Sunday, June 29, 2014

Annual Priests Retreat 2014

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from 30th June Monday to 4th July Friday.

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

As such, there will be no weekday homily postings for this week. 

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

Thank you. May God bless you!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sts Peter and Paul, Year A, 29.06.2014

Acts 12:1-11/ 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18/ Matthew 16:13-19

There is an epidemic going on and it’s capturing the headlines and resulting in lack of sleep and heavy eye-bags.

Of course, I am not talking about a serious disease. I am talking about the World Cup fever. It all started in Brazil on the 12th June, with all its thrills and spills.

And already some of the big boys of the game had been sent packing home.

And some jokes had been made about that. For example, what is the difference between a tea-bag and the England team? Answer: the tea-bag stays longer in the cup!  : ) 

And of course there are some less scorching jokes like this one:

A man takes his seat at the World Cup Final. He looks to his left and notices that there is an empty seat between him and the next guy. 

The man asks: Who would ever miss the World Cup Final? The other guy replied: That’s my wife’s seat. We have been to the last five World Cup Finals together, but sadly she passed away.

The man said: Oh I am so sorry to hear that. But couldn’t you get another member of the family, a friend or someone else to come with you?

The guy replied: No … they are all at the funeral!  : 0

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Church.

We may think that these two saints are like two peas in a pod, and if we were to give names to a pair of twin boys, the obvious choice would be to name them Peter and Paul.

Peter and Paul may seem to give us an impression of unity, but in fact, they were more of an incompatibility.

They were more like oil and water, and their differences go deeper than that of liquid viscosity.

That fact is that initially, they would have wished the other to be dead, and they won’t even bother about attending the other’s funeral!

St. Paul, when he was Saul, was part of the mob that stoned Stephen, the first martyr, to death.

And following that, king Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church, as we heard in the 1st reading.

He beheaded James, the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the crowds, he targeted Peter and had him put into prison.

The Church then prayed fervently for Peter, and he was miraculously rescued from the prison by an angel.

By then Paul had become the No. 1 enemy of the Church as he relentlessly persecuted Christians and he even went as far as Damascus to capture Christians.

But it was there on that road to Damascus that something striking happened to him and then things changed drastically.

So initially, Paul was the hunter and Peter was the hunted; Paul was the persecutor and Peter the persecuted.

They were on opposite and opposing sides. Paul had the political power to carry out his persecution, but Peter had the spiritual appointment for his protection.

But even after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he and Peter did not immediately become friends, and they also did not see eye to eye on Church matters.

They were as different as oil and water and they even had their differences recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. And in Galatians 2:11-14, Paul even called Peter a hypocrite in his dealings with the Gentiles.

It was rather strange that Jesus would choose these two men who were far from perfect or even suitable to be the two pillars of His Church.

Yet, that also showed that the Church is both divine and human – that there is a spiritual force guiding and working through her human instruments.

Although in life, St. Peter and St. Paul had their differences and shortcomings, it was in death that they were united in a common goal and mission.

Both died in Rome as martyrs (Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded) and that showed that their lives were not for their own glory but for the glory of God.

This feast of Sts. Peter and Paul teaches us that despite the differences and failings of personalities and characters, the Church can still be united in a common goal and mission.

Even now in the Church, there are some who are conservatives and some who are liberals; some are traditional and some want to be modern; some want discipline and others want freedom.

Yes, the Church is like a mixture of oil and water, and yet we, like St. Peter and St. Paul, are called to rise above our differences just like oil floats above the water, and be united in a common goal and mission.

As we heard in the gospel, Jesus promised that the gates of the underworld can never hold out against the Church.

Yet, we also must be reminded that our differences must not give the opportunity to the underworld to tear us apart from within.
Rather, like St. Peter and St. Paul, let us be united in love for Jesus and for one another.

St. Peter and St. Paul showed that in their lives they loved Jesus and hence in love they also accepted the other even if they did not agree totally with the other. 

Hence as they were united in life, so were they united in death, and now they are united in glory.

Likewise, let us be united in love, so that whether in life or in death, the gates of the underworld will never tear us apart.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saturday, 28-06-14

Isaiah 61:9-11 / Luke 2:41-51

When we were in school, we used to hear a lot of this phrase "Remember by heart".

It applied to anything from mathematical formulas to grammatical rules to eating habits.

We remembered those things, although we didn't ponder on them or question them.

Mary did not just remember things; she pondered over the events and experiences in her life.

In her relationship and experience of Jesus, she indeed had rich and deep memories.

There is the wonder and joy of the first Christmas, the sorrow and grief at Calvary.

And in today's gospel, it was the worry and anxiety of finding Jesus and the astonishment at the answer He gave.

All this Mary remembered and pondered in her heart.

And as she pondered, the mystery of God was slowly revealed to her, the will of God was slowly made known to her.

The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary invites us to have a contemplative heart.

It is only with a contemplative heart that we can recall our past in retrospection and see the hand of God in our personal history.

It is with a contemplative heart that we become more aware of the presence of God in the present, and that will deepen our hope and confidence in God to journey into the future.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, 28-06-14, Year A

Duet 7:6-11 / 1 John 4:7-16 / Matthew 11:25-30

Devotion to the Sacred Heart began in 1676 after St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received an apparition.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is centered on reparation to Christ for man's ingratitude, manifested particularly by an indifference to the Holy Eucharist.

This feast highlights the unrequited love which Jesus gives us in the Eucharist.

But even when man is lukewarm or indifferent to this love, or even reject this love, Jesus still continues to love us.

And He even made 12 promises to us when we have a devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Generally, these are promises of blessings of peace and protection and a growth in love and holiness.

Those promises are very inspiring, yet the fact is that when we take the Eucharist seriously, we are also assured of all these blessings and graces.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart is merely an extension of our response to the love of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Certainly, it is a good practice to have a picture of the Sacred Heart in our homes and to say a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

May our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus lead us to participate more fully and fervently in the Eucharist.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-06-14

2 Kings 24:8-17 / Matthew 7:21-29

We may have heard of this term before - "practicing Catholic". It is a term used to describe Catholics who attend the Sunday Eucharist regularly and receive the Sacraments and observe the other precepts of the faith.

And then there are also "Sunday Catholics", a term that may have the above descriptions but it may imply that only the minimum requirements of the faith are observed.

Whether it is a "practicing Catholic" or a "Sunday Catholic" it seems that the matter of interest is in keeping and observing the minimum requirement of the faith.

Probably the objective is to attain salvation with the minimum effort and maybe with the least inconvenience.

No doubt, attending Masses and saying the Rosary have its benefits, but let us remember that they are means to salvation.

The means become efficacious when it lead us to a deeper understanding of our faith and strengthens our relationship with God.

So if we look at salvation in economic terms, then we will begin to calculate and look at the minimum investments that will result in maximum gains.

But if the Lord Jesus is the Rock of our lives, then He will be the foundation of all that we do and say.

Then it will not be about how much we do in order to be saved, but with how much love for Jesus we do it with.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 25-06-14

2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3 / Matthew 7:15-20     (2018)

Spiritual leaders, whether they are Christian or otherwise, have great authority and power.

They can be called the "modern day prophets". They are usually given great respect, and more so if they exhibit spiritual powers of healing and prophesying, and with eloquent preaching.

Yet, there are also many who claim that they are "prophets" and they too seem to be quite impressive in their words and deeds. So how would we know if one is a true prophet or not?

The oldest known Christian manual called the "Didache" which was written around 100AD, gives the rule of thumb to discern the motives of preachers and prophets.

If they ask for money for themselves, then they are false prophets and preachers with ulterior motives.

It was clear enough for the Church right from the beginning that prophets and profit do not go together.

In fact, the task of true prophets is to bring about righteousness and justice and faithfulness to God.

As we heard in the 1st reading, the king and the priest and the other officials used their authority and power not for personal gain but to call the people to faithfulness to God and to walk in the ways of the Lord.

By virtue of our baptism, we share in the prophetic mission of Christ.

Our task is to faithful to God and to practice justice in our relations with others.

By the fruits of our lives, others will know who we really are.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Leave

Dear Readers,

I'm on leave and am not able to publish any posts these few days. The next homily post will be for the Mass on Tuesday, 24th June 2014.

God bless you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 18-06-14

2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

One of the psychological ailments that we suffer from is anxiety.

And of course, anxiety affects even the spiritual well-being of a person, so much so that even in the liturgy, we ask the Lord to protect us from all anxiety.

But where does this anxiety come from, and what causes anxiety?

Of course there are many secondary causes, but one of the primary causes of anxiety is about what people think of us.

And rightly so, because we are so easily affected by what people think and say about us, and we also desire to meet up to people's expectations and to be able to "deliver the goods".

As we heard in the 1st reading, even the prophet Elisha, when he first exercised the role of prophet which he inherited from Elijah, cried out to the Lord God when nothing happened when he struck the water.

Yes, even the prophet Elisha was rather anxious when he could not perform the mighty deeds that Elijah did.

In the gospel, Jesus spoke out against the hypocrites who were out to win men's admiration. They were not just anxious about it; they seem even to be obsessed by it.

And Jesus tells us that what really counts is what we will do when no one is looking at us.

Anxiety is not good for us. Yet it also prods us to ask ourselves: who are we looking at?

If we are not looking at God and doing what pleases Him, then we will always be anxious about what people will think and say about us.

Monday, June 16, 2014

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-06-14

1 Kings 21:17-29 / Matthew 5:43-48

Science and technology have really helped to discover the potential in things.

For example, fiber-optics have helped tremendously in communication and information-transfer.

Microchips have helped reduce the size of electronics equipment and increased the efficiency of machines.

On the contrary, the discovery of the real potential of persons is somehow lagging behind.

It is not just about the potential skills and talents of the person.

It is about the spiritual potential of the person, especially in the area of love and forgiveness.

Every person has the potential to love those who have done him wrong and to forgive them.

The late Pope John Paul II exhibited this potential when he forgave the man who shot him by visiting him in prison and he even hugged him.

That act should make us reflect about our own potential to love and forgive.

If Jesus said that we must be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect, then we also must pray and ask our heavenly Father to help us discover and release in us the potential to love and forgive.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 14-06-14

1 Kings 21:1-16 / Matthew 5:38-42

It is certainly good to have a focus in life and to be focused on whatever vision or mission we have embarked upon.

It will certainly keep us on track and and we won't get easily distracted from what we are supposed to be doing and from where we are supposed to be going.

So to be focused will certainly bring about results that we can be proud of.

But to be over-focused to the extent of being fixated will certainly cause problems for oneself and as well as for others.

That was what came over king Ahad. He was fixated on Naboth's vineyard and when Naboth refused to sell it to him, he was so affected by it that he was on the brink of depression.

And his scheming wife, Jezebel, manipulated his fixation and using his name, did something vicious and tragic.

So one man's fixation resulted in the tragic death of an innocent man.

And hence when we are fixated over taking revenge and settling scores and grinding axes, when we are fixated over an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, then we may be heading towards tragic consequences.

Rather, we should be focused on what Jesus taught in today's gospel - the spirituality of non-violence.

To be fixated on violence and revenge will only leave us blind and toothless.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Trinity Sunday, Year A, 15.06.2014

Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9/ 2 Cor 13:11-13/ Jn 3:16-18

Today we celebrate the feast of Trinity Sunday. Sounds like a heavy and serious kind of feast.

But not knowing how to start the homily seriously, I can only think of starting with a joke.

But I was warned not to use this joke unless the congregation is matured enough, and also they may not laugh.

But I will take the risk and see how. So here it goes.

Q. Why is the doctrine of the Trinity important?
A. Those who abandon it begin prayer with the words “To Whom it may concern.”

Psalm 2:4 states: “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” (NRSV). So it seems that God has a sense of humor but this is not the unanimous opinion of all theologians.

Well, if someone were to ask us – What or who is the Holy Trinity?   How would we reply?

We will probably have recourse to some textbook answer like – The Holy Trinity is 3 persons, one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

After that we might not know what else to talk about, and we might also not be too sure what we are talking about.

Or we might just start reciting the Creed, an easy way out, but people will still not know what we are talking about.

Well, today’s feast is not about words, or description or definition.

The Holy Trinity is essentially a mystery. But that mystery is revealed – we know that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But that mystery is revealed and yet it is also revealing. In other words, we know something about God, but yet not everything.

Today’s gospel gives us another revelation of the mystery of God. It’s a profound revelation and it is this : 

God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

Now, do we know what that means essentially?

But before we start to give serious answers, let me share with you another joke.

After being married for 25 years and intending to make their silver anniversary a memorable one, the wife asked her husband to describe her, after being married for 25 years.

He looked at her slowly, and said – You’re A,B, C,D, E,F,G,H, … and I,J,K.

The wife was puzzled and so she asked – Now what does that mean?

So he said – Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Foxy, Gorgeous, Hot.

The wife smiled and beamed and said – Oh you are such a sweet darling. What about I,J,K?

He said – I’m Just Kidding!

Hope that the wife won’t ask for any more descriptions when it comes to their golden anniversary.

Well, the man was only one letter away from telling his wife what she meant to him.

From A to K, he just have to move on to L, and L would stand for “love”.

And that’s what the feast of the Holy Trinity is telling us.

That God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.

To have eternal life means to live in the Spirit of God’s love, which is the love of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father.

And what does that mean practically? The 2nd reading would put it as this – help one another, be united, live in peace.

Today is also Father’s Day, and we thank God for our fathers and the love they give to us.

Myself being a spiritual father to this spiritual family, I can say that I understand what a father feels for his family.

Fathers want to protect and provide for their family.

They may not show that kind of tender love which is associated with mothers, but fathers give that assuring presence of love.

As I was reflecting on the presence of the father in the family, a childhood memory came to mind.

There was a time when my father had to work the night shift, and at that time I was in my early primary school age.

So after dinner, my father would rest for a while, and then leave for work around 9pm.

I remembered that every time he left the door of the house, I had this sad feeling that I would really miss my papa, and I didn’t want him to go.

But yet, all I could say was “bye bye”.

I guess that to our fathers, we are not so emotionally expressive.

But I can certainly say that the presence of the father in the home brings about a sense of love and security.

So fathers may not be Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Foxy, Gorgeous, Hot. 

But for them, we can say it’s I,J,K, and it’s not I’m Just Kidding.

But I,J,K as in I Just Know. Know what? I Just Know that my father loves me.

Yes, we just know that our fathers love us.

We call God our Father. We also know that God our Father loves us.

We also know that God will empower all fathers to be living reflections of His love for us.

With all the fathers present here, we give thanks to God.

And with all the fathers present here, we also want to proclaim that God is Trinity, and that God loves us eternally.

Friday, June 13, 2014

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-06-14

1 Kings 19:19-21 / Matthew 5:33-37

Some Christians have taken Matthew 5:33-37 to mean that we must not, under any circumstances, utter an oath or vow.

So they refuse to take an oath in a court of law, or in any other situation that requires them to speak the truth.

This would be absurd in a in a marriage ceremony, or in a religious vow.

The point that Jesus is teaching in today's gospel passage is that if we tell the truth at all times, then there is no need to swear upon anything or even to swear upon the name of the Lord.

When we speak the truth and when we stand on the side of truth, then our "Yes" will mean yes, and our "No" will mean no.

Yet at the same time, we also would have realized that very often we try to qualify our "Yes" and "No" with other conditions like "if" or "but" or "maybe".

At times, we even do not want to make a confirmation of our response as to whether it is a "Yes" or "No".

So we will be able to identify ourselves with Elisha in the 1st reading. Elisha had wanted to follow Elijah but his "Yes" was not a firm yes. But he made a decision for that moment to firm up his "Yes".

So may our "Yes" be a firm yes, and our "No" be a firm no. Then there will be no need to make an oath or to let the evil one twist our words into falsehood.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-06-14

1 Kings 19:9, 11-16 / Matthew 5:27-32

Natural calamities or natural disasters happen everyday, and they in a particular sense they are termed as "acts of God".

An act of God is a legal term for events outside human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible.

So there are other natural disasters like storms, earthquakes and volcano eruptions which come under such a category.

In the face of such natural disasters, as much as they are termed "acts of God", more often than not, God seems totally absent when that is the time when we need Him to be present to save us from the devastation of such calamities.

In the 1st reading, as the prophet Elijah faced the mighty wind that tore the mountains and the earthquake and the fire, he did not perceive the presence of God in all these.

That seemed to be story of his life at that moment. He was zealous for the Lord but now he was running away from his enemies and the persecutions had driven him into hiding.

But when he heard the sound of the gentle breeze, he immediately knew it was the Lord, and he got instructions to go back to where he was running away from. And he was going back with a new mission.

We too have faced our natural disasters. We too have faced personal tragedies, illnesses and death of our loved ones. We might have blamed God for doing this to us. In our minds, it is an act of God.

But when the storm has blown over, when the fires have burnt out, and as we pick up the pieces, let us listen for that sound of the gentle breeze.

And just as Elijah went back with a renewed courage, we too will have the renewed faith to look at our situation.

From seeing tragedies as an act of God, may we receive strength to act with God to bring about hope in seemingly hopeless situations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

10th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-06-14

1 Kings 18:41-46 / Matthew 5:20-26

One of the most challenging aspects of being human is in our relationships with other people.

Because in these relationships, there is always the need for understanding, for communicating, for loving and for caring.

These become rather difficult when relationships are strained.

In a strained relationship, we may want to avoid further misunderstanding and hurt by keeping a "safe distance" from the other.

But by maintaining a "safe distance", we only end up in an uncomfortable silence or even a "cold war".

Hence, in the gospel, Jesus issued this challenging teaching: If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, go and be reconciled with him first.

In other words, the act of reconciliation must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged. Sounds strange isn't it?

But keeping a safe distance and by maintaining silence is simply avoiding the issue.

Neither is waiting for the party who has done wrong to come to us and apologize be a fruitful option. It might be a futile wait.

But as we come before the altar of the Lord to offer ourselves in union with Jesus, let us ask the Lord for the gift of wisdom and understanding, even before we embark on the task of reconciliation with those we are avoiding.

Let us ask the Lord to pour forth His love to heal our hurt and anger and resentment.

We need to be healed by the Lord before we can go forth and be reconciled with others.

St. Barnabas, Wednesday, 11-06-14

Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3 / Matthew 10:7-13

St. Barnabas was not one of the twelve Apostles who were chosen by Jesus.

Yet in Acts 14:14, he, together with St. Paul were called apostles, as they were sent by the Church for a mission and to preach or deliver a message.

Yet to be called an apostle was indeed a great privilege for St. Barnabas, considering the fact that he was one of the first converts to Christianity.

And indeed, he lived up to his calling as an apostle. He and St. Paul undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against a faction which insisted on circumcision.

We also heard from the 1st reading that they also gained converts in Antioch, and it was there that the  disciples were first called "Christians".

He also participated in the Council of Jerusalem, the first Council, which addressed the status of the Gentile converts and formulated the required religious practices for them.

So St. Barnabas was a great figure of evangelization in the early Church.

Yet the 1st reading described these simple but important qualities in him - for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.

For us who are called by God to be His people, let us recognize the goodness that God has created in us.

Let us also ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith so that like St. Barnabas, we too will be instruments for the great work that God wants us to do.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

10th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-06-14

1 Kings 17:7-16 / Matthew 5:13-16

Stories of faith and generosity always make a deep impression on us.

The story of the widow's faith and her generosity towards Elijah in the 1st reading, will not only impress us, but it also impressed Jesus.

He referred to it when he was preaching in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4 : 25-26)

That widow shared with Elijah what she had every right to keep for herself and her son.

She shared what stood between her and starvation to death.

Her faith and generosity was the essence of what Jesus was talking about in the gospel.

Our generosity is like the light that shines out from us.

Our faith is like the salt in the food which could not be seen but could be tasted.

Our generosity shows our faith, and our faith nourishes our generosity.

Salt and light are essential elements in our daily lives.

Similarly, our faith and generosity are essentially what we should live in our lives.

That is also what others are essentially looking for in us.

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 09-06-14

1 Kings 17:1-6 / Matthew 5:12

Yesterday, the season of Easter came to a close with the feast of Pentecost, the feast of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church so that the Church will be empowered to go forth to evangelize and to proclaim the marvellous works of God.

With that, the mood seems to have dropped as we begin today what is called the season of Ordinary Time.

The word "ordinary" seems to imply that there is nothing special, and that things are back to to the mundane and monotonous and routine.

But the 1st reading is certainly not about something that ordinary. The prophet Elijah declared to king Ahab that, in the name of the Lord God, he was calling upon a drought to descend upon the land in order to bring the king and the people to their senses.

And as the land was plunged into drought and famine, the Lord God took care of His prophet by sending ravens to bring him food and providing a place where he could have drink.

The season of Ordinary Time certainly had a dramatic beginning with the 1st reading.

If the 1st reading is dramatic, then the gospel is quite specific in the way we should live out our lives in these days of ordinary time.

To be poor in spirit, to be gentle, to mourn, to hunger and thirst for what is right, to be merciful, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers, and to be courageous for the cause of right is the direction for our spiritual lives.

Jesus assures us that it will bring about blessings for us so that we can sanctify our lives so as to sanctify the world we live in.

It may sound rather extra-ordinary to live out the teachings of the Beatitudes, but as far as being disciples of Jesus is concerned, this is actually what we must do in the ordinary time of our lives.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost Sunday, 08.06.2014

Acts 2:1-11/ 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13/ Jn 20:19-23

Just a couple of days ago, there was an amazing as well as alarming discovery at a place that is quite near here.

A group of workers were resting against a tree near the Outram Park MRT Station.

They were also admiring its heart-shape stump. Then something else caught their attention.

Nestled in a crevice between two of the branches of the tree was a rather strange-looking object.

It was strange enough for the workers to alert the police, and that strange-looking object was later identified as a WWII hand grenade.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from the army was  immediately activated and sent to the scene.

The team managed to remove the WWII relic from the tree and safely dispose of it several hours later.

Who would have thought that the interesting and amazing sight of a heart-shaped stump on a tree would lead to an alarming discovery of a WWII hand grenade?

So, for almost 70 years, the grenade was there between the branches while time just went by.

People would have walked past that tree and children might have played near that tree or even climbed its branches but it remained undiscovered until now.

And even through such a long time had passed, it was uncertain whether that grenade would explode or not and hence the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called in.
It is rather strange to think that a tree with a heart-shape stump would have a hand grenade between its branches.

This alarming discovery may give us some spiritual reflections about ourselves.

Our hearts are made pure and beautiful in order to hold the love of God.

Yet, lodged in the cracks and the dark corners of our hearts are our sins.

And while that WWII hand grenade had remained unexploded, our sins have caused explosions within ourselves, and the shrapnel of our sins have also caused hurt and harm others.

The disciples of Jesus would have known this well enough. When the sins in their hearts exploded, they betrayed and denied and deserted Jesus.

Their hearts were shattered and they gathered behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Yes, fear has gripped and overwhelmed them.

And where fear is overwhelming, there is no peace of heart at all.

Hence, when the Risen Christ appeared to His fearful disciples in that room, His first words were: Peace be with you.

He came not to judge or condemn them. He came to bring them peace and heal them of the wounds caused by the explosion of their sins.

His healing peace brought about joy in their hearts and they were ready to receive the Holy Spirit when He breathed upon them the Spirit of forgiveness and healing.

Today, as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the peace that Jesus wants to give us.

It is a peace that brings about forgiveness and healing.

It is a peace that makes us realize that the Spirit is given to each of us in a particular way for a good purpose, as we heard in the 2nd reading.

Yes, the Spirit is sent into our hearts to diffuse and clear away the sinful explosives that are hidden in the cracks and corners of our hearts.

The Spirit is the powerful love of God that will turn our fear into fortitude.

It is with the Spirit that our worldly words will be turned into heavenly prayers.

It is with the Spirit that our darkness will be turned into light, and our falsehood into truth.

It is with the Spirit that we will bring order out of chaos and love out of hatred.

It is with the Spirit that we will be sent forth to clear out the sinful explosives in the hearts of others.

And just as Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into His disciples, we too must breathe in the Holy Spirit.

And with the breath of the Holy Spirit, let us speak words of peace that will bring about healing and forgiveness.

Our hearts are made for peace but there is always the presence of sinful explosives that can shatter our hearts and plunge us into the darkness of fear.

May the Holy Spirit guard and protect us as we proclaim and bear witness to the Good News of peace and forgiveness.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 07-06-14

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

If we were in a supermarket just to buy something, we might be tempted to browse around and see what else we can get.

We might end up getting quite a lot of stuff but forgetting to get what we actually wanted.

In that sense, a shopping list is important to help us stay focused in getting what we actually needed, and also to prevent us from going on a shopping spree.

In the gospel, Jesus had just commissioned Peter to take care of the early Church.

But just as quickly, Peter got distracted and was curious about the other disciple whom Jesus loved.

In a very firm and pointed manner, Jesus addressed the issue: What does it matter to you; you are to follow me.

In other words, Jesus was saying to Peter: Mind your own business, stay focused and follow me.

Even in the 1st reading, St. Paul did not lament about being in chains despite his innocence, but he took the opportunity to proclaim the Kingdom of God despite wearing those chains. He stayed focused on Jesus.

So Peter's distraction and Paul's predicament have taught us to focus our minds and hearts on Jesus and to follow him.

Nothing else really matters.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 06-06-14

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

During these days of the Easter season, we have heard quite a lot about St. Paul, about the zeal that he had and how anxious he was about the early church that they stayed faithful to Jesus.

In the 1st reading, we learnt about St. Paul's conviction in just one short sentence from the governor Festus.

Festus referred to Jesus as someone whom St. Paul alleged to be alive.

It was not just St. Paul's conviction, but also his most profound experience of the Risen Christ, even though he had not seen the Risen Christ with his own eyes.

But that experience earned him the title of apostle.

That experience also led him to make statements like "Nothing matters to me but Christ alone" and "It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me".

That was also what Jesus wanted to know from St. Peter, when He asked him: Do you love me more than these others do?

Even from His own hand-picked apostles, Jesus wanted to know how committed were they in their love for Him.

And from us, Jesus also wants to know our convictions and our commitment in our love for Him.

So, either Jesus is our all in all in our love, or He is not at all in our lives.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 05-06-14

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

To a great extent, the Catholic Church shows a unity in many aspects.

We have an hierarchy with the Pope as the head of the Church.

We have a defined body of teachings.

We have a common form of worship, even though the language might be different from place to place.

So in many ways, these aspects reinforce our unity as Church.

But the unity that Jesus prayed for is not just about external uniformity.

Jesus prayed for the unity between persons and between peoples.

He used Himself and the Father as a model of that unity.

It is a unity of heart and mind; it is a communion of love.

But the human tendency is to be divided rather than to be united; to be separated than to be connected.

Jesus prayed for unity. His prayer will be fulfilled by the Spirit which binds hearts and minds in a communion of love.

And when things get messed up and even heated up as we heard in the 1st reading, then let us remember these words of wisdom (which is often attributed to St. Augustine)

In the essentials, let there be unity.In the non-essentials, let there be liberty.In all things, let there be charity.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 04-06-14

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

It is said that if you truly love someone, then the test of that love is the ability to free that person by letting go of that person.

In other words, when we really love someone, we would not think of being possessive of that person.

On the contrary, we would let that person have the freedom to choose to love us or not.

Jesus loved His disciples and He showed them the full extent of His love at the Last Supper by giving Himself to them.

Yet, when the time came for Him to depart from them, He didn't hang on to them, but rather He entrusted them to the Father.

Similarly for St. Paul, he knew that he was leaving the church in Ephesus for good and he had to let go of them despite loving them so much.

He commended them to God to build them up with His grace.

These two instances showed us the example of a non-possessive love.

Some of the problems in our relationships stem from a possessive love, if we can call that love at all .

When we are possessive of others in our relationships, it may show that we have yet to understand the depth of God's love for us.

May the coming feast of Pentecost be an outpouring of God's love into our hearts so that we can truly love others as God has loved us.

Monday, June 2, 2014

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 03-06-14

Acts 20:17-27 / John 17:1-11

Each of us has lived a good number of years, anything from 18 to 80 and even more.

As we reflect on our lives, can we honestly say that our lives were worth living? Have those been good years?

Or if given a choice, would we want to start all over again?

If St. Paul were to answer those questions about life, he would just simply say that life is not a thing to waste words on, as we heard in the 1st reading.

What mattered to him was whether his life bore witness to the Good News of God's grace, the Good News of God's love.

Putting it in another way, do we live like children of God our Father, living not just in the temporary, but also looking forward to our eternity?

No doubt, we often get distracted by the narrowness of life, and we lose our focus on our eternal life with God.

But may we never forget that the time spent on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life that is awaiting us.

Still let us spend the time on earth doing whatever good we can and bear witness to the Good News of God's grace. May the years we spend on earth be good and grace-filled.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 02-06-14

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

It can be quite frustrating and discouraging when we think that we have finished or completed a task and can take a break and to relax, and then we are told that more is to come.

So just when we thought that we have finished, then we are told that we have only just begun.

Of course we will be frustrated and discouraged, and we don't really like this idea of unfinished business.

Similarly the disciples in the gospel passage thought that they had finally got it and their understanding of Jesus had finally consolidated.

But instead of getting an affirmation from Jesus, they got a surprising challenge.

Not only is there more to come, but it was going to get more difficult and more trying.

So just when they thought they got it and grasped it, it just flowed out of their hands like water.

So it was for the disciples, and so it is for us. Our faith is in the mystery of God that is revealed in the mystery of life.

Sometimes we get it, and often we don't. At times we understand, and many a times we don't.

Whatever it is, when we think that we have got it and understand it, then there will be more to come.

But that is what makes faith challenging and exciting.