Monday, April 30, 2018

St. Joseph the Worker, Tuesday, 01-05-18

Genesis 1:26 - 2:3 / Matthew 13:54-58

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Joseph and specifically under the title of St. Joseph the Worker.

Hence St. Joseph is also the patron of all working people, besides being the patron of the Church, fathers and carpenters and also of the dying.

Being a patron of all working people, we would feel a deep affiliation with St. Joseph because we spend a considerable amount of time at work.

And we could relate with him in what was told of us in the scriptures.

We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.

We know he was a carpenter, a working man, and in the gospel a skeptical question was asked about Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55).

He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified, he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

There is much we wish we could know about Joseph, about where and when he was born, about how he spent his days, about when and how he died.

But Scripture has left us with one of the most important knowledge of who he was - "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:18).

May we always turn to St. Joseph for his intercession before and at the end of our work.

May we also be righteous and honest in our dealings at work and with our superiors and colleagues so that in all we do at work, we will give glory to God.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

5th Week of Easter, Monday, 30-04-18

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

Among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom and knowledge, and understanding and right judgement.

These are not just seen as human endowment, but as a divine gift that helps a person to discern the ways of God and to act on it.

The 1st reading gives a typical example of how these gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifested in the ministry of the Church.

At Lycaonia, St. Paul was preaching when he saw a man who was crippled from birth.

Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, St. Paul said in a loud voice, "Get to your feet - stand up" and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.

St. Paul was preaching the Good News and that had prepared the faith of those who were listening, and he was certainly moved by the Holy Spirit to say those words and to perform the miracle.

In the gospel, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "the Advocate". An advocate is a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of another person.

The Holy Spirit is the Advocate that God has sent to help us and to support us in our time of need and to protect and defend us from harm and evil.

In our prayer, let us ask for the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, understanding and right judgement, so that we will be able to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and carry out the will of God.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 29.04.2018

 Acts 9:26-31 / 1 John 3:18-24 / John 15:1-8
The month of April is coming to an end, and we are looking forward to the month of May. Because in the month of May there are two public holidays.

The 1st May is Labour Day and then on the 29th May is Vesak Day. So there is a public holiday at the beginning of May and another public holiday at the end of May. How nice if every month is like that huh.

So on Labour Day, the economic and social achievements of workers are acknowledged and celebrated, and the rights of workers are highlighted. Most offices and factories will also be closed.

Except of course the essential services won’t be closed. Certain things will have to keep going – buses and trains will be running; public utilities like water and electricity won’t be shut down; the rubbish will be collected and cleared.

And in Singapore, shopping malls and restaurants won’t be closed, because in Singapore, shopping and eating are essential, maybe even critical, especially on public holidays. If there is nowhere to shop and nowhere to eat, there might be a riot!

And of course, the Church won’t be closed and the priests will be working even on public holidays. Because the Church provides an essential service – the Mass. Actually it is a divine service. So for our parish, even on public holidays, it is services as usual – Mass in the morning and in the evening, and we are open all day.

Yes, the Church is always open, not just on Saturdays and Sundays, but everyday, even on public holidays. Because the Church must provide this essential and divine service of being the House of God. The Church is the “Home” of God, where we come and be re-connected with God.

In the gospel, Jesus used an image to express this essential connection which may be familiar to us. He said that He is the vine and we are the branches. We may be familiar with that as we look at a bunch of grapes and we can see how closely the grapes are connected to the stem.

But Jesus also gave us an image which is immediately familiar and clear to us as He says: Make your home in Me, as I make Mine in you.

The image of home gives us the idea of a place where we must go back to, no matter how far we have gone.

It is a place of comfort, of  belonging, a place where we can be at rest from the noisy and busy world.

It is a place where we re-connect with our loved ones and have a sense of security.

It is a place where we can be ourselves and at the same time we learn to be more than ourselves, and that’s why it is said that “charity begins at home”.

Yes, it is at home that we learn to be charitable, to be patient and compassionate, to be loving and forgiving, so that even outside of home, we will bring along those “home” values and share them with others.

Even though no home is perfect, yet we strive to make our home as peaceful and as happy as we can.

Similarly, the House of God, the Church, is our spiritual home. We can’t say that our Church is perfect as somethings do irritate us – the sound system gets cranky, the air con is too cold, the car-park gantry doesn’t respond, the pews are too narrow, and whatever.

Those things can be irritating, like mosquitoes and flies are irritating. But that shouldn’t irritate us or make us become irritating to others.

Because what unites us is so much greater than what irritates us. And as we come home to the House of God, we are re-connected with Jesus and it is His love that flows in us and through us as we connect and unite ourselves as brothers and sisters in Jesus.

And that’s why Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches. And not only that, our mission is to bear fruit, and one of which is to bring others to our spiritual home so that they can come to know Jesus and to be connected with Him.

And so despite the imperfections and irritations, we are still proud of our spiritual home and we want to bring others to our spiritual home and introduce them to Jesus.
Well the next RCIA journey will begin on the 9th July. The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is where non-Catholics come to know about the Christian faith, and to know more about Jesus and the Church.

We may not be a happening church or a well-known church. In fact we are just a quaint little church tucked away in a quiet corner of the busy Orchard Road area. Some may not know the church exist, or know where the church is.

Yet the intake for the last three RCIA journeys are modest and encouraging enough. Even though the other bigger and better known churches start their RCIA journey about the same time, we just have to wait and see who will come.

But more than just wait and see, if we are proud of our little and simple church, then we would want to bring our non-Catholic friends to the RCIA and also journey with them as they come to know more about Jesus.

More importantly, we want to help them to find their home in Jesus and for Jesus to make His home in them.

That is the fruit that we are called to bear. That also means that we ourselves have found our home in Jesus, and that when we come to church, we have come “home” to God’s House, and that we are re-connected with Jesus and draw from Him love, peace and joy.

Yes, the fruit that we are called to bear is to tell others about Jesus and about our spiritual home that we have found.

When they respond, we must also journey with them and to help them find their way home.

Yes, Jesus is waiting for them, everyday, including public holidays. So let us get on working. We want to bear fruit and bring others home to Jesus. Because coming home to Jesus is really where we want to be.

Friday, April 27, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Saturday, 28-04-18

Acts 13:44-52 / John 14:7-14

The Old Testament has this very strong sense of reverence for God.

In Exodus 33:18, when Moses asked God to let him see His face, God replied: I will not let you see My face, for no one can see My face and live.

Such was the awesome reverence and the awesome presence of God.

Having said that, what Jesus told Philip in the gospel was indeed an earthshaking statement - To have seen Me is to see the Father.

That was not only incredible and impossible for people at that time to accept,  it may also be incredible and impossible for people of the present time to accept.

Yet among the founders of the world's religions, no one has ever said what Jesus said in today's gospel.

Jesus also said something else more earthshaking and heart-pounding.

He said that He will live in those who believe in Him and those who believe in Him will perform great and wonderful works.

So do we dare to say to others: To see me is to see God!!!

Sounds incredible and impossible, but that is precisely what we are called to be; we are called to be living and visible signs of the holy presence of God.

If there is anything we are asking from God, then let it be this: Lord, when others see me, may they also be able to see You.

That might sound incredible, but with God, that is not impossible.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Friday, 27-04-18

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

Any normal and rational person would not condone an act of evil.

Furthermore, any act of evil against the innocent and defenseless must be condemned.

And if that act of evil resulted in the loss of lives, then the guilty must be brought to justice.

Yet we heard in the 1st reading that though the people of Jerusalem and their rulers found nothing to justify the death of Jesus, they condemned Him and asked Pilate to have Him executed.

But as St. Paul said, they did not realize that what they did was in fact to fulfill the prophecies and they actually carried out everything that the scriptures foretold about Jesus.

When we suffer from evil, whether be it a wrong-doing, or a gossip, a slander, an accusation, an injustice, it would be good to reflect on what St. Paul said in the 1st reading.

Could it be that what was foretold about Jesus is also a foretelling of what would happen to us as His disciples?

Yet like Jesus said in the gospel, we must not let our hearts be troubled and we must trust in God.

If Jesus is the Way, then the way that is ahead of us should be clear enough for us in that what Jesus went through, we too will have to go through.

The truth is that in following the way of Jesus, we will find life and live it meaningfully.

Yes, any normal and rational person would not condone evil and neither should we.

But our faith and trust in Jesus should lead us not to return evil for evil but rather to do good in the face of evil, and in doing so we will receive a blessing.

That is our faith and trust in Jesus our Saviour.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Thursday, 26-04-18

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

One of the potholes and pitfalls in human relationships is the disagreement in opinions that often lead to quarrels and even fights.

This often happens between superior and subordinates, between manager and worker, between parent and children, and the list goes on and on.

And because of this disagreement, there is so much unhappiness and that can make life quite miserable.

In the gospel, Jesus gave us a direction for happiness in life.

He said this: I tell you solemnly, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the man who sent him. Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly.

"Happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly". So what is meant by behaving accordingly?

In the most simple of terms, it means to be obedient.

Just as a servant is obedient to his master, and not to think that he is better or smarter than his master.

It is this kind of simple obedience that will bring about happiness in our lives because we know where we stand in life and we know that we must respect our elders and superiors.

It is also this kind of simple obedience that is required when it comes to our relationship with God.

It is in obeying God and doing His will that we will attain happiness in life.

God's will for us is as plain and as simple as this - to follow His Son Jesus, who emptied Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

So when we empty ourselves of our pride and humbly obey our elders and superiors, we will indeed be happy in life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

St. Mark, Evangelist, Wednesday, 25-04-18

1 Peter 5:5-14 / Mark 16:15-20

St Mark the Evangelist is the traditional author of the Gospel according to Mark, and he is closely identified as (John) Mark that we heard about in the 1st reading, who was a disciple of St. Peter.

St. Mark is also closely identified as the cousin of Barnabas, who together with St. Paul were great missionaries in the Acts of the Apostles.

So St. Mark had connection with big names in the New Testament, but that was not why he became a big name in the Bible.

He was greatly involved in the missionary work of the early Church and he founded the Church in Alexandria.

He may have been recognized for his gift of writing and being a disciple of St. Peter, he wrote the gospel through the reflections and teaching of St. Peter.

So St. Mark was a missionary and a writer and he was also involved in the work of the early Church.

He may have discovered these gifts gradually but he knew what these gifts were for.

As the 1st reading says: Wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble.

So in spite of being associated with big names in the Church and bestowed with gifts, St. Mark remained a humble servant of the Church.

So let us learn from St. Mark to be humble servants of God and to humble servants to each other.

That is the first requisite for the proclamation of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 23, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 24-04-18

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

The word "foreigner" is a rather neutral term.

And depending on what form it takes, we react to it differently.

When foreigners come as tourists or businessmen or investors, we will certainly welcome them with warm hospitality.

But what if foreigners come as refugees?

We may remember that when South Vietnam fell in 1975, there was a refugee problem in SE Asia, and Singapore was also affected.

Although we may sympathize with the plight of the refugees, we also see them as a problem.

Yet as we heard from the 1st reading, the first Christians were also refugees, fleeing from persecution, and they brought their faith along.

We can be sure that they faced no less the problems that present day refugees faced.

Yet they still kept their faith and the Lord helped them, and others came to believe and were converted, and hence the missionary spirit of the Church was started.

We may not be refugees because of our beliefs, but still we must always rely on the Lord for His providence and protection.

Most of all, we must listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and follow Him closely so that we won't be lost along the way.

In the midst of life's difficulties and struggles, let us keep our hearts focused on our Good Shepherd and follow Him into our eternal home in heaven.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 23-04-18

Acts 11:1-18 / John 10:1-10

Whenever we talk about food, we talk about it as if we live to eat. Oh, surely we love good food and it is a pleasure whenever we can have a delicious and satisfying meal.

But essentially, food is for our sustenance and it is critical for our survival. In other words, we eat to live, and not really the other way round.

In the 1st reading, Peter seemed to have a vision about food, as he saw a big sheet with all sorts of animals and wild beasts, everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly.

And then a voice told him to kill and eat, but he protested with his religious dietary laws, that nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed his lips.

And then came a revelation as the voice from heaven told him: What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.

But before we start to think about religious dietary restrictions and even those who are vegetarians, the vision was necessary for Peter and necessary for the early Church.

It was to open the mind of Peter to be sent to pagans, who were non-Jews, and that he cannot see them as people to be avoided.

It also opened the minds of those who criticised Peter for mixing with the pagans and eating with them.

And this also reminds us that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.

This also reminds us that as we come for the Eucharist, we have come to the table of the Lord. Let us lay aside what divides us so that we can be united with the Lord in this sacred meal.

Jesus came so that we can have life and life to the full. As we partake of this sacred meal, may we also be strengthened to work for unity within the Church and also outside of the Church.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 22.04.2018

Acts 4:8-12 / 1 John 3:1-2 / John 10:11-18

We may recall that this year, Ash Wednesday fell on a particular day – 14th Feb – which is also popularly known as Valentine’s Day. So for Catholics who have to observe that obligatory day of fasting and yet wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their loved ones, they could have a special romantic candle-light dinner with bread and water. Well, it’s not that often that Ash Wed falls on Valentine’s Day.

Also we may recall that Easter Sunday fell on the 1st April, which for the secular world is a day of jokes and pranks as they call it April’s Fool’s Day. 

So it seems like for this year, God had a sense of humour – Ash Wed falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday on April Fool’s Day.

But for the Church in Singapore, 14th Feb is a significant day because it is the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral. So this year, the Cathedral did not celebrate the anniversary of its dedication because of Ash Wed. But because the Cathedral is dedicated to the Good Shepherd, then it would be celebrating its feast-day today, since this Sunday is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

The Cathedral was dedicated to the Good Shepherd because in the early days after Singapore was founded, a priest, Fr. Laurent Imbert, stopped over in Singapore and he could well be the first priest to celebrate Mass on this island. 
Later, he secretly joined the other missionaries in Korea, which at that time was persecuting Christians. When the persecutors were closing him on him, he wrote that famous letter to his fellow missionaries, saying that “the good shepherd is the one who lays down his life for his sheep”. He hoped that by surrendering himself, the authorities would spare the lives of the other Catholics. Subsequently, he was tortured and beheaded.

Back in Singapore, when the building of the Cathedral was completed and to be dedicated, news of Fr. Imbert’s death was known, and so were the contents of his letter. It was then decided that the Cathedral was to be dedicated to the Good Shepherd, in memory of Fr. Laurent Imbert.

Last year, when the Cathedral was re-dedicated after extensive renovations, the relic of St. Laurent Imbert was also interred into the altar of the Cathedral. And with that, the connection between the Cathedral and the man whose letter inspired the name of the Cathedral came to a full circle. St. Laurent Imbert not only knew the Good Shepherd, but like the Good Shepherd, he also laid down his life for his sheep.

Today, as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we hear once again what Jesus says of Himself – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.

And on Good Shepherd Sunday, the Church also highlights the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. The Church echoes the voice of her Good Shepherd in calling out to those who hear His voice to follow Him and to lay down their lives in service for God and for His people.

But with the drastic drop of the number of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life as well, we may wonder if the Good Shepherd has stopped calling. So has Jesus stopped calling? Or have we stopped listening?

The fact that the Church is called to be the sign of salvation means that God will always provide for the Church. In every age and from one generation to the next, God will always call out to those whom He has chosen to be priests to serve as shepherds of God’s flock.

But to lay down one’s life in service of others calls for sacrifice. When it comes to making the sacrifice, the tendency is that we expect others to make the sacrifice, but not us.

The voice of the world says that sacrifice is for losers. The world wants to be served and not to serve.

But the voice of Jesus tells us that He came to serve and not to be served and to even lay down His life as a ransom for many.

So it can be said that the salvation of many depends on the sacrifices of a few, those few that are called and chosen.

And we have seen these few, and we may even know some of these few.

Bro. Simon Ho, who is one of our parishioners, is now in his 4th year of formation in the Major Seminary. He gave up a promising teaching profession to answer the call of the Good Shepherd. We pray that he will persevere and that one day we will be able to see his ordination.

Fr. Michaelraj left his native diocese in India to serve in Singapore, which is a new and challenging environment for him. But he has done well and we pray that he will be blessed for answering the call of the Good Shepherd and that he will be a blessing for us too.

And Fr. Paul Tong, at 91 years-old, is still actually in active service and not retired, as some might think he is. For him there is no retirement or finishing line when it comes to laying down his life in service of God and His people.

So we priests and seminarians ask for your prayers that we will continue to serve you with the love of the Good Shepherd.

And we pray for you too, that if God calls you, or calls your son to serve in the priesthood, you too will make that sacrifice.

Only a few are called and chosen, and when those few make the sacrifice to lay down their lives in love and service, then many will be blessed, and many will be saved.

Friday, April 20, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Saturday, 21-04-18

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

The period of peace and security can also be a rather risky time. Because we can take the peace and security for granted and become complacent and lose our alertness.

Furthermore, with the absence of challenges and dangers, life becomes mundane and monotonous, and we slowly corrode and erode and lose the sharpness for life.

In the 1st reading, we hear the churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were left in peace.

Yet, that is not all in that statement; it continues by saying that they were building themselves up and living in the fear of the Lord and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Those were the trademarks of the early Church - building up the community and fortifying it; living in the fear of the Lord and yet with full faith in Him; and trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

And Peter showed forth the power of the name of Jesus in healing a paralytic and raising the dead.

In short, the early Church was proclaiming the Good News, which also means that it is the message of life and the message for life.

It was the same Peter who in the gospel proclaimed that Jesus has the message of eternal life and they believed in Him as the Holy One of God.

As Church, we must be proclaiming Jesus and His message of eternal life. Yet, like Peter who healed the paralytic and raised the dead, may we too rise and keep walking towards Christ.

It is in proclaiming the powerful name of Jesus that we too will find life and also eternal life.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 20-04-18

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

Pope Francis was quoted as saying: This is God's way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.

What is rather startling about what Pope Francis said is that there can be no humility without humiliation. Do we really need to be humiliated in order to be humble?

As we think about it, maybe the experience of St. Paul in the 1st reading could give us some points for reflection in the relationship between humility and humiliation.

St. Paul, or Saul as he was known in the 1st reading, was on the road to Damascus, to arrest the followers of Jesus. He was riding high and mighty and could be proud of himself for getting rid of these religious heretics.

And then a light from heaven threw him to the ground and then he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"

Surprised and shocked, he asked, "Who are you, Lord?" At least he had enough of sense to acknowledge that whoever was speaking to him was certainly more powerful than he is.

The voice revealed itself as Jesus and that Saul was persecuting Him. Saul was humbled but Jesus did not go on to humiliate him for persecuting His followers.

Jesus even sent a disciple called Ananias to heal Saul and to recover his sight and he was even baptized.

The once proud and high and mighty Saul is now a humble St. Paul. He was humbled but not humiliated. It can be said that St. Paul was humble enough not to be humiliated.

St. Paul even went on to call himself the greatest of sinners. That goes to show that humility is when you tell the truth about yourself.

Just as Jesus taught St. Paul how to be humble, may we also accept the lessons of humility that come our way. After all it is better to be humble than to be humiliated.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 19-04-18

Acts 8:26-48 / John 6:44-51

The power of attraction is an amazing thing. It goes beyond logic and reason.

From simple attractions like sales and bargains to the infatuation and attraction between opposite sexes, the whys and the hows are difficult to explain.

Yet the power of attraction is there and it cannot be denied and in a certain sense it cannot be easily understood.

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

If we believe in Jesus, it is because the power of God has drawn us to Him.

Indeed, it was the power of God's love that has drawn our hearts to Jesus and to come to this Mass to receive Him in Holy Communion.

As we heard in the 1st reading, it was also the power of God's love that drew the eunuch to request for baptism.

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

By the power of God's love we are drawn into the heart of Jesus.

We are now sent to draw others into the heart of Jesus.

We need not explain why we believe in Jesus, or preach to others about Jesus.

By our hearts of love, God will draw them to Jesus.

May our hearts remain always in the love of God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 18-04-18

Acts 8:1-8 / John 6:35-40

If we say that seeing is believing, then we may have to think again. At least we know that what we see in movies are not that real, although the actors and the props are real enough.

But what is truly amazing is that with the rise of computer graphics, what we see in movies may not even exist in reality.

So we may or may not believe in what we see, but we may be very impressed with it.

In the gospel, Jesus told the people, "You can see me and still you do not believe."

Yes, the people could see Jesus, that He was real, with flesh and blood, but maybe not that impressive.

Yes, impressions count, and impressions will also form conclusions, and it seemed that the people's conclusion about Jesus was that He was not very impressive. So the people wrote Him off.

And if people then were to see what was happening with the Church in the 1st reading, they also would have probably written off the Church.

Under bitter persecution and with Saul out for the total destruction, the Church would have stood no chance at all to survive.

Yet the Church survived, and even for 2000 years. But with the crisis of faith in the Church, we may wonder about the future of her existence. Also the current state of the Church is not that impressive either.

Whatever impression we may have of the Church, we also must know that there is the mystery of the Church, and that is the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.

We may not be able to see the presence of the Holy Spirit, but let us believe in it, and then we will be able to see more than what meets the eye.

Monday, April 16, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 17-04-18

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

Whenever we talk about St. Stephen, the reference is usually to that Stephen in the 1st reading. He is a saint because he was martyred for witnessing to Jesus, and he is often known as the first martyr of the early church.

Martyrdom is usually a bloody affair as well as a painful one, and so it was in Stephen's case, Death by stoning is a painful and slow death.

Stephen could have guessed that he was heading there when he courageously spoke out against the elders, the scribes and the people, calling them stubborn people with pagan hearts and pagan ears, and they were certainly infuriated.

But his death sentence came when he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand, and he even told his enemies what he saw. That was too much for his enemies and they dragged him to his execution.

But they didn't hear the last of Stephen yet. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and said aloud, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them".

In his last moments and with his last words, Stephen gave his enemies, and he also gives us, a vision of heaven. And he also had his eyes fixed on Jesus.

Stephen was convinced that Jesus is the true bread of God which has come down from heaven to give life to the world.

But the goodness and the pleasures of the life of this world cannot be compared with the life of heaven.

Like Stephen, we too must fix our eyes on heaven as we partake of the Bread of life on earth.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Monday, 16-04-18

Acts 6:8-15 / John 6:22-29

If we use Facebook we would probably know who Mark Zuckerberg is. The CEO of Facebook testified last week in two congressional hearings, which lasted nearly ten hours over two days.

It is certain not a pleasure to be in his shoes during those two days. Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by the Senators, and at stake was his reputation and the company's future as a tech giant.

For the deacon Stephen in the 1st reading, he wasn't quite prepared for what was going to happen when he was taken by surprise and arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.

The accusations brought against him were serious and it could cost him his life. He would have to decide what to do then. More than just his reputation, it was going to be about his conviction and his beliefs.

It is certainly a distressful situation, but as the members of the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.

Alone and surrounded by his enemies, they were probably surprised at his countenance of calmness.

We may not be in such a distressful situation as that of Stephen, or that of Mark Zuckerberg, but stressful and unhappy situations are what we have often in life.

What can we do in such situations then? We can fret and frown and have displeasure written all over our face.

Or we can do what God wants of us, and that is to believe that He will help us handle such volatile situations.

That must be our conviction and our belief. Only then will our face look like the face of an angel.                    

Saturday, April 14, 2018

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 15.04.2018

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / 1 John 2:1-5 / John 24:35-48

Back in the past, in the so-called “good-old-days” one of the activities of the priest was to do home-visits. And because communication back then wasn’t that developed (not every house has a telephone), those home-visits can be surprise-calls. But the surprise can go both ways. It could be a surprise for the family, or it could be a surprise for the priest.

One senior priest, who was from those “good-old-days” was relating how he had to wait outside the main door for 15 min because the family was scrambling to tidy up the house and to get properly dressed.

Those were the “good-old-days”. Now if a priest wants to do home-visits, he has to call and make an appointment with the family, and it can be quite inconvenient for the family – not all are at home, they have to tidy up the house, they have to be properly dressed, etc. So now it’s like: Father, don’t call me, I will call you, if I want you to visit me.

So people will call the priest only when he is needed, e.g. for house-blessing. And talking about house-blessing, this week I had four house-blessings. The reasons for the house-blessing range from wanting the new house to be blessed to strange happenings in the house.

Especially when people think that there are “ghosts” lurking or hiding somewhere in the house. Not everybody believes in ghosts, but everybody seems to be afraid of them. Also during the day, not everybody believes in ghosts, but at night they are more open-minded.

There is a saying “when one door closes, another door opens”; that is of course a figure of speech. But in reality, if one door closes and another door opens by itself, then it’s time to do something, like call for the priest.

Yes, the supernatural or the unexplainable, can make our hair stand and we feel a chill. Whatever it is, we don’t welcome these encounters and it’s best that we don’t have these encounters at all.

Today’s gospel gives an account of an encounter that the disciples had. Two disciples came and told the rest of the disciples what sounded like some kind of ghost story, that they had seen Jesus, who was crucified, died and was buried. 

What a story to tell the disciples when they were all hiding in a locked room for fear of the Jews. And while they were talking about all this, Jesus came and stood among them. In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost!

And what a situation to be in. They can’t run outside and shout “Ghost! Ghost!” because they will be caught. So there is no choice other than to face this Jesus, whom they thought has come back as a ghost to haunt them for deserting Him during His suffering. That’s quite similar to what most ghost stories are made of.

But that’s also where the “ghost story” ends, when Jesus said to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves. A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

Although they couldn’t quite believe it and stood there dumbfounded, yet they were also relieved. What Jesus said to them calmed their fears. 

Jesus did not come to haunt them or to settle scores for deserting Him. Although forgiveness was not mentioned, it was understood. 

Only when they have calmed down, then they understood those first words of Jesus “Peace be with you.” Only when their hearts were at peace then their minds could be opened to understand the scriptures that spoke of Jesus who would suffer, die and rise from the dead. Jesus is certainly not a ghost!

Whatever our opinion of ghosts may be, the ghosts that often haunt us are the ghosts of our own making. We create these ghosts when we sin, because it is the ghost of our sins that come and haunt us.

For the disciples, their desertion of Jesus in His suffering and death made them think they were seeing a ghost when He appeared to them. But it was their sin that was haunting them.

As for us, we will recall our wrong-doing and how we have sinned against others. Hurting someone can be as easy as throwing a stone into the sea. But we may or may not have an idea of how deep that stone went into the heart of that person.

It may be our parents whom we have neglected or was unkind to when they were alive. Now that they are gone, all the flowers that we put at their niche or tombs would not appease our regrets.

Or the person that we have cheated in a relationship. Seeing that person brings out the ghost of the past and we feel how deep the stone has gone into the heart of that person.

Or how we have schemed to sabotage a person. Our misdeeds haunt us as we think of the revenge that will be taken against us if we are found out.

Yes, the ghost of our sins comes to haunt us even in the daylight and we live in the darkness of regret, anxiety and fear.

But today we hear the words of consolation “Peace be with you”. Jesus wants to forgive us but at the same time we must also pray for forgiveness and to seek forgiveness from the ones we have hurt and done wrong to.

That is what repentance for the forgiveness of sins is about.

It is not easy to embark on repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but it is not impossible. With Jesus nothing is impossible. He came to bring us to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

He wants to free us from the anxiety and fear of being haunted by the ghost of our sins.

Repentance for the forgiveness of sins is necessary for true peace in our hearts. When there is peace in our hearts, there will be no ghosts to fear.

Friday, April 13, 2018

2nd Week of Easter, Saturday, 14-04-18

Acts 6:1-7 / John 6:16-21

It is said that in carrying water in a pail, in order to prevent the water from spilling, all that is needed is just to float a piece of wood on the water in the pail.

Whether this really works or not, it would be interesting to find out. If this method really works, then it only goes to show that even a simple task like carrying water in a pail requires a stabilizing factor.

The Church also requires a stabilizing factor.

Whether the task is about distributing food to the poor or bringing peace to a troubled situation, the Church must remember this:

And that is, no task is too small for the Church not to require the grace of God.

And on the personal level, no task is too small for us not to require the grace of God.

The apostles in the early Church knew the importance of prayer and the necessity of grace in every aspect of the life of the Church.

They knew from experience that without prayer and praying for God's grace, they will be like a boat in the storm and they will sink into anxiety and fear.

Very often, the solution to the problems we face in life is as simple as floating a piece of wood on the water in order to reduce spillage.

Yet, it certainly requires prayer and God's grace to know what to do and how to do it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

2nd Week of Easter, Friday, 13-04-18

Acts 5:34-42 / John 6:1-15

There are many sayings and idioms with regards to the truth.

There is one that is rather graphic - When the water subsides, the rocks will appear.

Truth is like those rocks - they will withstand the ebb and flow of the tide.

In other words, truth will stand the test of time.

And that was what the wise Pharisee Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin with regards to what the apostles were doing.

He told them that truth will stand the test of time. If the apostles were telling the truth, and if indeed that truth comes from God, then they will not only be unable to destroy it, they might find themselves fighting against God.

Through the centuries and with the flow of the sands of time, the Catholic Church has proclaimed the truth that the apostles had taught.

But when all is said and done, the fundamental truth that we must proclaim is that God is love and He loves us with an unconditional love.

It is God's love that multiplied the loaves and fed the thousands that we heard in the gospel.

It is God's love that the world needs to hear about so that they will know why we believe in God and trust in His providence.

Yes, God will provide. He will always provide, because He loves us. That is the fundamental truth that will always stand the test of time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, 12-04-18

Acts 5:27-33 / John 3:31-36

The phrase "obedience to God comes before obedience to man" has been used by saints as well as heretics and schismatics alike.

But while one renewed the Church with their saintly lives and sacrifices, the other divided and tore the Church apart with their slanted and crooked teachings.

Whoever and whatever they were obeying then, it was difficult to tell, but over time, it was obvious who was the saint who listened to God and obeyed God, and who it was who listened to themselves and obeyed themselves.

In the 1st reading, when Peter used the phrase "obedience to God comes before obedience to man" in response to the high priest and the Sanhedrin, they were infuriated and even wanted to put the apostles to death.

In effect, what Peter was saying is that the high priest and the Sanhedrin, who were the highest spiritual authority of Israel, were not listening to God and hence they don't deserved to be obeyed.

We may not have any spiritual authority or earthly authority. But will people listen to what we say, be it about spiritual things or about earthly things?

In the gospel, John the Baptist said that he who is born of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way. But he who attests to the truthfulness of God speaks God's own words.

Let us ask God to give us the Spirit so that we will be led to the truth and understand the teachings of the Church and know the will of God and carry out His will in obedience.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2nd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 11-04-18

Acts 5:17-26 / John 3:16-21

To wonder about things can have many shades of meaning.

We may be caught in wonder with something magnificent like a awesome performance of an acrobatic act or musical performance.

Or when we don't understand what a person said and we wonder what is the real meaning of the words.

Or we may wonder about an occurrence that cannot be explained. Such was the case in the 1st reading.

The apostles were arrested and thrown into jail. But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and told them to go and tell the people about the Good News.

So when the chief priests and the captain of the Temple were told by the officials that the jail was securely locked and the wardens on duty at the gates but the apostles were not in the jail, they wondered what this could mean.

If only they would have wondered more and thought deeper about it, they would have understood that God was showing them something and telling them something.

But human motives and human reasoning often overrides the opportunity to wonder about things and to see God's design and His plan in the things happening around us.

And we need to wonder at today's gospel passage that tells us that 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.

Just wondering and pondering on that would help us realize that God is speaking to us and He is telling us the Good News of salvation.

Monday, April 9, 2018

2nd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 10-04-18

Acts 4:32-37 / John 3:7-15
A need is obviously different from a want. A need expresses a necessity. A want expresses a desire.

But very often, the difference becomes blurred and what we think is a need is actually just a desire.

In other words, what we think we need may actually be just an accessory and not really a necessity.

The selfish and greedy side in us will always make us think that we would need a lot of things, and the more we have, then the happier we would be.

So what we heard in the 1st reading is going to challenge us and make us think about what we have and what we need.

The 1st reading tells us that the whole group of believers was united in heart and soul. No one claimed for his own use anything he had, as everything they owned was held in common.

We may wonder if this is really possible nowadays. We may also wonder if anyone would be crazy enough to let go of his possessions and share it with others.

We may have our questions, but the question is whether we believe we can really let go of what we possess and even let go of what we think we need.

But in order to let go of our possessions and our needs on earth, then we need to look at life from above.

Only the Holy Spirit will lift us from earth "to be born from above" so that we are able to realize that we come from God and God is all we need and God will provide for all we need.

May we let go of this earth so that we can be born from above and live the life of the above.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Annunciation of the Lord, Monday, 09-04-18

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10 / Hebrews 10:4-10 / Luke 1:26-38

St. Augustine was quoted as saying: God does not ask of us the impossible. He may ask us to do the difficult thing, but He will make it possible.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the proclamation of the Good News of Salvation.

It is not only a joyful event, it is also a very profound event in God's plan of salvation.

Yet for Mary, it was not just an event; it was for her a mission.

And if she said "Yes" then it was going to be a life-long mission. And it was going to be difficult.

But God assured her it was not going to be impossible.

Mary put her faith and trust in God as she accepted her mission.

We live in difficult and fragile times. There are wars here and there, all sorts of dangers and crises, over and above our own troubles and struggles.

Trying to believe and live out the Good News is not only difficult, but seemingly impossible.

Believing that there can be peace, that there can be joy, that there can be love, can be difficult.

But let this celebration of the Annunciation of the Lord, the celebration of the Good News of our salvation, remind us that difficulty is not synonymous with impossibility.

We join Mary to say "Yes" to God because we want to believe that God is greater than any difficulty and impossibility.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 08.04.2018

Acts 4:32-35 / 1 John 5:1-6 / John 20:19-31

Generally speaking, a person has five senses – the sense of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and the sense of touch. All these senses are important as they send signals to the brain so that we can respond to what our senses are telling us. There is also the “sixth sense” but that is beyond the scope of science.

Of these five senses, the seeing and the hearing functions are often engaged and that’s why the audio-visual gives us a lot more information about the world around us and about our surroundings.

But with that comes the problem of fake news. Aided by social media and by computer graphics, fake news can spread like wild fire because its intent is to generate excitement and anxiety, regardless of the consequences.

For example, recently there was a video clip circulating on social media about strong tidal waves lashing out at Bedok Jetty. It looked so real, but it turned out to be fake news.

Then on Good Friday (it is said that on Good Friday it always rains around 3pm) it was reported that strong winds destroyed chicken coops in Chua Chu Kang. Singapore rarely has those kinds of strong winds, so it sounded like fake news, until it is reported in the newspapers. That was what happened on Good Friday, and it made some news. 

On the religious scene, Good Friday was the day we recalled the suffering, death and burial of Jesus. Then on Easter Sunday we celebrated His Resurrection, which is often called the greatest celebration of our faith.

So we have heard about the Resurrection and we even celebrate it. But how much about the Resurrection do we actually believe in?

For Thomas, who was not there when the Risen Jesus first appeared to the disciples, he did not want to believe it. He thought that the disciples were spreading fake news.

For Thomas, hearing what the rest of the disciples say about the Risen Jesus did not convince him. He retorted with a demand: Unless I see the holes that the nails made in His hands and can put my finger into the holes, and unless I can put my hand into His side, I refuse to believe.

Thomas made such a stark demand because too much had already been demanded from him, with the result that his faith was broken. He had put his faith and hope in Jesus, and that came crashing down when he saw Jesus being crucified, died and was buried.

He was so disappointed that he didn’t even want to be with the rest of the disciples. He didn’t want to be in the misery of their company, since there was nothing to hope for and nothing to believe in anymore. 

He wanted to forget about everything and move on. And then the disciples had to tell him this news of the Resurrection.
Of course he won’t believe them. For him to believe them, he stated his demands clearly. He had already been disappointed and it was painful, and he didn’t want to be disappointed again.

Eight long days had to pass before Jesus appeared to them again and this time Thomas was with the rest of the disciples.

Jesus came specially for Thomas and invited him to put his finger into the holes of His hands and to put his hand into His side. Whether Thomas actually did that or not, we are not told.

Thomas only exclaimed: My Lord and my God!

Jesus came to let Thomas touch His wounds. But actually Jesus came to touch the wounds of Thomas. Jesus came to touch his wounds of disappointment and pain, and to heal him of his grievous doubts.

It can be said that the first miracle that the Risen Jesus worked was to heal the heart of Thomas. The proof of that healing was that Thomas made that profound proclamation of faith: My Lord and my God.

Even as we hear all this, it doesn’t mean that we will have no doubts about the Resurrection of Jesus. Though we may not say that the Resurrection is fake news, we have not seen the Risen Jesus or touched His wounds.

And when the troubles and struggles of this world begin to overwhelm us, doubts will arise and shake our faith and even break our hearts.

We get angry with God for not answering our prayers, and we get disappointed with God for not helping us in our needs.

But God is loving and merciful. This Sunday is also called Divine Mercy Sunday. 

Jesus knows the doubts in our hearts. He knows the wounds that we have inflicted upon our hearts by our own sins. He wants to touch our hearts with His mercy so that we can be healed.

Healing was the first miracle worked by the Risen Jesus, and the first gift to His disciples was peace, when He said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Healing and peace is what the Risen Jesus wants to give us. That is certainly no fake news. In fact, that is the Good News! 

And blessed are we who believe in this Good News from our Risen Saviour.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Saturday within Easter Octave, 07-04-18

Acts 4:13-21 / Mark 16:9-15

What is said of the Resurrection of Jesus can also be said about the Real Presence in the Eucharist:

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't believe no explanation is possible.

The gospel reported that lastly, Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven and He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy.

But then, who can fault the apostles for that. For someone to rise from the dead, even though it is Jesus, was something they had not come across and something that is really difficult to believe in.

Others have told them that they had seen the Risen Lord, but until they saw the Risen Jesus for themselves, it would be really difficult for them to believe it.

But the same cannot be said about the rulers, the elders, the scribes and the Sanhedrin of the 1st reading.

They admitted that a miracle had be worked, they saw the man who had been cured, and they could find no answer. Actually it was more like they could not find a reason not to believe. So they were really obstinate and incredulous.

As for us, we have come to the Eucharist and we believe that Jesus is really present in the forms of bread and wine.

Let us truly believe. And if we have doubts, then let us pray - Lord, help me in my unbelief.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Friday within Easter Octave, 06-04-18

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

Just a week ago, we were right in the middle of the Paschal Triduum and there were so many things to prepare for and so many things happening.

Well, Easter has come and gone, and unlike Christmas, there is not much festive mood about it, and there is no talk of having to lose weight after Easter.

Anyway the season of Lent is already sober and sombre enough, with all that emphasis on prayer and penance and abstinence.

So things are back to normal and the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus seems to be quite ordinary although it is often called the greatest celebration of our faith.

Even for the disciples in the gospel, things seemed to have gone back to normal and the ordinary.

Even though Jesus had already appeared to them twice after His Resurrection, life hasn't changed much for them and they went back to fishing.

But then, even what they thought was ordinary and normal wasn't going to be anymore. They went fishing, and they were supposed to catch something but caught nothing.

But it was in that emptiness for the ordinary that the Risen Jesus appeared to them again. And the gospel made it a point to say it was the third appearance of the Risen Jesus, and things are going to change.

So even though the celebration of Easter is over and things seems to be going back to ordinary, let us also prepare to encounter the Risen Jesus in the ordinary.

Especially even when doing ordinary things that don't seem to have much meaning. That's when Jesus will come up with something. That's what His Resurrection does for us - giving meaning to ordinary things.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Thursday within Easter Octave, 05-04-18

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

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

We could also feel the pain of the wounds and the suffering that they cause.

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

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

But after Jesus showed them His wounds, their fear turned to joy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

We only need to turn to Jesus and show Him our wounds for healing and salvation.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Wednesday within Easter Octave, 04-04-18

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

It is easier to describe what Lent is than to talk about what Easter is.

With Lent, what comes to mind are penance and fasting, Stations of the Cross and meditation on the sufferings of Christ. Dark purple vestments are worn and there are no flowers in the sanctuary and even the music is toned down.

But what can we say about Easter then? Yes, we know it is "Alleluia, Christ is risen" but how are we going to express that joy and all the talk about new life, etc.

Undeniably, it is easier to talk about the bad and the sad, rather than the good and the joyful. Human nature seems to be like that, so much so that we are apprehensive to express joy and happiness.

The two readings begin with a rather sad and unfortunate note. There was a man who was crippled from birth and he could only depend on people's generosity by begging from them. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus were a sad picture of disappointment.

But the situation changed for them. The crippled beggar was healed at the name of Jesus. And Jesus Himself walked the way with the two disciples until they recognized Him at the breaking of bread.

Certainly their sadness was turned to joy. The beggar was walking and jumping and praising the Lord. The two disciples with hearts on fire returned immediately to Jerusalem to announce the good news of the resurrection.

What the readings tells us is that the Risen Jesus will turn our sadness into joy. We don't have to jump around and shout praises.

We just need to have a lively hope and journey with people in their sadness and be with them in their unfortunate situations in life.

The joy and the hope that the Risen Jesus may not be easily articulated, but we will be able to see the good in the bad and the happy in the sad.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Tuesday within Easter Octave, 03-04-18

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

Whatever race or whatever dialect group we belong to, we all have learnt a language from our earliest days.

That language, we call the mother tongue.

We may have learned other languages along the way, but we will not forget our mother tongue.

Because the mother tongue creates a very intimate resonance within us.

It is used to tell us that we are loved; we use it to express love.

When Mary Magdalene addressed Jesus as "Rabbuni" the gospel makes it a special note that she said it in Hebrew.

In such an intimate moment, she used Hebrew, which was probably her mother tongue, to express her love for Jesus.

Because more than just being the mother tongue, it is also the language of the heart.

In the 1st reading, when Peter spoke to the Jews, he also spoke from the heart, and that was why they were convinced.

From his heart, Peter addressed Jesus as Lord and Christ.

For us, over and above our devotional practices and beliefs, we too must have an intimate relationship with Jesus.

We too, like Mary Magdalene and Peter, must address Jesus by an intimate name with a language which is from the heart.

Because it was God who first called us by a special name, even when we were in our mother's womb.

God has called out to us in love and called us by name. May we respond to God with all our love and help others speak the language of love.