Saturday, August 19, 2017

20th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 20.08.2017

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 / Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 / Matthew 15:21-28

When it comes to persistence and perseverance, the one example that might come to mind is how some people chase after their luck at the 4D, by betting on those elusive four numbers that generates so much of excitement.

For some, it goes beyond excitement to even investment, as they put in their money on the combination of their “lucky” four numbers and hope to strike a fortune.

It seems to be simple enough. Just pick four numbers that seem to be lucky and then go to the bookie and then wait excitedly.

And when it comes to picking those four numbers, there are plenty of options: car-plate number, house number, IC number, hand-phone number, birth date, etc.

What keeps the excitement and the persistence going is not so much when they strike the first prize (which actually is far and few between) but those near-misses – that one digit, or the incorrect combination, or like how they say it “didn’t buy that number this week and it came out as first prize, so next week must continue to buy”

So the excitement and the persistence continue, and they keep on investing and chasing that elusive four-digit first prize. That being said, betting on 4D is a form of gambling, which is a vice that will cause moral and spiritual problems. The Church has spoken out against gambling in all its forms. 

The only thing to say about this is that the persistence and perseverance is quite commendable. Otherwise, 4D or gambling will create difficult problems and should be discouraged.

In the gospel, we heard of a very persistent and persevering woman, a Canaanite, a non-Jew. But she was not looking for some lucky 4D number to strike the first prize.

She came before Jesus to ask for the healing of her daughter who was tormented by a devil.

This gospel passage would catch our attention because we would have noticed a very different attitude of Jesus.

At first He answered her not a word. Then the disciples seem to plead for her, but that was because she was shouting after them.

And then Jesus gave some kind of exclusive nationalistic reply by saying that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.

And that Canaanite woman had to stop Jesus in His tracks by coming before Him and kneeling at His feet and made her desperate plea with “Lord, help me.”

Even with that, Jesus seemed still reluctant and even said that it was not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs. That doesn’t seem to be the Jesus that we are familiar with, the Jesus who is kind and compassionate, and loving and merciful.

At this point that Canaanite woman could have felt insulted and despised and she could have hit back at Jesus. After all she was in her own territory and Jesus was in a foreign land.

But instead of being vindictive, she chose to give a witty reply. She agreed with Jesus and was willing to take whatever scraps that fall off from the table. She was sure that there can be something for her.

And for that Jesus commended her for her faith and granted her wish and from that moment her daughter was well again.

So it was a happy ending. It might be the persistence, perseverance and wit of that Canaanite woman that impressed us, but it was the faith of that woman that impressed Jesus and He commended her for that.

It was her faith that told her not to give up with just one rejection. She actually got three rejections from Jesus. 

One rejection does not mean it is the final decision, just as one winter does not mean that there is no summer.

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn to not judge things too quickly. So he sent them each, in turn, to go and look at a fruit tree that was a great distance away. The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the autumn.

When they had all gone and came back, he called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said it was covered with green buds and full of promise. The third son disagreed, he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life. He told them that they cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the joy and love that come from that life, can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

If we give up when it's winter, then we will miss the promise of our spring, the beauty of our summer, the fulfillment of our autumn. So don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.

So in the face of an apparent rejection from Jesus, the Canaanite woman persevered, persisted and was witty, and she also taught us something about prayer.

She interceded with Jesus not for herself but for her daughter. But of course, the healing of her daughter also benefitted her. 

Which makes us think about who and what is the priority in our prayer list. If it is “me, I and my needs” then that is a bit like betting on 4D and hoping to strike the first prize. We might just be left waiting for a long time.

Yes, prayer should be persisting, persevering and even witty, but it must be for others, for Christians as well as for non-Christians, for all peoples, because as we come to church today, God is telling us this in the 1st reading: For my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Just as the Canaanite woman interceded for her daughter, her faith in God was also strengthened.

When we pray for others, we are actually asking God to feed them first and that we will be satisfied with whatever that falls off the table.

That may sound rather sacrificial, but as Pope Pius XII said: The salvation of many depends on the sacrifices and prayers of a few.

Let us be that few who will make that sacrifice and prayer, so that all peoples will come to know the love of God and be saved.

May we take some inspiration from that Canaanite woman and may she also pray for us.

Friday, August 18, 2017

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-08-17

Joshua 24:12-29 / Matthew 19:13-15

To say that someone is going through a "second childhood" is certainly not that positive. In fact, it is rather insulting and demeaning.

Because a "second childhood" usually refers to a person of advanced age who talks and behaves in a childish manner that irritates others and also is a nuisance and causes inconvenience to others.

Furthermore, the deterioration of mental abilities would also aggravate the matter.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Joshua died at a hundred and ten years old. That was a really advanced age but his mental alertness and awareness were certainly not diminished.

He urged Israel in his exhortation to remember the marvels the Lord had done for them and he challenged the people to make a decision to choose who they wish to serve.

Joshua himself remembered what the Lord had done for him in empowering him to lead Israel to conquer the enemies before them and to occupy their land.

He had been a great military commander who had lead Israel to many victories but that was not important to him any more.

At a hundred and ten years old, he had come to a humility and a simplicity of a child and he knew that he and his household only wanted to serve the Lord and be His children.

As Jesus said in the gospel, the kingdom of God belongs to little children who have the humility and simplicity to trust in the Lord in all things.

Let us pray for the humility and simplicity of a little child to trust in the Lord. That is what is needed first in order to serve the Lord.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 18-08-17

Joshua 24:1-13 / Matthew 19:3-12

Fairy-tale marriages usually end with "and they lived happily ever after".

Of course we hope and pray that all marriages will be like that, and not just those fairy-tale marriages.

But it is not just with marriages, but in whatever state in life, whether single, or widowed, or religious or priesthood, we want to live happily ever after.

In the 1st reading, Joshua gathered all the tribes together with the elders, leaders, judges and scribes before the Lord.

They had already crossed into the Promised Land and  they have overcome their enemies and were beginning to settle down.

And that's when Joshua reminded them that it was not the work of their sword or their bow. Moreover, the Lord gave them a land where they had not toiled, they lived in towns they never built, they ate from vineyard and olive groves they never planted.

In short, God had entered into a covenant with them and blessed them. Where once they were a people wondering in the desert, now they have a land of their own. Once, they were eating only manna and quails. Now, they are in land flowing with milk and honey.

So they would live happily ever after. They should. What more could they ask for? But when we read the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, we know what happened when they were settled down.

They were unfaithful to God, they broke the covenant, turned to idolatry, and did all sorts of things that displeased God. They did not live happily ever after. and it was all their doing.

In the gospel, Jesus gave a teaching about marriage in response to a question about divorce. He reiterated that from the beginning God blessed marriage and married couples can live happily ever after.

But it is not just with marriage. In every vocation and in every state of life, we are also called to a life of happiness.

But this happiness can only be achieved when the building of God's kingdom is the objective and purpose in the vocation and state of life that we are in.

Then with God's blessings, we will live happily ever after.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-08-17

Joshua 3:7-11, 13-17 / Matthew 18:21 - 19:1

To cross a river is certainly not an easy task. Rivers may vary in width but a river is still a river and there are also undercurrents that may not be noticeable on the surface of the water.

The 1st reading recalls the Israelites crossing the Jordan river into the Promised Land. Though it may not be as dramatic as when they crossed the Red Sea, nonetheless a river is still a river, and with the waters being stopped for the Israelites to cross over, then a miracle is still a miracle.

What is important is that it was the Lord who paved the way for them. It was He who stopped the flowing waters of the river when the priests carrying the ark of the covenant set their feet in the waters of the Jordan river.

And the ark of the covenant remained in the middle of the river until the whole nation had crossed over.

A spiritual aspect that can be drawn from this river crossing is that the Lord God must be our first, our last, and our in-between option whenever we have to make decisions as to which direction to take or what to do.

More often that not, we turn to the Lord as our last option, when all other options had failed for us.

But in the crossing of the Jordan river, the ark of the covenant carried by the priests, which represents the presence of the Lord God, was the first to step into the river, and the last to step out of it.

So in the various aspects of our lives, especially in the area of forgiveness, let us turn to the Lord God to step into our hearts and to soften it so that we can cross the waters of anger, resentment and bitterness towards the peace of forgiveness and reconciliation.

May we always turn to the Lord in all things, because He wants to be our first, our last and our in-between choice.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 16-08-17

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 / Matthew 18:15-20

Moses truly lived to a ripe old age. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye undimmed, his vigour unimpaired.

Given such assets, we may wonder why the Lord God would only let him see the Promised Land but would not let him cross into it.

Surely he would be able to lead the people into the Promised Land and lead them for a while more till they are more settled.

But Moses did not protest against the will of God. Maybe he has seen enough and he had the clarity of vision to see that it is time to step down, and even though he may have the strength to continue, it was also time to take his rest in the Lord.

He also knew what a powerful instrument the Lord God had made him into - he worked signs and wonders in Egypt; he gave the people the Law of God; he lead them through the desert.

But it was time to return to the Lord and to let Joshua take on the leadership of the people as they cross into the Promised Land.

Indeed, with undimmed eyes and unimpaired vigour, Moses set his eyes on the Lord and made that final journey back to the Lord.

So it was not with sadness or regret that Moses cannot cross into the Promised Land. It was with joy that he knew his time with his people had come to an end and his time with the Lord was going to begin.

May we too with undimmed eyes see the plan and the purpose that God has for us. May we also love the Lord with all our strength and fulfill the plan and the purpose He has for us.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Assumption of the BVM, Tuesday, 15-08-17

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6. 10 / 1 Cor 15:20-26 / Luke 1:39-56

When Jesus was hanging on the cross and just before He gave up His spirit, He turned to His mother and the disciple He loved standing near her, and He said to His mother, “Woman, this is your son.” (John 19:26)

Then to the disciple He said, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home. After this Jesus knew that everything had now been completed. (John 19:27-28)

This beloved disciple, often identified as St. John, later took Mary to his home in Ephesus. From extra biblical sources, Mary lived there for many years before she died and was buried in a tomb.

But it didn’t just end there. These extra biblical sources also related that one of the Apostles, St. Thomas, was absent when Mary died and was buried.

When he came to Ephesus and wanting to pay his respect, he asked to see her body. But upon opening the tomb, Mary’s body was not there. Instead, there were sweet smelling flowers growing at where her body laid.

The rest of the Apostles attested that the tomb was not opened ever since Mary’s body was laid in it, and hence they concluded that God must have assumed her body into heaven along with her soul. And since they had witnessed the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, they concluded that the same thing happened to Mary.

And since Mary was conceived without sin, sin had not touched or defiled her soul, then God would not allow her body to turn to dust, but rather assumed her body to heaven to share in the glory of the Risen Christ.

Since then till now, it was the common belief in the Church that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. But it was only in 1950, 15th August, that Pope Pius XII officially declared Mary’s Assumption as an article of faith.

In other words, the Church has boldly declared that Mary is in heaven, body and soul, a declaration that is definite and irreversible. It was a declaration not just on the authority of the Church but also under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

With this declaration, our faith in the saving power of God is reinforced. Mary is the first to be saved by the saving work of Jesus, and the first to enter heaven body and soul, hence assuring us that we too will join her one day.

At the same time, our faith in Mary’s intercession is also reinforced, because from heaven she continues to pray for us as our Heavenly Mother, a mission that she received at the foot of the cross and that she continues even in heaven.

So like the beloved disciple, let us make for Mary a place in the home of our hearts. Let us offer her our prayers and ask for her intercession.

And let us also pray with her for the salvation of all peoples. That’s what her Assumption means. That’s what being disciples of Jesus is all about.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 14-08-17

Deut 10:12-22 / Matthew 17:22-27

There are times when we find ourselves in this kind of a tricky and sticky situation - we say "Yes" to something and then we soon realize that we said yes to something that is not right.

Furthermore, we find ourselves stuck in between two parties who are unwilling to budge or give way over that matter.

Such was the situation with Peter in the gospel passage. The tax collectors told him to ask Jesus to pay the tax of the half-shekel.

He said yes to them without thinking, but then on his way to Jesus, he might have thought of kicking himself for shooting off his mouth. And now he had to face Jesus about the question of the tax.

And when he came to Jesus, he was put again into this question of taxes and again from his own mouth he found himself contradicting himself.

But fortunately for Peter, Jesus didn't want to be drawn into such a matter involving money and the paying of taxes.

And He saved Peter from being cornered in a sticky situation. But would Peter learn the lesson from this?

And would we learn a lesson from this too? The least we can learn is the 3 Ts : "Think Then Talk!"

But if we heed what Moses told the people in the 1st reading, then we can avoid those tricky and sticky situations.

"What does the Lord ask of you? Only this: to fear the Lord our God, to follow his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and laws of the Lord that for your good that I lay down for you today."

So for today, let us think about what the Lord is asking of us and then we talk about what is the good and right thing to do.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

19th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 13.08.2017

1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 / Romans 9:1-5 / Matthew 14:22-33

The definition of fear in the dictionary is this: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm; be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or harmful.

With fear being defined as such, one of the difficult questions to give a simple straightforward answer would be “What do we fear most?” Simply speaking, there is no one predominant fear, because we have multiple fears.

But the word “fear” can be put into an acronym that can have two meanings: 
F.E.A.R. – Forget Everything And Run
F.E.A.R. – Face Everything And Rise

So depending on which we choose, we can either let fear overcome us, or we can overcome our fears.

It is said that one of the greatest fears is the fear of death. That is probably true. But it is not just the fear of death. It is also the fear of a slow, painful, lonely death that makes us cringe.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Elijah went into a cave to spend a night in it. But it was not that he couldn’t find another place to sleep in. He went into the cave because he wanted to hide.

Earlier on at Mt. Carmel, Elijah had challenged the 400 false prophets, who were under the patronage of the evil pagan queen Jezebel, to a public contest to see whose God is more powerful.

The false prophets called on their god but nothing happened. When Elijah prayed, a fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.

Having shown the might and the power of the Lord God, Elijah had all the false prophets dragged into the valley where they were put to death.

But when queen Jezebel heard about this, she issued a death warrant for Elijah, and so he fled to the wilderness and he ended up in the cave for the night.

And it was there that the Lord called out to him. But before Elijah could hear the voice of the Lord, there was chaos – there was the mighty wind, an earthquake and a raging fire.

But after the chaos came the calm – the sound of a gentle breeze – and Elijah went out to meet the Lord.

It was the fear of the wicked Jezebel and the fear of death that made Elijah flee. In his fear, Elijah wanted to forget everything and run. Surely he would have prayed to God to save him. But God also responded in a rather mysterious way.

Before speaking to Elijah in the sound of the gentle breeze, there was the mighty wind, the earthquake and the fire. Elijah had to face all this chaos before he faced God. 

So out of the chaos, God reveals Himself, but we have to first face the chaos, we have to face everything before we could rise and see God in everything.

Such was also the scenario in the gospel. It was deep into the night, there was the heavy sea and in all that chaos, they even thought that Jesus was a ghost.

It was a desperate and chaotic situation, but they can’t forget everything and run, because there was nowhere to run to, other than into a watery death.

So Peter’s reaction of wanting to walk on the water towards Jesus could be a desperate attempt to get out of a desperate situation. But along the way, he was overcome by the chaos around him and he gave in to fear and lost courage and sank.

So when fear shows its face, we can forget everything and run (if there is somewhere to run to) or we can face everything and rise. But to face everything and rise would also require some courage in the chaos.

There was a recent movie called “Hacksaw Ridge” set in WW II, which is based on a true story of a drafted soldier Desmond Doss, who wanted to be a combat medic but refused to carry firearms for religious reasons.

He was ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance but went on to earn respect and adoration for his bravery, selflessness and compassion after he risked his life, without firing a shot, to save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa.
On the battlefield of chaos and carnage, Desmond Doss could choose to forget everything and run for his life. But he chose to face everything and run into the chaos and carnage to save his injured comrades.

One memorable line from the movie was this, as Desmond Doss was running in to save the injured soldiers, he prayed: Please Lord, help me get one more, help me get one more.

But as with most war movies, there is plenty of violence and blood, but it also about courage in the midst of chaos and carnage, and how one man faced his fears and saved others by running into the fire instead of away from it.

So did Elijah after God had spoken to him. He went back to face his fears and continued his mission of being a prophet to God’s people.

As for Peter, there is a story in which Peter was fleeing from Rome to escape persecution, but on his way meets Jesus and asked Him "Where are you going, Lord?". To which Jesus says, "If you desert My people, I am going to Rome to be crucified a second time.” Upon hearing that Peter turned back to Rome to accept his martyrdom.

So Elijah, Peter and Desmond Doss faced their fears and rose as figures of courage in the midst of chaos. 

When we have to face our fears may we have the courage to run into the chaos. And when we feel that we are sinking into our fears, let us remember how Peter cried out: Lord! Save me! We will feel the saving hand of Jesus.

Friday, August 11, 2017

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 12-08-17

Deut 6:4-13 / Matthew 17:14-20

Deuteronomy 6:4 begins like this: Listen, O Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.

That exhortation is also called "The Shema". It is almost equivalent to our prayer of the "Our Father".

"Shema" means "listen". It calls for every Jew to listen to God and to love Him totally.

The aspect of listening is important not just for interpersonal relationships but also in management skills.

Because it is with good listening skills that productivity and efficiency can be achieved.

But what is important for us is that "The Shema" reminds us that listening is necessary in order to be loving.

When we really listen to someone, we will begin to feel with that person, we begin to understand that person deeper, and that would also lead us to love that person.

Similarly, when we take time out to enter into the prayer of listening in silence, we enter into the prayer of love.

It is only when we are silent, then we are ready to listen, then we are ready to love.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 11-08-17

Deut 4:32-40 / Matthew 16:24-28

If there is anything we can remember from the 1st reading, or want to remember from the 1st reading, which is from the Book of Deuteronomy, it might be this:

"Keep the laws and the commandments of God, and we will prosper and live long and be happy."

Why we might remember that, or want to remember that, is because it is a simplistic understanding of obedience to God, and it can sound rather attractive.

So it might simply mean that as long as we obey God, then God will multiply our wealth, remove sickness from us, our kids will do well in school, we will get promoted, ie. all the good things in life.

But if we disobey God, then we lose everything.

Yet, Jesus would deepen the meaning of obedience.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells that if we want to be His disciples, then we would have to renounce everything and take up our cross.

The truth that Jesus is teaching us is indeed a paradox.

For it is in letting go, that we gain; or as it is often said: Let go, and let God.

It is a difficult truth that we need to slowly come to understand.

Eventually, we must realise that obedience to God is not about gaining world riches.

Obedience to God is the realization that eternal riches are waiting for us. But while on earth, we will have to let go of whatever material gains and walk the way of Jesus, which is the way of the cross.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, Thursday, 10-08-17

2 Cor 9:6-10 / John 12:24-26

St. Lawrence was a deacon of the Church of Rome when Pope Sixtus was martyred along with four other deacons during the year 258.

St. Lawrence, who was temporarily in charge of the administration, was told by the authorities that if he wanted to be spared, he was to surrender all the treasures of the Church in three days' time.

So during the next three days, St. Lawrence went around gathering the poor and the needy who were supported by the Church.

Then he brought them before the authorities and he told them: These are the treasures of the Church.

Needless to say, he was taken away to be tortured to death. The account of the execution scene was morbid.

St. Lawrence was stripped and tied to a wire-mesh to be roasted over the fire.

One account has it that St. Laurence said to his torturers: You can turn me over, I am well done on this side.

But martyrdom is certainly no laughing matter, but yet even as the blood of the martyrs was poured out, the Church grew especially in those terrible times.

Because it was a blood that was willingly poured out, willingly given for the glory of God.

As the 1st reading puts it, St. Lawrence and the other martyrs sowed with their blood and their lives and they reaped the harvest of eternal life.

And as the gospel puts it, St. Lawrence gave up his life in witness to Jesus and by his death the Church reaped a rich harvest of faith.

The martyrdom of St. Lawrence reminds us that our lives are to be poured out for others so that they can grow in faith and love and be the treasures of the Church.

Hence, every sacrifice we make is like a dying to ourselves, and yet the harvest that will be reaped will make it all worth it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

National Day 2017, Wednesday, 09-08-17

Isaiah 63:7-9 / Col 3:12-17 / Luke 12:22-30

*The theme for this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) is “#OneNationTogether”, a rallying call to unite all Singaporeans to stand together and overcome all odds together. ‘One Nation’ is to remind Singaporeans that regardless of origin and background, we belong as one people and one nation. It encourages Singaporeans to harness our diversity and to leave no one behind as we strive towards an even brighter future. ‘Together’ emphasises the importance of unity in times of uncertainty and challenges ahead and represents a call-to-action for all Singaporeans to overcome the odds together.

For the first time in NDP, the hash symbol (#) has been incorporated into an NDP theme, #OneNationTogether, enabling Singaporeans to share the rally call through social media. The “#” also serves as symbols of unity and home. “#” draws a close resemblance to the iconic image of four interlocking arms found in our nation’s first Orchid series $10 note launched in 1967. This symbolizes our nation’s strength in social unity and multicultural harmony. “#” is also a familiar feature in Singaporean home addresses, making “#” synonymous with the idea of home.*

* from https://www.ndp.org.sg/about

In the write-up above, the year 1967 with its associated icons are mentioned.

That was 50 years ago and since then, our country has progressed and developed in the economic and material sense and we are proud to be Singaporeans.

And as a nation we need to keep on growing in unity and integrity, with democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality, which are our country's ideals as symbolised in the country's flag.

Yet all this would not be realised if not for the spiritual dimension of the country. Just as a person has a spiritual dimension, so has a country.

In our multi-racial an multi-religious country, we not only respect other religions and appreciate the religious freedom, we also have a duty to pray for our country to grow and develop spiritually.

So we need to work hard to progress and develop in the economic and material sense. But we, as the Church also need to set our hearts on the Kingdom of God in this country, so that our country will be united in integrity, and progress in democracy, peace, justice and equality.

May our Lord God bless Singapore and may the peace of Christ reign in our country.

Monday, August 7, 2017

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year A), 08-08-17

Numbers 12:1-13 / Matthew 15:1-2, 12-14 (Year A)

Envy and jealousy are what we feel in our hearts whenever we feel inferior to another person.

As it is, envy and jealousy already contorts and distorts our actions and behaviour.

In the spoken form, it comes out as criticism and moral judgement.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses in connection to his marriage with a Cushite woman.

There was really nothing wrong with that, but the real reason was that they were envious and jealous of Moses and they used a trivial matter to express it.

So what they said merely expressed the envy and jealousy that were biting away in their hearts.

As what Jesus said in the gospel, what goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean.

Rather it is what comes out of the mouth that really shows the state of the heart.

Hence, in our examination of conscience, it is necessary to recollect and reflect on the words that have come out of our mouths.

By our own words, we will know what is in our hearts.

May we offer our hearts to the Lord to be cleansed and healed so that our hearts will be where the Lord makes His home and that we will speak only words of love.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday (Year A), 07-08-17

Numbers 11:4-15 / Matthew 14:22-36 (Year A)

A baby's cry is an alarm to the parents that the baby has some needs that require attention.

That is understandable because that is how a baby communicates with the world.

But when the baby starts to wail, it could mean that serious attention is needed. Moreover the wailing can be intolerable and irritating.

If that is the case with babies, then what about adults when they start wailing?

The 1st reading told us that the people of Israel began to wail, every family at the door of its tent.

The cause of the wailing was that they were clamouring for meat - "Who will give us meat to eat?"

Their wailing irritated the Lord to the extent that the anger of the Lord flared out, and Moses was also irritated to the extent that he was finding the people intolerable.

And to think that the wailing was all about the craving for meat! It is indeed difficult to understand how people would behave when they give in to their craving.

Yet in the gospel we saw a totally different kind of behaviour from Jesus when He received news about the death of John the Baptist, His relative.

He did not wail, He did not vent His anger or rave with revenge. He withdrew to a lonely place by Himself, but after that He went back to His disciples and to the people to continue His work of teaching, healing and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.

Let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us grateful and thankful hearts so that we can rise above our desires and cravings and praise the Lord for all the blessings we have received.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Transfiguration of the Lord, Year A, 06.08.2017

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 / 2 Peter 1:16-19 / Matthew 17:1-9

There is one thing that we will surely notice by now, as it makes its prominence around this time of the year. We see it on HDB flats and other buildings, on the streets, on cars, and also at the entrance of the Church. Yes, it’s the Singapore flag, as we prepare to celebrate the 52nd birthday of our nation.

The flag marked the beginning of our nation and our country. Over the years, as our country progressed and developed, the flag remained unchanged as it fluttered silently on flag-poles of national and government buildings.

The flag represents who we are as Singaporeans. So even though we are a multi-racial and multi-religious country, we are bounded in unity as symbolized by the upper red section of the flag. The lower white section represents purity and virtue. 

The crescent moon represents a rising young nation, while the five stars depict Singapore’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. In short, the flag reminds us of who we are as Singaporeans and what Singapore should be.

And we acknowledge the emotions that are stirred up in our hearts when the state flag is hoisted and the national anthem is sung. And one of those recent moments was when Joseph Schooling won the gold medal in the swimming event at the 2016 Olympics. We were proud to be Singaporeans.

It was a glorious “remembered moment”. So whenever the flag is hoisted up, it recalls for us all those “remembered moments” of our country.

Today, the Church celebrates a “remembered moment” in the life of Jesus, and it is celebrated in the feast of the Transfiguration.

In the presence of His three disciples, Jesus was transfigured – His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

It was a moment in the life of Jesus that was recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and St. Peter also recalled it in his letter in the 2nd reading.

But just as we need to know the meaning of the symbols of the flag in order to understand what it represents, we also need to know the purpose of the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration reminds us of what we are created for and what we are to be eternally. In other words, we are created to have faces that shine like the sun and with hearts that are as white as the light.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is a “remembered moment” because it recalls for us who we are and what we are to be.

But in the drudgery of life, our memory becomes dimmed, and the shine begins to fade.
Coupled with the troubles of life, we succumb to the temptations of the devil and we get discouraged and we slowly begin to get disfigured.

The sun in our faces get covered by dark storm-clouds, and the light in our hearts fade and give way to darkness.

Discouragement and distress can cause disfiguration, but the Transfiguration of the Lord tells us that it can be different, and it must be different.

We see some examples of this in the Bible:
- When the Israelites were caught in the distressful situation between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, they wailed in terror. But Moses told them, “God will fight your battles for you” (Ex 14:14). How? The Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed over but the Egyptians were drowned in the sea.

- David, the one who brought down Goliath, was pursued and hunted by king Saul. Then David had the opportunity to take his revenge when Saul was sleeping alone in a cave. But he said, “I shall not harm the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 26:9). David later became Israel’s greatest king.

- St. Augustine, after his conversion from a life of debauchery, wrote this: Our hearts are made for you O God, and they shall not rest until they rest in you.

These are just some of the “remembered moments” from the Bible and from the lives of the saints, and they tell us that things can be different and must be different.
The disfiguration caused by discouragement and distress can be healed by these “remembered moments” and the Transfiguration of the Lord brings about that healing for us.

Last Friday, 4th August, was the feast-day of St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of all Priests, who was also known for his ministry as a confessor.

There is this story from his early days as a seminarian. John Vianney was called up by the Rector of the Major Seminary where he was studying for the priesthood, to inform him of the negative report he received from his professors. 

The Rector said: “John, your teachers don’t think you have what it takes to be ordained a priest and they cannot in good conscience present you for ordination.  One professor in particular went on record saying that you are as dumb as a donkey!”

But John Vianney, was not perplexed at all. After a moment of silence, he replied: “Father Rector, do you remember the story in chapter 15 of the book of Judges, where God used Samson to kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, thus saving the people of Israel?”

“Of course I do” answered the Rector. John Vianney continued, “If God could work such a wonderful deed with the jawbone of a donkey, can you imagine what God can accomplish with a total donkey?”

Indeed, it was another “remembered moment” and indeed God transfigured a “dumb as a donkey” John Vianney into the Patron Saint of all Priests.

So the Transfiguration of the Lord is not a cleverly invented myth that is repeated year after year.

The Transfiguration brings about the healing of the disfiguration caused by discouragement and distress.

The Transfiguration of the Lord also encourages us to recall those “remembered moments” in the Bible and also in the lives of the saints.

May those “remembered moments” make our faces shine like the sun and may our hearts be white as the light.

The Transfiguration of the Lord, Year A, 06.08.2017

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 / 2 Peter 1:16-19 / Matthew 17:1-9

There is one thing that we will surely notice by now, as it makes its prominence around this time of the year. We see it on HDB flats and other buildings, on the streets, on cars, and also at the entrance of the Church. Yes, it’s the Singapore flag, as we prepare to celebrate the 52nd birthday of our nation.

The flag marked the beginning of our nation and our country. Over the years, as our country progressed and developed, the flag remained unchanged as it fluttered silently on flag-poles of national and government buildings.

The flag represents who we are as Singaporeans. So even though we are a multi-racial and multi-religious country, we are bounded in unity as symbolized by the upper red section of the flag. The lower white section represents purity and virtue. 

The crescent moon represents a rising young nation, while the five stars depict Singapore’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. In short, the flag reminds us of who we are as Singaporeans and what Singapore should be.

And we acknowledge the emotions that are stirred up in our hearts when the state flag is hoisted and the national anthem is sung. And one of those recent moments was when Joseph Schooling won the gold medal in the swimming event at the 2016 Olympics. We were proud to be Singaporeans.

It was a glorious “remembered moment”. So whenever the flag is hoisted up, it recalls for us all those “remembered moments” of our country.

Today, the Church celebrates a “remembered moment” in the life of Jesus, and it is celebrated in the feast of the Transfiguration.

In the presence of His three disciples, Jesus was transfigured – His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

It was a moment in the life of Jesus that was recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and St. Peter also recalled it in his letter in the 2nd reading.

But just as we need to know the meaning of the symbols of the flag in order to understand what it represents, we also need to know the purpose of the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration reminds us of what we are created for and what we are to be eternally. In other words, we are created to have faces that shine like the sun and with hearts that are as white as the light.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is a “remembered moment” because it recalls for us who we are and what we are to be.

But in the drudgery of life, our memory becomes dimmed, and the shine begins to fade.
Coupled with the troubles of life, we succumb to the temptations of the devil and we get discouraged and we slowly begin to get disfigured.

The sun in our faces get covered by dark storm-clouds, and the light in our hearts fade and give way to darkness.

Discouragement and distress can cause disfiguration, but the Transfiguration of the Lord tells us that it can be different, and it must be different.

We see some examples of this in the Bible:
- When the Israelites were caught in the distressful situation between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, they wailed in terror. But Moses told them, “God will fight your battles for you” (Ex 14:14). How? The Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed over but the Egyptians were drowned in the sea.

- David, the one who brought down Goliath, was pursued and hunted by king Saul. Then David had the opportunity to take his revenge when Saul was sleeping alone in a cave. But he said, “I shall not harm the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 26:9). David later became Israel’s greatest king.

-  St. Augustine, after his conversion from a life of debauchery, wrote this: Our hearts are made for you O God, and they shall not rest until they rest in you.

These are just some of the “remembered moments” from the Bible and from the lives of the saints, and they tell us that things can be different and must be different.
The disfiguration caused by discouragement and distress can be healed by these “remembered moments” and the Transfiguration of the Lord brings about that healing for us.

Last Friday, 4th August, was the feast-day of St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of all Priests, who was also known for his ministry as a confessor.

There is this story from his early days as a seminarian. John Vianney was called up by the Rector of the Major Seminary where he was studying for the priesthood, to inform him of the negative report he received from his professors. 

The Rector said: “John, your teachers don’t think you have what it takes to be ordained a priest and they cannot in good conscience present you for ordination.  One professor in particular went on record saying that you are as dumb as a donkey!”

But John Vianney, was not perplexed at all. After a moment of silence, he replied: “Father Rector, do you remember the story in chapter 15 of the book of Judges, where God used Samson to kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, thus saving the people of Israel?”

“Of course I do” answered the Rector. John Vianney continued, “If God could work such a wonderful deed with the jawbone of a donkey, can you imagine what God can accomplish with a total donkey?”

Indeed, it was another “remembered moment” and indeed God transfigured a “dumb as a donkey” John Vianney into the Patron Saint of all Priests.

So the Transfiguration of the Lord is not a cleverly invented myth that is repeated year after year.

The Transfiguration brings about the healing of the disfiguration caused by discouragement and distress.

The Transfiguration of the Lord also encourages us to recall those “remembered moments” in the Bible and also in the lives of the saints.

May those “remembered moments” make our faces shine like the sun and may our hearts be white as the light.

Friday, August 4, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 05-08-17

Leviticus 25:1, 8-17 / Matthew 14:1-12

What others think about us and what they will say about us matters to us in varying degrees.

But it is quite unavoidable that what they think or what they say will affect us somehow.

Simply because we are not that stoic nor do we have stone-hard emotions that are unaffected by people's opinions about us.

In the gospel, we could see how many people were affected by just one sentence from John the Baptist.

He said to Herod: It is against the Law for you to have your brother's wife.

That sparked off a violent reaction in Herod and he wanted to kill John the Baptist. It also made Herodias scheme against John the Baptist and she looked for an opportunity to kill him.

Matters spiralled down tragically when Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist, thus dragging the daughter into an immoral act.

And Herod, who could have put a stop to all this, simply cared more about what his guests would say and completed it by giving the order for John the Baptist's head.

A holy man got executed all because some people cared more about their reputation and the opinions of others.

That was a complete contrast from what the Lord told Moses in the 1st reading - to proclaim liberation and a jubilee, a time of rejoicing.

That can only happen when we heed what God told Moses: Let none of you wrong his neighbour, but fear your God; I am the Lord your God.

Indeed, when we stand upright before the Lord, we will not wrong our neighbour, nor be too concerned about what they will think about us.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 04-08-17

Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37 / Matthew 13:54-58
(Memorial of St. John Vianney, Patron of all Priests)

To label and categorise things can be useful for the purpose of inventory and stock-keeping.


But to label and categorise persons is quite another matter. It may say something about the person in question, but it says a lot more about us.


Whatever earlier impressions of that person, especially those that are not favourable and disadvantageous, are stuck on our minds and we have somewhat boxed up the image of that person with those back-dated opinions.


Such was the case with Jesus when He came to His hometown and when He taught in the synagogue, His own people were initially astonished with His wisdom and miraculous powers.


But then came the labels and categorisations: He is the carpenter's son; is not His mother the woman called Mary? They knew who He was and where He came from. They were too familiar with who He was. But they did not realise that their knowledge was backdated.


Jesus has "changed" but their ideas of Him did not. Jesus had moved on but they were stuck in the past. Their labelling and categorising of Jesus revealed more about themselves than what they know about Jesus. And that also closed the door for any more miracles for them.


Fast-forward to the turn of the 19th century, there was John Vianney, a son of a peasant farmer. He was a slow and unpromising candidate for the priesthood. Nonetheless, he was ordained on account of his love for Jesus rather than any merit or achievement. But initially he was not allowed to preach at Mass or even teach catechism, for fear that he would end up teaching something heretical.


In 1818, Fr. John Vianney was sent to be the parish priest of Ars, an isolated village some distance from Lyon. It was thought that it was not much he could do there and he would fade off in obscurity.


But it was there that he became known as a confessor with spiritual insights into the heart of the penitent, and he had to spend many hours in the confessional.



But there is something else about his ministry in the confessional. When St. John Vianney was asked about his method in the confessional which caused even hardened sinners to melt, he replied, "My recipe is to give sinners a little penance and do the rest myself."

So St. John Vianney practiced penance not as his own work but as a minimal participation in Christ's sacrificial offering of His life on the cross for the salvation of sinners.

He was ordained because he had a heart for Jesus. But as a priest and in the confessional, Jesus made his heart like His, full of love and mercy for the sinner.


St. John Vianney preached about the necessity of prayer - When God sees us coming to Him in prayer, He leans His Heart down very low to His little creature, like a father who bends down to listen to his child.


St. John Vianney, being a man of prayer, knows the Heart of Jesus as he prays. But he also says this - Nothing afflicts the Heart of Jesus so much as to see all His sufferings of no avail to so many.


And so St. John Vianney did what he could to bring souls back to Jesus, be it at Mass, at preaching, at the confession, in everything he did.


If he had subjected himself to the labels and categorisations that others have of him, he won't be available to what Jesus wanted him to be. And now the Church honours him as the Patron of all Priests.


But let us remember this simple but profound saying of St. John Vianney - Anything we do, without offering it to God, is wasted.


So besides offering up our penance, our reparation and our expiation to Jesus for the salvation of souls, let us also offer up those who are lowly and despised, labelled and categorised.


May their lives not be wasted, but offered to God, so that He can make a miracle out of them, just as He did with St. John Vianney.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 03-08-17

Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38 / Matthew 13:47-53

When we walk into a house or a building, one impression that will come across quite obviously is the interior design and layout of the space.

We will know whether there was any thought given to what the house or building would look like before the renovations began and when the furnishings are moved in.

Interior design is the art and science of enhancing the interiors, sometimes including the exterior, of a space or building, to achieve a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the end user. An interior designer is someone who plans, researches, coordinates, and manages such projects.

In the 1st reading, we heard how God directed Moses on how the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant would look like and Moses proceeded with the details.

Obviously, the interior designer is God because He wanted to show the important aspects of who He is - there was the throne of mercy, the screening veil, the Testimony - all that were glimpses of who God is and how He relates with His people.

So only the important and necessary things were put into and around the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant, and the people would experience the presence of God with it.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable of a dragnet that brings in a haul of all kinds. Then the fishermen would collect the good fish in a basket and throw away those that were of no use.

Similarly, in this world, we are exposed to all sorts of things in what we see and hear. We must choose and discern what is good, keep it and throw away what is of no use.

It is God who created out hearts and it is His designs that we must follow. Then our hearts would look like the dwelling place of God and others would be able to experience the presence of God in us.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 02-08-17

Exodus 34:29-35 / Matthew 13:44-46

Our hands and our feet are at the different ends of our body. And depending on our height, they vary in the distamce apart.

Yet, when our hands or our feet are hurting, whether from touching a hot object or from the shoes we are wearing, somehow our face shows it.

Oh yes, we can hide our feelings, but not for long. And more so if it is the feelings and emotions in our heart.

What we feel in our hearts will show up on our faces, and it will show up through the make-up and the masks we might want to put on.

In the 1st reading, Moses couldn't hide the radiance and the glory of God which he experienced, and it showed on his face.

What Moses experienced challenges us to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and to ask ourselves what others see in us.

We may not like what we see of ourselves in the mirror, maybe because it reminds us of the frustrations, resentment, hurt and pain that are gripping our hearts.

Yet we must also remember that God has planted the treasures of His love in our hearts.

In this Eucharist, let us ask the Lord to heal us so that we can let go of our sinfulness and to discover the joy of the treasure of God's love in us.

And may the joy of God's love be reflected in our faces too.

Monday, July 31, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 01-08-17

Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-8, 28 / Matthew 13:36-43

In life there are many choices - from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to words we use, to what we choose to do.

In our spiritual life, we also have to make a fundamental choice, and that is the choice between good and evil.

And when we do an examination of our lives, then we will see that there are times we chose to do good and there are times we chose to do evil.

So in our lives, there is a good harvest of wheat, but there are also the weeds of sin.

And till the last day of our life on earth, there will be wheat and weeds in our hearts.

As Jesus talks about the final judgement in today's gospel, let us pray for the ears to listen .

As we listen to God's Word, may we also make a choice for God.

So that in all we do and say, we will want to choose to do the good and right and loving thing.

The 10 Commandments tell us about the way to life. Jesus offers us the choice between life and death.

Let us choose life, and death will be slowly pulled out and burnt away.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 31-07-17

Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34 / Matthew 13:31-35

Babies and very young children have this peculiar tendency.

They will cry out in distress when they don't see their parents around them.

Their parents are certainly still around; just that they are momentarily out of sight.

This tendency is especially manifested on the first day of nursery, when the parents leave their children under the care of teachers.

The reaction of the children can be anything from frowning to hysterical cries.

Such is the need of children for a visible presence of their parents.

We see a similar situation with the Israelites in the 1st reading.

Moses had left them to go up to Mt Sinai, and they began to feel abandoned and insecure.

They needed a sense of security and they turned to a thing to satisfy them.

Yes, we might criticize them for being idolatrous, etc.

But what they felt only illustrates the human desire for the presence of God in order to feel secure.

The presence of God is like the mustard seed and the yeast parables that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of God.

Where God is made present, there is the Kingdom.

We are like the mustard seeds and the yeast.

God is within us and He is waiting.

He is waiting for us to make His kingdom present in the world.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 30.07.2017

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 / Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 13:44-52
Let us begin with a question about our health, and maybe let us look at our dental health. When was the last time we went to the dentist? It is recommended that we go to the dentist for a check-up every six months. That’s the recommendation. But our assessment is “no pain, no need”.

But as it is, we don’t like to visit the dentist because it means two things. Either it is a filling for a cavity, which at times feels like a brain surgery, because of all that drilling and the pain shoots up the brain. Or it will be an extraction, i.e. to pull out the teeth.

For those of us who have an upcoming dental appointment, here is a little story to prepare you to meet your dentist. A man went to a new dentist to remove a wisdom tooth for the first time. The man told the dentist, “I am afraid … it’s my first time taking out a wisdom tooth.” The new dentist told him, “Me too … it’s my first time.” 

By and large, the dentist wouldn’t want to do an extraction unless it is really necessary. But when it comes to the wisdom tooth, it’s quite another matter.

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Maybe when we start to get wiser, those wisdom teeth will grow as well. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned. But more often, they are misaligned and require removal.
So it doesn’t mean that the more wisdom teeth we have or try to keep, the wiser we are. In fact, it would be wiser to remove those wisdom teeth if they are giving us teething problems.

In the 1st reading, the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon and said, “Ask what you would like me to give you.”

Now, that’s like a blank cheque, isn’t it? If the Lord were to appear to us and ask us that same question, just how would we reply? Because there are so many things that we want – health, wealth, happiness, security, good looks, etc.

As a young king, Solomon could have asked for more “teeth”, not more wisdom teeth, but more “teeth” to have more “bite”, so that he can control his subjects and his kingdom, victory over his enemies, long life, prosperity, security.

But he asked the Lord for this: Give Your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who can govern this people of Yours that is so great?

And the Lord replied: I give you a heart wise and shrewd, as none before you has had and none will have after you.

And truly, Solomon was noted for his wisdom. There was this instance of two mothers living in the same house, each the mother of an infant son, and they came to Solomon. One of the babies had died, and each claimed the remaining boy as her own. Calling for a sword, Solomon declared his judgment: the baby would be cut into two, each woman to receive half. One mother thought the ruling fair, but the other begged Solomon, "Give the baby to her, just don't kill the baby!" The king declared the second woman the true mother, as a mother would even give up her baby if that was necessary to save his life. (1 Kings 3:16-28) This judgment became known throughout all of Israel and was considered an example of profound wisdom.

Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom to govern God’s people because he was aware and humble enough to admit that he was young and unskilled in leadership.

So the Lord is also asking us what we want for Him. Certainly it would be something that we have to think carefully about.

It would be something like the treasure hidden in a field, or like that pearl of great value that the gospel speaks of. In both cases, the two finders sold everything they own and bought it.

But also like the fishermen who hauled in the dragnet and then collected the good fish in a basket and threw away those that are of no use, we also need the wisdom to discern what is good and what is fleeting and temporary.

There is this story of a bus-station attendant who was handed a wallet that someone had lost. He looked inside the wallet. There were a few dollars and a holy picture of Jesus in it. But there was no identification of the owner.

After a while an elderly man came to claim the wallet. The attendant asked him to prove that it was his before he would give it to him. The old man smiled and said, “There is a picture of Jesus in it.” But the attendant was not satisfied. He said, “That is no proof. Anyone can have a picture of Jesus in his wallet. And why is your photo or IC not in there like the others.”

The old man took a deep breath and explained. “My IC is with me. As to why my photo is not there, this wallet is given to me by my father when I was in school, and I used to put a photo of my parents in it.

When I was a teenager, I was proud of my looks and so I replaced my parents’ photo with my own. Then I got married and I replaced my photo with a photo of my wife. Then my first child was born and then I replaced my wife’s photo with my baby’s photo.”

Then his voice began to quiver. “My parents passed away many years ago. Recently my wife passed away too. My children are too busy with their families to look after me.

All that I ever held close to my heart is now far away from my reach. I have this picture of Jesus in my wallet because it is only now that I realized that He is always with me and He will never leave me alone. If only I had realized this earlier, I would have His picture when I first got this wallet.” 


Whether we have a picture of Jesus in our wallets or not, we should realize that we are created in His image. And His image in etched in our hearts so that we can reflect and share this divine image with others so that they can see the true treasure that is within us.
Yes, we already have that treasure. What more do we need to ask for or search for?

St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian philosopher and theologian, wrote many works that influenced the Church. It was he who wrote the lyrics of the great Eucharistic hymns like “Humbly we adore Thee”.

There is a story that he had a vision of Christ on the Cross and was asked by the Lord what reward he wanted for all he had done and written. St. Thomas answered, “Non nisi te, Domine.” (Only you, Lord.)

Jesus is our only reward and our eternal reward. We don’t need to have the wisdom of Solomon to realize that.

St. Martha, Saturday, 29-07-17

1 John 4:7-16 / John 11:19-27

Whenever we talk about St. Martha, the image of an active and work-oriented as well as task-oriented person comes to mind.

That may be because of that occasion (Luke 10 : 38-42)when she invited Jesus to her home and she was caught up with all the serving.

And then she complained to Jesus about getting her sister Mary to help her with the work.

But Jesus told her that she worry and fret about so many things and yet only one is important, and Mary had chosen the better part.

Martha must have remembered what Jesus said to her, and so despite the sadness and grief over her brother's death, she knew that only Jesus could comfort her.

And true to her personality, she made the move to go out and meet Jesus and to express her faith in Jesus.

But on this occasion, she also made a profound proclamation.

Martha proclaimed Jesus to be Christ, the Son of God.

Only St. Peter had made that similar proclamation.

Hence, St. Martha, despite her active and work-oriented and task-oriented personality, came to slowly recognize who Jesus is.

St. Martha is an example for us of someone who is active and busy but yet took the time to reflect and to discover who Jesus is.

Like St. Martha we may also have very active lives and busy with a lot of things.

But let us not forget the one important thing - prayer!

It is in prayer that we will attain the peace to know that Jesus is truly the Son of God, our Saviour.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 28-07-17

Exodus 20:1-17 / Matthew 13:18-23

Can we think of anyone who has done us a great favour? It may be that this person saved our life from some near tragedy. Or helped us when everyone else have turned their back on us. Or stood by us when we were alone and in need.

Whatever the situation or circumstance might be, we can only be grateful and thankful to that person. What else more can we ever do for that person?

Certainly, it would never cross our minds that since this person has done us such a great favour, we would ride on that and see what other favours we can get from that person. We can't be that ungrateful or go so low as that.

In the 1st reading, the Lord God declared to His people: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

God was reiterating that it was not by their abilities that they broke away from slavery and are a free people now.

He was their Deliverer and it was He who rescued them from slavery and gave them freedom. But it was not a freedom to do as they wish. He gave them the 10 commandments to guide them because with freedom comes responsibility and accountability.

The 10 commandments were God's way of telling His people how to live their lives so that they can truly be a people who will cherish their freedom and live by the ways of the Lord.

Not to live by the 10 commandments would be to allow rocks and thorns to clutter their hearts and eventually lose their freedom again and be slaves of the devil.

We too have been freed by Jesus from the slavery to sin. We can only give thanks and live by His ways. We certainly don't want to be slaves of the devil and lose the joy of our freedom and peace of heart.