Sunday, March 26, 2017

4th Week of Lent, Monday, 27-03-17

Isaiah 65:17-21 / John 4:43-54

This period of Lent is especially for the Elects of the Church to prepare for the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.

They are prepared to go through this final preparation with fasting, prayer and alms-giving over the 40-day period.

They are prepared to go through this because they have a faith-story to tell.

It is essentially a deep experience of God and His love for them that drives them to look forward for their baptism.

In short, these Elects have experienced what God did for them in their journey of life and journey of faith.

It is not a question of what God might do for them. Rather, it is about what God will do for them.

Even we, who are already Catholics, can learn a lot from these Elects, just as we can learn from the court official in today's gospel.

The court official chose to believe in Jesus and that He will cure his son.

Today's gospel presents us with a challenge to renew and deepen our faith in Jesus and in what He has promised us.

Jesus does not tell us "Maybe". Jesus tells us that "it will be".

Let us believe in Jesus, so that as the 1st reading puts it, we will be renewed in "Joy" and "Gladness".

Saturday, March 25, 2017

4th Sunday of Lent, Year A, 26.03.2017

1 Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 / Ephesians 5:8-14 / John 9:1-41

It is not often that we are asked to describe ourselves. 

Probably the few occasions that we will be asked to describe ourselves are at group ice-breaking dynamics where we are asked to introduce ourselves.

To describe ourselves would be relatively easy. At least we should be able to describe ourselves with sentences beginning with “I am …”

We can begin with something obvious like: I am Chinese; I am medium-built; I am an executive. Or we can say what we have: I have short hair; I have brown eyes, etc.

But of course we won’t describe what is obvious about ourselves, or what is often taken for granted, e.g. I can see, I can hear, I can talk, I can walk. These don’t seem to be like such a big deal.

But for the blind man in today’s gospel, if he were asked to describe himself, he would probably begin with: I am blind.

It was obvious enough. It was his impediment. And for some, it was some sort of curse that he was born blind.

At least that was what the disciples thought when they asked Jesus: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?

It seems that when things go wrong, or when something bad happens, there is this tendency to put the blame on someone.

A story goes that a man bumped heavily onto another man on the street, and so he asked angrily, “Why don’t you look where you are going?” The other man retorted, “Then why don’t you go where you are looking?”

So, is it to look where you are going, or to go where you are looking? Is it the same? Or is there a difference?

If we were to look where we are going, and go where we are looking, then there will certainly be less accidents.

The blind man in today’s gospel had his eyes opened and he could see. More than just being able to see, he could also look deeper into his experience of being healed of his blindness.

While others were squabbling over what Jesus did on the Sabbath day, the man has this to say: I only know I was blind but now I see.

And he was clear about the whole matter when he said this of Jesus: If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.

So although we can see, do we see with clarity about the events of our lives, and more so to see Jesus present in those events of our lives?

We may remember the attack on the Twin Towers , the event that is now known as “9/11”. Some stories surfaced on why some people were still alive although they could have been numbers among the victims.

One survived that day because his son started kindergarten and had to take leave.

Another had to run an office errand so he wasn’t present in the office at the time of the attack.

Another was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off. 

Another missed the bus and couldn’t get a taxi. Another one’s car couldn’t start. Another one’s child fell ill and had to go to the doctor.

One or another, they couldn’t go where they were supposed to, and neither could they see what was going to happen. 

And because of that, they are still alive. And now they know why.

We too know why, and more than that, we can see the hand of Jesus in those events, just as the blind man eventually saw that he was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him.

And hence his profound testimony: I was blind and now I can see. That was also how he described himself after he was healed.

As for us, how do we describe ourselves? The words following “I am … “ are important because we dictate what is coming after.

So if we say “I am busy” then we will have no time. If we say “I am tired” then we will have no energy. If we say “I am old” then there will be more wrinkles!

But do we know how Jesus looks at us? And when we know how Jesus looks at us, then we will know how to describe ourselves.

Because we will say: I am a sinner, but I am saved. Because I am saved, then I am blessed. And because I am blessed, then I am thankful. 

And because I am thankful, then every event in my life is beautiful because I can see Jesus in all those events and in every event to come.

“I was blind but now I can see” said the blind man in the gospel.

May we also see, and see more with our hearts, so that we will describe to others, how great and how wonderful our God is.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Annunciation of the Lord, Saturday, 25-03-17

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10 / Hebrews 10:4-10 / Luke 1:26-38

Today's feast of the Annunciation is an important event in the Church because nine months later, the Church will be celebrating the feast of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.

The feast of the Annunciation invites to enter, with Mary, into a quiet contemplation of the promise of salvation, which was first pronounced by the prophet Isaiah, and which was later accepted by Mary and fulfilled and manifested in Jesus.

But for now, we are invited to be with Mary, to hear her say "Yes" to the Lord and to the acceptance of the promise of salvation.

In other words, like Mary, we also need to let Jesus grow within us, we let Jesus become "greater" in our hearts, as we become lesser and lesser of ourselves.

The feast of the Annunciation reminds us that we are sinful and we need to be saved from the clutches of the evil one and we need Jesus to come into our hearts and to be made flesh in our lives in order to be saved.

And that is the meaning of the celebration of the feast of the Annunciation.

Like Mary, we say "Yes" to salvation and we say "Yes" to Jesus.

When we truly mean what we say, then Jesus will be able to enter into our hearts and be the center our lives.

Yes, we must continue to be faithful to the "Yes" to Jesus.

One of the ways we can do this is to have a deep devotion to Mary, either with the Rosary or some other form of Marian devotion.

With Mary, we say to the Lord: I am the servant of the Lord, let what you have said be done unto me.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 24-03-17

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34

In our worship, we use very lofty and transcendent names for God.

We say prayers like "I confess to Almighty God ..." or "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty".

It is an expression of who God is and that we are His creatures.

Yet the image of an almighty God was reduced to that of a broken-hearted father who is pleading with his children to return to him, as the prophet Hosea put it in the 1st reading.

God was also portrayed as a father yearning for his children's love.

But how can!? How can God be portrayed as going down on His knees and pleading with His creatures?

Could not God have used His almighty power to work some spectacular signs and bring His people back to Him?

Or just give the ultimatum: Come back or else!

Surely He could. But of course God knows better.

God knows that a forced loved is not a true love.

True love comes from a freedom to love.

As Jesus puts it in the gospel - to love with all the heart, all the soul, all the mind and all the strength.

That is the kind of love that God has for us, and an everlasting love at that.

We know how to love Him in return - and that is by loving others.

God has made His choice to love us. It is now up to us to make our choice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 23-03-17

Jeremiah 7:23-28 / Luke 11:14-23

Whenever we say that history repeats itself, we are more inclined to think that it is the mistakes of the past that are repeated.

These mistakes only show that the present generation has not learned much from the preceding generation or from the past events of history.

This was also what the prophet Jeremiah was saying in the 1st reading.

Just about 120 years before, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been annihilated by Assyria.

And now, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was facing the same threat from Babylon.

And God was warning them through Jeremiah. But why were they not heeding? Why were they not listening?

If anything, it is not too much to say that the people did not love God.

Because one of the fruits of love is to listen.

Just like if we love our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends, we will listen to them with a heart of love.

Similarly, when we love someone, we will also speak to that person with a heart of love.

When we listen and speak with a heart of love, then with Jesus we gather others into the peace of God's kingdom.

It is either we gather people into the peace and love of God's kingdom, or we scatter and bring division.

There isn't a third option.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 22-03-17

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:17-19

Most homes and offices will have a storage room of some sort and of various sizes. Of course, the bigger the storage room, the more the items there can be.

Some of these items may be things of importance or they may just be ordinary things that we use now and then, or things that we just want to get out of the way and so the most convenient place to put them will be the storage room.

But the problem can be that we may not make a list of what we put in that storage room and also we may not be that discerning and hence, that room will be cluttered with things like boxes and brooms and whatever.

And after a while, we may not remember what we have put into that storage room and when we want to look for something we may also forget that we put it in that room.

Such can be said of our hearts and minds. There are so many things to remember and so many things to think about that after a while, even the important things like birthdays and anniversaries are forgotten.

In the 1st reading, Moses urged the people not to forget the things their eyes have seen, nor let them slip from their hearts all the days of their life. They must tell them to their children and even to their children's children.

In the gospel, Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to complete them.

In effect, He is reminding us of the Law of God that must be taught and kept in our minds and hearts.

The season of Lent is to help us remember what Jesus had taught us and to keep it and also to teach it to our children and also to our children's children.

Monday, March 20, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 21-03-17

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35

There is a prayer format that goes by acronym ACTS and it stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

That prayer format is interesting because it starts with adoration and supplication is at the end.

It is interesting because usually we would start with supplication, or petitions, first. We would launch our prayer first by asking for this and that.

It is not just a human tendency, but in a desperate time of need or in danger, we would be pleading with God for His help and deliverance.

In a desperate situation, we would even demand that God saves us immediately.

In the 1st reading, what Azariah prayed is indeed surprising. He and his companions Hananiah and Mishael were thrown into cauldron of fiery furnace to be burnt alive.

But he did not immediately launch into a desperate cry of help, instead he praised God for His mercy and admitted the sins of his people that resulted in such a dire state.

He continued by asking God to accept their contrite and humble hearts as an offering.

Of course, if we were to read the story further, we will know that God eventually delivered the three young men from the fiery furnace unharmed.

Azariah's prayer may not have followed strictly the formats of ACTS but he placed his petitions last and he praised God first.

So when it comes to forgiving someone who has done wrong to us and hurt us badly, it is not important to ask about whether we should forgive or how many times we ought to forgive.

Let us begin by praising God for His love and mercy, and admit that we have sinned against Him.

Then we will begin to understand what is meant as we pray "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us".