Monday, September 20, 2021

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Tuesday, 21-09-2021

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

There are many stories of people who changed their professions somewhere along in life.

And the change to a new profession is a totally different and unrelated to the previous profession.

Some changed from a white-collar job to a blue-collar job. Some changed from engineering to the arts. Some changed from management posts to being hawkers.

Some of these stories are amusing and even inspiring.

But for St. Matthew, the change from being a tax-collector to a disciple of Jesus was quite astonishing.

Yes, St. Matthew responded to the call of Jesus, but he had to make that difficult decision to walk away from a comfortable income, although it comes with an un-respectable and despicable reputation.

To make the change was not possible until Jesus came along.

So change for the better is possible only when Jesus is calling and it is also in God's time.

Let us, like St. Matthew, be prepared to listen to the voice of Jesus.

When He calls, let us also be willing to respond.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-09-2021

Ezra 1:1-6 / Luke 8:16-18      

There are many wonderful things that we can say about God.

One of the things is that God is the God of surprises.

Of course we would like to think that it is of unexpected pleasant surprises.

In the 1st reading, what Cyrus king of Persia did was quite unexpected, at least to the Israelites.

The Israelites were in exile in Babylon and it was Cyrus who brought about the end of the Babylonian empire.

For the Israelites, it was just a matter of a change of masters, as they would not expect any liberation from the new ruler.

So it was truly an unexpected and wonderful surprise that king Cyrus allowed the Israelites to go back to their homeland and even to rebuild the Temple.

But it was actually in God's plan, as the 1st reading says it was to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah.

As for us, God also has a plan for each of us. God's plan is always wonderful and for our good.

We only need to expect the unexpected and give thanks and trust in the Lord's ways.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 19.09.2021

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 / James 3:16 – 4:3 / Mark 9:30-37

There was a recent survey about which are the world's most fatigued cities. The survey was conducted based on the number of hours spent sleeping, the number of hours spent working and the number of hours of screen time, i.e. on the computer and looking at the screen. 

According to that survey, right at the top of the most fatigued cities in the world is Singapore! 

Would we find that surprising? Can it be true that the world's most fatigued city is Singapore? 

If that is true, it means to say that we Singaporeans sleep lesser hours, work longer hours and spend many hours in front of the computer screen. 

So compared with the peoples of the other bigger cities, we are more busy, more tired and more stressed out. In short, we are the most fatigued people in the world, at least according to the survey. 

Well, we may be tired, we may be busy, but are we happy? Can we say that we are happy? 

Well, happiness can be quite elusive. So, we can be happy for a few moments and then be miserable for quite a long while. 

And if we honestly admit that we are stressed and tired and miserable, then the gospel has a message for us. 

Jesus was instructing and telling His disciples this: The Son of God will be delivered into the hands of men. They will put him to death, and three days after he has been put to death oh, he will rise again. 

Jesus was, or could be feeling, stressed and anxious about that. And it didn't help that His disciples did not understand what He said and were afraid to ask Him. 

Instead, His disciples had other concerns in mind. They were arguing among themselves which of them was the greatest. 

We may think that it was some petty argument, but it was causing problems and maybe even serious problems. 

The 2nd reading sheds some light into those problems when it said: Whenever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony and wicked things of every kind being done. 

So, the disciples were not just arguing over some petty and trivial matters. They were arguing about which of them was the greatest, and in order to show who is the greatest, it would mean that the greatest would have to be the loudest. 

Their argument was loud enough to reach the ears of Jesus, so much so that He had to address the matter. 

Very often in an argument, a lot of shouting happens. No argument is ever done softly or gently. 

And when the decibels go higher, the anger grows hotter, and so the 2nd reading asks this question: Where do these wars and fights between yourselves start? 

And the 2nd reading goes on to point this out: Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy, so you fight to get your way by force. 

So the 2nd reading reveals the reason why we end up shouting in an argument and even end up fighting. 

But shouting in an argument is not just a jarring noise. Because no one is listening. 

Only the noise is heard and the anger is felt. All that ends up in stress, anxiety and fatigue. We get tired and drained out by all that heated argument. 

In all this noisy and heated arguments, let us be silent so that we can listen. 

We need to listen to the voice of God that will give us the wisdom that comes down from above. 

It is that Divine wisdom that gives us peace, and that makes us kind, considerate and compassionate, and enables us to do good. 

When there is peace in our hearts, we will sow seeds that will bear fruit in holiness. 

To be holy is to be silent in order to listen to the wisdom of God. 

To be holy is to be silent so that we will listen to the cries of those in anguish and to be with them and to console them so that they will eventually be at peace. 

When we and others are at peace, then we will be able to receive the blessings from God. 

With God's blessings, we will be given the strength of eagles’ wings, and when faced with the fatigues of life, we will not be weary or tired.

In fact, with God’s blessings, we will be at peace and we will be happy.

Friday, September 17, 2021

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-0-2021

1 Tim 6:13-16 / Luke 8:4-15      

It is not exactly easy to illustrate a gospel teaching by using stories or examples.

There are times when the gospel teaching is clear-cut but to find an example or story to illustrate it requires time and reflection.

The parable of the sower and the seeds is indeed an excellent story with a divine message.

It is a story in which we are invited not only to listen to it but also to find ourselves being part of it.

It is not a story that we can listen to and go away unchallenged, unchanged and unmoved by what we heard.

Even though we may not be from an agricultural background, yet we can still understand what the parable means to us.

Because every time we read the Bible or hear the scriptures being read and shared, the Word is being sown in our hearts.

How much of God's Word will take root in our hearts and bear fruits in our lives depends on how deeply we want to reflect on the gospel parable we have just heard.

When we are able to reflect upon the truth in the parable, then we will also see the truth about ourselves and also the state of our hearts.

But the fundamental truth is this: Just as God cares about what happens to His Word, He cares more about us who hear His Word.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-09-2021

1 Tim 6:2-12 / Luke 8:1-3   

Whenever the term "bottomless pit" is used, the imagery is that of a wide deep dark hole that cannot be filled nor can the bottom be seen.

As much as bottomless pits may not exists, or at least not known to exist yet, the term bottomless pit is often used as a metaphor.

It is used to express, and maybe even to exaggerate, the peculiar characteristic of something or a person.

When used on a person, it expresses the inexhaustible yearning or demands like having possessions, wealth, attention and usually it is not that edifying.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul warns that religion should not be used to make a profit.

He goes on to say that we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. 

And people who long to be rich or are like bottomless pits for worldly desires get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.

We may desire for more than food, clothing and shelter, but let us be contented with that.

More essentially is that we desire for God's blessings and protection so that we can experience God's providence here in this world, and eventually be granted salvation and eternal life in the next.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-09-2021

1 Tim 4:12-16 / Luke 7:36-50     

We know that love is beautiful and powerful.

With love, there can be peace and unity.

We all have love in our hearts and live it out in our lives, we have the benefits of spiritual and physical health.

As much as we would want to live lives of love, yet we know that when we sin, we become laden with guilt and pain.

The effects of sin suppresses the love that is in us, and we can't be the loving person to others.

We desire for forgiveness and healing and that is what Jesus came to do for us.

Jesus came to forgive our sins and to heal the spiritual wounds of our hearts so that we can be free to love again.

He did that for the woman who poured out her tears on His feet, wiped them with her hair and anointed them with ointment.

Forgiveness and healing is also what Jesus is offering to us.

And just as Jesus forgives us, let us also forgive those who have done wrong to us.

Let there be healing and reconciliation so that the world will know how beautiful and powerful love is.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Our Lady of Sorrows, Wednesday, 15-09-2021

Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35    

Life is not all roses and rainbows. We should know that by now.

Neither is our faith.

Today as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross.

We share in her sorrow as the sword pierced her heart in seeing her Son suffer and die on the Cross.

That sword of sorrow had been foretold long ago by Simeon when she and Joseph brought Jesus to be presented at the Temple.

Even though Mary knew that sorrow was in store for her, she stood by Jesus all the way to the Cross.

And Mary will also stand by us in our moments of sorrow, because on the Cross, Jesus gave her to us to be our mother.

And just as Mary's sorrow turned to joy at the Resurrection, let us hold on to our faith in God's promises.

Our sorrows will also turn to joy as we see the roses and rainbows of God's promises being fulfilled.