Saturday, February 29, 2020

1st Sunday of Lent, Year A, 01.03.2020

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 / Romans 5:12-19 / Matthew 4:1-11
One of the important things in life that we take for granted is our health.

When we are in the pink of health, when there is no threat to our well-being, we will be like riding on the crest of the wave and feeling high and mighty.

We might become so arrogant and then we will think that to be healthy is a time to get wealthy.

But when we get afflicted by illness, or when our health is threatened by some kind of contagion, then things become reversed.

The way life was one month ago, and the way of life now is like steep downward ride on a roller coaster.

Humble items like handheld forehead thermometers, surgical masks and hand sanitizers were items that we hardly bothered about before. But now they become prized items and fetch ridiculous prices.

The whole world is like on a lockdown as the COVID-19 virus makes its appearance outside of Asia.

Where once mankind was like the master and put 
animals into cages, now it is a tiny virus that has put mankind into his self-made cages.

Where once mankind used health to gain wealth, now mankind uses wealth to gain health, and try to protect it.

As we enter into the first Sunday of Lent, we hear of Jesus being led by the Spirit out into the wilderness when He fasted for 40 days.

The wilderness is a harsh place where life is stripped down to almost nothing. There is no security or guarantee, no protection or assurance.

The wilderness, or the desert, and the number 40 has this biblical meaning of trial and testing.

But it also has the meaning of cleansing, purification and enlightenment. 

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years for them to learn that God is their Provider and Saviour, even though they failed in their faith in God time and again.

Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness where God was His only security and protection and after which he had to face the devil’s temptations.

But Jesus overcame the devil. Physically drained but spiritually strengthened, He rebutted and rebuked the devil.

As we wonder what the next 40 days hold for us and for the world, let us follow Jesus into the wilderness and let us also embark on the three spiritual disciplines of Lent, that is, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Let these 40 days be a time of cleansing, purification and enlightenment, so that we can be spiritually healthy and strengthened in faith to meet the challenges and the temptations in life.

Let us be spiritually disciplined in these forty days and God will send His angels to look after us.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Saturday after Ash Wednesday, 29-02-2020

Isaiah 58 : 9-14 / Luke 5 : 27-32

At any point in time, we can surely think of a person or persons that we have difficulties relating with.

We may just feel uncomfortable about that person, or cannot accept certain qualities about that person, or that person may have hurt us before.

Hence human relationships are often laced with anything from indifference to intolerance.

Of course, we being the disciples of Jesus will try and strive to resolve our differences.

But the moment we get hurt again or feel that it is pointless or feel that there can be no change for the better, we will immediately and conveniently give up.

But in today's gospel, we see Jesus approaching someone whom we would automatically ostracize in our lives, especially if that person has betrayed us and sold us out.

Levi was such a person and yet Jesus not only approached him, but even called him to follow Him.

Jesus came to bring together all peoples into the peace and unity of God's kingdom.

In our Lenten journey ahead, let us heed the word of the Lord from the 1st reading.

Let us release our clenched fists and drop the wicked word.

Then our light will begin to shine for others and our own shadows will be shortened.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Friday after Ash Wednesday, 28-02-2020

Isaiah 58 : 1-9 / Matthew 9 : 14-15

Whenever we embark on a task, especially a task that we are not that keen about, there may be a tendency for us to look for benefits or rewards in order to motivate us.

We may ask this question : what do I gain from it?

So even a spiritual discipline like fasting can be manipulated.

The prophet Isaiah tells of people who ask God such questions like : Why should we fast if You never see it, why do penance if You never notice.

Let us remember that spiritual disciplines like fasting or alms-giving or even prayer is not meant to attract God's attention and gain spiritual points.

In the case of fasting, it is a spiritual discipline, a physical form of prayer, that helps us to come to a greater awareness of God in our lives and also to have a hunger for God.

Fasting helps us see clearly what is really important and necessary in our lives.

Fasting is a good spiritual discipline that leads us into a deeper relationship with God.

When we are in a deep relationship with God, we will know what to fast from.

We are to fast from sin, because it creeps so easily into our lives and clings tenaciously onto us.

Sin destroys our relationship with God. Fasting is a spiritual means to restore that relationship.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 27-02-2020

Deuteronomy 30:5-20 / Luke 9:22-25 

We may know about the novel titled "Frankenstein" and may even have read it.

It is about this monster that Dr. Frankenstein created, although the monster had been mistakenly called Frankenstein.

It is not so much a horror story but rather a tragic story.

Because this creature-monster also had feelings and self-awareness to some extent.

It was that ability to think and feel and reflect that made it more an object of pity rather than of fear and disgust.

We too can think and feel and reflect. And we also can choose.

That is what makes us uniquely human - our ability to choose; our freedom of choice.

In the 1st reading, Moses asked his people to exercise properly this freedom of choice - a choice for life or death, a choice for God or for sin and destruction.

In the gospel, Jesus stated clearly His choice - He chose the cross.

In turn, Jesus now asks each of us : What is your choice?

Do we want to follow Jesus and hence choose the cross?

That is the fundamental question that stands between us and Jesus.

Moses urged his people : choose life.

Ironically, it is in choosing the cross that we choose life.

To choose otherwise will only make us monsters.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ash Wednesday, 26-02-2020

Joel 2 : 12-18 / 2 Cor 5:20 - 6:2 / Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

Today, the whole Church, and especially those preparing for baptism at Easter, begin a very intense spiritual journey

It is a journey of repentance, a journey of renewal, a journey of conversion and a journey of healing.

Whatever form the journey may take, it is always a journey back into the heart of God.

In a way, it is a journey of acknowledgment.

We acknowledge that God is our Creator and that we are His creatures.

God created us in His image and likeness. Yet it was from the dust of the earth that He created us.

Today we acknowledge that we are created from dust and it will be unto dust that we shall return.

This is one of the reasons why we are signed with ashes on our foreheads on this day.

Yet being signed with ashes on our foreheads is also a sign of our repentance.

We also express our repentance and acknowledge our sinfulness through fasting, prayer and alms-giving.

Let us turn to the Lord now, for He is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy.

Let us not delay, let us not procrastinate. Because now is the favourable time; now is the time of grace.

Today the God of our salvation is knocking on the door of our hearts. Let us open our hearts to Him and be filled with His grace.

Monday, February 24, 2020

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 25-02-2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 23, 2020

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 24-02-2020

James 3:13-18 / Mark 9:14-29

When we were young, there were probably some people whom we look up to, or some role models in our lives.

But when we reach adulthood and get on in our years, we fall back on what we have learnt from experiences and we carve out a wisdom that is gained over the years.

Yet how much of that wisdom is mere human wisdom, and how much of that is divine wisdom?

The 1st reading states that truly wise people will show it by their good lives and with humility in their actions.

Yet a contorted and warped human wisdom would be shown in the bitterness of jealousy, self-seeking ambitions and the covering up of the truth.

St. James continued by saying that such is definitely not the wisdom that comes down from above but rather they are only earthly, animal and devilish.

Indeed we have to pray and reflect on what are our principles and motivation in life, what do we believe in and what do we practice.

Yes, we need to pray because as Jesus said in the gospel, evil can only be driven out by prayer, especially when it is the evil within.

May the Lord listen to our prayer, cleanse us from all evil, so that with the wisdom from above our lives will be pure, and we will bear fruits of love and peace, compassion and kindness.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

7th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 22.02.2020

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 / 1 Cor 3:16-23 / Matthew 5:38-48
To be in a dilemma is to be in a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two alternatives, and usually both alternatives are equally difficult.

Obviously it is far from pleasant to be in a dilemma and obviously there is no win-win outcome.

It is more like how much is going to be lost and can we bear the loss.

It is almost like a choice between the frying pan and the fire.

In life, we will have to face our dilemmas at one point or another.

It may be a health issue or a financial issue or a relationship issue.

Such dilemmas make us look at the issue squarely and in the end we will have to make that difficult choice and commend everything to God.

As we spend the second weekend with Mass still under suspension, we can understand the dilemma that the Archbishop and the Church is facing.

Whether to continue the suspension or resume the Mass, the whole issue is about social responsibility versus faith in God.

On the one hand, the Church needs to exercise her social responsibilities by joining in the efforts to contain the virus infection and hence the suspension of Masses.

On the other hand, the Church also wants to exercise her faith in these times and to have recourse to the unity in prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist to go through this period.

Yet it seems that both are not compatible because if Mass is not suspended, it may seem that the Church is indifferent and irresponsible.

But now that Mass is suspended for the time being, faith seems to be shaken and questions are being raised as to when will Mass resume.

This is the dilemma that the Church is currently facing and a resolution needs to be found quickly.

Meanwhile there are efforts going on behind the scenes to prepare the Church to resume Mass quickly, as the season of Lent is also approaching.

But these efforts cannot bear fruit without the prayer of the People of God.

So as much as we have our opinions about the directions the Church should take at this time, let us also be docile in faith and united in prayer.

This current situation is like a Pandora box that was dropped out of nowhere into the Church and many disturbing things have come out of it - confusion, apprehension, disappointment, fear, etc.

But there is one more thing, maybe it will be the last thing, that will and must come out of this box, and that is hope.

Not only must we have hope that with the grace and blessings of God, this situation will pass, let us also hope that the Church will grow and learn to be stronger in faith and united in prayer.

May that be our hope as we continue to be united in prayer.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 21-02-2020

James 2:14-24, 26 / Mark 8:34 - 9:1

Every now and then we are faced with this dilemma of having to reject someone who has come to borrow money.

Especially after hearing a sad moving story, we are not sure if we can be hard-hearted enough to turn the person away.

Yet from experience we know that more often than not, we won't see our money again, but that does not mean we won't see that person again.

So the question remains - To lend or not to lend?

Yet as we listen to the 1st reading, St. James gives us very practical as well as firm spiritual direction with regard to this matter.

He said that if we see someone in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, then our faith must spur us on to give them those bare necessities of life.

Our faith must be seen in our good works and our good works must be for the good of others and not to spoil them by giving in to their "demands".

As Jesus said in the gospel, if we are to be His disciples, we are to renounce ourselves and we must also help others to renounce themselves and to turn to Jesus for help.

As St. Peter said in Acts 3:6 "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

Jesus is what we should have, because Jesus is what we can only give to others.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-02-2020

James 2:1-9 / Mark 8:27-33

The Church waits in hope for the second coming of Christ.

Yet we also know that Christ is present among us where two or three are gathered in His name.

But concretely speaking, how do we know that?

Well today's 1st reading gives us a concrete situation in which we have to judge for ourselves as to who we see Christ in.

In the 1st reading, St. James warns us against using two different standards for people and in doing have we  turned ourselves into corrupt judges.

We tend to classify people into rich and poor, and we tend to favour the rich and ignore the poor.

Yet in whom is Christ present? Where is He in flesh and blood?

St. James continued by saying that it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.

He continued by saying that in spite of this, we have no respect for anybody who is poor.

And he also had something startling to say about the rich, which we have to ask ourselves whether it is true.

Yet in judging people and categorizing them into rich and poor and favouring the rich is indeed to play into the hands of the devil.

So it was not that shocking that Jesus rebuked Peter and said to him - Get behind me Satan! Because the way you think is not God's way but man's.

Christ is present in the poor as well as in those who think in God's way.

May we always know what is the way of God and walk in that  way. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-02-2020

James 1:19-27 / Mark 8:22-26

One of the most annoying moments of the day is when one wakes up in the morning to the loud shrill of the alarm clock and bright lights and with shouts to get up and get washed.

That kind of thing usually happens in basic military training or in leadership camps.

After a good night's sleep, we would like to wake up gradually and get used to the surroundings in an easy and quiet environment. That would be a really nice way to start the day.

In the gospel, it may seems strange that Jesus took two attempts to cure the blind man.

But it may not sound so strange if we understand that Jesus wanted to cure the man's blindness gradually.

Having spent all his life in darkness, the man now gets to see everything, but the bright lights may be just too much for his eyes or even his mind to withhold.

So in this instance, the gospel passage portrays the tenderness and understanding of Jesus in curing the blind man.

Similarly, Jesus does not expect us to change our ways instantly. Also a gradual change would be a more permanent change.

The 1st reading tells us to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to arouse our temper because God's righteousness is never served by man's anger.

Often we let our instincts rule our life and inevitably that also darkened our world.

Being quick to listen and slow to speak and even slower to arouse our temper requires control and discipline.

With the grace of God we can do it. As the 1st reading puts it - So do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you; accept and submit to the Word which has been planted in you and can save your souls.

Monday, February 17, 2020

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-02-2020

James 1:12-18 / Mark 8:14-21

At times we would say that temptations come from the devil - the devil tempted me to do it - and we blame our temptations on the devil.

At other times, we would also say that God is putting us to the test.

Strange as it may seem, but are we saying the one and the same thing?

We may blame the devil and we may also blame God but the 1st reading tells us that everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire.

What attracts us and makes us have wrong desires are none other than the people around us and the things we see around us.

It may be sexual or it may be material, but when we look long enough at it then we will give in to the temptation and fall into sin.

In the gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to keep their eyes open, and to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.

We too need to keep guard over what our eyes are look at.

If we are not looking at who is above us, then very soon we shall give in to what is around us.

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-02-2020

James 1:1-11 / Mark 8:11-13      (2020)

Blessings and disguises are not usually co-related.

Disguises have an outward appearance that tries to distort the reality.

Blessings, although intangible, are nonetheless signs of truth and goodness.

So does it make sense when we hear it said "It's a blessing in disguise"?

The 1st reading tells us that when trials come, we must try to treat them as a happy privilege.

When trials come, they don't seem anything like a blessing in disguise, especially with this COVID-19 virus outbreak.

Yet we are encouraged to see beyond the trials and be patient so that we can see what truth and goodness the trials open us to.

Yet trails make us groan and sigh as they cut deeper and deeper into our hearts and our flesh.

In the gospel we hear that Jesus responded with a sigh from the heart when the Pharisees demanded a sign from Him so as to test Him.

Certainly the obstinacy of the Pharisees was very trying for Jesus.

The sigh from His heart showed what kind of trial He was going through.

Would Jesus also sigh over us? Or would He want to bless us because of our faith in Him?

Let us remove the disguises of our hearts and let His blessings flow into our lives, and may Jesus quickly deliver us from this virus outbreak.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

6th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 16.02.2020

Ecclesiasticus 15:15-20 / 1 Cor 2:6-10 / Matthew 5:17-37 

Lately, one of the hottest selling items is the thermometer. And if we have a thermometer we would be taking our temperature, we would be probably taking our temperature everyday. 

The normal body temperature is about 37 degrees Celcius. If it is more than that, then we would be alarmed. 

Because one of the symptoms of the COVID-19 is having a fever. So if the body temperature is 38 degrees Celsius or higher, it would be better to consult the doctor immediately. 

And since the virus has no respect for rank or riches, then anyone could be infected by it. 

And so it was with concern and care for the safety and the protection of the people of God, that Archbishop William Goh made that difficult announcement to suspend all weekday and weekend Masses in the Archdiocese until further notice. 

It was an unprecedented decision but a necessary direction in the face of an escalating situation which our nation is trying to contain. 

Moreover the Church needs to be responsible and help the country to curb and contain the spread of the virus and to bring it under control so that life can be brought back to normalcy. 

With that we will be able to understand what Jesus meant when He said in the gospel that “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” 

Whatever sentiments we might have about the suspension of the Mass on weekdays and weekends, we can be sure that there was a lot of consultation before making that difficult decision. 

The Church has to exercise the virtue of charity and respect for the well-being of others as our country strives to curb and control the spreading of the virus. 

This may be called a sort of crisis-moment. But a crisis is like a double-edged sword. 

A crisis exposes our weakness and we can succumb to the trials and be torn apart.  

On the other hand, a crisis also offers many growing and learning moments, and we can become stronger and more matured by it. 

Some of the best lessons in life are learned from the worst of times.  

Maybe the recent situation of the raging bushfires in Australia is a learning lesson. It was the worst bush fire in history and many people had to be evacuated. 

We have also seen pictures of a handful of firefighters facing a wall of fire that seems to reach to the sky. The one word that might come to our minds is “futile”. What is the point? Might as well forget everything and run. 

But after the scorching fire came the rain, a bit too much maybe, but the rains came, and the scorched land is now ready to begin a new life. 

So the efforts of the firefighters and the relief workers have not been in vain. It comes back to that saying – “We do our best, and God will do the rest”. 

Similarly for this current situation, which is not just affecting Singapore alone but also throughout the world. 

We must acknowledge and support the efforts of the frontline personnel like the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, ambulance drivers, policy implementation officers and the support staff. 

We also must pray for the leaders of our country and for the Archbishop and other church leaders. They have the difficult task of making decisions and taking unprecedented directions for the good of the people they serve. 

They want to do their best and we support them with our prayers that God will do the rest. 

And even though Mass is suspended for the time being, this is also a time to be spiritually creative and find ways to be united in prayer, be it synchronized prayers, virtual adoration or spiritual communion.  

These are trying times, but the suspension of the Mass is not really about the question of faith.  

The question is whether in these times are we fervent in our faith and prayer, and that will be the measure of our faith. 

We pray for the best, and God will do the rest.     

Friday, February 14, 2020

Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Friday, 14-02-2020

1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 / Matthew 16:13-19

Today the Archdiocese of Singapore celebrates the dedication of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd, hence it is called the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

The story behind that name is that in 1821, an MEP priest, Fr. Laurence Imbert was sent to Singapore to see if there was a possibility of opening a missionary station in the island. He spent about a week here and he could have been the first priest to celebrate Mass on the island.

In 1837, after being ordained bishop, he crossed secretly from Manchuria to Korea. During this time, Korea was going through a period of Christian persecution.

He secretly went about doing his missionary work, but the authorities found him out and before they captured him, he wrote a note to two other fellow missionaries.

He urged them to give themselves up to the authorities because he believed in doing so, the flock will be spared from persecution, and he wrote that a good shepherd must give up his life for his sheep.

So eventually the three of them were captured and tortured and beheaded. They were canonized in 1984.

When the Cathedral was to be dedicated, the name "Good Shepherd" was chosen in memory of Fr. Laurence Imbert and his two companions.

Today as the Church in Singapore celebrates the dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, we are called to renew our faith and we must strive for the spirituality with which we can understand and perceive the will of God so that others will see the presence of God in the Church and also hear the voice of God in the prayer of the Church.

This would require a deep and firm faith in God who always provides and watches over His Church.

May Jesus our Good Shepherd lead us and guide us to God's living signs of salvation to all peoples.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 13-02-2020

1 Kings 11:4-13 / Mark 7:24-30

The appearance of strands of grey hair on the head can give the impression that one is slowly but sure ageing.

The consolation that we, or others, give ourselves is that we are getting wiser, besides the fact that we are getting older.

But getting on with age does not necessary mean that we are growing in wisdom.

At least not in the case of king Solomon.

He had gained the reputation of being a wise king. But this gift of wisdom was the fruit of his faith in God.

In his later years, his heart swayed to other gods because of his many wives.

Even though the Lord had appeared twice to him, he still did what displeased the Lord.

It must be said here that God did not take away the gift of wisdom from Solomon.

Rather it was Solomon who had abandoned his faith in God and hence the gift of wisdom was left dormant in him.

In the gospel, we heard of a Syrophoenician woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.

She had faith in Jesus, and although Jesus seemed to reject her request, the wisdom of her faith made her persist and eventually was granted to her.

Faith is a gift from God. So is air, but we have to breath it; so is food, but we have to eat it.

We will also know that we are growing in faith when we are able to see the necessary and important things in life and we always choose to do the will of God because we love Him.

As Psalm 111:10 puts it : The fear of the Lord is the first stage of wisdom. All who do so prove themselves wise.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 12-02-2020

1 Kings 10:1-10 / Mark 7:14-23

One of the basic needs of mankind is food. In fact it may even be the most fundamental need of all creatures.

Flowing from that need, food has also become a sign of communion. Hence there are such things like communion sacrifices or ritual food.

Our partaking of Holy Communion is a profound example of a communion sacrifice and a ritual food in which we come into communion with the Lord Jesus.

But many religions also have dietary laws in which some type of food are forbidden and hence would render a practitioner of a particular religion ritually unclean.

This was the context of the discussion about food in today's gospel. Yet Jesus also made a very radical teaching about food.

He pronounced all foods clean. He also pointed out that what is really unclean is actually what comes out from the heart.

As Jesus said, it is from within, from men's hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.

As we participate in the Eucharist, we also prepare ourselves to come into communion with Jesus.

So what is the state of our hearts? If there is sin, have we gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so as to receive forgiveness and healing and be in a state of grace to receive Jesus the Lord?

Let us remember that God and sin cannot exist together in our hearts.

We come to the Eucharist not just to consume a piece of wafer but to receive the Lord Jesus. May our hearts be pure so that our lives will be holy.

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 11-02-2020

1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 / Mark 7:1-13

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. The title of "Our Lady of Lourdes" is a rather recent title of Mary given to her in honour of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes in France.

It was on the 11th February 1858 that the Blessed Virgin Mary made her first apparition to Bernadette (later canonized as a saint on the 8th December 1933), a 14-yr-old peasant girl and her sister at a grotto.

Over the following two weeks, there were more apparitions. Bernadette's parents tried to bar her from going but the young girl was determined and went secretly to the grotto of the apparition.

On the 24th February, Bernadette related that the apparition asked for prayer and penitence for the conversion of sinners. It was then that the apparition asked her to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there.

It was muddy at first and made Bernadette a mess, but this act revealed the stream that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages.

Soon the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to the sick and those with disabilities and many reports of miraculous cures followed. The Church has recognized more that 70 miraculous cures.

Yes, Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing. Yet it is also a place for the renewal of faith for the people as well as for the Church.

Today is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. We pray for the sick at Mass. And we are also reminded that the Church must also continue the healing ministry of Jesus and to pray for sick that they will bear their illness with faith so as to unite their sufferings with Jesus on the cross.

Also through St. Bernadette, our Blessed Mother has brought about the healing grace of God through the waters at Lourdes.

Let us continue to pray with our Blessed Mother for the sick and for their healing, both physically and spiritually, and for God's protection against the current virus outbreak.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 10-02-2020

1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13 / Mark 6:53-56

One of the most famous religious antiquities is the Ark of the Covenant that is mentioned in the 1st reading. Its whereabouts or if it still exists is unknown.

In the Book of Exodus, God instructed Moses to build the Ark with specific dimensions. Essentially it was made of gold-plated wood, and topped with two large, golden angels. It was carried using poles inserted through rings on its sides. In it were the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written.

When king Solomon brought the Ark to Jerusalem and into the Temple, the sacrifice of sheep and oxen were countless, innumerable.

And the glory of the Lord in the form of a cloud filled the Temple and it was awesome. Truly, the Ark was the sign of God's presence among His people, although it contained only the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.

In church, there is the Tabernacle which contained a far more sacred and holy presence. It is none other than the Eucharist, the Body of Christ.

Although there is no need to offer sacrifices of sheep and oxen, there must be due reverence and honour and respect given.

And what Jesus wants of us is the offering of our time with our hearts.

And what we will receive from Him is forgiveness and healing, peace and joy, strength and protection.

Let us make time every day to come before the Lord Jesus in the Tabernacle. It is also a preparation to spend eternity with Him.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

5th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 26.01.2020

Isaiah 58:7-10 / 1 Cor 2:1-5 / Matthew 5:13-16
A time of crisis means that it is a time of intense difficulty or danger.

Certainly that means that a time of crisis is definitely not a comfortable or pleasant time.

So it can be a political crisis, an economic crisis, a financial crisis, a food crisis.

At present, with those health precautions to curb the growing virus Infection, it seems like it could be the health crisis.

The alert has been raised to DORSCON Orange, which is only one level from Red. So it may seem that a health crisis is looming. 

And that has already created fears, and fear is irrational. Irrational enough to stock up food excessively, irrational enough to make snide remarks about a certain nationality, irrational enough to stare and even snipe at those who cough or sneeze.

So a crisis brings out the fear. And a crisis also shows what courage is, as well as who has courage.
And courage is like the salt and light that Jesus talked about in the gospel.

Courage is like salt that gives taste to food that is bland. Courage is like a lamp that is put on the lamp stand when it is dark.

As much as Jesus talked about salt and light, yet we also know that these two things do not exist for themselves.

Salt gives taste but we don’t eat salt as it is. Light does not shine in, light shines out.

So, salt and light are in many ways similar to faith and love.

Faith does not exist for itself. Faith helps us to realize the presence of love and the presence of God in all situations (where there is love, there is God).

Jesus Himself was salt and light when others forgot about the presence of God in several instances in the gospels.

Remember that instance, when He was asked if it was necessary to pay taxes?

He asked for a coin, he asked them whose image was on the coin, and then He said: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.

The people were talking about taxes, a tasteless thing. 

Jesus put in some salt and made them realize the presence of God, and more importantly that all things belong to God. So what belongs to Caesar, actually belongs to God.

In another instance, when Jesus was asked where His authority came from, He in turn asked them where the authority of John the Baptist came from. From man or from God?

Well, His question was the answer for them, and they had no reply to that.

Because the moment God comes into the picture, their question becomes redundant and pointless.

So Jesus Himself showed us what salt and light are all about.

Any situation without the involvement of God is a tasteless situation.

Faith is like salt that brings in the presence of God and it enlightens the situation with the love of God.

And in times like these, faith and love can be expressed in one phrase, and that is, “courage to be compassionate”.

Someone wrote the following post about these present times and it calls for our attention and reflection.

I was at the coffee shop today, taking my lunch. Then I saw an ambulance driver Uncle walking in with his mask and uniform. I tell you, he looked very tired. He walked over to the stall to buy food and they turned him away. He walked back to his ambulance. I caught up with him. l admit, I kept my distance because I’m also scared. I have kids. I asked him what he wanted and I would buy for him. He said he just wanted chicken rice. For 4 days, he worked 12 hours straight, and has been eating biscuits here and there to keep himself full while driving around. He just wanted the packet of chicken rice today. I went and bought for him and as I was walking towards him, he said to me, “It’s okay. Don’t come any closer. You leave the packet over there. When you go back to your car, I’ll pick it up.” 
I was so heartbroken. He also shared with me that he has been so worried that he has not gone home for 4 days to see his family. After he finishes his shift, he showers at the hospital and sleeps in his ambulance. These men and women at the front line really deserve our respect. In times like these we need to be supporting them instead of turning them away. Let us salute these brave heroes.

It is in times like these that our faith is like the salt that brings in the presence of God and our love is like the light that shows the compassion of God. 

Let us listen again to what the Lord says in the first reading:
Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked
and do not turn from your own kin.
Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

Yes the Lord is with us, He is on our side. But we must be courageous in these times and be compassionate to those who fear.

May these times bring out our faith and love so that we can be like the salt and the light of the Good News of salvation. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 07-02-2020

Ecclesiasticus 47:2-11 / Mark 6:14-29

It is worthwhile to note how one person can completely change the character of a country and its people.

It can be for the better or for worse, but it cannot be denied that the people will somehow take on the face and the mind of the leader.

That is how powerful the influence the leader has on the country and on its people.

For Israel of the biblical era, King David is held as the model king because it was he who brought Israel to its golden age.

The 1st reading is actually an eulogy about King David and praised him for his achievements and his contributions to the country.

Yet the eulogy did not ignore what the Lord did for David. It said this : The Lord took away his sins, and exalted his horn forever; He gave him a royal covenant and a glorious throne in Israel.

So in King David, we see a leader who had a good balance of the spiritual as well as secular qualities.

But for King Herod, we see a leader who has lost the spiritual aspect of his life and because he was just so thrilled by a dancing girl, he was willing to execute a holy man.

Nonetheless, he was deeply distressed because he knew he was putting a holy man to death.

Such was the impact and the influence of John the Baptist on King Herod as well as for the people of Israel.

King David and John the Baptist might not have known it then, but deep and wide was their impact and influence on the people.

For us, we too have to be aware that our Christian lives have invisible effects on others.

May our lives have an impact and influence on others such that they will come to know the God that we believe in.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 06-02-2020

1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 / Mark 6:7-13

Our basic needs in life are actually quite simple: food, clothing, shelter.

By and large, we already have these basic needs and we ought to be contented with life.

But of course, as we move up the hierarchy of needs, we may take our basic needs for granted and we may also forget that it is a blessing from God.

And when we begin to look at things that we wish to have, we become envious and that might lead to greed and selfishness and we begin to go astray with these distractions of life.

In the 1st reading, as David's life come to a close, he laid this charge on his son Solomon. It is worthwhile to hear those words of David again:

Be strong and show yourself a man. Observe the injunctions of the Lord your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his customs and his decrees, so that you may be successful in all you do and undertake.
David also spoke of the promise of the Lord: If your sons are careful how they behave, and walk loyally before  me with all their heart and soul, you shall never lack a man on the throne of Israel.

In short, David reminded Solomon that obedience and faithfulness are essentially all that is needed for the blessings of the Lord in life.

Even as Jesus sent His disciples to preach the Good News of salvation, He only gave them His blessings of authority. The rest of their needs will be taken of.

We too must be thankful to the Lord for providing for our needs in life.

Let us walk faithfully in His ways and be obedient to His laws and commandments, so that His blessings will continue to be upon us.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 05-02-2020

2 Sam 24:2, 9-17 / Mark 6:1-6

Whenever we talk about quantity, we are talking about numbers.

Numbers are important in every aspect of life, e.g. age, weight, dimensions, price.

All these are expressed in numbers that will give us an idea of what kind of quantity it has.

In the 1st reading, we hear of king David ordering a census to be taken of the people.

But after getting the numbers, he realised that he had committed a grave sin and that he had been very foolish and he begged God for forgiveness and accepted whatever punishment from God.

We may wonder what is the sin that king David committed. After all, a census is deemed necessary for a country to know what is its population.

But in doing a census, king David crossed the line between what belongs to God and what belongs to him.

The people of Israel belonged to God, and in doing the census, king David was saying that the people belonged to him.

But king David realised his sin and his foolishness and he begged for forgiveness and accepted punishment.

From this, we can learn from king David, that even though he was king, he doesn't own everything. He also realised that he doesn't own anything.

To know that we belong to God and that He will watch over us and provide for our needs is more than consoling enough. That is what we need to know and that is what we need to believe in.

Monday, February 3, 2020

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 04-02-2020

2 Sam 18:9-10, 14, 24-25, 30 - 19:3 / Mark 5:21-43 

When we talk about taking a risk, the implications is the possibility of losing something. But at the same time, there is also a possibility of gaining something.

In taking a risk, whether calculated or not, there is at best, a 50-50 chance of gaining or losing.

In the gospel, we heard of two persons who took a risk - Jairus and the woman with a haemorrhage. And the stakes are high.

One risked his reputation as a synagogue official and fell at the feet of a carpenter's son and asking Him to heal his daughter.

The other risked public outcry and being chased off should her haemorrhage be made public.

But it was in the desperate life situations of these two persons that the Good News of salvation and healing and restoration is proclaimed.

But the other aspect of the Good News is that Jesus also took a "risk" to save us.

So Jesus had already won life and salvation for us. We need to complete His victory by not losing sight of Jesus and keep running steadily in the race for life and in the fight against sin.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 03-02-2020

2 Sam 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13 / Mark 5:1-20  (Memorial of St. Blaise)

Today is the feast day of St Blaise, and the Church celebrates his feast day as a memorial.

St. Blaise was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the 4th century.

Not much is known about his life and according to various accounts, he was a physician before becoming a bishop.

He was reputed to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone that was stuck in his throat.

Devotion to him spread in the Middle Ages and from the 8th century, he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses or disorders of the throat.

Hence, on this feast day of St. Blaise, a blessing of throats may be given by  a priest or deacon during Mass or after Mass depending on pastoral situations.

The blessing of throats is a profound sign of the struggle against illness in the life of the Christian.

As the Roman Ritual puts it - The blessing of the sick by ministers of the Church is a very ancient custom, rooted in the imitation of Christ Himself and His apostles.

So as much as we Christians feel and experience pain as the rest of humanity, yet our faith in God helps us to grasp more deeply the mystery of suffering and to bear our pain with greater courage, just as St. Blaise did in his martyrdom.

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, may we fight strenuously against all sickness and seek the blessings of good health, so that we may bear witness to God's love and His providence.

Prayer of blessing of throats :

"Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat, and from every other disease. In the name of the Father and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

R. Amen."

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Presentation of the Lord, Year A, 02.02.2020

Malachi 3:1-4 / Hebrews 2:14-18 / Luke 2:22-40
Whenever we talk about portable lighting, the first thing that comes to mind will be the torch light.

Essentially the torch light would be made up of a bulb that is powered by batteries. As long as we have a torch light , we won’t fear the dark that much, because at the press of a switch, we would have instant light.

But before the invention of the torch light, it was candles. Candles are certainly not as versatile as the torch light, but they will do the job when there is a blackout and when the battery in the torch light is flat.

So the humble candle is still practical and useful and it makes good sense to have some candles around the house, just in case.

Also it would look rather odd to have a birthday cake with torch lights. How are we going to blow off the torch lights?

But candles are not just for birthday cakes. In the church, candles have a spiritual meaning and a spiritual purpose.

Lighted candles have been used in worship and in devotions for long time, and its meaning is as clear as the light it emits - the Light of Christ shines out to dispel the darkness of sin and fear.

Lighted candles are used in worship and in the celebration of the Sacraments. It is also good to note that the Easter candle is put at a prominent location during Baptism and at the funeral Mass, and those are the two important points of life.

Today as the church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, candles are blessed at the beginning of the Mass.

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord can be understood as the conclusion of the series of feasts that began at Christmas. 

Christmas presents to us the birth of the Saviour at Bethlehem. The Epiphany celebrated His manifestation to the world. The Presentation reminds us of the offering of our Saviour in the Temple as the Victim who will reconcile God and man.

So why is there the blessing of candles on this Feast of the Presentation? What has candles got to do with the Presentation of the Lord?

The connection between the feast of the Presentation and the blessing of candles is essentially that Christ is the Light of the world, and the church uses lighted candles as a symbol of that Light.

As the Divine Light, Jesus shined on Simeon who look forward to Israel’s comforting. It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord.

And when Mary and Joseph brought in the Child Jesus to do for Him what the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms, and he uttered a fulfilment and revelation.

Simeon can now go in peace because his eyes have seen his Saviour. And that Saviour is also the Light of the world.

It was also a fulfilment and a revelation for the 84 year-old Anna who came by just at that moment and began to praise God, and she spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the One who would deliver them from oppression and injustice.

So Simeon and Anna had their longings fulfilled when they saw the Light, and even as they closed their eyes to this world, the Light would lead them on to the Eternal Light.

Jesus came to bring light to the world. His light enlightened Simeon and Anna and they could go in peaceful fulfilment.

But His light also prepared Mary to face the darkness of the sword that will pierce her soul at the appointed time.

And so we have blessed these candles and we bring them home. But the candles would have no significance if they are not lighted.

And we light the blessed candles in prayer and with devotion. We let the Light of Christ shine on us as we pray so that our longings will also be fulfilled and that we will be at peace.

And in this time of health concerns, we too must stay calm and put our trust in the Lord for His protection even as we take precautions.

With prayer and with lighted candles, let us beseech the Lord Our God for His protection over us and on those who are treating and caring for those who are afflicted with the virus.

The Light of Christ will shine through this darkness and the darkness cannot overcome the light.

This darkness will pass and the Light of Christ will prevail.

So let us light the blessed candles and pray, and may the Light of Christ shine brightly to bring us peace and healing.