Sunday, June 30, 2019

Annual Priests Retreat 2019

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from 1st July, Monday to 5th July, Friday.

I will also be at this retreat and I am really looking forward to it for a time of silence and prayer.

As such, the next homily post will be for 14th Ordinary Sunday, 7th July 2019.

Requesting prayers for myself and my brother priests that we will be renewed and re-focused so that we will continue to faithfully serve the Lord and His holy people.

Thank you. May God bless you!

Fr. Stephen Yim

Saturday, June 29, 2019

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 30.06.2019

1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 / Galatians 5:1. 13-18 / Luke 9:51-62
There are some phrases that are quite amusing. Because at first they sound contradictory, then after that they sound rather sensible, but after that we are not sure if they are understandable.

For example, there is this phrase “We agree to disagree”. At first, it seems nonsensical, but after thinking about it, it may seem sensible, but after that we wonder if it is practical.

Such phrases may seem to be like a paraprosdokian, which is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or to reinterpret the first part.

Some examples of a paraprosdokian are:
a. I asked God for a bike but I know that God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness. (Better not try that ok)
b. The last thing I want to do is to hurt you. But it’s still on the list. (Beware: the list may be very short)
c. Always borrow from a pessimist. He won’t expect you to pay it back.
d. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and then call whatever you hit as the target.
Anyway, back to that “we agree to disagree” phrase, we can further that by saying that “If I agree with you, then we would both be wrong.”

Now in the gospel, Jesus and His disciples went into a Samaritan town, but the people would not receive Him because He was heading for Jerusalem.

Seeing this, His disciples, James and John said: Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?

But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

The disciples, James and John, could not agree or accept the rejection of the Samaritans, so they thought of resorting to a fiery reaction to teach the Samaritans a lesson.

But the response of Jesus was almost like telling His disciples “let’s agree to disagree”.

But Jesus was also teaching them this lesson: When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

Anyway, fighting fire with fire only results in an inferno.
But how did the fire start? We know that when two hard stones are knocked against each other, the result is that only sparks will fly. That’s when the fire starts.

So when a disagreement between two persons happen, sparks begin to fly and a fire starts.

And then they start fighting fire with fire and dialogue and communication gets burned down and there goes the relationship as well.

And the fire does not go off. It continues to burn in the resentment, anger, bitterness and even hatred.

And all that just because of a disagreement that can burn into frustration and leading on to destruction.

A story goes that a man bought a fish and told his wife to cook the fish while he goes to watch a movie.

The wife wanted to go to the movies too, but the man told her to cook the fish so that when he comes back from the movie, he could eat the fish.

Also, he would watch the movie and tell her the story when he comes back.

So the man went to watch the movie alone. When he came back, he asked his wife for the fish.

The wife said that she had eaten it. She added: Well, you can sit down and tell me how the movie went, and I will tell you how the fish tasted.

We can imagine how the conversation went on from there.

Though it is just a story we can imagine the urge to call down fire to burn up the other party.

So, it is not so simple to say “let’s agree to disagree”. More than that, it calls for acceptance.

We may not agree with the other party, but let us accept the other person’s thinking and feelings about the matter at hand.

Jesus showed that He accepted the Samaritans’ rejection and He even taught His disciples to do so. And that’s what He is teaching us too.

As the 2nd reading teaches us: Serve one another in works of love, since the whole Law is summarized in a single commandment: love your neighbour as yourself.

And it continues: If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Yes, a disagreement can lead to destruction. But acceptance can bring about reconciliation.

And when we accept the call of Jesus to follow Him in His way of love, then we will realise how unnecessary and futile disagreement are. 

Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Saturday, 29-06-19

Acts 12:1-11 / 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18 / Gospel 16:13-19

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of these two great saints.

The celebration is of ancient origin, and it is celebrated on this date because it either marks the anniversary of their death or of the transfer of their relics.

Yet when we read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we may wonder why these two saints are put together in the same feastday. 

Because in reality they were as different as oil and water. Yet it also not about who is above the other.

Because both men had their flaws, and even their "fights" were recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

But both were chosen and called by Jesus for a mission and a task.

Both responded with all their hearts and even with their lives.

They had their differences but their love for Jesus rose above their human weaknesses like oil above the water.

Their feastday also tells us that although the Church may have its failings and weaknesses, yet there is also the divine calling and the outpouring of graces.

Like Sts. Peter and Paul, let us put aside our differences and open our hearts to God's graces, so that by our love and unity, we will proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, 28-06-19

Ezekiel 34:11-16 / Romans 5:5-11 / Luke 15:3-7

If we ask ourselves what is the greatest gift from God, we will surely come to this answer.

The greatest gift from God is surely His only Son Jesus.

And the greatest gift of Jesus to us is His love for us: "Love one another as I have loved you."

And Jesus showed that He loved us to the end by laying down his life for us.

The Church uses the image of the Sacred heart to symbolize this love.

The heart of Jesus is crowned with thorns but yet burning with love for us.

It is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus that our own hearts will find the love that we are looking for, and it is a love that Jesus wants to give us.

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus we will find the peace and joy that we are longing for.

Yes, our hearts will not rest until they are rested in the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

So the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us that Jesus is always loving us and holding us close to His heart.

His heart burns with love for us. May our hearts also burn with love for Jesus and for others.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 27-06-19

Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16 / Matthew 7:21-29

Not many of us know how to speak Korean, but not many of us do not know what K-drama is - Korean drama.

Not many of us understand Korean, but many of us like to watch K-drama, and also because there are subtitles, and that helps us to follow what is happening.

As in any drama series, K-drama focuses on essentially the drama of human relationships, and that drama unfolds in a spectrum of emotions, from love and kindness, to deceit and treachery, with that drama taking place in the family, at work, with friends, in society and country.

What we heard in the 1st reading can easily fit into any K-drama series, because it is the drama of life and the drama about life.

Sarai wanted a child, but since she can't conceive, she used her Egyptian slave-girl Hagar to get a child through her.

But when Hagar knew that she has conceived, she snubbed Sarai; Sarai counted for nothing in her eyes.

Obviously Sarai was enraged by this, and so she complained to Abram, and Abram let Sarai do what she liked to Hagar, and she treated her so badly that Hagar ran away.

That is Bible-drama, and it reflects the reality of our human relationships. The drama of our human relationships ranges from healing and happiness, to killing and brokenness.

We want to be happy but we should know by now that money and possessions cannot buy happiness or make us happy.

It is in our loving and caring relationships with others that we find happiness.

But we can only find that happiness when we are at peace with the Lord Jesus. Our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with Jesus.

When we are at peace with Jesus, we will be at peace with others, and we will find happiness.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 26-06-19

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 / Matthew 7:15-20   

The tendency to doubt God is in all of us.

But doubt can lead us to two different situations.

Either we deepen our faith in God or we despair and lose faith altogether.

In our doubt, we have this tendency to look inwards of ourselves, and the questions asked are centred on ourselves.

Much like the questions that Abram asked: What do you intend to give me? I am childless and You have given me no descendants!

But it is interesting that God took Abram "outside" to look up at heaven and count the stars.

But the "outside" is not so much in a physical aspect but rather from a spiritual perspective.

God led Abram to come out of his introspective and myopic attitude and to see further and believe deeper.

The attitude of individualism leads us to ask questions from within, questions that are centered on the self.

Hence the "I" becomes predominant, with the emphasis on the "right of choice" and the "power of freedom".

Yet these do not provide answers to the questions of life.

May we let God take us "outside" and to look up at the heavens and to count the stars.

It is enough to realise that we are in God's hands and it is in His hands we must remain in faith.

Monday, June 24, 2019

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 25-06-19

Genesis 13:2, 5-18 / Matthew 7:26, 12-14

The thickness of the human skin varies from 0.5mm to about 4mm.

But when we say that someone has thick skin, it does not necessarily mean that the person's skin is exceptionally or unusually thick.

Of course it is obvious as to what is meant to call a person thick-skinned.

Another phrase that we use in relation to skin is "beauty is only skin deep".

It means that no matter how impressive or pretty the looks are, it is only as good or as thick as the skin.

Deeper than the skin and going deeper lies the true nature of the person or thing.

In the 1st reading, Abram and Lot had to go separate ways in order to avoid a dispute.

Abram being the uncle and the elder, let Lot choose which part of the land he wished to go to.

Lot was probably selfish and thick-skinned enough to go for the choice lands, but what he was was as good as only skin-deep.

In fact, there was danger in where he chose as he settled near Sodom, and the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

Lot has yet to learn the generosity of Abram, and to treat others as he would like others to treat him.

Let us ask the Lord to soften the hardness and thickness of our hearts so that we will treat others with generosity, and to take that narrow gate and the hard road that leads to life

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Monday, 24-06-19

Isaiah 49:1-6 / Acts 13:22-26 / Luke 1:57-66, 80     

We might be wondering why the birth of St. John the Baptist is such a big feast-day, in fact a solemnity.

Maybe we can get an idea from the meaning of his name.

John, or in Hebrew "Yehohanan", means "the Lord is gracious" or "the Lord shows favour".

Indeed, in St. John the Baptist, God had shown His favour, not just to Zachariah and Elizabeth by blessing them with a child.

He has shown favour to the whole of humanity.

Because before St. John the Baptist came into the scene, the prophetic voice in Israel has been silent for 400 years.

When St. John the Baptist came into the scene, he breathed fire and preached thunder.

All that was to prepare the way for Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

So St. John the Baptist prepared the people to receive the graciousness from God.

He prepared the people to receive Jesus who is filled with grace and truth.

What St. John the Baptist did for the people of his time, we too are to do for the people of our time.

We too are to prepare our people to receive the graciousness and the favour of God.

The name John means "God is gracious" and "God shows favour".

We have an even more important name.

We are called Christians. It means the "anointed ones". It means that we are to be another Christ to the world.

May we be filled with God's grace and favour to fulfill our mission.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Corpus Christi, Year C, 23.06.2019

Genesis 14:18-20 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Luke 9:11-17
The lessons of life are not learnt in classrooms or by going for higher studies.

In fact, the lessons of life are often learnt by simply observing and reflecting on what is going on around us, by what we are encountering and by what we are experiencing.

For example, the lift (or the elevator) tells us that what goes up must come down, and vice versa. That already tells us that life has its ups and downs, and we have to accept that.

Sunrise and sunset tell us that the brightness and happiness of life will fade into the darkness and loneliness, and yet night will also have to give way to the light of day. That’s the cycle of life.

Even a simple room can teach us some lessons of life:
The roof says: Aim high
The fan says: Stay cool
The clock says: Value time
The calendar says: Be up to date
The mirror says: Always observe yourself
The wall says: Don’t bang your head here
The window says: Expand the vision
The floor says: Be down to earth
The bed says: Rest well
And finally, the toilet bowl says: When it is time to let go, just let go …

But often in life, a situation keeps repeating itself until we learn the lesson from it.

Maybe it is because we are slow to learn and quick to forget, that some situations keep repeating.

One such situation is the gospel passage that we have just heard.

The miracle of the multiplication of bread and the feeding of the crowds is a significant event that is recorded in all the four gospels.

That event in all the four gospels has the similar settings. Jesus was teaching the crowds and healing the sick. They were in a lonely place and it was getting late.

The disciples wanted to send the crowds away so that they can find food for themselves as there was not much food around.

There were just five loaves of bread and two fish, which was just enough for Jesus and His disciples but certainly not enough for that crowd of five thousand.

And yet Jesus tells His disciples, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” The disciples tried to protest politely, but behind Jesus’ back, they were probably saying something else.

And here again, Jesus shows that God does not think as man thinks, and with God nothing is impossible.

What is significant and also the lesson that Jesus wanted His disciples to learn is this: Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, raised His eyes to heaven, said the blessing over them, broke it and handed them to His disciples to distribute among the crowd.

And we must catch it there - Jesus said the blessing over the loaves and the fish. In other words, Jesus asked God to pour out His love on the loaves and fish, so that as the food is eaten, God’s love is also experienced.

The miracle is not the loaves and fish multiplying by themselves. It is the blessing of love that multiplied the loaves and fish, because whenever love is given, love is multiplied. And that’s the miracle.

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Body and Blood of Christ, or simply called the Eucharist, is the greatest and deepest mystery of the Church, and at the same time it is also the most difficult to comprehend and understand and to believe.

But that is because it is the mystery of God’s love for us which is certainly beyond our comprehension and understanding.

What happened at the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish happens at every Mass. The bread and wine are blessed and consecrated and it becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.

Yes, this happens at every Mass. And as it is said, a situation will keep repeating itself until we learn the lesson from it.

And for those who believe, no explanation is necessary. But for those who do not believe, then no explanation is possible.

In five days’ time, the Church will be celebrating the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. So the feast of Corpus Christi prepares us to encounter the Heart of Christ.

Because the Body of Christ that we receive at Holy Communion is nothing less than the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the most profound blessing of God.

And that’s why in receiving the Body of Christ, which is the Heart of Christ, we must make that act of faith – we must say “Amen.”

In doing so, we are also asking Jesus to make our hearts like His, so that our love may be multiplied to feed the hunger of the world.

That is the lesson that we must keep learning at every Eucharist.

Friday, June 21, 2019

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 22-06-19

2 Cor 12:1-10 / Matthew 6:24-34      

It is said that the top two killer diseases in our country are cancer and heart disease. It may not just be in our country but for other developed countries as well.

Yet there are also two other modern unofficial diseases that give rise to many health problems.

They are none other than worry and anxiety. Indeed we face worry and anxiety and they cause us stress and affect our health adversely.

They distort not only our inside but also our appearance. People will be able to tell from our looks if we are worried and anxious and stressed.

Whatever are the causes of worry and anxiety, they are like thorns in our hearts.

Like St. Paul in the 1st reading, we also plead with the Lord to remove our worry and anxiety.

Yet like what the Lord said to St. Paul, the Lord also says to us: My grace is enough for you, my power is at its best in weakness.

We have to face the fact that we will always have to face worry and anxiety.

Yet despite these two thorns in our hearts, Jesus is telling us in the gospel to set our hearts on His kingdom and on His love.

Yes, each day has enough trouble of its own. Yet each day God will also give us enough grace to live a life of love and to attain peace and joy.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 21-06-19

2 Cor 11:18, 21-30 / Matthew 6:19-23

Whenever we hear others talking about their difficulties and struggles, and even their sufferings, we would surely empathise with them.

At the same time, we also want to share our own "sob" story. After all who doesn't have a story of difficulties, struggles and sufferings to tell and share?

In the 1st reading, it seems that St. Paul was telling his own "sob" story about the difficulties he faced, the struggles he had to deal with, and the sufferings he had to endure.

But he was certainly not just giving a "sob" story to elicit sympathy or to impress others about the hardships that he was going through.

He had to tell about what he was going through because there were some preachers of a corrupted teaching who were boasting about their achievements in order to impress their listeners.

So St. Paul wanted to counter these false preachers, but not with a list of his achievements, but about his feebleness in the face of struggles, hardships and sufferings.

But over and above all that is his daily preoccupation and anxiety for the churches, and that he accepts all his hardships and sufferings for the good of the churches.

St. Paul's preoccupation and anxiety for the churches, as well as his hardships and sufferings, may be a bit too overwhelming for us.

Yet, we too need to ask ourselves what are we preoccupied and anxious about.

Jesus tells us not to store up treasures for ourselves on earth, but to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven.

Let that be our preoccupation and anxiety. For where our treasure is, there will our hearts be.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-06-19

2 Cor 11:1-11 / Matthew 6:7-15

The teaching about salvation as understood from the Christian perspective is that it is God's initiative, it is God who made the first move to reach out to fallen humanity and offer salvation.

God did that by promising the Saviour and in the fullness of time, the Saviour in the person of Jesus Christ was born of a woman, to redeem fallen humanity.

That is what is revealed in the Bible and also taught by the Church. That is also what we accept and believe as Christians.

But at the same time, there are also other movements and teachings about salvation that are propagated, which is outside of the Christian belief.

Often categorised generally as the "New Age" movement or spirituality,  these teachings and methods often entice our curiosity, leading us to even believe that we can save ourselves and Jesus is just one of the means in our goal for fullness of life and salvation.

That is not anything new because St. Paul, in the 1st reading, knows of the danger of "the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve" and he was afraid that the Corinthians may get their belief in Jesus Christ corrupted and turn away from the simple devotion to Christ.

We too are exposed to the seduction and corruption of our faith in Christ, especially when we face difficulties and troubles and our prayer don't seem to be answered and our faith begins to waver.

But we need to keep with what we believe and keep praying the prayers that we know, like the Lord's Prayer (or the Our Father).

Jesus who taught us that prayer is our Saviour. He is our only Saviour and what He taught us is enough for our  salvation.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-06-19

2 Cor 9:6-11 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Doing a noble and charitable deed is a good thing.

And such deeds don't often go unnoticed. Somehow there will be some attention generated and people will come to know of it.

Of course we won't ask for the attention or the publicity for doing a noble or charitable deed.

But undeniably we will feel good about the compliments from the attention and publicity.

And that's where we have to watch ourselves. Because as much as we are modest about the attention and publicity, the compliments can create an expectation and even a longing for it. And it even become a yearning for it.

In the gospel, Jesus warned that even spiritual activities like prayer, fasting and alms-giving can be turned into something to elicit attention from others and turn into a publicity act.

And since the so-called "reward" is already received here on earth, then there will be no more reward in heaven.

The 1st reading quoted from scripture with this: He was free in alms-giving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

We only need to know that whatever good we do, or when we pray privately, or fast or give alms, God is watching and He will give us our due rewards in heaven.

Moreover, whatever good and generous things we do must bear the fruit of thanksgiving to God.

Monday, June 17, 2019

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-06-19

2 Cor 8:1-9 / Matthew 5:43-48

If we really had a choice, would we want to be a Catholic? Or would we just want to be a pagan, or just a free-thinker?

To be a pagan, or a free-thinker seems easy enough - just do as others do.

Or as how the gospel would put it - love those who love us, do good to those who do good to us, smile at those who smile at us, etc.

On the flip side then we can also hurt those who hurt us and take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Yet, is this what life is all about? Are we just to live a mundane, monotonous and a dull life that goes just by instinct and creature senses?

So the question in today's gospel is asking us this: Are we doing anything exceptional?

If we call ourselves Christians, are we just following what the rest of the world is doing?

So as Christians, if we are not doing anything exceptional, then we may be like "pagan-Christians".

Jesus showed us how to live our lives with meaning and purpose.

As the 1st reading puts it : He was rich but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.

In following Christ, our life is none other than that of the life of Christ, which is a call to the perfection in a life of love.

As Christians, we choose a life of love. Any other choice is not worth it.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-06-19

2 Cor 6:1-10 / Matthew 5:38-42   
To live as a Christian is as good as saying that we are prepared to face the contradictions of life.

Because the teachings of Jesus are full of contradictions - the cross itself is a contradiction.

What Jesus taught, like for e.g. what we heard in the gospel, about offering the wicked man no resistance and unconditional generosity even to the ungrateful sounds crazy.

But in the 1st reading, we hear St. Paul attesting that the teachings of Jesus and a life of contradictions are not at all crazy; in fact it points to the holy.

In his sufferings, hardships and distress, he affirmed that God's grace was working powerfully in him.

Indeed, God's grace is poured into our hearts when we ourselves are undergoing sufferings, hardships and distress.

Because in the time of our need, God will listen to us and come to our help and save us.

There is a poem about contradictions in life and it goes like this :

I asked for  health that I might do greater things;
but I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
but I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
but I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God.
I got nothing I asked for, but by God's grace I got everything I hoped for.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Trinity Sunday, Year C, 16.06.2019

Proverbs 8:22-31 / Romans 5:1-5 / John 16:12-15
All high-rise buildings have this important feature, without which no one would occupy or go up to the upper floors. We are talking about the lifts.

Usually there is at least one lift, and in some commercial buildings, there can be as many as eight lifts in one lift lobby.

Outside the lift, there are only two buttons, the “up” and the “down” buttons, and depending on which way we are going, we press the button accordingly.

Inside the lift, the control panel has more buttons, and most are clearly marked. There are the buttons with numbers on them to indicate the floors to go to. There is the bell or alarm button which we will press only when necessary.

And then there are those two buttons, usually situated at the lowest row, to open and to close the lift doors. Those two buttons come in handy if we want to keep the lift doors open, or to close it if we can’t wait for it to close automatically.

The strange and mysterious thing about those two buttons is that, unlike the other buttons on the control panel which are marked clearly and comprehendible immediately, those two buttons are not marked with the words “open” or “close”.

Rather they are marked with arrow-head symbols, with two arrow-heads pointing inwards to mean close and two arrow-heads pointing outwards to mean open.

But so very often, we press the wrong button. Instead of pressing the “open” button for someone who wants to come in when the lift-doors are closing, we press the “close” button, resulting in nasty stares.

We just wonder why can’t they put the words “open” and “close” on those two buttons. That would solve the problem of pressing the wrong button, isn’t it.  

But do we know that the button for opening the lift-doors is usually the button closer to the lift-doors. That seems to be the standard layout for the “open” and “close” buttons in the lift’s control panel. 

Well, if we didn’t know this, then we have learnt some new today. That might be helpful to know. Whatever it is, everyday there is always something new to learn.

Jesus says this in the gospel: I still have many things to say to you, but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you to the complete truth.

In other words, Jesus is telling us that when it comes to matters about the faith, about the nature of God, about the meaning of our lives, we can never know it all.

After all, faith is a mystery, God is a mystery, our lives are a mystery, and there is a continuous discovery of this mystery.

Today we celebrate the feast of the most Holy Trinity, and that indeed is a great mystery. We know what it means and yet there is also a lot more to know.

We know that God is Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that the Father is Creator, the Son is Saviour, and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.

We know that much about the mystery of God, but we also want to know about the reality of the Trinity in our lives.

Many symbols have been used to give an analogy to the mystery of the Trinity: the triangle, the shamrock (which is a three-leaved plant), the different states of water-ice-steam, etc. 

They are only analogies but not the reality. But still they can be helpful in teaching about the Trinity.

Another analogy that can be used, although not immediately obvious, is the “Jesus Invites” envelopes which are prepared for the parish triduum leading up to the feast day celebrations.

In this simple piece of folded envelope are actually three processes: the one who folds it; the one who distributes it; and the one who receives it.

But that is not all. The process continues with the one who writes the petition, the one who offers the petition, and the One who will answer the petition.

And there are also three reasons for the “Jesus Invites”: 
1. To promote the Devotion to the Sacred Heart.
2. To give us the opportunity to offer the prayers of our hearts to the Heart of Jesus.
3. To reach out to those who find life a misery and to introduce them to the mercy of Jesus.

Oh yes, we have many prayers that are still waiting to be answered. But let us put these prayers and petitions into these “Jesus Invites” and see how Jesus is going to answer them.

And it is also our parish commitment to pray for these petitions for a year. We are doing this because we know that prayers have been answered.

So in a way we know what buttons to press for us to offer our petitions. 

But let us also press the “open” button to keep the lift-door open to the many who have urgent prayers.

And as we lift up our prayers and petitions, may we also have an uplifting experience of God who is Trinity, the Trinity of love, peace and mercy.

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 15-06-19

2 Cor 5:14-21 / Matthew 5:33-37

It is really amazing how children grow even if it is just in a matter of a couple of months.

Yes, they grow in height, in size, as well as in behaviour. They become more and more independent and they begin to have a mind of their own, and subsequently they don't listen to us and they don't do what we tell them.

At times we wish that they remain as those cute darlings that we used to know once upon a time, and when they were totally dependent and obedient to us.

But it is not just only the children who grow and change. We too grow and change, although not as phenomenal as children.

And even in the 1st reading, St. Paul would say that "even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know Him now."

It is interesting that St. Paul said that. Yes, it may mean that the Christ before His suffering and death is not the same as the Risen Christ in His glory.

But it also may mean that we have grown and changed and how we see and understand Christ before may be different now in that we have grown to a deeper love and understanding of who Christ is in our lives.

May we continue to grow more and more like Christ so that we will always say "Yes" to Christ and "No" to the devil.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 14-06-19

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 5:27-32

Modern day cooking utensils are generally made of metal, and they come with various characteristics like non-stick or fast-heating or non-corrosive and whatever.

But the earliest cooking utensils were earthenware which is made from the common clay to fine porcelain.

Even nowadays, some cooking is done in earthenware and the food is kept in it. Some are of the opinion that the food taste better and last longer.

But earthenware is delicate and fragile. Needless to say, a careless knock will crack the earthenware and render it useless for cooking or for storage.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul gives the analogy of a Christian being like an earthenware jar that holds the treasures of God, to make it clear that whatever good a Christian does come from God and not from self.

And as such, even though fragile and delicate like earthenware, Christians should be able to withstand the knocks of life and yet keep the treasures of God within.

But what can crack the earthenware-like nature of a Christian is not the external knocks but the knocks from within.

These are the knocks of sin that will crack the earthenware-like nature of the Christian and render a Christian useless to contain anything, much less the treasures of God.

So let us keep sin out of our lives. Let us cut off any sinful habits so that we can truly contain and share the treasures of God with others.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 13-06-19

2 Cor 3:15 - 4:1, 3-6 / Matthew 5:20-26

The most basic principle and practice in photography is that the camera must be checked to see if the lens is clean or not.

Otherwise the most beautiful scenery or the most touching moment taken by a camera may not turn out well on the photograph just because the lens is defective or dirty.

Our eyes are like the lens of a camera. And it is not just the pair of eyes that are in question but the eyes of the heart.

The 1st reading talks about a veil over the minds of the Israelites. And it would not be removed until they turned to the Lord.

For us who profess ourselves as Christians, we too must be careful of a veil over the eyes of our hearts.

We too can succumb to the veil of easy Christianity, cheap grace, gospel of prosperity and risk-free discipleship.

Jesus said this to His disciples in the gospel: If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

So we won't kill or commit murder. But Jesus tells us that that is not all to it. If our anger goes out of control and curse others with derogatory names, then we will have to answer for it before the Lord.

We must be careful not to have veils over the eyes of our hearts. When we can see what the Lord Jesus wants of us and what He is calling us to, then we too will reflect the brightness of the Lord and even turn into the image of Him whom we are reflecting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 12-06-19

2 Cor 3:4-11 / Matthew 5:17-19

A constitution is a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.

Generally it is understood that the purpose of the constitution is for the good of the country or organization.

Hence to change the constitution is no light matter. If that is the case, then to abolish the constitution is a very grave matter indeed, and the consequence will be chaos and havoc.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them.

Probably the reason for saying this was that His disciples were thinking that Jesus was starting a revolution against the system.

More so for those who were already not happy about the religious system at that time, they were looking forward to some radical change.

And with Jesus teaching with authority, they could be thinking that He would be the one to lead them to a revolution and a radical change.

So Jesus had to tell them solemnly that till the end of time, there will be no change in the Law and its purpose must be fulfilled.

And that is what Jesus is also telling us - that His teachings are to guide us to live a life that is centered on love and charity.

Yet, we must also keep to the discipline of His teachings so that we can experience true freedom.

True freedom is not to break from the Law but to keep it. Because true freedom is about keeping the ways of the Lord so that we can live a life focused on God.

May we keep to the teachings of Jesus and help others do the same.

Monday, June 10, 2019

St. Barnabas, Apostle, Tuesday, 11-06-19

Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3 / Matthew 10:7-13

St. Barnabas was not one of the twelve Apostles who were chosen by Jesus.

Yet in Acts 14:14, he, together with St. Paul were called apostles, as they were sent by the Church for a mission and to preach or deliver a message.

Yet to be called an apostle was indeed a great privilege for St. Barnabas, considering the fact that he was one of the first converts to Christianity.

And indeed, he lived up to his calling as an apostle. He and St. Paul undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against a faction which insisted on circumcision.

We also heard from the 1st reading that they also gained converts in Antioch, and it was there that the  disciples were first called "Christians".

He also participated in the Council of Jerusalem, the first Council, which addressed the status of the Gentile converts and formulated the required religious practices for them.

So St. Barnabas was a great figure of evangelization in the early Church.

Yet the 1st reading described these simple but important qualities in him - for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.

For us who are called by God to be His people, let us recognize the goodness that God has created in us.

Let us also ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith so that like St. Barnabas, we too will be instruments for the great work that God wants us to do.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Mary, Mother of the Church, Monday, 10-06-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pentecost Sunday, Year C, 09.06.2019

Acts 2:1-11 / 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13 / John 20:19-23

A sigh can be described as a deep big breath. In order to sigh, a deep breath is inhaled and an audible breath is exhaled. So it can be said that there is no such a thing as a silent sigh.

With the word “sigh”, the assumption is that it is a response to a helpless or hopeless situation, or an indication of giving up, or a lack of motivation or inspiration, or a sign of pessimism or subtle criticism.

That word “sigh” appears frequently in our text messages when we don’t know how to reply to a complaint or when we don’t know how to response to a sticky situation. So we type “sigh”, and hopefully that will end the conversation.

But a sigh actually has a few shades of meaning. Besides a sigh of helplessness, there is also a sigh of relief, especially when something tedious or burdensome is finished, or when an anxiety or worry is over, we heave a sigh of relief.

So a sigh have at least two meanings or even more. We know what it means when we sigh, and others will know what it means, when we sigh.

Generally speaking, a sigh is a deep inhaling of air followed by a quick exhale, and not a slow release.

But what would we call a quick inhale and no exhaling. That would be like holding the breath.

In the gospel, when the disciples were in the room, with the doors closed for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.

The disciples, in a state of surprise and shock, probably took in a quick breath and held it there. But they didn’t have to hold it that long as Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.”

And after saying that, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is a rather unique action of Jesus, where breath is used to symbolize the presence and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But this action of breathing on the disciples brings us back to the book of Genesis 2:7, where in the creation of man, God formed man from the dust of the earth and then He breathed into the nostrils of the man and the man became alive.

So the breath of God is the breath of life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son, as we profess in the Creed.

So in the gospel, the Risen Jesus is recreating the scene from the book of Genesis as He breathed the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His disciples.

He breathed into His disciples the breath of new life, a breath of forgiveness, a breath of healing, a breath of love, the breath of the Holy Spirit.

And we see the effects of the Holy Spirit in the disciples in the 1st reading as they went forth to proclaim the marvels of God in different languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Today as the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus breathes on us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But we can’t help but wonder if Jesus is breathing on us the gift of the Holy Spirit, or is He sighing at us with pity and compassion.

As it is said, we begin life with a wail and we end our life with a sigh; our last breath is like a sigh.

Not only is our last breath like a sigh, our whole life seems like a big sigh.

We sigh with frustrations, disappointments, hurts, helplessness, fears and anxiety. We sigh with the burden of sin and unforgiveness.

Sighing has become associated with pessimism, hopelessness and lifelessness.

But today we want to sigh, but sigh with relief. Like the disciples in the gospel, we want to sigh with relief as the Lord Jesus is offering us peace and forgiveness.

We want to breathe in the breath of God and breathe out all that is not of God.

We want to breathe in peace and forgiveness, and breathe out our fears and anxiety.

We ask the Lord Jesus to remove the blockages so that we can breathe in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and with the breath of the Holy Spirit we want to go forth to proclaim the Good News of the marvels of God.

Let us change our sighs of burden into sighs of relief because Jesus has forgiven us and saved us.

Let us breathe in the gift of the Holy Spirit and with the breath of the Holy Spirit, let us go forth to proclaim the Good News of salvation.

Friday, June 7, 2019

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 08-06-19

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

Generally speaking, the gospel according to John is ascribed to John the apostle, but of course there are other opinions.

It is also said that John the apostle lived to a ripe old age whereas the other apostles were martyred.

Maybe that could be a reason why the gospel according to John is so different from the other three synoptic gospels.

The other three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, have more historical facts.

The gospel of John has a more theological as well as a more mystical perspective.

As he ends off his gospel account, John states that he bears testimony to Jesus and he vouches that what he has written is indeed true.

So John had a distinct mission. St. Paul was a missionary for Christ; St. Peter was a shepherd for Christ; St. John was a witness for Christ.

Where the gospel of John ends off is where our own gospel must begin.

The gospel of our lives will now have to bear witness to Christ.

It is in the gospel of our lives that the eternal truth of Christ will be passed on to the next generation of God's people.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit who will guide us to all truth and help us bear witness to Christ.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 07-06-19

Do we have problems?
Of course we do. But we can lift it up to the Lord and entrust them to Him. 

All prayer petitions will be offered and prayed for at the First Friday Mass and Devotion to the Sacred Heart. 7 June, 7pm.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 06-06-19

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 / John 17:20-26 

There is this story of a philosophy professor who gave the class the question for the exam: What is courage?

The students had an hour to answer the question. So when the professor told the class to begin, the students began to write furiously to answer the question.

But just after about one minute, a student walked up to the professor to hand in his answer sheet, just one sheet.

Later when the results of the exam were announced, it was that student who got the top marks.

So what was his answer? Well his answer was just three words : This is courage!

Well, courage may mean an uncommon act of bravery.

Or it may mean a virtue that surfaces in a situation of fear.

Or it may mean faithfulness and perseverance in carrying out a dangerous task or mission.

That was what the Lord urged St. Paul in the 1st reading.

The Lord urged him to be courageous and to be faithful and persevere in bearing witness to Him.

And as we heard in the gospel, Jesus prayed for us that we be faithful to God and persevere in unity and bearing witness.

Jesus will give us the Spirit of courage. May we be brave in witnessing to our faith.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 05-06-19

Acts 20:28-38 / John 17:11-19

In the theory of evolution, a species can evolve and can develop some additional features or characteristics.

But no matter how a species may evolve, it cannot turn into another species of another genetic variation.

So for example, a dog can't turn into a cat, nor can it turn into a pig. Even when there is evolution in the species, the dog's genetic heredity will remain more or less the same.

Needless to say then, a sheep can't turn into a wolf, nor can a wolf turn into a sheep. Naturally speaking, that is impossible.

But spiritually speaking, a person can change from good to bad, or from bad to good.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul used the image of fierce wolves attacking and having no mercy on the flock to refer to the enemies of the Church.

And he says that even from within the Church, there will be people who will come up with a travesty of the truth and cause division.

It can be said of those people that the sheep have become like wolves.

Yet it is also the mission of the Church to turn those wolves into sheep.

That can only happen when the sheep listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and go the way He is leading them.

When the sheep follow the Shepherd, even the wolves will be converted.

Monday, June 3, 2019

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 04-06-19

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

Running a race on a track in the stadium and running a race over cross-country are obviously two very different things.

Besides wearing different types of shoes, the conditions are totally different.

No doubt, running a race over cross-country is certainly more challenging, with unpredictable terrain and obstacles that will break the rhythm of the run.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul described his mission as that of running a race. As in any kind of race, it is tiring as well as exhausting, and there is no stopping or giving up.

As it is also like a cross-country race, as he says that it was made clear to him by the Holy Spirit that in town after town, imprisonment and persecution awaits him.

For St. Paul, life is not a thing to waste words on, and that means that he was not going to complain or think about how difficult it was.

He would keep running and finishing the race of carrying out the mission of bearing witness to the Good News of God's grace.

So it is for us too, and our faith life is to be like a cross-country race, with unpredictable challenges and difficulties, as well as twists and turns.

But just as Jesus said in the gospel that He has glorified the Father by finishing the work that He was given to do, let us also keep running towards God and keep glorifying God as we run.

We must realize from what Jesus and St. Paul said, that our sufferings on earth cannot be compared to the glory that is waiting for us in heaven. With that we just have to keep running and praying.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 03-06-19

Acts 19:1-8 / John 16:29-33

There is a proverb that goes like this: Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid of standing still.

With that being said, it is inevitable that growth requires moving out of the comfort zone, just like how seeds have to sprout out, eggs have to be hatched and babies have to come out of the womb.

Moving out of the comfort zone would also mean uncertainty, anxiety and challenges.

In the gospel, the disciples made a rather bold statement when they said to Jesus, "We believe that you came from God."

They were probably expecting Jesus to congratulate them for believing in Him at last.

But what Jesus said in reply probably puzzled and astonished them. Jesus talked about them being scattered, leaving Him alone and that they will have trouble.

But He also had encouraging words - they will find peace in Him because He had conquered the world. They just need to be brave.

Those words of Jesus are also for us. Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.

The troubles and pains we feel today is the strength we feel tomorrow.

And let us also pray to the Holy Spirit, that we too with Jesus will conquer the world and find peace.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

7th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 02.06.2019

Acts 7:55-60 / Apocalypse 22:12-14, 16-17, 20 / John 17:20-26

It is said that the eyes are the windows and mirrors of the heart. That is indeed quite true when we observe the eyes of a person.

When a person is deep in thought or dreaming, the eyes seem to be looking into space or looking at something a mile away.

When a person is excited and lively, the eyes seem to be wide open and even dancing.

When a person is troubled or unwell, the eyes would seem to be droopy and dull.

When a person is evasive, the eyes would avoid eye contact.

And when a person is staring at something or someone, those eyes seem to be locked on to the object, like how cats fix their eyes on the prey.

Indeed the eyes of a person are like windows and mirrors of the heart. Those eyes can tell us something about how the person is feeling and what the person is thinking.

We just have to look into the eyes of a person and maybe more than just feelings and thoughts, we may also see the story of that person.

The Bible doesn’t say much about the eyes of the characters in its pages. But it does say something about where they are looking and what they are seeing.

The 1st reading begins by saying that Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.

But the members of the council didn’t see what Stephen saw. They didn’t believe that Stephen could have a glimpse of heaven. For them, no human being could ever see heaven while on earth.

And for that, they dragged Stephen out to execute him by stoning him to death. For them their eyes were only looking for the biggest and sharpest stones to throw at Stephen.

Their eyes did not, or maybe dare not, look into the eyes of Stephen, for fear that they could see what he saw and be converted.

But even if they didn’t want to look into the eyes of Stephen, their eyes couldn’t avoid the sight of the kneeling and dying Stephen as he made that invocation: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

That sight of the praying Stephen when he was dying might not mean much then to his executioners. But it may mean something much later to that young man Saul, who later would become Paul.

And in the gospel, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and said a long prayer to God.

We may be able to remember what He prayed for, but we will also remember that posture of prayer as Jesus raised His eyes to heaven.

Jesus, as well as Stephen, raised their eyes to heaven and they saw something, and we wish that we could see what they saw.

But they raised their eyes to heaven not because they wanted to see something. They raised their eyes to heaven because of what they saw on earth.

Stephen saw the stubbornness of the people who refused to believe even though they saw the signs and wonders that he worked.

As Stephen gazed into heaven, he saw the glory of God and of Jesus and that gave him the faith and love to forgive his enemies even as he was dying.

Jesus raised His eyes to heaven to pray for His disciples that they be united in the same love that He has for His Father.

He could see how easily the faith of His disciples could be shaken and how easily they could be disunited, and hence He raised His eyes to heaven in prayer.

As we look at our world and our Church, we could be dismayed or disturbed by what is going on around us.

The world has its problems, the Church also has its problems, we too have our own problems.

When we see a child making a commotion in Church, let us not stare or glare at the parents. Let us look at the parents and feel their embarrassment and difficulty, and have compassion and empathy for them.

When we see someone complaining and criticizing about this or that, let us look at that person and see that he is fighting with his own problems and he is looking for solutions but ending up in frustrations.

As we look into the eyes of these people, let us raise our eyes to heaven and pray for God’s revelation.

God will give us the consolation that when there are tears in the eyes, there will also be rainbows in the heart.

Let us continue to raise our eyes to heaven and pray to have eyes that will see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad and a heart that will not lose faith in God.