Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunday Reflections 13 March 2011

Temptations of Jesus (Mathew 4:1-11)

Last Sunday, the first in the season of Lent, the Gospel reminds us of the temptations of Jesus. The three temptations are still very relevant to us in our lives today.

In the first temptation the devil tested Jesus to break his fast of forty days. At a time when he was most vulnerable he was tested to exercise his divine power to turn stones into loaves to satisfy his hunger. Jesus’ reply was very apt and a good lesson for all of us who are constantly being tempted by the forces of evil around us.

Many of us when in times of extreme difficulty are very vulnerable to steal, cheat and deny others their rights but those are the times when we must remember the words of Jesus that “Man does live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Goodness in our hearts must override ourworldly desires.

The second temptation is about testing God of his power to save us. We may be familiar with the words of some so called holy people who say to Jesus, “if you are really God please do this or that” and if He doesn’t answer their prayers they leave the church. For such people their faith is so shallow who leave God with the slightest failures in their lives. They fail to realize that God gives us all the trials and tribulations for a purpose and in most cases we only understand that when it is too late. Instead of cursing God for his failure to answer our prayers we should heed his calls, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”

The third temptation where the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain,
showed him all the kingdoms of
the world and
their splendor and promised to give them all to Jesus if fell at his feet and worship him. Jesus firmly rejected the devil’s temptation saying, “Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.”

Today many are willing to trade in their dignity, integrity and morality for some material gain. Power, wealth and lust have become the overwhelming attractions to man who is willing to do anything to attain them. Politicians are willing to forgo their principles and their promises to the people who elected them to acquire wealth and power. They want to become the masters of the very people who they are to serve.

People in high positions use their influence to get rich quickly often by unscrupulous means. Judges submit to corruption and instead of upholding justice mete out unfair judgments on the innocent. The police and other enforcement agencies are willing to execute unjust orders from above, in the process persecute and deny the legitimate rights of defenseless people, all for promotions, material rewards and sexual pleasure.

To such people who adore the devil and his riches, Jesus who flatly refused all such temptations must be seen as impractical and foolish. In this world many who follow Jesus and reject unethical means to acquire power and wealth are indeed being classified as fools who do not know how to make hay when the sun shines. But being such a ‘fool’ is what Jesus wants and that is what we all must do as his followers.

Unfortunately such a materialistic culture seems to have infiltrated into our church as well. The recent clergy seks scandal, impropriation of funds, commercialization of feasts, over-emphasis on church collections and the authoritarian attitude of the clergy who neglect the welfare of the underprivileged parishioners are some glaring examples of the unhealthy trends taking shape.

Having read these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mathew below, it is timely for us to reflect on our own life. Where do we stand in the pursuit of power, wealth and lust in the materialistic world today? Do we have the unwavering courage to uphold truth and justice even when we are tempted with the most valuable riches in the world? When tempted with such worldly pleasures can we be like the ‘fool’ who follows Jesus and say “Away with you Satan, I will only pay homage to God and no one else?”.

Many a times we may want to say no to the devil but our human flesh is weak and we succumb to its rewards. As humans we fall at times but we must pick and move on with Jesus in our hearts. Let us ask Jesus to give us the strength and courage to reject all such temptations however great they may be and stand steadfast to the principles in our life that is molded on the teachings of Jesus.

Gospel Reading for last Sunday - Mathew 4:1-11

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be put to the test by the devil.

2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was hungry,

3 and the tester came and said to him, 'If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.'

4 But he replied, 'Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'

5 The devil then took him to the holy city and set him on the parapet of the Temple.

6 'If you are Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.'

7 Jesus said to him, 'Scripture also says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'

8 Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.

9 And he said to him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.'

10 Then Jesus replied, 'Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.'

11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lenten Campaign 2011

Light a Life as a Family

Following the move of the Church to dedicate the year 2011 to the family. the Penang Diocese has chosen the theme for this year’s Lenten Campaign as “Light a Life as a Family”. It is an encouraging move by the church which recognizes the importance of the family in the lives of the people. Yes, the goodness and evils in the world today directly or indirectly have their roots in the family unit. A happy and united family whose members are brought up with sound moral values and discipline will generally give rise to children who will turn out to be good humans later in their lives.

The Lenten Campaign Theme 2011

As we step into the season of Lent, we are repeatedly reminded of fast, abstinence and prayer. In fact these have become the most important hallmarks of Lent and people take great pains to observe them to the fullest, some not knowing the real meaning of these practices. .

To many fasting and abstaining is refraining from foods especially meat. From a very young age I used to wonder how fasting and abstinence from food can make you a better person and after all these years I am still in the dark.

The parish priest in his sermon rightly pointed that fasting and abstinence are not just about refraining from food and drinks. They are about fasting and abstaining from the bad words, intentions and deeds in our lives. It is about getting rid from our hearts the greed, jealousy and hatred for others, friends and foes alike. it is about forgiving those who have hurt us and seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt. It is about getting rid of our immoral activities in our lives.

In addition to these, abstaining from such evils is not enough, we should go another step further to do something good to those in our midst; lending a helping hand to those in need, spending some time with our aged and ailing parents, being more tolerant to those who disagree with us and standing up for justice and truth. Moreover such goodness should prevail throughout the year and not just during Lent, which should be a time to reflect on what we are doing and make resolutions on what to do next.

It is sad that many of us pray, fast and do penance in order to receive something in return from God. Prayer and fasting to obtain what we want, to my mind, does not seem logical and sound as it would tantamount to bribing God. They would be acts of selfishness if we do that for such purposes.

Instead praying and fasting should be means to prepare ourselves mentally and physically to sacrifice something that we treasure for the sake our love for our neighbor, who could even be our enemy. That was what Jesus did, prayed and fasted to sacrifice his life for us, which we are commemorating during Lent. Following Christ is not keeping all our gains to ourselves but to give up some to our neighbor who may be in greater need for them.

We in the Diocese of Penang are called to light a life as a family and be bearers of Christ’s light by shining joy, peace, patience, and kindness on others so that they may know Christ through our actions.How worthy are we to to bear His light? Before we can light a life as a family we must ensure our own attitude towards our own families are Christ-like.The family today has become a challenging place for all of us,so much problems to handle which often go beyond our control.If not are we the cause of the turmoil in our families?What are we doing to restore the peace and harmony in our families?

Are we good parents to our children?

Are we good children to our parents?

Are we good husbands and wives to our spouses?

Are we good brothers and sisters to our siblings?

Are good as parent-in-laws and children-in-laws?If we are not then this is the time to initiate amends to put our families in order.It may not be easy as I have learnt but we must try. Family is the most import unit of society; unless we are good to the other members of our family we cannot be good to others in the world.Our society and the world in general cannot become a better place if our familiy units are in disarray.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Reflections for Ash Wednesday

Saying "NO" to worldly temptations

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fast, abstinence and prayer. It is a day when the priest imposes ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our mortal bodies which will perish one day.

We still remember the words the priest uttered when imposing the ashes on our foreheads when we were children – “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”. These words of our priest, though very meaningful did not mean much to us at that tender age. When we were young, we were full of strength, energy and vitality. Death appeared alien to us. We considered ourselves to be strong and invincible and we continue to enjoy life to the fullest.

Today being much older, inflicted with so many ailments and our vitality is rapidly draining away, we realize that death is something real and imminent. We have already witnessed the death of many of our friends and relatives, some of whom were very dear to us. Today what our priest proclaimed on every Ash Wednesday has become more significant.

The imposition of ashes reminds us, despite our social status,wealth and power,we are all mere mortals and our physical bodies, however strong and beautiful, would perish one day. Today we may be alive with great power, wealth, beauty and strength but tomorrow our bodies may be reduced to nothing but dust. Reflecting on those words of the priest should make us realize that greed for material comforts of our mortal bodies is indeed foolish. In fact it is more important to cultivate the love of Christ that is within each and every one of us, which will bring everlasting rewards from God.

Today we may take leave from our jobs to fast, abstain and receive the ashes without fail, but has the significance of the act really touched us in the way it should? Many of us don’t even know what the priest is saying or doing. We receive the ashes because it is a trend which we have to follow like we did as children.

This is the reality of the fast moving world today, to follow the trend in order to be accepted into the system. The trend involves rampant breaches of God’s laws – greed, lust, cheating, corruption, adultery, hate and violence; in fact the list is endless. The sad thing is that we are slowly but surely beginning to accept these “sins” as norms with total disregard for the teachings of Jesus although we claim to be his followers. We are tempted to follow the trend as if we don’t we’ll be left behind in this keenly competitive world.

Life has become a keenly contested race which we have to win at all times and at all costs to protect and safeguard our mortal bodies. We are least perturbed that by our win someone else more deserving may have lost, which does not seem to bother us. The real test of our faith is whether we can go against the trend to be magnanimous to allow someone more deserving than us to win at times.

As Christians can we say “NO” to this worldly trend and follow that set by Christ? Let’s pause to reflect on the true meaning of the words that we will once again hear this Ash Wednesday as we receive the ashes on our foreheads, “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”.

Let this Ash Wednesday be a reminder that our mortal bodies are not going to take us far in the Kingdom of God. May those words give us some strength and courage to say “NO” to the material trend that is fashionable today. May they give us some meaning in the direction we are heading in our own lives.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sunday Reflection 6.3.11

Being doers not just preachers (Mathew 7:21-27)

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading taken from Mathew 7:21-27 was a clear reminder by Jesus that we should not be hypocrites who preach his words but to do not live by them.

His words Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven are crystal clear that which applies to each and everyone who claim to be his followers.

The celebrant took the opportunity to remind us of this important commandment of Jesus, to build our houses on rock and not on sand which could be easily swept away by the rain. He reminded us of its relevance in our lives in the family and the community around us but stopped short of applying it to many of our priests who do not live by what they preach. They do not show us the way to follow Christ in the manner in which He wants.

Many of us are like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand only to be washed away by flood waters. It is time for us to realize our foolishness and be like the wise man who built his house founded on rock.

Many of us never fail to go to church, observe all the rules of the faith, do penance during lent, read and memorize the bible and even obtain degrees in the study of the Holy Book but are we really following what Jesus told us? We say “Lord, Lord” many times but how sincere are we in our prayers? Do we love God the way He wants? Do we love our neighbor in the way He told us to do so? Do we see Jesus in every person we meet along the way?

If we do then we will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock which will stand the test of time. If we hear God’s words but do not live by them then we will be like the foolish man who built his house on sand only to be washed away by the rain and God will say to us, “I never knew you”.

Having read these words of Jesus let us ponder on our lives. Who are we like, the wise or foolish man? If we are like the latter, it is still not be too late to change ourselves. Let us ask Jesus to guide us in the right path so that one day He will recognize us for doing what he commanded – being good doers than preaches.

Matthew 7:21-27

21 Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
24 Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock,
25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand,
27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.