Friday, October 31, 2014

All Saints Day 2014

Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 / 1 Jn 3:1-3 / Mt 5:1-12

Today's feast of All Saints proclaims a very profound teaching on the spiritual authority of the Church.

With the authority bestowed on her by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes the bold declaration of the names of those who have attained the reward of heaven.

There are over 10,000 canonized saints and just recently, we also witnessed the canonization of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.

When the Church officially canonizes a person to be a saint, the Church also declared that the person is in heaven and in the presence of God.

This feast is also for us a feast of awareness and closeness - an awareness of the spiritual world, and the closeness, the communion, of those saints with us.

As people of God and people of faith, we believe that the saints are canonized not for their own honour but for the glory of God.

And to some of these saints are given a particular mission. For example, on Tuesday, we celebrated the feast of St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of desperate and helpless cases.

And then for lost articles, we turn to that famous saint, St. Anthony of Padua.

And as for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who is our patron saint, she is also the patron saint of the missions and also of florists.

The awareness of the saints and their particular missions will also lead us to be in communion with them.

Because their main heavenly mission is to help us on our earth journey to live the life of holiness and to do the will of God and to grow into a deep love for God and neighbour.

The Beatitudes that we heard in the gospel is the expression of the lives that the saints lived while on earth, and it is also the life that we are called to live.

And as much as the saints want to pray for us, we must ask them for their intercession.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus said in her autobiography that she will let fall from heaven a shower of roses, and that she will spend her heaven doing good on earth.

Yet, she can't do that without our asking her. And neither can any of the saints or even all the saints in heaven do anything for us without our asking.

It is only when we ask them for their intercession, then they can bring our prayers before God.

Yes, we have the power to call upon their intercession, for they cannot do anything for us without our asking.

So let us have a deep devotion to the saints and to ask for their intercession as we journey on in faith to join them in heaven.

The mission of the saints in heaven is best expressed by what St. Therese said: I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.

Indeed, they are in the best "position" to do so. That is the spiritual reality as we celebrate All Saints Day.

And so, for the saints and with the saints, let us give thanks to God, and may the saints help us live holy lives.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 31-10-14

Philippians 1:1-11 / Luke 14:1-6

A telescope, as we know, gives an enlarged view of a distant object.

But that depends on which end of the telescope we are looking through.

Because looking through the wrong end would greatly reduce the size of the object.

Hence, the two different ends of the telescope give two completely opposite views of reality.

In the gospel, the Pharisees seemed to have looked through the wrong end of the telescope and they only saw a narrow, restrictive picture of reality.

They were like saying: To heal is to work, and to work is to violate the Sabbath. See for yourself, look through our telescope!

But when Jesus offers them a view from the other end of the same telescope, they were reluctant to see it; they were silent, because for them there was only one way of looking through the telescope, there was only one way of looking at things and it was their way.

So we can imagine how frustrated and annoyed Jesus was with the Pharisees, to say the least.

Surely Jesus was anguished to see their obstinacy.

Our obstinacy will also cause frustration and anguish and even sorrow in others.

All because we stubbornly refuse to look at things from another point of view.

We only have to let go and ask God to help us see wider and clearer; then we will become wiser.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30-10-14

Ephesians 6:10-20 / Luke 13:31-35

To fall in love is a beautiful experience. To fall out of love is a lousy experience.

To be in love, however, requires more than just an experience ; it requires a decision.

Because true love and unconditional love require a decision to be in love and to keep loving regardless of the situations and circumstances.

Indeed, to be in love requires a decision, which has to be renewed day by day, and hour by hour, and minute by minute.

But if falling out of love is a lousy experience, then unrequited love is indeed a very painful experience.

In fact, the bitterest tragedy in human life is to give your heart totally to the other party only to have it refused and broken.

That was the experience of Jesus as He laments over Jerusalem. For Jesus, it is not just unrequited love, but also they were going to kill Him if He were to continue with His journey of love.

So Jesus could have given up loving us because of the danger and the rejection. Why did He continue His journey of love all the way to the cross?

It is because God loves us unconditionally and Jesus is the love of God who came to give up His life as a ransom for us.

So nothing can come between us and the love of Christ and nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ.

So what kind of response we are going to give to God's love for us depends on us now.

Whatever it is, we have to make a decision to respond to God's love or reject it outright.

We have to exercise our human freedom of choice. Human freedom is awesome. Yet it is also supremely wonderful when we freely decide to love God and love others.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 29-10-14

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

In a written exam, usually there is the question and the answers are marked according to how well the question is answered.

If we think that is difficult, then how about the other way round - the answer is stated, and we have to provide an appropriate question for it.

That may be more difficult, because very often finding the right question is more difficult than finding the right answer.

In the gospel, we heard about someone asking Jesus this question: Will there be only a few saved?

And from the answer Jesus gave, we know that the question needs some rethinking.

Jesus only said what kind of people will be there in the kingdom of God.

It is those who dedicate themselves to the Kingdom of God who will be in heaven.

The 1st reading also stated a particular group of people who will be saved.

They are children who are obedient and honour their parents.

It even highlighted that it is a commandment that has a promise attached to it.

So the answers to salvation and eternal life can be found in the Bible.

It is for us now to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to do with the answers that we have.

Because the answer is as important as the question.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, Tuesday, 28-10-14

Ephesians 2:19-22 / Luke 6:12-19

Not much is known about the two saints whose feast we celebrate today.

Simon was called the Zealot probably because of his zeal for the Jewish independence before he was called by Jesus.

Jude or Thaddeus is the author of the letter in the New Testament in which he warned Christian converts against false teaching and immorality.

He is also venerated as the patron of "impossible cases"

Traditional sources had it that both of them were together in their missionary work in Persia and there they were martyred.

Both of them also tell us something about the people Jesus chose to be His disciples.

Both of them, as well as the rest of the apostles, were insignificant people from insignificant backgrounds.

But both of them had  a purpose in God's plan of salvation.

Both of them became zealous for Christ and for the Kingdom and they also became channels of God's grace for those who were seeking God's love and forgiveness, or when they seek God's help when their problems in life seemed hopeless or impossible even.

We may think that we are insignificant persons and hence we think we have no purpose in God's plan of salvation.

But let us ask for the prayers of St. Simon and St. Jude that we will discover our purpose in life and also our purpose in God's plan of salvation.

We may be insignificant but it does not mean that we are impossible. Because with God, everything and everyone is possible.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-10-14

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

If we had seen someone when he was a little baby and then the next time we saw him was when he was 18 years old, we would be amazed at his growth and development.

We will be amazed at how much can happen during the period of 18 years.

We may even say that 18 years just passed by just like that and that baby has become a fine young man.

But for the enfeebled and double bent woman in the gospel, 18 years did not pass by just like that.

And things did not get better along the years; in fact it may have gotten worse and worse with each passing year.

It may not be the story of just that woman in the gospel.

We too may have been bent with pain - physical, emotional, spiritual. We feel burdened and hence we too are unable to stand firm and upright.

Jesus came to lift us up from the pains and burdens of life so that we can raise our minds and hearts in thanksgiving to God.

Physically, we may stand upright, but emotionally and spiritually, we may be double bent and the only thing that we can see is the dirt and the sludge on the ground.

Let us ask Jesus to heal us and lift us up. He will do for us what He did for the woman in the gospel because He is our Healer and Saviour.

We don't have to wait another 18 years. We don't want to suffer that long. Nor does Jesus want to see us suffer for that long either.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 26-10-2014

Exodus 22:20-26 / 1 Thess 1:5-10 / Matthew 22:34-40

There was a piece of news during this week that may not have caught our attention, but it may be of concern to our children.

It's about the schools. A total of 52 schools will get new principals next year.

A new principal would probably mean that the school will embark on a new vision, a new mission and maybe a new direction.

But whatever new things that may happen in a school that has a new principal, the fundamentals won't be changed that much.

Because the fundamental purpose of a school is to provide education for its students.

And the task of the principal is to ensure that the teachers will teach the students well.

It is said that the best teachers are those who show the students where to look, but won't tell them what to see.

In other words, a good teacher will let the students discover what they need to learn.

But there are times when what the student discovers and learns may need some realignment.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about the 10 Commandments in preparation for their First Confession (8 year-olds)

After explaining the Commandment to "honour thy father and mother" she asked the class, " Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"

Immediately one boy puts up his hand and answered, "Thou shall not kill."   : 0

If we had grown up with siblings, we probably would have agreed with that boy.

And we may have to admit that some people are such a pain for us that we would have done something drastic if not for that commandment.

In the gospel, we heard that the Pharisees asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment of the Law.

The Pharisees were such a pain for Jesus. As if they don't know what is the greatest commandment of the Law.

But they asked that question not so much for discussion but rather to disconcert Jesus.

To disconcert is to upset or to frustrate or to ruffle or irritate someone. It's certainly not a nice thing to do to someone.

And Jesus could have given those Pharisees a piece of His mind just to shut them up, just as He had silenced the Sadducees earlier.

But being a good teacher, Jesus showed them where to look , and He left it to them to see whatever they want to see or whatever they have to see.

The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

And then it is followed by this: You must love your neighbour as yourself.

So to love God is to see God in your neighbour and that would also mean to see yourself in your neighbour.

Jesus told the Pharisees where to look, but what they want to see is for them to choose and decide.

So we are also told where to look. And what do we see?

As for Jesus, He saw that it would be more loving to give those Pharisees  a bit of His heart than to give them a piece of His mind.

We too would be happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

But when we look at the people around us, those at home, those at work, those in Church, it would be easier to give them a piece of our mind than a bit of our heart.

And here lies the lesson of life - Nothing and no one ever goes away until they teach us what we need to know.

God doesn't give us the people we want. He gives us the people we need - people who will hurt us, people who will leave us, but also people who will help us and people who will love us, so as to make us into the persons we were meant to be.

When we can see that, then we would have understood the lesson of life.

And with that, we will be able to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-10-14

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

As we look at our world, we may notice a certain disparity.

There are the first world countries, i.e. the developed countries, and then there are the developing countries, and then there are the third world countries.

Some people have come up with this weird thinking that God had blessed the first world countries and left out the underdeveloped countries.

Maybe that idea is implicitly connected to the age-old thinking that misfortune has a certain connection with sin.

It is because of this sin that a person or a nation forfeits God's blessings.

In today's gospel passage, Jesus out-rightly rejects this sort of thinking.

Yet, Jesus went on to say that if His listeners do not repent, then they too will perish.

In other words, a person or a nation that rebels against God is on the road to disaster.

Hence, we have to always look back at the spiritual values of faith and morality.

For us Catholics, the urgency is even greater.

As the 1st reading puts it, each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.

We should not be tossed one way or another and carried along by every wind of false teaching or deceit.

Rather we should live by the truth and in love so that we shall grow in all ways into Christ.

When we grow in all ways into Christ, then our lives would not be fragmented nor will there be any disparity in our lives.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 24-10-14

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

Drawing parallel lines may not be that difficult when it is drawn on a small piece of paper.

But drawing parallel lines may become more difficult when it is drawn on a large area, e.g. in a room or in a field.

The distance between the two lines has to be consistent, otherwise at one end they will begin to intersect and at the other end they will be further and further apart.

This principle about parallel lines may be simple enough to understand and it is clear enough for us to see if lines are parallel or not.

But when it comes to making decisions in our lives and doing the will of God, it may not be that clear to us and we will certainly need some help with this.

And we already have the help. There is the Bible in which the ways of God are revealed to us. There is the Church teachings that helps us understand the context we are in. There are the stories of the lives of saints that will help us see a similar pattern in the way they answered God's call.

The 1st reading also gives us some foundations of the Christian life: bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience.

So we already have all the resources to help us live a life worthy of our Christian calling.

Let us use these resources to interpret the signs that God is giving us and to make the right judgement and decisions.

Then our lives will run parallel with the will of God and may we be able to help others do the will of God.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-10-14

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

The difference between school and life is that school teaches you lessons and then gives you a test; life would give you a test and then you learn the lessons.

While in school, life seems so simplistic and idealistic and we are quite optimistic in our outlook on life.

But the reality sinks in when we face the hard knocks and hard landings in life and we become realistic and stoic and maybe even get rather pessimistic about life.

In the gospel, Jesus was as realistic as He could be when He said to His disciples: I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already.

And He even added on by saying: There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over.

If what Jesus said is not alarming, then at least it should be puzzling, because isn't He the Prince of Peace who came to bring people together and to be reconciled with God?

The truth of what Jesus is saying is that life is not as simple and ideal and perfect as we would like to imagine it to be.

His fire of truth burns away our false perceptions of life and of the world and puts us to the reality test.

But it is with faith that we will learn the lessons of life. And it is also with faith that, as the 1st reading puts it, we will be able to grasp the length and breadth, the height and the depth of the meaning of life.

Faith will help us understand what school has taught us and what life has shown us. But it is with the love of Jesus that we will know what all that means to us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 22-10-14

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

It is said that the best way to avoid disappointment is not to expect anything from anyone.

That may be practical enough if we want to live our lives not bothering about anyone and also not wanting anyone to bother us.

But the fact of life is that we live with others. And in living with others, then they will bother us and at the same time we will also bother them, whether we like it or not.

And that would also mean that they would expect something from us and we will also expect something from them.

In the gospel Jesus said that we must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect.

So Jesus is expecting us to be ready at all times, and yet we cannot expect Him to tell us when He is coming. And to make it even more unnerving, He tells us that He will come at an hour we do not expect (Sigh!)

But if we understood what the 1st reading tells us then we would not be afraid or feel stressed about when Jesus will come.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells us that we have been given the Holy Spirit for our inheritance, and that it is according to God's plan from all eternity that we should be bold enough to approach God in complete confidence through our faith in Jesus.

So it means that God is expecting us to come to Him at any time we want. He will always be ready for us and He will not disappoint us especially when we turn to Him in our need.

So there is no need to wait for the Lord. He is waiting for us. So let us communicate with the Lord always. He is waiting for us, and He is expecting us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-10-14

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

There are many wise sayings concerning the virtue of patience, and here is yet another one.

Patience is not about how long someone can wait. It's about how well they behave while they wait.

An example would be when a loved one is away for a long period of time. While waiting for the return of the loved one, there will be many options available.

While waiting, there can be an involvement in another relationship (otherwise called two-timing). Or flirting. Or cheating even.

Or simply just lovingly keep on waiting until the loved one returns. That would be what true love is.

And that is also Jesus is saying in today's gospel. Those who wait for their master's return can only do it faithfully when they wait lovingly.

And their reward will be beyond their expectation - their master will even serve them upon his return.

If Jesus rewards so abundantly those who are faithful to him, then how do we ourselves treat those who have been faithful to us?

Do we at least make it known to them that their faithfulness to us is a treasure to us and that we can only hope to be equally faithful to them when the time calls for it?

Let us give thanks to the Lord for His faithfulness to us and for those who have been with us through thick and thin. They are indeed "God-sent".

Sunday, October 19, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-10-14

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

It can be said that life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, without realizing that everyone has a different question paper.

Who among us can say that we never desired to be richer, higher and have more.

We get these desires not out of nowhere, but from looking at others and then wanting to get what they have and even be who they are.

In the gospel, Jesus has a teaching for us that will help us in looking at life when He says: Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man's wealth is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs.

Then He tells a parable about a rich man who had a bountiful harvest and made plans for securing his future with his wealth.

And he was called a "fool" because he thought that his wealth was the security for his soul, without realizing that his wealth may belong to him but his soul belongs to God.

We can say that the rich man failed in the exam of life because he was foolish enough to think that his wealth can save him.

But as the 1st reading will remind us, that is by the grace of Jesus Christ that we have been saved through faith. Not by anything of our own, but by a gift from God. Not by anything that we have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.

Let us not be so foolish as to fail in the exam of life. We must realize that there is no greater wealth in this world than peace of mind and that God loves us with so much love and He is so generous with His mercy that He has already given us a place in heaven.

We only need to be grateful and thankful to pass the exam of life.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mission Sunday, 18-10-2014

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Ephesians 3:2-12 / Mark 16:15-20

The job market in Singapore is a tight and dense market, but there are still jobs available.

But the job market has also changed over the years.

In the past, getting a job in Singapore would mean we would be working locally and we won't expect to be going anywhere out of the country.

Even going for business trips would mean that it is for a few days or a couple of weeks and then we will return to home sweet home.

We know of expatriate professionals (expats for short)  working here and sometimes we would even envy them for all the perks that they get, but we would not think much about working overseas for an extended period of time.

But now, things have changed. The job market has changed.

Singaporeans are being stationed overseas and working there for extended periods of time on contract basis.

It has even become such that if you decline an overseas posting, then your career might come to a standstill

In fact, an offer for an overseas posting may be considered as a promotion and an advancement in the career.

(But for diocesan priests like myself, an overseas posting is very unlikely because diocesan priests are ordained for the local Church).

Nonetheless, an overseas posting is both exciting and challenging.

We will probably get the perks and the frills of an expat, and maybe even get much more than when we are working in our own country.

At the same time, it can be challenging in having to adapt to the new environment and meeting up to the expectations of the new posting.

And it can be quite stressful and even distressful to be away from the comfort and security of home and country.

In the gospel, we heard that as Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven after His Resurrection, He also said to them: Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.

In no mistakable terms, Jesus was giving His disciples an overseas posting, and they cannot decline it, they can't reject it and it is also non-negotiable.

Today, as the Church celebrates Mission Sunday, we are reminded that like the disciples, we are called and chosen and sent.

But it does not necessarily mean that we have to go overseas. Essentially it means that we are sent to people.

Because Roman 10:13-15 has this to say: For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But they will not ask His help unless they believe in Him, and they will not believe in Him unless they have heard of Him, and they will not hear of Him unless they get a proclaimer, and they will never have a proclaimer unless one is sent.

Yes, we are sent to people to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

But we must also remember that people don't care about what we know until and unless they know that we care about them.

The prerequisite for the proclamation of the Good News is that we care for the people that we are sent to.

Last Tuesday at the Singapore Sports Hub, there was a friendly international match between Brazil and Japan. The match ended with Brazil winning 4-0.

But what was interesting was what happened after the match. After the match, the Japanese fans, though disappointed with their team's defeat, did something amazing.

They immediately took out light blue plastic bags and collected all the trash in the section of the stadium where they were gathered.

And it wasn't the first time they were doing it. In the World Cup in June, they also did the similar thing.

Those Japanese fans showed that even though they were in a foreign country, they cared about the environment and respected the people of the country.

And in the disappointment of defeat, those Japanese fans displayed true sportsmanship.

In the sport that is often marred with hooliganism, what the Japanese fans did was very edifying. Maybe it's the Japanese culture, maybe it's their way of life, maybe it's their upbringing. Whatever it may be, we can learn something from them.

Mission Sunday reminds us that Jesus sends us out to people, and the first thing that we need to do in order to witness to the Good News is to respect the people and to care about what they care about, even if it means picking up the trash.

We are sent to our family members at home, to our colleagues at our workplace, to the people that we meet along the way, even to the people in Church.

When these people know that we care about them and respect them, then it is the sign that the Good News is proclaimed.

So people are waiting for the sign. The Lord Jesus wants to give them the sign. May we be that sign that the Lord will work for them, so that the Good News will be proclaimed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

St. Luke, Evangelist, Saturday, 18-10-14

2 Tim 4:10-17 / Luke 10:1-9

To serve God by proclaiming the Good News is never an easy task.

From the 1st reading, we get to see that St. Paul had to struggle and endure a difficult time.

His band of co-workers had split up and some had even gone against him.

His only consolation was that St. Luke was with him, and he made it a point to say it.

From the few occasions that St. Paul mentioned him as his beloved physician, and from what St. Luke wrote in the Gospel and in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we get to see what the person of St. Luke was like.

He was a committed friend of St. Paul, and he paid special attention to those that were forgotten or pushed aside by society.

He wrote about Jesus reaching out to the poor, the lowly, the outcasts, the sinners and women.

What he knew about Jesus, he wrote it in his gospel, and he certainly carried out in his life.

His commitment to St. Paul in his time of need bore witness to that.

As we read the gospel according to St. Luke and meditate on it, a challenge is also awaiting us.

We too have to write another account of Jesus.

It is going to be an account that is not written in words but in actions for all to see.

From that gospel of our lives, others will be able to see who Jesus is.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-10-14

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

If two is company and three is a crowd, then we may wonder what is a thousand. Or even thousands.

For those of us who don't like crowds (who likes crowds anyway?) a thousand or thousands would be too overwhelming.

We would feel like a drop in an ocean and being swirled about and pushed all over and being trampled upon.

In the gospel, we heard that the people were gathered in their thousands and they were treading on one another.

Obviously the stronger ones were overwhelming the weaker ones and they were being pushed far behind with no chance of seeing Jesus or hearing Him.

And here Jesus gives a teaching as He says: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.

Because no one is forgotten in God's sight, especially the weaker ones. The truth is that God cares especially for the least, the last, the lost and the lowly.

As the 1st reading puts it: we have heard the message of truth and the good news of our salvation and have believed it.

We don't have to scheme and push and shove others out of our way or even trample upon them in order to get what we want or to prove our worth.

We are worth more than hundreds of sparrows. Jesus even sacrificed His life on the cross to show us our worth.

Even if we feel that we are lost or the least or the last in the midst of thousands of others, let us not be afraid. God has not forgotten us. He never will.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-10-14

Ephesians 1:1-10 / Luke 11:47-54

In the Bible, there are the writings of the 13 prophets, all of which can be found in the Old Testament.

But if we were to read the history of the prophets, we will come to see that their writings were reviewed and accepted as prophetic only after their deaths, and of course, when their prophesies came true.

So in other words, prophets were not accepted during their life time.

That was simply because the prophets disturbed those who were comfortable with their lives and complacent with their faith.

Similarly for Jesus, who was the Prophet of God, He was also not accepted by the religious echelons.

As it had happened to the prophets in the past, the scribes and Pharisees began plotting against Jesus with the intention to do away with Him.

So how do we fare in comparison with the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees?

We surely won't do what the scribes and the Pharisees did.

But by our indifference and mediocrity as Catholics, we may have buried the teachings of Jesus and distorted the truth .

Let us realize that we stand accountable and answerable to the voice of God in our hearts and  His promptings.

Yes, the prophetic voice of God comes to disturb the comfortable, and at the same time brings comfort to those who are disturbed.

So let us listen to the prophetic voice of God, the voice of God that brings us comfort and strength so that we can stand humbly before the Lord as we give an account of our lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

St. Teresa of Avila, Wednesday, 15-10-14

Wisdom 7:7-14 / Romans 8:14-17, 26-27 / John 7:14-18, 37-39

St. Teresa of Avila is the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writings and teachings on prayer.

The symbols of St. Teresa in art are that of a heart and an arrow to represent her mystical experience, and a book and a pen to represent her writings.

But despite those seemingly lofty endowments, St. Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of headache sufferers (that would probably include migraine sufferers)

We might wonder why she is not the patron saint of mystics, or reformers, or writers, although she is the patron of Spanish Catholic writers.

To say the least, her spiritual journey was a headache and maybe also at times a heartache for her.

As a reformer, she faced difficulties and persecution from among her own people

As one who tried hard to be in union with God, she faced distractions and long dry spells in prayer.

And we are all familiar with this experience of hers when at times she couldn't avoid complaining to her closest Friend, Jesus, about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her.

When Jesus told her, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends" she responded, "No wonder you have so few friends."

But since Christ has so few friends, she felt they should be good ones. And that's why she decided to reform her Carmelite order.

She had more than her share of headaches and heartaches but her writings on prayer goes to show that her teaching is not of herself but divinely inspired.

As Jesus said in the gospel: When a man's doctrine is his own he is hoping to get honour for himself; but when he is working for the honour of one who sent him then he is sincere and by no means an impostor.

We too may have our headaches about prayer and about life. May St. Teresa pray for us that we will stay true and faithful to Jesus so that we can help others to come into a loving union with God.

Monday, October 13, 2014

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 14-10-14

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

In Singapore, mobile phones are not just a gadget or an accessory. It has almost become a necessity.

There are something like 8 million mobile phones for a population of around 5.3 million. That is already quite amazing.

And to think that Singaporeans carry the high-end models is even more amazing. Although there are no statistics for it, it does seems that Singaporeans are rich enough to keep up with technology.

But a mobile phone, no matter how packed with technology in it, is all there is to it. Having a high end mobile phone and then buying another one would not increase the capabilities to either one.

In the 1st reading St. Paul was telling the Galatians that faith in Christ Jesus is all that is need. Circumcision and whatever else would not enhance or add anything to the faith and makes no difference either.

What really matters is that faith in Christ Jesus makes its power felt through love.

And that is also the teaching of Jesus in the gospel passage. It is not so much about cleaning the outside of cup and plate but the cleansing of the heart that must be expressed in works of charity.

Hence our faith in Jesus Christ is all we need. And what matters is that the faith must make its power felt through acts of love.

It is like having one mobile phone and using it to its optimum. There is no need to buy another mobile phone to complicate matters.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 13-10-14

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

There are many lessons we can learn from the events of history and from the peoples of the past.

These events also help us to create a greater awareness of our current situation and we also see that we have many advantages over the peoples of the past.

We may feel sorry or we can be critical of the people in the gospel passage.

They were asking Jesus for a sign when THE sign was standing right before them.

Jesus could only ask them to reflect upon the events of their own history and upon the lessons of their past, and He quoted two figures of the past for their reflection - Jonah and the Queen of the South.

Similarly, Jesus is also asking us to reflect on the events of our history so as to be more aware of our present spiritual state.

Also in the 1st reading, St. Paul was urging the Galatians to reflect about their freedom in Christ

When Christ freed us from sin through baptism, He meant us to be free. Therefore, we must stand firm and not submit again to the yoke of slavery of sin.

The freedom that we have is that there is only one way for us - the way of Christ.

Not having to entertain other options gives us a sense of freedom, and in a sense we are freed from the slavery of options.

After all, for us, there is no other way other than the way of Christ. We don't need any more signs to tell us that Christ is the Way.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 12.10.2014

Isaiah 25:6-10/ Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20/ Matthew 22:1-14

The world as we know it is changing and it is changing at a very fast pace.

If change is the only constant, then it is indeed constantly fast and furious.

In Singapore, if one had left the country for a couple of years, he would be amazed on return, and even astounded, at how much the local landscape has changed.

But change is not just about physical appearance. There is also a change in behaviour, attitudes and in the meaning of the words we use.

Once upon a time, there was this term “Sunday best”. It meant that when we go to church on Sunday, we would be dressed in our best.

That was once upon a time. Nowadays that term “Sunday best” is hardly used and even the style of dressing to come to church has changed, and maybe changed too drastically.

Probably only on certain occasions that people are dressed in their best and one occasion would probably be church weddings.

And even then it is only once in a life-time and it is only for the bride and the groom, and maybe for the entourage.

And talking about dressing at weddings, there is this joke about a little girl who was attending a wedding for the first time.

She whispered to her mother: Why is the bride dressed in white?

The mother replied: Because white is the colour of happiness and today is the happiest day of her life.

The little girl thought for a moment and then asked the mum: So why is the groom wearing black?

Today’s gospel parable talks about an invitation to a wedding and also about a wedding garment.

It’s no ordinary wedding. It’s a royal wedding, the wedding of a king’s son.

Certainly it is an honour and privilege to be invited to that wedding.

Then comes the twist in the parable. Those who were invited were not interested.

One went to his farm, another to his business, and the rest turned violent and even killed the servants sent to invite them.

To say the least, the parable does not make sense in that an invitation to a celebration turned in a rejection that led to destruction.

It is as puzzling as that last line of the gospel: For many are called, but few are chosen.

But being called and chosen would also require a response just as being invited would require a response (RSVP) to the invitation.

If many are called and few are chosen, then it is a question of how those who were invited chose to respond.

In the gospel parable, those who were invited chose to reject the invitation and even turned violent.

Nonetheless, it was a response though it was a negative and unfavorable to say the least.

What is most annoying and frustrating is a non-response,  that puts everything on hold and leaves things hanging.

A non-response would mean indifference and not being interested.

In a way, it would be about how we dress when we come to church although it may be just about appearance.

But the external appearance in a way is a reflection of the internal disposition.

I remembered what a staff of a tuition centre that provides assistance to needy students said about the attire of the students when they come to the classroom.

The students are expected to be dressed decently and in clean clothes and the tuition centre would even help them get those clothes if necessary.

Even though they are poor and needy, the students are taught to give themselves dignity and respect themselves and others by what they wear to class.

That brings to mind the man who was without the wedding garment. That man showed no respect for the host, nor for himself.

The scriptures also had something to say about clothing (Col 3:12-15) - 
You are God’s chosen race, His saints; He loves you and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, in gentleness and patience. Over all the clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love.

In our fast changing world, some things must remain constant, otherwise there will be no anchoring points in the face of the waves of changes.

We need not come for Mass in wedding garments but in our “Sunday best” and by that we mean that we give our best response to God’s invitation to the Eucharist.

It is in the Eucharist that God wipes away the tears from our eyes, takes away the rags of shame, and clothes us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, and fills us with His love.

We are called, we are chosen. Let us respond with our “Sunday best” – the best of our love – for God and for others.

Friday, October 10, 2014

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 11-10-14

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

In the Mass as well as in devotions, there are always hymns of praise.

These hymns are sung to praise and thank the Lord and they are usually sung with feeling and emotion.

Also dynamic and emotive hymns are preferred in order to appeal to the emotions of the people and also to elicit a more fervent response from them.

But where the emotions and the feeling fade off, the real action begins.

Our hymns of praise  must also  be translated into acts of love for God and neighbour.

That was why in response to the acclamation of praise, Jesus sobered down the emotions to focus on doing the will of God.

As we offer this Mass in honour of our Lady, let us remember that she heard the Word of God, pondered on it and did the will of God in her life.

May we who honour her also learn from her and do God's will in our lives.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 10-10-14

Galatians 3:7-14 / Luke 11:15-26

Very often, life is like a paradox; it can be filled with so many strange contradictions.

We might think that  when something good is done, people would be simply happy and even rejoice and celebrate.

But yet for every good that is done, there are criticisms and even slanderous remarks that are made that leaves a sour and bitter taste in the mouth.

But that should not be very surprising to us, isn't it?

Because it happened to Jesus. He was doing something good by casting out demons.

Yet some people could even say that He was in cahoots with the devil, and that He is the devil. Absurd, isn't it?

Maybe it can be said that the most difficult demons to cast out are those that like to criticize, to find fault, to argue regardless of the facts or the truth.

That kind of demonic behaviour may exist in us and we exhibit it when we argue and criticize and judge without any reason and with no compassion

In this Eucharist, let us ask Jesus to cast out that kind of demonic behaviour in us.

Let us ask Him to cleanse the temple of the Spirit that is within us.

And with Jesus in our hearts, let us gather people into the unity of the Spirit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 09-10-14

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

To ask someone who is mentally unstable or mentally unsound  if he is mad would be like asking a drunkard if he is drunk.

But to ask someone who is mentally stable and mentally sound if he is mad can be quite insulting.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul asked the people of Galatia if they were mad. In a way he was insulting them but with the purpose of awakening them.

They had been foolish enough to deviate from the teachings about the salvation in Jesus Christ and got distracted by outward observances and practices which they do not really understand.

In the gospel, Jesus asked questions that don't really require answers because the answers are obvious.

Which father would give his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or a snake instead of a fish? Or a scorpion instead of an egg?

If we are able to see some goodness and kindness in ourselves and in the people around us, and if we truly believe that God is the Creator of mankind, then we will also come to see that God is the source of all goodness and kindness.

Not wanting to be good and kind to others would be foolishness. Not wanting to believe in goodness and kindness would be really madness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 08-10-14

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

One of the sports that is really amazing is gymnastics.

The graceful and yet gravity-defying movements are really astonishing and wonderful to see.

We will certainly admire the gymnasts for what they can do on the exercise floor, the parallel bars and the roman rings.

Yet, we can also be sure that they have put in many hours of practice, many hours of sweat and pain.

All that just for the sake of sports and maybe for a medal.

Jesus was looked upon by  people as a teacher with authority, a healer, a miracle-worker and some may even see the divinity in Him.

More than that, when the disciples saw Him praying, they also knew that the wonderful work He was doing flowed from His prayer.

They too wanted to feel that power and hence they also wanted to learn how to pray and what prayer He used.

Jesus taught them the prayer of the "Our Father" or the "Lord's Prayer".

That is the heart of all the Church's prayer. Obviously, it is not meant to be said occasionally or sporadically.

We have to "practise" that prayer constantly - we have to pray it. And it has to go from just saying that prayer to living out that prayer.

We will have to have rigours of "practice" - the monotony, the boredom, the frustration, the doubt.

But when we are faithful to it, we too will experience power flowing out of our prayer, the  power of love that flows through our lives towards God and others.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Lady of the Rosary, Tuesday, 07-10-14

Acts 1:12-14 / Luke 1:26-38

The story of how the Feast of the Holy Rosary came about is indeed interesting.

Back in 1571, the powerful Ottoman Turks decided to attack Europe from the East.

The stage was set for a decisive naval battle at the Gulf of Lepanto, off the coast of Greece.

A naval victory for the Turks would secure an opening for the Turkish army to overrun Christian Europe.

The pope at that time, Pope Pius V, called for a crusade against the invading Turks.

But at that time, the Church was already weakened by the Protestant Reformation and only a few countries responded.

In fact, the Christian fleet was outnumbered 3:1 and was no match for the mighty Turkish armada.

But Pope Pius V also called for a Rosary crusade to help the Christian forces.

On this day, 7th Oct 1571, the two parties fought and the mighty Turkish armada was miraculously defeated.

It was said that the Christian soldiers fought with swords in one hand and rosaries in the other.

And it can also be said that the battle was won, not with arms but with praying hands.

Indeed the simple, humble and powerful prayers of the Rosary can achieve miracles and work wonders.

Because Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother of God prays with us when we pray the Rosary.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 06-10-14

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

To "go with the flow" is the mantra of the world and it has always been as such.

To find your way up and about, to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful, to be with the "in" circle, one may have to give up some principles and go with the flow.

Not to go with the flow would mean to swim up-stream and there we will face the powerful torrents and undercurrents.

But to go with the flow is like being a dead fish; dead fish and other lifeless things go with the flow.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul was astonished at the promptness with which the Galatians had turned away from the Good News that he had preached to them to follow another version of the Good News.

That other version may well be the "good news" of the world, which tells them to "go with the flow" and to "seek approval" from the world.

St. Paul gave a severe warning - anyone who preaches a version of the Good News that is different from what he and the apostles preached is to be condemned.

Even when it comes to being a neighbour to someone in need, we will be tempted to "go with the flow". Like the priest and the Levite in the gospel parable, we may just want to pass on the other side and move on and go with the flow.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is about loving God and neighbour. It will mean that we have to swim up-stream and feel the force of the torrents of the world.

To go with the flow of the world would mean that we are like dead fish or debris.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Parish Feastday, 05-10-14

St Therese of the Child Jesus            
Isaiah 66:10-14 / 1 Cor 13:4-13 / Matthew 18:1-5   

How our country got its name is rather interesting and amusing.

History has it that when Sang Nila Utama landed on this island, he saw a strange-looking animal and it ran off.

Upon inquiry, he was told it was a lion and in his language, it was called “Singa” so he called this “Singapura” which means “lion city”.

(A joke about this is that if he had seen a large prawn, he would have called this country “Tempura”.)

As Singapore the “Lion City” developed and progressed, the image has also evolved.

Singapore is still the “Lion City” but it has also acquired other names and the well-known one is “Garden City”, because of the greenery in our country.

Our city state is often described as “clean and green” and so indeed it is, and hence, “Garden City” is quite appropriate. 

As in a garden, we can see plants, shrubs, trees and vegetation of various kinds.

Yes, we will see a lot of greenery, and yet we may miss out the most obvious greenery.

We may notice and admire all the flowers and plants, all the shrubs and trees, but we will take the grass for granted.

The grass is like the backdrop of the whole greenery. And they are so inconspicuous and plain that we hardly notice them.

In fact, we step on the grass and we wipe soiled things on the grass. We seem to ill-treat the grass!

There is hardly any recognition given to grass except the saying that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

But the 1st reading did give some prominence to the grass when it said: At the sight, your heart will rejoice and your bones flourish like the grass.

Even in its lowly and down-trodden state, grass is a symbol of the strong will for life.

Even after a bush-fire, the first signs of life in the razed land will be the appearance of grass.

We don’t know where they come from, but it seems that we cannot get rid of the grass.

Today our parish celebrates the feast of our patron saint, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Her actual feast day is on 1st Oct.

She has been called the “greatest saint in modern times” (Pope Pius X), but it can be certain that she wouldn’t want to be known as such.

In fact, ever since she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, she never left the convent.

Two words can be used to describe her life as a Carmelite nun – obscurity and oblivion.

Even that great spiritual classic “The Story of a Soul” which is her autobiography, it was not written on her own accord but in obedience to her superior’s orders.

In her life-time, she was like the plain grass in her convent.
She wasn’t among those who were like the flowers or plants or shrubs.

She didn’t do great things, but she did little things with great love.

And if we were to meet her now, she would introduce herself as “Little Therese” instead of St. Therese.

And her humble, little and simple spirituality flourished like grass after her death.

It was like the same imagery that the 1st reading gave when it said: Your bones will flourish like the grass.

In the gospel Jesus said that the one who makes himself as little as a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Being little is actually a very great challenge. Even St. Therese had to remind herself with these words : I must remain little.

In our “Garden city” the admiration goes to the pretty flowers and plants, literally as well as figuratively.

Because people are also a bit like flowers and plants – they want to stand out and win the praise and admiration of others.

But the flowers will bloom and fade away. Plants will wither and die.

But it is the plain and lowly and humble grass that will continue to flourish.

Grass is like the carpet of the garden that softens the ground.

In our “Garden city” St. Therese has shown us what we should be.

We should be like the lowly grass that carpets the “Garden city” and softens it with love.

We are called to be like St. Therese – little, humble and lowly.

By being that, we can turn our city into a garden of love.

Friday, October 3, 2014

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 04-10-14

Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17 / Luke 10:17-24

We like things to have a happy ending. If it is a story book or a movie, a happy ending will earn our approval.

Even in life, whatever we undertake, be it projects or assignments or whatever tasks, we would like it to have a happy ending, so that we would earn the approval of others.

In the 1st reading, we have finally come to the last chapter of the book of Job. The book of Job has often been the assigned reading for those who have questions about innocent suffering.

Well, the book of Job closes with a happy ending with the fortunes of Job restored and he lived to a ripe old age and full of days.

Yet, Job did not find the answers as to why he had been afflicted with sufferings and tragedies. His consolation, besides his restoration, was his realization of who God is (but now I have seen You with my own eye ...)

He realized that everything happens under the watchful eyes of God, and God's plan for us is always for our good and not otherwise.

In the gospel the 72 disciples came back to Jesus rejoicing that even devils submit to them when they use the authoritative name of Jesus.

But the time will come when the whole strength of the enemy will come at them, and they will be persecuted and they will even have to face death.

It may not be that kind of happy ending that people wish for, yet for whatever ending it will be, they will accept it willingly.

Because the true happy ending will be that their names are written in heaven. May we willingly accept our difficulties and sufferings in life and realize who God is, so that our names will also be written in heaven.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 03-10-14

Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5 / Luke 10:13-16

If nothing happens by coincidence, then it is only natural that we want to know what is the link between the various events and experiences of our lives.

We would want to know why such an event happened in our lives and why we had certain experiences.

Although we know that everything that has happened has a meaning and a purpose, yet we can be rather impatient to know the answers immediately.

Especially so when misfortune and tragedy happens. We won't be just asking for answers; we will be demanding for answers and demanding it furiously too.

For the character of Job in the 1st reading, he too was demanding for answers from God as misfortune and tragedy befell upon him one upon another, although he had insisted that he had not done anything wrong.

And this time God spoke. From the heart of the tempest, the Lord gave Job his answer. Yet, the answer was a series of question that began with "Have you ... ".

In the end, Job realized who he was and in his own words "I had better lay my finger on my lips. I will not speak again."

When we can realize what Job had realized, that God had a perfect plan for everything in our lives and that His ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts, then we too in humility would lay our finger on our lips.

If we ever open our lips, then it will be to praise and thank the Lord. And may those who hear us glorify the Lord, be edified and do the same too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Holy Guardian Angels, Thursday, 02-10-14

Exodus 23:20-23 / Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Among the many religious items that I have is a figurine of a guardian angel with wings spread wide and with hands reaching downward.

I do pray to my guardian angel, whether as a devotional prayer, or whenever I am driving.

Because in one section of the Creed, we profess the existence of not only the seen but also the unseen, the visible and the invisible, or what we call the spiritual world.

Yet somehow, whenever we talk about the spiritual world,  what may come to mind may be ghosts and haunted places.

Today as the Church celebrates the feast of guardian angels, we also acknowledge the existence of the spiritual world.

But it is a spiritual world of angels whom God has sent to protect and guard and guide us.

What God has assured His people Israel in the 1st reading, i.e. the protection of an angel, He also assures the Church and each of us.

This is also what Jesus is affirming in the gospel. And He even says that our guardian angels are always in the presence of God in heaven. And they are also here by our side.

So let us pray daily to our guardian angels whom God has sent from above.

If you know this traditional prayer to the guardian angel, then let us pray together :
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.
Amen.