Friday, May 31, 2019

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 01-06-19

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

We have heard of those stories where a person is given a wish or a couple of wishes, and the person has to decide how to get the best out of those wishes.

If we were told to make a wish and that it will come true, what is it that we will wish for?

And if we can't un-do the wish, then all the more burdensome that wish will be. But all this is of course just wishful thinking. Because in reality, we don't get wishes like this.

Yet in the gospel, Jesus tell us that anything we ask for from the Father, it will be granted in His name.

But before we think about what we are going to ask for, let us also think about who is going to benefit from what we are asking.

So if what we are asking from the Lord is only to benefit ourselves, then do we think we will get it?

But when we ask for something in Jesus' name, then it means that we must know what the Lord wants to give us, and asking for it would only fulfill God's will for us.

As in the 1st reading, the disciple Apollos knew what the Lord wanted of him, and in doing what the Lord wanted of him, God is glorified and the Church grew in faith.

So let us not be afraid to ask from the Lord, but let us also know what the will of God is.

Then we will know what to ask for and our joy will be complete.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Visitation of the BVM, Friday, 31-05-19

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

When it comes to sharing or giving, it goes back to that saying that we can't give, or share, what we don't have.

That is as true as it can be, and in the reality of life, there is always something that we can share or give, whether tangible or intangible.

In this feast of the Visitation, we heard of how Mary went to visit Elizabeth in her time of need. Mary had known from the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth was with child.

Mary had intended to share with Elizabeth her time and companionship as Elizabeth comes to the final months of her pregnancy.

But as Mary greeted Elizabeth, she was also comforted as Elizabeth confirmed for her that what the angel had told her as indeed true and that she had conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child that she was bearing is truly the Son of God.

This feast of the Visitation reiterates, among other truths, that when we share or give, we too will receive.

This feast also reminds us that there is always something that we can share with others or give to others.

But this feast also reminds that, like Mary, we have Jesus dwelling in us. Our mission is to bring Jesus to others especially in their time of need.

May Mary pray for us that we will always be aware of the presence of Jesus in us and it is our mission and purpose in life to bring Jesus to others and to make His love known to them.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ascension of the Lord, Thursday, 30-05-19

Acts 1:1-11 / Ephesians 1:17-23 / Luke 24:46-53

Whenever we think about the future, there will be two things that come to mind – curiosity and anxiety.

Generally, we are quite curious about the future and what it holds for us. Some people would even bring their curiosity to another level by consulting horoscopes and whatever in order to know about what the future will be like for them.

But whether we know what the future is or not, there will be this feeling of anxiety, leading us to worry about something that is not within our control.

So if the past is history, then the future is mystery. But it is the feast of the Ascension that we get a glimpse of our future – our eternal future.

At the Resurrection of Jesus that we celebrated 40 days ago, Christ gave us a new life of grace.

The Ascension of our Lord reveals to us that where Jesus has ascended, we too will be there with Him in heaven.

So our eternal future is revealed to us in the Ascension of our Lord – where He is, we too will be there one day.

But until that day comes, the next big question is what will our earthly future be like?

That question is answered in the 1st reading and also in the gospel.

For the next nine days up to the feast of Pentecost, we are to wait and keep watch in prayer for the promise of God – the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will give us the power to live up to our baptismal commitment to the Lord.

The Holy Spirit will also help us to live our lives here on earth so as to prepare for our lives in heaven.

So these nine days of prayer are meant for us to renew and reinforce our prayer life as we let our lives be directed by the Holy Spirit.

There are many prayers to the Holy Spirit but one of the simplest is to meditate on the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the 3rd Glorious Mystery of the Rosary.

The Holy Spirit is the promise of God who will lead us to heaven.

The Holy Spirit is also the power of God, who will be our comfort and consolation when we are troubled by worry and anxiety about the future.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 29-05-19

Acts 17:15, 22 - 18:1 / John 16:12-15

We certainly don't find it a pleasure, neither would we feel comfortable to speak before a gathering of people which comprises of intellectuals, politicians, lawyers and doctors.

That's because we are expected to use proper language and to be able to speak well and of course to know what we are talking about.

Yet we have to applaud St. Paul when we heard from the 1st reading that he addressed a council of philosophers in Athens.

For a Jew to step into Greek territory and talk about religion using philosophical language was indeed daring.

Yet St. Paul did not use sophisticated philosophical language in his presentation.

Rather he had recourse to natural law and he talked about the God in whom we live and move and have our being.

He even quoted a Greek philosopher who made this statement: "We are all his children".

In St. Paul we see the words of Jesus in today's gospel being actualized and even realized.

Indeed the Spirit will lead us to the complete truth, the truth that will only make sense when we walk the way of Christ.

Let us pray the Spirit will guide us and strengthen us to walk the way of Christ so that our lives will always be lived in truth and in love.

Monday, May 27, 2019

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 28-05-19

Acts 16:22-34 / John 16:5-11

There are many movies about people who were wrongly accused and they had to go through the turmoil of being arrested, thrown into prison, but later they escaped and much later they were exonerated.

Movies like "The Fugitive" and maybe "Shawshank Redemption" have this particular theme.

The 1st reading also has a bit of this theme, as Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown into prison, not for any wrong-doing, but because of the hostility against them.

But it was in that prison that something supernatural happened as they were praying and singing God's praises. There was a strong earthquake, the doors flew open, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

It was quite obvious that God was intervening for His messengers.

It was also like what Jesus said in the gospel about what the Holy Spirit will do to show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who is in the right, and about judgement.

Our share of turmoil may not be as dramatic as that of Paul and Silas.

And when wrong is done to us, or when we are wrongly accused, our instinct may be that of retaliation.

But an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth mentality has never brought about any good.

Let us follow what Paul and Silas did. Let us keep praying and singing God's praises. That will bring about an intervention of the Holy Spirit that will bring about God's judgement.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 27-05-19

Acts 16:11-15 / John 15:26-16:4

There is no place like home. To call a place a home means that there is where we find security and comfort, a place where we would want to go to after a long and tiring day.

So to let someone stay in our home would mean two things: either it is out of obligation, e.g. a relative or someone who has a right to our hospitality.

Or it may mean that it is someone we can trust and have a great respect for, and we would feel at ease with that person's presence in our home.

In the 1st reading, we heard of Lydia, who listened to the Word of God, was baptised and then she invited Paul and his companions to stay in her home. She even insisted that they do so.

For itinerant preachers like Paul and his companions, that would sound like an offer too good to refuse.

But they too had to discern and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit before they could accept the offer.

They had faced dangers and persecutions and they had to be careful, and listen to what the Lord is telling them.

In the gospel, Jesus talked about persecutions and some think that it was a holy duty in doing so.

As for us, we need to be aware of the dangers and snares in life. We need to listen to the Word of God and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, who will help us discern who is for us and who is against us.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 26.05.2019

 Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 / Apocalypse 21:10-14, 22-23 / John 14:23-29

Our one main desire in life is to be happy. But that desire has also created an anxiety.

We can’t call it happy-anxiety. It sounds odd and rather contradictory. There is nothing so happy about anxiety.

For example, we want to have children, but with pregnancy comes anxiety. There are morning sickness, check-ups, gender of the baby, development of the baby. All this can be termed as pregnancy anxiety.

The current trade war between the two largest economies has brought about many anxieties.

One casualty in this economic dispute is a particular brand of mobile phone. It means that will be no more software updates for the operating system of the new models of this brand, leaving customers in a state of separation anxiety.

The pun about this is that although this brand has a hand-phone model with a camera that can zoom 50 times – it can even take clear pictures of the moon, but it didn’t see this coming. Well, what will this turn out eventually, we wait in anxiety.

The 1st reading recalled an anxiety in the early church over the issue of circumcision. That issue caused disturbance and unsettled minds.

That issue was critical enough for the apostles and elders to look into it and eventually resolved it.

So generally speaking, anxiety is a human problem and the problems are caused by humans themselves.

But in the gospel, we sense another kind of anxiety – a divine anxiety.

Jesus is anxious that we keep to His Word so that He can make His home in us. He is anxious to send the Holy Spirit who will teach us everything. He is anxious to give us His peace so that our hearts would not be troubled or afraid.

Yes, Jesus is anxious to fulfill what He has promised us. Because when He can fulfill what He has promised then we are able to believe; then we will be happy.

But this divine anxiety must also create in us an urgency, an urgency for true happiness and peace. The strange thing about human beings is that as much as we desire for peace and happiness in our lives, we don’t seem to be too anxious about it, there seems to be no urgency for it.

Call it indifference or procrastination, there is no urgency or anxiety because there is no scorching pain being felt immediately.

But whether we feel it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, the pain is growing within, and it is disturbing our peace and draining away our happiness.

And the pain can burn for a long time – 40, 50 or 60 years even – and yet the symptoms are there – we don’t feel peace in our hearts and no happiness in our lives.

Andrea Roncato is an Italian actor and comedian, known in his home country for being a playboy living the wild life. At the age of 80, he has apparently left drugs and the other vices behind.

He recently gave a moving pro-life testimony during a television interview. Roncato, who is childless, said this:

“I miss having a child. It was the worst mistake of my life that when I was very young, I had the chance to become a father, to have a child, but I had him aborted. Now, I’ve become very strongly against abortion.”

He also admitted that he constantly asks God to forgive him. 

Roncato has had a change of heart, and has come to appreciate life.
The following is a moving poem he wrote for the child he aborted so many years ago:

I would have liked you to be small, so I could hug you.

I would have liked you to be big, so I could lean on you.

I would have liked you to be looking out the window in winter, watching the snow falling.

I would have liked you to be lying under the covers during a storm, silent so you could hear the sound of the rainfall.

I would have liked you to be kind to dogs, so you could pat them,
and affectionate with the elderly, so you could love them.

I would have liked you to be handsome, so I could brag about you,
with big eyes, like your mother’s.

I would have liked to sing to you, to make you fall asleep, and continue the dream that woke you up.

I would have liked you to be shy, so I could see you blush,
and stubborn, so I could argue with you.

I would have liked you to be at my side, so the two of us could walk in silence,
trying to understand what the other was thinking inside but couldn’t manage to say.

I would have liked to teach you all the things I know how to do.

I would have liked you to leave someday, so I could have the pleasure of seeing you come back home.

I would have liked you to experience your first love.

I would have liked you to be near me on the day I must leave this world.

I wish I had wanted you, that time when I didn’t want you …

It was a long wait, maybe 50 or 60 years, but eventually the father and his aborted son were reconciled on the spiritual realm, and peace and happiness can now happen for them.

Jesus wants to give us peace and happiness in life. But we block it out with our sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, hatred, jealousy, revenge and lustful desires.

All these and other sins feed the fire of pain in our hearts and yet we say that there is no peace and happiness in our lives.

But then the Lord Jesus continues to love us, so that one day when we realize the pain of our sins, then we will want to be reconciled with God and with others.

Then Jesus will make His home in our hearts, and then we will have peace and happiness in our lives.

With Jesus in our hearts, we will then realize that there is nothing to worry or to be anxious about.

Friday, May 24, 2019

5th Week of Easter, Saturday, 25-05-19

Acts 16:1-10 / John 15:18-21

It might be interesting to know what non-Catholics think about us Catholics.

We wonder if they think of us as rigid and ritualistic religious traditionalists, or that we are a loving and caring people who show our religious beliefs by living holy lives.

Though the opinions and views of non-Catholics about Catholics are not critically important, yet they certainly give us a view of ourselves that we can't see or maybe don't want to see.

Whatever the case may be, we must constantly remember that we are chosen to be God's holy people.

Yes, we are called and set apart to walk and live in God's ways, especially when we are faced with the attraction and the lucrative ways of the world.

Yet, we have a choice - the way of God, or the way of the world.

Jesus made a choice for the way of God and to save us when He faced the cross.

May we also make a choice for Jesus and walk in the way of God, so that others will truly see us as a loving and a caring God-fearing people.

5th Week of Easter, Friday, 24-05-19

Acts 15:22-31 / John 15:12-17

It is said that love is more than just an emotion; love is a decision.

To fall in love may be more of an emotion than a decision. But to stay in love is a decision.

As we think about love on the human level, then we will come to see that true love is when we want the best for the other person, whether that best includes us or not.

Indeed, love is a decision and it is an everyday decision because it is a commitment.

It is that kind of decision and commitment that we are afraid of because it calls for sacrifice, and the sacrifice is always for the other, and never for ourselves. True love calls for sacrifice.

God's love for us never fails, because it is not an emotion; it is a decision. If God's love is an emotion, then when we sin and do what is displeasing to God, then He will not love us anymore.

But God's love is a decision and a commitment, and that decision and commitment is seen on the Cross.

Jesus is the decision and the commitment of God, and in the gospel, Jesus gives us that commandment of love. So it is a commandment and a commandment does not give us options.

When we don't love as Jesus commanded us, then what will happen will be like that in the 1st reading, when some members of the Christian community disturbed others with their demands and created confusion and division.

But when we love as Jesus have loved us, then there will be peace and unity. Our love for others will bring them joy and encouragement.

So the commandment of love calls for a decision. And it has to be an everyday decision.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

5th Week of Easter, Thursday, 23-05-19

Acts 15:7-21 / John 15:9-11   

The human heart usually has a soft spot for those who are left aside or neglected along the way or who are always the losers in life.

There is this story of a young girl who showed her grandfather her collection of dolls.

When he asked her which doll she liked the most, she picked up a miserable-looking tattered doll.

When he asked her why, she replied - Because this one needs my love most, Nobody else would like it.

Yes, the human heart has a soft spot for the neglected, those left behind, the underdogs and those who don't seem to make it anywhere in life.

If such is the human heart, then what about the heart of God?

God loves us, and He loves us all  the more because we are sinners.

We don't deserve God's love but yet God knows we need it.

The challenge is to remain in God's love.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that we remain in God's love by keeping His commandment of love.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Peter and James had recourse to this commandment of love as they resolved the problem of the Gentile Christians in the early Church.

Yes, we remain in God's love by keeping His commandment of love. That will soften our hearts so that we can be filled with joy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

5th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 22-05-19

Acts 19:1-6 / John 15:1-8

The word "cut" will evoke a variety of feelings, from uncomfortable to painful.

To suffer a cut is certainly painful. To cut off a growth from the body without anaesthetic is far from pleasant.

Even when a branch is cut off from a tree, the tree would "bleed" with sap at where the branch is cut off.

But generally speaking, things are cut off only when they are useless or harmful.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that God cuts every branch that does not bear fruit. Yet at the same time, every branch that does bear fruit God prunes to make it bear even more fruit.

So the act of cutting off something can be painful and harmful even, especially if something good is being cut off.

Or it can be that something bad or harmful needs to be cut off so as to prevent the good from being affected.

In the 1st reading, there was a big disagreement and a long argument over the practice of circumcision, so much so that the apostles and elders had to meet to look into the matter.

The decision, as we would know later, that circumcision was not to be imposed on converts to the faith.

As for us, we too need to decide what to cut off and what is to be pruned.

Needless to say, we need to cut off our sinful habits and our vices. At the same time, we need to prune our spiritual life and our prayer life, so that we will bear good fruits that give glory to God.

Monday, May 20, 2019

5th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 21-05-19

Acts 14:19-28 / John 14:27-31

Would we join a company if at the interview we were told that the work is hard and tough and the hours are long and the salary won't be attractive, but there will be job satisfaction and we will grow in our capabilities?

On the other hand, what we would expect would be job satisfaction and advancement and have career opportunities and benefits, and of course a good pay packet.

If we were to hear that the work is hard and tough and with long hours and with just an average pay, then we would want to hear no more of it.

So we can imagine when Paul and Barnabas told the disciples that "we all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of heaven".

And what Paul and Barnabas said to the disciples is also being said to us today: We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of heaven.

If we hear this and yet we don't feel troubled or even afraid, then maybe we are not taking our faith seriously.

Because if we say we have faith in God and we love God, then we must be prepared to face the difficulties and even persecutions that Paul and Barnabas faced, and indeed they will come.

The devil will sift us like wheat to make us lose our faith in God and to doubt His love for us.

Yet Jesus promises His peace to us, and it is a peace the world cannot give because it can only be given by God.

The world will always create its own chaos and turmoil. What we need to have is God's peace within and to keep it.

That will see us through the troubles and difficulties of this world and also prepare us for the world to  come, the world of everlasting peace and joy.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

5th Week of Easter, Monday, 20-05-19

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

Much has been said about strength. One rather enlightening saying about strength is this:
Strength is not about how much you can handle before you break; it is about how much you can handle after you break.

We can realise the truth of this when it come to stamina. We can't build our stamina when we are fresh and energised. Stamina is built only when we keep going even when we are tired.

In the 1st reading, we may wonder where Paul and Barnabas get their strength and stamina from.

They had to flee from danger, and then when they could catch a breath, they continued to preach the Good News.

And then came another problem - they were treated like gods, with sacrifices being offered to them, although they vehemently tried to reject it.

In between was this healing of  the crippled man. Paul saw that the man had the faith to be cured, and so he commanded the man to stand up and immediately he was cured.

We may wonder what it means when the reading said that Paul saw the man had the faith to be healed.

But we need not wonder too long about it as Jesus tells us in the gospel that God will send the Holy Spirit to teach us everything.

Certainly the ability of Paul to see the faith of the crippled man and the healing that followed are none other than the workings of the Holy Spirit.

May the Holy Spirit guide us and strengthen our faith and healed from the brokenness of our sins, we will be healed and proclaim the Good News of God's love in our lives.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 19.05.2019

Acts 14:21-27 / Apocalypse 21:1-5 / John 13:31-35
There are these four words that are often printed on parcels, on packages and on boxes. These four words are “Fragile, handle with care”.

It obviously means that the contents in the parcel, or package, or box, needs to be handled carefully, otherwise it might be damaged or broken.

So if there are things in life that are fragile and they are to be handled with care, then, the same can be said about life.

Indeed, life is fragile and to be handled with care. More than just to be handled with care, life is fragile and must also be handled with prayer.

In life, there are health issues and illnesses, there are worries about financial sufficiency, there are troubles in family relationships and marriages, and the list goes on and on.

And there is literally nothing in life that is absolutely firm and secure. Even mighty fortresses are laid to ruins over the passage of time, and everything that is deemed strong and mighty will be put to the test.

We know that Jesus personally chose His 12 apostles; the Twelve were handpicked by Him. And yet despite being personally chosen, they all failed, all Twelve of them failed, when they were put to the test.

Today’s gospel passage began with these words “When Judas had gone…” With those four words, what came after showed how fragile and weak the 12 Apostles were.

One betrayed Jesus to His enemies, another denied Him, and the rest deserted Him in His hour of suffering.

Jesus had foretold all this, and as the crumbling began with the departure of Judas, Jesus did not launch into crisis management or damage control.

Rather, He looked beyond the fragility and the failure of the Apostles, and gave them a direction in the form of a commandment, a new commandment: “love one another just as I have loved you”.

So even when the fragility of the Apostles were eventually exposed and they were broken down by their fears, they still had to remember that new commandment that Jesus gave them. 

They had to remember that it was Jesus who loved them first, and they had to move on by loving others, in spite and despite their own fragilities, failures and brokenness. 

Nonetheless, the new commandment of loving others as Jesus loved them cannot be possibly carried out unless there is prayer. 

That’s why the early Christian community was always at prayer. They needed to be healed and strengthened by the love of Jesus in and through prayer. 

Indeed life is fragile, it has to be handled with care. And for us, life is fragile, and it has to be handled with prayer.

A parishioner called up the priest and related this incident to him. He knew of this business associate who was suddenly stricken with a critical illness.

When he came to know of the man’s condition, he called him up to express his concern and said that he will pray for him although he knew that the business associate wasn’t a Christian.

The man was depressed and desperate as he could no longer continue working. He told the parishioner that yes, he needed prayers.

Then the man asked the parishioner, “I also want to learn to pray. How do I pray?”

The parishioner, like any good Catholic, told him, “Let me ask my priest.” And so that was the purpose of him calling the priest.

So the parishioner asked the priest, “What prayers to teach him?” The priest had to think. With Catholics, it is easy to teach them prayers like “The Lord’s Prayer”, the “Hail Mary” etc., but what to teach a non-Catholic who had almost no knowledge about the faith?

The priest thought for a while, and then he remembered the two shortest prayer from the gospels. 

One was “Lord, help me.” That was said by the Syro-Phoenician woman to Jesus as she begged Him to heal her possessed daughter.
The other is “Lord, save me” which was by Peter as he was sinking into the water.

So the priest told the parishioner, “Teach this to your friend ‘Jesus, help me. Jesus, save me.’ Tell him to pray this when he feels the pain and when he is anxious about the future.”

It is a simple prayer “Jesus, help me. Jesus, save me” Calling upon the name of Jesus for help in time of need and for His saving grace in the fragilities of life will certainly bring about an outpouring of His love. 

Yes, life is fragile, handle with care. Life is fragile, handle it with prayer. The prayer can be as simple as “Jesus, help me. Jesus, save me.”

Friday, May 17, 2019

4th Week of Easter, Saturday, 18-05-19

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

Some of our quirky behaviours can be really childish and even downright stupid.

We don't gain anything from that kind of behaviour, and yet we don't seem to acknowledge how silly we really are.

The 1st reading points to one such behaviour - jealousy.

Because of jealousy, the opponents of St. Paul used blasphemies and contradicted everything he said.

But they were like biting their own tongues because they were the very ones who rejected the message of eternal life.

Yet their jealousy was unrestrained and they went on to instigate the influential and powerful people to turn against Paul and Barnabas and to expel them from their territory.

So jealousy is not just a quirky behaviour. It can turn into a violent behaviour. And it can also create multiple damages.

And yet there is nothing to gain and everything to lose.

And even more so when a Christian succumbs to the evil of jealousy. Because he will create an even greater damage.

So we as Christians must always turn to Christ and be in union with Him.

When we are in union with Christ, not only will there be no place for jealousy in our hearts, but also the little that we do will be blessed and made great by God.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

4th Week of Easter, Friday, 17-05-19

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

In a country that is densely populated like ours, space is a precious item in our way of life.

In the office, we would like to have our own room or cubicle. At home we would like to have our own room. Even on the social level, we would like to have our private space.

Having our own space, in the broadest sense of the word, gives us a sense of security and privacy, and it is a visible as well as an invisible demarcation of what is ours and what is not.

So when Jesus told us not to let our hearts be troubled, and to trust in God and to trust in Him, He reinforces it by saying that there are many rooms in His Father's house, and that He is going to prepare a place for us.

But of course, more than just thinking that we will have our own personal rooms in heaven, we must think of it as a promise from Jesus that when we walk in His way, and live our lives in His truth, then the reality of being in heaven and rejoicing in the presence of God will be our inheritance.

And that is essentially the Good News that Paul was proclaiming in the 1st reading, when he said that the promise made to the ancestors of Israel is fulfilled in Jesus, who was raised from the dead.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises of God made to His people through all the ages.

No doubt while on earth, we will have our troubles, our space may be intruded and even violated, and we have our worries and feel the anxieties.

But our eternal home is in heaven, and there we will rejoice in peace in the presence of God.

But even here on earth, He will wipe away the tears from our eyes, so that we can see clearly that in Jesus we will find our way to heaven.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

4th Week of Easter, Thursday, 16-05-19

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

We would rather hear some words of wisdom and motivation than to give some words of wisdom and motivation.

And if we ever have to do it before an audience, then we would have to think about what to say.

So it is not just "saying a few words", or just "say something".

Words of wisdom and motivation need some time of reflection before they can be given with a conviction.

In the 1st reading, when Paul was asked to address the audience with some words of encouragement, he gladly and willingly did so.

Paul was a man who knew his people's history, and after that experience on the way to Damascus, he had a conviction about who Jesus is and he took every opportunity to proclaim Jesus.

We may not be asked to address an audience with words of wisdom, or motivation, or encouragement.

But if ever we are asked what words do we use in our prayer, what are we going to tell people about our faith and our conviction?

In not so many words, may we put it like this: Jesus help me, Jesus save me.

Those are simple words, but with that we tell others who Jesus is, and may they also come to say it with us: Jesus help me, Jesus save me.

4th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 15-05-19

Acts 12:24 - 13:5 / John 12:44-50       

Generally speaking, we can say that good reading habits will help maintain good eyesight.

Good reading habits here means the distance between the eyes and the book, the posture for reading, and of course good lighting.

It is obvious that without good lighting, one will barely able to see what one is reading and prolonged reading under such adverse conditions will eventually result in bad eyesight.

So we know that good lighting is necessary for reading; yet we must put it into practice.

Similarly, we also know what Jesus taught us. In Him is the light of Truth.

What Jesus taught us is for our good and for our salvation.

But it is not enough to know what Jesus taught us. We also have to put it into practice by living out the teachings of Jesus in our lives.

We know we must forgive others when they wrong us.

We know we must respect the dignity of others and not to indulge in gossips and slandering.

We know we must trust in God even when bad things happen to us.

To do otherwise is to prefer the darkness even though we see the light.

Furthermore, at baptism, we are already enlightened by Christ.

So the light of Christ is already within us.

Let us keep that light shining brightly in us especially in prayer so that we in turn will be able to enlighten others.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

St. Matthias, Apostle, Tuesday, 14-05-19

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

The 12 apostles, as we know were chosen by Jesus. It can be said that they were hand-picked by Jesus.

It was certainly an honour to be in the "original team" and to be associated with Jesus in a special way.

Though Judas Iscariot was one of the original Twelve, he chose to betray Jesus and he met his tragic end and so the apostles were down to Eleven.

The 1st reading recounted how the matter of replacement for Judas was discussed, that Peter and the rest of the disciples prayed, and then cast lots and Matthias was chosen as the replacement and so the the number of apostles were back to 12.

But why is it that the number of apostles can't be 11 and that there must a replacement?

Of course we will remember that the Old Testament Book of Genesis stated there were 12 sons of Jacob and those 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel.

But more than just because Jacob had 12 sons, the number 12 in the Bible signifies perfection of government or rule, and in this sense, it God who has the divine rule of the People of God.

The number 12 has further a significance, as it represents authority, appointment and completeness.

So although St. Matthias is a "replacement" apostle, and not personally chosen by Jesus, he was chosen by the Church community of which Christ is the Head.

It also goes to show that God rules over the Church and that Jesus continues to watch over His Church with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even though there are times of trouble and tribulation.

For this we give thanks to God and may St. Matthias continue to pray for us that we continue to have faith in the Church as God's appointed means of salvation.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 13-05-19

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

The saying that "one man's meat is another man's poison" may not have the literal meaning of poison. Rather it means that things liked or enjoyed by one person may be distasteful to another.

The general meaning points to food but it may also have a broader application.

The vision that Peter had in the 1st reading was about a sheet that contained all sorts of animals and wild beasts.

And then the command "kill and eat" obviously meant that the meat of these animals are meant as food.

Though Peter initially objected because he thought of the meats of some animals as "profane and unclean", the voice in the vision stated "What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane".

But the vision is not just about food and about what is "profane and unclean".

It has a further meaning that applies to people, and for Peter, just as he thought of some meats as profane and unclean, he thought of the pagans as profane and unclean.

We may not think of pagans as "profane and unclean". But in our minds, there are some people, regardless of whether they are pagans or otherwise, that we think are "profane and unclean" in that they irritate us to the marrow of our bones and we think of them as toxic and poisonous.

Through the vision of Peter, God is also telling us that these people are also created by Him, and we have no right to call them profane and unclean, or toxic and poisonous.

Let us ask the Lord to cleanse us of these profane and unclean, toxic and poisonous thoughts of our hearts, so that we are able to see these people with the eyes of God and to slowly come to understand them with a heart of love.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

4th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 12.05.2019

Acts 13:14, 43-52 / Apocalypse 7:9, 14-17 / John10:27-30
In a world of sights and sounds, the combination of audio and visual is a powerful form of communication to catch the attention.

So whether it is advertisement or entertainment, for presentation or for relaxation, the audio and video will create an impact.

One without the other may not have the full effect as compared to the combination of both. But it also depends on the situation.

If we see the boss, and we cannot detour, then it would be better if he doesn’t say anything to us. Because if we were to see him and he says to us, “I want to talk to you” then it may not be sweet talk.

Or if we see the priest coming our way, he may not say anything, but we will tell our children “Father is coming, don’t be naughty.”

So sometimes, only the visual will do, no need for the audio.

But at other times, the audio is more effective than the video. Babies may be sound asleep with people around talking, but they will wake up when the mother calls out to them.

And even our pet dogs. They respond to our voice when we call out to them. Dogs as we know have a keen sense of hearing. That’s our experience.

In the gospel, Jesus said, “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”

We don’t know much about sheep and shepherds. But when we do some reading up, what we will come to know is that sheep have a keen sense of hearing. They know the shepherd, not so much by sight (they seem to have poor eyesight) but by the voice of their shepherd.

It is said that three flocks of sheep may be mingled together and there is no distinction as to which sheep belongs to which flock.

But when the time comes to separate them, the shepherd of each flock calls out to the sheep and the sheep will follow the respective shepherd.

So when Jesus said “the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice” He is talking about an experiential reality. 
But for us who have no experience of sheep and shepherds, then this background information will be certainly helpful.

An interesting question at this point is that will a sheep ever follow another shepherd? A shepherd’s answer to this is that it is not likely that a sheep will follow another shepherd, unless it is sick, then it will follow anything that moves. And because of its poor eyesight it does not really know what it is following.

And that’s why Jesus said that the sheep that belongs to Him listen to His voice. Jesus calls us His sheep. So where is His voice, and how do we listen to His voice?

Today is also Vocation Sunday, and we also celebrate Mother’s Day. Vocation Sunday is about the promotion of priestly vocations, and Mother’s Day is linked to it in a profound way.

But just as babies respond to their mother’s voice, mothers have a deep influence over their children in what they say to them.

Mothers say a lot to their children (some call it nagging) and at times mothers don’t think that their children are listening.

But the children are listening and we bear testimony to that whenever we say “my mother once told me…”

So the mother’s mission is to be the voice of Jesus to her children, to do the right and just and the good thing. 

The mother has to be the voice of Jesus to lead them to Jesus and to teach them to follow Jesus. And mothers can also consider saying this to their children: “if God wants you to be a priest or religious, then think about it”.

My mother didn’t tell me to be a priest when I was young. She only told me to say my prayers and study hard, the two things which I didn’t like to do.

But she prayed for me, and her words were prophetic enough. Because when I was in the Seminary I had to study real hard, and when I became a priest, I had to pray real hard.

So mothers, keep the faith and be the voice of Jesus to your children. Teach them to pray and to always do what is right and just and good. 

For your children will remember what you tell them, and if they ever become a priest or a religious, your blessings will be great, on earth as in heaven

Friday, May 10, 2019

3rd Week of Easter, Saturday, 11-05-19

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

Some creatures are rather revolting by sight. I would think that maggots and leeches would fit into this category.

Yet of late, medical science has found out that maggots and leeches can be helpful in treatment.

For eg. maggots have been used in treating sores on diabetic patients and leeches have been used to stop bleeding.

Who would have thought that maggots and leeches would have such useful purposes in life and in medical science?

Likewise in life, what we used to reject or scorn at an earlier point in life, we will somehow come to accept and sanction later on in life.

When Jesus gave His discourse on bread of life in the gospel, the people rejected Him then.

Now we take that profound discourse for granted and maybe even too lightly.

We might have become too casual to the words of Jesus about the bread of life that He wants to give us.

Yet the message of Jesus about Him being our spiritual food and drink is not just for this life.

His is the message of eternal life. There is no need to look for another message.

We need to continually deepen our understanding of this message of Jesus.

More than just accepting the message, may we also become the message that will bring others to see in Jesus the bread of eternal life.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 10-05-19

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

Normally, a person has five senses - sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch.

These five senses help us to interact with other people and with our surroundings

But when we lose one or more of these senses for just a while or for a few days, we will know how inconvenient or disabled we will be.

If we lose the sense of smell, we won't be able to pick up odours or scents, but it may not be that terrible.

If we lose the sense of touch, we won't be able to feel whether anything is hot or cold. But it is still not that bad. If we lose the sense of taste, we won't be able to enjoy food as before. That can be quite depressing.

If we lose our hearing, the world is silent to us and we don't know what people are saying to us. That can be quite depressing.

But when we lose our sight, that can be quite terrible. We won't dare move around and we would need other people's help to get along.

In the 1st reading, Saul lost his sight after that experience of that bright light on the way to Damascus, and for three days he took neither food nor drink.

For three days, Saul was totally helpless. He was so different from the ruthless and blood-thirsty persecutor that he was before.

Then the Lord sent Ananias to heal him and restored his sight, and he got baptised and then he began to preach with these words "Jesus is the Son of God".

Most of us have the faculty of our five senses, but it takes faith to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to us to give us the Bread of Life.

Jesus is our Bread of Life, our real food and real drink, and with Him living in us, there is nothing else we shall want. With Him we have life and life to the full, because it is a life with God and in God.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 09-05-19

Acts 8:26-40 / John 6:44-51

If we had noticed it, the gospel texts of this week are taken from the gospel of John chapter 6.

In that chapter, Jesus gives a long discourse on the bread of life. In fact in the gospel of John, Jesus seemed to be talking much more than in the other gospels.

But Jesus is not just talking. In fact, He is teaching a very important doctrine, especially when He uses phrases like "I tell you most solemnly".

And He is not just talking about ordinary bread. Jesus is telling us that He is the bread of life.

And that goes without saying that at communion what we are receiving is not bread or just the host, but Jesus Himself.

It is the Real Presence, and not a symbol, not a representation, not an imagination.

Just as what the eunuch's encounter of Philip in the 1st reading was not an imagination but a real experience and he later went on his way rejoicing.

Similarly our reception of Holy Communion is also a real encounter with Jesus the Risen Lord.

It must lead us to rejoice. If not then we have to ask ourselves "Why?"

May we find the answer through a deeper awareness of Jesus in the Eucharist

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 08-05-19

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

Persecution is a method that is often used to suppress a growing movement.

But persecution can never be justified, especially when the truth lies with the persecuted.

Strange as it may sound, persecution only strengthens the conviction and the faith of the persecuted.

In the 1st reading, a bitter persecution started against the Church in Jerusalem, and everyone fled to the country districts of Judaea and Samaria.

But those who fled did not hide in fear. Among them was Philip who went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them.

The truth of the message was evident when unclean spirits were cast out from the possessed and paralytics and cripples were cured.

So the fact, from Scriptures and from the history of the Church, is that persecution could never put the Church down.

On the other hand, it is often the prosperity and affluence that have stifled and bloated the Church, and even making it a counter-witness to the Good News.

Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life and that tells us something. All we need is the Eucharist to go on witnessing to our faith and living out the Good News of salvation.

The rest are just decorations and ornaments.

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 07-05-19

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

It is said that there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.

That is so true when we reflect deeper on it.

Because more than shelter and clothing, we need food to satisfy our most basic need and to curb the hunger for survival.

But that does not mean that we can make food our gods; rather we need to see food as from God.

That is why we say grace before and after meals to thank God for His providence.

In the gospel Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life.

Jesus is not just the bread for hunger but He is also the bread of life.

In partaking of this bread, our hunger in life and our hunger for life is fulfilled.

In the 1st reading, St. Stephen understood Jesus as his bread of life, and hence he was able to give up his life willingly in witness to Jesus and to even ask forgiveness for his persecutors.

As we come up for communion later, let us receive Jesus with reverence and thanksgiving and adoration.

We are receiving the bread of God which comes down from heaven to satisfy and fulfill our hunger.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

3rd Week of Easter, Monday, 06-05-19

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

There is this joke about a teacher who asked her class to write a composition with the title "What would I do if I had $10 million?"

So all the kids started writing. Then the teacher noticed a boy who just sat there doing nothing.

So she asked the boy: And why are you doing nothing?

The boy replied : If I had $10 million, that's what I'll be doing - nothing.

But we know for a fact that whether we had $10 million or just only 10 cents, we won't just sit around and do nothing.

We want to be doing something, simply because we are task-oriented and goal-centred beings.

But in all that we are doing, what do we hope to achieve? What is our purpose in life?

In today's gospel, Jesus is asking us this: What are we working for? What is the purpose of all that we are doing?

Is it something that is just temporary, or is it something that we can bring into eternity?

In all that we are doing and working for, is it leading us to God?

That's more than a $10 million question; it is a question about our eternity.

Let us start working for our eternity.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C, 05.05.2019

Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 / Apocalypse 5:11-14 / John 21:1-19
Whenever we talk about walking down memory lane, we talk about recalling the good old times and getting that warm nostalgic feeling.

We talk about how things used to be when life was simpler and slower. Whether it was better or not, that’s quite difficult to say. But life was certainly simpler and slower. 

Depending on whether you are the “pioneer” or the “merdeka” generation, or the millennial or strawberry generation, you may have differing views on the past and the present.

A story has it that a youngster asked his grandfather: Grandpa, how did you people live before without technology, no airplanes, no internet, no computers, no air con, no cars, no mobile phones?

Grandpa replied: It’s just like how your generation live today: no prayers, no compassion, no honour, no respect, no character, no shame.

This must really be just a joke, because to say that to the youngsters, a  war will start.

But whatever the present situation is, it would be nice to recall and reminisce about the times past and the days gone by, and to see things then and now.

In the gospel, we hear of a group of rather aimless and directionless disciples who still seem to be spiritually asleep, even though the Risen Lord Jesus had appeared to them twice.

In that dull state , Simon Peter wanted to go fishing and the rest followed. Maybe with nothing much to do, they just want to go back to the past.

And especially for Simon Peter, he wanted to go back to his former trade as a fisherman, and to think about how it was before and how life has changed. 

But it was like a “déjà vu” for him, with so many things that brought back memories of the past.

First, was the night of futile fishing, when once upon a time he too worked hard all night and caught nothing.

Then at the stranger’s prompting, there was a miraculous catch of fish and he remembered that first encounter with Jesus and the mission of being “fishers of men”.

And then that charcoal fire certainly brought back vivid memories. It was not that long ago and over another charcoal fire that Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once but three times.

So it was on that shore of the Sea of Tiberius that many memories came alive for Peter, and for the other disciples too.

And there at the centre of those memories is none other than the Risen Lord Jesus Himself.

And with the past coming alive in the present, Jesus put the question to Peter: Do you love me? It is not a question about the past, but more for the present as well as for the future.

It is a question not just for Peter to answer, it is also a question for us to answer. 

And before we answer with “Yes, Lord, you know I love you”, let us recall a bit about the past, especially when our love for Jesus was put to the test and how we have responded to the challenge.

No matter how we have responded in the past, there will always be troubled times and the trials of life.

But whether in troubled times or in times of trials, let us have a faith direction and may these four words help us in our direction. The four words are: First, Next, Then, Last.

First – It is God who has brought me to this situation. The will of God will never take me to where the grace of God will not protect me. In that I will be at peace.

Next – God will keep me in His love to behave as His child in this trial. God will never give us more than we can take. He will let us bend, but He will never let us break.

Then – He will turn the trial into a blessing and teach me lessons that He wants me to learn. God doesn’t just want us to go through it. He wants us to grow through it.

Last – In God’s good time, He will bring me out of it and let me rise and shine. Then we will realise that in order for the light to shine brightly, the darkness must be present. 

So just four words to give us a direction so as to make a decision – First, Next, Then, Last

We pray that like Peter, we will also say decisively: Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.

So whether in troubled times or in times of trial, may we know that it’s all God’s time.

And so with each time, may it always be: Yes, Lord, You know I love You.

2nd Week of Easter, Saturday, 04-05-19

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

Big numbers are impressive. Especially when it is about big numbers of people. Or as the saying goes - The more the merrier.

More may be merrier, and more may mean that something is attracting people and it may be a good thing.

On the other hand, more may also mean more challenges, and more problems also. And since everyone has a peculiar problem, then the more the people, the bigger the problems.

The 1st reading talks about a growing early Christian community. And one of the problems to arise was the daily distribution between the Hebrew and the Hellenists widows.

Well, that problem was solved with the appointment of the deacons.

And the number of disciples continued to greatly increase. And with that, it can be supposed that the number of problems also increased.

As it is, the present day Church is swamped with all sorts of challenges and problems. So what or where are the solutions?

The disciples in the gospel passage were in a boat and they faced a strong wind and rough seas.

Jesus came to them walking  on the lake but they were frightened. Jesus was the "solution" but they didn't see that as a solution and they were frightened by it at first.

So when we meet with problems, whether big or small, let us turn to God and ask Him to show us the solution.

God may present us with a solution that we may be apprehensive about or even be frightened by it.

If the solution is indeed from God, then we will hear those words "It is I. Do not be afraid". If Jesus is the solution, problems will turn to blessings

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Sts. Philip and James, Apostles, Friday, 03-05-19

1 Cor 15:1-8 / John 14:6-14

From the gospel accounts, we know quite a bit about the characters of some of the apostles like Peter, James and John.

But with apostles like Philip and James (son of Alphaeus) we only have snippets.

Yet from these snippets, we can make out a picture of who they were.

Philip was the type who wanted to see the reality before going any further.

That was why in the gospel, he asked Jesus to let them see the Father, and then they will be satisfied and hence can proceed to the next step or the next stage.

So even when at a much earlier time in the gospel, when Philip told Nathanael about Jesus, his persuasion was just a gentle "Come and see" (John 1:46)

That was Philip. He needed to see first before he could move on and ask others to do the same.

Philip and James saw Jesus but they took a long time before they came to really know Him and to understand Him and eventually love Him.

And when they came to love Jesus, they also proclaimed Him and made Him known.

Such is also our spiritual journey. We may know quite a bit about Jesus, but there is certainly much more that will be revealed to us.

So how we live our lives and how we proclaim our faith, that will show how much we know Jesus and how much we love Him.

Let us always pray that we will grow deeper in our love for Jesus.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, 02-05-19

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

In life we have many things to think about.

We think about our health and we try not to indulge in "sinful" foods that will result in high cholesterol or high blood or heart problems.

We think about our wealth and we hope that we will have enough savings to enjoy a golden sunset.

We also think about our relationships, and that will include our marriage, our parents, our children and our loved ones.

And then on and off, we might think about the after-life. Strange that we think about it only on and off.

Because the after-life is about eternity, as compared to this life which is only temporary.

In the gospel, John the Baptist said that anyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

But eternal life does not begin after death. In fact it begins with this life, with the here and now.

And it is not just about saying that we believe in Jesus. To believe is also to obey and follow the truth that Jesus has taught us.

No doubt the cares and concerns of this world will continue to engage our minds and hearts and the voices of this world will try to convince us that the glitter and lustre of this world is what we really need.

But St. Peter will remind us in the 1st reading - Obedience to God comes before obedience to man.

To believe in Jesus means to obey His teachings and to set our minds and hearts on things above and not on the things of earth.