Sunday, October 22, 2017

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-10-17

Romans 4:20-15 / Luke 12:13-21

It would not be too presumptuous to say that all of us have desires in life.

And these desires can be anything from the material to the physical to the spiritual.

So whether it is the things we want, or the state of our health, or the happiness that we are yearning for, all that can be considered as desires.

Yet for all that we desire, we may forget that we already had a fulfillment.

We may forget that God has fulfilled His promises of eternal life in Jesus.

In the 1st reading, we heard that because God made Abraham a promise, Abraham refused to deny it or even doubt it, but drew strength from his faith in God's promise.

He waited till he was 100 years-old before that promise was fulfilled. Yet for Abraham, God's promise was his treasure.

In other words, God was his treasure and his desire. And God should also be our treasure and desire.

In God alone we have everything. But without God, then all is nothing.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mission Sunday, Year A, 22.10.2017

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Ephesians 3:2-12 / Mark 16:15-20
There is one thing that we all have in common right now, and that one thing comes in pairs.

That one thing that we have in common right now is that we are wearing a pair of shoes. No one came here barefooted. Even if we have taken off our shoes a bit for whatever reason, we will still put them on again.

Shoes are not just something we put on to walk about and to protect our feet. Shoes reveal quite a bit about the person actually. And quite often we make shoe contact first before we make eye contact.

And although it is not that polite to stare, but to stare at a pair of gorgeous shoes can be quite a compliment.

For men, shoes show who they are, because shoes change the way they walk and the way they carry themselves, such that it can be said “If I ever let my head down, it will be just to admire my shoes”

For women, they will go by this saying: “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy shoes, and that’s more or less the same thing!” So most women will say this: Roses are red, violets are blue, keep the flowers, I rather have shoes.

We can remember the fairy tale of Cinderella. Well, Cinderella is a story of how a pair of shoes can change your life.

So what do shoes have to do with Mission Sunday, which the Church is celebrating this weekend?

The gospels begins with this: Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven and said to them, “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation … “

And the gospel ends with: And so the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven. There at the right hand of God, He took His place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

Jesus commanded His apostles to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation, and they went, preaching everywhere.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and that would be to step into a pair of good shoes.

Shoes, no matter how gorgeous they look, the most important part of the shoe is often not visible, and that part is the sole of the shoe.

We may not realise how important it is until when the sole begins to disintegrate and leave crumbs all over the place. It often happens to those spongy running shoes or tennis shoes.

Or when the sole just separates from the shoe without much of a warning. They really become like flip-flops. No matter how good they look on the top-side, when the shoe loses its sole, that’s the end of the shoe.
In a way, the sole of the shoe is quite like the soul of a person. When the soul of a person starts to crumble or disintegrates, then the person also loses direction in life and it is the beginning of the end.

Mission Sunday reminds us that our primary task as Christians is to save souls, a term which we seldom hear of nowadays. We don’t hear much of the “salvation of souls” and hence we seldom speak about it and so after a while it is also forgotten.

So we slowly forget to pray for the salvation of the world, the salvation of souls, we slowly forget that we have mission to bring souls to heaven.

We even might forget to pray for the departed. In the past, there is this prayer invocation: “May the divine assistance remain always with us, and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.” We seldom hear of it now.

Yes, we must pray for those who are in living here in this world, as well as for the souls in Purgatory.

Because heaven is for real, and Jesus wants us all to be in heaven with Him, and we have that mission of bringing souls to heaven.

But how real is heaven for us? Do we long to go there, and will we help others to go there too?

There is this book “Heaven is for Real”, which was also made into a movie with the same title.

It is about a true story (true or not it is left us to believe) of a young boy's astounding story of his trip to Heaven and back. The book documents the report of a near-death experience of the four-year-old boy Colton Burpo.

Todd Burpo is a pastor and his son Colton had a life-saving emergency surgery on March 5, 2003 at the age of four. During the months after surgery, Colton began describing events and people that seemed impossible for him to have known about. Examples include knowledge of an unborn sister miscarried by his mother in 1998 and details of a great-grandfather who had died 30 years before Colton was born. Colton also said how he met Jesus riding a rainbow-coloured horse and sat in Jesus' lap while angels sang songs to him. He also saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.

Among the many profound and intriguing dialogues in the movie was this:
Colton: "Mommy"
Sonja: "Yes, Colton"
Colton: "Did you know I have a sister?"
Sonja: "Don’t you know that Cassie's your sister?"
Colton: "No, I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn't you?"
Sonja: "Honey, who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?"
Colton: "In heaven, this little girl came up to me. She told me she died in your tummy."
And then when the mother asked her son what was that little girl’s name, Colton replied: She didn’t have a name. You didn’t give her a name.
It is a good story to read and a good movie to watch. To believe the story or not is another matter.

But as the title says it “Heaven is for real”. And that’s the Good News that is proclaimed on Mission Sunday. 

We must believe that Jesus wants us to be in heaven and He also wants us to help others go to heaven.

We may not have a great or dramatic story to tell but our mission is to walk with others and to even walk in their shoes so that together we walk in the paths of the Lord and journey towards heaven.

Let us share with others the good shoes of faith and walk with them that journey of a thousand miles. Let us remember that the salvation of their souls are our responsibility.

Friday, October 20, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 21-10-17

Romans 4:13, 16-18 / Luke 12:9-12

The Chinese (as well as other races) have this tradition of having a family name, or what is called a surname.

By the surname, one would be identified with a family or with a clan, even though in the present times, two persons having the same surname would not necessarily have any family connection whatsoever.

The surname is not just some kind of identification with a family or clan or group of people.

It is also an indication of the blood ties between the members of that family or clan or group.

And from there the genealogy or the ancestry of the members can be traced.

The 1st reading recalled the promise made by God to Abraham and his descendants.

God promised Abraham that his descendants will be as many as the stars in heaven.

When we refer to the genealogy list in the gospel of Matthew, we see the descendants of Abraham going right down to Jesus, and from there the inheritance of the descendants of Abraham was expressed as the Church and in Christians.

So Abraham is our father in faith and we are his descendants. We carry the name of Christian and we are united in faith in that name and bear witness to the faith that Abraham had in God.

As Jesus said in the gospel, when we bear witness for God, we also bear witness to our faith and to the Church that we belong to.

On the other hand, when we counter-witness to God, we also counter-witness to our faith and to the Church.

May the Holy Spirit always help us bear witness to God in truth and in love so that we can worthily be called descendants of Abraham and receive our eternal inheritance.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 20-10-17

Romans 4:1-8 / Luke 12:1-7

If we ever get into heaven, we ought to be surprised, maybe because we should be surprised that we could ever get there in the first place.

Indeed, how many of us can say that we truly deserve to be in heaven.

We may be baptised, live religious lives, are good people and maybe even doing service and great things for the Lord.

But does that mean that we can claim for ourselves a place in heaven?

The 1st reading says that if a person has work to show, his wages are not considered as favour, but rather his due.

But when a person has nothing to show except his faith and trust in God, then that person is truly blessed.

Abraham was given as an example of a man who put his faith in God, and hence his faith was a blessing for him.

Indeed, faith is truly a gift from God. It is because we see faith as a gift from God, that our deeds are acts of thanksgiving and to glorify God.

Then our deeds would not be for selfish and self-glorifying motives.

We would not want to be hypocritical because we know that God sees everything and knows what is deep in our hearts.

Finally, when we see God face to face, there is no need to talk about the good we have done.

We just want to give thanks to God for our faith and Him and for letting us be with Him forever.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-10-17

Romans 3:21-30 / Luke 11:47-54

The prophetic voice is a voice that consoles as well as disturbs.

It consoles the oppressed and it disturbs the oppressor.

But besides having the double-edged sword of consolation and desolation, the prophetic voice calls for justice.

The 1st reading tells us that the Law and the Prophets had made known the justice of God.

But it is by faith that this justice of God is revealed to the one who believes in Jesus Christ.

This justice of God is essentially His mercy and compassion that leads us to be reconciled with Him.

So whenever Jesus preached about God's mercy and compassion, it brought consolation to the oppressed.

But for the oppressors like the Pharisees and scribes, it disturbed them.

Because if they were to practice mercy and compassion in their lives, they would have to act justly and humbly.

It may also disturb us if we were to have mercy and compassion on those who do not deserve it.

But in being disturbed, we will be awakened to act justly and humbly, and we will also be able to speak with a prophetic voice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

St. Luke, Evangelist, Wednesday, 18-10-17

2 Tim 4:10-17 / Luke 10:1-9

St. Luke was not one of the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus, but he is venerated as the Evangelist who wrote the fourth gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles. This is the traditional view of the Church.

Although he was not mentioned in the gospels, he was featured in the epistles of St. Paul of  the New Testament.

He was mentioned in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14. And he was also mentioned in the 1st reading of today. St. Paul mentioned about him in only five words - Only Luke is with me.

And that said volumes about St. Luke because St. Paul was suffering persecution and abandonment and his only source of consolation was that he had the company of St. Luke, and by mentioning that, it showed how much St. Paul appreciated him.

Furthermore, it was nearing the end of St. Paul's life in Rome that St. Luke was keeping him company and that was a testimony of how much St. Luke was involved in the ministry of the early Church as well as of his faith and character.

St. Luke knew first hand the challenges and difficulties of the mission of proclaiming the Good News and also the commitment and the sacrifices that are involved.

So as we read about his account in the gospel of Jesus sending out His disciples, we can sense that it was from the depths of his missionary experience that he wrote it.

Yes, we are being sent out to proclaim the Good News but it is like lambs being sent among wolves.

Yet in the midst of danger and difficulties, let us keep in mind how St. Luke kept St. Paul company.

It is in keeping company with each other in unity and peace that we are able to face the wolves and proclaim the Good News of God's saving love.

Monday, October 16, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-10-17

Romans 1:16-25 / Luke 11:37-41

The use of sacramentals in the Church is a meaningful practice.

Sacramentals are blessed objects such as holy water, crucifix, rosary, holy pictures and statues.

Most Catholics will use such sacramentals during prayer and some will even kiss the holy pictures and touch the statues.

But of course, we are clear that we don't worship statues or use holy pictures as some kind of talisman.

But as much as we know the meaning and the purpose of sacramentals in our religious life, when it comes to our secular life, we get it all mixed up.

We fall into this problem of making things the centre of our lives.

For example, some get so absorbed with their personal computers or gadgets that they could not see that those things are now controlling them.

Some get so absorbed with another human being that they create a personality cult and that's why pop singers, movie stars and sports stars have a fan club.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul pointed out the the impiety and the depravity of man have caused them to exchange the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation of mortal man, of birds, or animals, or of whatever.

All this happened because the truth of God is suppressed and imprisoned by the wickedness of man.

Indeed, human beings have that ability to suppress God's truth in themselves and deny God's sovereignty.

Let us ask Jesus to cleanse our hearts, so that the truth of God will set us free to worship the one true God.