Wednesday, February 22, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 5:1-8 / Mark 9:41-50

Time is what we want most. Yet, time is also what we waste most.

The irony is that the more time we have, the more time we will waste.

By and large, we think that we have a long future ahead of us.

We think that there will always be a tomorrow. Yet, that is not a certainty.

That is why the 1st reading urges us not to delay our return to the Lord and not to put it off day after day.

The last line of today's gospel passage gives us an aspect of our lives to think about.

Jesus said: Be at peace with one another.

More than just the need for reconciliation with those whom we have crossed swords with, the more urgent need is to stop hurting others and being a pain to others, whether it is with our words or actions.

Jesus tells us to cut off our hurtful and sinful words and actions because in the end we will have to pay the debt of our sins.

Let us ask the Lord to cleanse our hearts for from the bounty of the heart, the mouth speaks and the hands act.

Let us also ask the Lord to grant us His peace so that we will live in peace with the Lord and with one another.

Let us not delay. Let us do it now. In a way, it is now or never.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chair of St. Peter, The Apostle, Wednesday, 22-02-17

1 Peter 5:1-4 / Matthew 16:13-19

One of the prominent features of the Catholic Church is its unity.

This unity is seen in worship, in teachings and generally in practices.

This unity is also symbolized in the figure of the Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church.

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter is an affirmation of the authority given to St. Peter by Jesus to lead the Church on earth.

Jesus said: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.

The Church in its 2000 years of history has seen glorious times, challenging times, turbulent times and dark moments.

But the very fact that the Church has survived those turbulent and dark moments only goes to show that the Pope draws his authority from Christ, and that the Spirit is guiding the Church.

Nonetheless, the authority and leadership of the Pope is always being challenged.

In the area of morality, issues like abortion, the sanctity of life, same-sex marriage have often been brought up to ridicule and criticize the Church and inevitably the Pope.

In the area of faith, heresies and schisms have undermined the authority of the Pope.

From within as well as from without, the Pope and the Church had suffered potshots from numerous quarters.

Yet in the midst of these criticisms and confusion, let us keep faith with the Church and in obedience to the Pope.

Let us remember what Jesus promised the Church: The gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.

Let us also remember to pray for the Pope and the leaders of the Church.

Monday, February 20, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11 / Mark 9:30-37

To be always prepared is certainly not an easy. It means to be always alert for whatever situations that might arise and to have a solution for it.

Be it to be ready for duty or having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.

That is certainly very draining and stressful on the mind and body. Besides we also long for some rest and relaxation from being at the beck and call of people who don't make an appointment for our service.

The 1st reading also has something to say about being prepared. It says that if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.

But the purpose of saying that is to tell us that if we want to walk in the ways of the Lord and to serve Him, then we must be prepared in mind and body to be steadfast and not to be alarmed when disaster comes.

But it may not be a severe test of faith or having to put our life on the line for the Lord.

Often it comes in small and unsuspecting ways like wanting to be great and to be honoured, and even wanting to be served than to serve.

And Jesus tells us this in the gospel: Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.

So we need to be little and humble always. That is the way to be prepared to welcome Jesus into our hearts.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10 / Mark 9:14-29

A good place to spend a quiet and reflective moment is probably in a bookshop, a good and spacious bookshop.

Somehow, in a bookshop, people naturally make themselves comfortable and begin browsing through books that would interest them and maybe buy what attracts them.

One category of books that will probably attract us is in the section called "Self-help".

What attracts us is all this material on how to improve ourselves, to make ourselves more capable, more skilled, more talented. That is,  to become better.

But even if we do become better, in the general sense of the word, we still need the wisdom to use our knowledge and skills and talents.

The one book that we ought to read is the book of Ecclesiasticus. That's the book from which the 1st reading is taken.

The first line from that book proclaims that all wisdom is from the Lord, and it is His own forever.

Hence, if we truly desire to be wise, it is necessary that we come before the Lord in humility and in reverence.

We must come in humble prayer before the Lord of all wisdom.

And that was what Jesus told His disciples in today's gospel passage.

Before they embark on any task, they must come before the Lord in humble prayer.

It is necessary to read to broaden our knowledge. But reading all the books in the world will not necessarily grant us wisdom.

It is the Lord of all wisdom who will bless us with wisdom and give success to the work of our hands.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

7th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 19.02.2017

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 / 1 Cor 3:16-23 / Matthew 5:38-48

The past week can be called a happening week. It was a happening week for the world, for the church, for Singapore, and for our parish.

For the world, the happening day was on Tuesday, the 14th February, because it was Valentine’s Day.

It was a day of love and one of the ways to show that is to give chocolates.

And if you had received too many chocolates and can’t finish it, you can pass some over, preferably dark chocolates 70% - 80% cocoa.

But the origins of Valentine’s Day is to honour St. Valentine, a priest who defied the imperial ban on marriages and continued to officiate marriages until he was caught and martyred.

Last Tuesday, besides being Valentine’s Day, it was also a day of rejoicing for the Church in Singapore, because that was also the day that the newly restored Cathedral was re-dedicated. It was first dedicated in the year 1897, on the same day, 14th February.

We had waited a long time for the joyful day and for those of us who were there or watched the live streaming of the dedication, we gave thanks as we witnessed the outpouring of God’s love on the Church in Singapore, and especially on the Cathedral, our Mother Church.

Indeed the 14th February was a day of love, a day of blessing and rejoicing, a day to give thanks to God.

But the day after, the 15th February, was a solemn day for Singapore, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore to the Japanese Army. And there was also a memorial service at the Kranji War Memorial.

It was a dark period for Singapore as it began the 3 years under Japanese Occupation.

And it affected not just our nation but also our parish, Church of the Sacred Heart. It was recorded in the archives that on the afternoon of the 15th February 1942 (1st day of Chinese New Year), a couple of Japanese shells fired from Johor Bahru targeting Fort Canning, fell through the roof of our church.

No one was injured as the Chinese New Year Mass was in the morning, but furnishings and fittings were damaged. But despite the shells exploding and especially in the church, the walls did not buckle. It remained firm then and still firm to this day.

So this church is quite remarkable. It had seen peace and rejoicing, it had seen war and suffering. 

And the Catholics of this parish back in 1942 would certainly be angry and even bear hatred for what the invaders had done to this church as well as to the country.

How would they be able to come to terms with what Jesus is teaching in the gospel about offering the wicked man no resistance and to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you?

We would go for that “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” retaliation because it is so difficult not to resent and hate those who inflict pain and suffering upon us just because they think that might is right, and with that they can humiliate the weak and helpless.

There must be some kind of retribution for them. Better still if we can inflict some revenge upon them to make them pay for what they have done.

But is that the Christian response? And just what is the Christian response?

To begin with, vengeance belongs to God and not to us. We don’t have a right to revenge.

And it is also said that if you want to take revenge, then you have to dig two graves – one for your enemy, and one for yourself. 

Because revenge also results in more blood being shed.

And here God Himself teaches us how to respond. In the 1st reading, God instructed Moses to tell the people this: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

And the 2nd reading tells us this: Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

That brings us to think about the Christians that are still undergoing persecution, and also about the martyrs of the Church who shed their blood in witnessing to Jesus.

Let’s go back to the dedication of the Cathedral on Tuesday. For those who were watching the live-streaming, you would get a clearer close-up view.

After the consecration of the altar, the Archbishop proceeded to inter the relics of two saints into the altar, which is a traditional practice.

One of the saints is St. Francis Xavier, who is quite well known. The other is St. Laurent Imbert. We might ask who is that and why is his relic interred there.

Well, let’s begin with the name of the Cathedral. It is called the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

The story behind that name is that in 1821, an MEP priest (Paris Foreign Missions Society), Fr. Laurent Imbert was sent to Singapore to see if there was a possibility of opening a missionary station in the island. He spent about a week here and he could have been the first priest to celebrate Mass on the island.

In 1837, after being ordained bishop, he crossed secretly from Manchuria to Korea. During this time, Korea was going through a period of Christian persecution.

He secretly went about doing his missionary work, but the authorities found him out and before they captured him, he wrote a note to two other fellow missionaries.

He urged them to give themselves up to the authorities because he believed in doing so, the flock will be spared from persecution, and he wrote that a good shepherd must give up his life for his sheep.

So eventually the three of them were captured and tortured and beheaded. They were canonized in 1984.

When the Cathedral was to be dedicated 1897, the name "Good Shepherd" was chosen in memory of Fr. Laurent Imbert and his two companions.

St. Laurent Imbert, as well as the other martyrs of the Church followed what Jesus taught as well as followed what Jesus did.

They offered the wicked man no resistance. They did not curse their persecutors or threatened them with retribution. They even prayed for their persecutors.

The blood the martyrs shed is truly the seed of Christianity. So besides K-pop and Korean TV dramas, Korea is also the land where the Church experienced a phenomenal growth.

Truly the blood-soaked prayers of the martyrs washed away the evil and wickedness of their persecutors, just as the blood of Christ washed away our sins.

The truth is what Jesus taught us: offer the wicked man no resistance, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. 

That is what true holiness is, and that is what we are called to be.

Because that is what Jesus did. That is what the martyrs did. That is the Christian response to evil and wickedness, so that our enemies will be turned into our friends, and our persecutors will be turned into peace-makers.

Friday, February 17, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-02-17

Hebrews 11:1-7 / Mark 9:2-13

The one word that keeps recurring in the 1st reading is the word "faith". It begins the passage as well as ends it off.

It talks about the faith of Biblical characters like Abel, Enoch and Noah.

By their faith they came to know who God is, and by their faith they experienced His presence, and it was by their faith they did God's will.

In the broadest sense of the word, faith can be said as believing in what cannot be seen and hoping in what cannot be fully explained.

In other words, faith is a gift from God to experience a mystery that is revealed and yet keeps revealing.

In the gospel, the disciples had their faith brought to another dimension when they saw the mystery of who Jesus is being revealed in His Transfiguration.

But still they don't understand what was meant "rising from the dead" and that Jesus will suffer grievously and be treated with contempt.

There may be still many things about our faith that we do not understand.

But still let us give thanks to God and hold firm to our faith. With faith, we will be able to see beyond the ordinary to a mystery in which God reveals Himself and will keep revealing Himself to us.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-02-17

Genesis 11:1-9 / Mark 8:34 - 9:1

It is said that life is a never-ending learning process. That is true, because everyday we learn something new, or we ought to learn something new, so that our minds are nourished and can grow intellectually.

But we also need to be careful about what we learn just as we have to be careful about what we eat.

Because what we learn can either make ourselves better persons or it might just give us a wrong thinking and end up doing the wrong things.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the people learnt how to build and they built a town and a tower with a top reaching heaven. The purpose of their building is to make a name for themselves.

Learning to build is certainly a good thing but the idea of building in order to make a name for themselves has slanted into a selfish and egoistic direction.

And for that God confused their language and scattered the people over the whole face of the earth. And that also ended their proud ambition of building a tower to reach heaven.

In the gospel, Jesus gave us a teaching about being His disciple. He said: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will save it.

It is a teaching that is difficult to understand and even more difficult to learn and put it into practice.

But let us also remember that what gain is it for a man to win the whole world and yet ruin his life. Or what can a man offer in exchange for his life?

So let us learn from Jesus our Master and Teacher about the meaning and purpose of life. If not, then all our learning and knowledge might be in vain.