Sunday, May 31, 2020

Our Lady, Mother of the Church, 01-06-2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pentecost Sunday, Year A, 31.05.2020

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

It is said that everything happens for a reason. But it also leaves the statement rather open-ended. Is it for a good reason? 

If only we can know how good the reason is, then maybe we will be able to accept what is happening around us and what is happening to us. 

But more often than not, the reason is discovered only much later, and it is only on hindsight that we might be able to see the good reason. 

So, when we look at what is happening around us and what is happening to us, just how do we feel about it? 

Some see the good reason in all this, but most of us just end up sighing and grumbling and hoping that what is happening will end soon. 

But with faith, we must believe that everything that happens has a good reason for it. It is with faith and hope that we can continue to live on with love. 

For example, when Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper that He was going away, they were sad. But He also told them that if He does not go, the Holy Spirit will not come. 

So His going away is for a good reason but His disciples could not understand it then. 

In the gospel, Jesus appeared to His disciples for the first time after His Resurrection. Then He said to them, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”

Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

It was probably then that the disciples understood that all that had happened, the suffering and death of Jesus, happened for a good reason. 

And with the Holy Spirit upon them, they began to understand how good the Spirit was, and as we heard in the 1st reading, the disciples went forth to proclaim the marvels of God. 

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and as the Holy Spirit descends into our hearts, the Holy Spirit will lead us to discover the good in what is happening around us and what is happening to us. 

And more so, as the 2nd reading puts it, “The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.”
Over this period of time, we have discovered many areas of growth and we are learning new things to cope with and accept a fast-changing situation. 

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to turn trials into triumphs, and obstacles into opportunities.

But we must pray to the Holy Spirit and be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, as He guides us to learn and to grow and to see the good in every situation, so that we will be able to experience the marvels of God.

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 30-05-2020

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

We have often heard of this phrase: No man is an island.

In a densely populated island-country like Singapore, who can ever say that he is a stand-alone or that he doesn't care about anybody around him?

Indeed, for better or otherwise, we will always be surrounded by people, and we will notice them just as they will notice us.

So we may or may not find it surprising that Peter should ask Jesus about the disciple whom He loved.

And it seemed that Jesus reproached Peter and told him to mind his own business.

Yet it order to have a better understanding of Peter's intentions, we might have to read the preceding passage.

Jesus had told Peter to feed His sheep and to follow Him and even indicated what kind of future Peter will have to face.

Well after knowing what is in store for him, Peter would certainly like to know what the rest would face, especially the disciple Jesus loved, whether it is out of concern or out of curiosity.

Therefore Jesus had to bring Peter back to focus on his commitment to love and the mission that he had received.

And as we prepare for the renewal and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us focus on our commitment to love and our mission to love.

Love is never about the self; it is always about others and for their good. Let us keep focused on that.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 29-05-2020

Acts 25:13-21 / John 21:15-19 

Usually people would associate the shape of love with the shape of a heart.

Oh yes, when we want to express love between persons and people, we would put the shape of hearts all over, whether one heart or many hearts.

But from the perspective of faith, we know what the shape of love is - it is the shape of the Cross.

It was on the Cross that we see what unconditional love is, what sacrificial love and what divine love is.

In the gospel, when Jesus asked Peter "Do you love me" three times, it was certainly not lovey-dovey hearts all over that question.

For that three times that Peter denied Jesus, now Jesus is asking Peter three time if he loved Him.

And for the three times that Peter said to Jesus, "Yes Lord, you know I love you", the shape of the cross was slowly beginning to emerge as Jesus indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God.

Yes, the shape of love is the cross, yet that love comes from the Sacred Heart.

The shape of love is also the heart as we offer our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we see love and we see also the Cross.

Let us embrace the Heart of Jesus, and carry our cross and be His loving disciples.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 28-05-2020

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 / John 17:20-26

In every Mass, there are at least two readings. One is the 1st reading and the other is the gospel.

In between the 1st reading and the gospel is the Responsorial Psalm.

The Responsorial Psalm is for us to response to the Word of God that we heard in the 1st reading.

The Responsorial Psalm for today is taken from Psalm 15, and the response is "Preserve me, Lord, I take refuge in you."

That connects well to the 1st reading as we heard how St. Paul was put on trial before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, but somehow his accusers ended up disagreeing and quarrelling among themselves.

Indeed, St. Paul took refuge in the Lord and the Lord preserved him and also gave him the courage to go forth and bear witness.

The response in the Responsorial Psalm can also be our prayer as we implore the Lord to preserve our faith as we take refuge in Him.

May the Lord also give us the courage that He gave to St. Paul to bear witness to Him in these times.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

7th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 27-05-2020

Acts 20:28-38 / John 17:11-19 

It is said that honesty is an expensive thing, so don't expect it from cheap people.

So in order to trust somebody, we may have to let our guard down, to whatever extent.

It is like wearing armour. We only take off the armour when we are with people that we trust.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul urged the elders of the church of Ephesus with these words:
Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood.

St. Paul was telling the elders of the church that they themselves need to guard themselves first before they can guard the flock that is entrusted to them.

St. Paul mentioned about the Holy Spirit, and that was where he was leading them towards.

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, and the Holy Spirit defends and protects us.

Let us continue to pray to the Holy Spirit that He will be our armour against evil and that He will also protect us from falling into the snares of the devil.

Monday, May 25, 2020

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 26-05-2020

Acts 20:17-27 / John 17:1-11 

When something is under "draft", it means that it is not finalised and approved yet, and that it is still "work in progess".

In the process of having something finalised and approved, there will be a lot of drafts.

So there will be draft drawings, draft models, draft documents. It will be quite a collection of sketches and scribbling, corrections and modifications.

But the finalised and approved result or product will be neat and orderly and presentable.

And all those "draft" material will be either left aside or thrown away. In a way they are of no use anymore and there is no point keeping them.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul made this statement: But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race, I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me - and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God's grace.

It is a statement worth remembering always because for all that we did and for what we have achieved, have we like St. Paul, did what the Lord Jesus wants us to do.

And when we come to the end of our race on earth, are we still with our "drafts" or are we the witnesses who have carried out the mission of proclaiming the Good News of God's grace.

Let us not waste our life and our words on "drafts". Let us be the final wonderful product and be a witness of God's grace in our lives.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 25-05-2020

Acts 19:1-8 / John 16:29-33 

The nine days after the feast of the Ascension are for us prepare with prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost this coming Sunday.

Some of us may have a devotion to the Holy Spirit and we will know what prayers to say.

One traditional prayer is this invocation to the Holy Spirit:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen. 

But some of us may not have any particular prayer to the Holy Spirit, or maybe even do not know of any prayer to the Holy Spirit.

And then there might be some who, like the disciples in the 1st reading, may not know who or what the Holy Spirit really is.

Whatever it may be, let us also know that whenever we pray, it is the Holy Spirit who is leading us in prayer.

In fact, when we feel the prompting to pray, it is the Holy Spirit who is prompting us to pray.

Let us be led by the Holy Spirit to pray so that as we face the troubles of this world, we will be brave and be led by the Holy Spirit to trust in Jesus who have conquered the world.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

7th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 24.05.2020

Acts 1:12-14 / 1 Peter 4:13-16 / John 17:1-11

An ordinary dictionary for the English language would have more than 150,000 words in common usage. 

But whether it is a common dictionary or a comprehensive dictionary, the number of words in any dictionary is not the same as the number of words in the use of the English language. 

Being an evolving and dynamic language, there are slang and jargon, and specialized words used by professionals like in the medical, technical and scientific fields. 

Though there is an abundance of words, we use only a certain amount of words daily, whether spoken or written. 

And some words are repeated here and there, which are also known as high frequency words. 

The words that we usually use are common and understandable. 

To use bombastic or sophisticated words could result in misunderstanding and the listeners would also not be too receptive to what we are saying. 

In the gospel passage, Jesus was the only person talking, and He spoke a lot of words. 

As much as the words He used were simple enough to understand, it would certainly take a lot more to comprehend. 

The gist of what Jesus said is about a union and a unity. 

It is also the first part of a long prayer in the whole of chapter 17 of the Gospel of John. 

Jesus talked about the union between Him and God the Father when He said this: Now Father, it is time for you to glorify me with the glory I had with you before ever the world was. 

And from that union between the Father and Him, Jesus moved on to talk about those that the Father has given to Him. 

Jesus not only talked about those that the Father had given to Him, He also prayed for them, so that in them, the Father and Jesus will be glorified. 

Certainly, this may not seem to be so easy to understand or comprehend. 

We may want to call that a mystery, which can be understood initially, but there is much more to comprehend. 

But mystery is not without reality. In fact, mystery is manifested in reality. 

We see that in the 1st reading and in just one sentence: All these were joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

That was the last mention of Mary in the Bible, and it was a profound statement.

Mary showed what union and unity is. She understood the prayer of Jesus. She lived out that prayer of Jesus. May we also do likewise.

6th Week of Easter, Saturday, 23-05-2020

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

Each of us has a purpose in this life. There is a meaning for our existence.

But it is not about what we do for a living, or what we do at home, or what we do in Church, or what we do for others.

At the very core of our existence, we have an identity.

From this identity flows the meaning of our existence and our purpose in life.

Jesus came to show us who we really are. We are children of God, sons and daughters of God our Father.

Jesus came to show us the Father's love, so that in Jesus, we will come to know the Father and love Him.

Jesus came from the Father and has now gone back to the Father.

We too came from the Father and we will eventually go back to the Father.

To forget this is to forget who we are and we will just become functional and lose the spiritual.

So let us ask Jesus to make His home in our hearts, so that we will be filled with His love for God and for others, and so that we will show others who we really are.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

6th Week of Easter, Friday, 22-05-2020

Acts 18:9-18 / John 16:20-23   

It is only human to ask questions about life. Questions like - Why is there innocent suffering? Why is there unnecessary pain? Why is happiness so elusive?

These questions are not just about the what is happening in the world around us.

These questions are about what is happening in our lives and to those whom we love and care about.

So these questions concern our family, our marriage, our spouse, our parents, our children, our work, our friends, etc.

In short, we encounter sorrow and suffering in life.

And it may add on to our desolation when Jesus said in the gospel: I tell you solemnly, you will be sorrowful.

Yet our consolation is that Jesus did not end it there. He continues by saying that our sorrow will turn to joy and that joy no one can take from us.

As we bring our needs and petitions to the Lord and place it at the altar of sacrifice, let us have the hope that the Lord would come to our help in our sorrows and sufferings.

That hope is not just wishful thinking but it is a joyful hope as we wait for God's will to unfold in the midst of our sorrows and sufferings.

Let us just ask the Lord for this joyful hope. With this joyful hope, there will be no further questions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Ascension of the Lord, Thursday, 21-05-2020

Acts 1:1-11 / Ephesians 1:17-23 / Matthew 28:16-20 

Forty days after His Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. That is why the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated today.

As the 1st reading puts it: Jesus had shown Himself alive to His disciples after His Passion by many demonstrations. For forty days He had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God.

The number 40 in the Bible has this meaning of cleansing and purification. It also has the meaning of strengthening and enlightenment.

For the disciples, during those 40 days, much has happened and they had to grapple with what they need to know and understand.

In the gospel, they set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.

When they saw Him, they fell down before Him, though some hesitated.

There is something odd about that phrase "though some hesitated". Why did some of the disciples hesitated? Didn't they know that it is the Lord Jesus?

Maybe too much had happened and the reality of who Jesus is had yet to sink into them, hence some of them hesitated.

For us, much has also happened, and we too are uncertain and unsure about the future and what will happen next.

But whatever the future is and whatever will happen, let us take comfort and consolation in those last words of Jesus - And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.

That is the promise of Jesus to His disciples and to us. Let us stay close to Jesus and be with each other and let that promise of Jesus be fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 20-05-2020

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

There’s a poem by an unknown author. It is called ‘The Folded Page’ and it is reproduced below.

Reading the poem brings back memories of the past, especially those days in school when we did what the poem said.

Whatever we couldn't understand or couldn't get done, we just folded the page down and maybe come back to again some other time.

We may not have our old school books anymore but we have memories of how we were not able to comprehend things at an earlier time and now we have come to a better understanding of it.

In the gospel, Jesus said that He still have many things to say to the disciples but it would be too much for them now. But when the Spirit of truth will lead them to the complete truth.

We too may not understand a lot of things that are happening now.

But with prayer and being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to slowly understand the mysteries of life and the will of God.

Let us also keep faith in the Lord that He will reveal His plans for us in His time.

‘The Folded Page.’

‘Up in a quaint old attic,
As the raindrops patter down,
I sat paging through an old schoolbook –
Dusty, tattered, and brown.

‘I came to a page that was folded down,
And across it was written in childish hand:
‘The teacher says to leave this for now,
’tis hard to understand.’

‘I unfolded the page and read.
Then I nodded my head and said,
‘The teacher was right: now I understand.’

‘There are lots of pages in the book of life
That are hard to understand.
All we can do is fold them down and write:
‘The teacher says to leave this for now,
’tis hard to understand.’

‘Then someday – maybe only in heaven –
we will unfold the pages again,
read them and say,
‘the teacher was right, now I understand,’

‘When it comes to the death of the person
Whom we are laying to rest today,
About all we can do is fold down the page and write
‘The teacher says to leave this for now,
’tis hard to understand.’

Monday, May 18, 2020

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 19-05-2020

Acts 16:22-34 / John 16:5-11 

The word "goodbye" is often used to express good wishes when parting or at the end of a conversation.

But goodbye often also has that meaning that we will meet another time and that goodbye isn't going to be forever.

In other words, when we say "goodbye" it is for the moment, and we hope to meet again soon.

In fact, it seems that the original goodbye, dating from the 1570s, was "godbwye", which was a contraction of the farewell phrase "God be with ye!"

In the gospel, Jesus was like saying goodbye to His disciples and His disciples were sad at heart to hear it.

And then He tells them this: I must tell you the truth - it is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.

And we now know what Jesus meant, that He will send us the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate and to let us experience that Jesus is with us in spirit.

Truly, for us "goodbye" means that "God be with you".

Jesus is certainly not absent from us. In fact, Jesus is very present to us in the Holy Spirit.

So the next time when we say "goodbye" we are actually sharing a blessing of Jesus' presence with others.

May we always cherish this blessing of Jesus' presence and not doubt that He is not with us.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 18-05-2020

Acts 16:13-15 / John 15:26 - 16:4   

If we ever had time to do some reflecting, then we might come to realise that for it has been about 3 months that we have not been physically at Mass.

In fact for the whole of the season of Lent, and it is also going to be for whole of the season of Easter that we have not been for Mass.

Ordinarily speaking, not going for Mass for Lent sounds serious enough. And now it is going to be Lent AND Easter that we have not gone for Mass.

Certainly it is not a laughing matter and no one is really happy about the situation that we are in, spiritually or otherwise.

And as we look into the uncertain future, we don't really have an idea when we will be able to gather as a community to praise and worship the Lord and to give thanks at Mass.

Even though our faith may not be shaken that terribly, yet we may feel that our faith is thinning away and inevitably we wonder and are worried about where our faith is heading.

It is in such times that we turn to the Scriptures for strength and consolation, as what we have now is the Word of God.

In a way, we may feel like the persecuted Christians of the early times, where, deprived of the Eucharist, they tried to remember what Jesus had taught them.

They would have remembered that Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit to be their Advocate and to lead them through the trials of life.

So we have the Word of God, we too have the Holy Spirit, and let us pray so that united spiritually by the Holy Spirit, we will still have hope for the future and give thanks for the blessings from God even at this time.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 17.05.2020

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / 1 Peter 3:15-18 / John 14:15-21

It is said that Singapore is a fine country and we are certainly proud of that. 

But another aspect is a play on the word “fine”, and it is in the penal sense. 

If Singapore is a fine country, then it is because of its strict rules and regulations. 

If ever a rule or regulation is broken, a fine is certainly to be expected. And needless to say, the more serious the offense, the heavier will be the fine or the punishment. 

And recently, many new prohibitions have been enforced, like wearing masks, no socializing, no dining at food outlets and restaurants, etc. 

Failure to comply with these rules and regulations will result in a hefty fine, and it would be really foolish to throw away money like that. 

But we should know by now what is the purpose of those rules and regulations. It is for our safety as well as the safety of others. 

To flout those rules and regulations would mean that we are socially irresponsible and defiant and also immature. 

Mature people should be able to see the rationale of the rules and regulations, as well as question those that are impractical or archaic. 

As for us Christians, what would be the basis of discernment when it comes to rules and regulations? 

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: If you love me, you will keep My Commandments. 

So the basis of our discernment about rules and regulations and about our faith and our morals is our love for Jesus and keeping to His Commandments and to what He has taught us. 

And to help us to love Jesus and to keep his Commandments, Jesus also sends us the Spirit of Truth to help us understand the truth of God and the truth about ourselves. 

It is with love and truth that we will be able to keep the commandments of Jesus and love as He has loved us. 

One of the fundamental teachings of Jesus can be found in the Beatitudes. 

When Jesus says that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven, we know in practical terms that God blesses the humble and the happiest people are the givers and not the getters. 

When Jesus says that happy are the gentle, we will also realize that being gentle is a God-given strength. On the other hand, the first victim of our temper is ourselves. 

When Jesus says that happy are the merciful, we are reminded to be kind and careful with our words. The tongue has no bones but it is strong enough to break a heart with harsh and hurting words. 

So our love for Jesus will help us to understand the truth of life, and the Spirit of truth will help us grow in our love for Jesus. 

When we can love others as Jesus has loved us, then we have become fully matured as disciples of Jesus.

Friday, May 15, 2020

5th Week of Easter, Saturday, 16-05-2020

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

In life, we are often confronted with the two ways of deciding and acting.

There is the way of the world, which is always more popular and also easier to follow.

But a deeper reflection would tell us that the way of the world is inevitably a selfish and self-centered approach which does not bring about much good.

The other way is the way of Jesus. It is obviously a more difficult way, but one that leads us to discover the meaning of life and wonders of love.

As it is, the world talks about retribution, revenge, to think about ourselves and to be No. 1 even at all costs.

The way of Jesus shows us sacrifice, humility, love and care for others.

To follow the way of Jesus can result in scorn and contempt. Others will see us as weak and soft and will even call us losers.

Yet in the end, the way of Jesus has proven to be a more gentle and yet more powerful way that brings about the beauty and the meaning of love.

Let us remember that we serve only one Master. Hence for us it is only His way.

5th Week of Easter, Friday, 15-05-2020

Acts 15:22-31 / John 15:12-17 

In the secular world, to be authorised to do something has this meaning of being genuine and proper.

So we will come across phrases like authorised dealer, authorised distributor, authorised seller, authorised workshop, etc.

The word "authority" carries a lot of weight behind it, and it also carries the approval, recognition, endorsement and permission of the organisation.

On the other hand, to act without authority would mean defiance, opposition, disobedience and dissent.

In the 1st reading, the letter that the apostles and elders sent to the churches in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia has these words: We heard that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us, ...

So acting without authority would cause disturbance, annoyance, confusion and division even.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: This is my commandment - love one another as I have loved you.

It is a commandment from our Lord Jesus, and in a way it also carries the power of an authorisation.

When we carry out that commandment of love, we have the power of Jesus with us as we proclaim His love.

Through us, the power of the love of Jesus will flow to others and it is the love of Jesus that will bring about unity, peace and joy.

Let us go forth and carry out that commandment of love, and with that let us also know that we carry the authority and power of the love of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

St. Matthias, Apostle, Thursday, 14-05-2020

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

The name Matthias is of Hebrew origin and it means "the gift of God"

But Matthias was not chosen to replace Judas just because he had a nice and meaningful name.

Rather he was chosen by a draw of lots.

We would think that it was a rather primitive and secular method to use for such an important and sacred task.

But it only shows that the apostles left the choice to God.

They have done their part by proposing the candidates and commending them to to the Lord in prayer.

They let the Lord guide them in making the choice.

As Jesus said in the gospel, it is not we who chose Him.

Rather it is He who chose us, and He commissions us to go forth and bear lasting fruit.

Hence it is not so much our suitability for the task at hand but rather our availability for God.

Our availability is our response to God, just as St. Matthias made his availability his response to God.

So what we are is God's gift to us. How we can be available for God is our gift to God.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

5th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 13-05-2020

Acts 15:1-6 / John 15:1-8 

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said this: No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.

In other words, change is inevitable. Whether for better or for worse, people and situations are always changing. Or as it is said, the only constant is change.

Over these few months, we have seen change, and whether we are favourable to it or not, we have to accept it and live with it, and it is quite likely that these changes are here to stay.

In the 1st reading, we read of an issue in the early church that led to disagreement and arguments.

It was about the practice of circumcision. The Jewish converts were for it but Paul and Barnabas were not in favour of it and it was critical enough for the apostles and elders to look into that matter.

Of course we know now what was the outcome and it is no big deal to us.

But for the early Church, it was a moment of change and it was to be a permanent change.

Since then the Church has also undergone much changes in practices and in devotions over the centuries.

As for ourselves, we too know that there is a constant change in and around us.

But we must strive to change for the better. And we can only change for the better when we remain united with Jesus so that we will bear much fruit for the glory of God.

Monday, May 11, 2020

5th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 12-05-2020

Acts 14:19-28 / John 14:27-31 

If we are looking for a realistic principle in life so that we live our life accordingly, then how about considering this: Life is difficult.

And the sooner we accept this principle of life, the sooner we will be able to come to terms with life and the difficulties that we face in life.

But as much as it is quite obvious, that life is difficult, we may wonder why can't life be a bit easier and rosier.

But life being difficult shouldn't come as a surprise for us, because in the 1st reading, Paul and Barnabas has this to say to the disciples: We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of heaven.

They said this put on fresh hearts into the disciples and to encourage them to persevere in the faith.

Those may not be very profound or motivating words but nonetheless it is the truth, and those words also have a spiritual dimension to it.

Just as Jesus suffered and died on the Cross to save us and bring us to heaven, but our sufferings and hardships we must believe that we are making our journey to heaven.

And let us also put fresh hearts and encourage others in their sufferings.

Let us help them to find their way to heaven through their own hardships and sufferings.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

5th Week of Easter, Monday, 11-05-2020

Acts 14:5-18 / John 14:21-26 

When the going gets tough, then it is also going to be rough.

It is not just a manner of speech, but when we meet with tough people, they may also use rough tactics.

In the face of tough and rough people, we would naturally want to avoid any trouble as well as any harm.

In the 1st reading, we read that when the opponents planned to attack Paul and Barnabas and to stone them, they came to know of it, and they went off for safety to Lyconia, where in the town, of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.

What is so amazing is that, when they had just escaped from mortal danger and should go into hiding and lie low, Paul and Barnabas immediately began preaching the Good News.

Maybe it can be said that when the going gets tough, it is tough who will keep going.

Paul and Barnabas showed what kept them going even when the going was rough and tough.

What kept them going is what Jesus mentioned in the gospel, ie. the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is our Advocate who supports, defends and protects us.

We must call on the Holy Spirit for strength and courage, especially when we meet with tough and rough people and situations.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 10.05.2020

Acts 6:1-7 / 1 Peter 2:4-9 / John 14:1-12

One of the greatest desires in life is to be happy. 

The quest for happiness is like a constant thirst. 

We know by now that we won’t be in a constant state of happiness, not at least while we are here in this world. 

But still, we strive for happiness to last longer, and so we will embark on a few possible directions to achieve that. 

Some will look for the perfect partner so that they will be happy together and forever. 

Some will look for the perfect job so that they will be at the top and think they will be happy. 

Some will want to be as rich and wealthy as possible because with luxury they think they will be happy. 

But we all know by now that happiness is such an elusive thing that we can be happy one day and sad the next; we may be happy one moment and sad the next.

And for all that we tried to do in order to achieve happiness, we see that happiness vanishes quickly like water on dry desert sand, and our hearts get frustrated and disappointed. 

And with that the little problems of life become big troubles. 

In the gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.”

Jesus said this at the Last Supper and before that He gave a long discourse that made His disciples anxious and worried. 

They had hoped that by following Jesus they would find the happiness that they were searching for. 

But when Jesus talked about betrayal and denial and desertion, his disciples were shaken and confused.

And that is why Jesus had to tell them not to let their hearts be troubled and to trust in God and trust in Him. 

But Jesus is not telling them to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” (as the song goes). He even promised them that He will return to take them to a place of eternal happiness. 

Oh, how we want to go to that place that Jesus is talking about and be happy forever. 

But does that mean that there won’t be a place for happiness here on earth? 

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, we know how hard are mothers try to make the home a place of happiness. 

Our mothers cook and clean, they care and council us so that we can be happy at home and in life. 

But what will make our mothers happy will be that we don’t give trouble and we don’t get into trouble.

When we think of what our mothers have done for us and when we think of what will make our mothers happy, then we will certainly think carefully about what we want to do in life. 

In not giving trouble and not getting into trouble, our mothers will be happy with us, and that is the best gift for our mothers on Mother’s Day and also every day. 

In the spiritual perspective, when we sin, we will give trouble and also get into trouble, and no one will be happy, including ourselves.

Jesus wants to bring us that place of eternal happiness, but we have to prepare for it now, here on earth. 

Our hearts will be troubled only when we ask for trouble, and we ask for trouble when we commit sin.

Let us ask Jesus to give peace to our hearts, so that our mothers will be happy, and so that we too will be happy.

Friday, May 8, 2020

4th Week of Easter, Saturday, 09-05-2020

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

The Old Testament has this very strong sense of reverence for God.

In Exodus 33:18, when Moses asked God to let him see His face, God replied : I will not let you see My face, for no one can see My face and live.

Such was the awesome reverence and the awesome presence of God.

Having said that, what Jesus told Philip in the gospel was indeed an earthshaking statement - To have seen Me is to see the Father.

That was not only incredible and impossible for people at that time to accept,  it may also be incredible and impossible for people of the present time to accept.

No one has ever said what Jesus said in today's gospel, ie. to see Him is to see God!

Jesus also said something else more earthshaking and heart-pounding.

He said that He will live in those who believe in Him and those who believe in Him will perform great and wonderful works.

So do we dare to say to others : To see me is to see God!!!

Sounds incredible and impossible, but that is precisely what we are called to be; we are called to be living and visible signs of the holy presence of God.

If there is anything we are asking from God, then let it be this: Lord, when others see me, may they also be able to see You.

That might sound incredible, but with God, that is not impossible.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

4th Week of Easter, Friday, 08-05-2020

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

We may have heard of this song "Don't Worry Be Happy". It has a simple tune and simple words and we would sung along with it before.

The opening verse goes like this:

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy

Oh yes, in life we will have trouble, at times big, at times small.

But trouble is trouble. We don't look for trouble, but the trouble is trouble looks for us!

Or is it? Is trouble some kind of roaring lion that is looking for someone to eat?

We should have realised by now, that more often than not, we create the troubles for ourselves, just as we create problems for ourselves.

Especially in this particular time, we may have come to realise that most of our problems and most of the problems in the world are self-created.

Whether we have yet to realise that or not, whenever there are troubles in life, our hearts are not at peace.

And when our hearts are not at peace, and when our lives are in pieces, then what should we do?

Of course we will try to put things together and try to look for peace.

But peace is not just an ideology or a principle to be followed. 

Jesus is our Prince of Peace. And that is why He tells us in the gospel, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me."

And we also remember Jesus telling us this: Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.

So we come before Jesus with our troubled hearts and we ask Him to give us the peace that only He can give.

But it is not just don't worry, be happy. Rather, it is don't worry, be holy. Yes, be holy, as God is holy, and He is calling us to be holy.

So as we come before Jesus, as we come before His Sacred Heart, let us ask Him to help us to be holy in all that we do, so that we can rest in His Sacred Heart and be at peace.

In our lives and in our hearts, God must be in the centre, and then everything else will come together.

4th Week of Easter, Thursday, 07-05-2020

Acts 13:13-25 / John 13:16-20 

Jesus came to bring us back to God. His message is simply this: that God forgives us our sins and wants us to inherit the eternal life with Him that He wants to give us.

Jesus is Lord and Master, yet He when He was on earth, He did not cling to His equality with God, but He humbled Himself in obedience to His Father, even to death on the Cross.

As we read the gospel, Jesus, after washing the feet of His disciples said this: I tell you most solemnly, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him.

Jesus was, in fact, talking about Himself, that He came to serve in obedience to His Father, and that the message that He proclaims is the message from God.

As His disciples, we too have taken on the mission of Jesus, and that is to serve as He did and to proclaim the Good News as He did.

As we accept this mission, we also accept to be sent out by Jesus as servants and messengers.

On the other hand, coming to meet us will be those whom Jesus is going to send to us.

So we cannot choose who to go to and what we want to do.

As servants and messengers, we have to be prepared to accept whoever Jesus sends to us and what He wants us to do for them.

Yes, we have to die to ourselves in obedience and accept those that Jesus sends to us and they will most probably be what we don't expect.

But let us welcome the ones that Jesus sends to us, and in doing so, let us remember that we are welcoming Jesus and obeying and serving Him.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

4th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 06-05-2020

Acts 12:24 - 13:5 / John 12:14-50

There is an emphasis during the season of Lent on the spiritual practices of prayer and fasting.

After all the season of Lent is penitential in character and on Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent, Jesus talked about prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Even though the season of Lent is over and we are already into the 4th week of Easter, we may still feel that the Lenten penitential spirituality of prayer, penance and almsgiving still continues.

And of course we know why we are feeling this way, with what is happening around us.

But the fact is that the life of a Christian is a life of prayer, fasting or penance, and almsgiving.

We must pray, we must do penance and we must help the poor and the needy.

We do this so that we will be purified from the desires of earthly things and bestowed with heavenly blessings, as we look for the light in these times.

In the 1st reading, we read that the disciples were offering worship to the Lord and keep a fast when the Holy Spirit revealed the plans of God for them.

So in these times, let us pray, let us do penance and fasting, and let us be the light of Christ for those who are poor and needy.

In doing all this, then the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 05-05-2020

Acts 11:19-26 / John 10:22-30 

The 1st reading tells us how the word "Christians" came about.

It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians".

But what it meant then may not be what it means to us now.

The word “Christian” comes from the Greek word christianos, meaning “little Christ”. It was used by the opponents of Jesus’s disciples as an insult…? So, what was meant to be a jeer and to insult the disciples of Christ.

What the word means now may also have many shades of meaning.

It could mentioned in order to ridicule (those Christians ... ). Or it may be a form of identification to the follows of a religion. Or it could be used to refer to a way of life that is edifying.

Whatever it may mean to others depend on how we live up tot that name.

When we see ourselves as the sheep that belong to Jesus and that we listen to His voice, then we will be little and humble like the sheep that belongs to Jesus.

May others who know that we are Christians be edified by the way we live our lives and want to come to know the Shepherd we are following.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 04-05-2020

Acts 11:1-18 / John 10:11-18 (for Year A)

Not every thing that swims, crawls or flies is fit for human consumption.

Eating the wrong or poisonous thing can lead to serious problems and even death.

The curious thing about the 1st reading is that vision of Peter and that voice that said to him "Now Peter, kill and eat".

As a devout Jew, he protested by saying "Certainly not, Lord. Nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips".

The rebuttal was immediate - What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane. And it was repeated three times to indicate that it was imperative.

But before we go off and eat anything that swims, crawls and flies, let us remember the context of that vision and what it really meant.

As we read further on, then we will see that it was with regards to the mission of evangelizing the Gentiles, ie. the non-Jews, who were considered by the Jews as unclean and profane.

It even led to a serious discussion among the apostles and the disciples in Jerusalem and Peter was questioned by them about his association with the Gentiles.

But the vision and his subsequent account led to this common conclusion: that God can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.

It also must lead us to understand that no one is so unclean and profane that he cannot be converted.

As Jesus said in the gospel, "There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well."

Let us look for these sheep and bring them to Jesus and He will make them clean and give them the new life that He promises to those who believe in Him.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

4th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 03.05.2020

Acts 2:14, 36-41 / 1 Peter 2:20-25 / John 10:1-10

As we are now having daily meetings, conferences, lessons and interactions with others over our computers and laptops, we should have discovered by now, how important audio and video devices are in our computers and laptops.

It is difficult to say which is more important, the audio or the video, but the picture without the sound makes little sense, while the sound without the picture, we can still comprehend. 

But of course, if the computer or laptop has no sound or picture then its time may have come to an end. 

What we may be aware of is that there is a microphone, or the absence of it, in our computers or laptops. 

And we know that the microphone is either missing or not working well when the other person on the screen gives us strange looks and then tells us that they can’t hear us or that we have muted our microphones. 

Oh yes, these days we are learning a lot more about how computers and laptops work, especially in the channels of communication. 

As much as seeing is exciting, listening gives rise to imagining and we picture in our minds what we are hearing and even images of people and places begin to form in our minds. 

As we read the gospel about what Jesus said, the images that come to our minds might be the shepherd leading his flock of sheep. 

Whatever we know about shepherd and sheep, we get the picture that the shepherd goes ahead of his sheep and the sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. 

And the sheep never follow a stranger because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.

As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we also celebrate Vocations Sunday.

Vocations Sunday is a reminder that the Lord Jesus is calling those whom He has chosen to serve Him and the People of God in a special way, and that is, in the priesthood and the religious life.

Yes, Jesus our Good Shepherd calls out to those whom He has chosen, and He says that the harvest is rich but the labourers are few.

So this is a call-out to those who are hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd. He calls out to you whom He has chosen for a special vocation and a special mission.

He calls out to you, and He speaks heart-to-heart with you.

Amidst the anxieties and worries of life, and all the other voices in the world, when we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and listen to His call, we will have peace of heart.

Yes, it is a peace that the world cannot give. It is a peace that is given heart-to-heart.

So if the Lord Jesus is calling you, may you listen, may you respond, and you will be blessed with a peace that comes only from the Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

When we listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd, He will lead us through the valley of darkness and into the green pastures of light and life.

Friday, May 1, 2020

3rd Week of Easter, Saturday, 02-05-2020

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

Most of us, if not all of us, wouldn't want to say things that will embarrass ourselves and make ourselves look foolish.

Even for those who shoot their mouths off, they wouldn't usually say things that will make others think that they are mad or out of their minds.

St. Peter, as we know, had a reputation for being impulsive and brash and later he would have to eat his words.

Well, he had said that he wouldn't deny his Master; he said at the transfiguration that he would build three tents although he didn't know what he was saying; he tried to remonstrate with Jesus about His suffering only to get rebuked by Jesus.

Yes, we sigh and shake our heads and look to heaven when St. Peter shoots his mouth off. Yet we also cannot deny that there were also profound words that came from St. Peter.

In the gospel, we heard one of those profound statements from St. Peter - Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that You are the Holy One of God.

Even in the 1st reading, the St. Peter that we hear about spoke words of power that brought about healing and even restored life!

And all that was because of the Risen Christ. Through the power of the resurrection, St. Peter has learnt to speak like his Master and even has the power to act like Him.

That is the power of the resurrection on St. Peter. And the power of the resurrection is also given to each of us.

Let it begin with our words so that we can speak like our Master. Like St. Peter may our words bring about healing and also awaken the life in those who hear us.