Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday, 30-03-2018

Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 / Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 / John 18:1 - 19::42

Good Friday is the only day in the year where the Church does not celebrate a Mass. What we have today is a Good Friday Service.

In this Service, we participate in the Passion reading of the Gospel, then we move on to the Solemn Intercessions where we unite with Jesus as He is suffering on the Cross and as He prays for the salvation of the world.

After that we will have the Showing and the Adoration of the Holy Cross. We come forward to adore and venerate the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, because through the Cross, Jesus had turned it from an instrument of death to a means of salvation.

And finally we come for Holy Communion as we unite ourselves with Jesus in His suffering and death.

The suffering of Jesus and the Cross is the common thread that runs throughout the Service. We will recall that at the Garden of Gethsamane, Jesus implored God to let the cup of suffering pass Him by, but nonetheless, not His will but God's will be done.

As we venerate the Cross, we are also renewing our commitment to follow Jesus and to accept and carry our Cross and to die to our sins.

God did not save Jesus from death. Yes Jesus died on the Cross and was buried. But that is not the end of everything. 

God did not save Jesus from death, but God saved Jesus out of death, and hence we wait in hope to celebrate the Resurrection.

May the suffering of Jesus give us strength in overcoming our sins and weaknesses. May the Cross be for us a sign of hope and salvation as we die to our sins as trusting that God will save us out of death.

And just as Jesus rose from the dead and overcame death and sin, may we also believe that God will save us out of death and grant us new life in the Resurrection of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holy Thursday, 29-03-2018

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

With this Mass, the Church begins the Sacred Paschal Triduum. Triduum means three days. So in simple terms, it means that today, tomorrow and the day after, we recall and remember the great events of our salvation in Jesus who was crucified, died, was buried and is risen.

In this Mass, we commemorate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus and His disciples began with the Passover meal, a Jewish sacred meal that celebrates God’s saving power in freeing Israel from slavery and bringing them to freedom with signs and wonders. We heard about that in the 1st reading.

But from the Passover meal, Jesus changed some elements that made it into what is now called the “Last Supper”, which in effect is also the “First Eucharist”.

Jesus gave His Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine, and He commanded His apostles to do that in memory of Him. That’s why today is also called Maundy Thursday. Maundy is derived from the Latin “mandatum” which means mandate.

Yes, at the Last Supper, Jesus gave His apostles the mandate to do that in memory of Him and the salvation that He offers through His Body and Blood. That is also reiterated in the 2nd reading.

But from the profound institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, the gospel talks about something rather mundane – the washing of feet. But it was Jesus, the Master, who was washing His disciples’ feet. There was no mention of Jesus giving His Body and Blood, other than that they were at supper.

So what has the Eucharist got to do with the washing of feet, so much so that we will even re-enact it later?

The thing is that the feet of the disciples weren’t washed yet and they were waiting for one another to do this lowly and humbling task.

But for Jesus, He seized the opportunity to show them what is humility. He had always loved those who were His in this world, and now He showed how perfect His love was. And with that, Jesus connected the Eucharist with humility and service.

Later we priests are going to wash the feet of the 12 representatives of the community. 

At the Chrism Mass this morning, we priests renewed our commitment to Jesus and to serve Him in His people.

Like Jesus, we priests pledge to serve God’s people by faithfully and lovingly carrying out the sacred duty of celebrating the Holy Eucharist, and to serve, just like Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.

Jesus gave us priests, as well as you, the priestly people, an example so that we may follow what He has done for us. 

May the Eucharist make us holy, and may it also make us serve one another in love and in humility.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Wednesday of Holy Week, 29-03-18

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

It is often said that we have a pair of ears and only one mouth, so it means that we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Also when we speak, we are only saying what we already know. But when we listen, we may learn something new.

The 1st reading tells us that the prophet Isaiah was given a disciple's tongue so that he may know how to reply to the wearied.

But he continued by saying that each morning the Lord wakes him up to hear, to listen like a disciple, for the Lord has opened his ear.

Indeed, when we listen to the voice of the Lord, then we will know how to speak with the words from the Lord, words that will console the wearied and strengthen the weak.

But there is a voice that we also need to listen to, and that is our own voice and what is coming forth from our mouths.

The voice of our words reveal much to us, just as they reveal ourselves to others.

In the gospel, when Jesus revealed to His disciples that one of them was about to betray Him, they were distressed and started to ask in turn, "Not I, Lord, surely?"

When it came to Judas, who was to betray Him, he too asked, "Not I, Rabbi, surely?" Jesus answered, "They are your own words."

If only Judas had truly listened to his own voice and to his own words. But he was bent on betraying Jesus and hence he won't listen to anything at all.

As we are about to enter into the Sacred Triduum, we will be listening to the gospel accounts which recall the suffering and death, and the Resurrection of Jesus.

But let us listen for the voice of the Lord in those accounts. It is a voice that is more than mere words. We only need to listen, so that we can be in union with Jesus in the next three days.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Tuesday of Holy Week, 27-03-18

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

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

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

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

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

But what is the difference between them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Monday of Holy Week, 26-03-18

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

Among the words, whether spoken or unspoken, that are laden with regret are these words: I should have ...

We hear this being used in different ways and in different situations.

For e.g. "I should have taken the opportunity to encourage that person", "I should have visited my parents more often when they were still alive", "I should have studied harder for my exams".

The list of "I should have..." goes on and on.

We ourselves would have said it before.

Yet as much as those words might be laden with regret, still, regrets cannot reverse the situation or the consequence.

But in today's gospel, we see a woman who seized the opportunity to show Jesus an act of love.

And Jesus also reciprocated by affirming her of her love and generosity.

As we enter into Holy Week, let us also seize the little moments of opportunities to show Jesus an act of love.

It may be a dedicated time for prayer, or an act of service for a neighbour.

Whatever it may be, it will be appreciated by Jesus.

It is still not too late to deepen our Lenten preparation.

It might be late, but it is still better than to regret and keep saying "I should have ..."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Palm Sunday, Year B, 25.03.2018

This Sunday is commonly known as Palm Sunday. So coming for Mass and getting a blessed palm branch and bringing it home is what this Sunday means to us.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds waved leafy palm branches to welcome Him with “Hosanna in the highest.”

But we must remember that with Palm Sunday, we enter into Holy Week. Although commonly known as Palm Sunday, this Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday, and the long gospel reading recalls the suffering and death of Jesus.

This Sunday prepares us for what is coming up this week – Holy Thursday when we remember Jesus giving us His Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and Good Friday when we recall how Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross.

The blessing and waving of the palm branches at the beginning of the Mass moved on to the suffering and death of Jesus.

So Palm Sunday has quite a bit to tell us about life. Happiness will give way to sadness, fitness will give way to illness, glory will give way to agony.

What we are so certain and sure about will be put to the test – promises, faithfulness, courage, commitment. All that will be put to the test and may be found wanting and lacking.

Yet Palm Sunday has a revelation for us. The crowds hailed Jesus with “Hosanna in the highest”. Then they demanded “Crucify him!” Jesus was mocked and jeered at.

But the revelation comes at the end, and it comes from an unexpected person. It was the centurion, a pagan, who proclaimed who Jesus really was: “In truth this man was the son of God”.

As we journey with Jesus in His suffering and death during Holy Week, may we also receive a revelation of who He truly is and who we are to Him.

Friday, March 23, 2018

5th Week of Lent, Saturday, 24-03-18

Ezekiel 37:21-28 / John 11:45-56

Whenever the word "prophecy" is mentioned, we are inclined to think that it is something about the future, a fore-telling of sort.

In many ways, what the prophet Ezekiel and the high priest Caiaphas said in today's readings had a bearing on the future.

Yet the more fundamental and important aspect of prophecy is the "forth-telling", meaning to say, the bearing on the present.

And precisely, the prophet Ezekiel was also doing that. He was not talking about something that will only happen in the future.

He was talking about something that was already happening during his time - that God will gather His people, and He will be their God and they will be His people.

Similarly when Caiaphas said those words "it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed (and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God).

That is one of the most profound prophesies at that time and also for the present.

During this time of Lent, we undertake fasting and penances to subdue our bodily desires and also offer up our sacrifices in union with Jesus.

All this is done not just for our own benefit but also for the Church and the world in reparation for sins committed.

Let us continue to do penance and offer up our sacrifices with love so that with Jesus we gather together in unity the scattered children of God.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 23-03-18

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

At times, it may be rather easy for us to think that we are quite good people, even in the religious sense.

As long as we say our prayers, go for Mass regularly, don't break any of the 10 Commandments, then we might think that we are quite good people.

Yet, the measure that we use are created by ourselves and it is by that measure that we compare ourselves with others and even judge others.

In the gospel, Jesus gave the measure by which our lives must be measured, and that is we live our lives according to the ways of God.

Yes, we are called to live godly god-like lives and to do the works of God so that we become signs of God's presence in this world.

Yet, we fail because we may have been overwhelmed by the evil that we see around us and we have let it influence us so much so that we may not be even aware of the evil we commit.

Also, when we are oppressed by evil-doers, we forget our divine calling and we react with evil for evil.

That was the distress of the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading. He was surrounded and overwhelmed by evil.

Yet, he turned to God to save him and to deliver him from the hands of evil men.

May we also turn to Jesus our Saviour and Healer and ask Him to cleanse us of evil and to deliver us from evil so that we can renew our baptismal commitment and walk the ways of God. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

5th Week of Lent, Thursday, 22-03-18

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

As we read today's gospel and if we remember what were the gospel passages for this week, we may get a certain feeling of frustration.

Because it can be quite frustrating to hear the "Jews" (as the gospel called them) always getting into an argument with Jesus.

Yet, it must also be said that the "Jews" themselves were frustrated too because they just could not understand what Jesus was talking about.

There was this underlying frustration of not understanding as well as misunderstanding.

It was this frustration that led them to throw stones at Jesus, and the  frustration boiled over to become a hatred that eventually made them to nail Jesus to the cross.

As we come to the 5th week of Lent, we too might be having some feelings of frustration.

We might have felt that Lent had passed too quickly, that we have not done anything spiritually worthy till now, and that we do not have any "feeling" for Lent.

So we may be frustrated and disappointed with ourselves for having a fruitless Lent and that we have not done anything much for God.

Yet let us take heart in the 1st reading. It is not so much what we can do for God but rather what God has done for us.

Through Abraham, God has made a Covenant with us in perpetuity and Jesus is the expression of this covenant.

Jesus is the "I AM". And no matter what we have not done, God will still be our God and we will still be His people. Let us take consolation in that and keep faithful to Jesus for the rest of Lent.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

5th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 21-03-18

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

The fiery furnace of tribulation is something we will come across in our lives. Not just once, but many times.

It is in this fiery furnace that our faith in God is tested, our faith in prayer is tested, our faith in others is tested, and our faith in ourselves is tested.

The fiery furnace comes in all forms: the loss of a job, the hurt form a broken or painful relationship, ill-treatment and accusations from others, etc.

And we often get trapped in the flames of doubt, despair, anger and resentment.

In the 1st reading, when the three young men were threatened with the fiery furnace, they stuck to their faith in God.

In doing so, they were freed from their fear of death.

They believed in God, and that set them free to face and overcome the fear of the fiery furnace.

It is also by believing in God and in His Word of truth that will set us free.

By forgiving those who hurt us, we are freed.
By praying for those who wrong us, we are freed.
By not nailing judgment on others, we are freed.
By loving others, we are freed.

The flames of the fiery furnace may not go off, but by believing and living in the truth, we live in the freedom of walking together with our God in that fiery furnace.

Monday, March 19, 2018

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 20-03-18

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

In life, we will certainly experience sickness and illness, which causes us suffering and pain.

Suffering and pain can be critical enough to cause us distress and lead us into despair and we become more aware of the mortality of our lives.

Even though we may put our faith in God, nonetheless suffering and pain can be powerful enough to shake and erode our faith as we desperately look for a cure.

In the 1st reading, the Israelites faced a mortal predicament from being bitten by fiery serpents. But it was their own doing. They complained against God and against Moses, and fiery serpents were sent against them and the bite was mortal and fatal.

But they repented and pleaded with Moses for his intercession with the Lord. The remedy was simple yet strange - an image of a fiery serpent was put on a standard, and if anyone who was bitten were to look at it, he will live.

As much as we can try to explain this strange remedy by using the example of antivenom as the antidote for a snake bite, we must understand the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament, in that the New Testament fulfills the prophetic message of the Old Testament.

Hence, when Jesus said that when He is lifted up, then they will know who He is, He was also recalling the episode of the account of the 1st reading, with its strange remedy of the bronze serpent on a standard.

Even for the people who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross, they would have never thought that the Cross would be an instrument.

But we know. So as we contemplate our Saviour on the Cross, let us give thanks to God. For by the Cross and through the Cross, we are forgiven, healed and saved.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

St. Joseph, Spouse of BVM, Monday, 19-03-18

2 Sam 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24 or Luke 2:41-51

St. Joseph is invoked as patron for many causes. He is the patron of the Universal Church. He is the patron of the dying because Jesus and Mary were at his death-bed. He is also the patron of fathers, of carpenters, and of social justice.

The Church calendar dedicates two feast-days for St. Joseph. On May 1 we honor him as the patron of workers throughout the world. Today we honour him under the great title of Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That title expresses his important mission in God's plan of salvation, which was "to legally insert Jesus Christ into the line of David from whom, according to the prophets, the Messiah would be born, and to act as his father and guardian"(Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy).

But with that great title came along great challenges. The darkest hours of his life may well have been those when he first learned of Mary's pregnancy. But precisely in this time of trial St. Joseph showed himself great. His suffering, which likewise formed a part of the work of redemption, was not without God's help. St. Joseph was to be, for all times, the trustworthy witness of the Messiah's virgin birth. After that, nothing more is said about him.

From all this, one aspect of St. Joseph stands out profoundly, and that is his obedience to God's will.

He had dreams in which an angel told him what to do and he obeyed, although he may not quite understand God's plan fully.

His obedience enabled him to walk on and care for Mary and Jesus in the darkness of difficulties. His obedience also gave him hope to endure and persevere in silence. It is often noted that St. Joseph is never quoted in the Bible.

On this feast of St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we give thanks to God for the model of obedience in St. Joseph.  Let us ask St. Joseph to pray for us that we too obey God like he did.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 18.03.2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 12:20-33

Most offices would have a secretary as part of their admin staff. Depending on the size of the office, the secretary’s tasks can be varied and diverse.

The often stereotyped tasks of a secretary is to make coffee for the boss, make shorthand notes as the boss rambles on, answer phone-calls, arrange the boss’s schedules, takes charge of the office admin, etc.

The secretary is often portrayed as the one who stands between the boss and visitors. So if someone comes to see the boss, the secretary would tell the visitor to wait and proceed to inform the boss.

Actually it is more like to alert the boss that there is a visitor, so that the boss can be prepared to meet the visitor. And of course the boss would want to look his best and give a good impression to the visitor.

And the secretary’s task is to ensure that. So a good secretary is vital for the boss and for the running of the office admin.

Today’s gospel begins with some Greeks approaching Philip with a request that they would like to see Jesus. Philip went to tell Andrew and together they went to tell Jesus.

Those Greeks may have heard about Jesus, how He worked miracles and performed healing, how He taught with authority, and they were certainly impressed with what they heard and hence they wanted to see the man for themselves.

And Philip and Andrew would also want Jesus to look His best and give those Greeks a good impression. After all Jesus was their Master, so if He looked good, then they too would look good, going by “like Master, like disciple”.

But the reply of Jesus was rather strange. At first He says that the hour has come for Him to be glorified. So they would have thought that He was going to give those Greeks a profound impression.

But what followed after does not seem to sound like anything impressive. Jesus talked about a wheat grain having to die in order to yield a rich harvest.

He went on to give a reflection about life, that anyone who loves his life loses it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

And then He went on to say that His soul is troubled and He seemed to wonder if God would save Him. By those words, He indicated the kind of death He would die.

That would have left Philip and Andrew rather confused and apprehensive. Just what are they going to tell those Greeks. What Jesus said was far from impressive; in fact it sounded rather repulsive. 

If they had expected Jesus to impress those Greeks, they would be disappointed. And those Greeks would be disappointed too.

Philip and Andrew might not have understood what Jesus was talking about. But we should understand. As we come to the 5th Sunday of Lent, we should know what was the preoccupation in the mind of Jesus. He was preoccupied with His impending suffering and death.

The 2nd reading gives us a glimpse of Jesus that we don’t often hear about. During His life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the One who had the power to save Him out of death, and He submitted so humbly that His prayer was heard.

So although He was Son, He learnt to obey through suffering, but having been made perfect, He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

Next Sunday, the Church enters into Holy Week, with the emphasis on the suffering and death of Jesus. For the RCIA Elects, this week is the final leg of their preparation for Baptism, as they undergo purification and receive enlightenment through the final Scrutiny.

As for us, we enter into the mind of Jesus as He dwells on His impending suffering and death. It was a mental burden for Him as He says, “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?

We would also be led to think about what is burdening our minds and what is troubling our hearts.
In life, there are many burdens and many troubles. It may be financial difficulties, job insecurity, health issues, marital problems, family problems. Yes, in life there are many burdens and troubles. 

And ironically, many of these burdens and troubles are not even ours, but they somehow landed on our turf. And here is where we are called to be like Jesus, and to be with Jesus, in sacrificing our lives for the good and for the salvation of others.

A wise man was asked this question – What is the heaviest burden and the greatest trouble in life?
The wise man answered: The heaviest burden and the greatest trouble is to have no burden and no trouble at all.

We may think it is a weird answer. It doesn’t sound logical, at least initially. But upon deeper reflection, we will come to realize that if life has no burdens or troubles, then we are going to be like dead fish that just go with the flow and end up as sludge.

But like Jesus, we want to believe that burdens and troubles, suffering and pain, are not dead ends. Because like Jesus, we believe that God has the power to save us out of death. God has the power to save us and help us overcome our burdens and troubles, our suffering and pain.

Jesus has already overcome the world. Let us believe in Him and follow Him to overcome our burdens and troubles. Let us show the world who Jesus really is. It is not to make an impression but to show our conviction.

Friday, March 16, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 17-03-18

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

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

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

Yet if a non-Catholic is attending Mass for the first time and listens to the Bible passages that we just heard, he may end up wondering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Friday, 16-03-18

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

Seminarians have to study theology in the Seminary, and although it can be difficult to remember and understand those theological concepts and definitions, it can still be managed. 

But trying to explain theology to children and teenagers would be a realization of how difficult it is to use simple language to get it across, as well as how much is really understood.

If understanding a subject like theology is difficult, then trying to understand a person is certainly no less easier.

And it would be easier to just make assumptions and presumptions and subsequently make conclusions about a person. That would also save a lot of time and energy.

And that was what they did to Jesus. From the little they knew about Him, they immediately made their conclusions.

Anyway, for someone preaching the dangerous message of love and claiming that God is His Father, He better be silenced. That was their assumption, presumption and conclusion.

And Jesus was silenced by their conclusions. But for just three days.

So as the 1st reading puts it: The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning.

We too, could have said things about others with our misguided reasoning and silenced them with our conclusions.

We too, could have said things about others that were based just on our assumptions and presumptions.

Maybe we need to ask ourselves why we are doing that so often.

When we realize how little we know about ourselves, then we will also realize how little we know about others, and also how little we know about God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 15-03-18

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

In life, when the going is tough, and we are besieged with overwhelming problems, one of the things that will cross our minds is to quit.

In a boxing match, they would call it "to throw in the towel".

So whether it is in the work-place, or in a marriage or even in serving the Lord, when the going gets real rough and tough, we will be tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits.

In the 1st reading, when God wanted to punish His people for idolatry and to make Moses the founder of another great nation, Moses could have considered that offer.

After all, ever since he brought them out of Egypt, he had nothing but problems after problems from them, and he could have just called it quits and abandoned them.

Jesus could also have walked out of the descendants of those people that Moses had to deal with.

They were as stiff-necked as their fore fathers and refused to believe in Jesus, despite His signs and miracles.

But in Jesus and also in Moses, we can see a genuine love and compassion for their people.

For Jesus, and also for Moses, all their many words had only one purpose - it was for the salvation of their people.

We will meet with difficulties and problems from stiff-necked people.

But we are called to look at and learn from Jesus and Moses.

They showed God's love and compassion to their people.

May we learn likewise and do the same.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 14-03-18

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

Whenever we talk about a relationship, we can assume it is between two persons.

Yet a relationship can only happen between two persons when there is a depth of affection for each other.

In the 1st reading, we get an idea of the relationship that God wants to have with His people.

It is a relationship with the depth of the affection of a mother for her child at her breast or the child in her womb.

It is a relationship that is not just affectionate but also with a deep intimacy.

In the gospel, Jesus called God His Father. Jesus had a very affectionate and intimate term for that - Abba.

That depth of affection and intimacy with God His Father is also what Jesus wants to have with us.

Religion is about the worship of the divine.

But in Jesus, our worship of God is a relationship that is affectionate and intimate.

Yet our relationship with God must also turn our relationships with others into one that is affectionate and intimate.

Just as God loves us, we too must love others with the same depth of love.

Monday, March 12, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 13-03-18

Ezekiel 471-9, 12 / John 5:1-3, 5-16

It is difficult to see any good in a bad and depressive situation, just as it is difficult to imagine that a beautiful butterfly can come from an ugly caterpillar.

Much more difficult it will be to see or even imagine anything glorious coming up from something that is destroyed.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Ezekiel gave a vision of the Temple from which life-giving and healing waters flow.

But the problem was that just a few years back, the Temple had been destroyed and now Israel is in exile in Babylon.

But that prophetic vision was fulfilled when Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross, and He became the Temple of God, and from His side flowed blood and water which symbolized life and healing.

That prophetic vision strengthens us when our faith wavers and we lose hope in a situation of turmoil and depression.

Because in a seemingly hopeless and despairing situation of being nailed to the cross, Jesus still issued forth His life-giving and healing grace.

This grace is given to us whenever we meet with struggles and difficulties, so that we can look forward with faith and hope to the glory of the resurrection.

Jesus is not just our Healer. He is our Saviour who leads us to see the beauty in the ugly and victory over vice.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

4th Week of Lent, Monday, 12-03-18

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

It is often easier to talk about concepts and ideas rather than to talk about reality and experiences.

This may sound strange but for those of us who are in the teaching and presentation business, we find it easier to talk about lofty and high-flown concepts and ideas.

To talk about reality and the human experience would require some thinking and reflection in order to find the right expressions.

In the gospel, Jesus seemed to be talking about the lofty ideas of faith and belief rather than to give the people the signs that they need.

But the court official begged Him with these words: Come down, before my child dies.

But that phrase "come down" was not to tell Jesus to stop talking up there in the air.

Rather it was an open invitation for Jesus to come and reinforce the faith that the court official had in Jesus.

The court official too had to "come down" to the essentials of his faith and believe in Jesus, and to obey Jesus to go home and believe that his son will live.

Even the 1st reading of the promise of the new heavens and new earth are expressed in the human longing for joy and gladness.

The season of Lent is to help us to renew our faith in God.

A renewed faith in the power of Jesus can bring about in a renewed faith in the wonderful and amazing things that God will do for us.

A renewed faith combined with the powerful love of Jesus can indeed bring about forgiveness and healing, which is so much needed in our world.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

4th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 11.03.2018

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 / Ephesians 2:4-10 / John 3:14-21
The means of communication have come a long way, with developments and advancements in communication technology.

From the primitive smoke signals and sound signals, things have developed rapidly with the discovery of electricity. There was the Morse code, and then the telegram (a present messaging app has the same name), and letters in the mail have been overtaken by email.

But a wonderful invention is the telephone, where it is real-time voice communication. Even that has developed from the fixed line phone to cordless phone and then to the mobile phone, with not only voice communication but with video calls, i.e. with sight and sound. Communication has become so amazing with technology.

But with the advancement of mobile communication technology, the sense of intrusion has also become greater.

When the phone rings, it may ring at the most inconvenient time, e.g. at a meeting, when you are cooking, or eating with both hand, or bathing. And it might be from people that you would hesitate to answer, because with caller ID, you now know who is calling and you just don’t feel like answering the call.

There are a few fears when you have a mobile phone. For example, when you get 10 missed calls from your mother, or 5 missed calls from the boss, or 5 missed calls from the wife. The only way to quell the anxiety is to return the call. Either that or you fake a phone loss. But you can’t do that more than twice.

The 1st reading gives an account of numerous unanswered calls. But it was not any ordinary call. It was God calling out to His people.

The people had committed infidelity after infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the other nations, and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for Himself in Jerusalem.

The Lord tirelessly sent messenger after messenger, since He wished to spare His people and His House. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised His words, they laughed at His prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against His people that there was no further remedy.

And with that, it was disaster and tragedy. The enemies burned down the Temple of God, and went on to demolish and destroy the city, and the survivors were exiled to a foreign country.

It was a national disaster as well as a personal tragedy. All because of unanswered calls. If only the people had answered the calls from God.

Ironically, where it was the people of God who rejected God’s call, it was a pagan ruler who showed them how to respond to God’s call.
The people’s rejection of God’s call led to their destruction. Now God is calling them, through a pagan instrument, and calling them back to restoration. How they would respond is their call, so to speak.

The lesson that we must learn from the 1st reading is that God’s call is to repentance and conversion. And it is always a call of love because God wants to spare His people and His House.

The 2nd reading reiterates that truth. God loves us with so much love and He was generous with His mercy, that when we were dead through our sins, He brought us to life through Jesus.

And we must listen to that – God loves us with so much love! And that is also what Jesus is saying in the gospel: God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

The message is loud and clear – God loves us so much, and He also calls out to us with so much love, so that we will realize that we are God’s work of love, created in Christ Jesus, to live the good life as from the beginning He had meant us to live it.

And we hear those love calls from God. There is the call to come back to Him and be reconciled. This coming week is the Penitential Service for the parishes in the City District. Will we respond to God’s call and to be reconciled with Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

There is also the call to serve. The parish is in need of catechists, so that the young will be taught about the love of God. Will we be willing to think about it and see how we can respond to the call to share God’s love with the young?

Besides that, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) is in need of members to serve the poor. The numbers of the Friends-In-Need have increased and with that the expenses have increased. 

But the members of the SSVP have not increased much, and so very often they are short-handed when it comes to delivering rations to the home-bound. So that’s another area that God is calling out to us. Will we be willing to answer the call to serve Christ in the poor?

And there is the call to give. We have already received the Charities Week envelopes. Are we just going to leave those envelopes aside, or will we respond by giving and sharing with those who are less fortunate.

God so loved the world, and He loves us with so much love that He gave us His only Son, Jesus. 

And Jesus is calling us to love and to serve. Let us not fear to answer His call. It is a call of love and a call to love.

May we answer that call so that we will be able to live the good life that God had meant us to live it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

3rd Week of Lent, Saturday, 10-03-18

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

When we review how our prayer life is going, we may be able to notice how our prayer life has changed in the way we pray.

We may have started off by reciting formula prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary and the Rosary.

After a while we may feel we want to move on to a deep form of prayer and we will practise meditation on the Word of God and other forms of deeper prayer.

Then we might want to go further and pray to God in a spontaneous way and we start composing our own prayers.

Whatever form of prayer we might have adopted, what is essential is not so much what we say or do in prayer.

Rather it is the awareness in prayer; the awareness of who we are with.

When we realize who we are with in prayer, then we will also realize who we really are.

In the presence of God who is infinite love and mercy, we can only humbly admit that we are nothing without Him and that we constantly need His love and mercy.

Whatever words we might use in prayer and whatever thoughts we might have, let us always remember the prayer of the tax collector in the gospel: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 09-03-18

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

When we read books like the "7 Habits of Highly-effective People" or "The Joy of Living" or other inspirational books, they give very interesting and very good pointers for life.

Yet, when we think about it carefully, the principles of life are actually very simple.

It is actually what Jesus said in today's gospel: Love God and love neighbour.

Sounds simple, but it may take a whole life-time to discover the truth of such a simple statement.

Because we tend to love things  and be self-centered.

Yet the season of Lent calls us back to the love of God.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Hosea not only called his people back to this love of God, he also proclaimed how much God loves His people even though they turned away from Him.

We may remember that hymn of Hosea - Come back to me with all your heart, don't let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.

The way of life is indeed simple: Love God and  neighbour. That is the way that Jesus is teaching us.

As the 1st reading ends off - For the ways of the Lord are straight, and virtuous men walk in them, but sinners stumble.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 08-03-18

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

When orders and instructions are given by a superior, it is presumed that it will be obeyed and carried out.

Not to obey orders and instructions will result in consequences that will be not be favourable for the subordinate.

And of course, the higher and greater the authority, the less negotiable will be the obedience on the part of the subordinate.

In the gospel, when Jesus expelled the devil from the possessed man, the devil stood no chance against Jesus.

There is no question of defying the orders of Jesus or not doing as He ordered. The devil just had to obey.

So the devil was not a problem for Jesus. But the problem for Jesus was the people. Though they were amazed, some of them said that it was through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that He casts out devils.

But the real problem was highlighted in the 1st reading when the Lord God said, "Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I marked out for you, and you will prosper. But they did not listen, they did not pay attention, they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts."

So while the devil could not disobey the orders of God, he now tempts us to disobey God.

Let us not be foolish and fall into the temptations of the devil. Lent is the time to renew our stand against the devil and to fight off his temptations to go against God

Let us also pledge our obedience to Jesus and follow Him through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Also the consequences of disobedience are very difficult to bear.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 07-03-18

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

Not many of us remember the Japanese Occupation which was from 1942 to 1945. Those three years have changed the lives of those who survived it, and some of them are still around.

So we may not have gone through the Japanese Occupation but we have read about it and we may have heard of the eye-witness accounts of the atrocities committed during that time.

But we have also read of how that dark part of history was deleted from the Japanese history book or given another interpretation which justified the military cause.

So much so that the later generations do not know anything about the invasions and the war-crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army and its commanders.

It may sound strange, and even disgusting, that this can happen at a national level.

But what happens at the national level is only an amplification of what happens at the personal level.

Because when it comes to laws and rules and regulations, we choose what we are comfortable with, and we quietly disregard what we dislike and what we disagree with.

Things like doing penance and practising abstinence. Things like going for Confession before receiving Holy Communion at Mass if one has committed a grave sin.

If these simple and basic religious practices are not taught and observed and practised, then our spiritual discipline will become too lax and after a while we would have deleted so much of our faith that there will be nothing much to believe in.

Let us keep and practise the demands of our faith and teach it first to our children and to our children's children.

Then we will not forget why we believe in God and the purpose of our mission as Church.

Monday, March 5, 2018

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 06-03-18

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35

For those of us whose form of exercise is walking from one room to another, and carrying our plates to the basin after a meal, then we will know that any talk about serious exercise is certainly not that pleasant to hear.

We are often told that we should at least exercise 15 minutes a day and to work out a sweat and get the heart pumping.

And we know all the benefits of a good exercise routine, and that it benefits us first and foremost. And of course, a healthy heart and a healthy body will make us a pleasant person when we are with others.

Still, that may not spur us enough to put on our exercise gear and get on going with an exercise routine. And we will also make up enough of excuses not to embark on it.

When Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone for seven times would be enough, the reply of Jesus would have probably shocked him.

It was like as if Jesus was telling Peter that seven minutes of exercise is not enough, and that he should exercise seventy-seven minutes!

As Peter was left reeling from what Jesus said, Jesus went on to tell a parable of how a servant who had a huge debt written off somehow did not have mercy on a fellow servant who owed him a comparatively insignificant debt.

And then comes the teaching point of the parable - "That is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart."

That is to tell us that besides the necessity to forgive others, it is in practicing forgiveness that we will understand how much God has forgiven us our sins.

That is why it is necessary not just to forgive seven times but seventy-seven times. Forgiveness is not just good for us spiritually, it also keeps us healthy. And let us start immediately, and not just for seven times, but right up to seventy-seven times and even beyond.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

3rd Week of Lent, Monday, 05-03-18

2 Kings 5:1-15 / Luke 4:24-30

Whenever we want to buy a product, we would certainly take a look at the brand name.

Brand names are a big business. In fact the brand name can be as important as the product itself, maybe even more important than the product.

In religious circles, if you carry the title of prophet, then you are indeed a religious brand name.

Yet Jesus said in the gospel that no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

Certainly He was referring to Himself as well as the line of prophets before Him who suffered rejection and persecution.

Maybe because a true prophet does not carry a brand name.

But as it is, a product without a brand name is usually written off.

Yet the prophetic word was often spoken by unlikely and even nameless people like the Israelite slave girl in the 1st reading.

It was through her that Namaan the Syrian army commander set off looking for a cure in Israel.

These days we hear of news about disasters and catastrophes happening here and there, and political unrest and wars almost everywhere, besides the usual economic woes.

Alongside such news are commentators, analysts, strategists, experts, all giving their 2 cents worth of comments.

But where is the prophetic voice? If only we could hear the voices of those suffering from the troubles of the world.

It is a voice that begs for peace and reconciliation. It is a voice that begs for the presence of God in our troubled world. And that voice might be heard in our homes, our workplace, our parish. It's a voice that's not that far away.

The voice of God may not from the big and famous and popular names. The voice of God is usually heard from the weak and lowly. May we listen to that voice and act on it

Saturday, March 3, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B, 04.03.2018

Exodus 20:1-17 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / John 2:13-25

I can’t say if I am imagining things or what, but it seems to me that quite a number of people are down with flu-like symptoms – cough, sore-throat, running-nose, headache.

Maybe because I was having all these over the past week, and so that’s making me imagine that many others are also afflicted. After all misery needs company. So I would like to think that I am not the only one who is under the weather.

But also with those festive “goodies” like pineapple-tarts, bak kwa, cookies and all those “sinful” food, how not to come down with cough, sore-throat, running-nose, headache? So I don’t think I am imagining.

But imagination aside and not wanting to lose my voice over the weekend, I went to the Chinese medical hall to see what quick remedy there can be for my misery. And the shop attendant recommended me a pre-packed combination of herbs in a plastic box.

As I was looking at the contents in the box, I was rather alarmed to see what looks like a beetle, with wings and all, nicely packed with the other contents. I presumed that the quality control failed, and that’s how that beetle got in there.

But the attendant said that it was part of the herbal combination and when it is brewed properly, it is very effective for voice-loss and sore-throat.

People complain when there is a fly in their soup. I am going to have a beetle in my brew. Chinese remedies are just so strange. Anyway I decided to give that beetle-brew a try. I guessed it worked, since I can be here preaching. But I have to admit that drinking the beetle-brew feels rather squirmish, and it tastes yukky-yuks.

In today’s gospel, what Jesus did may make us squirm a bit. The usually gentle, compassionate, merciful Jesus has become a whip-lashing, Indiana Jones-style, driving out sheep and cattle, scattered the money-changers coins, knocked their tables over, and not sparing the pigeon-sellers.

That is a very angry and violent Jesus, and like the people who were doing business in the Temple courtyard, we too would be alarmed and disturbed by His actions.

But it was not an impulsive act. As Jesus made the whip out of some cord, He knew what He was going to do and He intended to make His actions felt.

And He stated His reason for doing this: “Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.”

The market was just the façade. The reality was that there was wheeling-and-dealing, cheating and bribing, injustice and extortion. All that carried out under the pretext of religious requirements, and with the knowledge and condoned by the Temple authorities.

With that kind of corruption in the Temple, Jesus had to do something drastic. Corruption was happening right at God’s house. He had to cleanse the Temple, so that the ordinary people can come and truly worship God and offer a worthy sacrifice.

Sin and corruption had to be driven out and cleansed before true worship can take place.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus takes a serious stand against sin and corruption. Jesus is the Head and we are members of His Body. We gather as members of His Body to offer worship to God at Mass.

And He knows each of us. He knows what each of us has in us. The true character of a person is not what he does when others are looking but by what he does when no one is looking.

And so we have to look at ourselves and acknowledge the sin and corruption that is within us, and to let Jesus cleanse us of that sin and corruption.

That is why it is necessary to do an “Examination of conscience” at least once a day, so that that we can see for ourselves what are our sins and our faults.

And that’s why it is also necessary to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession. It is a healing Sacrament, because Jesus forgives and cleanses us of our sins so that we can be reconciled with God.

If we know that there is rubbish in our hearts, then why are we not getting rid of it? Why are we letting that sinful rubbish corrupt our lives and corrupt our worship of God?
There is this story about St. Jerome. He was the one who translated the Hebrew scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. One day he had a vision of Jesus, and he was in ecstasy, and so he exclaimed : Lord, I want to give You all my intelligence, all my time, all my energy, my life even.
Jesus replied : Good, I don't need all that.
St. Jerome became a bit upset and so he asked : Lord Jesus, then what do You want from me?
Jesus said : I want your sins. Give me all your sins.

Yes, Jesus wants us to surrender our sins to Him so that He can cleanse us and that we can offer worthy worship to God. With a clean heart, we can offer worthy worship and hence, receive blessings from God.

In surrendering our sins to Jesus, the Lord our God says this to us: For I will restore your health and heal you of your wounds (Jeremiah 30:17)

Our sins and our spiritual corruption have caused us to be spiritually weak and maybe even physically afflicted. So let us go for Confession and let Jesus cleanse our souls.

Let us also do penance to invoke God’s healing grace. There is no need to drink some beetle-juice concoction to bring about cleansing and healing. The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving will accomplish that.

Let our prayer and worship be from humble and contrite hearts so that God’s House will truly be a House of prayer and that we, the People of God, will truly be a people of prayer and a channel of God’s blessings for the world.