Sunday, 28 July 2013 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God who is our Father is kind, and He is loving, because He is love, and true love personified, in all its perfection. The Lord cannot deny Himself, and He loves everyone without exception. This love He had poured down upon the world through the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Messiah, our Saviour. And to add to that, the numerous reminders He had sent us and His people, Israel, through the prophets and their prophecies and the visions and revelations He had given them.

He loves us all and He will surely listen to our needs, and He truly knows all that we need. That is why we should never worry, and instead we all should put our full trust in Him, for He is a loving God, who is just and righteous in all the things He does. But remember, brothers and sisters, that He is also an avenging God, just as He is loving, because He hates sin first of all things, and all things evil and abhorring in His eyes. If we sin and do not repent, we will face the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were wiped out from the face of the earth for their sins.

But our Father in heaven does not just want empty worship and prayers either, as many of us would certainly had done in the past, paying lip service to the Lord who loves us. He wants from us our hearts, our full attention and dedication, just as He Himself had paid full attention to all of us sinners, all these while. We are like lost sheep to Him, whom He cannot ignore, and He would use all in His power to bring us back, like a shepherd going all out to find even one lost sheep.

So that we would not be lost, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were lost in their debauchery and their sinful lives, where sin had blinded and deafened them to the Lord their God, He had sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be a new light, a new hope for all of us. And one of the things that He had done to make sure that we will not be lost forever was that to teach us how to pray, how to pray to the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and our full attention, that our prayer is indeed truly a prayer, pure and beautiful in the eyes and ears of the Lord.

To pray is to communicate with our Lord, and that is the key essence of what a prayer truly is. To pray is not to bring in endless litanies of requests and wishes, or bugging our Lord for His help whenever we are in dire straits. To pray is not to turn to the Lord only when we are in difficulties and in need of great help, or in the state of danger. Indeed, as the Lord has told us, and Christ His Son has taught us through His disciples, that prayer must be done, at all times, with a sincere and pure heart.

That was why Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, the very prayer that came out of the mouth of the Word of God, Christ Himself. This prayer is a perfect prayer, the most sincere and purest of all prayers that are ever be in this world, be it on earth or in heaven. The Lord’s Prayer, which we recite and pray every Mass and most likely pray every day, is the model prayer for all of us. It is a simple yet a clear-cut prayer, straight to the point in its meaning, and pure in its intentions.

Yes, a prayer must always begin with glorifying the Lord our God and praising His Name, and all His love and kindness that He had shown us, all His beloved children. A prayer must never be a litany of requests and petitions, but indeed, it must be a humble prayer, showing our sincerity and humility before the throne of God, for we are nothing and full of sin, and yet He rescued us and made us whole and pure once again, with none other than the Blood of His own Son’s sacrifice on the cross.

In a prayer, we have to listen to God just as God listens to us. A prayer is a two-way communication between God and man, the link between our Creator and us His creations. He speaks to us in mysterious ways and in the depth and the silence of our hearts. If we keep our hearts closed to Him, we will not be able to listen to Him. It is often that we have to cast away our pride and sinfulness, and the deafening noise of the world, so that we will be able to listen to our Lord, and communicate sincerely with Him through prayer.

That is why brothers and sisters, whenever we pray, we should close ourselves from the world, and take away any form of distractions which may distract us and disturb our precious link with the Lord our God. Do it in silence and in the privacy of our rooms, and it is also important that we make use of every opportunity we have to be silent, even at a workplace, to listen to the Lord speaking to us. Even that is prayer, brothers and sisters in Christ!

That is also why in the Mass, it is important to have silent moments, after the readings, during the time after we receive the Lord in the Holy Communion, and even at times before the Mass starts or after the Mass has finished. These are precious moments we can use to communicate with our God, especially if we are busy with our work in any other times. It is important, brothers and sisters, that we respond to the Lord’s calls and know what He wants us to do with our lives. Be like the prophet Samuel, who in his youth was called by the Lord and he answered to it, and listened to the word of God.

As I had mentioned, God is merciful and loving just as He is just and a punishing God. If we ask and knock at His door, He will surely listen to us and consider our repentance. You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord does not take pleasure in seeing the punishment and suffering of His children, and He certainly does not enjoy punishing us for our sins. Indeed, it caused Him great pain to punish mankind for their sins and their rebellions, and it is especially hard for the Lord to punish His own chosen people of Israel, when they erred and preferred the pagan gods and idols, and their constant rebellions during the journey from Egypt and after they had had the Promised Land as their own.

That is why, in our prayer, what is important is for us to recognise our own weaknesses, our own sinfulness, and our own unworthiness, that we lay them all bare before the Lord our God, that the Lord who sees all, will see our sincerity and the sincerity of our repentance, our contrite hearts, the true offering from us that He desires. Open the doors of our heart to Him, just as He opened His doors for us to enter. That we may be in Him just as He is in us.

Do not fear God and His punishment, but be courageous and approach the throne of God, the throne of mercy. For the Lord is the Divine Mercy who will embrace sinners and those who sincerely acknowledge their faults and seek to be healed. For Christ had come to save sinners and those who are sick from sin, and bring them back to health once again, that is a life of grace in God. However, He cannot do much help to us, if we ourselves did not open the doors of our heart for Him to come in.

He knocks at our doors too, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we knock at His doors in heaven, to give Him our prayers and petitions. In the same way, the Lord too longs to speak to us all in our hearts. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, harden not our hearts the way the Pharaoh and the people of Israel had once hardened their hearts, but open it, for the Lord who wants to come in and dwell within us. Listen to Him and do what He wants us to do, and our lives will be blessed.

May the Lord who saved us from death deliver us from evil and his corruptions, that we may not suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous ones could be found. May He protect us from harm and bring us to the life eternal that He had promised us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord who speaks to us in silence helps us to gain greater understanding in the importance of prayer in our lives, so that we will always be attuned to Him, in line with His will, and always ever be in His grace. God bless us all. Amen!

Thursday, 21 February 2013 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 7 : 7-12

Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and the door will be opened to him who knocks. Would any of you give a stone to your son, when he asks for bread? Or give him a snake, when he asks for a fish?

As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there you have the Law and the Prophets.