Friday, September 30, 2016

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Saturday, 01-10-16

Isaiah 66:11-14 / Matthew 18:1-5

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is also known as the "Little Flower of Jesus".

St. Thérèse was declared co-patron of the missions with St. Francis Xavier in 1927.

This is quite astonishing because she was a nun in the enclosed Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy in France.

Unlike St. Francis Xavier who travelled far and wide to spread the Gospel and baptized many people, St. Thérèse spent all her religious life in the cloistered convent.

Though she had thoughts of going off to the mission lands, her ill health forbade her from doing so.

Nonetheless, she offered prayers for the missions and also her every little act was offered to God in prayer.

In her memoir The Story of a Soul, she said that she was just a very little soul and so she could only offer God very little things.

But it was doing these very little things with great love, that she offered to God for the salvation of souls.

That is also precisely the message in today' s gospel - childlike humility is the way to the kingdom of God.

It is the small childlike humble heart, one that is like that of St. Thérèse, that is considered great in the eyes of God.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 30-09-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Holy Archangels Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Thursday, 29-09-16

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 or Apocalypse 12:7-12 / John 1:47-51

The Bible has many passages referring to angels, both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament

Furthermore, the New Testament mentions frequently of angels in the significant moments.

There were angels giving messages to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; angels ministering to Christ after his temptation in the wilderness, an angel visiting Christ in his agony, angels at the tomb of the Risen Christ, and the angels who liberated the Apostles Peter and Paul from prison.

However, it makes only two references to "archangels." They are in Jude 9 where Michael is an archangel and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the "voice of an archangel" will be heard at the return of Christ.

The Roman Catholic Church honours three archangels - Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Michael in the Hebrew language means "Who is like unto God?" or "Who is equal to God?" St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks the devil, and in his left hand a green palm branch which symbolizes victory over evil.

Gabriel means "Man of God" or "Might of God." He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as holding a lighted lantern to symbolize that only God can shed light to the mysteries.

Raphael means "God's healing" or "God the Healer". He is mentioned in the book of Tobit (3:17; 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit with his right hand, and holding a physician's alabaster jar in his left hand.

The celebration of the feast of the three Archangels focuses on three aspects of God.

It reminds us that God is almighty and is victorious over evil. Also the mystery of life and death, and suffering and evil is in the hands of God who is the source of all mystery.

God is also our Healer who forgives us our sins and strengthens us with His love.

May God also strengthen our faith so that as we gather together in this Eucharist, we will also become aware of the presence of angels and archangels joining us to worship and praise the Lord.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 28-09-16

Job 9:1-13, 14-16 / Luke 9:57-62

The book of Job presents God as beyond our human comprehension.

In other words, the book of Job tells us that God is much bigger than our ideas of Him, and He is beyond our definition.

The same can be said of Jesus in today's gospel. His demands of discipleship is way beyond our human comprehension.

Our initial reaction would be: How could Jesus be so demanding and unreasonable?

But when we reflect deeper, we will understand the purpose of Jesus.

Jesus is asking for an instant response to His call. There can be no hesitation; all else must be put aside. He is asking us to put Him as top priority.

In every situation that we are going to come across, the same question will be asked: Do you want to follow Me? Now?

An immediate response will be demanding of us. But when we are surrender totally to Him and make an immediate response, Jesus will never shortchange us, for He will also be immediate in responding to our needs and whatever we require to follow Him.

When Jesus calls, may we respond immediately. Because when we call out to Him, He too will respond immediately. That is not too difficult to comprehend.

Monday, September 26, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-09-16

Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23 / Luke 9:51-56

We have heard it said that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

How often that happens in life depends on how tough the going gets.

For those who have overcome a great crisis or a great challenge, they will realize their strengths and endurance, and at the same time their limitations and weaknesses which they have overcome.

But it cannot be denied that there are also those who succumb to the turmoil and distress, and they sink into despair.

In the 1st reading, we hear of Job's lamentations as he faced the great crisis of his life and as he was being swamped by one trail after another and spiralling down to hopeless and darkness.

He even cursed the day of his birth. For Job, life has no meaning anymore and surely he would have thoughts of ending his life.

But in the gospel, we hear of Jesus heading towards Jerusalem where He knows He will meet His end with a traumatic and torturous death.

And even as Jesus resolutely took the road towards Jerusalem and prepared to face the ultimate test of His life, He also faced rejection from the Samaritans. Yet He kept His focus and continued despite these setbacks and discouragements.

We too will have our share of trials and tribulations. We also must believe that God will not test us beyond our limits.

God wants us to live and rise above our trials so that we can discover the strength of our faith in Him. But in order to keep on going, we must keep our focus on Jesus and follow His resolutely along the way.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-09-16

Job 1:6-22 / Luke 9:46-50

For something to be "tried and tested" it would be necessary to go through some kind of "baptism of fire".

Whether understood literally or figuratively, the reality of the power of fire is obvious - it destroys and at the same time it also purifies.

In the battlefield, when soldiers are under fire, that will be the moment to see how courageous they are.

In life, when faith is under fire and undergoing a baptism of fire, that will be the time to see what the faith is all about.

In the 1st reading, we hear Satan commenting that Job is not God-fearing for nothing. God had blessed Job and he is safe and secure.

So Satan suggests that Job be put to the test, to put him under fire and see what becomes of his faith in God.

In the gospel, we hear about the disciples arguing among themselves about which of them is the greatest.

Whatever they can say about themselves, the time will come when they will be put to the test, their faith in Jesus will come under fire, and whatever greatness they thought they had vanished in fear.

Whatever we can say about our faith, we also must be prepared for our faith to undergo a baptism of fire, and to be tried and tested.

Let us believe in God's love for us in that He won't try and test us beyond what we can take. God is for us and not against us. When undergoing a baptism of fire, let us stand by God, or we will not stand at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 25.09.2016

Amos 6:1, 4-7 / 1 Tim 6:11-16 / Luke 16:19-31

For those of us who love art, or know something about art, then we would also know the names of famous artists.

So here are the names of some art pieces and let us see if we know who is the artist is. They are all by the same artist anyway.

So here it comes – Sunflowers; The starry night; Irises; The potato eaters. So, who is the artist?

Yes, it’s Vincent Van Gogh. His masterpieces range from US$50 – US$100 over million dollars.

For those of us who love art and can appreciate art, then we would certainly love to have one of the masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in a prominent place in our home. Yes, we would like to have a US$50 million masterpiece from Vincent Van Gogh in our home.

But would we like to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home?

If we know something about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, then we will probably understand why we might not want to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home.

Vincent Van Gogh lived from 1853 – 1890. In his lifetime, he produced 2000 artworks. But he had very little success as an artist. 

In fact, he only sold one painting “The Red Vineyard”, for less that US$2000 in today’s price.

Besides that, he was also temperamental, depressed and also difficult to get along with, and other things besides. Then at 37 years-old, he took his own life. It was only after his death that his works became famous and renowned.

So that is why we won’t mind having a multi-million-dollar painting by Vincent Van Gogh at home. But we certainly won’t want to have him in our home.

Similarly, we don’t mind having a Bible in our home. In fact, we should have the Bible, the Word of God, at home.

But, would we welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, into our home? We would say – Of course, we want to have Jesus in our home.

But Jesus does not come alone. Because He comes along with His close friends. And who are they? Well, they are the poor and helpless, the problematic and difficult people, the Vincent Van Goghs.

We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the close friends of Jesus. Because the Bible tells us that God is on the side of the poor and needy and helpless.

Indeed, God is closest to the poor and helpless, the weak and the lowly, the defenseless and the oppressed.

At least in today’s 1st reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the gospel tell us that. And we must see it!

Yes, God is for them. God cares about them. And God will console them. If not in this life, then it will be in the next.

God will console them and comfort them in His bosom and wipe away every tear from their eyes.

That was what happened in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

We can call that a reversal of fortunes, and the reversal is not temporal; it is eternal.

Although it is just a parable, it makes us see that the reversal is for real.

It was real enough for the rich man. In the flames of agony, he looked up and saw Lazarus and even knows his name.

While on earth, he certainly saw Lazarus, or at least he knew he was at the gate. But he just chose not to see, not to know, not to care.

But in the flames of agony, the rich man saw. Yes, he saw, but it was too late, and it was forever.

In Singapore, we don’t usually have beggars or destitudes or Lazaruses sitting at our doors.

Yet we cannot say that the poor and needy do not exist.

Just come every 1st Sunday morning at the old parish hall and we will see the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at work, distributing rations to the poor and needy.

And we will see for ourselves who are the poor and needy, the helpless and the rejected. So we can’t say that we didn’t see, or we don’t know.

Or maybe we saw, and we knew, and we feel that we can do nothing about the multitudes of poor and needy and helpless.

Granted that it is an immense challenge, but let’s talk about Mother Teresa and her favourite number.

Most probably, her favourite number is the number 1. And the following quote from her might tell us why it’s 1.

She said : “I don’t agree with the big ways of doing things. Love needs to start with the individual. To love a person you must make contact with that person. To love the poor you must make contact with the poor. 

When you do that, you cross the enormous divide between you and the poor, and it’s somebody you have actually touched.”

She continues by saying : “I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time.”

So most probably, Mother Teresa’s favourite number is 1. For her it is one person at a time.

So the Word of God in today’s readings makes us open our eyes.
God is not asking us how rich we are or how much we can give to the poor and needy.

Rather, God is asking us this : How much do we care? How much do we love? How much do we want to see?

And we don’t have to see far, see wide or see too much.

Let us look at the one who is at the gate.The one who is poor and needy. The one that we can help. 

And that one may not be outside the gate. That one may be within our gates.

But we may have become numbed and indifferent.

Let us listen to the voice of God prompting us to see, to care and to love the one who is poor and needy and helpless, the one who is difficult and problematic, the Vincent Van Goghs.

Yes, they are poor and needy, they may be difficult and problematic, but they are God’s close friends.

And it is they who will lead us into God’s bosom, forever.

Friday, September 23, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-09-16

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12-8 / Luke 9:43-45

When we ask someone "How are you?", what answer are we expecting?

Or when others ask us that question, what kind of answer are we going to give?

Surely, we would expect, as well as give, polite but rather superficial answers like : I am ok. I am fine.

But beneath these polite and superficial answers is the reality of pain and suffering.

Even for Jesus, just when everyone was full of admiration for Him, He brought Himself and His disciples back to the reality of the cross that He must face.

Indeed the reality of pain and suffering is seared into humanity, especially that of being a Christian.

The 1st reading points out this reality of pain and suffering and death in a sober manner and terms it all as "vanity of vanities, all is vanity".

There will come a time when we look at all these "vanities" and say "These give me no pleasure"

Then we will begin to look for what would really give us happiness and joy in life.

May our search lead us to know that in God is our happiness and it is He who gives joy to our lives.

For when our lives on earth are over and we return to the dust of the earth, our souls can find rest only in God our Saviour.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-09-16

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 / Luke 9:18-22

I had this experience of visiting a relative who was in a nursing home and was suffering from a terminal illness but not yet in danger of death.

I spent time with him over lunch, and then gave him the "Anointing of the sick" since that was part of the reason why I visited him.

I noticed that he was yawning so I took leave and said that I would see him soon.

That "soon" turned out to be about four hours later when I was informed that he had passed away in his sleep and I went over immediately to bless his body.

What struck me was how nicely the events fitted in before his passing on. It seemed that everything was timed perfectly, that I should visit him, give him the anointing and then he passed on peacefully.

In the 1st reading, those 11 verses from the book of Ecclesiastes has the word "time" mentioned at least 30 times.

It is telling us that all time is in God's hands . And though God has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, yet man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

And though we wish that we had more time in the busy and hectic lives, yet it is time that we often waste or misuse.

Let us make good use of our time to come to know who Jesus is and hence we need to spend time in prayer. It is prayer that we will realise that all our time and all our life is in the hands of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 22-09-16

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 / Luke 9:7-9

The meaning of "Déjà Vu" is that it is a common intuitive experience that has happened to many of us. The expression is derived from the French, meaning "already seen." When it occurs, it seems to spark our memory of a place we have already been, a person we have already seen, or an act we have already done.

We may have been to many places and seen many things and met many people. But there are occasions when we thought we have already seen a place or a thing, or met this person before somewhere, and now we have this feeling of familiarity or similarity, although the setting is different.

The 1st reading has this to say: What was will be again, what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun.

As much as we may already seen many things and met many people, whenever a feeling of familiarity or similarity arises, could it be that God is telling us something?

In the gospel, when Herod heard about Jesus and all that He was doing, he had a feeling of familiarity and similarity about it.

He was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.

Herod would have heard about Elijah and those ancient prophets. He knew who John was since it was he who ordered his execution. So there was something familiar about Jesus.

Indeed Jesus is familiar. Yet He is also showing us something new as He reveals Himself to us.

As into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, we will never have enough of what Jesus is showing us. May our hearts be open to receive Him as He reveals Himself to us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

St. Matthew, Apostle, Wednesday, 21-09-16

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9:9-13

Almost everyone likes to be with a saintly or holy person.

We just have to recall the crowds that thronged around the late Pope John Paul II or the late Mother Teresa.

Yet somewhere in the lives of the saints or holy people, there was a moment of conversion. There was the experience of the divine.

The fact is that no one is born holy; in fact everyone is born a sinner.

And no one likes to sit next to a sinner or even talk with one, especially despicable sinners.

But that was what Jesus did. He knew why He came into the world.

He came as a Saviour, a Saviour for sinners.

He didn't reject sinners or give up on them, no matter how despicable they may be.

Because He came to offer them the hope of a new life, just as He offered it to Matthew.

And Matthew turned from sinner to saint. We now call him St. Matthew.

And those whom we think are rotten sinners can become glorious saints, if only we can be Jesus to them.

May the celebration of the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist help us to understand why we are Christians.

Monday, September 19, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-09-16

Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13 / Luke 8:19-21

The Old Testament is divided into a few sections. There is the Pentateuch or the Torah which is the first five books of the Bible.

Then there are the historical books, the prophetic writings and the wisdom books or wisdom literature.

The wisdom books consists of the Book of Wisdom, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), and Sirach.

The 1st reading is taken from the book of Proverbs and we may consider it rather easy reading because of its practicality and easy comprehension.

As we can see from the 1st reading, the truths of life are clearly and simply spelt out - act virtuously and with justice, be hardworking, be compassionate and charitable.

Yet, what is clear and simple may not necessarily be easy to carry out, as we are often fooled into thinking that what is simple is easy.

In the gospel, Jesus said that those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice are the ones who are closest to Him.

Yes, reading and hearing about the wisdom of life is one thing. Putting it into practice is another thing.

Certainly we want to live a meaningful and a God-centered life with the wisdom that is already found in the Bible.

May we become what we read, and in doing so may we become more and more Christ-like to others.

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 19-09-16

Proverbs 3:27-34 / Luke 8:16-18

It is a cosy feeling to light a candle and to look at the burning flame and the light that is being emitted, especially when we are in a dark room.

A lighted candle would also be conducive for a moment of prayer and meditation.

We would remember the teachings of Jesus and reflect on His Word as we read the Scriptures.

But the time will come to end the prayer and to extinguish the candle and to go out to face the "real" world.

That will be where the challenges will start to come at us, one by one, or maybe all at once.

The 1st reading gives us a few examples of how our faith will be challenged:

When someone in need comes to us, will we say "Go away! Come another time. I will give it to you tomorrow".

Or when our colleague has done better than us, would we plan to sabotage his project and conspire with others against him?

Or will we pick on our worker or subordinate just because we don't like him for whatever reason?

When we extinguish the light of the candle after prayer, the light should continue to shine in our hearts to scatter the darkness of sin and evil.

More so our faith must be the light for all to see so that by our good works they will come to see what and who we believe in.

Let us be the lamp-stands for the light of Jesus to shine for all to see.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 18.09.2016

Amos 8:4-7 / 1 Tim 2:1-8 / Luke 16:1-13

One of the health issues affecting Singapore now is the Zika virus, but the situation is closely monitored and kept under control.

The info that we have about the virus is this: Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. 

For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Symptoms of Zika are similar to other viruses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya.

So it seems that people may be infected with Zika and not know it. But there are those signs that a person may have a health problem, and if those signs are similar to the symptoms of Zika, then it would be good to go for a medical examination.

So we know what are the signs that indicate a person has a health problem. 

But do we know what are the signs that indicate that a church has a spiritual problem?

That could be rather difficult to answer and not that comfortable to address, especially when we see that the Sunday Masses have good attendance, there is a priest to celebrate Mass, people are singing (or at least they lip-sync). So what signs of a spiritual problem are we talking about?

There can be many signs of a spiritual problem or what is going wrong with a church. Some examples are these:

There is too much politicking in the church. Those who serve in ministries are snobbish and proud. Nothing changes for the better; in fact, things are deteriorating. The leadership has no vision or mission. The preaching is poor and uninspiring. The church is always asking for money.

If the above sounds familiar when we think about our parish, then our parish has a spiritual problem, and something is wrong.

In the gospel, Jesus gave just one indication of what is going wrong not just with a church, but it is also for an individual, for a group, for an organization, and even for a nation.

And that indication is what is often called “the root of all evil”. It is none other than the love or the obsession with money and worldly riches.

Jesus gave this teaching which is often not heeded: No servant can be the slave of two masters. He will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

Jesus goes on to say: The man who can be trusted with little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?

This teaching of Jesus reminds us that having money is not a sin. We use it for daily necessities and to get on in life.

But it is the love and obsession for money that will separate us from God and from loving Him alone.

Certainly, as a church, money is just that little thing that we can be trusted with and should be trusted with.

But as a church, Jesus has entrusted us with something much greater; in fact a genuine treasure.

Let’s go back to what are the signs that a church has a spiritual problem or that there is something wrong.

One of those signs is when we begin to settle for the natural rather than believe in the supernatural.

We begin to look for solutions to problems using human logic and rationale instead of looking into the Scriptures for directions and motivation.

And as we look at the 2nd reading, St. Paul tells Timothy this: My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving. 

And that is the genuine treasure that Jesus has entrusted us with – the power of prayer – prayer that is expressed in petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving, offered for everyone.

And as the Lord God said in the 1st reading: Never will I forget a single thing you have done.

By the same token, Jesus will also never forget a single prayer that is offered, especially to His Sacred Heart.

With the power of prayer, we will be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.

With the power of prayer, we will able to face our problems, as well as the problems in the church and the problems in the world.

The Zika virus will come and go, crises will come and go, money will come and go, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).

And He will not forget the petitions that we offered to Him, petitions that will be answered so that we will have a greater love and devotion to Him, and that we carry out the mission of salvation because He wants all to be saved.

So let us always lift up our hearts reverently in prayer. Jesus has entrusted us with this genuine treasure of the power of prayer. Let us be faithful to it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 17-09-16

1 Cor 15:35-37, 42-49 / Luke 8:4-15

In the nature world, the survival and reproduction of the species is always put to the test.

Mortality rate is always high, and together with the elements of nature and predators, those that survive and can eventually reproduce are significantly small in number.

This can be seen in the parable of the sower in the gospel. Many seeds were sown but in the end probably only a small number survive and are able to produce a harvest.

Jesus ended off the parable by saying this: As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.

It is obvious enough that perseverance is necessary in the world of nature to survive and to reproduce.

And in the spiritual world, it is also by perseverance with a noble and generous heart to hear the Word of God and to bear a harvest of good works.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul also used the analogy of a grain being sowed in the ground. What is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful.

But it would take a lot of perseverance to keep growing until it can bear a harvest.

God has sown the seeds of His Word in our hearts. Let us persevere with a noble and generous heart. Let us also be patient and with God's showers of blessing, we will bear a glorious harvest of good works.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 16-09-16

1 Cor 15:12-20 / Luke 8:1-3

To do volunteer work is a matter of choice. We can choose to do it or we may choose not to do it.

And if we choose to do volunteer work, then we will see if it suits our availability and our suitability.

In other words, we usually do volunteer work according to what we choose to do, and usually it is at our convenience.

In the gospel, we hear of a group of people following Jesus in His mission of preaching and proclaiming the Good News.

It was like a motley collection of people of various statuses in society. Besides the Twelve, there were also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments, like Mary Magdalene and Susanna.

More than just being volunteers, they provided for the group out of their own resources. They don't choose to give out of their own convenience but according to what the group required.

For these women, they have a conviction of who Jesus is and of His mission. They had experienced it for themselves and that led to their conviction.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul expressed his conviction about the resurrection of Jesus even to the extent that he and those who proclaimed the resurrection and are shown up as witnesses would have committed perjury before God since they swore before God that  He had raised Christ to life.

For St. Paul and those who followed Jesus, to serve God is certainly not a voluntary work that is done in their terms and conditions.

For them to serve and witness to the Lord is a choice and a conviction. May we also have the conviction to make the same choice

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday, 15-09-16

Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35

One of the profound teachings of the Church about suffering is that suffering can be redemptive.

Yesterday the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a symbol of redemptive suffering.

Today we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross to share in her sorrow.

Yet, because Christ redeemed the sinful world by His suffering on the cross, then Mary through her sorrow, also contributed to the redemption of the world.

On the cross of suffering, Christ proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of the Church.

As we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross, and as we share in her sorrow, we too become Mary's children, the sons and daughters of the Church.

As sons and daughters of the Church, we unite ourselves with Jesus and Mary in their sorrow and suffering.

We have this great hope that when sorrow and suffering are placed in the hands of God, then there will come about a great new beginning.

On the cross, the world began its journey of redemption and salvation.

At the foot of the cross, the Church began its mission of being a witness of redemptive suffering.

When we place our own sorrow and suffering at the altar of God, let us be assured that God is creating a great new beginning for us, the beginning of healing and forgiveness.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Wednesday, 14-09-16

Numbers 21:4-9 / Philippians 2:6-11 / John 3:13-17

Life is surrounded by symbols, and these symbols point to a deeper aspect of life which is called mystery.

In the case of religious symbols, they point to the truth of life which is encompassed in mystery.

For example, the lotus flower is the religious symbol of Buddhism, and it expressed the teaching that mankind can rise about the worldly desires, just as the lotus flower rises above the sludge.

For us Christians, the profound symbol of our faith is the cross.

Yet, the meaning of the cross may not be that explicit because it points to a deep mystery of life and love.

At first sight, the cross is an instrument of death and suffering.

It can be a stumbling block because we want to avoid suffering.

But with Jesus nailed to the cross, what the cross was meant to do is no longer as important as what God meant it to do.

In the cross, we see the love of God for humanity, that God came into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world.

In the cross, we see God offering His love and His life for us.

In the cross, we see healing and the forgiveness of sins.

In the cross, we see the invitation to discipleship, as well as the cost of discipleship.

In the cross, is not just the symbol of Christianity, but the reality of Christianity.

When we accept the cross, then we will enter into the mystery of life and love.

Monday, September 12, 2016

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday , 13-09-16

1 Cor 12: 12-14, 27-31 / Luke 7:11-17

There is always some kind of longing in us. Essentially, it is a longing for happiness and contentment.

So when there are problems at work, we long for solutions and to be free from trouble so that we can be productive and effective at work.

When there are problems at home, then we long for peace and harmony in the family.

When we have health problems, then we will surely long for a cure and hope to be well again.

So as long as we are alive, we will have problems and there will always be a longing for happiness and peace and contentment.

But when life comes to an end, will there be more longings? Physically and emotionally there may be no more longings. But what about spiritually?

For the dead man in the gospel passage, he may not have any physical or emotional longings. But his soul may have a longing.

His soul may be longing to see his Creator and Saviour. And in this case it was the Creator and Saviour  in the person of Jesus who came to fulfill his soul's longings and even to give him back his life so that he could continue to take care of his mother.

In life we will have our longings. But may we see in the longings of our life our deepest longing, and that is our longing for Jesus our Saviour.

As in life and so in death, may our longing be for Jesus who will fulfill all our other longings.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 12-09-16

1 Cor 11:17-26, 33 / Luke 7:1-10

As much as we strive for perfection, we also have to admit that nothing can be perfect.

No matter how the word is used, such as "the perfect car", or "the perfect program", or "the perfect fit", in time to come, something will give way, and what can go wrong will go wrong.

As much as the Church is divine and human, many a times the human aspect of the Church seems to come across more prominently with its failures and shortcomings.

But this is actually nothing new. It has happened before, such that even at the essentials and fundamentals, the weakness of the human aspect of the Church had manifested.

In the early Church, St. Paul highlighted one area that had degenerated into profanity, and of all things it is the Eucharist.

Something had gone really wrong that even when the community came for the Eucharist, there were separate factions and discrimination and some were even getting drunk.

Obviously, the sense of the sacred and reverence for the divine had diminished to an almost sacrilegious level.

It cannot be denied that in this present day and age of the Church, there were occasions when the divine liturgy is subjected to human sacrilege.

We the Church are called to manifest the divine presence of God especially in our liturgy, but there are times when the devotees of other religions show us that they have a deeper reverence for the divine.

Like Jesus said of the centurion in the gospel: Not even in Israel have i found faith like this.

Let us strive to be a people of faith, to be a people that shows others how to revere God and how to offer Him a worthy worship.

We do not need to have a perfect worship; we only need faith to offer God a worthy worship.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 11.09.2016

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 / 1 Tim 1:12-17 / Luke 15:12-17

The date September 11th, or 911, brings back images of horror and terror. Images of passenger planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the subsequent collapse of the buildings. Images of the dead and the injured and the faces of shock.

That day, fifteen years ago, terrorism escalated to an international level with a subsequent war on terrorism, and the war still continues without any sight of an end.

The reign of terror has scourged the world since 911 and security in almost every country is put on high alert but terror has always reared its ugly head with heavy casualties and bloodshed.

In many ways, life has changed dramatically since that day 15 years ago and we seem to have forgotten what peace and security is.

And in a way, we may also have forgotten what happened a hundred and six years ago on September 11th, 1910.

On that day, the first Catholic church of the 20th century was built in Singapore, and it is none other than this church. Before that there were already six other churches.

So although it was not the first church to be built in Singapore, it was the first in the 20th century and it is a blessing for the Church in Singapore in its mission of proclaiming the Good News and being a sign of salvation.

It is a modest church, not as big as the ones built earlier or later, and it was said that after a novena to the Sacred Heart that Fr. Gazeau who built this church, secured the site for the building of this church.

And legend has it that because of the lack of funds and a mix-up in the drawings that the interior looks like the exterior, and the exterior looks like the interior.

Whatever it may be, whether it is a mix-up or a mistake, God made it a beauty and a mystery. So in the end the church still looks beautiful and is beautiful.

And that is the beautiful mystery of who God is. And we must not forget that. Because to forget that then we will forget how God is blessing us in every situation.

In the 1st reading, we heard about how the people of God forgot who God is and forgot how He had blessed them.

The Lord God said to Moses: Your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostasised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made for themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice.

So even though the people of God had witnessed for themselves the marvels and wonders that God worked for them in the land of Egypt and freed them from slavery, they were quick to forget all that and they don’t remember how much God had blessed them.

But at the pleading of Moses, God relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.

In the gospel, it was the Pharisees and the scribes who have forgotten who God is when they complained: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

They forgot how their ancestors had sinned gravely against God and yet God forgave them. 

On the other hand, it was the tax-collectors and sinners who seemed to remember the mercy of God as they seek the company of Jesus and to hear what He had to say.

Today we are gathered here in this church to hear what Jesus had to say.

Today, we remember that 106 years ago this day, the seventh church in Singapore was blessed and consecrated and the Church in Singapore rejoiced with the blessings of God.

Indeed, it was a day to remember and a day that needs to be remembered.

Because we must remember that Fr. Gazeau prayed and made a novena to the Sacred Heart and then he got the site to build the church.

We must remember that even though there may be a mix-up in the drawings and not enough money, the church in the end still looked beautiful and dignified. 

So we can see God’s blessings and God is still giving us His blessings.

Remembering what Fr. Gazeau did, our devotion to the Sacred Heart must be renewed and strengthened whenever we have a need and seek God’s blessings.

And today would certainly be a good day to offer up a petition to the Sacred Heart and ask for God’s blessings.

But more than just praying for our own needs, we must pray for our country and for our world.
Since September 11, 2001, we live in the anxiety and fear of growing terrorism and a terrorist attack.

But we must also remember much earlier in September 11, 1910, God poured forth His blessings on this church. 

As we gather to hear what Jesus had to say, we also remember how God has blessed us and we must continue to remember and ask for His blessings on us, on our church, on our country and on our world.

We pray that God will pour forth His mercy on those who commit evil so that they will turn from their evil ways and turn to God to receive His blessings of mercy and forgiveness.

We also must pray that we will not forget God’s blessings and continue to be a channel of God’s blessings for others.

So let us rejoice in God’s blessings and may the angels in heaven rejoice with us on this beautiful day.

Friday, September 9, 2016

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 10-09-16

1 Cor 10:14-22 / Luke 6:43-49

If we go by the adage of what we eat is what we are, then we will certainly be careful about what goes into our mouths or what we consume. Simply speaking, what we eat, we will become, at least health wise.

Similarly, if what we read is what we are, then we will also need to be selective in what we are reading.

Because if what we eat has its effects on us physically, then what we read will also have its effect on us spiritually.

And the fruits that we produce, whether in our actions, or in our words or thoughts, is a reflection on what we are physically and spiritually.

As Jesus said in the gospel, every tree can be told by its own fruit. And for a man's words flow out of what fills his heart.

The 1st readings tells us that the blessing cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ.

Hence at every Mass, we read and listen to the Word of God and we enter into communion with Christ at Holy Communion.

May what we read and listen conform us to be more Christ-like and may Christ make His home in our hearts as we receive Him in Holy Communion.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 10-09-16

1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-27 / Luke 6:39-42

Living in HDB flats (public housing) has its conveniences as well as its irritations.

One irritation, at least on the ears, is when someone decides to start practising the piano, or the trumpet, or sings along with the karaoke.

Somehow the Do-Re-Me of the music scales, or an out-of-tune melody, or that annoying voice of the karaoke singing, pervades and invades our consciousness and subconsciousness.

At times, we wish we could be deaf for just that particular period of time.

But the intrusion on our ears should also open our eyes to see that practice and training are necessary disciplines for any kind of skill.

Even St. Paul noted in the 1st reading that athletes go into strict training just to win a prize that will eventually wither away.

One spiritual exercise that we ought to do at least twice a day is the examination of our conscience.

We can do it once in the middle of the day and another before we end the day.

As we give thanks to God for His blessings, we also ask God for the grace to see the planks in our own eyes that obstruct us from seeing the goodness of the people around us, and the lessons of love that life is teaching us.

So the next time we hear someone plonking away at the piano, or blaring away with the trumpet, or singing out of tune, let us see the perseverance and persistence.

May that also help to bring out the patience and understanding in ourselves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thursday, 08-09-16

Micah 5:1-4 or Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23

We may remember this year's National Day rally. Towards the end of the rally, the Prime Minister said that someone had asked him, if God gave him three wishes for Singapore, what would he wish for.

He made only two wishes and he said that there is no need for a third wish as two would be enough.

And if we could make that third wish, what would we wish for? Considering what the Prime Minister wished for (divine discontent and the wisdom to count the blessings) we might have to think hard to come up with something as profound as the wishes of the Prime Minister.

Those were the wishes of the Prime Minister for Singapore as we celebrated our 51 years of independence and the birth of our nation.

Today as we celebrate the birth of our Lady, and if we were granted a wish, what would we wish for? Certainly, we won't wish something for ourselves but we would want to know what our Lady would hope and wish for and we would want her hope and wish to be fulfilled.

The readings of today might give us an indication of what our Lady would hope and wish for.

She would hope and wish that we would follow St. Joseph in responding to the plan of God. St. Joseph was a man of honour and he wanted to spare Mary the publicity by divorcing her informally. But he was willing to change his stand and accept God's plan.

Our Lady would also hope we understand what Jesus came for. As the 1st reading puts it: He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord. He himself will be peace.

Our Lady herself knew that when she changed her plans and accepted God's plan for her, she was blessed with peace. That too would be her hope and wish for us. May we too, hope and wish for that as we celebrate our Lady's birthday

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 07-08-16

1 Cor 7:25-31 / Luke 6:20-26

The book "Tuesdays with Morrie" is certainly a good read as it gives the reader many reflections about life and relationships.

It is about a young journalist and his college professor who is dying from an illness.

The thoughts and reflections from the old man slowly changed the thoughts and reflections of the young journalist as he gained new perspectives from a dying man who had seen much of life.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul gave perspectives that might sound out of this world. But it may also sound like perspectives that we come to the end of this world.

St. Paul said things like "Our time is growing short", "the world that we know it is passing away".

It was from that perspective that he gave his thoughts and reflections about life, marriage, celibacy.

In the gospel, Jesus gave a teaching on life and happiness. His teaching may sound like out of this world.

But again it is a teaching that we will understand when we look at it from the end of this world perspective.

Because when we come to the end of our time in this world, what matters is not wealth, food or pleasure.

When that time comes, we want to be blessed with peace and joy. That blessing is ours when we start to live our lives in love for God and others. Let us not wait till our last day to do that.

Monday, September 5, 2016

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 06-08-16

1 Cor 6:1-11 / Luke 6:12-19

To commit a wrong is easy. The wrong-doer does not bother about the consequences of the damage. To say the least, the wrong-doer is irresponsible.

And that is where those who are responsible enough must be prepared to embark on the task of damage-control and to repair the consequences of the wrong.

The work of repairing the damage and even trying to correct the wrong-doer is truly a time-consuming and energy-draining task as well as a thankless task, and not many people would be willing to offer themselves for that kind of work.

But if responsible people are not willing to embark on the work of repairing a wrong-doing, then those irresponsible people will just continue to do wrong and there will be no one to stop them.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul chided the Christian community at Corinth for bringing their internal disputes before the civil law courts.

And he asked if there was really not one reliable man among them to settle those differences. If that was the case then they ought to be shameful, because as Christians, there was not one reliable and responsible man who would want to take on the task of settling differences within the community.

In the gospel, Jesus called His 12 apostles and then almost immediately as they came down, they were met with a great crowd who wanted to hear the Good News and to be cured of their diseases.

The mission of proclaiming the Good News and curing the sick is urgent and it calls for people who are reliable and responsible to take on this task.

Because for all the wrongs and the sins that are committed in this world, there must be people who are reliable and responsible in correcting the wrong and repairing the damage.

The Lord is calling us to that mission. And we as Christians need to show the world how to respond to that call from the Lord

Sunday, September 4, 2016

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 05-08-16

1 Cor 5:1-8 / Luke 6:6-11

Sexual sins and sexual immorality is certainly rampant in our society and maybe in our personal lives too.

These can encompass anything from adultery to fornication to pornography to masturbation.

Yet it must also be stated that adultery and the associated sexual sins rank as No. 7 in the 10 Commandments.

But that does not mean that sexual sins are not destructive or that they can be taken lightly.

In the 1st reading we heard of a grave sexual sin that was committed in the Christian community of Corinth - one of them was living with his father's wife, and it was public knowledge.

St. Paul even has to say that the sin was unparalleled even among the pagans! And yet the Christian community seemed to think lightly of it.

Well, as it was then, so it is now. If sexual sins are taken lightly, it may be because the Commandments of God are taken lightly. And it may be an indication that God is taken lightly too.

Where sin increases, the adherence to the precepts of the Lord decreases. And we heard in the gospel that as Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, the scribes and Pharisees were watching Him and later they even discussed the best way of dealing with Him.

And all this was happening in the synagogue, in a place of prayer. So even as they stand in the presence of God, their minds were thinking about something evil.

The 1st reading also reminded us that a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough.

A small sin that is not addressed and confessed will be enough to infect and darken the whole person.

So let us turn back to the Lord, confessing our sins, and be reconciled and healed and live our lives in sincerity and truth.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

23rd Ordinary Sunday, 04.09.2016

Wisdom 9:13-18 / Philemon 9-10, 12-17 / Luke 14:25-33

We have been told that the earth is round and we believe it. Pictures from space show that the earth is round. From our earliest school days, we were taught about the solar system and about the planet Earth.

Those are facts and we believe it without further questions. 

But from our limited observation, the earth seems flat. As far as we can see, it is flat. When we go to the beach and look at the horizon, we see that it is flat. And even from the plane, the earth looks flat enough. 

Well, if the earth is really flat, then there would a solution for those people who give us problems. We just have to bring them to the edge of the world and then push them over! Problem solved!

But as it is, the problems of life are not so easily solved. Maybe that is why the earth is round. We push one problem away and it travels round the world and comes back again. 

So even though we know that the earth is round, we wish it was flat. If it was flat, then we just have to bring these problems to the ends of the world, or the edge of the world and push them off and they would disappear from the face of the earth.

So what we wish the world to be can be very different from what the reality is. And what we ourselves wish to be, can also be very different from the reality.

Just like once upon a time when people thought that the earth was flat and the sun rotated round the earth, we would also like to be the center and everything and everyone rotate around us.

And then when discoveries were made about the solar system and that it was actually the earth that rotated round the sun, people initially found it hard to believe.

It was until explorers sailed round the world and came back that people slowly began to accept that the earth was round and that it was the earth that rotated round the sun.

Just as it was difficult for people then to realize that the earth was round, neither would it be that easy for us to understand the mind of God.

As the 1st reading would tell us: What man indeed can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord? The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable.

In the gospel, Jesus used the examples of building a tower and a king marching out to war against another king of a larger army. 

The point is that on what resources are we relying on? If we relying on ourselves and our own abilities, then we are likely to fail and to fall.

That is why Jesus tells us that we cannot be His disciples unless we give up all our possessions.

In other words, we cannot be the centre and want everything to rotate around us. Only when Jesus is the centre, then will everything come together.

Today the Church celebrates the canonization of someone who is familiar to us, someone of our time.

Pope Francis will officiate the canonization of Mother Teresa at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. 

Sister Teresa began teaching history and geography in Calcutta at St. Mary’s, a high school for the daughters of the wealthy. She remained there for 15 years and enjoyed the work, but was distressed by the poverty she saw all around her.

In 1946 Sister Teresa traveled to Darjeeling for a retreat. It was on that journey that she realized what her true calling was: “I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”

It took two years of lobbying before Sister Teresa set aside her nun’s habit – adopting instead the simple sari and sandals worn by the women she would be living among, and moved to a small rented hut in the slums to begin her work.

She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. 

Mother Teresa experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during those early years. 

But when the call is from the Lord, then He will also provide the necessary graces to overcome the difficulties.

There are many stories about the life and work of Mother Teresa but this story shows that her work and mission was not about herself but rather for the Lord and for others.

One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, scolded her and spat at her face and refused. 

Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Thank you for what you have given for me. Will you now give something for my children?

The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted for the children.

Mother Teresa knew she was not the centre, nor can she can make everything and everyone rotate around her.

She let Jesus be the centre and when He called her for the mission she got things in motion with His help.

That is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. To give up the possession of wanting to be the centre. Only Jesus can be the centre; then everything will come together.


Friday, September 2, 2016

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 03-08-16

1 Cor 4:6-15 / Luke 6:1-5

A maxim is a written set of principles or rules of conduct.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul used this word to state a simple principle or rule and that is "Keep to what is written".

Most probably he was referring to the Scriptures and to the written set of teachings that were handed to the Christian community at Corinth.

He made recourse to that maxim because the Christians at Corinth were beginning to interpret the teachings to their own convenience and advantage.

What was too demanding and affected them personally they would give leeway for themselves and go with the broadest possible options.

St. Paul wanted to bring them to their senses and to help them see the truth and the reality of their spiritual deterioration.

Yet in the gospel, it was the Pharisees who were harping on keeping to the Law of the Sabbath.

But their intention was to reinforce and propagate their religious fundamentalist ideas.

But it is not a question of rigidity or laxity when it comes to religious teachings.

Jesus came to teach us the Truth so that we will have freedom when we keep to His teachings.

In Jesus, we have the Truth who will lead us to the Way of Life.

Let that be our spiritual maxim.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 02-08-16

1 Cor 4:1-5 / Luke 5:33-39

We would like to think that reaction and response might be similar.

A reaction may be described as a reverse movement or tendency; an action in a reverse direction or manner, or an action that happens subsequently when a situation or event happens

A response may just be an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.

So a reaction and a response do not have much of an obvious difference as such.

But we may think of reaction as going against, whereas we can look at response as connecting with.

In the gospel, the Pharisees and scribes seemed to be reacting to eating and drinking habits of the disciples of Jesus by comparing them to the disciplined habits of the disciples of John the Baptist.

In their reaction, they had already formed a judgement on the disciples of Jesus.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul urged the Christian community to refrain from premature judgement about anybody's role in the community.

Because premature judgement is like a reaction which goes against others and causes dissension and animosity.

But to be able to respond to the criticisms and judgements around us instead of reacting, then we must first make a renewed response to God's call to us.

God has entrusted us with His love. Our response to God is to be found worthy of His trust.

When we start responding to God's love within us, then we will also begin to connect with people around us in love.