Friday, May 22, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 23-05-15

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31 / John 21:20-25

Not many people have been in captivity before.

To be in captivity, to lose freedom, and to be kept under surveillance all the time is certainly very stressful, to say the least.

Most would be resigned to that fact and wait for the day to come when they could be released. That would be a passive waiting in the state of captivity.

Others would be trying to find a way to escape, and if they do and get captured, the consequences will be drastic.

Few would turn captivity into an opportunity - an opportunity to see the best and be the best in that gloomy situation.

In the 1st reading, we heard that St. Paul was held under captivity, although it was like some kind of "house arrest".

He made the best out of the situation and he was even able to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the Lord helped St. Paul by even granting him complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

So no matter how depressive or gloomy our situation may be, and if we feel like "being held captive" in a commitment or duty or responsibility, let us look at that situation and see the opportunity that the Lord is presenting to us.

The devil may hinder us and try to capture us with the chains of work, duty and responsibility. But it is the Lord Jesus who frees our hearts, turns captivity into opportunity so that we can give God the glory.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 22-05-15

Acts 25:13-21 / John 21:15-19

In the medical profession, a general practitioner (GP) is a medical doctor who treats acute and chronic illnesses and provides preventive care and health education to patients.

By and large, most of us would have consulted a general practitioner at one time or another, for whatever health issues.

But when the general practitioner has to refer us to medical specialist, then it may mean something that requires a particular examination and treatment.

The general practitioner has to know the limits of his expertise and diagnosis, and to refer to the specialists when it is required.

In the 1st reading, Festus was discussing with king Agrippa and Bernice about Paul's case, and he admitted that he felt that he was not qualified to deal with the questions regarding the case, and he had to recourse to higher authority.

But in the gospel it was like the other way round; it was like the higher authority asking the subordinate a very basic and fundamental question.

Jesus asked Peter, three times, "Do you love me?" It was a very basic and fundamental question in any relationship, and yet the answer can be so decisive.

But very often, it is we who ask Jesus if He loves us, especially when we are going through the darkness of anxiety and worry and doubt.

We don't need a specialist to give us the answer to that question whether Jesus loves us. But we would really need to believe that Jesus loves us before we can say that we love Jesus.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 21-07-15

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 / John 17:20-26

There are a few definitions of the concept of unity. Unity can be defined as a whole or totality combining all its parts into one

Or it can be defined as the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole.

Seen from another angle, it is the absence of diversity and having an unvaried or uniform character.

But unity is always tested by diversity and by various other factors. More so when this unity is about people, as each seem to have his own opinion about things and hence keeping unity can be very challenging.

The 1st reading exposed the fragility of the unity of the Sanhedrin, and the crack lines were taken advantage of by Paul when he worked on the sympathies of the Pharisee section of the Sanhedrin.

What Paul did to the Sanhedrin which eventually broke their unity, others will also want to do to the Church.

What makes it more alarming is that these "others" may not just be outsiders but from within the ranks of the Church.

What Jesus prayed for in the gospel is that we will all be united as one. But the unity is not in some kind of structure or doctrine or practice.

The foundation of this unity is founded on the unity between Jesus and the Father - "Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you."

Unless we are united in and by the heart of Jesus, there will be threats to the unity of the Church and the crack lines will appear.

Let us pray that we, the Church, will be united as one, and may it begin with a unity of minds and hearts. May Jesus be the foundation of our unity as Church. May He be in us just as He is in the Father.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 20-05-15

Acts 20:28-38 / John 17:11-19

Blood has great significance in the Bible. Its meanings involve profound aspects of human life and God's desire to transform human existence. Blood is intimately associated with physical life. Blood and “life” or “living being” are closely associated.

To say that something is bought with blood does not merely mean that a quantity of blood is exchanged for that item.

To buy something with blood means to say a life is given up in exchange for that item.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul told the elders of the church of Ephesus that the Church of God is bought with the blood of Christ.

Jesus Christ offered His life on the cross so that we, the Church, can be redeemed from our sins and saved from eternal death.

St. Paul didn't have to shed his blood for the church of Ephesus or for any of the churches at that time.

But he did shed tears over each of them. It was an expression of how much he loved and cared for them as he foresaw the dangers they will be facing.

St. Paul shed tears and would have prayed to the Lord Jesus to protect the Church.

And in the gospel, Jesus said that He will keep watch over each of us and that no one would be lost, except when we choose to be lost.

We are not asked to pour out our blood for the salvation for others. Yet like St Paul we must also shed tears and pray for our salvation and the salvation of others.

Tears, together with prayers, are the lens we need to see Jesus.

Monday, May 18, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 19-05-15

Acts 20:17-27 / John 17:1-11

Whenever we talk about parting or farewell, we get into a melancholic mood; there is an inevitable sadness to it.

In both of today' readings, we hear of a parting or farewell.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul said that he was about to finish his race and had carried out the mission that he was given.

In the gospel, Jesus said that the hour has come and He had finished the work He was given to do and He was going back to the Father.

But if we were to look at what Jesus and St. Paul had accomplished until that point in time, then we have to say that nothing much has actually been achieved.

But yet in both cases, the trust was in God who will bring their work to fulfillment.

So in spite of the unfinished business, Jesus and St. Paul gave us a message of hope.

It was a firm hope in God who will take care of everything.

We may be very busy in life but do we have anything to show for it?

If we are only busy with the things of this world, there will be nothing to show for it.

But when we are busy with the work of God, then the Holy Spirit will help us bring it to fulfillment.

Then the work we do will bear fruit that will last.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 18-05-15

Acts 19:1-8 / John 16:29-33

We may have heard of this saying "put your money where your mouth is".

It is an informal way of saying to take action to support one's statements or opinions.

So if we say that we believe in something, it means that we are convinced and have that conviction.

And we will have to stand by that conviction when our belief is put to the test.

In the gospel, the disciples said to Jesus that they believe that He came from God. They thought that they had finally got it and that they saw everything clearly.

But Jesus thought otherwise. In fact He answered them: Do you believe at last?

And as Jesus predicted, they will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving Jesus alone.

As it is, any belief or conviction will eventually be put to the test. And the result would be clear.

And if our belief in Jesus is anything to go by, then Jesus is telling us that for our belief, we will have to face our troubles for it.

But let us pray for the strength from the Holy Spirit to live up to our belief. By our convictions, Jesus will conquer the world.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 17.05.2015

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / 1 John 4:11-16 / John 17:11-19

Last Thursday was the feast of the Ascension of the Lord and it was a day of obligation.

A day of obligation means that we come for Mass, and before that we go for Confession if necessary and of course we receive Holy Communion.

And of course for all the effort that we make to come for Mass on a weekday, the blessings that we receive is certainly beyond measure.

Indeed blessed are those who make the offering of their time for God.

But then again, there were some who forgot. They forgot that it was a day of obligation. Still God will be gracious to them because there is the availability of Confession. 

And just in case they forgot to come for Confession before Mass, then the “special offer” is that after Mass it is also available  : )

It is understandable if some forgot because of the busyness of life and the stress of a working day.

But there is also this “selective remembering” – we make a tick in our minds on what we want to remember because it is important, and the rest we just let them hang loose in our minds.

So we may remember the news that we heard on the radio but we may not be able to remember what the readings of today were all about.

In the 1st reading Peter remembered what the scriptures foretold about Judas – that someone else must be chosen to replace him as one of the Twelve apostles.

For us it may not be that important whether it is eleven or twelve. 

But the meaning of the number 12 is considered a perfect number, in that it symbolizes God's power and authority, as well as a perfect governmental foundation. It also symbolizes completeness, or the nation of Israel as a whole. 

And so for the Church it symbolizes completeness and unity and hence Matthias was chosen to complete the 12  apostles.

And it is for this completeness and unity of the Church that Jesus prayed for in the gospel. 

Yes, Jesus prayed for us on the night before His death and this gospel passage is a passage that we ought to remember.

Jesus prayed for us that we won’t be lost in the world since we do not belong to the world. Because we belong to God.

As the Beatitudes would say, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.

But Jesus also prayed that we will be protected from the evil one.

As much as Jesus taught us the Beatitudes, the devil has his own set of “better-titudes” and it goes something like this:

"Better are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in church; They are my best workers. 

Better are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked; I can use them. 

Better are the touchy; with a bit of luck, they may stop going to church; They are my missionaries. 

Better are those who are very religious but get on everyone's nerves; They are mine forever. 

Better are the troublemakers; They shall be called my children. 

Better are those who have no time to pray; They are easy prey for me. 

Better are the gossipers; For they are my secret agents. 

Better are those critical of church leadership; For they shall inherit a place with me in my fate. 

Better are the complainers; I will encourage them. 

Better are you when you read this and think it is about other people and not yourself; I've got you!"

So if the world thinks better or highly of us, it may not necessarily mean that we are blessed. 

In fact, Jesus prayed that we will be protected from the evil one so that we don’t let ourselves belong to the world.

Even though we are in the world, we belong to God and Jesus prayed for our protection.

Yes, life is fragile, and we need to handle it with prayer and pray for protection.

On Friday morning there was a fatal accident at Ponggol. A 30-year-old woman was knocked down by a bus and died from her injuries.

I know that lady. She journeyed in the RCIA class, I officiated her marriage and blessed her house. And now I am going to do her funeral.

No words can really console her husband and the 4 year-old son she left behind.

For those who journeyed with her in the RCIA and her friends in Church, they will grieve and they might ask those hard questions.

I pray that God will protect them from a faith crisis and I ask you to join me in prayer too. 

My obligation to them will be my presence and prayers.

And that is what the 2nd reading is telling us to remember – No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another, God will live in us and His love will be complete in us.

To love one another is our obligation. Love is our only protection. 

Because where there is love, there is God.