Mk7:1-8,14-15,21-23 [22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time]

2nd September, 2012 Readings: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week’s Gospel challenged me to take a closer look at my life and the way I live this gift God blesses me with everyday. The way we live our life is also a reflection of how much we have really allowed God to be a part of our life and today, God invites us to see this in our lives.

In this week’s gospel, Jesus challenged the Pharisees to take a closer look at their life and especially the things they do, like the traditions they try to upkeep and the rituals they partake in, and to really see if they do it for God or if they just follow the motions blindly. At first, when I read the gospel, I thought to myself “What is wrong with washing our hands before we eat? Washing up after returning for a dirty place? “

Then I read the gospel again and then this line struck me “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” The Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples don’t live according to the tradition of the elders. And then it hit me that the disciples have encountered Jesus in their lives and because of this encounter, their hearts, minds and souls were transformed and they could no longer live according to the tradition of the elders but only live according to the bread of life – Jesus.

To the many of you who are reading this reflection who have encountered Jesus in your life, I ask you to reflect if you are living your life according to Jesus or according the “elders” of today – society?

Next, Jesus says, “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…” This struck me quite a bit because many of us give excuses for our mistakes, and we do so by blaming the things or people around us. For example, a person chooses to smoke cigarettes, and we say that the cigarettes damage the lungs, but the actual fact is that the person makes a choice to smoke and because of that they incur the consequences which come with it. Basically, Jesus tells us very clearly that our choices from the gift of freewill he gives us can either be in accordance with His will or not.

As I took a deeper look in my life, I realized that there is so much more of my life that I need to live according to Jesus. While tt is true that my heart desires for him and I have encountered God before, there are also many times in my life where I have failed to choose to live according to this amazing God who loves me outrageously to die on the cross. As I end this post, I make this song’s chorus a prayer for me and for you .

“So give us clean hands
and give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
Oh give us clean hands
and give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
Oh God let this be
a generation that seeks
Who seeks Your face, Oh God of Jacob
Oh God let us be
a generation that seeks
Who seeks Your face, Oh God of Jacob”

Amen

– Greg

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Jn6:60-69 [21st Sunday in Ordinary Time]

26th August, 2012 Readings: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s readings are incredible; incredible in pursuing Truth and presenting it in its entirety: radical, challenging and life-giving.

The second reading contains the “controversial” part about how a wife should be subordinate to the husband as to the Lord. Feminists will all throw their hands up in the air and protest at this, accusing the Church of being sexist. But we must also read that the husband receives an even stricter command to love his wife. The greatest mystery, as the reading says, is that a man will be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

This Sunday’s Gospel continues from where last week left off. Jesus spoke about eating His flesh and drinking his blood and the disciples now question Jesus about how to actually accept such a radical, or even outrageous, teaching! To which he replied, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” So “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

In the same way, perhaps this week we are called to first be subordinate to Christ, as a member of the Church. To give up our lives to Him, especially in areas where we feel that it is outrageous to concede control, or radical teachings which we struggle to agree with. Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has already shown us how much He loves us, and has committed to love us, just like the husband to his wife.

Second, to keep faith in Jesus. For when Jesus turned around to ask the disciples, to which Simon Peter replied “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” Peter displayed the faith he had in Jesus. This incident however, when juxtaposed against Simon Peter’s other replies to Jesus, such as when he rebuked Jesus when Jesus said He will die but rise again in three days; or when He cut off the ear of the servant of the guards, shows how faith is given by the Holy Spirit. For it is only possible for Simon Peter to have said that with the power of the Holy Spirit.

“We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God”

Amen

– Mark

Jn6:51-58 [20th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

19th August, 2012 Readings: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

So I’m going on exchange this semester. Away from all the comforts I know. Away from the friends and family I know. Truth be told, it scares me; scares me quite a bit.

And in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus shares about the bread of life, and of life eternal. Upon reflection, I cannot help but wonder about His promise of “forever”. Will I truly “live” on exchange, away from the church community I love?

Yet Jesus says that whoever who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life, and He will raise us up on the last day. Somehow, with this promise alone, I guess I am stepping into this unknown confidently. I know that even if I do struggle with the environment or loneliness, Jesus will come and save me at the last moment, even though I might not have noticed Him in my every day prior to that.

As such, I am happy to be of this church. I am glad to be able to receive Jesus while on exchange in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. So I will eat His bread and drink His cup, remaining in Him as He remains in me.

– Swee

Jn6:41-51 [19th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

12th August, 2012 Readings: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fed by God

This week’s readings tell of the episode where Elijah, after running for so long, tells God he’d rather be dead. He is exhausted. After sleep has overcome him, he awakes to find that food has been prepared for him by an angel of the Lord. This would be the food that would give him sustenance for the 40 day journey to the
mountain of God.

The Gospel has itself two parts. The first is that Jesus comes from God and is God. No one can come to the Father except through me. And no one can come to me except when he is drawn by the father.” The second part of the Gospel is that Jesus continues to say that he is the bread of life. The bread that has come down
from heaven. That anyone who believes in him and eats of this bread will live forever.

Reflection

I have to admit that I don’t really like reflecting on readings that do not haveparables or stories. It is a lot easier to reflect on a parable, and interpret it as partof the reflection than actually reflecting on words like “I am the bread of Life”.

But I shall try.

When I read the readings for a first time, I felt that I really could connect to it.I am feeling really drained as of current, and like Elijah, I would really rather just lie down on the ground and sleep, and tell God, maybe later. Later, I will complete the tasks at hand. Later.

But I guess, when later means now, you would just have to grit your teeth and perform the duty that has been endowed upon us. Be it writing this reflection; be it writing an internship report; be it going for some bonding activity with the newcomers that leaves you with an aching back and sore thighs. – I ‘d rather much stay at home and sleep.

But doing the will of God, to find God on his mountain requires no little effort. In the case of Elijah, it was effort enough to last a journey of 40 days and 40 nights. Perhaps it can be said here now that God provides us enough sustenance for our journey. Whether we decide to complete the journey is another thing altogether.

I guess this is a good juncture to put in a reflection question:

Have you ever got into difficulty as a result of obedience to God? Have you ever said to God: ‘this is enough’? Is there any painful purifying of the Church that you find particularly difficult to participate in and endure?

I’m pretty sure all of us have encountered these types of situations and emotions before. How do we cope about this? Do we pray to God for the strength to go about our daily tasks? Do we ask God for the sustenance, for the inner strength and grace to continue to do what we find so tiring?

The Gospel this week provides a lot of theological insight into the nature of God. On the basic level, it tells us that God is the provider for our sustenance, the source of all food eternal. It also gives us a glimpse into the divine nature of Jesus, and a peek into the nature of the trinity.

However, unlike Elijah, the people in “murmurs” do not choose to believe in the word of Jesus/God. It is useful to note that the Jewish people treated the word from Moses as the “spiritual food”. But now here comes Jesus, claiming that he is the food and the source of life eternal. All these are happening as Jesus explains to them that prophecies are being fulfilled in Him; that they are being taught by God himself, and still they do not choose to believe. They do not see Him as food for the world, but only see Him as the flesh of Mary and Joseph.

This gospel also puts forth a proposition that the only way God can be truly revealed is that someone must come from God and live among us. This is indeed the hope of the Jewish people. But because they are so satisfied that the word of God is in the law of God, they choose not to accept the word of God that is the person of God.

From this Gospel, we can appreciate that what was seen as spiritual food, which was the word of God in the form of the law from Moses, has now evolved into the being of Jesus. Where God himself now teaches us. Jesus claims he is this person truly ‘from’ God, has ‘seen’ God. This is the claim of Christianity that sets us apart from other world religions. Because Jesus is divine – God – among – us what he promises to give us – his flesh and blood – he can and will do.

So today, let us say to God as Elijah said, “Take my life.” Not in the sense of wanting to die, but in wanting to give ourselves as a sacrificial offering. Loving Him as He loved us, on the cross and in the Eucharist, which is to be given to us as our spiritual food.

-Raphael

Jn6:24-35 [18th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

5th August, 2012 Readings: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One-Way, Jesus

All Roads Lead to Rome? But there is only one way to God’s Kingdom – Jesus. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” In other words, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”.  Well, easier said than done, but God’s graces are more than sufficient. It is our choice to make.

We are all on a journey. The earth is moving, the universe is churning. But where are we heading to? What are we working so hard for? This earth is but a temporary sojourn for us as we make our way to the Kingdom of God to be with our God. Why be rats caught in the rat race when we can be like sheep following the great shepherd who will lead us to restful waters? It is a simple concept actually, yet this may prove intractable at times to manage, due to the potpourri of the things of this world and our human frailties. But it always begins with that simple “yes” to Jesus.

Is there room for Jesus?

I realise often in life, we are so caught up in the vortex of daily life, our hectic schedules. We go to school, we study, we have CCA, we come home, we do work, relax a bit, we sleep. Or we go to work, we work, we work, we go out, we come home, we sleep. This could turn to become a vicious cycle. A cycle goes round and round like how the afflicted earth scurries round the sun. A cycle has no clear direction, it can turn aimless if it is not sustainable. Why do many things in life seem to fail? What then is that missing ingredient? The answer would be “Jesus”.

Is there room for Jesus in our lives and in what we do? Have we forgotten that while fighting our battles in this quagmire called earth, the ultimate cause is for God? We can always ask that simple question, “Is there room for Jesus?” Is there room for Jesus in our lives? Did we leave some space for Him? Is He in what we do, in what we strive for, in how we interact with others? The Gospel tells us, “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on Him has God the Father set his seal.” Imagine eating our daily meals without a staple/carbohydrates (e.g. rice, noodles, potato, bread etc) and just rely solely on meats and other dishes. That would not be sustainable. Likewise, if there is no room for Jesus, if Jesus is not in what we do, then we are not labouring for the food which endures to eternal life. Consequently, that will not be sustainable, it would remain an aimless cycle.

When we start feeling weary and aimless in life, perhaps it is time to reflect on our relationship with God and what we are working for in life. Are we heading the right way? Are we making any unnecessary detours? It is, in fact, very easy to feel languished and bogged down in this world of today, which spins like a hurricane. So we just have to remember that the space for Jesus in our hearts is where we can draw strength from, offer our struggles to and to carry on with life. Of course, there are times during this journey of life where we stumble into blistering deserts, bleak tundras and tumultuous snowstorms. We can face periods of spiritual dryness. Life is not a bed of roses. But we must not forget the green pastures that await us, in God’s time. We must not lose faith in God. We work for the food that sustains us to eternal life, not for all that we want God to give us.

God is not a vending machine – we do not offer our hard work to God, like slipping coins into the vending machine, selecting the desired outcome. We ought to let God be God, and let Him work in His own wondrous ways. For office workers, He is our true boss. For students, He is the examiner. So let’s emblazon upon our minds, who and what we are working for, and where we are heading to.

That common question many may ask, “What is the true meaning of life?” While learned scholars dabble in profound and elusive philosophies, Jesus tells us that He is here and following Him is all that matters. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the light,” and that His thoughts are above our thoughts. He has our best interests at heart and He sees the bigger picture we cannot see. So why don’t we trust Him and follow His ways? But how do we follow His ways? Having Jesus in our hearts as we go about daily lives would be a good start.

This Sunday’s Gospel has a simple, succinct but clear message which we all know and are aware of, though it may be at the back of our heads. I guess it is a reminder, perhaps a wake-up call for some, to open up some space in their hearts for Jesus, whether it be done in small steps or big steps (in other words to change their “dietary intake” and eat some spiritually sustainable food, haha).

– Kong