Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ash Wednesday, 01-03-2017

Joel 2:12-18 / 2 Cor 5:20 - 6:2 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today as the Church begins the season of Lent with fasting and abstinence, the Church also includes in the liturgy a rather unique substance.

This substance makes its appearance only once a year and it is on this particular day, and this particular day of the Church year is even named after it.

Yes, we are talking about ashes, a substance that is quite alien to the usual materials that is associated with the liturgy.

But it is only today that it makes its appearance and it is also used in a particular way that has its origins that dates back to the Old Testament.

Ashes smeared on the head and other parts of the body, or sitting in the midst of ashes was a sign of penance and repentance.

In today's Mass, the ashes will be imposed on the forehead with these words: "Repent and believe in the Gospel". The other formula is: "Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return".

The ashes that are used in today's Mass were obtained by burning the palm branches that were used in last year's Palm Sunday Mass.

As we look at the ashes, a thought or two may surface in our minds. Ashes makes us realize two realities in the cycle of life.

What has happened to the ashes is irreversible as well as irrevocable. We cannot reverse the process, we cannot change it back to what it was before, it cannot be recovered to its former state.

Yes, what has happened to the ashes is irreversible as well as irrevocable.

Ashes are used in today's liturgy, on the 1st day of Lent, to help us realize, in a very experiential way, that the season of Lent is a call to repentance and conversion.

Ashes are also used to help us realize our mortality and eventual finality. Yes, we will eventually turn to dust, for we are dust and unto dust we shall return.

And as Jesus tells us in today's gospel, for all the material rewards of this world, all will eventually crumble and turn to dust.

We are reminded of this as the ashes are imposed on our foreheads.

But a deeper realization is that there is an eternal reward that only God can give.

When we realize that all will turn to ashes, that all things will pass, that our existence is like a passing wind and fades like a shadow, we must then turn to God and surrender the ashes of our lives in penance and repentance.

And it is in God and only in God that we will rise from ashes, we rise from the good we failed to do. It is in God and only in God that we see our world as ashes but our lives must be true.

May the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving help us to rise from ashes and to a new life that will give glory to God.

Monday, February 27, 2017

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 28-02-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-02-17

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

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

Interesting because of the answers that they might give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a question is essentially a question of identity.

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

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

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

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

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

If health is lost, then something is lost.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

8th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 26-02-2017

Isaiah 49:14-15 / 1 Cor 4:1-5 / Matthew 6:24-34

If we can recall, about two years ago, the Archdiocese was in quite a financial squeeze.
Because, all of a sudden, there was a number of large-scale renovation and building projects that ran into triple digit million dollars.

Call it bad timing, bad planning or no planning, the flurry of renovation and building activities also set the hearts of the hierarchy and the laity alike in a flurry.

Doubts and anxieties arose because there is a time frame for the completion of those projects and whether the money can be raised in time.

Just to give a rundown of the churches involved and the amount of money that was needed:
Church of Sts. Peter and Paul - $8m
Novena Church - $40m
The Cathedral - $40m
The Church of Transfiguration - $60m

There were fears about donation fatigue; or an economic recession that would reduce the fundraising momentum; there were thoughts and talks of delaying or postponing some projects.

But all four churches had valid reasons for the work to be done immediately and so in the end, the four renovation and building projects were carried out concurrently.

Indeed, it was a time of high anxiety, and worry, as the funds crept in slowly, but steadily.

That was two years ago. Last June, Sts. Peter and Paul  was completed, and it was beautiful. About two weeks ago, the Cathedral was re-dedicated and it was awesome. The Church of the Transfiguration was just completed and the first Mass has been scheduled on Holy Thursday. Novena Church is coming up soon (1 August) and it certainly will be worthy and ready for the Saturday devotions to Our Lady.

A priest of one the four churches was telling his congregation about the funds that were needed for the renovation works. When they heard about the amount, there was a controlled “Wah!!!” reaction. The priest then said, “Oh don’t worry, we already have the money. It’s all in your pockets. You just have to take it out!”

What the priest said is an echo of what Jesus is teaching us in today’s gospel. Jesus tells us not to worry about money, about what to eat, about what to wear, about tomorrow.

Jesus is telling us not to be gripped by worrying about all these because our heavenly Father knows we need them all.

All these will be given to us. But there is something we must give first. We must give God first priority. We cannot serve two masters. It’s either we serve God, or we become slaves to worry and it’s usually worry about money.

But when we set our hearts on God’s kingdom and on His righteousness, then all these other things that we need will be given to us.

But the temptation is to worry about ourselves first, before we think about what God wants of us. 

Putting it in construction terms, we want to build our house first, and only when we have whatever leftovers, then that will be for God’s house. But that’s not putting God first.

That’s when we forget what Ps. 127 is telling us: If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour. If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising and your going later to rest, while He pours His gifts on His beloved as they slumber.

Yes, we will worry and work in vain if God is not first over everything.

It’s like what we heard the people saying in the 1st reading: “The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.” And the reply from the Lord is this: “I will never forget you.”

And in many ways, the completion and the dedication of the Cathedral is a testimony of what God has done for the Church in Singapore, as well as our generosity in building the House of God.

But there was an incident that happened during the renovation of the Cathedral that showed God’s hand working together with our hands.

It was the discovery of the 173 year-old time capsule found under one of the Cathedral’s columns. But the discovery wasn’t without some drama. During the renovations, the pediment (the triangular upper part of the front of a classical building) facing Victoria Street collapsed.

That was bad news as the completion will be delayed and more money will be needed. But in the midst of the rubble, the 173 year-old time capsule was discovered, and it revealed artefacts of a time in the history of the church, and also the cornerstone that was laid when the Cathedral was first built.

The news of the discovery of the time capsule and the cornerstone brought about a renewed interest in the renovation of the Cathedral and subsequently a fresh flow of funds for the renovation.

And now the small pieces of the bricks from the collapsed pediment are sold as souvenirs to raise funds for the Archdiocese.

So just when the time capsule and the cornerstone was about to be forgotten and lost in the renovation works, the pediment had to collapse so that they can be revealed.

Certainly the collapse of the pediment doesn’t seem to be like good news initially, but it revealed God’s hand of blessing when the Cathedral was first built, and His hand of blessing on the Cathedral now as well as God’s hand of blessing on the Church in Singapore.

At present another House of God, the Church of the Transfiguration, is still in need of $16 million to pay up for the construction. And the Archdiocese is also in need of $230 million to prepare the Church for the future.

Those are staggering amounts of money. It’s a worry but it also calls for our generosity.

So will we give to God for what He has given to us?

The Lord has not forgotten us and will never forget us. Let us also not forget the Lord and how He has blessed us.

Friday, February 24, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 17:1-15 / Mark 10:13-16

From what science is telling us, we know how vast the universe is and how much mystery there is in it.

There are things like black holes and many other galaxies.

In our galaxy alone, there are billions of stars, each separated by millions of light years.

In the face of such vastness and coupled with so much mystery, we may feel that we on earth are quite insignificant.

Because there is so much more around us.

But is this "more" just measured by size and vastness?

The 1st reading brings us back to the reflection of how much "more" we are.

This "more" is much more significant than that of the whole universe.

Because God our creator clothed us with strength like His and made us in His image.

He filled us with understanding and knowledge.

He put His own light into our hearts to show us the magnificence of His works.

Hence, we may already be exploring outer space, yet we need to reflect and understand and appreciate our inner space.

And it is only with the heart and the simplicity of a child that we can praise and glorify God, our Father and Creator.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 24-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17 / Mark 10:1-12

No man is an island and it is not good for man to be alone. Even if we want some time to be alone by ourselves, we won't stay away from others for too long a time

No doubt we come into contact with others whom we generally call friends.

But have we ever made an assessment of our friends? Do we know who are the fair-weather friends and who are the faithful friends?

The 1st reading tell us this: If you want to make a friend, take him on trial, and be in no hurry to trust him.

And then it goes on to describe the several types of fair-weather friends that we need to be wary of.

But towards the end of the passage there, there is a turn and a twist. It says that those who fear the Lord will find a faithful friend. Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends, for as a man is, so is his friend.

In other words, as much as we look for a faithful friend, the question comes back to us in that are we also a faithful friend to others?

More so in a marital relationship, the spouse must be the best friend and the most faithful friend.

So if we find ourselves always complaining about our friends and our spouse, then it is time to ask ourselves what kind of friend are we and what kind of spouse are we.

And whoever fears the Lord will be a true friend and a faithful spouse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 5:1-8 / Mark 9:41-50

Time is what we want most. Yet, time is also what we waste most.

The irony is that the more time we have, the more time we will waste.

By and large, we think that we have a long future ahead of us.

We think that there will always be a tomorrow. Yet, that is not a certainty.

That is why the 1st reading urges us not to delay our return to the Lord and not to put it off day after day.

The last line of today's gospel passage gives us an aspect of our lives to think about.

Jesus said: Be at peace with one another.

More than just the need for reconciliation with those whom we have crossed swords with, the more urgent need is to stop hurting others and being a pain to others, whether it is with our words or actions.

Jesus tells us to cut off our hurtful and sinful words and actions because in the end we will have to pay the debt of our sins.

Let us ask the Lord to cleanse our hearts for from the bounty of the heart, the mouth speaks and the hands act.

Let us also ask the Lord to grant us His peace so that we will live in peace with the Lord and with one another.

Let us not delay. Let us do it now. In a way, it is now or never.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chair of St. Peter, The Apostle, Wednesday, 22-02-17

1 Peter 5:1-4 / Matthew 16:13-19

One of the prominent features of the Catholic Church is its unity.

This unity is seen in worship, in teachings and generally in practices.

This unity is also symbolized in the figure of the Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church.

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter is an affirmation of the authority given to St. Peter by Jesus to lead the Church on earth.

Jesus said: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.

The Church in its 2000 years of history has seen glorious times, challenging times, turbulent times and dark moments.

But the very fact that the Church has survived those turbulent and dark moments only goes to show that the Pope draws his authority from Christ, and that the Spirit is guiding the Church.

Nonetheless, the authority and leadership of the Pope is always being challenged.

In the area of morality, issues like abortion, the sanctity of life, same-sex marriage have often been brought up to ridicule and criticize the Church and inevitably the Pope.

In the area of faith, heresies and schisms have undermined the authority of the Pope.

From within as well as from without, the Pope and the Church had suffered potshots from numerous quarters.

Yet in the midst of these criticisms and confusion, let us keep faith with the Church and in obedience to the Pope.

Let us remember what Jesus promised the Church: The gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.

Let us also remember to pray for the Pope and the leaders of the Church.

Monday, February 20, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11 / Mark 9:30-37

To be always prepared is certainly not an easy. It means to be always alert for whatever situations that might arise and to have a solution for it.

Be it to be ready for duty or having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.

That is certainly very draining and stressful on the mind and body. Besides we also long for some rest and relaxation from being at the beck and call of people who don't make an appointment for our service.

The 1st reading also has something to say about being prepared. It says that if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.

But the purpose of saying that is to tell us that if we want to walk in the ways of the Lord and to serve Him, then we must be prepared in mind and body to be steadfast and not to be alarmed when disaster comes.

But it may not be a severe test of faith or having to put our life on the line for the Lord.

Often it comes in small and unsuspecting ways like wanting to be great and to be honoured, and even wanting to be served than to serve.

And Jesus tells us this in the gospel: Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.

So we need to be little and humble always. That is the way to be prepared to welcome Jesus into our hearts.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10 / Mark 9:14-29

A good place to spend a quiet and reflective moment is probably in a bookshop, a good and spacious bookshop.

Somehow, in a bookshop, people naturally make themselves comfortable and begin browsing through books that would interest them and maybe buy what attracts them.

One category of books that will probably attract us is in the section called "Self-help".

What attracts us is all this material on how to improve ourselves, to make ourselves more capable, more skilled, more talented. That is,  to become better.

But even if we do become better, in the general sense of the word, we still need the wisdom to use our knowledge and skills and talents.

The one book that we ought to read is the book of Ecclesiasticus. That's the book from which the 1st reading is taken.

The first line from that book proclaims that all wisdom is from the Lord, and it is His own forever.

Hence, if we truly desire to be wise, it is necessary that we come before the Lord in humility and in reverence.

We must come in humble prayer before the Lord of all wisdom.

And that was what Jesus told His disciples in today's gospel passage.

Before they embark on any task, they must come before the Lord in humble prayer.

It is necessary to read to broaden our knowledge. But reading all the books in the world will not necessarily grant us wisdom.

It is the Lord of all wisdom who will bless us with wisdom and give success to the work of our hands.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

7th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 19.02.2017

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 / 1 Cor 3:16-23 / Matthew 5:38-48

The past week can be called a happening week. It was a happening week for the world, for the church, for Singapore, and for our parish.

For the world, the happening day was on Tuesday, the 14th February, because it was Valentine’s Day.

It was a day of love and one of the ways to show that is to give chocolates.

And if you had received too many chocolates and can’t finish it, you can pass some over, preferably dark chocolates 70% - 80% cocoa.

But the origins of Valentine’s Day is to honour St. Valentine, a priest who defied the imperial ban on marriages and continued to officiate marriages until he was caught and martyred.

Last Tuesday, besides being Valentine’s Day, it was also a day of rejoicing for the Church in Singapore, because that was also the day that the newly restored Cathedral was re-dedicated. It was first dedicated in the year 1897, on the same day, 14th February.

We had waited a long time for the joyful day and for those of us who were there or watched the live streaming of the dedication, we gave thanks as we witnessed the outpouring of God’s love on the Church in Singapore, and especially on the Cathedral, our Mother Church.

Indeed the 14th February was a day of love, a day of blessing and rejoicing, a day to give thanks to God.

But the day after, the 15th February, was a solemn day for Singapore, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore to the Japanese Army. And there was also a memorial service at the Kranji War Memorial.

It was a dark period for Singapore as it began the 3 years under Japanese Occupation.

And it affected not just our nation but also our parish, Church of the Sacred Heart. It was recorded in the archives that on the afternoon of the 15th February 1942 (1st day of Chinese New Year), a couple of Japanese shells fired from Johor Bahru targeting Fort Canning, fell through the roof of our church.

No one was injured as the Chinese New Year Mass was in the morning, but furnishings and fittings were damaged. But despite the shells exploding and especially in the church, the walls did not buckle. It remained firm then and still firm to this day.

So this church is quite remarkable. It had seen peace and rejoicing, it had seen war and suffering. 

And the Catholics of this parish back in 1942 would certainly be angry and even bear hatred for what the invaders had done to this church as well as to the country.

How would they be able to come to terms with what Jesus is teaching in the gospel about offering the wicked man no resistance and to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you?

We would go for that “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” retaliation because it is so difficult not to resent and hate those who inflict pain and suffering upon us just because they think that might is right, and with that they can humiliate the weak and helpless.

There must be some kind of retribution for them. Better still if we can inflict some revenge upon them to make them pay for what they have done.

But is that the Christian response? And just what is the Christian response?

To begin with, vengeance belongs to God and not to us. We don’t have a right to revenge.

And it is also said that if you want to take revenge, then you have to dig two graves – one for your enemy, and one for yourself. 

Because revenge also results in more blood being shed.

And here God Himself teaches us how to respond. In the 1st reading, God instructed Moses to tell the people this: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

And the 2nd reading tells us this: Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

That brings us to think about the Christians that are still undergoing persecution, and also about the martyrs of the Church who shed their blood in witnessing to Jesus.

Let’s go back to the dedication of the Cathedral on Tuesday. For those who were watching the live-streaming, you would get a clearer close-up view.

After the consecration of the altar, the Archbishop proceeded to inter the relics of two saints into the altar, which is a traditional practice.

One of the saints is St. Francis Xavier, who is quite well known. The other is St. Laurent Imbert. We might ask who is that and why is his relic interred there.

Well, let’s begin with the name of the Cathedral. It is called the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

The story behind that name is that in 1821, an MEP priest (Paris Foreign Missions Society), Fr. Laurent Imbert was sent to Singapore to see if there was a possibility of opening a missionary station in the island. He spent about a week here and he could have been the first priest to celebrate Mass on the island.

In 1837, after being ordained bishop, he crossed secretly from Manchuria to Korea. During this time, Korea was going through a period of Christian persecution.

He secretly went about doing his missionary work, but the authorities found him out and before they captured him, he wrote a note to two other fellow missionaries.

He urged them to give themselves up to the authorities because he believed in doing so, the flock will be spared from persecution, and he wrote that a good shepherd must give up his life for his sheep.

So eventually the three of them were captured and tortured and beheaded. They were canonized in 1984.

When the Cathedral was to be dedicated 1897, the name "Good Shepherd" was chosen in memory of Fr. Laurent Imbert and his two companions.

St. Laurent Imbert, as well as the other martyrs of the Church followed what Jesus taught as well as followed what Jesus did.

They offered the wicked man no resistance. They did not curse their persecutors or threatened them with retribution. They even prayed for their persecutors.

The blood the martyrs shed is truly the seed of Christianity. So besides K-pop and Korean TV dramas, Korea is also the land where the Church experienced a phenomenal growth.

Truly the blood-soaked prayers of the martyrs washed away the evil and wickedness of their persecutors, just as the blood of Christ washed away our sins.

The truth is what Jesus taught us: offer the wicked man no resistance, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. 

That is what true holiness is, and that is what we are called to be.

Because that is what Jesus did. That is what the martyrs did. That is the Christian response to evil and wickedness, so that our enemies will be turned into our friends, and our persecutors will be turned into peace-makers.

Friday, February 17, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-02-17

Hebrews 11:1-7 / Mark 9:2-13

The one word that keeps recurring in the 1st reading is the word "faith". It begins the passage as well as ends it off.

It talks about the faith of Biblical characters like Abel, Enoch and Noah.

By their faith they came to know who God is, and by their faith they experienced His presence, and it was by their faith they did God's will.

In the broadest sense of the word, faith can be said as believing in what cannot be seen and hoping in what cannot be fully explained.

In other words, faith is a gift from God to experience a mystery that is revealed and yet keeps revealing.

In the gospel, the disciples had their faith brought to another dimension when they saw the mystery of who Jesus is being revealed in His Transfiguration.

But still they don't understand what was meant "rising from the dead" and that Jesus will suffer grievously and be treated with contempt.

There may be still many things about our faith that we do not understand.

But still let us give thanks to God and hold firm to our faith. With faith, we will be able to see beyond the ordinary to a mystery in which God reveals Himself and will keep revealing Himself to us.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-02-17

Genesis 11:1-9 / Mark 8:34 - 9:1

It is said that life is a never-ending learning process. That is true, because everyday we learn something new, or we ought to learn something new, so that our minds are nourished and can grow intellectually.

But we also need to be careful about what we learn just as we have to be careful about what we eat.

Because what we learn can either make ourselves better persons or it might just give us a wrong thinking and end up doing the wrong things.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the people learnt how to build and they built a town and a tower with a top reaching heaven. The purpose of their building is to make a name for themselves.

Learning to build is certainly a good thing but the idea of building in order to make a name for themselves has slanted into a selfish and egoistic direction.

And for that God confused their language and scattered the people over the whole face of the earth. And that also ended their proud ambition of building a tower to reach heaven.

In the gospel, Jesus gave us a teaching about being His disciple. He said: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will save it.

It is a teaching that is difficult to understand and even more difficult to learn and put it into practice.

But let us also remember that what gain is it for a man to win the whole world and yet ruin his life. Or what can a man offer in exchange for his life?

So let us learn from Jesus our Master and Teacher about the meaning and purpose of life. If not, then all our learning and knowledge might be in vain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-02-17

Genesis 9:1-13 / Mark 8:27-33

The Church has issued several documents to emphasize its teaching on human life.

Documents like Humane Vitae and Evangelium Vitae talk about the dignity and sacredness of human life.

As a matter of fact, these teachings flow from the Scriptures.

In the 1st reading from Genesis, we hear this dignity and sacredness of human life emphasized once again.

God will demand an account of every man's life from his fellow-man.

And he who shed man's blood, shall have his blood shed by man, for in the image of God, man was made.

Those are powerful and authoritative words which do not need further elaboration.

But on the other hand, what happens when man sheds God's blood?

What happens when man puts God to death?

Jesus prophesied that He will be put to death by man.

If God used the same command that He gave to man, then we will be doomed to the deepest and darkest depths.

Because by our sins, we shed God's blood and we put Him to death.

Yet strangely enough, it was by the shedding of the blood of Jesus that we are saved.

Indeed, how strange God's love is for man.

The gospel of the dignity of life and the sacredness of life are one and the same gospel.

Yet the gospel of God's unconditional and sacrificial love for man, even to the point of shedding His blood and dying for man, is the good news of our salvation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 15-02-17

Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22 / Mark 8:22-26

It's just one day after Valentine's Day and the expressions of love are still fresh in many hearts who have exchanged gestures of love.

So if we are asked what is love, how would we begin? Which attribute of love would we chose to begin with?

Certainly there are many expressions of love. But in 1 Corinthians 13:4, it is interesting that the attributes of love begin with patience, followed by kindness, it does not envy, not boastful, not proud, etc.

Patience is also a virtue that is necessary for us to see the marvels and wonders of God working slowly and surely in our lives.

For example, in the 1st reading, at the end of 40 days Noah opened the porthole of the ark and sent out a raven. Then, he sent out a dove and he had to wait for another seven more days for the earth to dry up. And he had to wait for another seven more days before he knew the earth was dry enough for him to set foot on.

Similarly in the gospel, the blind man could only see partially before Jesus prayed over him again and then he could see clearly.

It seems that God works slowly but surely and we need to have patience in order to see and understand God's marvels and wonders.

Patience also helps us to be thankful for the little wonders from God before we can see the great marvels that He wants to do for us.

Indeed, love is patient. And God is surely patient with us for being so slow to see His love for us and so quick to sin and turn away from Him.

So as God is patient with us, may we also be patient with others. That would be the first expression of our love for them.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Tuesday, 14-02-17

Today the Archdiocese of Singapore celebrates the dedication of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd, hence it is called the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

The story behind that name is that in 1821, an MEP priest, Fr. Laurence Imbert was sent to Singapore to see if there was a possibility of opening a missionary station in the island. He spent about a week here and he could have been the first priest to celebrate Mass on the island.

In 1837, after being ordained bishop, he crossed secretly from Manchuria to Korea. During this time, Korea was going through a period of Christian persecution.

He secretly went about doing his missionary work, but the authorities found him out and before they captured him, he wrote a note to two other fellow missionaries.

He urged them to give themselves up to the authorities because he believed in doing so, the flock will be spared from persecution, and he wrote that a good shepherd must give up his life for his sheep.

So eventually the three of them were captured and tortured and beheaded. They were canonized in 1984.

When the Cathedral was to be dedicated, the name "Good Shepherd" was chosen in memory of Fr. Laurence Imbert and his two companions.

Today as the Church in Singapore celebrates the dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, we are called to renew our faith and we must strive for the spirituality with which we can understand and perceive the will of God so that others will see the presence of God in the Church and also hear the voice of God in the prayer of the Church.

This would require a deep and firm faith in God who always provides and watches over His Church.

May Jesus our Good Shepherd lead us and guide us to God's living signs of salvation to all peoples.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 13-02-17

Genesis 4:1-15, 25 / Mark 8:11-13

The sin of jealousy is sometimes given the imagery of a green-eyed monster.

Whether it is green-eyed or not, yet a monster it surely is.

Because it makes demands, and it demands utter destruction.

It can be someone's project, possessions, reputations or even the life of a person, which is the ultimate destruction.

Yet the destruction of humiliation of another person does not benefit us in any way whatsoever.

But we fail to see it. All we see is green; all that we become is a monster.

In the 1st reading, Cain failed to see it although God had warned him that his jealousy was like a crouching beast hungering to devour him.

In the gospel, the Pharisees also failed to see their jealousy of Jesus.

Their demand for signs was in itself a sign of their jealousy.

So it is necessary to check our thoughts, our words and our actions.

They are signs to us of what is happening in us.

We need to heed these signs, reflect upon them in our prayer, and with God's grace, we will master the devouring beast and the green-eyed monster of jealousy within us.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

6th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 12.02.2017

Ecclesiasticus 15:15-20 / 1 Cor 2:6-10 / Matthew 5:17-37

We all know who Fr. Paul Tong is. He has been in this parish for a very long time and until now he still does the Chinese Mass and takes care of the Chinese-speaking ministries.

Some of us may know how old he is. Yes, he is 90 years old and is still up and about, his mind is clear as crystal, remembers a lot of things, though a bit hard on hearing.

He still uses the computer to read his emails. He uses a tablet and I think he has got WhatsApp and WeChat.

To me, he is a fatherly figure, and needless to say he makes me feel very young.

It is said that the best classroom in the world is at feet of the elder. 

For me it is at the dining table and chatting with Fr. Tong and learning the lessons of life from him.

One lesson that I learnt from Fr. Tong is the meaning of the word “home”. It was when I first came to the parish and we were having breakfast.

Then he asked me if I was having lunch at home. I thought that he was asking if I was having lunch with my mother at home, as in my home.

So of course I told him that I am having lunch here, in the parish. And he said, “Yes, that’s what I mean. Are you having lunch here at home, in the parish.” 

That’s when I realized that for Fr. Tong, home for the priests means here in the parish. If it is the other home, then he will ask if I am going to see my mother.

And that’s a valuable lesson that I learnt from Fr. Tong – the sense of belonging for the priest. Home for the priest is the parish. Other than that it is going to visit our loved ones.

Such is his understanding of what it means to be a priest and where the priest must belong. And for me it was a truly enlightening lesson of life and of the priesthood.

Hence, we must salute and respect our elders. One thing is that they gained their wisdom without Google or Wikipedia. They may not be always right but at least they have more experiences of being wrong … and learning from it.

In the gospel, we heard Jesus giving a teaching and He begins with “You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors”. He touches on a few of the Commandments – Do not kill; Do not commit adultery.

But with each of those Commandments, He gives a deeper aspect to it and presents an enlightening teaching to help us understand the virtues that flow from the Commandments.

For example, with the Commandment on committing adultery, He says that if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

A story goes that a young man said to an elderly priest, “I like to look at women especially the beautiful ones. If God does not want us to look at them, then why does He give us eyes?” The elderly priest responded, “God also gave us eyelids so that we can close them when necessary.”

As for killing, Jesus says this: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.

The wisdom that life has taught us, that anger and its consequences is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person will die. Or clutching on to red hot coals and hoping that the other person gets burnt.

In other words, when we get angry, we only hurt and harm ourselves, and then the hurt and harm spreads on from us.

There was a grandfather, and his little grandson often came in the evenings to sit at his knee and ask the many questions that children ask.

One day the grandson came to his grandfather with a look of anger on his face. Grandfather said, "Come, sit down, tell me what has happened today."

The child sat and leaned his chin on his Grandfather's knee. 

Looking up into the wrinkled, nut brown face and the kind dark eyes, the child's anger turned to tears.

The boy said, "I went to the town today with my father, to trade the furs he has collected over the past several months. I was happy to go, because father said that since I had helped him with the trapping, I could get something for myself, something that I wanted.

I was so excited to be in the trading post, I have not been there before. I looked at many things and finally found a hunting knife! It was small, but good size for me, so father got it for me."

Here the boy laid his head against his grandfather's knee and became silent. The Grandfather, softly placed his hand on the boy’s hair and said, "And then what happened?". Without lifting his head, the boy said, "I went outside to wait for father, and to admire my new knife in the sunlight. Some town boys came by and saw me, they got all around me and started saying bad things. They called me dirty and stupid and said that I should not have such a fine knife. The biggest of these boys, pushed me back and I fell over one of the other boys. I dropped my knife and one of them snatched it up and they all ran away, laughing."

Here the boy's anger returned, "I hate them, I hate them all!"

The Grandfather, with eyes that have seen so much, lifted his grandson's face so his eyes looked into the boy’s eyes. Grandfather said, "Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, one is white and one is black. The White Wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. But will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.”

"But, the Black Wolf, is full of anger. The smallest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”

"Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy, looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes, and asked, "So Grandfather, which one wins?"

The Grandfather, smiled and said, "The one I feed."

So the question comes back to us. What are we feeding our hearts with? Because what we feed our hearts with, we will also become.

As we come to the Eucharist, we are fed with the teachings of Jesus, we are also fed with His love in Holy Communion.

And we also need to keep reminding ourselves of this love that Jesus is filling our hearts with.

There is this little prayer about love on our parish Facebook page. It goes like this:

“Love is patient, love is kindness, no hatred, no anger.
God is love, He loves me,  all the time, every time.”

Good to sing it we are about to be angry or not happy about other people. 

Jesus wants to remind us that He loves us always. The lesson of love must be revised in our hearts always.

And as we have learnt it, so must we show it.

To see video, click
Video of Archbishop William Goh & Prayerful Puppet singing "What is Love"

Church of the Sacred Heart, Singapore Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/churchofthesacredheartsg

Friday, February 10, 2017

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 11-02-17

Genesis 3:9-24 / Mark 8:1-10

Many questions have been asked about sin and suffering.

Questions such as: Is there a connection between sin and innocent suffering?

So, as much as the reality of sin is not denied, yet the aspect of suffering as a consequence of sin is not readily accepted.

Especially innocent suffering, or as a consequence of other people's sin.

Some may even question the inheritance of Original Sin, since it was the sin of Adam and Eve, and it should have nothing to do with them.

Well, we will always have our questions about sin and suffering.

But let us listen to what questions God is asking us.

In the 1st reading, we heard God asking the question - Where are you?

So even though Adam and Even had sinned, God did not abandon them but searched for them.

In the gospel, we hear Jesus asking another question - How many loaves have you?

Jesus was not looking at the limitations; He was more interested in possibilities.

God is reaching out to us with His questions so that we may look again at our questions about life, about sin and about suffering.

And Jesus is asking us to put the loaves of our lives with its questions into His hands.

From His hands we will receive the Bread of Life that will give us faith and hope to walk on in love, despite and in spite of our questions.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 10-02-17

Genesis 3:1-8 / Mark 7:31-37

A deaf person is not easily noticeable. He looks normal and even behaves normally. Until when someone speaks to him then will come the slow realisation that the person cannot understand what what was spoken because he cannot hear at all.

Though a deaf person may be able to see what is happening around him, he wouldn't be able to interpret what is the meaning of what is happening around him because he can't hear at all.

It is like watching a movie without the audio and without subtitles. We see a lot of images and people are talking but we won't understand what is happening.

That was the situation of the deaf man in the gospel passage. He would have missed Jesus if not for his relatives and friends who brought him to Jesus.

And even when he was brought before Jesus, he wouldn't know what was happening. Until when he saw Jesus put His fingers into his ears and touched his tongue with spittle.

Then he began to realise what was happening and that Jesus was healing him of his deafness and his speech impediment. And he was healed - he could hear as well as speak. So what is he going to hear from then on, and what is he going to speak?

Most of us can hear, we can speak, we can see. What do we hear, what do we speak, what do we see?

In the 1st reading, Eve listened to the devil's temptations when she should have listened to God's commandments? The likewise could be said of Adam. The result is the devastating consequence of sin.

So let us be careful in what we listen to and be careful in what we speak.  Let us ask Jesus to open our ears to listen to His Word so as to be able to speak His Word to others.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 09-02-17

Genesis 2:18-25 / Mark 7:24-30

There are two words that can sound rather depressive and discouraging at times. Those two words are NO and END.

Putting it into a sentence, we can say that a NO puts an END to further requests and shuts the door for good ... almost.

But the word END can also be an acronym for Effort Never Dies and NO can also be an acronym for Next Opportunity.

The gospel passage of today initially seems to be rather depressive and discouraging. It may also seem to make Jesus look rather cold as He snubbed the Syrophoenician woman who came to Him and fell at His feet to beg Him to cast out the devil out of her daughter.

Of course, in the end, all ended well as Jesus granted her request and He even cast out the devil just by the power of His Word.

But there are many spiritual lessons that we can learn from here, and especially from the Syrophoenician woman.

One of which is that a NO from Jesus did not put an END to her hopes or discouraged her from making another effort with her request.

For that woman, NO means Next Opportunity and END means Effort Never Dies. In other words she never gave up on Jesus and she remained positive despite the initial rejection.

May we learn this lesson from this Syrophoenician woman and have faith in Jesus because there is NO END to His love for us.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 08-02-17

Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17 / Mark 7:14-23

In the Bible, the verb "to eat" has a deeper meaning than just consuming food.

To eat can mean to be in communion with another person or persons, or to be in an intimate relationship with someone.

So for the Jews, who they eat with is significant and important.

Another meaning of the verb "to eat" can also mean to know, or to have knowledge of something or someone.

For the Jews, they had a long standing tradition of what is ritually clean and unclean foods.

So when Jesus said that nothing goes into a  man from outside can make him unclean, he actually knocked away one of the pillars of their cultural and religious tradition.

On the other hand, Jesus connected the act of eating with the knowledge of what is sin.

Similarly in the 1st reading, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

When we sin, we eat of the fruit of evil and our hearts become filled with evil, and death and destruction happens from within.

In the Eucharist, we gather to partake of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life so as to be in communion with Him.

May we be filled with the life of the Spirit so that we will speak words of love that will give life to others.

Monday, February 6, 2017

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 07-02-17

Genesis 1:20 - 2:4 / Mark 7:1-13

An atheist is defined as a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

In other words, an atheist is one who does not believe in the existence of God.

A story goes that an atheist asked a Christian this: Show me where God is and I will give you a hundred dollars.

The Christian replied: Show me where He is not, and I will give you a million dollars.

Well, the atheist and the believer can argue all day long but for King Solomon in the 1st reading, the question of the existence of God is beyond argument.

For him, the existence and the presence of God is so enormous that even the heavens cannot contain God, much less the magnificent Temple that he has built.

So the presence of God is everywhere, and His commandments are valid anytime.

But human beings have this ability to manipulate God's commandments to serve their own vested interests.

In the gospel, Jesus gave a few examples of how human traditions can make God's commandments look small and restrictive.

Hence, we too need to reflect and examine our own practices and traditions.

Our practices and traditions should not make people frown and belittle our faith.

Rather, our faith practices and religious customs and traditions should show others that we truly believe that God is present everywhere and loving us all the time.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 06-02-17

Genesis 1:1-19 / Mark 6:53-56

There is this saying: Don't judge a book by its cover.

In other words, just as we can't say what are the contents in the book just by looking at its cover, neither can we say what a person is really like just by his looks.

Nonetheless, we can't deny that looks do reveal.

Looks do reveal something about the feelings of the person and something about his heart.

For example, the angry look, the hurt look, the loving look, the tender look, etc.

In the gospel, we heard that the people recognized Jesus.

The recognition is more than just the physical features. They saw deeper than just the physical dimension.

They saw in Him, the look of mercy and unconditional love.

They saw in Him, the face of love, the face of God.

In the Eucharist, Jesus shows us the face of His love.

He gives to us who He is and what He is.

When we partake of the Eucharist, we change just as bread and wine is changed.

We too take on the look of love; we take on the face of love.

May others recognize that look and see that face in us.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

5th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 05.02.2017

Isaiah 58:7-10 / 1 Cor 2:1-5 / Matthew 5:13-16

There are the 12 Days of Christmas. That’s already quite a long time to keep celebrating Christmas.

But that’s not as long as the 15 days of the Lunar (Chinese) New Year, and we are just slightly over the halfway mark.

Whatever the customs and traditions there are for these 15 days of the Lunar New Year, for most of us, it is more or less like going around visiting with two mandarin oranges and collecting ang pows.

And usually the same things are being said. The elders will ask those who still single: When are you going to get married? 

And the elders will also ask those who are married but with no children yet: When are you going to have baby?

But for the sake of getting a bigger ang pow and maintaining cordial relationships, it would be better not to reply and just try to smile it away.

Then it will go on to the next thing and that will be eating and eating and more eating. 

The things that come to mind, or that will go into the mouth, are pineapple tarts, bak kua, love-letters, cashew nuts, cakes and a whole range of so-called “goodies” that will leave us bloated with over-eating.

That is how we spend the Chinese New Year, and we wish each other “Happy New Year”.

But are we really happy doing all that? Do all that visiting and eating make us really happy? Are all that a good start to the New Year?

Certainly it is good to meet up with relatives and friends especially if it is a once-a-year affair. 

And we would like these moments to be enriching and enlightening moments such that these moments will be remembered and cherished.

In other words, we want to share good news with others, and we also want to be good news to others.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that He wants us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

The salt that we are called to be means that we are to give a taste of God’s presence in our conversations with others.

Too much salt would turn people off as it would become overdosed with religion and we are seen to be overly zealous.

But often in our conversations, God is missing and it becomes like tasteless food. And it is here that Jesus is prompting us to be that “pinch of salt” that would leave in others a taste of God.

Especially when our conversations digress into complaining and gossiping. That is when we have to be the salt that would purify and preserve the decency of the topics of our conversation.

If we, as the salt of the earth, give others a taste of God, then as the light of the world, we are called to be light-signs that show others the way to God and the ways of God.

It is often said that God works in mysterious ways and we ourselves must be able to see it before we can tell others how to look for it.

There is a story of a pretty and well-dressed lady who went to see a lawyer to file for divorce.

Her husband used to be a successful businessman, and he was able to support her expensive and lavish life-style.

But when his business failed, his wife couldn’t take it and decided to file for divorce and leave him.

When the lawyer heard her story, he told her that he would like someone to speak to her, and he called in a middle-aged office cleaner.

The lawyer asked the cleaner to tell the lady how she found meaning and direction in her life.

The cleaner’s story went like this – My husband died of cancer in his late 30s, and then barely half a year later, my only son was killed in a road accident.

I had nobody left and nothing to live for. I was in grief and in shock and in a daze. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat.

I couldn’t smile. I was angry with God and resented those people who seemed so happy in life. I even thought of ending my life.

One day when I came back from work, there was a scrawny kitten at the corridor, meowing away, and it followed me to the door.

I felt sorry for the kitten, and I decided to let it in and I gave it some milk. It purred and rubbed against my leg.

For the first time in months, I smiled. Then I stopped to think. If helping and feeding a little kitten can make me smile, then maybe helping somebody in need can make me happy.

So the next day, I cooked some food and brought it to a neighbour who was elderly and sick, and it made her happy.

So every day, I would try to do something nice for someone else and it made me happy to see them happy.

I realized that a person cannot be happy unless he is thinking of how much he can help others, instead of thinking about how much he can get from others.

Now I eat well, and I sleep well, and I am happy.

And then the cleaner said to the lady: I hope that  you can be happy too, by helping others to be happy.

Whether the lady went on to file for divorce or not, the story left it to us to think about it.

But the point of the story is that the poor cleaner found happiness by helping others to be happy.

In doing that, she also found her purpose and meaning in life. She found God in her life, and she is helping others to do so.

We are Christians. A Christian is a person in whose life Christ lives again.

Just as salt gives taste and light gives sight, let us give others a taste of God’s presence and to help them see the mysterious ways of God.

Then when we wish others “Happy New Year” we are also wishing them the love of God and all His blessings.

Friday, February 3, 2017

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 04-02-17

Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21 / Mark 6:30-34

The need for rest and recreation seemed to be like a missing element in our lives.

In our fast-paced society, we can even feel guilty about having some rest and recreation when everyone seems so busy.

We may have become so used to busyness and hurried lives that we forget about the necessity of rest and recreation.

But rest and recreation is not about doing nothing and sleeping our time away.

It is about a quiet time for prayer and to refocus our hearts on God.

In the gospel, when the disciples came back from their mission and reported what they had done, the response of Jesus was for them to go to a lonely place and rest.

Because the temptation to do more and more especially with success after success can make people lose focus and perspective.

We have to realize that success cannot be created by our own hands.

It is God who will give success to the work of our hands.

Only when we are rested in the hands of God in prayer will our busyness bear fruits that last.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 03-02-17

Hebrews 13:1-8 / Mark 6:14-29

Today is the feastday of St Blaise, and the Church celebrates his feastday as a memorial.

St. Blaise was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the 4th century.

Not much is known about his life and according to various accounts, he was a physician before becoming a bishop.

He was reputed to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone that was stuck in his throat.

Devotion to him spread in the Middle Ages and from the 8th century, he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat.

Hence, on this feastday of St. Blaise, a blessing of throats may be given by  a priest or deacon during Mass or after Mass depending on pastoral situations.

The blessing of throats is a profound sign of the struggle against illness in the life of the Christian.

As the Roman Ritual puts it - The blessing of the sick by ministers of the Church is a very ancient custom, rooted in the imitation of Christ Himself and His apostles.

So as much as we Christians feel and experience pain as the rest of humanity, yet our faith in God helps us to grasp more deeply the mystery of suffering and to bear our pain with greater courage, just as St. Blaise did in his martyrdom.

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, may we fight strenuously against all sickness and seek the blessings of good health, so that we may bear witness to God's love and His providence.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Presentation of the Lord, Thursday, 02-02-17

Malachi 3:1-4 / Hebrews 2:14-18 / Luke 2:22-40

A revelation of the future would always drew some kind of attention or curiosity.

If someone tells us that he knows about our future, we would certainly be interested and curious.

Yet at the same time, knowledge about our future would also cause us to be anxious and tensed.

In today's gospel passage, we hear about the revelation announced by Simeon.

For Simeon, he was a blessed man because the peace that he was longing for was now his.

But for Mary and Joseph, it may be quite the opposite, and it was beyond their understanding.

Simeon revealed Jesus as the light, not just to the Jews, but to the whole world.

And He will make and break many of His own people.

It was not comforting to know that the baby in their arms was to become a sign that is opposed by those that do not want this revelation.

The revelation of who Jesus is, is also a revelation of who we are.

We are to be the light which will enlighten others, yet we are also to be the sign that is going to be opposed by others.

We are called to shine out the light of Christ, even though the world may prefer to live in darkness.

That is what we are called to be, that is our future, and blessed are we when we continue to focus and walk in the light.