Monday, May 22, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 23-05-17

Acts 16:22-34 / John 16:5-11

It has been said that faith is taught as well as caught.

Yes, faith is taught in a catechism and it is presented in a neat and logical manner.

Yet, the faith of the early Church began in a more chaotic as well as mysterious way but it was from there that the faith was caught.

In the 1st reading, we hear how Paul and Silas was flogged and thrown into prison although they were just talking about the faith.

While in prison, something mysterious and wonderful happened and in the end, the jailer and his family caught on the faith and were baptized.

Hence, very often it is a troubled and distressful situation that the faith is caught on by others.

Certainly, this is the workings of the Holy Spirit and Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who will lead us all to truth.

We may remember that in the beginning of the book of Genesis, God sent the Spirit into the chaos and then creation came forth.

So whenever we face a troubled and distressful and chaotic situation, let us remember this:

That out of chaos, creation will come forth, and the faith is caught.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 22-05-17

Acts 16:11-15 / John 15:26 - 16:4

People who won't take a "No" for an answer can be rather difficult to work with or to please.

They can be deemed as demanding and pushy or even aggressive , so it is either their way or the highway.

And if they happen to be our bosses or superiors, then it can be rather stressful as we know that things won't be approved the first time round.

In the 1st reading, we heard of this woman Lydia and she sent an invitation to the disciples to come and stay at her home and she would take no refusal, ie. she wouldn't take "No' for an answer.

But the passage also said something else about Lydia. She listened to the Good News and the Lord opened her heart to accept the message.

The Lord called out to her and she couldn't say "No" to baptism. In fact, she and her household got baptized.

And it can be presumed that the disciples didn't say "No" to her, as they saw how the Spirit worked in her.

It can be said that in those who are led by the Spirit, they have a fire in their hearts that make them very zealous in their service for the Lord.

We may find them rather pushy and demanding but certainly not aggressive. May we see the Holy Spirit working in them, and through them the Lord may be telling us what He wants of us.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / 1 Peter 3:15-18 / John 14:15-21

Do we know what is the hottest news in town? It’s on everyone’s lips anyway.

If we are still wondering about what is the hottest news in town, think no further. The hottest news in town is that it is hot, it is hot and it is hot! It’s on everyone’s lips right?

We don’t need to check the temperature to know that it is hot.

Have we heard of those “the weather is so hot” jokes? The weather is so hot that:
- The only milk available is evaporated milk
- The chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs
- Swimming pools have become protected areas 

But jokes aside, we wonder if the hot weather has anything to do with another phenomenon.

What has the warehouse opposite IMM, the Punggol construction site, Changi Airport Terminal 2, Shenton House, Paya Lebar Bakery, Katong I12, Woodlands flat and the taxi on Commonwealth Avenue, all have in common? 

They all caught fire!

So the warning is obvious. In this hot weather, don’t play with fire. It’s already hot enough, don’t make it hotter!

And of course in this heatwave, it would be wise to follow some good advice, like:
- Drink more water. (but that would only increase the price of water)
- Eat more fruits, but durians are excluded, for obvious reasons
- Wear light clothing, but that doesn’t mean wear less clothing. 

That’s pretty good advice for the hot weather. But advice is advice. 

Whether we want to follow it or not, that’s really up to us.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

In no uncertain terms, Jesus is also telling us that if we love Him, then we must keep His commandments.

Jesus is talking about commandments. It’s not about advice, not about options, not about suggestions.

Commandments are imperative. They have to be obeyed. It’s not negotiable, we cannot bargain with commandments, at least not with the commandments of Jesus.

And even if we are not that well versed with the Bible, we know what are the commandments of Jesus.

And that is to love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength. And to love our neighbour as ourselves. 

Together with that is also the new commandment, i.e., to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

The practical expressions of these commandments are as challenging as trying to keep cool in hot weather.

For example, we should forgive and even love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

We know we should not bear hatred or take revenge. We know we should not judge or condemn or slander others. 

We should not lie or cheat, we should not be devious or malicious.

We should be kind and compassionate and generous. We must pray and be faithful to God.

These are the commandments of Jesus and they are also the truths of life, and we know it. We should know it.

Yes, we know it, but do we really believe in it?

Because if we really believe in it, then regardless of what others think or say, we will live by the truths of life because in the final analysis, that’s how we show that we love Jesus.

There is this reflection called the “Final Analysis” which tells us how to live out the truths of life in this world.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; 
Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; 
Be honest and frank anyway. 

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous; 
Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; 
Do good anyway. 

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. 

So in the FINAL analysis, it is more than what we think about the truth. It is about what we do with the truth. It is about living out the truth. It is about showing how we love Jesus. It is about witnessing to Jesus.

Pope Paul VI said that modern man listens more to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are first and foremost witnesses.

So it’s not about telling others what to do in the hot weather. We must show how to keep cool in the heat.

Similarly, it is not about telling others how to be a Catholic, or criticize them when they don’t behave like one. 

We have to live out the truth, and live it out in love and the Spirit of truth that Jesus will send will help us to do it.

So that hot weather or cold weather, rain or shine, we will always love Jesus and that love must also flow out to others.

Friday, May 19, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Saturday, 20-05-17

Acts 16:1-10 / John 15:18-21

In life, we are often confronted with the two ways of deciding and acting.

There is the way of the world, which is always more popular and also easier to follow.

But a deeper reflection would tell us that the way of the world is inevitably a selfish and self-centered approach which does not bring about much good.

The other way is the way of Jesus. It is obviously a more difficult way, but one that leads us to discover the meaning of life and wonders of love.

As it is, the world talks about retribution, revenge, to think about ourselves and to be No. 1 even at all costs.

The way of Jesus shows us sacrifice, humility, love and care for others.

To follow the way of Jesus can result in scorn and contempt. Others will see us as weak and soft and will even call us losers.

Yet, in the end, the way of Jesus has proven to be a more gentle and yet more powerful way that brings about the beauty and the meaning of love.

Let us remember that we serve only one Master. Hence, for us it is only His way.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Friday, 19-05-17

Acts 15:22-31 / John 15:12-17

Name-dropping is the practice of casually mentioning the names of famous people one knows or claims to know in order to impress others.

Obviously, it is done to make oneself feel more important, which already reveals a sense of insecurity and need for recognition.

Name-dropping is also often used to abuse. One would use the name of someone in authority to get others to comply to an order, even if the order did not come from the authority itself.

For example, one would use "the boss says so", or "the Archbishop says so" to get others to get some work done or to make others comply to an order. Whether that is said by the person who is referred to is another matter.

In the 1st reading, the apostles and elders of the early church sent a letter to the Christian communities in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.

Addressing the issue of circumcision, they had recourse to a very big name to reinforce their stand when they wrote: It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials ...

Those who didn't agree with their directive would accuse them of name-dropping. But those who saw the clarity and understood the rationale of the directive would know that the apostles and elders had prayed and the Holy Spirit had enlightened and guided them.

But the fruits of that directive can been seen even until today with the Church's position on circumcision. In fact, it is hardly an issue anymore.

So it is true that the Holy Spirit decided and helped the apostles and elders to make that decision.

And may we always have recourse to the guidance and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit to make our decisions. With the Spirit of truth, whatever we do in the name of God will bear fruit that will last.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Thursday, 18-05-17

Acts 15:7-21 / John 15:9-11

Meetings and discussions can consume a lot of time.

But what can often make meetings and discussions really boring and frustrating is that after all that is said, there are either no decisions or action-plan, or that the outcome is rather ambiguous.

The 1st reading recorded the discussion in the early Church regarding the Gentile Christians took up a long time.

In the end, Peter stood up to speak.

What he said was not to fuel the argument further, but rather he recalled what Jesus had done for them and that they were saved by His love and grace.

Peter also recalled for them the teaching of Jesus that they were not to lay burdens on others that they themselves could not carry.

That brought about silence to the entire assembly.

It is amazing how the recollection of the love of Jesus and His teaching cleared the minds of those in the assembly.

It is certainly necessary for us to recall for ourselves the love and the teaching of Jesus.

In simple words, that is what Jesus said in the gospel: Remain in my love.

That would certainly reduce unnecessary arguments that waste so much time and energy in discussions.

But more importantly, that will also deepen our faith in the love and teaching of Jesus.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 17-05-17

Acts 19 : 1-6 / John 15 : 1-8

Leaves on the ground is a common sight in Singapore because we have many trees around.

The leaves are also of different shades and shapes. But whatever stage that they are in, the fact is clear.

They have fallen off from the trees or plants.

And then the reality of the state of these leaves will slowly become clear to us.

They are dying or are withered and dead altogether.

Just a simple reflection on the common sight of dried-up and withered leaves will bring home the message of Jesus in today's gospel.

The message is clear enough - cut off from Jesus, we can do nothing, and we will wither and die.

But with Jesus and in Jesus, we will reflect the beauty of life, just as the leaves reflect the beauty of the tree or plant.

It is this beauty that will bring back those who have separated themselves from Jesus.

That will be the fruit that we can bear for Jesus.