Sunday, May 31, 2015

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 01-06-15

Tobit 1:3; 2:1-8 / Mark 12:1-12

Our faith and the Church teaches us that life is sacred because God is the Creator and it is He who gives life.

Life may be sacred for us, but for the world life is cheap.

At least from the way conflicts and differences are resolved by violence and war, it is quite obvious that life is cheap and counted as nothing.

When we see footage of dead bodies of an armed conflict, we don't shudder anymore. It is like watching a movie and we don't feel the effects of the atrocity.

In both readings of today, death seems to have a prominent role and it is of a violent nature.

In the 1st reading, a man was strangled to death and left there at the market place.

In the gospel parable, the servants and eventually the son of owner of the vineyard were killed by the tenants.

Even Jesus died a violent death by crucifixion. It goes to show that mankind will violently extinguish a life (or even numerous lives) if it continues to be a problem.

But respect for life and the sanctity of life are the key tenets of our faith.

Our witnessing to love and forgiveness and reconciliation will be the only answer to those who think that life is cheap.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trinity Sunday, Year B, 31.05.2015

Deut 4:32-34, 39-40 / Romans 8:14-17 / Matthew 28:16-20

We know what a plank is. Or at least we know what the initial meaning is. 

It is a long, thin, flat piece of timber, used especially in building and flooring.

But words have a tendency to morph from its initial obvious meaning to some other meanings that might make us wonder where they come from.

The latest meaning of plank is actually an exercise. It's hard to believe that the plank exercise could provide such a great workout, until you try it. Some trainers would even recommend conquering the plank before attempting any heavy weight exercise. 

It seems quite easy. Just get into pushup position on the floor. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. 

Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for as long as you can. Your goal should be to hold it for two minutes. 

So even though you are not moving or lifting weights, you have to constantly squeeze your abs to hold the position. 

The surprising thing is that most people can't last 30 seconds on their first attempt. 

The longer you can hold the plank, the more resilient your lower back will be to injury, and the better your abs will look once you tone up the muscles. 

Sounds too good to be true and it seems too simple, until we try it. 

And when we actually get down it, the initial motivation will slowly wear off when we don’t see immediate results and then the exercise will be like those fancy exercise machines that end up as a clothes rack.

It’s not that we doubt the effectiveness of the exercise. It’s that we just don’t have the persistence and perseverance and we want immediate results with the least effort.

Well, today we celebrate a Sunday called “Trinity Sunday”. So what is it about this Sunday? 

Oh we will say the usual things like God is Trinity, Three Persons in one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But with God who is Trinity, what is the meaning in it for us? Do we really understand the meaning of Trinity? Or has that word morphed into other meanings?

If we have some difficulty in finding meaning in God as Trinity other than what we have been told, we are not alone.

The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise ”De Trinitate” [about the Holy Trinity], endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

He was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and pouring it into a small hole in the sand. 

St. Augustine approached him and asked, “My boy, what are you doing?” “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied. “But that is impossible, my boy, the hole cannot contain all that water” said St. Augustine. 

The boy paused, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – to comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished. 

Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach St. Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Child Jesus Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding of the great mysteries of our Faith. 

Through this story, the sea shell has become a symbol of St. Augustine and the study of theology.

And this story, together with today’s gospel passage, reminds us of the mystery that we have been immersed into, and that is the mystery of Baptism.

We are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Like the shell, we can only understand so much of the mystery of God. 

But like the shell, we also hold the mystery of God and that mystery is that of God’s love.

We scoop up God’s love with the shell of our hearts and we pour it out into the sands of the world around us.

The water of God’s love seeps into the sands and we don’t seem to see any results immediately, and we think it is futile.

And so we begin to doubt God’s love, and we hesitate, as we heard in the gospel that some of the disciples hesitated.

Over the past week, a handful of people had been folding these invitations that will be given out later. It is an invitation to the triduum and the parish feast-day Masses.

It’s rather labour intensive and about 3000 invitations have to be folded and given out this weekend. 

Will there be a response to the invitations, or will they end up in the trash?

But these invitations were folded with love, and where love is sown, there will be a harvest, maybe 30, maybe 60 and maybe 100.

Whatever it may be, the mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of God’s love.

The meaning of God’s love has not changed and yet at the same time it is also growing, and will continue to grow, and as Jesus promised us in the gospel, it will continue to grow until the end of time.

Like the plank exercise, we must not doubt its effectiveness; we only need to persist and persevere in God’s love.

Friday, May 29, 2015

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 30-05-15

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

It is not easy to admit that we are wrong, especially when we are confronted with facts.

It is even more difficult for people of authority to admit that they are wrong.

Simply because there is just too much to lose.

When the authorities confronted Jesus, it was Jesus who presented the facts.

But in refusing to acknowledge the facts, and by saying "We don't know", the authorities have exposed themselves.

Ironically, it was the people of authority that had put their own authority into question.

We are all people of authority in some way or another.

Some of us are parents who have authority over our children.

Some of us are supervisors and managers who have authority over our subordinates.

But this authority is given to us to discern what comes from God and to do the right thing.

In other words, authority is synonymous with service.

We serve our children by teaching them the right values.

We serve our subordinates with justice and fairness.

We serve like Jesus did, who came to serve by showing us how to live out the truth with love.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 29-05-15

Ecclesiasticus 44:1. 9-13 / Mark 11:11-26

Each of us have our own ideas of what a church should be like.

It may be about the design and the appearance, the colour of the paint, the furnishing, etc., right down to how the staff should dress and what the priests should be doing.

And because each person can have a peculiar opinion about such matters, the Church has issued rules and guidelines to whatever imaginable point of contention so that there can be something to refer to and to follow.

In the gospel, when Jesus went about driving out those who were selling and buying in the Temple, He was not just trying to impose His personal views on what the Temple should be like.

He quoted this scripture passage: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. But you have turned it into a robbers' den."

So it seems that the Temple has become a religious commercial and business centre and the original purpose of it being a centre of prayer was eroded and diluted.

What had happened to the Temple can also happen to any church. People can forget that they have entered the house of God and that they have come to pray to God and not to prey on others.

And Jesus also gave two teachings about prayer:
1. Everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours.
2. When you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.

So to pray is to ask for forgiveness and also to forgive others. There can be no other opinions about that. Because that is what God wants of us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 28-05-15

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

Once a man asked God: Why is it You don't fulfill my wishes, since You are everywhere?

God replied: I am like WiFi my child. I am available everywhere, but you need to connect with me with a correct password. And the password is - FAITH

Yes, passwords are needed to get into secured networks; unsecured networks, ie. those that do not require passwords are rather risky to get connected to.

So as much as God is everywhere and always available, we also need faith to be connected to Him.

In the gospel, the blind beggar Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing by, called out to Him, was scolded and told to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder. Finally, he caught the attention of Jesus and got his request answered.

But there was something significant that Jesus said to Bartimaeus: Go, your faith has saved you.

Although Bartimaeus was initially blind, he could sense who Jesus is, he persisted in calling out to Him, he persevered despite the obstacles, and he finally got what he asked for.

In one word, we can say that it was faith that connected him to Jesus, and with faith Bartimaeus followed Jesus.

May we have the eyes of faith to see where Jesus is, what He wants of us, and to follow Him with perseverance and persistence.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 27-05-15

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

If we had been to a class to learn a new language, we would know what the experience is like.

All our mental energies are focused on what we are hearing and trying to make a connection to how we can understand it.

So our ears have to listen, our minds have to think and make the connection, and meanwhile our energies are depleting and draining away.

And just after two hours of intensity, we may have a break and we would walk out of the class dazed and apprehensive.

We may be wondering if it is worth it to spend so much time and energy and gaining so little in return.

In the gospel, we heard that the disciples who were following Jesus were dazed and were apprehensive.

They have heard a lot of heavy teaching from Jesus about the cost of following Him, about persecutions and in today's gospel about service.

When we ponder on the teachings of Jesus deeply, we may also be dazed and apprehensive.

We are like learning a new language - the language of love and service.

Jesus is a good Teacher. Let us ask Him to help us understand that language. Then we will know how to love and serve.

Monday, May 25, 2015

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 26-05-15

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

To make sacrifices and to give up what we are entitled to or what is rightfully ours are not words we would like to hear.

Because the human tendency is to be possessive and to hoard more than we need.

And we rebel at the idea of giving up what is ours and to even make sacrifices for the sake of others.

So in the gospel, we heard Peter asking Jesus: What about us? We have left everything and followed you.

So what was Peter and the rest of the disciples going to get for all they have given up?

Maybe we should ask ourselves: for all that we gave up and sacrificed for the Lord, what did we get? How were we rewarded? (If ever we were rewarded!)

The 1st reading exhorts us to make our sacrifices cheerfully, because just as the Lord God has given us, so we too must be able to give up what is even rightfully ours.

It continues by saying that a virtuous man's sacrifice is acceptable, and its memorial will not be forgotten.

But what we should not forget is that it is God who first made the sacrifice.

He sacrificed His only Son to save us. All our sacrifices amount to nothing compared with that.

We can only offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and be generous to others just as the Lord is generous to us.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 25-05-15

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

It would be interesting to ask people what they want in life.

Interesting because of the answers that they might give.

The probable answers are: I want health; I want success; I want freedom; I want independence; I want to be rich, etc.

How many would say this: I want to find meaning in life.

Or, I want to be the person that I am created to be.

That can be the question for our reflection. What kind of person do I want to be?

Do I want to be a deceitful person, a greedy person, a nasty person, a selfish person, a wicked person?

Or do I want to be a loving person, a generous person, a compassionate and caring person,  a trustworthy and honest person?

Such a question is essentially a question of identity.

Because in answering the question, we begin to ask about who we really are, why we are created, and what is the meaning of our existence.

All those questions point to a turning back to God, which is in essence, a repentance.

As the 1st reading puts it, to those who repent, God permits return, and He even encourages those who are losing hope.

In other words, when we are losing meaning and hope in life, God comes to us with open arms and gives us meaning in life.

As it is, if wealth is lost, nothing is really lost.

If health is lost, then something is lost.

But if meaning in life is lost, then everything is lost.

And if God is all that we have, then God is all that we need.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pentecost Sunday, Year B, 24.05.2015

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

The living proof of Singapore’s cosmopolitan status is her adoption of four official languages, namely Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.

English is the medium of education and business – it is the first language taught in school and the main language used in the workplace.

But English is certainly not a language that is easily mastered. 

Some say that English is a funny language; others say it’s a crazy language.

It is funny as in the examples of an oxymoron, which is a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are brought together:

Clearly misunderstood; small crowd; act naturally; found missing; pretty ugly; seriously funny; only choice; original copies. But somehow we understand what it means.

Actually I came across all this when I was trying to be sure of what a continuous tense is all about. In the end I was clearly blur.

Let’s just say that a continuous tense is about verbs that end with “ing”, like talking, looking, eating, etc. It usually refers to an action that is continuous.

Of course, it is obviously not a surname, nor is it used as one. But in church there is an “Ing” family. 

We may know some of them but they may need some introduction.

There is “Miss-ing” but she is not here. There is “Complain-ing” but he usually writes a lot. There is “Gossip-ing” and she is often with others. “Argu-ing” and “Quarrel-ing” usually hang out together. “Ly-ing” is out to con somebody. And the leader of the gang is someone called “Sinn-ing”.

But that’s just one side of the “Ing” family. The other side of that family has “Lov-ing” and “Car-ing” and they are working hard to protect the family reputation.

“Encourag-ing” and “Inspir-ing” is giving them support because it is often a thankless task. “Almsgiv-ing” is reaching out to those in need and “Fast-ing” and “Pray-ing” are creating opportunities for “Forgiv-ing”.

And so that’s the “Ing” family. So, now that we know who they are, then we must also decide on which side of the family we want to be with.

Today as the Church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost, the Church also comes together as a family.

In the 1st reading, we heard that on that Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke foreign languages.

And the peoples of different nationalities heard them speaking in their own languages and preaching about the marvels of God.

And with that, something was changing. Diversity was changing into unity. The Spirit was working and the Church was manifesting.

The 2nd reading gives a good imagery of the Church as a human body made up of many different parts but united as a single unit.

And it is the same Spirit working in these different parts, in different people in different ways, but all for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.

With the Spirit working, things can change and will keep changing for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.

In the gospel, we heard that the disciples were in a room with the door closed and in fear, but Jesus came and stood among them.

From then on, things began to change, as Jesus said to them, “As the Father sent Me, so am I sending you.” After saying this, He breathed on them the Holy Spirit. 

Today, Jesus is also breathing on us the Holy Spirit. And just as He sent the disciples, so is He sending us. 

So where is Jesus sending us to and what are we supposed to be doing.

At that Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples and they went forth speaking different languages and preaching about the marvels of God, something was changing.

The hearts of those who were listening to them were changing. 

Similarly, we are sent forth to bring about a change and it must be a change for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.

And we must go forth with one member of the “Ing” family called “Pray-ing” 

And “Pray-ing” will teach us about PUSH. PUSH is an acronym for Pray Until Something Happens.

Earlier this week, I opened the petition boxes and read those petitions that were not marked “Private & Confidential”. I read those petitions so that I can pray for those who have offered their prayer petitions.

I came across a letter from a lady who wrote to Mother Mary to say that she is having a difficult pregnancy and that she was contemplating to terminate the pregnancy. 

Of course, I immediately activated all my prayer advocates to pray for this lady and I told them to PUSH.

We will pray until something happens, and we pray that it will be for a good purpose and for God’s purpose, and I call upon you to join me in prayer for that lady.

And I look forward for a Thanksgiving letter from her.

Yes, we must keep PUSHing and believe that things can change and will change and keep changing.

We keep praying that those who are arguing and quarreling, those who are complaining and gossiping, those who are missing, those who are lying and sinning, will eventually change to become loving and caring, forgiving and inspiring and encouraging.

Those disciples in that room changed from fearing to proclaiming. 

With the power of the Holy Spirit, we too will change and keep changing. 

And it must be for a good purpose and for God’s purpose. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 23-05-15

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

Not many people have been in captivity before.

To be in captivity, to lose freedom, and to be kept under surveillance all the time is certainly very stressful, to say the least.

Most would be resigned to that fact and wait for the day to come when they could be released. That would be a passive waiting in the state of captivity.

Others would be trying to find a way to escape, and if they do and get captured, the consequences will be drastic.

Few would turn captivity into an opportunity - an opportunity to see the best and be the best in that gloomy situation.

In the 1st reading, we heard that St. Paul was held under captivity, although it was like some kind of "house arrest".

He made the best out of the situation and he was even able to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the Lord helped St. Paul by even granting him complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

So no matter how depressive or gloomy our situation may be, and if we feel like "being held captive" in a commitment or duty or responsibility, let us look at that situation and see the opportunity that the Lord is presenting to us.

The devil may hinder us and try to capture us with the chains of work, duty and responsibility. But it is the Lord Jesus who frees our hearts, turns captivity into opportunity so that we can give God the glory.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 22-05-15

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

In the medical profession, a general practitioner (GP) is a medical doctor who treats acute and chronic illnesses and provides preventive care and health education to patients.

By and large, most of us would have consulted a general practitioner at one time or another, for whatever health issues.

But when the general practitioner has to refer us to medical specialist, then it may mean something that requires a particular examination and treatment.

The general practitioner has to know the limits of his expertise and diagnosis, and to refer to the specialists when it is required.

In the 1st reading, Festus was discussing with king Agrippa and Bernice about Paul's case, and he admitted that he felt that he was not qualified to deal with the questions regarding the case, and he had to recourse to higher authority.

But in the gospel it was like the other way round; it was like the higher authority asking the subordinate a very basic and fundamental question.

Jesus asked Peter, three times, "Do you love me?" It was a very basic and fundamental question in any relationship, and yet the answer can be so decisive.

But very often, it is we who ask Jesus if He loves us, especially when we are going through the darkness of anxiety and worry and doubt.

We don't need a specialist to give us the answer to that question whether Jesus loves us. But we would really need to believe that Jesus loves us before we can say that we love Jesus.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 21-07-15

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

There are a few definitions of the concept of unity. Unity can be defined as a whole or totality combining all its parts into one

Or it can be defined as the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole.

Seen from another angle, it is the absence of diversity and having an unvaried or uniform character.

But unity is always tested by diversity and by various other factors. More so when this unity is about people, as each seem to have his own opinion about things and hence keeping unity can be very challenging.

The 1st reading exposed the fragility of the unity of the Sanhedrin, and the crack lines were taken advantage of by Paul when he worked on the sympathies of the Pharisee section of the Sanhedrin.

What Paul did to the Sanhedrin which eventually broke their unity, others will also want to do to the Church.

What makes it more alarming is that these "others" may not just be outsiders but from within the ranks of the Church.

What Jesus prayed for in the gospel is that we will all be united as one. But the unity is not in some kind of structure or doctrine or practice.

The foundation of this unity is founded on the unity between Jesus and the Father - "Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you."

Unless we are united in and by the heart of Jesus, there will be threats to the unity of the Church and the crack lines will appear.

Let us pray that we, the Church, will be united as one, and may it begin with a unity of minds and hearts. May Jesus be the foundation of our unity as Church. May He be in us just as He is in the Father.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 20-05-15

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

Blood has great significance in the Bible. Its meanings involve profound aspects of human life and God's desire to transform human existence. Blood is intimately associated with physical life. Blood and “life” or “living being” are closely associated.

To say that something is bought with blood does not merely mean that a quantity of blood is exchanged for that item.

To buy something with blood means to say a life is given up in exchange for that item.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul told the elders of the church of Ephesus that the Church of God is bought with the blood of Christ.

Jesus Christ offered His life on the cross so that we, the Church, can be redeemed from our sins and saved from eternal death.

St. Paul didn't have to shed his blood for the church of Ephesus or for any of the churches at that time.

But he did shed tears over each of them. It was an expression of how much he loved and cared for them as he foresaw the dangers they will be facing.

St. Paul shed tears and would have prayed to the Lord Jesus to protect the Church.

And in the gospel, Jesus said that He will keep watch over each of us and that no one would be lost, except when we choose to be lost.

We are not asked to pour out our blood for the salvation for others. Yet like St Paul we must also shed tears and pray for our salvation and the salvation of others.

Tears, together with prayers, are the lens we need to see Jesus.

Monday, May 18, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 19-05-15

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

Whenever we talk about parting or farewell, we get into a melancholic mood; there is an inevitable sadness to it.

In both of today' readings, we hear of a parting or farewell.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul said that he was about to finish his race and had carried out the mission that he was given.

In the gospel, Jesus said that the hour has come and He had finished the work He was given to do and He was going back to the Father.

But if we were to look at what Jesus and St. Paul had accomplished until that point in time, then we have to say that nothing much has actually been achieved.

But yet in both cases, the trust was in God who will bring their work to fulfillment.

So in spite of the unfinished business, Jesus and St. Paul gave us a message of hope.

It was a firm hope in God who will take care of everything.

We may be very busy in life but do we have anything to show for it?

If we are only busy with the things of this world, there will be nothing to show for it.

But when we are busy with the work of God, then the Holy Spirit will help us bring it to fulfillment.

Then the work we do will bear fruit that will last.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 18-05-15

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

We may have heard of this saying "put your money where your mouth is".

It is an informal way of saying to take action to support one's statements or opinions.

So if we say that we believe in something, it means that we are convinced and have that conviction.

And we will have to stand by that conviction when our belief is put to the test.

In the gospel, the disciples said to Jesus that they believe that He came from God. They thought that they had finally got it and that they saw everything clearly.

But Jesus thought otherwise. In fact He answered them: Do you believe at last?

And as Jesus predicted, they will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving Jesus alone.

As it is, any belief or conviction will eventually be put to the test. And the result would be clear.

And if our belief in Jesus is anything to go by, then Jesus is telling us that for our belief, we will have to face our troubles for it.

But let us pray for the strength from the Holy Spirit to live up to our belief. By our convictions, Jesus will conquer the world.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 17.05.2015

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / 1 John 4:11-16 / John 17:11-19

Last Thursday was the feast of the Ascension of the Lord and it was a day of obligation.

A day of obligation means that we come for Mass, and before that we go for Confession if necessary and of course we receive Holy Communion.

And of course for all the effort that we make to come for Mass on a weekday, the blessings that we receive is certainly beyond measure.

Indeed blessed are those who make the offering of their time for God.

But then again, there were some who forgot. They forgot that it was a day of obligation. Still God will be gracious to them because there is the availability of Confession. 

And just in case they forgot to come for Confession before Mass, then the “special offer” is that after Mass it is also available  : )

It is understandable if some forgot because of the busyness of life and the stress of a working day.

But there is also this “selective remembering” – we make a tick in our minds on what we want to remember because it is important, and the rest we just let them hang loose in our minds.

So we may remember the news that we heard on the radio but we may not be able to remember what the readings of today were all about.

In the 1st reading Peter remembered what the scriptures foretold about Judas – that someone else must be chosen to replace him as one of the Twelve apostles.

For us it may not be that important whether it is eleven or twelve. 

But the meaning of the number 12 is considered a perfect number, in that it symbolizes God's power and authority, as well as a perfect governmental foundation. It also symbolizes completeness, or the nation of Israel as a whole. 

And so for the Church it symbolizes completeness and unity and hence Matthias was chosen to complete the 12  apostles.

And it is for this completeness and unity of the Church that Jesus prayed for in the gospel. 

Yes, Jesus prayed for us on the night before His death and this gospel passage is a passage that we ought to remember.

Jesus prayed for us that we won’t be lost in the world since we do not belong to the world. Because we belong to God.

As the Beatitudes would say, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.

But Jesus also prayed that we will be protected from the evil one.

As much as Jesus taught us the Beatitudes, the devil has his own set of “better-titudes” and it goes something like this:

"Better are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in church; They are my best workers. 

Better are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked; I can use them. 

Better are the touchy; with a bit of luck, they may stop going to church; They are my missionaries. 

Better are those who are very religious but get on everyone's nerves; They are mine forever. 

Better are the troublemakers; They shall be called my children. 

Better are those who have no time to pray; They are easy prey for me. 

Better are the gossipers; For they are my secret agents. 

Better are those critical of church leadership; For they shall inherit a place with me in my fate. 

Better are the complainers; I will encourage them. 

Better are you when you read this and think it is about other people and not yourself; I've got you!"

So if the world thinks better or highly of us, it may not necessarily mean that we are blessed. 

In fact, Jesus prayed that we will be protected from the evil one so that we don’t let ourselves belong to the world.

Even though we are in the world, we belong to God and Jesus prayed for our protection.

Yes, life is fragile, and we need to handle it with prayer and pray for protection.

On Friday morning there was a fatal accident at Ponggol. A 30-year-old woman was knocked down by a bus and died from her injuries.

I know that lady. She journeyed in the RCIA class, I officiated her marriage and blessed her house. And now I am going to do her funeral.

No words can really console her husband and the 4 year-old son she left behind.

For those who journeyed with her in the RCIA and her friends in Church, they will grieve and they might ask those hard questions.

I pray that God will protect them from a faith crisis and I ask you to join me in prayer too. 

My obligation to them will be my presence and prayers.

And that is what the 2nd reading is telling us to remember – No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another, God will live in us and His love will be complete in us.

To love one another is our obligation. Love is our only protection. 

Because where there is love, there is God.

Friday, May 15, 2015

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 17-05-15

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

Each of us has a purpose in this life. There is a meaning for our existence.

But it is not about what we do for a living, or what we do at home, or what we do in Church, or what we do for others.

At the very core of our existence, we have an identity.

From this identity flows the meaning of our existence and our purpose in life.

Jesus came to show us who we really are. We are children of God, sons and daughters of God our Father.

Jesus came to show us the Father's love, so that in Jesus, we will come to know the Father and love Him.

Jesus came from the Father and has now gone back to the Father.

We too came from the Father and we will eventually go back to the Father.

To forget this is to forget who we are and we will just become functional and lose the spiritual.

So let us ask Jesus to make His home in our hearts, so that we will be filled with His love for God and for others, and so that we will show others who we really are.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

6th Week of Easter, Friday, 15-05-15

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

To be blamed for something that went wrong though it is no fault of yours is already bad enough.

But to be blamed and then beaten up for it can be very difficult to accept because the question is that is a corporal punishment really necessary.

Nonetheless the recourse to the use of force often brings about an immediate effect whether it is for the one inflicting it or for the one being inflicted upon.

In the 1st reading, we heard of a concerted attack being made against Paul. They were out to get his blood because he was one of them before and now it seems that he had betrayed them.

But when their attack was foiled, they instead turned on one of their own, Sosthenes, the synagogue president, although it was clear that he had not done anything wrong.

The thirst for blood, the obsession to use physical force on others to make them submit can be so consuming that it often blinds persecutors to see what is right and wrong.

Our faith tells us to forgive those mean us harm, to pray for those who persecute us and to even love our enemies even if they are out for our blood.

Even though we live by faith, we can't help but "weep and wail" when persecutions are levelled against us, and when the powerful and mighty want to shed our blood, just like what was done to the martyrs in the history of the Church.

But let us remember that Jesus had shed His blood for us. Whenever we feel His protection let us give thanks. And under all circumstances, may our sorrow turn to joy because Jesus has saved us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ascension of the Lord, Year B, 14.05.2015

Acts 1:1-11 / Ephesians 1:17-23 / Mark 16:15-20

To come for Mass on a day of obligation, and more so if it’s a weekday, means that the Mass has a special significance and that the Church wants to re-affirm a tenet of faith on this occasion.

Today we have come for the Mass of the Ascension. So what is the meaning of this Mass of the Ascension?

Essentially, it means that the Risen Christ has returned back to where He had come from and now He has opened the gates of heaven to those who are faithful to Him and believed in His promise of salvation.

That is what Jesus tells us to do – Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News of salvation, and he who believes and is baptized will be saved.

So we are baptized, and so we are saved. Or is that so?
Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we really believed that we are saved.

Jesus said this in the gospel - These are the signs that are associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick who will recover.

Those are certainly spectacular signs, and we may think it’s something miraculous that happened in the past.

After all we don’t see such spectacular signs anymore and hence we don’t expect anyone in church to do it.

But as Jesus said, these are the signs that are associated with believers.

And it is quite obvious that in the early Church, these are the signs that are associated with believers as they went out to preach the Good News of salvation.

The world then needed to see these signs; the world now also needs to see these signs.

And if we really believe that we are saved, then we need to ask the Lord Jesus what signs He wants us to manifest in this present world.

To cast out devils may mean to point out evil and speak out against evil, because evil will only flourish if no one will stand up to it.

The snakes that we need to catch are those who scheme and plot so as to stop the wheeling and dealing.

And when others speak poisonous words to hurt us we must turn to the Lord for healing and to be able to forgive them.

We in turn must also ask the Lord to give us a disciple’s tongue so as to speak words and heal and to encourage others.

Yes the world needs to see the signs of healing and forgiveness and that goodness can overcome evil.

We as believers must manifest these signs.

The Lord will work with us and empower us to be these signs so that the Good News of salvation can be proclaimed and believed by others.

So as much as the Lord Jesus has ascended to heaven, He also sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to be the signs of salvation to the world.

That is what we have come to Mass for. That is what we will be empowered with. 

Let us believe so that we and the world will be saved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 13-05-15

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

We certainly don't find it a pleasure, neither would we feel comfortable to speak before a gathering of people which comprises of intellectuals and academicians and scholars (and clerics too).

That's because we are expected to use proper language and to be able to speak well and of course to know what we are talking about.

Yet, we have to applaud St. Paul when we heard from the 1st reading that he addressed a council of philosophers in Athens.

For a Jew to step into Greek territory and talk about religion using philosophical language was indeed daring.

Yet, St. Paul did not use sophisticated philosophical language in his presentation.

Rather he had recourse to natural law and he talked about the God in whom we live and move and have our being.

He even quoted a Greek philosopher who made this statement: "We are all his children".

In St. Paul, we see the words of Jesus in today's gospel being actualized and even realized.

Indeed, the Spirit will lead us to the complete truth, the truth that will only make sense when we walk the way of Christ.

Let us pray the Spirit will guide us and strengthen us to walk the way of Christ so that our lives will always be lived in truth and in love.

Monday, May 11, 2015

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 12-05-15

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

Whenever someone tells us that they are going abroad for a holiday or for some other purpose, we would certainly be very curious as to where they are heading for.

That question "Where are you going?" is like burning to come out of our mouths, even as much as we try to respect the privacy of the other person.

Nonetheless, we are always curious to know where other people are heading towards even though it may be none of our business.

But in the gospel, as Jesus told His disciples that He was going away, none of His disciples asked Him "Where are you going?"

It is certainly not that they are try to be polite and observing etiquette. But as Jesus observed they were sad that He was leaving them.

Quite obviously, the disciples don't know where Jesus was going and yet they don't know what questions to ask also.

As for Paul and Silas in the 1st reading, neither had they any clear indication of where they would be heading and what would be in store for them.

So after being flogged, they were thrown into prison. But it was there that they experienced another mighty wonder of God and even the gaoler and his family got converted.

As for ourselves, if we are wondering where we are heading, then the two readings gives us this indication.

We are heading towards God, and our lives should be directed towards God. When our lives are in that direction, then there will be no curiosity or anxiety about the future.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 11-05-15

Acts 16:11-15 / John 15:26 - 16:4

If we foresee something and when it turns out to be how we predicted it to be, very likely we will "brag" over it.

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

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

In the gospel, we heard Jesus using the phrase "I have told you all this" and He even said it three times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 9, 2015

6th Easter Sunday, Year B, 10.05.2015

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / 1 John 4:7-10 / John 15:9-17

The game of tennis is a quite popular game. People follow the game, watch the game on tv (which can last for a few hours) and of course some play the game.

But tennis is certainly more than just a play-play kind of game. 

Because top professional tennis players can become millionaires, and the top names are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, etc.

And these top players play in top tournaments like Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, etc.

But for all the big names and the big money, the game of tennis is actually quite a simple game. All you have to do is to hit the ball back into your opponent’s court. That’s all you need to do to win the game. It’s as simple as that; but it requires a lot of skill to do that.

And you know what it is said about life and tennis? Life is like a game of tennis. The player who can hit every ball across seldom loses.

So the simple logic about tennis is that when the ball comes to you, you don’t keep the ball. You always return the ball, so to speak.

And that is also the simple logic about life and love. In life whenever love comes to us, we don’t keep it for ourselves. We have to return it. So in a way, life is like a game of tennis – we return the love, just as we return the ball.

And that is what Jesus is telling us in the gospel – As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.

For Jesus, love is not for keeps. The love that He received from His Father, He gives to us.

And the love we receive from Jesus, we in turn must give to others.

And Jesus even makes a commandant out of it – Love one another as I have loved you.

In other words, as Jesus has loved us, so must we love one another.

It’s a commandment; it’s not a suggestion, nor is it an option.

We often hear of this phrase “love offering”. It is often written on boxes in church events and it is a way of asking for donations to offset the cost of holding the events.

It gives us the notion that we can give whatever we wish and we are not obliged to give a large sum nor are we required to give all we have.

But for God, when it comes to a love offering, it is nothing less than all. 

As we heard in the 2nd reading, God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son so that we can have life through Him.

So it is not our love for God, but God’s love for us when He sent His only Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

Yes, love is a sacrifice, and a love offering is a total offering because God’s love for us is a total sacrifice.

Today we also celebrate Mother’s Day and in so many ways we see how our mothers’ love is like a total sacrifice.

In their love for us, we see how God has loved us.

There are many inspiring and heart-warming stories about how mothers love their children with a total sacrifice.

There is this story of a mother’s love for her son, but it’s a rather sad and it is narrated by the son, and it goes like this.

My mom only had one eye. I hated her… She was such an embarrassment. She cooked for students and teachers in school to support the family.

There was this one day during primary school where my mom came to say hello to me. I was so embarrassed.

How could she do this to me? I ignored her, threw her a hateful look and ran out. The next day at school one of my classmates said, “EEEE, your mom only has one eye!”

I wanted to bury myself. I also wanted my mom to just disappear. I confronted her that day and said, “If you’re only going make me a laughing stock, why don’t you just die?”

My mom did not respond… I didn’t even stop to think for a second about what I had said, because I was full of anger. I was oblivious to her feelings.

I wanted out of that house, and have nothing to do with her. So I studied real hard, got a chance to go abroad to study.

Then, I got married. I bought a house of my own. I had kids of my own. I was happy with my life, my kids and the comforts. Then one day, my Mother came to visit me. She hadn’t seen me in years and she didn’t even meet her grandchildren.

When she stood by the door, my children laughed at her, and I yelled at her for coming over uninvited. I screamed at her, “How dare you come to my house and scare my children! GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!!!”

And to this, my mother quietly answered, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address.” – and she disappeared out of sight.

Then one day, a letter regarding a school reunion came to my house, and after much thought, I decided to go for that reunion. 

After the reunion, I went to the old shack where my mother lived, just out of curiosity.

My neighbors said that she died a few days ago. I did not shed a single tear. They handed me a letter that she had wanted me to have.

“My dearest son,
I think of you all the time. I’m sorry that I came to your house and scared your children.
I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I may not be able to even get out of bed to see you. I’m sorry that I was a constant embarrassment to you when you were growing up.
You see, when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn’t stand watching you having to grow up with one eye. So I gave you mine.
I was so proud of my son who was seeing a whole new world for me, in my place, with that eye.
With all my love to you,
Your mother.” (Author Unknown)

A rather sad story for Mother’s day but it serves to remind us not to take our mothers’ love for granted.

And that would also remind us not to take God’s love for granted.

God’s love for us is seen in how our mothers give their love to us.

And that love is not meant for us to keep. Just as in the game of tennis, we don’t keep the ball; we return it.

Let us love our mothers, let us love God, let us also love others. 

It’s a commandment; not a suggestion, nor an option.

Friday, May 8, 2015

5th Week of Easter, Saturday, 09-05-15

Acts 16:1-10 / John 15:18-21

It might be interesting to know what non-Catholics think about us Catholics.

We wonder if they think of us as rigid and ritualistic religious traditionalists, or that we are a loving and caring people who show our religious beliefs by living holy lives.

Though the opinions and views of non-Catholics about Catholics are not critically important, yet they certainly give us a view of ourselves that we can't see or maybe don't want to see.

Whatever the case may be, we must constantly remember that we are chosen to be God's holy people.

Yes, we are called and set apart to walk and live in God's ways, especially when we are faced with the attraction and the lucrative ways of the world.

Yet, we have a choice - the way of God, or the way of the world.

Jesus made a choice for the way of God and to save us when He faced the cross.

May we also make a choice for Jesus and walk in the way of God, so that others will truly see us as a loving and a caring God-fearing people.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

5th Week of Easter, Friday, 08-05-15

Acts 15:22-31 / John 15:12-17

In the 1st reading, the council of apostles and elders that met in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of the Gentile Christians was the first of many councils to come.

From that council, there are a lot of directions that the present day Church can learn from.

Firstly, they did not agree with some Jewish Christians who insisted that circumcision is necessary for salvation.

Furthermore, they reinforced their decision with prayer and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is our belief that God chose us to be in His Church to be a sign of His love and salvation to the world.

With prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can help others to come to know God and to love Him.

With the Spirit of love in our hearts, we can indeed fulfill the commandment of love and also help others do the same.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

5th Week of Easter, Thursday, 07-05-15

Acts 15:7-21 / John 15:9-11

Meetings and discussions can consume a lot of time.

But what can often make meetings and discussions really boring and frustrating is that after all that is said, there are either no decisions or action-plan, or that the outcome is rather ambiguous.

The 1st reading recorded the discussion in the early Church regarding the Gentile Christians taking up a long time.

In the end, Peter stood up to speak.

What he said was not to fuel the argument further, but rather he recalled what Jesus had done for them and that they were saved by His love and grace.

Peter also recalled for them the teaching of Jesus that they were not to lay burdens on others that they themselves could not carry.

That brought about silence to the entire assembly.

It is amazing how the recollection of the love of Jesus and His teaching cleared the minds of those in the assembly.

It is certainly necessary for us to recall for ourselves the love and the teaching of Jesus.

In simple words, that is what Jesus said in the gospel: Remain in my love.

That would certainly reduce unnecessary arguments that waste so much time and energy in discussions.

But more importantly, that will also deepen our faith in the love and teaching of Jesus.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 06-05-15

Acts 15:1-6 / John 15:1-8

Leaves on the ground are a common sight in Singapore because we have many trees around.

The leaves are also of different shades and shapes. But whatever types that they are, the fact is clear.

They have fallen off from the trees or plants.

And then the reality of the state of these leaves will slowly become clear to us.

They are dying or are withered and dead altogether.

Just a simple reflection on the common sight of dried-up and withered leaves will bring home the message of Jesus in today's gospel.

The message is clear enough - cut off from Jesus, we can do nothing, and we will wither and die.

But with Jesus and in Jesus, we will reflect the beauty of life, just as the leaves reflect the beauty of the tree or plant.

It is this beauty that will bring back those who have separated themselves from Jesus.

That will be the fruit that we can bear for Jesus.

Monday, May 4, 2015

5th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 05-05-15

Acts 14:19-28 / John 14:27-31

One of the factors that draw people to a religion is that it gives them this sense of peace.

They will speak of experiences like being troubled and in distress and then something mysterious happens.

For whatever reason, they will just be drawn to a church, and there they will feel a sense of peace and calmness.

Or they may hear a hymn and the tune or the words just resonate in them.

Or they may look at the crucifix or a holy picture or statue and they will feel that God is with them and they experience a sense of security.

Say it anyway we want, the experience is similar as well as familiar - the experience of peace.

These experiences only go to show that Jesus continues to give us peace, especially in our troubled lives and in our troubled world.

It is only with this peace that Jesus gives that will enable us persevere in our faith and empower us to face the many hardships of life.

At every Eucharist, Jesus gives us His peace when He says: I leave you peace; my peace I give you.

Let us continue to trust in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and may we not troubled and afraid of the difficulties of life.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

5th Week of Easter, Monday, 04-05-15

Acts 14:5-18 / John 14:21-26

Mankind has made many great and remarkable achievements.

With the advancement of science and technology, mankind have even gone beyond our world and ventured into the great and vast universe.

Even in our world, mankind has developed machines to fly like birds in the air and swim like fishes in the seas and travel long distances over land.

Yet, despite all these great and remarkable achievements, we seemed to be struggling with one thing.

We seemed to be struggling to live in peace and love.

So we may have conquered outer space, but we have yet to conquer inner space.

Maybe the problem is that we forget that our inner space belongs to God and God alone.

At times the temptation is so great that we want to become like gods and that's where trouble starts.

We must let God reclaim and restore that inner space in us and to make His home within us.

When God is at home in us, then we will be able to keep the commandment of love and live in peace with each other.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 03.05.2015

Acts 9:26-31 / 1 John 3:18-24 / John 15:1-8

The definition of awareness is this: knowledge or perception of a situation or fact; concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.

That’s the dictionary’s definition of awareness. Or putting it plainly, it can be as simple as asking if we remembered which foot it was that stepped into the church as we entered. Is it left foot? Or right foot?

While we are still thinking and trying to remember which foot it was, here comes another question. Is there anything different or is there anything new that we see today in church?

Well, we may have noticed two statues at the side altars. And if we looked closer, we will see that the statue of Mary has a new coat of paint [a makeover? : P : )] 

And if we are trying to make out who the other statue represents, a good guess would be St. Joseph, and so indeed it is.

The statue of Mary was brought down from the loft about three months ago and had to be cleaned and it took two months for it to be restored to what it is.

The statue of Joseph, however, was nowhere to be found and so presumably it was damaged and thrown away.

Until we were alerted that it could be at another church and so indeed it was.

So we had it taken back on Thursday, had it cleaned and we tried to remove as much of the peeling paint as possible. It looks ragged and worn out but nonetheless it is intact and sturdy and hardy. 

Then on Friday, the 1st May, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we had the statue blessed. It was so timely.

Putting the statues on the side altars seems like a mismatch. One looks so new and clean, while the other looks like it’s covered with mud and rather dirty.

But for those of us who are with the parish long enough, we will know that the two statues are at their rightful place.

They were there since the church was built in 1910 but for whatever reason they were removed some time back.

But now that they are back in place, it does seem that everything is connected again. At least for those of us who are in the parish long enough, it does seem that all is at last connected again.

And if statues can talk, they would be saying “It’s nice to be back.” And if the statue of St. Joseph can talk, he would say “I want to be restored!” (He will be …)

The fact is that when things are in place, then they can be connected.

Similarly, when we are in place, then we will also be connected.
And the place that we need to be in is none other than in the heart of Jesus.

That is our home and that is where we get connected with Jesus and with each other.

Jesus used the imagery of the vine and branches to express this connection with Him. He even said that cut off from Him we can do nothing at all.

As we heard in the 1st reading, it was so with Saul, who would later take the name of Paul. At first he tried to join the disciples, but they viewed him with suspicion and he could do nothing at all.

It was only when Barnabas took charge of him and introduced him to the apostles that he began to preach fearlessly and bear fruit in his ministry.

So it was only when Saul was connected with the rest of the disciples and found his home with them that he was able to bear fruit.

As for us, we need to come to an awareness of the spiritual realities as we enter into the house of God. Because without awareness, nothing can change.

Awareness is not about which foot steps into the church first. 

Awareness is that we have stepped into the house of God, the home of Jesus.

And coming to the home of Jesus, the connection begins as Jesus makes His home in each of us and connects us together.

And as we look at the statues of Mary and Joseph at where they belong, we can also see they have come home to Jesus.

Their being now at their proper places is certainly not just the work of man but more so the work of God.

Because it is Jesus who has brought them back to their places in church. 

And through Mary and Joseph, Jesus is also telling us that He wants us to come and make our home in His heart.

And connected to Him and connected with each other, we will bear fruit. We must bear fruit.

So there is this Service Offering form that was distributed last week.

There is something that we can offer to Jesus in service of His church and for this parish.

The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice. 

It is for us to decide whether we want to offer our service and bear fruit for Jesus. 

Mother Mary and St. Joseph are here to make us aware of that. They will be praying for us. May their prayers bear fruit in us for Jesus.
Church of the Sacred Heart