Friday, 15 February 2013 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Scripture Reflection)

Today, and many other days in this season of Lent, we are asked to do penance, and repent, and truly focus our attention back to the Lord. Also today being friday, we usually do the practice of abstinence, that is to abstain from eating meat, particularly red meat today. We also have the practice of fasting, which all of us Catholics must do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, on which day we fast, by eating only a full meal and up to two smaller meals or snacks.

Have we done our part in doing these fasting and abstinence practices? These are the practices highly recommended for us to be done during this season of Lent. One may ask, then why don’t we fast like those Muslims or other religions do? That when they fast, they do not eat for long hours of the day, and fast for a whole month, then why don’t we just fast for the whole of the 40 days, and eat only once per day? Does it not fit better with the description of Lent as a season for fasting?

No, the reason we do not fast for such periods is because, we do not want to lose the focus of fasting, that fasting should not be done for the sake of fasting, that fasting should indeed be done out of sincere love for God and desire to turn back fully to the Lord. Fasting should be a facilitator of our repentance and a vessel through which we can better focus our attention to God. For in the reading today, the Lord tells us that He do not desire our fasting and abstinence, but rather our hearts, our broken and sinful hearts, that truly change and repent into renewed and sanctified hearts through our complete transformation, not only physically, but most importantly, the transformation of what is inside us.

Therefore, what matters this Lent is that we strive to make changes in our life, from those things that we have done in sin, slowly and surely we turn these into things done for the glory of God. For when we fast, it is to actually turn our focus and attention into our hearts, to look inside, whether we have done what is concrete to change from our sinful ways and walk into the light. For it is wrong when we fast or abstain, but we end up doing the opposite, for example, there are some who abstain on Fridays of the Lent, but then gather together and have a seafood BBQ or seafood party. Well technically you are not eating meat indeed, and fish is the alternative allowed, but then you are missing the point of fasting if you do so.

The same is also when you fast, but then during the fast, you grumble and think why should I waste my time with this fast, and look forward to the meal time, and when the meal time comes, you just devour as much food as you can. This is also missing the point on doing fasting during this holy period of Lent.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Lenten period, do fast, and do abstain, and if you like even not only on Fridays, but also on other days of the Lent if you want to, but most importantly, do not forget that what matters is to make sure that we are changed internally, and that we make use this time, to bring ourselves closer to God, closer to Him who loves us, and willing to accept us back into His embrace, if only we reject our sins and turn our face back towards the Light. May God bless all of us in this Lent, and have a blessed fast and abstinence everyone! Amen.

Thursday, 14 February 2013 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to follow Jesus, our Lord is not easy, for in following the Lord, we are going to have to suffer and go through trials and tribulations, just as Christ Himself faced His great trial, and ultimately was crucified on Calvary for our sake. Christ asks us today to carry our own crosses together with Him, and to face together the persecutions and the oppositions against the Lord and His divine mission, that is to save all mankind from the slavery of evil and sin.

Let us stay straight on this path, led by Christ, towards God. Let us orientate our heart properly and appropriately that we will always keep the Lord as the focus of our life. For our short and temporary life in this world is indeed short and fleeting. It is just a fleeting moment in the history of creation, but for us, what we do in our lives are indeed important, and if we do not do anything to make sure that we are on the right path towards the Lord, we will not be able to reach Him in the end.

Christ made our journey back to the Lord possible, for it is through His death and resurrection that a great bridge, Christ Himself, appeared between us and the Father who loves us. This is why Christ had to suffer, had to suffer from pain and rejection, and ultimately had to die on the cross, because without the sacrifice of Christ, who is our High Priest and intermediate between us and the Father, there can be no reunion between us and God, for we are separated from Him by a huge and unbridgeable chasm of sin and death. Only Christ, the Lamb of God, is worthy of being the only bridge that crossed that chasm, and through Him, we have a path back to our loving Father in heaven.

No greater love than the one who lay down his life for his friends, and this is exactly what Christ did for us, for we are not just like friends to Him, as we are His brothers, and His sisters. He loves us so much that He was willing to endure, and out of full obedience of His Father, willing to carry the cross, and the burden of all our sins, to Calvary to die and liberate us from the evil one and his hold on us. Nevertheless, for exactly the same reason, the devil hates Him so, and therefore, also hates all who believes in Christ who has liberated us from him through His Precious Blood.

Evil has many things up his sleeve in order to detract us from our direct path to the Lord. Temptations of this world are especially effective weapon the evil one uses against us. False gods are abundant in our world of today, from money, pleasures of the body, commercial temptations, and many others. As Moses said in the first reading, we do have a choice, whether we embrace these temptations and therefore serve the false gods instead of the one, true God, and turn our back on Him, or we can reject these temptations, and continue faithfully to seek the Lord our God.

This path will not be easy, since the world, filled with evil, hates the Lord, and therefore, will do all it can to make us suffer through our journey to the Lord. This suffering can be manifest in many form, and do not have to be physical suffering, but also mentally. This does not mean that we must hate or shun the world in return. Rather, let us embrace those sufferings and pains, and turn them into joy, knowing that the Lord is always with us through our long journey towards Him, and we know that if we stay faithful to Him and face our heart ever towards Him, He will reward us with His love and the place in His Kingdom, that we deserved.

But do not come to Him empty handed, since, there are many others out there who do not yet start their own paths towards the Lord, either lost, or even manipulated by the evil one to fight against God and us, His beloved children. Let us stretch out our hands and reach out to these lost brothers and sisters of ours. Remember, that Christ came to save all mankind, even those who rejected and cursed Him. He forgave them, and as long as they are willing to turn back towards Him, they too, will be given eternal life, together with us.

Let us humble ourselves and follow in the footsteps of the Lord, who has braved through death to save us from our own deaths. This Lent, let it be a fruitful and great season for our being, for our own faith, and for that of those around us. Let us make a solid choice towards the Lord, to attune ourselves fully with His great love, and sanctify ourselves, that when this season of Lent is complete, we are reborn anew, ever greater in faith, in hope, and in love, particularly in this holy Year of Faith. Amen.

Thursday, 14 February 2013 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

(Note : Today is the Solemnity of the Anniversary of Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Archdiocese of Singapore, 14 February 1897 – present) – readings remain the same throughout the world

Deuteronomy 30 : 15-20

See, I set before you on this day, life and good, evil and death. I command you to love YHVH, your God and follow His ways. Observe His commandments, His norms, and His laws, and you will live and increase, and YHVH will give you His blessing in the land you are going to possess.

But if your heart turns away and does not listen, if you are drawn away and bow before other gods to serve them, I declare on this day that you shall perish. You shall not last in the land you are going to occupy on the other side of the Jordan.

Let the heavens and the earth listen, that they may be witnesses against you. I have set before you, life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving YHVH, listening to His voice, and being one with Him. In this is  life  for you and length of days in the land which YHVH swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.