Sunday, September 25, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-09-16

Job 1:6-22 / Luke 9:46-50

For something to be "tried and tested" it would be necessary to go through some kind of "baptism of fire".

Whether understood literally or figuratively, the reality of the power of fire is obvious - it destroys and at the same time it also purifies.

In the battlefield, when soldiers are under fire, that will be the moment to see how courageous they are.

In life, when faith is under fire and undergoing a baptism of fire, that will be the time to see what the faith is all about.

In the 1st reading, we hear Satan commenting that Job is not God-fearing for nothing. God had blessed Job and he is safe and secure.

So Satan suggests that Job be put to the test, to put him under fire and see what becomes of his faith in God.

In the gospel, we hear about the disciples arguing among themselves about which of them is the greatest.

Whatever they can say about themselves, the time will come when they will be put to the test, their faith in Jesus will come under fire, and whatever greatness they thought they had vanished in fear.

Whatever we can say about our faith, we also must be prepared for our faith to undergo a baptism of fire, and to be tried and tested.

Let us believe in God's love for us in that He won't try and test us beyond what we can take. God is for us and not against us. When undergoing a baptism of fire, let us stand by God, or we will not stand at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 25.09.2016

Amos 6:1, 4-7 / 1 Tim 6:11-16 / Luke 16:19-31

For those of us who love art, or know something about art, then we would also know the names of famous artists.

So here are the names of some art pieces and let us see if we know who is the artist is. They are all by the same artist anyway.

So here it comes – Sunflowers; The starry night; Irises; The potato eaters. So, who is the artist?

Yes, it’s Vincent Van Gogh. His masterpieces range from US$50 – US$100 over million dollars.

For those of us who love art and can appreciate art, then we would certainly love to have one of the masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in a prominent place in our home. Yes, we would like to have a US$50 million masterpiece from Vincent Van Gogh in our home.

But would we like to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home?

If we know something about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, then we will probably understand why we might not want to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home.

Vincent Van Gogh lived from 1853 – 1890. In his lifetime, he produced 2000 artworks. But he had very little success as an artist. 

In fact, he only sold one painting “The Red Vineyard”, for less that US$2000 in today’s price.

Besides that, he was also temperamental, depressed and also difficult to get along with, and other things besides. Then at 37 years-old, he took his own life. It was only after his death that his works became famous and renowned.

So that is why we won’t mind having a multi-million-dollar painting by Vincent Van Gogh at home. But we certainly won’t want to have him in our home.

Similarly, we don’t mind having a Bible in our home. In fact, we should have the Bible, the Word of God, at home.

But, would we welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, into our home? We would say – Of course, we want to have Jesus in our home.

But Jesus does not come alone. Because He comes along with His close friends. And who are they? Well, they are the poor and helpless, the problematic and difficult people, the Vincent Van Goghs.

We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the close friends of Jesus. Because the Bible tells us that God is on the side of the poor and needy and helpless.

Indeed, God is closest to the poor and helpless, the weak and the lowly, the defenseless and the oppressed.

At least in today’s 1st reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the gospel tell us that. And we must see it!

Yes, God is for them. God cares about them. And God will console them. If not in this life, then it will be in the next.

God will console them and comfort them in His bosom and wipe away every tear from their eyes.

That was what happened in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

We can call that a reversal of fortunes, and the reversal is not temporal; it is eternal.

Although it is just a parable, it makes us see that the reversal is for real.

It was real enough for the rich man. In the flames of agony, he looked up and saw Lazarus and even knows his name.

While on earth, he certainly saw Lazarus, or at least he knew he was at the gate. But he just chose not to see, not to know, not to care.

But in the flames of agony, the rich man saw. Yes, he saw, but it was too late, and it was forever.

In Singapore, we don’t usually have beggars or destitudes or Lazaruses sitting at our doors.

Yet we cannot say that the poor and needy do not exist.

Just come every 1st Sunday morning at the old parish hall and we will see the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at work, distributing rations to the poor and needy.

And we will see for ourselves who are the poor and needy, the helpless and the rejected. So we can’t say that we didn’t see, or we don’t know.

Or maybe we saw, and we knew, and we feel that we can do nothing about the multitudes of poor and needy and helpless.

Granted that it is an immense challenge, but let’s talk about Mother Teresa and her favourite number.

Most probably, her favourite number is the number 1. And the following quote from her might tell us why it’s 1.

She said : “I don’t agree with the big ways of doing things. Love needs to start with the individual. To love a person you must make contact with that person. To love the poor you must make contact with the poor. 

When you do that, you cross the enormous divide between you and the poor, and it’s somebody you have actually touched.”

She continues by saying : “I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time.”

So most probably, Mother Teresa’s favourite number is 1. For her it is one person at a time.

So the Word of God in today’s readings makes us open our eyes.
God is not asking us how rich we are or how much we can give to the poor and needy.

Rather, God is asking us this : How much do we care? How much do we love? How much do we want to see?

And we don’t have to see far, see wide or see too much.

Let us look at the one who is at the gate.The one who is poor and needy. The one that we can help. 

And that one may not be outside the gate. That one may be within our gates.

But we may have become numbed and indifferent.

Let us listen to the voice of God prompting us to see, to care and to love the one who is poor and needy and helpless, the one who is difficult and problematic, the Vincent Van Goghs.

Yes, they are poor and needy, they may be difficult and problematic, but they are God’s close friends.

And it is they who will lead us into God’s bosom, forever.

Friday, September 23, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-09-16

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12-8 / Luke 9:43-45

When we ask someone "How are you?", what answer are we expecting?

Or when others ask us that question, what kind of answer are we going to give?

Surely, we would expect, as well as give, polite but rather superficial answers like : I am ok. I am fine.

But beneath these polite and superficial answers is the reality of pain and suffering.

Even for Jesus, just when everyone was full of admiration for Him, He brought Himself and His disciples back to the reality of the cross that He must face.

Indeed the reality of pain and suffering is seared into humanity, especially that of being a Christian.

The 1st reading points out this reality of pain and suffering and death in a sober manner and terms it all as "vanity of vanities, all is vanity".

There will come a time when we look at all these "vanities" and say "These give me no pleasure"

Then we will begin to look for what would really give us happiness and joy in life.

May our search lead us to know that in God is our happiness and it is He who gives joy to our lives.

For when our lives on earth are over and we return to the dust of the earth, our souls can find rest only in God our Saviour.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-09-16

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 / Luke 9:18-22

I had this experience of visiting a relative who was in a nursing home and was suffering from a terminal illness but not yet in danger of death.

I spent time with him over lunch, and then gave him the "Anointing of the sick" since that was part of the reason why I visited him.

I noticed that he was yawning so I took leave and said that I would see him soon.

That "soon" turned out to be about four hours later when I was informed that he had passed away in his sleep and I went over immediately to bless his body.

What struck me was how nicely the events fitted in before his passing on. It seemed that everything was timed perfectly, that I should visit him, give him the anointing and then he passed on peacefully.

In the 1st reading, those 11 verses from the book of Ecclesiastes has the word "time" mentioned at least 30 times.

It is telling us that all time is in God's hands . And though God has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, yet man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

And though we wish that we had more time in the busy and hectic lives, yet it is time that we often waste or misuse.

Let us make good use of our time to come to know who Jesus is and hence we need to spend time in prayer. It is prayer that we will realise that all our time and all our life is in the hands of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 22-09-16

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 / Luke 9:7-9

The meaning of "Déjà Vu" is that it is a common intuitive experience that has happened to many of us. The expression is derived from the French, meaning "already seen." When it occurs, it seems to spark our memory of a place we have already been, a person we have already seen, or an act we have already done.

We may have been to many places and seen many things and met many people. But there are occasions when we thought we have already seen a place or a thing, or met this person before somewhere, and now we have this feeling of familiarity or similarity, although the setting is different.

The 1st reading has this to say: What was will be again, what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun.

As much as we may already seen many things and met many people, whenever a feeling of familiarity or similarity arises, could it be that God is telling us something?

In the gospel, when Herod heard about Jesus and all that He was doing, he had a feeling of familiarity and similarity about it.

He was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.

Herod would have heard about Elijah and those ancient prophets. He knew who John was since it was he who ordered his execution. So there was something familiar about Jesus.

Indeed Jesus is familiar. Yet He is also showing us something new as He reveals Himself to us.

As into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, we will never have enough of what Jesus is showing us. May our hearts be open to receive Him as He reveals Himself to us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

St. Matthew, Apostle, Wednesday, 21-09-16

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9:9-13

Almost everyone likes to be with a saintly or holy person.

We just have to recall the crowds that thronged around the late Pope John Paul II or the late Mother Teresa.

Yet somewhere in the lives of the saints or holy people, there was a moment of conversion. There was the experience of the divine.

The fact is that no one is born holy; in fact everyone is born a sinner.

And no one likes to sit next to a sinner or even talk with one, especially despicable sinners.

But that was what Jesus did. He knew why He came into the world.

He came as a Saviour, a Saviour for sinners.

He didn't reject sinners or give up on them, no matter how despicable they may be.

Because He came to offer them the hope of a new life, just as He offered it to Matthew.

And Matthew turned from sinner to saint. We now call him St. Matthew.

And those whom we think are rotten sinners can become glorious saints, if only we can be Jesus to them.

May the celebration of the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist help us to understand why we are Christians.

Monday, September 19, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-09-16

Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13 / Luke 8:19-21

The Old Testament is divided into a few sections. There is the Pentateuch or the Torah which is the first five books of the Bible.

Then there are the historical books, the prophetic writings and the wisdom books or wisdom literature.

The wisdom books consists of the Book of Wisdom, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), and Sirach.

The 1st reading is taken from the book of Proverbs and we may consider it rather easy reading because of its practicality and easy comprehension.

As we can see from the 1st reading, the truths of life are clearly and simply spelt out - act virtuously and with justice, be hardworking, be compassionate and charitable.

Yet, what is clear and simple may not necessarily be easy to carry out, as we are often fooled into thinking that what is simple is easy.

In the gospel, Jesus said that those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice are the ones who are closest to Him.

Yes, reading and hearing about the wisdom of life is one thing. Putting it into practice is another thing.

Certainly we want to live a meaningful and a God-centered life with the wisdom that is already found in the Bible.

May we become what we read, and in doing so may we become more and more Christ-like to others.