Sunday, July 31, 2011

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 01-08-11

Numbers 11:4-15 / Matthew 14:22-36 (Yr A)

We often hear this phrase - A hungry person is an angry person.

That can be quite true because hunger has that ability to diminish our rationale and even contort our faith, so much so that we can even end up doing something crazy and stupid.

But being grumpy because we are fussy is another issue altogether.

We can be grumpy, not because we are hungry, but because we are fussy.

In the 1st reading we heard how the Israelites began to be grumpy, not because they were hungry, but because they were tired of eating that manna day in day out.

And their complaints burdened Moses to the extent that he in turn complained to the Lord.

But those complaints can hardly be compared to the terror that the disciples in the boat faced in the storm and what they thought was a ghost coming at them. They must have thought that it was the angel of death.

But whether we are hungry or angry, grumpy or fussy, or in fear and terror, Jesus calls out to us to have faith in Him.

Like Peter, we may feel overwhelmed by the anxieties and emergencies.

But Jesus calls out to us to have courage even though we are afraid.

Courage is to have faith in the Lord and to trust in Him that He alone will save us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 30-07-11

Leviticus 25:1, 8-17 / Matthew 14:1-12     (2019)

If we could ask each character in today's gospel passage, who was responsible for the death of John the Baptist, they may come out with rather strange answers.

Herod would say that it was not him, because he must honour a public pledge. After all the girl could have asked for something else.

Herodias might say that John the Baptist deserved what he got for opening his mouth and criticizing authorities. After all, criticizing authorities meant danger and he brought this danger onto himself.

The girl would say that she was only doing what she was told; how could she disobey her mother.

And in all this deliberation, no one would obviously admit responsibility and would also point fingers at others.

Yet the crux of the matter is that someone is harmed and eventually lost his life.

What we will come across every day is not as serious as people losing their lives.

But what we will face every day is that we are indifferent to the good we can do because we think that there will be someone else who will do it.

Maybe this story will help us understand this situation.

It's a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

The story sounds funny but that may the story of our lives.

Let us take the responsibility to do good today so that tomorrow can be better.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

St. Martha, Friday, 29-07-11

1 John 4:7-16 / Luke 10:38-42

Last week when the priests were having their annual retreat, there were only communion services in place of the Mass.

But of course that does not mean that the priests at the retreat did not celebrate Mass. We priests brought along the Mass intentions which were offered at Mass everyday of the retreat.

The retreat was also an occasion for us priests to reflect about our very fundamental duty.

Essentially, the duty of the priest is to offer Mass and sacrifice on behalf the faithful.

Yet we priests can become so busy with other pastoral work like preparing for lessons and talks and conducting retreats that Mass can become just one of the things that we do.

Also familiarity can be the death of reverence and we can lose focus of why we are doing what we are doing.

In the gospel, we heard how Martha also lost focus and got distracted on why she was doing what she was doing when she complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her at all with the serving.

Jesus answer to her is a reminder for us that we must focus on the necessary and the important.

In whatever we are tasked to do, let us remember that it is God that we are serving and by doing our work well, we give glory to God.

May St. Martha pray for us that we won't fret and worry about so many things but to always focus on doing the will of God and to do it with love.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 28-07-11

Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38 / Matthew 13:47-53

We are proud that we have a beautiful church. I am sure some of us remembered how the old church was like.

That old church gave way to this new church which was built about 10 years ago.

Indeed this new church maintained the holy atmosphere of the old church even though it is much bigger.

Yet regardless of whether it is new or old, big or small, any church must look like and feel like a church.

In the 1st reading, Moses built the tabernacle of the Lord as exactly as the Lord had directed him.

And the people can see and feel the presence of God in the tabernacle.

Yes it was the presence of the Lord that made the tabernacle holy, just as it is the presence of the Lord that makes a church holy.

Yet in the gospel, Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds.

So if the Church is the sign of the kingdom of God, then we must be prepared to see the Church filled with all sorts of people.

We pray that as we come before the holy presence of God in the Church, we will strive to be holy just as God is holy.

And may we bring this holiness to the world so that the presence of God can also be seen in the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 27-07-11

Exodus 34:29-35 / Matthew 13:44-46     (2019)

Our faces and our feet are at the different parts of our body, and depending on our height, they vary in the length apart.

Yet, when our feet are hurting from the shoes we are wearing or whatever, somehow our face shows it.

Oh yes, we can hide our feelings, but not for long. And more so if it is the feelings and emotions in our heart.

What we feel in our hearts will show on our faces, and it will show through the make-up and the masks we might want to put on.

Moses couldn't hide the radiance and the glory of God which he experienced, and it showed on his face.

What Moses experienced challenges us to look at ourselves and to ask what others see in us.

We may not like what we see of ourselves in the mirror, maybe because it reminds us of the hurt, the pain, the resentment that is gripping our hearts.

Yet we must also remember that God has planted the treasures of His love in our hearts.

In this Eucharist, let us ask the Lord to heal us so that we can let go of our sinfulness and to realize the treasures of God's love in us.

And may God's love in us be reflected on our faces too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 26-07-11

Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9, 28 / Matthew 13:36-43     (2015 / 2019)

Moses is certainly one of the great figures in the Bible who can say that he knew how God has protected him.

Throughout his life, from the time as a baby, to his fleeing from Pharoah, and the returning to Egypt to lead his people out of slavery, Moses knew how God's hand was protecting him.

It was through all this, that he came to know God as a God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.

And when the Israelites sinned against God and in spite of the evil that Moses saw the Israelites committed, yet Moses turned to God to beg for forgiveness and mercy for his people.

The situations that we find ourselves in are not that different from that of Moses.

We are confronted by our own sinfulness, the sinfulness of others, and on the larger scale, the sinfulness of the world.

Or like how the gospel puts it, we see more darnel, we see more weeds than wheat.

But we are reminded that we must not let evil overcome us. Instead we must conquer evil with good.

So let us not be discouraged with our acts of charity. We shall reap when the time comes, as long as we persevere in our good deeds.

Because God, from whom all good flows, will never allow the good that we do, to be destroyed by evil.

May St. Joachim and St. Anne pray for us to be faithful to God always.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

St. James, Apostle, 25-07-11

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 20:20-28

During His life on earth, Jesus singled out three apostles out of the twelve apostles to be with Him in the special and unique moments of His ministry.

They were Peter, John and James, whose feast day we celebrate today.

They were with Jesus in His healing ministry as well as at the Transfiguration.

Although James had the privilege of being in the inner circle of the apostles, he did not quite understand the mission and purpose of Jesus.

As we heard in the gospel, he and his brother John had ideas about getting special positions in the earthly kingdom that they thought Jesus was going to establish.

But for all his misconceptions, James wanted to be with Jesus.

He had found the one whom he wanted to follow, even though he had yet to understand fully that his Master came to serve and to eventually give His life as a ransom for many.

Nonetheless, in the end, St. James would be the first among the apostles to give up his life in witness to his Master.

So even though St. James was in the inner circle of the apostles, he was an earthenware jar that holds the privilege of being chosen by Jesus.

The 1st reading reminds us that like St. James, we are also earthenware jars holding the treasures of God.

Like St. James, let us pour out these treasures in love and service to God and neighbour.

We can only inherit the kingdom of God when we give up our lives for others.

Friday, July 22, 2011

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 23-07-11

Exodus 24:3-8 / Matthew 13:24-30    (2019)

We may know of some people who have left the Church because of a bad experience.

The bad experience can be anything from being told off by a priest to an argument with another Catholic in Church.

And their common grouse is this - How can Church people / Catholics be like this?

Yes, how can Catholics or people who go to Church be like this? Just what is the Church all about?

Well, ideally we would think that the Church is made up of good and nice people who would not give any kind of trouble whatsoever.

After all the Church is called the Holy Catholic Church.

Yet if Jesus came for sinners, then the Church is also refuge for sinners and a place where sinners will slowly learn to be saints.

The Church is essentially the font of God's grace for these kind of people, and no one in the Church can ever say that he is without sin.

In other words, the Church is certainly not a garden without weeds or darnel, as reflected in the parable in the gospel.

Even Jesus Himself did not weed out people like Peter and Judas, and He even gave hope to sinners who want to repent.

May we acknowledge that we are indeed sinners but let us also acknowledge the power of God's grace.

May we journey on in repentance and conversion and may others see the Church as a sign of salvation.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Priests Retreat 2011

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from Monday 18th July to Friday 22nd July.

I will also be at this retreat and I am really looking forward to it for a time of silence and prayer.

As such, there will be no weekday homily postings until  23rd July, Saturday.

Requesting prayers for me and my brother priests that we will be renewed and re-focused so that we will continue to faithfully serve the Lord and His holy people.

Thank you. May God bless you!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-07-11

Exodus 14:5-18 / Matthew 12:38-42

Very often we would hear words like "urgent" or "emergency" being used, especially in the work place or even at the parish office especially when there is a hospital call.

Words like "urgent" and "emergency" are used in a panicky situation when immediate help is needed.

Yet these two words may often be overused, and the situations may not necessarily be like the one that the Israelites faced in the 1st reading.

Their situation was indeed urgent and an emergency because it was a life-and-death situation.

Yet in such an emergency and panicky situation, Moses had brave words, despite the danger from the Egyptians and the chaos in the hearts of the Israelites.

He said this to the Israelites: Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today. The Lord will do the fighting for you. You have only to keep still.

We may not face that kind of life-and-death situations like the Israelites did, but we have our own chaotic and urgent small-scale emergencies.

Whenever we are faced with these kind of situations, let us remember those words of Moses - stand firm, be still and know that the Lord will do the fighting for us.

Let us also remember that we have cried out to the Lord before and He had saved us.

The Lord has already given us the signs. There is no need to ask for more signs or to doubt His saving love for us.

Let us stand firm, be still and know that the Lord is our God.

Friday, July 15, 2011

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 16-07-11

Exodus 12:37-42 / Matthew 12:14-21     (2019)

When it comes to talking about power and authority, we cannot deny that power and authority is mighty.

It can acquire status and wealth and even mobilize armies to go to war.

But besides the high and mighty, there are also ordinary people who fall into the temptation of resorting to power and might to get things going their way and also to get people to accept their ways.

They will either brawl and shout to get their ideas and their ways across.

That was the way of the Pharisees which we heard about in the gospel. They used their authority and influence to plot against Jesus and how to destroy him.

It is a typical case of power and authority being abused and misused.

What about Jesus? As quoted from the prophet Isaiah : "He will not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smouldering wick until He has led the truth to victory".

Indeed the way of Jesus is gentleness and compassion.

Let us remember that whatever power and authority we might have over others must be exercised with gentleness and compassion.

With power and authority comes the obligation to serve with love and truth.

May our lives be rooted in love and truth so that the crushed may be healed and the faltering may be strengthened.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, 15-07-11

Exodus 11:10 - 12:14 / Matthew 12:1-8

We may remember that when we were in school, there was this person or group of people who would tell the teacher everything that is happening in class, whether it was factual or otherwise, although it was more like otherwise.

What happened in school is also what we see happening in the working world. There are people who just like to tell on others and we know who they are. And of course there are those who snoop on others.

Whatever it may be, we must realize that there is this human tendency in us to zero in on the faults of others and tell on others.

Somehow we focus more on the wrongs of others and we find a strange delight in gossiping about them.

In the gospel, we see that tendency emerging as the Pharisees noticed the wrong that the disciples did and voiced their displeasure about it to Jesus.

But before we start to criticize what is wrong and bad in others, can we first see the good that is in them?

Or are we like Pharaoh in the first reading, who despite seeing the wonders worked by Moses and Aaron, yet remained stubborn of heart.

After all we must also remember, what we criticize now, we will become later.

Yet we must remember that Jesus is our Master and Lord of mercy.

May we see the light of His mercy and love and make it bright for ourselves and for others.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 14-07-11

Exodus 3:13-20 / Matthew 11:28-30      (2019)

In our common understanding, the name of a person is used to identify the person.

However the biblical understanding of a name is that it points to the person himself. The name is not just a means for a cognitive identification but the name is the person.

When Moses asked for the name of God, he was given this mysterious and enigmatic name - I Am who I Am.

The "I Am who I Am" was revealed to Moses as the God of Abraham, Issac, Jacob.

Yes there is so much we know about God and yet there is also so much more that is waiting to be revealed to us.

God is more than a name; He is a mystery that keeps revealing Himself to us.

There is this poem by Helen Mallicoat and this can be helpful for our reflection on what God is revealing to us at this moment in time.

"I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking : My name is I Am.

He paused. I waited. He continued :
When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I Was.

When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I Will Be.

When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is I Am."

Indeed, God is the Lord of all eternity, yet He is also the God of the "Now", the God whose name is I Am.

And God is saying to us : I Am with you now.

And He is telling us to come to Him, with our labours and burdens of heart and He will give us rest.

Not just in the past, not just for the future, but now!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 13-07-11

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12 / Matthew 11:25-27

To a certain extent, we can say that the economic growth and success of Singapore was built on the generation who experienced the war, and also on the post-generation.

We can call them "the old guard" and it's not just in reference to that generation of political leaders, but also in reference to those men and women in their 60s and above who had faced the turmoils and hardships of the Japanese Occupation and the other set-backs of life in that traumatic period.

Yes, what Singapore is today is built on their shoulders, and we have to give them credit for that.

We heard in the 1st reading that Moses was looking after the sheep.

But he had already experienced many turmoils and setbacks in life.
He was born under the threat of death and he was rescued from the waters of the river.
He was a Jew but he lived as an Egyptian.
He killed an Egyptian and he had to flee into the wilderness and ended up looking after sheep for his father-in-law.

Just when he thought that his life was burning to the end of its wick, he had the burning bush experience.

In that mystical burning bush experience, God chose Moses to lead His people out of Egypt.

Maybe it was the tough experiences of life that molded him for the mission ahead.

Indeed the mystical burning bush tells us something about ourselves whenever God calls and chooses us to do His work.

We are like that burning bush that was blazing but yet not burnt up.

Like the forefathers of our faith, we won't be consumed by the difficulties and struggles when doing the work of God and His will.

More so when we receive the Eucharist, the fire of God's love will keep us burning with zeal for God.

Monday, July 11, 2011

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-07-11

Exodus 2:1-15 / Matthew 11:20-24

Indifference is generally defined as a lack of interest or concern. But the degree of it depends on the situation and the circumstances.

Indifference to untidiness of our work station is not the same as indifference to an act of evil or wickedness.  

In the  1st reading, the mother of Moses could just be indifferent and lamented that God was not protecting His people by letting the Egyptians kill their baby boys.

But she did something to protect her baby from the impending evil.

Similarly the adult Moses did not look away or was indifferent to the violence an Egyptian inflicted on his countryman.

In the gospel, Jesus made a pointed reproach on the indifference of the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Indifference is a sign of internal decay and as such the three cities mentioned in gospel are now in ruins.

Indifference is also a sign that our faith is decaying and that we are not sensitive to the promptings of God in our hearts.

May our hearts be softened by God's love and may we be aware of the needs of others around us.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 11-07-11

Exodus 1:8-14,22 / Matthew 10:34 - 11:1

As if life is already not complicated enough, there is another aspect that we have to deal with.

We have to face changes in life, and as much as change can be for the better, yet not all change is easily accepted. Besides, not all change is for the better.

In the 1st reading, we heard that there is a change in the kingship of Egypt. A new king came into power and he knew nothing of Joseph and the good he did for Egypt.

Consequently, the Israelites were seen as a threat and things for them began to change for the worse.

But the more the Israelites were crushed, the more they increased and spread.

That might sound strange but that is how God shows His power and might in the face of evil, because God is on the side of the weak and the oppressed.

It might also sound more strange when Jesus said this in the gospel: Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth; it is not peace I have come to bring but the sword.

But the sword of God cuts at our arrogance and complacency and cuts away our false sense of security so that we can trust in God's ways in the midst of the changes in life, especially when we see the changes as a threat to us.

Indeed, life is a series of changes with its ups and downs, yet God is unchanging and everlasting in His love for us.

Only in God will our hearts be at rest and be at peace in spite of life's changes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 09-07-11

Genesis 49:29-33; 50:15-26/ Matthew 10:24-33

Whether it is by choice or by coincidence, the same phrase appeared in the 1st reading as well as in the gospel.

In the 1st reading, Joseph tells his brothers : "Do not be afraid".

In the gospel, Jesus used the phrase "Do not be afraid" three times.

Why were Joseph's brothers afraid? Why did Jesus tell His disciples not to be afraid?

One of the reasons why fear arises is because we forget.

We forget that God is present and that God knows what is happening with us.

We forget that God loves us and cares for us, to the extent that He knows the number of hairs on our heads.

Our worries and anxieties will cause fear to arise in our hearts. Danger and harm will cause waves of fear in us.

But in the midst of the chaos caused by fear, let us turn to the Lord and hear those words - Do not be afraid.

We must trust in the Lord and believe that He cares for us and He will save us because He loves us.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, 08-07-11

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30 / Matthew 10:16-23

When it comes to father and son relationships, what we often hear about is the tension, the differences, the generation gap and all those aspects that paint a bleak picture of such relationships.

So essentially, the matter is about the love between father and son, and the fact that it is often lacking.

But in the 1st reading, we hear of a very moving story of a father and son relationship.

Jacob was united with his son Joseph, whom he thought was dead. Jacob had not forgotten Joseph and Joseph was also eager to be united with his aged father.

That reunion brought about joy and peace for Jacob and for Joseph, it was the final fulfillment in his life.

Yet in the gospel, the tension between father and son is brought up again, and this time it's even more heart-rending because it has sunk deeper into betrayal and hate.

It's a reality which we read about in the papers and which we may even see around us or even happening to us.

Let us pray that God who is our Father may pour forth His love into those hurting father and son relationships and may there be healing and reconciliation.

Like Jacob and Joseph, may fathers and sons also see each other as their fulfillment in life.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 07-07-11

Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5 / Matthew 10:7-15

Reading the Old Testament can be quite challenging because it may be difficult to understand the culture and the practices of that time.

Yet the Old Testament delves deep into human relationships and emotions and gives a human face and a human heart to its characters.

In the 1st reading, we come across one of the deepest human emotions - the sadness and grief over the loss of a loved one.

Despite the passing years, Jacob would still recall the loss of Joseph with a hidden but deep sadness.

Similarly, Joseph had been thinking of his father and longed to see him again.

That might remind us of those three words that often expressed regret and sadness and grief.

The three words are - I should have ...

These words are often expressed in several ways like :
I should have spent more time with my parents before they passed away.
I should have spent more time with my spouse and children at home.
I should have been there for my friends when they needed my help.

Words that are laced with regret, sadness and even grief.

But it also reminds us that every moment is a moment of love and to be loving to another person, especially those who are close to us.

The moment is now. If we postpone it, we will end up saying "I should have".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 06-07-11

Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24 / Matthew 10:1-7    (2017)

The story of Joseph whom we heard about in the 1st reading is an interesting story.

Jacob had 12 sons and Joseph was his favourite son, and his brothers were jealous and they called him the "dreamer" and they were not pleased at all with his dreams.

And they eventually got rid of him by selling him off to some traders and told his father that he was killed by wild animals.

But Joseph's dreams eventually came true when his brothers came before him and bowed low.

Joseph could have settled scores with his brothers for the evil they had done to him in the past.

Yet Joseph did not return evil for evil, but instead he slowly revealed his identity to his brothers as we will hear in the readings fo the next few days.

Maybe we can say that blood is thicker than water, and that the family is still a family for better or for worse.

Indeed if charity begins at home, then it is in the family that love must be nurtured and nourished.

With love, then the family will be a sign of the kingdom of God in which the home is a place of love and care, and forgiveness and healing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 05-07-11

Genesis 32:23-33 / Matthew 9:32-38

The name Jacob is of Hebrew origin and it means "held by the heel, or supplanter".

Jacob was given that name because he had a twin brother Esau and at birth, he came out after Esau holding on to his heel.

Supplanter means one who takes the place of another and Jacob tricked Esau, who was his elder twin brother, of his birthright and blessing.

So the name Jacob had a negative connotation of being a trickster and someone who causes others to trip.

But we heard in the 1st reading that Jacob's name was changed to Israel, a name which means "God perseveres or God contends".

Jacob wrestled with God and God persevered and also God tested him and found him strong and courageous.

Hence God blessed him and changed his name to Israel and he became the patriarch of a great nation which took his name.

So whenever we are tested and face trials and challenges, let us see it as a blessing from God.

The present challenge in the Church is the shortage of vocations and the shortage of priests.

So praying for vocations is an obligation for us because if we don't see it as an urgency, then the present generation of the Church will be answerable to the next when there is not enough priests to celebrate the Eucharist for the growth and the life of the Church.

Indeed as Jesus said in the gospel, the harvest is rich but the labourers are few.

Yet the Lord wants to bless us, as long as we persevere and be strong and faithful in praying for vocations. Then we would have done our duty for the next generation.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 04-07-11

Genesis 28:10-22 / Matthew 9:18-26

The circumstances that led Jacob to leave Beersheba for Haran,that we heard in the 1st reading, was far from anything exciting or adventurous.

With the help of his mother Rebekah, Jacob was actually fleeing from his brother Esau, from whom he stole the birthright and blessings.

And if we bother to read the whole story, then we will see that there was a lot of cheating, manipulating, lying and deception.

Nothing very edifying about all this and we might even wonder why it was recorded in sacred scripture in the first place.

And neither was that place that Jacob stopped over for the night had anything special about it.

But yet it was there that God showed Himself to Jacob.

We can reflect deeper on what Jacob exclaimed : Truly the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!

And as far as we are concerned, the places that we find ourselves in are certainly nothing special, and our situations and circumstances are far from edifying or motivating.

As it was in the case of the official and the woman suffering from hemorrhage that we heard about in the gospel.

But they had the faith to believe that God was there in their situations.

Indeed God is with us in the ordinary places that we are in and God is certainly with us in the adverse situations of life.

May we, like Jacob, also realize that God is here with us, and that He is always with us till the end of time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Immaculate Heart of Mary, 02.07.2011

Today we celebrate the feast of our parish, which is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Well, for a feast like this, what else can we talk about but feasting (right?)  So don’t rush off after Mass. There is a family meal after Mass at the Parish Hall, and there might be surprises.

But besides feasting, today would also be a day to talk about the things of the heart.

When it comes to the things of the heart, there is one phrase which I remembered and it goes right back to my early school days.

I am sure you have heard of this phrase before. Our teachers would say: Remember by heart.

For e.g. we would be told, remember the times table by heart, and so we will go, 1x1=1, 2x1=2, 3x1=3, etc.

So now if I were to ask you, 9x4=(36), 8x3=(24).
So you see, we remembered by heart. We don’t have to use the calculator or whatever.

Let me see what else we remembered by heart. Maybe let’s try some idioms.

A leopard cannot change – its spots.
A picture paints – a thousand words.
Don’t put all your eggs – in one basket.
Don’t count your chickens – before they are hatched.

How about this? If you love me – (give me all your money?)

Well, it might be more realistic to say this – If you love me, just agree with me (right?)

Quite true isn’t it, especially during the period of courtship.

During courtship, the man will agree to almost anything that the woman wants. But after marriage, it might be another story.

Well, the story goes that a courting couple was contemplating marriage. But the man is an agnostic (free-thinker) and the girl is a Catholic.

They wanted to get married in Church and so they went to see the priest.

During the pre-nuptial inquiry, the priest asked if they are going to baptize their future children as Catholics.

So the Catholic girl looked at her fiancé and said – We will baptize the children as Catholics right? (if you love me, just agree with me, ok?)

So the man said: Ok ok, baptize them as Catholics.

So they got married and they were happy.

Then they were expecting their first child, and so the wife reminded her husband that they will baptize the child.

But the husband said: Hmmm … if the child is a girl, she can be baptized. But if it’s a boy, then, no, he will follow me and be a free-thinker.

The wife protested: But we told the priest we will baptize the children. How can you go back on your word?

The husband said: I have changed my mind, and it’s ok, since I am not a Catholic. Anyway I have already decided. If you love me, just agree with me ok.

The wife was so angry and disappointed and said : How can you do this? Ok, I will tell my mother.

The husband thought to himself – Go and tell! I am not scared.

But what he didn’t know was which mother his wife was going to tell.

Because the wife went to Novena Church and knelt at the shrine of our Lady and poured out her tears.

She said – Dearest Mother, I am so sorry my husband broke his promise and will only baptize the girls but not the boys.
So dearest Mother, let me have only girls, so that my husband will learn his lesson.

And so the first child was a girl, and so she got baptized.
The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th were all girls and got baptized.

So one day the husband was chatting with the wife and he said : I am happy we got six beautiful and lovely girls. But I wonder why we got no sons huh.

So the wife replied : That’s because I told my mother that you are not going to baptize the sons, so I asked her to give me only daughters.

The husband was astounded and said – Your mother???

And the wife said – Yes, I prayed to Mother Mary to give me only daughters, since I can only baptize the daughters!.

The husband was just so amazed and so he said – ok ok, now you tell your mother, whether daughter or son, we will baptize them ok.

And so the next child came, it was a son, he got baptized, and the husband went for RCIA!

Well, for what that story is worth, I really liked that phrase – I will tell my mother.

You know, when we were younger, we will tell our mothers everything, because we are close to our mothers, and they seemed to have all the answers.

But as we got older, we tend to say less and hide more, because we think our mothers are naggy and even nosy.

Even with Mother Mary, we tend to slacken in our love and devotion for her.

Yet, Mother Mary wants us to come to her and tell her what is happening with us, be it our joys and hopes, our grieves and sorrows, our troubles and worries.

Yes, we must tell Mary our Mother, and we must remember that by heart.

Yes, we must tell our Mother, because that is also what Jesus wants us to do.

We will remember that on the cross, Jesus said to His beloved disciple – This is your mother.

Jesus is saying the same thing to us – This is your mother.

Today as we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we focus our thoughts on her heart.

What is in the heart of Mary? Well, certainly there is her great love for God, and also as we heard from today’s gospel, all her experiences of Jesus.

And if we were to ask Mother Mary, what she remembered by heart, it would be encapsulated in these four words – This is your son.

Those were the words spoken by Jesus to her when He was hanging on the cross.

And Mary remembered those words by heart.

The last mention of Mary in the Bible is in Acts 1:14 where she was with the disciples in prayer.

Yes, Mary remembered by heart those words – This is your son.
And it means everyone, male and female, Catholic and agnostic, saint and sinner, anyone and everyone.

More so for us, we are Mary’s beloved sons and daughters.

Mary remembered by heart what Jesus said to her – This is your son.

And she embraces all of us into her Immaculate Heart as she prays for us.

And let us remember this by heart – I will tell my mother.

Because the heart of a disciple always has a prayer for the Mother of God.

Here I would like to share with you a prayer to Mother Mary which I remembered by heart. It is called the Memorare.

I invite you to pray with me this prayer if you know it.

It goes like this :
Remember most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence I fly unto you,
 O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions, but in your love and mercy, hear and answer me.

It’s a short and simple prayer and can be easily remembered by heart.

If you don’t know it, then I urge you to learn it, and remember it by heart.

And I hope you will do it. Otherwise I will tell my mother. And you know which mother I am talking about.