Saturday, August 27, 2016

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 28.08.2016

Ecclesiasticus 3:17-20, 28-29 / Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 / Luke 14:1, 7-14

The history of mankind has seen many great conquerors who built great empires.

We have read about Alexander. He was called the Great and rightly so. His empire stretched from Europe to Asia.

Then there was Caesar and the great Roman Empire.

Then a period of time passed before another great conqueror surfaced in Europe. We have heard of Napoleon Bonaparte. He also marched through Europe and conquered most of it.

In the year 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte captured the city of Rome, and took Pope Pius VI prisoner.

Napoleon thought that he could intimidate the Pope and force him to become his puppet because the Church had considerable political power at that time.

But the Pope refused to neither cooperate with Napoleon nor be his puppet, and in a fit of anger, Napoleon shouted at the Pope: If you do not do as I command, I will destroy the Church.

The Pope replied: Oh no, you won’t. Napoleon retorted: Oh yes, I will - within a year.

To which the Pope calmly replied: If we, who are the Church, have for 1800 years, failed to destroy the Church with our sins, I doubt very much you will succeed.

Well, the Church still exists, whereas Napoleon Bonaparte had passed on as just another memory in the pages of history books.

One of the follies of becoming mighty and powerful is that one also becomes proud and arrogant.

Power and might become a “right” that is used to push and to pull in order to get what is wanted.

And usually the casualties are the lowly and the powerless and those who cannot defend themselves. They get swept aside to make way for the powerful and the mighty.

But the 1st reading has this to tell us: The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, He accepts the homage of the humble.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable when He noticed how the guests picked the places of honour.

The parable highlights the fact that our human desires go for the first place and not the last; we desire for the lofty and not the lowly; we want the most and not the least.

But the Lord looks on the lowly and He accepts the homage of the humble and He fills the hungry with good things.

Yes, there is something that the lowly and humble can teach us about the ways of God, because it is to the lowly and humble that God gives His blessings.

It is also through the lowly and humble that God shows His power and might, as this story of the lion and the mouse will show us.

A small mouse crept up to a sleeping lion that had just finished his meal. The mouse longed to have some of the scraps of the leftover meal.

"Since he's sleeping," thought the mouse, "he'll never suspect I'm here!" With that, the little mouse sneaked up and tried to pull off a scrap of the meal. The lion awoke and quickly caught the mouse between its claws.

"Please," said the mouse, "let me go and I'll come back and try help you someday." The lion laughed, "You are so small! How could ever help me?"

The lion laughed so hard he had to hold his belly and he let go of the mouse. The mouse jumped to freedom and ran until he was far, far away.

The next day, two hunters came to the jungle. They went to the lion's lair. They set a huge rope snare. When the lion came home that night, he stepped into the trap and was caught in it.

He roared and roared! He tried with all his might but he couldn't pull himself free. The mouse heard the lion's pitiful roar and came back to help him.

The mouse eyed the trap and noticed the one thick rope that held it together. He began nibbling and nibbling at the rope until the rope broke. 

The lion was freed and was able to shake off the other ropes that held him tight. He stood up free again!

The lion turned to the mouse and said, "Dear mouse, I was foolish to ridicule you for being small. You not only helped me, you saved my life too!" 

So as much as the mighty and powerful lion is noted for its strength and is even called ‘the king of the jungle”, the lowly and humble mouse can be called upon in the time of need.

Well, back to Napoleon Bonaparte. Towards the end of his life, he was exiled on the small rocky island of St. Helena.

There, the former conqueror of civilized Europe had time to reflect on his life and even on Jesus Christ.

He made this statement: Other conquerors founded their empires by force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love and humility.

Napoleon Bonaparte finally understood why he cannot destroy the Church. His pride is no match for the love and humility that the Church is built upon.

So as the Church we must remember what the 1st reading taught us: be gentle in carrying out your business and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.

The power of love is seen in gentleness and humility. To be gentle and humble is what we are called to be. With that we will overcome the pride and arrogance of the world.

Friday, August 26, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-08-16 (Memorial of St. Monica)

1 Cor 1:26-31 / Matthew 25:14-30

Today we celebrate the memorial of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, whose memorial we will celebrate tomorrow.

We celebrate this memorial not simply because St Monica was the mother of a great saint.

The opening prayer for Mass goes like this and it is worth to take note: God of mercy, comfort of those in sorrow, the tears of St Monica moved you to convert her son, St Augustine to the faith of Christ.

St Monica was born of Christian parents. She married a good man but he had a violent temper and was sometimes unfaithful.

But St Monica managed to convert him to Christianity and he was later baptized.

Her son, Augustine, proved to be a much greater challenge.

When she was exhausted and tired with her son's wild and wheeling ways, she approached a bishop to ask him to intervene.

The bishop responded with these prophetic words: Let him be, and continue to pray for him. It is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost.

St Monica dedicated most of her life praying for the conversion of St Augustine.

All in all, she prayed for something like 30 years before she finally had the joy of seeing St Augustine baptized.

St Monica trusted in the Lord and kept believing that the Lord would be faithful to His promises of salvation. And the Lord rewarded her for her faithfulness to Him.

The consolation, experienced by St Monica and her total abandonment to God can also be ours today when we persevere in patience and in trust.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-08-16

1 Cor 1:17-25 / Matthew 25:1-13

The term "simple truths" may give the impression that truth is simple enough to be immediately understood.

That may be the case in a logical truth, like the saying "what you sow is what you will reap". This is clear and simple enough as a truth of life.

But there are also other simple truths that require some reflection in order to understand what that truth is.

Because what initially seems to be foolish from the human perspective may actually have the seeds of divine wisdom.

As St. Paul said in the 1st reading, the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed in terms of philosophy because the language of the cross is illogical from the human perspective.

The Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, and hence the crucified Christ does not make sense to them.

Yet, the foolishness of the cross is the power and wisdom of God, for God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

But to understand this, we have to look at the cross and the crucified Christ as the supreme expression of God's love for us.

When we understand how much God loves us, then we would want to be like lighted oil lamps which shine through the darkness of foolishness in search of God's wisdom.

Then we will also be willing to be like the oil that is being offered to be burnt and give out light for others. And that is indeed true wisdom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-08-16

1 Cor 1:1-9 / Matthew 24:42-51

Quite often we hear this phrase: History repeats itself.

But does history repeat itself? How can history repeat itself?

We can't go back to the stone-age and start life all over again.

No, history does not repeat itself. But the mistakes that were made in history tend to surface again and in a new packaging.

There were many moments in the history of humanity when modern man became like stone-age man.

Just to name a few: World War I, World War II, the Nazi holocaust, Bosnia genocide, Kosovo Conflict, Rwanda genocide.

And many more will be added to the list as the mistakes of history keep surfacing again and again.

Yes, the list of ugly moments of the history of humanity will continue to lengthen as long as we don't heed the call of Jesus to stay awake and to be vigilant.

Because the degradation and destruction of mankind begins with the corruption of the self.

It is the corrupted self who forgets that he is just a creature and a servant, and will one day stand before the Creator to account for his deeds.

Yes we must keep alert and stand ready.

The 1st reading reminds us that while we are waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ, it is He who will keep us steady and without blame until the last day.

Meanwhile as we journey towards that last day, let us make a history of mankind that is known for its beauty and not to make it ugly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Wednesday, 24-08-16

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

St. Bartholomew was one of the twelve Apostles called by  Jesus, and he was listed among the Apostles in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

He is usually identified as Nathaniel in the gospel of John as we have heard in the gospel passage.

He was introduced to Christ through St. Philip, another of the twelve apostles, and in their dialogue, we can see that the enthusiasm of St. Philip was met with the skepticism of Nathaniel.

Even though he didn't think much good can come out of Nazareth and Jesus, yet he accepted Philip's invitation to go along and see this person called Jesus.

And when Jesus saw him, He affirmed his frankness when He said that Nathaniel deserved the name "incapable of deceit".

And more than that, to be "under the fig tree" is a figure of speech to mean that one is reading and meditating on the Law.

So in essence, Nathaniel was a straight-talking and frank person. Yet he was one who keeps faith with the Lord and His Law.

So Nathaniel, or St. Bartholomew, tells us something about what we should be as disciples of Christ.

We may have our doubts or maybe we are skeptical about some things in life and maybe also about our faith.

Yet like St. Bartholomew, we need to be open to the mystery of life, and what we don't understand immediately cannot be thrown out immediately too. We need to "come and see".

Also we need to speak the truth always, and it's the truth that is rooted in Jesus.

Because openness to the truth, and living by the truth, will enable us to understand deeper the mysteries of heaven.

Monday, August 22, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-08-16

2 Thess 2:1-3, 14-17 / Matthew 23:23-26

Whenever we watch a movie or a tv series, or read a book, we should be feeling the build-up of the story line and the excitement and tension.

We won't want to go to the ending first and see or read what it is all about, and then begin watching the movie or the series or begin with the first pages of the book.

Yet, there is always this curiosity and impatience in us that want to know what the ending is.

But to give in to this curiosity and impatience would rob us of the experience and meaning of journeying through the movie or the book.

Going through life is very different from watching a movie or reading a book. We can never know the ending until we get there. So each moment in life is an experience to behold and to be treasured.

That is what the 1st reading is saying - as much as we know that there will be an ending, yet we don't have to hasten it or even leave everything aside and just wait around for it.

What is important is to ask God to strengthen us in everything good that we do or say so that every moment in life is a loving and joyful moment.

And the gospel would highlight a couple of areas in life that would require this goodness - the practice of justice, mercy and good faith.

And equally important are also the virtues of purity and chastity. Good morality is a sign of a life lived in the goodness of the Lord.

So we don't have to be overly worried about the end. Each moment lived loving and joyfully is a preparation for the end and also for eternity.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Queenship of the BVM, Monday, 22-08-16

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 His fellow human beings, 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.