Friday, April 20, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Saturday, 21-04-18

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

The period of peace and security can also be a rather risky time. Because we can take the peace and security for granted and become complacent and lose our alertness.

Furthermore, with the absence of challenges and dangers, life becomes mundane and monotonous, and we slowly corrode and erode and lose the sharpness for life.

In the 1st reading, we hear the churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were left in peace.

Yet, that is not all in that statement; it continues by saying that they were building themselves up and living in the fear of the Lord and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Those were the trademarks of the early Church - building up the community and fortifying it; living in the fear of the Lord and yet with full faith in Him; and trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

And Peter showed forth the power of the name of Jesus in healing a paralytic and raising the dead.

In short, the early Church was proclaiming the Good News, which also means that it is the message of life and the message for life.

It was the same Peter who in the gospel proclaimed that Jesus has the message of eternal life and they believed in Him as the Holy One of God.

As Church, we must be proclaiming Jesus and His message of eternal life. Yet, like Peter who healed the paralytic and raised the dead, may we too rise and keep walking towards Christ.

It is in proclaiming the powerful name of Jesus that we too will find life and also eternal life.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 20-04-18

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

Pope Francis was quoted as saying: This is God's way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.

What is rather startling about what Pope Francis said is that there can be no humility without humiliation. Do we really need to be humiliated in order to be humble?

As we think about it, maybe the experience of St. Paul in the 1st reading could give us some points for reflection in the relationship between humility and humiliation.

St. Paul, or Saul as he was known in the 1st reading, was on the road to Damascus, to arrest the followers of Jesus. He was riding high and mighty and could be proud of himself for getting rid of these religious heretics.

And then a light from heaven threw him to the ground and then he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"

Surprised and shocked, he asked, "Who are you, Lord?" At least he had enough of sense to acknowledge that whoever was speaking to him was certainly more powerful than he is.

The voice revealed itself as Jesus and that Saul was persecuting Him. Saul was humbled but Jesus did not go on to humiliate him for persecuting His followers.

Jesus even sent a disciple called Ananias to heal Saul and to recover his sight and he was even baptized.

The once proud and high and mighty Saul is now a humble St. Paul. He was humbled but not humiliated. It can be said that St. Paul was humble enough not to be humiliated.

St. Paul even went on to call himself the greatest of sinners. That goes to show that humility is when you tell the truth about yourself.

Just as Jesus taught St. Paul how to be humble, may we also accept the lessons of humility that come our way. After all it is better to be humble than to be humiliated.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 19-04-18

Acts 8:26-48 / John 6:44-51

The power of attraction is an amazing thing. It goes beyond logic and reason.

From simple attractions like sales and bargains to the infatuation and attraction between opposite sexes, the whys and the hows are difficult to explain.

Yet the power of attraction is there and it cannot be denied and in a certain sense it cannot be easily understood.

In the gospel, Jesus speaks of an awesome and mysterious power of attraction.

If we believe in Jesus, it is because the power of God has drawn us to Him.

Indeed, it was the power of God's love that has drawn our hearts to Jesus and to come to this Mass to receive Him in Holy Communion.

As we heard in the 1st reading, it was also the power of God's love that drew the eunuch to request for baptism.

Jesus said: No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me.

By the power of God's love we are drawn into the heart of Jesus.

We are now sent to draw others into the heart of Jesus.

We need not explain why we believe in Jesus, or preach to others about Jesus.

By our hearts of love, God will draw them to Jesus.

May our hearts remain always in the love of God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 18-04-18

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

If we say that seeing is believing, then we may have to think again. At least we know that what we see in movies are not that real, although the actors and the props are real enough.

But what is truly amazing is that with the rise of computer graphics, what we see in movies may not even exist in reality.

So we may or may not believe in what we see, but we may be very impressed with it.

In the gospel, Jesus told the people, "You can see me and still you do not believe."

Yes, the people could see Jesus, that He was real, with flesh and blood, but maybe not that impressive.

Yes, impressions count, and impressions will also form conclusions, and it seemed that the people's conclusion about Jesus was that He was not very impressive. So the people wrote Him off.

And if people then were to see what was happening with the Church in the 1st reading, they also would have probably written off the Church.

Under bitter persecution and with Saul out for the total destruction, the Church would have stood no chance at all to survive.

Yet the Church survived, and even for 2000 years. But with the crisis of faith in the Church, we may wonder about the future of her existence. Also the current state of the Church is not that impressive either.

Whatever impression we may have of the Church, we also must know that there is the mystery of the Church, and that is the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.

We may not be able to see the presence of the Holy Spirit, but let us believe in it, and then we will be able to see more than what meets the eye.

Monday, April 16, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 17-04-18

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

Whenever we talk about St. Stephen, the reference is usually to that Stephen in the 1st reading. He is a saint because he was martyred for witnessing to Jesus, and he is often known as the first martyr of the early church.

Martyrdom is usually a bloody affair as well as a painful one, and so it was in Stephen's case, Death by stoning is a painful and slow death.

Stephen could have guessed that he was heading there when he courageously spoke out against the elders, the scribes and the people, calling them stubborn people with pagan hearts and pagan ears, and they were certainly infuriated.

But his death sentence came when he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand, and he even told his enemies what he saw. That was too much for his enemies and they dragged him to his execution.

But they didn't hear the last of Stephen yet. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and said aloud, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them".

In his last moments and with his last words, Stephen gave his enemies, and he also gives us, a vision of heaven. And he also had his eyes fixed on Jesus.

Stephen was convinced that Jesus is the true bread of God which has come down from heaven to give life to the world.

But the goodness and the pleasures of the life of this world cannot be compared with the life of heaven.

Like Stephen, we too must fix our eyes on heaven as we partake of the Bread of life on earth.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

3rd Week of Easter, Monday, 16-04-18

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

If we use Facebook we would probably know who Mark Zuckerberg is. The CEO of Facebook testified last week in two congressional hearings, which lasted nearly ten hours over two days.

It is certain not a pleasure to be in his shoes during those two days. Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by the Senators, and at stake was his reputation and the company's future as a tech giant.

For the deacon Stephen in the 1st reading, he wasn't quite prepared for what was going to happen when he was taken by surprise and arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.

The accusations brought against him were serious and it could cost him his life. He would have to decide what to do then. More than just his reputation, it was going to be about his conviction and his beliefs.

It is certainly a distressful situation, but as the members of the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.

Alone and surrounded by his enemies, they were probably surprised at his countenance of calmness.

We may not be in such a distressful situation as that of Stephen, or that of Mark Zuckerberg, but stressful and unhappy situations are what we have often in life.

What can we do in such situations then? We can fret and frown and have displeasure written all over our face.

Or we can do what God wants of us, and that is to believe that He will help us handle such volatile situations.

That must be our conviction and our belief. Only then will our face look like the face of an angel.                    

Saturday, April 14, 2018

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 15.04.2018

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / 1 John 2:1-5 / John 24:35-48

Back in the past, in the so-called “good-old-days” one of the activities of the priest was to do home-visits. And because communication back then wasn’t that developed (not every house has a telephone), those home-visits can be surprise-calls. But the surprise can go both ways. It could be a surprise for the family, or it could be a surprise for the priest.

One senior priest, who was from those “good-old-days” was relating how he had to wait outside the main door for 15 min because the family was scrambling to tidy up the house and to get properly dressed.

Those were the “good-old-days”. Now if a priest wants to do home-visits, he has to call and make an appointment with the family, and it can be quite inconvenient for the family – not all are at home, they have to tidy up the house, they have to be properly dressed, etc. So now it’s like: Father, don’t call me, I will call you, if I want you to visit me.

So people will call the priest only when he is needed, e.g. for house-blessing. And talking about house-blessing, this week I had four house-blessings. The reasons for the house-blessing range from wanting the new house to be blessed to strange happenings in the house.

Especially when people think that there are “ghosts” lurking or hiding somewhere in the house. Not everybody believes in ghosts, but everybody seems to be afraid of them. Also during the day, not everybody believes in ghosts, but at night they are more open-minded.

There is a saying “when one door closes, another door opens”; that is of course a figure of speech. But in reality, if one door closes and another door opens by itself, then it’s time to do something, like call for the priest.

Yes, the supernatural or the unexplainable, can make our hair stand and we feel a chill. Whatever it is, we don’t welcome these encounters and it’s best that we don’t have these encounters at all.

Today’s gospel gives an account of an encounter that the disciples had. Two disciples came and told the rest of the disciples what sounded like some kind of ghost story, that they had seen Jesus, who was crucified, died and was buried. 

What a story to tell the disciples when they were all hiding in a locked room for fear of the Jews. And while they were talking about all this, Jesus came and stood among them. In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost!

And what a situation to be in. They can’t run outside and shout “Ghost! Ghost!” because they will be caught. So there is no choice other than to face this Jesus, whom they thought has come back as a ghost to haunt them for deserting Him during His suffering. That’s quite similar to what most ghost stories are made of.

But that’s also where the “ghost story” ends, when Jesus said to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves. A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

Although they couldn’t quite believe it and stood there dumbfounded, yet they were also relieved. What Jesus said to them calmed their fears. 

Jesus did not come to haunt them or to settle scores for deserting Him. Although forgiveness was not mentioned, it was understood. 

Only when they have calmed down, then they understood those first words of Jesus “Peace be with you.” Only when their hearts were at peace then their minds could be opened to understand the scriptures that spoke of Jesus who would suffer, die and rise from the dead. Jesus is certainly not a ghost!

Whatever our opinion of ghosts may be, the ghosts that often haunt us are the ghosts of our own making. We create these ghosts when we sin, because it is the ghost of our sins that come and haunt us.

For the disciples, their desertion of Jesus in His suffering and death made them think they were seeing a ghost when He appeared to them. But it was their sin that was haunting them.

As for us, we will recall our wrong-doing and how we have sinned against others. Hurting someone can be as easy as throwing a stone into the sea. But we may or may not have an idea of how deep that stone went into the heart of that person.

It may be our parents whom we have neglected or was unkind to when they were alive. Now that they are gone, all the flowers that we put at their niche or tombs would not appease our regrets.

Or the person that we have cheated in a relationship. Seeing that person brings out the ghost of the past and we feel how deep the stone has gone into the heart of that person.

Or how we have schemed to sabotage a person. Our misdeeds haunt us as we think of the revenge that will be taken against us if we are found out.

Yes, the ghost of our sins comes to haunt us even in the daylight and we live in the darkness of regret, anxiety and fear.

But today we hear the words of consolation “Peace be with you”. Jesus wants to forgive us but at the same time we must also pray for forgiveness and to seek forgiveness from the ones we have hurt and done wrong to.

That is what repentance for the forgiveness of sins is about.

It is not easy to embark on repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but it is not impossible. With Jesus nothing is impossible. He came to bring us to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

He wants to free us from the anxiety and fear of being haunted by the ghost of our sins.

Repentance for the forgiveness of sins is necessary for true peace in our hearts. When there is peace in our hearts, there will be no ghosts to fear.