Tuesday, April 30, 2019

St. Joseph the Worker, Wednesday, 01-05-19

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

Where there is work to be done, the usual reaction would be anything from indifference to reluctance.

Not everyone is going to be that enthusiastic about work, especially when the work is not that pleasing and when it is also quite demanding of our time and our energy.

In the 1st reading, we heard of God creating the world, and after the heaven and the earth were completed with all their array, God rested on the seventh day after all the work He had been doing.

God also blessed the seventh day and made it holy. We can imagine God taking pride in His work of creation and seeing it as very good, and hence the seventh day is indeed a holy day, and especially for us to wonder and give thanks for God's creation.

Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we ask for his intercession for all workers that, like him, we will give glory to God with the work of our hands.

But St. Joseph is not the patron saint of workers just because he was a carpenter. His most important work was that he took Mary home to be his wife and to be legal father of Jesus.

It was a work, or a mission, that he was not prepared, nor did he expect it. But with further promptings from God and in obedience, St. Joseph accepted the work he was tasked to do, with commitment and with responsibility.

May we, like St. Joseph, always do our work well and give glory to God with the work of our hands.

May we also, like St. Joseph, be prepared to do God's work willingly and cheerfully, so that God's work of creation will be continued in us.

Monday, April 29, 2019

2nd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 30-04-19

Acts 4:32-37 / John 3:7-15

We have often heard this statement of faith - With God nothing is impossible. We not only have heard it we have used it even, and most likely on others.

But when we are faced with a task that is beyond our capabilities or can't comprehend it with our logic, then do we really believe that nothing is impossible with God?

From what we heard in the 1st reading, we may comment that it was idealistic. In our current church or parish settings, it would be too naive, if not impossible, to live like that.

Being united in heart and soul is already difficult enough, to say nothing of owning nothing and everything being held in common.

We may wonder and ask "How can?". But if with God nothing is impossible, then why cannot?

If we do not believe that such things can happen on earth, then how are we going to come to terms with things of faith and heavenly things.

That was what Jesus said to Nicodemus in the gospel. Because Nicodemus kept saying that it was impossible for a person to be reborn in the Spirit.

Similarly we too must believe that with the risen Lord, we too will be able to rise from our sinfulness and live a life of holiness, a life in the Spirit.

It is not a question of "How can?"; it's a matter of "Why cannot?"

Sunday, April 28, 2019

2nd Week of Easter, Monday, 29-04-19

Acts 4:23-31 / John 3:1-8

The usual practice for the Rite of Baptism is to use water as the form or the means for baptism.

So whether it is infant or adult, whether it is by immersion or by affusion, the form or the means is water.

The symbol of water gives us the indication that baptism washes away our sins and purifies us and makes us God's children.

Yet water has also an additional meaning. It also points to the descent of the Holy Spirit into our hearts at our baptism.

So at our baptism, it is like what Jesus said in the gospel - we are born again through water and the Spirit.

The waters of baptism purify us, and the Spirit sanctifies us.

The Spirit sanctifies us to be a people of prayer who will listen to the promptings of the Spirit.

It is in trusting in the Spirit that we will experience the power of prayer.

In the 1st reading, as the disciples prayed, the house where they were assembled began to rock.

May our hearts too be moved by the Spirit when we pray.

As our hearts begin to be moved by the Spirit in prayer, we also pray that the hearts of those whom we are praying for be moved so that they too will follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C, 27.04.2019

Acts 5:12-16 / Apocalypse 1:9-13, 17-19 / John 20:19-31
It has been a week since we celebrated Easter Sunday. It would certainly be nice to take a break and have a little rest.

Because Lent is a spiritually packed season, with a sharp emphasis on prayer, penance and almsgiving, along with the Way of the Cross, Confessions, etc.

All that reaches its peak with Holy Week and especially at the Holy Triduum, where Maundy Thursday moves on to Good Friday and into Easter Vigil and then Easter Sunday.

We can imagine the physical state of the priests on Easter Sunday evening, almost like a state of spiritual comatose. It was a long week with a busy weekend.

There is this so-called Easter joke, of a boy who came home after a long day at school. He told his mother that he has a stomach ache.

His mother told him, “That’s because there is nothing in your stomach. You’ve got to put something in it.” And she quickly prepared some food which he ate and he felt better. 

On Easter Sunday, the boy went with his parents for the evening Mass. After Mass, they met the priest at the entrance. The priest shared with them that it was a long and tiring weekend and that he was having a headache.

Then the boy remembered what his mother told him and he said to the priest, “Father, you are having a headache because there is nothing in your head. You need to put something into your head.”

Stomach ache or headache or backache, if it’s not serious, can be cured and we can get better quickly if there is the correct medicine.

But there are some pains that are difficult to cure. It is not so much a physical pain like a headache or stomachache, but rather spiritual, like a heartache.

Heartaches are difficult to cure because there is no medication for it, and what is needed is not so much a cure but more of a healing.

It can be said that the disciples in the gospel were suffering heartaches from a number of causes. There was guilt from betraying and denying and deserting Jesus, there was the fear of the Jews, their faith was broken and the future was just blank hopelessness.

It was a heartache that no medicine can cure because it was more than a physical pain – it was a spiritual pain that required a spiritual healing. 

It was in this state of utter despair that the Risen Lord Jesus came and stood among them, and His first words were “Peace be with you”. 

And that was what the disciples needed most. Jesus came not to settle scores but to sooth the sore and painful hearts that were broken with guilt and pain.

And Jesus even came back again eight days later just for Thomas, who had said, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in His hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into His side, I refuse to believe.”

We can understand how the disciples and especially Thomas felt. With a shattered faith and blank hopelessness, it was very difficult to believe, especially in something like the Resurrection.

Just a week ago, on Easter Sunday, when the whole Church was celebrating the joy of the Resurrection, terrorists attacked and bombed three churches and four luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, leaving more than 250 people dead.

One of the targets of the horrendous Easter Sunday bombings was St. Anthony’s Church, which is renowned as a place of worship open to all faiths. But the bombings have shut its doors for now. For the first time in its 175-year history, people can’t go into the church. In fact, all worship services have been suspended throughout Sri Lanka.

The church is fondly called a “miracle church” because her patron, St. Anthony, has a reputation of a “miracle worker”, and no prayer request, no matter how big or small or strangely specific, is left unanswered by St. Anthony, as the people would testify.

But on Monday, despite the church grounds being cordoned off and no one was allowed to enter the church, still a large crowd gathered around the perimeter, staring at the building, praying perhaps. Faith is shaken and broken, like the disciples in the gospel.

They have witnessed horrendous carnage and the loss of innocent lives. So will the horror erode the people’s faith in the power of God and of the Church?

Fr. Leo Perera, a Sri Lankan priest has this to say: You cannot keep people away from here just because of something like this. They will keep coming back because this is the time they need the presence of God in their lives. In no way this will affect the state of the Church and the faith of her believers.

Maybe this explains why many people still came together to stand in front of the church. Yes, they come to express sadness and horror at what took place at the church. Yet they came to express hope.

In the darkness of the hour, the church continues to be a symbol of hope, with many Sri Lankans choosing to stand together despite the terror and horror that have unfolded before their eyes.

And with the church closed and worship services suspended for the time being, the Risen Lord Jesus now goes out to stand amongst the people.

The Risen Lord Jesus stands among them to heal their heartaches and despair and to bring them peace.

We too must stand with the Church and the people of Sri Lanka and to offer prayer for them, since they can’t even go to church to pray.

And let us also learn from them and see how the Risen Lord Jesus will heal their heartaches with His peace. 

Their heartaches are also a mirror of our own heartaches. Their healing will also give us hope that our own heartaches will be healed.

That is the power of the Risen Lord Jesus. His peace and His mercy is what is needed to heal our heartaches and the heartache of the world.

Saturday within Octave of Easter, 27-04-19

Acts 4:13-21 / Mark 16:9-15     

Faith is a gift from God. It is not something we can earn or acquire by our own efforts or resources.

But how God grants this gift of faith and in what measure is somewhat a mystery.

A person can read the whole Bible and the profound theological books and listen to the most persuasive preacher and yet do not have faith.

On the other hand a person can just come across an ordinary mundane experience and yet be converted, as in the case of St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

In the 1st reading, ordinary uneducated laymen like Peter and John were preaching about the resurrection of Christ.

There was even proof of what they were saying in the person of the healed cripple.

Yet the elders and the scribes somehow did not believe them.

In the gospel, Mary Magdalene went to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But they refused to believe her. (Well, it can be very difficult to believe that a person can rise from the dead).

The main phrase that runs through the readings is "did not believe".

The gospel even mentioned that Jesus reproached His disciples for their incredulity and obstinacy for their refusal to believe in His resurrection.

As for ourselves, regardless of whether we have inherited the faith because of our parents or came to believe in the faith in our adult years, the challenge for us is to grow and deepen in our faith.

If faith is a gift from God, then we must treasure and nourish this gift with prayer and devotion.

We also must persist in our faith. That is one profound way of proclaiming our trust and faith in God.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Friday within Octave of Easter, 26-04-19

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

The last chapter of the Gospel of John is chapter 21, and today's gospel passage is taken from that chapter.

And this passage recalls many occasions for reminiscing.

When Peter said he wanted to go fishing, probably he wanted to recall how his life had turned out since the time he left his fisherman trade to follow Jesus.

And then there was the miraculous catch of the 153 fish; another reminder for Peter of that occasion, at the same lake, when he witnessed a miraculous catch of fish under the similar circumstances.

And then the sight of the charcoal fire. It was while standing before another charcoal fire that he denied knowing Jesus.

And then the bread and fish - it certainly reminded him of the miraculous feeding of the thousands.

It was in the midst of all this recollection and reminiscing that Jesus asked Peter the question "Do you love me?"

How else could Peter answer?

And when Jesus asked him to feed His sheep, how could he reject?

And when it came for him to lay down his life for Jesus, how could he not do it willingly?

Because when it comes to Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John, Peter knew that Jesus is the only one who can save us.

It was a conviction which he declared in the 1st reading.

We too will come to a Chapter 21 of our lives.

And as we recall and reminisce what God has done for us in our lives, may we also say, like Peter, that we love Jesus, and may we proclaim His as Saviour.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thursday within Octave of Easter, 25-04-19

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

Today's readings underscore three interwoven aspects of our lives as Christians.

Firstly, there is the reality of the resurrection.

Jesus had to say quite a bit to convince His disciples of the reality of His resurrection - Touch me, I have flesh and bones. I am not a ghost. Yes, I am risen. And I can even eat fish.

Secondly, there is the necessity of the cross. The Christ would have to suffer and die and then rise from the dead.

And thirdly, there is this urgency to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins.

However in life, that order somehow becomes a little different.

Firstly, we must feel the urgency for repentance of our sins, whether it is because of grave illness or some close shaves in life.

We must long for that freedom to be forgiven and to forgive others too.

But that urgency and longing can only come about when we face the cross.

Because the cross challenges us to turn away from sin, to empty out our selfishness  and to pour out our lives for others.

There is no other way to experience the reality of the resurrection except through the way of the cross.

So whenever we choose the cross, we choose what is now, and that is the life of freedom, and we also choose what is beyond, and that is the life of the resurrection.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Wednesday within Octave of Easter, 24-04-19

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

The main reason and purpose that a priest is ordained for is because of the Eucharist.

So it is imperative that a priest should celebrate the Eucharist with reverence and with devotion.

To the laity, this might sound rather superfluous.

After all, that is what a priest does everyday and hence he should be more than familiar with the Eucharist.

But precisely, that is where the problem can begin.

Because if familiarity can lead to contempt, then routine can be the death of reverence.

The problem can also afflict the laity especially when they say that the Mass is boring.

Maybe they are like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They have yet to truly hear Jesus and they have yet to see Jesus in the breaking of bread.

Yet these are the questions we need to also ask ourselves. What did we hear at Mass? What did we see? Did our hearts burn within us at Mass?

There is no gold or silver that the Eucharist will offer us. But we will be filled with the greatest gift and treasure of all - the Risen Christ!

Indeed, at every Eucharist, the Emmaus experience awaits us.

Because Jesus wants to fills our thoughts and set our hearts on fire with His love.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tuesday within Easter Octave, 23-04-19

Acts 2:36-43 / John 20:11-18

The gospel began with Mary staying outside the tomb weeping.

The gospel ends with Mary of Magdala going forth to tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord.

In between, something very personal, something very intimate, happened to Mary.

She heard the Risen Lord call her by her name, and she responded in Hebrew, her mother tongue, a language that was most intimate to her.

Before that, she was a broken person - weeping, grieving and lost.

But the experience of the Risen Lord gave her back her identity and a mission; she was Mary of Magdala and she had seen the Lord.

Similarly, the Peter who spoke on the day of Pentecost was a different person from the one who denied Jesus three times and wept.

Something happens when people experience the Risen Lord. They regain their identity and find a new purpose and mission in life.

So when we feel that life has come to a standstill, our dreams are broken, and we have more fears than hopes, the Risen Lord comes to us.

He calls out to us just as He called Mary. Mary responded with her heart.

We can't be always standing outside the tomb of emptiness or the tombs of pleasure, wealth and power and sin.

The Risen Lord calls us by our names. Let us respond with our hearts so that our lives can have a meaning and a mission.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Monday within Easter Octave, 22-04-19

Acts 2:14, 22-33 / Matthew 28:8-15

Truth has a way of bringing out the stuff that people are made of.

In the gospel, we see two groups of people with different reactions to the empty tomb.

The women saw the empty tomb, saw the Truth, ie. the Risen Christ, and then went off to proclaim the truth with joy in their hearts.

The soldiers saw the empty tomb, went to report to the chief priests and the elders, cooked up a lie and then lived on in fear and in worry.

Strange that the second group of people who are supposed to be people of courage and bravery, somehow succumbed to cowardice and deceit.

And it is surprising that the first group of people, the women, who were powerless, discounted and devalued, were the ones who lived up to the truth with courage.

So as long as we have something to lose, whether it is our social standing, our reputation, our security, our investments, our pride, then we will have a difficulty with the truth.

But the Easter greeting of the Risen Christ always assures us that He knows how we feel and He knows what we need.

The Risen Lord wants to calm our hearts with these four words "Do not be afraid" so that we too can proclaim the truth.

The Truth, who is the Risen Lord, will set us free. Let us not be afraid. Jesus will be with us to conquer our fears.

Easter Sunday, Year C, 21.04.2019

Acts 10:34, 37-43 / Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6-8 / John 20:1-9
Whenever we are told that “what you see is what you get”, the meaning is almost as clear as the sentence.

What we see is almost all that we get to see and there is nothing more to it and we don’t expect anything more than it.

For example, a 5-room flat is a 5-room flat. There are no hidden rooms or extra rooms. A $10 bill is a $10 bill and there is no extra hidden value to it.

But as much as what you see is what you get, there is also the other side of things, and that is “there is more than meets the eye”.

The so-called reality that we see before us may not be all that it is. Because in everything, there is a mystery, in the broadest sense of the word.

And this mystery reveals the reality to what the eye can see, and yet this mystery may also have something more to reveal, such that the mind may take a while to comprehend and to understand.

In the mystery of the Incarnation, God became man in the person of Jesus, people saw Jesus in the flesh, the outward reality.
The people, as well as His disciples, saw how He suffered and died on the cross, as we heard in the readings on Good Friday.

And then in the Resurrection accounts, no one really saw the Risen Jesus. There were accounts of the stone that was rolled away from the tomb and it was an empty tomb.

There were accounts of angels telling the women not to look among the dead for the one who is alive.
The women ran back to tell the apostles but their story was dismissed as pure nonsense and no one believed them.

And then Peter ran to the tomb, saw the binding cloths, but nothing else, and he was just amazed.
Till then, the disciples failed to understand that Jesus must rise from the dead.

And as we gather to celebrate this great feast of Easter, the mystery of the Resurrection comes to us, just as it came to the disciples in the gospel accounts.

We too did not see the Risen Jesus, but we believe from the gospel accounts that He is risen. And blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
And for the 11 candidates for baptism, they too believe and they are requesting for baptism, and to join us in the family of faith.

Yet the mystery of the Resurrection continues to unfold and to reveal to us who believe that Jesus is risen from the dead.

These 11 candidates for baptism will be baptized with water, and after that when we renew our baptismal promises, we too will be sprinkled with holy water.

The outward sign is that we are sprinkled with holy water, but the inward reality and mystery is that the Risen Jesus comes to wash and cleanse our hearts of all sin and defilement so that we too can rise with Jesus to new life and a higher life.

An imagery that can help in understanding this is that we are like ducks in the pond. On the surface everything is calm and graceful.

But under the water, the duck’s feet are paddling furiously to keep it floating and going.

So there is nothing dramatic about being baptized with holy water or being sprinkled with holy water.
It is all smiles, and everything is peaceful and graceful.
But in our hearts, the Risen Jesus is stirring and waking us up from the slumber of sin and shining the light of His Resurrection into our hearts so that we can turn away from sin and rise with Him to the new life.

That is the reality and the mystery of the Resurrection. Let us believe and we will be amazed at what the Risen Jesus can do for us.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday, 19-04-19

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

The Good Friday celebration of the Passion of the Lord is a liturgical service that is quite different from the usual liturgical celebrations.

First, it begins with the scripture readings and with a long gospel passage about the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross.

Next comes the Solemn Intercessions in which we join our prayers with the prayer of Jesus as He hangs on the cross.

The prayers are for the Church, for the world, for every need and tribulation. It is the Church at prayer in union with Jesus on the Cross.

Following that is the Adoration of the Holy Cross, in which the crucified Jesus is shown and adored. It is a solemn moment as we see our salvation in Jesus crucified on the cross.

We then come forward to venerate the cross as a sign that we accept the salvation that Jesus is offering us, and that we will now want to carry our cross and follow Jesus in His work of salvation.

We then receive Holy Communion so as to unite ourselves with Jesus in His death, and to be raised up with Him to new life.

So the Good Friday service is a solemn and sober service as we acknowledge the crucified Jesus as our Saviour, and that through the Cross we are saved, we are forgiven and healed, and that the power of evil over us is broken.

Indeed, by the Blood of Jesus, we are saved, by His wounds we are healed, by His death, we are given new life.

So let us meditate on the Cross, let us give thanks and let us take up our cross and follow Jesus as His faithful disciples.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Holy Thursday, Year C, 18.04.2019

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / John 13:1-15
Holy Week began with a tragedy, a fiery tragedy.

A massive fire broke out at the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

It was a devastating fire that burned away the whole roof of the cathedral.

We watched the shocking videos of the tall spire collapsing under the flames, and we can imagine the nightmare of the people who were there watching the tragedy. 

It was a terrible tragedy for France and for the Church, and more so with this happening just before Easter.

And as the roof of the cathedral was engulfed in flames, firemen dashed into the Cathedral to save the priceless relics, among which was the most precious and revered Crown of Thorns.

Among the firefighters who rushed into the burning cathedral was Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, the chaplain of the Paris fire service.

As the firefighters hurriedly remove the precious relics like the Crown of Thorns and the Tunic of St. Louis, Fr Fournier headed straight towards the tabernacle.

He quickly removed the consecrated hosts from the tabernacle and kept them safely aside before continuing the rescue work.

While the media focused on the number of relics that were rescued, not much was mentioned about how Fr. Fournier retrieved the consecrated hosts from the burning Cathedral.

To say the least, the consecrated hosts or Blessed Sacrament is not a relic. It is much more than that. It is the Body of Christ, which Christ has given to us, the Church.

And in this Mass of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, we are reminded that at the Last Supper, Jesus gave Himself, Body and Blood, to His Apostles and to us for our salvation.

Fr. Fournier saved the Blessed Sacrament from the burning Notre Dame Cathedral. But in truth, it is the Blessed Sacrament who will save him and grant him eternal life.

So it will be for us too, as we humbly and reverently partake of the Blessed Sacrament, the Body of Christ.

So what has the washing of feet, which we heard in the gospel, got to do with the Eucharist? (and later we will also re-enact the washing of feet)

Jesus offers us the Eucharist for our salvation. We who are saved must in turn offer our service for the salvation of others.

Fr Fournier and the firefighters ran into the fire when it is most dangerous to do so. 

That is service, be it saving relics or retrieving the Blessed Sacrament. Or it may just be going down on our knees and do something that nobody else wants to do.

Jesus gives us the Eucharist, and to partake of the Eucharist is to do as Jesus did, so that, more than saving relics, we will continue the work of Jesus who came to seek and to save the lost, the least and the last. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Wednesday of Holy Week, 17-04-19

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

One of the most heart-wrenching statements that Jesus ever spoke was what we just heard in the gospel.

He said: I tell you most solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.

Of course, we know now what the disciples did not know then.

We know it was Judas who betrayed Jesus.

Yet Peter also denied Jesus and the other disciples fled when Jesus was arrested.

It was betrayal in different forms.

Yes, we know now what the disciples did not know then at  the Last Supper.

Yet as we gather for the Eucharist, we also do not know what lies ahead for us.

When will our trials come? Will we lose faith and betray Jesus?

The disciples all betrayed Jesus. Can we ever say that we didn't, or that we will not?

Yes, we all have sinned, and no one can ever say that he is better than the rest or that he is a lesser sinner.

But as much as all have sinned, all are also offered the grace of salvation.

In our times of weakness and temptation, let us turn to the Lord and ask for His help.

He will not abandon us, nor will He betray us.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tuesday of Holy Week, 16-04-19

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

To come together for a meal with others is not just about consuming food or giving opinions about the food that is prepared before us.

Every meal is not just a social event; it is time for bonding and the renewing and deepening of relationships and friendship.

Jesus was gathered with His disciples for a very important meal. It was the Passover meal, a sacred religious meal, which He would later turn it into the Last Supper.

So to hear that at that meal, Jesus was troubled of heart, we can immediately sense that something is not right.

And indeed things are not right at all. One of His disciples will betray Him and another will disown Him.

And the others have varying degrees of betrayal, to say the least.

But in spite of all this, Jesus still says: Now has the Son of Man been glorified.

So even in the hour of darkness, God will still reign supreme and glorified.

As we look around at our world, our surroundings, our lives, we may see quite a bit of mess or chaos.

Yet we must remember that the Lord called us by name in our mother's womb and He has formed us to be His servants, as we heard in the 1st reading.

And He will make us to be light of the nations so that God's salvation may reach the ends of the earth.

At this altar we remember that we are called through baptism. May this Eucharist also strengthen us and empower us to shine through the darkness so that God will be glorified.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Monday of Holy Week, 15-04-19

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

Whenever we hear the word worship, what are the images and emotions that come to mind?

Most probably it will be praying, kneeling, offering sacrifice, raising of hands in praise and adoration.

In whatever forms it may take, worship is essentially a total offering of self to God, and also a total abandonment into the hands of God and His will.

In the gospel, we saw how Mary made an act of total abandonment of self in her love and devotion to Jesus.

Disregarding of what people may think of her as well as their comments (we heard one from Judas), and also disregarding what others may considered wasteful (that was from Judas too), Mary gave her all to Jesus.

It was also an open display of her affection and intimacy with Jesus.

All this may sound rather too sensual for the ears but yet how can we ever describe worship if we don't see it in concrete actions like those of Mary.

Yet we can also be like Judas who will break the crushed reed and snuff out the wavering flame of worship and devotion with sarcastic and scorching comments.

Holy week is a time to reflect and meditate on the sufferings of Jesus as He offered Himself to His Father for our salvation.

May our prayer also lead us to offer ourselves in worship as we follow Jesus in His total abandonment to God and in doing His will.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Palm Sunday, Year C, 14.04.2019

Isaiah 50:4-7 / Philippians 2:6-11 / Luke 22:14 – 23:56
The full title of today’s liturgical celebration is: “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord”.

So it is not just Palm Sunday or just Passion Sunday. It is both, with one leading to the other.

We began with the Palm Sunday gospel passage of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Then we heard a long gospel passage about the suffering and death of Jesus.

The contrast between the two passages is obvious.

And as we think about it, so are our lives – there is joy as well as sorrow, success as well as failure, peace as well as chaos, health as well as sickness.

So the contrast between the two gospel passages of today is also a reflection of our experience of life.

But as much as there is a contrast, there is also a similarity.

When Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people hailed him as king.

When He was crucified on the cross, there was a notice with an inscription: This is the King of the Jews. 

So in life and in death, Jesus held on to His identity as the King of kings.

And in our contrasting experiences of life, may we always have our eyes fixed on Jesus, so that we know who we are and that we belong to Him and that He will always be with us.

For now, let us be with Jesus and be with Him in His suffering and death, and keep faith in Him as we await for Him to raise us to new life. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

5th Week of Lent, Saturday, 13-04-19

Ezekiel 37:21-28 / John 11:45-56   

Today's gospel ends with questions, and those questions will be answered in the coming days as the liturgy unfolds.

It was also a questioning time for Jesus as His hour of reckoning approaches.

So as He retreated to the countryside with His disciples, He could have decided to remain there.

He could have gone on with His work of healing and teaching in a quiet way.

Many people would have supported Him and kept Him safe.

But Jesus knew that that was not the Father's will, so He moved out of His safety zone, a move that will cost Him His life.

Hence whenever we talk about doing God's will, we have to remember that it involves risk.

It involves moving out of our safety zone and moving out of our comfort zone.

But it is only in moving out that God moves in.

It is only when we move out of our pride, our resentment, our selfishness that God can move in to strengthen us with His love and to face the questions of life.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 12-04-19

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

A hero is often associated with courage and bravery, outstanding achievements as well as noble qualities.

The general impression is that a hero has strength, much like those super-heroes that are portrayed in movies, and that in the end, the hero is the winner.

And of course there are those unsung ordinary and common heroes who persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming difficulties and obstacles.

The prophet Jeremiah, in the 1st reading, does not give the impression of being a hero or being associated as a hero.

But he certainly had to endure much  persecution and dangers for being a prophet.

And it was in his prophetic role that he showed us who his real hero is when he said, "The Lord is at my side, a mighty hero."

Yes, the Lord God is his hero, who delivers the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.

So even if we have outstanding qualities like courage or bravery, physical or mental strength, perseverance or dedication, there is one thing that we should know.

Even if others were to call us a hero, we know that we can't do one thing, and that is we can't save ourselves, no matter what our heroic deeds may be.

Indeed the Lord our God is our hero, our mighty stronghold, our Saviour, who can do much more for us than we can ever think of.

So let us not be afraid of difficulties or obstacles, or even persecutions or dangers.

Through it all, may we realise that we need the Lord, who will come to be at our side, a mighty hero.

It is only when we are needy and that we are no heroes, that the Lord our God will show us that He will deliver us from whatever difficulties and obstacles, whatever persecution and danger.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

5th Week of Lent, Thursday, 11-04-19

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

Whenever Jesus uses the phrase "I tell you solemnly ... " it means that He is giving a serious teaching.

It means that what he is going to say must be remembered because it is going to mean a lot to us.

In the gospel, Jesus used this phrase twice.

Jesus said that whoever keeps His word will never see death.

And He also solemnly proclaimed that He is the "I AM" which is the mystical name of God.

God's Word, especially His promises, are eternal, and His Word also gives us the sure hope of eternal life.

Hence even though we heard in the 1st reading that God made the promise to Abraham, yet Abraham never saw the fulfillment of the promise.

But believing in God who made that promise to him, Abraham knew that there would be life after death because the belief at that time was that the ancestors would have eternal life as long as there are descendants.

So Abraham and the prophets are not dead, as the people said in the gospel.

Yet it is only in believing and keeping God's word that we will have life.

Jesus promised us that when we keep His word and walk in His ways, we will have life, here and hereafter.

Let us believe in Jesus because His word is spirit and life and they have the message of eternal life.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

5th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 10-04-19

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

If there is something that we invented or created, we would certainly be proud of it.

It may be some kind of pottery, or a piece of painting, or some kind of machinery that can be useful to do some work more effectively.

And if we have chiselled out a beautiful statue, we would only want to put it on display for others to admire. But we would not think of making it an object of worship.

In the 1st reading, king Nebuchadnezzar erected a golden statue which he had made, and because he was king, he made his subjects prostrate and worship it.

And because he was king, all had to obey and worship that golden statue which could be a representation of himself. In other words, he thought of himself as a god.

All obeyed except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And there was no way that king Nebuchadnezzar would let this go. More than anything else, he wanted to show that he had power over life and death, and even power over the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Using the fiery furnace as a stamp of his power, he ordered the three men to be thrown in, only to be shown who really has power and who really is God.

Because Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood by their faith in God, king Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and acknowledged the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

When the powers of the world want to stamp their authority over us, let us also stand by our faith in God.

Like the three men, if our God wills to save us from the powers of the fiery furnace, then He will. And even if He does not, then let  us also believe that we will be rewarded for our faith in Him when we meet Him face to face.

Monday, April 8, 2019

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 09-04-19

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

A sign or a symbol must be clear and unmistakable if they are to point to what they should mean.

A country's flag should indicate without doubt which country it represents. Toilet signs should be distinct from lift signs. And a clinic or medical centre would have the sign of the cross, be it red or green.

But in the 1st reading we hear of a rather strange sign or symbol - a bronze serpent on a standard. And that is the sign/symbol for those who were bitten by the fiery serpents, that if they looked at it, they will not die but will live.

What is strange is that the bronze serpent is shaped like those fiery serpents that bit the people and caused death by their bites.

No matter what the explanation, it is one of the strangest stories in the Bible that will certainly raise questions.

Of course it can be put under one of those mysterious ways in which God works to bring about His saving power.

After all, it was God who told Moses to do that, so it is a divine instruction and not a human invention.

But when we think deeper about it, the cross on which Jesus died was also meant to be an instrument of suffering and death. Yet it has now become the sign/symbol of our salvation.

Just as those who were bitten by the fiery serpents only had to look at the bronze serpent on the standard and lived, we too need to look at the cross of our Saviour and believe that He died to save us.

May we truly believe that the cross is no more about suffering and death, but about forgiveness and life.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

5th Week of Lent, Monday, 08-04-19

Daniel 13:41-62 / John 8:12-20

As we listen to the readings at Mass, God speaks to us through His Word.

We reflect and meditate on the readings as we let the voice of God resonate in our hearts.

In responding to the Word of God, there is the Responsorial Psalm. Interspersed between the verses of the Psalms are responses.

The Psalms teach us how to speak to God, and the responses contain beautiful and profound expressions which can be used as our prayer to God.

In today's Responsorial Psalm, the response is: If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear.

That response expresses confidence of the prayer of Susanna as she was wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to death.

She was thrown into the valley of darkness and evil, but she pleaded for her innocence before the Eternal God. And God heard her pleas by sending Daniel to her rescue.

There are also many other responses to the Responsorial Psalm that we can use for our prayer, especially in our time of urgent and desperate need:
- Lord God, I take refuge in you
- The Lord is close to the broken-hearted
- O Lord, remember me out of the love you have for your people

So as we listen to the voice of God in the readings, let us also take up the responses from the Responsorial Psalm, and use that as our prayer-response to God.

It can be as short and as simple as this: Lord, make me know your ways; teach me your paths.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

5th Sunday of Lent, Year C, 07.04.2019

Isaiah 43:16-21 / Philippians 3:8-14 / John 8:1-11
To say that someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed is to mean that he had a bad day and probably was still having a bad day.

Come to think of it, waking up on the wrong side of the bed is still better than waking up on the floor and in shock. Yes, waking up on the wrong side of the bed is still better than falling off from the bed.

Whatever it might be, a good king-size bed can assure us of a good night’s sleep with no worries of falling off the bed.

But what happens when we wake up and get out of bed can be quite another story. We don’t know what kind of day awaits us.

A priest celebrated Mass with a big plaster on his chin. He told the people that he was thinking about the homily while he was shaving and accidentally cut his chin, hence the plaster. It was a careless start to the day.
When the priest got back to his office, there was an email in the computer that read: Dear Father, please be careful. In future, think about your shaving and cut the homily!
We know that it is one of those bad days when we expected to get sympathy and some people turn our misery into a comedy.

And some people will even say that if we think we are having a bad day, we better be prepared that it might just get worse. What a consolation when we are in our desolation!

Of course we can prepare ourselves for a bad day, but we won’t know when it will happen and we won’t know what to expect.

In the gospel, it seemed to be just another day for Jesus. He was at the Mount of Olives, a popular place for prayer and meditation. Then at daybreak, He appeared in the Temple and as the people came to Him, He sat down and began to teach them.

All seemed well, until the scribes and Pharisees dragged in a woman who had been caught committing adultery. In full view of everybody, they asked Jesus for His judgement on her. And as the Gospel added, they asked Him this as a test, looking for something to use against Him.

Whenever the scribes and the Pharisees appear, they bring bad news, and it seems like it’s going to be another bad day for Jesus. So how is He going to handle this tricky situation?
We should know by now that not every day is a good day, but there is something good in every day. 
And that is what Jesus wants to teach us. Every day He had to face the plotting of the scribes and Pharisees, and yet through it all, He teaches us something good.

And in this instance, Jesus taught us that He was not too concerned about the trickery of the scribes and the Pharisees and the trouble that He was facing.

Rather His concern was for that woman caught for committing adultery, shamed in public, and probably would be executed by stoning. It was a bad day for that woman and seems like it was only going to get worse.

But if her day was bad, her life was probably tragic. How did she end up in such a bad state, and now she is being used to trap Jesus and after that she will be disposed of. Hers was a sad life and coming to a sad end.

But Jesus took up the sinfulness of that woman and brought out the sinfulness of the others when He said, “If there is one of you who have not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And just as that statement stopped them in their tracks, that statement should also stop us at our thoughts.

When things go wrong and turn bad, are we the first to throw stones? Or are we going to drop the stones to do something good?

Last week there was this story of an aircraft that was forced to make an emergency landing in a remote small airport that was 100 miles away from the destination.

Stranded in an empty airport, in the middle of nowhere, many passengers became irritated (who wouldn’t?) with the crew and airline staff. They were going to throw stones.

Among the passengers was this well-known actor, Keanu Reeves. While the airline staff was trying to solve the problem, Keanu decided to do what he could to keep the situation under control.

He kept the passengers updated about the situation, and he was cool and furthest thing from being upset.
He told the passengers where to pick up their luggage, and the travel options to get to their destination. He even advised them to take the shuttle bus instead of waiting for the plane to be fixed.

In between, he posed for pictures with the passengers at the airport and made it a moment to be remembered.

As much as he had the means to arrange for private transportation, he took the shuttle bus provided by the airline for the stranded passengers and he turned it into a fun ride for everyone on board, with trivia games and all.

The passengers were amazed at how Keanu Reeves would think of ways to keep people engaged and entertained. More than just a good actor, Keanu Reeves is a down-to-earth person who tries to bring out the good in a bad situation. May God bless him for that.

This reminds us that not every day is a good day but there is something good in every day.

Just as in the gospel scene, not everyone in it is a good person, but Jesus brought out that something good in each person - the woman caught in adultery, the scribes and Pharisees, the crowds.

And through this gospel passage, Jesus also wants to bring out the goodness in each of us.

Then we will truly understand what Jesus meant when He said: If there is one of you who had not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

Friday, April 5, 2019

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 06-04-19

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

The fastest and easiest way to come to a conclusion is to make an assumption.

An assumption is to take something for granted, a supposition.

Whether it is a correct or an incorrect assumption, we usually begin by saying "I think ..."

But when the assumption is wrong, then the conclusion is also wrong.

In today's gospel, there were a lot of assumptions made about Jesus and specifically about His identity.

In the midst of these assumptions, an unexpected challenge came from Nicodemus.

He challenged the people to give Jesus a hearing and to discover for themselves who Jesus was.

But the assumptions far outnumbered and eventually drowned out the challenge.

We too have our own assumptions about who Jesus is.

We also need to verify our assumptions about Jesus.

It is about moving from "I think that Jesus loves me" to saying "I know that Jesus loves me".

Thursday, April 4, 2019

4th Week of Lent, Friday, 05-04-19

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

Generally speaking, we may think that good and kind people will be respected, and that religious and  holy people will be looked up to.

More so when we see pictures or images of saints that give us a feeling of serenity and tranquility and we tend to think that good and kind, holy and religious people have no problems and worries in life.

But a serious examination of the lives of these people will tell us quite a different story.

For example, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot for speaking up against violence and injustice, St. Maximilian Kolbe was tortured and finally killed for offering to take the place of a condemned prisoner, Martin Luther King was assassinated for speaking on human rights and Gandhi was also assassinated for advocating non-violence in the struggle for independence.

The list of good and kind people being persecuted goes on and on, and that makes us re-think our assumptions on how good and kind people are treated.

The 1st reading also state likewise. It gives us an idea of how the godless or wicked people will think in their misguided reasoning.

In short, the wicked and evil people have no hope that holiness will be rewarded and they can see no reward for blameless souls.

Even Jesus, the Son of God had to face persecutions and evil intentions of harming Him as we heard in the gospel.

Yet just as the truth will prevail, so will goodness and holiness.

But we have to persevere. The lives of the saints and holy people tell us this: goodness and holiness will always face persecution from evil and wickedness.

But just as Jesus triumphed over evil and death, let us persevere in doing good and leading holy lives so as to share in the victory of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 04-04-19

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

The one thing that creates some problems for us and makes us feel aged is this thing called forgetfulness.

Forgetfulness afflicts everybody, and especially when we are no longer that young and we forget this and that, then we become the butt of jokes.

Anyway if our individual forgetfulness can give us problems, how about the forgetfulness of a nation?

Certainly it would be disastrous, as in the case of Israel.

It was not that long ago since they experienced the liberation from Egypt and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea.

But soon they forgot about the God who saved them and they created an idol in the image of an animal!

In fact, forgetfulness is too lame a word to be used here.

The word should be stupidity. The Israelites were stupid enough to forget, and for that they wondered in the desert for 40 years just to have their memory corrected.

The 40 days of Lent is indeed a time for us to recall and remember the saving acts of God and the wonderful graces He poured into our lives so that we won't forget the meaning of love and mercy.

It  is also a time to cleanse ourselves of other distractions that have come into our lives that make us lose focus and forget about God in our lives.

For it is to God alone that we must say: You alone are my God.

4th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 03-04-19

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

In a densely populated country like ours, it can be quite difficult to be alone. There seems to be people everywhere.

But as much as we might be surrounded by people and not quite able to be alone, that doesn't mean that we are not lonely.

Even in the midst of being in a crowd, we can feel lonely, especially when we are facing problems alone and there is no one to come to our help, or that no one seems to know, or worse still, that no one seems to care.

In this season of Lent, besides reflecting on our life and on how we have sinned and turned away from God, and hence this feeling of loneliness, we also must meditate on the sufferings of Jesus.

Every Friday, there will be the devotion of the Stations of the Cross and it is there there we reflect and meditate about that final journey of Jesus to Calvary and how He suffered along that way.

Indeed Jesus was alone in His suffering as He carried the Cross. But He wasn't overcome by loneliness despite His disciples deserting, denying and betraying Him.

He knew that God His Father was with Him and He believed that till the end when He gave up His life on the Cross.

It is quite a contrast from the 1st reading when the people complained that the Lord has abandoned them and forgotten them.

But God reiterated that He won't abandoned or forget His people, just like a mother will not forget her baby at the breast.

Yes God will not abandon or forget His people, and neither did he abandon or forget Jesus in His suffering. Neither will He also abandon or forget us in our loneliest moment.

Monday, April 1, 2019

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 02-04-19

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 / John 5:1-3, 5-16

Some questions are difficult to answer, especially when the answer required has to be a "Yes" or "No".

In answering these questions, we reveal quite a bit about ourselves, about our convictions, about our expectations.

In the gospel, when Jesus asked the sick man "Do you want to be well again?" his answer tells us about his convictions and his hope and maybe even about his faith.

He was convinced about the healing powers of the waters when it was disturbed, but yet at the same time, he did not expect to receive it, simply because no one helped him to get to the water in time.

So his answer was a typical "Yes, but, you know ...", and followed by the "Ifs" and the "Maybes".

Jesus is asking us to be convinced about what He can do for us. No Ifs or Buts or Maybes.

As we pray and reflect on the Word of God, the question of our faith in Jesus will come up again and again.

Yet the question of faith is to help us come to a slow but sure and certain conviction of who Jesus is on our lives.

We may hesitate, we may even stop for a while in our journey of faith because of our doubts.

But let us remember that Jesus won't give up on us.

He will certainly help us; we only need to give Him a convicted "Yes".