Thursday, August 24, 2017

St. Bartholomew, Thursday, 24-08-17

Apocalypse 21:9-14 / John 1:45-51

St Bartholomew was from Cana in Galilee, and he was often identified as Nathaniel because the Gospel according to Mathew listed him together with Philip as one of the first apostles chosen by Christ.

From the gospel, we can make a presumption of what kind of character he was.
For one, he was a straight-forward person, who said what he meant and meant what he said.

We can make that presumption when he made that statement: Can anything good come from Nazareth?

Nonetheless, he was an open person because he followed Philip to see who that person Jesus was.

He was also a person of prayer, as attested to by Jesus, because to sit under a fig tree means to be under its shade of coolness and to pray and meditate on God's righteousness.

So in effect, Jesus was affirming Bartholomew about his character. It was like He knew what kind of a person Bartholomew really was.

Similarly, Jesus also knows each of us through and through and He also wants to affirm our goodness.

Like St. Bartholomew, let us continue to follow Jesus as He reveals Himself to us.

May we also come to know ourselves deeper and be strengthened in our goodness.

May we also always meditate on God's righteousness and proclaim it in our lives.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-08-17

Judges 9:6-15 / Matthew 20:1-16

Money does not make the world go round; but money does make people go round and up and about.

It cannot be denied that money has this incentive to make people work harder, go faster, think smarter, etc.

After all, the business transactions of the world are driven by money and the concern for profit.

Consequently, money can also be a point of contention where wages are concerned.

In the parable of the gospel, that seemed to be the complaint of the workers who worked all day and were paid the equal amount as those who came at the eleventh hour.

The complaint was about "unfair" wages, although it was not unjust; but the parable's concern is about availability and generosity.

The eleventh hour workers made themselves available, even when it was coming to the end of the day, and that earned them the generosity of the landowner.

Yet in the 1st reading, we see a reversal. Those who were able to lead the country refused to be available for the duty and it eventually fell into the hands of a tyrant.

And this is also the problem with our world. Those who are able refused to be available, and hence they end up at the fool's disposal.

Yes, God is generous but we also have to be available for His generosity. With His generosity, our abilities will give God glory.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Queenship of the BVM, Tuesday, 22-08-17

Isaiah 9:1-6 / Luke 1:26-38

We exalt and glorify Jesus Christ as the "King of kings, and the Lord of Lords".

So for the Church to confer onto Mary the title of "Queen" is certainly fitting, since at the Visitation, Elizabeth called Mary "mother of my Lord", and hence, she is also mother of the King.

Indeed, from the earliest Church traditions, Mary has been given the title "Queen" and subsequently "Queen of Heaven", and from that title there are other expressions of her queenship.

The feast is a follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast.

God assumed Mary into heaven, body and soul, and in doing so, He bestowed upon her the queenship of all creation, after Jesus Christ who is the King of all creation.

As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving His Father and saving us, so did Mary exercise her queenship by praying for us.

As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time, so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth and she continues to be the mother of the Church.

So as the Church celebrates the queenship of Mary, let us remember what she told the servants at the wedding at Cana - "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5)

But in order to do what Jesus is telling us, we have to have the spiritual sensitivity of Mary who knows what the will of God is for her and submits herself to it.

Let us consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart and unite ourselves in a devotion to her, be it the praying of the Rosary of other forms of Marian devotion.

And like Mary our Mother, we too will say with her: Let it be done unto me according to Your Word.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 21-08-17

Judges 2:11-19 / Matthew 6:11-24

One of the major problems with the people of God in the Old Testament is the worshipping of idols, ie. idolatry.

They were called to be God's people and to worship the one true God and yet they turned to idols and bowed down and prostrated them in worship of images or idols that represented or were thought to embody various pagan deities.

But what was it that made them turn to idolatry? What was the attraction of idolatry that made them unfaithful to God who had showed them such great signs and wonders?

The attraction, and the seduction, came in many forms: fertility of animals and crop and the connected ritual sex, material gains, power and conquest of other nations, etc.

Being faithful to God would seem boring to say the least, with those laws and commandments, and they felt like losers compared to the other idol-worshipping pagans around them.

But what they fail to see is that they were also being slowly seduced by an evil power that was drawing them away from God, and leading them down the road of immorality and wickedness.

As we heard in the 1st reading, God punished them for their unfaithfulness but He also appointed judges to rescue them from their enemies. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. Obviously, the evil power never gives up in pulling the people away from God.

In the gospel, we heard of this rich young man who wanted to possess eternal life. Jesus wanted him to follow him on the condition that he gives up his earthly riches.

Jesus was trying to pull him out of the clutches of the idolatry of earthly wealth, but like his ancestors, he was too attracted and obsessed by it.

As for ourselves, do we know what earthly attractions we are attached to or obsessed with? Let us ask Jesus to pull us out of it and to be faithful to Him.

If Jesus is not our first above all, then in the end, we will have nothing at all; neither here nor in eternity.

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.