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Saturday, January 24, 2015

3rd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 25.01.2015

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 / 1 Cor 7:29-31 / Mark 1:14-20

When we were in primary school there was a science question that we would love to answer because we know the answer.

Also it’s because the answer is so “obvious” and we just can’t miss it.

And so what is that question? Here it is – What is the biggest animal in the world?

The Blue Whale. The blue whale is a marine mammal. It measures around 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 180 metric tons (200 short tons) or more in weight, it is the largest known animal to have ever existed.

Oh yes, such a big marine mammal would certainly capture our imagination and fantasy, maybe because most of us have not seen a real blue whale before.

(By the way, there was a skeleton of a blue whale found in Port Dickson in 1893 and it was displayed in the National Museum until 1969.)

The whale (blue or otherwise) is such a big animal that it even found its way into the Bible.

We will surely remember that story of the big fish that swallowed Jonah and he was in the belly of that fish for three days before it spit him out on the shore.

That big fish is believed to be a whale although quite a bit is left to the imagination.

One day, a teacher was talking to her primary 1 class about whales when a little girl had a question.

Little Girl: “Do whales swallow people?” Teacher: “No, even though they are much bigger than a person, they have throat pleats that filter their food of krill and plankton.

Little Girl: “But my mummy says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.” Teacher getting agitated: “Blue whales cannot swallow people.”

Little Girl: “Well, when I get to heaven I’ll just ask Jonah if he was really swallowed by a whale.” Teacher, getting a bit flustered, said: “What if Jonah went to hell?”

Little Girl: “Then you go and ask him.”  : P

Whether Jonah was really swallowed by a whale or not, in the 1st reading, we heard that the word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah and he was told to go to Nineveh to preach.

That was the second time. So what happened at the first time?

At first when Jonah was told to go, he said no. God told him to go east, Jonah went west. God told him to deliver a message of fire, but he headed for the water. And that was where he got swallowed by that big fish.

Obviously for Jonah, to answer God’s call was not an easy thing and it took three days in the belly of that big fish for him to come to his senses.

It was only after then that he realized that it was time to do what God had told him to do.

It was such a contrast in the gospel passage as we hear how Jesus called His disciples. He called them to follow Him and they left everything and followed Him.

It sounded so easy for the disciples to answer the call of Jesus.

But we must remember what Jesus said before that – The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe in the Good News.

Yes, the time had come for Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to realize that Jesus was calling them to something better and something higher.

They were fishermen and so their profession was to catch fish. So the more they catch the better.

But it is said that the things you own will end up owning you.

They were catching fish for a living but if the meaning of life is just to catch fish, then their lives might just end up being swallowed by a big fish, just as Jonah was swallowed by a big fish.

Yes the time has come for Simon and Andrew, and James and John to answer the call of Jesus.

The time has come for us too, to know that Jesus is calling us to believe in the Good News.

We only need to give God our time to serve Him, but more often than not we say we have no time.

Then maybe we need to listen to this poem “No Time” - 

I knelt to pray but not for long, I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work, for bills would soon be due.
So I knelt and said a hurried prayer, and jumped up off my knees.
My Christian duty was now done, my soul could rest at ease.
All day long I had no time, to spread a word of cheer
No time to speak of Christ to friends, they'd laugh at me I'd fear.
No time, no time, too much to do, that was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need, but at last came the time, the time to die.
I went before the Lord, I came, I stood with downcast eyes. 
For in His hands God held a book; It was the book of life.
God looked into His book and said "Your name I cannot find, I once was going to write it down...But never found the time"

Of course the ending is just to wake us up. God surely will have time for us. In fact He has given us all the time in the world.

But as the 2nd reading says – our time is growing short. 

If our time is not offered back to God and to do what God is calling us to do, then time will swallow us and we will always end up with no time.

The time indeed has come for us to believe that when we do what God wants of us, and that primarily will be to serve Him in our brothers and sisters, then it will always be a time of Good News.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 18.01.2015

1 Sam 3:3-10, 19 / 1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20 / John 1:35-42

We may know this song that goes by the title “What a difference a day makes”. 

The song begins like this – “What a difference a day makes, twenty-four little hours, brought the sun and the flowers, where there used to be rain.”

Oh yes, what a difference a day makes. And if what a difference a day makes, then we can imagine what a difference a year makes.

Day by day we think that nothing changes but one year ago, would we ever have imagined that we are what we are now?

Maybe one year ago, we hoped to get slimmer, but one year later we only got fatter.

One year ago, we had hoped to get richer. One year later we are still hoping.

One year ago, we were younger. One year later, we are certainly older and maybe grown a bit wiser.

But whether it is one day or one year, things have changed, whether we want it or not, whether we liked it or not, whether for better or not.

As it is said, not all change is for the better, just as not all movement is forward.

And even if everything else is inconsistent, then change is the only constant.

For the young Samuel in the 1st reading, change was going to take place. God was calling out to him to be His prophet.

For Eli the old priest, change was also going to take place.

At the third call of Samuel, Eli realized and understood that his time is over and that Samuel was going to take over.

In the gospel, we also see that change is happening. John the Baptist saw Jesus passing by and he stared hard at Him.

And then he said to his disciples – Look, there is the Lamb of God. 

Hearing this, the two disciples left him and followed Jesus.

John the Baptist also realized that in pointing out Jesus to his disciples, his time was going to be over. He must decrease and Jesus must increase.

The theme of today’s readings is about answering God’s call. But that would mean that change needs to happen, and that we must be willing to accept this change in order to answer God’s call.

The phrase “to change our minds” does not mean that we are fickle-minded. Rather it may mean that we are open-minded about the situations that we encounter.

There is a story of a big company in a big city that was manufacturing soap and packing it into small boxes.

But there was a flaw in the production lines. Some boxes were not loaded with the soap and were shipped out resulting in complaints from customers.

So consultants and engineers were called in to analyze the problem and then they introduced a combination of mechanical and microelectronics automation, with X-ray technology and the problem was successfully solved.

So whenever there is an empty box in the production lines, it will be detected and picked out. The whole system costs $900,000.

That was the big company in the big city. A much smaller company in the outskirts also had a similar production line and hence a similar problem.

The owner told the supervisor to solve the problem immediately. 
Being a small company it was obvious that forking out $900,000 is not an option.

The supervisor thought about the problem and he managed to solve the problem with just $190.

This was his solution. He bought a high-powered fan with that $190, and put it next to the production line. The strong draught from the powerful fan blew away the empty boxes. So problem solved, for $190, instead of $900,000.

A few lessons can be learnt from this story. One of which is that technology is not necessarily productive. Another is that knowledge is not synonymous with creativity.

But what is obvious is that there are many ways to solve a problem.

It’s whether we are open-minded enough to change our minds and look at other simple solutions.

If they can say that what a difference a day makes, then what a greater difference an open mind makes when it is ready to change.

Because those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything at all.

As we saw in the 1st reading, Eli was open-minded enough to see that God was calling Samuel.

In the gospel, John the Baptist was open-minded enough to see that Jesus was the Lamb of God and pointed Him out to his disciples.

May we be open-minded enough to see the ways of God and open our hearts to the call of God.

We may have heard this before – Yesterday I thought I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wiser, so I am changing myself.

When we change ourselves to answer God’s call, then what a difference we will make.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Baptism of the Lord, Year B, 11.01.2015

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 / Acts 10:34-38 / Mark 1:7-11

It is said that there are two most important days in your life – the day you were born and the day you find out why (Mark Twain).

The day that we were born is certainly an important day in our life. Who can ever forget his or her birthday? (Maybe another day that we won’t forget is our payday!)

So besides our birthday, is there any other day that we won’t forget? Is there another day that we will always remember?

Well, just out of curiosity, how many of us remember the day of our baptism?

If we are wondering as to how we can find out the day of our baptism, we just have to look for our baptism certificates and it is stated there. 

Oh yes, the day of our baptism is an important day for us because that’s when we officially become a Christian and it should be a life changing event.

There is this story of a priest who was teaching catechism to a group of adults. 

When it came to the teaching of abstinence of meat on Fridays, one of them had his questions and he was puzzled especially when he was told that instead of meat, he could eat fish.  

Finally came the day of baptism and so the priest baptized him and he said to him, “Frankie, you were a pagan and now you are a Christian!”

One Friday evening, the priest decided to take a walk around the neighbourhood and he smelt the smell of barbecued meat coming from Frankie’s house.

So he went over to see what was happening and there he saw Frankie barbecuing some beef, and as he did so, he was saying this to the beef: You were meat, and now you are fish!

Well, baptism is not just a name-changing event but it is a life-changing event. 

It is not just about formerly being called a pagan to being called a Christian.

It is not a superficial change in title but an essential change in identity.

Today as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we have also come to the close of the Christmas season.

Last Sunday, as we celebrate Epiphany, we hear of the wise men adoring the infant Jesus and paying Him homage. 

Today, we fast-forward thirty years and we hear of the adult Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist.

It was a life-changing event for Jesus, as well as an earth-shaking event as the heavens were torn open and the Spirit descended upon Jesus and the voice from heaven that declared: You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.

What happened during those thirty years were unknown to us other than that when Jesus was twelve years old, He went with His parents to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

But it took thirty years after His birth and then with His baptism, Jesus began His mission of salvation.

So the day of His baptism was an important day as Jesus was affirmed of His identity and His mission.

Thirty years is indeed a long time, almost like half a life time.
Is it worth waiting for thirty years to discover the meaning and the purpose of life? 

For St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, she would tell us that it is worth it.

St. Monica was born in 331 AD, was brought up as a Christian and she married a pagan Roman official, Patricius, a man of violent temper and also adulterous, and critical of Christians.

St. Monica endured with patience and prayer and finally after 30 years, her husband was converted and baptized a Christian.

Her son, St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless mission. 

One priest did console her by saying, "it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish." This thought, coupled with her faith strengthened her. St. Augustine was eventually baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died shortly after that.

St. Monica is considered the patron saint of wives and mothers whose husbands or sons have gone astray.

So St. Monica spent most of her life in prayer, praying for the conversion of her husband, and then for her son St. Augustine.

But she would tell us that the most important days of her life were the day of her baptism when she was immersed into the faith, and the day when she witnessed the baptism of her husband and later on of her son St. Augustine.

It is indeed a great joy to see someone turning back to God and knowing that you had an important part in that person’s conversion story and the journey back to God.

The Baptism of the Lord is indeed an important day for Jesus as He begins His journey of fulfilling His mission on earth.

Following this there will be many important days in His life which we will celebrate as the liturgical year unfolds.

As for us, there will also be many important days to come as our lives unfold in the days to come.

But as for today, may we celebrate our own baptism into Christ, and may today also be a day that we find out why we were born into this world. 

Like Jesus, we are born for a reason and we are born for a mission. 
We only walk this way once. Let us walk with Jesus and we will make each day an important day for others as well as for ourselves. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Epiphany, Year B, 03-01-2015

Isaiah 60:1-6 / Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Matthew 2:1-12

Today we hear of the wise men, or the Magis, and with that the Christmas story comes to a completion.

We not only hear about them, we also see them at the Crib as they make their grand appearance.

Among the figures at the Crib, or the Nativity set, the wise men (aka the 3 wise men) are the most impressively and glamorously dressed.

They wear crowns and royal robes; they bring along exotic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; they came from the East and they carry with them a sense of mystery.

They looked like rich and smart guys and they are often portrayed as riding on camels and looking quite elegant.

But from the gospel, we will know that they went to the wrong place (Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem), at the wrong time (when Herod was king) and they asked the wrong question (Where is the infant king of the Jews?)

So much for being wise men. If it had been 3 wise women, the story might have been different.

Different in the sense that the 3 wise women would have asked for directions; they would have arrived on time and helped deliver the baby; they would also have cleaned up the stable; they would have brought practical gifts like milk powder and diapers and chocolates; they would also cook a meal and even bake a cake and there will be peace on earth.

That would be a nice ending to the Christmas story. After all we like stories with a happy ending that would leave us smiling.

Abut if we were to read on from where the gospel ended off, then we would know that when the wise men didn’t go back to king Herod, he was furious and then he ordered the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem.

So from the start, the Christmas story was a bumpy kind of story. 

Things didn’t happen as expected.

And that is one thing that we can learn from the Christmas story – things don’t happen as expected.

Not even for the wise men in spite of their wisdom. They expected the infant king of the Jews to be born in the big city of Jerusalem, but it turned out to be in the little town of Bethlehem. 

They thought that Herod was helping them but it turned out that he was using them.

The feast of the Epiphany is about Christ being revealed to the world.

And in a way, the revelation of Christ is also a revelation of what life is all about, and that things don’t happen as expected.

There is this story of three trees on a hill in the forest. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty." 

Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull.”

Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter," and he began cutting it down. 

The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest. At the second tree the woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree, I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship. When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree, so I'll take this one", and he cut it down. 

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for. 

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark.

The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams. Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood and said "Be still" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat. 

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. 

When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill.

When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going our way, let us know that God has a plan for us. If we place our trust in Him, He will give us great gifts. 

Each of the trees got what they wanted, but just not in the way they had imagined. 

We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best. 

May the star that led the wise men to the infant Jesus also shine upon us and may God grant us the wisdom to know that when things don’t turn out as expected, then God is leading us along His ways.

And like the wise men, may we be at peace in knowing that God will always be leading us in His ways.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holy Family, Year B, 28.12.2014

Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14 / Colossians 3:12-21 / Lk 2:22-40

If we are from a traditional Catholic family, then our homes would have been blessed by a priest already.

For traditional Catholic families, it is important, and even necessary for the home to be blessed.

So it is the usual practice to invite a priest to come over to the home to bless it.

And the priest would say some prayers, asking God to bless the house as well as the members of the family.

And then he will go around the house, even going to each room, to sprinkle holy water.

In the prayer book for the blessing of the home, there is even a prayer of blessing for the bathroom.

Some people thought it was rather funny, you know, to bless the bathroom.

But why not. After all, we have heard of many cases of people slipping and falling in the bathroom.

And, if we have a case of constipation or diarrhea, then the bathroom somehow will become a prayer room.

So it would be a consolation to know that that the bathroom has been blessed.

Well, back to the priest going round the house to say prayers and sprinkle holy water.

That would be the normal ritual for a house blessing. But not many people know or understand the meaning of the ritual.

Practically speaking, the priest just have to say the prayers, and that ought to be sufficient, isn’t it?

Why sprinkle holy water all around? Especially if there is a new parquet flooring, and people would step on the water and leave their footprints all over the place.

Well, in the first place, when people are asked why they want to have their homes blessed, there would be various kind of answers.

Some say that if there is any kind of evil spirits around the house, then the blessing would drive out all the evil spirits.

Oh surely, the blessing will certainly drive out all the evil spirits. 

But if it is the people in the house who want to act like evil spirits, then the blessing can only do so much.

Or, if it is a new house, then they will say that the blessing will cleanse the house, because they don’t know what had gone on during the construction of the house.

So the house blessing will make the house “clean”. So it seems like the house blessing is to ask God to do house cleaning.

Or when they feel that the family is having a string of bad luck lately, (children fail exam, mahjong always lose), or always quarreling, then they might want to ask for a house blessing, so that the priest will come over and say some prayers for them.

Well, all these reasons for asking for a house blessing are well and good.

But what is the main purpose and reason for a house blessing?

As in the usual house blessing, the priest will say some prayers and sprinkle holy water around the house.

Some families will even light the candles at the family altar.

Now, holy water and lighted candles will remind us of the symbols of a particular sacrament – the sacrament of baptism.

So how is the house blessing connected to baptism? The connection and the meaning here is that the first place to live out our baptism commitment, is none other than in our homes.

Yes, the home is indeed the first place to live out our baptism commitment. Because the home should be where love is, and where there is love, there is God.

And if our home is the dwelling place of God, then our home is to be like a domestic church – meaning to say, our home is to be a house of prayer.

But the awkward reality of some homes is that they are a dwelling place of many gods. Meaning to say that everyone wants to be served, but not everyone wants to serve.

Maybe that’s why it is necessary to bless the bathroom because some family members use it as a prayer room – they do their Holy Hour in there.

And we would knock on the door every 3 minutes and ask: Are you still in there? We are like visiting those who are in prison.

Yes, many strange and comical things happen at home, not to mention other things that cause friction and brokenness with the family members.

It cannot be assumed that where there is a house, there will be a home, and where there is a home, there will be family love.

In fact,, it is the other way round – where is there is love, then the family will be at home.

So that is why we must remember to live out our baptismal commitment to love, and first and foremost, at home.

But the home can be a challenging place to be in when the family members are gathered together.

There is this interesting story about porcupines. An extremely cold winter was coming and the porcupines had to find a way to survive.

At first, they decided to group together to keep warm and protect one another.

But unfortunately, their sharp spiky quills poked at each other as their huddled together, so they dispersed.

Of course this left them exposed to the bitter cold and they started to freeze to the point of death.

So they had to make a fundamental life or death choice – either they stay apart and die, or they tolerate and accept each other’s thorns and survive.

And to think of it, we are a bit like porcupines. We have our own “spiky quills” and with that we hurt others and others hurt us too.

At times, living as members of the family can be so painful and hurtful, that we think it might be better off living alone.

But if the porcupines know how to stay together in order to survive, then we must also learn to accept and live with the spiky quills of others.

The Holy Family showed us how to live together in love and to bear the pain together.

And let us also call upon the grace of our baptism so that our families will be a blessing for the Church and for the world.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

4th Sunday of Advent Year B, 21.12.2014

2 Sam7:1-5, 8-11, 16 / Romans 16:25-27 / Luke 1:26-38

Today is the 21st December. In the month of December when the date begins with a “2”, then it means one thing.

It means that Christmas is nearly here. After all it is just a few more days away. That would sound scary if we haven’t even put up the Christmas tree yet!

How can we not be aware that Christmas is nearly here?

In fact, for the rest of the world, Christmas is not nearly here; Christmas seems to be already here.

Since mid-November, the shopping malls and the supermarkets are already playing Christmas music.

And by now, most companies would already have had their Christmas parties and all that.

So it seems that Christmas Day, the 25th December, is the final day for Christmas celebrations.

And Christmas presents are already given out before Christmas Day. Not only given out but maybe opened already before Christmas Day.

So even though Christmas is nearly here, for the rest of the world, Christmas is already here, and maybe over and done with.

But whether it is nearly here or already here, the Christmas event, whether religious or otherwise, seems to have been taken for granted.

It is taken for granted in the sense that we expect it to happen, and that it must happen.

But today’s gospel passage reminds us that Christmas nearly did not happen.

Today’s gospel passage is commonly known as the “Annunciation” and we are familiar with the dialogue between the angel Gabriel and Mary.

We take it for granted that Mary will say yes to all that the angel Gabriel told her.

But when we take a closer look at the passage, then we may realize that Christmas nearly did not happen.

Because when the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, she was deeply disturbed by his words and she wondered what it could mean.

And then she questioned the possibility of her conceiving a child since she was a virgin.

Even though the angel Gabriel told Mary that nothing is impossible with God, that did not necessarily and satisfactorily answer her questions.

But in the end, Mary accepted what was told to her by the angel Gabriel.

So as we can see, Christmas nearly did not happen. And if Mary had said no, then Christmas would not have happened.

For Christmas to happen, Mary had to lay aside her plans and go 
along with God’s plans. 

Similarly in the 1st reading, king David had to lay aside his plans to build a house for God. Instead God would build a house for him, and that house and David’s sovereignty will always stand secure before the Lord and David’s throne will be established forever.

Yes, God’s ways are higher than man’s ways and God’s thoughts are higher than man’s thoughts. When we go along with God’s ways, then the Christmas event is happening again.

But that would mean that we have to let go of our ambitions and directions and go along the way of God.

There is this story of a teacher, Miss Hazel, who had ambitions of being a principal and even a superintendent of schools.

But in her class was this boy, Teddy, who certainly qualified as the last and the least. He was disinterested, untidy, messy, with a deadpan face, expressionless and with a glassy unfocused stare.

Whenever Miss Hazel spoke to Teddy, he always answered in monosyllables.

But Miss Hazel played her cards carefully. Although she would say that she cared for all in her class, deep down inside her she wasn’t being completely truthful. She disliked and resented Teddy.

Even then, she knew more about Teddy’s family background than she wanted to admit. The records read like this:

Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude but poor home situation. 

He could do better. Mother seriously ill and he receives little help at home.

Teddy is good boy but a slow learner. His mother died this year. 

His father shows no interest in him.

Well, it was Christmas time and the boys and girls in Miss Hazel’s class brought her Christmas presents. 

They piled their presents on her desk and crowded around to watch her open them.

Among the presents, there was one from Teddy. She was surprised that he had brought her a gift. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with scotch tape, and written with these words: For Miss Hazel, from Teddy.

When she opened Teddy’s present, out fell a gaudy jade-stone bracelet, with a couple of stones missing, and half a bottle of cheap perfume.

The other children began to giggle and smirk over Teddy’s gifts, but Miss Hazel had enough of sense to silence them by putting on the bracelet and spraying some of the perfume on her wrist.

And then holding her wrist up for the children to smell, she said, “Doesn’t it smell nice?”, and the children taking the cue from her, nodded with “oohs” and “aahs”.

At the end of the day, when the other children had left, Teddy lingered behind. Then he slowly came over to her desk and said softly, “Miss Hazel … Miss Hazel … you smell just like my mother … and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you liked my presents.”

When Teddy left, a stunned Miss Hazel got down on her knees and begged God to forgive her.

The next day when the children came to school, they had a “new” teacher. Miss Hazel had become a different person. She was no longer just a teacher; she had become an agent of God. 

She was now a person committed to loving her children and doing things for them that would live on after her. She helped all the children, especially the slow ones and especially Teddy.

By the end of the school year, Teddy showed dramatic improvement and had caught up with most of the students. 

Well, Teddy moved on to another class and Miss Hazel had a new class of students to teach.

Then one day, she received a note that read: Dear Miss Hazel, I wanted you to be the first to know that I came in second in my class. Love, Teddy.

Four years later, another note came: Dear Miss Hazel, they just told me that I will be graduating with honours in my class. I want you to be the first to know. The university has not been easy but I liked it. Love Teddy.

Another four years later – Dear Miss Hazel, I wanted you to know to be the first to know that I am getting married. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy.

Well, Miss Hazel went to Teddy’s wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat, and of course, wearing that bracelet and that perfume. 

She deserved to sit there; she had done something for Teddy that he could never forget.

And as she sat there, she thought to herself, “This is better than being a school superintendent.”

Certainly it is. When we let go of our ambitions and our plans and our directions, and go along the way of the Lord, we become gifts to ourselves and we become gifts to others.

Mary showed us how to do it. When we do what she did, then Christmas is not only nearly here, it is also already here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, 14.12.2014

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11 / 1 Thess 5:16-24 / John 1:6-8, 19-28

As we began the Mass, we lighted the third candle of the Advent wreath, which is the rose-colored candle.

It also signifies that the third Sunday of Advent is also called "Gaudete Sunday". "Gaudete" means rejoice.

Yes, the first reading tells us to exult for joy in the Lord and to rejoice in God.

The second reading also tells us to be happy at all times and to pray constantly.

Yes, a rose-coloured candle standing in the midst of three dark- purple candles tells us that life can have its joyful moments amidst disappointment and sadness and sorrow.

Similarly, life can also have its funny and surprising moments amidst the serious and stiffness of life, and I hope we can smile a bit from this following story.

From the shadows in the distance, the man watched as the family packed their bags in the car, locked the doors and then drove off for their holidays.

The man waited till it was dark and then he emerged from the shadows and he went to the front door and rang the door-bell of the house.

When there was no answer, the man, a seasoned burglar picked the lock of the front door and got in.

Then just to be sure that no one was in the house, he called out, "Is there anyone in?"

Hearing nothing, he was about to move on, when he was stunned by a voice, "I see you, and Johnny sees you!"

The burglar panicked and called out, "Who's that?"

And again, the voice came back, "I see you, and Johnny sees you!"

Terrified, the burglar switched on his torchlight and pointed it towards the direction of the voice.

He was relieved to see that it was a parrot in a cage and it recited once again, "I see you, and Johnny sees you!"

The burglar laughed to himself and said, "Oh, shut up stupid bird. 

Anyway, who is this Johnny? Is it another bird friend of yours?"

And the parrot replied, "Johnny is right below me!"

And the burglar shined his torch at what was below the parrot's cage.

And there he saw Johnny, a huge Doberman, looking at the burglar with those eyes, and growling.

And then, the parrot said, "Go Johnny, go!"

Well, it is good to have a little laugh on this "Rejoice Sunday".

Back to something serious. In the gospel, we heard of a man sent by God, and his name was John.

So who is the John? Of course we know he is John the Baptist. But the gospel passage tells us more about who John is.

John is a witness, a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.

And John would say this about himself: I am, as Isaiah prophesied – a voice that cries out in the wilderness: Make a straight path for the Lord.

That is who John is. And the next question would be – who are we then?

The 1st reading tells us that the Spirit of the Lord has been given to us, and that the Lord will make integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations.

So the Spirit of the Lord will make us into persons of integrity and walk the straight path of Lord so that God will be praised.

So what is integrity? Once upon a time, there was a selfish and greedy man. He liked everything to be his own. He could not share his belongings with anyone, not even his friends or the poor.

One day, the man lost thirty gold coins. He went to his friend’s house and told him that he lost his gold coins. His friend was a kind man.

As his friend’s daughter was coming back from an errand she found a bag that contained thirty gold coins.

When she arrived home, she told her father what she had found. The girl’s father told her that the gold coins belong to his friend and he sent for him. 

When the selfish and greedy man arrived, he told him how his daughter had found his thirty gold coins and handed them to him. 

After counting the gold coins, the man said that ten of them were missing and had been taken by the girl as he had forty gold coins. 

He further demanded that he will recover the remaining amount from him. But of course the girl’s father refused.

The man left the gold coins and went to the court and informed the judge there about what had taken place between him and the girl’s father.

The judge sent for the girl and her father, and when they arrived the judge asked the girl how many gold coins she found. She replied thirty gold coins. 

The judge then asked the selfish man how many gold coins did he lose and he answered forty gold coins.

The judge then told the man that the gold coins did not belong to him because the girl found thirty and not forty as he claimed to have lost.

And then the judge told the girl to take the gold coins and that if anybody is looking for them he will send for the girl.

The judge then told the man that if anybody reports that they have found forty gold coins he will send for him. 

It was then that the man confessed that he had lied and that he lost only thirty gold coins but the judge would not listen to him.

Just a story about integrity and honesty and that truth will prevail. 

But that is also who we are and when we are who we should be, then we will truly rejoice in the Lord.

As the 2nd reading says – never try to suppress the Spirit; think before you do anything, hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.

With that we will receive joy from the Lord and then the joy of the Lord will be our strength.