Friday, May 31, 2013

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 01-06-13

Ecclesiasticus 51:12-20 / Mark 11:27-33

If we were ever asked, what gift or talent, we would want to have in life, what would be the first thing that would come to our mind?

Of course depending on our life situations and circumstances, we would want to have something particular to meet the needs and demands that we face.

For example, some may want to be musically talented; some may want to have the gift of oratory skill; some may want to be gifted in drawing and painting.

But the one humble and yet very useful gift would be that of wisdom. A wise person would live a good and right life and also show others how to live life.

A wise person would take a moment to reflect on things and see the deeper meaning behind them. For a wise person there is no such thing as a small thing; everything has a meaning.

The 1st reading describes how a person yearns for wisdom and "in my prayers I asked outright for wisdom."

One of the fruits of wisdom is to say the right things and ask the right questions.

In the gospel, the chief priests and scribes, with their authority and arrogance challenged Jesus by asking Him: What authority have you for acting like this? Who gave you authority to do these things?

And Jesus, in His wisdom, asked them about the origin of John's baptism, and it was a question that stumped them and their answer "We do not know" exposed their ignorance and foolishness.

If only the chief priests and scribes had prayed for wisdom before asking the questions.

May we also pray for wisdom before speaking or asking questions. Then the Holy Spirit, the Gift of God, will teach us what to say and do.

A prayer for wisdom (Wisdom 9:1-6, 9-11)
O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy,
who have made all things by your word;
and by your wisdom have formed man
to have dominion over the creatures you have made,
and rule the world in holiness and righteousness,
and pronounce judgement in uprightness of soul,
give me the wisdom that sits by your throne,
and do not reject me among your servants.
For I am your slave
and the son of your maidservant,
a man who is weak and short-lived,
with little understanding of judgement and laws;
for even if one is perfect among the sons of men,
yet without the wisdom that comes from you
he will be regarded as nothing.
With you is wisdom, who knows your works
and was present when you made the world,
and who understands what is pleasing in your sight
and what is right according to your commandments.
Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of your glory send her,
that she may be with me and toil,
and that I may learn what is pleasing to you;
for she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me wisely in my actions
and guard me with her glory.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Visitation of the BVM, Friday, 31-05-13

Zephaniah 3:14-18 or Romans 12:9-16 / Luke 1:39-56

This feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is an event that is recorded only in the gospel of Luke.

In the Visitation, Mary made the journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Certainly many reflections and meditations can be made out of this gospel event.

The second decade of the Joyful mystery of the Rosary also meditates and reflects on this event.

Indeed, there are many meditations and reflections that can come about - humility of Mary; selflessness and service of Mary; the power of divine grace in Mary and Elizabeth;

Yet the word "visitation" is not just confined to this event between Mary and Elizabeth.

The gospel of Luke begins the story of salvation as a visit from God to His people.

When Zachariah's dumbness was lifted, he began his canticle with these words: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has visited His people and redeemed them.

So God's gift of salvation begins with a visit - He visited Zachariah; He visited Mary; He visited Elizabeth; He visited Joseph.

And the Lord our God continues to visit His people in every age and time. And as we celebrate this feast of the Visitation, the Lord our God also comes to visit us.

May we experience the saving love of God in our anxieties and worries, in our troubles and difficulties.

And just as John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother's womb, may our hearts leap for joy in this Eucharist and thank the Lord for coming to our help and showing us His mercy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30-05-13

Ecclesiasticus 42:15-25 / Mark 10:46-52

To be poor is already unfortunate enough. To be poor and to be afflicted with an illness or a handicap, that can be called a terrible misfortune.

To be in such a situation, one may wonder if it is because of some personal sin or some kind of curse that is passed down from the ancestors.

That seemed to be the thinking during the time of Jesus. And it can even go to the extend that the person in question does not have a personal identity, even his father's name is used to identify him.

In the gospel, the blind beggar is known just as Bartimaeus. But the gospel made it a point to state that his name means "the son of Timaeus".

Hence we may understand why the people treated him so harshly when he began to call out for Jesus to have pity on him.

Bartimaeus was almost like a non-entity and hence he was not allowed to speak  and he does not deserve to be heard.

Yet in just two sentences Jesus reversed his unfortunate situation - "Call him here." and "What do you want me to do for you?"

Jesus not only healed his blindness and his unfortunate situation, Jesus also stated what it was that brought about his healing and restoration.

Jesus told Bartimaeus: Your faith has saved you.

We who can see must also ask Jesus to strengthen our faith so that with the eyes of faith, we will see the saving love of our Lord.

And as the beginning sentence of the 1st reading puts it, may we go forth and remind others of the works of the Lord, and tell them of what we have seen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 29-05-13

Ecclesiasticus 36:1, 4-5, 10-17 / Mark 10:32-45

Corporate headhunters are people who work for clients to provide a fast and efficient search of quality candidates for recruitment into their companies.

In a way, these headhunters are trained and maybe even talented or gifted to spot people who have the potential to take on certain posts or tasks and the ability to deliver and meet objectives.

In a certain way, we also have a bit of "head-hunting" streak in us - we try to spot people who will make it to the top and we may go further in their inner circles.

In that way, we will be able to enjoy the benefits of their influence when they rise to the top, and we may even hope to influence them in order to achieve our interests.

In the gospel, we heard about James and John making that move to secure their position with Jesus. Already they were in the inner circle with Peter and now they want to consolidate their position.

Yet, they seemed to have forgotten that it was Jesus who called them and chose them to be His apostles.

It was He who "headhunted" them and the authority that He gave them is not for them to be slave drivers or slave traders.

In fact Jesus taught them that anyone who wants to become great must be a servant, and anyone who wants to be first must be slave to all.

For Jesus Himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the wisdom to see who are the ones who serve quietly and with humility and may we join them to serve with Jesus and to give our lives as a ransom for many.

Monday, May 27, 2013

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 28-05-13

Ecclesiasticus 35:1-12 / Mark 10:28-31

The term "delayed gratification", or deferred gratification, is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward.

Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.

In a way, Christianity can be seen as religion that talks about this delayed gratification - suffering here on earth and then a reward in heaven.

That could be what Peter was talking about when he asked Jesus what would be in store for them since they had left everything and followed Him.

The reply that Jesus gave has two important aspects that concerns offering sacrifices and making acts of charity.

Whatever we give up and offer as a sacrifice has to be for the sake of Jesus and for the sake of the gospel.

And together with that, we must even be prepared for persecutions for doing such things.

But even without talking about persecutions, the disposition (or the attitude) that we should have in giving up things and giving away things is important enough.

As the 1st reading teaches us: Add a smiling face to all your gifts, and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.

That would bring about a blessing for others and for ourselves too. And it will be now in this present time and in the world to come.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-05-13

Ecclesiasticus 17:24-29 / Mark 10:17-27

The word "sacrifice" is not a popular word in today's culture. Neither is doing penance in reparation for our own sins and the sins of the world.

At best, they would sound rather pioustic and leaning towards traditional religious sentimentalism.

At worst, those words are abhorrent in a hedonistic culture, which can vary from the measure of the quality of life to the pursuit of pleasures and desires in whatever forms.

Even in the aspect of faith, sacrifice and penance don't go well together with God's blessings and providence.

As we heard in the gospel, the rich young man had an abundance of God's blessings.

Yet there is also a yearning for the ultimate blessing, and that is eternal life.

But when Jesus told him to sell everything he owned and give the money to the poor, and then he will have treasure in heaven, everything crumbled.

Yes, his face fell and he went away sad, because he was a man of great wealth. The sacrifice was just too great and it was like a penance too heavy to bear.

Yet the 1st reading reminds us of the great value of sacrifice and penance when it said: To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown, only those with life and health can praise the Lord.

Just as the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross saved us from our sins, by our sacrifice and penance, we can also gain eternal life for ourselves as well as for others. That is the ultimate blessing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trinity Sunday, Year C, 26.05.2013

Proverbs 8:22-31/ Romans 5:1-5/ John 16:12-15

There are many laws and principles that govern nature, and it is these laws and principles that help to make the world go round in an orderly and logical manner.

Many of these laws and principles have been discovered and thereafter they were put into a scientific and mathematical formulation.

For eg, we have heard of the Archimedes Principle. It is a simple formulation of fluid mechanics, which states that an immersed object is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid it actually displaces.

It is said that Archimedes discovered this principle when he immersed himself in a bathtub.

It is an everyday occurrence and can be so obvious, and yet it has to be discovered.

Another law of nature is the law of gravity and it was Isaac Newton who discovered it.

The story was that Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree and an apple fell on his head and thereafter he thought of the Law of Gravity.

Again that is an everyday occurrence and it is an obvious fact, and it has to be discovered.

But besides mathematical and scientific formulations, there are also a whole slate of laws and principles that give a reflection of the reality of life.

We would have certainly heard of Murphy’s Law. It’s that famous formulation: What can go wrong will go wrong. (We will certainly agree!)

And besides that, there are also funny and humorous “laws”.

Law of the queue: If you change queue, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now.

Law of telephone: When you dial a wrong number, you never get an engaged tone.

Law of the bath: When your body is coated with soap lather, the doorbell will ring.

Law of encounters: The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone you don’t want to be seen with (a warning for those who are two-timing).

Law of coffee: As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until your coffee is cold.

Enough of humorous reflections about the “laws” of life.

But whether it’s the law of gravity or the Archimedes Principle or Murphy’s Law, it is about the reality of life.

And the reality of life has a fundamental truth to it. When we discover and understand this truth, then we will be able to handle life and be at peace.

In the gospel, Jesus told His disciples that He still had many things to say to them but it would be too much for them.

But He will send the Spirit of truth to lead us to the complete truth.

Today, as the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday, that is the one truth that has been revealed to us.

The fact is that in the whole Bible, we can never find the word “Trinity”.

Nor is it said anywhere in the Bible that God is three Persons, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Yet, that is the truth about God, and it is revealed to us by God Himself. But we need to reflect on it and discover the meaning of it in our lives.

But the essential truth of the Trinity is that God is united in a loving relationship of the three Persons, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

That is the truth about God. And what about ourselves? What is the truth about ourselves and our lives?

One of the golden rules about life is that whatever you do to something, it does back to you, ie. An action follows with a reaction.

It may be people, it may be situations, it may be objects.

There is a story of a father and his son walking on the mountains.

Suddenly, his son falls, hurts himself and screams, “Aaahhhh!!!” To his surprise, he hears a voice repeating, “Aaahhhh!!!”

Curious, he yells, “Who are you?” He receives the answer, “Who are you?”

Angered at the response, he screams, “Coward!” He receives a reply, “Coward!”

He looks to his father and asks, “What is going on?”The father smiles and says, “My son, pay attention.”

Then he shouts to the mountain, “I admire you.” And the voice answers, “I admire you.”

Again the man shouts, “You are good.” The voice answers, “You are good.”

The boy is surprised and does not quite understand. Then the father explains:

People call this the Echo, but really this is life. It gives you back everything you say or do. Our life is simply a reflection of our actions.

If you want more love in this world, then have more love in your heart. If you want more peace in this world, then have more peace in your heart.

This fact applies to everything, in all aspects of life. Life will give you back everything you have given to it.

The Law of Echo is so obvious; it has been discovered and yet we need to be reminded of it.

God who is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves each other and they are united in love.

The echo of Their love resonates constantly in our hearts so that we can love others in the same way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit loves each other.

So on this Trinity Sunday, let us remember the Law of Echo. 

Life gives back to us what we have given to it. 

So, let us be loving, and love will be given back to us.

Friday, May 24, 2013

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-05-13

Ecclesiasticus 17:1-15 / Mark 10:13-16

Mankind have invented and created a huge array of wonderful and marvelous and awesome things.

Many of these inventions and creations have contributed to the good of mankind.

Yet there are also many inventions and creations that are detrimental and even destructive to mankind.

Regardless of which is which, for all that mankind can invent and create, man cannot create himself.

He may even try to push the moral parameters of science and research to clone himself but he knows that he can't create himself.

As a matter of fact, man can't even create the earth from which he came forth. And that is what the 1st reading is reminding us.

"The Lord fashioned man from the earth, to consign him back to it". And more than that, man's ways are always under the eye of the Lord, and they cannot be hidden from His sight.

So for man, it is from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust. Yet in the time between coming to life from dust and turning into ashes, man has that ability to rise to his best or sink into his worst.

So as we reflect on the reality and the finality of ourselves and our lives, may we realize that the best that we can be is to be obedient children of God our Father.

Let us be like those little children in the gospel whom Jesus embraced and blessed. That would be the most wonderful, marvelous and awesome thing that can happen in our lives.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 24-05-13

Ecclesaisticus 6:5-17 / Mark 10:1-12

In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Letter to Chinese Catholics, in which he asked that May 24 each year be dedicated to a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

He chose May 24 because it is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

In honor of the first celebration of the World Day of Prayer for China, in 2008, Pope Benedict composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan and asked that Christians throughout the world recite it on May 24.

Indeed, it is an occasion in which the whole Church would “demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude” (care and concern) for the persecuted Church in China by acts of prayer and penance.

So it is a call for action on the spiritual dimension, something that we the Church can do, and yet we seem to have neglected it.

There seem to be this disturbing "spiritual divorce" within the Church in that we have not heeded the call for unity and solidarity and solicitude for our Catholic brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

The 1st reading talks about friends and particularly what a faithful friend is. A faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure. A faithful friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his worth.

Let us be united in this kind of friendship with the Lord and with each other. And let us offer the love of this friendship to our brothers and sisters in the Church in China by offering the prayer below for them, especially on this day that is dedicated for prayer for them.

May the Lord guard and protect the Church in China, and may He give them strength and courage in the trials and difficulties that they face.

Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan (A Prayer for Chinese Catholics by Pope Benedict XVI)

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians,"
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously co-operated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-05-13

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

We have been taught that there are two categories of sin - mortal sin and venial sin.

Mortal sin is grave and serious. It results in a complete separation from God and warrants eternal damnation.

Venial sin, or "forgivable" sin, does not concern a grave matter, or that it is committed without full knowledge, or that it is not committed with both deliberate and complete consent.

Having said all that, it still cannot be denied that sin is sin, and the fact is that sin and God cannot co-exist!

Yes, sin, regardless of whether it is mortal or venial, is serious and woe to us if we take it too lightly because that would mean that we have fallen into the devil's deception.

The 1st reading urges us - Do not say, "I have sinned, and what happened to me?" for the Lord's forbearance is long.

Yes, the Lord is loving and forgiving and merciful and compassionate.

But the 1st reading also warns us not to delay our return to the Lord, do not put it off day after day, for suddenly the Lord's wrath will blaze out and it will be tragic for us.

In the gospel, Jesus is no less serious about sin when He used words like "if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off" and "if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off".

Yet it still must be reiterated that the Lord is loving and forgiving and merciful and compassionate. And that should make us repent and detest sin, because God and sin cannot co-exist.

As St. Therese of the Child Jesus said : A pure heart knows no evil.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 22-05-13

Ecclesiasticus 4:11-19 / Mark 9:38-40

Whenever someone tells us that something is tried and tested, we will certainly have more confidence in it.

More so, if we ourselves have tried and tested something and it is to our satisfaction, then we will be able to speak about it more confidently.

So it may be a gadget or a method or a product, if it has been tried and tested, and has proven effective and successful, it will also be able to command some confidence from others.

But if "tried and tested" is about persons, then these persons will certainly have the trust and confidence of others.

Yet to be tried and to be tested and to be trusted certainly comes with a price.

The 1st reading says that Wisdom brings up her own sons, and cares for those who seek her. Whoever obeys her judges aright and whoever pays attention to her dwells secure.

But Wisdom will also take a person at first through winding ways, bringing fear and faintness on him, plaguing him with her discipline until she can trust him, and testing him with her ordeals.

But in the end she will lead him back to the straight road and reveal her secrets to him.

That is what it means, and the price to pay, to be tried and tested and trusted. Yet the reward is the priceless wisdom to live life and to walk in the ways of God.

In the gospel, Jesus taught us a basic and yet fundamental wisdom of life: Anyone who is not against us is for us.

May we be for others a tried and tested and wise servant of God so that we can lead them to God and in the wisdom of His ways.

Monday, May 20, 2013

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-05-13

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

For every question that is asked, there is an answer to it. Even for rhetoric questions, we already know what the answer is.

Yet if a question is asked, and no answer is given, then there could be a couple of possible reasons for it.

It is either that no one really knows the answer but they will have to say so, or that the answer is so stark that it is too embarrassing to say it.

In the gospel, when Jesus asked His disciples what were they arguing about on the road, they said nothing.

They surely knew what they were arguing about - which of them is the greatest. But now they are like small boys hanging down their heads and not wanting to say anything.

Certainly when grown men argue like small boys, it is really embarrassing, and more so when they were the disciples of Jesus, and even more so when just before that, Jesus was telling them about the suffering and death He had to go through.

And it was here that Jesus showed those big "small boys" what greatness really is. He set a little boy before them and gave them this profound teaching: If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.

The 1st reading gave us such a startling teaching that we would rather not hear about it. It says: My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.

It continues with this: Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.

So if we were to ask what greatness is, we also know what the answer is. May we be willing and humble enough to accept that answer.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-05-13

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

The relationship between a master and a disciple is like that between a father and a son.

The master imparts all he knows to the disciple and the disciple assimilates all he can from the master.

Yet, just as there are times when the son thinks he knows better than the father, the disciple will also be tempted to think that he is better than the master.

Things only become clear, maybe even painfully clear, when the truth is shown in the challenges of life.

In today's gospel, we hear scorching words from Jesus to His disciples: How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?

A man had brought his son to his disciples to be delivered of an unclean spirit of dumbness but they were unable to.

To make matters more embarrassing, His disciples ended up arguing with some scribes. So instead of healing, the disciples got engaged in arguing.

Hence when Jesus arrived and asked why they were arguing, they didn't respond, maybe because they knew they had detracted and lost focus on what Jesus would have done.

Later when they had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately as to why they were unable to cast that unclean spirit out.

The answer Jesus gave would certainly make the disciples, as well as us, do some serious thinking. Jesus said: This is the kind that can only be driven out by prayer.

Indeed, without prayer, the disciple can never be like the master. But with prayer, the disciple will gain the wisdom of the master.

As the 1st reading puts it: All wisdom is from the Lord ... and He conveyed her to those who love Him.  If we are serious about learning from Jesus our Master, then we need to be serious in prayer.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pentecost, Year C, 19.05.2013

Acts 2:1-11/ 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13 or Rom 8:8-17/ John 20:19-23 or John 14:15, 23-26

In today’s feast of Pentecost, the focus is none other than the Holy Spirit.

As we heard in the 1st reading, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles like a powerful wind from heaven and in tongues of fire.

That day was a great happening for the Church and they began to speak in foreign languages as the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Another occasion that we hear about the Holy Spirit is during the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation for the teenagers.

The bishop will be there, relatives and friends will be there, the teenagers are all dressed up, many photographs will be taken.

But after that, something strange happens. The teenagers seem to go into secret service or they go undercover. Because they don’t seem to be around anymore.

It’s like the story about the two Christian pastors and a Catholic priest having a discussion about the problem of birds in their churches.

The first pastor said that he covered up all the holes in the roof of the church but the birds still managed to come in.

The second pastor said that he called the pest control company but the problem persisted.

Then they asked the Catholic priest how he handled the problem, and he said, “Oh, I confirmed them, and they never come back.”

So, the Sacrament of Confirmation seemed to have a strange effect on Catholic teenagers; they seem to disappear after that.

Maybe the name of the Sacrament can be changed to something like “Sacrament of Confirmation and Last Rites”.

Yes, we lament that our teenagers seem to disappear after Confirmation.

For those of us who are concerned enough, we ask what is being done and who should be doing that.

Well, those are not new questions, and yet we also know that we need help in order to help these teenagers after Confirmation.

And God knows we need help, not just for the teenagers, but in all matters actually. And that help is already given.

In today’s gospel, Jesus said that He will ask the Father to send another Advocate to be with us forever.

The word “Advocate” had several meanings. An advocate comes to the defense of another person. An advocate also pleads for and on behalf of another person (as in intercession). And in the court of law, an advocate defends the cause of another person.

So more than just a helper, an advocate pleads the cause of another person.

So more than just a helper, an advocate defends us and fights for us and intercedes for us.

The Advocate that Jesus is talking about is none other than the Holy Spirit who will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus taught us.

But more often than not, the Holy Spirit does not manifest Himself in dramatic and spectacular ways, like we heard in the 1st reading.

Instead, the Holy Spirit seems to be in secret service and He operates undercover.

But as the 2nd reading puts it, when we are interested in spiritual things, then the Holy Spirit will make His home in us and reveal to us how He works and how He helps us.

And as the Advocate, the Holy Spirit helps us by inspiring and prompting others to come to our help.

In other words, the Holy Spirit engages 3rd party intercessors and 3rd party intervention to manifest His help.

Take the case of St Therese of the Child Jesus, the patron saint of our parish.

At the tender age of 14, she already wanted to enter the Carmelite convent.

She asked permission from her father but her father was reluctant initially, but that was because he loved her the most and wanted her by his side.

She then asked her uncle who was her guardian then, and he also refused her, but later he relented and asked her to see the bishop.
So she went to see the bishop and he gave her a flat no!

At this point, we might think that enough is enough, better give up. But not for St. Therese.

After some time, she followed her father to Rome on a pilgrimage. There they went for an audience with the Pope.

They were forbidden to speak to him, but that did not stop St. Therese. She ignored all protocol and directly voiced her request to the Pope, begging him to let her enter the convent.

All the Pope said was: If God wants you to enter, the you will. 
(Effectively speaking, that was a “No!”) and the guards immediately led her out.

So it seemed like a gone case. Or so it seemed. 

While they were in Rome, her father went to visit a religious by the name of Bro. Simeon. 

The Vicar General Fr. Reverony happened to be there too, and he knew about St. Therese’s request, and like the bishop, he too was not in favour of it.

But when her father told her story to Bro. Simeon, he listened and even took notes. Finally with much emotion, Bro. Simeon said: One doesn’t see this kind of faith in Italy!

That statement made a great impact on the VG Fr. Reverony. It was like a mighty wind blew on him and he was enlightened.

Afterward, he strongly advocated St. Therese’s entry into the convent, and the rest was history.

So in St. Therese’s case, she had many intercessors – her father, who told her story to Bro. Simeon, who made a simple statement that made such an impact on the VG Fr. Reverony.

There was no drama or anything spectacular, no mighty wind or tongues of flames, but the Holy Spirit quietly moved people to be His instruments and intercessors for others.

What seemed impossible became possible. That is what the Holy Spirit, our Advocate can do. So whether it is about disappearing teenagers or old-timers, saints or sinners, the Holy Spirit is here to help us. 

The Holy Spirit want to help us become aware of the spiritual things and to make our hearts the home of God. 

When God makes His home in us, then we will become the instruments of the Holy Spirit, so that others will experience the power of God’s help.                                   

Friday, May 17, 2013

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 18-05-13

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31 / John 21:20-25

It is of the general opinion that the disciple that Jesus loved is identified as John the apostle, and the fourth gospel is ascribed to him.

It is also of the general opinion that John lived to an old age whereas the other apostles were martyred.

Maybe that is why the gospel of John is so different from the other three "synoptic" gospels.

The other three gospels have more historical facts and stories.

The gospel of John has more of a mystical perspective.

And as he closes his gospel account, he states that after all that is written, he is just a witness for Christ and what he had written was his testimony.

His other contemporaries had different tasks - St. Peter was the shepherd for Christ; St. Paul was the missionary for Christ; St. John was the witness for Christ.

And where the gospel of Christ ends off, our gospel begins, the gospel of our lives as witnesses of Christ.

It is in that gospel, that the eternal truth of Jesus will be passed down to the future generations.

So St. John, St. Peter and St. Paul are done with their tasks and fulfilled their missions. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will pick up for where they left and continue the mission of witnessing and serving Christ.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 17-05-13

Acts 25:13-21 / John 21:15-19

At the entrance of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Queen Street (Singapore), there are two statues on each side.

One is that of St. Peter and he is seated on a chair and holding two big keys on one hand.

Those keys symbolize the what Jesus said to Peter about giving him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 16:19)

The other statue is that of St. Paul and he is holding a sword and a closed book.

The book represents the epistles that he wrote for the early Christian communities and the sword represents the instrument of his martyrdom.

Sts. Peter and Paul are undoubtedly the two great saints of the Church.

Yet we would also know that they were also the two great failures of the Church; great enough to be called epic failures.

St. Peter denied Christ in His darkest hour, and three times at that; St. Paul, when he was still Saul, persecuted Christ in the Christians, and his infamous moment was when he witnessed the martyrdom of St. Stephen and he totally approved of it.

Yet, in today's readings, we heard how they turned around with the grace of God and bore witness to Christ.

God's grace was all that was needed to turn them around. God's grace is also all that we would ever need to turn our lives back to God.

Let us pray fervently for this grace as we  prepare for the feast of Pentecost.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 16-05-13

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 / John 17:20-26

It is ironic but there is a tendency to be complacent after a victory.

Maybe because when one is the victor and have defeated the opponents, there are no more battles to fight and no threat to be on guard against.

It had happened to nations that were victorious in wars; it had happened to sports personalities who have won the ultimate trophy and gold medal; it had happened to people who had overcome the odds.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Paul had to defend himself in the tribune against the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin.

Paul cleverly thought of a way to confuse his opponents which led them to fight among themselves and in doing so he managed to squeeze himself out of a dangerous situation.

We would think that after such a close shave, Paul will be given a reprieve and left in peace for a time.

Yes, Paul overcame the odds to escape from his enemies but before he can get too smug about it, the Lord appeared to him and said : Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.

If we were Paul, we might have sighed and groaned and asked the Lord to give us a break and let us have some peace and quiet for a while.

But we need to remember that an experience of grace prepares us for the next challenge of faith.

Yet, in the challenges ahead, let us remember that Jesus is with us to face the challenge. He will give us the courage to face what lies ahead.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 15-05-13

Acts 20:28-38 / John 17:11-19

Wherever people are gathered as an organization or community, there will be generally two categories of characters.

There will be those who are stronger in personality and they tend to be leaders; and then there are those who are milder and tend to be followers.

Inevitably those who are stronger will dominate those who are weaker, and take on the leading positions.

As much as leaders are needed in any organization or community, they must serve and protect the weak and not turn into wolves that will fleece on the flock.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul pointed out those leaders that have become like wolves, teaching a travesty of truth to induce the disciples to follow them.

Those "wolves" not only do not protect the weak, but will take advantage of them and lead them into damnation. That is how cult and cult personalities come about.

But true leaders, like St. Paul, will care for the weak and build them up in unity and love. True leaders will give more and they expect nothing in return.

In the gospel, we hear Jesus praying for His disciples that they would be true to their calling as leaders of the community so that they may be one with God.

Jesus prayed for His disciples and likewise we too must pray for our Church leaders as well as those who govern our country.

May they be true to their calling, protect and serve the weak, and to stand up to those "wolves" that are out to steal, kill and destroy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

St. Matthias, Apostle, Tuesday, 14-05-13

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / John 15:9-17

The feast of St. Matthias is placed in the period between the Ascension of the Lord and the feast of Pentecost.

The reason is that in the Acts of the Apostles, it was during this time that St.Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.

It was St. Peter who spelt out the requisite - it must be someone who had been with them from the time Jesus was going around with them till He ascended into heaven.

But the most important criterion was that the candidate should also be a witness of the resurrection.

So St. Matthias was not just someone who was with the apostles during all this while; he was also a witness to the resurrection.

He was a witness to the love that God the Father had for Jesus in raising Him from the dead and glorifying Him in the Ascension.

And so after prayer and the drawing of lots, St Matthias was chosen.

But he was not chosen simply to replace Judas. St. Matthias was chosen to witness to the love that Jesus has for all of us.

Eventually St. Matthias would also have to witness to that love by laying down his own life in martyrdom.

In St. Matthias we can see that God will always call and choose persons to witness to His love for us.

Yet by virtue of our baptism we are also called and chosen. May we remain faithful to that call and pray that we also fulfill God's choice of us.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 13-05-13

Acts 19:1-8 / John 16:29-33

We have to admit that more often than not, we are attracted to the sensational and the spectacular as well as the dramatic.

We are more inclined to be mesmerised by the fireworks than to know who invented pyrotechnics or how the development of it came about.

So as we read the 1st reading, we might be more inclined to ask what speaking in tongues and prophesy are all about.

Maybe that is because we don't see these happening very often and also there is a mystery surrounding it.

And if we bother to do some research, we will come across loads of material on that subject and yet we may not be any clearer about it.

Yet to be caught up only in the sensational and spectacular and dramatic, we may miss the whole point of the 1st reading.

The point is that when the disciples were baptised the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came down on them.

Hence the speaking in tongues and prophesying are just one of the many manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

It is not so much of the "What?" but rather of the "Who?"

Today also marks the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima in 1917, and there were six apparitions in all. In 1930, the Church declared that the apparitions at Fatima were worthy of belief.

Again it was not so much of the spectacle of the spinning sun and other dramatic happenings but the message behind it and from"Who" those messages came from.

May the Holy Spirit enlighten us with the truth and lead us to a deeper understanding and knowledge of the mysteries of God.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

7th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 12.06.2013

Acts 7:55-60/ Apocalypse 22:12-14, 16-17, 20/ John 17:20-26

One of the objects in the sky (actually it’s in outer space) that catches our imagination and fantasy is the moon.

Before man landed on the moon (1969), and even after that, the moon remains mysterious and also romantic to us.

There are songs about the moon – “Blue Moon”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, etc. 

Having said that about the moon, we would have seen the photographs of Earth taken from the moon or from outer space.

To say the least, Earth is beautiful, and from the photos, it looks like a big round blue marble with shades of white.

Yes, Earth is beautiful, as seen from outer space.

But is it like one of those things that are like nice from far, but far from nice?

For us who live on Earth, do we think that it is that beautiful and nice?

There is no denying that we want our world to be beautiful and nice.

So we would set about cleaning up our world in the ecological sense. Yes we must care for our world.

That would make our world beautiful and nice.

Yet, instead of beautifying and cleaning up our world in the ecological sense, some have tried to make it their own world in their own sense.

They do this by pushing people that they don’t like out of their way.

Better still, if they can push those people out of this world.

And if pushing does not do the job, then it will be the ultimate – and that is killing.

And this is how the beauty of our world turns ugly and bloody.

That is what we heard about in the 1st reading.

The deacon Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, saw the beauty and the glory of God.

But that made the crowd angry; so angry that they turned ugly and pushed Stephen out of the city and then they killed him by stoning him to death.

Stephen’s death was ugly and bloody. Yet even in death, there was the beauty and the glory of God.

Because Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of his executioners – “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”

The beauty of forgiveness, no matter what, cannot be pushed out of this world by the ugliness of hatred.

Stephen saw the beauty and the glory of God and was able to radiate the beauty and the glory of God by forgiving his executioners.

In the gospel, Jesus also prayed that we will be able to see the beauty of love in unity.

Jesus prayed that we may all be one, just as He and the Father are one.

And how can we not see that we are one? We all live in the one world, the only one Earth.

No matter what, we can’t push others out of this Earth.

In an affectionate sense, we call Earth our Mother Earth.

Indeed, Earth is like a mother who gathers her children as one and united in love.

Today we celebrate Mothers’ Day. Mothers are also like the Earth. 

They hold all of us together and they want us to live in peace so that this world, this Earth, will be beautiful and loving.

And no matter how far apart we may be, we still live in the one Earth, and no distance is too great to show love.

There is a story of a man who stopped by a flower shop to order some flowers to be sent to his mother who lived 200 miles away.

As he got out of the car, he noticed a young girl sitting by the curb and sobbing away.

He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a rose for my mother. But I only have 75 cents. And a rose cost $2.”

The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I will buy you a rose.”

He bought the little girl her rose and he ordered the flowers for his mother.

As they left the shop, he offered the girl a ride home.

She said, “Yes, please. You can take me to my mother.”

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

After that, the man immediately returned to the flower shop, cancelled the order, bought a bouquet of roses, and drove the 200 miles to deliver the flowers personally to his mother.

Just a story to remind us that love knows no distance and that no matter how far apart we are, we are all living in the same Earth.

Not only must we not push people out of this world, we must also remember that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son into the world to show His love for us.

Yes, God loves us and He also loves our world, our Earth.

If God came into this world to love us, then all the more we need to love one another and live in peace and make this a beautiful world for everyone.

We don’t have to go to the moon or to outer space to realize that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 11-05-13

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

When we think of ourselves as just one individual in a world of billions of people, we may think of ourselves as insignificant.

Yet, when we think of ourselves as a person that God has created and put into a specific time and place, then we will realize that we are unique and that nothing happens by coincidence.

In fact everything happens with and for a reason, and with faith we will be able to see that everything happens to put together God's plan.

In the 1st reading, we heard of the appearance of an Alexandrian Jew by the name of Apollos.

What was his background we were not told. And later on he would move on and there will no mention of him again.

Yet, his being there at that particular time had an impact on the missionary work of the early Church and he would be in the forefront of the proclamation of the Good News.

Yes, by the grace of God, Apollo helped the believers considerably by the energetic way he preached about Jesus Christ.

Similarly for us, we too must realize that we walk this way but once. And along this way, God's grace is poured onto us so that our earthly existence can have a spiritual significance.

As Jesus urged us in the gospel, let us ask God our Father for this grace to see the significance of our existence.

We exist for the glory of God; and the glory of God is man fully alive. May we be alive with the grace of God and bring that grace into the world.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

6th Week of Easter, Friday, 10-05-13

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

Quite often we worry and fret over the difficulties and struggles of life.

Yes, already for today there is enough to worry and get anxious about. We try not to think too much about tomorrow but still we know it will come.

Even for St. Paul, he had his share of struggles and difficulties, as well as dangers, toils and snares.

He may have been brave and courageous but he was still human after all, and there would be times when discouragement and tiredness would set in.

He probably had been facing such a despondency when the Lord appeared to him in a vision as we heard in the 1st reading.

Much as St. Paul only wanted to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and he meant no harm, yet his enemies were out to trap him and harm him and they would even want his life.

Indeed, it is very stressful to live in such dangerous situations and one will despair and get depressed after a while.

Yet it is preciously in such situations that we need a companion whom we can turn to for strength and encouragement.

And the Lord told St. Paul: Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced; I am with you.

That was enough for St. Paul. And that also will be enough for us. With the Lord on our side, our sorrow will turn to joy, and that joy no one can take from us.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ascension Thursday (C-2013), 09-05-13

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

There are many concerns and worries and anxieties of movie producers.

There is the budget to keep within; there is the script that must be attractive enough for the cast to work on; and there is also the consideration of whether the movie will be a box-office hit.

But one of the pressing fears of movie producers and directors is that of the lead actor and actress.

In the course of producing a movie, if anything should happen to the star actor or actress, then the movie will be in trouble.

And anything can happen - from injury to illness to sudden death.

That will jeopardize the making of the movie in many ways, and may even grind it to a halt and the movie may even be abandoned altogether.

Such is the critical importance of the star actors and actresses.

But whether it is the making of a movie or on the level of reality, we know how fragile it is when everything hangs on just one person or just a few people.

Jesus came to proclaim the Good News of salvation. Like the making of a movie, He is the central character and all was focused on what He taught and on what He did.

Jesus also did something that was of significance. He chose 12 apostles and He nurtured them with His teaching.

He taught them to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus also empowered His disciples and gave them authority over evil spirits and to heal the sick.

In other words, Jesus had a succession plan. Although He was the central figure in the proclamation of the Good News and in the mission of salvation, He also formed His disciples to to continue His work.

He sent forth the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, the power from on high, to empower His disciples to be His witnesses.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples continued the mission of Jesus and witnessed to His presence in the world.

This same Spirit is also given to us, the Church, and each of us is empowered to witness to Christ in a unique way and collectively as the Body of Christ, we manifest His presence in the world.

So Jesus may have gone "up", but everything goes on.

Yet in order to go on and be witnesses to Christ, we must be renewed with the power from on high.

In order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, let us prepare our hearts with prayer.

Singing a simple hymn like "Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest" everyday would invoke power from on high.

And with the power of the Holy Spirit, we too will go forth to proclaim, to witness, to form, to nurture, and to continue the story of salvation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 08-05-13

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

Human beings like to reminisce about the past and fantasize about the future.

Hence, there are movies about events of the past as well as science-fiction movies about the future.

And then there are those science-fiction movies about time-travel, about how people will travel back in time or into the future.

Let's say that we are able to travel back in time to Athens where Paul was standing before the whole Council of the Areopagus and making his speech.

When he comes to the part about God raising a man from the dead, and some of the listeners burst out laughing, how would we react?

What are we going to say to prove that Paul is right? Is there anything we could do to affirm the truth of what Paul was saying?

But probably the more we try to say, the louder the laughter would be and we would feel like fools in some kind of joke.

Yet, here is where Jesus has a teaching for us in the gospel. He said that He still has many things to say to us but they would be too much for us for now.

But Jesus will send the Spirit of truth to lead us to the complete truth.

So we ourselves, like the people of Athens, do not understand everything completely.

What we cannot understand, let us not laugh at it or ridicule it. We don't want to go down into history as fools who laughed at the truth. Rather, let us wait humbly for the truth to be revealed in the future, the truth that will set us free and save us.

Monday, May 6, 2013

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 07-05-13

Acts 16:22-34 / John 16:5-11

Just for a moment, think about some of the lousiest situations that you could ever be in.

Or maybe just recall some of those lousy situations that you have been in, and that won't be too difficult to remember.

The memories of being in a lousy situation would also make us remember how we reacted to that situation, and more often than not we would have reacted in an equally lousy manner.

And if we put ourselves into the shoes of Paul and Silas, we would certainly think that we are in a real lousy situation.

Paul and Silas were stripped, flogged, given many lashes and then thrown into prison.

While we might be grumbling, to say the least, about the situation that we are in, Paul and Silas were praying and singing God's praises.

And while they were doing that, the other prisoners listened. What those other prisoners were thinking, we don't really know. But certainly they were amazed at Paul and Silas.

And more amazing things were to come when there came a great earthquake and the prison doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners, and in the end the gaoler and his whole family were baptized.

Hence, it should come as no surprise to us that lousy situations are a prelude of amazing things to come.

We only need to keep praying and singing God's praises in order to turn lousy situations into amazing situations.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 06-05-13

Acts 16:13-15 / John 15:26 - 16:4        (2015)

Whenever we foresee something and when it turns out to be how we predicted it to be, very likely we will gloat over it.

We can't help but feel proud and "wise" and we may also say things like: I told you!

Those three words are often used in a condescending manner and directed to those who had refused and rejected our advice and suggestions.

In the gospel, we heard Jesus saying those three words, and He even said it three times.

Yet what He said was not after the fact but before those events had happened.

His purpose was not so much as to prove what He said was true, but so that when the time for those events to come to pass, they may remember that Jesus had told them.

In fact, even after the resurrection, we don't hear of Jesus chiding His disciples and saying "I told you, I told you ..."

But like the disciples, we too must ask ourselves if we are listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to do the will of God.

From experience, we know that in not listening and being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit we end up as unhappy and frustrated losers.

So let us be still and listen to what the Lord is telling us. For His words are spirit and they are life.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 05.05.2013

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29/ Apocalypse 21:10-14, 22-23 or Apocalypse 22:12-14, 16-17,20/ John 17:20-26

It can be said that Singapore is a relatively safe country.

It is also a “fine” country – for speeding, you will be fined; for spitting, you will be fined; for littering, you will be fined; for jay-walking, you will be fined for breeding mosquitoes, you will be fined.

Still, Singapore is a relatively safe country.  We have a low crime rate. It is also safe to go out at night, so we are relatively safe and secure.

Yet, danger lurks even in safe places. Low crime does not mean no crime. In fact it is when things seem safe and secure that danger can just spring up suddenly.

As it is, our safe and secure country is facing an unexpected and a surprising kind of danger.

Singapore is a highly urbanized country. Yet, despite the fact that we so highly urbanized, we are facing a biological danger –Dengue Fever!

That is quite surprising and unexpected as well. If there are swamps and polluted areas that will be understandable.

But for an almost concrete jungle like Singapore, where did the dengue come from? Where did those Andes mosquitoes come from? It is almost like a mystery!

And the situation has become critical enough, so much so that the NEA has set up a website ( to identify the dengue clusters and the number of cases.

And the enemy that is causing this deadly threat is just that small mosquito (Sigh – Why did God create mosquitoes?).

Let us hope that there are no mosquitoes in Church. But we have to be careful.

It is said that mosquitoes are quite religious, because they prey on you.

Having dengue fever is no laughing matter because it can be fatal.
The posters that the NEA has put up have warnings like this: “Danger can be this close”; “It is your life. It is your fight”.

So the danger is not an external danger. The danger is very close because the enemy is very close, and lurking around.

And the enemy does just not suck your blood, it will also suck away your life!

So we have been warned. So we have been told. So are we going to fight it seriously, or are we going to take it lightly?

Yes, danger lurks even in safe places. On the biological level, there is the dengue fever that is caused by those small and tiny Andes mosquitoes!

But what about on the spiritual level? Is there a danger? Where is the danger? What is the danger?

In the gospel, Jesus tells us about this danger in just one line: “Those who do not love me do not keep my commandments”.

It is just one line but it tells us whether we are safe, or in danger.

Jesus said that if we love Him then we will keep His word and God will make His home in our heart.

And where God has made His home, there will be peace in the heart. The heart will feel safe.

Our hearts are made to be God’s home, our hearts are made for peace, our hearts are made for love.

Hence, we have to keep our hearts clean. We have to keep our hearts pure.

St. Teresa, the Patron Saint of our parish has this to say: “A pure heart knows no evil.”

Yet the danger here is that when we are not careful or vigilant, then our hearts can slowly become polluted.

When we are not careful and vigilant, then we let small sins into our hearts.

We may not think much about small sins, but they are like those small little mosquitoes that carry the dengue fever, and they will cause havoc in our lives.

There is this story about the famous painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci used live models to paint the figures representing Christ and the 12 apostles.

Leonardo da Vinci wanted to paint the figure of Christ first, and he searched laboriously until he found a young man who had a face and a personality that exhibited innocence and beauty.

Thus he painted the figure of Christ. Thereafter, he chose fitting persons to represent each of the eleven Apostles.

Finally, after about three years, Leonardo da Vinci set about to paint the figure representing Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Christ.

Leonardo da Vinci searched for man with a hard callous face.
The face would be one that was marked with avarice, deceit, hypocrisy; a face that would represent vicious betrayal.

Finally, among the prisoners in a jail, he found such a man and he asked for that man to be the model for the figure of Judas Iscariot.

After he had finished painting, the prisoner asked Leonardo da Vinci: “Do you recognize me?”

Leonard da Vinci looked hard at him, and the prisoner said: “So you can’t recognize me. Look at me again. I was that same man that you used as the model for painting the figure of Christ.”

The story was that after modeling for the figure of Christ, that man fell into a life of sin and crime, so much so that his countenance was contorted into a face of sin and he looked completely different from before.

The point of the story is that sin has this devastating effect that can change a pure and loving heart into a vicious and polluted pool of evil.

Yes, danger lurks even in safe places. Just as we have to guard against breeding those small mosquitoes that can cause the devastating dengue, so must we guard ourselves against committing those small sins.

Let us cleanse our hearts constantly by going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for a pure heart knows no evil.

And as the famous hymn says this: Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

Similarly, may the peace of Christ keep us safe, and may the peace of Christ keep our hearts pure, so that God will make His home in us.