Saturday, March 17, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18.03.2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 12:20-33

Most offices would have a secretary as part of their admin staff. Depending on the size of the office, the secretary’s tasks can be varied and diverse.

The often stereotyped tasks of a secretary is to make coffee for the boss, make shorthand notes as the boss rambles on, answer phone-calls, arrange the boss’s schedules, takes charge of the office admin, etc.

The secretary is often portrayed as the one who stands between the boss and visitors. So if someone comes to see the boss, the secretary would tell the visitor to wait and proceed to inform the boss.

Actually it is more like to alert the boss that there is a visitor, so that the boss can be prepared to meet the visitor. And of course the boss would want to look his best and give a good impression to the visitor.

And the secretary’s task is to ensure that. So a good secretary is vital for the boss and for the running of the office admin.

Today’s gospel begins with some Greeks approaching Philip with a request that they would like to see Jesus. Philip went to tell Andrew and together they went to tell Jesus.

Those Greeks may have heard about Jesus, how He worked miracles and performed healing, how He taught with authority, and they were certainly impressed with what they heard and hence they wanted to see the man for themselves.

And Philip and Andrew would also want Jesus to look His best and give those Greeks a good impression. After all Jesus was their Master, so if He looked good, then they too would look good, going by “like Master, like disciple”.

But the reply of Jesus was rather strange. At first He says that the hour has come for Him to be glorified. So they would have thought that He was going to give those Greeks a profound impression.

But what followed after does not seem to sound like anything impressive. Jesus talked about a wheat grain having to die in order to yield a rich harvest.

He went on to give a reflection about life, that anyone who loves his life loses it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

And then He went on to say that His soul is troubled and He seemed to wonder if God would save Him. By those words, He indicated the kind of death He would die.

That would have left Philip and Andrew rather confused and apprehensive. Just what are they going to tell those Greeks. What Jesus said was far from impressive; in fact it sounded rather repulsive. 

If they had expected Jesus to impress those Greeks, they would be disappointed. And those Greeks would be disappointed too.

Philip and Andrew might not have understood what Jesus was talking about. But we should understand. As we come to the 5th Sunday of Lent, we should know what was the preoccupation in the mind of Jesus. He was preoccupied with His impending suffering and death.

The 2nd reading gives us a glimpse of Jesus that we don’t often hear about. During His life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the One who had the power to save Him out of death, and He submitted so humbly that His prayer was heard.

So although He was Son, He learnt to obey through suffering, but having been made perfect, He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

Next Sunday, the Church enters into Holy Week, with the emphasis on the suffering and death of Jesus. For the RCIA Elects, this week is the final leg of their preparation for Baptism, as they undergo purification and receive enlightenment through the final Scrutiny.

As for us, we enter into the mind of Jesus as He dwells on His impending suffering and death. It was a mental burden for Him as He says, “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?

We would also be led to think about what is burdening our minds and what is troubling our hearts.
In life, there are many burdens and many troubles. It may be financial difficulties, job insecurity, health issues, marital problems, family problems. Yes, in life there are many burdens and troubles. 

And ironically, many of these burdens and troubles are not even ours, but they somehow landed on our turf. And here is where we are called to be like Jesus, and to be with Jesus, in sacrificing our lives for the good and for the salvation of others.

A wise man was asked this question – What is the heaviest burden and the greatest trouble in life?
The wise man answered: The heaviest burden and the greatest trouble is to have no burden and no trouble at all.

We may think it is a weird answer. It doesn’t sound logical, at least initially. But upon deeper reflection, we will come to realize that if life has no burdens or troubles, then we are going to be like dead fish that just go with the flow and end up as sludge.

But like Jesus, we want to believe that burdens and troubles, suffering and pain, are not dead ends. Because like Jesus, we believe that God has the power to save us out of death. God has the power to save us and help us overcome our burdens and troubles, our suffering and pain.

Jesus has already overcome the world. Let us believe in Him and follow Him to overcome our burdens and troubles. Let us show the world who Jesus really is. It is not to make an impression but to show our conviction.

Friday, March 16, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 17-03-18

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

The Bible, as we know, is the Word of God, and in it is the revealed truth of God.

Furthermore, the gospels are called the Good News because it announces the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Yet if a non-Catholic is attending Mass for the first time and listens to the Bible passages that we just heard, he may end up wondering.

Just what kind of message is the Bible giving? In the 1st reading there was scheming, plotting, being led to the slaughter-house, destruction, as well as vengeance.

Then in the gospel there is argument and confusion and arrogance.

Of course it is not fair to just take today's Bible passages and say that there is nothing uplifting or inspiring about the Bible.

Yet the first line in the 1st reading may give us enough to think about - The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

Yes, the Lord reveals to us in the Bible that as much as there is evil and wickedness in the world, yet in the end He will pronounce a just sentence and He will also vindicate the good people who are faithful to Him.

The sinfulness and the wickedness of the world will certainly make us shudder and quiver.

But in this Eucharist, let us receive strength and courage from the Lord and let us take the response for the Responsorial Psalm - Lord God, I take refuge in you.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Friday, 16-03-18

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

Seminarians have to study theology in the Seminary, and although it can be difficult to remember and understand those theological concepts and definitions, it can still be managed. 

But trying to explain theology to children and teenagers would be a realization of how difficult it is to use simple language to get it across, as well as how much is really understood.

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 we are doing that so often.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 15-03-18

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 13, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 14-03-18

Isaiah 49:8-15 / John 5:17-30

Whenever we talk about a relationship, we can assume it is between two persons.

Yet a relationship can only happen between two persons when there is a depth of affection for each other.

In the 1st reading, we get an idea of the relationship that God wants to have with His people.

It is a relationship with the depth of the affection of a mother for her child at her breast or the child in her womb.

It is a relationship that is not just affectionate but also with a deep intimacy.

In the gospel, Jesus called God His Father. Jesus had a very affectionate and intimate term for that - Abba.

That depth of affection and intimacy with God His Father is also what Jesus wants to have with us.

Religion is about the worship of the divine.

But in Jesus, our worship of God is a relationship that is affectionate and intimate.

Yet our relationship with God must also turn our relationships with others into one that is affectionate and intimate.

Just as God loves us, we too must love others with the same depth of love.

Monday, March 12, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 13-03-18

Ezekiel 471-9, 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.

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 11, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Monday, 12-03-18

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 need.

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.

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.