Monday, 4 February 2013 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Mark 5 : 1-20

They arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains, but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg you, do not torment me!” He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Come out of the man, evil spirit!” And when Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region.

Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged Him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the herd rushed down the cliff, and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and in the countryside, so all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Monday, 4 February 2013 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 30 : 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

How great is the goodness which You have stored for those who fear You, which You show, for all to see, to those who take refuge in You!

In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from human wiles; You keep them in Your dwelling, safe from the intrigues of wagging tongues.

Blessed be the Lord for His wonderful love! He has strengthened my heart.

I said in my fright : “I have been cut off from Your sight!” Yet when I was crying, You heard : when I called for mercy, You listened.

Love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves His faithful, but He fully requites the arrogant.

Monday, 4 February 2013 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Hebrews 11 : 32-40

Do I need to say more? There is not enough time to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, as well as Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they fought and conquered nations, established justice, saw the fulfillment of God’s promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the sword, were healed of their sicknesses; they were weak people who were given strength to be brave in battle and repulse foreign invaders.

Some women recovered their dead by resurrection but there were others – persecuted and tortured believers – who, for the sake of a better resurrection, refused to do what would have saved them. Others suffered chains and prison. They were stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword. They fled from place to place with no other clothing than the skins of sheep and goats, lacking everything, afflicted, ill-treated. These people of whom the world was not worthy had to wander through wastelands and mountains, and take refuge in the dens of the land.

However, although all of them were praised because of their faith, they did not enjoy the promise, because God had us in mind and saw beyond. And He did not want them to reach perfection except with us.

Sunday, 3 February 2013 : 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

The Lord presented to us, the greatest thing of all that exists in this world. This thing is Love. Love is the centre of all things, and indeed, love is at the very centre of the salvific mission of Christ in the world. For it may be asked, why God who is so great and so divine, would be willing to lower Himself such as to become a humble human like us. It is all because of love. Just as said in John 3 : 16, how God loves as so much that He gave us His only Son, Jesus Christ, that we can be saved and have hope for eternal life. If God has no love for us, surely He would not have done that.

Love is indeed essential for all of us, and as the Lord mentioned the most important things of all, faith, hope, and love, with love being the most important of the three. For faith is inseparable from love, since when we have faith in someone, particularly God, we must also have love, since it is impossible to believe and put all of one’s trust in someone, when in that one’s heart, there is no love at all for the other person. The Lord, who is full of love is therefore also faithful to us, and despite our constant rebellions and sinful ways, He is always ready to welcome us back if we are truly sorry of our faults and once again love Him.

Hope itself is also tied with love, as one cannot hope without love in their hearts. Since first, because all hopes are ultimately directed to God, how can one hope without first having love and faith in God? Indeed, one has to first believe in God and His power, that there is hope. It is through faith in God that we can have hope in Him, and indeed, hope in all mankind. By having faith, it means we also have love, and thus, this is why, love is at the centre, the most important thing of all that matters.

It is important to love, as without love, we are just a husk of flesh and blood without character, since our character is defined by love that is in us. Love that we have in God allows us to remain faithful to Him and keep Him always in our hearts, and always keep hope in Him, that even in the greatest darkness and times of greatest trouble, we still believe that God will help us find a way, such is the great love that He has for us, especially when we love Him too in return.

For the Lord has suffered greatly on the cross for us, all for our sake and for our liberation from sin, out of simple and pure love. It is Christ’s love for His Father that helped Him to persevere through His Passion, and allowed Him to accept willingly the chalice of suffering that He is to drink. This chalice of suffering, which then is filled with His Precious Blood, is the new covenant upon which we have our hope of eternal life. For the Lord brought with Him a new covenant in place of the old, that now through His great love for all mankind, all creation can be saved instead of just the people of Israel, God’s chosen people.

The people of Israel indeed has been God’s chosen people, and God has endured their numerous rebellions and protests with His love and patience, to still save them through the Sacrifice of His Son. However, ultimately, God’s love is such that He wants all of mankind to be saved and reunited with Him once again.

Thus, the new Covenant made by Christ covers all mankind, and no longer just cover only the people of Israel. Jesus made this clear in the Gospel today, as He mentioned how God sent His prophets to the people that do not belong to the Houses of Israel, even when there are so many others in Israel that need them as well. This is because even within Israel itself at the time, there are many who turned deaf to the word of God, shunned and even killed His prophets. Indeed, there are many examples given such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman, the Syrian, who shows that faith and thus the love of God too existed in all peoples, even beyond Israel.

It does not mean that God hates the people of Israel and do not love them anymore. On the contrary, His love is as great as it has always been. Indeed, God sent His Son to be born into the House of David, as a fulfillment of His promise to David that his line and descendant will rule forever. This is fulfilled in Christ, who is both the Son of God, and the descendant of David, who will rule as King of all the Universe for all time. You can indeed see how faithful God is indeed to all His promises, just as how great is His love. God loves His chosen people, the first-called people of Israel, but He also love all others, all Gentiles, even more.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us has an important mission in our lives. Just like Jeremiah, who was chosen and called by God to be His prophet to all people, we too have been called, through our baptism. We all have a priestly, kingly, and prophetic role to fulfill upon our baptism, as we are called to be all these three, just as Christ who is our God, and also our High Priest, our great King, and our great Prophet of the Good News.

We have to bring the Good News to all around us, especially for those who seek the Word of God and have no chance to do so. In our daily lives too, we all should strive to put love at the centre of all our actions. In doing so, not only that we do the will of God by both loving Him with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls, but also love our neighbour as we love ourselves, just as Christ commanded us through His new commandment of love. Our faith will also grow and blossom, and bear fruits many hundredfold if we keep ourselves anchored in the love of God.

Remember, that God is Love (Deus Caritas est). Amen.

On China, the Faith, and the Catholic Church

A very well written article, summarising the condition of the faith in China and the developments (up to 2009 – sadly to say in the next few years after that until today, relations had gone from bad to worse).

A good quote from the article (2 paragraphs near the end) :

“Beijing always has such priorities as the economy, unemployment, ties with Taiwan, and relations with the United States—all good reasons to put the Catholic issue on the back burner. But Catholics could become a major issue for Beijing if radicals get the upper hand. The Chinese leadership has trouble understanding what the power of the Catholic Church is and to what extent it might represent a benefit or a danger.”

“The trouble is that Beijing thinks of the Vatican in purely political terms and cannot quite grasp that the mission of the Church is spiritual rather than temporal. China’s leaders simply do not have the historical and cultural references to understand the Church after the Second Vatican Council. Beijing wants to offer Rome a minimum presence on a trial basis, waiting to see the result. In turn, Rome is wary that the Chinese Communist party will exploit ties with Rome without making the substantial concessions required for effective communication between the Vatican and Chinese Catholics.”

China is the world’s fastest growing Christian nation, but as outlined in this article, most Chinese Christians learn about the faith from ambiguous and untrained sources, self-learning the faith rather than properly, and many of these ‘preachers’ are not even mainstream Christians at best, reason why I noticed more than half of Chinese Christian immigrants in Italy who are Jehovah’s Witness and other non-Christian entities claiming to be Christian (a data from a region in Italy mentioned about 92% non-Christians, 8% Christians, with Catholics numbering only 3.5% of the 8%, Jehovah’s Witness made the bulk of the non-Catholic Christians). This is the danger when one simply take the faith upon him/herself, and not being in communion with the whole Universal Church, where we can learn and understand the faith more and appropriately, through the teachings and traditions handed down to us from the Apostles.

Let us pray and work indeed that, all Christians in China (and beyond) will return to the One and only Church, established by Christ. China indeed is the future of the Church, and there is more than a billion potential new Catholics (and Christians) out there in that country. The faith is not necessarily against the rich Chinese tradition and culture, and in fact, the faith only serve to enrich that great culture even more. Remember yesterday’s Gospel reading, that no matter how much prosperity and affluence you have, if you have no love, you are nothing.

Faith adds this love, as the core of every being, to anchor the person firmly in God, and make them from nothing, to the greatest of all.

+Ut Omnes Unum Sint, ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

(That they all may be One, for the greater glory of God)