Tuesday, October 17, 2017

St. Luke, Evangelist, Wednesday, 18-10-17

2 Tim 4:10-17 / Luke 10:1-9

St. Luke was not one of the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus, but he is venerated as the Evangelist who wrote the fourth gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles. This is the traditional view of the Church.

Although he was not mentioned in the gospels, he was featured in the epistles of St. Paul of  the New Testament.

He was mentioned in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14. And he was also mentioned in the 1st reading of today. St. Paul mentioned about him in only five words - Only Luke is with me.

And that said volumes about St. Luke because St. Paul was suffering persecution and abandonment and his only source of consolation was that he had the company of St. Luke, and by mentioning that, it showed how much St. Paul appreciated him.

Furthermore, it was nearing the end of St. Paul's life in Rome that St. Luke was keeping him company and that was a testimony of how much St. Luke was involved in the ministry of the early Church as well as of his faith and character.

St. Luke knew first hand the challenges and difficulties of the mission of proclaiming the Good News and also the commitment and the sacrifices that are involved.

So as we read about his account in the gospel of Jesus sending out His disciples, we can sense that it was from the depths of his missionary experience that he wrote it.

Yes, we are being sent out to proclaim the Good News but it is like lambs being sent among wolves.

Yet in the midst of danger and difficulties, let us keep in mind how St. Luke kept St. Paul company.

It is in keeping company with each other in unity and peace that we are able to face the wolves and proclaim the Good News of God's saving love.

Monday, October 16, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-10-17

Romans 1:16-25 / Luke 11:37-41

The use of sacramentals in the Church is a meaningful practice.

Sacramentals are blessed objects such as holy water, crucifix, rosary, holy pictures and statues.

Most Catholics will use such sacramentals during prayer and some will even kiss the holy pictures and touch the statues.

But of course, we are clear that we don't worship statues or use holy pictures as some kind of talisman.

But as much as we know the meaning and the purpose of sacramentals in our religious life, when it comes to our secular life, we get it all mixed up.

We fall into this problem of making things the centre of our lives.

For example, some get so absorbed with their personal computers or gadgets that they could not see that those things are now controlling them.

Some get so absorbed with another human being that they create a personality cult and that's why pop singers, movie stars and sports stars have a fan club.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul pointed out the the impiety and the depravity of man have caused them to exchange the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation of mortal man, of birds, or animals, or of whatever.

All this happened because the truth of God is suppressed and imprisoned by the wickedness of man.

Indeed, human beings have that ability to suppress God's truth in themselves and deny God's sovereignty.

Let us ask Jesus to cleanse our hearts, so that the truth of God will set us free to worship the one true God.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 16-10-17

Romans 1:1-7 / Luke 11:29-32

As we begin a new day, we may already have in our minds a list of things to do.

Yes, for us who live busy lives, there are indeed many things to do everyday.

And when the day comes to an end, we might still have things that are not done yet, or not finished yet, and we have to bring them over to the next day.

Yet as Catholics, we have to ask ourselves a deep question. It is not about how much we are doing, but rather what is the purpose and the meaning of what we are doing.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells us of what should be the purpose and the meaning of what we are doing and what our lives should be all about.

Indeed, in whatever we are doing, we show others a sign of the presence of Jesus, be it His love, His care, His mercy and compassion and forgiveness.

Just as Jesus took on human nature in order to be a sign of God's incarnate presence, we are now called to be signs of the presence of Jesus in the world.

Hence, in all we do, others must be able to see a sign of God's presence in us.

That is what is meant by sanctifying the day with our work. It is about holiness in all that we do.

And that is the sign that others will be looking for in each of us.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 15.10.2017

Isaiah 25:6-10 / Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 / Matthew 22:1-14

This year is dedicated to the celebration of the centennial of the Marian apparitions at Fatima.

By now, we would know what it is all about. It has been a hundred years since Our Lady appeared to the three peasant children at an obscure village called Fatima in Portugal.

And to mark the occasion, a statue of the Pilgrim Virgin is in Singapore and it went to some parishes, schools and centres, and many people participated in the prayers, the vigils and the devotions.

But to begin with, Fatima is a rather unique and maybe odd-sounding name. It somehow doesn’t sound quite like the usual Catholic or Christian names. For all that is connected with it, Fatima is not that popular when it comes to choosing a name for baptism.

According to some sources, the town of Fatima was named after a Moorish princess who was kidnapped by a Portuguese knight, but later they fell in love and the rest of the story is just for reading pleasure. But at least we now know where the name came from.

As to why God would choose a town with such a peculiar name for Mary to make her apparitions, it can only be said that God uses jagged ways to give His messages.

And today’s gospel parable can be said as one of the jagged ways that God uses to give us a teaching, although it may leave us rather puzzled and scratching our heads.

The parable begins with a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to all those who had been invited, but they would not come. No reason was given for their refusal.

The king invited them again, but they were not interested. One went to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized the servants, maltreated them and even killed them. The king was furious and he sent his troops to destroy those murderers and also destroyed their town.

It is quite jarring as we hear invitation turning to destruction, and celebration turning to violence.

And then the king sent his servants to the cross-roads to invite everyone they could find to the wedding, the bad and the good alike. 

At this point, the parable is already jagged enough with all that violence and contradictions. And as if that is not enough, a man without a wedding garment had to be thrown out into the dark, where there was weeping and grinding of teeth.

It is such a jagged parable that it can be quite difficult to understand. Its jaggedness disturbs us, but it calls for our attention. And that’s how God speaks to us.

Taking the parable literally does not make much sense. But when its jagged edges cut into our hearts, then we get glimpses of what Jesus is telling us in the parable.

Last Friday, 13th October, was the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima. 100 years ago that day, our Lady promised a sign that will prove that her messages are from heaven, messages that must be heeded for the conversion and salvation of the world.

In what is termed as the “miracle of the sun”, the storm clouds parted, revealing the sun as an immense silver disk shining with an intensity never before seen, though it was not blinding. Then the immense disk began to "dance." The sun spun rapidly like a gigantic circle of fire. Then it stopped momentarily, only to begin spinning again. Its rim became scarlet; whirling, it scattered red flames across the sky. All this lasted about 10 minutes, and witnessed by the 70,000 crowd gathered there, as well as by numerous witnesses up to twenty-five miles away from the place of the apparition.

We would think that with such a sign, there would be mass conversions and that people would believe in God and be God-fearing and lead religious lives from then on.

But it doesn't seem to be the case. From 1917 to this day, the world has seen two world wars, and many other hostilities that seem to snub those signs from heaven and snub the call to repentance.

If the gospel parable sounds jagged, the world has shown that it is like a hacksaw blade that cuts deep into the flesh of humanity and caused much bloodshed.

So the call to prayer and penance, to repentance and conversion, which is the essential message at Fatima was not heeded, even after a hundred years.

But it is not all hopelessness and jaggedness. 
Last Friday, the 13th October, we had our monthly Rosary at Mary’s shrine. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, the catechists of our parish asked the parents of the children in the catechism classes to bring their children along because we wanted the children to lead the Rosary.

Well, the parents brought their children along; or is it that the children brought their parents along? Whatever it might be, the children and the youth led the Rosary with the help of their catechists.

With children leading the Rosary, it may not be that polished, there were some jagged edges here and there, but it was heart-warming to hear the chirpy voices of children reciting the Rosary, and with that it brought about a renewed hope for the future of our parish and for the Church.

Because the 1st reading mentions of this mountain, and this mountain is the Church. On this mountain (the Church)
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. 
On this mountain He will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, He will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek; He will take away His people’s shame everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.

So the Lord of hosts invites each of us come to His holy dwelling, to His holy mountain, to offer prayer and praise, and not to be silent like the man without the wedding garment in the gospel parable.

We bring our children along and we must teach our children to pray and to worship the Lord.  

Together with their prayer, the conversion and salvation of the world is not just a possibility. It will be a reality. We have waited a hundred years. Let us wait no longer.

Friday, October 13, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-10-17

Joel 4:12-21 / Luke 11:27-28

It is a fact that babies have a special attention and intimate affiliation to their mothers' voices.

In other words, babies respond more readily to their mothers' voices, because it is a voice that they had heard since the time they were in the womb.

At the same time, we can also say that the mother will have a special attention to her baby's cry.

In a room that may have other babies making all sorts of sounds, a mother can instinctively pick out her baby's cry and attend to it immediately.

Such is the level of attention and intimacy that Jesus is talking about when He said that blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

It is like that of a baby who has a special attention to its mother's voice because of the intimate relationship with the mother.

Yes, the Word of God resonates and calls for a deep intimacy in our hearts so that when God speaks to us, we will listen and act on it.

Yet, we also know that communication is not a one way relationship. God also listens when we cry out to Him.

Just as mothers will immediately respond to their babies' cry, God will also respond immediately when we cry out in our distress.

And when God responds, it will be like what the 1st reading described: The Lord roars from Zion, makes His voice heard from Jerusalem.

The Lord's voice is loud enough if we really want to listen. Just as we speak to God, God will also speak to us.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-10-17

Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2 / Luke 11:15-26

Today is the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of our Lady to the three young children at Fatima. 100 years ago this day, our Lady promised them a sign from heaven to prove that her messages are to be heeded for the conversion of sinners.

At this last apparition of our Lady, there was this miracle of the sun. The clouds parted, revealing the sun as an immense silver disk shining with an intensity never before seen, though not blinding. Then the immense disk began to "dance." The sun spun rapidly like a gigantic circle of fire. Then it stopped momentarily, only to begin spinning again. Its rim became scarlet; whirling, it scattered red flames across the sky. All this lasted about 10 minutes, and witnessed by the 70,000 crowd gathered there, as well as by numerous witnesses up to twenty-five miles away from the place of the apparition.

We would think that with such a sign, there would be mass conversions and that people would believe in God and be God-fearing and lead religious lives from then on.

But it doesn't seem to be the case. From 1917 to this day, the world has seen two world wars, and many other hostilities that seem to snub those signs from heaven and the call to repentance.

And that was what happened to Jesus after He had cast out a devil. Instead of being awed by the power and authority of Jesus over evil spirits, some people can even say that He cast out devils through the power of Beelzebul, the prince of devils.

At times, we may wonder how much longer will God tolerate the stubbornness of man before He turns His hand and punishes all those who do evil and refuse to repent.

But let us also not be complacent and think that we are better than those evil and bad people and hence we will escape the punishment from God.

If we have turned away from sin and evil, then we must keep walking towards God and be united with Jesus.

Because Jesus gave this warning: When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one, it says, "I will go back to the home I came from." But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.

That is certainly a grave warning for us not to be complacent. The devil will never cease in his attempts to make us stray from the Lord, and that is why Jesus says, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."

Let us heed those signs from God calling us to a deeper repentance and to grow in holiness of life so as to prepare ourselves for the day of the Lord.

Let us fast and do penance and cry out to the Lord, not just for ourselves, but also for the salvation of the world. That is what Jesus meant when He asks us to gather with Him. That is also the message of our Lady at Fatima.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-10-17

Malachi 3:13-20 / Luke 11:5-13

It is difficult to find someone who has not had a complaint. In fact we can say that there had never existed anyone who never had a complaint.

We can even say that to complain is to be human - I complain therefore I am  :P :)

And we know in what forms the complaints come in - letters, email, phone calls, etc.

But have we ever heard about God complaining? In the 1st reading, the Lord God has this to say: You say harsh things about me.

And why did God say that? It was because the people were saying that it was useless to serve God and to keep His commandments.

Yes, the arrogant and evil doers prosper; they try God's patience and yet go free. Hence, those who try to stay faithful to the Lord God complain and say harsh things about the Lord.

And that was why the Lord God complained that the people say harsh things about Him.

But God's complaint does not stop there. He will act for those who fear Him and take refuge in His name.

The evil and the arrogant will be punished, but those who are faithful to the Lord will be rewarded.

Similarly as much as we have complaints, let us keep asking, knocking and searching for God's promises to be fulfilled.

May our complaining be turned into thanksgiving.