Thursday, April 30, 2015

St. Joseph the Worker, Friday, 01-05-15

Genesis 1:26 - 2:3 or Col 3:14-15, 17, 23-24 / Matthew 13:54-58

To say that we have "no work" may mean two things.

One may mean that we are jobless, that no one has hired us, that we are unemployed. So we want to work, but there is no one who wants to employ us and that also means we have no income.

The other meaning of "no work" is that there is no need for us to work, everything is provided for us, we have more than enough in terms of money, food and shelter and we don't have to be anxious or worried about the future.

The second meaning might sound quite appealing and maybe that is what we dream of every now and then, especially when the stress of work is overwhelming and we feel that we are losing ourselves to it.

But "no work" as in no need to work can seem to be attractive for only a while. After a time, if there is no need to work anymore, then life loses its challenge and we also lose motivation.

Because we are created in the image of God who created the mankind and the world and all creation and keeps recreating His creation.

Hence we are tasked to recreate the world so that the glory of God will be reflected in His creation.

So in whatever form our work may take - in our profession, in our service in Church and in society, in our works of mercy and charity - let us "put our heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men" (Col 3:23)

From the gospel passage, we know that Joseph worked as a carpenter because Jesus was known as the "carpenter's son".

Joseph worked at his profession and he also worked to bring up Jesus in faith and in stature.

May St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers, pray for us that by our work we will build up the kingdom of God and give glory to Him, and may God grant His blessings to the work of our hands

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

4th Week of Easter, Thursday, 30-04-15

Acts 13:13-25 / John 13:16-20

A person who is a good writer does not necessarily mean that the person is also a good presenter.

Likewise, a good presenter may not have the literary skills to be a good writer.

From the letters written by St. Paul in the New Testament, we know that he is a good writer.

In those letters, he teaches, admonishes, persuades, argues, and he always has something to impart to the early Christian communities.

But in the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear St. Paul preaching to the congregation in the synagogue.

It is difficult to say if St. Paul was a good presenter but it must be said that he is a good preacher because what he preached about was the saving work of God and about Jesus the Saviour.

It is here that St. Paul laid the foundations of good preaching. It is not about how well it is presented but about what was presented.

As Jesus said in the gospel - No servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.

When we look at what was preached by the great preachers of the Bible, people is John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul, then we will know why they are great preachers.

They preached about repentance and the forgiveness of sins and about Jesus the Saviour.

Let us pray for those who preach the Word of God that from them we will hear the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins and may we in turn be witnesses of the Good News of salvation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

4th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 29-04-15

Acts 12:24 - 13:5 / John 12:44-50

Courage is called upon in many various scenarios and situations.

One would be at the battlefield when faced with explosions and gunfire - it would take a lot of raw courage to advance despite the casualties.

On a less dramatic scenario, it would also take a lot of courage to stand for what is right and just. It is not easy to say that something is wrong, even if everybody is doing it, and to do what is right and just even if nobody is doing it.

But whether it is a battlefield scenario or a moral question, the courage of the human spirit is put to the test, and those who take up the call of courage will stand out from the rest.

But when the Spirit of God stirs up the human spirit, then courage as well as faith will be needed to answer the call.

In the 1st reading, when the Spirit chose Barnabas and Paul for the mission, the whole community had to respond with courage and faith.

Because Barnabas and Paul would have to go to uncharted and maybe hostile territories. It would mean leaving loved ones and friends and the comfort and security.

But the Spirit of God that stirs up the human spirit will give courage and strength to do the work of God.

The Spirit of God that stirs up the human spirit will also grant faith to believe in Jesus so that the light of Jesus will guide us through the darkness of falsehood and walk the way of truth.

May we open our hearts to the light of Jesus and gain courage to do what is right and just.

Monday, April 27, 2015

4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 28-04-15

Acts 11:19-26 / John 10:22-30

Psalm 23 is also popularly known as the "Good Shepherd psalm" and many hymns have been composed using that psalm.

It is a popular psalm because it offers a soothing consolation in a time of distress and danger.

For example, when it says "If I should ever walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear, you are there to show the way"

Certainly it is very encouraging and we feel that no darkness is too powerful when the Lord, our Good Shepherd is leading us.

The first two lines of the first stanza says this: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.

That is a very profound starting to the psalm and that sets the tone for the encouragement and consolation that the rest of the psalm expresses.

But we can only experience that encouragement and consolation when we truly listen to what the Lord, our Good Shepherd, is telling us in the psalm.

As Jesus said in the gospel, the sheep that belong to Him listen to His voice; He knows them and they follow Him.

So even in a time of persecution as we heard in the 1st reading, the early Church walked through that valley of darkness with her Good Shepherd leading her to continue her mission and the Church even grew in that time of persecution.

Let us listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him so that from the valleys of darkness, we will be lead to the pastures of consolation and grow in encouragement.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 27-04-15

Acts 11:1-18 / John 10:1-10

If seeing is believing , then what does hearing lead to? All too often, the emphasis is on the visual and what can be seen.

In the Bible, seeing may lead to believing, just as the disciples saw the Risen Christ and believed in Him.

But seeing is just one aspect of the faith experience. The other equally important is the hearing aspect.

If seeing leads to believing, then hearing may lead to understanding.

In the 1st reading, Peter saw a vision. But he also heard a voice telling him what the vision means.

And when Peter related the account, he couldn't show the vision but he described the vision and more importantly, he repeated what the voice told him.

Peter recognized the voice that told him the meaning of the vision and the direction he should be taking.

In the gospel, Jesus also talked about the sheep listening and knowing the voice of the shepherd.

The sheep do not recognize the voice of strangers; in fact they run away from strangers, and we can imagine that they are frightened by an unfamiliar voice and they run away.

Everyday we hear many voices. Most are real voices that we hear from those around us and those we come into contact with.

What they say affects us and influences us. May we pray and discern what is from the Lord and what is not, so that we will recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 26.04.2015

Acts 4:8-12 / 1 John 3:1-2 / John 10:11-18 

One of the most prominent Church figures in the 20th century is Pope John XXIII. He was canonized on the 27th April 2014.

Besides the fact that it was he who got Vatican II Council started when nobody expected a 78 year-old Pope to do so, he was also prominent because of his figure.

Before he was elected Pope in 1958, one of his appointments was being papal nuncio to France. It was then that one of the French diplomats described him as “a sack of potatoes”. And if we look at photos of John XXIII, we will somewhat agree.

But one of the prominent characteristics of John XXIII was his sense of humour. Once he went to a school and there he asked the boys what they would want to become when they grew up, and one of them said that he would want to be a pope.

The pope smiled and said: Oh anyone can be a pope. Look at me! If I can become a pope, anyone can become a pope.

Such was the humour of John XXIII. But jokes aside, he knows that not anyone can be a pope, just as not anyone can be a priest.

This Sunday, the Church also celebrates Vocation Sunday and the Church is called to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.

We are called to reflect upon Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and the reflection is focused on the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.

The reflection goes further for those whom Jesus is calling to be His priests and to follow Him to lay down their lives for His sheep.

It is often said that God will provide. And so it can also be said that God will provide priests for His Church.

But the crisis that the Church is facing is the falling numbers in vocations to the priesthood, and at present there are only 10 seminarians in the Major Seminary, and that is already ringing the alarm bells for the future.

Added to that are the scandals that have rocked the Church and smeared the dignity of the priesthood.

With all those factors weighing in heavily on the Church, the resultant is that there is a growing skepticism and cynicism about the priesthood.

This skepticism and cynicism is reflected in this so-called poem and the title is none other than “No one wants to be a priest” and it goes like this.

It goes like this: 
No one wants to be a priest because …If he begins Mass on time, his watch is fast;If he begins a minute later, he keeps people waiting.If he preaches too long, he makes people get bored;If his homily is too short, he is unprepared.If his voice is strong when preaching, he is shouting;If his voice is normal,people do not understand what he is preaching about;If he goes to visit families, he is always out:If he does not, he does not care for them.If he asks for donations, he is a money-face;If he does not do it, he is too proud and lazy.If he takes time in the confessional, he is too slow;If he makes it too fast, he has no time for his penitents.If he renovates the church, he throws away money;If he does not do it, he allows everything to rot away.If he is with the youth, he forgets the old.If he warms up to old aunties, he must be missing his mummy.If he keeps distance from all of them, he has a heart of stone.If he is young, he has no experience;If he is old, he should retire.As long as he lives, there are always people who are better than him;BUT IF THE PRIEST DIES....THERE IS NOBODY TO TAKE HIS PLACE!Because no one wants to be a priest!!!
But God will provide and the Church must keep praying that those who are called will respond.

And the Church must also pray for those who have responded to the call to be good shepherds who will lay down their lives for the sheep.

As for myself, having been a priest for 17 years, when I was appointed parish priest of this parish, I knew that the sacrifice will have to go one notch higher.

And this sacrifice is best expressed in the Eucharist where I lead the community into prayer with the sign of the cross at the beginning and call upon God’s blessings on the community at the end of the Eucharistic celebration.

In between, I pray that we will be delivered from every evil and that we will have peace and be safe from all distress.

The fundamental task of a priest, as the 2nd reading would put it, is to form his people to be God’s children and to be like Him.

And if his people do not behave like God’s children, then the priest is called to do penance and pray for them because he is accountable for their souls and their salvation.

So I am accountable for your soul and your salvation. And do I want to be held accountable? 

I can only firmly say “Yes” because I am doing this for God who has lavished His love on us by calling us His children.

And God wants all of us His children to be with Him in heaven. And it is my mission as the priest and the spiritual father of this parish community to do that.

Pope John XXIII died on the 3rd June 1963 and his last words were these: "I had the great grace to be born into a Christian family, modest and poor, but with the fear of the Lord. My time on earth is drawing to a close. But Christ lives on and continues his work in the Church. Souls, souls, may they all be one.”

I had the great grace to be a priest serving in this parish community. I also hope to teach you the fear of the Lord and to love Him. 

May you pray for us priests that we continue the saving work of the Lord so that we will all be one in Christ … on earth, and in heaven.

Friday, April 24, 2015

St. Mark, Evangelist, Saturday, 25-04-15

1 Peter 5:5-14 / Mark 16:15-20

St Mark was not one the the 12 Apostles. Known as John Mark who is mentioned in the 1st reading, he was a cousin of Barnabas, and he also accompanied St. Paul in his missionary journeys and he also worked closely with St. Peter in Rome.

So though St. Mark was not an "Apostle" (as in being one the chosen Twelve) he wrote an account which became known as the "Gospel according to St. Mark.

When we read that gospel, we also get an idea of the person of St Mark and what he thought of Jesus.

He does not focus on the lengthy teachings of Jesus (the gospel has only 16 chapters) but more on the deeds of Jesus and His power over evil and sickness.

As we heard in today's gospel which is from St. Mark, the emphasis is on the "signs" that Jesus had worked in His ministry and Jesus expected those signs to be continued in His disciples.

And those signs are indeed spectacular - cast out devils; gift of tongues; picking up snakes; unharmed by deadly poison; laying hands on the sick who will recover.

These are not only what Jesus did, but what His disciples did too as they went off to preach the Good News and these signs are associated with them.

And it was the underlying expectation of St. Mark that Christians in every age and time would work these signs and wonders so as to bring people to the faith.

So if these signs are not associated with us in this age and time, then what can the problem be? Is it a lack of faith, or doubt. Or as Jesus puts it - "In my name they will ... "

Are we doing it in the name of Jesus, or are we doing it to make a name for ourselves.

May all we say and do be in the name of Jesus, may we come to know Jesus as St. Mark did, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 24-05-15

Acts 9:1-20 / John 6:52-59

It is said that all things work for the good of those who love God and do His will.

But it cannot be denied that we have our own ideas of what loving God entails and what His will is all about.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Saul was breathing threats to slaughter the Lord's disciples and he even went all out, even to Damascus to arrest them.

Saul thought he was loving God in that way and doing His will, until Jesus had to stop him on his tracks on the way to Damascus and even blinded him to get the message across.

But it was not just Saul who had his own ideas about God. Ananias too had his own ideas about what God wants of him.

So much so that God had to order him to go and see Saul and to give him back his sight.

Even the people had their own ideas about the teaching of Jesus on eating His body and drinking His blood.

Just like the people in the past, we too have our own ideas about God and what He wants of us.

But today's readings make us think. Can being angry and unforgiving, can being selfish and unkind, can being boastful and proud, be what God wants of us and is that pleasing to God?

Before we get blinded and are brought to our knees, let us ask to Lord to help us do what is right and just. It is for our own good anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 23-04-15

Acts 8:26-40 / John 6:44-51

When we hear a person using words like "What is there is stop me?", we know that it means serious business!

Usually people will be more polite and gentle with their words, and even if they want something, they would be courteous and put it across in a more acceptable way.

In the 1st reading, we heard the eunuch asking Philip "Is there anything to stop me from being baptized?"

It was not out of arrogance that the eunuch was making that statement. It was an expression of a deep desire after a dramatic conversion through the explanation of Scriptures by Philip.

More than just an enlightening explanation of the Scriptures by Philip and the openness of the heart of the eunuch, there was present the grace of God that enable the two to be connected.

As Jesus said in the gospel: No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me.

Let us realize that nothing can happen, dramatic or otherwise, without the grace of God.

It was the grace of God that called Philip to set out on that road that goes from Jerusalem down to the Gaza, and it was the grace of God that drew the eunuch to ask for baptism.

So when the grace of God calls out to us and draws us to a mission and to do His will, let us be open to His grace.

There is nothing to stop God from doing what He wants. But what He wants of us is a loving obedience to His will. May we be docile to His grace.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 22-04-15

Acts 8:1-8 / John 6:35-40

If we can remember the beginning lines of the novel "A tale of two cities" (Charles Dickens), it goes like this: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

That passage makes marked use of anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses—for example, “it was the age . . . it was the age” and “it was the epoch . . . it was the epoch. . . .” This technique, along with the passage’s steady rhythm, suggests that good and evil, wisdom and folly, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle.

And that is also a reflection of life and its cycles of good and evil, wisdom and folly, light and darkness, etc.

We have just celebrated the Resurrection. It was a time of light and joy. But following that, as we heard in the 1st reading, was a time of evil and darkness that began with the martyrdom of Stephen and then a bitter persecution started against the Church.

But even in the midst of that time of evil and darkness, there were little lights that flickered and showed that the darkness cannot overcome the light. Also it is interesting to note that there is a unit of measurement for light (lux or lumen) but none for darkness.

One of those lights was Philip who went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Good News of Christ to them, and there was great rejoicing in that town.

The light that we have received at our Baptism needs to be nourished by Jesus, the Bread of Life so that just like a candle whose light is fuelled by the wax, the light of our faith can continue to burn when we are nourished by the Bread of life.

Then even in the best of times or worst of times, whether in wisdom or foolishness, whether in belief or incredulity, whether in hope or despair, our light will continue to shine through the darkness.

Monday, April 20, 2015

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 21-04-15

Acts 7:51 - 8:1 / John 6:30-35

A telescope has two ends. And depending on which end we look into, there will be two images of reverse sizes.

Looking into the end from which we would normally look into, what we will see is a magnified image of a distant object.

But if we were to look into the other end, we will get this feeling that we are looking at the same object through a tube, and what we get is a tunnel-vision of that object.

In today's two readings, there were two groups of people, and each group was like looking into the two different ends of the telescope.

In the 1st reading, there were the elders and scribes who were infuriated with Stephen for what he said about them - that they were a stubborn people with pagan hearts and pagan ears, resisting the Holy Spirit just as their ancestors did, and that they were betrayers and murderers of the prophets right down to Jesus.

They looked at Stephen from the other end of the telescope, and to them he was so insignificant that doing away with him was no issue at all.

But Stephen, on the other hand, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on God's right hand. Stephen saw beyond and much more.

In the gospel, the people saw Jesus as a supplier with an unending flow of bread who will satisfy their own needs.

What they couldn't see is that Jesus is the mystical bread of life who came to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst.

May our eyes be opened to see the spiritual and the mystical dimensions of the Eucharist and come to be filled by Jesus the bread of life so that we will always look for the things of above instead of being too focused on the things of earth.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

3rd Week of Easter, Monday, 20-04-15

Acts 6:8-15 / John 6:22-29

Retirement might sound like a wonderful thing.

Because when we think about retirement, we might have this notion of a stress-free life, going for holidays and to places which we have not been before, and doing things which we never had time for.

But we have also heard of stories about how people lose their purpose in life after retiring.

Some get depressed and for some, life just fades away and they lose purpose and meaning.

It seems that once there is nothing to work for, no purpose or objective in life, then there is also no meaning in our life and for our existence.

In today's gospel, Jesus is asking us: What are we working for?

Is it something that we can relish and treasure, not just into our retirement, but also way into eternity?

In the 1st reading, the deacon Stephen knew that God was working in him and through him and so even in spite of the oppositions and dangers, he kept focused on his service for God.

Stephen believed in Jesus and he knew that the most fundamental in his work for God is to witness to Jesus. That he did, and he did it right to the end, and also into eternity

Because in the end, that is what counts. Not just in this life but also in eternal life.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 19.04.2015

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / 1 John 2:1-5 / Luke 24:35-48

If we had to keep watch at a funeral wake, there is not much that we can do but to wait for people to come and pay respects.

And if the wake is at the void deck of a block, then when it comes to the late hours of the night, there can be some things to keep us occupied.

Some might gamble the night away; some might be occupied with their hand-phones; some might just watch TV or whatever.

But when I was growing up, when it comes to the late hours of the night, that will be the time when the uncles and aunties will start to tell ghost stories.

And we the kids will be huddled together in terror as we listen and we won’t even dare to go to the toilet.

Some ghost stories sound so ridiculous as I think of it now, but still it made a deep impression on me and my cousins then.

One story is that we have to keep watch around the coffin and to prevent any black cat from jumping over the coffin.

Otherwise the body will rise and start jumping all over the place. 

So the legs of the deceased will be tied together so that they can only jump around and can’t chase people. That’s what we kids were told.

It sounds so ridiculous, right? But when we were kids we just believed everything that was told to us. And we even remember it until now. And maybe even until our dying day.

But seriously, ghost stories only instill fear and at times death and darkness become bigger than our faith in God.

In the gospel, the two disciples told their story of what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they had recognized Jesus at the breaking of bread. But then He vanished from their sight.

To the rest of the disciples, that sounded like some kind of ghost story. So when Jesus appeared and stood among them, they were in a state of alarm and fright, and they thought they were seeing a ghost. 

And if Jesus had vanished from their sight again, then what we would end up with is a ghost story. After all, it seems that ghosts would appear here and there and then disappear.

But Jesus calmed their fears when He showed them His hands and feet. He invited them to touch Him and He even ate a piece of grilled fish before their eyes.

He proved to them that He was no ghost, and that He was alive. 

And they were overjoyed though they were dumbfounded.

And as He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, there is one truth that came across profoundly.

And that is the God that they believed in is the God of the living and not of the dead, for in God, all are alive.

And the proof is that Jesus is standing right there before them, and certainly more alive than they are.

When death strikes and takes a loved one away, it is difficult to think about that person in the other world.

We might wonder where that person is and other questions that seem to have no answers.

My father, my papa, passed on in June last year. He is the first in my immediate family to pass on and with no experience of a death in the family it was quite chaotic.

Nonetheless, a wake was held, the funeral was conducted, he was cremated and we continued to offer Masses and pray for his soul.

Then at All Souls Day last year, my mum asked me if papa was already in heaven.

I was a bit stumped for an answer and so I told her that I will try to find out, although I didn’t know how.

And then I was told, at short notice, of my posting here. So I squeezed some time to visit my papa at his niche. 

Well, I told him that I am coming here, and I might as well tell you that this was the church of his baptism and also my parents were married here.

Anyway I told my papa that I need to tell my mum whether he is already in heaven so I asked him to pray for my intentions as I begin my ministry in this parish.

As we may know, in the canonization process, at least two miracles must have been performed through the saint's intercession after his or her death, besides an additional miracle for granting beatification. So all in all, it’s three miracles.

Of course, I am not going to put up a cause for my papa’s canonization, but if he is in heaven then I would need his prayers. 

So I asked my papa to pray for my intentions for this parish, not just for three intentions, but I think by now it’s already three thousand and still counting.

To say the least, all my petitions were answered – difficulties were eased, things got started and going, problems had solutions. 

And I will keep asking my papa to pray, not just for me but also for you.

And I want to share with you one sign that enabled me to confidently tell my mum that my papa is in heaven.

About a month or so after coming here I had to fill up a form and I needed to know Fr. Paul Tong’s birthdate. So I asked him and then I had to ask what year was he born in and he told me it’s 1927. He was born in the same year as my papa. And indeed Fr. Paul Tong is like a father to me.

And as if that is not enough, only recently I had to ask Fr. Vincent Chee what year he was born in, and he told me it’s 1937. It’s the same year as my mum! I doubt no more!

It’s not an awesome sign but it’s enough for me to say that my papa is alive and interceding for me and for you and for the parish.

Yes, my papa and all our deceased loved ones are alive and share in the Resurrection of Christ.

So ask your deceased loved ones to intercede for you in your struggles and difficulties of life.

And when we have our prayers answered, then let us give thanks to God.

Let us forget about those ridiculous ghost stories and be witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ and His presence among us.

And rising from our sinfulness, let us also be witnesses to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

It has to begin with us; it has to begin from us.

Friday, April 17, 2015

2nd Week of Easter, Saturday, 18-04-15

Acts 6:1-7 / John 6:16-21

It is said that when carrying water in a pail, and in order to prevent the water from spilling, all that is needed is just to float a piece of wood on the water in the pail.

Whether this really works or not, we just need to try it out.

If this method really works, it only shows that even a simple task like carry water in a pail requires a stabilizing factor.

The Church also requires a stabilizing factor.

Whether the task is about distributing food to the poor or bringing peace to a troubled situation, the Church must remember that no task is too small for the Church not to require the grace of God.

And on the personal level, no task is too small for us not to require the grace of God.

The apostles in the early Church knew the importance of prayer and the necessity of grace in every aspect of the life of the Church.

They knew from experience that without prayer and praying for God's grace, they will be like a boat in the storm and they will succumb to anxiety and fear.

Very often, the solution to the problems we face in life is as simple as floating a piece of wood on the water.

Yet, it certainly requires prayer and God's grace to know what to do and how to do it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2nd Week of Easter, Friday, 17-04-15

Acts 5:34-42 / John 6:1-15

In its 2000 over years of existence, the Church had undergone many trials and tribulations.

When the Church was split into the Eastern and Western Church in 1054, people thought it was the end of Christianity.

During the 16th century when the Church was corroding from corruption and immoral practices, and when the Protestant Reformation came along, people thought it was the end of the Church.

In this present time, we hear of the terrible scandals in the Church, and we begin to get shaken.

We wonder what has become of the Church and what is the Church all about?

Yet, we cannot negate the fact that the Church is divine as well as human.

As Gamaliel puts it in the 1st reading - if this is of human origin, it will break up of its own accord.

We are crushed and confused by the scandals of the Church.

Yet, we still have the mission of feeding those who still hold on to their belief in God and in the Church.

God has given us the five loaves and two fish. We cannot just sit there and rot with it.

With the grace of God, we must rise and embark on the mission of feeding and healing those whose faith was shaken and shattered by the scandals.

We only need to entrust ourselves into the hands of God who is merciful and compassionate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, 16-04-15

Acts 5:27-33 / John 3:31-36

In life, we use a lot of everyday things, from computers to cars.

We make use of these things although we are not too sure how it works. We only see the results and the effects.

Similarly in the Christian life, we are not too sure how faith in God works.

But people of faith show it in their transformed lives.

They transform especially in the secular notion of obedience.

For people of faith, obedience to God is not seen as a curtailing of their freedom.

Obedience is understood in the biblical sense as in listening to the Word of God and then making the choice to act in accordance to God's will.

That was what Peter meant in the 1st reading by being obedient to God.

It is an obedience that comes from listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, believing in it although there are risks and difficulties, and finally acting on it with love.

The person of faith will continue to testify so that the earthly ones may be reminded of the things that are from above.

People may not want to know what our faith is all about. But they would certainly want to see how our faith works in us.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2nd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 15-04-15

Acts 5:17-26 / John 3:16-21

If we put an object in the bedroom and locked the room, and the next day we find that very object sitting in the middle of the living room, we will certainly be astonished.

We may think that someone is playing a prank on us or that someone moved that object without telling us.

But if after all the investigations and ruling out all possibilities, and we still cannot find a possible explanation for what has happened, then we might consider asking a priest to come and bless the house!

In the 1st reading, we heard that the disciples were imprisoned by the chief priest and his supporters. But that very night an angel freed them from prison and told them to go on with the mission of proclaiming the Good News.

The next morning, the chief priest convened the Sanhedrin, but when they found out that the disciples were not in prison and then were told that they are at the Temple preaching to the people, there could be a variety of reactions to this.

They could be astonished, they could be afraid, they could be in awe and wonder, or they could have the same reactions to the Resurrection of Christ - being obstinate and incredulous, despite all the facts.

As Jesus said in the gospel - though the light has come into the world, men have shown they prefer darkness to the light.

That is like saying that men prefer the prison than freedom.

So in the 1st reading, it is quite clear to see who were the ones who were in prison and who were the ones who live in freedom.

God raised Jesus from death so that like Him we too can be freed from sin and darkness. To go back to the tomb or to lock ourselves in is simply being obstinate and incredulous.

Monday, April 13, 2015

2nd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 14-04-15

Acts 4:323-37 / John 3:7-15

There is a book in the Old Testament called Qoheleth (or Ecclesiastes) that begins with this phrase: Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.

It gives a graphic description of vanity as like chasing the wind.

Vanity can also come in many forms like looks, intelligence, talents, but whatever it is, one can never get enough of it.

For eg. when it comes to looks and appearances, we can never get tired of looking at ourselves in the mirror.

In the gospel, Nicodemus took pride in himself as a Pharisee and as a teacher of religion and a man of knowledge.

But it is also this pride, or vanity, in his knowledge that led him to ask the question: How can this be possible?

He had some fixed ideas about God but when the ways of the Spirit goes beyond his knowledge, he was like trying to catch the wind with a net.

Even when we look at the 1st reading, and we hear that the whole group of believers were united in heart and soul, sharing everything in common and no one was in need, we may wonder if this can ever happen in our present times, and if this can ever be possible.

Yet, the ways of the Spirit and the mystery of God can address all possibilities.

When we are moved by the Spirit, all possibilities can turn to realities.

When we are moved by the Spirit, we won't be chasing the wind; we will move with the wind.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2nd Week of Easter, Monday, 13-04-15

Acts 4:23-31 / John 3:1-8

The usual practice for the Rite of Baptism is to use water as the form or the means for baptism.

So whether it is infant or adult, whether it is by immersion or by affusion, the form or the means is water.

The symbol of water gives us the indication that baptism washes away our sins and purifies us and makes us God's children.

Yet, water has also an additional meaning. It also points to the descent of the Holy Spirit into our hearts at our baptism.

So at our baptism, it is like what Jesus said in the gospel - we are born again through water and the Spirit.

The waters of baptism purify us, and the Spirit sanctifies us.

The Spirit sanctifies us to be a people of prayer who will listen to the promptings of the Spirit.

It is in trusting in the Spirit that we will experience the power of prayer.

In the 1st reading, as the disciples prayed, the house where they were assembled began to rock.

May our hearts too be moved by the Spirit when we pray.

As our hearts begin to be moved by the Spirit in prayer, we also pray that the hearts of those whom we are praying for be moved so that they too will follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 12.04.2015

Acts 4:32-35 / 1 John 5:1-6 / John 20:19-31

Just taking a moment to look around, are we able to see who is missing?

We may wonder what kind of question is that. How would we know who is missing? In the first place we may not even know the names of the persons sitting in front of us or behind us or even beside us.

Of course that is something that needs to be worked at – getting to know each other by name – instead of feeling like a stranger in Church, of all places!

But even if we really know each other by name, are we able to see who is missing?

Well, we may say that those who are missing are those who have chosen not to come here.

But having said that, there is a certain group of people who are missing because they can’t come here.

One of them is my relative who has a chickenpox infection and the rashes broke out on Tuesday so she has to be confined at home.

And because chickenpox is contagious, she can’t come to Church even if she wants to. 

And also she certainly won’t want to come to Church with all those rashes and blisters on her face and hands.

I asked if she would want me to go over and pray for her.

She declined and said that I might get infected, although I already had chickenpox.

And she also said this – If I am missing from Church nobody will notice; but if you are missing from Church everybody will know. 

And nobody will go near you if they know you have chickenpox.

In the gospel passage, when the Risen Christ appeared to His disciples, we know who was missing from among them.

Thomas didn’t have chickenpox, he also didn't have a bad bout of flu nor was he on medical leave.

He chose not to be with the disciples. We were not told why he chose to stay away.

But when the disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, he refused to believe and he demanded that he would want to put his finger into the holes into those hands of Jesus and even his hand into His side, before he could believe.

It could be that his faith was so shattered and he was so devastated that nothing short of touching those wounds of the Risen Christ could make him change his mind.

Well, Thomas got what he asked for. Eight days later when he was with the rest of the disciples, the Risen Christ appeared again, and He came specifically for Thomas.

Whether Thomas put his finger into those holes and his hand into the side of Jesus is left to us to speculate.

But it was not so much for Thomas to put his finger and his hand into those wounds of Jesus. 

Rather it was for Jesus to touch the wounds of the shattered and devastated Thomas.

Thomas has often been called the “Doubting Thomas” and that is because Jesus said to him “Doubt no longer but believe.”

But the “Doubting Thomas” may also be the “Hurting Thomas” in that his shattered faith at the death of Jesus was too much for him to bear and so he didn’t want the rest of the disciples to see him at his worst. And so he stayed away from them. 

The missing Thomas was not just a doubting Thomas but also a hurting Thomas.

So as we look around we may begin to “see” who is missing. Some can’t be here because of they are aged and home-bound or ill or hospitalized.

But some are not here by choice. They may have been disappointed or angry with God or had a bad experience with a church member or with a priest (sigh …)

But we who are here may also not be that steadfast in faith either. 

We may have “spiritual chickenpox” with rashes and blisters that are painful and hurting. But it is all within.

But just as chickenpox is contagious, we too spread our pain and hurt onto others resulting in more pain and hurt.

Today the Risen Christ comes to us and touches our wounds to heal our pain.

More so, today is also called “Divine Mercy Sunday”. Jesus is the mercy of God and He wants to heal us so that we can believe in Him and in His love for us.

We are not asking to put our finger and our hand into those wounds of Jesus. 

We are asking Jesus to put His hand into our hearts to heal our pain and hurt.

When we are healed of our doubting and our hurting, then we will be able to reach out to those who are missing.

May our prayer be that we bring back those who are missing so that together we will proclaim Jesus as “My Lord and my God!”

Friday, April 10, 2015

Saturday within Easter Octave, 11-04-15

Acts 4 : 13-21 / Mark 16 : 9-15

Faith is a gift from God. It is not something we can earn or acquire by our own efforts or resources.

But how God grants this gift of faith and in what measure is somewhat a mystery.

A person can read the whole Bible and the profound theological books and listen to the most persuasive preacher and yet do not have faith.

On the other hand a person can just come across an ordinary mundane experience and yet be converted, as in the case of St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

In the 1st reading, ordinary uneducated laymen like Peter and John were preaching about the resurrection of Christ.

There was even proof of what they were saying in the person of the healed cripple.

Yet, the elders and the scribes somehow did not believe them.

In the gospel, Mary Magdalene went to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But they refused to believe her. Well, it can be very difficult to believe that a person can rise from the dead, especially after being dead for three days.

The main phrase that runs through the readings is "did not believe".

The gospel even mentioned that Jesus reproached His disciples for their incredulity and obstinacy for their refusal to believe in His resurrection.

As for ourselves, regardless of whether we have inherited the faith because of our parents or came to believe in the faith in our adult years, the challenge for us is to grow and deepen in our faith.

If faith is a gift from God, then we must treasure and nourish this gift with prayer and devotion.

We also must persist in our faith. That is one profound way of proclaiming our trust and faith in God.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Friday within Easter Octave, 10-04-15

Acts 4:1-12 / John 21:1-14

In the midst of a changing world, and it is changing in every sense of the word, there are many other things that remain the same, or at least they retain some familiarity.

The appearance may remain the same or that it is familiar, but internally things may have changed. Conversely, it can be a change in appearance but nothing has changed internally.

For the disciples in the gospel passage, things have changed and yet some things have remained the same.

Things have changed, and changed drastically, ever since they encountered the Risen Christ.

But it seemed that the changing curve had plateaued off and they began going back to what was familiar and to what life used to be.

Maybe they were unsure, after all that had happened, what to do next, and so the best thing to do for the moment was to go back to fishing.

And just when they thought it was safe to go back to the water, the winds of change started blowing for yet another encounter with the Risen Christ.

And from then on, as we heard in the 1st reading, how the renewed change had led Peter and John to proclaim the Risen Christ.

As for us, Easter had come and gone. Whether we had prepared ourselves spiritually during Lent, that is already over. Whether there was any change in us during Lent or at the celebration of Easter, that is already a side issue.

Easter is about rising and changing. The Risen Christ will keep coming at us until something happens in us.

May the grace of Easter bring about a change in us so that we will dare to go out into the deep water and witness to Christ by being fishers of men.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thursday within Easter Octave, 09-04-15

Acts 3:11-26 / Luke 24:35-48

To say that our faith is a mystery  certainly does not mean that our faith is beyond understanding.

We must have a reason ready for what we believe in and it should be acceptable to those who are open to the explanation (cf 1 Peter 3:15).

In the gospel, the resurrection of Jesus was not portrayed as some kind of mystery beyond understanding.

However, when the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples, they were in a state of alarm and fright, and they thought they were seeing a ghost.

If Jesus had disappeared from them at that instance, then the resurrection of Jesus would end up as some kind of incredible ghost story.

But the Risen Christ spoke to His disciples, showed them His hands and feet, and even invited them to touch Him.

Certainly, it was not some kind of ghostly illusion but a personal encounter with the Risen Christ.

Similarly, in the 1st reading, Peter pointed out that the healing of the crippled man was not due to an act of man but an act of God through the Risen Christ.

Yes, the Risen Christ wants us to encounter Him, and He wants to heal us and help us solve our problems and difficulties so that our faith in Him can be strengthened and deepened.

The resurrection of Christ is certainly not a man-made idea or incredible concept. It will be manifested in our lives and when we see it happening in our lives, let us give glory to God.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wednesday within Easter Octave, 08-04-15

Acts 3:1-10 / Luke 24:13-35

Whenever the path of life becomes lonely and we feel the misery, then we would certainly need some company.

Yes, misery needs company and as we heard in the gospel that on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, there were two disciples on the journey.

It would have been the journey of misery if not for the company. We know the name of one of them - Cleopas - but we do not know the name of the other.

Then Jesus came along and walked by their side but something prevented them from recognizing Him.

Though they did not recognize Him, but as we heard later, the hearts of the two disciples burned as Jesus talked with them along the journey.

In the 1st reading, another two disciples, Peter and John were on the journey to the Temple when they met a man in misery - a man who was crippled from birth and begging from people.

The crippled man only saw Peter and John, and it was Peter to made it known to him that there was someone else with them as he said these words - I have neither silver or gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!

And the man was healed and brought out of his misery, and all because Jesus was revealed and made known to him.

As we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we are also called to go forth and reveal Jesus to others and to make Him known.

We are not Peter or John or Cleopas, but we are that unnamed disciple who will now journey with those in misery so that Jesus can come along and walk with us and make us hearts burn again.

With Jesus walking with us, misery will turn in the mystery of the revelation of God's love for us.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tuesday within Easter Octave, 07-04-15

Acts 2:36-41 / John 20:11-18

Whatever race or whatever dialect group we belong to, we all have learnt a language from our earliest days.

That language, we call the mother-tongue.

We may have learned other languages along the way, but we will not forget our mother-tongue.

Because the mother-tongue creates a very intimate resonance within us.

It is used to tell us that we are loved; we use it to express love.

When Mary Magdalene addressed Jesus as "Rabbuni" the gospel makes it a special note that she said it in Hebrew.

In such an intimate moment, she used Hebrew, which was probably her mother-tongue, to express her love for Jesus.

Because more than just being the mother-tongue, it is also the language of the heart.

In the 1st reading, when Peter spoke to the Jews, he also spoke from the heart, and that was why they were convinced.

From his heart, Peter addressed Jesus as Lord and Christ.

For us, over and above our devotional practices and beliefs, we too must have an intimate relationship with Jesus.

We too, like Mary Magdalene and Peter, must address Jesus by an intimate name with a language which is from the heart.

Because it was God who first called us by a special name, even when we were in our mother's womb.

God has called out to us in love and called us by name. May we respond to God with all our love and help others speak the language of love.

Monday within Easter Octave, 06-04-15

Acts 2:14, 22-33 / Matthew 28:8-15

Truth has a way of bringing out the stuff that people are made of.

In the gospel, we see two groups of people with different reactions to the empty tomb.

The women saw the empty tomb, saw the Truth, ie. the Risen Christ, and then went off to proclaim the truth with joy in their hearts.

The soldiers saw the empty tomb, went to report to the chief priests and the elders, cooked up a lie and then lived on in fear and in worry.

Strange that the second group of people who are supposed to be people of courage and bravery, somehow succumbed to cowardice and deceit.

And it is surprising that the first group of people, the women, who were powerless, discounted and devalued, were the ones who lived up to the truth with courage.

So as long as we have something to lose, whether it is our social standing, our reputation, our security, our investments, our pride, then we will have a difficulty with the truth.

But the Easter greeting of the Risen Christ always assures us that He knows how we feel and He knows what we need.

The Risen Lord wants to calm our hearts with these three words "Do not be afraid" so that we too can proclaim the truth.

The Truth, who is the Risen Lord, will set us free. Let us not be afraid. Jesus will be with us to conquer our fears.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Sunday Year B, 05.04.2015

Acts 10:34, 37-43 / Col 3:1-4 / John 20:1-9 

If we had watched the state funeral last Sunday, we would have remembered that the Prime Minister was the first to give the eulogy.

His beginning words were these – “This has been a dark week for Singapore. The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished”. He was, of course, referring to the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Yes, it had been a dark week for Singapore. But even in that darkness, there arose many little lights that showed the emotional side of Singaporeans and also the best side of Singaporeans.

At least it can be said that Singaporeans were united as a nation in bidding farewell to her founding father.

One light was extinguished, but the fire burned on in many other little lights.

Tonight we began our Easter Vigil with the blessing of the fire, a ritual that happens only once a year actually.

The fire was blessed, and from it the Easter Candle was lighted, and it continues to burn in the sanctuary lamps and in the votive candles in the parish house.

The fire is also a symbol of the divine presence of Christ who is the Light of the world. 

We also receive that light at our baptism when we were given a lighted candle to symbolize that we are enlightened by the light of Christ and that we are to live as children of the light.

But here is where, if we reflected deeper, there seems to be a contradiction and an opposition of symbols.

We were baptized with water and then we are enlightened by fire.

Water and fire don’t go together. Water extinguishes fire, but fire can also boil water and can eventually evaporate the water.

But in the divine mystery, water and fire take on a combined spiritual purpose in our lives.

Water permeates into stone structures and hence no matter how sturdy a building may be, there will eventually be a leaking problem somewhere. 

And in the confrontation between a stream of water and a rock, the stream of water always wins, not through strength but through persistence.

Later we will renew our baptismal promises – we will renounce sin and evil and the devil, and we will also profess our belief in God. 

And then we will be sprinkled with holy water. The spiritual significance is that God will shower His love upon us until His love permeates into our hearts until we turn into fountains of living water that will in turn flow to others.

But just as education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of the fire of wisdom, the cleansing water of God’s love makes us shine with the light of Christ.

The Easter celebration of the Resurrection of Christ also reminds us spiritual powers of fire and water.

Fire gives light and it also radiates warmth. The fire of God’s love is in us so that as children of the light, we radiate the warmth of God’s love to others, and that’s just by being who we truly are – the children of the light.

Being baptized with water, we also take on the spiritual meaning of water, in that clean water is essential for life and so we must be life-giving to others.

Also water is considered as the universal solvent, and so we pour out our lives for others so that we can help them to solve their problems in life.

We will bless the water later and it will be distributed in Holy Water bottles. But the blessed water is not to be kept in those bottles for display or for it to evaporate.

We bring it back to bless our homes, our workplace, bless our children, and also bless ourselves so that God’s love will continue to permeate into our hearts and into our lives.

Last week the light that guided our nation was extinguished and on the day of the state funeral there was, ironically, a heavy downpour, and it was challenging for those who lined the streets to bid their last farewell.

But there was a quote from the blogger Mr. Brown, (who usually makes candid comments and remarks).

He wrote – The rain came down in torrents. No one ran. No one left.

The light may have been extinguished, but it lighted fires in the hearts of Singaporeans.

For us, the light of the Resurrection of Christ is shining into our hearts to light up the fire of love in us.

May the fire of love warm up the waters in which we are baptized and may we go forth and be the life-giving waters for the world.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday, 03-04-15

Today’s liturgy is very different from the usual. To begin with it is not called a Good Friday Mass; it is Good Friday service.

We listen to the readings, and as we do so, we are called to be in union with Jesus in His suffering on the cross.

We are not bystanders or spectators of the cross. We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus and “with Christ we hang upon the cross” (Gal 2:19)

Yes, with Christ we are crucified upon the cross, and afterwards we pray the Solemn Intercessions.

We enter into the heart of Jesus as He hangs upon the cross and to unite with Him as we offer up our prayers for the Church and the world and for those who are searching and suffering.

Then we come forward to adore the Cross. In whatever act of adoration of the Cross, we are telling Jesus that we will embrace our own crosses and offer our lives to Him.

And with that we enter into communion with Him in Holy Communion.

So today we are not asking Jesus for something. Rather we want to give Jesus something that is precious to us – our lives.

We are not going to ask God to save us from death, because we want to die to ourselves.

But we believe that God will save us out of death, just as He saved Jesus out of death by raising Him from death.

And just as Jesus was raised to life, we too will be raised to life.

So we embrace the cross, for in the cross is our glory and our salvation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Thursday 02-04-15

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / John 13:1-15 

Today is called Holy Thursday. It is also called Maundy Thursday.

That word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word “mandatum” which means mandate, and it refers to the new commandment of love which Jesus gave to His apostles at the Last Supper.

Indeed, it was a night of love, and Jesus showed how perfect His love was.

Yet it was also a reminder that love entails sacrifice.

At the first Passover, a lamb was sacrificed and its blood was put on the doorpost as a sign that Israel was to be freed from slavery.

At the Last Supper, Jesus was the Lamb of God who would have to pour out His blood so that we could be freed from the grip of sins.

When it comes to saving mankind from the grip of sin, let us remember that it was not easy for God to sacrifice His own Son.

Neither did Jesus look for a quick fix for a broken world that was shattered by sins.

Yet in the bread and wine, Jesus foreshadowed His self-sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the world.
And then came an action that is difficult to express in words.

In the strangest of divine actions, Jesus who is Master and Lord, got up from the table, and with towel and basin, washed His disciples’ feet.

And this upsets our perception of social norms and how things should be. Even Peter protested.

Peter and the rest did not understand what Jesus did then.

Maybe they understood it later when it came to their turn to go down on their knees and pour out their lives for others.

Are we also able to comprehend the meaning of what Jesus did?

On this holy night of the Church’s Triduum, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and then He went down on His knees and washed His disciples’ feet.

The Eucharist is about sacrifice. The washing of feet is about service with humility. One flows from the other.

Jesus, our Lord and Master, gave us this example so that we should follow. It is a mandate. It is a commandment. 

When we truly understand the mystery of the Eucharist and the washing of feet, we too will take up the towel and pour out our lives for others in love and service.