Thursday, May 31, 2018

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 01-06-18

1 Peter 4:7-13 / Mark 11:11-26

We are often encouraged to read the Bible and to share the Word of God with others.

A good start would be to read the gospels. There are only four gospels and we would be rather familiar with what Jesus said and did in the gospels.

Much as we might be familiar with the gospels, that doesn't mean that it is going to be easy-reading and that we can understand it all.

Today's gospel passage could well be one of the most difficult passages in all the Gospels, and we would stay clear of this passage in case there are questions that we cannot answer.

The cursing of the fig tree is the only recorded miracle of Jesus that results in destruction rather than restoration. And it would be difficult to explain why Jesus was cursing a fig tree.

But with a difficult passage, there is usually a profound message.

But first we must have a general understanding of the fig tree. Fig trees are mentioned throughout the Bible.

With its large, broad leaves and wide-spreading branches, the fig tree provides better shade than almost any other tree of the region. Sitting under one’s own fig tree represented peace, prosperity, and plenty.​

Often used to symbolize biblical Israel, the fig tree bears fruit between three to ten times a year. When there are leaves in the fig tree, it also means that there will be fruit.

So when Jesus saw a fig tree in leaf at the distance, He approached it expecting to find fruit, but finding none, He "cursed" it, or condemned it gravely, such that it was like a death sentence.

Following the cursing of the fig tree is the cleansing of the Temple. Just as Jesus expected to find fruit on the fig tree, He expected worship and prayer at the Temple. What He saw was wheeling-and-dealing, which He condemned as like that of a robber's den.

So the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple has the same message. If the impressions and the expressions do not bear the proper fruit, then there will be condemnation and punishment.

The fig tree withered away. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  And with that is a grim warning for us.

Gathered as the People of God in worship and prayer, we must also bear fruits of forgiveness.

Coming for the 1st Friday Mass in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we already show our faith in His promises that He will answer our prayer, and we bear the testimony that Jesus had answered our prayer and will always answer our prayer.

And Jesus also expects us to bear fruits of forgiveness and to offer sacrifices in reparation for our sins and also in expiation of the sins of others.

We have expressed our faith in Jesus. Let us also bear fruit of forgiveness and love. That is not too difficult a message to understand.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Visitation of the B.V. Mary, Thursday, 31-05-18

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

We are quite familiar with what this feast of the Visitation is about and the gospel account relates it for us as well.

It is also one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and indeed it was a joy-filled event.

That joy was expressed in an emphatic way when the child leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth when she heard Mary' greeting.

So even from the womb, the joy of the Good News of God's love is proclaimed, and that joy is shared by Mary, Elizabeth and their babies in their wombs.

That would make us think about our social interactions. We may tend to be more closed in on ourselves and visitors to our homes may seem more like a chore than a joy.

But our social interactions may be more often on cyberspace than on our home space.

A good number of us send more than a couple of emails a day. Are those emails written with respect and bring joy to the receiver?

On the other hand, a good number of us may have also received a couple of nasty emails and we know how it feels. And how did we respond?

The 2nd reading gives us some good directions in our social interactions: Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other, and have a profound respect for each other. Bless those who persecute you and never curse them.

And let us follow Mary in proclaiming the Good News of God's love so that others will experience joy as they face their anxieties and troubles in life

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 30-05-18

1 Peter 1:18-25 / Mark 10:32-45

Very often in those action and thriller movies, there will be a hostage or hostages that are taken in order to heighten the suspense.

A hostage is a person(s) who is held by a captor. Usually it means someone who is seized by a criminal abductor in order to compel another party such as a relative, employer, law enforcement, or government to act, or refrain from acting, in a particular way, often under threat of serious physical harm to the hostage(s) after expiration of an ultimatum.

And usually a ransom is demanded, and it is usually spelt out in monetary terms, or it may be in exchange for a person(s).

When the 1st reading reminded us about the ransom that was paid for our freedom, we have to understand what exactly was the situation.

It is we ourselves who fell into sin and are held hostage by the devil who wants to pull us down into eternal damnation.

And the devil wasn't going to negotiate for a ransom; he just wants us to suffer now and suffer eternally. Furthermore we also can't save ourselves from our own sins.

That is why when Jesus came to save us, it is He who dictated the terms for our freedom and salvation.

He willingly poured out His blood on the cross as a ransom to save us, and there is nothing the devil could do to hold us hostage any more.

That is why Jesus said in the gospel that He did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

By the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we are freed, forgiven and saved.

Let us not fall into sin and be held hostage again by the devil and suffer eternal damnation.

Rather, like Jesus our Saviour, let us pour out our lives for others in love and service, so that they too can be freed, forgiven and saved.

Monday, May 28, 2018

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 29-05-18

1 Peter 1:10-16 / Mark 10:28-31

We know that God is loving and compassionate and merciful, and He will always bless us and provide for our needs.

Yes, we know that, and yet do we really believe in it?

When the sun is shining on us, we walk confidently and happily in the brightness of the light.

Yet when darkness envelops us, even our shadow seems to desert us, and we begin to wonder where God is.

We begin to ask serious faith questions like "Why is this happening to me?" and "When will this dark period of my life be over?"

Why things happen in our life, especially negative and unhappy things, that will be revealed to us in the course of time, but it will happen only in the appointed time, meaning, in God's time.

As we heard in the 1st reading, the prophets of old longed to find out the time of the coming of the Saviour and in what circumstances all that was to be expected. Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of those things.

But it was only at the appointed time that the Saviour came and the prophesies fell into place.

As for ourselves, we might ask like Peter did in the gospel, "What about us?"

Jesus would only say that there will be " persecution" but there will also be an eternal reward.

As we take hold of the promise of Jesus, let us also adhere to the instructions given in the 1st reading: Free your minds of encumbrances; control them, and put your trust in the grace that will be given to you. Be holy in all you do, since it is the Holy One who has called you to be holy just as He is holy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 28-05-18

1 Peter 1:3-9 / Mark 10:17-27

We can't deny that we strive for a better life and to enjoy some of the creature comforts of life.

We may not be craving for luxury, yet to desire to have something better and nicer is in all of us.

And there is nothing better and nicer when it comes to money. If there is anything that we hoard most, it is certainly money.

Yes, money is indeed the key to all comforts and luxury. And we can never have enough of it.

And that's where the problem lies - we can never have enough of it. But whether it is money or other tangible or intangible desires, we can never have enough of it.

And as we are being swallowed up by our desires, we lose childlike virtues of humility and simplicity and trust in providence.

Yet we can surely empathize with the young man in today's gospel whose face fell when Jesus told him to sell everything and give the money to the poor.

And with our hearts going down with the young man's face, we may not want to listen further to the challenging message of Jesus.

His message did not just end with selling and giving up everything.

Jesus also promised us that we will have treasures in heaven.

As the 1st reading puts it - we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away.

Hence alms-giving is a spiritual discipline to help us let go so that we can trust in God's providence and follow Jesus in humility and simplicity.

Yet the question remains - how much are we willing to give, especially if we know the money is going to the poor?

Yes, that question will bug us and haunt us until we are able to slowly let go of our desires and let God into our lives.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trinity Sunday, Year B, 27.05.2018

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 / Romans 8:14-17 / Matthew 28:16-20

There is one thing that most of us carry around and we often take it for granted. Most of our gadgets depend on it and it does a lot of background work although it is not prominently visible.

The age of mobile technology would not be possible if not for this one thing – the battery. 

The battery is quite an amazing thing. It is actually portable power, without which we can’t move around with our mobile devices and gadgets.

It is in all our stuff – mobile phones, cameras, laptops, torchlights, remote controllers, mini-fans, hearing aids, pacemakers, etc.

Also advancements in battery power technology have made it possible for high-power consumption. So it is the battery that powers those e-scooters, electric bicycles, and even electric cars.

And even at home, there are vacuum cleaners that are battery-powered. Although a vacuum cleaner can only run for about half an hour on battery power, it is perfectly fine for those people with short attention spans for doing cleaning.  :)

Having said these praises about batteries, it is also obvious that batteries do not stand alone. Batteries do go flat, and hence they need chargers to power them up again. Also a charged up battery can’t do much unless it is placed in a device or gadget.

So the battery does not stand alone. It needs the charger for it to be recharged. And it has to be placed in a device or gadget so that it gets those things working and going.

Today the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday. The Church takes a day to reflect and meditate on the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

And whenever we talk about mystery in the context of faith and religion, we talk about mystery as not something that is unknown. Mystery is about what is revealed and keeps revealing; it is an on-going mystery that does not stop.

So even though God has revealed Himself as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it does not mean that we can fully understand the Holy Trinity or that there is nothing more to know about it.

In fact, there is a lot more that God wants to reveal of Himself to us, as we reflect on the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Yes, God keeps revealing Himself to us and we are drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery and the relationship of the Holy Trinity in our lives.

As we know it, in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are intimately and deeply connected to one another. Each does not stand alone and apart from the other.

It is the Father who creates us, it is the Son who saves us, and it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us.

The Holy Trinity cannot be reduced to earthly analogies, but nonetheless earthly analogies may help us understand the mystery and the relationship of the Holy Trinity.

Just as in the battery mentioned earlier, the battery does not stand alone by itself. It needs the charger to recharge it, and then it needs to be connected to the device to power it up and make it work.

And as we prepare for the feast of the Sacred Heart in two weeks’ time, we have also prepared these “Jesus Invites” for the triduum in preparation for the feast day.

These “Jesus Invites” can be another analogy to help us understand the mystery and the reality of the Holy Trinity in our parish and in our lives.

At present, we have folded about 6000 of these “Jesus Invites” and we have given them out last Sunday and will be giving out again this Sunday.

These “Jesus Invites” are folded by the loving hands of our Catechism class children, and by members of our parish community.

Just as God the Father created us, we have “created” these “Jesus Invites”. But these “Jesus Invites” are not to be left at the bulletin stands or at the corners of the church.

Just as Jesus saved us, we also must go forth and proclaim the saving love of Jesus by distributing these “Jesus Invites” to those who are in need of the love of Jesus or those who have yet to know the love of Jesus.

We are to be missionaries and heralds of the Good News of salvation and these “Jesus Invites” are the means for us and it is for us to tell others about Jesus and His love for all.

And it is only when these “Jesus Invites” have been distributed out that the Holy Spirit can do His work. How the Holy Spirit works on those who have received these “Jesus Invites” is certainly beyond our understanding, but we keep praying that those who have received these “Jesus Invites” will be enlightened and will be led by the Holy Spirit to come and offer their prayers to the Heart of Jesus.

So in a way, the mystery of the Holy Trinity is practically understood as we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart.

In the gospel, Jesus commissioned us to go forth and make disciples of all the nations.

Like batteries, we are powered up in the Eucharist, we have a mission with these “Jesus Invites”. Let us go forth and connect Jesus with others.

Friday, May 25, 2018

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-05-18

James 5:13-20 / Mark 10:13-16

We may think that what is the most obvious and necessary thing that must be done would be embarked on without hesitation.

But very often it is not the case, and the obvious and necessary thing is done only when what has preceded had failed.

One common example is the instruction manual of a gadget or equipment. We have this tendency to have a go at it hands-on first when the label would tell us to read the instructions first.

What the 1st reading said seemed so obvious and necessary - If anyone of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm. If anyone of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church.

Yet, we seem to do otherwise. When we are in trouble we will get anxious and will desperately look for solutions and when all is futile then we turn to prayer. Prayer does not seem to be our first option.

And even when we are happy, we bask in the euphoria of the moment and we forget that it is a moment of blessing from the Lord. Being happy and being thankful does not seem to go together.

And of course, when we fall ill, we would rather go see the doctor than to see a priest first to ask for a prayer of healing and strength to bear our illness.

So what is obvious and necessary is not really what we would do first. Often it may well be the last thing that we would do.

Similarly, children may seem to be like little concerns and we have more pressing issues at hand to handle, and so we may not have time to pray with them and bless them like Jesus did in the gospel.

Today's readings remind us to take care of the little, obvious and necessary things in life first. When we take care to let God be first in our lives, then we will be taken care of by God.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 25-05-18

James 5:9-12 / Mark 10:1-12

The purpose of complaints does not usually have a good intent to it.

We resort to complaints when we are not pleased about a matter or about others.

But as much as we think that by complaining, we point out the failures and negative side of others, we may not realize that complaining reveals much about ourselves.

More often than not, it is because we are unable to do anything about situations or persons that we don't like that we have recourse to complaining.

But the result is that nothing much changes, and even if there are changes, it will be only a temporary and outward change. Nothing has changed much internally if there is no realization within.

The 1st reading urges us that instead of complaining against one another, we turn to look at the men of God and learn endurance and patience from them, so that we will understand the Lord's purpose and realize that the Lord is kind and compassionate.

And in the gospel, as the Pharisees approached Jesus and asked that question about whether it is against the law for a man to divorce his wife, we turn our thoughts and reflections of married life and the marital relationship.

As much as it is undeniable that spouses often complain about one another and there are many jokes about marriage, but spouses also need to learn endurance and patience.

And not just spouses, but also all of us. We need to learn endurance and patience when we meet with frustrating situations and irritating people so that we will understand the Lord's purpose and realise that the Lord is kind and compassionate.

So let us cease complaining and start learning the ways of the Lord, so that we can bring about a blessed change in situations and even in people.

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 24-05-18

James 5:1-6 / Mark 9:41-50

Much has been said about wealth, and yet much more can still be said about wealth.

And to be fair, we have to talk about the both sides of wealth. 

Wealth can be the result of hard work and prudent savings and good investments.

But wealth can also be the result of greed and dishonesty, with also a splash of stinginess thrown in.

Whichever way it is, wealth stands as a neutral object. The question is the attitude towards it that generates the interest behind it.

The 1st reading has a lashing for the wealthy by telling them they can start crying and weep for the miseries that are coming. Because their wealth is rotting, their clothes are eaten away, their gold and silver are corroding.

But that is because their wealth is gain through injustice and oppression - they cheat their labourers, hold back the wages of the reapers, condemned the innocent.

Wealth made them think that they had the might and right and no one dared to resist them. But the time of reckoning will come.

In the gospel, Jesus gave us this warning - whatever causes us to sin, we must cut it off. Rather to cut off a sinful thing than to go to hell with everything.

Anyway, wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. All we want, all we need is Jesus. The rest is transient and will eventually pass away. But Jesus will be our eternal reward.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-05-18

James 4:13-17 / Mark 9:38-40

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

Similarly, we may think that our country's food is the best, until we go abroad and have a taste of another country's cuisine.

The main difference between being narrow-minded and broad-minded lies in the attitude and in the way we look at things and people.

The two readings of today give us concrete examples of the difference between being narrow-minded and broad-minded.

The 1st reading quotes some people who talk about making plans for the future and what they are going to do and with hopes of making some money too.

But it is like a tunnel-vision of life and God does not seem to be included in their plans; it was all about themselves and nothing about God or anyone else.

If the problem with the people in the 1st reading is the exclusion of others in their life and in their plans, then the problem that we see in the gospel is that of non-acceptance.

John saw a man doing the same ministry as them and because he was not one of them, they tried to stop him. They couldn't accept that man and what he did.

And Jesus gave His disciples a very broad principle: Anyone who is not against us is for us.

The broad-minded see the truth; the narrow-minded see only the difference. Let us pray that we will be able to see God in little things and give Him glory for everything.

Monday, May 21, 2018

7th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 22-05-18

James 4:1-10 / Mark 9:30-37

We may have enough of life experiences to say that nothing is a coincidence. Everything happens for, and with, a reason.

For example, today's two readings are not put together by coincidence, even though it may not have been planned that way.

Even in the 1st reading, St. James didn't write about the wars and battles in the Christian community by coincidence.

He was addressing a startling reality that has, surprisingly, infected the Church, and all because the fundamental factor is forgotten.

He puts it in this way: Don't you realize that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God's enemy.

And that was also the same spiritual infection that Jesus was addressing in the gospel with His disciples.

The disciples were also fighting among themselves for status and power and glory.

Isn't this same spiritual infection also affecting us? And the disease may have gotten so serious that the poor and lowly, the humble and the helpless, end up as casualties in this battle and war of darkness.

Let us heed the spiritual advice of St. James in the 1st reading - Give in to God then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you draw to God, the nearer He will come to you.

Yes, let us humble ourselves before the Lord and before others, and God will lift us up.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mary, Mother of the Church, Monday, 21-05-18

Acts 1:12-14 / John 19:25-27

In the 1st reading, we heard that after Jesus was taken up to heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and went to the upper room where they were staying

There they devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.

That was the last mention of Mary. After that there was no more mention of her in the rest of the Bible.

This last mention of Mary is significant because that was also her purpose after Jesus was taken up to heaven.

Mary stayed with the apostles and she was with them in prayer. She was doing this because she was obedient to what Jesus entrusted to her while He was on the cross.

Because Mary remembered what Jesus told her when He was on the cross: Woman, behold your son.

Though she did not reply, her silence was her consent. She not only agreed to be the mother of the disciple that Jesus loved, she understood that she was to be the mother of all the disciples of Jesus.

Today's memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, is a new addition to the liturgical calendar of the Church.

That title of Mary, Mother of the Church, was officially given to Mary during the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI.

So from Mother of God, she is now also the Mother of the Church. And if we are obedient to what Jesus said on the cross, then we too must embrace Mary as our Mother, which most of us would be more willing to do.

But for us, Mary is not just our Mother, but we would also want to carry out what Jesus entrusted to us and we want Mary to be the Mother of all peoples.

As we celebrate this memorial, let us make our Mother known to all peoples, for in doing so, we are also making Jesus known to all peoples.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost Sunday, Year B, 20.05.2018

Acts 2:1-11 / 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13 / John 20:19-23
Usually the meanings of words don’t change much, or at least not so much of a drastic change. Anyway if the meanings of words change too much and too often, then language is no more a means of communication. Nobody will understand each other anymore.

Yet there are some words that have a totally different meaning or a new meaning from what was originally meant.

Today’s feast of Pentecost is one good example. “Penta” is the Greek word which means “five”. “Pentecost” means “fiftieth day”. But it points to the Jewish “feast of the harvest”, which is 50 days after the Passover feast.

But for the Church, the feast of Pentecost does not have any of those meanings. Rather for the Church, Pentecost means the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles as we heard in the 1st reading.

So on that day, while the Jewish feast of the harvest was going on, a new Christian feast was about to take place. And we can say that it really began in a dramatic way.

Well, at first the apostles met in one room and they didn’t expect anything much to happen, or so they thought. 

Then suddenly, there was a powerful wind from heaven. And then something appeared to them like tongues of fire that come to rest on the head of each of them. 

Somehow they knew they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak foreign languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speech. And they went out preaching about the marvels of God, and the people heard them in their own language.

So it was a dramatic happening day as the Church burst into birth and that’s why Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church.

But today as we gather in Church for the feast of Pentecost, there are no apparent dramatic happenings. In fact it is solemn and sober. Yet the feast of Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit no less.

So where is the presence of the Holy Spirit? In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is commonly manifested in five forms.

First is the powerful wind as we heard in the 1st reading, or the breath of God which gave man life as recorded in Genesis 2:7. It was the same breath that Jesus breathed on His apostles as He said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

The second form of the Holy Spirit is fire. It was the pillar of fire in Exodus 13:21 that guided the Israelites in the desert. In the 1st reading it was the tongues of flame that rested on the heads of the apostles.

The third form of the Holy Spirit is oil. In the Old Testament, oil was used to anoint priests, prophets and kings. In the New Testament, oil was used to anoint the sick and to bring about healing.

The fourth form of the Holy Spirit is water. Water is a profound sign of the Holy Spirit as it quenches thirst, cleanses and washes wounds and impurities.

The fifth form of the Holy Spirit is in the form of a dove. After the flood, it was a dove that brought an olive branch to Noah (Genesis 8:11) and he knew that the waters have subsided and the earth was dry. The Holy Spirit also descended on Jesus after His baptism in the form of a dove. The dove is also a sign of docility and humility.

So the feast of Pentecost reminds us that the signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit are always present to us. As we come into the church, we mark ourselves with the sign of the cross with Holy Water. That’s already an acknowledgment of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Water.

As we look around at the sanctuary, we see the lighted lamps fueled by blessed olive oil. Fire and oil are signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The breath of God proclaiming the Word of God gives us the Word of life, which in the Eucharist becomes the Bread of life for us.

And docile to God’s will, we worship God with humility, and filled with the Holy Spirit, we go forth to proclaim the wonders and marvels of God.

And with that we become the most profound sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. But the indicator of whether we are a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is to look into our hearts and see if we are at peace.

In the gospel, when Jesus appeared to His disciples, His first words are “Peace be with you.” They were filled with joy and then Jesus breathed on them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus wants our hearts to be at peace. He wants to forgive our sins and heal our wounded hearts. He wants to fill us with joy so that as He breathes the Holy Spirit upon us, we will be raised to a new life with meaning and with direction.

All the means are available to us for our hearts to be healed and to be at peace – the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist, and all those other signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who comes to help us in our weakness.

So let us breathe in the breath of God, and to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that we will proclaim the wonders and marvels of God, with peace and joy in our hearts.

Friday, May 18, 2018

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 19-05-18

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31 / John 21:20-25

If we were in a supermarket just to buy something, we might be tempted to browse around and see what else we can get.

We might end up getting quite a lot of stuff but forgetting to get what we actually wanted.

In that sense, a shopping list is important to help us stay focused in getting what we actually needed, and also to prevent us from going on a shopping spree.

In the gospel, Jesus had just commissioned Peter to take care of the early Church.

But just as quickly, Peter got distracted and was curious about the other disciple whom Jesus loved.

In a very firm and pointed manner, Jesus addressed the issue: What does it matter to you? You are to follow me.

In other words, Jesus was saying to Peter: Mind your own business, stay focused and follow me.

Even in the 1st reading, St. Paul did not lament about being in chains despite his innocence, but he took the opportunity to proclaim the Kingdom of God despite wearing those chains. He stayed focused on Jesus.

So Peter's distraction and Paul's predicament have taught us to focus our minds and hearts on Jesus and to follow him.

Nothing else really matters.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 18-05-18

Acts 25:13-21 / John 21:15-19

During these days of the Easter season, we have heard quite a lot about St. Paul, about the zeal that he had and how anxious he was about the early church that they stay faithful to Jesus.

In the 1st reading, we learnt about St. Paul's conviction in just one short sentence from the governor Festus.

Festus referred to Jesus as someone whom St. Paul alleged to be alive.

It was not just St. Paul's conviction, but also his most profound experience of the Risen Christ, even though he had not seen the Risen Christ with his own eyes.

But that experience earned him the title of apostle.

That experience also led him to make statements like "Nothing matters to me but Christ alone" and "It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me".

That was also what Jesus wanted to know from St. Peter, when He asked him: Do you love me more than these others do?

Even from His own hand-picked apostles, Jesus wanted to know how committed were they in their love for Him.

And from us, Jesus also wants to know our convictions and our commitment in our love for Him.

So, either Jesus is our all in all in our love, or He is not at all in our lives.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 17-05-18

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 / John 17:20-26

To a great extent, the Catholic Church shows a unity in many aspects.

We have a hierarchy with the Pope as the head of the Church.

We have a defined body of teachings.

We have a common form of worship, even though the language might be different from place to place.

So in many ways, these aspects reinforce our unity as Church.

But the unity that Jesus prayed for is not just about external uniformity.

Jesus prayed for the unity between persons and between peoples.

He used Himself and the Father as a model of that unity.

It is a unity of heart and mind; it is a communion of love.

But the human tendency is to be divided rather than to be united; to be separated than to be connected.

Jesus prayed for unity. His prayer will be fulfilled by the Spirit which binds hearts and minds in a communion of love.

And when things get messed up and even heated up as we heard in the 1st reading, then let us remember these words of wisdom:

In the essentials, let there be unity.
In the non-essentials, let there be liberty.
In all things, let there be charity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 16-05-18

Acts 2028-36 / John 17:11-19

In the gospel of Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

In just one sentence, there are three types of animals, each of different characteristics.

The sheep listens to the voice of the shepherd. So if Jesus sends us out only to be surrounded by fierce and raging wolves, then we also must remember that we are not alone. 

Because the Shepherd will be with his sheep, and so we are assured that Jesus will be with us even though we are surrounded by the wolves.

The wolf is the biblical symbol of the persecutor, and St. Paul said in the 1st reading that when he had gone, fierce wolves will invade the Christian community and will have no mercy on the flock.

But in the face of these fierce and raging wolves, whether they are from without or even from within, we need to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.

We need to be wise enough to know that Jesus is watching over the Church and that the Church teaches the truth instead of being swayed by the travesty of truth by individuals or groups who want to induce us to follow them.

We also need to be humble and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate and who will help us follow the truth and walk the way of Jesus.

Let us pray that we, the Church, will be always protected by our Good Shepherd and that we will listen to His voice in the Church so that He will lead us to rest in the green pastures even in the midst of the howling of the fierce wolves.

Monday, May 14, 2018

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 15-05-18

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

Whenever we talk about parting or farewell, we get into a melancholic mood; there is an inevitable sadness to it.

In both of today' readings, we hear of a parting or farewell.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul said that he was about to finish his race and had carried out the mission that he was given.

In the gospel, Jesus said that the hour has come and He had finished the work He was given to do and He was going back to the Father.

But if we were to look at what Jesus and St. Paul had accomplished until that point in time, then we have to say that nothing much has actually been achieved.

But yet in both cases, the trust was in God who will bring their work to fulfillment.

So in spite of the unfinished business, Jesus and St. Paul gave us a message of hope.

It was a firm hope in God who will take care of everything.

We may be very busy in life but do we have anything to show for it?

If we are only busy with the things of this world, there will be nothing to show for it.

But when we are busy with the work of God, then the Holy Spirit will help us bring it to fulfillment.

Then the work we do will bear fruit that will last.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

St. Matthias, Apostle, Monday, 14-05-18

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / John 19:9-17

The name Matthias is of Hebrew origin and it means "the gift of God"

But Matthias was not chosen to replace Judas just because he had a nice and meaningful name.

Rather, he was chosen by a draw of lots.

We would think that it was a rather primitive and secular method to use for such an important and sacred task.

But it only shows that the apostles left the choice to God.

They have done their part by proposing the candidates and commending them to the Lord in prayer.

Then they let the Lord guide them in making the choice.

As Jesus said in the gospel, it is not we who chose Him.

Rather it is He who chose us, and He commissions us to go forth and bear lasting fruit.

Hence, it is not so much our suitability for the task at hand but rather our availability for God.

Our availability is our response to God, just as St. Matthias made his availability his response to God.

So what we are is God's gift to us. How we can be available for God is our gift to God.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 13.05.18

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / 1 John 4:11-16 / John 17:11-19

Among the many subjects taught in school is history. History may not seem like a major subject like math and science, and trying to make a living out of knowing the past has limited prospects.

A story goes that a parent asked the teenager: Why are you not doing well in history? The teenager replied: Because the teacher keeps asking about the things that happened before I was born!

But those who do not know history are destined to repeat it. And we are not here to repeat history; rather we are here to create history.

And if we think we are having it tough, then we just have to read the history books. We will probably change our minds.

But we can also make history interesting for children if we can come up with some corny history riddles –
-       Why are the Dark Ages called the Dark Ages? Because there were many knights.
-       When a knight is killed in battle, what sign would they put on his grave? RIP – Rust in peace
-       What lights did Noah use in the ark? Floodlights.

So history is not a burden on the memory but a direction for our present reality. The more we know about the past, the better we are prepared for the future.

The month of May has many significant historical events for the world and also for the Church. Today is the 13th May. Back in 1917, and that’s just about a hundred years ago, Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, in an obscure village of Fatima in Portugal.

It was a significant event that happened towards the end of WW I. The message was the call to prayer and penance, to repentance and conversion, so that there can be peace in the world, otherwise a greater and more terrible war will happen.

Maybe the Church and the world knew about the message rather late, and maybe the response was slow to heed the message of peace, and consequently WW II struck with terrible consequences.

Has the lesson been learnt? After 100 years, will we heed the message of peace? Or will history repeat itself?

Fast forward to the year 1981, also on the same day, 13th May, Pope John Paul II was entering St. Peter’s Square in the pope mobile and waving to the crowds. But one man in the crowd had evil and sinister intentions.

When the Pope was within range, the man, Mehmet Ali Ağca, fired four rounds with an automatic pistol in an attempt to kill the Pope. But by the grace of God, and as Pope JP II said later, by the protection of Our Lady, though he was critically wounded, he survived the assassination attempt.

And upon his recovery, Pope JP II even went to visit his assassin in prison, in what was termed as the famous act of forgiveness and even obtained pardon for him. And with that history was created and it went into the books.

So in the history books of the Church, we can truly see how Jesus had watched over the Church and protected those that belonged to Him, as He said in the gospel.

Jesus even prayed that we be protected from the evil one, so that the evil and terrible moments of history will not be repeated.

Indeed Jesus watches over us and He prayed that we be protected from evil because we have this mission of being sent into the world to proclaim the truth of God’s love.

To communicate the truth of love and the truth with love is our mission so that we bring the message of hope to a world that has seen history repeating itself, and repeating not for the better.

Today we also celebrate Mothers’ Day and we honour mothers for their role in the formation of their children in faith and values so that their children will go on to create a beautiful history for the world.

What I am holding in my hand is a light bulb, an old-fashioned filament light bulb. But it has a beautiful history and a beautiful story as well.

One day, in the year 1855, a 7 year-old boy came home crying. When his mother asked him why, he told her that his school teacher called him “addled”, a word that means slow, confused and mixed-up. 

When the boy asked the teacher what it meant, he crudely told him that his brains were all scrambled.

Well, the matter of fact was that the boy was very curious, he liked to ask a lot of questions, so the teacher thought of him as rather “unteachable”.

So, the mother told the crying boy, “My son is not addled. If nobody wants to teach my son, then I will teach him.” She then proceeded to teach him at home. 

That was in 1855. Many years later, when he died in 1931, homes and businesses briefly turned off their electric light bulbs in honour of this person, who as a boy was termed as slow, confused and mixed up.

Well, that person was none other than Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors. And his inventions included the sound recorder, the motion picture camera, as well as improving the telegraph and the telephone. And of course, the electric light bulb!
For someone who had only about 3 months of formal schooling, Thomas Edison owned 1093 US patents, as well as hundreds in other countries.

All because his mother took the trouble to teach him, when others thought he was hopeless.

Thomas Edison said this of his mother: “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I have someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint.” A lovely and touching tribute from a great inventor, Thomas Edison, to an ordinary and simple mother, Nancy Edison, his mother.

It can also be a fitting tribute to all mothers as we honour them and pray for them on Mothers’ Day.

So mothers, know that when you are teaching something good to your children, you are actually creating history, a beautiful history that will be written by the hand of Jesus.

As for us, we are preparing for the Parish Feast day in a month’s time. We are folding these “Jesus Invites” so that others will have the opportunity to offer up their needs and petitions to Jesus during the triduum in preparation for the feast day.

We need to fold at least 6000 of these. What we see on the side altars are already 6000 from last year’s feast day triduum.

Our mission as the Parish of Sacred Heart is to fold these “Jesus Invites” so that others can put in their prayer petitions and we believe that they will experience the watchful love and protection of Jesus. 

Yes, we believe that, and as we make our spiritual contribution in folding these “Jesus Invites” may we also know that we are making and creating a beautiful history for the future generations.

Friday, May 11, 2018

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 12-05-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

6th Week of Easter, Friday, 11-05-18

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

Children usually don't cry for no reason. Even babies don't cry for no reason.

Whether babies or children, they cry when they need something or when the need is not met. So they cry out for attention in order to have their needs met.

Among other reasons, babies and children cry when they are in distress, or when they feel frightened or threatened.

In other words, they cry when they feel insecure and it can be like a wailing that is difficult to ignore.

When Jesus said that we would be weeping and wailing, we would certainly agree. Who among us have not known distress, or feel frightened or threatened. Who among us have not felt an insecurity that made us quiver and feel cold.

St. Paul in the 1st reading would have felt all the above when a concerted attack was made on him and he was brought before the tribunal.

But he didn't weep or wail because the Lord had told him in a vision earlier that the Lord was with him and he need not fear.

And the Lord Jesus is telling us in the gospel that as much as we might weep or even wail and feel distressed and frightened and insecure, yet our sorrow will turn to joy.

And it is a joy that only He can give and that joy no one shall take from us.

So let us continue to believe and put our faith in our Lord Jesus. And when we cry out to Him, He will hear us and come to save us. Just on that alone should give us peace and joy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ascension of the Lord, Year B, 10.05.18

Acts 1:1-11 / Ephesians 1:17-23 / Mark 16:15-20

The Ascension of the Lord is an important feast day and a day of obligation because it points to one important aspect of our faith  - Jesus has gone up to heaven to prepare a place for us so that where He is we too shall be.

At His Resurrection, He conquered sin and death and raised us to life. In the Ascension, this life takes on a clearer and more profound aspect- eternal life in heaven with Jesus.

That should make us set our hearts on things of above and not of things of earth.

But does that mean that we don’t bother about anything and do nothing about our life here on earth?

Of course it is needless to answer that question. But at the same time, we also need to understand that our life on earth is a preparation for the eternal life of heaven.

So what must we do on earth then? What Jesus said to the Eleven, He also says to us: Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.

Jesus also gave a list of signs that will be associated with believers: they will cast out devils, have the gift of tongues, pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.

All that seems rather lofty and maybe even unbelievable. Can we do all that? Have we done all that?

But before we discourage ourselves with a barrage of “No” to what Jesus said, we need to find out what is the sign that Jesus wants us to be.

And this is where we need to go back to the 1st reading when Jesus also said that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us, and then we will be witnesses reaching out to the ends of the earth.

So as Jesus ascends into heaven, He wants us to prepare the descent of the Holy Spirit, who will empower us to be witnesses and to be signs.

So as much as we set our hearts to the things of above, may we also be witnesses and signs to the people of the earth.

We must be living signs to point them to heaven. Because that’s where we are going, and we want them to go along with us.