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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Thursday, 18-05-17

Acts 15:7-21 / John 15:9-11

Meetings and discussions can consume a lot of time.

But what can often make meetings and discussions really boring and frustrating is that after all that is said, there are either no decisions or action-plan, or that the outcome is rather ambiguous.

The 1st reading recorded the discussion in the early Church regarding the Gentile Christians took up a long time.

In the end, Peter stood up to speak.

What he said was not to fuel the argument further, but rather he recalled what Jesus had done for them and that they were saved by His love and grace.

Peter also recalled for them the teaching of Jesus that they were not to lay burdens on others that they themselves could not carry.

That brought about silence to the entire assembly.

It is amazing how the recollection of the love of Jesus and His teaching cleared the minds of those in the assembly.

It is certainly necessary for us to recall for ourselves the love and the teaching of Jesus.

In simple words, that is what Jesus said in the gospel: Remain in my love.

That would certainly reduce unnecessary arguments that waste so much time and energy in discussions.

But more importantly, that will also deepen our faith in the love and teaching of Jesus.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 17-05-17

Acts 19 : 1-6 / John 15 : 1-8

Leaves on the ground is a common sight in Singapore because we have many trees around.

The leaves are also of different shades and shapes. But whatever stage that they are in, the fact is clear.

They have fallen off from the trees or plants.

And then the reality of the state of these leaves will slowly become clear to us.

They are dying or are withered and dead altogether.

Just a simple reflection on the common sight of dried-up and withered leaves will bring home the message of Jesus in today's gospel.

The message is clear enough - cut off from Jesus, we can do nothing, and we will wither and die.

But with Jesus and in Jesus, we will reflect the beauty of life, just as the leaves reflect the beauty of the tree or plant.

It is this beauty that will bring back those who have separated themselves from Jesus.

That will be the fruit that we can bear for Jesus.

Monday, May 15, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 16-05-17

Acts 14:19-28 / John 14:27-31

One of the factors that draw people to a religion is that it gives them this sense of peace.

They will speak of experiences like being troubled and in distress and then something mysterious happens.

For whatever reason, they will just be drawn to a church, and there they will feel a sense of peace and calmness.

Or they may hear a hymn and the tune or the words just resonate in them.

Or they may look at the crucifix or a holy picture or statue and they will feel that God is with them and they experience a sense of security.

Say it anyway we want, the experience is similar as well as familiar - the experience of peace.

These experiences only go to show that Jesus continues to give us peace, especially in our troubled lives and in our troubled world.

It is only with this peace that Jesus gives that will enable us to persevere in our faith and empower us to face the many hardships of life.

At every Eucharist, Jesus gives us His peace when He says: I leave you peace; my peace I give you.

Let us continue to trust in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and may we not be troubled and afraid of the difficulties of life.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5th Week of Easter, Monday, 15-05-17

Acts 14:5-18 / John 14:21-26

It should be of no surprise to us that life has its cycle of ups and downs. One moment we can be happy and next moment we can be angry. One day, we can be effective and productive and the next day we can be like a zero.

Connected with the cycle of ups and downs is the reversal of fortunes. In one place we find acceptance but in another place we find rejection.

That was the experience of Paul and Barnabas in the 1st reading. In their mission, they faced persecution and they had to scramble for safety to Lycaonia.

There in the towns of Lystra and Derbe they preached the same Good News and Paul even healed a crippled man.

They not only found acceptance from the people, they were even treated like gods, which of course they tried to resist.

So Paul and Barnabas knew what it was to preach the Good News. There were ups and downs together with a reversal of fortunes.

But whichever way it was going and in whatever way it was turning out, they kept the Word of God and were faithful to it.

The Word of God made its home in their hearts and they found refuge and consolation and strength in the Word of God.

So as we go through our ups and downs in life and see our fortunes reversing for better or for worse, let us turn to the Word of God.

May the Word of God give us consolation and strength and may the Word of God make its home in our hearts.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 14.05.2017

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

We have heard of this term “monkey business”. Obviously it means that it is not anything serious. Rather it means doing something silly or stupid or foolish.

But that does not mean that monkeys are silly or stupid or foolish. 


Monkey business can be serious business. At least when it comes to one monkey at Segar Road in Bukit Panjang.

That monkey made some news two weeks ago. That monkey had terrorized residents by going into their homes to get food and bitten seven residents. Video footage of it showed that it can even crawl on the walls of high-rise HDB flats to get into the homes.

It had eluded capture many times, but two weeks ago, they managed to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart and it ended up in the net.

But the on-going debate is whether the monkey encroached on the humans’ space or is it that the humans encroached on the monkey’s space.

That’s because the HDB flats are just next to the natural reserve. 

The issue is that while some people think that the monkey has encroached into the humans’ space and did harm and damage, others think that it is the humans who have encroached into the monkey’s natural habitat.

So, essentially the issue is about the question of space. 

Whose space is being encroached upon? And it is not just between man and monkey.

Between nations and nations, between communities and communities, between groups and groups, between persons and persons, there will be tensions when space is being encroached upon, tensions arise when another’s space is intruded upon.

And that was the issue in the 1st reading. In the daily distributions, the Hellenist widows were being overlooked and so a complaint was made against the Hebrews.

In other words, one group got space but another group did not, although they were entitled to it. And hence the tension arose.

And seven men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom, had to be appointed to look into the matter.

More than just about the distribution of food, they had to ensure that each group had their own space and that it is respected, so that there can be peace and harmony in the community.

But the issue is more than just having our own space. It also deals with the question of our place in the community, our place in our society and our place in our country.

We want to have a place on earth so that we know what we are standing on and where we are standing on, what belongs to us and what is rightfully ours.

So when our place and our space is encroached upon or intruded upon, whether by man or by monkey, we will get defensive and protective over what is ours.

The problem comes in when we want to expand our space. 

Inevitably, we will encroach and intrude into other people’s space. 

And that’s when tensions and problems arise.

That’s nothing new actually. That’s how quarrels and fights and wars begin isn’t it?

And here, Jesus has something important to tell us in the gospel:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am now going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.

Jesus is telling us, He is promising us, that we will have a place in the other world, He had already prepared a place for us in heaven.
But in our desire for our personal space, we want to have a permanent place on earth, and we forget about our eternal place in heaven.

Yesterday, the 13th May, is the centennial of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. Yes, it has been a hundred years already, since the first apparition in 1917.

The message at Fatima is the call to prayer and penance for the conversion and salvation of the world.

Connected to that message is the reality of hell, and the three children were given a vision of hell and the souls that were lost to the devil.

Yes, the devil wants to tempt us to think that our space and our place in this world is all that we have. And hence we begin to focus on increasing our space and reinforcing our place.

And we do that by desiring to increase our wealth and whatever material gains.

And slowly we will forget about our eternal place in heaven that Jesus had promised and prepared for us.

So we need to heed the message at Fatima and the call to prayer and to go back to penance in order to resist the subtle temptations of the devil. 

Prayer and penance also helps us to let go of the things of earth and to focus on the things of above.

It has been a hundred years since Jesus called out to us through Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima.

Let us not take another hundred years to heed that message.

We don’t want to lose our place in eternity.

Our Lady of Fatima, Saturday, 13-05-17

Isaiah 61:9-11 / Luke 11:27-28

If we were to check up on what happened on the 13th May in history, we would get many events like who was born, who did what, as well as significant events, political events, etc.

For the Church in recent times, the 13th May has a special significance with regards to her faith and her mission in the world.

In the year 1917, on the 13th May, at a village in Fatima, Portugal, Our Lady appeared to three peasant children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco.

Her message to them was to pray the Rosary everyday and to do penance for the conversion of sinners, and among other things, there were also the "Three Secrets", which had generated much interest as well as anxiety and questions

At that time WW I was raging on Europe and she said that the war would end soon. But if her message for prayer and penance was not heeded, another more large-scale and devastating war will arise.

It seems that the call to prayer and penance was not heeded, or maybe the response was slow, and hence another war did arise in the form of WW II.

And then in the year 1981, on the 13th May, Pope John Paul II is shot and critically wounded by Turkish gunman Mehemet Ali Agca in St Peter's Square, Vatican City.

Death had appeared certain to bystanders when four bullets fired by the assassin  tore through the pope's flesh on May 13, 1981, staining the pope's white cassock with deathly scarlet.

But somehow, the bullets missed lethal targets, one grazing the pope's right elbow, and another deflecting off his left index finger before passing through his abdomen, a fraction of an inch from a major artery.

By Pope John Paul II's assessment, "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path," and permitted that "the dying Pope. stopped on the threshold of death."  The assassination attempt had taken place on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and the Pope had no doubt that his survival was due to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In gratitude, the Pope gave one of the deadly bullets to the bishop in charge of the shrine at Fatima, Portugal.  To this day, that bullet remains in the crown of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary housed at that shrine.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. During this time, many events have happened in the Church and in the world.

Without doubt, there was one crisis after another, and bad news seem to overwhelm the good news. But where crises and turmoils abound, God's grace and blessings abound all the more.

But that can only be realised when we heed the call to prayer and penance for our sins and the sins of the world.

We have already seen what had happened during the past 100 years. Let us not wait any longer to pray fervently and do penance for the conversion and the salvation of the world.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Friday, 12-05-17

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

Many thoughts occupy our minds even as we come for Mass.

Some thoughts may be refreshing, other thoughts may cause some anxiety, other thoughts may be burdensome, yet others may be annoying.

Whatever it may be, as we come before the Lord in this Mass, let us place all these thoughts at the altar of the Lord.

Let us also listen with our hearts what the Lord wants to tell us. What does Jesus want to say to us?

We can be sure that God is speaking clearly to us in the 1st reading when St. Paul said this:

"We have come to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that He has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead."

The fundamental and essential thing in life is that when all is said and done, we can only rely on the promise Jesus made to us in the gospel - that He has prepared a place for us, so that where He is, we may be there too.

In all our hopes and joys, in all our griefs and anguish, may the promise of Jesus help us rise above the things of earth to the things above.

Let our thoughts be on always being with the Lord Jesus. Now and also for eternity.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Thursday, 11-05-17

Acts 13:13-25 / John 13:16-20

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

This has a profound meaning in today's world especially in the IT age when we are bombarded with so many words.

Furthermore, people in general are not conditioned to listening or reading for long periods of time.

Maybe that's why reading the Bible and listening to homilies can be challenging.

Because it's essentially words, words and more words.

Yet the Word of God is primarily and fundamentally about people.

It was about the people of Israel, it was about the Christians in the early Church.

And it is also about us living in this present world, in the here and now.

That was why when St Paul addressed the congregation in the 1st reading, he began with how God saved the ancestors of the people of Israel and continued to do so right until Jesus came.

Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. Words were no more necessary because God has become man.

God became man so that man will know how to walk in the ways of God.

We are now the bearers of the Good News. Words may be necessary. But may we also be living images of God for others.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Wednesday, 10-05-17

Acts 12:24 - 13:5 / John 12:44-50

Some things are so obvious that we don't even need to think too much to come to a conclusion.

For example, if we can't see what we are reading, then we might need reading glasses. If we can't hear properly, then we might need a hearing aid. If we can't walk properly, then we will need a walking aid.

But as much as it might be obvious, we might not be willing to employ such means or aids for whatever reasons.

Similarly for the spiritual life, We often say that we want to hear God speaking to us but we also often complain that we don't seem to hear the voice of God.

So obviously, we need some help to hear the voice of God and what God wants to say to us.

In the 1st reading, we can see the means that the disciples in the early church had recourse to in order to be able to listen to the voice of God.

They were praying and keeping a fast when the Holy Spirit said that Barnabas and Saul were to be set apart for the work that they were called to do.

How the Holy Spirit "spoke" to them, the details were not described. But the Holy Spirit did speak and they heard and did what God wanted of them.

During Lent, the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting were emphasised. But that was meant to get us into the practice of prayer and fasting so that we can hear the Word of God.

Only when we have heard the voice of God will we be able to spread the Word of God like how the early church did.

Monday, May 8, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 09-05-17

Acts 11:19-26 / John 10:22-30

During this season of Easter, one of the necessary reflections that we must make is to think about what being a Christian is all about.

The word Christian means "being anointed" or the "anointed ones".

So what are we anointed for, and what should we do as Christians?

In short, we are to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is THE Anointed One.

A quick glance through the Acts of the Apostles will give us a picture of how this Good News was proclaimed.

The Good News was proclaimed with the mighty acts of the power of God.

These were manifested in the healing of the sick and driving out evil spirits and forgiveness and conversion.

Essentially it is the Good News of salvation, the Good News of God's love for humanity.

As we heard in the 1st reading, the people associated these acts of the disciples with Christ and hence they were called Christians.

In the gospel, we hear of the people asking Jesus this question - If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.

As for us, we need not tell people that we are Christians.

By what we do, they would know we are Christians.

They will know we are the anointed ones of God by our acts of love.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 08-05-17

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

The meat that we see in the supermarkets are neatly packaged and we consume the meat without thinking too much about it.

Not many of us have been to the slaughterhouse or abattoir, which is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food.

If we had seen how the pigs and sheep and cattle are killed in an abattoir, and how the meat is carved up, that might affect our appetite for pork chops or steak or rack of lamb.

In the 1st reading, Peter saw this vision of a big sheet with all sorts of animals and wild beasts and hearing the voice saying " Now Peter, kill and eat".

He refused, saying that nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed his lips because of his religious dietary prohibition, the reply he got was that what God has made clean, he had no right to call profane.

More than just saying that it is alright to slaughter animals for food, the vision is also stating that the Gentiles and the uncircumcised were not an unclean or profane people.

Hence, they have every right to hear the Good News of salvation, and Peter and his people need to do a revision of their own thinking about cultural and religious practices.

In the gospel, Jesus said that there are other sheep that are not of the fold, but these He too will lead.

Because the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, whether they are of the fold or not.

So if we think that slaughtering animals for food is brutal and bloody, then how about Jesus being killed on the Cross to save us from our sins. At least that should make us turn away from sin.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 07.05.2017

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

Around this time of the year, there is a spike in prayers. And then towards the end of the year, there will be an avalanche of prayers.

The reason for these two surges in prayers is because of exams! 

Yes, it is the exam fever time, a time when the brains of the students get heated up trying to remember the things that they were supposed to know.

And so it will be a time of fervent prayer: students will be praying; parents will be praying; grandparents will be praying; the whole clan will be praying. And of course the priests will be praying. Better still if we can leave all the praying to the priests right? It’s their job anyway.

A story goes that a student went to a priest to ask for prayers.
Student : Father, please pray for me to do well in my exams
Priest : Yes I will. And if you do well in your exams, then what?
Student : Then I will go the university
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will graduate and find a good job with a good pay
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will get married and have a family
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will work hard and have a lot of money
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will retire and enjoy life
Priest : Then what?
Student : …

Then what huh? Somewhere along the way, there must come a time when we have to stop and ask ourselves “Where am I going?” and “What is the meaning of my life?”

But such questions can be difficult to answer. It can even be scary to think about such questions. Because it may mean changing directions or even changing our life altogether.

But such questions cannot be addressed by looking at the mirror and searching for answers there.

We may need to look beyond, and to listen to what God is saying to us before we can think about it and decide what to do about it.

We may need someone to tell us what life is all about and what directions we need to take.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd with a loud voice, and their message was this: 
The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.

It was a straight-cut message, with no frills, but the result was amazing.

Because upon hearing this, the people were cut to the heart, and they asked: What must we do?

More than just words, the people heard the voice of God and they were ready to do something about their lives.

Yes, the voice of God was heard in the voices of Peter and the Eleven as they addressed the people. God spoke to His people, and God still speaks to us through human instruments that He has chosen and appointed.

In the gospel, Jesus says that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd, one by one he calls his own sheep, the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He calls out to us. This 4th Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday and it is also called Vocation Sunday.

The word “vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare” which means “to call”. On this Sunday, the emphasis is on the call to the priesthood and also to the religious life.

But with the vocation crisis, with seminaries and convents and even churches in other countries closing down, we wonder if the Good Shepherd had stop calling out to men and women to dedicate their lives to serve Him in the Church? Could it be that Jesus had stopped calling?

Or is it that we have stopped talking about it and shied away from talking to the young about the priesthood and the religious life?

And if we ever talk about it, it may sometimes come out in the wrong ways. Imagine if a young man comes along and says “I think I want to become a priest”, and then someone retorts “If you can become a priest, then I can become the pope!” It may sound like a joke, but that young man would probably never mention anything about the priesthood again.

Or at times, in order to discipline our children, we will say this to them: You want to be naughty, I will bring you to church and you stay with Father and you become a priest!

So it gives the impression that the priesthood is not for good boys but for naughty boys!

But that is certainly not the voice of Good Shepherd calling out to His sheep to enter into His service.

We must encourage people to think about the calling to serve the Lord, instead of just talking to them about passing exams with good grades.

Yes, we want our young to know how to make a living but we also want them to know how to live a life. We want our children to have a spiritual life. 

Yes, we must pray for more good and matured people to answer the call of Jesus. 

And we must also  remember that intercession invokes intervention.

We pray, we intercede, and God will intervene, and He will intervene through us so that we can be His voice to call out to those He has chosen.

When Peter and the Eleven spoke, the people were cut to the heart.

So too we must speak about vocations, so that in those whom Jesus has chosen, their hearts will be cut and opened for the voice of Jesus to enter.

And may they respond to His voice, so that we will know that God still speaks to us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Saturday, 06-05-17

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

Some creatures are rather revolting by sight. Just think of maggots and leeches and they would probably fit into this category.

But lately, medical science has found out that maggots and leeches can be helpful in treatment.

For eg. maggots have been used in treating sores on diabetic patients and leeches have been used to stop bleeding.

Who would have thought that maggots and leeches would have such useful purposes in life and in medical science?

Likewise in life, what we used to reject or scorn at at an earlier point in life, we will somehow come to accept and sanction later on in life.

When Jesus gave His discourse on bread of life in the gospel, the people rejected Him then.

Now we take that profound discourse for granted and maybe even too lightly.

We might have become too casual to the words of Jesus about the bread of life that He wants to give us.

Yet, the message of Jesus about Him being our spiritual food and drink is not just for this life.

His is the message of eternal life. There is no need to look for another message.

We need to continually deepen our understanding of this message of Jesus.

More than just accepting the message, may we also become the message that will bring others to see in Jesus the bread of eternal life.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Friday, 05-05-17

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

We may have heard of this saying:"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

This is expressed often in the teaching-learning process. When we are told of how to do things, we will forget sooner if not later. When we are taught how to do things, we may remember but again our memory will fail us.

But when we have to experience how it is to be done, when we get a hands-on experience, we will learn and what we have learnt from a hands-on experience, that will not be easily forgotten.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the early Christians were called the "followers of the Way". It was certainly not an easy way to follow as they were persecuted along the way, with Saul being one of the chief persecutors.

But along the way to Damascus, something happened to him. He had a vision from the Lord but he ended up not being able to see even though his eyes were wide opened.

At the same time, something was also happening to Ananias, one of disciples. He too had a vision from the Lord, but when he was told what to do, he probably wished that he didn't have that vision.

As he was told by the Lord to go and pray for Saul and to give him back his sight, Ananias began to give reasons as to why it was not safe to go to Saul.

He was probably thinking that if Saul got back his sight and could see that he was a disciple of the Way, then that would be the end of the road, or end of the way for him.

But the Lord said this to Ananias: You must go all the same. I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.

So Ananias had to go all the way. But it was a learning process as the Lord taught him how to walk the Way of the Lord. It involved an experience, but it was one that Ananias would not forget.

It was an experience of the power of the Lord's love in converting a persecutor of the Way into a proclaimer of the Way.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that when we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we live in Him and He in us.

The flesh that Jesus wants to give us is His heart and the blood that He pours into our hearts is the food and drink that gives us the strength to follow His Way.

His Way is certainly not an easy way. It may mean that the Lord is sending us to face up to those difficult people who could also be making life difficult for us.

But the Lord will show us how He will convert those people to walk His way. But we must get involved in order to experience the power of the Lord's love, as Ananias did in Saul's case.

May the Lord give us courageous hearts to see His Way, to learn His Way and to walk His Way, and not to walk away.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday, 04-05-17

Acts 8:26-40 / John 6:44-51

Mornings are usually rush-hour for most of us. There are so many things to be done in so short a time.

Yet, mornings are also a beautiful time if we just take a moment to reflect.

Night is giving way to the light, and everything is cranking up and coming to life.

Yet, there is so much of unseen power that is working non-stop, even during the night.

For one, there is the power of the air-waves which we get to hear on the radio and our mobile phones, etc.

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

It is the power of God that draws the hearts of people to Himself.

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

It was the same power that drew the eunuch to be baptized, as we heard in the 1st reading.

The power of the love of God can soften and open hearts, even the most hardened and obstinate.

Because it is a power that is filled with love.

In our busyness and haste, let us be aware of this power of God's love that wants to fill our hearts.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ss Philip and James, Apostles, 03-05-17

1 Cor 15:1-8 / John 14:6-14

The feast of these two apostles St. Philip and St. James is celebrated together because of the church dedicated to them in Rome (which is now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).

What we can see from the scriptures is that St. Philip was a sincere and straight-forward person.

It was he who told Nathanael that he had found the Messiah and told him to came and see for himself (Jn1:45).

Yet, it was also the same Philip who asked Jesus to let him see God the Father so that he will be satisfied.

James (the Lesser) was a relative of Jesus and as bishop of Jerusalem, he and St.Peter settled the issue about accepting non-Jews into the faith without having to undergo circumcision.

So in St. Philip and St. James, we see the two aspects of the Church - the missionary aspect and the community aspect.

St. Philip brought others to Jesus, and St. James acted in union with the community to make a decision.

In these two saints, we also see the Church in these aspects of her growth and journey in faith as we continue to bear witness to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

We as Church also need to grow into a deeper understanding as missionary and also as community.

When we truly experience Jesus as our Way, Truth and Life, then we will indeed be a missionary and community Church.

Monday, May 1, 2017

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday, 02-05-17

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

In the 1st reading, we hear of two young men.

One was being executed and dying on the ground.

The other was there watching and approving the execution of the first young man.

At that point in time, Stephen and Saul had nothing really in common.

But later on, Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, would be the greatest missionary for Christ and an apostle to the Gentiles.

As we reflect on the scene of the 1st reading, we may come to see that Paul's later conversion could be the fruit of Stephen's dying prayer.

It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.

Stephen was martyred; in time to come, Paul would also have a martyr's end.

Both were able to sacrifice their lives for Christ because in Christ they found all that they had longed for, all that they had hungered and thirst for.

Jesus was their life and their bread of life and from Him they drew strength to pour out their blood in witnessing to Him.

May Jesus also fill our hunger and quench our thirst so that we in turn will share the bread of our lives with others.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

St. Joseph the Worker, Monday, 01-05-17

Genesis 1:26 - 2:3 or Col 3:14-15, 17, 23-24 / Matthew  13:54-58

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was instituted only in 1955 and so it was a fairly recent addition to the feastdays of the Church.

There were many reasons for the institution of this feast but the main purpose is to give a religious understanding to the meaning and purpose of work and labour.

Labour day is a public holiday to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement and the rights of workers.

Yet, the Church also celebrates the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on this same day so as to give a spiritual dimension and direction.

The 1st reading from Genesis tells us that God Himself does the work of creation and after completing the work He was doing, He rested on the seventh day.

Hence, work has a holy and sacred meaning because we are also the work of God's hands and we are called to continue the work of God's creation.

Yet, we must also remember that when man sinned and broke the harmony of God's creation, work is seen as a curse - "By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat your bread"(Gen 3:19).

Well that makes us think. Tomorrow we will be going back to work. Are we dragging our feet there? Does going to work make us stressed and anxious? Does meeting our boss or colleagues give us a pain in the neck?

Yet, the alternative 1st reading from Colossians also tell us that whatever our work is, we are to put our heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, because it is Christ the Lord that we are serving.

Let us do our work for the Lord and make it a holy and sacred offering to Him. In this way, we follow our Lord Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A, 30.04.2017

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

The world that we live in is a fast and furious world, much like the movie of the same name “Fast and Furious”. And it can also be furiously fast.

Even the instant foods like instant noodles and instant coffee are not even fast enough.

Especially when we talk about speed, we are not so much interested in fast cars or fast food. We are more interested in fast Internet connections, going at 300Mbs or higher.

We don’t need our cars and our food to be fast and furious. But we want our Internet connections to be fast and furious.

Slow Internet connection is worse than no Internet connection because it is such a teaser, and we end up shouting at our mobile phones or computers and telling them to “faster, faster, faster!”.

It is said that before marrying someone, you should make them use a computer with slow Internet connection, then you will see who they really are.

But as much as speed is important, there must also be direction and purpose. Many people are going fast, but they seem to be going nowhere.

In the gospel, we heard of two of the disciples of Jesus who were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.

They were not in a hurry, and probably they were taking a slow, heavy walk. They were heading for Emmaus, but beyond that, it may seem to be nowhere from there.

They were downcast, as their hopes in Jesus were crushed by His crucifixion and death. It was like as if their computers crashed and no recovery was possible.

So with nothing left to hold on to, the only thing left is to walk away with empty minds and empty hearts.

There was no hurry, no purpose, no direction. There was nothing to look forward to.

But the good news is this: when we are down to nothing, then Jesus can come up with something.

Misery always needs company, and indeed Jesus came up and walked with them on their journey.

And after listening to them recounting what had happened during the last few days, Jesus had this to say to them:
“You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into His glory?” 

Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, He explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about Himself.

Then finally when He was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing. Then He broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.

We can say that for the two disciples, the journey to Emmaus was a journey from nothing to something.

The journey of the two disciples is also very much like our own journey of faith isn’t it?

In our fast and furious world, we move with such high speeds that we lose our connection with God. And hence we come to Mass to get re-connected with God.

But do we experience what the two disciples experienced? Are our eyes opened? Do we recognize Jesus as we gather before the altar for the Eucharist?

There is this story of a wife who was preparing to go to church on a Sunday morning when she saw her husband in singlet and shorts and watching TV, and so she asked him why is he not preparing to go to church.

He replied: I’ve gone for 30 years now, and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the priests are wasting their time preaching. So I am not going to church anymore

The wife thought for a while and then said: I have been married to you for 30 years now. In that time I have cooked over 32,000 meals for you but you can’t remember any one of them. So I think I am wasting my time cooking for you and you are wasting your time eating my cooking. So I am not going to cook for you anymore.

The husband immediately got up and got dressed and went to church with his wife .

Most of us have been coming to church for the longest time. Some have coming to church for 10 years, 20 years or more. We have said countless prayers, and received Holy Communion till we have lost count.

Do we think that we are wasting our time? Is it doing us any good? Do we think that coming for Mass is boring?

We may want fast and furious results but like the two disciples, they had to walk that slow seven-mile journey with Jesus and slowly come to understand the scriptures before they finally recognized Him at the breaking of bread.

We too need to be patient as Jesus sows the seeds of His Word in our hearts and to wait for the harvest.

Let us not be afraid of moving slowly, but rather be afraid of not moving at all. With Jesus, we will walk slowly forward, but we will never walk backwards. 

And may our hearts slowly start to burn as we listen to the Scriptures and as the bread is broken, may our eyes be opened to see Jesus with us and Jesus in others.

Friday, April 28, 2017

2nd Week of Easter, Saturday, 29-04-17

Acts 6:1-7 / John 6:16-21

Different situations and circumstances can alter the behaviour of a person or a group of people.

When things are calm and under control, we would also behave calmly and we would also be in control of things.

But when chaos and panic happens, and when things are not under control, then it is going to be a different situation.

Like when we are on a small boat and the wind is strong and the sea is rough. And then we see someone walking on the water.

Even if we are quite certain that is Jesus who is walking on the water, that is not the time to be awed or fascinated about it.

Simply because the situation is tensed, and that is also not the time to appreciate such divine feats.

Hence, we can understand why the disciples were frightened. The situation has changed their behaviour from normal to one that is beyond their control.

Similarly, in the 1st reading we heard about the Hellenists complaining against the Hebrews. Until now what we had been hearing was a united and loving early Christian community.

Yet, it is the reality of life in that when situations change, the behaviour of people also will change.

And that is also the reality of our lives. Yet we don't have to be in chaos and panic whenever the situation is out of control.

What we need to know is that God is in control. He can walk calmly on water even when the winds are strong and the sea is rough.

Jesus wants to walk into the center of our hearts. When Jesus is in the center, then all things will come together and put under control.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2nd Week of Easter, Friday, 28-04-17

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

In its 2000 over years of existence, the Church had undergone many trials and tribulations.

When the Church was split into the Eastern and Western Church in 1054, people thought it was the end of Christianity.

During the 16th century when the Church was corroding from corruption and immoral practices, and when the Protestant Reformation came along, people thought it was the end of the Church.

In this present time, we hear of the terrible scandals in the Church, and we begin to get shaken.

We wonder what has become of the Church and what is the Church all about?

Yet, we cannot negate the fact that the Church is divine as well as human.

As Gamaliel puts it in the 1st reading - if this is of human origin, it will break up of its own accord.

We are crushed and confused by the scandals of the Church.

Yet, we still have the mission of feeding those who still hold on to their belief in God and in the Church.

God has given us the five loaves and two fish. We cannot just sit there and rot with it.

With the grace of God, we must rise and embark on the mission of feeding and healing those whose faith was shaken and shattered by the scandals.

We only need to entrust ourselves into the hands of God who is merciful and compassionate.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, 27-04-17

Acts 5:27-33 / John 3:31-36

In life, we use a lot of everyday things, from computers to cars.

We make use of these things although we are not too sure how it works. We only see the results and the effects.

Similarly in the Christian life, we are not too sure how faith in God works.

But people of faith show it in their transformed lives.

They transform especially the secular notion of obedience.

For people of faith, obedience to God is not seen as a curtailing of their freedom.

Obedience is understood in the biblical sense as in listening to the Word of God and then making the choice to act in accordance to God's will.

That was what Peter meant in the 1st reading by being obedient to God.

It is an obedience that comes from listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, believing in it although there are risks and difficulties, and finally acting on it with love.

The person of faith will continue to testify so that the earthly ones may be reminded of the things that are from above.

People may not want to know what our faith is all about. But they would certainly want to see how our faith works in us.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2nd Week of Easter, Wednesday, 26-04-17

Acts 5:17-26 / John 3:16-21

The one worded question "How?" can be said to be the question that probes into how things happen, or how things work, or how things came to be.

It is a question that can lead to investigations and discoveries as the matter in question is analysed and discussed to find out the cause.

In the 1st reading, when the Temple officials went to the prison to bring out the apostles who were imprisoned there, they found they were not inside.

They went back to the Sanhedrin and reported: We found the gaol securely locked and the wardens on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.

Obviously, the immediately question would be "What happened?" as they wondered what this could mean.

And then fresh news arrived that the apostles were at the Temple preaching to the people. The immediate question would be "How did they get out?"

But they should have kept pondering on what this could mean. There could be many theories of how they got out, but a deeper question to be pondered upon would be what could that mean.

In the gospel, we heard Jesus giving a teaching on why He came and why the Church exists and why we are called to be Christians.

"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. For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through Him the world might be saved."

May we keep pondering on what Jesus said so that we not only know how to live our lives as Christians but also why we have to show mercy and compassion to others, especially those who are most in need of it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

St. Mark, Evangelist, 25-04-17

1 Peter 5:5-14 / Mark 16:15-20

St. Mark, whose feast we celebrate today, was not one of the apostles.

Nonetheless, he was one of the disciples of St. Peter, and he was mentioned in the 1st reading as a "spiritual son" of St. Peter.

He could also possibly be one of the followers of Jesus and later on became a disciple of St. Peter and he eventually wrote the account of the life and ministry of Jesus, which became one of the gospels of the Church.

In his gospel, St. Mark captured the core and essence of the ministry and message of Jesus.

As we heard it in the gospel, and what is often called the "Great Commissioning", the way St. Mark puts it across straight and sharp in just a few words.

"Go out, proclaim the Good News, believe or be condemned, cast out devils, work signs and miracles, heal the sick".

As we hear this, we might be thinking - proclaim the Good News sounds ok, healing the sick sounds ok, work signs and miracles ... hmmm ... cast out devils ...

Well, the gospel is not a supermarket for us to pick and choose whatever we like.

It is one whole message; it's either we take all or we take all.

To understand and accept the Good News and the commissioning of Jesus, we need to "Go out" like St. Mark did.

Because when we are out there, and there is no dependency and certainty but Jesus Himself, then we will truly experience the power of the Good News and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2nd Week of Easter, Monday, 24-04-17

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

Every time when we hear Jesus saying "I tell you solemnly ..." He is not just saying that we should take Him seriously, or that some times He is just joking but whenever He uses that phrase we must take Him seriously.

And when Jesus used this phrase twice in the gospel, Nicodemus still thought that Jesus was not serious and hence, he had to ask Jesus to clarify how can a grown man be born again or how can a man go back into his mother's womb and be born again.

Whenever Jesus uses the phrase "I tell you solemnly ..." He is teaching a doctrine as well teaching a truth that can be difficult to understand.

Of course we now understand what Jesus meant by "born from above" and "born through water and the Holy Spirit".

Yes, we may understand but what is our experience of "born from above" and "born through water and the Holy Spirit"?

In the 1st reading, when Peter and John were released and when they went back to the community and told them everything, they lifted up their voices to pray.

There are many things that we can learn from their prayer. They praised God, they remembered what God had promised them through the Scriptures, they thanked God for fulfilling those promises in Jesus.

And as they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the Word of God boldly.

That was their experience of being "born from above" and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Every time when we pray, we are also being filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us remember how the disciples prayed and our hearts will be rocked and we will know what it is to be "born from above".