WHEN FOLLOWING CHRIST BECOMES TOUGH

Saturday 31st January – Memorial of Saint John Bosco, Priest

Reflection: Mark 4: 35-41

WHEN FOLLOWING CHRIST BECOMES TOUGH

Each time I read today’s gospel reading, I marvel at the fact that one can sincerely follow God’s instruction and still experience storms. It is commonplace in today’s Christianity to see people preach that the moment we decide to follow Jesus, all our problems come to an end. Such people attribute every form of challenge in life to something contrary to God’s will. However this preaching of a “cross-less” Christianity is nothing but deception.

Christ calls you and I to carry our cross and follow Him if we truly want to be His disciples. The cross is never easy to carry. It is never a pleasant experience but as we follow Christ, the crosses we are called to carry help to increase our faith, trust and commitment to Him. In today’s reading, it was Christ who initiated the decision to cross over to the other side (Mark 4:35). Yet, there was a storm on the sea, so great that the disciples were afraid their boat would capsize. Christ certainly knew that there would be a storm yet He initiated the movement and was there to rebuke the waves when the disciples called out to Him. And through that circumstance, the disciples were filled with awe at His power over the forces of nature.

Dear friend, true discipleship does not imply a problem-free life. Rather, it promises us the assurance that God is working out all things for our good. Are you going through a storm? Do not be afraid. Simple make your situation report to Jesus and trust Him to rebuke the waves on your behalf. Every difficulty He allows would make us stronger, better, holier and more faithful Christians.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please help me to trust you even in the midst of difficulties. May I find peace and confidence in you, come what may. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 486 – Why should we petition God?

God, who knows us through and through, knows what we need. Nevertheless, God wants us to ask, to turn to him in times of need, to cry out, implore, lament, call upon him, indeed, even to struggle with him in prayer.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: Hebrews 11 1-2, 8-19; Luke 1: 69-75 (Canticle); Mark 4: 35-41

TINY DROPS OF WATER

Friday 30th January – 3rd Sunday of the year

Reflection: Mark 4: 26-32

TINY DROPS OF WATER

You are most likely familiar with the saying “tiny drops of water make an ocean”. This indeed is a true saying. There is nothing big today that did not begin small, and there is no significant achievement of man today that was not insignificant yesterday. This is just a fact of life. Think of a pregnant woman, at the early stage of the pregnancy, people would rarely notice that she is pregnant until after a while then the belly would grow bigger and bigger until delivery. This is just how it is with spiritual matters, as well as other aspects of our existence.

We should not forget our days of little beginnings. (Job.8:7) In other words, when you begin a good project, you are likely to encounter some challenges at the beginning, but with persistence you will overcome. In the Kingdom of God, the same rule applies; we sow seeds of righteousness, love and peace everywhere we go and in everyone that we come in contact with. As we do this, though insignificant, you shall surely reap the fruit on the long run. So let us brace ourselves today, and check the kind of seeds we are sowing with our lives on a daily basis. Are you sowing seeds of bitterness or joy, hatred or love, disunity or unity? We can ask God today to empower us to sow the right seed always.

Now, where do you get this seed from, or what is the seed? The Bible says, “the seed is the word”. (Mark 4:14). Hence it is the Word of God which you allow to permeate your heart that will produce good fruits, but if you allow Satan to sow his own words, you will definitely produce bad fruits.  Let us remember that the fruits we bear show who we are glorifying, either God or the devil. May our lives ever glorify God. Amen.

PRAYER: Lord, please fill me with courage to press on to the purpose of my existence today. Help me to sow fruits of righteousness wherever I find myself. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 1808: “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.”

HIDE A TREASURE:  “You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what He promises.” Hebrews 10:36 GNB

Readings for Today: Hebrews 10: 32-39; Psalm 37: 3-6, 23-24, 39-40; Mark.4:26-34

THE MOST HOLY PLACE

Thursday 29th January – Thursday of Week 3 of the Year

Reflection: Hebrews 10:19-25

THE MOST HOLY PLACE

The Most Holy Place was first referred to in the scriptures in Exodus 26:33 when the Lord told Moses to place a curtain to separate the “Holy Place” where the altar is placed for offering sacrifices by Aaron and his sons for the Israelites from the “Most Holy Place” or “Holy of holies” where the Ark of the Covenant of God was to be placed. The Holy of Holies was out of reach to the people, with only the high priest going in once a year to make a sacrifice on behalf of the people.

This practice remained till the time of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist who was visited by the Angel Gabriel while offering sacrifice in the Holy Place (Luke 1:9-10). The Jews had deep reverence and honour for the temple and the Holy place. It was a place where sins are forgiven (1 Chronicles 28:11); a place where the Lord promised King Solomon that he would watch over and protect Israel for all time (2 Chronicles 7:15-16).

Beloved, the death of our Lord has granted us access into the most Holy Place of God. Christ’s sacrificial body which was offered for us is the “curtain” through which we have been given free access to a life of grace and truth (Hebrews 10:20). At Christ’s death, the curtain which separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was torn in two, symbolising God’s invitation to come to Him freely through the body of Christ. (Luke 23:45). Hence, God beckons on you and I to approach Him through Christ’s body – the Holy Eucharist with a pure heart and a sure faith. We would only see him with a pure heart (Matthew 5:8). Let us not misuse the privilege which even the priests of old did not have. In the Eucharist, we encounter God who is our refuge in the midst of this evil world. Why run around for help when God lives with us in the Blessed Sacrament? Seek a deeper relationship with God by a firm determination to frequently visit God in his Most Holy Place where you will find mercy and grace.

Holiness of life can only be achieved by living in God’s presence. This was the only request of David the Psalmist: I have ask the Lord for one; one thing only do I want: to live in the Lord’s house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance” (Psalm 27:4). Let us go out today and embrace the gift of the God to his Holy Church.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please purify my heart by the fire of your love and make me thirst for your presence all the days of my life. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 218: What is the right way to honor the Lord present in the bread and wine?

Because God is truly present in the consecrated species of bread and wine, we must preserve the sacred gifts with the greatest reverence and worship our Lord and Redeemer in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Do not banish me away from your presence; do not take the Holy Spirit away from me” Psalm 51:11 GNB

Readings for Today: Hebrews 10: 19-25; Psalm 24:1-6; Mark 4:21-25

WHERE IS YOUR SEED?

Wednesday 28th January – Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor

Reflection: Mark 4: 1-20

WHERE IS YOUR SEED?

When we hear the parable of the sower, we often think of ourselves as the good soil – the soil that yields a bountiful harvest. I would have loved to say that this is always true for me, but I cannot. The truth is that sometimes, I am able to listen to God’s word, take it to heart and bear fruits. But more often than not, I find myself being the three other soils…the path, the thorns, the rocky areas.

So often, my mind wanders during a homily or Bible study; I am distracted and fail to hear what is being said at that point in time. Other times, I am excited and challenged by the word of God, convicted of certain sinful patterns in my life and encouraged to pursue a life of love and holiness. Yet, as soon as I step out someone gets me irritated and I forget all about my resolve and blurt out some unloving or unkind statement in annoyance. Other times, the fear of being labelled “old fashioned” or the fear of tomorrow keeps me from obeying God. Each time I reflect on today’s gospel reading, all these circumstances which I experience so frequently come to my mind and I simply ask God for His mercy and grace to truly experience the transforming power of His word EVERY TIME I have the privilege to hear Him.

Beloved, do you find yourself in similar situations? Even right now as you read this reflection, one of these scenes may well be playing out. Christ makes it clear to us that it is only when we listen to God’s word attentively, accept it and persevere in living it out that it can bear fruits in us. Today, examine yourself. Identify the various ways through which the seed of God’s word is lost each time it is sown in your heart and ask God for the grace to be more vigilant in holding on to His words.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the privilege to hear your word often. Please help me to guard jealously the seed of your word sown in my heart so that it may bear fruits in plenty. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 2705 – To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. it is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

HIDE A TREASURE: “But He who fixes his gaze on the perfect law of freedom and holds on to it, not forgetting what he has heard, but acting on it, will be blessed in what he does.” James 1: 25 CCB

Readings for Today: Hebrews 10: 11-18; Psalm 109: 1-4; Mark 4: 1-20

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Tuesday 27th January – Tuesday of week 3 of the year

Reflection: Hebrews 10: 1-10

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

“You Are What You Eat” was the theme of a dieting programme aired between 2004 and 2007 on the British Television. With the pandemic of non-infectious diseases like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases etc, the world has become much more conscious of the impact of our diet and lifestyle choices on our health. You need not look too far to find numerous diet regimens being promoted in a bid to encourage a healthy life. We too, as Catholic Christians are what we eat; Christ invites us to eat His flesh in the discourse on the Eucharist and at the last supper, on the night He was betrayed (John 6:51; Matthew 26: 26-28).

The writer to the Hebrews tells us in today’s reading that “God’s will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 10:10). The blood of goats and bulls which were required under the old covenant for the cleansing of sin were grossly inadequate and lacked the power to truly purify the Israelites. However, the blood of Christ which was shed once and for all as He offered Himself on the cross has the power not only to take away our sins but also to purify our hearts and consciences and unite us with our Heavenly Father. Thus, the Eucharist raises us from our fallen state into union with God.

Dear friend, at every Mass you have the privilege of reliving this ultimate sacrifice. Each Mass is celebrated in obedience to Christ’s instruction: “do this in memory of me”. The Eucharist is a life giving meal; it pours out sanctifying grace – the very life of God into us and strengthens us in our journey of faith, preparing us to meet Him whom we receive face to face at the end of time. Jesus invites you and I to receive Him so we can be like Him. Let us open our hearts and minds to the Lord and approach Him with purity of heart so that the bread of life that we eat may bring us eternal life and not condemnation.

PRAYER: Thank you Jesus for the gift of your body and blood. Please help me to receive you worthily and frequently and to cooperate with the grace of holiness you give me in the Eucharist so that I may truly be Christ-like.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 221 – How does Holy Communion change me?

Every Holy Communion unites me more deeply with Christ, makes me a living member of the Body of Christ, renews the graces that I received in Baptism and Confirmation, and fortifies me for the battle against sin.

HIDE A TREASURE: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” John 6: 57 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: Hebrews 10: 1-10; Psalm 40: 2-4, 7-11; Mark 3: 31-35

FAN INTO A FLAME

Monday 26th January – Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

Reflection: 2 Timothy 1: 1-8

FAN INTO A FLAME

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of SS Timothy and Titus who were both Bishops in the early Christian Church. Though Timothy’s father was Greek, his mother, Eunice was Jewish and she and his grandmother, Lois had a deep faith in Christ which she passed on to her son, Timothy.

Many of us young Catholics were baptised as infants, thus becoming Christians before we knew anything at all and we have been taught by our parents and elders the way of righteousness. Are we holding on to this teaching and growing in holiness like Timothy did? Today, St Paul tells Timothy to fan into a flame the gift of God he had received when hand were laid on him. At our confirmation, the sacrament that completed our Christian initiation, the Bishop laid his hand on us, invoking on us the fullness of God’s Spirit. Are we fanning this gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence into a flame? Are we open to His promptings?

Beloved, our Christian faith can be likened to hot coals which would make a fire when fanned but become cold and useless if left alone. Fanning our faith into a flame implies that we respond to the grace of God in us. It is achieved through daily communion with God in prayers, taking time to prayerfully study His word and frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. As we open our hearts to God in these ways, He strengthens our faith, allowing the seed of faith planted in us to blossom; he teaches us the demands of our Christian calling and gives us the grace to live it out to the full. Only then can we effectively pass on our faith to our progeny like Lois and Eunice did.

PRAYER: Dear Father, I thank you for the gift of faith and for your Spirit and dwells in my heart. Please help me to be sensitive and obedient to His leading always. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 205 – What happens in Confirmation?

In Confirmation the soul of a baptized Christian is imprinted with a permanent seal that can be received only once and marks this individual forever as a Christian. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the strength from above in which this individual puts the grace of his Baptism into practice through his life and acts as a “witness” for Christ.

HIDE A TREASURE: “For this reason I remind you to fan into a flame the gift of God you have received through the laying on of my hands” 2 Timothy 1:6 CCB

Readings for Today: 2 Timothy 1: 1-8; Psalm 96: 1-3, 7-10; Mark 3: 22-30

WHAT EFFORTS ARE YOU MAKING?

Sunday 25th January – 3rd Sunday of the year

Reflection: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

WHAT EFFORTS ARE YOU MAKING?

The story of the prophet Jonah is one that shows forth the depth of God’s mercy. Though God is just, He is immensely merciful, seeking the salvation of all man. Hence despite Jonah’s initial refusal to obey God’s instruction, God ensured that he did so that the Ninevites would be given a chance to hear the message of repentance.

Dear friends, God is aware of our imperfections and the struggles we face in this fallen world are very well known to Him. Each new day He gives us is a new chance for repentance and reconciliation with Him (2 Peter 3:15). Yet, all He requires from us is a sincere effort to live in holiness. Just as God saw the efforts of the Ninevites in today’s first reading and relented on the punishment He had proposed to bring on them, God looks out for the efforts you and I are making. Are you making any efforts at all or are you simply wallowing in sin and worldly living with the excuse that “no one is perfect?”

Jesus called ordinary men to be his followers in today’s gospel reading. These men whom He later appointed “Apostles” were uneducated imperfect fishermen. Yet, because they surrendered themselves to our Lord and made efforts to follow Him faithfully, He strengthened their faith and enabled them to become pillars of His Church. Beloved, Jesus calls out to you and I today with the words: “follow me”. He is ready to give us the grace we need. But we must be ready to make efforts to follow Him in sincerity.

PRAYER: Lord, make me know your ways. Teach me your paths. Make me walk in your truth and teach me; for you are God my saviour.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 1694 – Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord. Following Christ and united with Him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind… which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and by following His example.

HIDE A TREASURE: “…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge” 2 Peter 1:5

Readings for Today: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Psalm 25: 4-9; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20