Weekly Reflection (20 Jan 2019)

2nd Sunday Year C

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-11

Theme of the week: As the loving husband of the people, Christ bestowed many gifts upon us. Let us do whatever he commands us and use these gifts to build the kingdom of God.

The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 587BC; and took the best and brightest Israelites with them back to Babylon. The Israelites remained in exile until Cyrus the Persian king facilitated their return some fifty years later. This week’s First Reading was written at that time. Upon their return from the Babylonian exile, Jerusalem was in ruin and the people are in great need for encouragement. The reading prophesises a time when the Lord would once again take delight in the people, like a husband rejoices in his newly wedded bride. (See also Hosea, Rev 21:9-10) That is right, Christ takes delight in us as a husband takes delight in his newly wedded bride. Beyond expressing the delight of the Lord in us, this passage underscores a theological truth – that we the Church will be wedded to Christ on the Last Day, as explained in Rev 19:7 and 21:2.

God bestowed many gifts upon us His bride the Church. The Second Reading explains that, through the Holy Spirit, we as individual members of the Church are endowed with different gifts. We are obliged to not only discover what our gifts are but to use them to build the kingdom of God. As Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light” (Lk 8:16). Never make the mistake of thinking the gifts we received are insignificant. As Paul explained in 1 Cor 12:12-27, we are the Body of Christ, each of us is an organ of that body performing a specific and important function.

Staying on the theme of marriage, the Gospel tells of the story of Jesus’ first miracle – that at the wedding at Cana. There are many signs and symbolism that one may take from this Gospel passage. In the Gospel of John, these miracles are called signs. This is because, beyond the immediate wonders they conveyed, signs point us to deeper truths about God. In brief, the significance of the signs at the wedding at Cana points us to Mary’s role in our salvation. Briefly,

  1. When Mary noticed a need of the people (they ran out of wine), she conveyed her concern to Jesus. Even though Jesus himself acknowledged that his hour has not yet come, he nevertheless performed the miracle upon the request of Mary. This affirms Mary’s intercessory role in conveying our prayers to the God.
  2. After she conveyed the people’s need, Mary instructed the servants to “do whatever he tells you” (verse 5). Mary’s instructions to the servants is addressed to us as well. Mary has never asked to be worshipped, rather she always leads us to her Son.
  3. Jesus’ unusual address of Mary as “woman” (verse 4) affirms Mary as the new Eve. By her disobedience, the first Eve brought upon the downfall of humankind. By her obedience (Lk 1:38) in bearing the Son of God, Mary the new Eve brought redemption upon the world.
  4. In Jewish tradition, the number six is an imperfect number. There were six stone jars, signifying imperfection. Upon Mary’s intervention and Jesus’ miracle, perfection was achieved – the jars were filled the best wine. Water that was used for the Jewish rites of purification was turned into wine. This symbolises the old order being replaced by the new.

Let us ask Mary to pray with us and for us, that we may find the grace and wisdom do whatever Christ commands us. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (13 Jan 2019)

Baptism Of The Lord, Year C

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11
Titus 2:11-14,3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16,21-22

Theme of the week: By our baptism, God gives us the grace to turn away from sins, return from our spiritual exile and turn back to Him.

After the Babylonian conquest of the the Israelite kingdom of Judah in 605BC, many Israelites were taken from their homeland and exiled to Babylon. The First Reading was written in the context of that exile. In that time, many second-generation Israelites got comfortable with their lives in Babylon and lost the zeal to return to their homeland. The passage reignites the people’s hearts by explaining how the Lord will smoothen their path back, where valleys would be filled in, hills laid low, and cliffs became plains. Beyond the literal meaning, this passage foretells the coming of Christ. Verse 3 spoke of a voice crying out in the wilderness, “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. In the Gospel of Matthew, it was revealed that at the coming of Christ, that voice is none other than that of John the Baptist (Matt 3:3). As the Israelites were called from their exile to Babylon in the First Reading; John the Baptist similarly called for all sinners to return from our spiritual exile. Contemplate this for a moment, let me search in my heart and find that sin I have been struggling with. Sometimes, having been immersed in that sin for a long period of time, like the Israelites in Babylon, we too can get too comfortable and complacent. The coming of Christ is a wake-up call to us from our immersion in sins, so that we may start embarking on the journey back to God.

The Gospel this week tells the story of the Baptism of our Lord. If we examine the purposes of baptism, it would seem that our Lord Jesus need not be baptised. The first purpose of Baptism is the acceptance of the baptised into God’s family – Jesus did not need that as he is God. The other purpose of Baptism is to be cleansed of sins – Jesus did not need that either as he is sinless. That our Lord Jesus joined the sinners in seeking John’s baptism is a recognition of his messianic mission – that is, to minister to us sinners, he would first be identified with us. This is the mercy of God. That in order to save us from our immersion in sins, Christ the Sinless One took sins upon Himself - an act that led to Him paying the ultimate price on Good Friday.

At the end of this week’s First Reading is a promise that the Lord God will come with might and power (verse 10). In contrast to the Jewish leaders of that time, who did not fulfil their duties as the shepherds of the people (Jer 23:1-2), Christ Himself came to us as the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11, Lk 15:307).

In spite of Christ’s great act of mercy, turning away from sins is sometimes not easy. The Second Reading explains that to help us turn away from sins, God gave us grace, bestowed upon us at our baptism, to be “self-controlled, upright, and godly” (verse 2:12). It is by our baptism that we become co-heirs to the kingdom of God. Let us call upon that grace as we acknowledge our sins and make the journey back to God. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (6 Jan 2019)

Epiphany Of The Lord

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

Theme of the week: God reveals himself to believers and non-believers alike, so that all may inherit His Kingdom.

At the feast of Epiphany, we celebrate the revelation of our Lord to the non-believers.

The historical background of the First Reading is the period when the Jews had just returned from their exile to Babylon. The sight that confronted them upon their return must have been rather disheartening – their city ruined and the temple destroyed. This passage offers the people a word of encouragement – that the Lord will once again lead them to greatness. Significantly, as the Jews renewed their relationship with God in verse 6, they are joined by Gentiles coming from Midian, Ephah and Sheba, coming with gifts to pay homage to the Lord. In-line with the theme of Epiphany, verse 6 presents the subtle revelation that both Jews and Gentiles, believers and non-believers alike, shall inherit the Kingdom of the Lord. The Jews do not believe in the universality of salvation, instead believing that only those who were members of the Jewish religion may be saved. This is not unlike what some Christians believe today, that only members of the Christian religion may be saved. That non-believers shall inherit the Kingdom is a significant teaching not just for the Jews of Biblical times, but also to many of us modern day Christians. More on this later.

The Second Reading captures the very essence of the Feast of Epiphany. What the First Reading merely hinted, the Second Reading boldly proclaimed: that salvation is offered to believers and non-believers alike. In particular, verse 6 tells us that “the Gentiles [non-believers] have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.

The Gospel tells the story of the Magi (or wise men) from the east coming to pay Jesus homage, gifting Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are highly significant as they embodied Christ’s identity and mission:

  1. Gold, the king of metal, signifies Christ’s Kingship.
  2. Frankincense are incense used in religious worship and hence signifies Christ’s Divinity.
  3. Myrrh is a spice used for embalmment of dead bodies. It is an odd gift to mark the birth of a baby; but carries great significance in this case as it signifies Christ’s Passion, i.e. His suffering and death.

We do not know where exactly these Magi came from, but what we do know is that they are Gentiles and in-line with the message of Epiphany, they are among the first people to accept Jesus as Lord. In contrast, King Harod (a Roman, and hence a Gentile too) conspired with the Jewish chief priests to try and harm the child Jesus. From this popular Christmas story, we learn that one does not earn salvation through one’s racial, cultural or even religious heritage; rather we are saved by what we believe and how we live out those beliefs. To us modern day Christians, Epiphany reminds us not to make the same mistake as the early Jews, by assuming that salvation is God’s exclusive gift to us alone.

Let us pause and reflect on this message for a moment: As a believer, do I help fulfil Christ’s mission of universal salvation in my daily life? Do I help the people around me feel the presence of Christ? For non-believers, Christ can come in the form of simple gestures of goodwill – a warm embrace or a helping hand in times of need, or even just a simple smile. Let us bring others closer to God so that all may inherit His Kingdom.

Have a blessed New Year. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (30 Dec 2018) – Alternative Readings

The Holy Family Year C

1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28
1 John 3:1-2,21-24
Luke 2:41-52

Theme of the week: Faced with the choice between God’s will and our will, are we prepared to let God’s will prevail?

In the First Reading, Hannah, wife of Elkanah, was barren and had long suffered the taunts of her husband’s other wives. She prayed for a child and made the vow that if God grants her this wish, she would offer her child to God. So when Samuel was borne to her, she decided to offer the boy to the service of the Lord. She bought the child to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh and handed him over to the priest Eli. In making this decision, Hannah made a great sacrifice, allowing her maternal ties to yield to God’s parentage of Samuel. Let us reflect on the times in our lives when we are confronted with the choice between God’s will and ours. Faced with such a dilemma, am I prepared to follow the example of Hannah and let our will succumb to God’s? After all, is this not what I meant each time I pray the Lord’s Prayer, when I say “thy will be done“?

In line with the Christmas theme, the Second Reading assures us that, by our Saviour’s incarnation as a human child, we are already God’s children. We have a merciful Father who, in spite of our sins, will never disown us. Being God’s children, we inherit His promise of salvation. All we need to do is to inherit the promise is to obey his commandments. And one day, “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (verse 2). This, my dear friends, is the promise of Christmas.

The Gospel this week presents the only recorded episode of Jesus’ childhood. We see that from a young age, Jesus is acutely aware of who he is and what his mission on earth was: that is, to attend to his Father’s affairs. Also significant in this passage is another example of Mary unquestioning obedience to God. For when the child Jesus said that he must be in his Father’s house (verse 49), the Gospel tells us Mary and Joseph “did not understand what he said to them” (verse 50). Having searched for their boy “in great anxiety” (verse 48) for three days, it would have excusable for Mary and Joseph to be upset at what Jesus said. However, instead of being upset, Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (verse 51) in spite of her not fully understanding what the child Jesus said. Like Hannah in the First Reading, the episode laid the foundation for Mary’s yielding of her maternal ties to that of God’s parentage of Jesus. In years to come, Mary would become more aware of the sacrifice that was required of her. The pinnacle of this sacrifice was her acceptance of her Son’s suffering and death as part of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind.

Let us heed the example of Mary, that while we often do not fully comprehend the will of God, we would treasure what is revealed to us in our hearts. When called to do so, let us be prepared to let our will succumb to God’s. Shalom.

 



Weekly Reflection (30 Dec 2018)

The Holy Family Year C

Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6,12-14
Colossians 3:12-21
Luke 2:41-52

Theme of the week: May our families be holy families, filled with forgiveness, respect, gentleness, understanding and love.

When reading the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17, Deut 5:7-21), we must be careful not to just take them at their literal meaning or we risk taking the narrowest interpretation, missing the full meaning of the Commandments. The First Reading is an example of a fuller and more encompassing interpretation of the Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16). In the First Reading, we are taught honouring our parents does not just mean obedience to our parents, but we should also lend our parents dignity and respect in their old age. In fact, the term “honour” in verse 4 has been interpreted as “comfort” in some ancient text. As typical of the writings of that male-dominant age, the passage is laden with reference to the father. Interpreting in today’s context, we should extend the same honour and respect to both our parents. Observed faithfully, this commandment is the foundation of a holy family dedicated to the ways of the Lord.

In an extension to the teachings of the First Reading, the Second Reading provides further instructions for building a God-fearing holy family. The passage can be divided into three sections, each with an important message:

  1. That we should forgive each other just as the Lord forgives us (verse 13). Doing so brings us closer to the Lord.
  2. That we should do everything in the Lord’s name (verse 17). Doing so reminds us that we are His people.
  3. Extending the above practices to our family would bring about peace and harmony to the family. It should however be noted that the last section (verse 18-21), while exonerating the virtues of obedience, love and respect, reflects bias of the time, expressing the husband’s dominance over his wife; and parents over their children. A more encompassing interpretation would require each party to treat the other the same way – with respect, gentleness, understanding and love. As Paul teaches in Eph 5:21, “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

It is often said that the family is the smallest church, the church that is closest to our hearts. Inspired by the Scripture text of this week, let us reflect: what kind of church is my family? Is my family a holy family, where every member may experience forgiveness, respect, gentleness, understanding and love?

The Gospel this week presents the only recorded episode of Jesus’ childhood. We see that from a young age, Jesus is acutely aware of who he is and what his mission on earth was: that is, to attend to his Father’s affairs. Also significant in this passage is another example of Mary unquestioning obedience to God. For when the child Jesus said that he must be in his Father’s house (verse 49), the Gospel tells us Mary and Joseph “did not understand what he said to them” (verse 50). Having searched for their boy “in great anxiety” (verse 48) for three days, it would have excusable for Mary and Joseph to be upset at what Jesus said. However, instead of being upset, Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (verse 51) in spite of her not fully understanding what the child Jesus said. The episode laid the foundation for Mary’s yielding of her maternal ties to God’s parentage of Jesus. In years to come, Mary would become more aware of the sacrifice that was required of her. The pinnacle of this sacrifice was her acceptance of her Son’s suffering and death as part of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind.

Let us heed the example of Mary, that while we often do not fully comprehend the will of God, we would treasure what is revealed to us in our hearts. When called to do so, let us be prepared to let our will succumb to God’s. Shalom.

 


 


Weekly Reflection (23 Dec 2018)

4th Sunday Of Advent Year C

Micah 5:1-4
Hebrew 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

Theme of the week: Christ, the King foretold from ancient days, made the ultimate sacrifice of himself to bring salvation to the human race. Let us follow his example and make a sin offering of ourselves.

Ephrathah was the name of the clan from which king David came from. It is also another name for the village of Bethlehem. The First Reading foretold that it is from this little village that a new King will be borne to God’s people. Tracing Jesus’ ancestry to David, the passage tells us that the new King’s “origin is from of old, from ancient days” (verse 2). Through his lineage to David, Jesus inherits David’s kingship. However, in contrast to the earthly kings of Michah’s time who were “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” (Jer 23:1); Jesus is the King who “shall stand and feed his flock” (verse 4).

The Second Reading compares the sacrifices made by the Jewish priests with that of Jesus. In the old Jewish ritual of yom kippur, the priest sprinkles blood of animals in the temple. These sacrifices are made year after year; but are incapable of taking away the sins of anyone. By contrast, Christ accepted the will of his father (verse 7) and offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice, atoning for all sins past, present and future. Contrasting burnt offerings of old and the new sin offerings of Christ, the passage explains that God “abolishes the first in order to establish the second” (verse 9). Hence, in Christian worship, the offering of animals as burnt offerings is replaced by Christ’s offering of Himself as atonement for sins. We witness Christ’s sin offering at every Mass, when the priest utters these words in the person of Christ, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood …” Such is the reality of the Eucharistic meal – real body and real blood of Christ, given to us to partake.

The Gospel describes the episode of the Visitation, where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. On hearing the voice of Mary, John leapt in her mother’s womb. Then Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said these famous words: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” This was the proclamation of the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Elizabeth, with Mary in front of her, carrying within her Christ – body, blood, soul and divinity.

What about us? Has it occurred to you that after we partake in the Eucharistic meal, we too carry within us Christ – body, blood, soul and divinity? Carrying Christ within her, Mary made a great sacrifice of herself, making the uncomfortable journey to visit her pragnant cousin Elizabeth. May has set a great example for us. While making material sacrifice such as goods and money are always commendable, in some ways, these are similar to the sacrifices of the Jewish priests of old, when they sprinkled the blood of animals. As Christians, we are called to take that extra step, to make that personal sacrifice for the sake of others and for the sake of our faith – just as Christ and Mary has shown us.

Christ sacrificed Himself for our sins. As a sincere gesture of our repentance, let us too make our own sin offerings. When sufferings befall upon us, let us accept them willingly. Let us emulate Christ by taking up our crosses and following him (Mt 16:24, Lk 9:23). As we approach the final few days before Christmas, let us reflect on the Christ’s kingship and sacrificial priesthood. Have a blessed Christmas.

 



Weekly Reflection (16 Dec 2018)

3rd Sunday Of Advent Year C

Zephaniah 3:14-18
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18

Theme of the week: Welcome Christ into our hearts, and live our lives to the theme of Emmanuel, i.e. God is with us.

The arrival of Jesus on earth is an event unprecedented in human history – that God allows himself to be incarnated on earth and live among us. This is the meaning behind one of Jesus’ name, Emmanuel, which means God is with us. As we reflect on the amazing outpouring of grace associated with the event of the Incarnation, we are reminded to live our lives to the theme of Emmanuel, that God is with us in our daily lives; that we should live our lives in reverence to and in accordance to the teachings of Christ.

The Book of Zephaniah is widely believed to be written during the period of the Divided Kingdom, when King Josiah reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Judah (640-609BC). Unlike many of his predecessors, King Josiah is a good king who lived his life to the theme of Emmanuel. King Josiah worshipped the Lord. In the First Reading, the prophet Zephaniah creates a sense of expectancy for the arrival of the Lord, with two mentions of the phrase the Lord “is in your midst” (verse 15 and verse 17). At a superficial level, Zephaniah was referring to the new found reverence of the monarchy in the Lord, that God has found a home in the heart of the king. The passage takes on a deeper meaning when we consider the fact that the phrase “in your midst”, or Emmanuel, is the name of our Lord Jesus. Hence, allegorically, beyond the phenomenon of a reverent king, the passage also foretells the birth of the Jesus, when God himself would come down and live among us.

The Gospel records an account of John the Baptist preaching and baptising on the bank of the Jordan River. We read that upon hearing the teachings of John, the expectancy of the arrival of the Messiah was aroused among the people, and many of them questioned whether John is in fact the Messiah. John denied he is the Messiah; and was quick to stress that when Christ comes, John is not even fit to untie the thong of his sandals (verse 16). Though he is not the Christ, John nevertheless provided us instructions on the kind of lives we should strive to in preparation for the arrival of the Christ; that we should help the poor; refrain from extortions and false accusations; and be satisfied with one’s own material blessings (verse 11-14). In other words, we should lead our lives to the theme of Emmanuel.

In Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9, Jesus promised us: “Ask, and it will be given to you”. It can easily be misunderstood that the reason we live our lives to the theme of Emmanuel is for tangible, material rewards. Not so! The Second Reading teaches us that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. In other words, the Lord will not grant us everything we ask for. Instead, we should pray for our needs with a thanksgiving heart, and the Lord will always answer our prayer in the manner his infinite wisdom sees fit. While we may not always understand the Lord’s response to our prayer, we should nevertheless be rest assured that God has our best interest at heart when he answers our prayers in the manner he sees fit. Ask ourselves this: How often have I tried to bend God’s will to fit mine? And how often have I been left disappointed when the Lord did not answer my prayers in the manner I desired. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts, so that we may shape our will to align with God’s will instead.

May the peace of Christ enter your heart this Christmas.

 



Weekly Reflection (9 Dec 2018)

2nd Sunday Of Advent Year C

Baruch 5:1-9
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11
Luke 3:1-6

Theme of the week: Let us repent our sins and lead true Christian lives.

Is there a sin that has such a hold on you that your find it hard to let go? Perhaps it is so ingrained in you that you find it hard to acknowledge it as a fault; or perhaps you find yourselves always justifying your actions?

What is the effect of such a sin on my life? When I sin, I disobey God’s Commandments and turn my back on Him. And as sin becomes habitual and it becomes harder and harder to break the habit. I become enslaved to sin as it takes hold of my life. As I walk further and further away from God, I exile myself into spiritual wilderness. As part of our preparation to welcome our Lord Jesus at Christmas, this week’s readings offer us a chance at redemption from this destructive cycle. The Scripture urges us to repent our sin, so that Christ may enter our hearts once again.

Chapter 4 of the Book of Baruch describes how the Israelites provoked God: “For you provoked the one who made you by sacrificing to demons and not to God.” (Bar 4:7). As a result of their disobedience, God lifted his protection over the Israelites. They were consequently conquered by a foreign power and exiled to Babylon. While their physical bodies were exiled to Babylon, their souls too were exiled – exiled to spiritual wilderness. Upon showing repentance, Chapter 5 describes how God forgave them, smoothed the path and led them back home to the Holy Land: “For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground” (verse 7). And as their physical bodies returned from exile, so too did their souls. God once again held His protective hand over the people, “so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God” (verse 7). Praise be to God.

The imagery of the wilderness is invoked once again in the Gospel, with John the Baptist proclaiming in the wilderness the coming of the Lord. John echoed the same message as the Frist Reading: that we should repent for our sins; and God will forgive us and lead us back from spiritual wilderness. Let us reflect upon this: like the Israelites, the path will be straightened too for me to welcome the Lord back into my heart. All it takes is a penitent heart.

Beyond repentance, we are urged to put on a new life, a new life in Christian living. Using the examples of the Philippians, the Second Reading provides us three practices to emulate:

  • Evangelise. Evangelisation is the mission of John the Baptist, and is also the mission given to every Christians (verse 5). “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mk 16:15) We are called to be so on fire with God’s love that it becomes impossible for us to keep it to ourselves, as the prophet Jeremiah explained it in Jer 20:9, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name’, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
  • Love. We should love each other, yes, even our enemies; and increasingly so with each passing day (verse 9).
  • Learn. We should never stop improving our knowledge of God and our insight into His will (verse 9), so that we may know “what is best” (verse 10) for us.

Let this be our reflection for the week: As I prepare for the coming of the Christ-Child, let me challenge myself to lead true Christian lives, through repentance, evangelisation, loving and learning. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (2 Dec 2018)

1st Sunday Of Advent Year C

Jeremiah 33:14-16
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Theme of the week: Be prepared at all time for the coming of Christ.

As we enter the preparation period for Christmas, the Readings this week provide us visions of the comings Of Christ – both His First Coming at Christmas and His Second Coming on the Last Day.

The period 900-750BC marks one of darkest time in history of the Israelites. In this period, the Holy Land was divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel occupied by ten Israelite tribes; and the southern Kingdom of Judah occupied by the remaining two Israelite tribes. It was during this period that the Israelites descended into grave immorality; especially those in the north. As a result of their infidelity, God lifted his protection over the people; and in 587BC, the Holy Land was conquered by the Babylonians. As a result of this conquest, many Israelites were deported by their conquerors and exiled to Babylon. Thus, as in the times of Moses, the Israelites were once again enslaved in a foreign land. It is under this backdrop of a persecuted race that God demonstrated his boundless mercy. In spite of their repeated offences, when the Israelites cried for help, God answered. In the First Reading, God promised deliverance to the people. This would come in the form of a Messiah, a King from the line of David (verse 15). This promise was fulfilled at the First Coming of Christ, when a descendent of David came forth as the Messiah and the King.

It was due to their unfaithfulness to God that the people went into exile. Let us reflect on our own lives. Have I been unfaithful to God? Am I suffering from an exile too – a spiritual exile? If so, like the Israelites, let me cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Let me prepare my heart for the coming of Christ – at Christmas and on the Last Day.

In the Second Reading, Paul encourages his followers in Thessalonica to centre their lives around love in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, so that they “may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (verse 13). As Jesus said in Jn 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”. In other words, we are not made for mediocracy. We are made for heaven and God wants us to fulfil our destiny. In spite of our failings, being ever patient and ever merciful, God always stands ready to welcome us back into his love. And it is for this reason Christ came to us – to redeem us from our sins and pave for us the way to heaven. As we prepare for Christmas, we must never lose sight of this the true meaning of Christmas.

Like the Israelites in the First Reading and the Thessalonians in the Second Reading, we similarly look forward to the coming of Christ. The Gospel passage expands on this imagery of His Second Coming, the glorious return of Christ. In an age where the celestial bodies were used tell time, Jesus’ mention of “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars” (verse 25) indicates the end of time. The passage reminds us to be vigilant at all times, so that we will not fall prey to worldly pursuits: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap” (verse 34-35). This will be a great tragedy indeed, that we are so caught up with worldly pursuits that we are not ready when Christ comes. Let us wake up from dissipation and drunkenness and put on love, in preparation for the Coming of Christ – at Christmas and at the end of time.

 



Weekly Reflection (25 Nov 2018)

Christ The King, Year B

Daniel 7:13-14
Apocalypse 1:5-8
John 18:33-37

Theme of the week: The Son of Man is the heavenly king who shares his royal inheritance with us. Courage! Proclaim his truth!

Jesus’ kingship is a theme that is evident through all the readings this week. The prophet Daniel lived in the time of the Babylonian exile. In Dan 7:1-8, Daniel describes a vision where he witnessed four beasts rising from the sea. These represented the rise of four successive empires of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman. (This vision is similar to the one Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had in his dream earlier, in Dan 2:31-45). In the vision, the four great kingdoms are eventually superseded by a kingdom of God that is to be established by “one like a Son of Man” (verse 13 – Jerusalem Bible). This Son of Man will descend from heaven, and establish a reign that will last forever (verse 14). This Old Testament passage is the earliest reference to the term “Son of Man”, a term used to describe Jesus in the Gospels. In stark contrast to the four beasts, the Son of Man is in human form. This vision puts into sharp contrast the earthly kingships of the four beasts and heavenly kingship of the Son of Man. Jesus himself emphasised this contrast in the Gospel when he said, “My kingdom is not from this world.” (Gosepl, verse 36)

The Second Reading presents to us another contrast between earthly and heavenly kingship; demonstrating to us the extent of God’s mercy and generosity. Jesus is the heavenly king who sacrificed for our sins. And in so doing, he conferred royalty upon us, making us his kingdom (verse 6). Again, let us compare earthly kingships with Jesus’ heavenly kingship: what earthly king would share his royal inheritance with his subjects? Yet this is exactly what Jesus did.

The Gospel describes the scene where Jesus was tried by Pontius Pilate, during which Pilate jostled in and out of the praetorium several times. Outside the praetorium, the scene was emotionally charged and chaotic. Inside the praetorium, Jesus reasoned with Pilate in an atmosphere of calm. Having convinced Pilate of his innocence and assured him that he is no threat to the Roman Empire (“My kingdom is not from this world.” – verse 36), Jesus proclaimed the truth to Pilate: “for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (verse 37) Pilate has to make the choice: execute Jesus to please the crowd; or release him to please his conscience. Ironically, it is Pilate who is now on trial. In the end, Pilate took the cowardly decision of sentencing Jesus to death. In the process, Pilate took the trouble to disown this decision by washing his hands, saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Mt 27:24)

Proclaiming the kingdom of God often comes at a price. Reflect upon this for a moment. Like Pilate, I will face challenges in proclaiming the truth. Often proclaiming the truth will extract a personal price of me – whether it is alienation, ridicule, criticism or other forms of persecution. What do I do? Do I have the courage to make the morally correct decision; or do I take the easy way out like Pilate and then blame others for my bad decision?

May courage and peace be with you.