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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Reflection 2020-07-31 Friday 17th Week in Ordinary Time – St Ignatius of Loyola

Jeremiah 26:1-9; Psalm 68; Matthew 13:54-58

Manhood

And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself… And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field: but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself.
Genesis 2:18, 20

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Friday, May 22, 2020

Adapting to the Times

To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.  And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be made partaker thereof. 
2 Corinthians 9:22-23

Reflection 2020-05-22 Friday 6th Week of Easter

Acts 18:9-18; Psalm 47; John 16:20-23

Monday, May 11, 2020

Reflection 2020-10-11 Monday 4th Week of Easter.

APOLOGIES: I made the mistake of writing a reflection for today last week. So I am writing the reflection of last week’s Monday today.
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 42; John 10:11-18

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Reflection 2020-05-07 Thursday 4th Week of Easter

Acts 13:13-25; Psalm 89; John 13:16-20
The Gospel today happens after Jesus washes the feet of his Apostles where he tells them to wash each other’s feet. But what does this washing of the feet mean? Many Catholics interpret this as serving each other, serving the poor. While this is true, there is a deeper meaning to this, which Jesus gave when he came to wash Peter’s feet. Peter would not allow Jesus to wash his feet and Jesus said if I do not wash you, you shall have no part with me. Hearing this, Peter tells Jesus to wash his hands and head. Jesus replied the one who is washed needs only to have his feet washed because he is entirely clean. Then Jesus says And you are clean, but not all. The washing of the feet goes beyond literally serving others. It goes beyond just service. We clean others so they can make others clean, not only physically but spiritually: so others may share in the life Jesus gives.
This is why Jesus tells the Apostles today that they are not greater than him. They are his servants and messengers. He warned them not to go beyond his message. They are not Jesus so they need to see themselves as they are: servants, messengers. They are to cleanse others as Jesus did. They are to bring the message as Jesus did. Nothing more and nothing less.
We cannot add to the message of Jesus. We cannot do more than what Jesus wants us to do. Many have added to the message of Jesus, changing the message to their own opinions. Many go beyond what Jesus meant, making their ministry their master to the neglect of preaching the Gospel. The main purpose of Christians is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so those who hear will believe and turn their hearts to him.
The First Reading shows us how Paul did this. He preached in the synagogue, not of his opinions, but of Jesus. Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Savior of Israel. In all his writings, we see this main thought. While Paul did write about serving the poor and serving others, all these are rooted in the fact that Jesus is the Lord and in him, salvation is found.
There is no other Savior, except Jesus Christ. Those who preach that we can save ourselves by good works alone preach a gospel different from the message of Jesus. While serving others is exemplary, it is NOT the way to salvation: Jesus is! Those who preach faith ALONE also preach a gospel different from the message of Jesus. Jesus said when he washed Peter’s feet that not everyone of them are clean even after Jesus washed them. Because even if Judas had his feet washed, he went out and betrayed Jesus! James also said, Faith without works is dead. Our faith or belief in Jesus is not enough. It has to bear fruit in service. We are saved by Jesus Christ when we believe him and bear fruit in good works.
Jesus said, Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father. Calling Jesus is Lord, in this case, twice, does not guarantee salvation. It is only when we do the will of the Father that we are saved.
So yes, we are called to serve others. But this service should be based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul clearly says: though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be cursed. This statement is so important Paul repeats this.
1 John 4:1 tells us to test all spirits. So when we hear a message, we do not readily accept it. John tells us how to test the message: If anyone proclaims Jesus did not come in the flesh, that is the spirit of Antichrist. If anyone preaches salvation by works ALONE, that is the spirit of Antichrist. If anyone preaches salvation by faith ALONE, that is ALSO the spirit of Antichrist. Both deny the humanity of Christ. The first denies that Christ needed to die to save us from our sins. The second denies the need to make visible our faith in good works because Jesus became flesh to make visible the love of God through his signs.
Lord, I come to you. Let me realize I am your servant. Let me realize I am your messenger. May I preach Jesus Christ as the Only Savior through my good works. Give me wisdom to test all spirits, so I may reject false doctrines and accept only YOUR message. All I want is to follow you Lord. Show me your Truth Lord Jesus, that I may do the Father’s will.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Reflection 2020-05-06 Wednesday 4th Week of Easter (St Francois de Laval, Patron of the Bishops of Canada)

2 Timothy 4:1-5; Psalm 96; John 10:11-16
It is appropriate that after the readings on the Good Shepherd, we celebrate the first Bishop of Quebec City and the patron of the bishops of Canada. Some may ask, why do we worship a saint when we are to worship God only. We do not worship St Francois de Laval, but we commemorate him for what the Lord has done through him, just as we remember heroes of society. St Francois was born of a noble family in France but became a priest despite the power and influence of his family in their society. He was appointed appointed bishop of what at that time was New France. As part of overseeing the spiritual needs of his new diocese, St Francois set up a seminary which is now called Laval University. He looked after the welfare of settlers and the First Nations which often conflicted with the civil authorities.
St Francois exemplified in what Jesus said in today’s Gospel: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd … sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away. Today’s Bishops are the successors of the Apostles and they are the shepherds of their diocese. When the Apostles were electing a replacement of Judas as narrated in Acts 1, Peter said their main purpose is to be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. This is why Bishops have the full authority to preach and teach and govern their diocese. All preaching and teaching in the diocese come under the authority of the Bishop. We should expect therefore, that our bishops should be a witness to the resurrection of Christ, through their fidelity to the teaching of the Church handed down from the Apostles. Granted there had been, and still are, bishops who have preached error, we will know the true teaching of the Apostles by learning what the Church has taught through the centuries. The Gospel message will not change because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Bishops are guardians of this treasure and are not the masters of it. They have no authority to change the teaching of the Church, despite what many would want the Bishops to do.
Which is why the words of St Paul in the First Reading is very applicable today: For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. Our Bishops need our prayers. They are under pressure to change the teaching of the Church because many do not put up with sound doctrine. They want to hear what they want rather than what they need. Many are persecuted because of this. Bishops are arrested in China, precisely because they do what St Paul said to Timothy: be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
Pray for persecuted bishops, that they may continue to be faithful and not waver, so they will receive their reward from their Lord, Jesus Christ. Pray for bishops who are not faithful to their ministry, who teach error to make people feel good rather than desire the good of the people. Pray that they may repent and turn back to the Lord. Pray that they may do what the Psalm tells us: tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, tell of his marvelous works among all the people. Pray they may say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established, it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity”. If a bishop does not do this, his flock will be misled and they will die. And he will be made responsible for the lost souls.
Pray also for those who are ordained to preach the Gospel, namely priests and deacons, that we may have courage to speak the truth, no matter how unpopular it may be, no matter what the cost. Pray we may proclaim the unchanging Gospel of the Lord, clearly and boldly, for the glory of the Father.
Pray for lay preachers and teachers that they may have the humility to submit to the authority of the Church and preach what is true and will lead to the growth of those who hear them.
Lord, through the intercession of St Francois de Laval, I pray for our Bishop. Bless him and give him courage to remain faithful to you. Bless him and let him remain steadfast in you. May we learn from him and hear the Gospel so our hearts will turn to you and recognize you as our Lord. In Jesus’s name we pray.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-30 Thursday 3rd Week of Easter

Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 66; John 6:44-51
Jesus said yesterday whoever comes to me will never be hungry. Today’s Gospel tells us how to come to Jesus. He said: no one can come to me unless drawn by my Father who sent me. Coming to Jesus is a grace. It is a gift and not a reward. It is the Father who draws us to Jesus. That desire to know God is not from us, but it is a gift from God. Jesus says it is written in the prophets: “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Coming to Jesus is possible only when we:
  1. Hear the Father. This implies we listen to what the Father says. We do not listen to what news commentators say or what false prophets say. We listen to the Father through Jesus.
  2. Learn from the Father. It is not enough to hear what the Father says. We need to learn what he says. This means we need to reflect, to digest and make it our own, to let is seep into our lives so we live it. Obedience is the result of learning from the Father. It is accepting the teaching of the Father through Jesus, even if it is difficult, even if I do not agree with it.
This is what the First Reading shows us. An angel told Philip to go down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Without knowing why, Philip obeyed. This is the first mark of someone who hears and learns from the Father: obedience. When Philip say the Ethiopian, the Spirit told him to approach the Ethiopian. So Philip did and began a conversation with the Ethiopian and explained the Scripture the Ethiopian was reading. The Ethiopian heard the teaching and learned from it, which him to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Learning from the Father shows us who Jesus is: the Son of God. It is to believe that what Jesus says is true.
So when Jesus continues and says Very truly, I tell you, we know he speaks on his own authority and we need to hear and learn. And when he says whoever believes has eternal life this means we need to believe, to trust, to accept everything he says. So when he says I am the bread of life… this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die he means we need to eat this bread of life. Today’s Gospel Reading ends with: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Jesus identifies himself as the LIVING bread from heaven. Then he says whoever eats of this bread will live forever. He speaks of eating the bread to live forever. Now comes the key statement: and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
The question now is: if Jesus refers to himself as the Living bread we have to eat, then he will not have to give another bread. Yet he said the bread that I will give.
This means there is another form of bread he is giving. Jesus is literally, giving another Bread which is his flesh. This proves the Bread Jesus refers here is the Bread we receive in Holy Communion. It IS the Bread of Life, the Living Bread, it is the FLESH of Jesus! If Jesus meant this figuratively, he would not have said he will give THE BREAD. But here, he clearly said, on his own authority, he will give THE BREAD for the life of the world, is MY FLESH.
The Bread we receive and adore IS the Jesus himself! This is why we need to receive it as a gift from the Father. When it comes to our relationship with God, many think it is a right. If I think reception of Holy Communion is a right, then I have to repent seriously. If I think I can receive communion in the state of mortal sin, I need to repent quickly. Jesus said, we come to him when the Father draws us to Jesus. How can I come to Jesus when I have rejected him? I cannot receive the bread of life if I reject God, because I am dead! Just as medicine has no effect on a corpse, receiving the Body of Jesus in the state of mortal sin will not do me good.
Today, the Father is drawing you to Jesus. Come to Jesus so he can raise you up. If you have received Jesus in a state of mortal sin, repent and turn back to Jesus. There is no sin Jesus cannot forgive. Turn back to him, go to confession if you can, even in this state of lock down.
Lord Jesus, your Father has drawn me to you and here I am. I want to hear your Father’s voice. I want to learn from the Father so I can come to you. I have rejected you and disrespected your Body. I have neglected you for a long time. Yet Lord, you said, you will not cast out those who come to you. Here I am. Take me and heal me. Forgive me and make me whole. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-23 Thursday 2nd Week of Easter

Acts 5:27-33; Psalm 34; John 3:31-36
The recurring theme of today’s reading is obedience, not to human authority BUT to the Son. Jesus said at the end of the Gospel reading today: whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. Jesus lays it down plain and simple: believe in him and have eternal life, disobey him and deal with God’s wrath. With this, Jesus also defines what believing in him means: obeying him. When we obey him, we have eternal life. When we disobey, our life ends. When we disobey, we sin against God, we reject him.
Psalm 104:29 tells us: if you turn away your face, they shall be troubled. You shall take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall return to their dust. You shall send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. The simple truth is when we reject God, he turns away from us and we will not have peace because by turning away from us, he takes away our life. It is never God’s will for us to die, because he is the God of life. But when we reject him, he respects that choice and turns away. Some may ask, but why would a loving God turn away from me? The answer is God loves us so much, he respects our free will. God will not do something for us, if we do not give him permission to do so. He will not enter our lives if we do not allow him. Before his Son entered creation, God had to ask a young girl for permission to do so. It was only when this young girl agreed, that the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and the Son entered her womb.
This is something many today do not understand. Many want peace, many want to go to heaven. But they do not want God in their life, in fact, a lot of them reject God. So how can they have peace or how can they have life when they reject the God of Peace and the God of Life?
The only way to have peace is to be reconciled with the God of Peace. The only way to have meaning in life is to be reconciled with the God of Life. God will not save us without our permission. Just like Mary, who gave permission to God to enter her womb, we must allow him to enter our lives. This happens when we turn back to him. Peter said in the First Reading: God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the Leader and Savior who forgives our sins. Peter continues in the First Reading: we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him. Repentance is not only confessing our sins. It is turning back to God AND obeying him, because it is only by obeying Jesus that we receive the Holy Spirit who gives life and renews our life just as he renews the face of the earth.
The Responsorial Psalm says: The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. Are you broken hearted? Are you crushed in spirit? Are you troubled and overwhelmed by the current situation, worried perhaps of what will happen in the next few months or tomorrow!
The Lord is calling you, today to come to him and obey him. Open your heart to him because the Psalm today says, the Lord hears the cry of the poor. If you have given up hope, if there is nothing left for you, you are this poor, and the Lord hears your cry. Come to him and cry out to him. He hears you. He wants to give you new life. If today, you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.
Lord, my heart breaks. My spirit is crushed. I am overwhelmed. There is no one or nothing I can trust. In desperation, perhaps, I come to you. And I allow you to enter my life, even if I rejected you for a long time. I may not know you Lord, yet, I hold on to your Word. Show me who you are. I give you permission to take my life and renew it with your Holy Spirit. Forgive me my sins. I reject them in the name of Jesus. I want to follow you Lord. Show me the way.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-11 Easter Vigil

Genesis 1:1-2:2; Psalm 104; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16; Exodus 14:15-31, 15:20, 1; Exodus 15; Isaiah 54:5-14; Psalm 30; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12; Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4.4; Psalm 19; Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28; Psalm 42-43; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 118; Matthew 28:1-10

Monday, April 6, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-06 Monday of Holy Week

Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 27; John 12:1-11
The words of the First reading show us who Jesus is: he is God’s servant, whom God upholds, God’s chosen, and in whom God’s soul delights. Towards the end of the First Reading also, God tells his servant: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you. Yet, in a few days from now, Jesus will be crucified and will die.
Jesus knows he will die in a few days which is why he told Judas to let Mary alone when she poured out an expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. Just to give an idea of how expensive that is, one denarius is a day’s wage. Putting this in today’s terms, a day’s wage, assuming $15/hr times 8 hrs/day for 300 days will give $36,000. Mary poured out perfume costing $36,000 in modern terms. This is why Judas felt bad about it.
The question is: Why would God allow his faithful servant whom his soul delights, his servant whom he gives as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, who opened the eyes of the blind, freed prisoners, give light to those in darkness, to be killed? It is not that God does not have the power to stop evil. The First Reading tells us he gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it. He could just withdraw breath from the people and Jesus would not have to die.
God HAS the power to stop evil, but he does not, because he brings out something infinitely better than what the evil has destroyed. In this case, the death of Jesus leads to his resurrection, which fulfills God’s plan of redeeming us from our sins, and giving us power to be his adopted children.
The Responsorial Psalm sums this up: the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? God defends us and protects us. Even when Jesus was suffering and dying on the Cross, God is saving him and protecting him. How you say? By dying, Jesus rose from the dead and through his death, he destroyed death because he will not die again!
Which is why, when we are in the midst of uncertainties, of darkness or despair, when we trust Jesus, we have confidence to say, even to boast, whom shall I fear, of whom shall I be afraid. Jesus defeats all our enemies. Even when we are surrounded by our enemies, we will not be afraid because we believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The psalm ends Wait for the Lord: Be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.
This is very applicable to our situation today. Around us is this virus that can destroy us. It assaults us, unseen. As we take prudent steps to prevent this virus from infecting us and our loved one, we must remember, our safety is not in our actions. But our safety is in the Lord. For those who are affected by this situation, we remind ourselves, that when we turn to the Lord, we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. God will deliver us from our situation, whatever it may be. Wait for the Lord: be strong, let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord. Do not be afraid. Call on the Lord and he will hear your prayer.
Lord, when things seem dark, when you seem to be absent in my life, in my situation, remind me that you are here with me always and you will never abandon me.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Reflection: 2020-03-29 Monday 4th Week of Lent

Isaiah 65:17-21; Psalm 30; John 4:43-54
(I mistakenly reflected on the Fifth Monday of Lent last week. So I decided to reflect on the Fourth Monday today).

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Reflection 2020-03-22 4th Sunday of Lent

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9
(I was supposed to preach this homily at the mass after the Knights of Columbus retreat. Since mass was cancelled, I am posting it here as a supplement for the retreat. The slides used at the retreat is here.)

Reflection: 2020-03-21 Saturday 3rd Week of Lent

Hosea 5:15b-6:6; Psalm 51; Luke 18:9-14