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Saturday, August 30, 2014

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 31.08.2014

Jeremiah 20:7-9/ Romans 12:1-2/ Matthew 16:21-27

As we come into the Church today, there is one thing we would take – the bulletin.

There are a few reasons why we take the bulletin.

I remembered that in my teenage years when I wouldn’t go with my parents to Church (because I want to go on my own – a teenage rebellious syndrome) I would make it a point to take the bulletin.

Not that I want to read what is in there, but it would be used as a proof to my parents that I did attend Sunday Mass (otherwise I will not have my pocket-money for that week).

The retribution for that is that now I have to proof-read the weekly bulletin.  : (

But for most of us, we take the bulletin to have a look at the announcements and the up-and-coming events and whatever we need to take notice of.

But inevitably, there would be some bloopers and blunders and typo or grammatical errors.

The mistakes are certainly unintentional, but at the same time they can be quite funny and even hilarious.

The following are some examples but they are not from our parish bulletin.

  • Ben and Jessie were married on Oct 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their Sunday school days.
  • Don’t let worry kill you – let the Church help!
  • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want to remember.
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our Church.
  • Let us join David and Lisa in the celebration of wedding and bring their happiness to a conclusion.
Certainly these bloopers and blunders are unintentional. It’s just a case of the wrong choice of words or the wrong placing of the words that make it sound strange and even hilarious.

But if what is spoken can be quoted, then what is printed cannot be easily amended.

We may remember that in last Sunday’s gospel passage, we heard Peter made that profound profession about who Jesus is when he said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And for that Jesus made Peter the rock on which He will build His Church.

Indeed it was an astounding heavenly revelation that was given to Peter.

But in today’s gospel passage, we heard the  same Peter remonstrating with Jesus with those words: Heaven preserve you Lord; this must not happen to you.

That was certainly not a blooper or blunder on the part of Peter.
Because to remonstrate means to make a forceful reproachful protest.

So it was intentional and Peter knew exactly what he as saying to Jesus.

And from being the rock on which the Church would be built, he sank to rock-bottom. He became associated with the prince of the underworld; he became associated with none other than Satan himself.

We may wonder why Jesus was so harsh on Peter.

And we may also wonder why such strong words of Jesus was recorded in the gospels in the first place.

Jesus came to bring comfort to those who are in distress.

Jesus is the love of God made visible for those who want to follow the way of God.

But it needs to be said that God’s way is not man’s way.

God’s way is the way of the cross. But in the face of pain and suffering, the human inclination is similar to that of Peter’s remonstration.

We want to protest against the cross. There has got to be a way out of the problem of pain and suffering.

We are inclined to think of a way out of the cross and not the way of the cross.

The question of which way will always come before us.

It was the same question that came before St. Thomas More (1478 – 1535) who in the 16th century was Lord Chancellor and the right-hand man of king Henry VIII.

But when he was asked to renounce his allegiance to the Pope and to declare his loyalty to king Henry VIII as sovereign head of the Church of England, he refused and was imprisoned.

The daughter of St. Thomas More even implored him to declare his loyalty to the king in order to save his life.

After the jury's verdict was delivered and before his sentencing, St. Thomas More spoke freely of his belief that "no temporal man may be the head of the spirituality".

In other words, what will a man gain if he wins the whole world and yet ruins his life?

St. Thomas chose the way of the cross and laid down his life for it. But he got his eternal reward.

The cross is not just a part of the Christian life – it is the very heart of the Christian life.

The truth is that the cross does not crush out our life but through it we gain our life.

It is when the cross is heaviest that God’s blessings are at its greatest.

We don’t need to ask for the cross; it will be given to us.

There is no typo error or grammatical error to that. It is as truthful as it can get.

The question is do we choose the way of the cross, or do we choose the way out of the cross.

Our choice will determine whether we gain our life or ruin it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 24.08.2014

Isaiah 22:19-23/ Romans 11:33-36/ Matthew 16:13-20

The name Peter comes from the Latin “Petrus” and “Petrus” means stone or rock.

In the Bible there is only one person with that name and we all should know who he is. 

His original name is Simon son of Jonah, but in today’s gospel passage, we heard that it was Jesus who gave him this name.

Jesus said to Simon: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.

So Peter means “rock” but his fellow apostles would have nicknamed him “Rocky”, but of course that is not found in the Bible.

When we say that something is on the rocks or that something is rocky, we know what it means.

When we call someone “Rocky”, it may mean that that person may be brawny but not necessary very brainy.

Of course, we won’t call Peter “Rocky” out of respect because he is the first head or first pope of the Church.

We don’t call Peter “Rocky” but more often than not, he shoots off his mouth and says the wrong things at the wrong time and ended up flat-footed.

The gospels do not spare Peter in recording his “rockiness”. Jesus called him Satan, he denied Jesus 3 times, Jesus wants to wash his feet but he asked for a bath.

The gospels portrayed Peter as impulsive and brash. 

Jesus named him the “rock” but his confreres might have called “rocky” and the object of their jokes.

But did Peter laugh at himself for all his blunders? Because you would need to have quite a sense of humour in order to carry on like Peter. Besides having some thick-skin as well!

It is said that laughing at your own mistakes can lengthen your life. But it is also said that laughing at your wife’s mistakes can shorten your life!  : )

Well, we all know that Peter had a mother-in-law (Jesus healed her – Mt 8:14-15), which means that he had a wife, but he nearly had his life shortened, not because he laughed at his wife’s mistakes but because he was imprisoned by king Herod with the intention of putting him to death.

But Peter was miraculously rescued from prison by an angel (Acts 12:1-25).

But eventually in 64 AD Peter was executed by the Roman emperor Nero and he was crucified upside down.

Peter might have had a rocky start but in the end he was as firm as a rock in witnessing to Jesus.

When Jesus said that it will be on this rock He will build His Church, Peter might not have fully understood what it meant.

Neither could he have understood what it was meant to be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to bind and to set free.

And neither would he have fully understood what was meant by the gates of the underworld would never hold out against the Church that would be built on him as the rock.

Even now, we ourselves might not understand what all that means. But there is one thing that we know.

We know the fury and the violence that the gates of the underworld have unleashed upon the Church and upon the world.

In the course of this week, one of the sensational news was the beheading of the American photojournalist James Foley.

Like Peter, he escaped death once when he was captured in Libya, but through the prayers of his family and friends he was later released.

When news of his brutal death was announced, Pope Francis called his family to console them and they were very moved by his kindness and condolences. (By the way, James Foley and his family are Catholics).

After his Libyan ordeal, James Foley wrote an article to thank his family and friends for their prayers.

He also recounted how he prayed the Rosary during his captivity and that gave him strength and courage and hope.

He also said that he experienced the power of the prayers of his family and friends of his church community and also the power of his own prayer.

But his Libyan ordeal did not stop him from going to the dangerous situation in Syria. And neither did his family members want to stop him.

He had this mission in life and it was a mission that he wanted to fulfill.

His mother, Diane Foley, wrote this message after receiving the news of her son’s death:

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”

She also added: “We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages.”

James Foley saw the gates of the underworld and the fury and violence that it unleashes.

Like St. Peter, he too lost his life to it. But like St. Peter, James did not die in vain.

His photos and footage of what is happening in Syria and Iraq bring images to the news reports that we read and we just can’t look away and not be bothered by it.

His death has also brought about an international outcry and condemnation of his killing, and also a call to an end to the violence and bloodshed.

And just as the Church stood firm and moved on after the death of St. Peter, we too must stand firm of the rock of St. Peter and pray fervently for the end to the violence and hostilities that had cost the lives of many innocent victims.

We the Church cannot sit around and do nothing in the face of what is coming out from the gates of the underworld.

If we profess what St. Peter professed, that Jesus is the Christ, then may we stand firm on the rock of St. Peter’s profession, and by our prayer may we hold out against the gates of the underworld.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

20th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 17.08.2014

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7/ Romans 11:13-15, 29-32/ Matthew 15:21-28

Much has been said about the topic of prayer, and much more can be said and will be said about the topic of prayer.

Well, the least we can say about prayer is that we are here to pray to God and to ask Him to answer our needs and petitions.

And what do others have to say about prayer? Mother Teresa has this to say: Prayer is not about asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts.

So, for Mother Teresa, prayer is total surrender to God’s call and letting Him do whatever He wants to do for us.

Another quote, although not from a religious figure is this: Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one (Bruce Lee 1940-1973).

Oh yes, life is difficult and we have to handle it with prayer.

There is this story of a man who bought a lottery ticket and he prayed: Lord, if I strike, I will give the Church 10% of the winnings. He did not strike. 

He bought another lottery ticket and he prayed: Lord, if I strike, I’ll give the Church 25%. Again he did not strike.

He bought another ticket and he prayed: Ok, Lord, ok. This time it will be 50-50. (So, will he strike?)

As we all know by now, the purpose of prayer is not to change God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

That being said about prayer, today’s gospel passage presents to us a unique scenario and also a unique encounter between Jesus and a Canaanite woman.

Jesus and His disciples had gone outside of Jewish territory into the region of Tyre and Sidon.

When you are not on home ground, it is best that you keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. And that’s what Jesus and His disciples were doing.

Then out came this Canaanite woman shouting for Him, calling Him “Son of David” and to take pity on her for her daughter was tormented by the devil.

We can imagine what a scene it was, and we can also imagine the disciples squirming at this embarrassing situation.

So desperate were they that they had to tell Jesus to give her what she wanted, probably because people were starting to look at them and wonder what was happening.

And surprisingly, Jesus was silent. It was like as if He didn’t care. It was so unlike Him. 

And when He finally said something, it was some puzzling thing about being sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Again it was so unlike Jesus, and we ourselves may begin to start wondering.

And then with the woman kneeling at His feet and pleading “Lord, help me” He seemed to be insulting the woman by saying that it was not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs.

At this point, the woman could have stood up and cursed and swore at Jesus. If He was not going to help her, then there was no need to be rude and insulting.

It is said that God gives three types of answers to prayers. He says YES and gives us whatever we want. He says NO and gives us something better. Or He says WAIT and gives us the best.

That Canaanite woman came before Jesus to intercede for her daughter.

She didn’t have to go through all that pleading and kneeling, if not for the fact that she took on her daughter’s need and made it her need. And she was prepared to wait through thick and thin to have the need addressed.

This unique encounter and unique exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman highlights the vital element in interceding for others – and that is the power of intervention.

To intervene is to involve oneself in a situation so as to alter an action or development.

The Canaanite woman interceded for her daughter and in doing so she also intervened between Jesus and her daughter. She stood between Jesus and her daughter.

And in the end her daughter was healed and Jesus also affirmed her of her faith.

We have come for Mass to worship and to pray. Yes we pray for ourselves, but more importantly we pray as the Church community, and as the Church we pray for others.

And this is expressed in the Intercessory Prayers or the Prayers of the Faithful.

Because like the daughter of the Canaanite woman who was unable to help herself, there are people who are quite unable to pray for themselves.

And we are called to intercede for them and to intervene for them before the Lord.

The main concern of Pope Francis at present is the situation in Iraq.

Even though he is now in South Korea, he tweeted this message on Friday, which was the feast of the Assumption of our Lady. It read : My heart bleeds especially when I think of the children in Iraq. May Mary, our Mother, protect them.

Our Archbishop has also called upon us to pray especially for the Iraq this weekend.

Just about a year ago, on the 7th September 2013, the Church by her intercession and prayer intervention had diffused the threat of a military strike at Syria.

We are now called upon again for our intercession and prayer intervention for the protection of Christians and the other minorities in Iraq who are facing mortal danger.

They are running for their lives and they need our prayers. It is for us to take on their need and make it our need, just as the Canaanite woman took on her daughter’s need and make it her own need.

That is what true intercession is about; that is what prayer intervention is about.

The salvation of many depends on the prayer and sacrifice of a few. 

We may be few, but we have the power of intercession and to make a prayer intervention.

May we have the faith of that unnamed Canaanite woman to persevere in prayer and may we too experience the power of our prayer intervention.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

19th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 10.09.2014

1 Kings 19:9, 11-13/ Romans 9:1-5/ Matthew 14:22-33

It is said that the longer you keep doing the same thing, the better and faster you will be at it.

That is quite true in most cases and that statement is similar to saying that practice makes perfect.

So it can be true for most cases. And if that is true for most cases, I wonder if I am an exceptional case.

I am a teenage priest, meaning to say that my priesthood is in the teenage years.

When I first started off as a priest, things were difficult.

Homilies were not easy to prepare – there was more perspiration than inspiration.

I was an “eager-beaver” and tried to say “yes” to everything and then realized that I don’t have the time for anything.

I thought that I would learn from the mistakes of my “youth” and as I get along, things will be easier and smoother and I will get things done faster and better.

So I thought. But it is like saying that as I grow older, I will have lesser temptations, which is certainly not the case (whether with me or with you).

An old priest jokingly told me: Now I don’t entertain bad thoughts. 
I am too old for that. Instead, the bad thoughts entertain me!
So much for wishful thinking that life would be easier as we get older.

Hence, it is understandable that we entertain ourselves with consoling thoughts. Or be it that the consoling thoughts entertain us.

Whatever it may be, we like to think that once we have found the solution to life’s challenges and difficulties then we can relax and feel secure.

So in coming to Church, we are turning to God whom we believe will protect us and save us from the turmoils of life.

But what if we believe in God and yet our troubles and difficulties won’t go away.

Or for that matter, things become worse!

That was the case for prophet Elijah in the 1st Reading. We may wonder why he spent the night in a cave.

Earlier on he had scored a victory over the 450 false prophets of the idol Baal at Mt Carmel and he put them to death.

We might think that now he is the feared prophet of God. But his enemies have turned around and are now pursuing him to take his life and he was hiding in the cave.

So things weren’t getting better for him, in fact, it was getting worse. And God was supposed to protect him.

And even for the disciples of Jesus, it was not smooth sailing. We heard in the gospel that the boat they were in was caught in a storm.

Things were so rough that when Jesus walked on the water towards them, they thought he was a ghost and were terrified and cried out in fear.

When Jesus identified Himself and told them not to fear, Peter, wanting to be hero, called out to Jesus: Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.

We, of course, won’t ask Jesus to let us walk on water. We have other things to ask for.

We would tell Jesus “Heal me of my sickness” or “Bless me with a good fortune” or “Help me get that job or get a promotion”.

Yes, we have other things to ask for, instead of walking on water.

But when we don’t get what we want, we get dejected and disappointed with God.

And like Peter, we begin to sink into the waters of despair.

Yet, asking Jesus to help us walk on water may not be as ridiculous as it seems.

In the waters of life, with all its undercurrents and torrents, it’s either we sink or we swim.

But Jesus wants us to do more than that. Because when we believe in Him, He will help us walk on the waters of life.

And when we get frightened and distressed and start to sink, then like Peter we must cry out “Lord! Save me!”

These three words “Lord! Save me!” are words we must keep repeating over and over again.

And Jesus will stretch out His hand and tell us: Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid!

That is all we need to hear in the midst of the storms and the murky waters of life.

These three words “Lord! Save me!” is the shortest prayer we can ever say and it is also one of the most powerful prayer we can ever say.

It is said that the longer you keep doing the same thing, the better you will be at it.

Well, in that case, the more often we say that prayer “Lord! Save me!” the higher Jesus will lift us up till we can walk on water.

If we call Jesus our Saviour, then naturally our prayer to Him is “Lord! Save me!”

Saturday, August 2, 2014

18th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 03.08.2014

Isaiah 55:1-3/ Romans 8:35, 37-39/ Matthew 14:13-21

The Greek philosopher Plato lived during the 4th century BC. He had many profound sayings and one of them is this: Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools speak because they have to say something.

And on this topic of speaking, Plato has this to say: Be kind (with your words) because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Yes, we will never know what is happening behind the façade of every person.

At times, we may think that what we say as a joke may not be that funny to the other person.

Someone wrote this, and I suppose that this person is a single: My old aunties used to come up to me at weddings, poking me at ribs and saying “You’re next”.

After a while I figured out how to put it to a stop. At funerals, I would go up to these aunties and whisper into their ears “You’re next”.

So whether it is at weddings or at funerals, it is wise not to use words like “You’re next”, be it for better or for worse.

Whatever it may be, it is always good to be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.

In the gospel, we heard about the miraculous multiplication of loaves that fed the crowd of 5000.

But we must not miss the account before that.

Today’s gospel passage began by saying that Jesus received the news of the death of John the Baptist, and He withdrew to a lonely place.

The news must have shaken Him and He wanted to be alone. The news of the death of John the Baptist was like telling Him “You’re next”.

Obviously the crowds do not know what was happening with Him and the battle He was fighting within.

They went after Him on foot, and so as He stepped ashore, He saw a large crowd.

But despite His need for solitude and to think about things and to mourn the death of John the Baptist, He took pity on the crowds and healed their sick.

And then when evening came, another situation arose. His disciples asked Him to send the crowds away so that they can get food for themselves.

After all, He had already done enough for the crowds and they should leave Him alone.

What else could they expect of Him? His own needs were not met, and He was not obliged to see to their every need.

But it was a lonely place, and that crowd of 5000 was getting hungry.

And all they had was only 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Obviously, it was not enough and obviously there is nothing that the disciples could do about the hungry situation.

And here is where we must believe that when we can’t do anything, then God can do something.

As the 2nd reading puts it: Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked.

Because these are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of Him who loved us.

In other words, God will fight our battles for us.

And He can only fight our battles for us when we listen to those words of Jesus, those words that He said to His disciples: Bring them here to me.

Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing; but it also means that with Him we can do anything.

We remember that when the Israelites came up to the Red Sea, the Egyptians were charging up behind them intending to cut every throat. And the Israelites cried out in fear and distress.

And then Moses said: Fear not. These Egyptians that you see today will be no more. Because God will go before you and fight your battles for you.

And indeed God did. And the Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed into safety and the Egyptians ended up in tragedy.

Yes, God will fight our battles for us. And this is reiterated by the prophet Isaiah when he told king Ahaz as he was surrounded by his enemies: Stand by your God, or you will not stand at all.

All we need to do is to listen to what Jesus said: Bring them here to me.

Others may not know the hard battles that we are fighting, but God knows and He will fight our battles for us.

In turn, God wants us to help others fight their battles. Because they may not know that God wants to fight their battles for them.

So like Jesus, we need to be kind and compassionate to others because they have battles to fight every day.

And just like Jesus, even though He had His own needs, He took on the needs of others and helped them fight their battles.

For all we know, when we take on the needs of others and fight their battles, our own needs will be met and God will win our battles for us.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 27.07.2014

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12/ Romans 8:28-30/ Matthew 13:44-52

Every now and then we may wonder what life is all about. If we have to answer that question again today, what will our answer be? What is life all about actually?

If we had seen the movie “Forrest Gump” (1994), in the beginning scenes, we may remember what he said to the lady when they were both sitting on the bench at the bus-stop.

“My mama always said: Life is like a box of chocolates; you’ll never know what you’re gonna get”.

That is so simple an illustration and yet so true, isn’t it?

Indeed, life is like a box of chocolates and you’ll never know what you are going to get.

You hope that it’s sweet but it may turn out to be bitter. Sometimes it melts in your hand before it could melt in your mouth.

And some chocolates are like fruitcakes – they have some nuts in them.

There is this joke about a tour bus driver who was driving a bus load of senior citizens. After a while a little old lady came up and offered him a small bag of peanuts, which he gladly munched up.

After a while, she came up again with another bag of peanuts, and after a while yet another bag.

Then the bus driver asked : Why don’t you eat the peanuts yourself? She replied: We can’t chew them because we have no teeth.

The puzzled driver asked: Then why do you buy them? She replied: We just love the chocolate coating on them, and we think that you might like the peanuts.

Well, life might be like a box of chocolates but you may not know where the peanuts came from.

But if we can enjoy the chocolate and also chew on the peanuts, then we are indeed happy.

So actually life is all about happiness. And yet life is also all about the search for happiness.

Some search for it in trying to strike the lottery or 4D. Some look for it in fast cars and living on the fast lane.

And in today’s gospel parables, happiness is in finding a hidden treasure and in a pearl of great value.

But the images of the parables point to a deeper reality and a deeper mystery, and that is the kingdom of heaven.

But the kingdom of heaven is not somewhere out there that is hidden and that we have to search for it.

The kingdom of heaven is here, and in fact it is within us, and happy are we when we realize it.

Yes, the kingdom of heaven is happening around us and even in us.

And the 2nd reading tells us that whatever is happening is turned to our good, turned to our happiness when we have love for God.

Recently something happened to my car and I wasn’t too pleased about it.

I was fetching my father to the hospital (he had passed on since) and in a moment of distraction, I scratched the side of the car against a pillar.

It was not a serious dent but it is quite unsightly and I intended to get it fixed.

Then I came upon this story that made me think about what happened in a different light.

The story is about a young and successful executive who was driving along a neighbourhood street in his new flashy sports car.

As he passed a side lane, he heard something smash into the car’s side door.

He immediately stopped the car and angrily got out and saw that it was a brick and it had caused a deep dent on the car door.

He looked around and saw a boy standing nearby and went up to him and grabbed his collar and shouted: What did you do that for? 
That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money!

The boy was quivering and said: Sorry sir, sorry. But I didn’t know what else to do. I threw the brick because no one would stop to help.

With tears streaming down his face, he pointed to the side lane and said: It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive: Would you please help me get him back on the wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me. 

Moved beyond words, the young executive tried to swallow the lump that is welling up in his throat. He lifted the handicapped boy to his wheelchair and a quick look told him that everything was okay.

The grateful boy then told the young executive: Thank you very much sir, and God bless you.

Too shook up for words, the young man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair bound brother down the lane and back home.

It was a long slow walk back to his sports car. The damage was quite obvious, but the young man never bothered to repair the dented car door.

He kept the dent there to remind him of this: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.

And neither am I going to fix that scratch on my car because it contains the memories of moments I had with my father.

Well, God won’t throw bricks at us or scratch our cars. Rather He whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts to tell us what life is all about and what happiness is all about.

Life can be like a box of chocolates and you will never know what you are going to get.

But when we love God, then all things will happen for our good. 

And we will enjoy the chocolate, as well as the peanuts.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 20.07.2014

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19/ Romans 8:26-27/ Matthew 13:24-43

Among the science-fiction movies that became block-busters, one of the most interesting and fascinating is the Star Wars series.

Even if we have not seen a Star Wars movie, we know something about it.

I remembered watching the first Star Wars movie and it had a dramatic beginning.

There were those blue words on a black screen “Long long ago in a galaxy far far away …” and then that famous instrumental theme of the movie.

One of the more famous characters, if not the most famous character, of the Star Wars series, is not one of the heroes or one of the good guys.

Rather it was one of the bad guys, and he can be called THE bad guy.

And he is none other than Darth Vader. And who doesn’t know Darth Vader. He is that imposing character in a black suit and strange looking helmet and he looks like half-man and half-robot.

And there is his famous heavy breathing and he talks through his mask.

But more than his strange dressing and breathing, this Darth Vader character is also intriguing.

In the prequel, which was shown after the sequel (confusing isn’t it) the background and identity of Darth Vader was revealed.

He was originally one of the good guys, but he was tempted to walk on the dark side, which he eventually did.

And the Star Wars story which is essentially a story of good against evil goes on from there.

That story highlights the universal existence  and tension between good and evil.

And it also tries to explain a mystery. It tries to explain the mystery of evil.

It tries to answer questions like “Where does evil come from?” “Why do we become evil and commit evil acts?”

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable that also dwells on the mystery of evil.

Good seeds were sown in the field. Then an enemy came and sowed weeds in the field.

So the cause of evil is zeroed in on this “enemy”. But who is this enemy? And where is this enemy?

It would be convenient to assume that the enemy is somewhere out there lurking in the dark.

Or better still, we can even identify the enemy as the devil, and for the evil that is happening, we can blame it on him.

In a way that is quite true. Even the gospel parable seems to put it like that.

Yet there is another enemy – the enemy that is within!

This story may illustrate what is meant by the enemy within.

The Great Wall of China was and still is a massive structure.

It was also built at a massive cost, especially in terms of human lives. (It has been estimated that more than a million Chinese died over the centuries that it took to build the Wall)

It was built to keep out and to prevent the barbarians from invading the country.

When it was completed, it was thought to be impregnable. Until one day it was broken into, and broken into quite easily.

Along the walls, there are also many gates for the troops to move in and out.

The enemy simply bribed one the gate-keepers, and when everyone was asleep, he opened the gates for the enemy.

The irony was that the Great Wall which was built at the cost of many lives, was breached not by the enemy from without but by the enemy from within.

And that brings up the point about the enemy in today’s gospel.

The enemy that sowed the weeds may not be from without or from somewhere out there.

The enemy may be from within. In other words, there is no greater enemy than ourselves.

In fact if the enemy is from without, it would make us more united.

But it is the enemy from within that will cause the most extensive damage because it begins with internal damage.

And internal damage begins with evil thoughts which will lead to evil desires and evil actions.

At the heart of it all is none other than the heart itself.

Our hearts are created by God and created to be pure and holy.

When we choose to walk on the dark side, we shut God out of our hearts and consequently we let the devil sow his weeds of evil into our hearts.

We become like Darth Vader who was originally on the good side but chose to walk on the dark and evil side.

But even if we choose to walk on the dark and evil side, there is the wheat of goodness in the hearts.

All the evil cannot take away the goodness in our hearts, because it is a goodness that is sown by God Himself.

So let us come back to the light and walk in the love of the Lord and bear a harvest of goodness.