12 08 2020Gospel of 12 August 2020
Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 18:15-20
If your brother listens to you, you have won back your brother

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.
‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’


Taken out of its context, it would seem that the Lord is merely proposing here a method for fraternal correction and conflict resolution. How do you manage conflicts and disagreements in a community?

But you need to recall that today’s text continues from yesterday’s gospel passage which ended with the parable of the lost sheep. How can we make a connexion between the two? What our Lord is proposing in today’s passage continues from yesterday’s theme - that we should imitate God’s care for His people by seeking the lost.

In other words, we should not just be concerned with keeping the peace in our communities by either tolerating or purging the black sheep therein, but we should be zealous in fighting for the souls of those who are wayward. Let’s be honest; allowing wrongdoings to continue unchecked or expelling trouble makers from the community are much easier and cleaner options. Searching for the lost sheep, working hard to bring the lost sheep back to the fold, would be the greater challenge. And that is the challenge which our Lord throws to all of us.

Our Lord reminds us that it is charity and not meanness which calls us to offer fraternal correction to our brethren. We do it not because we wish to shame the person (that is why we should first seek to do it privately), but we do it because we love this brother or sister.

If the first stage does not bear fruit, then one needs to call for other witnesses. Again, the intention is not to humiliate the person but to allow him to hear the perspective of others too. The motivation is always reconciliation.

Finally, if the first and second approach do not bring the person around, there is a need for the community, or the Church, to intervene. The Church’s role is to reconcile the sinner. She is a field hospital who offers pastoral care and governance through her ministers, and who administers healing through her sacraments. And where the person remains adamant and chooses not to repent, there is the final recourse of excommunication. Again this course of action is not meant to be punitive but seeks to awaken the sinner by showing him that his actions have put him outside the community of believers.

Thus our Lord confers on the Church and its leaders the authority to bind and release, to excommunicate and to reconcile. Both these powers are meant to reconcile the sinner rather than punish and exclude the sinner permanently. It’s good to remember that behind the binding and the loosing that we see in verse 18, stands the praying of verse 19. Above and beyond her duty to reconcile sinners, the Church has a duty to continue praying for all sinners and for their conversion. Let this be our mission and prayer too.

16th OT2 19 20To Tolerate of Not?

There is a wonderful legend of how Abraham offered hospitality to a visitor, as was his custom each day. But on that day, it was a fire worshipper, presumably a Zoroastrian (who if you were to fact-check, does not actually worship fire). Of course, his guest’s identity had remained a secret until the moment when Abraham asked him to offer prayers of thanksgiving for the meal. The ‘cat was out of the bag’ when the guest began to pray in his own fashion. Abraham flew into a rage and threw him out of his tent. When Abraham had composed himself and began to pray, God spoke to him: “I had tolerated this man who does not worship me for all the years of his life and showed him hospitality. Could you not tolerate him for one night?”

Tolerance is not such a difficult word to understand. Tolerance is allowing something or someone to just be. Yes, we all believe that there must be some level of tolerance to get along in a society of people with disparate viewpoints, ideas, religions and cultures. But it is alarming to note that we are living in an increasingly intolerant society.

The irony is that this growing intolerance is often not brought about by our stereotypical bigoted close-minded conservatives. Surely there are many intolerant people to be found among conservatives. But today, intolerance largely comes from progressive people who wish to create a utopian ideal of a world where everything and everyone should be tolerated, except those who disagree with their vision or methods. They have to be “cancelled.”

Let’s be clear, as Christians, some things should always be tolerated and other things should never be tolerated. Persistent unrepentant sin should never be tolerated. Why should we be so intolerant to sin? Sin is like a cancer that, if left untreated, leads to death. It is never merciful or charitable to tolerate sin. In fact, it is a lack of mercy and love, if we choose to allow sin to fester and grow without challenging it. As St Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1, 2).

If sin is never to be tolerated, how about sinners? Here’s the amazing thing - sinners should always be tolerated. Why? Well, people can, and they do change. They may have done many bad things in their lives but they need not be defined by these bad things for the rest of their lives. Their condition is not irredeemable. That’s the power of grace and repentance. Every saint has a past and every sinner can have a different future.

All sinners have the potential of becoming saints. We must believe that people can change. This is an important truth that we must hold on to and even defend because we should never forget that we are all sinners who have sinned and would most likely continue to sin. When we look at how Jesus interacted with sinners who were in need of salvation, we learn that tolerance toward sinners was the key to how He reached out to them. Until a sinner dies, there is always hope for repentance, there is always hope for conversion, there is always hope for salvation.

This is the message of hope that we find in today’s parable. The parable of the wheat and the darnel reminds us that our families, our communities, our society and even our Church will always be a mixture of good and bad. On this side of heaven, nothing is perfect. The more astonishing truth is that the good and the bad that we see around us also resides within each of us. Before we try to rid society and the world completely of the evil we see, we should begin with ourselves. Let me assure you that this is a life-long project. I should know. I’m still working on my issues with the grace of God.

Throughout our lives we must strive against the evil that not only surrounds us but that which lurks within our hearts. We must never resign ourselves to sin or retreat from the battle. Although we must constantly strive against evil, let us not be deluded to think that we will be able to rid ourselves completely of all sin and our propensity to sin, or that we can create a perfect Utopian society. We need to remember that Utopia does not exist because, save for Jesus Christ and His mother Mary, the world is made up of imperfect individuals. In fact, the word Utopia comes from two Greek words which means, no place.

God tolerates sinners, God tolerates us and all our nonsense while we are alive, not because He tolerates or even approves of sin. He tolerates us because in His wisdom, love and mercy, He knows that there is always hope for us to turn from our wicked ways and turn to Him in love and repentance. That’s the gift of human freedom. In the Second Reading, we are told that the Holy Spirit “comes to help us in our weakness.”

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is “good and forgiving,” but make no mistake, He is also a God of Justice. There will be a day of reckoning, a day of judgment. God may tolerate our countless mistakes while we are alive, but He will not tolerate sin a day longer after death. Let us, therefore, not go to our graves stubbornly clinging on to sin, because at the appointed harvest time, God will say to the reapers: “First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.” May we find ourselves among the wheat at that appointed day, instead of being bundled with the darnel.

for individual or personal prayer

  1. Reverence

    We are invited by desire of God's presence to sit in His shadow and listen to His words. So we create in our minds a sacred space and time - that is, we offer our time to God. We withdraw from our preoccupations and welcome God into our conscious selves. For this we need a quiet place, be it in our office, home, school or factory.

  2. Invitation

    Then in our openness to God, we call on the Holy Spirit to stay with us as we sit before the Lord. According to the availability of our time:-

    1. in the morning, we pray as Jesus did (Mk. 1:35) using Ps. 92:2
      It is good to give thanks to the Lord
      pray to Your name, O most High
      To declare Your steadfast love in the morning.

    2. or in the evening:
      O, Spirit of our Lord Jesus
      "Stay with us, for it is towards
      evening and the day is now far spent." (Lk. 24:29)

  3. Open Your Bible

    Look for the day's readings as indicated for each day in SHALOM.

  4. Read

    Read the passages slowly, as God reveals Himself in the Scripture.

  5. In Silence

    Pray: Lord move my heart and help me to become a receptacle of Your Word!

  6. Read SHALOM and Reflect

    Read the reflection for the day, and ask:
    - is there a special invitation or challenge offered to me?
    - how can I respond?

  7. Pray

    Remain in the presence of the Lord who challenges or inspires you to yield to Him in prayer.
    - with the insight you have gained, thank God for the gift of life.
    - then ask for God's merciful love to cover you with newness and confess your shortcomings as you reflected today.
    - pray for your needs.
    - pray for your neighbour's or BEC/BCC's needs.
    - conclude with the monthly Daily Offering and an Our Father.



29 05 2020Gospel of 29 May 2020
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
John 21:15-19
Feed my lambs, feed my sheep

Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and after they had eaten he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’


Today’s intimate conversation between our Lord and St Peter takes place after breakfast. It involves several topics that you would seldom hear so early in the day especially after a hearty meal. The sort of things that could give you indigestion: Peter is interrogated by Jesus in an almost accusatory tone; the one who had failed Jesus and denied Him is now entrusted with a heavy responsibility, and finally, Peter receives a dark prophecy concerning his own future which ends in death. Heavy stuff at the start of the day.

But this is the kind of stuff that every Christian must contend with. Christian love is not just some mushy sentimental emotion. It is not just confined to mere lip service. It involves nothing less than sacrifice. The true measure of love is the cross - the shepherd must be ready to endure the cross and even suffer death for Christ and for His flock. And so the rehabilitation of Peter is pivoted on this. The would-be shepherd denied Jesus because he had abandoned the cross. Now in order for him to be rehabilitated, Jesus invites him to embrace the cross.

Jesus turns to Peter and asks him thrice, “do you love me?” Jesus is subtly reminding Peter of his three denials that took place as Jesus was being led away to His trial and crucifixion. When Peter denied Jesus three times, he was actually rejecting his relationship with Jesus. He was also rejecting his share in the cross. Without healing the break in this connexion, Peter was unable to move forward. All his efforts would be fruitless, much like a branch cut from the vine can bear no fruit .

Jesus makes the first move and initiates Peter’s rehabilitation. He invites Peter to repent and return to Him by professing his love. With Peter’s threefold profession of love, his threefold denial is undone, and Jesus restores the relationship between them. Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross had already undone the humanly unbreakable shackles of sin that binds us. But now with Peter’s confession, the healing is complete. Peter’s sins are no longer held against him; they no longer pose as an obstacle to the vocation which he is now called to undertake.

The same dynamics of repentance, forgiveness and the call, apply to all disciples, even for Peter, though he is a shepherd, he remains a sheep in relation to Jesus. Without that connexion, Peter would be unable to pastor his flock. It is crucial to note that our Lord did not go in search of a fresh candidate, one who is unsullied by a chequered past. Rather Jesus returns to Peter, the sullied disciple, the fallen disciple, and invites him to return to this vocation which he had earlier abandoned.

This story is a powerful reminder to us that Christ does not call perfect individuals to be His disciples, individuals who have never made mistakes. No matter how many mistakes we’ve made, no matter how serious or how many sins we have committed, the love and mercy of Jesus is infinitely greater. That love carried a heavy price tag - it was paid on the cross.

If Christ died on the cross for our redemption, we too must be ready to accept the cross as the price for love. Our Lord calls us not because He absolutely needs us. He calls us because we need Him more than anything else. He seeks us out and constantly invites us to return to Him. As Pope Francis had beautifully taught, God “does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart.”