Weekly Reflection (17 Mar 2019)

2nd Sunday of Lent Year C

Genesis 15:5-12,17-18
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 9:28-36

Theme of the week: Jesus is the fulfilment of Old Testament promises. We are challenged to look beyond our earthly pursuits and our earthly trials; and look to heaven for our final fulfilment.

The First Reading started by Abraham questioning God’s promise to him, “How am I to know that I shall possess it [the promised land]?” (verse 8) So God made Abraham a solemn pact, a covenant. In Jewish tradition, when two parties make a covenant, they brought animals, cut them in half and walk between the two halves as they enter into agreement. The severed animals signify the fate of a party if it breaks the covenant. In the First Reading, God made such a solemn agreement with Abraham. Except in this case, God was the unilateral party making the promises, hence only God (signified by the furnace and the firebrand) walked between the severed animals.

The Gospel describes the episode of the transfiguration, where Jesus was visited by Moses and Elijah. The transfiguration is recorded in all of three synoptic Gospels of Matthew (17:1-8), Mark (9:2-8) and Luke (9:28-36); and is read on the second week of Lent for all three years of A, B and C.

The story of transfiguration conveys three important messages to us:

  1. Firstly, it emphasises the immensity of God’s sacrifice. Moses represents the Laws and Elijah represents the Prophecies. With Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus, it signifies Jesus being the fulfilment of both the Laws and the Prophecies. To emphasise this point, the story ended with Moses and Elijah disappearing, leaving Jesus as the only one standing. Jesus is God. It is only through the sacrifice of God Himself, that all of humankind may be saved.
  2. Secondly, the transfiguration occurred at a time when Jesus was about to face his gruesome death. It is in this context that God sent Moses and Elijah to strengthen him. In times of trials, we need to remember the story, and pray to God to send his Holy Spirit to strengthen us. As Paul said in 1 Cor 10:13, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
  3. We were told that Peter in his ignorance (Luke 9:33, Mk 9:6) proposed to build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah respectively. How ignorant he was! For to do so would be putting Jesus on par with Moses and Elijah, which is clearly not the proper thing to do. Then, as if to rebuke Peter, we hear God proclaiming Jesus to be his Son and that we should listen to Him (Matthew 17:5, Luke 9:35, Mark 9:7) The Gospel teaches us to recognise Jesus as God and put Him before all else. With Jesus about to face his eventual death and glorification, he is laying a path for us to follow, so that like him, we may attain glorification through the cross. There is no resurrection without death; and no glorification without suffering.

The Second Reading examines our earthly existence in the context of God’s heavenly promise to us. The passage explains that even as we live on earth, we belong to heaven. As such, as much as we need to fulfil our earthly needs of food, water and creature comfort, we must not let our earthly pursuits distract us from our heavenly goals. In the context of the transfiguration, the passage encourages us to always look towards heaven, even in the midst of our earthly trials, for it is in heaven where our final fulfilment lies. May our Lenten journey bring us closer to our heavenly goal. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (10 Mar 2019)

1st Sunday of Lent Year C

Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Romans 10:8-13
Luke 4:1-13

Theme of the week: This lent, let us turn away from sin, worship God, and offer to Him the best fruits of our labour.

The First Reading describes a Jewish ceremony where the first fruits of a harvest were offered to God, in reminiscence of Abel offering “the firstlings of his flock, [and] their fat portions” to the Lord in Gen 4:4. Through these offerings, we are reminded to always offer the best of what we have to the Lord, for all things we have belong to Him. In the proclamation, the Jews relived how they came to be in Egypt and how the Lord led them back to the Promised Land. The term “wondering Aramaean” in verse 5 refers to their ancestor Jacob. But Jacob was not just a man; his name is Israel and he personifies the Israelite nation. As the reference evolved from “he” to “us”, the Jews brought themselves into participation of the historical events, such that it is no longer just a remembrance but one of anamnesis, i.e. living through a past event by bringing it into the presence. (This same mystery of anamnesis is invoked each time we celebrate the Eucharist at the altar.)

God first revealed Himself to the Israelite nation. However, as the Second Reading explains, salvation is universal, it is not reserved for the Jews. The passage says, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (verse 9). “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him” (verse 12). This is in contrast to the teachings of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, where they taught that only the Jews could be saved. Through this passage, we are reminded not to make the same mistake as the Pharisees, believing that only Christians may be saved. We have received the fullness of the truth from our Christian faith, that is true. But that does not mean that only Christians may be saved. Salvation is universal – it is the duty of every Christian to spread this Good News, and not to hinder it by adopting a Pharisee-like mentality to our non-believing brothers and sisters.

The Gospel this week recounts how Satan tempted Jesus. By tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread and throw himself off a tall building, Satan tempted Jesus to use his power for his own benefits, rather than by the Father’s design. This is a stark reminder for us followers of Jesus. In everything we do – whether it is a service or a charitable act – we must glorify God rather than ourselves, just like Abel and the Israelites did when they offered the best fruits of their labour to the Lord.

By tempting Jesus with fortunes and power, Satan was asking Jesus to desert God and worship him instead. We too must resist the temptation to worship false gods – whether it is fame, fortune or power. It is noteworthy that in tempting Jesus, the Devil presented a strong argument and even quoted from the Scripture. Face with temptations of this form, falsely justified by misquotes from the Scripture, one can easily fall into disobedience to God while thinking that one is serving God. (For an example, read the story of Saul in 1 Sam 15: 1-23, when he justified his disobedience to God by saying that he did so only to serve God.) To guard against temptations of this form, we must invest in our own faith formation, be vigilant and always act with a discerning heart.

In spite of the temptations, Jesus did not cave in and did not sin. In order to identify with us, God let Jesus be tempted like us and suffered like us. He is like us in all things but sin. Saying no to sin, that is the challenge this Gospel passage poses to us. Let this also be our Lenten theme.

 



Weekly Reflection (3 Mar 2018)

8th Sunday Year C

Ecclesiasticus 27:4-7
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
Luke 6:39-45

Theme of the week: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” How can we break free?

Have you ever gossip? Have you ever spoken ill of another person? Most of us have! The Fifth Commandment commands us not to kill. Well, character assignation is another form for killing. The Eight Commandment commands us not to bear false witness against another. Speaking ill of another, even if the facts are true, is bearing false witness against that person.

As the author Sirach explains in the First Reading,

  • “When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears; so do a person’s faults when he speaks.” (verse 4)
  • “The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a person is in his conversation.” (verse 5)
  • “Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.” (verse 6)

Gossip is a sin that cuts both way. In addition to the injustice we inflict upon the target of our gossip, gossip also robs us of our humility. As Jesus explains in the Gospel, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (verse 41) When we speak ill of another person, we often assume a stance of self-righteousness, failing to see our own faults. In this way, our faults are ironically laid bare for all to see when we gossip. As a popular saying goes, “when you point a finger at someone, inevitable, you are pointing three fingers back at yourself!”

When a sin such as gossip takes root in us, it becomes a habit. When sin becomes a habit, it becomes hard to break free. The more the law of God compels us not to sin, the more the forbidden fruit entices. This is what the Second Reading means when it say: “the power of sin is the law” (verse 56). In this way, as Jesus explained elsewhere in the Gospel: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (Jn 8:34) The Second Reading further explains that “the sting of death is sin” (verse 56). Sin brings death, both spiritual and physical.

If I am enslaved to a certain sin, how do I break free? The key lies in a verse in last week’s Second Reading: “we … bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor 15:49). Yes, we bear the image of God. And it is through invoking our inner godliness that we are able to overcome our human frailty. The Second Reading explains, “when this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality.” (verse 54)

May God be with you.

 


Weekly Reflection (24 Feb 2019)

7th Sunday Year C

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

Theme of the week: Let us love our enemies, for the measure I give will be the measure I get back.

How should we treat our enemies? Worldly wisdom tells us “an eye for an eye; and a tooth for a tooth”. Not so, says the Lord. As Jesus as aptly put it this week, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?” (verse 33-34). Often when we suffer injustice at the hands of another; even if we do not wish revenge on the other person, it is natural to at least wanting to shun that person. While we may think not wishing bad upon our enemies is enough, it is not enough. In the Gospel, our Lord poses this challenge to us:

  • “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” (verse 35)
  • “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” (verse 37)
  • “Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.” (verse 37-38)
  • And perhaps most importantly, this: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. … for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (verse 37,38)

How can any human do that, you may ask? True. But remember, “for mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). The Second Reading elaborates. As humans, we are the children of Adam, our first parent. Adam is “physical” (verse 46), “a man of dust” (verse 47), subject to human frailty. But just as we are the children of Adam; we also bear the image of Jesus – the image of God. And it is only by tapping into our inner godliness that we are able to live up the challenge of love thy enemies.

To illustrate, the First Reading gives us an example of loving thy enemy. Jealous of David’s success and popularity, Saul pursued David in order to kill him. In the First Reading, we hear that David and his comrade sneaked into Saul’s camp while he is asleep, and had the perfect opportunity to kill him. Instead, David regarded Saul, the King of Israel, as sacred and refused to lay a finger on him. Instead of killing Saul, David took his spear and proclaimed that he bears no hostility towards Saul.

May our Lord live within you and you in Him. Peace.

 


Weekly Reflection (17 Feb 2019)

6th Sunday Year C

Jeremiah 17:5-8
1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20
Luke 6:17,20-26

Theme of the week: Seek the kingdom of God, and let us persevere in our good work.

Whether you are at church or in your workplace, have you ever felt discouraged or disheartened, in spite of the good work that you do? May be it is when others discredit you out of jealousy; or perhaps it is when others sabotage your work because they feel threatened? The First Reading contrasts “those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength” (verse 5) against “those who trust in the Lord” (verse 7). When you feel unappreciated in spite of your good work and you feel like giving up, ask yourselves: what is my motivation for doing the work? Do I do it to seek recognition; or do I do it to serve the community and to serve God? As the First Reading explained, one who pursues earthly goals is like “a shrub in the desert” and when the dry season comes it dies. In contrast, one who pursues heavenly goals are like “a tree planted by water”, able to withstand any dry spell that it encounters. The imagery used in this passage is similar to that used by Jesus in the parable of the sower (Mt 13:3-8). We are urged to be like the seeds sown on good soil, where will bear fruits in plentiful. My dear brothers and sisters, let us understand that earthly treasures can never fully satisfy us. As St Augustine once said, our hearts remain restless till it finds refuge in the Lord.

The Second Reading was written in response to some Corinthians who did not believe in the resurrection of the body. In the passage, Paul explains a fundamental belief of our faith. If the Corinthians are right that there is no resurrection, then Christ has not resurrected. If Christ has not resurrected, he is not God. If Christ is not God, his suffering and death would serve no purpose in our salvation. In other words, our faith is a lie. If our faith is a lie, then we the faithful are a pitiful lot indeed (verse 19)! Thankfully, the opposite is true. Paul goes on to explain that not only has Christ resurrected, we in turn will be resurrected with him. As Jesus so aptly explained when questioned by the Sadducees who also did not believe in the resurrection, our God is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Mt 22:32). Our God is not God of the dead, but of the living. Indeed “Christ has been raised from the dead”, paving the way for our own resurrection (verse 20). And this is the single greatest hope of all humanity – past, present and future.

In the Gospel this week, Jesus taught us the Beatitudes. There are two versions of the Beatitudes – that in the Gospel of Luke and that in the Gospel of Matthew. Between the two, the common beatitudes are :

  • Blessed are the poor, the kingdom of God is theirs.
  • Blessed are the hungry, they shall be filled.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of God, their reward is great in heaven.

When we put the Beatitudes in the context of the First and Second Readings this week, a great revelation is before us. Our resurrection is the greatest promise given to us by God, that we will live in eternal happiness in his Presence. Let this be our heavenly motivation for all work we do on earth, whether in the church or at the workplace. When our good work is discredited, sabotaged or unappreciated, do not give up. Keep our heavenly goal in sight all the time. For those mourn will be comforted; those who are persecuted will be rewarded.

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:33) Peace be with you.


 


Weekly Reflection (10 Feb 2019)

5th Sunday Year C

Isaiah 6:1-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11

Theme of the week: Serve the Lord in humility. Through his grace, great sinners have transformed into great witnesses. Are you prepared to be transformed?

In this week’s readings, we see how God uses imperfect beings to carry out his perfect Ministry.

In the First Reading, Isaiah had a vision where he came face to face with God. His first reaction was the recognition of his unworthiness: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (verse 5) God then cleansed Isaiah of his sins and called Isaiah to be His witness and messenger. Think about this, Isaiah recognised his unworthiness, that he was not befitting to encounter God face to face due to the sins that he was carrying. Isaiah needed to be cleansed of his sin before he may face God. What about souls who are received into heaven upon death? Do they not carry sins that need to be cleansed too? The manner by which Isaiah is cleansed of his sins is significant – the seraphs put him through a temporary period of suffering by placing a piece of burning coal on his mouth (verse 6-7). The cleansing of Isaiah provides the Biblical basis for the Catholic belief of Purgatory – a state where heaven-bound souls are cleansed of all sins through a temporary period of suffering before coming into the presence of God.

The Second Reading gives us a glimpse of the dramatic transformation Paul underwent. Paul was a Pharisees who was once a merciless persecutor of Jesus’ followers. In the passage, Paul recalled how he was called to God’s services. Without reserve, Paul acknowledged his unworthiness: “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (verse 9) Responding to God’s call post-transformation, Paul went on to become one of the greatest teachers and evangelists in Christian history.

The Gospel tells the story of Jesus calling Simon Peter. After tolling through the night, the best time for fishing, Simon and his companions caught nothing. At dawn, a less favourable time for fishing, Jesus performed a miracle. Simon and his fellow fishermen caught so many fishes that their nets began to break. On witnessing this, like Isaiah and Paul, Simon acknowledged his own unworthiness (verse 8). Note also the change in Simon’s disposition before and after his transformation. Before the miracle, Simon addressed Jesus as “Master” (verse 5), which is merely a respectful address. After the miracle Simon addressed Jesus as “Lord” (verse 8). Jesus responded by saying “from now on, you will be fisher of men.” Simon went on to become the leader of the Apostles and the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

Though they live in different times, Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter share a common trait – in humility, they acknowledged their unworthiness; allowed the Lord to transform them; and answered the call of God. What inspiration! Like Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter, we too are called to be witnesses of God. Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter show us the first quality to be the servant of God – that of humility. Reflect upon this for a moment. When we serve God, do we acknowledge our sins and serve with humility? Do we exult ourselves rather than exult God? These readings challenge us to not only answer God’s calling, but to serve with humility. While we admit to our unworthiness, we should nevertheless not be deterred by it – great men like Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter were all sinners as well. Instead, trust in the Lord and allow Jesus to do his wonders through us, as we have seen in the readings this week. As Jesus said, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God” (Luke 18:27).

This is our great calling; and we hear it at the end of every mass: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (3 Feb 2019)

4th Sunday Year C

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30

Theme of the week: We are called to be prophets of God. So go forth boldly to proclaim God’s truth.

Jeremiah lived in the times of the divided kingdom, when the Jewish nation was divided into a northern and a southern kingdom. The First Reading recounts the event where God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (verse 5) We too are called to be prophets of the Lord; we too are consecrated in our mothers’ womb when we were conceived. In fact, every life is numbered by God at conception; every life is sacred. As prophets in today’s culture, we are called to defend the dignity of every human life, and stand up against all things that demean the dignity of the human person–, be it murder, abortion, euthanasia, or pornography.

Proclaimer of the truth is often not received well. It often exposes us to snares, ridicules or even personal dangers. Hence, living to our call can be daunting. That is why the First Reading goes on to say that once consecrated by God, we are made into “a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall” (verse 18), our enemies will fight us but shall not overcome us. Such is the protection God the Father extends over us.

The Gospel passage continues from last week’s passage. In last week’s passage, quoting the Book of Isaiah, Jesus proclaimed himself to be God. And that is not all. When the Jews demanded that Jesus perform miracles, Jesus rejected them on accounts for their lack of faith. Instead Jesus recalled how the prophet Elijah was sent to a gentile widow (1 Kgs 17:8-24); and how God healed Naaman the Syrian of leprosy (2 Kgs 5:1-14). In other words, salvation is being extended to the faithful gentiles in preference of the unfaithful Jews. On hearing this, the Jews were outraged and wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff. It is here that we witness a fulfilment of God’s promise in the First Reading. Like a true prophet, Jesus was subjected to snares and personal dangers as he proclaimed the truth. But God the Father extended His protection over his prophet. As the mob was about to throw Jeuss over the cliff, Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (verse 30).

The Second Reading exults the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love, especially love. It explains that all the gifts from the God would one day be irrelevant, all except one – love. It concluded by saying that of the three, faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love. Why is this so? Let us reflect. On the Last Day, there is no more need for faith, as faith will yield to vision. There is no more need for hope, as hope will yield to fulfilmentLove, on the other hand, endures for all of eternity and is in fact made perfect in the presence of God who is love. It is important that we keep this mind as we go out and proclaim the truth. For ultimately, it is eternal love that we are revealing to our audience.

May the Holy Spirit guide and empower you as you strive forth. Emmanuel, may God be with you.

 



Weekly Reflection (27 Jan 2019)

3rd Sunday Year C

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Theme of the week: Draw strength from our joy in Christ; and reached out to the lessor members of our faith community.

The Jews had just returned from exile to Babylon. The temple was in ruin and needed reconstruction. Ezra the scribe, stood on a dais (which represented authority) and read out the Book of the Law to the people. Ezra’s reading reminded the people of their plight and the difficulties ahead. These thoughts brought apprehension and tears to their eyes. So Ezra and the leaders reminded the people of the grace of God that had been showered upon them and that they should rejoice instead. The phrase “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (verse 10), which inspires a popular hymn, reminds us that in the face of difficulties, we should draw strength from our joy in the Lord.

There are many parallels between the scene in the First Reading and that of the Gospel. Jesus was in the synagogue. Like Ezra, he stood up, assumed a position of authority, and read out the Old Testament passage from Isaiah 61:1-2. Jesus proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, to bring deliverance to the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed; and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (verse 18-19). Then, rolling up the scroll, he proclaimed himself to be the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesy. In saying this, Jesus effectively proclaimed that he is God. In the First Reading, the temple needed repair. In the Gospel passage, we are the temples of God, and these temples too need repair. The repair work requires us to follow Jesus and obey his teachings, so that our spiritual health may be restored. Like the people in the First Reading, we too should not be apprehensive of the challenges ahead, but instead draw strength from our joy in he Lord.

The Second Reading in the previous week spoke of the Holy Spirit bestowing different gifts upon us. This week’s Second Reading continues this teaching by explaining to us the reason each of us are given these different gifts. In the passage, Paul uses the analogy of the body to explain the importance of the various ministries of the Church, that each has a different but equally important role to play. Then he went on to name a number of these roles: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, etc. The invocation of the image of a body is more than just a convenient analogy. It underscores the theological truth that we the Church is in fact the body of Christ. For the human body to be healthy and functioning, the body parts must carry out their respective designated functions. And so it is for the Church. For this body of Christ to be healthy and functioning, we as parts of this body must each do our parts. Cautioning against the belittling of lesser members of our faith family, Paul instructed us to treat the less respectable members with greater respect (verse 23); for “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” (verse 26) Let us pause and reflect: How do I treat the lesser members of our faith community – the poor, the physically and mentally challenged, the defenceless, the spiritually impoverished, etc? Have I been supportive of them? Can I do more to help these lesser members of our faith family to face their challenges with courage? Can I help them draw courage from their joy in our Lord? May the Spirit of the Lord be upon us as we live out this calling, to bring deliverance to the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. Amen.

 



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.