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February 22, 2017

Turning the other cheek

Today, we have one of the most radical religious teachings ever – to turn the other cheek when we are smacked. Last week, we were challenged to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. This time, Jesus invites us to imitate the perfect love of God the father when responding to personal insults and injuries – with grace, patience, forgiveness, and generosity. Our Lord wants us to overturn the culture of vengeance and violence by not always insisting on getting our own way, but rather going out of our way to do good to others, especially when they…

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At the root of the matter

Christian discipleship encompasses a lot more than external ritualism! To be worth it, our piety must pierce the heart and infuse the entirety of one’s being. Thus, we are challenged to go beyond the outward observances of the Law onto a deep-rooted healing of the human heart, as a remedy for sin. The people of Jesus’ time viewed the Mosaic Law as the ultimate expression of the will of God, the self-revelation of God, and the complete code of conduct for the regulation of civil and religious matters. Yet, the greater emphasis was on the external dos and don’ts rather…

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LIGHT CAN ONLY SHINE

In the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis said: “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops”. The point to note here is that goodness is something that one could not keep to oneself without sharing with others. Any sort of goodness that can be concealed in a person cannot be authentic and is not founded on…

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CALLED TO BEATITUDE

The great philosopher Aristotle once said that happiness is what everyone seeks and that every human effort is oriented towards its achievement. However, many of our efforts do not bring us happiness because the underlying principles are wrong. The truly ethical person, Aristotle says, is the one who knows and does only that which brings true and lasting happiness. True happiness is that which conforms with the will of God and is geared towards our supernatural vocation to the kingdom of heaven. In today’s gospel, Jesus provides the framework for true and lasting happiness/blessedness/beatitude. He pronounces blessedness or beatitude upon…

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The Greatest Summons

Most renowned speeches or stories do have a single line or phrase encapsulating their whole essence. And many a time, these lines or phrases end up characterizing or defining the entirety of the subject’s persona or life project. This is especially true in literature, politics, and in movies. For example, when we hear “Even you Brutus!”, we immediately associate that with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Whenever someone says: “I have a dream!”, our minds flash back to Martin Luther King Jnr. And at the mention of “Yes, We Can!”, Barrack Obama comes to mind. In the Gospel of today, we hear…

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In imitation of Christ

As the Universal Church reverts to the Ordinary Time in her liturgical calendar, our Lord Jesus is offered to the world as the Light to the nations, and the One who takes away the sins of the world. Both descriptions accentuate the messianic character of Christ’s ministry. As Light to the nations, he dispels the darkness of sin and division, shining through the entire cosmos and illumining our path back to the Father. As the Lamb of God, he offers himself to be bruised and battered for the sake of a broken humanity and a sin-riddled world. Thus, today, we…

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Following the Star!

On this day, we commemorate the Epiphany of the Lord – the revelation of God the Son to the Gentiles. It’s a day to sing and rejoice in celebration of God’s faithfulness over the ages.  The Lord has delivered on his promise to send us his Messiah and to make him the centre of humanity. In the First Reading, the Lord promises to lead all nations to Jerusalem to partake in the light of salvation: “everyone in Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing the praises of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). This promise is echoed in the Responsorial…

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God’s got you covered!

American theologian and author, Scott Hahn tells an interesting story about covenantal love. It was about an earthquake in Armenia which killed 25,000 people in 1998. And there was an anxious father rushing to his son’s school and being traumatized by though of the promise he always made to his little boy: “No matter what happens, my son, I will never abandon you.” Reaching there the school had been reduced to a pile of rubble, and the poor man just stood there at first fighting back tears. Then he ran over to where his son’s classroom had been and, with…

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OUR ANXIOUS JOY

It’s “Gaudete Sunday”, and that’s why we are using rose candles and vestments at Mass today. “Gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice”, and we are invited to rejoice because Christmas is closer. We are not there yet but the finish line is clearly in sight. The eclipse is nearly over and the sun is set to shine again. But should we really be rejoicing considering all the problems in our world? Why should we rejoice when our Catholic faith faces relentless attacks from a cynically hostile media and other enemies of the Church? Why should we rejoice given the level of…

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SERIOUS AND PERSONAL

Christian discipleship is a serious and personal enterprise! It is much more than a cultural heritage, or social convention. Rather, it is special, fundamental, all-encompassing, and all-important. Following Christ is more than just what our parents or ancestors handed down to us; it transcends the realm of peer influence, and it goes beyond what we learn at school or on social media. Christianity is a sublime experience and a personal encounter with the eternal Word of God. It is a personal invitation to “what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind conceived” (I Cor. 2:9)….

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Time for Refreshing

It’s Advent again!  It’s that season of expectation when we prepare the way for the nativity of our Lord. It isa time for the renewal of faith and hope while watching and praying.But why do we have to go through the same rituals every year? Why Advent? It is certainly not for a lack of imagination or creativity on the part of the Church. Rather, it is a perennial reminder of the three comings of Christ our Lord. The first was in history (2000 years ago); the second is his ongoing coming in mystery through his grace, Word and sacraments;…

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A KING LIKE NO OTHER!

Today, we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ as the Universal King – the King of kings and Lord of Lords! This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, who called on humanity to submit once more to the authority of Christ. The pope observed that the multiple evils in the world were due to mankind’s rejection of the lordship of Jesus Christ, and that so long as this remained the case, there was no prospect of a lasting peace on earth. The last time God was officially regarded as King by his people was about the year 1049…

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VICTORY IN SIGHT

As we approach the end of the liturgical year, Jesus reminds us once again of the temporary nature of man-made structures, no matter how solid. The Temple in Jerusalem was a magnificent, awe-inspiring, architectural masterpiece. It was the pride of the Jewish nation and the centrepiece of their national life. There was no other building like it anywhere at the time, so the thought of its complete destruction was inconceivable to the people. But that’s exactly what Jesus prophesies in our Gospel passage today! In the same breath, he uses the Temple as an allegory for all the forces in…

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We shall be like Angels

Today’s Gospel provides a profound reflection on the resurrected life. It is a life that transcends marriage and the raising of offspring; a brand-new life not limited by any of the impediments of the present life. Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection is in response to a riddle posed by the Sadducees citing the Mosaic Law on the raising of children for a deceased relative. In their cunning attempt to entrap Jesus, they contrived a most unlikely scenario of a woman successively marrying seven brothers – to question the concept of rising from the dead. In ancient Jewish culture the maintenance…

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Jesus invites Himself

In the Gospel passage, today, Jesus invites himself into our hearts. He wants to come in and help us to overhaul our lives so we can be on the path of a new, meaningful, and fruitful existence. We are invited to come down from the tree of human effort and to embrace the gift of God that Jesus offers us. Zacchaeus was a very short, wealthy tax collector and a public sinner. He was a man widely despised for his life of cheating, bribery, and extortion. Also, he was denounced for being a collaborator with the Roman authorities. But this…

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We can be Pharisees

Today’s message is a strong warning to those who pride themselves on being virtuous, and who look down on others. Human effort, no matter how heroic, could never earn God’s favour. Salvation is a free gift of God! In the Gospel passage our Lord uses the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to highlight the dangers of self-justification.  It is a vice that blinds us to our own foibles, and need for divine mercy. Prideful self-assurance and makes us feel superior to everyone else. Writing to the Romans (3:23), St Paul rightly makes it clear that “all have…

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Pushing the Amalekites

The story is told of an old donkey whose owner considered stubborn and stupid. One day the owner heard the donkey crying desperately for help from the bottom of an old abandoned well. Having had enough of the “stupid” animal, the owner decided to bury him alive. So he invited his neighbours who arrived with shovels, and everyone began to scoop dirt into the well. Initially the donkey protested loudly and cried for mercy, but after a while he was quiet. The people kept shovelling but after a while someone chose to look into the well to see what had…

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On Gratitude And Humble Obedience

Today we consider the importance gratitude and humble obedience in our Christian journey.  Gratitude helps us overcome the entitlement complex that makes us take many things for granted. Gratitude is that attitude of virtue that enables us to recognize that everything we have is a gift, starting from life itself. In our Gospel passage today, the sole leper who came back to thank Jesus is commended for showing gratitude because our Lord knows that gratitude is vital for our spiritual health. Gratitude helps us to acknowledge God in the works of creation. In our own lives, next to honesty, gratitude…

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ON FAITH AND FAITHFULNESS

Today we reflect on the importance of faithfulness in our faith journey. Our faith demands faithfulness – that unshaken commitment to the work of the Lord with complete dedication. St Paul makes it clear in the Letter to the Romans: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1) Faithfulness means we deploy the totality of our being in serving the Lord while not seeking the glory, which belongs to Him alone. Jesus teaches us in…

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The cost of playing the ostrich

St John Chrysostom once said: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life.” Today the Lord continues his social justice message with a profound teaching on the sin of omission. Those who neglect the needs of the poor will pay a price for turning a blind eye, or playing the ostrich. Surely, there are many of us who believe they are doing alright simply because they are not guilty of murder, adultery, child abuse or any other major crime. But the story of Lazarus and the rich man…

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