Saturday, June 23, 2018

Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Year B, 24.06.2018

Isaiah 49:1-6 / Acts 13:22-26 / Luke 1:57-66, 80

The birth of St. John the Baptist is one of the three nativities that the Church celebrates in the liturgy. The other two are the birth of Jesus at Christmas and the birth of our Lady which is on the 8th Sept.

These three births are of important significance because all three point to an appointed time, a time in which God’s plan of salvation is to be fulfilled, a time of blessings, a time of abundant graces.

This weekend we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. On this special occasion, it would be appropriate to have a statue of St. John the Baptist for veneration. Actually we do have a statue of St. John the Baptist. It is at the 2nd floor office. But unfortunately, it needs quite a bit of restoration and we are waiting for God to send the appointed person to do it.

Anyway, the name “John” means “God is gracious” or “the graciousness of God”. So we just wait and see how the grace of God is going to work from here.

St. John the Baptist was a prophet, the greatest of all the prophets because it was he who pointed out to the people who the Saviour is. And of course the Saviour is Jesus. The name “Jesus” means “God saves”.

So when we combine the meanings of the name of John and the name of Jesus, then we get this wonderful revelation : It is by the grace of God that we are saved.

So John the Baptist turned out to be a prophet, a great prophet, even the greatest prophet. And that answered the people’s question: What will this child turn out to be?

So John the Baptist turned out to be a prophet. But his father, Zechariah, was a priest. But whether a priest or a prophet, both have the same purpose and that is to be in service to God for the salvation of the people.

And here, I would like to share some reflections on my service to God and to His people over the last 20 years as a priest, and especially in my three and a half years at the Church of the Sacred Heart.

This church has a special significance for my parents because they were married in this church, and now I am serving in this church, so it is only right and just that I give thanks for the priesthood.

My parents had three children, and I am the second child. Some people have asked me if I have heard the call to the priesthood when I was young. I can’t be sure, but maybe there were some indications when I was in my mother’s womb.

She was about 7 months pregnant (quite heavily pregnant already) when she went to the wet market wearing those flimsy rubber slippers. After doing the marketing, she was going down the steps when she slipped and landed heavily.

We know that St. John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when Mary greeted Elizabeth.
When my mother slipped and landed heavily, I could have leapt out prematurely. But thanks be to God, the water bag was not broken, there was some pain, but I didn’t come out. 

Maybe I was too stubborn to come out. But it was more like my appointed time has not come yet, so I remained in my mother’s womb till full term.

The drama didn’t end there. When I was about two months old, my mother put me on the bed because she had to look after my sister and do some chores. 

She was quite sure that I wouldn’t roll around or turn over because babies don’t do that at two months. Anyway, she had the experience of my sister so she left me on the bed, and went on to do her chores, expecting me to fall asleep.

Then as she was doing the cooking, she heard a sound from the bedroom where I was, a sound like something fell to the ground. She quickly dropped her cooking and rushed to the bedroom and found me on the floor faced down.

Of course she panicked and quickly picked me up, but I was silent. But after a couple of nudges, then I started crying (probably because I was too shocked at first to cry). 

There was a big swelling on my forehead. Seems that my head hit the floor first. Till this day, my mother couldn’t figure out how I double-turned and rolled off the bed and fell. 

But thank God there was no permanent damage (I think so). And don’t ask me what happened to what my mother was cooking. Ask my mother.

But of course, these things happen, but they happen at the appointed time and for a purpose. So the appointed happenings continued, with my breaking the news to my parents about going to the Seminary and then finally getting ordained.

Fast forward to the appointed happening of my posting here as the parish priest, and three and a half years later I am here with you giving thanks for the priesthood on the celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist.

And on this joyous celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist and giving thanks to God for the priesthood, I want to summarise everything in just three words – blessings and graces.

We are blessed with a little and beautiful church, as well as a holy and mystical church where people can find rest and peace in a busy and noisy Orchard Road area. 
So let us in this holy place always give thanks and with love in our hearts offer a pure and worthy sacrifice to the Lord as the priestly People of God.

We also have a devotion that brings us right into the heart of Jesus. What we need to ask of Jesus is to make our hearts like His, and with Jesus in our hearts, we will truly see signs and wonders.

But we also need to be aware of the “adverse spirit”, which wants to deform our hearts from being holy into a divided, broken and wounded heart. 

Oh yes, we have to keep that “adverse spirit” out and keep our hearts united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

So as we gaze into the future and think about our purpose in life and our mission, and what we will turn out to be, let us also remember our prophetic role and that is to make the way straight for the Lord, so that we can lead others along the way of salvation.

So my duty is to prepare for the Lord a people worthy to be called a priestly People of God, offering a pure and holy sacrifice for the salvation of the world. And that is what you are – a holy people and a priestly people.

Yes, the appointed time has come and it is now. We celebrate, we give thanks, and with the prayers of St. John the Baptist, let us go forth to make the Sacred Heart of Jesus known and loved.

That is our prophetic mission; that is also our priestly mission. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 23-06-18

2 Chronicles 24:17-25 / Matthew 6:24-34

I have analogue and digital watches and clocks.

But my preference is the analogue timepiece.

Not only do I know the time at a glance, there is also something worth reflecting about the ticking of the second hand.

If we do some calculations, that second hand goes 60 ticks a minute, 3600 ticks an hour, 86,400 ticks a day, 604,800 ticks a week and 31,449,600 ticks a year.

Now that is a lot of ticking. Yet that humble second-hand shows us something.

It takes one tick at a time.

That is what Jesus is telling us in today's gospel. Putting it simply, it is: Take one tick at a time.

We don't have to worry about how many ticks we have to accomplish in a year, or in a week, or in a day or even in a minute.

That is all taken care of by God.

What we need to do is to let love, joy , peace, patience, compassion, kindness, generosity start ticking in our lives.

That is what is meant by setting our hearts on the Kingdom of God and on His righteousness.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 22-06-18

2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20 / Matthew 6:19-23

For those of us who have the faculty of sight, our eyes look at many things and our mind process the information and then we come to an opinion or decision about what we see.

So when we see things that we desire or that are to our advantage or gain, then we will decide to take possession of it, regardless of whether it is a moral decision or not.

In the 1st reading, when Althaliah learnt that her son Ahaziah, who was king, was killed, she saw that her security was at stake, and she promptly killed all those of royal stock so that she could take possession of the power to govern the country.

Certainly that was a cruel and wicked thing to do, but for Althaliah, all she could think of was to get to power by all and any means, so that she could be secure.

That was her way of building up her treasures on earth, and she was determined to do it even with the shedding of innocent blood.

That was all she could see, and that was all she desired. But as it is said, whoever sheds blood will have their blood shed in the end. That was also the tragic end of Althaliah.

We may not desire for power nor would we shed blood for it. But Jesus is also asking us in the gospel what is our treasure because where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.

And Jesus also reminds us to be careful about what we are looking at. If we are looking at and desiring the things of earth where moths and woodworms can destroy and thieves can steal, then we have to look again carefully.

If what we are looking at and desiring for is causing a darkness in our hearts, then we need to ask Jesus to turn our eyes to the light and to the things of above.

After all, there is no joy in have power and possessions but living in the dark. What we really want is to live in the light and to have the peace that only our Lord Jesus can give, not just here and now, but also for eternity.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 21-06-18

Ecclesiasticus 48:1-14 / Matthew 6:7-15

The 1st reading mentions two figures of the Old Testament - Elijah and his successor Elisah.

Both were prophets and together with other famous figures of the Bible, they were renowned for their deeds, which the 1st reading gave an account of.

But the famous figures of the Bible were not just famous for their deeds. There is one common factor that made them famous in word and in deeds, and that is, they were also men of prayer.

At times, the Bible mentioned them in the act of prayer. At other times, their prayers were also recorded.

But when Jesus came along, the gospels noted that He often went to a lonely place to pray, and in today's gospel, He also taught us how to pray with the "Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father".

The Lord's Prayer can be said under half a minute. Or it can take as long as an hour if we meditate upon it and let the prayer stay in our hearts.

One thing for sure is that the prayer is short and not that many words, such that it can be remembered by heart.

But whether we take one minute, or one hour to say it, the prayer must bear fruit in our lives.As Jesus emphaized after teaching the prayer, one of the first fruits of that prayer must be forgiveness.

Without forgiveness and without prayer, we are like dust in the wind, and our words and actions won't count for anything.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-06-18

2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

There will come a time for people of authority and power to step down and hand the reins to their successors.

For the prophet Elijah, the time had come for him to hand over power to his successor Elisha.

Elijah knew he was to be taken back to God.

Elisha his successor now ask for a double share of his prophetic spirit.

The reason being that the law of Israel had it that a double share of property was to be given by the father to his first-born son.

Elisha was the chosen heir, but the prophetic spirit was for God alone to give.

But what was given to Elijah was eventually doubled in Elisha and culminated in John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was the prophet that Jesus described as the prophet Elijah who had returned to bring the people back to God.

Before Jesus returned to His Father, He promised to give us not just a prophetic spirit but the Holy Spirit as our Advocate and Helper.

The Holy Spirit will give us the power to break free from sin and to have hearts of love so that we can live our lives of holiness and bring people back to God.

Monday, June 18, 2018

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-06-18

1 Kings 21:17-29 / Matthew 5:43-48

Science and technology have really helped to discover the potential of things.

For example, fiber-optics have helped tremendously in communication and information-transfer.

Microchips have helped reduce the size of electronics equipment and increased the efficiency of machines.

On the contrary, the discovery of the real potential of persons is somehow lagging behind.

It is not just about the potential skills and talents of the person.

It is about the spiritual potential of the person, especially in the area of love and forgiveness.

Every person has the potential to love those who have done him wrong and to forgive them.

The late Pope John Paul II exhibited this potential when he forgave the man who shot him by visiting him in prison and he even hugged him.

That act should make us reflect about our own potential to love and forgive.

If Jesus said that we must be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect, then we also must pray and ask our heavenly Father to help us discover and release in us the potential to love and forgive.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-06-18

1 Kings 21:1-16 / Matthew 9:36-42

An obsession is the state of being obsessed with someone or something, or an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind.

That already tells us that it is not a good thing and that it is not normal and if it is not treated, then it could just spiral on to dire consequences.

In the 1st reading, king Ahab was obviously obsessed with something as well as with someone. He wanted Naboth's vineyard to be his vegetable garden, and he was obsessed with Naboth for rejecting him.

He was so obsessed that he became gloomy and refused to eat. And then came along his wicked wife Jezebel who planned a conspiracy against Naboth and to get rid of him.

When Jezebel told king Ahab that Naboth was dead, he was gleefully going down to the vineyard of Naboth to take possession of it.

It was such an evil obsession that king Ahab didn't even bother about the loss of an innocent life. He just wanted the vineyard and he also wanted Naboth to be out of his sight.

Now, if a judge were to pronounce judgement and punishment on king Ahab, and if we were that judge, what punishment would it be for king Ahab?

Would it be an "eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" punishment on king Ahab? And if we were Naboth's close relative, would that kind of punishment be enough for king Ahab?

Or would we want to consider what Jesus taught in the gospel? As we think about all this, let us remember that when a life is concerned, we have to leave the judgement to God. The wrong-doer will have to be accountable to God.

Let us not be obsessed with the evil, but rather let us turn to God who is just. Let us know what God wants of us, and not be obsessed with what we want for ourselves.