Wednesday, September 20, 2017

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Thursday, 21-09-17

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

We know that God planned creation and everything goes according to the law of nature and that everything happens for a reason.

That being said, we can also see that everything is graced by God to fulfill His will.

More so for persons; as the 1st reading puts it: Each of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.

In the gospel, we heard the call of St. Matthew when he was sitting by the customs house.

Yet, it sounded rather abrupt and sudden. There was Jesus, walking by and he saw Matthew sitting by the customs house and He told him to follow him and he got up and followed Jesus!

There seemed to be no dialogue, no discernment, no questions asked, nothing to indicate why Jesus chose to call Matthew and why Matthew got up immediately and followed Him.

But just as there is an order and a plan in creation, and everything happens for a reason, there was certainly a lot going on in St. Matthew before Jesus called him.

Being a tax collector, which already categorized him as a sinner and despised as an outcast and a traitor, God's grace in him was probably making him look at himself and asking questions about his life.

So when Jesus looked his way, the grace of God prompted him to get up and follow Jesus.

And St. Matthew went on to write a gospel that tells of the fulfillment of God's grace in the person of Jesus.

Yes, each of us has been given his share of grace, given as Christ has allotted it. What our mission is will be revealed to us along the way.

What we need to do now is to let God's grace act in us and to get up and follow Jesus, who came not to call the virtuous but sinners.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-09-17

1 Tim 3:14-16 / Luke 7:31-35

No family is ever perfect. We argue and even fight with each other and stop talking to each other.

But whatever it is, family is still family, no matter how dysfunctional, and hence must continue to exist as a family.

For better or otherwise, the members of the family are like branches on a tree; we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.

If that is so for the family, then it is more so for the Church, which is the family of God, which is reiterated by St. Paul in the 1st reading.

As members of God's family, we should know how to behave, to uphold the truth and keep it safe.

And what is this truth? St. Paul would say that it is the mystery of our faith and it is very deep indeed.

He summarized that truth and that mystery in the person of Jesus, who is the root of the family of the Church.

But the family of the Church is not isolated from the bigger reality of the family of the world.

As we grow and are immersed into the various aspects of the world, we also must not forget our roots - that Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches.

It is our mission to bring the people of our generation to realize that we are truly one family and that we have the same roots.

Let's not be like the children that Jesus portrayed in the gospel who are shouting to one another in the market place.

Let us be the children of Wisdom who will help others realize that we belong to one family in this world.

Monday, September 18, 2017

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-09-17

1 Tim 3:1-13 / Luke 7:11-17

Most of our values have been shaped and formed since our years as a child. In fact, it is said that the first six years of a child are the most important years as those are the crucial years of formation and learning.

So we inherit values from our parents and from those who are tasked to teach us and also from those who make an impression on us.

And in many ways we reflect the values of our parents and what they believed in and also the values of our family.

That's why when we behave contrary to the values and beliefs that we were brought up in, then among those who will be disappointed will be our parents. And our parents might even be blamed for not giving us a good upbringing.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul talked about the importance of choosing church leaders and he listed out the criteria for the choice.

The requirements are certainly very high, but that's because they have this responsibility of forming and nurturing the members of the church in the areas of faith and morality.

And what if they stumble and fall? When this happens, then almost everyone will be blamed - the disgraced leader, his superiors, the Church and everyone and everything connected to it.

A kind of spiritual death happens as those who fell and failed are left in the dust of guilt and shame.

In times like these, regardless of whether it is a church leader, a leader of the community, an educator or a law enforcement officer, etc., let us commend that person into the hands of Jesus.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus raised the dead man and gave him back to his mother. For those who fell and failed, and for those whose faith were shaken by what happened, may Jesus show His mercy and compassion and raise up all from a spiritual death and from a shattered faith.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-09-17

1 Tim 2:1-8 / Luke 7:1-10

The Church is founded on prayer and in all its undertakings and directions, the prayer factor cannot be missing or diminished.

Hence, the mission of the Church is to pray for the needs of the Church and all the faithful and also for the needs of the world and its salvation.

Yes, the Church is not separated from the world and its affairs and needs and concerns. In fact, we need to be an integral part of the world in order to proclaim the Good News to the world.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul emphasized to Timothy the need for prayers to be offered for everyone.

And then he made a particular mention of prayers for the rulers and those in authority, so as to be in harmony with them.

The Church cannot see the world as a hostile opponent but rather as a friend to build a relationship with.

In the gospel, Jesus showed His favour to the request of the centurion by healing his sick servant.

Jesus even affirmed the faith of the centurion by saying that not even in Israel had He found faith like that.

The Church no doubt has faith. But the faith of the Church should be the catalyst to stir up faith in the world.

May we pray fervently and reverently so that the Church with the world will give glory to God.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 17.09.2017

Ecclesiasticus 27:30 – 28:7 / Romans 14:7-9 / Matthew 18:21-35

In this parish, as well as in the other parishes, there is this regular occurrence. There will be individuals wandering into the premises and asking for money.

If they are asking for money in order to have some food for the day, then we are obligated to help them, for that is our Christian duty. And we will help them in their sustenance for a day or two, and we would also see if the SSVP can give them further assistance.

But more often than not, there are people who come to ask for money and they say it’s for their rent, or their medical bills or utility bills and they are asking for at least $100. And they will make promises to repay it back as soon as they have the money. In effect they are asking for a loan, which of course the church is unable to do so.

But on a personal level, we have the experience of people like family members, relatives, colleagues and friends coming to us with a sob-story and begging us to lend them some money for an urgent need, and the amount that they are asking is a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars!

And we also have the experience of being soft-hearted and we lend – a few hundred or a few thousand dollars – our hard-earned money. And we also have the experience that when we ask for our money back, we only get empty promises and excuses. 

And those who borrowed money from us and have not repaid us, we will always remember them. (So if we want someone to remember us, just borrow money from them and don’t return it :) They will certainly remember us always, although not for a good reason :( )

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable that we can immediately understand, especially if we had lent people some money and they haven’t return it to us.

What the servant owed the king – 10 thousand talents – was an enormous amount and impossible for the servant to repay it.

The servant pleaded with the king – “Give me time and I will pay back the whole sum”. We too have heard this from those who borrowed money from us – “Give me some time and I will repay you”, and we wait and wait and wait.

In the parable the king had pity on that servant and wrote off that enormous debt. But the reality for us is that it is so difficult to write off a debt, especially if it is a large sum of money. It is like a knife that is stuck in our hearts.

But the gospel parable uses the imagery of a monetary debt to point to a spiritual debt. When others do wrong to us, how willing are we to forgive, especially when they don’t seem to deserve it.

There is this book “The Sunflower” written by a Nazi holocaust survivor, Simon Weisenthal. His pain was extremely intense: 85 members of his family died in the concentration camps.
In his book, he tells of this story that one day when he was in the concentration camp, a nurse came and told him to follow her. He was led to a make-shift hospital and into a very small room, which had a single bed and lying on the bed was a person almost completely wrapped in bandages.

It was obvious that this person was about to die soon. Simon was left alone with this person and then the dying person began to speak and he told his story. 

He was a young man, 21 years-old, a member of the dreaded SS troops. He had been raised a Catholic but was swayed over to the Nazis and he joined the elite SS troops. 

When he was in the eastern zone, he was given the assignment to deal with the Jews in the zone, which actually meant killing them by any means. This incident troubled the young SS soldier as his early faith formation rebelled against what he did. He grew careless and was distracted and during a battle, he was wounded to this state. 

One of the things that were on his mind was that above all, he wanted forgiveness from a Jew. And so it happened that the nurse called in Simon Weisenthal, and there he was, listening to the young man’s story and heard his plea.

The dying young man said that he was not born a murderer and he didn’t want to die a murderer, and he begged Simon, on behalf of his people, for forgiveness. Simon Weisenthal says in his book that the only response he could give was to get up and leave the room without saying a word, without granting forgiveness.
He wrote that much later on, his non-response began to trouble him. Should he have granted forgiveness to that dying young man? He could think of many reasons not to, but he still cannot come to terms with his non-response to the pleading of the dying man. He concluded the story by asking the readers to put themselves into his shoes and ask themselves the question: What would I have done?

When people owe us money and they don’t pay up, or when they won’t pay up, it is painful. And whenever we think about it, the knife of resentment and anger twists in our hearts and it becomes more and more difficult to forgive them. 

But when others do wrong to us, it can be more painful because the knife goes round and round in our hearts making a big hole in our hearts and all kindness and compassion are drained away.

The antagonist could be an abusive parent, an unfaithful spouse, a scheming sibling, a back-stabbing colleague, or even a gossip-mongering parishioner.

The hurt and the pain may not be so intense as that of Simon Weisenthal’s, but still it is a twisting cutting pain that hurts the heart and makes it so difficult to forgive.

But the 1st reading reminds us of this: Resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found in the sinner. Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven. Jesus said likewise in the gospel: forgive each other from your heart.

Which makes us look at the other side of the coin. Have we been like that dying young soldier who took the wrong path and was careless and did all the wrong things? 

Of course we can be obstinate and rationalize away our guilt, but one day we will have to come face to face with our sins, and then it will be our turn to plead for forgiveness.

For this, the 1st reading has this profound teaching: Remember the last things and stop hating, remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not bear your neighbor ill-will; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook the offence.

Yes, let us remember that the gospel is about forgiveness. Just as Jesus forgives His enemies, we too must forgive others. Just as Jesus forgives, our sins are also forgiven.

And as we remember the last things, let us stop hating and start forgiving. And as we forgive those who trespass against us, the Lord will also forgive us our trespasses.

Friday, September 15, 2017

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 16-09-17

1 Tim 1:15-17 / Luke 6:43-49

In almost every religion, food is used in worship as a sign of communion with the deity.

That is why in the worship, something is offered for sacrifice.

It can be an animal, or some produce of the land, or some cooked food.

It is offered to the deity, and then the devotees partake of some of the food as a sign of communion with the deity.

Even in our Eucharist, the bread and wine are offered and through the consecration of the priest, we partake of the Body of Christ in communion.

But we need to be reminded of this great mystery because familiarity can be the death of reverence.

We too can forget that we are in communion with Christ in the Eucharist and that Christ lives on in our hearts.

From the words that come out of our hearts, we will know how aware we are of the presence of Christ in us.

As Jesus said in the gospel: For a man's words flow out of what fills his heart.

By our words, others will know whether we truly worship God or not.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Our Lady of Sorrows, Friday, 15-09-17

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

Today we commemorate one of the titles of Mary - Our Lady of Sorrows.

We may wonder why the Church picks those moments of grief and sorrow and suffering and remembers it in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Today we remember yet another paradox - the grief and the sorrow of our Lady.

Maybe there are certain things in life that can be revealed and learnt only through sorrow and suffering.

The cross, a symbol of shame and death, is turned by Jesus into a symbol of life and glory.

In Mary's case, as she stood by the cross, and in the depths of her sorrow, she was also transformed, as she received a revelation and a mission.

In that moment of her greatest sorrow, Christ transformed her and commissioned her to be the Mother of the Church.

In dying on the cross, Christ gave life to us and gave Mary to be our Mother.

When sorrow and suffering are put into the hands of God, something is transformed and something beautiful and glorious happens.

Let us stay by the side of our Mother as she stands at the foot of the cross, and hold her close to our hearts.

And when we meet with troubles or distress, and when we, like Mary, sink into the depths of sorrow, let us turn to Jesus on the cross.

Jesus assures us that something beautiful and glorious is about to happen. As long as we stay by the side of our Mother and hold her close to our hearts.