Friday, May 27, 2016

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 28-05-16

Jude 17, 20-25 / Mark 11:27-33

Faith is essential in the Christian life. Because faith is the foundation that we build our lives on.

Faith leads us to pray and to keep ourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give us eternal life.

But faith must also be expressed in good works. Or to put it simply, what is inside must also be seen outside.

Faith without any form of good works is dead. Hence, the 1st reading urges us to reassure those who have doubts, and when there are some to be saved from the fire, to pull them out.

But the 1st reading also tells us this - there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.

So faith tells us to be kind but also to be cautious with those who will lure and lead us into sin.

Such was how Jesus responded to the chief priests and scribes and elders when they questioned His authority.

Jesus did not enter into an argument with them but rather gave them something to think about. He was cautious about falling into their trap.

So faith must be expressed in forms of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, compassion, etc.

But with faith we also must pray for wisdom, knowledge and understand so that we won't fall into temptation and be led into sin.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-05-16

1 Peter 4:7-13 / Mark 11:11-26

Today's gospel portrayal of Jesus is not one that we would like to see.

In fact, cursing fig trees and being physically violent won't draw any admiration from others.

But the beginning of Chapter 11 of the gospel of Mark stated that Jesus just entered Jerusalem and soon He will face His Passion.

So the Jesus in today's gospel is anxious because the urgency of His message about the Kingdom of God has not sunk into the minds and hearts of the people.

So His actions in today's gospel are like alarm bells in the morning and they are sharp warnings to those who are aware of His message but do not do anything about it.

And even for us, the areas of conversion in our lives must begin, and must begin now.

We can't be indifferent or wait for tomorrow; there might be no tomorrow.

And if the Lord asks us now to show an account of our lives, will we have any good fruits to show?

So let us start straightening up our lives, we who are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, let us bear fruits for the Kingdom of God, fruits of love and peace, fruits of joy and forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-05-16

1 Peter 2:2-5, 9-12 / Mark 10:46-52

From what we have gone through in life, we would have learnt that certain things cannot be forced.

No one can be forced to change their habits, or their behaviour or their principles. Because essentially change comes from within, not from without; it cannot be forced.

Similarly, faith and love cannot be forced on a person. God loves us and He wants us to have faith in His love for us.

But He will not force us to love Him or believe in Him. God only invites us to respond to His love.

In today's gospel, we hear about the response of a blind man called Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus passing by. He may have have already heard many things about Jesus. The time had come for him to make a response to Jesus. And for his response, he got healed and he followed Jesus.

Faith is believing that God loves us and our response is to love God. When faith brings these two loves together, then we will know what journeying from darkness into light is all about.

Then we will experience what Bartimaeus experienced.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 25-05-16

1 Peter 1:18-25 / Mark 10:32-45

There is a famous painting which was originally called "Hands". But we would know it more popularly as "Praying Hands".

At the bottom left corner of this painting are the initials A.D., which are the initials of the artist Albrecht Durer.

The hands that modeled for his painting were the hands of his brother Albert.

He drew the hands of his brother as a tribute to him.

The story is that Albert worked in the coal-mines to sponsor Albrecht to go the the Art Academy.

Albert also desired to be an artist but his work in the coal-mines left him with broken fingers and arthritis.

The drawing of Albert's hands only goes to show that love is a sacrifice and service with love is also a sacrifice.

Jesus served us by sacrificing Himself, and it is a sacrifice that freed us and saved us.

So whenever we join our hands to pray, let us remember that other things will come and go, the grass will wither and the flower will fade.

But the sacrifice we make in the form of a loving service to others, that sacrifice will remain and will be remembered.

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-05-16

1 Peter 1:10-16 / Mark 10:28-31

In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Letter to Chinese Catholics, in which he asked that May 24 each year be dedicated to a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

He chose May 24 because it is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

In honour of the first celebration of the World Day of Prayer for China, in 2008, Pope Benedict composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan and asked that Christians throughout the world recite it on May 24.

Indeed, it is an occasion in which the whole Church would “demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude” (care and concern) for the persecuted Church in China by acts of prayer and penance.

So it is a call for action on the spiritual dimension, something that we the Church can do, and yet we seem to have neglected it.

There seem to be this disturbing "spiritual divorce" within the Church in that we have not heeded the call for unity and solidarity and solicitude for our Catholic brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

Let us be united with the Lord and with each other in prayer. And let us offer the love of this prayer to our brothers and sisters in the Church in China by offering the prayer below for them, especially on this day that is dedicated for prayer for them.

May the Lord guard and protect the Church in China, and may He give them strength and courage in the trials and difficulties that they face.

Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan (A Prayer for the Church in China by Pope Benedict XVI)

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians," the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously co-operated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-05-16

1 Peter 1:3-9 / Mark 10:17-27

Qin Shi Huangdi (秦始皇) (259 BC – 210 BC), was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC. He ruled until his death in 210 BC at the age of 50.

After his death, he was buried in an underground tomb, along with his treasures and also his servants (buried alive) as was the practice in those times

There was even a "Terracotta Army" to guard the tomb of the emperor.

When his tomb was discovered, his remains and the remains of those who were buried with him were taken aside for further analysis.

One of the archaeologists was examining the remains and he seemed to be looking for something.

When he was asked what he was looking for, he replied: I am looking to see if there is any difference between the bones of Qin Shi Huangdi and that of his slaves. I don't see any.

We may think it is an obvious comment, but yet it is a chilling fact that whatever we have now, will ultimately remain here on earth.

And when we come before God, we are no different from the person next to us, whether be it in terms of merit or credit.

We can't even earn heaven or eternal life. But it is given freely to us.

The 1st reading would even say that God promised us an eternal inheritance that is being kept for us in the heavens.

But while we are here on earth, we must treasure this eternal gift and inheritance.

Because where our treasure is, there our heart will be.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trinity Sunday, Year C, 22.05.2016

Proverbs 8:22-31 / Romans 5:1-5 / John 16:12-15

It is said that knowledge is power. Learning new things every day help us grow in many ways. But whatever we have learnt or are learning, there is still a massive amount of knowledge out there that remains to be learnt.

Some facts can be just trivia, which can be interesting, or amusing, or just simply amazing.

Did we know that the sentence "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter in the English alphabet? That’s why that sentence is used for typing lessons for beginners.

Did we know the the average person falls asleep in 7 minutes? That’s why the recommended time for the length of a homily is 7 minutes.

Did we know that apples are more effective at waking you up in the morning than coffee? 

Did we know that money is the number one thing that people argue about?

Did we know that the most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression?

And talking about anxiety and depression, it can stem from what we know, as well as what we do not know.

So knowledge of our present situation may lead us to depression, yet we are also anxious to know about our future.

A story goes that a young man was rather depressed about his current situation, and so he decided to go to a fortune-teller to see what his future is like.

So the fortune-teller studied his palm and then he told the young man, “You will be poor, unhappy and unmarried until you are 40.” 
And so the young man anxiously asked, “After that? After that?” And the fortune-teller replied, “After that you will get used to it!”

Maybe the truth here is that life is difficult and even depressing at times, and we have to get used to that. Or at least we have to be prepared for that.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now.”

He could be referring to what was going to happen soon, i.e. He will be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, His disciples will desert Him, He will suffer and die on the cross.

But that would be too much for His disciples to handle for the moment. It would be too depressing for them.

Yet, Jesus also added this – But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth.

So as much as the reality of life is that it is difficult and even depressing at times, there is an even greater truth that is promised by God in the scriptures.

Because in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, God has this to say to His people. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It is by trusting in the Lord’s promise of the future for us that we dare to look towards the future with hope and not with despair.

Some of us may remember Arthur Ashe. Arthur Ashe became the first, and is still the only, Afro-American male player to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. He is also the first Afro-American to be ranked No. 1 in the world. Always an activist, when Ashe learned that he had contracted AIDS via a blood transfusion, he turned his efforts to raising awareness of the disease, before finally succumbing to it on February 6, 1993.

When he was suffering from the disease, he received letters from his fans the world over, one of which conveyed: "Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?"

To this Arthur Ashe replied with this one paragraph, and it is often quoted as the paragraph that explains life: "All over the world 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semi-finals, 2 to the finals, and when I was holding the cup I never asked God “Why me?”. And today in pain I should not be asking God “Why me?”

For us, as the mystery of life unfolds before us, and especially when distress and turmoil swirl around us, we will be inclined to ask God “Why me?” But at the same time, another mystery is also unfolding before us, and it is the mystery of God who is Trinity.

Yes, we know who God is from the Bible and from what the Church taught us. We know that God is the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God the Father sent His Son to be like us in all things so as to teach us how to live life, and in turn Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Guide and to lead us the truth of life and even to the complete truth.

The truth of life is essentially the truth of God the Trinity. The truth of God is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in love with one another.

And the truth of life is that we are to live our lives in love for God and for one another so that we can look to the future with hope and love.

Over the past couple of weeks, many of us have offered our time and love to fold these Jesus Invites for others so that they will come for the parish Triduum and Feastday and to experience for themselves the love of God for them.

Over the past week, many of us have prayed for Fr. Paul Tong’s recovery and offered our services to care for him after his discharge.

These are the facts of love that we need to know, and we can see God’s love being revealed in these acts of love. When we understand these facts and acts of love, then we will be ready to understand the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we understand, then we will also want to love others as God has loved us.