Wednesday, May 31, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 01-06-17

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

Whenever we hear this phrase "we agree to disagree", have we ever wondered what does that mean?

Whatever that means, most disagreements are caused by different perceptions that create different realities.

Such seems to be the case in the 1st reading between the Pharisees and the Sadducess when Paul brought up the topic of the resurrection.

There was no possibility of "agree to disagree" and the tension was so high that the tribune had to send troops to get Paul out of the situation.

The Pharisees and Sadducees saw their disagreement as an opportunity to inflict defeat and gain victory over the other.

But they failed to see that their disagreement fulfilled a divine intention - Paul was able to bear witness to the Lord, and he was now able to continue the mission from Jerusalem to Rome.

In the gospel, when Jesus prayed that we will all be one, surely He meant that we be united in Him.

But He didn't say that in this unity, there will be no disagreements. And certainly there have been, there are still and there always will be.

But the purpose of disagreement is not about victory or defeat; it is about progress and growth.

It is about praying together in the midst of the disagreements to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying and what is the divine intention.

We can disagree among ourselves, but in the end we must agree with what God is saying. Then there will be unity.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Visitation of the BVM, Wednesday, 31-05-17

Zephaniah 3:14-18 or Romans 12:9-16 / Luke 1:39-56

Very often it is in a time of need and difficulty that God will surely bestow His blessings on those who turn to Him and invoke His help.

From the book of Genesis, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth in the beginning was a formless void, there was darkness over deep, and God's Spirit hovered over the earth, and then God began the work of creation.

Similarly, in a time of need and difficulty, God's Spirit is hovering and moving the hearts of His people to bring forth His help and blessings.

The Opening Prayer at Mass is this: Almighty ever-living God, who, while the Blessed Virgin Mary was carrying your Son in her womb, inspired her to visit Elizabeth.

So how was Mary inspired to visit Elizabeth? The second part of the prayer tells us how: Grant us, we pray, that faithful to the promptings of the Spirit, we may magnify your greatness with the Virgin Mary at all time.

So it was through the promptings of the Holy Spirit that Mary was moved to go and visit Elizabeth and to be of help to Elizabeth.

And as we heard in the gospel, as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Mary was moved by the Spirit, and Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit, as the Spirit brought forth blessings to those in need and in difficulty.

As we prepare for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray with Mary that we open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

God's Holy Spirit is hovering over our hearts. When we act on the Spirit's promptings, then a new creation will come forth and abundant blessings will flow.

Monday, May 29, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 30-05-17

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

Each of us has lived a number of years, and depending on our age, some have lived longer that others.

As we reflect on our lives, can we honestly say that our lives were worth living?

Or if given a choice, would we want to start all over again?

If St. Paul were to answer the question about life, he would just simply say that life is not a thing to waste words on, as we heard in the 1st reading.

What mattered to him was whether his life bore witness to the Good News of God's grace, the Good News of God's love.

Putting it in another way, do we live like children of God our Father, living not just in the temporary, but also looking forward to our eternity?

No doubt, we often get distracted by the narrowness of life, and we lose our focus on our eternal life with God.

But may we never forget that the time spent on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life that is awaiting us

Sunday, May 28, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 29-05-17

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

If we make a comparison between the early Church and the present Church, we may see one obvious difference.

Many signs and wonders happened during the time of the early Church. It was like a "happening" church. Sure they had their problems and difficulties but they were always on the mission of evangelization.

What was quite obvious was that the power of the Holy Spirit was propelling them to grow and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This was seen in the 1st reading when Paul baptized the disciples in Ephesus and when he laid hands on them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in tongues and prophesy.

No doubt we too have received the Holy Spirit and we know who the Holy Spirit is.

But we need to invoke the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate to help us to know the will of God and to continue the work of Jesus in the mission of salvation.

It is the Holy Spirit who will lead us to a deeper faith and to a deeper truth to who Jesus is and what Jesus wants of us.

It is with the Holy Spirit that we will find peace in Jesus, so that in the face of trouble we will be brave and like Jesus we will conquer our troubles.

So we need to invoke the Holy Spirit in our prayer. Then we will experience the power of the Holy Spirit and we will see signs and wonders.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

7th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

Acts 1:12-14 / 1 Peter 4:13-16 / John 17:1-11

Last Wednesday, there was a historical meeting between two Christian heads-of-state.

For such a meeting, we would expect the usual formal protocol and etiquette between political leaders like smiles and handshakes, and more so since both are also Christians.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump. But it was a meeting that was closely watched because both had voiced out criticism about each other even before they met.

Before his election to the presidency, Donald Trump had said that he planned to build a border wall between the US and Mexico.

But it happened that the Pope was returning from a trip to Mexico, and he said: A person who thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian. 

Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event: For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.

So with such a public tension in the background, the meeting between the two was closely watched and also photographed.

As we know, Pope Francis is quite photogenic. He is usually photographed as smiling and even laughing.

But one photo that has gone viral showed a glum-looking Pope standing next to a smiling Trump, and that was immediately compared to other earlier photos of a smiling Pope with other heads-of-state, including the former US President Barrack Obama.

Yes, it was a high profile meeting between the two leaders, one religious and the other political, both had a disagreement, and the world was watching, photographing and commenting.

Yes, people were watching, photographing and commenting. But was there anyone praying? 

Well, at least Pope Francis and Donald Trump would be praying in preparation for their first meeting. Both are Christians, and Christians should pray for anything and everything.

But at least there is another person who would have prayed for them. Because in the gospel, there was this line said by Jesus: I pray for them.

Just four words that tell us the priority and the importance of prayer. And if Jesus can say that He prays, then all the more, we as His disciples should pray and must pray.

And that priority and importance of prayer is truly understood by the early Church. In the 1st reading, we heard that the apostles were in the upper room and joined in continuous prayer with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus. 

The 1st reading made it a point to mention Mary, and it was the last mention of her in the Bible, and it portrays her as praying with the Church and for the Church.

And we can be sure that Mary also prayed for the Pope and the US President in their first meeting.

Indeed, the whole aspect of prayer is so important and fundamental in the life of a Christian. So it may be said that a Christian who does not pray cannot be considered a Christian, and a Christian who does not pray is also rather disgraceful.

A Christian, through prayer, is united with Jesus, and goes forth to tear down walls and build bridges.

This Sunday is also known as World Communication Sunday. The Church wants to emphasize that communication must lead to communion. 

Prayer is our communication with God. Prayer must also lead us to a communion with others.

As Christians, we are called to communicate the love of God to others, so that we will tear down walls and build bridges. And Jesus prays that we will do just that.

Which brings to mind how we use our electronic communication devices. Are we using it to tear down walls and build bridges? Or are we using it to build walls and burn bridges?

And here Pope Francis has shown us how to communicate in order to have communion. His meeting with Donald Trump ended off with a warm exchange of gifts.

The Pope had a theme with his gifts, and it was theme of peace.

He presented Trump with a medallion and he said: This is a medallion with an olive tree which is a symbol of peace. It has two branches, which were divided in the middle because of war. And the olive tree is slowly trying to bring them together for peace. It is my strongest desire that you can be an olive tree to make peace.
Donald Trump responded: Thank you, I will remember what you said.

It was a beautiful ending to the meeting between the two leaders. 
Jesus prayed for them. Mary and the saints also prayed for them.

May we also pray that in our communication with others, walls will be torn down and bridges will be built for peace and communion.

Friday, May 26, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 27-05-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Friday, 26-05-17

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

No one can ever say that they don't have any difficulties and struggles in life. Nor can anyone ever say that they never had any experiences of difficulties and struggles in life.

Of course our natural inclination is to try to avoid difficulties and struggles and we will even pray that God spare us of the hardships of life.

Because what we desire is comfort and pleasure, and that there will be no weeping or sorrow.

But if life is really going to as such, then we will not need the help of God because what would we need His help for?

St. Paul knew what hardship is about. The Lord had said this of him: I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name (Acts 9:16)

In the 1st reading, we heard that the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced. I am with you. I have so many people on my side in this city that no one will even attempt to hurt you.

It could be that Paul was worn out by the challenges and persecutions against him and he was feeling wearied and run down.

But he was rewarded with this vision from the Lord and from it he got the strength and encouragement to carry on the mission of the Lord.

His sorrow had turned to joy. He suffered but now he was strengthened. He only needed to feel that the Lord was with him, and nothing else matters.

So where sufferings abound, let us believe that blessings abound all the more. It is in suffering that the Lord will let us have an experience of His presence. And with that we won't be afraid of difficulties and struggles.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ascension of the Lord, Thursday, 25-05-17

Acts 1:1-11 / Ephesians 1:17-23 / Matthew 28:16-20

Have we ever had that experience of saying goodbye and knowing that we will not meet that person ever again?

The only occasion that we can probably think of is when death separates us from our loved ones and we know that we will never see that person again, at least not here on earth.

But other than that, it may be quite difficult to imagine a goodbye that is forever.

Especially with the modern means of communication like video calls on our mobile devices, being able to see the other person "live" is not a big problem, even though it may just be an electronically transmitted image.

Yes, it is difficult to imagine a goodbye that is forever. But we can certainly imagine how it feels if we won't be able to see the other person forever.

That was how the disciples felt on that day when Jesus ascended into heaven, which we are celebrating as a feast today.

They already had that traumatic experience of His death on Good Friday when they thought it was all finished.

But Jesus rose from the dead and He continued to be with them for 40 days. And now He is telling them that He is leaving them for good.

Though they might be more prepared this time round, still we can understand how they felt about Jesus leaving them for good.

But this phrase "leaving for good" is quite interesting, isn't it? Obviously it means leaving forever. So what good can come out of that?

The final parting words of Jesus are these: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.

Those final parting words also come with a promise: Know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.

So Jesus is telling us and promising us that He will be with us forever, until the end of time.

Our response can only be this: Yes Lord, I want to be with you forever, till the end of time.

Now if that is what we want, then we will do as Jesus told us - make disciples, baptise them, teach them to observe all the commands that He gave.

Our whole life is to be centered on what Jesus wants us to do if we want to be with Him forever.

And we will be given what we need as Jesus tell us in the 1st reading: you will be receive power from the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit, we will be with Jesus, and we will be able to do what Jesus told us to do.

So Jesus ascended into heaven and left the disciples for good. The "good" that He left them with is the Holy Spirit so that He will be with them till the end of time.

That "good" is passed down to us and hence, we must pray to the Holy Spirit in order to receive the power that Jesus wants to give us. A simple way to do it is to meditate on the Descent of the Holy Spirit and offer a decade of the Rosary in prayer.

Then we will remain with Jesus till the end of time, and forever into eternity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 24-05-17

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

Empiricism is a philosophical theory that all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses.

It means that as long as we can touch it, see it, hear it, smell it or taste it, then we can know it or find out more about it.

Anything outside of the senses are not to be discussed as they don't appeal to the senses and hence, nothing can be known about it and no experience can be gained from it.

So it can be said that empiricism does not take into account the "sixth sense" or "intuition" as it cannot be measured or quantified.

How empiricism handles the question of faith depends on how much of it is considered acceptable.

In the 1st reading, when Paul stood before the whole Council of Areopagus and made the speech, what he said was acceptable to them until he talked about God raising a man from the dead.

At this mention of raising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing, while others seem to be interested in that.

As much as we profess that we believe in the Resurrection of Christ, yet we too may not really understand what it is truly about. We may not laugh at it but we have our questions that we are still search for the answers.

There may be much material on it but we will have to let the Spirit of truth lead us to a deeper understanding of the mystery of our faith.

What we cannot understand, let us not discard or reject or laugh at it. The time may come when the Spirit of truth will lead us to a leap of faith and then we will be enlightened.

Monday, May 22, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 23-05-17

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

It has been said that faith is taught as well as caught.

Yes, faith is taught in a catechism and it is presented in a neat and logical manner.

Yet, the faith of the early Church began in a more chaotic as well as mysterious way but it was from there that the faith was caught.

In the 1st reading, we hear how Paul and Silas was flogged and thrown into prison although they were just talking about the faith.

While in prison, something mysterious and wonderful happened and in the end, the jailer and his family caught on the faith and were baptized.

Hence, very often it is a troubled and distressful situation that the faith is caught on by others.

Certainly, this is the workings of the Holy Spirit and Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who will lead us all to truth.

We may remember that in the beginning of the book of Genesis, God sent the Spirit into the chaos and then creation came forth.

So whenever we face a troubled and distressful and chaotic situation, let us remember this:

That out of chaos, creation will come forth, and the faith is caught.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 22-05-17

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

People who won't take a "No" for an answer can be rather difficult to work with or to please.

They can be deemed as demanding and pushy or even aggressive , so it is either their way or the highway.

And if they happen to be our bosses or superiors, then it can be rather stressful as we know that things won't be approved the first time round.

In the 1st reading, we heard of this woman Lydia and she sent an invitation to the disciples to come and stay at her home and she would take no refusal, ie. she wouldn't take "No' for an answer.

But the passage also said something else about Lydia. She listened to the Good News and the Lord opened her heart to accept the message.

The Lord called out to her and she couldn't say "No" to baptism. In fact, she and her household got baptized.

And it can be presumed that the disciples didn't say "No" to her, as they saw how the Spirit worked in her.

It can be said that in those who are led by the Spirit, they have a fire in their hearts that make them very zealous in their service for the Lord.

We may find them rather pushy and demanding but certainly not aggressive. May we see the Holy Spirit working in them, and through them the Lord may be telling us what He wants of us.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / 1 Peter 3:15-18 / John 14:15-21

Do we know what is the hottest news in town? It’s on everyone’s lips anyway.

If we are still wondering about what is the hottest news in town, think no further. The hottest news in town is that it is hot, it is hot and it is hot! It’s on everyone’s lips right?

We don’t need to check the temperature to know that it is hot.

Have we heard of those “the weather is so hot” jokes? The weather is so hot that:
- The only milk available is evaporated milk
- The chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs
- Swimming pools have become protected areas 

But jokes aside, we wonder if the hot weather has anything to do with another phenomenon.

What has the warehouse opposite IMM, the Punggol construction site, Changi Airport Terminal 2, Shenton House, Paya Lebar Bakery, Katong I12, Woodlands flat and the taxi on Commonwealth Avenue, all have in common? 

They all caught fire!

So the warning is obvious. In this hot weather, don’t play with fire. It’s already hot enough, don’t make it hotter!

And of course in this heatwave, it would be wise to follow some good advice, like:
- Drink more water. (but that would only increase the price of water)
- Eat more fruits, but durians are excluded, for obvious reasons
- Wear light clothing, but that doesn’t mean wear less clothing. 

That’s pretty good advice for the hot weather. But advice is advice. 

Whether we want to follow it or not, that’s really up to us.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

In no uncertain terms, Jesus is also telling us that if we love Him, then we must keep His commandments.

Jesus is talking about commandments. It’s not about advice, not about options, not about suggestions.

Commandments are imperative. They have to be obeyed. It’s not negotiable, we cannot bargain with commandments, at least not with the commandments of Jesus.

And even if we are not that well versed with the Bible, we know what are the commandments of Jesus.

And that is to love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength. And to love our neighbour as ourselves. 

Together with that is also the new commandment, i.e., to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

The practical expressions of these commandments are as challenging as trying to keep cool in hot weather.

For example, we should forgive and even love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

We know we should not bear hatred or take revenge. We know we should not judge or condemn or slander others. 

We should not lie or cheat, we should not be devious or malicious.

We should be kind and compassionate and generous. We must pray and be faithful to God.

These are the commandments of Jesus and they are also the truths of life, and we know it. We should know it.

Yes, we know it, but do we really believe in it?

Because if we really believe in it, then regardless of what others think or say, we will live by the truths of life because in the final analysis, that’s how we show that we love Jesus.

There is this reflection called the “Final Analysis” which tells us how to live out the truths of life in this world.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; 
Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; 
Be honest and frank anyway. 

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous; 
Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; 
Do good anyway. 

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. 

So in the FINAL analysis, it is more than what we think about the truth. It is about what we do with the truth. It is about living out the truth. It is about showing how we love Jesus. It is about witnessing to Jesus.

Pope Paul VI said that modern man listens more to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are first and foremost witnesses.

So it’s not about telling others what to do in the hot weather. We must show how to keep cool in the heat.

Similarly, it is not about telling others how to be a Catholic, or criticize them when they don’t behave like one. 

We have to live out the truth, and live it out in love and the Spirit of truth that Jesus will send will help us to do it.

So that hot weather or cold weather, rain or shine, we will always love Jesus and that love must also flow out to others.

Friday, May 19, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Saturday, 20-05-17

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

In life, we are often confronted with the two ways of deciding and acting.

There is the way of the world, which is always more popular and also easier to follow.

But a deeper reflection would tell us that the way of the world is inevitably a selfish and self-centered approach which does not bring about much good.

The other way is the way of Jesus. It is obviously a more difficult way, but one that leads us to discover the meaning of life and wonders of love.

As it is, the world talks about retribution, revenge, to think about ourselves and to be No. 1 even at all costs.

The way of Jesus shows us sacrifice, humility, love and care for others.

To follow the way of Jesus can result in scorn and contempt. Others will see us as weak and soft and will even call us losers.

Yet, in the end, the way of Jesus has proven to be a more gentle and yet more powerful way that brings about the beauty and the meaning of love.

Let us remember that we serve only one Master. Hence, for us it is only His way.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Friday, 19-05-17

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

Name-dropping is the practice of casually mentioning the names of famous people one knows or claims to know in order to impress others.

Obviously, it is done to make oneself feel more important, which already reveals a sense of insecurity and need for recognition.

Name-dropping is also often used to abuse. One would use the name of someone in authority to get others to comply to an order, even if the order did not come from the authority itself.

For example, one would use "the boss says so", or "the Archbishop says so" to get others to get some work done or to make others comply to an order. Whether that is said by the person who is referred to is another matter.

In the 1st reading, the apostles and elders of the early church sent a letter to the Christian communities in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.

Addressing the issue of circumcision, they had recourse to a very big name to reinforce their stand when they wrote: It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials ...

Those who didn't agree with their directive would accuse them of name-dropping. But those who saw the clarity and understood the rationale of the directive would know that the apostles and elders had prayed and the Holy Spirit had enlightened and guided them.

But the fruits of that directive can been seen even until today with the Church's position on circumcision. In fact, it is hardly an issue anymore.

So it is true that the Holy Spirit decided and helped the apostles and elders to make that decision.

And may we always have recourse to the guidance and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit to make our decisions. With the Spirit of truth, whatever we do in the name of God will bear fruit that will last.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Thursday, 18-05-17

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

Meetings and discussions can consume a lot of time.

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

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

In the end, Peter stood up to speak.

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

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

That brought about silence to the entire assembly.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 17-05-17

Acts 19 : 1-6 / John 15 : 1-8

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

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

They have fallen off from the trees or plants.

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

They are dying or are withered and dead altogether.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 16-05-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Monday, 15-05-17

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

It should be of no surprise to us that life has its cycle of ups and downs. One moment we can be happy and next moment we can be angry. One day, we can be effective and productive and the next day we can be like a zero.

Connected with the cycle of ups and downs is the reversal of fortunes. In one place we find acceptance but in another place we find rejection.

That was the experience of Paul and Barnabas in the 1st reading. In their mission, they faced persecution and they had to scramble for safety to Lycaonia.

There in the towns of Lystra and Derbe they preached the same Good News and Paul even healed a crippled man.

They not only found acceptance from the people, they were even treated like gods, which of course they tried to resist.

So Paul and Barnabas knew what it was to preach the Good News. There were ups and downs together with a reversal of fortunes.

But whichever way it was going and in whatever way it was turning out, they kept the Word of God and were faithful to it.

The Word of God made its home in their hearts and they found refuge and consolation and strength in the Word of God.

So as we go through our ups and downs in life and see our fortunes reversing for better or for worse, let us turn to the Word of God.

May the Word of God give us consolation and strength and may the Word of God make its home in our hearts.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 14.05.2017

Acts 6:1-7 / 1 Peter 2:4-9 / John 14:1-12

We have heard of this term “monkey business”. Obviously it means that it is not anything serious. Rather it means doing something silly or stupid or foolish.

But that does not mean that monkeys are silly or stupid or foolish. 

Monkey business can be serious business. At least when it comes to one monkey at Segar Road in Bukit Panjang.

That monkey made some news two weeks ago. That monkey had terrorized residents by going into their homes to get food and bitten seven residents. Video footage of it showed that it can even crawl on the walls of high-rise HDB flats to get into the homes.

It had eluded capture many times, but two weeks ago, they managed to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart and it ended up in the net.

But the on-going debate is whether the monkey encroached on the humans’ space or is it that the humans encroached on the monkey’s space.

That’s because the HDB flats are just next to the natural reserve. 

The issue is that while some people think that the monkey has encroached into the humans’ space and did harm and damage, others think that it is the humans who have encroached into the monkey’s natural habitat.

So, essentially the issue is about the question of space. 

Whose space is being encroached upon? And it is not just between man and monkey.

Between nations and nations, between communities and communities, between groups and groups, between persons and persons, there will be tensions when space is being encroached upon, tensions arise when another’s space is intruded upon.

And that was the issue in the 1st reading. In the daily distributions, the Hellenist widows were being overlooked and so a complaint was made against the Hebrews.

In other words, one group got space but another group did not, although they were entitled to it. And hence the tension arose.

And seven men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom, had to be appointed to look into the matter.

More than just about the distribution of food, they had to ensure that each group had their own space and that it is respected, so that there can be peace and harmony in the community.

But the issue is more than just having our own space. It also deals with the question of our place in the community, our place in our society and our place in our country.

We want to have a place on earth so that we know what we are standing on and where we are standing on, what belongs to us and what is rightfully ours.

So when our place and our space is encroached upon or intruded upon, whether by man or by monkey, we will get defensive and protective over what is ours.

The problem comes in when we want to expand our space. 

Inevitably, we will encroach and intrude into other people’s space. 

And that’s when tensions and problems arise.

That’s nothing new actually. That’s how quarrels and fights and wars begin isn’t it?

And here, Jesus has something important to tell us in the gospel:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am now going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.

Jesus is telling us, He is promising us, that we will have a place in the other world, He had already prepared a place for us in heaven.
But in our desire for our personal space, we want to have a permanent place on earth, and we forget about our eternal place in heaven.

Yesterday, the 13th May, is the centennial of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. Yes, it has been a hundred years already, since the first apparition in 1917.

The message at Fatima is the call to prayer and penance for the conversion and salvation of the world.

Connected to that message is the reality of hell, and the three children were given a vision of hell and the souls that were lost to the devil.

Yes, the devil wants to tempt us to think that our space and our place in this world is all that we have. And hence we begin to focus on increasing our space and reinforcing our place.

And we do that by desiring to increase our wealth and whatever material gains.

And slowly we will forget about our eternal place in heaven that Jesus had promised and prepared for us.

So we need to heed the message at Fatima and the call to prayer and to go back to penance in order to resist the subtle temptations of the devil. 

Prayer and penance also helps us to let go of the things of earth and to focus on the things of above.

It has been a hundred years since Jesus called out to us through Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima.

Let us not take another hundred years to heed that message.

We don’t want to lose our place in eternity.

Our Lady of Fatima, Saturday, 13-05-17

Isaiah 61:9-11 / Luke 11:27-28

If we were to check up on what happened on the 13th May in history, we would get many events like who was born, who did what, as well as significant events, political events, etc.

For the Church in recent times, the 13th May has a special significance with regards to her faith and her mission in the world.

In the year 1917, on the 13th May, at a village in Fatima, Portugal, Our Lady appeared to three peasant children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco.

Her message to them was to pray the Rosary everyday and to do penance for the conversion of sinners, and among other things, there were also the "Three Secrets", which had generated much interest as well as anxiety and questions

At that time WW I was raging on Europe and she said that the war would end soon. But if her message for prayer and penance was not heeded, another more large-scale and devastating war will arise.

It seems that the call to prayer and penance was not heeded, or maybe the response was slow, and hence another war did arise in the form of WW II.

And then in the year 1981, on the 13th May, Pope John Paul II is shot and critically wounded by Turkish gunman Mehemet Ali Agca in St Peter's Square, Vatican City.

Death had appeared certain to bystanders when four bullets fired by the assassin  tore through the pope's flesh on May 13, 1981, staining the pope's white cassock with deathly scarlet.

But somehow, the bullets missed lethal targets, one grazing the pope's right elbow, and another deflecting off his left index finger before passing through his abdomen, a fraction of an inch from a major artery.

By Pope John Paul II's assessment, "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path," and permitted that "the dying Pope. stopped on the threshold of death."  The assassination attempt had taken place on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and the Pope had no doubt that his survival was due to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In gratitude, the Pope gave one of the deadly bullets to the bishop in charge of the shrine at Fatima, Portugal.  To this day, that bullet remains in the crown of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary housed at that shrine.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. During this time, many events have happened in the Church and in the world.

Without doubt, there was one crisis after another, and bad news seem to overwhelm the good news. But where crises and turmoils abound, God's grace and blessings abound all the more.

But that can only be realised when we heed the call to prayer and penance for our sins and the sins of the world.

We have already seen what had happened during the past 100 years. Let us not wait any longer to pray fervently and do penance for the conversion and the salvation of the world.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Friday, 12-05-17

Acts 13:26-33 / John 14:1-6

Many thoughts occupy our minds even as we come for Mass.

Some thoughts may be refreshing, other thoughts may cause some anxiety, other thoughts may be burdensome, yet others may be annoying.

Whatever it may be, as we come before the Lord in this Mass, let us place all these thoughts at the altar of the Lord.

Let us also listen with our hearts what the Lord wants to tell us. What does Jesus want to say to us?

We can be sure that God is speaking clearly to us in the 1st reading when St. Paul said this:

"We have come to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that He has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead."

The fundamental and essential thing in life is that when all is said and done, we can only rely on the promise Jesus made to us in the gospel - that He has prepared a place for us, so that where He is, we may be there too.

In all our hopes and joys, in all our griefs and anguish, may the promise of Jesus help us rise above the things of earth to the things above.

Let our thoughts be on always being with the Lord Jesus. Now and also for eternity.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Thursday, 11-05-17

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

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

This has a profound meaning in today's world especially in the IT age when we are bombarded with so many words.

Furthermore, people in general are not conditioned to listening or reading for long periods of time.

Maybe that's why reading the Bible and listening to homilies can be challenging.

Because it's essentially words, words and more words.

Yet the Word of God is primarily and fundamentally about people.

It was about the people of Israel, it was about the Christians in the early Church.

And it is also about us living in this present world, in the here and now.

That was why when St Paul addressed the congregation in the 1st reading, he began with how God saved the ancestors of the people of Israel and continued to do so right until Jesus came.

Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. Words were no more necessary because God has become man.

God became man so that man will know how to walk in the ways of God.

We are now the bearers of the Good News. Words may be necessary. But may we also be living images of God for others.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 10-05-17

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

Some things are so obvious that we don't even need to think too much to come to a conclusion.

For example, if we can't see what we are reading, then we might need reading glasses. If we can't hear properly, then we might need a hearing aid. If we can't walk properly, then we will need a walking aid.

But as much as it might be obvious, we might not be willing to employ such means or aids for whatever reasons.

Similarly for the spiritual life, We often say that we want to hear God speaking to us but we also often complain that we don't seem to hear the voice of God.

So obviously, we need some help to hear the voice of God and what God wants to say to us.

In the 1st reading, we can see the means that the disciples in the early church had recourse to in order to be able to listen to the voice of God.

They were praying and keeping a fast when the Holy Spirit said that Barnabas and Saul were to be set apart for the work that they were called to do.

How the Holy Spirit "spoke" to them, the details were not described. But the Holy Spirit did speak and they heard and did what God wanted of them.

During Lent, the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting were emphasised. But that was meant to get us into the practice of prayer and fasting so that we can hear the Word of God.

Only when we have heard the voice of God will we be able to spread the Word of God like how the early church did.

Monday, May 8, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 09-05-17

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

During this season of Easter, one of the necessary reflections that we must make is to think about what being a Christian is all about.

The word Christian means "being anointed" or the "anointed ones".

So what are we anointed for, and what should we do as Christians?

In short, we are to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is THE Anointed One.

A quick glance through the Acts of the Apostles will give us a picture of how this Good News was proclaimed.

The Good News was proclaimed with the mighty acts of the power of God.

These were manifested in the healing of the sick and driving out evil spirits and forgiveness and conversion.

Essentially it is the Good News of salvation, the Good News of God's love for humanity.

As we heard in the 1st reading, the people associated these acts of the disciples with Christ and hence they were called Christians.

In the gospel, we hear of the people asking Jesus this question - If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.

As for us, we need not tell people that we are Christians.

By what we do, they would know we are Christians.

They will know we are the anointed ones of God by our acts of love.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 08-05-17

Acts 11:1-18 / John 10:11-18 (Year A)

The meat that we see in the supermarkets are neatly packaged and we consume the meat without thinking too much about it.

Not many of us have been to the slaughterhouse or abattoir, which is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food.

If we had seen how the pigs and sheep and cattle are killed in an abattoir, and how the meat is carved up, that might affect our appetite for pork chops or steak or rack of lamb.

In the 1st reading, Peter saw this vision of a big sheet with all sorts of animals and wild beasts and hearing the voice saying " Now Peter, kill and eat".

He refused, saying that nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed his lips because of his religious dietary prohibition, the reply he got was that what God has made clean, he had no right to call profane.

More than just saying that it is alright to slaughter animals for food, the vision is also stating that the Gentiles and the uncircumcised were not an unclean or profane people.

Hence, they have every right to hear the Good News of salvation, and Peter and his people need to do a revision of their own thinking about cultural and religious practices.

In the gospel, Jesus said that there are other sheep that are not of the fold, but these He too will lead.

Because the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, whether they are of the fold or not.

So if we think that slaughtering animals for food is brutal and bloody, then how about Jesus being killed on the Cross to save us from our sins. At least that should make us turn away from sin.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 07.05.2017

Acts 2:14, 36-41 / 1 Peter 2:20-25 / John 10:1-10

Around this time of the year, there is a spike in prayers. And then towards the end of the year, there will be an avalanche of prayers.

The reason for these two surges in prayers is because of exams! 

Yes, it is the exam fever time, a time when the brains of the students get heated up trying to remember the things that they were supposed to know.

And so it will be a time of fervent prayer: students will be praying; parents will be praying; grandparents will be praying; the whole clan will be praying. And of course the priests will be praying. Better still if we can leave all the praying to the priests right? It’s their job anyway.

A story goes that a student went to a priest to ask for prayers.
Student : Father, please pray for me to do well in my exams
Priest : Yes I will. And if you do well in your exams, then what?
Student : Then I will go the university
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will graduate and find a good job with a good pay
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will get married and have a family
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will work hard and have a lot of money
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will retire and enjoy life
Priest : Then what?
Student : …

Then what huh? Somewhere along the way, there must come a time when we have to stop and ask ourselves “Where am I going?” and “What is the meaning of my life?”

But such questions can be difficult to answer. It can even be scary to think about such questions. Because it may mean changing directions or even changing our life altogether.

But such questions cannot be addressed by looking at the mirror and searching for answers there.

We may need to look beyond, and to listen to what God is saying to us before we can think about it and decide what to do about it.

We may need someone to tell us what life is all about and what directions we need to take.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd with a loud voice, and their message was this: 
The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.

It was a straight-cut message, with no frills, but the result was amazing.

Because upon hearing this, the people were cut to the heart, and they asked: What must we do?

More than just words, the people heard the voice of God and they were ready to do something about their lives.

Yes, the voice of God was heard in the voices of Peter and the Eleven as they addressed the people. God spoke to His people, and God still speaks to us through human instruments that He has chosen and appointed.

In the gospel, Jesus says that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd, one by one he calls his own sheep, the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He calls out to us. This 4th Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday and it is also called Vocation Sunday.

The word “vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare” which means “to call”. On this Sunday, the emphasis is on the call to the priesthood and also to the religious life.

But with the vocation crisis, with seminaries and convents and even churches in other countries closing down, we wonder if the Good Shepherd had stop calling out to men and women to dedicate their lives to serve Him in the Church? Could it be that Jesus had stopped calling?

Or is it that we have stopped talking about it and shied away from talking to the young about the priesthood and the religious life?

And if we ever talk about it, it may sometimes come out in the wrong ways. Imagine if a young man comes along and says “I think I want to become a priest”, and then someone retorts “If you can become a priest, then I can become the pope!” It may sound like a joke, but that young man would probably never mention anything about the priesthood again.

Or at times, in order to discipline our children, we will say this to them: You want to be naughty, I will bring you to church and you stay with Father and you become a priest!

So it gives the impression that the priesthood is not for good boys but for naughty boys!

But that is certainly not the voice of Good Shepherd calling out to His sheep to enter into His service.

We must encourage people to think about the calling to serve the Lord, instead of just talking to them about passing exams with good grades.

Yes, we want our young to know how to make a living but we also want them to know how to live a life. We want our children to have a spiritual life. 

Yes, we must pray for more good and matured people to answer the call of Jesus. 

And we must also  remember that intercession invokes intervention.

We pray, we intercede, and God will intervene, and He will intervene through us so that we can be His voice to call out to those He has chosen.

When Peter and the Eleven spoke, the people were cut to the heart.

So too we must speak about vocations, so that in those whom Jesus has chosen, their hearts will be cut and opened for the voice of Jesus to enter.

And may they respond to His voice, so that we will know that God still speaks to us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Saturday, 06-05-17

Acts 9:31-42 / John 6:60-69

Some creatures are rather revolting by sight. Just think of maggots and leeches and they would probably fit into this category.

But lately, medical science has found out that maggots and leeches can be helpful in treatment.

For eg. maggots have been used in treating sores on diabetic patients and leeches have been used to stop bleeding.

Who would have thought that maggots and leeches would have such useful purposes in life and in medical science?

Likewise in life, what we used to reject or scorn at at an earlier point in life, we will somehow come to accept and sanction later on in life.

When Jesus gave His discourse on bread of life in the gospel, the people rejected Him then.

Now we take that profound discourse for granted and maybe even too lightly.

We might have become too casual to the words of Jesus about the bread of life that He wants to give us.

Yet, the message of Jesus about Him being our spiritual food and drink is not just for this life.

His is the message of eternal life. There is no need to look for another message.

We need to continually deepen our understanding of this message of Jesus.

More than just accepting the message, may we also become the message that will bring others to see in Jesus the bread of eternal life.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 05-05-17

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

We may have heard of this saying:"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

This is expressed often in the teaching-learning process. When we are told of how to do things, we will forget sooner if not later. When we are taught how to do things, we may remember but again our memory will fail us.

But when we have to experience how it is to be done, when we get a hands-on experience, we will learn and what we have learnt from a hands-on experience, that will not be easily forgotten.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the early Christians were called the "followers of the Way". It was certainly not an easy way to follow as they were persecuted along the way, with Saul being one of the chief persecutors.

But along the way to Damascus, something happened to him. He had a vision from the Lord but he ended up not being able to see even though his eyes were wide opened.

At the same time, something was also happening to Ananias, one of disciples. He too had a vision from the Lord, but when he was told what to do, he probably wished that he didn't have that vision.

As he was told by the Lord to go and pray for Saul and to give him back his sight, Ananias began to give reasons as to why it was not safe to go to Saul.

He was probably thinking that if Saul got back his sight and could see that he was a disciple of the Way, then that would be the end of the road, or end of the way for him.

But the Lord said this to Ananias: You must go all the same. I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.

So Ananias had to go all the way. But it was a learning process as the Lord taught him how to walk the Way of the Lord. It involved an experience, but it was one that Ananias would not forget.

It was an experience of the power of the Lord's love in converting a persecutor of the Way into a proclaimer of the Way.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that when we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we live in Him and He in us.

The flesh that Jesus wants to give us is His heart and the blood that He pours into our hearts is the food and drink that gives us the strength to follow His Way.

His Way is certainly not an easy way. It may mean that the Lord is sending us to face up to those difficult people who could also be making life difficult for us.

But the Lord will show us how He will convert those people to walk His way. But we must get involved in order to experience the power of the Lord's love, as Ananias did in Saul's case.

May the Lord give us courageous hearts to see His Way, to learn His Way and to walk His Way, and not to walk away.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 04-05-17

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

Mornings are usually rush-hour for most of us. There are so many things to be done in so short a time.

Yet, mornings are also a beautiful time if we just take a moment to reflect.

Night is giving way to the light, and everything is cranking up and coming to life.

Yet, there is so much of unseen power that is working non-stop, even during the night.

For one, there is the power of the air-waves which we get to hear on the radio and our mobile phones, etc.

In the gospel, Jesus speaks of an awesome and immense power.

It is the power of God that draws the hearts of people to Himself.

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

It was the same power that drew the eunuch to be baptized, as we heard in the 1st reading.

The power of the love of God can soften and open hearts, even the most hardened and obstinate.

Because it is a power that is filled with love.

In our busyness and haste, let us be aware of this power of God's love that wants to fill our hearts.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ss Philip and James, Apostles, 03-05-17

1 Cor 15:1-8 / John 14:6-14

The feast of these two apostles St. Philip and St. James is celebrated together because of the church dedicated to them in Rome (which is now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).

What we can see from the scriptures is that St. Philip was a sincere and straight-forward person.

It was he who told Nathanael that he had found the Messiah and told him to came and see for himself (Jn1:45).

Yet, it was also the same Philip who asked Jesus to let him see God the Father so that he will be satisfied.

James (the Lesser) was a relative of Jesus and as bishop of Jerusalem, he and St.Peter settled the issue about accepting non-Jews into the faith without having to undergo circumcision.

So in St. Philip and St. James, we see the two aspects of the Church - the missionary aspect and the community aspect.

St. Philip brought others to Jesus, and St. James acted in union with the community to make a decision.

In these two saints, we also see the Church in these aspects of her growth and journey in faith as we continue to bear witness to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

We as Church also need to grow into a deeper understanding as missionary and also as community.

When we truly experience Jesus as our Way, Truth and Life, then we will indeed be a missionary and community Church.

Monday, May 1, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 02-05-17

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

In the 1st reading, we hear of two young men.

One was being executed and dying on the ground.

The other was there watching and approving the execution of the first young man.

At that point in time, Stephen and Saul had nothing really in common.

But later on, Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, would be the greatest missionary for Christ and an apostle to the Gentiles.

As we reflect on the scene of the 1st reading, we may come to see that Paul's later conversion could be the fruit of Stephen's dying prayer.

It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.

Stephen was martyred; in time to come, Paul would also have a martyr's end.

Both were able to sacrifice their lives for Christ because in Christ they found all that they had longed for, all that they had hungered and thirst for.

Jesus was their life and their bread of life and from Him they drew strength to pour out their blood in witnessing to Him.

May Jesus also fill our hunger and quench our thirst so that we in turn will share the bread of our lives with others.