Saturday, August 4, 2018

18th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 05.08.2018

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 / Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 / John 6:24-35 

In a few days’ time, we will be celebrating National Day. That should be obvious enough as the Singapore flag makes its annual appearance and there are six flags fluttering prominently at the front of the church. 

As Singapore marks its 53 years of independence, it can be said that Singapore has grown into a fine country, in almost every sense of the word. 

And some would agree that it is a fine country, at least in a funny sense: “No littering – Fine $1000”, “No smoking – fine $1000”, “No eating and drinking – Fine $500” (inside MRT), “No jaywalking – Fine $1000”, “No spitting – Fine $1000”. 

The law and order imposed with a fine, makes Singapore a uniquely fine country. Maybe that’s also a tourist attraction as others would like to see how fine Singapore is in carrying out its law and order. (What a fine way to put it). 

Whatever we might want to say about it, it is a sort of legacy that we have inherited and it has shown results, in that we would think again before we throw something out of the window, or jaywalk across the road.  

In short, when we are about to commit an offence, there is a “fine” way to deter us. It may be a uniquely Singaporean way but it works fine. 

But can that also be applied to other aspects of Singaporean habits? Like for example: “No complaining – Fine $500”. Singaporeans give the impression that they are like spoilt brats and are always complaining about the ERP that never fails, and the MRT that often fails, and everything in between. 

But we can have the consolation that to complain is a human tendency. We complain because there is something better to compare with. This so-callled “better” thing may just be an illusion or even an imagination, but still, it spurs us on to complain. 

Even the Israelites in the 1st reading succumbed to this human tendency. We read that the whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 

The point of contention was that as slaves in Egypt they had enough to eat, whereas now they are freed, there was nothing to eat. 

It is said that a hungry man is an angry man, but a hungry man can also be a crazy man. Hunger drove the Israelites to think that slavery with a full stomach is better than freedom on an empty stomach. Such is the delusive power of hunger – it makes a person angry and crazy. 

But it doesn’t just stop there. Besides making a person angry and even crazy, hunger can also make a person greedy. 

And that’s what Jesus told the people in the gospel – “I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs, but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.” 

So at first, they were hungry for bread, but having been fed to the full, they are now greedy for more. They looked for Jesus because they wanted to see what else they can get out of Jesus. So at first, they were hungry, but now they are greedy. 

And greed has a sibling called selfishness. Oh yes, they come together, just as angry and crazy come together. But whether it is being angry and crazy, or greedy and selfish, they have an appetite that cannot be satisfied. What’s more, they eat away at us until we become an ugly person, or an ugly Singaporean, or an ugly Catholic. 

Jesus tells us not to work for food that cannot last, but to work for food that endures to eternal life. 

And just as Jesus is the bread of life for us, then we are also called to share the bread of life with others. That will be the food that endures to eternal life. 

This year’s National Day theme is “We are Singapore”,  and in a competition held by The Straits Times, participants were asked to identify a hero in a photo and describe why the heroic act matters. 

One of the submissions was from the 18 year-old Beatrice Chao, daughter of the late Dr Alexandre Chao. 

Beatrice Chao lost her dad when she was just three years old - but she has taken comfort knowing he was a hero. 

Dr. Alexandre Chao died from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) while serving in a hospital fighting the deadly virus. 

Dr Chao, a 37-year-old Singapore General Hospital vascular surgeon, had voluntarily cut short his holiday in the United States to join his colleagues to fight SARS in 2003. 

Beatrice said that when she saw her father's photo in the newspaper, she was very moved. She was surprised and touched that people still cared about her father's story and hopes that they will adopt his philosophy of always placing others before himself. 

The legacy that Dr. Chao left for his daughter is also a legacy left for Singapore and for all of us. 

It’s a legacy that will inspire more similar legacies that will turn us always from complaining about hunger to being a provider, to stop being a problem and to becoming a solution. 

Jesus has given Himself to us as the bread of life; there is nothing more that we shall want. 

And let us go forth to share the bread of our lives with others so that they too will know that besides the hunger in the stomach, there is a hunger in the heart that only Jesus can fill.  

That will be the legacy that we will leave behind.