Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sharing on the readings of Tue 19th Jul 2011

Yesterday evening, my sister and I went to NTUC to get some groceries for the family. The realisation dawned on me of how things have changed. In the past, it was our parents who bought all the household necessities. We just told them what we needed. Now having grown up, we realise our part in the family and chip in to look after the family's needs. The role of a child in the family is not one who just gets looked after, but as he grows older, he realises that he contributes and is involved in the matters of the family.

And that is what Jesus is reminding us today in the Gospel (Mt 12:46-50). There is a link between our identity (who we are) and our actions (what we do). In the passage Jesus says

whoever does the will of my heavenly Father IS my brother, and sister, and mother
He doesn't say that who ever does the will of the Father "WILL BECOME", insteads he say "IS" my brother, sister and mother.

Though it might seem like a play of words, but there is a difference between the two. One who "is" Jesus' brother, sister or mother knows that he is a child of God and that he belongs in God's family. And because he belongs to the family, he will do the will of the Father. But one who "will become" Jesus' brother, sister or mother, sees himself as outside of the family, and hopes to become a family member by doing the will of the Father.

In the past, I belonged to the second category. I saw God as someone I needed to obey, who will judge me and so I needed to be good to gain His love, to enter heaven. But as I journeyed and grew in my faith, I realised my identity as truly a child of God. I didn't need to work to gain His trust and His love, but I was already immensely loved by Him. And as a child of God, I wanted to do His will. Like Jesus said to his earthly parents when they found him in the temple:
Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work? - Lk 2:49
The question we need to ask ourselves is: Am I doing my Father's will in my life today?

If we are not, could it be that we have failed to realise that we are children of God? Or am I still a young child in the faith, not fully realising my responsibilities as a member of God's family.

The other problem could be forgetfulness. Not that we do not know that we are children of God, but that we get so distracted, or we believe the lies of the tempter that we forget who we are.

Let us pray that we might truly realise our identity as children of God, as brothers and sister of our Lord Jesus Christ. And pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us to know and do the will of our Father.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sharing on the readings of Mon 18th Jul 2011

When I read the Gospel passage of Mt 12:38-42, I used to think it was best not to ask God for a sign. After all Jesus said "It is an evil and unfaithful generation that seeks a sign".

But as I continue on my faith journey, I have come to realise that signs from God are important to help us grow in our faith. It assures us of God's presence with us on our journey, sometimes leading us, other times just to let us know He is there.

One sign which God gave me which I treasure was during a silent retreat that I went for. During that retreat, it was about 5 prayer sessions of 1 hour each a day. And of course after a few days, I started to lose focus and was getting a bit tired or lazy. So there was one prayer session that I felt that my prayer was really dry and fruitless. And I started to bargain with God to let me do 30 mins, or 45 mins instead of the full hour.

I tried to persevere on, but I couldn't get my mind focused on the bible passage, and so I started to look around for something to distract me, and I saw a trail of ants. The ants were just industriously walking up and down the trail, I think to find food or something.
ant of rocks
I was really so bored and distracted at the time, that I decided to search whether the bible mentions "ants". And so I searched and found the passage Proverbs 6:6

Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise.
And I knew that God was showing me a sign, to remind me not to be lazy, but to be faithful like the ant, even if the task may seem boring or routine.

Back to the Gospel passage. If signs from God are beneficial to us, why did Jesus say what he said? It is not that signs are bad, but signs cannot be the foundation of our faith. Our faith needs to be built on our relationship with God, not external signs.

Take the example of dating vs marriage. In the beginning stages of the relationship, both parties give lots of signs of their love for the other, gifts, smses, etc. But as the relationship deepens, these external signs no longer play such an important role in expressing the love between the two.

It is the same with God, our relationship with him needs to be deepened, where it is strengthened by external signs, but not dependent on them. If we fail to reach that stage, we will be like the Israelites in the 1st Reading (Exodus 15:1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6) who despite the signs that God has shown them, complain at the first sign of difficulty, and wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt.

Our relationship with God cannot be one where he is a vending machine giving us signs whenever we want them. But it should be based on the trust that he truly is God and loves us immensely. The one most important sign that He gave us, as what Jesus says in the Gospel, is that of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again to give us hope.

Remember that during the times in our lives where we may fail to see God's signs in our lives, it could be that he is testing and strengthening our faith in him, that we still believe even if we don't see. As Jesus said to doubting Thomas:
You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe - Jn 20:29