Monday, July 24, 2017

St. James, Apostle, Tuesday, 25-07-17

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 20:20-28

During His life on earth, Jesus singled out three apostles out of the twelve apostles to be with Him in the special and unique moments of His ministry.

They were Peter, John and James, whose feast day we celebrate today.

They were with Jesus in His healing ministry as well as at the Transfiguration.

Although James had the privilege of being in the inner circle of the apostles, he did not quite understand the mission and purpose of Jesus.

As we heard in the gospel, he and his brother John had ideas about getting special positions in the earthly kingdom that they thought Jesus was going to establish.

But for all his misconceptions, James wanted to be with Jesus.

He had found the one whom he wanted to follow, even though he had yet to understand fully that his Master came to serve and to eventually give His life as a ransom for many.

Nonetheless, in the end, St. James would be the first among the apostles to give up his life in witness to his Master.

So even though St. James was in the inner circle of the apostles, he was an earthenware jar that holds the privilege of being chosen by Jesus.

The 1st reading reminds us that like St. James, we are also earthenware jars holding the treasures of God.

Like St. James, let us pour out these treasures in love and service to God and neighbour.

We can only inherit the kingdom of God when we give up our lives for others.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 24-07-17

Exodus 14:5-18 / Matthew 12:36-42

There is a story of a man who fell off a cliff  in the dark but he managed to catch on to a branch and was left dangling there.

So he cried out "O God, help me! Help me!". And then a voice came from heaven "Do you really want me to help you?"

And the man said, "Yes, Lord, yes!" And the voice from heaven said, "Then you must do what I tell you. Now let go off the branch!"

And the man thought for a while and then he said in a softer voice, "Is there anybody else up there?"

Whenever we are faced with desperate situations and God is giving us difficult solutions, we tend to look for other options. In those kind of situations, we don't trust God enough to believe that the difficult solution is the solution.

Such was the situation of the Israelites in the 1st reading. Faced with the sea before them and the Egyptians coming up behind them, they were terrified and they cried out to the Lord.

They were so desperate that they spoke against Moses and they even said this "Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!" For them the only other option was to go back to slavery.

Because they were told to march on into the sea, which was as good as death by drowning.

The parting of the sea and the Israelites crossing dry-footed and the subsequent drowning of the Egyptian army was the greatest act of salvation that God worked for the Israelites. But we have to admit that it was difficult to trust in the Lord God especially when the situation is desperate and our minds do not accept the Lord's ways.

Anyway the earlier story did not end there. The next morning the rescuers came across a strange sight. The man was frozen to death with his arms still hanging on the branch and his feet was only six inches from the ground!

In desperate situations we need to let go of ourselves because we will fall none other than into the arms of God our Saviour.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 23.07.2017

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 / Romans 8:26-27 / Matthew 13:24-43

One of the rather tedious things to do is house-keeping, which is also known as spring-cleaning. But whether it is spring or summer or autumn or winter, cleaning the house is not something we look forward to, and it is not something we like to do often, much less every day.

We can actually tolerate quite a bit of dust and we will only realize that it is getting too much when we start writing notes and phone numbers in the dust on the table. Then maybe it’s getting too much.

And some people can give funny reasons for not doing housekeeping or spring-cleaning:
- My room is not dirty. I clean it every other day. Just that today is not every other day.
- My room is not untidy. I just have everything on display, just like a provision shop.

And when it comes to housekeeping, it is not only physically tiring, it can be mentally taxing. We have to think carefully about what we want to throw away as junk. Because junk is sometimes defined as something we throw away three weeks before we realise we need it. So to throw or not to throw, that’s the question.

The question in the gospel parable is kind of similar – to weed it out or not to weed it out. That was with reference to the darnel, a kind of weed that looks similar to wheat in the early growing stages, but can only be distinguished when it is matured.
Not only can darnel choke out the wheat, its seeds are also poisonous. So we can imagine how tedious it can be to harvest wheat that has got darnel with it. It is like trying to sort out between sugar and salt.

But to begin with, what was sown was wheat, and it was good wheat. And then when everybody was asleep, the enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat and made off.

And it was only when the wheat sprouted and ripened that the darnel appeared as well. And weeding out the darnel was out of the question.

This parable can be used to explain the origins of sin and evil, and the conclusion can be this: The devil did it!

But that would only be highlighting an obvious problem. But what about the solution?

In the parable, the solution is given at the harvest time – the wheat and the darnel will be separated, the wheat going to the barn, the darnel going to be burnt.

That is the end-time solution to the problem of evil. In the end, evil will be held accountable, and evil will be punished. That is the end-time. But for us, what is it for the meantime?

To begin with, as much as the parable distinguishes between wheat and weeds, between good and evil, the reality of this world is not separated into two camps.
Because the fact is that no one is absolutely good and no one is absolutely evil. In each of us, there is a mixture of both, some more, some less.

But we must also realise that God has sown good seeds in us, so that we can bear a good harvest. And we also have to realise that there are some poisonous weeds crawling within us that would make us forget who we are and what we are called to be.

There is a reflection on our current lifestyle that somehow causes a distortion in our lives. The reflection is this:

  • When TV came to my house, I forgot how to read books. 
  • When the car came to my doorstep, I forgot how to walk. 
  • When I got the mobile in my hand, I forgot how to write letters. 
  • When computer came to my house, I forgot spellings. 
  • When the air-con came to my house, I stopped going under the tree for cool breeze
  • When I stayed in the city, I forgot the smell of the countryside. 
  • By dealing with banks and cards, I forgot the value of money. 
  • With the smell of perfume, I forgot the fragrance of fresh flowers. 
  • With the coming of fast food, I forgot to cook traditional cuisines.
  • Always running around, I forgot how to stop. 
  • And lastly when I got WhatsApp, I forgot how to talk.

One of the consequences of the weeds of our lives is that they make us forget who we are and what we are called to be.

The 1st reading reminds us that like the man who sowed good seeds, God has sown goodness in us and the reading says this: By acting thus, You have taught a lesson to your people, how the virtuous man must be kind to his fellowman, and You have given Your sons the good hope that after sin, You will grant repentance.

So even before asking why there are wicked people, why there is evil, let us do some spiritual housekeeping and spiritual heart-cleaning, and to admit that we have allowed the weeds of sin to enter into our hearts and choke out the wheat of goodness.

So repentance is about cleansing our hearts of the weeds of sin so that that when we are faced with the wickedness and evil of this world, we won’t resort to that kind of “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” reaction. Anyway fighting fire with fire only creates a bigger fire.

Rather we fight evil with the goodness and kindness that are planted in our hearts by God, and Jesus reminds us of this in today’s gospel parable.

So let us remember who we are and what we are called to be. That is the meantime direction, and it is also the end-time solution.

Friday, July 21, 2017

St. Mary Magdalene, Saturday, 22-07-17

Songs 3:1-4 or 2 Cor 5:14-17 / John 20:1-2, 11-18

Every now and then, we see in the newspapers a notice about a missing person, with the person's photograph and some details.

Whether the person was eventually found or not, we cannot be certain because very often there are no follow-up reports on the case in the newspapers.

What is certain is that when a loved one is missing, the anxiety is painful and the search is relentless.

Such was the depth of the emotion expressed in the 1st reading in the search for the one whom the heart loves deeply.

It may also express the pain and grief of Mary Magdalene as she looked for the One she loved in the tomb.

And not finding Jesus in tomb, Mary Magdalene searched relentlessly and persistently for Him.

Mary's deep love for Jesus was because it was He who loved her first and healed her of her sufferings and sins.

In life, Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Even in death she searched for Him in order just to be with Him.

Mary Magdalene is remembered because of her deep love for Jesus and her relentless and persistent search for Jesus when others seemed to have given up.

From our priorities and what we are searching and longing for, we will know how deep our love is for Jesus.

There is this saying for St. Augustine in his book "Confessions" : You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there I searched for you.

God is within us. From within He calls out to us. If we are not listening to Him from within, then we might just be looking for the wrong things.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 21-07-17

Exodus 11:10 -12:14 / Matthew 12:1-8

If there is a great offer or a not-to-be-missed kind of sale, we would certainly not want to miss it.

Especially if it is something that we really wanted, and so we would hurry and try to be among the first in line.

It won't be a time to ask the unnecessary questions like "How long must I wait?' or "Don't know if I can get it". We won't waste time. As it is said "The early bird catches the worm".

In the 1st reading, the people were given instructions on how to eat the first Passover meal. And they were told specifically "You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord".

So the moment to be freed from the bondage of slavery had come, and the passover meal is to commemorate it.

But it is not to be eaten leisurely, and the instruction is "You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand".

It was not a time for small talk and unnecessary questions. And those who don't follow those instructions will probably never see freedom again.

Yes, it was God's mercy that freed the Israelites from the bondage of slavery. And it is God's mercy that continues to free us from our sins and save us from the grasp of evil.

So we need to understand the meaning of the words "What I want is mercy, not sacrifice". And let us not waste time in understanding those words. Because it is too great and too good to miss it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-07-17

Exodus 3:13-20 / Matthew 11:28-30

Throughout the course of history, there are wicked kings, tyrants, dictators, rulers and those with authority and might who will resort to oppressing people.

And most of the time, the people are quite helpless and powerless against such oppression and they can only hope and wait for deliverance.

Such was the case of the Israelites in the 1st reading. They suffered under the oppression of the Pharaoh and the Egyptian slave-drivers and they cried out to God for deliverance.

And God did hear their cry, and as God said, "For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand. I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go".

But someone has to be the deliverer and Moses was the chosen one. But he was not too willing to take on the task and he tried to find ways to get out of it.

After all he was a free man, but his people were held under the bondage of slavery in Egypt. It would mean that he will have to make the sacrifice to go back to Egypt and to face Pharaoh.

It comes back to the recurring situation in life where everybody wants to benefit but no one is willing to make the sacrifice.

But Jesus tells us in the gospel to shoulder His yoke and to learn from Him. He made the sacrifice of His life so that we can be free and be saved.

So when our charity is spreading thin and we are not that willing to make the sacrifice for the good of others, let us go to Jesus with our fatigue and burdens.

We will find rest for our souls, and with a gentle and humble heart, we will follow Jesus to lift the oppression and the burdens of others.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-07-17

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12 / Matthew 11:25-27

As much as we have the ability to see and to hear, yet the power of observation is like a variable factor.

So as much as we see and hear a lot of things, we also exercise selective seeing and selective hearing.

Then from what we want to see and want to hear, the next thing is what is it that captures our attention or our interest, and that will be the object of our observation.

In the 1st reading, what captured the attention and interest of Moses was the bush that was blazing but it was not being burnt up.

His curiosity led him towards the burning bush, and that was when the Lord God called out to him and revealed His plan for him.

Of course it was the strange sight of the bush that was blazing but not being burnt up that caught the attention and interest of Moses and he went further to observe it.

We may not have this unique experience of seeing a burning bush as what Moses had.

Nonetheless God still reveals Himself to us in what we see and hear, and what catches our attention and interest.

And when we "observe" all these signs in prayer, then God will reveal Himself to us and prompt us to discover His will for us.

So we need to have the heart of a little child to observe and look deeply at the things around us. Then we will know that God speaks to us all the time, and reveals Himself to us in those situations where He wants His will to be done.