Saturday, November 18, 2017

33rd Sunday, Year A, 19.11.2017

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / 1 Thess 5:1-6 / Matthew 25:14-30
The education system in Singapore has gone through much changes and developments. From what used to be just kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, VITB, Polytechnic, Pre-U, and University, now there are pre-school, K1, K2, higher mother-tongue in Primary schools, N levels, O levels, IPs, ITE, Baccalaureate. Schooling is so complex nowadays.

One interesting development is in the area of Special Education. Teachers in this field are trained to help students with special needs like autism, dyslexia, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) etc. 

Our educational system recognizes that students with special needs are diverse learners. So by adapting and differentiating the instructions, these students can learn. More time, more effort and more resources may be required but students with special needs, given the correct educational formation, can be an asset and contribute to the growth and development of society.

Here are some examples of famous people with special needs:
OCD: Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, David Beckham, Donald Trump, Harrison Ford
ADHD: Jim Carrey, Michael Phelps, Walt Disney, John Lennon, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison.              
Dyslexia: Tom Cruise, Lee Kuan Yew

So although they may have some kind of disorder, but it is not a defect or a disadvantage. They are just different and they can be made into a distinction. They may be different from the rest but they may become one of the bests. 

In the gospel parable, we heard about a man who summoned his servants and gave them different amounts of talent. To one he gave 5 talents, to another he gave 2 talents, and to the third he gave one talent.

The one who was given 5 talents made 5 more; the one who was given 2 made 2 more. The attention is then turned to that servant who was given one talent. 

Unlike the other two, he did what can be called a quiet funeral service – with that one talent, he buried it in the ground.

And when the time of accounting came, he delivered a lousy “eulogy” to justify himself as to why he buried that one talent. He wanted to absolve himself and indirectly blamed his master for being too demanding.

But what that third servant did not do was to explore the potential of that one talent. As he himself said: I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.
Yet that servant also knows that his master expects him to do something about that one talent. As his master said, he should have deposited it with the bankers and recover that capital with interest.

So the Lord also expects us to do something with our gifts and talents. And the more we are given, the more will be expected of us.

On the one hand we use our gifts and talents to glorify the Lord, and on the other, we also must help others to discover their talents. That is our service and duty to those who are deemed as liabilities of society, those who are slower, have more difficulties, who seem to be “defective”, those who in the eyes of the world would be buried in the ground and written off and forgotten.

But like those with OCD or ADHD, they are not defective. They are just different, and that difference can be made into a distinction.

A story has it that the famous Michelangelo acquired a block of marble that every sculptor thought was defective and useless. So one sculptor asked him what he was going to do with such a useless block of marble. 

Michelangelo replied, “I am going to release an angel out of it.” And from that so-called useless block of marble, he carved out the famous statue of David.

So if God made all things good, and nothing and no one is useless or defective, then we just have to look from a different angle and we will see the distinction.
Not many of us may have disorders like OCD or ADHD, but we often complain that we have disadvantages and difficulties that make us feel lesser than others.

A man said to a priest: Why do I have so many difficulties as compared to others? The priest replied: Shhh … don’t speak so loud, otherwise God might hear it and He might reply – If you want to know why, then come up here and find out!

But whether it is difficulty or disadvantage or disorder, it is not a defect, and a good can come out of it, maybe it can even be made into a distinction.

Many years ago, a sixteen-year old boy he left home to find employment in New York City to help his poor family. He had previously worked in a soap manufacturing shop. When he told the captain of the canal boat upon which he was traveling that he planned to make soap in New York City the man gave him this advice: “Someone will soon be the leading soap maker in New York. You can be that person. But you must never lose sight of the fact that the soap you make has been given to you by God. Be a good man. Give your heart to Christ. Give God all that belongs to Him. Make an honest soap. Honor Him by sharing what you earn. Begin by tithing all you receive.”

Along with that and with his mother’s words of “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”, he arrived at the city, managing only odd jobs. He remembered the boat captain’s words and so for every dollar he earned, 10 cents would be given to God.

He soon found regular employment in a soap-making company, and then he became the owner and he prospered and his business grew.

And all the while he kept the promise of giving one-tenth of his earnings to the Lord, and more as his business grew along the way.

So what is the name of this 16 year-old boy? William Colgate. And who has not heard of Colgate toothpaste and soap and other products.

William Colgate was poor, that was his difficulty and his disadvantage. His only talent was soap-making. He may not have a disorder like OCD or ADHD, but he had a devotion to the Lord.

He gave to the Lord one-tenth of what he earned, he gave money for education and helped the poor. He turned difficulty and disadvantage into a distinction.
Literally he used that one talent in soap-making, for the glory of God and to help and serve others.

Whether we have one talent or many, whether we have a difficulty or a disadvantage, whether we have a disorder or a devotion, let us not bury it in the ground.

God wants us to use it, and He will turn whatever difficulty or disadvantage or disorder into a distinction for us that Jesus can truly call us His good and faithful servants.

Friday, November 17, 2017

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-11-17

Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9 / Luke 18:1-8

There can be a few descriptions about the attitude of prayer - persistence; perseverance; pleading; begging; imploring; beseeching; just to name a few.

In the gospel parable about the unjust judge and the widow who was demanding justice, the judge used the word "pestering" to describe her.

Surely the widow has persistence and perseverance and these are good attitudes to have when we are praying for something or for someone.

But we would hesitate to say we will pester God in our prayer, as it would sound rather rude and crude.

But just as a persisting pain pesters us to seek medical attention, a persisting prayer must also "pester" us enough to keep seeking God's attention to our need.

So a persisting and persevering prayer is not to pester God but rather to pester us to keep at the prayer and to wait confidently and courageously for God's answer.

And the more desperate the need, the more we will be pestered to keep at the prayer.

And God will answer. As the 1st reading puts it: When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.

Yes, God will answer our prayer in His time and in His way. And God will also answer our prayer just when we least expect it and when our faith is about to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

But like the widow in the gospel parable, we have to persist and persevere, as well as pester ourselves to keep praying and to keep faith in God

Thursday, November 16, 2017

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-11-17

Wisdom  13:1-9 / Luke 17:26-37

Human beings are certainly different from all the other animals in many aspects.

But what makes human beings really different is that human beings have intellect and will.

With intelligence, human beings have been able to advance and progress in many areas like science and technology.

But where intelligence has been profound in leaps and bounds, the will of man seems to be sorely lacking behind.

The 1st reading asks this question: If man is capable of investigating the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?

The 1st reading also said that naturally stupid are all men who have not known God.

But that kind of stupidity is not about intelligence but about the will. It is essentially about the matter of the heart.

Because Psalm 14 has this to say: The fool has said in his heart - there is no God above, their deeds are corrupt and depraved.

We are certainly no fools and neither are we stupid. And we certainly believe that there is a God above.

Yet to believe means that we also would want to love God and to love our neighbour.

Jesus has revealed to us how much God loves us when He sacrificed His life on the cross for us.

We know it. We even believe in it. Yet we must also live out that love in our lives. We must want to do it.

For all our intelligence, if we have no love or that we are unwilling to love, then we are really stupid fools.

May this Eucharist open our hearts to increase our love for God and for others.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-11-17

Wisdom 7:22 - 8:1 / Luke 17:20-25

Whenever we want to do a spring-cleaning or to re-arrange our office space or our home, it would be easier to move all the things out of the room or rooms then put in only those things that are needed or necessary.

But that would mean a lot more work and there may not be another space to put all those things coming out of the rooms.

Also, there would be the problem of not being able to find our things, especially when it comes to the office and we don't have the luxury of being able to stop work.

But whether it is spring-cleaning or re-arranging the room, it may not be that necessary to create a brand-new look or to move everything around.

Probably all that is needed is to look carefully at the room and the things in there and to remove the unnecessary and to clean up the corners.

In the gospel Jesus said that the coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say "Look here! Look there!" But He also said that there will be some who will tell us to look here and look there.

So where or what are we to look for then? We look to none other than to God to give us the Spirit of Wisdom, for as the 1st reading puts it: Wisdom is the breath of the power of God, a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God's active power, image of His goodness.

So we must turn to God and ask for the Spirit of Wisdom so that we will know what is necessary and what is not, to do what God wants of us, so that even in the practical and ordinary matters of life, we will know that God's Wisdom is guiding us to what is right and just.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 15-11-17

Wisdom 6:1-11 / Luke 17:11-19

Whenever we have to call a service hotline, it is not over a casual matter.

We call a service hotline over some matter that is urgent, or important or that we can't figure things out. Otherwise there is no need to call the service hotline.

Our experience of such calls can vary from unsatisfactory to satisfied. That's why in some companies, such calls are monitored and they would even ask for feedback.

But one frustrating experience of calling a service hotline is when we get transferred from one department to another, and we have to wait for our query to be addressed. We feel like a hot potato being tossed from one to another.

In the gospel when the 10 lepers came to Jesus and asked Him to have pity on them, He said to them: Go and show yourselves to the priests.

Although the 10 lepers did what Jesus told them, they could be probably thinking if they were like a problem being passed around or kicked around. After all if Jesus could heal them, then why would He tell them to go see the priests.

But Jesus showed that His Word has authority and the power to heal and cleanse. At the same time He also acknowledged the authority of the priests to declare whether the leper is cleansed or not.

The 1st reading has a stern message for those in authority. "For power is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High ... If, as administrators of His kingdom, you have not governed justly, nor observed the law, nor behaved as God would have you behave, He will fall upon you swiftly and terribly.

In one way or another, we have authority over someone or something. But authority is meant for service.

So if we have the authority and the ability to resolve an issue or to help someone, let us do it instead of trying to pass it to someone else.

Let us exercise whatever authority or ability that we have been given for the glory of God and bring about healing for others

Monday, November 13, 2017

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 14-11-17

Wisdom 2:23 - 3:9 / Luke 17:7-10

A privilege is generally defined as a benefit or an exemption that is granted to a person or persons, under certain conditions, and which is not given to the general public.

For example, diplomats and cabinet ministers and certain professionals enjoy privileges that we don't usually get as ordinary people.

But whatever it may be, a privilege is not a right, and it shouldn't be thought as such.

Yet, it is so easy to take a privilege for granted and along the way, presume that it is a right.

Jesus made it clear in the gospel that if we truly want to serve God, then we cannot expect any privileges.

We should not be expecting gratitude from the people we are serving nor expect anything in return from God for make sacrifices.

Nonetheless, the 1st reading tells us that God made us imperishable, and He made us in the image of His own nature.

He has given us the privilege of being His Chosen People and we are assured of His love and mercy.

But we must trust in God and have faith in Him to understand the truth - that those who are faithful will live with God in love.

Love does not take any privilege for granted. In fact, the fruit of love is humility and gratefulness and thanksgiving.

In this Eucharist, let us humbly give thanks. That is our primary and fundamental duty to God. And just for that we will be blessed.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 13-11-17

Wisdom 1:1-7 / Luke 17:1-6

A teacher once heard a little girl scold her friend with a 4-letter word (that obscene four-letter word)

That girl was just 7 years-old, and so the teacher said to her: Now that's a really bad word to use on someone. Where did you learn it from?

Girl: From a video. The teacher was puzzled and so she asked: And why were you watching that video? Girl: My daddy was watching it.

We lament at the behaviour of our youth, and yet we must realise that it is from us that they learn.

And we also have to realise that there are others, young and old, who will be influenced by us in one way or another.

Jesus gave a warning about giving a bad example. He said: Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It  would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone put round his neck that that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

What we say and do are watched closely especially by the children. "Don't worry that the children are not listening to you. Worry that they are always watching you."

And since children are great imitators, then let us give them something great to imitate.

The 1st reading tells us to love virtue and let honesty prompt our thinking. Let us begin from there. The Lord will then handle the rest.