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Saturday, July 23, 2016

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 24.07.2016

Genesis 18:20-32 / Colossians 2:12-24 / Luke 11:1-13

Generally speaking, people do pray. More so for us as Catholics, we pray, whether sporadically, as in once in a while, or every day. 

And when we come for Mass, we pray. So we can say that at least we pray once a week, and hopefully we pray more than that.

By and large, when we pray, we pray for our own needs and intentions. At least we begin somewhere in prayer.

How our prayer is answered that depends on God surely. But as much as prayer is a serious affair, there can be a humourous side to it.

Not to say that prayer is a joke, but jokes about prayer can at times reveal how we are praying and what we are praying for. Here are some examples.

Man - God how long is a million years to you?
God – Oh, it is just like a minute.
Man - God how much is a million dollars to you?
God – Oh, it is just like a cent to me
Man - God can I have a cent?
God – Ok, just wait a minute …

A priest preached sermons that were very long and boring. And for the final hymn, the congregation would sing “God of mercy and compassion.” 

Then one Sunday the priest announced to the congregation that he will transferred to another church and that it was Jesus' wish that he leave that week. 

Then for the final hymn, the congregation got up and sang loudly: "What a Friend we have in Jesus!" 

Just a joke, but when we say we joking, there is an underlying truth about the reality.

What we heard in the 1st reading may seem to be like a joke.

The outcry was against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God was about to inflict a punishment on them for their grievous sin.

Abraham stood before the Lord and he began to plead by saying, “Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner?

He began by saying what if there were fifty just men in the town. And then he bargained for forty-five, and then forty, and then thirty, and then twenty, and then finally ten.

As much as the punishment was going to be serious, the bargaining that Abraham had with God does seem rather funny.

It sounds like something we like to do at the road-side stalls where there is no fixed price and it’s a matter of how much we can haggle to get the cheapest price.

But as much as it may sound rather funny, that is also the reality with God’s mercy. God’s mercy is funny in that it comes at the “cheapest price”.

Abraham stopped at ten, but would God have relented if Abraham went down to just one?

The Bible tells us that the Lord God is slow to anger but rich in compassion and mercy.

And in the gospel, Jesus tells us the key that would unlock this compassion and mercy of God. And the key is persistence.

In the parable, persistence will be enough to make the man get up and give his friend all he wants.

And that is why Jesus tells us this: Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.

So Jesus tells us to ask, to search, to knock. Not just once or twice or hope that we will be lucky the third time around. 

But when we ask, when we search, when we knock, the first time, and then a second time and then a third time, and then how? And then what?

Abraham went from 50, to 45, to 40, to 30, to 20 and then to 10. Would we go further than that by going all the way with 5, and then 4, and then 3, and then 2, and even to 1?

Every week, in the acrylic petition box that is next to that big statue of the Sacred Heart, there are about 250 petitions, and at times 300 or even more.

Let’s say that Jesus appeared to me and tells me that if I can find 50 virtuous and just persons in this parish to pray for these petitions, He will answer all of them. Do you think I can find 50 virtuous and just persons to pray for these petitions?

Will there be 50 virtuous and just persons in this parish community to pray for these petitions so that Jesus will answer these petitions.
Or will I have to say, how about 45, or 40, or 30, or 20, or 10, or 5, or just 1?

If it has to be just one, then will you be the one? Will you be the virtuous and just person who will offer yourself to pray for these petitions every day so that others will experience the love and compassion and mercy of Jesus?

For those who write their petitions, they have already expressed their sincerity and need. Will there be anyone who will pray for their need?

Every Friday at the evening Mass we offer those intentions to Jesus, and especially at the 1st Friday Mass when we offer up all the intentions to His Sacred Heart.

We pray that for those whose petitions are answered, they will have a deeper devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in turn be the missionaries of His love and mercy.

We just have to pray and ask and persist in doing so. 

A million graces will be poured from the Heart of Jesus. And we won’t have to wait a million years for that.

So let us be united as one in Jesus and pray for those in need, because God our Father is waiting to pour His mercy and compassion and everything that is good for those who ask, and ask, and persist in asking.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 17.07.2016

Genesis 18:1-10 / Colossians 1:24-28 / Luke 10:38-42

Our eyes are important to us. They help us to see and to make our way along in life.

Certainly, good vision is an asset, but it can only be an asset when good vision enlightens the mind to make a good decision and to say the right things.

There is a story of a man who had just drawn his pay on Friday. But instead of going home, he went to the casino and stayed out the whole weekend and spent his entire paycheck. 

When he finally appeared at home on Sunday evening, he was confronted by a very angry wife and was barraged for nearly two hours with a ranting befitting his actions.

Finally, his wife stopped the nagging and simply said to him, "How would you like it if you didn't see me for two or three days?"

To which he replied, "That would be fine with me." 

Monday went by and he didn't see his wife. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went by with the same results.

Thursday, the swelling in his eyes went down just enough for him to see his wife a little bit   : 0

Just a funny case of how the eyes can be useless when the mind is blind and the mouth says all the wrong things.

Yes, our eyes are important in so much as they can see.

But our eyes are important not for how they look or what they look at, but for what they see and how they see.

In the 1st reading, Abraham was sitting at the entrance of the tent. It was the hottest part of the day.

He looked up and he saw three men standing near him. Now it was the hottest time of the day, and he could have gone in back to his tent and pretend that he didn’t see those three men.

Instead, Abraham got up and ran to greet them and offered them the best hospitality he could. 

At that hottest time of the day when he could have looked away and pretended that he didn’t see anything, what he saw caught his heart and he acted on it. And for that he was blessed and rewarded.

Yes, God’s blessings come, and they come at the hottest time, at the most unlikely time, at the most unexpected time and at the most inconvenient time.

So it is not what we look at that matters. It is what we see and what catches our heart. What Abraham saw caught his heart and he also caught God’s blessings.

In the gospel, Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their home. But they welcomed Him in different ways.

Mary sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to Him speaking. Martha did the serving. Then she got distracted with all the serving when she saw Mary sitting there.

And what came forth from her mouth was nothing less than a complaint. She said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.”

And then Jesus gave this profound and memorable teaching: Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

Although Jesus said that Mary has chosen the better part, it does not mean that what Martha did was no less better.

What Martha did was equally good, but she gave in to distraction. 

Her service was her blessing, but she lost her concentration. What could have been her compliment became her complaint.

What we see is the reality before us, and if we don’t like or can’t change the reality, then instead of complaining, we need to change the eyes that see the reality.

And then we will be able to see how God is blessing us. God’s blessings come to us at the hottest time, at the most unlikely time, at the most unexpected time and at the most inconvenient time.

But may we see God’s blessings in situations and circumstances such as these:

Prayer is not a "spare wheel" that we pull out when in trouble, but it is a "steering wheel" that directs the right path throughout the journey. So pray always. It is a blessing.

Why is a car’s windshield so large & the rear view mirror so small? 
Because our past is not as important as our future. So, look ahead and move on with God’s blessings

Friendship is like book. It takes a few minutes to burn, but it takes years to write. Good friends are a blessing.

Old friends are like gold! New friends are like diamonds! If you get a diamond, don't forget the gold! Because to hold a diamond, you always need a base of gold!  

All things in life are temporary. If it’s going well, enjoy it, they will not last forever. If it’s going wrong, don't worry, they can't last long either. Just keep counting our blessings.

Often, when we lose hope and think this is the end, God smiles from above and says, "Relax, my child, it's just a bend, not the end!  
When God solves our problems, we have faith in His abilities; when God doesn't solve our problems, then He has faith in our abilities. May we be able to see that.

A blind person asked St. Anthony: "Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?" He replied: "Yes, losing your vision!"  

When we pray for others, God listens to us and blesses them, and when we are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for us.  

Worrying does not take away tomorrow's troubles, but it takes away today's peace.

So let us not worry and fret about so many things. Only few are needed; indeed only one.

May we have the eyes to see which is the one. 

Abraham saw it and was blessed. Mary saw it and was blessed.
May we also see it and be blessed.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

15th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 10.07.2016

Deut 30:10-14 / Col 1:15-20 / Luke 10:25-37

Last week, from Monday to Friday, the priests of the archdiocese were doing their annual retreat.

We were all housed in the far corner of Ponggol and so we were not in touch with the latest news like what’s happening in the Euro 2016, who won who lost, etc.

Of course we can use our mobile devices to see what is happening, but a retreat is a retreat and we priests have to keep the discipline. 

It’s a time to pray and not to play.

So when we finished the retreat on Friday and came back to the parish, we weren’t expecting much news. 

And it was then that I heard the most unlikely news, which was also quite unexpected and quite surprising. 

Like how someone put it: Wah, Singapore got bank robbery! (That’s how we say it ; P)

I have got to read it to believe it. It was reported that a bank was robbed of SGD$30,000 on Thursday. 

And I quote the report: “The Straits Times understands that the suspect strode into the bank and handed the teller a slip of paper with his demands. After she complied, he made off with the cash on foot. No weapon was seen during the incident, which was over in minutes.” 

It was so unlikely and so unexpected because bank robberies are rare in Singapore. 

Previous attempted bank robberies in 2008 and 2004 were foiled.

Yes, we will say that this current case of the bank robbery is so unlikely and so unexpected and even surprising.

In the time of Jesus, there were probably no bank robberies maybe because there were no big banks to begin with.

But robberies on lonely roads were common and it would be safer to travel in groups. To travel alone is like asking to be robbed. 

So when Jesus told the parable of a man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and got robbed, His listeners knew what He was talking about.

But they were not prepared for the unlikely or the unexpected and they were in for a surprise.

The man got robbed by brigands, they took all he had, beat him up and then made off, leaving him half dead.

A priest came along, saw the man, but he passed by on the other side, which is understandable because he didn’t want to be defiled by all the blood as that would made him impure to carry out his priestly duties.

A Levite came along and also passed by on the other side, because he also didn’t want to be defiled and unable to carry out his Temple duties.

But the next character was so unlikely and so unexpected. A Samaritan traveller came along and it was he who helped the injured man and even paid for the expenses.

To the listeners, it was a surprise, maybe even an unpleasant surprise, as Jews and Samaritans at that time were arch-enemies and they even persecuted each other.

But the parable, commonly known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, was a response to the question that the lawyer asked Jesus – “Who is my neighbor?”

The lawyer was actually asking Jesus for a name list of persons that he was to show his love to.

And Jesus shifted the emphasis of the question from “Who is my neighbour?” to “who is a neighbour?” by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus called upon the lawyer, and all of us, to look and to discover what is written in our hearts.

In the 1st reading, Moses had something to say about what is written in our hearts. He said that it is not beyond our strength or beyond our reach. It is not up in the heavens, nor down below in the seas. Or locked up in a bank.

Rather the Word of God, the Word of life, the Law of love, is written right there in our hearts, for our observance.

And the word is this:  You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.

Yes, the Law of God, the law of life, the law of love, is engraved in our hearts.

Because of this Law of love that is written in our hearts, then it means that we are to be neighbours of love, and to treat our neighbours with love.

The dictionary defines neighbour as someone in close proximity, which means a short distance away, which can be as close as an arm’s length.

But the shortest distance can also be the longest journey.

Let’s just talk about our upstairs neighbour who drips the mop on our laundry. Or our next door neighbour, whose dog drops the pooh on our shoes.

It is certainly easier trying to go to the moon, then to love these neighbours.

Or how about our closest neighbours who are none  other than our family members.

The sad fact is that we sometimes treat the members of our families who are in need of us, worse than we treat needy strangers on the streets.

So the shortest distance can be longest journey.

But the parable of the Good Samaritan is more than just about who is my neighbour or how to be a neighbour to others.

This parable reminds us of what is engraved and etched in our hearts, and that is the Law of God’s love.

It reminds us that religion without compassion is simply a contradiction.

Each of us has the capacity to love and to show compassion. It’s within our power to say a kind word, to offer sympathy, to give support, to affirm others of their efforts.

These are little drops of “oil and wine” which can take the pain out of the wound.

And of course not forgetting stories of sacrifice made out of love.

Stories like St. Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered to take the place of a condemned prisoner, and gave up his life for another man.

Or, like St. Damian who went to the Molokai islands in Hawaii to minister to the lepers there and eventually succumbed to the disease.

People like them restore our belief in the essential goodness of human beings.

Goodness is as much a mystery as evil. But whereas evil saddens and hurts us, goodness delights and inspires us. 

But goodness and compassion and love shouldn’t be so unlikely or unexpected or come as a surprise to others.

We are called to be good Catholics and to show goodness and compassion and love. If we don’t show it, then that would really be a surprise. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 03.07.2016

Isaiah 66:10-14 / Galatians 6:14-18 / Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

The cross the most universally recognizable symbol of Christianity.

Any institution that would want to identify itself as Christian would have a symbol of the cross.

And for us Catholics, it would be more than just the symbol of the cross. It would also be the crucifix – the cross with the figure of Jesus on it.

And more than that, we would identify ourselves as Catholics whenever we make the sign of the cross. In a way it is a uniquely Catholic gesture.

We make the sign of the cross when we pray. And more so in church we will make a big sign of the cross.

But in the food court, when we say the “Grace before meal” we make a small sign of the cross, maybe even a tiny one, and we may even wish that no one will see us doing it.

But whether we make a big sign of the cross or a small one, it is an expression of faith.

As we make the sign of the cross, we call upon the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As we make the sign of the cross, we remind ourselves that God dwells in us and we are to live our lives in God.

But there is also another often forgotten reason why we make the sign of the cross.

When we make the sign of the cross, we mark ourselves five times – on the forehead, on the chest, on the shoulders, and on the heart.

These five markings represent the five wounds of Jesus. Those are the five wounds He suffered on the cross and even after His Resurrection, even in His glorified body, He retained those five wounds.

It is by those wounds that St. Thomas made that profound proclamation – My Lord and my God.

It is by those wounds that we are healed (1 Peter 2:24) and it is by the blood that flowed from those wounds that we are saved.

That is why in the 2nd reading, St. Paul tells the Galatians that the marks on his body are those of Jesus, and he is referring to those five wounds.

He explains it like this: The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

He goes on to say that peace and mercy comes to all who follow the way of Christ, and by bearing the wounds of Jesus, we will also accept our own sufferings for the sake of Jesus (Col 1:24).

When we see in our own sufferings the wounds of Jesus, then we would be willing to be labourers in God’s harvest.

And we would be willing to be sent out like lambs among wolves and to bring peace to a troubled and dangerous world. 

It is in this midst of trouble and danger that Jesus said He would give us power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy.

Well to that, a missionary can give testimony as he relates his encounter with danger. This missionary was serving in a rural area where electricity was generated by a diesel generator.

One stormy night, the generator failed and his house was in total darkness. He had no torchlight but he remembered that there were candles and matches in the church.

So he felt his way around, got out of the house and using the walls as a guide, made his way to the church, all this in pitch darkness.

Finally, he got to the candles and lighting a candle he made his way back to the house safely.

A few days later, there was another storm, and again the generator failed. This time around, the missionary was prepared and he had a torch light.

So, with confidence, he made his way to the church to get some candles.

But as he opened the door to step into the church, his steps came to a sudden halt.

Because, as he shined his torch light ahead of him, he saw a snake coiled up at the entrance of the door; it was taking shelter from the rain.

He turned back immediately and headed straight for his house, and when he got back, he went down on his knees to thank God (of course he made a big sign of the cross)

As he thought about it, just a few days back, he made the same way in pitch darkness and, thank God, there was no snake.

This time around, he was not going to tread on the snake to see if it would bite; that would be crazy.

Putting it in any way we want, we can be sure that Jesus was protecting that missionary, when he made his way to the church in pitch darkness.

Jesus wants to protect us as we make our way in this world that is darkened by fear and danger, where the wolves howl, the snakes bite and the scorpions sting.

Jesus sends us forth into the world to be instruments and channels of His peace in the midst of fear and danger.

But let us also remember that peace is not the absence of fear and danger. There will always be fear and danger.

Peace is the presence of God, in the midst of fear and danger.

At every Mass, Jesus says to us – Peace I leave you, My peace I give you.

So Jesus already gave us His peace. That’s what we have. That’s what we must be – a people of peace.

Because Jesus is our peace; from His wounds flow peace and mercy.

So as we face fear and danger, let us make the sign of the cross. The wounds of Jesus will protect us. By His wounds we will be healed and we will be saved.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 26.06.2016

1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 / Galatians 5:1, 13-18 / Luke 9:51-62

Phones were invented for telecommunication. It means that we can communicate with each other over a distance using the phone.

But nowadays, the phone, or specifically the mobile phone, is used not so much for telecommunication, but for messaging. It seems that messaging has become the norm of communication.

And with messaging, it’s not just about words but also with this thing called emoji. Emoji is a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or an emotion in electronic communication.

And emoji has a whole range from smileys to surprised to sadness. 

So instead of using words we can use an emoji to express an emotion.

One unmistakable emoji that we may have used before is that of anger, and the image or icon that is used to express anger is usually reddish and has an unpleasant expression.

If we had used that anger emoji before and used it quite often, then it may mean that we have anger management issues, or maybe we are playing too much of that “Angry Birds” game.

Whatever it is, anger is one of the most common emotions that we have in our lives. 

Anger is a feeling that makes the mouth work faster than the mind, and when we speak when we are angry, then we will make a speech that we will eventually regret, and that others won’t forget.

Yes, anger teaches us many lessons only if we are willing to learn from it.

In the gospel, Jesus gave His disciples a lesson on anger management.

They came to a Samaritan town, and the people would not welcome Him, and seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But He turned and rebuked them.

The fact is that anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing but it can destroy everything.

And holding on to the fire of anger is like holding burning coals with the intent of throwing it at someone else; but we are the ones getting burned.

And that was why Jesus rebuked them. He wanted to free them from that anger so that it won’t destroy them.

And as the 2nd reading puts it: When Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free, and not to submit again to the yoke of slavery, which is the slavery of self-indulgence.

When we give in to self-indulgence, we give in to our anger and it destroys and burns up our love for others.

There is a story that a long time ago in China, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law.

In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law at all. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law’s habits. In addition, she criticized Li-Li constantly.

Days passed, and weeks passed. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish. All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing the poor husband  great distress.

Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law’s bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it.

Li-Li went to see her father’s good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all. 

Mr. Huang thought for a while, and finally said, “Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you.”

Li-Li said, “Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do.” Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs.

He told Li-Li, “You can’t use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I am giving you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body. Every other day prepare some delicious meal and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you when she dies, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. Don’t argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.”

Li-Li was so happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of poisoning her mother-in-law.

Weeks went by, months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother. After six months had passed, the whole household had changed.

Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn’t had an argument in six months with her mother-in-law, who now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.

The mother-in-law’s attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in-law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter.

One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again. She said, “Mr. Huang, please help me to stop the poison from killing my mother-in-law! She’s changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.”

Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, there’s nothing to worry about. The herbs I gave you were not poison, but vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.”

Indeed, the 2nd reading tells us: Serve one another in works of love, since the whole Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself.

When we are guided by the Spirit of love, then we will not be in danger of yielding to self-indulgence and to anger.

Then we will truly be free to follow Jesus and the emotions that will be on our faces will be peace and joy.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

12th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 19.06.2016

Zechariah 12:10-11 / Galatians 3:26-29 / Luke 9:18-24

Whenever we talk about history, it may seem to be like a burden to the mind especially when it comes to dates, events, places and names that are difficult to pronounce.

But this where we need to remember that history is formed by people, regardless of whether they are famous or not.

The word “history” is from Greek “historia” and it means a learning or knowing by inquiry, or an investigation.

So it can be said that history makes an inquiry or investigation of the lives of the famous people in the past and gives us an account of their lives.

With regards to that, let us look at these two questions:

Question 1: If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis; would you recommend that she have an abortion?

And as we think about the answer to that question, let us look at the second question.

It is time to elect a new world leader, and your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates:

Candidate A: He associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologists. He's had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B: He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whisky every evening.

Candidate C: He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn't had any extramarital affairs.

Which of these candidates would be your choice? Here are the identities of the three candidates - Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt (served as the President of the United States from 1933 to 1945), Candidate B is Winston Churchill (who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955), Candidate C is Adolf Hitler (leader of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945).

And by the way, back to the first question: the answer to the abortion question is that if we said yes, then we just killed Beethoven (one of the most famous and influential of all composers).

So history has a way of making an inquiry or investigation into the lives of famous people and giving an account of their lives.

In the gospel, Jesus asked two questions – who do the crowds say He is, and who do the disciples say He is.

The first question was relatively easy as the disciples gave Him the opinion of the crowds – John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets come back to life.

The second question was rather difficult as they had to give their own opinion of who Jesus is.

While the other disciples were thinking of what kind of answer to give, it was Peter who spoke up and said that Jesus was the Christ of God. But whether he knew what he was saying is another matter.
And here is where Jesus gave two teachings – one about Himself and the other about us.

He said that He was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.

And then to all He said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”

The first was fulfilled, as we know, on the cross, that Jesus suffered and died, and rose again.

The second is for us to understand and believe and by which we will give an account of our lives.

There is a story of a wise man who had an opponent who criticized him for everything he said and did.

Then one day someone came up to the wise man and said excitedly, “Master, do you know what I just heard about your opponent?"
The wise man replied, "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test first. It's called the Triple Filter Test. Let us take a moment to filter what you are going to say.

The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?" The man said "No, actually I just heard about it."   

The wise man said, "So you don't really know if it's true or not. 

Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my opponent something good?" The man replied, “No, on the contrary..."    

"So," the wise man continued, "You want to tell me something about my opponent that may be bad, even though you're not certain if it's true?" The man shrugged, and felt a little embarrassed.

The wise man continued, "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my opponent going to be useful to me?" The man replied, “No, not really.”

"Well," the wise man concluded, "If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, then why tell it to me or to anyone at all?"

So what we want to hear is what is true, what is good and what is useful to us.

In the gospel, Jesus told us the Truth about Himself – that He will suffer and die on the cross so as to save us.

He also told us what is good and what is useful to us – that we must take up our cross and follow Him.

In order for Jesus to save us, we too must live by the truth and speak the truth.

Like Jesus, we pour out our lives to do good and speak what is good so that it will do good to others and be useful for them.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. History has given us an account of His life and proved that He is the Saviour.

May we too live by His Truth, and do what is good and help others to be saved.

Then we would be able to give an account of our lives before Jesus and before others.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

11th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 12.06.2016

2 Sam 12:7-10, 13 / Galatians 2:16, 19-21 / Luke 7:36 – 8:3

Most of us know what the flag of Israel looks like. For those of us who have been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we would have seen the flag.

It is quite a simple flag – two blue stripes at the top and bottom against a white background, to symbolize the stripes on a tallit, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl.

And in the middle, between the two blue stripes is the six-pointed Star of David, or the Shield of David.

Needless to say, the “David” that is referred to is king David in the Bible, so it might be necessary to know a bit of the Bible in order to know who this king David was.

But even without referring to the Bible, we would have heard stories about king David in our early catechism classes.

For example, we would have heard of the story of the battle between David and Goliath, and how the young David overcame the giant and heavily armed Goliath with just a sling and a stone. 

So never underestimate the simple and humble.

And it was king David who united Israel as a nation and he brought about the golden age of Israel, as Israel became a wealthy and mighty nation under his rule.

But the glory of king David also had a terrible blemish and it went into the pages of the Bible.

It was not just a terrible blemish; it was a hideous sin, and it was what we heard in the 1st reading.

In summary, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and when he found out that she was pregnant, he tried to make her husband Uriah the Hittite to take responsibility, and when he failed, he schemed to have him struck down in battle.

It was an atrocious sin, and when the prophet Nathan confronted him, king David could have just silenced him and do away with him. But that would, of course, add sin upon sin.

But this is where king David came to his senses and realized that God knows what he had done.

He could only say: I have sinned against the Lord.

But that was enough to bring about God’s forgiveness. David only had to openly admit to his guilt and God was all ready to forgive David.

In the gospel, we heard about a woman who had a bad name in the town, coming before Jesus with an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind Him at His feet, weeping, and her tears fell on His feet, and she wiped them away with her hair and she covered His feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

She did not say anything but her actions showed that she was confessing her sins to Jesus, and she was forgiven. Jesus understood that by her actions, she was asking for forgiveness and it was granted to her.

So high and mighty king David and the despised and lowly woman in the gospel made an outward confession of their sin.

And this outward confession of sin is necessary in order to obtain the mercy and forgiveness of God.

As the Responsorial Psalm puts it: But now I have acknowledged my sins; my guilt I did not hide. I said “I will confess my offence to the Lord.” And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin.

There is this story of a little boy visiting his grandparents was given his first catapult.  He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target.

As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he noticed her pet duck.  On an impulse he took aim and let fly.  The stone hit the duck, and the duck fell dead.

The boy panicked.  Desperately he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to look up and see his sister watching.  Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.”  But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today.  Didn’t you Johnny?”  And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!”  So Johnny did the dishes.

Later, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing.  

Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help me make supper.”  Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of.  Johnny wants to do it.”  Again she whispered, “Remember the duck.” So Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t take it anymore.  He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck.

“I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug.  “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing.  Because I love you, I forgave you.  But I wondered how long more you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

Yes, sin makes us a slave of our guilt, and the trouble is that we try to cover up one sin with another and we get chained up and dragged down by our sins.

But by confessing our guilt, God forgives us and frees us from our sin so that we can be at peace with God, with others and with ourselves.

That is what happens at the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We confess our sins, and Jesus forgives us and frees us from our sin so that we can have peace within.

Our guilt would make us want to hide our sin, but we must know that we can’t hide anything from God.

On the contrary, we find refuge in God as the Responsorial Psalm puts it: You are my hiding place, O Lord; You save me from distress. 

Let us confess our sins, so that we can have peace within.