Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Saints Day, Thursday, 01-11-12

Rev 7:2-4/ 1 Jn 3:1-3/ Mt 5:1-12a

To drill a hole in a wall so to mount a hook in order to hang up something precious and valuable is not as easy as it sounds.

Of course the easier and more convenient way is to just put a stick-on hook and get it done with.

But that would certainly not be acceptable if we are going to hang up something precious and valuable, like the portrait of our loved ones.

Although to drill a hole in the wall is not rocket science, yet some serious preparation need to be done.

Firstly, we need to get an electric drill that has the hammer function for drilling into concrete walls. Of course not forgetting the extension cord for the drill too.

Then we need to get the correct drill-bit; not just any drill-bit but the carbide-tipped drill-bit that is meant for drilling into concrete walls.

Besides that, the size of the drill-bit, the rawl-plug and the hook need to be matched.

So there is much work that goes into the mounting of a humble hook so that we can hang up confidently hang up something precious and valuable.

Today as we celebrate All Saints Day, we remember the saints who have received their heavenly reward for living a life of holiness when they were in this world.

And for those who were canonized by the Church, they are like portraits that are hung up for us to see as models of faith and holiness.

Yet the lives of these saints are like that humble hook from which their portraits are hung.

Much work, much sacrifices, much penance and much prayers have been offered by them as they strove for holiness.

They not only wanted to love like God, they desired to be loved by God and to love Him above all.

So they decided to take the road that leads to God, the long and winding narrow road that demands perseverance and persistence.

Here are some quotes the saints that will tell us about their determinations.

St. Ignatius – Lead us to give and not to count the cost!

St. Augustine – Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

St. Vincent de Paul – Charity is certainly greater than any rule. 
Moreover all rules must lead to charity.

St. Theresa of the Child Jesus – You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or not all.

And that last quote is from our own patron saint of this parish.

And it is so true when it comes to love for God and holiness. There is no half-way; it’s all or none at all.

So let us determine a mission statement for ourselves in our strive for holiness and to show our love for God.

The Beatitudes which we heard in the gospel will give us ample inspiration.

The saints will help us; we only need to keep on drilling until we join them in heaven.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 31-10-12

Ephesians 6:1-9 / Luke 13:22-30

We know as a matter of fact that compliance to the law is not an option or a matter of choice.

Obedience to the law is done not out of favour but it is demanded as such. Only then will there be stability and uniformity.

Of course non-compliance and disobedience will be met with punishment and dissidents might be forcefully eradicated so as to sound out a warning for others.

Yet, when God gives us a law or a commandment, then obedience to Him becomes an act of faith.

Because we believe that God loves us and His laws and commandments are for our good and we receive His blessings of love when we abide by His ways.

Hence when St. Paul, in the 1st  reading, urged children to be obedient to their parents and slaves to their masters, he was actually asking them to have recourse to their faith in God.

Because when children obey their parents and slaves their masters, they are actually obeying God and they will inherit God's blessings.

Yet obedience to human authority can be difficult because we are wounded by sin and hence we have a rebellious tendency.

That is why in the gospel Jesus tells us to enter by the narrow door - the narrow door of obedience made in faith.

We must believe that behind that narrow door lies God's abundant blessings of peace and joy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-10-12

Ephesians 5:21-33 / Luke 13:18-21

All things on this earth, living or otherwise, follow and adhere to the law of nature. It is this law of nature that gives order and even beauty to creation.

But if this law of nature is not followed, then the result would be chaos and confusion.

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If it does otherwise  and rises in whichever direction it wants or decides to stop whenever it wishes, then there will be total disorder.

Similarly, if mountains decide to move and trees decide to uproot and move about, we dare not think how to live in this world any more.

Hence when Jesus talked about the kingdom of God and used the imagery of a mustard seed and yeast, He is also saying all creation submits to God's law of nature and with that  there is order and beauty in creation.

That is also a remind for us, who are endowed with intellect and will, that when we follow the laws of life that God had given us then there will also be order and beauty in our lives.

Yet, by our freewill and freedom of  choice, we determine whether there will be order or disorder, beauty or tragedy in our lives.

Hence the first line of the 1st reading tells us what should be our rule of life - Give way to one another in obedience to Christ.

Yes, it is in obedience to Christ and His law of love that we humble ourselves and let others go before and ahead of us and even above us.

That is the law of life; that is the law of love; let us follow it and there will be order and beauty in our lives.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 29-10-12

Ephesians 4:32 - 5:8 / Luke 13:10-17

It can be quite difficult to understand negative criticism, especially when it is directed at something that is done out of charity and goodwill.

Take for example, on Sundays, the members of the various church organizations will take turns to operate the canteen.

There is no doubt that they take a lot of time and effort and energy just to get things up and going early on Sunday and to have the food prepared and ready for serving.

Yet, for this labour of love and for the purpose of fellowship, we have heard of complaints like the food is expensive or not tasty enough and what have you.

Well, as we look at it, that is nothing new actually. In the gospel, Jesus healed the woman who for eighteen years was possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled and bent double and unable to stand upright.

Yet, He was criticized for healing on the wrong day. On other occasions, Jesus was criticized for teaching the people the wrong way.

Very often in life, some intended good act or kind deed is held back and not carried out because some system or protocol is not followed or adhered to.

Whether it is in Church or in the working world, we are tempted to find security and comfort in the oppressive system and outdated laws at the expense of helping others and doing good.

Yet these are the bonds that tie us down and leave us enfeebled and unable to stand up for truth and justice.

Let us untie these bond by first binding our tongues of criticism and holding back the harsh word.

As the 1st reading will remind us: You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 28.10.2012

Jer 31:7-9/ Hebr 5:1-6/ Mk 10:46-52

Over this weekend, in the town of Rawang, in Selangor, Malaysia, there will be crowds of people.

And a good number of Catholics from Singapore will be there too.

The crowds would be streaming to a Catholic church there called the Church of St. Jude Thaddeus.

The feast day of St. Jude Thaddeus, who was one of the 12 Apostles, is on the 28th October.

And since this year the 28th October falls on a Sunday, then the crowds would be larger than ever.

That is because St. Jude is a popular saint – he is the patron saint of the desperate and hopeless cases.

Maybe “hopeless” is not quite the correct word to use here.

But certainly the word “desperate” is something we are familiar with and that we can identify with.

In the Catholic Church, St. Jude is venerated as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.

St. Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter (Letter of Jude) stressed that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh and difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them.

So it is a very encouraging and consoling letter.

That is just one of the reasons why St. Jude is invoked as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.

But in the past, many Catholics have mistakenly confused St. Jude with Judas Iscariot because their names sound similar in Latin as well as in other languages.

As a result, the faithful avoided venerating him or invoking him for prayers.

Therefore, St. Jude Thaddeus is also called the “Forgotten Saint”.

But because veneration of St. Jude was minimal, hence only people in the most dire of circumstances would call upon him, those that are termed as a “lost cause”.

And surprise, surprise, when those in a really desperate situation or a lost cause turned to St. Jude, their petitions were answered.

Hence, the veneration of the “Forgotten Saint” was revived, and St. Jude has become one of the more “popular” saints.

In the gospel, the blind man Bartimaeus (or son of Timaeus) was a desperate case as well as a lost cause.

Regardless of whether he was born blind or afflicted with blindness, his blindness was a lost cause – there can be no cure.

Besides his blindness, he also had quite a desperate situation.

He was “forgotten”. He was only known as Bartimaeus, or son of Timaeus. People had forgotten his name!

His blindness had enveloped him in darkness, and his “forgotten” status pushed him into desperate loneliness.

So here is a classic desperate case and a lost cause – a blind beggar, with a forgotten name, only known as the son of Timaeus.

But when he, whose name was forgotten by people, heard that Jesus was passing by, he cried out to Him by an ancient and royal name : Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!

It was an acclamation – Jesus, Son of David, and followed by a lamentation – Have pity on me!

And for that, he got scolded by the crowd and told to shut up.

Because people like to hear acclamations, but they frown upon lamentations. People get disturbed by the cries of lamentation.

As far as most people are concerned, the afflicted are to suffer in silence.

To cry out aloud in lamentation is rude, it is not proper and it disturbs the peace. And it doesn’t sound religious.

But that is not what the Bible teaches. In fact in the Bible, there is a book called the Book of Lamentations.

In other words, the Bible teaches that the religious response to suffering is not to suppress it or hide it or to keep quiet about it.

Because remaining silent and hiding it is as good as making suffering a hopeless case, and that there is no possibility of change, because God doesn’t care at all.

But that is not true! Because when that son of Timaeus called out to the Son of David, something happened. Yes, Jesus stopped and called for him.

Yes, God listens to the lamentations of His people, the cries of suffering, the groans of anguish and distress, the screams of pain.

Lamentations express the hope that God will listen and that things will change.

Certainly God does not forget those who are suffering and who cry out to Him.

God will stop and listen, just as Jesus stopped and called for the son of Timaeus, that blind beggar whose name was forgotten by people.

Well, St. Jude Thaddeus knows what it feels like to be forgotten. 

And as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes, St. Jude reminds us that those who are suffering in pain and anguish must not be forgotten.

St. Jude will gather the prayers of those who are suffering and present them to Jesus.

And what better day to pray to St. Jude Thaddeus than on his feast day as we come for Mass.

After Mass, let us just spend some time in thanksgiving, and let us ask St. Jude to pray for us.

We have our desperate situations and high anxieties, especially as our children are having their exams, and not only they are stressed out, we are also stressed out.

Or, we may also know of persons whom we think are “hopeless cases” – they are addicted to gambling, drinking or in some kind of sinful attachment.

Let us remember that with God, there is no such a thing as a hopeless case. 

But of course, without God, then everything is hopeless.

Let us ask St. Jude to pray for us. We will face desperate situations, but there is hope that things will change.

Because God won’t leave us desperate and hopeless. 

God will not forget us. Because our names are carved in the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16)

Friday, October 26, 2012

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-10-12

Ephesians 4:7-16 / Luke 13:1-9

The Church has begun the Year of Faith on the 11th October. That date also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening the the 2nd Vatican  Council as well as the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

These two great events of the Church are recalled and revisited during the Year of Faith to see how much the Church has progressed since then.

The emphasis is on faith and at the basis of it all is that faith is a gift from God.

From the 1st reading, we can see that it is from this gift of faith that God has called some to be apostolic successors, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers.

And those who are called are entrusted with the duty to form and equip the Body of Christ so that the whole Church will be united in the work of evangelization.

And the work of evangelization begins with the message of repentance and conversion, which is a difficult message to proclaim and also to accept.

Yet as Jesus said in the gospel, "Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did."

That is a serious and tough message for the world and even more serious for us the Church.

Because we are called to faith and given the gift of faith, then we must be a sign of repentance and conversion to the world.

Let us pray for each other, the clergy as well as the laity, that we will deepen our faith in God and be convicted and credible witnesses in the mission of evangelization.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-10-12

Ephesians 4:1-6 / Luke 12:54-59

There is a song with lyrics that goes like this:
I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.

I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way.
I believe above the storm the smallest pray'r will still be heard.
I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word.

It's a beautiful song, and it also is a powerful reminder that there is wonder in all around us.

We only need to be aware and yet we don't, because we tend to rush through life without paying much attention to the wonder of things around us.

We have seen flowers and lighted candles but we don't think much about them;  we have heard prayers but we don't reflect deeper on them, and we just pass them by.

We also have seen war, violence, oppression, injustice, poverty, and we too pass them by without paying much attention to it. Maybe because we have become numbed by it.

Or we may have seen a smile, a helping hand, a kind act, and yet we are also indifferent to it.

In the gospel, Jesus challenged us with this question - How is it you do not not know how to interpret these signs?

Jesus is challenging us to look, to observe and to reflect and to act.

The "Prayer of St. Francis" may help us understand what Jesus is calling us to do.

Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love;
where there is injury, let me bring pardon;
where there is doubt, let me bring faith;
where there is despair, let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, let me bring light;
and where there is sadness, let me bring joy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-10-12

Ephesians 3:14-21 / Luke 12:49-53

For someone to be called an "expert" it usually means that he has a good knowledge of the subject or the work that he is doing.

Yet that does not necessarily mean that he knows everything about the topic in question in which he is an "expert".

Even when it comes to the Bible, as much as there are scripture scholars and Bible experts to explain the meaning of the difficult passages, yet today's gospel passage can leave us rather perplexed.

If Jesus said that He was in distress over what was to come, then He had surely left us in distress over His words.

Even if we do understand the length and breadth, and the height and depth of His words, we will still have to go through what Jesus went through in order to understand what He really meant.

That was the prayer of St. Paul for the Ephesians, that God the Father will give them the power of the Spirit for their hidden self to grow strong through faith.

Then they will have the strength to grasp the length and breadth, the height and depth of the love of Christ which is beyond all knowledge and to be filled with the utter fullness of God.

Let us also pray for that strength to grasp the length and breadth, the height and depth of the love of Christ.

We may not be an "expert" on the Bible. What we need to be is a true disciple of Christ and follow Jesus through the length and breadth, the height and depth in carrying our crosses.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 24-10-12

Ephesians 3:2-12 / Luke 12:39-48

Flying a kite may seem to be like child's play. But it can be quite a feat to get a kite up in the air and fly it high.

In fact a lot of aero-dynamics is involved, like the model of the kite, the material it was made of, the type of string that it was attached to, etc.

Kites were first developed in China around 2,800 years ago, and among its many uses were transmitting messages, measuring distances, signalling, etc.

Yet, kites can only fly when there is a wind. And kites can only keep aloft when the wind is blowing.

What St. Paul said in the 1st reading is liken to someone flying a kite, indicating that there is a wind blowing, as he said this - If you read my words, you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ.

It is the Spirit of God that revealed the mystery of God to him, hence he felt the duty and the mission of preaching the mystery of God to the pagans.

His message was like a kite in the sky, indicating that there is a wind blowing.

The Spirit of God continues to blow in our hearts so that the message of salvation can be seen in our lives.

May we rise like kites in the sky that is powered by the Spirit of God.

Monday, October 22, 2012

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-10-12

Ephesians 2:12-22 / Luke 12:35-38

The word "tomorrow" can give us a few concepts about life and with that, the possible directions we are going to take.

It can fill us with hope in that there will be a better tomorrow and we look forward to that.

Yet the word "tomorrow" can also be quite a dangerous word. It is dangerous in that we can begin to procrastinate what we need to do today to another day.

It can be even more dangerous when it comes to our response to God especially in the area of conversion and repentance.

We give in to the idea that we still have time and that there will be a tomorrow.

Hence we delay our reconciliation with God and we put off prayer to tomorrow because we are too busy today.

But in the gospel Jesus reminds us of the urgency and tells us to be dressed for action and to be alert because the time of reckoning will be like a master's surprise return and the servants must be ready to open the door for him.

Without hope and without God, tomorrow, and even the future will look bleak and pessimistic. That is what St. Paul said in the 1st reading.

He continues with - But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ.

Yes by the shedding of His blood, Jesus Christ has saved us. Now is the time for our response to salvation. If we don't respond "now" then there might not be a tomorrow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 22-10-12

Ephesians 2:1-10 / Luke 12:13-21

Every now and then, we might find ourselves asking ourselves what is the meaning of our lives here on earth.

And depending on how we have been brought up and what values we were instilled with and what we are influenced with, we will have a variety of answers.

Answers like: to be happy; to be comfortable; to enjoy life; to be rich; to be successful, etc.,

How many of us can truly say that life is a journey of discovering God? Because many of us live our lives pursuing our physical and sensual desires and our own ideas.

That is because, as the 1st reading puts it, we were "following the ways of the world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious."

We were like the man in the gospel who had his own ideas about life and wanted Jesus to be his judge and arbitrator.

And Jesus tells us the parable of the foolish rich man who wanted to store up treasures on earth for his own enjoyment only to have his life taken back by God.

Certainly that tells us that we should be storing up eternal treasures in heaven instead of hoarding treasures here on earth.

Yet the 1st reading reminds us that we are a treasure in ourselves - we are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning He had meant it to be.

And that is the true meaning of our lives - to discover that we are the treasures of God and it is within us.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mission Sunday, Year B, 21.10.2012

Isaiah 53:10-11/ Hebrew 4:14-16/ Mark 10:35-45

Church of St Teresa 1928

This church was built in 1928. So even after 84 years it still looks as elegant and beautiful as when it was first built.

Officially known as the Church of St. Teresa (of the Child Jesus), we would also fondly call it the “Kampong Bahru church”.

This is also the first rural church that was built in Singapore, keeping in mind that was in 1928, and “Kampong Bahru” in Malay means “new village”.

So we can say that this is the first outstation church in Singapore at that time, because the other churches were in the city area.

As for the locality and the design of the church, we will have to look at the two founding fathers of the parish – Fr. Emile Mariette and Fr. Stephen Lee. 

Fr Emile Mariette
Fr. Mariette credited the acquisition of the land through the intercession of St. Teresa who was canonized in 1925, and hence this church was dedicated to her.

The architecture of this church was inspired by the Romano-Byzantine design of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris.

Since the church was on a high ground, the founding fathers thought that it should be a stately gracious white building with steeples and a dome topped with a cross.

Probably Fr. Mariette and Fr. Lee had hoped that the church would be what was described of the Temple of the Lord in the 1st reading.

“The mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All nations will stream to it, and they will say : Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, the Temple of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.”

Certainly, this church stands as a witness to God’s presence and an instrument for the proclamation of the Good News of salvation.

Today as the whole Church celebrates Mission Sunday, we are reminded of the Great Commissioning.

Jesus commissions us to proclaim the Good News to the whole world and that He will confirm our message by the signs that will accompany it.

And today we are gathered as the People of God; we are also gathered as a sign and we are also gathered in the sign.

And what is this sign? Well, this church is the sign. This church was built and pioneered by Fr. Mariette and Fr. Lee and the Catholic community that grew from it and grew with it.

Yes, we must not forget them and we must remember the faith that they had even in the face of challenges and difficulties and even tragedies.

Well, to build a church like this in those days certainly required a princely sum. But it was certainly well built, as we can see it even today.

Certainly raising money for the land and subsequently for the building wasn’t easy but it was indeed an act of faith that was expressed in charity and generosity from Catholics that made it possible. It was a sign, a good sign.

Yet having said that, there were also setbacks and tragedies. Fr. Mariette who was the driving force behind the church-building project died tragically when a falling plank hit him on the head while he was inspecting the construction work.

Certainly his tragic death was a setback but the work has to go on and Fr. Stephen Lee immediately took over.

Yes, the mission to build a place of worship for Catholics continued, and Fr. Lee even managed to establish a school nearby and also the Carmelite Monastery.

Again we could see the Lord giving signs to encourage the Church to continue with the mission.

In the pastoral area, Fr. Lee kept detailed dairies of his work and events and everything that went on around him. We have him to thank for in this unfolding of the rich history and missionary work of the Church of St. Teresa.

There is this rather interesting entry in one of his diaries :
“Margaret Tan who was baptized with one of her sisters at the Church on 24th December 1929, was from July 1930 gravely ill from unknown causes, and thought to be possibly inflicted by evil spirits. I was called for and gave her confession, Communion and administered Extreme Unction (anointing of the sick). After this she became delirious and groaned pitifully. She was immediately sent to the hospital where the doctor said that “she was suffering from typhoid and pneumonia which was so serious, there was very little hope of recovery”. She was sinking rapidly and her mother begged me to make a Novena to St. Teresa to cure her daughter. I then gave her a relic of the hairs of St. Teresa. Seeing this, Margaret began biting at the relic cover, and soon after that got better and fully recovered. Thanks to St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, for in reality all hope was lost of her recovery.

Call it amazing, call it incredible, but certainly in the early days of the parish, there were signs of repentance and conversion, deliverance and healing.
Fr Stephen Lee

Such was the missionary spirit of this parish in the early days and when the Church in Singapore was still rather young.

The missionary work of Fr. Mariette and Fr. Lee and the early parish community must not be forgotten as they laid the foundations, and on this Mission Sunday we remember them and give thanks to God.

It is for us now to continue what they have built up so that this parish will be a sign and an instrument of the Good News.

But what are we to do? What are our ideas and hopes and dreams in this missionary work?

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!” The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.” 

Years, passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. The first tree said "Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!". 

The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It's perfect for me." With a swing of his shining ax, the second tree fell. The second tree thought, "Now I shall sail mighty waters! I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!" 

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax, the third tree fell. 

The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and awed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. " All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..." 

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. Her husband whispered, "I wish I could make a cradle for him." The mother smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful." She said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world. 

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and a thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Be still!" The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew she was carrying the king of heaven and earth. 

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

So actually each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.

So when things don't seem to be going our way, always know that God has a plan for us. We just need to have faith and trust in Him. 
Church of St Teresa 2012

We don't always know what God's plans for us are. But we know He has a mission for us. 

Let us keep praying and be prepared for whatever God wants us to do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-10-12

Ephesians 1:15-23 / Luke 12:8-12

People are born with different levels of IQ, and we can say those who have a higher level of IQ are gifted.

Similarly people are born with different levels of EQ, and we can say that those with a higher level of EQ are also gifted.

But somehow we don't seem to say that people are born with different levels of SQ (spiritual quotient); yet it cannot be denied that human beings also have a spiritual dimension - human beings have a soul.

Whatever levels of SQ each of us may have, what is important is that the gift of faith opens up the spiritual qualities in us and brings it to blossom.

That was why St. Paul gave thanks in the 1st reading when he heard of the faith of the Ephesians that blossomed into love for God and others.

And he prayed that the Holy Spirit will give them wisdom and perception so that their knowledge of the spiritual life will be deepened and that they will live in the hope of the promises of God for eternal life.

More importantly would be that they will understand deeper that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the manifestation of the power of God over every Sovereignty, Authority, Power and Domination.

Indeed, God works through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Resurrection of Jesus and also in the spiritual life of the Church and believers.

And it is with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will be able to openly declare our faith in Jesus Christ.

It is with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will know what to say or do. May we pray to the Holy Spirit so that our spiritual life will blossom and bring forth fruits of the Spirit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-10-12

Ephesians 1:11-14 / Luke 12:1-7

To say that the Church is under persecution is a fact. Yes, there are many Catholics and Christians who face outright persecution and even death just because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

It is in these persecutions that we can see the forces of the underworld going all out to destroy believers and the Church.

Yet in other places where there is religious harmony and respect for religion, as in a place like Singapore, then the powers of the dark will change tactics.

Instead of outright, hostile and violent persecutions, the Church will be under temptation and distraction.

Believers will be tempted and distracted with consumerism and materialism and secularism, and many will succumb to the distraction and eventually the temptation.

And that is why the 1st reading reminds us that in Jesus Christ, God has claimed us as His own and we are chosen for His greater glory.

Through baptism, we have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit and the promise of an eternal inheritance.

So for those who have lost their lives just for believing in Christ, we believe that they have received their eternal inheritance.

For those who are persecuted for believing in Christ, we believe that they will be vindicated, either in this life or in the next.

But for us who are tempted and distracted, may we put on our guard against the wiles and snares of the devil.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to uncover the hidden traps of the devil and see clearly the path of truth, and may we have the courage to proclaim our faith from the rooftops.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

St. Luke, Evangelist, Thursday, 18-10-12

2 Tim 4:10-17 / Luke 10:1-9      (2019)

St. Luke was not one of the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus, but he is venerated as the Evangelist who wrote the fourth gospel as well the Acts of the Apostles. This is the traditional view of the Church.

Although he was not mentioned in the gospels, he was featured in the epistles of St. Paul of  the New Testament.

He was mentioned in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14. And he was also mentioned in the 1st reading of today. St. Paul mentioned about him in only five words - Only Luke is with me.

And that said volumes about St. Luke because St. Paul was suffering persecution and abandonment and his only source of consolation was that he had the company of St. Luke, and by mentioning that, it showed how much St. Paul appreciated him.

Furthermore, it was nearing the end of St. Paul's life in Rome that St. Luke was keeping him company and that was a testimony of how much St. Luke was involved in the ministry of the early Church as well as of his faith and character.

St. Luke knew first hand the challenges and difficulties of the mission of proclaiming the Good News and also the commitment and the sacrifices that are involved.

So as we read about his account in the gospel of Jesus sending out His disciples, we can sense that it was from the depths of his missionary experience that he wrote it.

Yes we are being sent out to proclaim the Good News but it is like lambs being sent among wolves.

Yet in the midst of danger and difficulties, let us keep in mind how St. Luke kept St. Paul company.

It is in keeping company with each other in unity and peace that we are able to face the wolves and proclaim the Good News of God's saving love.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 17-10-12

Galatians 5:18-25 / Luke 11:42-46

It may not be that necessary to define what a grave and mortal sin is. Definitions may only lead to more discussion about words and terms.

But in order to know what a grave and mortal sin is, we just have to take a look at the 1st reading of today.

Acts like fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility, idolatry and sorcery, feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, etc., and similar things do not need much explanation and definition.

When self-indulgence is at work these are what will happen and it is obvious what kind of morality they belong to.

As much as the morality of these acts are grave and mortal, yet in the gospel Jesus pointed out something else that is not so obvious.

Self-indulgence will lead to grave and mortal sin. Yet self-indulgence will also lead to other sins that are not so obvious like hypocrisy and oppression and injustice and deception.

Jesus is not saying that these are lesser sins. In fact He had harsh words for the Pharisees and the lawyers of the Law for committing such sins and getting away with it.

As the 1st reading puts it, if we are led by the Spirit, then no law can touch us because the Spirit will be our life and we will be directed by the Spirit.

We have to crucify all self -indulgent passions and desires if we want to be lead by the Spirit and truly belong to Christ.

Then we will be able to bear the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Monday, October 15, 2012

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 16-10-12

Galatians 5:1-6 / Luke 11:37-41

In the depths of our hearts, there is always this stirring of love that would be expressed in acts of charity.

That is because our hearts are created with God's love and hence every person is indeed a loving person.

As much as our hearts can love tenderly, yet the pains and hurts of life have coarsened our hearts and the love remains suppressed within.

We may just end up trying to handle to problems on the surface. Or like what Jesus said in the gospel, we might just end up cleaning the outside of cup and plate while inside ourselves we are letting love remain idle and even eroding away.

Or like in the 1st reading, we may look to the externals in order fulfil the longings of our hearts.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul warned that if the Christians allow themselves to be circumcised in order to be justified, then believing in Christ would have no benefit at all to them.

Similarly, to look for material acquisition and possession would only add more layers to the heart that longs to be free in order to love.

That is why we have to heed the teaching of Jesus in today's gospel when He tells us to give alms from what we have and then indeed everything will be cleaned for us.

Love and charity is an expression of righteousness and justice; the poor are entitled to our charity as a matter of right rather than just because of our benevolence.

When we practise charity and give alms, we let go of our possessiveness and we allow our hearts to be free - free to love and free to be loved.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 15-10-12

Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31 - 5:1 / Luke 11:29-32

As human beings, we desire for independence and freedom. Even as babies, we would want to take the first step on our own towards whatever direction we want to go.

And with that we want to experience the freedom that we gain from our independence.

Yet if independence and freedom is understood in a warped way, then it would result in warped actions.

Because with independence and freedom comes greater responsibility and accountability. There will be no one to fight your battles for you and you can't push the blame on anyone else for something you did wrong.

Yes the price of independence and freedom is constant vigilance and alertness in case we go astray and end up doing something crazy.

The 1st reading said that when Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free. The reading also urged us to stand firm and not to submit again to the yoke of slavery.

To remain free would mean for us to remain in Christ and to belong to Him and committed to Him.

Without Christ, we can do nothing and we would also end up as nothing.

We have seen enough of signs to tell us that people who want to go their way without God won't be able to find peace and joy that easily.

Yes the price of independence and freedom is to stand by Jesus and depend on Him totally. That is hardly a price at all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 14.10.2012

Wisdom 7:7-11/ Hebrew 4:12-13/ Mark 10:17-30

By and large, we human beings are quite predictable creatures and that is because we are creatures of habit.

From what we do, to what we say, to how we think, we can be habitually predictable and predictably habitual.

Which can be a good thing because that will put some stability and regularity into our lives.

Being creatures of habit, we will form a routine in our lives that is familiar and comfortable for ourselves.

So we will wake up at a particular time, and get up on a particular side of the bed; we will have a particular pattern of washing up and a particular way of having breakfast and a particular way of starting the day.

Not only are we creatures of habit when it comes to routine, we are also creatures of habit when it comes to sinning!

We have heard of people saying: I always commit the same sins! (At least I have heard of that before)

Well, if you always commit the same sins, then it may mean that you a habitual sinner, ie. you are a creature of habit.

Because if you commit new sins every day, then you would need serious spiritual help. 

Anyway, whether it is sin or other things, we have this habit of attachment.

Yes, we are attached to our habits because we have this habit of attachment.

We are attached to what is familiar. That’s why changing jobs can be a chaotic experience.

Just overnight and our working environment is so new to us and we have to start from scratch to prove our worth.

Shifting to a new house can be equally chaotic and even traumatic for the older people.

You lose your things, you lose your way, and if you don’t settle down quickly, you may even lose your mind.

Yes, we are all creatures of habit and our main habit is the habit of attachment.

We attach ourselves to what is familiar, to what is comfortable, to what is stable and secure.

To move out of these so-called “comfort zones” is to enter into a possible “danger” zone, where things can be chaotic and even traumatic.

In the gospel, we heard of a rich young man who was pretty comfortable in life.

He was also religiously habitual, as he faithfully kept the commandments, which he had kept from his earliest days.

So why did he want to go to Jesus and even knelt before Him and say, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

That rich young man was pretty comfortable and secure, materially as well as religiously.

He was already having a good life here on earth. But he also wanted to do something to secure eternal life. And he was sincere about it.

And that’s why Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him.

That rich young man was a sincere seeker and was humble enough to kneel before Jesus and ask what he should do to inherit eternal life.

Yet when Jesus told him what to do, his face fell.

And the reason was that, as much as the rich young man was willing to do more, yet he can’t do with less.

And with that, he went away sad. And we will not hear of him again in the gospel.

The rich young man had a habit – a habit of attachment. He was attached to his possessions, and in a sense, he was possessed by his attachment.

His habit is undeniably also our habit. We are attached to our possessions, and we become possessed by our attachments.

We may not possess great wealth, but it may be our health, our achievements, our promotions, our reputation, our enjoyment.

Yet the wisdom of life tells us that life is a journey of progressive poverty – we will, slowly but surely, lose our youth, our health, our memory, our eyesight, our hearing, and in the end we will lose everything.

There is a story of a rich landowner by the name of Carl, who often rode on his horse in his vast estate, so that he can admire his great wealth.

One day while riding around his estate, he saw Hans, an old poor tenant farmer, and he was unpacking his lunch and saying grace before meals.

So he called out to him, “How are you Hans? And what are you doing?”

Hans looked up and replied, “Oh, it’s you sir. So sorry that I didn’t see you. My sight is getting poor and my hearing is also not that good. Oh, I am giving thanks to God for my food.”

Carl looked that the lunch of coarse rice and vegetables and he didn’t thought much about what to be thankful for.

Then the old farmer said, “It’s strange that you should come by today, because I had a strange dream last night. In my dream all was bright and beautiful, and then I heard a voice telling me – The richest man in the valley will die tonight. I don’t know what it means, but since you came by I thought I’ll share this with you.”

Carl snorted and said, “Dreams are nonsense!” and he rode off. But when he got home, he could not forget those words – The richest man in the valley will die tonight.

He was obviously the richest man in the valley, so he called his doctor to his house that evening and told him about what Hans said.

The doctor gave Carl a thorough examination and then said, “Mr. Carl, you are as strong and healthy as the horse you were riding on. There is no way that you are going to die tonight. But for good measure, I’ll stay with you tonight in case you need my help.”

The night went on into morning and Carl had breakfast with the doctor and thanked him for staying over. He apologized for causing the doctor the inconvenience and for being upset over an old man’s dream.

Carl felt relieved. And then there was a knock on the door. A servant opened the door and the messenger said, “I am looking for the doctor. It’s about old Hans. He died last night in his sleep.”

So indeed, the richest man in the valley did die that night.

And the wisdom of God tells us that the richest man is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.

We need to pray and ask God to help us change this habit of getting more, to that of letting go.

But it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for us to let go of the habit of our attachment to our possessions.

Yes, it is not easy, but it not impossible.

With the cross of Christ, everything is possible.

We only need the cross of Christ to inherit eternal life. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 13-10-12

Galatians 3:22-29 / Luke 11:27-28

We know that when we keep the law and be good citizens, then we can be assured that the law will protect us.

Anyway the law is supposed to protect those who follow what is stipulated and also deters wrong-doing.

So we can say that the law is our guardian and it is expressed in the form of law-enforcement officers.

Yet we know that there can be loopholes in the law such that the guilty can get away scot free and law-enforcement officers can be corrupt.

Hence, we may be able to understand what the 1st reading meant when St. Paul said that the Law was the guardian of the people until Jesus Christ came along and then they could be justified by faith.

The Law was there for the people to keep to it and follow it. Yet the problem here could be that in just keeping to the precepts of the Law, there may not be a faith that is expressed in a covenental relationship of love.

Because it is in believing in God who loves us and sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us that we want to love Him in return and to express our love for God through the precepts of our faith.

Hence we keep the Law not because of benefits or punishment but because we love God who loved us first.

As Jesus said in the gospel, happier still are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Because hearing the Word must lead us to believe, and in believing we must be loving.

Otherwise it will just be a case of hearing and then doing nothing about it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-10-12

Galatians 3:7-14 / Luke 11:15-20

We know the relationship between theory and the practical. Theory without the practical is lame, and practical without the theory is blind.

Hence one cannot do without the other. What we have learnt and know, we must put into practice and through practice, our theory is refined and clarified.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul emphasized faith in Jesus Christ over the blind practice of the Law. Certainly, the blind practice of the Law without having faith in God would result in the meticulous keeping of the rules and regulations.

Religious rules and regulations without the faith aspect would result in absurdity and we might even end up making ridiculous statements.

Just like what the people said when Jesus had cast out a devil. They said that it was through the prince of devils that Jesus cast out devils.

And when Jesus retorted by asking them by whose power their own experts cast out devils, the people were confused and dumbfounded.

What they said and what they were supposed to believe in were in contradiction and in opposition.

Hence we are reminded in today's readings that our faith and our words and actions must be related and connected.

It is not just a simple matter of whether there is a relation and connection. It may be the deciding factor as to whether we are with Jesus or against Him; whether we are gathering or scattering.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-10-12

Galatians 3:1-5 / Luke 11:5-13

In forensic psychiatry there are two major areas of criminal evaluations. These are Competency to Stand trial (CST) and Mental State at the Time of the Offence (MSO).

Forensic psychiatrists work with courts evaluating an individual's competency to stand trial, defenses based on mental diseases or defects (e.g., the "insanity" defense), and sentencing recommendations.

Putting it simply, although it may be over-simplifying things, the forensic psychiatrists determine whether those on trial are mad or bad.

In the opening lines of the 1st reading, St. Paul seemed to be asking the Galatians if they were mad or bad.

Because they are turned away so quickly from the truth of the gospel and entertained other forms of practices and teachings that St. Paul had to ask if they were mad or if they were under some kind of spell.

Furthermore it was because they had believed in the truth of the gospel and hence they received the Holy Spirit. But now they turned to other teachings and practices thinking they could get more of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed the simple and profound truth of gospel is that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins to save us. Believing in that would open us to live our lives in the Spirit.

And if we live our lives in the Spirit, then what Jesus said in the gospel would certainly be true : Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.

We just need to persevere and persist in believing the truth and to believe that the Holy Spirit would lead us along the way.

Believing in something else may mean that we are either mad or really bad.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 10-10-12

Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14 / Luke 11:1-4

Unity is indeed a very powerful sign. In the secular sense, unity is a sign of solidarity and brotherhood.

When the Church stands united as one, it is not just a sign of solidarity and brotherhood; it is also a sign of God's presence that unites all in one heart and mind.

Furthermore, the Church is to be a sign of unity, uniting people with God through worship, through charity and proclaiming the Good News of God's saving love for all people.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul understood the importance of unity especially in the proclamation of the Good News.

Hence he took the effort  to meet up with the elders of the Church, people like Peter, James and John, and he also brought along Barnabas and Titus so that all would have a common understanding and solidarity in the work of proclaiming the Good News.

All seemed well and good and in harmony until Peter did something which Paul thought was wrong. Peter had been eating with pagans but he stopped and kept away from them for fear of those Jewish Christians who would criticize him for eating with the uncircumcised.

Needless to say, there was a confrontation between Paul and Peter. It would seemed that the unity that was so forged with so much effort was breaking up.

Yet the issue would be resolved and unity would be restored. But that would not mean that the unity would not face any more challenges again.

There would always be challenges to the unity of the Church because the powers of evil are out to break up the Church and to scatter the believers.

But as we reflect and pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, the very first two words "Our Father" would would tell us that we must be united with each other because we believe that God is our Father and we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Unity can be achieved with forgiveness. But without forgiving each other, we would be torn apart and scattered. So let us forgive each other, just as God has forgiven us.

Monday, October 8, 2012

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 09-10-12

Galatians 1:13-24 / Luke 10:38-42

One of the causes of dissatisfaction and discontentment in our lives is that we look away from our own turf and we begin to envy the seemingly greener pastures that other people are in.

We begin to look at others and start to dream about their cushy lives, their exciting jobs, the nice things they have, their happy families, etc.

We allow these distractions to come in because we think that who we are and what we are doing is insignificant, boring, frustrating, unrewarding and unrecognized.

That is simply because we are dissatisfied and unhappy with what we are doing.

In the gospel, Martha complained about her sister, maybe because she was unhappy about not getting any recognition and attention.

She was simply distracted from what she was doing.

Jesus was not saying that sitting around and listening to Him is more important than cooking and cleaning.

Jesus is saying that whatever we are doing, we just have to be focused and count our blessings and give thanks to God.

That is the one thing that is important and that is also the one thing that is needed in our lives.

Because that is also the one thing that will bring out satisfaction and happiness in our lives.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 08-10-12

Galatians 1:6-12 / Luke 10:25-37

So very often we hear of this word "miscommunication". And that word kicks in whenever something is  not done or done wrongly.

Miscommunication essentially means a lack of clear or adequate communication. The problem may lie in the words being used or maybe a mistake somewhere in the line of communication.

Yet miscommunication do not happen by intention. It is just that something is spoken wrongly, or written wrongly, or heard wrongly. We may call miscommunication an honest mistake.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul emphasized that what he preached was the Good News of Christ. And there cannot be more than one version of the Good News.

He warned that if anyone preached another version of the Good News, then that person is to be condemned.

Because that is not miscommunication. That is distortion and even deception. That kind of distortion and deception of the Good News is certainly aimed at what people would like to hear. It would certainly win people's approval.

What St. Paul is saying is that in preaching the Good News, one must not look for the approval of man but rather the approval from God.

Similarly living out the Good News and keeping the Commandments of God is not justifying ourselves or chalking up points with God.

Rather it is about loving God and showing that love to our neighbour in thought, word and deed.

Anything else would be a distortion and even a deception.