Thursday, November 26, 2009

The End is Near! What shall we do?!

First Sunday of Advent Year C

Today the Church begins a new liturgical year. In many cultures and traditions, we often find their new year celebration as an opportunity to remember and give thanks to God for all the blessings of the past year. More importantly it is a time to pray for a good year ahead. We Christians have a slightly different way of celebrating our liturgical new year. We celebrate this event not by looking to the past or to the following year but we are asked to focus on the end of time – the end of the world. This may seem extremely strange especially when we often regard the end of the world as something frightening.

The first part of today’s gospel does present a frightening picture of the end of the world – “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.” Natural calamities, like earthquakes, tsunami, typhoon, floods etc. often bring about this experience of fear and anxiety. On the other hand, science tells us that these natural calamities are the result of an earth which is growing and evolving. It is signs of life rather than of death. Planets that no longer have such natural calamities – no earthquakes, no storms, no volcanoes – also have no life. Nothing can live on such planets. They are dead planets.

So, Jesus very often uses the image of natural calamities to describe the end of the world in order to show that something new is about to be born. These are birth pangs. These are not signs of death but rather of life. If we begin to view the end of the world in this perspective, then today’s celebration and this season of Advent will become a celebration of hope rather than a celebration of fear.

We should not ask the question: “When will all of these happen?” When and how is not important. The question that we should be asking is this: What shall we do as we await this final day. Today’s scriptures are full of lessons for us.

First of all, even if there is a lot of confusion, things are not going according to our plans, nobody should lose heart. Jesus tells us: “When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.” We must not be anxious because Jesus is coming. This is certain. He is our saviour. Today, we face many problems – family problems, financial problems. Many feel like giving up. Jesus reminds us – do not lose heart – stand erect and hold your heads high because your liberation is near at hand.

Secondly, when faced with obstacles and so much evil in the world, we are often tempted to run away or to look for excuses or fake solutions. Some people turn to alcohol while others to sex in order to find some satisfaction. Jesus reminds us: “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.” Remember that no one can escape judgment. Everyone will be asked to give an account of their action. Jesus assures us of this: “For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth.”

Thirdly, we must “stay awake and pray”. This does not mean that we should be hiding in the church 24 hours a day. On the contrary, true prayer leads us closer to God and to others. Through prayer, the Lord will increase our love and make us love one another and the whole human race as St. Paul writes in the second reading. Staying awake means that we must take our spiritual development seriously. If our faith is still at the level of a primary school child, we will not be ready when the time comes for us to meet God face to face. St. Paul urges each and every one of us to continue growing in our faith life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

YWCA of Negeri Sembilan celebrates World Week of Prayer and Fellowship

SEREMBAN, Malaysia (Nov 24) - The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Negeri Sembilan celebrated World Week of Prayer and Fellowship with a talk by Rev. Fr. Michael Chua, who is the Parish Priest of the Church of Visitation, Seremban, and the Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Archdiocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. Fr. Chua spoke on theme, "Striving for Global Citizenship for All."

Fr. Chua started by explaining both the positive and negative effects of globalisation. Globalisation has brought about the growth of cross cultural contacts and the spread of multiculturalism. On the hand, he cautioned that globalisation may also result in cultural imperialism and extinction of authentic cultures in the East and the South, as they are overwhelmed by an onslaught of Western popular culture through the media and the free market system.

"One of the major barriers to building a multicultural community is ethnocentrism" he added. He explained ethnocentrism as "the assumption that the worldview of one’s culture is central to all reality." He then explained the various forms and levels of cultural sensitivity and insensitivity, some more subtle than others.

He then proposed a method of building relationships with people from other cultures and beliefs: "Creating space and respecting space." There is close connection between the need to take risks in making space for others and the need to respect the legitimate boundaries of others. If not, any efforts in building relationships will devolve into disrespectful intrusion.

The YWCA of Negeri Sembilan is a member of the gloabl network of the YWCA, a movement of women working for social and economic change around the world. It advocates for young women’s leadership, peace, justice, human rights and sustainable development, both on a grassroots and global scale. It is the the largest women’s organization in the world, and the second oldest organization of its kind, second only to the Relief Society.

The original Christian focus is still strong in many of the national associations, but some have changed their focus to social programs and services and mission-based topics. The YWCA of Negeri Sembilan, however, has taken on a multireligious and multicultural composition, made up of Christians from various denominations, Hindus, Buddhists and even some Muslims. This talk was attended by over 50 members who consisted not only of Christians, but also Hindus, Buddhists, and a Muslim.

The World Week of Prayer and Fellowship is an annual event of the World YWCA. It presents an opportunity to pray and act together on a shared issue. This year’s theme is ‘Striving for Global Citizenship for All’ presents an opportunity for reflection on what makes good citizens, and how our contribution as individuals and a movement can create a safe and secure world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't expect a Certificate!

Christ the King Year B

At the end of a course, we usually expect a certificate to proof that we have completed the course. The certificate would also sometimes include a record of our performance. For example, at the end of our studies in school, we get a certificate to show the grades we received in our final exam. Today is the last day of the Church’s liturgical year. Perhaps, we would also be expecting some form of certificate to proof that we have been living good lives according to the teachings of the Church. If our performance has not been so well, if we feel that we have not live as good Catholics, we may feel a bit embarrassed about this certificate.

I’m sorry to disappoint you because the values of God are not the same as the values of the world. Jesus reminds us of this in today’s gospel. In answer to Pilate’s question about whether he is the king of the Jews, Jesus replies: “Mine is not a kingdom of this world.” But Jesus is king, though of a different kind. He says: “Yes, I am a king, I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”

Just say that if we were to receive a certificate from Jesus, what would be points that would really matter to him and God. Well, the certificate would not be a record of our successes – how well we have done this or that. What matters is not success but faithfulness – have we been faithful to God? Have we been faithful to Jesus’ call to be his disciples? Have we been faithful to all that Jesus has taught us?

Secondly, the certificate would not be concerned with our status or position. Power and status have no place in the kingdom of God. It is only service that matters. Jesus is King but not a king who lords it over others. He is a Servant king. Have we served our brothers and sisters, especially those who are weak and the poor? Have we given them our time and our assistance without expecting anything in return?

Thirdly, the certificate would not record the number of times we pray or attend masses or formations. These things are important. But more important than these is the conversion that must take place within our lives. As we look back this entire year, do we see changes within ourselves? Have we become more committed Christians? Have we been able to overcome some area of sin which we were struggling with before this?

Today, as we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, let us echo the words found in today’s second reading taken from the book of the Apocalypse: “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever.” Let us be witnesses of Christ the King by allowing him to be king and lord of our lives.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reverend-Know-It-All on the kind of priests we want

Dear Rev. Know-It-All,

Is there an Encyclical or a Papal Teaching on how the lay person is required to respect their priests? We have someone in our lay community, who does not like the way her pastor gives homilies and is constantly criticizing him. We know this is wrong, but we don't know how to correct her without hurting her. Especially now, in the Year of the Priest, I would think there would be something from Rome.

Please help.

Clara Qalysm


Dear Clara,

First, the simple answer to your question: Yes. There is something recently written, Pope Benedict’s letter of June 16 inaugurating the Year of the Priest. That said, I am delighted to hear that some one is upset by the sermons in your parish. Hopefully, she is upset for the right reasons.

Somehow we have gotten the impression, (I think it started somewhere in the 1950's) that we are supposed to like priests. What an odd assumption. If a priest is doing his job, he should make us feel at least a little nervous, if not downright uncomfortable. We assume that Mass should be entertaining and that sermons should be enjoyable. The job of the priest is not to entertain. It is to do what Jesus did. Certainly you don’t believe that Jesus was crucified because He was such a nice fellow. It seems they didn’t have to look far to find a mob that was willing to shout “Crucify Him!” He must have irritated a few people. The job of the priest is to continue the work that Jesus did. Certainly, preaching and teaching were part of it, but so were healing the sick and casting out demons. However, Jesus’ ultimate work was to offer Himself as a sacrifice in reparation for the sins of the world.

When I was a young priest many years ago, I was given a new assignment as an assistant pastor. Shortly before I arrived to take up my new duties, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, came to me in a dream and told me that I would have to pray a lot in this new assignment.

When I arrived at my new rectory, I noticed a beautiful wood carving of St John on the mantelpiece in the front room.

A few weeks later, I noticed that the statue of St. John was gone, and in his place was a mechanical monkey.

It seems the pastor had taken his vacation in Las Vegas, where he had won the little wind up monkey in a game of chance. When he needed a refill at the bar, he just switched on the monkey who banged a little pair of cymbals and the bar maid would fill his glass, and he would switch the monkey off, until pressed into service once again.

Thus, it was that the patron saint of priests was replaced with a mechanical monkey.

In the 20th century, we became accustomed to the priest as headman of the immigrant community. That changed into a kind of social director which has developed in our times to “pious bureaucrat.” The priest goes to meetings, conducts programs, fills out forms, visits the school, and glad hands everybody in the vestibule. He does weddings for young couples who have been living in sin for the past two years, then goes to the banquet where he gives the blessings at the beginning and end, thus giving the whole thing a veneer of sanctity. He conducts funerals, reassuring us that perhaps there is life after death and, doubtless, God, who is merciful, will overlook Uncle Mortimer’s gun running business and countless adulteries. After all, Old Mort had a kind heart.

A priest should be good with young and old, but not too good with young. He should be kind and pastoral and never critical he should preach a nice, though brief, sermon. He should go to all the events, the wakes the weddings, the men’s club, the women’s club, the youth group, and having done all that he should be a man of prayer, or at least appear to be. He must have the wisdom of age and the energy of youth, and be ready to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night to give the “last sacraments” to some reprobate who has not darkened the door of the church since his First (and last) Communion.

Above all, the priest makes sure that the fund raising is on schedule and the buildings are in good repair. Keep banging the cymbals, Father. At least keeping up the buildings has something to do with the ministry of Jesus. He was, after all, in the building trades for about 18 years.

In his letter of June 16th, on the year of the priest, it doesn’t seem that the Holy Father is urging people to celebrate the priesthood as much as he is urging priest to remember their calling. The letter is mostly a meditation on the life of my old friend, St. John Vianney. He was the CurĂ© (the Pastor) of Ars, a small town in the south of France. After the French Revolution, the faith in France was in terrible shape, almost as bad as it is now. St John was to this little village of perhaps 250 souls, few of whom practiced their faith. He was not well received. In fact, they hated him.

For years, a group of women offered a special Mass intention. After a while, Fr. Vianney asked what they were praying for. They told him, “For a new pastor.” He went right on praying for their special intention. When he arrived in the parish, he prayed “Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!” He then went around for a month meeting his parishioners, getting to know the life of his little village, then he went to the pulpit and denounced their sins, especially their dances, which were nothing more than seduction.

As the pastor of Ars, Father Vianney realized that the Revolution's aftermath resulted in religious ignorance, due to many years of the destruction of the Catholic Church in France. At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent in the fields working, or spent dancing and drinking in taverns. In modern America we work, run errands, go to sporting events and watch soft core pornography on our televisions. Vianney reminded his parishioners that Sundays were meant for the worship of God. Father Vianney began by giving sermons referring to the tavern as "the devil's own shop, the market where souls are bartered, where the harmony of families are broken up, where quarrels start and murders are done." No wonder they hated him.

I wonder what he would have to say about the way people come dressed when they bother to come to church at all. I bet he would have a few thing to say about video games and television programming as well. We live in an age when the Catholic Church is being systematically attacked from without and within. The ignorance of children regarding the faith and the sacraments is appalling. The torrent of pornography to which children are exposed is unfathomable, and that’s just prime time TV.

Our entertainments have corroded our sense of right and wrong just as they did in Ars 150 years ago. I am genuinely shocked when young people come to arrange a marriage and they are not living together. No one thinks twice about what in a former time would be called adultery or perversion, in fact it is celebrated. Parents are at a loss, unable and sometimes unwilling to do anything. God forbid the priest should fail to be in step with the times. We priests have been so in step that many of us have been swept away in the same river of filth and narcissism that is currently engulfing the world.

The problem then, as I see it, is not that someone in your parish is critical of the priest, but that only one person is critical of the priest. People want to love their priests because they are such nice fellows and give such nice homilies. This is a mistake. The priest is to be valued because he absolves sins and offers the sacrifice of Calvary, the only sacrifice which can make up for the barbarities of the age. In his own life, the priest is called to offer the sacrifice of the Mass as an expiation for his sins and the sins of his congregation, even if the congregation believes itself sinless, and worse still if the priest refuses to acknowledge his own weakness and sinfulness. The priest is supposed to be the one who leads his people to repentance, having himself wholeheartedly repented.

Allow me to quote from the Pope’s letter as he quotes St. John “The great misfortune for us parish priests – (St. John Vianney) lamented - is that our souls grow tepid"; meaning by this that a pastor can grow dangerously inured to the state of sin or of indifference in which so many of his flock are living. He himself kept a tight rein on his body, with vigils and fasts, lest it rebel against his priestly soul. Nor did he (St. John) avoid self-mortification for the good of the souls in his care and as a help to expiating the many sins he heard in confession. To a priestly confrere he explained: "I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place". Aside from the actual penances which the Cure’ of Ars practiced, the core of his teaching remains valid for each of us: souls have been won at the price of Jesus' own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the "precious cost" of redemption.

We want to like the priest for the same reason we like the softball coach, the scout leader and Santa Claus. Again quoting St. John Vianney, the priest is to be valued for a quite different service, “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is. 'O, how great is the priest! ... If he realized what he is, he would die.' (St. John Mary Vianney)

If only a few more priests would take these words to heart and forget what their congregations thought of them.

Rev. Know-It-All

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's an introvert? Look at ME!!!

"Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so. (think that's me lah!!)
By Jonathan Raush (who is one of course)

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."

Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?" (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. "Introverts," writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I'm not making that up, either), "are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so.

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Consequence of Our Lives

Thirty Third Ordinary Sunday Year B

There are consequences to the way we live. Every action of ours has a consequence. Sometimes we see the consequences of our actions in our present life. For example, when we drink and smoke without restraint, we see these habits have an effect on our health. If we have not paid our attention to our studies when we were young we would most likely have to struggle on a low pay for the rest of our lives. When we steal and cheat, we would soon be exposing ourselves to the law.

But there are some consequences that we may not see in this life. Some people are able to live rich and comfortable lives in spite of their sinful lifestyle. Others seem to get away with the crimes they have committed without being caught by the police. Still many others go through life without thinking of God or placing him last on our list of priorities. But that doesn’t mean that our actions have no consequences. In fact, we are reminded by the readings today that it is to these actions that we must pay special attention. Ultimately we will be called to account for our every action or omission. If not now, then on Judgment Day.

The problem that we often face is this: because we don’t see the consequences of our negative actions in our present life, we may erroneously believe that there are no consequences. Many people live their lives with this misconception. Unless we wake up to the truth that we shall be accountable for our every action, we will die without the opportunity to mend our ways. All will be judged on the Last Day. All our actions, our mistakes, our good deeds, our sins, our failures, our successes would be made clear on that day. In spite of the mercy of God, no one can escape judgment.

The first reading from the prophet Daniel reminds us that “of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.” Let us hope and pray that on the Last Day we will rise to everlasting life and glory and be able to shine as bright stars in heaven for all eternity. But we are also reminded that unless we take our faith seriously, unless we begin to live up to our identity as Christians, another fate may await us – we may wake up to shame and everlasting disgrace.

We are approaching the end of the year. There is still time to amend our ways now. Don’t wait till tomorrow or next month or next year. As Jesus reminds us in the gospel today: “but as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.” For some of us the Day of Judgment will come sooner than others. Be ready to give an account of your life when you called to meet the Lord.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How much are we prepared to give?

Thirty Second Ordinary Sunday Year B

How much are we prepared to give to God? Here’s a story that may help us to understand. One day, three clerics, a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi were having a discussion on who gave the most to God. The Protestant minister proudly said that he only took ten per cent of the Sunday collection. The rest of the money was used for the Church’s work and mission. The Catholic minister didn’t want to be outdone. He said that the entire collection was given to God and his Church while he only took RM10.00 as his stipend. The Jewish rabbi turned to the both of them and laughed. “You men of little faith”, he exclaimed, “I on the other hand give everything to God. At the end of every Sabbath I take the whole collection and throw it up as an offering to God and whatever God allows to fall back down is mine!”

How much are we prepared to give to God? I don’t think that any of us are ready to give even 10% of whatever we earn. At least we see among the Protestants this willingness to contribute 10% of their earnings to the mission and work of the Church. Perhaps our Sunday offering may just be a dollar, which is less than one percent of what we earn. And yet, we often forget that all that we have is a gift from God. God has given us everything that we need and yet we often find it so hard to give back to him. We give back to God not only by our monetary contributions to the Church. We give back to God also through helping the poor, through our sacrifice of time and effort to further the Church’s mission. How much are we prepared to give to God?

The challenge given in today’s readings is really great. God is challenging us to give our all, to give our best and to give our lives to him. We have two stories to illustrate this. In the first reading, we have the story of the non-Jewish widow who is asked to share her last meal with the prophet Elijah. The prophet and God rewards her generosity by performing a miracle allowing her food to never be totally spent. In the gospel, Jesus takes the example of another poor widow to illustrate this need for total self-giving. This poor widow puts in only two small coins, which is nothing compared to big sums donated by the rich. And yet Jesus praises her action because “she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”

In the second reading, Jesus himself is given as an example for giving. It is not money or material goods that is being given here. Jesus gives his own life as a sacrifice in order that we may be saved. Jesus has given his 100%, he has held nothing back.

Back to the question that I’ve been asking from the start: How much are we prepared to give to God? Are we very calculative? Are we trying to hold back many things because they give us security? Are we forgetting that Jesus has given himself entirely to us? Have we forgotten that God has given us everything we need? How much are we prepared to give to God?

Today, let us reflect over our own willingness or unwillingness to make sacrifices for God. How much time have we given to him? How much have we contributed to the Church through our talents? Or have we only been coming here to beg favours from God as if we were beggars? Today, let us pray that we will be able to give back to God what God has given to us everyday of our lives.