Thursday, March 31, 2016

Friday within Easter Octave, 01-04-16

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

The Paschal Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, leading on to Easter Sunday is an experience for us who went through it.

Whatever that experience may be, it is still an experience of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

That experience can have two effects on our lives. One is that our lives undergo a dramatic change. The other is that we will undergo a gradual change, and that is more likely to happen.

Even for the disciples in the gospel passage, the Risen Lord had already appeared to them twice.

Yet, they even went back to doing what they did before - they went fishing.

But it was in doing the ordinary things that they experienced again the Risen Lord.

Even for ourselves, we will continue to experience Risen Lord in the ordinariness of life and gradually we will change.

The change may be slow but the Risen Lord will not give up on us. The disciples in the 1st reading were the same as the disciples in the gospel passage but yet they were different - something had changed.

The experience of the Risen Lord and the new life of the resurrection had slowly but surely seeped into their lives and changed them within.

So it will be with us. When our eyes are slowly opened and when the darkness gives way to the light, we will see the Risen Christ in all things and we too will exclaim: It is the Lord!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thursday within Easter Octave, 30-03-16

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

Nobody likes to look at wounds because the sight of wounds give us a squirmish feeling, especially grievous wounds.

We could also feel the pain of the wounds and the suffering that it caused.

When Jesus showed His disciples His hands and feet, they would have certainly seen one thing.

They would have certainly seen the grievous wounds in His hands and feet, wounds that were caused by the nail, wounds that were the signs of His crucifixion.

But after Jesus showed them His wounds, their fear turned in joy.

Indeed by His wounds and by the sight of His wounds, they were healed of their fear and their anguish of having deserted and abandoned Jesus in His darkest moment.

As we look at the wounds of the Risen Lord, Jesus in turn also wants to look at the wounds of our hearts.

He wants us to show Him our wounds, to tell Him what is troubling and disturbing us, to tell Him our hurts and pains, as well as our anger and resentment.

Because Jesus is the Risen Lord, He is our Saviour and our Healer.

As the 1st reading puts it: It was for you in the first place that God raised up His servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.

Indeed, by the wounds of the Risen Lord, we are healed and saved.

We only need to turn to Jesus for healing and salvation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wednesday within Easter Octave, 30-03-16

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

The faculty of sight gives us the ability to see and to look at our surroundings.

That also enables us to recognize things and to store them in our memory.

Yet, even at that level, it sounds very empirical because with the rise of artificial intelligence, even robots can "see" and "look" and "recognize" things and they too have an electronic memory to store all the information.

What makes us different is that our intelligence gets enlightened with divine grace and we see deeper and understand more the mysteries of life.

In the gospel, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus saw Jesus, and yet they saw nothing more than just a stranger.

Similarly in the 1st reading, the man who was begging saw Peter and John, but he could only see nothing more than getting some financial assistance from them.

It was here that Peter made a profound and enlightening statement of fundamental Christian essence - I have neither silver or gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!

Our enlightenment does not come from silver or gold but in the Risen Christ who lives in us and fills us with the grace of the Resurrection.

May we get up and walk in the light of the Resurrection and bring the light of the Risen Christ to enlighten others.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tuesday within Easter Octave, 29-03-16

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

Three thousand is certainly not a small number. Whether the unit is in things, or money or people, it is a number that calls for attention.

If there are three thousand people coming to this church for Mass today, we would be stunned and overwhelmed.

If there were three thousand people coming to this church asking to be baptised, we may have to call the bishop over to see what is the matter.

Yet as we heard in the 1st reading, on the day of Pentecost, and after Peter spoke to the Jew, three thousand of them asked for baptism.

What seemed to be like a miracle is actually very personal. It is found in that phrase: Hearing this (what Peter said), they were cut to the heart.

Something happened in the hearts of the three thousand people that made them desire for baptism.

What happened to each of those three thousand was similar to what happened to Mary of Magdala in the gospel.

When Jesus called her name, she knew Him then. Not really a miracle, but certainly something very personal. Something happened to her heart.

And off she went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her.

Maybe nothing spectacular or miraculous is going to happen to us today, or for that matter, for all our life.

Yet, something personal is always happening to our hearts. The Risen Christ is calling us by name. May our hearts be moved like those three thousand people in the 1st reading.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Monday within Easter Octave, 28-03-16

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

As it is, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a matter of faith.

For us who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.

What we have as proof are scriptural accounts of people who experienced the Risen Christ.

Yet, there were also the soldiers who knew what had happened, and they went off into the city to tell the chief priests and the elders.

Then after some discussion, the soldiers were given a considerable sum of money and instructed to tell a lie that the disciples came in the night and stole the body of Jesus.

The soldiers took the money and carried out the instructions. In other words they were "bought" and they sold themselves to a lie.

But it is not only soldiers who can be bought. Anyone can be bought as long as the price is right. And it need not be just with the bait of money.

Christians who profess the Resurrection of Jesus can also be bought.

They can sell themselves to pleasure, desires, sex and alcohol. They can also sell themselves away to hatred, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

Jesus rose from the dead to conquer sin and death and to give us a new life.

As we celebrate the Resurrection, let us ask for the grace to resist from being bought by temptation and being sold off to sin.

Let us witness to the Resurrection of Christ with a pure and holy life.

Easter Sunday, Year C, 27.03.2016

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

Most of us who were at this church last Easter are here again this Easter.

We may have noticed some things being moved and some things were changed.

Well, things being moved and things being changed are a sign that there is life, there is growth, that it is not stagnating or lifeless.

So can we remember what were the changes or additions to this church since last Easter?

One of the first additions (actually it is a restoration) is the statue of Our Lady at the left side altar.

She was brought down from the loft, cleaned up and touched up after last Easter but she didn’t take her place yet at the side altar because we had to find back St. Joseph.

When we finally found him, and it was by God’s grace we did, we had Mother Mary and St. Joseph back to their original places at the side altars.

So almost all was restored. Except for one more thing – the baptism font.

It seems that the baptism font used to be at somewhere near the Confessional. There were no accounts of why it was removed. But it seems that it was a rather small and inconspicuous baptism font, more like just a holy water font. And there was no proper baptism font after that.

But today, may I introduce to you an item that is our latest addition to our parish.

On your right, weighing 800kg, is our parish’s new baptism font.

It came in on Thursday, just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and it has been sitting there quietly, observing the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday services and the Easter Vigil rituals.

And soon, it will fulfill its role as the Elects of our parish come forward for baptism.

But for an 800kg stone item (marble actually), it would actually take quite a lot of manpower to move it.
The baptism font is
the spiritual womb of the Church

To move a stone item twice that weight (1600kg) would be certainly more difficult.

That was roughly the weight of the stone that covered the tomb of Jesus. Rolling the stone over the tomb is difficult enough. Rolling the stone away to open the tomb would be more difficult because of the weight of the stone and also because there is a deep groove for the stone to sit on to seal the tomb. Certainly it was not an easy task to roll away the stone.

The gospel accounts about the Resurrection of Jesus, all mentioned about the stone being rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. 

Whatever human possibilities there can be, e.g. the disciples rolled away the stone and took away the body of Jesus and faked His Resurrection, and whatever theories there can be to debunk the Resurrection, we can be certain of one thing.

It is by faith that we believe that the stone was rolled away by the power of the Risen Jesus.

It is by faith that the Elects will come forward to be baptized by Jesus and to share in the power of His Resurrection.

It is by faith that we will renew our baptismal promises and with the power of the Resurrected Christ we will move the stones of our lives.

It is said that faith will move mountains. But in order to move mountains it must begin with the first stone.

And to create mountains, it must also begin with the first stone.

The baptism font is the newest addition to our parish and it may not be the last.

But more importantly are the newest additions of the members of our community – those that are baptized.

And Jesus has given us the task to build His Church and our community.

And by the power of His Resurrection, we will move the stones of our hearts, the stones formed by sin.

Yes, we will move those stones and put those stones into the hands of Jesus, and He will turn those stones into living stones to build the Church of Christ.

The stone that closed the tomb could not stop the Resurrection of Christ. Sin and evil could not stop the Resurrection of Christ. What is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

May we have faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, and as we renew our baptism promises later, let us also believe in the power of the Risen Christ.

It was by the power of His Resurrection that the stone of the tomb was rolled away and the tomb turned into the womb that gave birth to new members of the His Body the Church, and that will also give new life to all of us.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday, 25-03-16

The most disgusting act of cruelty a human being can do it to torture another human being.

Whether it is a physical torture, or an emotional torture or a psychological torture, it is a disgusting act.

Simply because all human beings are equal and no one is greater than another, and no one has the right to torture another.

Worst of all is when the torture is carried out with death as the final end. That is absolutely evil.

We have just heard how Jesus was scourged, tortured, nailed to the cross and then left to die on it.

It is not only a horrible evil act, but it is absolutely horrible when we understand the reality of the situation.

The reality is that, man is putting God to death.

God could have stopped it at any moment but yet God allowed Himself to be mercilessly tortured to death in the hands of man.

The effect of evil is to blind mankind from knowing what a horrible and disgusting act he is doing to God.

The effect of evil is to blind man from seeing that every act of evil done to another human being is done to God.

Because each human being is created in the image of God.

God is in each person. Every evil act done to a person is done to God.

And for every evil act committed by a person, the devil has taken control of that person and blinded him to the existence of God.

Yet for every evil that is committed, God responds with mercy and compassion.

On the cross, Jesus forgave His enemies when He said: Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

As we pray the Solemn Intercessions later, let us be aware that we are in union with Jesus in His prayer on the cross.

Let us ask God to forgive us for the evil that we have done to other people and to cleanse us with the precious blood of Jesus.

As we come up later to venerate the cross, let us ask Jesus to protect us from all evil with the power of His cross

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday, 24-03-16

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

Today we begin the Church’s Holy Triduum – 3 days of intense prayer, reflection and worship.
It’s intense because as we journey through the suffering and death of Jesus and into His resurrection, God is also going to enter into the depths of our being, and to bring out the love that He has planted in us.
It is a love that we sometimes are unaware of, a love that we take for granted, a love that we forget to show.

So the gospel begins by saying that Jesus had always loved those who were His, and now He showed how perfect His love was.
And as we have heard earlier, He got up from the table and he began to wash His disciples’ feet.
But why of all things wash the disciples’ feet.  Why not like, pray over them? Or give them some kind of anointing?

Well obviously the disciples’ feet were not washed yet ; otherwise there was no need for it.
It was the customary practice to wash the feet, because of the dusty roads, before sitting down for a meal, and more so for the Passover meal, which is a holy meal.

Yet if the disciple’s feet were not washed then there was a reason. Usually they would have taken turns to be the foot-washer. But they were just waiting for one another to take on the humbling and lowly task of being the foot-washer. And not willing to be the foot-washer, they just sat there, and see who would finally give in.

Well, to be the foot-washer is to admit that you have lost out and you are only fit to do the lowly and dirty stuff.
Yet Jesus turned this stand-off around, and used it to show what the Eucharist means.

So He began to wash their feet. Big rough fishermen’s feet, tax collector’s feet, a Zealot’s feet, a doubter’s feet, the feet of a denier, the feet of a traitor.
Yet from their feet, He knew what was in their hearts. He knew that they will all get cold feet and flee when there is the threat of mortal danger.

One will betray Him, one will deny Him, but all will flee. Still He washed their feet.
Jesus washed the feet of His disciples so that later on they will understand why He did it.
They were fed with His Body and Blood but they fled when it came to the test.

But the next time they eat His Body and drink His Blood they will remember and stand firm and follow in His footsteps.
We too will eat His Body and drink His blood. May we also remember and stand firm and follow Jesus who came to serve and to sacrifice His life as a ransom for many.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wednesday of Holy Week, 23-03-16

Isaiah 50:4-9 / Matthew 26:14-25

As much as clarity of expression is helpful and even necessary in order to know what is exactly the meaning of the terms used, there is also a tendency to sanitize certain words or terms because it is too glaring or too blunt.

So another term for stealing is shoplifting; adultery is also called having an affair; abortion is called the termination of pregnancy.

For the sake of being polite or to be "politically correct", we sanitize that "crude" sounding words or terms and use other alternatives.

In the gospel, Judas asked the chief priests, "What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?" He did not use the word "betray" but the meaning is the same as "hand him over".

Jesus knew who was going to betray Him and He used the word as clearly as it could be understood.

When the disciples heard it, they were distressed and one by one started to ask Him "Not I, Lord, surely?"

When Judas asked Jesus, "Not I, Rabbi, surely?" Jesus replied, "They are your own words."

As we prepare for the Easter Triduum, let us be honest with ourselves with regards to our failings and sinfulness.

We need to be humble and truly acknowledge our sinfulness and ask for forgiveness. Let us not betray ourselves into the hands of evil.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tuesday of Holy Week, 22-03-16

Isaiah 49:1-6 / John 13:21-33, 36-38

In any culture, a meal is not just a social event. It is a time for bonding and deepening of relationships.

More so for the Jewish Passover meal. It is a religious meal, a time to recall and experience God's saving love for His people.

Yet at that Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus mentioned about betrayal.

Among the disciples who were around Jesus at that meal, two disciples would come to mind as we think about betrayal - Judas and Peter.

But what is the difference between them?

Well, Judas deliberately betrayed his Master, while Peter, in a moment of weakness, denied Him.

One was cold and calculated ; the other was out of fear, weakness and cowardice.

The other disciples had varying degrees of betrayal, to say the least.

We may not be cold and calculated like Judas in betraying Jesus.

Yet like Peter and the rest, we have to guard against the devil who can so easily tempt us to turn love into hate, holiness into pride, discipline into cruelty, affection into complacency and reverence into routine.

Let us turn to the cross of Christ for protection against the devil and guard against temptation and sin.

In the cross, we see that the love of Christ is selfless, sacrificial, forgiving and compassionate.

Let us ask Jesus to keep us near His cross, always.

Monday of Holy Week, 21-03-16

Isaiah 42:1-7 / John 12:1-11

We may remember how we started off the season of Lent. Of course it started on Ash Wednesday with obligatory fasting and the imposition of ashes on the forehead.

But before that it was two days of the Chinese New Year holidays and we were feasting away and celebrating the festival.

Time has passed by so quickly and we are now at the beginning of Holy Week and it will be a matter of a couple of days before we begin the Easter Triduum.

The gospel passage of today begins by stating a specific time - Six days before the Passover.

In a matter of six days, the lives of all the characters in the gospel passage will change forever..

Lazarus will probably be killed by the authorities as they had plotted to do so since it was because of him that the people were believing in Jesus.

Martha and Mary would have to flee from their home at Bethany to join the rest of the disciples to go into hiding after Jesus was crucified.

Judas, for all his criticism of Mary's action of anointing Jesus with the anointment, could not face up the the criticism of being labelled as a betrayer and so he ended his life.

As for us, in the days to coming, something will happen and our lives will also change. Surely we would want to know what kind of change it would be and how will things turn out.

Whatever the change may be, we know what God wants it to be. That is stated in the 1st reading:

I, the Lord have called you to serve the cause of right. I have taken you by the hand and formed you. I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.

So let us prepare ourselves to change and to be changed. It may just happen in the next few days.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday, Year C, 20.03.2016

Standing for so long during the gospel reading can be quite tiring.

We get tired and after a while we get bored. And then we begin to get distracted. It is certainly difficult to keep focused.

In a way, we are like the disciples who were sleeping while Jesus was desperately praying in the garden of Gethsamane.

And even if we were wide awake, we may just be like Peter, who said the wrong things and did the wrong things.

But just as the Lord Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter, the Lord Jesus is also looking straight at us.

And just as Peter immediately remembered all that Jesus said to him, may we also begin to remember.

May we remember how much Jesus loved us, even to the extent of laying His life on the cross to save us.

May we not sleep through while Jesus suffered for us.

In His suffering, Jesus is offering us healing. In His dying, He is giving us life.

May we then, let the precious blood of Jesus flow into our hearts to heal our wounds and to forgive us our sins. Then with hearts and minds fully awake and remembering how much Jesus loves us , we will be united with Jesus in His suffering, death and resurrection.

Friday, March 18, 2016

St. Joseph, Spouse of the BVM, Saturday, 19-03-16

2 Sam 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24

Today's feast of St. Joseph is a big feast, a solemnity actually, with the Gloria and Creed being said.

The feast is that of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That title says very much about who St. Joseph is, who Mary is, and inevitably who Jesus is.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, of the dying, of fathers, but in 1870, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph as the patron saint and the protector of the Church.

Today's feast celebrates the patronage of St. Joseph and the Church asks for his intercession and protection.

As we heard in the gospel, St. Joseph was called to be the husband of Mary and in accepting to do so he was also taking the responsibility to take charge and to protect Jesus as his son.

In not knowing fully the meaning of the events that led to the birth of Jesus, and yet accepting the responsibility to protect and care for mother and child, St. Joseph showed that he was not only obedient to the will of God but also carried out God's will with love.

In celebrating this feast, we also pray that fathers and workers will take St Joseph to be their model, and that the dying will turn to him for his powerful intercession.

We also pray that priests who are guardians of the sacred mysteries of the Church would also look to St Joseph as their model, that they will protect and care for the Church just as St. Joseph protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 18-03-16

Jeremiah 20:10-13 / John 10:31-42

During the time of Jesus, the people were, by and large, a monotheistic people, i.e., they believe and worship in only one God.

That was the doctrine that was passed down since the time of Abraham and the people kept that doctrine worshipping only one God and it was even a commandment that there shall be no other gods that the people can worship.

Furthermore, the belief was also that there was this unbridgeable void between divinity and humanity.

So for anyone saying that he is the Son of God (hence claiming divinity) or that he is in God and God is in him and claiming God to be his Father, that is certainly an unbearable blasphemy.

So we can understand why the people took stones to stone Jesus - He was saying something blasphemous and revolting to them.

Yet with Jesus, it was not a religious question of blasphemy. Rather, it was an issue about the truth.

People like the truth to be static and maybe historic. Truth that is dynamic and realistic may be too disturbing for people to accept.

That was the case with Jesus and also with the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading.

But if we say we believe in God, then God also wants to be dynamic and realistic in our lives.

God is truth. If we believe in God, then we must also accept the people who are proclaiming the truth.

Not to do so would be collaborating with evil and stoning the truth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

5th Week of Lent, Thursday, 17-03-16

Genesis 17:3-9 / John 8:51-59

In Singapore, properties are either granted freehold or leasehold status. The main difference is the legal ownership of the property.

With a freehold property, the buyer owns the property and the title deed to the property. Freehold property is often more expensive because you are practically owning the property, and the land on which it sits on, for as long as you want.

Leasehold properties have a tenure of 99- or 999- years. Upon expiration of the lease, the legal ownership of the property goes back to the government. That is the general understanding.

In the 1st reading, there is another word that is used in relation to property - perpetuity. It is used in this way:
I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.

With that, the idea moves from that of the real estate's understanding of freehold or even perpetuity to that to that of a higher and deeper understanding of eternity.

The Covenant that God made with His people is a Covenant made for eternity and the land, even though made in perpetuity, is only a temporary sign of that eternal Covenant.

Through Jesus, God has also made a eternal Covenant with us. And Jesus tells us in the gospel that whoever keeps His word will never see death.

Indeed all things shall pass, but God's Covenant and His love for us will continue into eternity. So let us not get too absorbed with the temporary but see it as a sign of the eternity that God has promised us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 16-03-16

Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28 / John 8:31-42

The undeniable human desire is for happiness. The secret for happiness is freedom. And the secret for freedom is courage.

There will be times in our lives that we must have the courage to let go in order to be free.

But the very thing that we fear letting go of may also be the same thing that will set us free.

In the 1st reading, the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, had to make a choice between worshiping the golden statue or being faithful to God.

The price of the second choice would be that they will be thrown into the fiery furnace. Their reply to king Nebuchadnezzar was really profound and worth reflecting: If our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning furnace and from your power, then He will save us. And even if He does not, then you must know that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you erected.

In stating their choice, they also showed what was really at stake, and they had the freedom to let go of their lives rather than to deny God.

In the gospel, Jesus said this: If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.

The truth is that all we have, including our lives, is given by God and belongs to Him.

God's word reveals this truth, and when we believe this truth, we will realize that there is really nothing to lose at all.

It takes courage to believe in the truth, but the truth will set us free and we will be happy.

Monday, March 14, 2016

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 15-03-16

Numbers 21:4-9 / John 8:21-30

When something or someone has hurt you once, you tend to avoid that thing or person. And we will use the proverb "Once bitten, twice shy".

Obviously, when we know of a prior bad or unpleasant experience of a similar situation, we will be more cautious than just shy from it.

Yes, in life we will make mistakes, but to repeat the same mistake is plain stupidity.

In the 1st reading, the people lost patience and they complained against God and Moses.

Losing patience and complaining may seem common enough to us, but there can be drastic consequences.

The people were punished with fiery serpents and their bite brought death to many people.

That was quite a severe punishment for losing patience and complaining. But the deeper issue was about faith.

Prior to that, the people had been unfaithful and turned to idolatry and had to wander in the desert for 40 years because they had not trusted in God.

May we learn this lesson and let us not make the same mistake as they did in the past.

To make the same mistake is more than just stupidity; we are asking to be bitten over and over again.

But let us ask God to strengthen our faith so that we can give thanks to God and be faithful to Him.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

5th Week of Lent, Monday, 14-03-16

Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 / John 8:12-20 (Year C)

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

It means that in the face of bad times or hopelessness, it is more worthwhile to do some good, however small, in response than to complain about the situation.

But lighting that one single candle may not be as easy as it seems.

As in the case of Daniel in the 1st reading. When the Holy Spirit roused him, he had to make quick decisions.

He had to go against the flow, go against what everybody else is thinking of doing and he had to act quickly in order to save Suzanna's life.

He had to make his stand and shout "I am innocent of this woman's death!" Seen in that way, to light a single candle in the midst of an overwhelming darkness is certainly not easy.

And Jesus tells us this: I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life.

The darkness of this world wants to overwhelm us and make us forget that Jesus has given us the light of life.

But when the Holy Spirit rouses us, may we follow His promptings and speak out like Daniel did.

When we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, then He will use our words to light candles and scatter the darkness.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent, Year C, 13.03.16

Isaiah 48:16-21 / Philippians 3:8-14 / John 8:1-11

Can you name one gadget that has gone through more evolution than the other gadgets?

We may think it’s the mobile phone. Yes, that might be one of the contenders. Hint: this gadget has even crept into the mobile phones.

Yes, we are talking about cameras, and most mobile phones have not just one but even two cameras – one to take a selfie.

When we talk about cameras, there are just so many categories to it. There is that traditional camera that photographers use.

Then there is the surveillance camera, the security camera, the traffic light camera, the video camera, hidden camera, spy camera, etc.

And these cameras are almost everywhere. At traffic junctions, shopping malls, supermarkets, lifts, cars, offices and even at home. 

No doubt, these cameras serve to prevent mischief and can be a deterrent to crime and other offences.

But at times we feel that we are being watched and we also don’t know who is watching us.

So when we know that a surveillance camera is around, we become like actors – we put on our best pose.

And with high resolution cameras and handy video-cam, we also wouldn’t know who is taking our photos, or who is filming us.

It would be rather scary and embarrassing to see our photo or a video of us in the internet doing something silly.

During the time of Jesus, there were no cameras or video-cam, but there was something more sneaky – human spies.

In the gospel, the scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman who was caught committing adultery.

How they caught her in the act is really questionable, and we also don’t want to know how they did it.

Presumably, they spied on her and then caught her in the act and then dragged her before Jesus.

What the scribes and Pharisees did was really deplorable. Besides putting the woman to public shame and humiliation, they were also using the situation as a test to look for something to use against Jesus.

And these kind of deplorable acts continue to this day and age. 

There are some people who use social media to publicly shame and humiliate others who make a mistake.

We may wonder on what grounds and with what rights do they have to do this.

Maybe that’s why Jesus bent down and starting writing on the ground. Jesus could be telling us that we all stand on the same ground and we have no right to judge and condemn others.

And with that, He also gave a ground-shaking teaching – If there is one of you who have not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

The gospel passage also highlighted the tendency to make shame and humiliation a public affair, but when it comes to forgiveness, nobody seemed to be interested. It was just between Jesus and the woman; everyone has left.

But we need to hear about forgiveness. The world needs to hear about forgiveness. Because forgiveness is the sign of God’s love and mercy in the world.

There is this story that happened during WWII, in a jungle where fierce fighting had taken place.

A soldier and his buddy were separated from their platoon during the crossfire.

This soldier and his buddy were from the same hometown and they looked after each other, gave each other comfort and encouragement as they trekked through the jungle in the days that followed. 

They were not able to get in touch with their platoon, but thankfully, they managed to shoot a deer and survived on the deer meat.

One day, they ran into enemy forces in the forest and engaged in another gun fight. They managed to escape.

Just as they thought they were safe, a gunshot rang through the air. 

The soldier who was walking in front fell to the ground. He was shot on his shoulder. 

His buddy who was behind him frantically ran towards him, he was so scared of losing his friend that he started mumbling nonsense and cried hysterically as he hugged his injured friend. 

That night, the soldier who was not injured muttered to himself the whole night, talking to his mother as if she was with them. Both of them thought their lives would be ending. That day, none of them touched the remaining deer meat.

The next day, their platoon found them.

After thirty years, the soldier who was injured said: I knew who shot me that day. It was my buddy. He had passed away last year. 

On that day in the forest thirty years ago, I touched the barrel of his rifle when he hugged me. It was hot. That very night, I forgave him. I knew he shot me to keep the deer meat for himself. But I also knew that he wanted to keep himself alive for his mother. 

Unfortunately, war is cruel, his mother died before we came back. 

After we returned from the war, I went with him to pay our last respects to his mother at her grave. 

Then, he had knelt before me and asked me to forgive him. I didn’t let him continue talking nor did I let him explain anything, for I had long forgiven him and I had no reasons not to. We remained best of friends till he passed away last year.

Just a story about forgiveness and we need to hear and tell of these stories of forgiveness.

The world would be a more beautiful place when we talk to each other about forgiveness instead of talking about each other’s failings.

Where there is forgiveness, no more stones will be thrown.

And it was because God forgives us that the large stone over the tomb was rolled away. Because no stone is large enough to block the power of God’s love and mercy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 12-03-16

Jeremiah 11:18-20 / John 7:40-52

The Bible, as we know, is the Word of God, and in it is the revealed truth of God.

Furthermore, the gospels are called the Good News because it announces the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Yet if an outsider who is attending the Mass for the first time and listens to the Bible passages that we just heard, may end up wondering.

Just what kind of message is the Bible giving? In the 1st reading there was scheming, plotting, being led to the slaughter-house, destruction, as well as vengeance.

Then in the gospel there is argument and confusion and arrogance.

Of course it is not fair to just take today's Bible passages and say that there is nothing uplifting or inspiring about the Bible.

Yet, the first line in the 1st reading may give us enough to think about - The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

Yes, the Lord reveals to us in the Bible that as much as there is evil and wickedness in the world, yet in the end He will pronounce a just sentence and He will also vindicate the good people who are faithful to Him.

The sinfulness and the wickedness of the world will certainly make us shudder and quiver.

But in this Eucharist, let us receive strength and courage from the Lord and let us take the response for the Responsorial Psalm - Lord God, I take refuge in you.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

4th Week of Lent, Friday, 11-03-16

Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 / John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

The Bible is the Word of God and through it God speaks to His people and reveals Himself through His Word.

Yet, the Bible also has other revelations. Besides revealing to us the mind and the heart of God, there are also instances where it reveals the heart and mind of people who commit evil and hence, also the heart and mind of the devil.

If we are surprised by this, then we need look no further than just having to re-read the 1st reading.

It begins with "the godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning ... "

And there we get a picture of what goes on in the mind and heart of people who commit evil, and also how the devil stirs up the evil thoughts in those who succumb to be his instruments.

Yes, they reason with evil intent and that is also why the 1st reading said that they are misled and their malice makes them blind.

Furthermore, they do not know the hidden things of God and they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded and that blameless souls will be justified.

The same can be said about those people who were out to kill Jesus. They do not know where He truly came from, and their malice misleads and blinds them.

As for us, by virtue of our baptism, we are called to holiness. We know the ways of God and we also know what God wants of us when we are confronted with people who do evil.

We need to bear witness to the power of God's love and with love we will slowly but surely overcome evil and show people the ways of God.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 10-03-16

Exodus 32:7-14 / John 5:31-47

The word "headstrong" is not commonly used in our daily language. It's a word that usually has a negative meaning.

To be headstrong means to be disobedient and having or showing a stubborn and determined intention to do as we wants, regardless of the consequences.

Understood as that, to be called headstrong isn't really a compliment. And God certainly wasn't complimenting His people when He called them "headstrong".

More than just being disobedient and stubborn, the people had even turned to idolatry and they obviously ought to be punished and even destroyed altogether.

But if the people were headstrong and unfaithful, God showed Himself to be compassionate and forgiving and merciful when Moses pleaded for the people.

The people's heads were stronger than their hearts when what they wanted or desired overrode their obedience and dependence on God.

On the other hand, God's mercy and compassion and forgiveness overrode His anger and His intended wrath.

All it took was just one person, Moses, to plead for the people and bring out God's mercy and compassion and forgiveness against a headstrong people.

But it probably also took just one person to suggest idolatry to the people and that led them to sin and became headstrong.

May we be the ones who will plead to God for mercy and compassion and forgiveness. To be headstrong and to lead others to be headstrong is certainly not a compliment.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

4th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 09-03-16

Isaiah 49:8-15 / John 5:17-30

WW II lasted for about 6 years, from 1939-1945. And out of those 6 years, Singapore was under the Japanese Occupation for about 3 years, from 1942-1945.

Those 3 years of Occupation was lived in fear and hardships. Those who lived during that time will never forget how life was hanging on a thin thread.

Even for those who believed in God, their faith was tested all the more. Such as when a few Japanese shells hit the our church's roof and brought it down with the ceiling and destroyed many pews, lights and fittings and other church articles.

Who would not ask questions like: Where is God? Why did He not protect His church? What is He doing? Has God forgotten us?

Those were the kind of questions that the people of God were asking in the 1st reading as they were exiled in Babylon.

In reply to that question, the prophet Isaiah has this to ask: Does a woman forget the baby at her breast? Or fail to cherish the son of her womb?

And the prophet had this to say: Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you!

God will never forget His people and He even sent His Son to speak to His people so that they will know that God has not forgotten them.

Difficult times are not easy to bear with, and they even seem to pass very slowly. But in difficult times, like us know that God has not forgotten us.

But let us also not forget to hear God's Word, because it is His word that gives us life, it is His word that gives us hope and strength.

Monday, March 7, 2016

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 08-03-16

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 / John 5:1-3, 5-16

Life can be said to be like how we look at a jigsaw puzzle.

We need to look at the whole picture first before we can put those little pieces together.

But at times we look at just one small piece and make a big issue out of it.

Jesus came to help people look at the big picture of life, but they end up making a fuss out of the small issues.

He cast out devils and they saw that He was helping the devil.

He healed the sick, and they said it was done on the wrong day.

And in today's gospel, that was what they were saying: it was done on the wrong day, and hence they began to persecute Jesus.

In life, there are certain things we hold as important and essential and necessary.

But let us look at the big picture of life and see again if what we hold on to are really that important, essential and necessary.

But God's grace cleanse our eyes so that we can look at life from God's point of view and see what is really important and essential and necessary and then we will be able to put the pieces of the jigsaw of life and see the whole beautiful picture.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

4th Week of Lent, Monday, 07-03-16

Isaiah 65:17-21 / John 4:43-54

Having to choose a name is certainly not that easy a task. There are a few factors to consider.

Of course the meaning of the name must be taken into consideration, and also how it sounds, and other things besides.

To be called "Joy" or "Gladness" or even both is certainly very challenging to live up to it.

It means that every moment of our existence is to be nothing less than to be joyful and to be glad.

And we doubt that we can be always joyful and have gladness so we avoid taking such words to be our names.

But in the 1st reading we heard the Lord telling His people to be glad and rejoice and that He calls Jerusalem "Joy" and her people "Gladness", and He will rejoice over Jerusalem and exalt in His people.

That is also God's promise to us, that He will rejoice and exalt over us.

But we have not lived up to it because we have let the other concerns of our lives dim out the joy and gladness of our lives.

Concerns like sickness and death as we heard in the gospel. Or other concerns like job and financial security, marital and family problems and the list goes on and on.

But like the court official whose son was ill but believed in what Jesus said, we too must believe God has given us joy and gladness in our lives .

Even though there may be challenges and difficulties, let us be joyful and be glad. The Lord God wants to rejoice and exalt over us. Let us not be anything lesser than that.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

4th Sunday of Lent, Year C, 06.03.2016

Joshua 5:9-12 / 2 Cor 5:17-21 / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

There is a traditional saying that goes like this: Like father, like son. And with that, the other saying is “Good fathers make good sons”.

Those are familiar sayings and they may just be in theory or they may be in reality.

Nonetheless, it can be said that a father wants his son to be like him, to follow in his footsteps and to carry on his legacy.

But in life things don’t usually work out that way.

Maybe this amusing “A Letter to Dad” will tell us why.

A father passing by his son's bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was packed up. Then he saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to 'Dad.'

With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter. 

Dear Dad:
It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you.

I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice. But I knew you would not approve of her because of her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am. But it's not only the passion ... Dad … she's pregnant.

Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer and has enough food till the baby comes. We share a dream of having many more children.

In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so that Stacy can get better. She deserves it.

Don't worry Dad. I'm 15 and I know how to take care of myself. 

Someday I'm sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.

Love, your son John                                            

PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I'm over at Tommy's house. I just wanted to remind you there are worse things in life than the Report Card in my desk drawer. I love you. Call me when it's safe to come home ok.

So much for like father like son, and good fathers make good sons.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable about a father and two sons.
In that parable, it seems that for all that the father is, the two sons don’t seem to be.

The younger son wanted and got his future inheritance and then squandered it away. The elder son was certainly not as forgiving as the father.

Although the parable is often called the parable of the ‘Prodigal son’, the parable is more like the parable of the ‘Sacrificial father’.

Most fathers may one day realize that his children, whether son or daughter, will follow his example instead of his advice.

It was the father’s kindness and generosity that made the younger son come to his senses and realize that his father’s paid servants had more food than they wanted and there he was dying of hunger.

On the other hand, whether the elder son came to realize his father’s kindness and generosity and forgiveness is left open-ended.
And that’s where we come into the parable. What have we realized in this parable?
Maybe this story might help us to come to some realization.

An 80 year old man was sitting on the sofa in his house along with his 45 year old highly educated son.

Suddenly a crow perched on their window. The father asked his son, “What is this? The son replied “It is a crow”.

After a few minutes, the father asked his son the second time, “What is this?” The son said “Father, I have just now told you “It’s a crow”.

After a little while, the old father again asked his son the third time, “What is this?”

At this time, some expression of irritation was felt in the son’s tone when he said to his father with a rebuff. “It’s a crow, a crow, a crow”.

A little after, the father again asked his son the fourth time, “What is this?”

This time the son shouted at his father, “Why do you keep asking me the same question again and again, although I have told you so many times ‘IT IS A CROW’. Are you not able to understand this?”

A little later the father went to his room and came back with an old tattered diary, which he had maintained since his son was born. On opening a page, he asked his son to read that page. When the son read it, the following words were written in the diary:-

“Today my little son aged three was sitting with me on the sofa, when a crow was sitting on the window. My son asked me 23 times what it was, and I replied to him all 23 times that it was a crow. I hugged him lovingly each time he asked me the same question again and again for 23 times.
I did not at all feel irritated. I rather felt affection for my innocent child”.

As a little child, his son asked him 23 times “What is this”, and the father had felt no irritation in replying to the same question all 23 times.

But now when the father asked his son the same question just 4 times, the son felt irritated and annoyed and even shouted at his father.

But still, the story left it open-ended. There was no conclusion to say whether the son came to any realization.

But it is not about the son in the story or the two sons in the gospel parable.

It’s about us. Did we realize anything? And what is it that we have realized?

Jesus came to show us who God the Father is. Jesus is more than just like the Father. He is one with the Father.

May we be one with Him, so that we too can be merciful like God the Father is merciful.

Friday, March 4, 2016

3rd Week of Lent, Saturday,05-03-16

Hosea 5:15 - 6:6 / Luke 18:9-14

One of the preparations before going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to use the 10 Commandments for the examination of conscience.

Breaking any of the 10 Commandments is indeed a grave sin.

Hence, not going for Mass on Sundays, disrespect for parents, stealing, adultery, all these are grave sins. Blatantly grave.

But what is blatant can be equally destructive as what is subtle.

We avoid obvious grave sins, yet we can forget that there are sins that are not so obvious that will cause us to trip and fall.

In today's gospel parable, the Pharisee was proud that he did not commit any grave sin; in fact he did credible deeds.

But why was he not at rights with God?

As always, pride comes before the fall.

His problem was spiritual pride - he called another person a sinner without acknowledging to be one himself.

He propped himself up, at the expense of another person.

It was subtle, but evil. So we need to watch ourselves.

If we think we are virtuous, are we also getting self-righteous?

We can make sacrifices and perform credible deeds.

But what the Lord wants is not sacrifice. What He wants is our love for Him and for those around us.

And if we should fall, then we only need to turn to God and say: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 04-03-16

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34

Generally speaking, the general criteria for candidates to be admitted to the Seminary (or for that matter, anywhere else actually) is the 3 Hs.

The 3 Hs stands for "Head", "Heart" and "Health"

By "Head" it means that the candidate must have the intellectual capacity to receive the intellectual formation, namely philosophy and theology.

By "Heart" it means that the candidate must have the love for God to serve His people and to follow God whole-heartedly.

By "Health" it means that the candidate must have a certain level of physical fitness so as not to let the health aspect be a constant interruption in his life.

These 3 Hs may sound like common sense, but in the gospel, Jesus used that to form an answer to the question of which is the first of the commandments.

He said: Listen Israel, the Lord your God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

When we love God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength, then we too must love our neighbour as ourself.

When we do that, then we are already in the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 03-03-16

Jeremiah 7:23-28 / Luke 11:14-23

There are many ways to express the rejection of a person. The bluntest way is to tell a person off and make it clear to that person that you think nothing of him.

That is certainly an outright rejection in the most blatant and unmistakable way.

But a more subtle way, as well as a more common way, is to silently ignore that person and not to pay attention to whatever he say or do.

That seems to be the way that the people expressed their rejection of God. 

And God knows it as He says through the prophet Jeremiah: But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me; they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors.

Indeed, we don't have to make an outright expression of our rejection of God. We just don't have to listen to Him or walk in His ways. That would already indicate that God has got nothing to do with our lives.

In the gospel, Jesus freed a man from being possessed by a devil that was dumb, thus enabling the man to speak and to respond to the others around him. 

Jesus came to free us from that deafness that dumbness that expresses a rejection of God. 

It's a deafness that prevents us from listening to what God has commanded us, and it is a dumbness that prevents us from speaking the praises of God.

Let us ask God for His mercy and forgiveness so that Jesus can free us from our sins and to turn back to God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 02-03-16

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:17-19

A country is not just a concept; it is made up of its citizens. Neither is a nation just a notion; national pride resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

For a nation to be great it must have values and principles, and along with that its laws and customs.

For a nation whose values and principles, together with its laws and customs are of a divine origin, then indeed it is truly a great nation, if it obeys and follows these divine precepts.

In the 1st reading, Moses as commanded by God, taught the people the laws and customs that they were to observe in the Promised Land that they were about to enter.

And if they keep these laws and customs, then the people around them would exclaim: No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation".

Jesus, in the gospel, said that He came not to abolish the Law and Prophets but to complete them.

But as much as God's Law and customs, together with its values and principles would make a nation great, it must be remembered that a nation is made up of individuals.

When an individual or a group of individuals do not keep or follow those divine precepts, then the nation as a whole would be affected.

Jesus said that the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven.

But the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

When we realize that what we do with God's Law will affect not just our nation, but also the kingdom of heaven, then we should know what we need to do.