Friday, May 6, 2016

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 07-05-16

Acts 18:23-28 / John 16:23-28

Mention the word "hospital" and immediately some thoughts come to mind.

Thoughts like illness, pain, loneliness, suffering and even death. The mood is certainly depressive.

But like what Jesus said, He came not for the healthy but for the sick, and to call not the virtuous but sinners.

So in a sense, the hospitals are places of grace, and places where prayers are often answered.

Hence, hospital ministry and pastoral care for the sick is one of the top pastoral priorities of the Church.

In their pain, the sick turn to Jesus and those in the hospital ministry and pastoral care for the sick are the answer to their prayers as they bring them comfort, company and communion.

And that's what Jesus said in the gospel - Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.

Jesus may have ascended to the Father but He is still with us till the end of time.

His presence will be felt in the way our prayers are answered.

So no matter how depressive or  desperate or despondent the situation may be, prayer is the answer.

Life is fragile, but it can be handled with prayer.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

6th Week of Easter, Friday, 06-05-16

Acts 18:9-18 / John 16:20-23

We may want to think about that last sentence of the gospel passage that we have just heard when Jesus said: When that day comes, you will not ask me any questions.

Yes, we will always have our questions about life, about our faith, about God and about eternity.

And of course we want answers. Yet we only want the answers we want to hear.

For example, when we are having it difficult or when we are suffering, we only want others to sympathize with us and to hear our complains as we wallow in self-pity.

We feel that everybody is against us and everything is so bleak, and hence the only thing we want to hear is that everybody is wrong and that we are right.

Yes, that is the answer we want to hear when we are having it rough.

But as we heard in the 1st reading, St. Paul had it rough and tough.

He could have just called it quits and not even bothered to listen to the Lord.

But he listened to the Lord and had faith in the Lord and believed that the Lord was with him.

Indeed the Lord was with him and protected him from harm.

The Lord will also protect us from harm and we will even be able to rise from our troubles and difficulties and find joy in life.

When we listen to the Lord's answer, then indeed we will have no more questions.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ascension, Year C, 05.05.2016

Acts 1:1-11 / Ephesians 1:17-23 / Luke 24:46-53

In this feast of the Ascension, it is understandable if we were to visualize or imagine Jesus ascending and going back to heaven.

We are even more inclined to think that Jesus is up there now, waiting for us to join Him eventually.

As the disciples watched Jesus ascending into heaven, the last they saw of Him were probably the soles of His feet.

And as He disappeared from their sight, it was back to life and back to reality, with their own feet on the ground.

But it is no more the same ground that they used to tread on. 

Because where once Jesus walked with them, now He is no more with them.

And we share that same feeling with the disciples. Since Jesus had already ascended into heaven, we may also think that He is absent from us.

And after a while, we may get used to this absence, and we may forget that there is something more important in this life.

We forget that while we are living in the temporary, we are also heading towards eternity.

Yes, we may get so absorbed in the things of earth, that we forget all about the things above.

But all these are just consequences of thinking or feeling that Jesus is absent from us.

But this feast of the Ascension prepares us for a deeper presence of Jesus, a presence brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Today is the beginning of the Church’s Novena – 9 days of intense prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In these days of prayer, we reflect about the temporary and about eternity.

We reflect about the things of earth and about the things above.

More importantly, we prepare our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the power from on high that Jesus promised to send to the disciples and to us.

Our prayer for the next 9 days can be just these three simple words: Come, Holy Spirit.

With the power of the Holy Spirit, we will feel Jesus being present with us and walking with us.

And indeed, the ground that we are standing on will not be same again. Because it will be our mission ground as we go forth to be witnesses of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 

So let us rejoice and pray and wait to be clothed with power from on high.           

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 04-05-16

Acts 17:15, 22 - 18:1 / John 16:12-15

Every school or institution of higher learning has a library and that is an important resource center.

Even though there is the Internet with search engines to get a multitude of information, the library is still a necessity.

We may not be able to remember all the information there is, but there is the world of books in the library that we can delve in.

The knowledge contained in there is almost inexhaustible.

But if knowledge is inexhaustible, then truth is inextinguishable.

By inextinguishable, it means to say that the truth is already planted in our hearts and we only need to let the light of truth keep shining for us.

Hence, any enlightenment, and realization, any insight, is simply the seeds of truth in our hearts that are bearing fruit.

And that is certainly the work of the Holy Spirit.

That is also what Jesus meant when He said that the Holy Spirit will lead us to the complete truth.

So for the questions in life and about life that we do not understand and do not have the answers for, let us pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and to journey on in faith.

One day we will know, one day we will understand, when we let the Spirit guide us.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sts. Philip and James, Apostles, Tuesday, 03-05-16

1 Cor 15 : 1-8 / John 14 : 6-14

From the gospel accounts, we know quite a bit about the characters of some of the apostles like Peter, James and John.

But with apostles like Philip and James (son of Alphaeus) we only have snippets.

Yet from these snippets, we can make out a picture of who they were.

Philip was the type who wanted to see the reality before going any further.

That was why in the gospel, he asked Jesus to let them see the Father, and then they will be satisfied and hence can proceed to the next step or the next stage.

So even when at a much earlier time in the gospel, when Philip told Nathanael about Jesus, his persuasion was just a gentle "Come and see" (John 1:46).

That was Philip. He needed to see first before he could move on and ask others to do the same.

Philip and James saw Jesus but they took a long time before they came to really know Him and to understand Him and eventually loving Him.

And when they came to love Jesus, they also proclaimed Him and made Him known.

Such is also our spiritual journey. We may know quite a bit about Jesus, but there is certainly much more that will be revealed to us.

So how we live our lives and how we proclaim our faith, that will show how much we know Jesus and how much we love Him.

Let us always pray that we will grow deeper in our love for Jesus.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 02-05-16

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

The human heart has been described in many ways, from hard-hearted to kind-hearted, and also many other descriptions in between, like soft-heart, cold-hearted, faint-hearted, etc.

So not every heart responds in the same way to a word or an action or to an emotion or to a principle.

So what is objectively true and good and right and just, may or may not be perceived as such.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Paul preached to a gathering at a prayer meeting. And among those who listened to Paul, the Lord opened the heart of one woman, Lydia to accept what Paul was saying.

The response that she gave was amazing such that she invited Paul and the rest to come and stay in her house and she would take no refusal.

The truth, that that encompasses what is good and right and just, has the power to open hearts so much so that they will even open their homes, as in the case of Lydia.

There is no further mention of Lydia after this account, but it can be said that she went on to be a witness of the truth as she carried on her life and in her business of the purple-dye trade.

In the gospel, Jesus said that He will send the Spirit of truth to us and in turn we must be witnesses of the truth.

Let us pray that our hearts will be opened to the Spirit of truth and to experience the power that will strengthen our faith.

Then we will be open to the promptings of the Spirit and open the other areas of our lives to the Lord.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 01.05.2015

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 / Apocalypse 21:10-14, 22-23 / John 14:23-29

It is said that Catholics like to collect statues. That is a bit of an understatement. We not only like to collect statues, we love to have statues.

Well, here in the sanctuary, we have the statues of Mother Mary and St. Joseph. Then at the entrance there is the life-size statue of the Sacred Heart. In the room just adjacent to the canteen, there are the statues of St. John the Baptist, St. Francis Xavier, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and a smaller statue of the Sacred Heart.

There are some more statues around the compound, and so there are enough of statues to give us a feeling that this is a holy place.

By and large the statues are standing upright, and that’s the way we are used to seeing them.

Today I like to show you a statue that is not standing upright. Not only is it not upright, it is lying down, sleeping actually.
Sleeping St Joseph

If we are wondering what statue is this, or which saint is this, this peculiar statue came into the so-called “limelight” when Pope Francis visited the Philippines in January 2015.

During a speech he said this: “I would like to tell you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church.  Yes, he can do it!  We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem.”

The statue that the Pope was talking about is the “Sleeping St. Joseph” and the statue that we are looking at is the “Sleeping St. Joseph”.

Besides what the Pope said about St. Joseph looking after the Church even in his sleep, St. Joseph is a man who listens to the Word of God that is spoken to him in his dreams. And he acts on it.

It was because God’s Word has made its home in him that he was able to provide a home for Jesus and Mary.

Although he had his troubles and fears, he found his peace in God and was able to protect and provide for Jesus and Mary.

So all that Jesus said in the gospel, about keeping His Word, about a peace that the world cannot give, about not letting our hearts be troubled or afraid, all that was actualized in the life of St. Joseph.

And today, the 1st May, we also honour St. Joseph under the title “St. Joseph the Worker” and he is the saint that we turn to today as we ask him to pray for us that we offer our work for the glory of God and also to help us in the difficulties we face at work. 

So even though this statue portrays St. Joseph as sleeping, yet in his sleep he is also working. He is praying for us, praying for the Church as he is also the protector of the Church and model of all who labour.

There is this story of how St. Joseph was sent to answer the prayers of a community of nuns.

In the town of Santa Fe in New Mexico, there stands the Loretto Chapel. Inside the Gothic structure is the staircase referred to as the miraculous, inexplicable, marvelous and is often called St. Joseph’s Staircase. 

The stairway confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20’ tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. 

Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails.

Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded that access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel. 

So the Sisters made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Six months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, the Sisters concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the Sisters' prayers.

The staircase is a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for that time (1878) and some of the design considerations still perplex experts even until today.

Of course, seeing is believing, but even without seeing the miraculous staircase, we can believe it. Because with prayer, nothing is impossible, and when St. Joseph rises from his sleep and gets to work, it will be for the glory of God.

Let us ask St. Joseph to pray for us, that like him, we will keep God’s Word and let God’s Word make its home in our hearts. 

In our troubles and anxieties, may Jesus grant us His peace, and it’s a peace which the world cannot give. 

May we also sleep in peace, and rise with strength to work for the glory of God.