Mk10:35-45 [29th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

21st October, 2012 Readings: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I. The sons of Zebedee make their request

When James and John asked Jesus to allow them to sit beside him, Jesus rebuked them as not knowing what they were asking for. Jesus saw through it that they were concerned with their status in the eyes of others. What they were mistaken was that no one should ask for recognition of status, but to earn it.

We see this humanly trait manifested often. Simple things like claiming credit for leading a group. Leading a group per se doesn’t grant recognition as of right. If we don’t deserve it, it is not our place to ask for it. One of the ways to earn it is by serving, in which we now turn to.

II. Leadership with service

Jesus tells us that anyone who wants to become great among people must be their servant. The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve. We should not impose our authority and ascendancy onto others.

The main thrust of the gospel has been drilled into us time and time again in schools –  ‘Servant Leadership’ whatchamacallit. Leadership should be an unenviable position. Only those who do it for the right reasons deserve such recognition.

III. Reflection

So, if you are called to serve next time, observe your first reaction to that call: are you willing to serve, or do you despise the idea of serving as a slave and not being recognized in the manner you expect?

However, does the Gospel preclude credit altogether? No. I would distinguish what is duly earned from what is underserved. One may still be deserving of credit or remuneration arising therefrom if one duly earns it. It becomes undeserved if it is not commensurate with or in excess of the service put in.

– Paul Yap

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Mk10:17-30 [28th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

14th October, 2012 Readings: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week’s Gospel is telling us so much, so I had to split the reading into a few parts and slowly milk those words.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What must I do to inherit eternal life? This is the question we ask God constantly. At least I do. At the end of the day, we all desire to return to God, and be complete in His love. There is so much reward in Heaven, yet God says it simply: Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. The exchange sounds pretty good right? Your life and temporary worldly possessions (like money) in exchange for eternal life, love and heavenly treasures?

Of course it is not that simple! We always struggle to fully follow Jesus. There are so many pull factors in the secular world, like the desire for academic success, success in the working world, temptations, material possessions and even peer influence (the list goes on). We also often find ourselves getting too comfortable in our daily routines until we end up basking in our stagnancy and stasis (This may even apply to our spirituality). We just can’t let go, or are afraid to let go, of what we think is security.

God challenges us this week to make a daring leap, to stop trying to control everything in our lives, to simply let go and trust. Let’s use an analogy, remember those times where you had to do the “trust fall” activity in camps? We always fear the possibility of our friends not being strong enough to catch the fall. With God, it is 100% guarantee, he is like a comfy bouncy mattress waiting to embrace your fall. So, let go.

“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
“You are lacking in one thing”

The man has observed all the commandments, yet he is lacking in one thing. Oh no, there’s more? Observing rites and rituals is insufficient, we cannot blindly follow them and expect to inherit eternal life. God invites us to be serious about our faith, to live as he did. God also reminds us that we cannot be greedy and desire both God and our worldly possessions at the same time. We can’t say that we have two equally important priorities. So, we have to make a choice, and God hopes we choose him. In the same way when people tell us to give our very best in chasing our dreams, God tells us not be half-hearted in following him. If you really want it, you need to put in your 100%.

“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Oh hahaha! God is a funny bunny. The image of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is a little hilarious. On a serious note, God acknowledges it is definitely a HUGE struggle to let go of our worldly comforts. Faith is not a stroll in the park. Entering the kingdom of God is not as easy as only believing and accepting that God is God. Instead, we are asked not only to be a practitioner of the faith but to be followers. And what does it mean to be a follower? Be a camel, let go of all the baggage and unnecessary possessions you are carrying so that you may fit through the door of the Kingdom of God – naked, vulnerable and ready to be embraced by God your saviour.

And this reading ends off really nicely,

“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

So, this week, aim to let go of something that you have been holding on tightly to. For me, it is being self-centered, and always expecting others to tend to my needs. What about you?

Mk10:2-16 [27th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

7th October, 2012 Readings: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I was actually looking for a lovely picture that showed the bond between 2 people and found a picture of 2 people holding hands and then it struck me that it looked like the hands of a person saying a prayer. 2 become 1 (: [jes]

 In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus addresses the issue of divorce, describing how God created Adam and Eve with an unbreakable union and how all married couples should strive to achieve this ideal. Obviously, in my personal journey in life, I’m not yet in a position to comment adequately on or give useful advice about marriage, so this would definitely not be the focus of my sharing. However, since I’m currently in a relationship with someone, that should probably provide a basis for some input (:

Before I go any further though, let me first state my belief that everything in my life thus far is a gift from God. However, not everyone will share this same conviction, since this depends on: the family conditions in which you were brought up in, the circumstances dictating your life and the balance between the good and bad occurrences you’ve had to deal with. I’m lucky enough to have had a good life, a good family, and of course, a good girlfriend. And, since God has been so generous to me, it is only right that I repay his generosity by giving him the best I could offer: my life.

Intimidating and ridiculous as it may sound for some, the call of a true Christian is to consecrate your life to God, whether you are attached or single. From the offset of my current relationship, the basic rule that both of us have been following is: God before the other. As much as we can, we try to make every moment of our relationship a celebration of God’s goodness in our lives. It is only in this way that I believe God can reveal properly the plans he has for each of us.

However, the journey is not always smooth sailing. As I’m living in the UK, far away from all my loved ones, evil and temptation lurk in the corner, waiting to pounce the moment I let my guard down. Therefore, in my current experience, I’ve found that it is even more important to cling on to the foundations I’ve set, to remember that even as I’m far away from my girlfriend, I can still make a conscious choice to glorify God through this relationship. As long as I continue to immerse myself in prayer, and in the presence of God, I’m confident that I can, at least, struggle till the end!

To end, I would just like to extend a reminder to whoever is reading this: You are loved by God! Whether things are going well in your life or not, it is essential to remind yourself that no matter the circumstances, you are worthy of God’s love, today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow….In God’s eyes, we are all his children, and He will never reject us, just like how Jesus did not reject the young ones (:

Pray for me that I come back in one piece!

Oliver.

Mk9:38-43,45,47-48 [26th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

30th September, 2012 Readings: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith…”

Upon reading this Sunday’s gospel, I was struck by this phrase and was reminded once again of the need to be “a little one” – not only in the sense of my identity of being a child of God but also in simply being childlike.

I loathe being childlike. It necessitates that I do not know everything about something, forcing me to not be the know-it-all I usually rather wish I were. It requires me to be vulnerable, for a child has no defences against the dangers of the world. Most of all, it requires me to be humble; it requires me to smother my pride. Yet, this is exactly what God is calling me to be. I am called to change my life and the way I live in order to reflect His will in me.

I think, if anything, I’m a creature of habit. I like familiar places, familiar people and a familiar routine. I think it takes a lot out of me to be out of this comfort zone. Once again, this is exactly what I’m called to do; I’m called out of my “cave”. For it is in this familiarity that I have found myself stagnating. And it is stunting my growth as a person. I have failed to see how some aspects of my life have become unhealthy.

I hate to admit that excessive gaming sometimes is an issue for me; however, it has become my tool to escape from work and reality. I know that if I continue down my path, I will definitely face ruin. So I have been trying to cut down on it as much as I can to focus on my studies. It really feels like I lost a limb sometimes (yes pun intended) but as Jesus says, “it is better for you to enter into life crippled”. Truly, I may feel a tinge of withdrawal, but I know I am walking into life. Ultimately by changing the way I live, I now rely on the Lord’s strength to overcome my hardships instead of just deluding myself. In Him I am truly alive.

We may be facing many problems at the moment. And because of these things, we have found it difficult to connect with God. In the Gospel, a man whom the apostles did not know was casting out devils in the name of Jesus. It may seem that we do not know God and sometimes it really seems He has abandoned us. But Jesus reminds us that despite all this, all we need to do is to call on His name, and in Him we too can make miracles happen.

“Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these.” So says Jesus in another part of the Gospel. Let us be children, and call on our Abba Father.

Love,
Andrew

Mk9:30-37 [25th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

23rd September, 2012 Readings: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Me first! Me first! Me first! I’m the number one kid kiasu!”

Rather random, this line came to me as I was thinking about what to share on this week’s readings. This line is from a primary school musical about a girl who wanted everything first, and has somehow stayed with me through the years (lol I blame the catchy tune). I wouldn’t count myself as kiasu, but reflecting on my past few weeks, I think I was living out the ‘me first!’ attitude to life.

This Sunday, Jesus speaks to us about selfishness and pride, as He continues to challenge us to live out an authentic Christian life. For the past two months, I’ve been swamped with commitments – Sojourn, time for friends and family, a lot of meetups, and of course, the new job. Add to that – a couple of tense episodes with people. It was easy to slip into selfishness. Unconsciously, my thoughts revolved around how much time I’ve sacrificed for things, how my commitments mattered more, how alone I felt in my crazy schedule. In conflict, I was insistent on my views being ‘the right ones’, and even as I tried to compromise and give in for the sake of making peace, I did so rather grudgingly. In some sense, I think I’ve been answering the question the disciples were arguing about (Who’s the greatest?) with a resounding ‘ME’.

Selfishness can come in many forms – it could be in refusing to help a colleague out so that we can get ahead at work; not helping your mum out with a simple chore because the things you have to do are more important; or refusing to budge in an argument because our opinions matter more. Whatever the form, the root of selfishness is a preoccupation with self. In the Second Reading, St James reminds us that jealousy and selfish ambitions lead to disorder and conflict, and instead tells us about living out God’s wisdom to bear the fruits of peace, mercy and gentleness. In the Gospel, Jesus provides this wisdom; this cure to selfishness – to be the last of all and servant of all – humility and selflessness. He invites you and I to put aside our preoccupation with self, and to put on His mind and heart instead. In the lyrics of the hymn ‘Prayer of St Francis Xavier’, Jesus reminds us to seek to console than to be consoled, to understand than to be understood, and to love with all our souls than to be loved. He challenges us to think of our neighbour, rather than of ourselves.

If we have experienced and are convicted of God’s love for us, this love moves us and changes us from within. At the heart of it, our faith is always lived out in relation to another and God calls us to be life-giving in our relationships and for our lives to be a reflection of His love. How are we to give life to another if all we think about first is ourselves? How are we able to serve another or live out Christian values of understanding, care and love? How are we able to give generously of our time and presence to build up another person?

So as Jesus challenges me to be more generous in giving of myself and to consider the other in all things, perhaps He’s extending the same invitation to you 🙂 I pray that we all may be more life-giving in our relationships!

❤ Jess

Mk8:27-35 [24th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

16th September, 2012 Readings: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For my reflection, I will just share what struck me in the readings. The passage which stood out the most to me would be the last sentence, which states “for whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it”. This passage reminded me of the previous Sunday’s  Sojourn session about Trust – how we must trust in God and as such be willing to lose our lives for Him, as we know that He will save us and grant us the greatest gift: that of eternal life.

Jesus is telling His disciples that whoever loses his life for Him will be saved by Him. In our everyday lives, often we only think about ourselves, doing things which will be for our benefit, neglecting spending time with God for earthly needs such as going out with friends, or worse still, studying. In a sense, I picture this as saving one’s self, to fulfill one’s selfish needs, and this will only lead to him losing his “life”. We are often bogged down by such pressures and forget that by saving our own lives, we will just end up losing it.

Jesus tells us that if we are to follow Him and His ways, i.e. to follow after Him, we will have to deny ourselves and take up His cross. “Losing our life” signifies to me a kind of willingness to give up all our worries, our pressures, our needs and wants to follow Him. It will not be a simple journey and this is signified by the need to carry our own crosses and, but we have to trust in God and Jesus, that if we follow in His ways, we will be saved.

So, friends, I pray for everyone and myself that this week, we will all be willing to trust in God, that we do not focus too much on “saving” ourselves, but willingly “lose our lives” for His sake. Don’t get bogged down too much with your daily lives, but instead follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Have a good week ahead! (:

– Paul Goh

Mk7:31-37 [23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time]

9th September, 2012 Readings: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”

Somehow it seems as though those words are meant for me. It cannot be that many years after that particular event that He would know the impact of those words in our lives today. But He would know I guess. He would know that sometime today, the wheels of our faith would need that bit of oil and mending to get it going once again. If all it took was a touch by His finger, what more if He offered His hand or an embrace. Nothing will be able to comprehend the marvels of what is available to us – at which we turn away most of the time – temporally distracted by the many other concerns of this world. But I digress.

There is a lot to be said of the people who brought this deaf and dumb man and begged Jesus to heal him. One can say that they did not truly believe and were putting Jesus to the test, and another could say that they had every bit of faith in who Jesus was and what He was able to do. The skeptic in me would have never believed until I saw for my own eyes. But I guess that’s what Jesus’ ministry was for; to cast away any doubts of who He said He was, not that He had to prove himself, but for people who needed to see to believe.

I have to say that I really found it hard to relate to this week’s gospel. Those 2 paragraphs above are a miracle in some sense. The funny thing was that I did not realise that I was so bent on finding the best way to write up a reflection that I couldn’t seem to find anything to say that would mean much. That the fear of not being able to capture the gospel and of not being understood overruled. I guess that I too am in need of Jesus’ healing. So in my fearful state, I offer up this reflection, that my own “Ephphatha” will come too.

– Joan

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

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