habits of highly-effective people" or "The joy of living" or other inspirational books, they give very interesting and very good pointers for life.

Yet, when we think about it carefully, the principles of life are actually very simple.

It is actually what Jesus said in today's gospel : Love God and love neighbour.

Sounds simple, but it may take a whole life-time to discover the truth of such a simple statement.

Because we tend to love things  and be self-centered.

Yet the season of Lent calls us back to the love of God.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Hosea not only called his people back to this love of God, he also proclaimed how much God loves His people even though they turned away from Him.

We may remember that hymn of Hosea - Come back to me with all your heart, don't let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.

The way of life is indeed simple: Love God and  neighbour. That is the way that Jesus is teaching us.

As the 1st reading ends off - For the ways of the Lord are straight, and virtuous men walk in them, but sinners stumble.

St. Joseph, Spouse of the BVM, Thursday, 19-03-2020

Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24

There is something interesting about St. Joseph in the gospels.

The gospels described the character of St. Joseph, saying that he was a man of honour, and what he did for Jesus and Mary.

But nothing of what St. Joseph said was recorded in the gospels; just about what he did.

But that was enough for us. From the gospel accounts, we can also see that St. Joseph was of a strong character and a man of faith.

To quote a few instances : Joseph took Mary to be his wife even though he wasn't exactly sure how she became pregnant.

After the birth of Jesus, when Herod was persecuting them, he did not abandon mother and child for his own safety.

St. Joseph also had a keen ear for listening to the will of God, whether it was by dreams or through visions of angels.

So it was his actions that spoke louder than any words.

It was by his actions that he showed his faith and trust in God.

Indeed, as we honour St. Joseph, we must learn, not only from his actions, but also from his silence.

Most of all, let us learn to do God's will, as St. Joseph did.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 18-03-2020

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:1-19

Not many of us remember the Japanese Occupation which was from 1942 to 1945. Those three years have changed the lives of those who survived it, and some of them are still around.

So we may not have gone through the Japanese Occupation but we have read about it and we may have heard of the eye-witness accounts of the atrocities committed during that time.

But we have also read of how that dark part of history was deleted from the Japanese history books or given another interpretation which justified the military cause.

So much so that the later generations do not know anything about the invasions and the war-crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army and its commanders.

It may sound strange, and even astonishing, that this can happen at a national level.

But what happens at the national level is only an amplification of what happens at the personal level.

Because when it comes to laws and rules and regulations, we choose what we are comfortable with, and we quietly disregard what we dislike and what we disagree with.

Things like doing penance and practising abstinence. Things like going for Confession before receiving Holy Communion at Mass if one has committed a grave sin.

If these simple and basic religious practices are not taught and observed and practised, then our spiritual discipline will become too lax and after a while we would have deleted so much of our faith that there will be nothing much to believe in.

Let us keep and practise the demands of our faith and teach it first to our children and to our children's children.

Then we will not forget why we believe in God and the purpose of our mission as Church.

Monday, March 16, 2020

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 17-03-2020

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35

There is a prayer format that goes by acronym ACTS and it stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

That prayer format is interesting because it starts with adoration and supplication is at the end.

It is interesting because usually we would start with supplication, or petitions, first. We would launch our prayer first by asking for this and that.

It is not just a human tendency, but in a desperate time of need or in danger, we would be pleading with God for His help and deliverance.

In a desperate situation we would even demand that God save us immediately.

In the 1st reading, what Azariah prayed is indeed surprising. He and his companions
Hananiah and Mishael were thrown into cauldron of fiery furnace to be burnt alive.

But he did not immediately launch into a desperate cry of help. Instead he praised God for His mercy and admitted the sins of his people that resulted in such a dire state.

He continued by asking God to accept their contrite and humble hearts as an offering.

Of course if we were to read the story further, we will know that God eventually delivered the three young men from the fiery furnace unharmed.

Azariah's prayer may not have followed strictly the formats of ACTS but he placed his petitions last and he praised God first.

So when it comes to forgiving someone who has done wrong to us and hurt us badly, it is not important to ask about whether we should forgive or how many times we ought to forgive.

Let us begin by praising God for His love and mercy and admit that we have sinned against Him.

Then we will begin to understand what is meant as we pray "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us".

Sunday, March 15, 2020

3rd Week of Lent, Monday, 16-03-2020

2 Kings 5:1-15 / Luke 4:24-30

Whenever we want to buy a product, we would certainly take a look at the brand name.

Brand names are a big business. In fact, the brand name can be as important as the product itself, maybe even more important than the product.

In religious circles, if a person carry the title of prophet, then that person will indeed be a religious brand name.

Yet Jesus said in the gospel that no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

Certainly He was referring to Himself as well as the line of prophets before Him who suffered rejection and persecution.

Maybe because a true prophet does not carry a brand name.

But as it is, a product without a brand name is usually written off.

Yet the prophetic word was often spoken by unlikely and even nameless people like the Israelite slave girl in the 1st reading.

It was through her that Namaan the Syrian army commander set off looking for a cure in Israel.

These days we hear of news about disasters and catastrophes happening here and there, and political unrest and wars almost everywhere, besides the usual economic woes. And of course the phenomenal spread of the COVID-19 virus

Alongside such news are commentators, analysts, strategists, experts, all giving their 2 cents worth of comments.

But where is the prophetic voice? If only we could hear the voices of those suffering from the troubles of the world.

It is a voice that begs for peace and reconciliation. It is a voice that begs for the presence of God in our troubled world.

It is in listening to that prophetic voice that we will begin to realize our prophetic mission.

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A, 15.03.2020

Exodus 17:3-7 / Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 / John 4:5-42
One of the most common elements and also probably the most taken for granted is water.

In this country, at the turn of the tap, flows clean drinkable water.

And most the time, we use that clean water to wash our clothes, wash our dishes, and of course, in this present situation, to wash our hands often.

It may lead us to think that water is in such abundance that even abuse can come in, as in we will waste water.

But when we know how important water is (we won’t be able to go on for more than 3 days without water), then we will realize how important water is.

When in dry arid conditions, and when water is scarce, then water becomes very significant in meaning as well as in reality. 

The object of discussion in the gospel is water. In that region, water is obviously of great significance.

The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman begins with water when Jesus asked her for a drink.

But as the conversation went on, the topic of water began to take on a spiritual mystical meaning.

Jesus used the term “Living Water”. The Samaritan woman would probably think of flowing water.

But then Jesus said that anyone who drinks the water that He shall give will never be thirsty again, and the water that He gives will turn into a spring within, welling up to eternal life.

Those images made the Samaritan woman yearn for that Living Water.

It awakened in her heart, not just a physical thirst for any water, but a deep thirst in the depths of her heart a thirst which only Jesus the Living Water can quench.

As the suspension of Mass continues into the fourth weekend, we are also beginning to feel a thirst.

After four weekends without the Eucharist we are beginning to feel a thirst.

We are beginning to feel like dry arid ground. We are beginning to feel that our lives are as dry as desert sands.

Oh yes, we long to have the Eucharist, we long to come back to some normalcy in life, we long to come back the routine of going for Mass and receiving the Eucharist on Sundays.

We long for this time of uncertainty and instability to be over.

Certainly, this challenging and difficult time will be over sooner or later. Then our lives will go back to normalcy and we will go back to our routine. 

So this thirst will be over.

But this thirst for normalcy and regular routine should awaken in our hearts the thirst for something deeper.

Because other kinds of thirst will come along – the thirst for health, the thirst for success, the thirst for achievements, the thirst for recognition, the thirst for relationships, the thirst for happiness, the thirst for love.

But beyond and above all these kinds of thirsts, there must be thirst for the Living Water that only Jesus can give.

On the Cross, Jesus cried out, “I thirst”. His thirst is not for any water, but a thirst for our hearts to be turned to Him, and from His pierced side will flow His Blood and Living Water that will fill our hearts and quench that thirst that will satisfy the other thirsts.

Only when we thirst for that Living Water that only Jesus can give, then our hearts will be like a tree that has its roots by the stream and bear fruit even in dry arid ground.

Let us turn our hearts to the pierced side of Jesus and be filled with Living Water and we shall never be thirsty again.

Friday, March 13, 2020

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 14-03-2020

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Based on anecdotal evidence, we can say that there is a black sheep in every family.

Usually that is referred to one of the children. That particular child is always out of step with the rest and seems to be marching to a different tune.

That 'black sheep' is the bane and the burden of parents.

Some parents will resort to renouncement of the relationship with that child, others will resort to punishment which may actually be just a way of venting out their frustrations on the child.

In today's gospel parable we hear of yet another way of dealing with the 'black sheep'.

The father gave in to his younger son's request, but yet further on in the parable, we hear of the father waiting and looking out for him to return.

What made the son came to his senses was that he recalled how kindly his father treated his servants. That was enough for him to get moving.

No matter how far a person has gone over to the dark and destructive side, the memories of love and kindness and goodness can never be erased from him.

It is these memories that will make a person come to his senses and bring him back to the light.

So when we come across the odd one, the black sheep, the sinner, let us be the reflection of God's love to that person.

The 1st reading describes God taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy.

Let us be that image of God for others to help them come to their senses and return to God.

2nd Week of Lent, Friday, 13-03-2020

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Family feuds are not just something that we see only in movies and soap operas.

It happens in real life. We read about it in the papers, we hear about it from friends, it may have even happened to us.

One of the main causes of these family feuds is over money and property.

Over money and property, children have brought parents to court and vice versa. Over money and property, sibling rivalry can become so ugly that blood relationships can become like dirty water.

It had happened from the earliest times in the story of Cain and Abel.

It happened between Joseph and his brothers as we heard in the 1st reading.

That coat with long sleeves was a symbol of favour and blessing.

Over that coat, Joseph's brothers came up with evil thoughts like murder, and then mugging and then slavery.

It was also over money and property that the tenants in the parable of today's gospel resorted to violence and murder.

It can be frightening to know, and even to realize, that money and material possession can have such a destructive grip over us to the extent that we can even lose our sense of integrity and morality.

Hence the Lenten practice of alms-giving has that purpose of helping us break free from this grip of being money-minded and being possessed by materialism.

Let us see if we can give cheerfully. After all whatever we have is given to us from above, and we are only stewards, not owners.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 12-03-2020

Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31

Back in 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Nazi Germany signed a pact with Russia.

It was a pact of non-aggression towards each other, and in it was also a secret agreement to invade Poland and to divide the spoils between each other.

It was a very wicked and devious pact and furthermore, it was one that was aggressive towards a third party.

Yet two years later, the pact was broken when Germany invaded Russia.

Indeed the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading rang true : A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on the things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.

Still the human heart continues to be selfish and devious and perverse.

We must realise that when our hearts are turned from the Lord and from the neighbour in need, we only bring eventual destruction to ourselves.

But when we put our trust in the Lord and look into the welfare of our neighbour who is in need, then we will have faith in the Lord who will give each man what his conduct and actions deserve.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 11-03-2020

Jeremiah 18:18-20 / Matthew 20:17-28

In our very urbanized country, things have changed so much and so fast that we can even get nostalgic over things like a charcoal stove.

We certainly can remember waiting for the kettle of water to boil over the charcoal stove, and how we can squat there or do other things while waiting.

But with everything changing so fast and so much, it seems that life should be more convenient and we should have more time.

Yet, the irony is that with life getting more convenient, we also begin to avoid discomfort and we don't see any meaning in it.

On a deeper level, we also want to avoid suffering because suffering is negative and meaningless.

Even in the 1st reading, the prophet Jeremiah was asking the Lord to deliver him from his adversaries and from suffering.

In the gospel, James and John also wanted the glory, but Jesus asked them if they could take the suffering as well.

The same question is also asked of us : Can you drink of the cup that I am going to drink?

Just as water has to be boiled before it can be fit for drinking, we too will have to go through the sharpening fires of suffering before we can find its meaning.

There is meaning in suffering. It is called redemptive suffering. It is the kind of suffering that Jesus showed us when He was nailed to the cross.

May we too offer up our suffering in love like Jesus did, for our redemption as well as the redemption of the world.

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 10-03-2020

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 / Matthew 23:1-12

The feeling of guilt can weigh heavily on a person and can even slowly squeeze the life out of the person.

More so when this feeling of guilt is often aggravated by other people who keep harping on the guilt.

It is strange and yet not so strange that people tend to glee and gloat over the guilt and the wrong-doings of others.

Which might make us recall this amusing and yet truthful phrase : When I do the right thing, no one remembers. But when I do the wrong thing, no one forgets.

It stems from the tendency to make oneself look big by making others look small.

Yet in life, we have to admit that we make mistakes at one point or another.

And when we do something wrong, we don't need reminders. Reminders only make the guilt heavier

What we need is compassion and forgiveness.

In the 1st reading, God gives us a reminder. It is a reminder not of our sins, but of His compassion and forgiveness when He said : Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow ; thought they are red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

Jesus came to untie our burden of guilt and shame with His compassion and forgiveness.

With the power of His love, Jesus frees us. Let us in turn also untie and free others of their guilt and shame.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

2nd Week of Lent, Monday, 09-03-2020

Daniel 9:4-10 / Luke 6:36-38

Famous persons like Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin had something in common in their childhood years.

They were told that they would never make it anywhere in life.

They were told that they belonged to the scrap-bin, that they were slow-learners, that they were a liability in society.

Yet, they made it somewhere in life, and what's more, they became someone in life.

It only goes to show that premature judgment is a terrible thing to do as it can destroy a person's self-worth.

We only know of those who survived and proved others wrong.

But how about those who were trampled down by judgment and criticism and unforgiveness?

All these are terrible and destructive sins.

When we judge others, highlight their faults and would not open the door to forgiveness, it shows one thing.

It shows that we are unaware of our own faults and our own sinfulness.

We must continue to reflect on what the prophet Daniel said in the 1st reading : Lord, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have not listened.

Let us ask the Lord to help us to be aware and to realize our sinfulness.

Only then can we be open to the compassion of God, a compassion that is given to us in full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A, 15.03.2020

Genesis 12:1-4a / 2 Tim 1:8-10 / Matthew 17:1-9

When the Mass resumes and when we come to church, we might be in for a little surprise.

Coming to church before the suspension of Mass and coming to church when Mass resumes is going to be different.

As we approach the entrance of the church, there are posters on health advisory, asking us to check the status of our health, especially on whether we have a fever, cough and sore throat.

As we go further, there will be hand sanitizers for us to cleanse our hands. Where once we dip our fingers into Holy Water to bless ourselves, we now cleanse our hands with sanitizers.

Then we go along the Q-lines in the direction of the thermal scanners under the watchful eyes of the church wardens before going into the church.

And just as we sit down at the pew and thought that the hassle is over, hospitality ministers will approach us to ask us to take out our mobile phones to scan the QR code to register our particulars.

Indeed we might wonder if the church has become some kind of high security building. Oh yes, things have changed.

Yet the change is necessary, and some changes are here to stay. Given the uncertain and complex changes in the COVID-19 virus contagion, these precautionary health measures and contact-tracing are necessary.

And with the contagion spreading fast and wide in some countries, a shroud of darkness and uncertainty is covering the whole world.

Under this shroud of darkness and uncertainty, we may wonder what God wants to tell us and what is He saying to us in this situation.

In the gospel, as Jesus took His three disciples up the high mountain, He was also feeling a shroud of darkness and uncertainty approaching Him.

There was rising opposition against him from those in religious authority. He was viewed as a rebel to the establishment. He was getting famous but also seen as dangerous. 

His disciples could also be wondering if they should keep following Him or not. There were questions but no certain answers.

But with the darkness and uncertainty looming over Him, on that high mountain, Jesus was transfigured in the presence of His three disciples.

His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as the light. And Moses and Elijah appeared with Him.

It was a wonderful revelation of who Jesus truly is, that He is the fulfillment of the law and the prophecies, and confirmed by the Voice from heaven which said, “This is my Son the Beloved, listen to Him.”

As for us, we too experience a shroud of darkness and uncertainty covering us in this present situation. And we wonder what God is saying to us.

But as the church undergoes changes in this situation we are also going through changes. The church is being transfigured. And so are we.

And in this shroud of darkness and uncertainty, the voice of Jesus scatters the darkness and He says to us, “Stand up, do not be afraid.”

But it is not just in this present shroud of darkness and uncertainty that Jesus wants to stand up and do not be afraid.

There are shrouds of darkness and uncertainty in our lives that reduce us into fear and worry.

There is the shroud of darkness and uncertainty over our financial security and job security.

There is the shroud of darkness and uncertainty in our difficult relationships and we wonder what the future holds for us.

But may this present darkness and uncertainty not drag us down into fear and worry.

Let us turn to Jesus and cry out to Him, “Lord, save us.”

And just as Jesus saved Peter from sinking into the water, He will save us from falling into fear and worry.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

1st Week of Lent, Saturday, 07-03-2020

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 / Matthew 5:43-48

Although some people believe in a supreme being, or a divinity, they nonetheless like to remain as "free-thinkers" (although that is a local colloquial term)

Maybe the attractive factor here is the freedom.

The freedom to remain uncommitted, the freedom to live one's life according to one's own precepts, the freedom to believe whatever what one wants to believe in.

Yet in today's 1st reading from Deutoronomy, we hear two declarations.

The first declaration was from the people, that the Lord God will be their God.

And God declared that they will be His very own people.

Such a declaration of commitment is not unlike marriage vows, and such a commitment actually frees both parties to love each other more deeply.

We commit ourselves to God by following His ways, and keeping His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances.

God in turn commits Himself to us by empowering us to be a consecrated people, a holy people.

A people set apart to show others a way of living that is much more meaningful and truthful.

But if we are like "free-thinking" Christians, then are we doing anything exceptional, especially when the other non-Christians do just as much.

As Christians, Jesus calls us to be perfect, to be holy, just as our heavenly Father is perfect and holy.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

1st Week of Lent, Friday, 06-03-2020

Ezekiel 18:21-28 / Matthew 5:20-26

There is this story of a lady-driver who stopped her car at the traffic lights.

When the lights turned green, she was a little slow in moving on, and a honk came from the car behind hers.

In her anxiety to get her car moving, the engine stalled.

As she tried to start her car, the man in the car behind hers started horning.

His horning became more irritating and it made her even more nervous.

Finally she had all she could take from him.

So she got out of the car, walked to the man in the car behind hers and she said :

"Sir, I would be delighted to horn for you, if you would be kind enough to start my car for me."

Well, it is difficult what amuses us more in that story - was it the irrationality of the man or the ingenuity of the woman.

But one thing for sure - anger only generates heat that burns away a person.

On the other hand, reconciliation opens the door of the heart for God to enter and to heal and to bring about peace.

That is the message of the readings of today.

But reconciliation is not about who is right and who is wrong.

Let us remember that it was God who first reconciled us to Himself by sending His only Son to forgive and heal our sinful hearts.

May we do likewise with others.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

1st Week of Lent, Thursday, 05-03-2020

Esther 4:17 / Matthew 7:7-12

One of the most remarkable faculties that we have as human beings is this ability to remember and to reflect.

We have this ability to store experiences, feelings, etc. in our memory.

Stored in the deepest recesses of our memory are the experiences of life and the things we learned about life.

Things like love, compassion, patience, forgiveness, and of course about faith in God.

That was where Queen Esther took refuge in her moment of peril, which we heard of in the 1st reading.

She had recourse to what she had been taught from young and what was stored in her memory.

She took recourse to God as her only Saviour.

She remembered what she had been taught about God.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us to remember that when we ask it will be given, when we search we will find, and when we knock it will be opened.

Because God does not turn His back on us who are His beloved children.

Let us remember that, and let us remember to teach that to our children.

It will come in necessary at some point in life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

1st Week of Lent, Wednesday, 04-03-2020

Jonah 3:1-10 / Luke 11:29-32

The name Jonah is a Jewish name and it means "a dove".

A dove is a symbol of docility and gentleness.

But Jonah was neither docile nor gentle.

In fact, he hated the Ninevites, the archenemy of Israel, because they annihilated the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

So when Jonah opened his mouth to speak what God told him to say, he was not gentle at all. In fact he was blunt and provocative.

Yet, his message was heeded and the Ninevites started repenting.

Jesus had all the signs - his miracles over nature, over diseases and over demons.

Yet, when He proclaimed His message of repentance and conversion, he met with rejection and hostility.

But yet, Jesus did not give up.

He knew that His message would bring about conversion, eventually.

We the Church are the fruit of that conversion.

It is for us to continue listening to this message of repentance and conversion.

Because we the Church are called to be the sign and hope of conversion, especially the conversion of the world.

We are to show the world how to move from sinfulness to holiness.

1st Week of Lent, Tuesday, 03-03-2020

Isaiah 55:10-11 / Matthew 6:7-15 

Very often, it seems to us that the forces of evil are victorious and even overwhelming.

Men of violence assert their power and might over innocent people and even kill them.

It seems that justice is slow in coming, if ever at all.

The movie industry will take advantage of this fact by churning out all those kind of "pay-back" movies.

Justice is done only in reaching out for the gun. But it is only confined to the reel-world of the movies.

So where is justice? Is there any justice?

Yet we know that there is justice. At least, we will remember Jesus saying this : He who draws the sword will also die by the sword.

Yet, Jesus also did say : Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.

Those are profound of truth, profound words of life, words which, as the 1st reading puts it, does not return to the Lord empty without carrying out His will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

We can only understand what justice is when we know what the truth is about.

In the gospel, Jesus taught us a prayer. It is a prayer of truth.

It is a prayer for justice. When we pray the Lord's prayer, we are also praying that the truth of God will bear fruits of love in our lives so that we will work for justice in the world.

Truth goes before justice. Because there can never be justice without truth.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

1st Week of Lent, Monday, 02-03-2020

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 / Matthew 25:31-46

The word "holy" in Hebrew, has the root meaning of "to separate".

In religious usage, the word "holy" denotes divinity.

It was used strictly for the divinity of God to emphasize the unbridgeable difference between God and His creatures.

Yet in the 1st reading, it was God Himself who told His people: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God am holy.

In effect, God is telling us to be like Him, and rightly so, because we are made to be like Him because we belong to Him.

Hence to be holy is not about being pioustic or just being spiritual, but it also has moral obligations.

In the gospel, Jesus states this moral obligation of holiness in very basic terms and in very practical deeds.

Deeds like sharing our food and drink and helping those in need.

Deeds like making strangers feel welcomed and respecting the dignity of others.

Deeds like caring for the sick and lonely.

God became man in Jesus Christ to show us the real meaning of holiness.

To be holy can be as basic and as practical as doing small acts with great love.

In Jesus, the holy became human, so that we humans can become holy.