Thursday, April 30, 2020

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 01-05-2020

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

For those of us who like durians or crabs, we know that there is some tough work to do.

The husks of the durians are hard and thorny, and so are the shells of the crabs.

But we know what is inside them, and so if we really desire to eat the tasty flesh of the durian seeds and the crabs, then we will be prepared to crack up the husks and the shells.

But the persecuted Christians of the early Church would have never thought of anything good about Saul

Besides the hard and thorny methods of persecution, they might even think of him as the devil in disguise since he was all out to destroy the Church.

Saul was hard and thorny on the outside as well as inside. The early Christians feared him, and they would have certainly prayed that they be delivered from this terrible scourge.

But would they have prayed for Saul's conversion? They could have and they would and the Lord Jesus listened to their prayer and He personally intervened.

So on that road to Damascus, Jesus came as a bright light, threw Saul to the ground and said to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"

Blinded and in shock for three days, the Lord then sent Ananias to cure him, and it was as if scales fell off his eyes and he could see again.

And Saul was a changed man. From being a persecutor of Christians, he became a proclaimer of Christ.

We may think of these times as bad times. But we may be blinded to the things that the Lord Jesus wants us to learn during these times.

Let us pray that the hard thorny scales will fall from our hearts and open our eyes to see what the Lord is teaching and showing us, so that like Saul, we too will become proclaimers of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 30-04-2020

Acts 8:26-40 / John 6:44-51 

Since we are spending a lot of time at home nowadays, some of us may have been looking at the devices and gadgets that we have laid aside because we have been too busy to fiddle with them.

So even without looking the instruction manual, we would sink our hands into those devices and gadgets and figure out the settings.

And for settings like cameras and video-cams, or trying to convert routers into range-extenders, which suddenly became useful in these times, even the instruction manuals may not be that helpful.

So we turn to the internet and hope to find some more information on what we are handling, but still it may not really solve our problems.

But there is none more helpful than someone who knows how answer the questions that are bugging us.

Just as in the 1st reading, the Ethiopian eunuch was wondering whether the passage from the book of Isaiah was about the prophet himself or was the prophet talking about someone else.

Then Philip came along and explained the meaning to him and he was enlightened and requested for baptism.

In the gospel, Jesus went a great length to explain that He is the Bread of life, and anyone who eats this bread will live forever.

And then Jesus said something at the end that is rather astounding - the bread that He shall give is His flesh for the life of the world.

For us who are so used to hearing this, are we able to explain this to those who ask us what it means?

It may not have crossed our minds that we may not be able to explain this adequately.

To be enlightened on the things of above, let us go to Jesus our Teacher. He will enlighten us on what we need to know and how to live our lives accordingly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 29-04-2020

Acts 8:1-8 / John 6:35-40 

Working from home (WFH) may sound like a good idea on paper.

After all, we don't have to worry about oversleeping and being late for work. We don't have to drive to work or take the bus or train to work during the rush hour. We can have our home cooked meals. It seems like the advantages go on and on.

But after more than 3 weeks of WFH, we just want to get out and to go out to work. If fact, it seems that working from home is more time consuming and tiring. Where once we dragged our feet to work, now we yearn to go out to work.

For the first Christians, they were quite comfortable staying put in Jerusalem until the bitter persecution started and they had to flee to the country districts.

But once they were out there, they discovered the great harvest that the Lord Jesus was talking about and instead of despairing over the situation, they went to work on the proclamation of the Good News.

In the 1st reading, there was Philip who proclaimed Jesus to the Samaritans and there were miracles, deliverance, cures and rejoicing.

As much as we have to WFH for now, this period of time has also made us realise that we shouldn't be complaining about having to go out to work.

And when the time comes for us to go back to our offices and work places, let us go forth with rejoicing and do our work well for the glory of God.

Monday, April 27, 2020

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 28-04-2020

Acts 7:51 - 8:1 / John 6:30-35 

For every drop of sweat, a seed is taken and planted.

For every drop of tear, the ground is watered and the seed is germinated.

But for every drop of blood that is shed, the seed of conversion is produced.

In the 1st reading, we hear of two characters. One was Stephen who spoke out in witnessing to Jesus and was stoned to death.

The other was a young man called Saul and he entirely approved of the killing.

Stephen and Saul may not have known each or, or they may have heard of the other.

But for Saul, who after his conversion will be called Paul, the death of Stephen probably would have lingered on in his mind.

It could have been his first encounter with a Christian and he went on to persecute Christians.

But could it be that the blood of Stephen produced the seed of conversion in Paul, just as it is said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.

For all the shedding of innocent blood in the world, could it be that the time for conversion has come where nation will not lift up sword against another nation?

May the blood of the innocent cry out to God for justice, and may we hammer the swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

3rd Week of Easter, Monday, 27-04-2020

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

Whenever the phrase "the signs of the times" is mentioned, there may the tendency to think of big spectacular signs.

That is understandable as these big and spectacular signs catch the attention and there is a fascination over it.

But whether the people understand the meaning and the message of these big and spectacular signs is another question.

In the 1st reading, Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the peoples.

But instead of trying to understand the meaning and the message of these signs, some people came to debate with Stephen, and even arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin.

And in the gospel, Jesus said to the people that they were looking for Him not because they understood the meaning and the message of the sign of the multiplication of bread, but rather it was because they had all the bread they wanted to eat.

So it seems that in both cases, the meaning and the message of the sign is not understood.

The sign caught the attention and fascination of the people but it didn't go beyond.

As we look at the signs of our times, let us look beyond and try to understand the meaning and message of the sign(s).

God is speaking to us through these signs. Let us pray that we may come to understand the meaning and heed the message.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

3rd Sunday of Easter, 26.04.2020

Acts 2:14, 22-28 / 1 Peter 1:17-21 / Luke 24:13-35

There are some phrases that sound like a slang term but somehow the meaning is quite clear, and it does make sense.

For example, there is the phrase “talk the talk”. It can mean that the person knows what he is talking about and speaks fluently and convincingly about the topic.

But it can also mean that a person talks the talk just to please or impress others. It may also mean that words are not followed by actions and that the person does not practice what he preaches.

Another phrase is “walk the walk”. It means that actions speak louder than words, and that what is said is also done.

So if a person talks the talk and he walks the walk, then he is a man of his word and deserves respect for putting action into words.

But it can be said that there are many who like to talk the talk, and not that many who will walk the walk.

In the gospel we read of two of the disciples of Jesus who are walking to a village called Emmaus.

As they walked, they also talked about all that had happened in the past few days.

But they were not doing the “walk the walk”. Rather they were like walking away from it all.

This was evident as Jesus came up and walked by their side but somehow, they did not recognize Him.

As Jesus asked them what matters they were discussing, they stopped short, their faces downcast.

Yes, they were walking away from it all. They had hoped that Jesus would be the one they had waited for, but they saw Him being sentenced to death and crucified.

And then they heard news that He was alive. But since then, He has not been seen.

The disappointment, followed by the confusion, was just too much for them and so they decided to walk away from it all and to talk no more about it.

So, for the two disciples it was to Emmaus and then back to the world that they came from.

It was on that road to Emmaus that Jesus “walked the walk” and “talked the talk”.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and He came up to the two disciples to walk with them in their disappointment and misery.

He “talked the talk” as He explained to them the scriptures that pointed to Himself.

The gloom of sadness and misery was lifted as their hearts began to burn with hope.

And finally, at the breaking of bread, Jesus opened their eyes to reveal Himself to them.

And from walking away from it all, they ran back to tell the Good News that Jesus was alive.

Yes, Jesus is risen, He is alive, He walks with us and He wants to talk with us.

There may be areas in our lives that we are thinking of walking away from - the stressful job, the quarrelsome families, the stale marriage.

We may also want to walk away from our financial difficulties, our troublesome relationships, our headaches and our heartaches.

Jesus comes to walk with us and He wants to talk with us. 

Now is the time to read the Bible and to pray and to let Jesus speak to us. 

May we also look forward to the day when we can be gathered together in His presence in the Eucharist, with our hearts burning with love, with our faith being strengthened and our hope be always in the blessings of the Lord.

Friday, April 24, 2020

St. Mark, Evangelist, Saturday, 24-04-2020

1 Peter 5:5-14 / Mark 16:15-20     

St Mark was not one the the 12 Apostles. Known as John Mark who is mentioned in the 1st reading, he was a cousin of Barnabas, and he also accompanied St. Paul in his missionary journeys and he also worked closely with St. Peter in Rome.

So though St. Mark was not an "Apostle" (as in being one the chosen Twelve) he wrote an account which became known as the "Gospel according to St. Mark.

When we read that gospel, we also get an idea of the person of St Mark and what he thought of Jesus.

He does not focus on the lengthy teachings of Jesus (the gospel has only 16 chapters) but more on the deeds of Jesus and His power over evil and sickness.

As we heard in today's gospel which is from St. Mark, the emphasis is on the "signs" that Jesus had worked in His ministry and Jesus expected those signs to be continued in His disciples.

And those signs are indeed spectacular - cast out devils; gift of tongues; picking up snakes; unharmed by deadly poison; laying hands on the sick who will recover.

These are not only what Jesus did, but what His disciples did too as they went off to preach the Good News and these signs are associated with them.

And it was the underlying expectation of St. Mark that Christians in every age and time would work these signs and wonders so as to bring people to the faith.

So if these signs are not associated with us in this age and time, then what can the problem be? Is it a lack of faith, or doubt. Or as Jesus puts it - "In my name they will ... "

Are we doing it in the name of Jesus, or are we doing it to make a name for ourselves.

May all we say and do be in the name of Jesus, may we come to know Jesus as St. Mark did, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

2nd Week of Easter, Friday, 24-04-2020

Acts 5:34-42 / John 6:1-15

There is a song that begins with these words: Wise men say, only fools rush in ....

It may be just some words in a song, but nonetheless it is also quite true.

To rush into things is the folly of fools. It can be said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

And we know how foolish it is to rush into assumptions, presumptions, judgements and impulsive actions.

It is like not looking before we leap, and then we find ourselves scrambling to do damage control.

In the 1st reading, we read about a Pharisee called Gamaliel, a doctor of the Law and a respected man, who asked for the apostles to be taken outside so that he can address the Sanhedrin.

He began with these words: Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these people. He then gave a few examples of some upstarts who had a following, but eventually all just fizzled out.

He suggested that the apostles be left alone, because if what they claim (that Jesus rose from the dead) is of human origin, it will break up on its own accord.

But if it does come from God then it can't be destroyed and it would be foolish to fight against God.

Those were very wise words indeed, and it also makes us think and reflect about what we are doing.

If what we are doing is only for our own motives and self-interest, then it won't have any lasting effect; in fact it is rather foolish to work for things that cannot last.

Let us be wise and know that God has commissioned us to go forth and bear fruits that will last.

When we glorify God in all that we do, then God will help us to be wise and do what is right and just and good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, 16-054-2020

Acts 5:27-33 / John 3:31-36 

Once upon a time, fake news was like an April Fool's joke.

But now fake new is a serious offence and carries a fine or a jail penalty.

So not everything we hear or read is the truth. Besides fake news, which is obviously an untruth, there are also such things as lies, rumours, slanders, half-truth and distorted truth,

And even on the religious side, when someone says, "God has told me to say this" or "This is what God told me to do", just how are we to believe that?

The saints have said such things. But so did those who were out to cause division and confusion.

Peter said in the 1st reading, "Obedience to God comes before obedience to men. It was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree."

Of course we know that Peter was telling the truth, but how would we know then if we were present at that time and listening to that?

If truth sets people free, then we must continue to discern what good is the truth doing and has it stood the test of time.

And if the truth sets us free to strive for holiness, love, forgiveness, compassion and generosity, then that truth would be from God.

Yes, truth and love are like the two sides of a coin. One completes and complements the other.

When we live our lives in truth and love, others will believe in what we say.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2nd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 22-04-2020

Acts 5:17-26 / John 3:16-21 

In the midst of the increasing spread of the pandemic, there is one thing that might be decreasing.

What might be decreasing is our faith in God, as we wonder what God is doing as the whole world cringes in worry and anxiety over the spread of the virus, and the difficulties that are arising.

It is not just the individual's faith, but the faith of the Church and even the faith of world and those who believe in God.

As much as the pandemic is a stark reality and no one is immune to it, it would be a very dark world if we are going to be obsessed by it.

It is in these dark times that we need to believe in something good and something brighter.

We turn to the gospel and we read that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

As we prepare to be confined to our homes until the 1st June (as it was announced yesterday), let us keep believing that God loves the world, that He loves each of us, and that this is the time to hold on to our faith in God's love for us.

Let us not keep looking at the dark side of things but know that the light of God's love is shining on us and even brighter than before, only if we want to look at the light.

Yes, God's light is shining brightly to tell us that He loves us. Let us believe and hold on to our faith in God.

Monday, April 20, 2020

2nd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 21-04-2020

Acts 4:32-37 / John 3:7-15 

It is such a time as this that brings out the best in people, as well as the worse.

Certainly in such anxious and uncertain times, that people will show their ugly sides like hoarding food, keeping to themselves, not being charitable or kind, flout the rules and the laws, and create problems for others.

But it is also in such times that there will be people who will show what their true character is.

There will be people who will face the risks and serve those in need and be signs of encouragement in an otherwise despondent and depressive situation.

In the early church, there was one such person that we read about in the 1st reading, His name was Joseph, but the apostles gave him the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement), and for a good reason.

It was he who took the risk and took the newly converted Paul under his charge and Paul went on to become a great missionary of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Barnabas was a sign of encouragement for the early church as well as for the church of today as we face the trials of the current situation.

As Jesus reminds us in the gospel that we are born from above and so we have the God-given ability to be signs of encouragement for others.

So even though we may be stuck in the difficulties of this earth, let us look at the God above and keep being the "sons of encouragement" that He wants us to be.

2nd Week of Easter, Monday, 20-04-2020

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

Usually when we pray, nothing much extra-ordinary happens.

Of course, prayer is a spiritual activity in which we come into communion with God and our hearts are moved and our spirits are lifted up with hope.

But we don't see unusual things happening like buildings shaking and rocking. On the contrary, if such things happen we will be frightened.

But in the 1st reading, when the disciples prayed, the house they were in began rocking. But they were not frightened because they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to proclaim the Word of God boldly despite the persecutions against them.

It was like as if the fear in them was shaken out and the Holy Spirit descended on them and filled them with courage.

We may not feel what the disciples felt during prayer. But as Jesus said in the gospel, the Holy Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it pleases.

At our Baptism, we are born through water and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead us on in these times, and even though we do not really know where the Spirit is leading us, let us keep praying with faith and hope.

In these times when fear is affecting people, let us pray and boldly proclaim the love of God for the world and especially to those who need to be lifted up in hope.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

2nd Sunday of Easter, 19.04.2020

Acts 2:42-47 / 1 Peter 1:3-9 / John 20:19-31

The words that we often hear nowadays are these two words - social distancing.

It was only fairly recently that we hear these two words being used.

And if we still don't know what that means, then we will certainly get into trouble with the law. Yes it is as serious as that.

With social distancing comes about new social practices like “Work from home” and “home based learning”

Being confined at home, whether for work or for learning, comes the lighter side of social distancing.

Some people are saying that being at home the whole day and with food readily available, the button and button-hole in the shirt and pants are also beginning to undergo social distancing.

But not that long ago, social distancing was practically unheard of. Human beings are also social beings, and to socially distant oneself from others may mean that one is an extreme introvert or a social misfit.

In the gospel we heard of one apostle who seemed to have socially distanced himself from the rest of the apostles.

We read in the gospel, that in the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in a room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.

Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you”, and showed them His hands and His side.

So all the apostles saw the Risen Lord Jesus. All except one - Thomas.

And when they told him that they had seen the Risen Lord, Thomas refused to believe, unless he put his finger into the holes the nails have made and put his hand into that gaping wound at the side.

Why was Thomas not with the rest of the apostles, we were not told. Although that could be many possible reasons.

Thomas saw Jesus crucified, died and buried. It was a great disappointment for him. His hopes and dreams were shattered, and it was just too much for him.

But he probably didn't want to wallow in the company of the misery of the apostles. 

So he went off on his own. He so-called socially distanced himself from the rest of the apostles.

Whatever it may be, the rest of the apostles probably went to look for him to tell him that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But he couldn't believe it. After all who had ever risen from the dead.

Still Thomas re-joined the apostles, and 8 days later Jesus came again, and this time it was to clear the doubts of Thomas.

And Thomas learned his lesson. He had distanced himself from the community when he saw Jesus died on the cross and was buried.

But now, he believed, and he proclaimed, “My lord and my God”.

Of all the apostles, it was Thomas who went far and covered the longest distance to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, going as far as to India, and maybe even further eastwards.

Thomas covered great distances to bring those who are distant from God and to bring them back to God so that they will experience mercy and forgiveness, just as he did.

So let us ask St. Thomas to help us, that in this time of social distancing, we will take this opportunity to get in contact with those whom we have neglected because of our busy lives.

It can be a text message, or a phone call, or even a video-call, as these are readily available.

Though we may have to be socially distant from each other, let us be spiritually united with the Risen Lord Jesus and with each other, and pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness on us and on the whole world.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Saturday Within Easter Octave, 18-04-2020

Acts 4:13-21 / Mark 16:9-15

To see and hear the truth, to encounter the truth, does not necessarily mean that a person is bound to believe in the truth.

Back in 1969 when man landed on the moon, some people thought that the transmissions from the space capsule were some kind of Hollywood movie.

But still the truth cannot be denied and the truth will prevail.

In the 1st reading, the rulers, elders, scribes and the Sanhedrin had seen that a miracle had indeed happened.

But their incredulity and obstinacy prevented them from admitting it and accepting it.

Even in the gospel, Jesus had to reproach His disciples for their incredulity and obstinacy.

But yet the truth cannot be denied or pushed aside, and the truth will prevail.

But the truth will prevail and be accepted only when the proclaimers of the truth bear witness to the truth with love.

The truth of the resurrection is that God loves Jesus and raised Him from the dead.

We too can overcome unbelief by bearing witness to the truth with love.

Friday Within Easter Octave, 17-04-2020

Acts 4:1-12 / John 21:1-14   

The world that we used to know is certainly not the world that we are presently in.

So many things have been reversed, so much so that we wonder what kind of world we are in now.

Where once being together with others is good for relationships, now we have to practice social distancing for our own good and for others.

Where once parents tell the children not to go out, now it is the children who tell their parents not to go out.

Yes, we live in a very different reversed world, and we wonder how good would it be.

In the gospel, the disciples were together and it was after the Resurrection of Jesus.

It was a different world for them already and yet they wanted to go back to the world they were in before - they went back to fishing, but they caught nothing all night.

Then Jesus showed Himself to them as He stood on the shore but they didn't recognise Him until He called out to them.

And Jesus is also calling out to us. He wants to lead us as we try to figure out what this new world that we are in is all about.

Let us listen to His voice as we read the Scriptures and participate in the online prayer sessions.

May we recognise Jesus in what is happening around us so that we will still have faith and hope in this new world that we are in

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Thursday Within Easter Octave, 16-04-2020

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

The first few words that comes out from the mouth when meeting a person or addressing a group of people are important.

Those words set the stage for the encounter, and it can either put people at ease or make them anxious about what is to come.

So if the first few words are "I have a surprise for you!!!" or "I have news for you" the listeners would start to wonder on the uneasy side.

When the Risen Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, His first words are, "Peace be with you."

Those words would certainly put the disciple at ease because they were were ridden with guilt for deserting Jesus when He was arrested and tortured and died on the Cross.

More so, for someone to come back from the dead was beyond their imagining and so they thought that Jesus a ghost and came to haunt them.

So let us calm our hearts so that the words that come out from our lips will be words of peace that will put others at ease.

May our words also be words of love so that our Risen Lord will speak to others through us.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Wednesday With Easter Octave, 15-04-2020

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

Our feet enable us to move around and bring us to places.

But in this time of the country's Circuit Breaker enforcement, we can only move around the house, which for most of us, is not that much space.

And here is where we look at our hands and know that they have an important role, as they have always been, but even more so now.

With our hands, we reach out and give a helping hand, and not just to talk or even to grumble and complain.

In the 1st reading, Peter commanded the crippled man, in the name of Jesus, to walk.

But he didn't just stop there. Peter then took the crippled man by the hand and helped him to stand up, and then he began to walk.

In the gospel, we again see the importance of hands, as Jesus took the bread and said the blessings and then He broke it and handed it to the two disciples.

And then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him, but He vanished from their sight.

Let us ask our Risen Lord to bless the work of our hands, that we may reach out to those in need with helping hands that they through the love from our hand will also feel the love of Jesus and be able to overcome their troubles.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Tuesday Within Easter Octave, 14-04-2020

Acts 2:36-41 / John 20:11-18

It is not that easy to get to the point with just a few words.

But if those words are clear and truthful, then the point wlll be made.

In the 1st reading, Peter made it clear to the point when he said this: The whole House of Isael can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.

It was not that many words but upon hearing this, the people were cut to the heart.

In the gospel, it was only one word that changed everything.

It was not actually a word; it was a name. Jesus called out to Mary by her name and then everything was changed.

As we stay longer at home with our family members, let us not use too many words to cause confusion and even resentment.

Let us call out to each other lovingly by name.

That might just change the whole situation and turn it better.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Monday Within Easter Octave, 13-04-2020

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

As it is, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a matter of faith.

For us who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.

What we have as proof are scriptural accounts of people who experienced the Risen Christ.

Yet, there were also the soldiers who knew what had happened, and they went off into the city to tell the chief priests and the elders.

Then after some discussion, the soldiers were given a considerable sum of money and instructed to tell a lie that the disciples came in the night and stole the body of Jesus.

The soldiers took the money and carried out the instructions. In other words they were "bought" and they sold themselves to a lie.

But it is not only soldiers who can be bought. Anyone can be bought as long as the price is right. And it need not be just with the bait of money.

Christians who profess the Resurrection of Jesus can also be bought.

They can sell themselves to pleasure, desires, sex and alcohol. They can also sell themselves away to hatred, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

Jesus rose from the dead to conquer sin and death and to give us a new life.

As we celebrated the Resurrection, let us ask for the grace to resist from being bought by temptation and being sold off to sin.

Let us witness to the Resurrection of Christ with a pure and holy life.

Easter Sunday, 12.04.2020

Acts 10:34, 37-43 / Colossians 3:1-4 / John 20:1-9

According to the Chinese zodiac, this year is the “Year of the Rat.” But whether we are Chinese or not, we do feel a bit like rats.

Because, we are all in hiding. We only come out to get food. We store the food in our homes to eat later. And we are run away when people come too close to us.

Where once upon a time, and that was just three months ago, man was like the master of the world, but now he feels like a rat.

And all because of an incredible and invisible virus that has caused chaos to the world.

And like rats, we all left scuttling and scampering but with no solution in sight.

Mankind is like emptied out. All the science and technology, all the military might, all the stock markets and money power, all our dreams, our plans and our ambitions are all left crumbling.

What we hear nowadays are the rising number of infected cases and increasing number of countries on lockdown.

And as Easter is celebrated in empty churches, we must hold on to our faith in the Risen Christ.

But it can be difficult. Because faith is also like crumbling in the midst of this unprecedented chaos.

If no one has asked us yet, then we may be asking ourselves, “Where is God in all this? Why isn't He doing something about this?”

This poem may well express this sentiment:

When the churches are all empty 
and the temple doors barred shut 
while the mosque’s call’s long been silent 
then the voice starts: where is your God now?

When the morgues are overflowing 
and hospitals of dread are full 
while the sick lie slowly drowning 
the voice remarks, so cool: where is your God now?

When homeless beg streets empty 
and hoarders stuff fridges full 
while poor children lie in bed hungry 
the voice starts to rule: where is your God now?

Our God is in nurses and doctors 
exhausted teachers' endless screens 
cleaners countless corridors 
delivery men running between 
supermarket staff toiling through nights 
replenishing shelves stripped bare 
masked bus drivers sending you home 
strangers who offer to share 
whatever little that they have 
whatever little they can spare.

In hearts filled with quivering hope 
God is often in you, when you care.

So where is our God? He's not in the tomb because it is an empty tomb.

Then where is our God? He is in the light of Easter candle which was held high in a darkened church as the priest proclaims:
“May the Light of Christ rising in glory, 
dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”

That is the voice that we must listen to, because it is the voice of our Risen Lord Jesus, a voice that tells us, “Courage, do not be afraid. I am with you always, to the end of time.”

So where is our God? He is risen and He is in our hearts shining His light in the midst of all this chaotic darkness.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday, 10.04.2020

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 / Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 / John 18:1 – 19:42

The one thing that we will remember of a Good Friday service is the Adoration of the Holy Cross. 

Most of us would genuflect or kneel before the cross and kiss it. 

Even the senior aunties and uncles would make all the effort to do this pious act. 

Of course there are other things in the Good Friday service, like the Readings, the Solemn Intercessions where we kneel and stand, and Holy Communion. 

But the Adoration of the Cross is what we will remember most because it is experiential and expressive.

Coming forward and waiting for our turn to adore the Cross is like waiting in line for our turn to greet and talk with someone important. 

The expectation grows as we come nearer to that person. And when we finally come face-to-face with that important person, then everything around us doesn’t really matter anymore. It will just be us and that person.
Similarly as we come before the Cross, we have come to that intimate moment with Jesus who suffered and died for us, and we express what is most personal to us. 

We kiss the cross and we hold the cross and we become personal and emotional before the Cross. 

It is a moment that lasts hardly 2 seconds and yet the memory of it is seared into our hearts. 

But for this year, all we have are memories of the past Good Fridays and memories of our personal experiences of how we venerated the Cross. 

But we still can have that experience as we follow the online Good Friday service or when we have a prayer service at home with our families. 

We all have our own favourite devotional cross. Let us take up that cross and venerate it. 

And, let us also remember that Jesus said that if we want to be His disciples, we must take up our cross and follow Him. 

For this year, our crosses and the crosses of many others who are affected by the current pandemic are especially heavy and rough and tough. 

With the rest of our brothers and sisters, we feel the pain of the Cross, we feel the weight of the Cross, we stumble and fall as we feel the Cross crushing us. 

And we also feel like being nailed to the Cross and that we are coming to a dead end, in every sense of the word. 

On this day as we look at the Cross, we must also feel the pain and the sufferings of our less fortunate brothers and sisters who are struggling in these depressive difficult times. 

Yet, let us remember the “good thief” who was nailed to the cross next to Jesus, and his profound cry of faith in these words: Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. 

As we hold the Cross of Christ tightly in our hands let us like the good thief, cry out to Jesus as we say:

Jesus, remember those who are suffering and in pain from the infection of the virus, and also those who have succumbed to the infection.

Jesus, remember the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and frontliners as they continue to serve and also to protect them. 

Jesus, remember those who have lost their jobs and those who are in financial difficulties caused by these difficult times. 

Jesus, remember all of us as You lead us through this valley of Darkness into Your kingdom of light.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Holy Thursday, 09.04.2020

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / John 12:1-15

If the Covid-19 pandemic had happened in the time of Jesus, then there might be no Last Supper and no institution of the Eucharist.

But Covid-19 happened in our time, and we cannot go to church to commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist and to receive Communion.

To think that on this special day, we can’t go for Mass and receive Holy Communion may make us feel rather depressed and sad.

But even though we may be deprived of the Eucharist we are certainly not deprived of the Word of God.

The gospel passage begins like this: “It was before the Festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who are His in this world, but now He showed how perfect His Love was.

It is truly a consolation and to know that Jesus had always loved us and that we belong to him. 

And it is in such difficult and depressing times that Jesus wants to show how much He loves us.

Though we can’t have the Eucharist to experience that love of Jesus, we have His Word.

So we must read the gospel and look deeper at it to understand how Jesus is loving us.

We read that Jesus, while at supper, He took a towel and a basin of water and He began to wash the feet of His disciples. 

Although nothing was said about the institution of the Eucharist, although that is mentioned in the 2nd reading, the act of washing the disciples’ feet expresses what the Eucharist is all about, and that is, service and sacrifice. 

Jesus laid aside His role as Master, and that is sacrifice. And He washed His disciples’ feet, and that is service.

So during this time when we have to be confined or stay at home in order to curb the spreading of the virus, the Eucharist is, in a way, going to be instituted right here in our homes and with our families. 

At home and with our families for the many days to come, we will have to make sacrifices and be prepared to serve instead of being served.

We will have to sacrifice what we like and what we want, and that is what Jesus did at the Last Supper.

And following Jesus our Master, who came to serve and not to be served, we too must serve our family members with patience, kindness, compassion, understanding and love.

And we need to beware of the devil’s temptations and not to be like Judas Iscariot who eventually betrayed Jesus.

The letter to be Ephesians (chapter 4 verse 26 to 27) has this to say: Do not let resentment lead you into sin. The sunset must not find you still angry. Do not give the devil his opportunity.

So we must not give into resentment. Rather we strive for reconciliation and healing of relationships with our family members so that our homes can become like churches where God dwells and where God gives His Blessings. 

Let the spirit of the Eucharist be in our homes, let us make sacrifices for each other, and let us serve each other, and we will see how much Jesus loves us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Wednesday of Holy Week, 08-04-2020

Isaiah 50:4-9 / Matthew 26:14-25   

We are always more than ready to lament that we are victims of betrayal.

There are never short of accounts of betrayal by a husband, or a wife, or a family member, or a colleague, or a friend.

It is also never easy to forget a betrayal.

But we may not be that ready to admit that we have betrayed somebody before.

So when Jesus said : "I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me", even Judas himself had to cheek to ask : "Not I Lord, surely?"

Somehow, Judas has become the symbol of the dark side of ourselves.

We don't like to look at Judas, because we see in him the reflections we don't like about ourselves, especially about unfaithfulness, disloyalty and betrayal.

Yet Judas' reply to Jesus "Not I Lord, surely?" can be a means of prayerful reflection for us.

Will I be unfaithful to Jesus? Will I be disloyal to Him? Will I ever betray Him?

Yet after all our reflection, we can only humbly turn to Jesus and say: Help me Lord Jesus, to be faithful to You always.

Tuesday of Holy Week, 07-04-2020

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

There is a saying that goes like this: One can be on guard against the enemy from without, but yet there is no defense against the traitor from within.

Traitors and betrayers appear everywhere and anytime, from the level of the country right down to the level of the family.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus was having the Passover meal with His disciples.

It was a sacred meal, a memorial of the marvelous event of freedom from slavery in Egypt, a meal in which the partakers renew God's covenant with them.

Yet at that sacred meal, there was a traitor, that even made Jesus troubled in spirit and He even said it openly that one of His disciples will betray Him.

Besides wondering who it might be, the disciples may also be wondering how can this kind of treachery happen.

Even we might ask: How can it be that when Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him?

Well to put it simply, where there is sin, the devil will be able to infiltrate.

So we have to seriously examine ourselves as we come to the Eucharist - Is there any sin in me that I have not confessed, regardless of whether it is mortal or otherwise?

We certainly don't want to partake of the Eucharist only to end up as traitors and committing betrayal.

May the Lord Jesus grant us knowledge and enlightenment of our sins, and may we be reconciled with Jesus and stay united with Him in the Eucharist.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Monday of Holy Week, 06-04-2020

Isaiah 42:1-7 / John 12:1-11 

Much has been said about this attitude of materialism and consumerism, this urge to have more material things and having more than necessary.

With this attitude of materialism and consumerism, the side-effect is this "throw-away" mentality.

Anything that is spoilt or broken is to be thrown away. There is no point in repairing it.

Especially with electronic goods; it may make more economical sense to buy a new set than to repair something that has malfunctioned.

That "throw-away" mentality has, in a way, affected the way people are treated.

Those who are slow, dull, unproductive, don't look good and don't speak well, or a liability to society, they are often devalued, discounted and disconnected from the rest.

Not often are they given a second chance, simply because of this "throw-away" prejudice against them.

Certainly that's not the case with God. In the words of the 1st reading : He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.

Indeed, every person is precious in the eyes of the Lord, and every act of love is treasured by Him.

In the gospel, Jesus accepted that act of love from Mary even though there was a criticism against it.

For Jesus, every act of love, big or small, is treasured by Him because it comes from the heart.

As we enter into the spirit of Holy Week, let us also deepen our spirit of love.

Every act of love is treasured by God as we offer it to Him.

Nothing that we offer Him is ever thrown away or discounted or devalued.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Palm Sunday, Year A, 05.04.2020

This year’s Holy Week is going to be a really quiet one.

With the Mass suspended for the time being, Palm Sunday comes without palms, and no procession, no singing and no congregation.

And for the coming week, all churches will be closed, as well as all places of worship, and closed for a month at least.

So there will be no “washing of the feet”, no church visitation on Holy Thursday evening, no kissing of the cross on Good Friday, no baptisms on Easter Vigil and no joyful singing of “Alleluia” on Easter Sunday.

And we are also told not to go out as far as possible, and only to go out for something essential.

The country’s essential services will still be operating but all other non-essential services will be closed.

So it is not just a quiet weekend ahead. We feel like we are grounded and have to stay at home. We feel like being hemmed in.

But in such a chaotic and turbulent time, we are reminded of something that was of great significance in the Bible.

We are reminded of the night of the first Passover, when the Israelites who were under slavery in Egypt were told to stay indoors, to celebrate the Passover meal with the family, to have the doorpost of their homes marked with the blood of the Passover lamb.

As all these were happening behind closed doors, the angel of the Lord went through the land of Egypt and claimed the lives of the firstborn of the Egyptians, man and beast alike.

So while this “Stay-at-home” message is drummed into all of us, let us also know that this is a time of grace and a blessing from God.

This is the time for us to be with family and to be family.

This is the time for us to eat together and pray together.

We don’t have to feel hemmed in. We can log-in to the many online worship and prayer services.

Our parish has also taken this opportunity to have nightly online prayer sessions at 10 pm.

Indeed this is the time of grace and blessing as we stay in and stay together as a community, and as family, and as the People of God in prayer and keeping the flame of hope burning in the darkness of these times.

With every tribulation comes a revelation. God is revealing to us many things already.

But most of all, God wants to reveal how much He loves us during this period.

So let us log-in and stay together as we pray together to welcome Jesus into our hearts.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 03-04-2020

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

At times it can be quite difficult to do a good deed or a charitable act in the name of the Church or when we identify ourselves as Christians.

Take for example, when the late Mother Teresa started her home for the destitute in India.

Among the opposition that she faced, one was the accusation that she wanted to convert the destitute into Christians and using the home and charity as a cover.

This negative notion of Christianity stemmed from the period of colonial rule in India when Christianity developed a bad name due to the counter-witnessing of Christians there.

But of course, they eventually saw the real purpose and good intention of Mother Teresa.

This brings us to the reflection of our identity and our deeds.

Jesus said to the people in the gospel, that even if they don't believe in Him, then at least they should believe in the good that He was doing.

Then they will eventually see who He really was.

Similarly for us, our identity and our deeds must have a connection and in fact be intertwined.

Only then can people see the God who is working in us and through us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

5th Week of Lent, Thursday, 02-04-2020

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

Whenever we talk about promises, we may have this expectation that the fulfilment will be in our lifetime.

That is the obvious expectation, otherwise there would be nothing much to look forward to in the promises.

Such is the case with marriage - Till death do us part - and also the promises made in priesthood.

So, when promises are broken, how can there not be disappointments?

In the 1st reading, when God made a covenant with Abraham, let us remember that Abraham never got to see the fulfilment in his lifetime.

But his faith and trust in God made him see something more and understand something deeper.

In a word, it is eternity. Abraham was not expecting to see hordes and hordes of his descendants to appear before him in his lifetime. It was going to be something beyond the present.

It is with that perspective that we can understand what Jesus meant when He said: Whoever keeps my word will never see death.

That's a divine promise. It is a promise of eternity for eternity.

When we believe in that promise, then death is not a finality.

Rather, life will have the final word and it will be for eternity.