Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ascension of the Lord, Thursday, 25-05-17

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

Have we ever had that experience of saying goodbye and knowing that we will not meet that person ever again?

The only occasion that we can probably think of is when death separates us from our loved ones and we know that we will never see that person again, at least not here on earth.

But other than that, it may be quite difficult to imagine a goodbye that is forever.

Especially with the modern means of communication like video calls on our mobile devices, being able to see the other person "live" is not a big problem, even though it may just be an electronically transmitted image.

Yes, it is difficult to imagine a goodbye that is forever. But we can certainly imagine how it feels if we won't be able to see the other person forever.

That was how the disciples felt on that day when Jesus ascended into heaven, which we are celebrating as a feast today.

They already had that traumatic experience of His death on Good Friday when they thought it was all finished.

But Jesus rose from the dead and He continued to be with them for 40 days. And now He is telling them that He is leaving them for good.

Though they might be more prepared this time round, still we can understand how they felt about Jesus leaving them for good.

But this phrase "leaving for good" is quite interesting, isn't it? Obviously it means leaving forever. So what good can come out of that?

The final parting words of Jesus are these: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.

Those final parting words also come with a promise: Know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.

So Jesus is telling us and promising us that He will be with us forever, until the end of time.

Our response can only be this: Yes Lord, I want to be with you forever, till the end of time.

Now if that is what we want, then we will do as Jesus told us - make disciples, baptise them, teach them to observe all the commands that He gave.

Our whole life is to be centered on what Jesus wants us to do if we want to be with Him forever.

And we will be given what we need as Jesus tell us in the 1st reading: you will be receive power from the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit, we will be with Jesus, and we will be able to do what Jesus told us to do.

So Jesus ascended into heaven and left the disciples for good. The "good" that He left them with is the Holy Spirit so that He will be with them till the end of time.

That "good" is passed down to us and hence, we must pray to the Holy Spirit in order to receive the power that Jesus wants to give us. A simple way to do it is to meditate on the Descent of the Holy Spirit and offer a decade of the Rosary in prayer.

Then we will remain with Jesus till the end of time, and forever into eternity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 24-05-17

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

Empiricism is a philosophical theory that all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses.

It means that as long as we can touch it, see it, hear it, smell it or taste it, then we can know it or find out more about it.

Anything outside of the senses are not to be discussed as they don't appeal to the senses and hence, nothing can be known about it and no experience can be gained from it.

So it can be said that empiricism does not take into account the "sixth sense" or "intuition" as it cannot be measured or quantified.

How empiricism handles the question of faith depends on how much of it is considered acceptable.

In the 1st reading, when Paul stood before the whole Council of Areopagus and made the speech, what he said was acceptable to them until he talked about God raising a man from the dead.

At this mention of raising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing, while others seem to be interested in that.

As much as we profess that we believe in the Resurrection of Christ, yet we too may not really understand what it is truly about. We may not laugh at it but we have our questions that we are still search for the answers.

There may be much material on it but we will have to let the Spirit of truth lead us to a deeper understanding of the mystery of our faith.

What we cannot understand, let us not discard or reject or laugh at it. The time may come when the Spirit of truth will lead us to a leap of faith and then we will be enlightened.

Monday, May 22, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 23-05-17

Acts 16:22-34 / John 16:5-11

It has been said that faith is taught as well as caught.

Yes, faith is taught in a catechism and it is presented in a neat and logical manner.

Yet, the faith of the early Church began in a more chaotic as well as mysterious way but it was from there that the faith was caught.

In the 1st reading, we hear how Paul and Silas was flogged and thrown into prison although they were just talking about the faith.

While in prison, something mysterious and wonderful happened and in the end, the jailer and his family caught on the faith and were baptized.

Hence, very often it is a troubled and distressful situation that the faith is caught on by others.

Certainly, this is the workings of the Holy Spirit and Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who will lead us all to truth.

We may remember that in the beginning of the book of Genesis, God sent the Spirit into the chaos and then creation came forth.

So whenever we face a troubled and distressful and chaotic situation, let us remember this:

That out of chaos, creation will come forth, and the faith is caught.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

6th Week of Easter, Monday, 22-05-17

Acts 16:11-15 / John 15:26 - 16:4

People who won't take a "No" for an answer can be rather difficult to work with or to please.

They can be deemed as demanding and pushy or even aggressive , so it is either their way or the highway.

And if they happen to be our bosses or superiors, then it can be rather stressful as we know that things won't be approved the first time round.

In the 1st reading, we heard of this woman Lydia and she sent an invitation to the disciples to come and stay at her home and she would take no refusal, ie. she wouldn't take "No' for an answer.

But the passage also said something else about Lydia. She listened to the Good News and the Lord opened her heart to accept the message.

The Lord called out to her and she couldn't say "No" to baptism. In fact, she and her household got baptized.

And it can be presumed that the disciples didn't say "No" to her, as they saw how the Spirit worked in her.

It can be said that in those who are led by the Spirit, they have a fire in their hearts that make them very zealous in their service for the Lord.

We may find them rather pushy and demanding but certainly not aggressive. May we see the Holy Spirit working in them, and through them the Lord may be telling us what He wants of us.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

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

Do we know what is the hottest news in town? It’s on everyone’s lips anyway.

If we are still wondering about what is the hottest news in town, think no further. The hottest news in town is that it is hot, it is hot and it is hot! It’s on everyone’s lips right?

We don’t need to check the temperature to know that it is hot.

Have we heard of those “the weather is so hot” jokes? The weather is so hot that:
- The only milk available is evaporated milk
- The chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs
- Swimming pools have become protected areas 

But jokes aside, we wonder if the hot weather has anything to do with another phenomenon.

What has the warehouse opposite IMM, the Punggol construction site, Changi Airport Terminal 2, Shenton House, Paya Lebar Bakery, Katong I12, Woodlands flat and the taxi on Commonwealth Avenue, all have in common? 

They all caught fire!

So the warning is obvious. In this hot weather, don’t play with fire. It’s already hot enough, don’t make it hotter!

And of course in this heatwave, it would be wise to follow some good advice, like:
- Drink more water. (but that would only increase the price of water)
- Eat more fruits, but durians are excluded, for obvious reasons
- Wear light clothing, but that doesn’t mean wear less clothing. 

That’s pretty good advice for the hot weather. But advice is advice. 

Whether we want to follow it or not, that’s really up to us.

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

In no uncertain terms, Jesus is also telling us that if we love Him, then we must keep His commandments.

Jesus is talking about commandments. It’s not about advice, not about options, not about suggestions.

Commandments are imperative. They have to be obeyed. It’s not negotiable, we cannot bargain with commandments, at least not with the commandments of Jesus.

And even if we are not that well versed with the Bible, we know what are the commandments of Jesus.

And that is to love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength. And to love our neighbour as ourselves. 

Together with that is also the new commandment, i.e., to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

The practical expressions of these commandments are as challenging as trying to keep cool in hot weather.

For example, we should forgive and even love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

We know we should not bear hatred or take revenge. We know we should not judge or condemn or slander others. 

We should not lie or cheat, we should not be devious or malicious.

We should be kind and compassionate and generous. We must pray and be faithful to God.

These are the commandments of Jesus and they are also the truths of life, and we know it. We should know it.

Yes, we know it, but do we really believe in it?

Because if we really believe in it, then regardless of what others think or say, we will live by the truths of life because in the final analysis, that’s how we show that we love Jesus.

There is this reflection called the “Final Analysis” which tells us how to live out the truths of life in this world.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; 
Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; 
Be honest and frank anyway. 

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous; 
Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; 
Do good anyway. 

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. 

So in the FINAL analysis, it is more than what we think about the truth. It is about what we do with the truth. It is about living out the truth. It is about showing how we love Jesus. It is about witnessing to Jesus.

Pope Paul VI said that modern man listens more to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are first and foremost witnesses.

So it’s not about telling others what to do in the hot weather. We must show how to keep cool in the heat.

Similarly, it is not about telling others how to be a Catholic, or criticize them when they don’t behave like one. 

We have to live out the truth, and live it out in love and the Spirit of truth that Jesus will send will help us to do it.

So that hot weather or cold weather, rain or shine, we will always love Jesus and that love must also flow out to others.

Friday, May 19, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Saturday, 20-05-17

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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Friday, 19-05-17

Acts 15:22-31 / John 15:12-17

Name-dropping is the practice of casually mentioning the names of famous people one knows or claims to know in order to impress others.

Obviously, it is done to make oneself feel more important, which already reveals a sense of insecurity and need for recognition.

Name-dropping is also often used to abuse. One would use the name of someone in authority to get others to comply to an order, even if the order did not come from the authority itself.

For example, one would use "the boss says so", or "the Archbishop says so" to get others to get some work done or to make others comply to an order. Whether that is said by the person who is referred to is another matter.

In the 1st reading, the apostles and elders of the early church sent a letter to the Christian communities in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.

Addressing the issue of circumcision, they had recourse to a very big name to reinforce their stand when they wrote: It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials ...

Those who didn't agree with their directive would accuse them of name-dropping. But those who saw the clarity and understood the rationale of the directive would know that the apostles and elders had prayed and the Holy Spirit had enlightened and guided them.

But the fruits of that directive can been seen even until today with the Church's position on circumcision. In fact, it is hardly an issue anymore.

So it is true that the Holy Spirit decided and helped the apostles and elders to make that decision.

And may we always have recourse to the guidance and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit to make our decisions. With the Spirit of truth, whatever we do in the name of God will bear fruit that will last.