Thursday, February 28, 2013

2nd Week of Lent, Friday, 01-03-13

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

There is a nursery rhyme and a popular children's song called "Row, row, row your boat."

We may know the first three lines, "Row, row, row your boat, Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily," and the last line is ... "Life is but a dream."

We may start to wonder why would such a line "Life is but a dream" be put into a nursery rhyme and children's song. In any case, the children might not bother about it; they will just sing it.

But come to think of it, children are dreamers and their power of imagination is immense.

For them, the world is a beautiful place with good people. Probably that was why Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to children.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Joseph was loved by his father and he had a coat of long sleeves made for him. And he also had the gift of dreams.

But his brothers hated him so much that eventually they found an opportunity to sell him off as a slave.

But through it all, Joseph held on to his dreams and in the end, he was proven right.

In this world, child-like innocence and dreams are often despised and rejected as naive and unrealistic.

But let us remember that what is despised and rejected by men is chosen by God to fulfill His purpose and to work His wonders.

God does not see as man sees; God does not think as man thinks. 

Let us continue to dream of a beautiful world and see the goodness of people. With faith, we must keep praying and hope in God. 

Life is not but a dream. Life is a dream. And with the power of God it can be real.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 28-02-13

Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31

What Jesus told in the gospel is a parable about the rich and the poor.

As much as it is just a parable, it is also not that difficult to imagine what the rich man is like and what the poor Lazarus is like.

That is because we ourselves have seen the great disparity between the rich and the poor.

We have heard stories about the "filthy" rich and we may have seen them for ourselves.

Yet, at the same time, we have come across the destitute living a shabby and even filthy conditions.

Yet, the gospel parable does not intend to discuss further the disparity between the rich and the poor.

Rather, the gospel parable intends to show us the pain that God feels when He sees His children being reduced to begging and longing in vain for scraps that fall from the table of the rich.

But for all the injustice that the poor suffers, they will be vindicated by being brought to the bosom of Abraham - they will be comforted (in the hereafter ... )

But for us who are rather comfortable and having it quite easy, let us not be like the man who is described in the 1st reading who relies on things of the flesh and whose heart turns from the Lord, and if good comes he has no eyes for it.

Let us remember that the poor are also our brothers and sisters. It is our duty to help them in whatever way we can.

And the Lord who knows our hearts will give each of us what our conduct and action deserves.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 27-02-13

Jeremiah 18:18-20 / Matthew 20:17-28

Modern day science and technology have been able to give a rational and logical explanation to what was previously thought as the mysteries of nature.

What was thought of as strange and even terrifying, like solar eclipses, have been given a scientific explanation and we even know when it is going to happen.

Furthermore, man has also landed on the moon, so even the mystery of the moon has been conquered.

Yet one mystery that could not have an explanation is how evil can be returned for good. We see it happening so often and yet there is also nothing we can do about it.

That was what the prophet Jeremiah was lamenting about in the 1st reading. He was called by God to proclaim repentance but yet his enemies were plotting against him.

He had pleaded for them before the Lord to turn His wrath away from them, but now he cried out to God: Should evil be returned for good?

And yet we also see the same thing happening to Jesus. He even told His disciples that He will be handed over to His enemies and they will condemn Him to death.

Yet, even as He said all that, His own disciples seemed oblivious about it and were thinking about their own interests and how to gain position and status.

They have yet to understand that they will have to drink the cup of suffering and face evil even though they may not have done anything wrong, or for that matter of fact, were doing good.

Yes, there can never be a logical or scientific explanation to the mystery of evil and suffering in this world.

Yet if we can understand that Jesus our Lord came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many, then we would be prepared for what is to come.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 26-02-13

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 / Matthew 23:1-12

The recent scandals in the Church involving the clergy had certainly tarnished the dignity of the priesthood and left it in tatters.

Where once the priesthood was a symbol of moral and spiritual authority, now a long dark shadow is cast over it as the Church struggles to uphold the necessity of the clergy and its sacramental ministry.

Yet the scandals also point out to the lurking danger of succumbing to the abuse of authority and giving in to ulterior motives and vested interests.

But it must also be said that there is nothing new under the sun, and what had happened is a recurrence of what had already happened in the past, although in different forms.

When religious and spiritual leaders abuse their authority, religion will be seen as ugly, and subsequently the scandals will be many.

Even in the gospel, Jesus would point out this danger as He pointed out the how the scribes and Pharisees leaned toward getting attention and status at the expense of the faith of the people.

Yet as the Church and as the people of God, we need to pray for our religious leaders, i.e. the Pope, bishops and priests, that they will always be aware of their divine calling and to serve God and His people and not to serve themselves.

Yes the clergy has to really take heed of the Word of the Lord in the 1st reading: Wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good.

When the clergy heed the Word of the Lord, the People of God will surely follow suit.

Let us continue to pray for the priests and religious, that they will be humble and show us the way of love and service, and bring about healing for the Church.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

2nd Week of Lent, Monday, 25-02-13

Daniel 9:4-10 / Luke 6:36-38

One of the spiritual direction of the season of Lent is to examine our conscience and to point out for ourselves the areas in which we have sinned.

Yes, we know we have sinned and we may recall certain sins here and there. Yet, in doing so we may miss the forest for the trees.

In other words, we may be looking the the particular sins but we may not be able to see them collective as a source from which these sins are manifested.

In the 1st reading, we hear the prophet Daniel confessing the sins of his people.

He confesses that they have done wrong, acted wickedly, betrayed the Lord's commandments and ordinances and turned away from them.

Yet he also named the source of their sinfulness - they have committed treason against the Lord and betrayed Him.

On the other hand, we might not use such strong words like "treason" and "betrayal" as our sins.

Yet when we judge others and even condemn them, then we have betrayed the compassion the Lord has for us and we have committed treason against His love.

Yet Jesus also tells us what to do - to grant pardon to others and give to others.

And then for our sins, pardon and forgiveness will be granted - a full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

And from the pardon and forgiveness that we are granted, may we in turn grant it to others, and with compassion added in too.

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C, 24-02-13

Lk 9:28-36 2nd Sunday of Lent (C-2013)          24-02-13

Last Friday evening there was a big event happening for the Catholic Church in Singapore.
Of course we should know what this big event was. It was covered by the media and also there were announcements made over the weekends before that.

Yes, it’s the ordination of the Coadjutor Archbishop William Goh, who will be the future archbishop of Singapore.

Yes, it was a big event, a joyful occasion and a grand celebration for the Church.

There were about 12,000 people at the Singapore Expo, and also present were dignitaries, representatives from other religions, bishops and priests from neighbouring countries and also Catholics from all over Singapore.

If we were there, then we would also have witnessed the newly ordained archbishop walking down the aisles of the two halls of the Singapore Expo, and giving his blessing to all who were present.

Well, the blessing of the newly ordained archbishop was certainly very heart-warming, and also we get a close-up look of him as he walked along the aisle. He was like “transfigured”.

Certainly we would have liked to shake hands with him, or at least touch his vestments if possible.
Yes, people were clapping and cheering and taking photos and videos as the newly ordained archbishop walked along.

That somehow reminded me, that it was not that long ago, that there was this practice, but it was discontinued.

That practice was when a newly ordained bishop walked down the aisle to bless the people, walking just ahead of him would be a priest carrying a burning torch.

And that priest would be putting pieces of paper into the torch and chanting : All glory belongs to God. All this shall pass; from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust.

Of course this practice has been discontinued, because it was like a wet blanket on a joyful celebration.
But it does have its purpose and meaning.

Because in the midst of all the applause and euphoria, with all that attention and limelight, the bishop was reminded that all glory belongs to God, and he too must give glory to God in his ministry as a bishop.

Also he is reminded that whatever praise and applause and attention and limelight that he is surrounded with will also pass, and then it’s from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust.

But of course, this practice was discontinued, maybe because it sounded rather morbid and not apt for the occasion.

Yet the fact that the ordination of the future archbishop happening in the season of Lent is good enough a reminder for him that it is God whom he serves, and it is to God that all glory must be given and it is to God alone that glory belongs.

If that is so for the newly ordained archbishop, then so it is for us too.

Because we too are reminded of our mortality, that we too are from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust.
Hence, all our penance and fasting and prayer is to reduce our pride and humble our hearts, so that we will realize that when all has passed, we are mere ashes and dust.

Yet we are also reminded in Ps 113:7 that God raises the poor from the dust, and from the ash-heap he lifts up the lowly.

As we come to the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we heard about the glory of Jesus in His Transfiguration.
Jesus wants to share the glory of His Transfiguration with us; He wants us to be “transfigured”.
But before that can happen, we need to see what is in our heart that needs to be cleansed and purified.
The season of Lent is a time for purification and enlightenment.

The spiritual preparation of prayer, fasting and penance is to help us cleanse our heart of pride and greed and selfishness.

Our hearts that are tainted with sin must be burned with penance and reduced to ashes and dust.
Then with the glory of God, our hearts will be filled and made new and rise to a new life in Christ and be “transfigured”.

Let us ask the Lord for a gentle and humble and lowly heart, so that we will give glory to God always.
All glory belongs to God alone. Yes everything will come to pass, from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust.

But in God alone must our hearts trust, as we give glory to God.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

1st Week of Lent, Saturday, 23-02-13

Deut 26:16-19 / Matthew 5:43-48

In searching for a religion to believe in or to adhere to, the question that will come up might be this.

How is Christianity different from the rest of the other religions? Or specifically, what is so unique about the Catholic faith?

There can be many answers to that question. One possible answer could be that Christianity does not just teach us to be good.

In fact Christianity goes much further - it teaches us to be like God. But of course we will frown and say that we are only human and we have our weaknesses.

Yet Jesus does not seem to take any "ifs, buts and maybes" as He says in the gospel - You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

To be perfect like God Himself is certainly way beyond our abilities if not impossible. Yet we may have forgotten that we are made in the image of God.

In the 1st reading we heard this declaration that the Lord God made about us - that we are His very own people.

So it is not enough to say that we want to believe in God. We too have to make a declaration that He is our God, and that we would want to follow His ways, keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and listen to His voice alone.

In that way, we will also declare to others who we believe in - we believe in the one true God.
We also declare who we are - we are the people of God
We also declare what we want to become - we want to become like God in whose image we are created.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, Friday, 22-02-13

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

Today's feast of the Chair of St. Peter is a profound celebration that has three intertwined dimensions - decision; revelation; appointment.

Firstly, there is the question of decision. Jesus asked His disciples this point-blank question : Who do you say I am?

After following Him for a time, they had to come to a decision about who He is. They cannot borrow answers from what others think or say He is; they have to decide who He is.

Then comes a revelation from Peter that Jesus is the "Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus confirmed that it was indeed a revelation from God and not a logical deduction by Peter.

And finally comes an appointment - Jesus appointed Peter to be the rock on which He will build the Church.

From then on to this present age, the Church has traced her origins and her authority and her apostolic succession to this divine appointment of St. Peter.

Today, the Church in Singapore also rejoices and give thanks to God for the ordination of Archbishop Coadjutor William Goh.

Let us unite ourselves in prayer for him and for the Church in Singapore and also for the universal Church throughout the world.

Let us march confidently forward in faith and love to fulfill the mission that God has entrusted to us.

Let us also put our hope in Jesus and remember His words to Peter: The gates of the underworld can never hold out against the Church.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1st Week of Lent, Thursday, 21-02-13

Esther 4:17 / Matthew 7:7-12

Now and then we have been told to count our blessings. Yet it also takes a lot of faith to count our blessings and give thanks to God.

For the many blessings that we take for granted, that we have not asked for, that we don't have to search and keep knocking on doors, we really have to sit down and count them.

Indeed, as Jesus said, God our Father gives good things to those who ask Him. And He even gives good things to those who don't even ask Him!

Yet for those of us who had to desperately beg and plead with God for help, then we will understand what Esther went through.

We heard in the 1st reading that Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her.

She besought the Lord God not just for her life but for her people who were faced with imminent annihilation by their enemy.

There is one phrase in her prayer that was like knocking hard in the door of the Lord, i.e. "Remember Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress."

If we read on the story of Esther, then we will see that the Lord came to her help and save her people from the wickedness of the enemy.

The Bible is full of blessings, and the greater the distress, the greater were the blessings.

But let us begin with counting our blessings. So that when we are in distress, we will count on the Lord.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

1st Week of Lent, Wednesday, 20-02-13

Jonah 3:1-10 / Luke 11:29-32

Human beings are in many ways very subjective people in that their attitudes and reactions depend very much on what they see in front of them and who they see in front of them.

If who we see in front of us is just an ordinary person in casual clothes, we will naturally be casual and ordinary in the way we communicate with that person.

On the other hand, if in front us is a person with status and prestige, then we immediately be polite and formal in the way we talk with the person.

Similarly, speaking to a small group of people is very different from speaking to a large group of people.

We heard in the gospel that as the crowds got even bigger, Jesus addressed them with these words: This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.

With the crowd getting bigger, He could have just eaten up the publicity and then have the crowds eating out of His hand. But He had tough words for them.

Similarly with Jonah whom we heard about in the 1st reading. He went into Nineveh which was a great city beyond compare.

Being a foreigner in a great city, he could have taken the safer way and used softer words and leave them guessing what his message was.

But tough words are necessary to break open the hardness of sin so that the heart can be free to heed the call to repentance.

So let us brace ourselves to listen to tough words from whom we think are ordinary people. When we pay heed to them, they may in turn bring about healing for us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

1st Week of Lent, Tuesday, 19-02-13

Isaiah 55:10-11 / Matthew 6:7-15

Every now and then, we hear of this so-called proverb - What goes up must come down (Isaac Newton), and what goes down must come up.

Whether it is about physics or gravity, we can generally understand this proverb in the reality of life.

Whether it is the share market or the fortunes of life or even the cycle of life, it always go one way or the other. Nothing remains stable or constant throughout.

The 1st reading may also be saying something like this. "As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth ... "

But it goes on further to say that the Word of God does not return to God empty, without carrying out God's will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

In Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. And in the gospel, He cautioned about the use of too many words without paying meaning and attention to what is said.

Hence He taught the prayer of the "Our Father" or what is also called the Lord's Prayer.

Just like God's Word came down to earth and carried out God's will and fulfilling what it was sent to do, then the same happens when we pray the "Our Father".

Our words go up to heaven and is heard by God our Father. And from heaven, God sends forth His blessings to fulfill our needs and His forgiveness for our sins.

Yes, what goes down must come up, and what goes up must come down. Hence let us pay attention to what we say, and mean what we pray.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

1st Week of Lent, Monday, 18-02-13

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 / Matthew 25:31-46

We can be quite indifferent about laws and regulations when we just see it as what we cannot do and what we should not do.

It can be easy to view it as a prohibition and then find ways and means to go around it or even to commit the offence and try not to get caught and punished for it.

If that is the case, then it is just observing the letter of the law. But how about the spirit of the law? And what is meant by the spirit of the law?

In the 1st reading, we heard about the commandments that the Lord gave to Moses to give to the people.

Yet we also heard one phrase that is being repeated and interspersed between each set of commandments, and it is this: I am the Lord.

It means to say that behind the laws and commandments that were given is also the Giver of the Law, and the Giver puts His spirit in the laws and commandments.

Hence when we break the laws and go against the commandments, it is the Lord God that we are disobeying and going against.

In the gospel, Jesus puts the spirit of the Law in the very basic forms of charity like feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting those in prison.

Yet these are not just acts of charity to those in need. Jesus made it very clear that whatever is done, or not done, the receiver is the Lord.

May our eyes be opened during this period of Lent to see the Lord in the laws and commandments, and also in all peoples.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

1st Sunday of Lent, Year C, 17.02.2013

Deuteronomy 26:4-10/ Romans 10:8-13/ Luke 4:1-13

Last Wednesday, we began the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.

Although Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation, yet there were a good number of people who came for Mass.

Maybe after all that festive feasting, it was good to come for Mass and do some penance and fasting.

Or could it be that there was something fascinating about the ashes? After all we receive it only once a year.

Yes, only once a year on Ash Wednesday, there is the imposition of ashes.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the season of Lent, in which the catechumens of the RCIA begin a more intense preparation for their baptism at the Easter Vigil.

As for us Catholics who are already baptized, we begin a period of penance and repentance.

The practice of the imposition of ashes has its origins in the Old Testament where people put ashes on their heads and wear sackcloth as a sign of repentance and doing penance.

So on Ash Wednesday, when the priest puts the ashes on foreheads of those who come forward to receive it, he will use either of these two forms of words.

He will say: Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.

Or he may say: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The second form may sound solemn and sober and maybe a bit morbid, yet it reminds us of a reality.

It reminds us that, in the book of Genesis, God created us in His image, and yet it was from the dust of the earth that He created us.

And hence when everything comes to pass, we too will return to dust.

That is the reality and finality of our passing lives here on earth.

In many ways, today’s readings remind us of that reality and finality.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, was being led by the same Spirit to the wilderness, to the desert.

There, for 40 days, He fasted and prayed, and at the same time He was being tempted by the devil.

After 40 days, He was hungry, and that was when the enemy attacked Him with temptations.

In His hunger, the enemy tempted Jesus to use His power as the Son of God to turn the stones into bread.

Then He was tempted with the power and glory of the kingdoms of earth.

And then finally, He was tempted to put God to the test to see if God will protect Him from harm.

As we look at the temptations that Jesus faced, we may come to one glaring realization.

These temptations are actually about the basic needs of our lives; not just basic needs but also the longings of our hearts.

Because in the depths of our hearts, we hunger for food to keep us alive, we long for safety and shelter, and when we have taken care of our hunger and shelter, we would begin to desire for luxury and pleasure.

So as we can see, what Jesus was tempted with is actually what we ourselves are also tempted with.

It is often said that there is a hole in our hearts that longs to be filled, but it cannot be filled with food, no matter how much we eat.

It cannot be filled with clothes no matter how much we wear.

It cannot be filled with riches, no matter how much we have.

Only God who created our hearts can fill that longing in the depths of our hearts.

Yet we are tempted to long for something else. And in our foolishness, we long for something that is earthly, something that is passing, something that will eventually turn to dust.

A story goes that a psychologist spoke to an audience about stress management.

Then she raised a glass of water, and everyone expected her to ask that "half empty or half full" question. 

Instead she asked : "How heavy is this glass of water?" The answers that came from the audience ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight of this glass of water doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. 
If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. 
In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." 

Well, the stress and worries of life are like that glass of water.

Think about them for a while and nothing much happens.

Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt.

And if we think about them all day long, then we will feel paralyzed and incapable of doing anything.

What happens to us when we keep thinking of our stress and worries is similar to what happens to us when we keep longing and going after the things of this world.

We will also become paralyzed and incapable of doing anything.

We will be tempted to think that when we have satisfied our hunger, we won’t be hungry anymore.

Or that if we get this amount of money, then we won’t be in need anymore.

Or if we achieve this status or this position or have this authority, then we will be secure and in control.

But in today’s gospel, Jesus tells the devil that it won’t be; and Jesus is also telling us that it won’t be.

For Jesus, it is in God the Father that He trusts, for the things of this earth will pass and turn to dust.

As for us everything will also pass, and we will also turn to dust.

Yet in Jesus we must trust. As we heard in the 2nd reading: Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.

So in our temptations let us call on the name of Jesus. 

In our needs let us turn to Jesus.

And in the end, let us remember that we are dust, and we shall return to dust.

And when everything comes to pass, may we still have the faith to say that “In Jesus we trust.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Saturday after Ash Wednesday, 16-02-13

Isaiah 58:9-14 / Luke 5:27-32

Recovering from an illness does not happen in an instant, especially when it was a serious illness.

And over this period of time, there are a number of people coming down with ailments; although not serious but it is irritating enough.

There is the cough and it can last for as long as a 100 days; sore throat; stuffy nose; generally lethargic; and of course consuming all those festive goodies is not helping at all.

Recovering from all these ailments, especially the cough, is a slow process, and medication can only bring about relief and not necessarily recovery.

What is necessary are the basic points for healthy living : enough rest, drink enough of water, eat well and properly, and whatever that helps to maintain health.

The 1st reading talks about repentance and restoration. Yet the call to repentance is not about a demand of some form of serious mortification or penance.

As we heard from the 1st reading, the Lord says this: If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, give bread to the hungry, relief to the oppressed.

These are actually very basic human acts of justice and charity. They bring us back to who we are and what we really should be doing.

In the gospel, we heard about Jesus eating with tax collectors and others. It may sound like very common and ordinary, but it is over a meal relationships are restored and fortified.

So let us pay attention to the little things, be it having a meal with family or friends, or in the way we speak or in the way we help others.

It is in doing the little things with love that we restore our true humanity and then repentance and turning back to the Lord will indeed be a joy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Friday after Ash Wednesday, 15-02-13

Isaiah 58:1-9 / Matthew 9:14-15

It goes without saying that charity is the way of life for a Christian. It flows from the the new commandment that Jesus gave to His disciples at the Last Supper : Love one another as I have loved you.

One form of charity that is highlighted during the period of Lent is the act of almsgiving. Hence during this time of Lent we will be given the Charities Week envelopes to facilitate our act of charity to the poor.

Yet it can also be diluted into a form of a financial contribution that is put into the envelope and after which we may have thought that we have done our duty to the poor.

So charity becomes an act of giving some money to the poor, but will it also cross our minds that we have to serve the poor?

We don't need to look far and wide for the poor. They are as near as an arm's length away.

The two readings talk about fasting. Yet the first reading put a very realistic expression of fasting.

It says : Is not this sort of fast that pleases Me - it is the Lord who speaks - to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke.

It goes on with letting the oppressed go free and breaking every yoke and sharing bread with the hungry and sheltering the homeless poor and not turning away from your own kin.

Hence if fasting leads on to justice and compassion, then almsgiving should also lead on to serving the poor and those in need.

What is expressed from fasting should also be what is expressed from almsgiving. Both are not just isolated personal acts. Both should have their ends in loving and serving God and others. That is what it means by loving others as Jesus had loved us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 14-02-13

Deut 30:15-20 / Luke 9:22-25

The freedom of choice is certainly not a light matter. In fact the freedom of choice is synonymous with the power of choice.

Indeed, choice is the power that the individual has within. And that power of choice is exercised over himself, over others and even over God.

Yes, we can choose against God and to defy Him and disobey Him, and yet God would not reverse our decision. Simply because that's the power and freedom He has given to us.

Moses understood this power of choice. God had called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. He met with many occasions where he could have disobeyed God but yet he chose the way of God.

And hence, in the 1st reading, Moses exhorted the people to obey the commandments of God and to follow His laws.

And he also tells them that they can choose to let their hearts stray and refuse to listen, and even worship and serve other gods.

Moses understood the power of choice as a critical matter of life or death, of blessing and curse. It's such a critical matter that he even called upon heaven and earth to bear witness to whatever the people chose.

In the gospel, Jesus also puts a choice before us. If we are to follow Him, then we have to renounce ourselves and take up our cross everyday.

As for Jesus, we know what was His choice. He chose to save us and in doing so He accepted suffering and rejection and even death.

May our choice be for God, to love Him, and to be loving to those around us and to help them to choose the reward of eternal life.

Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore, 14-02-13,

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is the oldest Catholic Church in Singapore, and its design is rather simple as compared to the other cathedrals.

It was back in 1833, that with a small but growing Catholic community, a place of worship was blessed and opened at the site.

Then in 1843, the foundation stone was laid and in 1847, the Church of the Good Shepherd was blessed and opened.

In 1888 it was elevated to the status of a cathedral and on the 14th February 1897, it was consecrated as a cathedral.

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd has a fascinating association with the history of Korea's Catholic Martyrs.

Saint Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert, in all probability the first Catholic priest to the island, died a martyr in Korea and the church's name "Good Shepherd" was inspired by what he wrote knowing the persecutions the missionaries will face "In desperate circumstances, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

Just a very brief history of the Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese. And as we can see it had humble beginnings and a slow but steady growth.

So today as we celebrate the dedication of the Cathedral, we are also reminded of our humble beginnings and also to look ahead with faith and humility in the midst of the many changes in the Church as well as in the world.

Just as the design of the Cathedral is simple and humble, let us also be simple and humble in the way of faith and in our way of life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ash Wednesday 2013

Joel 2:12-18 / 2 Cor 5:20 - 6:2 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

From the gospels, we know that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting before He began His public ministry. During those 40 days He was also tempted by Satan but He overcame the temptations.

Today we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, a period of 40 days, so as to unite ourselves with Jesus in prayer and fasting and penance.

It is a "favourable time" as the 2nd reading puts it, a time where the voice of God is proclaimed in the Church with these words: Be reconciled to God.

As we reflect on the times when we have given in to temptation and ended up in sinfulness we know that we need forgiveness and healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

And we also know that we must do penance and reparation for our sins against God and neighbour.

Yet God is not asking us to do extra ordinary penance and reparation like saying our prayers aloud on the streets and telling everyone we are only having one meal a day of bread and water or even intending to eat ashes.

As the Lord God spoke in the 1st reading: Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn.

Yes, the Lord our God is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger and rich in graciousness and ready to relent.

But we must break our hearts in repentance and penance and prayer. It will be through the cracks of our broken hearts that the grace and forgiveness of God can enter.

Monday, February 11, 2013

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-02-13

Genesis 1:20 - 2:4 / Mark 7:1-13

The mirror is a wonderful thing. It never fails to catch our attention.

Besides spending some vain moments beautifying ourselves before the mirror, we can't deny that any good mirror will give us an objective reflection of ourselves.

But when we move from "admiring" ourselves in front of the mirror to reflecting on ourselves in front of the mirror, then we may realize that we are wonderfully made.

From the shape of our face to the style of our hair, we will realize that we are unique in our own although we are similar to each other.

"For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother's womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation." (Ps 139)

When the 1st reading says that when God created man, He created him in His image, and male and female He created them.

God not only created us in His image, He also created our very being, and hence from our very being, our actions flow, and needless to say, our actions must also be godly actions.

But when our actions are not god-like, then we really have to do some serious reflection, not just in front of the mirror, but also in prayer before the God who created us.

In the gospel, Jesus highlighted some of the practices that are not god-like. He even said that "In this way, you make God's word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.

Let us examine our actions and the things that we do and let us honestly ask ourselves if these actions reflect the image of God within us.

Let us remember that we are called to be holy, just as God who created us is holy.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Monday, 11-02-13

Isaiah 66:10-14 / John 2:1-11   (2020)

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. The title of "Our Lady of Lourdes" is a rather recent title of Mary given to her in honour of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes in France.

It was on the 11th February 1858 that the Blessed Virgin Mary made her first apparition to Bernadette (later canonized as a saint on the 8th December 1933), a 14-yr-old peasant girl and her sister at a grotto.

Over the following two weeks, there were more apparitions. Bernadette's parents tried to bar her from going but the young girl was determined and went secretly to the grotto of the apparition.

On the 24th February, Bernadette related that the apparition asked for prayer and penitence for the conversion of sinners. It was then that the apparition asked her to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there.

It was muddy at first and made Bernadette a mess, but this act revealed the stream that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages.

Soon the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to the sick and those with disabilities and many reports of miraculous cures followed. The Church has recognized more that 70 miraculous cures.

Yes, Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing. Yet it is also a place for the renewal of faith for the people as well as for the Church.

Today is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. We pray for the sick at Mass. And we are also reminded that the Church must also continue the healing ministry of Jesus and to pray for sick that they will bear their illness with faith so as to unite their sufferings with Jesus on the cross.

Also through St. Bernadette, our Blessed Mother has brought about the healing grace of God through the waters at Lourdes.

Let us continue to pray with our Blessed Mother for the sick and for their healing, both physically and spiritually.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

5th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 10.02.2013

Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8/ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 15: 3-8, 11/Luke 5:1-11

So, today is the first day of the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year).

With the first day of the CNY falling on a Sunday, it means that Monday as well as Tuesday is a holiday.
And that means that there are two days for us to go visiting relatives and friends.

And it’s a time for feasting and collecting “ang pows” and dressing up and catching up with each other.
Yet there are also people who would take the opportunity of the CNY holidays to go overseas or just get out of the country.

The reason is that they find CNY quite boring with shops being closed and everywhere else is crowded.

But another reason is that they want to avoid relatives and friends asking them all those personal and sensitive questions.

Questions like “When are you getting married?” or “When are you going to have baby?” (usually asked by the aunties)

Yes, these are really personal and sensitive questions and more often than not we don’t want to answer them.

Besides questions about marriage and having babies, which are rather personal questions, there are also other questions which sound more social and professional.

And the questions are: Which company are you with? What is your profession? (What are you working as?)

So, year in, year out, at social gatherings, and also throughout the year, we are faced with those questions.

Hence, whether it is looking for spouse, or having children, or being in which company, or climbing up which corporate ladder, we know what it points to.

Yes, it points to hard work and more hard work; then we will have something to show others and something to talk about.

And it may also mean that it’s our turn to ask others those personal and sensitive questions.

But the reality of life is that hard work does not necessarily bear corresponding gains.

In the gospel, we heard of one such case. Peter the fisherman, had worked hard all night and he caught nothing.

Certainly, he wasn’t in a good mood. While others are comparing their catch, he had nothing to show. He had zero to show.

So, we can imagine how Peter felt when Jesus asked him to put out to deep water for a catch.

Because it was so absurd. It was the wrong time for fishing and also it was coming from someone who knows nothing about fishing.

Certainly Peter wasn’t in a mood for absurdities. Peter could have just told Jesus to “go and get lost!”. And being the impulsive person that he was, he could have said that.

But the strange thing was that as much as he tried to explain the situation to Jesus, in the end he relented and did what Jesus told him to do.

So into the depths he went, and out of the depths came an absurdity that brought him to his knees.

I mean, just where did all that fish came from, and it was so much that it filled two boats to sinking point!

But it seems that God would resort to such absurdities to make us realize who He is and who we are.

So it took two boats full of fish to make Peter the fisherman realize he was a poor fisherman, and a sinful man.

Yes, God has to make absurd things happen in order to tell us something, and it is still happening.

We may have heard of Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year-old peasant girl, who lived in Lourdes, France.

Our Lady appeared to her at a grotto on the 11 Feb 1858 and after several apparitions, Our Lady asked her to dig a hole in the ground and drink the water there.

Any 14 year-old would have enough of common sense to think of this as absurd and a rather crazy thing to do.

Yet, with people watching her, Bernadette went on her knees and dug the ground with her bare hands.

And when the muddy water began to gather in the hole that she had dug, she scooped the water to drink.

Obviously, the people thought that what she did was absurd and  that she had gone mad.

And indeed, she was a messy and muddy sight and looking quite like a lunatic.

What Bernadette did was absurd and crazy. But from where she dug, the waters became increasingly clean and welled up into a spring.

And now, millions of pilgrims go to the Marian shrine at Lourdes to bathe in the healing waters and even drink the water.

So from what seemed to be an absurd act by Bernadette, God manifested His healing grace and the forgiveness of sins through the waters of the spring at Lourdes.

Yes, God can be called the “God of absurdities” and He would resort to absurdities to make us realize He is the God of Holiness and that His “absurdities” are much greater than our intelligence and our capabilities.

But all that is to make us realize that He is holy, and that like Peter and Bernadette, we can only kneel down in humility.

God may not call us to do absurd things like going fishing in the middle of the ocean at midday or to drink muddy water from the ground.

But He is calling us to do simple things with love and humility.

Simple things like offering peace and forgiveness and reconciliation as we meet up with relatives and friends during the festive holidays.

Simple things like being patient and tolerant when others probe into our lives with those sensitive and personal questions.

Simple things like attending to the absurd and ridiculous demands of the some people.

By doing simple things with love and humility, others will see the holiness of our God.

That may sound rather absurd, but let us remember, that with God, absurdities can become realities. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 09-02-13

Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21 / Mark 6:30-34

The Mass is indeed truly the praise and worship of the Catholic Church.

It is in the liturgy that we offer to God an unending sacrifice of praise, a verbal sacrifice that is offered every time we acknowledge His name, as the 1st reading puts it.

Hence our prayers and responses at Mass should be truly from the heart and offered with reverence to God.

Yet this unending sacrifice of praise is not just a verbal praise. The 1st reading continues by saying "keep doing good works and sharing your resources, for these are sacrifices that please God."

The 1st reading also has a reminder for the clergy in that "they must give an account of the way they look after your souls."

Hence the priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass to God on behalf of the people, must also work for the salvation of their souls.

In the gospel, we see how Jesus the High Priest cared for the souls of the people. He had intended to bring His apostles to a quiet place to rest.

But when He stepped out of the boat, He saw the large crowd and He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He set Himself to teach them at some length.

Let us pray that priests will always have the loving heart of the Good Shepherd and care for the souls of God's people.

And let us pray that we will also offer to the world the loving heart of God. That will be the sacrifice that we will offer at Mass.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 08-02-13

Hebrews 13:1-8 / Mark 6:14-29

The 1st reading has some very encouraging words for our faith, i.e. God Himself has said: I will not fail you or desert you, and so we can say with confidence: With the Lord to help me, I fear nothing; what can man do to me? (Ps118:6)

These are words of Scripture, which means that they are also the words of God, and since He had promised us that He will not fail us or desert us, then we really have nothing to fear.

Yet as much as the Lord will not fail us or desert us, we can't really say that we didn't fail the Lord, and have turned away from Him.

Oh yes, we have sinned, we have been unfaithful, and we didn't put all our trust in the Lord. Especially when the turmoil and distress of life overwhelm us.

Yet the 1st reading also urged the readers to remember their leaders, who preached the word of God to them, and to reflect on the outcome of their lives and to imitate their faith.

And there is no denying it that during the time of the early Church, there were fierce persecutions and the leaders and elders of the Church were often hunted down and martyred.

Such was also the case with John the Baptist as we heard in the gospel. He was imprisoned by Herod for the speaking against Herod about the sin he had committed.

In the end John the Baptist was also executed at the instigation of Herodias who used her daughter to get Herod to order the execution.

Yet in all this turmoil and distress, God did not fail or desert His people. He granted them the reward of their suffering and that is eternal life with Him.

May we also keep the faith of our forefathers, and as they fought the good fight, let us keep on fighting the good fight and run the race to the finish and be rewarded by God who will not fail or desert us.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 07-02-13

Hebrews 12:18-19, 21-24 / Mark 6:7-13

"To be sent" would imply that the one who is sent has a mission or a task at hand.

At the same time, that would also mean that there would be some anxiety and uncertainty and there may also be some difficulties.

Especially when one is sent to negotiate for peace or to do trouble-shooting and to clear up some mess.

In the gospel, we heard that after Jesus had been teaching around the villages, He began to send out His apostles in pairs and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

By the very fact that Jesus had to give authority to those He was sending out, means that He was sending them to "troubled spots" and that they would face challenges and difficulties as well as opposition from evil.

So as we heard from the gospel, they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

It was quite obvious that the apostles were sent to places where there was a need and where it needs to be liberated and free from the clutches of evil.

Yet, where there is a need and where people are living in darkness and in shadow of fear and oppression, God will be there, and in fact He is already there.

But He needs people who are willing to be sent to these troubled spots so that they can be His channels and instruments of grace and healing.

God wants to empower us to carry out His mission; may we be willing to heed His call and be sent.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 06-02-13

Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15 / Mark 6:1-6

It is said that "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in" (Robert Frost).

In many sense, that is true, that no matter what, when you go home, that is home and no other word resonates that deeply in our hearts.

Yet there are also a number of homes that are like a "basket of crabs"; there is no need to put a lid on it because the crabs keep pulling one another down.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus went back to His hometown but there His own people scrutinized Him and in the end they did not accept Him.

In His own words, Jesus even said that "a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house".

Which makes us reflect on what is the environment and the spiritual atmosphere in our own homes.

The 1st reading gives us the spiritual foundations and directions of a Christian community, but that can also be applicable in our own homes.

It said: Always be wanting peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; this can poison a whole community.

Certainly what is applicable to the community is also likewise for the family and for the home.

Let us pray for peace in our homes and in our families so that we will grow in holiness and radiate the presence of God. May God's love be seen in our homes and may God be always present in our homes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 05-02-13

Hebrews 12:1-4 / Mark 5:21-43

When we talk about taking a risk, the implications is the possibility of losing something. But at the same time, there is also a possibility of gaining something.

For example, taking a "calculated" risk of going for the Archbishop Coadjutor's ordination at the S'pore Expo on the 22nd February without a ticket - either we are not granted entry and waste our time and energy, or that there might be a slim chance that we might just be let in for the celebrations.

So in taking a risk, whether calculated or not, there is at best, a 50-50 chance of gaining or losing.

In the gospel, we heard of two persons who took a risk - Jairus and the woman with a haemorrhage. And the stakes are high.

One risked his reputations as a synagogue official who fell at the feet of a carpenter's son and asking Him to heal his daughter.

The other risked public outcry and being chased off should her haemorrhage be made public.

But it was in the desperate life situations of these two persons that the Good News of salvation and healing and restoration is proclaimed.

But the other aspect of the Good News is that Jesus also took a "risk" to save us.

As the 1st reading puts it, for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, He endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it.

So Jesus had already won life and salvation for us. We need to complete His victory by not losing sight of Jesus and keep running steadily in the race for life and in the fight against sin.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 04-02-13

Hebrews 11:32-40 / Mark 5:1-20

It is difficult to imagine what a demoniac would look like. It would be even more terrifying to encounter a demoniac.

The demoniac that we heard about in the gospel was certainly terrifying.  He lived among the tombs and no one could secure him anymore because he would snap the chains and break the fetters.

More terrifying is that (as he would reveal to Jesus) there is a legion of demons in him.

Although he was a demoniac, he was also just "a man with an unclean spirit" and his howling and gashing himself with stones only goes to show that he was tormented and wanted to be freed from the demonic possession.

Probably that was why the man with the unclean spirit, the demoniac, came out of the tombs towards Jesus no sooner than He left the boat.

He knew who Jesus was and he knew that Jesus could deliver him from the evil possession.

Indeed, Jesus could deliver us from all evil. Yet what is required of us is to have faith in Jesus.

That is the point that the 1st reading was making. People like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthat, David, Samuel and the prophets were men who through faith conquered kingdoms and did amazing deeds.

They were weak people who were given strength to face the trials and tribulations and they became heroes of faith.

We too are weak people and we are terrified by the powerful evil forces in this world. But let us keep faith in Jesus and keep doing what is right and good and to be rewarded with the protection and salvation that Jesus has promised us.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

4th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 03.02.2012

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 /1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-13/ Luke 4:21-30

One of the most revered symbols of the Catholic Church is the crucifix.

On the crucifix are two symbols of the truth.

One is, of course, Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified on the cross and died to save us.

The other symbol is the placard that has the letters “I.N.R.I.” which stands for “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum”, which means “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.

Yes, these two are symbols of the truth, the bare truth, the stark truth, the truth of who Jesus is and what the cross stands for.

Yes, the crucifix is a revered symbol and on this revered symbol, these two truths are proclaimed.

There is also no denying it that this revered Christian symbol of the truth is subjected to denial and rejection.

Some say that the crucifix is focusing too much on the sufferings of Christ and not on the resurrection and hence it is not the correct symbol of Christianity.

Also not many people pay attention to the placard with the letters “I.N.R.I” anymore, and its truth and meaning are also slowly forgotten.

As much as we know that the truth will prevail, yet it is quite often that lies and half-truths seems to be running loose.

There is a story that truth and lie went for a swim. They took off their clothes and put them on the side as they went into the water.
Lie finished swimming and came out first and wore truth’s clothes and went off.

When truth finished swimming, and found that its clothes are gone, it refused to wear lie’s clothes.

And that’s why, to this day, people cannot accept the bare truth, the stark truth, the naked truth.

That’s also why it is said that a lie can go around the world  a couple of times while truth is still putting on its shoes.

With that we may understand why Jesus met with rejection and violence even in His own hometown.

Jesus preached the truth to them because they were His people and they were important to Him.

If someone isn’t important enough to tell them the truth, then there is no need to tell them anything at all.

Jesus preached the truth to His people because He cared for them, He loved them, and He knows that the truth will save them and set them free.

So at first they were astonished by His words and even gave Him their approval.

But when they realized the truth of what He was saying, they were enraged, and then turned violent and hostile, and even wanted to throw Jesus down the cliff.

So what was the truth that disturbed them so much? 

Well, the truth was that they were God’s Chosen People, and that He has blessed them and even sent prophets to keep reminding them to be faithful to His covenant.

Yet the problem was that they kept rejecting the prophets and even persecuted them.

Among those prophets was Jeremiah, whom we heard about in the 1st reading.

Jeremiah was also known as the “Weeping prophet” because he faced rejection, opposition and persecution from his very own people as he proclaimed God’s Word to them.

And now Jesus is telling them that God’s Word and His blessings are also for the pagans and the non-Jews.

He cited two well-known prophets from the Old Testament, Elijah and Elisha, and how God’s Word had gone to the people who were non-Jews and that they were even granted God’s help and blessings.

And that truth was like the pointed end of the spear head that was being stabbed into their hearts.

In effect, Jesus was saying that God’s Word and His blessings is not the private property of the Chosen People.

God’s Word and His blessings are for all peoples. And that is what the people of the hometown of Jesus cannot accept; it enraged them and even made them want to kill Jesus.

They wanted God’s Word and His blessings to be their sole privilege, since they were God’s Chosen People.

If the pagans and non-Jews are to get any blessings then it will be what falls off from their tables; but those pagans and non-Jews are not going to get an equal share.

And here Jesus tells them “No!” They already have had enough of God’s blessings. 

Also God’s blessings are for all peoples, in fact for the whole world, regardless of whether they are the Chosen People, or Catholics, or Christians or pagans.  And that is the truth.

And so can we accept that truth? That we, who are the Church, already have enough of God’s blessings. 

In fact we are the ones who should be giving thanks and gratitude to God, and we should teach others to do likewise.

There is this story of a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport as the daughter’s departure had been announced. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said, “I love you and I wish you enough.”

The daughter replied, “Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom.” They hugged and the daughter left.

The mother walked over to the window at the waving gallery, and she said to the friend who was with her, “Have you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

The friend replied. “Forgive me for asking but why is this good-bye forever?”

“I am old and she lives so far away. The reality is that the next trip back will be for my funeral,” she said.

The friend said,”When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”

“When we said ‘I wish you enough’ we want the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them”. 

That is the truth about life. We just need enough of God’s blessings to sustain us so that we can give thanks and teach others to do the same.

And with that, let me tell you my “wish-list” :

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your needs.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I just want to wish you just enough, and that you won’t long for more. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Presentation of the Lord, Saturday, 02-02-13

Malachi 3:1-4 / Hebrews 2:14-18 / Luke 2:22-40

In the gospel of Luke, the Temple of Jerusalem was a significant place is his whole account of the life of Jesus; the gospel began and ended with the Temple setting.

Today's feast of the Presentation is found only in the gospel of Luke and the setting was in the Temple. Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth and also to perform the redemption of the firstborn in accordance to the Law.

And as we began the celebration of this feast, we had the blessing of candles and the procession from the entrance. There is a significance in doing this.

Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to perform the rituals of the Law. Yet in doing so something more significant was happening.

Jesus the Son of God was entering into His Father's house, the Temple, to purify the Temple and to make a holy dwelling place of God.

And that stems from the fact that Jesus is the Saviour who has come to cleanse and forgive us of our sins and to shine the light of His love on us.

That is the significance of the procession of lighted candles at the beginning of the Mass.

When Jesus was brought into the Temple, Simeon and Anna saw the light. .

May we too see the light of Christ in the celebration of this Eucharist. And as we bring home the blessed candles, may we also bring the light of Christ back to our homes and to our loved ones and to all we meet along the way.