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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Palm Sunday, Year B, 25.03.2018

This Sunday is commonly known as Palm Sunday. So coming for Mass and getting a blessed palm branch and bringing it home is what this Sunday means to us.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds waved leafy palm branches to welcome Him with “Hosanna in the highest.”

But we must remember that with Palm Sunday, we enter into Holy Week. Although commonly known as Palm Sunday, this Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday, and the long gospel reading recalls the suffering and death of Jesus.

This Sunday prepares us for what is coming up this week – Holy Thursday when we remember Jesus giving us His Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and Good Friday when we recall how Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross.

The blessing and waving of the palm branches at the beginning of the Mass moved on to the suffering and death of Jesus.

So Palm Sunday has quite a bit to tell us about life. Happiness will give way to sadness, fitness will give way to illness, glory will give way to agony.

What we are so certain and sure about will be put to the test – promises, faithfulness, courage, commitment. All that will be put to the test and may be found wanting and lacking.

Yet Palm Sunday has a revelation for us. The crowds hailed Jesus with “Hosanna in the highest”. Then they demanded “Crucify him!” Jesus was mocked and jeered at.

But the revelation comes at the end, and it comes from an unexpected person. It was the centurion, a pagan, who proclaimed who Jesus really was: “In truth this man was the son of God”.

As we journey with Jesus in His suffering and death during Holy Week, may we also receive a revelation of who He truly is and who we are to Him.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18.03.2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 12:20-33

Most offices would have a secretary as part of their admin staff. Depending on the size of the office, the secretary’s tasks can be varied and diverse.

The often stereotyped tasks of a secretary is to make coffee for the boss, make shorthand notes as the boss rambles on, answer phone-calls, arrange the boss’s schedules, takes charge of the office admin, etc.

The secretary is often portrayed as the one who stands between the boss and visitors. So if someone comes to see the boss, the secretary would tell the visitor to wait and proceed to inform the boss.

Actually it is more like to alert the boss that there is a visitor, so that the boss can be prepared to meet the visitor. And of course the boss would want to look his best and give a good impression to the visitor.

And the secretary’s task is to ensure that. So a good secretary is vital for the boss and for the running of the office admin.

Today’s gospel begins with some Greeks approaching Philip with a request that they would like to see Jesus. Philip went to tell Andrew and together they went to tell Jesus.

Those Greeks may have heard about Jesus, how He worked miracles and performed healing, how He taught with authority, and they were certainly impressed with what they heard and hence they wanted to see the man for themselves.

And Philip and Andrew would also want Jesus to look His best and give those Greeks a good impression. After all Jesus was their Master, so if He looked good, then they too would look good, going by “like Master, like disciple”.

But the reply of Jesus was rather strange. At first He says that the hour has come for Him to be glorified. So they would have thought that He was going to give those Greeks a profound impression.

But what followed after does not seem to sound like anything impressive. Jesus talked about a wheat grain having to die in order to yield a rich harvest.

He went on to give a reflection about life, that anyone who loves his life loses it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

And then He went on to say that His soul is troubled and He seemed to wonder if God would save Him. By those words, He indicated the kind of death He would die.

That would have left Philip and Andrew rather confused and apprehensive. Just what are they going to tell those Greeks. What Jesus said was far from impressive; in fact it sounded rather repulsive. 

If they had expected Jesus to impress those Greeks, they would be disappointed. And those Greeks would be disappointed too.

Philip and Andrew might not have understood what Jesus was talking about. But we should understand. As we come to the 5th Sunday of Lent, we should know what was the preoccupation in the mind of Jesus. He was preoccupied with His impending suffering and death.

The 2nd reading gives us a glimpse of Jesus that we don’t often hear about. During His life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the One who had the power to save Him out of death, and He submitted so humbly that His prayer was heard.

So although He was Son, He learnt to obey through suffering, but having been made perfect, He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

Next Sunday, the Church enters into Holy Week, with the emphasis on the suffering and death of Jesus. For the RCIA Elects, this week is the final leg of their preparation for Baptism, as they undergo purification and receive enlightenment through the final Scrutiny.

As for us, we enter into the mind of Jesus as He dwells on His impending suffering and death. It was a mental burden for Him as He says, “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?

We would also be led to think about what is burdening our minds and what is troubling our hearts.
In life, there are many burdens and many troubles. It may be financial difficulties, job insecurity, health issues, marital problems, family problems. Yes, in life there are many burdens and troubles. 

And ironically, many of these burdens and troubles are not even ours, but they somehow landed on our turf. And here is where we are called to be like Jesus, and to be with Jesus, in sacrificing our lives for the good and for the salvation of others.

A wise man was asked this question – What is the heaviest burden and the greatest trouble in life?
The wise man answered: The heaviest burden and the greatest trouble is to have no burden and no trouble at all.

We may think it is a weird answer. It doesn’t sound logical, at least initially. But upon deeper reflection, we will come to realize that if life has no burdens or troubles, then we are going to be like dead fish that just go with the flow and end up as sludge.

But like Jesus, we want to believe that burdens and troubles, suffering and pain, are not dead ends. Because like Jesus, we believe that God has the power to save us out of death. God has the power to save us and help us overcome our burdens and troubles, our suffering and pain.

Jesus has already overcome the world. Let us believe in Him and follow Him to overcome our burdens and troubles. Let us show the world who Jesus really is. It is not to make an impression but to show our conviction.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

4th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 11.03.2018

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 / Ephesians 2:4-10 / John 3:14-21
The means of communication have come a long way, with developments and advancements in communication technology.

From the primitive smoke signals and sound signals, things have developed rapidly with the discovery of electricity. There was the Morse code, and then the telegram (a present messaging app has the same name), and letters in the mail have been overtaken by email.

But a wonderful invention is the telephone, where it is real-time voice communication. Even that has developed from the fixed line phone to cordless phone and then to the mobile phone, with not only voice communication but with video calls, i.e. with sight and sound. Communication has become so amazing with technology.

But with the advancement of mobile communication technology, the sense of intrusion has also become greater.

When the phone rings, it may ring at the most inconvenient time, e.g. at a meeting, when you are cooking, or eating with both hand, or bathing. And it might be from people that you would hesitate to answer, because with caller ID, you now know who is calling and you just don’t feel like answering the call.

There are a few fears when you have a mobile phone. For example, when you get 10 missed calls from your mother, or 5 missed calls from the boss, or 5 missed calls from the wife. The only way to quell the anxiety is to return the call. Either that or you fake a phone loss. But you can’t do that more than twice.

The 1st reading gives an account of numerous unanswered calls. But it was not any ordinary call. It was God calling out to His people.

The people had committed infidelity after infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the other nations, and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for Himself in Jerusalem.

The Lord tirelessly sent messenger after messenger, since He wished to spare His people and His House. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised His words, they laughed at His prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against His people that there was no further remedy.

And with that, it was disaster and tragedy. The enemies burned down the Temple of God, and went on to demolish and destroy the city, and the survivors were exiled to a foreign country.

It was a national disaster as well as a personal tragedy. All because of unanswered calls. If only the people had answered the calls from God.

Ironically, where it was the people of God who rejected God’s call, it was a pagan ruler who showed them how to respond to God’s call.
The people’s rejection of God’s call led to their destruction. Now God is calling them, through a pagan instrument, and calling them back to restoration. How they would respond is their call, so to speak.

The lesson that we must learn from the 1st reading is that God’s call is to repentance and conversion. And it is always a call of love because God wants to spare His people and His House.

The 2nd reading reiterates that truth. God loves us with so much love and He was generous with His mercy, that when we were dead through our sins, He brought us to life through Jesus.

And we must listen to that – God loves us with so much love! And that is also what Jesus is saying in the gospel: God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

The message is loud and clear – God loves us so much, and He also calls out to us with so much love, so that we will realize that we are God’s work of love, created in Christ Jesus, to live the good life as from the beginning He had meant us to live it.

And we hear those love calls from God. There is the call to come back to Him and be reconciled. This coming week is the Penitential Service for the parishes in the City District. Will we respond to God’s call and to be reconciled with Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

There is also the call to serve. The parish is in need of catechists, so that the young will be taught about the love of God. Will we be willing to think about it and see how we can respond to the call to share God’s love with the young?

Besides that, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) is in need of members to serve the poor. The numbers of the Friends-In-Need have increased and with that the expenses have increased. 

But the members of the SSVP have not increased much, and so very often they are short-handed when it comes to delivering rations to the home-bound. So that’s another area that God is calling out to us. Will we be willing to answer the call to serve Christ in the poor?

And there is the call to give. We have already received the Charities Week envelopes. Are we just going to leave those envelopes aside, or will we respond by giving and sharing with those who are less fortunate.

God so loved the world, and He loves us with so much love that He gave us His only Son, Jesus. 

And Jesus is calling us to love and to serve. Let us not fear to answer His call. It is a call of love and a call to love.

May we answer that call so that we will be able to live the good life that God had meant us to live it.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B, 04.03.2018

Exodus 20:1-17 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / John 2:13-25

I can’t say if I am imagining things or what, but it seems to me that quite a number of people are down with flu-like symptoms – cough, sore-throat, running-nose, headache.

Maybe because I was having all these over the past week, and so that’s making me imagine that many others are also afflicted. After all misery needs company. So I would like to think that I am not the only one who is under the weather.

But also with those festive “goodies” like pineapple-tarts, bak kwa, cookies and all those “sinful” food, how not to come down with cough, sore-throat, running-nose, headache? So I don’t think I am imagining.

But imagination aside and not wanting to lose my voice over the weekend, I went to the Chinese medical hall to see what quick remedy there can be for my misery. And the shop attendant recommended me a pre-packed combination of herbs in a plastic box.

As I was looking at the contents in the box, I was rather alarmed to see what looks like a beetle, with wings and all, nicely packed with the other contents. I presumed that the quality control failed, and that’s how that beetle got in there.

But the attendant said that it was part of the herbal combination and when it is brewed properly, it is very effective for voice-loss and sore-throat.

People complain when there is a fly in their soup. I am going to have a beetle in my brew. Chinese remedies are just so strange. Anyway I decided to give that beetle-brew a try. I guessed it worked, since I can be here preaching. But I have to admit that drinking the beetle-brew feels rather squirmish, and it tastes yukky-yuks.

In today’s gospel, what Jesus did may make us squirm a bit. The usually gentle, compassionate, merciful Jesus has become a whip-lashing, Indiana Jones-style, driving out sheep and cattle, scattered the money-changers coins, knocked their tables over, and not sparing the pigeon-sellers.

That is a very angry and violent Jesus, and like the people who were doing business in the Temple courtyard, we too would be alarmed and disturbed by His actions.

But it was not an impulsive act. As Jesus made the whip out of some cord, He knew what He was going to do and He intended to make His actions felt.

And He stated His reason for doing this: “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.”

The market was just the façade. The reality was that there was wheeling-and-dealing, cheating and bribing, injustice and extortion. All that carried out under the pretext of religious requirements, and with the knowledge and condoned by the Temple authorities.

With that kind of corruption in the Temple, Jesus had to do something drastic. Corruption was happening right at God’s house. He had to cleanse the Temple, so that the ordinary people can come and truly worship God and offer a worthy sacrifice.

Sin and corruption had to be driven out and cleansed before true worship can take place.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus takes a serious stand against sin and corruption. Jesus is the Head and we are members of His Body. We gather as members of His Body to offer worship to God at Mass.

And He knows each of us. He knows what each of us has in us. The true character of a person is not what he does when others are looking but by what he does when no one is looking.

And so we have to look at ourselves and acknowledge the sin and corruption that is within us, and to let Jesus cleanse us of that sin and corruption.

That is why it is necessary to do an “Examination of conscience” at least once a day, so that that we can see for ourselves what are our sins and our faults.

And that’s why it is also necessary to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession. It is a healing Sacrament, because Jesus forgives and cleanses us of our sins so that we can be reconciled with God.

If we know that there is rubbish in our hearts, then why are we not getting rid of it? Why are we letting that sinful rubbish corrupt our lives and corrupt our worship of God?
There is this story about St. Jerome. He was the one who translated the Hebrew scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. One day he had a vision of Jesus, and he was in ecstasy, and so he exclaimed : Lord, I want to give You all my intelligence, all my time, all my energy, my life even.
Jesus replied : Good, I don't need all that.
St. Jerome became a bit upset and so he asked : Lord Jesus, then what do You want from me?
Jesus said : I want your sins. Give me all your sins.

Yes, Jesus wants us to surrender our sins to Him so that He can cleanse us and that we can offer worthy worship to God. With a clean heart, we can offer worthy worship and hence, receive blessings from God.

In surrendering our sins to Jesus, the Lord our God says this to us: For I will restore your health and heal you of your wounds (Jeremiah 30:17)

Our sins and our spiritual corruption have caused us to be spiritually weak and maybe even physically afflicted. So let us go for Confession and let Jesus cleanse our souls.

Let us also do penance to invoke God’s healing grace. There is no need to drink some beetle-juice concoction to bring about cleansing and healing. The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving will accomplish that.

Let our prayer and worship be from humble and contrite hearts so that God’s House will truly be a House of prayer and that we, the People of God, will truly be a people of prayer and a channel of God’s blessings for the world.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B, 24.02.2018

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18 / Romans 8:31-34 / Mark 9:2-10

Although we are already in the season of Lent which is a time of penance and abstinence, it cannot be denied that this is also the festive season, and one of the delicacies that will appear on the table is “bak kwa”.

These bak kwa smell as good as they taste, and going at $50 a kilogram, and having to queue up for 6 hours or more just to get it, it is almost as precious as gold.

Bak kwa is usually made from pork, although it is difficult to say which part of the pig it comes from. But it doesn’t matter, as long as it is delicious, we won’t bother.

And we also won’t bother how the pig feels about it. They  can’t put up a fight anyway. (But if pigs can put up a fight, they will learn karate, so that they can give a pork chop).

But pigs can’t really put up a fight, and so they end up as ham and bacon and bak kwa. 

Pigs can’t fight but they surely can feel. When a piglet is taken away from its mother, there will be tears in the mother’s eyes and she will make a moaning sound, because she knows how the piglet will end up. Yes, pigs and other animals have feelings too, if we pay attention to their reactions.

If animals have feelings, then more so do human beings, and there is a vast vocabulary to express these human feelings and emotions.

But in the first reading, we don’t seem to hear about how Abraham felt when God told him, “Take your son, your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.”

The next thing we heard is that they arrived at the place, and Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

Abraham was a man of faith, but he certainly had feelings too. It was he who bargained with God as he tried to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And now he has to sacrifice his own son! How did he feel about it? But his obedience was prompt.

We would have guessed that he would be shocked and confused and angry. He would probably asked himself, “How come?” and “How can?” And along the way to the mountain, he would probably be tempted to turn back and delete God from his life totally.

And even as we listen, we will wonder why God made such a demanding sacrifice. More than a demanding sacrifice, it was a human sacrifice.

Feelings and emotions aside, Abraham knew it was God who called him to faith. It was in faith and with faith, that he obeyed. But as Abraham seized the knife to kill his son, he was stopped by an angel. 

So, in stopping Abraham from killing his son, God in effect, was putting a stop to human sacrifice. And in effect, God is declaring that the only sacrifice He wants is that of obedience.

But for us, obedience to the will of God is often subjected to our feelings and we question whether it is worth it or not.

But when obedience to God contradicts what we think is good for us, then we have to ask if we truly love God. Abraham loved his son. But what about his love for God then?

A story goes that a king assembled his ministers and handed the chief minister a glowing pearl and asked him how much it was worth. The minister replied that it was worth more gold then a hundred caravans could carry.

Then the king asked the minister to take a hammer and smashed it. The minister replied that he wouldn’t dare do such a thing. 

One by one, the king asked the ministers how valuable the pearl was and each would raise the value higher than the other. But when ordered to smash it, none of them would do it.

Then the king’s faithful servant came along and the king asked him how valuable the pearl was and he replied that it was more valuable than he could imagine.

Then the king ordered the servant to smash the pearl. Without hesitation, the servant took the hammer and smashed it into pieces.

The ministers were shocked and screamed at the servant and asked him why he did it. The servant replied, “What the king says is worth more than any pearl. I obey and honour the king, and not some coloured stone.”

With that, the ministers realized their true standing with the king and what the king thinks of their obedience.

Jesus is the Beloved Son of the Father. Yet, he learned obedience through His suffering and He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).

God did not demand for Jesus to shed His blood on the cross in sacrifice. It was the sin of mankind that demanded for His blood.

Yet, in shedding His blood, Jesus saved us once and for all from our sins, so that there should be no more shedding of blood, no more taking of revenge, no more payback, no more eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-tooth.

Jesus was obedient even onto death on the cross, so that we too can obey God.

Obedience to God will always produce benefits that far exceed the consequences of disobedience. But faith and obedience must come first then God can answer our prayers. We are obedient not because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.

A person’s greatness is usually exemplified through simple acts of obedience, like Abraham. Where faith is the root, the obedience is the fruit.

In the Transfiguration, the voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.”

Let us listen to Jesus, let us follow His obedience to God, because obedience to God is the pathway to the life that we really want to live.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

1st Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18.02.2018

Genesis 9:8-15 / 1 Peter 33:18-22 / Mark 1:12-15
We have already begun the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, and today is the 1st Sunday of Lent. But with the CNY beginning on Friday and spilling into the weekend, the Year of the Dog is barking with festive celebrations instead of fasting and penance.
Anyway we have already done our fasting on Wednesday, so we can do with a bit of feasting (more than a bit …)

By now we should know that according to the Chinese zodiac, the New Year has ushered in the Year of the Dog. So for those who born in the Year of the Dog, and for dog-lovers, let us see what the Bible has to say about dogs.

Dogs are frequently mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments. Dogs were used by the Hebrews as watchdogs for their houses (Isaiah 56:10), and for guarding their flocks of sheep (Job 30:1). These are domesticated dogs. 
But there were also then, as there are now, packs of semi-wild and wild dogs that wander about devouring dead animals and even dead bodies. So these kinds of dogs were considered unclean and they can be quite fierce.

In one gospel passage about the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, the word "dogs" are used.

In response to her pleas to drive off the devil from her daughter, He answered by saying, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Mt 15:26) In this instance Jesus was referring to the wild dogs.

But the woman replied, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." (Mt 15:27) Her reference was to the domesticated dogs or the pet dogs. And with that Jesus granted her wish.

So in the Bible, there are generally two categories of dogs -  the wild dogs, and the domesticated pet dogs which at times are considered “a man’s best friend”.

In the gospel, we heard that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and He remained there for 40 days and was tempted by the devil. He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after Him.

So during those 40 days in the wilderness of the desert, Jesus faced two dangers. One was the temptations of the devil and that challenged Him in the spiritual realm, as to test whether He will stand firm on the side of God or not.

The other danger was on the physical realm. With the wild beasts roaming around and maybe among them were some wild savage dogs, would He succumb to fear and run off to safety and give up His mission?

The temptations from the devil were subtle. In the other gospels, we hear of those temptations: turn stones to bread, to jump off the parapet of the Temple, to bow down to Satan. The depths of the Heart of Jesus was tested to see where He stood and who He was.

But while the temptations of the devil were subtle, the danger from the wild animals was real, because they can cause harm and injury.

St. Teresa of Avila once said: “I do not fear the devil. But I do fear his agents.” In other words, those agents of the devil are to be reckoned with because they are the physical weapons of the devil.

When sin entered the world, sin turned the world into a wild world. The peace of the Garden of Eden was broken and so were the relationships between God and man, and man and nature.

Jesus went into the wilderness to restore the brokenness and to reconcile man with God and man with nature. He fought off the devil’s temptations. He faced the wild animals, not to fight them but to tame them. And if there were any wild and savage dogs among them, then Jesus would also want to tame them and turn them into pet dogs.

It is said that when properly trained, a dog can be a man’s best friend. Now, listen to this twist: when properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend.

And indeed, the season of Lent is a season of grace and the Good News is that through repentance, this wild world can be made into the Kingdom of God.

The spiritual exercises of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are to help us to go back to the spiritual basics and to train us in the ways of God.

And here the humble pet dog can also show us a few things. (It is said that God loves dogs. Because “dog” is “God” spelled backwards. Maybe that’s why God is using the dog to show us a few things about life)

So what can the dog show us? For us who have pet dogs, we can immediately understand this:

1. Loyalty – a dog is naturally born with a sense of loyalty for its owner, and each dog displays this loyalty in its own unique way. And that reminds us that we are made to be faithful and loyal to God who is our Creator.

2. Compassion – no matter how sad or upset you are, a dog always knows how to give you love and comfort. It reminds us that God’s compassion for us is boundless.

3. Unconditional love – a dog loves with no strings attached. If that can be said of a dog, then what can we say about God’s love for us, especially when we look at the cross.

4. Selflessness – a dog's first focus is to provide you with its joy and it is not vain or selfish. If you show it love and kindness, it will be your ultimate selfless companion. But it also reminds us of what we are called to be for others.

5. Forgiveness – we humans have a hard time forgiving each other, we hold on to hurt and anger forever, but not a dog. He will forgive you for anything you do to him, even if you take it out on him. That is something we can learn from a dog.

Come to think of it, we are much more than dogs, because we are much more in the eyes of God.

Yet the humble dog can show us something of who we truly are. Of course we are not called to be like a dog, on the contrary, we are called to be like God.

And God will send His angels to help us just like how the angels looked after Jesus in the wilderness of the desert. Most angels have wings, but some may choose to have fur. 

So if you have a pet dog, then may you be the person that your dog thinks you are. 
If we don’t have a pet-dog, there is no need to go and get one. But let us remember many of the qualities that come so easily to a well-trained dog – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, love – seems to be so elusive to humans.

A well-trained dog can be a man’s best friend. But similarly a well-trained man can be a dog’s best friend. And a well-trained man can also be God’s best friend.

So let us go with Jesus into the spiritual wilderness and be trained by Him with prayer, fasting and almsgiving to fight temptation and to bring peace to a wild world.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

6th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 11.02.2018

Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46 / 1 Cor 10:31 – 11:1 / Mark 1:40-45
If looks don’t give an impression, or don’t give any impression, then there is no need for mirrors.

Certainly, good looks are important in so far as to give a good first impression.

And when it comes to good looks, it is more than just having nice clothes. It is about the hair and how to stop the receding hairline. It’s about the body and how to reduce the expanding waistline. It’s about the face and how to get rid of those stretch-lines.

And talking about the face, that’s what we usually look at in a photo, especially our face.

We rather not look at those photos in which we are not happy about how we look. But then there are no bad photos actually, because that’s how our faces look like sometimes; either it’s the wrong angle or the wrong pose.

But the fact is that many people complain about their looks, but almost none will complain about their brains, although the face and the brain are so close.

And more fundamentally, the Bible tells us that as much as man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).

Yes, God looks at the heart, whereas we tend to be captivated by outward appearances.

So we may admire or envy those who look good and gain easy acceptance. But at the same time, we also feel sorry for those who look less than plain or ordinary. They are often overlooked and swept under the carpet.

But being plain or ordinary looking is certainly not as bad as repulsive- looking that people would want to avoid.

Such was the case of the leper in the gospel. How he contracted leprosy, we were not told. But the 1st reading tells us how the religious law at that time looks at lepers.

If a swelling or a scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. Then comes the action to be taken – the leper must wear torn clothes, his hair disordered, must live apart and outside the camp, and go around crying out “Unclean, unclean…”

Regardless of whether it was contagious or not, the disease has rendered the leper to be physically unclean as well as spiritually unclean. That was why the leper was separated from his people, as well as forced to be separated from God.

For the leper, it was not so much the pain of leprosy that was eating away at him physically. It was the pain of separation and rejection that was eating into him spiritually.

As if the separation and rejection of his own people was not painful enough, he had to find out if God was also rejecting him. That was like the last straw that will break him.

Whatever he knew or believe about Jesus, the leper came to Him and pleaded on his knees, “If you want to, you can cure me.” It was really a life-or-death moment for the leper. It may sound more like a demand, but good manners may not be needed in a desperate matter.

Yes, Jesus felt sorry for him, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said, “Of course I want to! Be cured.”

To a desperate demand, Jesus responded with a demanding decision, “Of course I want to! Be cured.”

When Jesus looked at the leper, He was not looking at the disfigurement. Jesus looked beyond and into the leper’s heart, which was broken by separation and rejection, a heart disfigured by pain and rejection.

Jesus came to seek and save what was lost. He came for the sick, not the healthy. He came for the sinners, not the saints.

Jesus is looking at each one of us and what does He see? As we look at ourselves in the mirror, what do we see? It is not what we are looking at that really matters, but what we see.

Whatever or whoever we see in the mirror, maybe we can think about this: If the whole world was blind, how many people would we be able to impress?
If it is going by looks, then the answer is obvious.

We may not suffer from leprosy, but it hurts and it is painful when people give us dirty looks.

The pain and the hurt of the leprosy of rejection and separation eat into us.

That’s when we must turn to Jesus and plead, “If You want to, You can cure me.” And Jesus will respond, “Of course I want to! Be cured.”

And He stretched out His hands on the cross and died for us. By His wounds we are healed. Because Jesus came to take away our pain and He carried our hurts for us.

But we must have faith in Jesus that He wants to do that for us. We too must go down on our knees and plead with Him. But we must put our faith in Him.

Because pain and rejection look backward. Fear looks around. But faith always look forward. 

Yes, Jesus looks at us, He looks into us so that we can be healed, so that we can look forward with faith and proclaim the wonders that He has done for us.