Monday, June 26, 2017

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-06-17

Genesis 13:2, 5-18 / Matthew 7:6, 12-14

It is a known nutrition fact that a well-balanced diet is a means to healthy living.

And equally as important, if not more important than a well-balanced diet is a well-balanced life.

In the gospel, we hear Jesus giving three components of a well-balanced spiritual life.

It is reverence to God, our attitude towards others, and our direction in life.

We give reverence to God by being grateful and giving thanks for His blessings and we must not be like the "dogs and pigs" that Jesus used as a symbol of irreverence and ingratitude.

Our attitude towards others is often mirrored in their attitude towards us. How we treat them will be how they treat us - what goes around comes around.

As for direction in life, it is about taking the road less travelled, the long, narrow and winding road. We need to accept that life is difficult, and when we accept that, then we won't waste time and energy finding for easy ways out.

In the 1st reading, we see how Abram lived out these principles of a balanced life.

He trusted in the Lord; he was generous towards Lot by giving him the first choice over the land; he accepted the challenges and difficulties with faith in God.

So we know what it takes to be healthy and holy. May we pray for the wisdom to live a life that gives glory to God.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-06-17

Genesis 12:1-9 / Matthew 7:1-5

Psalm 90:10 tells us that the days of our lives are 70 years, and 80 for those who are strong.

Practically speaking, when we reach 70 years, it would be a time to retire from a hectic lifestyle and spend our days in peace and enjoying a golden sunset.

At 75 years, we probably would not be thinking a moving out of our country and start a life somewhere else and probably have to start all over again. We just don't have that kind of energy.

In the 1st reading, we are told that Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran to a land that God was going to show him. 

We are also told that God made him a promise, he took his family and all his possessions, and stage by stage, the Lord appeared to him and told him what to do and where to go.

We would wonder if we had missed out something. We wonder why would Abram have done such a thing although we acknowledge that he is the father of our faith and he did the right thing.

But there are also many details that we do not know of and we can keep pondering what made Abram listen to God and trust in him.

In the gospel, Jesus gave a teaching on judging others. The point of His teaching is that we do not know the details and hence to judge is to come to a conclusion without knowing the full details of the situation of a person.

Our life span may be 70 years or 80 years or more. Let us live out our lives with clarity and let us not make judgements about others when we do not know all the details. 

After all, we want to live our lives joyfully and peacefully with others.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

12th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 25.06.2017

Jeremiah 20:10-13 / Romans 5:12-15 / Matthew 10:26-33

If we were asked “What is fear?” we may be able to immediately come up with descriptions and examples?

But if we were asked “What is courage?” we make take a while to define it and to give a personal example

A lecturer once gave an examination with just this question:  What is courage?

And he gave the class 3 hours to answer that question.

Everybody began to write immediately.

After about 5 minutes a student walked up with just a piece of paper.  There is only one sentence in that paper.

He handed it over to the lecturer and left the examination hall.

Everybody was surprised, but carried on writing.

When the results were out, everybody was also surprised.

It was that student who passed up that one piece of paper with only one sentence who got the highest marks.

Certainly we would want to know what he wrote and how he answered that question.

He wrote only 3 words:  This is courage!

Courage is not about words.  Courage is about actions.

By his actions that student showed what courage is all about.

In today’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid.

What is there to be afraid of? Plenty! There is the fear of going to the dentist, fear of losing the job, fear of illness, fear of failure, etc.

In fact in the first test of courage at the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples failed terribly.

They all deserted Jesus and left Him alone to face His persecutors.

Only Jesus showed courage when confronted with fear.

Why did the disciples gave in to fear? Where did fear come from?  How can we overcome fear?

To begin with fear is a reaction; it is a reaction to a threat or danger. We can choose to give in to fear, or we can choose to have courage.

So if fear is a reaction, then courage is a decision. And if there is no fear, then there is no need courage.

Fear comes from the fact that we feel insecure. We feel insecure because we think that God does not care about us and the He does not come to protect us in times of trouble and danger.

And that is because there are times when we think that our prayers are not answered.

So how do we pray when we come face to face with troubles and difficulties?

We need to look at how Jesus prayed when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

At first He asked His heavenly Father to take that cup away, meaning to save him from suffering, pain and the cross.

After that, He prayed that God’s will be done and not His will.

Jesus trusted that when He does God’s will, then God will protect and save Him. Jesus went on to face the Cross with courage.

So when we pray, let us reflect on what we are praying.

If we are telling God what He should be doing for us, then it seems that we do not trust God to know what we need.

Hence our prayer already shows our distrust and insecurity.  So even when we pray, we also have fears.

But when we pray that God’s will be done, we surrender ourselves courageously into God’s hands. Because courage is fear that had said its prayers and surrendering to God’s will.

And no matter what happens, even if the worst should happen, we know that God is watching over us and protecting us.

When we put God’s will first, then God assures us that everything will turn out for the good of those who trust God.

To trust God means to love Him. To love is a decision, and to have courage is also a decision.

But more importantly we must believe and trust that God loves us more than we can ever love him.

And we can discover what our enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten us.
The devil will deceive us by saying: You can’t withstand the storm. But Jesus will declare: Do not be afraid. I will silence the storm.

In life there are many dangerous storms. We can react with fear, or we can decide to have courage.
Because it takes courage to believe and trust in Jesus who declares to us: Do not be afraid. I have conquered the world.

Let us decide to listen to Jesus, and we will have the courage.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Nativity of St. John The Baptist, Saturday, 24-06-17

Isaiah 49:1-6 / Acts 13:22-26 / Luke 1:57-66, 80

The name "John" appears for the first time in the Bible in today's gospel.

It is a Jewish name (Yohanan) and it means "God is gracious".

Why Elizabeth have her son that name and why Zechariah confirmed it was not mentioned.

But we can suppose, and quite correctly, that she was expressing her thanks and praise to God for this gift of grace in her son, and that God was merciful to her and saved her from the shame of being barren.

Indeed the name "John" was very befitting for the Baptizer because he was the herald of a more important person.

He ushered in the appointed time of grace.

In fact he ushered in the fullness of grace that was embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Christ, God came as a man to visit His people and to redeem them from the slavery of sin.

As it was then, so it is now still. Every moment is a time of grace.

God still visits us not only to save us but to make us the light of the nations, so that salvation may reach all nations, as we heard in the 1st reading.

May we live each moment in grace of God, so that we may be instruments of light and life to others.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, 23-06-17

Deut 7:6-11 / 1 John 4:7-16 / Matthew 11:25-30

If we ask ourselves what is the greatest gift from God, we will surely come to this answer.

The greatest gift from God is surely His only Son Jesus.

And the greatest gift of Jesus to us is His love for us: "Love one another as I have loved you."

And Jesus showed that He loved us to the end by laying down his life for us.

The Church uses the image of the Sacred heart to symbolize this love.

The heart of Jesus is crowned with thorns but yet burning with love for us.

It is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus that our own hearts will find the love that we are looking for, and it is a love that Jesus wants to give us.

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus we will find the peace and joy that we are longing for.

Yes, our hearts will not rest until they are rested in the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

So the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us that Jesus is always loving us and holding us close to His heart.

His heart burns with love for us. May our hearts also burn with love for Jesus and for others.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 22-06-17

2 Cor 11:1-11 / Matthew 6:7-15

Whenever we talk about sin, we usually put it under two categories: mortal sin or grave sin, and venial sin.

Venial sin are less serious sins, but let us not underestimate them.

Because venial sins can have serious and damaging consequences.

Let's take for example in the family.

After dinner, we might have noticed one family member always avoiding the washing of dishes or the cleaning up.

We get irritated, and after a while this irritation becomes a resentment and slowly a bitterness sets within.

And when we can't take it anymore, we confront that person, but we confront that person with a resentment and with bitterness.

Our intended correction becomes a criticism and maybe even a condemnation.

That was why after teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus emphasized on forgiveness.

But it is not about forgiving those who have done us wrong but rather to forgive them for their failings.

Because when we stand before God, we stand before Him as sinners with our own set of failings.

If a sinner cannot forgive another sinner for his failings, then prayer does not make sense, and that was what Jesus was saying.

But when we realize that we are no better than the other person whom we are about to point our fingers at, then mercy and forgiveness have already begun to flow in us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 21-06-17

2 Cor 9:6-11 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Whenever the Church talks about giving, what immediately comes to mind is money.

And generally speaking, whenever any charitable organisation talks about giving, the presupposition is that it is about money.

As we heard in the 1st reading, when St. Paul talked about giving, he was certainly referring to money.

While in most cases money is the means of giving, what is more important is the spirituality of giving.

Because in the gospel, when Jesus talked about prayer, fasting and almsgiving, He is also saying that God the Father knows the intentions of doing it.

So whether be it almsgiving or prayer or fasting, it is a form of spiritual offering to God the Father, and when God sees the purity of the intentions behind it, He will reward the giver accordingly.

Hence, besides almsgiving or money, when it comes to prayer and fasting, what is the attitude behind the giving or the offering?

As St. Paul said in the 1st reading, thin sowing means thin reaping. And God loves a cheerful giver.

God also will reward those who give generously of themselves in prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

And we also need to remember this: There is no limit to the blessings which God can send you - He will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works.

Monday, June 19, 2017

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-06-17

2 Cor 8:1-9 / Matthew 5:43-48

On one occasion when someone asked Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied with this: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself. (Lk 10:25-37)

But the man wanted to justify himself and asked: And who is my neighbour?

To that question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is a parable that has many meanings and implications, but essentially the parable points to the fact that love for neighbour must be carried out in acts of kindness and compassion, and even going out of one's way to help that neighbour in need.

In today's gospel, Jesus gave a teaching that also has many meanings and implications when He said, "You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. In this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven.

However in this case, no one asked Jesus: And who is my enemy?

It seems that there is no need to ask that question because it is quite obvious to those listening to Jesus who their enemies were. Or at least they didn't have to think too hard about who their enemy was.

But let's say Jesus were to ask us this: And who is your enemy?

And to that question, maybe what might come to our minds are not those terrorists or people who commit atrocities and commit evil.

Our enemies are not faceless people whom we do not know. Rather our enemies are people whom we do know.

They are people with faces. They are people whom we resent, whom we are bitter about, people whom we bear a grudge against, and at the extreme end are the people that we hate.

Yes, they are people whom we know, but they are not our enemies when we first came to know them. In fact, they were our friends, our neighbours (as in those who are in our social circles).

But something unpleasant happened along the way made them into our enemies. It may be a misunderstanding, a disagreement, a quarrel, etc.

Maybe some of our so-called "enemies" didn't even know that this is what we think of them.

But whenever we think of them, a fire burns within us and feeds our anger, our resentment, our bitterness, our hate.

But it is said that "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

So we may know who our enemies are, but do we also know who we are?

Because if we don't know who we are, then it is quite obvious that we are our greatest enemy. And we are just burning ourselves away with all that anger, resentment, bitterness and hate that are within.

Jesus reminds us that we are children of God, "sons of your Father in heaven" as Jesus would call us.

If we really believe that we are sons of the Father in heaven, then we will look at the enemy within and start loving that enemy, and our anger, resentment, bitterness and hate will turn to peace, joy, kindness and compassion.

Then we will truly be able to love God and love our neighbour. As well as love ourselves.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 19-06-17

2 Cor 6:1-10 / Matthew 5:38-42

There is a prayer that goes like this: Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. 

To say that kind of prayer is certainly like "asking for it", in the sense that it is not a prayer to get something but a prayer of total giving.

That prayer is composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and he calls it the "Prayer for generosity".

But we might think it is a prayer that we probably would not want to say. Because it takes too much to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for reward.

But that prayer of St. Ignatius is similar to what St. Paul is saying in the 1st reading: We prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving.

St. Paul was able to say all that because of the grace that he had received from God and he was begging the Corinthians not to neglect the grace that they had received.

Because it will be by the grace of God that they will be able to receive the help from God to overcome all trials and difficulties and also to receive the salvation from God.

The grace of salvation will enable to have the spirit of generosity such that we can offer the other cheek and to go the extra mile.

When we have received the grace of salvation, we will be truly generous, and we will give and not count the cost, fight and not heed the wounds, toil and not seek for rest, to labour and not ask for reward.

The only thing we will ask for is to serve the Lord and to do His will.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Corpus Christi Sunday, Year A, 18.06.17

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / John 6:51-58

Generally speaking, most of us, if not all of us, experience some kind of memory loss, aka forgetfulness.

Sometimes it can lead to embarrassing situations, but at times it can lead to difficult situations.

A typical situation is when the computer asked us to type in the password, and then to our horror, it says that our password is “incorrect”. We jump into panic mode, and the more anxiously we try to remember, the more unlikely we can get it correct.

Or if we were asked what we had for breakfast or dinner, would we be able to give a snap answer? Or would we roll our eyes upwards and think hard as we try to recall?

Come to think of it, if we forget what we put into our mouths, it says a lot about our awareness of what we are eating and that we may be taking food for granted.

There is this saying: we are what we eat. But if we can’t even remember what we have eaten, then how are we going to remember what we are going to be?

In the 1st reading, Moses recalled for the people their 40 years in the desert, and how the Lord made them feel hungry and fed them with manna.

He told them to “remember” and “do not forget”, which is rather odd. If there was nothing else to eat everyday but manna and manna and manna, then what is there to remember, or what is there to forget?

But the thing here to remember is that it was the Lord who fed them and they must not forget that more than just manna, they were fed by the Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord, the Word that gave them food in the form of manna.

Now in the gospel, Jesus gave a long discourse about what the real food is when He says: For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me and I live in him.

This Sunday the Church celebrates the great feast of “Corpus Christi”. We are reminded of what we are putting into our mouths as we come up for Holy Communion.

It is the Body of Christ that we are eating. And what we eat, we must become, meaning to say that if we truly believe that we are receiving Jesus, then we must become like Jesus. We must remember that; we should not forget that.

This Sunday is also a day to remember for 14 of our young children. Today they will receive the Body of Christ for the first time.

Yes it will be a day where many photos will be taken of them as they look smart and pretty. But they must remember this day as the day they first received Jesus into their hearts, and they must not forget to become and grow like Jesus every day.

Now young as they are, can they fully understand what they are receiving? Will they remember what this is all about? Or will they slowly forget and become indifferent to all this?

Some of us may remember the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He was a renowned TV evangelist in the 1950s. He was interviewed on national television and he was asked this: You have inspired millions of people all over the world. Who inspired you? Was it a pope?

He responded that it was not a pope, or a cardinal, or another bishop, or even a priest or nun, but rather a story of an eleven year old Chinese girl.

He explained that when the communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the church. After being locked up in his own house, the priest looked out the window and was horrified to see the communists enter the church. Once inside, they went into the sanctuary, broke open the tabernacle and in a hateful act of desecration, threw down the ciborium scattering the Sacred Hosts on the floor. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts had been in the ciborium: thirty-two.

When the communists left they either didn’t notice, or didn’t pay any attention to a little girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything. That night she returned, and slipping past the guard at the rectory, entered the Church where she made a holy hour in reparation for the desecration she witnessed of the Blessed Sacrament.

After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, and kneeling down, she bent over and received Jesus in the Holy Communion with her tongue since it was not permissible at the time for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.

Each night, the girl returned to the church to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue just as she did the first night. 

On the thirty- second night, after having consumed the last Host, she accidentally made a noise that awoke the guard who was asleep at his post by the priest’s residence. From his window, the priest could only watch in horror as the heartrending scene unfolded before his eyes. The girl tried to run away but the guard caught up with her and beat her with the butt of his rifle. It was a sad and tragic ending for that 11-year old girl.

When Archbishop Fulton Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day for the rest of his life. He also taught others to receive the Body of Christ reverently and to always remember that it is Jesus they are receiving.

As for that 11-year old girl, her story not only inspired Archbishop Fulton Sheen, her heroic act of going to the church every night at the risk of her life to adore and receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament serves as a powerful testimony that young children know what, or Who, they are receiving, and that should also make us remember when we come up for Holy Communion.

The feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that Jesus feeds us with His Body. As we look at the stained glass of the Sacred Heart, then we will also realize that Jesus is giving us His Heart, feeding us with His Heart, so that He can make our hearts like His.
Let us remember this; and may we not forget this.

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 17-06-17

2 Cor 5:14-21 / Matthew 5:33-37

When it comes to making appointments, there is a time that we need to keep.

Yet, when it comes to keeping the time for the appointment, how do we fare in being early, in time, and being late?

If we are often late for appointments and meetings, then we have to ask ourselves if we are serious with our words and with what we say.

So if we agree to a time for a meeting or appointment, and we don't keep to it as in that we are often late, then how about making promises and oaths?

If we cannot keep to our words in small things, then how sure are we that we will keep to our words in big things?

That is what Jesus is highlighting in today's gospel - whether we make a commitment to God or to man, we must be serious about it.

Being serious about our commitment does not just reflect our character.

It is also an indication that the love of Christ has overwhelmed us, and that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and was raised to life for us.

So keeping to our words has a spiritual dimension - it shows that we are a new creation in Christ. The old creation is gone and it is all God's work.

Yes, it was God who was committed to saving us in Jesus Christ. Let us also be committed in being faithful to Him.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 16-06-17

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 5:27-32

Let us imagine someone taking up a book. He then rips off the cover of the book and keeps the cover and throws away the rest of the book.

Or if we give someone a present and the person carefully unwraps the present, keeps the wrapping paper and then throws away the present.

That sounds absurd isn't it? Who in the right mind would do that kind of thing?

So obviously, it takes a not-so-right mind to do absurd things. And it takes a person with a not-so-right mind to look at another person lustfully and have impure thoughts.

So what Jesus is saying in the gospel is that there are people who just get so absorbed with the cover and the wrapper and they don't bother what is inside a person.

In other words, they fascinate over the outside and throw away the inside.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul reminds us that we are only just earthenware jars but holding a treasure that belongs to God.

That also reminds us that man is fashioned of dust from the soil (Gen 2:7). So in almost all sense of the word, we are humble and breakable earthenware jars.

But let us remember that we contain the treasures of God in our hearts. So may we look at the treasures of God in each person, and not to fascinate over the cover or wrapper and forget about the gift.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 15-06-17

2 Cor 3:15 - 4:1, 3-6 / Matthew 5:20-26

One of the most challenging aspects of being human is in our relationships with other people.

Because in these relationships, there is always the need for understanding, for communicating, for loving and for caring.

These become rather difficult when relationships are strained.

In a strained relationship, we may want to avoid further misunderstanding and hurt by keeping a "safe distance" from the other.

But by maintaining a "safe distance", we only end up in an uncomfortable silence or even a "cold war".

Hence, in the gospel, Jesus issued this challenging teaching: If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, go and be reconciled with him first.

In other words, the act of reconciliation must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged. Sounds strange isn't it?

But keeping a safe distance and by maintaining silence is simply avoiding the issue.

Neither is waiting for the party who has done wrong to come to us and apologize a fruitful option. It might be a futile wait.

But as we come before the altar of the Lord to offer ourselves in union with Jesus, let us ask the Lord for the gift of wisdom and understanding, even before we embark on the task of reconciliation with those we are avoiding.

Let us ask the Lord to pour forth His love to heal our hurt and anger and resentment.

We need to be healed by the Lord before we can go forth and be reconciled with others.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 14-06-17

2 Cor 3:4-11 / Matthew 5:17-19

Whenever we hear of this term "the Law and the Prophets" in the Bible, we might think about commandments and laws and rules.

No doubt that is the immediate obvious meaning, yet there is something more fundamental and essential about the Law and the Prophets.

And that is the covenant, which represents the relationship between God and His people.

That relationship can summed up in just one sentence: "You will be my people and I will be your God."

On that sentence, God binds Himself to protect and guard His people, and to love and care for His people.

God fulfilled that covenantal promise when He answered the prayer of the prophet Elijah in the 1st reading.

God again fulfilled that promise when He sent His only Son Jesus to show His love for us and to save us.

Our God is a faithful God. He does not forsake His people.

He will answer our prayers, just like He answered the prayer of the prophet Elijah, especially in our needs and difficulties.

We just have to put our faith and trust in God and be faithful to Him.

Essentially and fundamentally, that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

Monday, June 12, 2017

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 13-06-17

2 Cor 1:18-22 / Matthew 5:13-16

What do we call a radio or a tv that doesn't work? Or for that matter of fact, any appliance or machine that does not work?

And if it cannot be repaired then it would be better to just throw it away. Having it around is of no use whatsoever.

In the gospel, Jesus calls us the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

It is difficult to imagine salt that has lost its taste. Salt that has no taste cannot be called salt. There is no name to describe that kind of thing.

But we can certainly imagine a light bulb that cannot work. It is spoilt and hence we throw it away.

Salt and light are also spiritual symbols of our baptism. Salt preserves our faith and keeps us from being ruined by sin.

The light of Christ is what we received at our baptism and that light must shine out in our lives through our words and actions.

But we must say "Yes" to God for the graces that He has given to us at our baptism.

And as we heard in the 1st reading, God had said "Yes" to us and made us His children through baptism.

We, in turn must say "Yes" and keep saying "Yes" to God to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 12-06-17

2 Cor 1:1-7 / Matthew 5:1-12

What we have just heard in the gospel are the "Beatitudes". Some may mistakenly call it the "8 spiritual attitudes in order to be happy".

But whether it is a an attitude towards life or a way to be happy, Beatitudes means blessing, so it means "Blessed are the poor ... , Blessed are the gentle ..., "

So what Jesus taught us are the 8 ways to receive God's blessings, if it can be casually said that way.

But as we think about it, living out the Christian faith is certainly not easy at all. Because what the world would think of as bad luck or misfortune, we have to see it the other way and believe that it is a blessing from God.

The world would be quite astonished at what St. Paul said in the 1st reading: Indeed, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ, does our consolation overflow. When we are made to suffer, it is for your consolation and salvation.

The challenging question would be: How can suffering bring about consolation and even salvation.

But Jesus not only taught us how, He also showed us how when He suffered on the cross.

He who created everything became poor for us, and it is He who made peace by the blood of His cross, in order to save us.

Jesus taught the truth with His life, so that we can look at misfortune and suffering and with faith see it as a blessing and the God of all consolation will comfort us in our sorrow.

Let us reflect deeper on the Beatitudes, and Jesus will turn our suffering into a blessing and our sorrow to joy.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trinity Sunday, Year A, 11.06.2017

Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9 / 2 Cor 13:11-13 / John 3:16-18

We are quite familiar with Christian symbols like the Cross, the Sacred Heart, the Alpha & Omega, the IHS monogram, the dove and the 7 tongues of fire, etc.

These symbols are uniquely Christian and, more or less, we know what it stands for and what it means.

But there are some symbols that are rather obscure and the meaning may not be immediately clear and it may need some explanation.

For example, St. Joseph, as we see in the stained glass, is holding a lily flower. We may wonder why would a man like St. Joseph hold a lily flower. Legend has it that the suitors of Mary were asked to leave their staffs in the Temple as God would give a sign as to who would be the husband of Mary.

As it turned out, the next day, a lily flower was growing on the staff of Joseph, and so he became the husband of Mary. Besides that the lily also symbolizes the character of St. Joseph who is virtuous and just, as well as purity.

Another symbol is the pelican, it is shown as vulning itself, or plucking its own flesh, to feed its young when no food is available.

Hence, the pelican is a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist. A point of interest is that on some bishops’ crozier, the top is shaped like a pelican with its head bend down to pluck its flesh to feed its young. It symbolizes the bishop’s duty to feed his people with spiritual food and to care for their souls.

Another rather obscure symbol is the shell. The story is that St. Augustine was trying to write the thesis about the Holy Trinity and he was stuck for words, and so he went out for a walk on the beach.
There, he saw a child running up and down, scooping water from the sea and pouring the water into a hole in the sand.

When St. Augustine asked the child what he was trying to do, the child replied: I am trying to pour all the water of the ocean into this hole in the sand.

St. Augustine laughed and said that it was impossible, to which the child answered: Neither can you try to put into mere words the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

And with that, the child disappeared, leaving behind the shell. So the shell has become a symbol of the mystery of faith, and the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Today the church celebrates Trinity Sunday. It’s a great mystery, and trying to define the Trinity is like trying to pour all the water of the ocean into a hole in the sand.

But certain symbols can help us meditate and reflect on the mystery of the Holy Trinity, like the triangle, the shamrock, the three forms of water, steam and ice which are substantially the same, etc.

But essentially, the mystery of the Holy Trinity revolves around the mystery of love between the three Persons in one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And that love is poured out to humanity, who is made in the image of God, so that we can love one another with the love of God who is Trinity.

As we heard Jesus said in the gospel: 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.

There are three profound moments when the love of God entered into the world, and these are:
- At Bethlehem when God was with us
- At Calvary when God was for us
- At Pentecost when God is in us

These three profound moments symbolize how the love of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit entered into the world and poured out their love for the world.

So there are many symbols that point to God. At times they point to just one Person of the Trinity, and at times they point to the three Persons in one God.

But there is a symbol that is unique to our parish, and only to our parish, and it is this “Jesus Invites” envelops, that is prepared for the celebration of our parish feast day.

These are folded with love by the members of our parish, from as young as 3 years old to some who are 80 years old.

When we unfold or open up the envelope, it is just a piece of paper with some designs and some words which may not have much meaning.

But when we follow the tutorial to fold it, then it becomes a heart-shaped envelope, and a petition slip can be inserted into it.

And there are three movements here – the one who folded it; the one who distributed it; the one who receives it.

In a way it symbolizes the work of the Trinity - The Father who creates; the Son who saves; the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and brings us back to God.

So we can say that these “Jesus Invites” envelopes are symbols of God’s love and Jesus is inviting us to come and offer our prayers to God at the triduum and feast day, whether the prayer is for ourselves or for others. 

Jesus wants us to come and experience the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Jesus also wants us to bring someone along who might be in need of God’s love.

The symbol of that love is already given out. Let’s take it and share it with others. Let us respond to that love and let us help others to respond to God’s love.

Friday, June 9, 2017

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 10-07-17

Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20 / Mark 12:38-44

It is not wrong to say that most religious institutions are not that poor.

That is because the devotees contribute money to these religious institutions for maintenance and upkeep of the religious functions and also as a form of charity.

But some people have this idea that offering one's surplus in the "spirit" of charity will wash away their sins.

It may also ease the conscience a bit especially if the money is ill-gotten.

Whatever the case might be, the fact is that the offering is still from one's surplus.

In the gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that love offering from one's poverty means much more than the contribution from one's surplus of wealth.

So Jesus made it clear that God's blessings and mercy and forgiveness is not merited by the amount that one gives to the Church or to any religious institution.

Rather, God's grace is given freely to the saint as well as the sinner and not according to merit.

Nonetheless the sincerity of the intention of offering in the spirit of sacrifice opens our heart to receive the plenitude of God's blessings and graces.

The widow is a model of that sincerity and sacrifice because, as Jesus puts it, from the little she had, she has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.

Maybe because the widow knew that God will provide for her and she put her hope and trust in Him.

May we likewise trust that God will always provide for us because He loves and cares for us.

It is also by giving that we receive.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 09-06-17

Tobit 11:5-17 / Mark 12:35-37

It is not everyday that tears well up in our eyes. And when tears do well up in our eyes, there certainly must be a reason for it.

It could be because of something emotional, something painful or hurtful, that teardrops begin to fall.

Generally, it could be said that tears are the result of something sad or bad, but it also cannot be denied that there are tears of joy and gladness.

In the 1st reading, there were a lot of tears. Anna, the mother of Tobias, wept when she met her son.

Tobit, when he was healed of his blindness, was able to see his son again and he also wept.

And although it was not said, but it is quite certain that there were tears in the eyes of Tobias when he saw the blessing that God was bestowing on him and his family. And there would also be tears in the eyes of Sarah when she was warmly welcomed to the family.

Yes, those were tears of joy and gladness. But those tears of joy and gladness came after a very difficult time for Tobias and his family.

In those difficult times, we also can be certain that there were many tears of sorrow and pain.

It is said that a tear is 1% water and 99% feelings. So tears are the silent language of grief.

But tears are prayers too. And they travel to God when we can't speak (Ps 56:8) In other words, tears are simply the raindrops from the storms inside of us.

So when sorrow, grief and pain well up the tears in our eyes, let us turn to God who will wipe away those tears from our eyes and turn our sorrow into joy.

He did it for Tobias and his family. He will also do it for us.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 08-06-17

Tobit 6:10-11; 7:1, 9-14; 8:4-9 / Mark 11:5-17

Whenever people say that a marriage is made in heaven, they are only saying one part. The other part is: so is lightning and thunder.

For those who are married, they will certainly agree. Marriage has its share of lightning and thunder, regardless of whether the marriage is made in heaven or not.

The prayer of Tobias in the 1st reading may have reminded some married couples that this was a reading that they chose for their wedding Mass.

It may also remind them of another thing - in the run-up to their wedding and in the flurry of wedding preparations, did they say this prayer together.

The marriage of Tobias and Sarah may be made in heaven, even the angel Raphael was sent to bring them together, but surely there was lightning and thunder so much so that Tobias asked Sarah to pray together so that God will bring them to old age together.

Surely for Tobias and Sarah, nothing was to be taken for granted, and more so for a life-long union in marriage, all the more God's blessings must be invoked.

If that is what it takes to keep a marriage together, then it would take no less to keep the commandment of love that Jesus stated in the gospel.

To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is certainly not possible without prayer.

But it is a commandment made in heaven, and there will be lightning and thunder in carrying it out.

But angels will be sent to help us to fulfill it. We only need to pray and invoke God's blessings to accomplish it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 07-06-17

Tobit 3:1-11, 16-17 / Mark 12:18-27

Every time when people say "luckily" or "by chance" or "it so happened", it is interesting to know what is in their minds when they say it.

But we should know that when people say "lucky" or "by chance" or it so happened, that is when God chose to remain anonymous.

God chose to remain anonymous maybe because those people may not be ready to acknowledge that He is in control of all things and that He has a plan for all things and for all situations.

In the 1st reading, we heard that "It chanced on the same day that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, also heard insults from one of her father's maids".

Tobit and Sarah were in distress over their predicament. Yet the 1st reading used the phrase "it chanced on the same day" to bring up the point that God was going to bring them together through their prayer and work His healing through them.

In the scriptures, we will read page after page, how God works wonders and His plan is seen in the stories of the Bible.

But how God works His wonders in our present lives is often beyond our comprehension.

For example, the questions about our life here on earth and how our prayers are going to be answered cannot be logically worked out. Probably in the next world we will get our answers.

But for now, we walk by faith and trust in God who has a plan for each of us in whatever situation we might be in.

Through faith, we will see God in all things and give thanks to God for all things, for He is God, not of the dead, but of the living.

Monday, June 5, 2017

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 06-06-17

Tobit 2:9-14 / Mark 12:13-17

Distress and turmoil have no respect for anyone, not even people of faith.

Especially for those who have a firm belief in God, their faith will be tested in the distress and turmoils of life.

In the 1st reading, we heard about how Tobit, a man of deep faith, had his share of distress and tribulations in life.

He became blind by a freak accident and he had to depend on the generosity of others.

Also when he wrongly accused his wife of stealing a lamb, Anna, his wife also retaliated by scorning his faith and good works.

Such are the trials and turmoils that all will have to go through, and that includes people of faith and who believe and trust in God.

Even for Jesus who came to love people and do good, the chief priests and scribes and elders sent the Pharisees to question Jesus about paying taxes, with the intention to catch Him on something that He says.

Jesus could have felt disgusted by all that scheming and plotting but He turned it into an opportunity to teach the people and it also left His questioners baffled.

So in the face of distress and turmoil, we need to ask ourselves: What can ever separate us from the love of God? (Romans 8:35)

If God is for us who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Or what can ever be against us? Distress? Turmoils?

We belong to God. Let us keep faith in Him and fight the good fight of faith.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 05-07-17

Tobit 1:3; 2:1-8 / Mark 12:1-12

If someone were to ask us to state our firmest beliefs, what statement(s) of faith would we make?

Will one of our statements be this: I believe in God who loves me more than I can ever imagine and who will never desert me or leave me alone.

The character in the 1st reading, Tobit, may have made such a statement when times were calm and peaceful.

But when he and his people were deported to Assyria to become slaves and with no possible hope of ever returning to his homeland, did he waver from his belief in God?

As much as most of the Jews in Assyria abandoned their faith, Tobit kept his faith in God as shown by his act of faith and charity in burying the dead as we heard in the 1st reading.

So faith is not to be taken for granted or kept only when times are good and the sailing is smooth.

When faith is put to the test, then that's when we show our love for God.

In the gospel, we heard a parable of ungratefulness and greed.

It's a classical case of asking for God's providence and yet when it comes to giving it back in deeds of love, our selfishness and ungratefulness springs up and we fail in our love for God.

Let us reflect on our statements of faith. May we say what we mean, and mean what we say.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year A, 04.06.2017

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

Today is Pentecost Sunday. And we usually associate Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Pentecost means the Holy Spirit. 

But to begin with, the meaning of the word “Pentecost” has almost nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fiftieth”.  It points to the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), which is held on the fiftieth day after the Passover.

The purpose of that feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest.

So as it is, going by the meaning of the word Pentecost, it is the “fiftieth day”. It does not say anything about the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest”, nor does it say anything about the Holy Spirit.

But in the 1st reading, we heard about how Pentecost, or the “fiftieth day” which was first associated with the Jewish “Feast of the Harvest”, became connected with the Holy Spirit.

When the Pentecost day came round, the apostles had all met in a room, when suddenly, they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. 

And that was how Pentecost (or the fiftieth day) became associated with the Holy Spirit. 

And from the readings, we can see how the Holy Spirit was manifested. The Holy Spirit came like a powerful wind from heaven, and then like tongues of fire, and then the gift of speech.

There is the variety of gifts but always the same Spirit. And the Risen Christ breathed on His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit.

All these are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but in all the readings, there is one common factor that indicated the presence of the Holy Spirit – words.

In the 1st reading, the disciples began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

The 2nd reading states that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

And in the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.

Words can be so common, and even so plentiful as some people can be so long-winded, but words can be so powerful in that the Holy Spirit is manifested through words. 

Which brings to mind the saying: Think before you speak. And if silence is golden, then speak only when your words are better than silence.

Yes, think before you speak. And as we think about it, the word THINK can be an acronym that reminds us of how the Holy Spirit wants us to use our words.

So before we speak, we should “T-H-I-N-K”.

T stands for “true”. Are we speaking what is true? The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Truth and when we speak what is true, then the Holy Spirit is present. But if we speak what is not true, then an unholy spirit is present, an unholy spirit that is up to no good.

The second letter “H” stands for helpful. What we say must be helpful and not harmful. Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Pro 12:18). The Holy Spirit is our Helper, so when we speak what is helpful, the Holy Spirit is truly present. 

The letter “I” stands for inspirational. And there is a big difference between inspirational and impressive. One uses simple words that can inspire, while the other uses bombastic words to impress. So which “I” do we want to be?

The letter “N” stands for necessary. Is what we are going to say necessary and needed? If it is not necessary and not needed, then, never mind – just don’t say it. 

And finally “K” stands for kind. Word should be kind and not used to kill. Kind words reflect the nature of a kind person. By our words, we will know what is inside of us.

So think before we speak – T-H-I-N-K. 

And just “think” is one word, so what we say must also be true, helpful, inspirational, necessary as well as needed, and kind. 

In other words, all that must be fulfilled in the words that we speak. One can’t do without the others. We can’t say what is true without being kind as well. We can’t say what is necessary and needed without being inspirational and helpful too.

So all conditions must be met, so that we will have to think before we speak.

When we speak what is true, what is helpful, what is inspirational, what is necessary and needed, and what is kind, then we will truly experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, and others will experience the Holy Spirit through our words.

And then we will also truly understand what Jesus means when He says “Peace be with you”.  

Friday, June 2, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Saturday, 03-06-17

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

If we were in a supermarket just to buy something, we might be tempted to browse around and see what else we can get.

We might end up getting quite a lot of stuff but forgetting to get what we actually wanted.

In that sense, a shopping list is important to help us stay focused in getting what we actually needed, and also to prevent us from going on a shopping spree.

In the gospel, Jesus had just commissioned Peter to take care of the early Church.

But just as quickly, Peter got distracted and was curious about the other disciple whom Jesus loved.

In a very firm and pointed manner, Jesus addressed the issue: What does it matter to you; you are to follow me.

In other words, Jesus was saying to Peter: Mind your own business, stay focused and follow me.

Even in the 1st reading, St. Paul did not lament about being in chains despite his innocence, but he took the opportunity to proclaim the Kingdom of God despite wearing those chains. He stayed focused on Jesus.

So Peter's distraction and Paul's predicament have taught us to focus our minds and hearts on Jesus and to follow Him.

Nothing else really matters.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Friday, 02-06-17

Acts 25:3-21 / John 21:15-19

God has this very peculiar practice of raising up the lowly, besides of course, casting down the mighty from their thrones.

In simple terms, God often turns a nobody into somebody.  The few examples that will come to mind are people like Abraham and Moses, and other lesser known people like Gideon from the book of Judges and even the apostles whom Jesus called but we have very little information about their background.

Even St. Paul wasn't really a big-time somebody. Initially, he made a name for himself by being a persecutor of Christians. But there is nothing great about spilling other people's blood just to get some recognition.

But after his conversion, he began preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and that's when God turned a persecutor into a preacher.

But it would not have probably crossed the mind of St. Paul that his name would be mentioned on the lips of Festus and king Agrippa, and he even would be referred to Caesar.

That was really from being a nobody to being a somebody, but that is truly the work of God who has plans for those who are lowly or even sinners.

If that was the case with St. Paul, then the similar thing could be said of St. Peter. St. Peter was just a fisherman until Jesus called him. Then he tried to be a somebody in the company of Jesus. He even boasted at the Last Supper that he would never desert Jesus. But of course we know what happened.

But in the gospel, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and three times Peter replied in the affirmative.

Anybody can say anything and don't mean what they say, but it takes somebody to mean what they say and say what they mean.

Peter knew that this time round, he had to mean what he says and say what he means. He was ready to make up for his disgrace and to be lifted up by God's grace.

But that meant that he had to be prepared for one thing. As Jesus told him: You will have to stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go.

So it means going back to that lowly state where he will be ordered and pushed around by others. So it is back to being a nobody. But that's when God's grace can work and lift up him up to greatness.

That's when he will have to mean what he says when he said that he loves Jesus.

Jesus said that He is gentle and humble of heart. That is the only time when Jesus described His own heart.

As we come to the Mass to honour the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us ask Jesus to make our hearts like His, as we tell Him that we love Him.

And that means that we too must be lowly and humble of heart. Only then can God raise us up with His love.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Thursday, 01-06-17

Acts 20:28-38 / John 17:11-19

Whenever we hear this phrase "we agree to disagree", have we ever wondered what does that mean?

Whatever that means, most disagreements are caused by different perceptions that create different realities.

Such seems to be the case in the 1st reading between the Pharisees and the Sadducess when Paul brought up the topic of the resurrection.

There was no possibility of "agree to disagree" and the tension was so high that the tribune had to send troops to get Paul out of the situation.

The Pharisees and Sadducees saw their disagreement as an opportunity to inflict defeat and gain victory over the other.

But they failed to see that their disagreement fulfilled a divine intention - Paul was able to bear witness to the Lord, and he was now able to continue the mission from Jerusalem to Rome.

In the gospel, when Jesus prayed that we will all be one, surely He meant that we be united in Him.

But He didn't say that in this unity, there will be no disagreements. And certainly there have been, there are still and there always will be.

But the purpose of disagreement is not about victory or defeat; it is about progress and growth.

It is about praying together in the midst of the disagreements to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying and what is the divine intention.

We can disagree among ourselves, but in the end we must agree with what God is saying. Then there will be unity.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Visitation of the BVM, Wednesday, 31-05-17

Zephaniah 3:14-18 or Romans 12:9-16 / Luke 1:39-56

Very often it is in a time of need and difficulty that God will surely bestow His blessings on those who turn to Him and invoke His help.

From the book of Genesis, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth in the beginning was a formless void, there was darkness over deep, and God's Spirit hovered over the earth, and then God began the work of creation.

Similarly, in a time of need and difficulty, God's Spirit is hovering and moving the hearts of His people to bring forth His help and blessings.

The Opening Prayer at Mass is this: Almighty ever-living God, who, while the Blessed Virgin Mary was carrying your Son in her womb, inspired her to visit Elizabeth.

So how was Mary inspired to visit Elizabeth? The second part of the prayer tells us how: Grant us, we pray, that faithful to the promptings of the Spirit, we may magnify your greatness with the Virgin Mary at all time.

So it was through the promptings of the Holy Spirit that Mary was moved to go and visit Elizabeth and to be of help to Elizabeth.

And as we heard in the gospel, as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Mary was moved by the Spirit, and Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit, as the Spirit brought forth blessings to those in need and in difficulty.

As we prepare for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray with Mary that we open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

God's Holy Spirit is hovering over our hearts. When we act on the Spirit's promptings, then a new creation will come forth and abundant blessings will flow.

Monday, May 29, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 30-05-17

Acts 20:17-27 / John 17:1-11

Each of us has lived a number of years, and depending on our age, some have lived longer that others.

As we reflect on our lives, can we honestly say that our lives were worth living?

Or if given a choice, would we want to start all over again?

If St. Paul were to answer the question about life, he would just simply say that life is not a thing to waste words on, as we heard in the 1st reading.

What mattered to him was whether his life bore witness to the Good News of God's grace, the Good News of God's love.

Putting it in another way, do we live like children of God our Father, living not just in the temporary, but also looking forward to our eternity?

No doubt, we often get distracted by the narrowness of life, and we lose our focus on our eternal life with God.

But may we never forget that the time spent on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life that is awaiting us

Sunday, May 28, 2017

7th Week of Easter, Monday, 29-05-17

Acts 19:1-8 / John 16:29-33

If we make a comparison between the early Church and the present Church, we may see one obvious difference.

Many signs and wonders happened during the time of the early Church. It was like a "happening" church. Sure they had their problems and difficulties but they were always on the mission of evangelization.

What was quite obvious was that the power of the Holy Spirit was propelling them to grow and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This was seen in the 1st reading when Paul baptized the disciples in Ephesus and when he laid hands on them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in tongues and prophesy.

No doubt we too have received the Holy Spirit and we know who the Holy Spirit is.

But we need to invoke the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate to help us to know the will of God and to continue the work of Jesus in the mission of salvation.

It is the Holy Spirit who will lead us to a deeper faith and to a deeper truth to who Jesus is and what Jesus wants of us.

It is with the Holy Spirit that we will find peace in Jesus, so that in the face of trouble we will be brave and like Jesus we will conquer our troubles.

So we need to invoke the Holy Spirit in our prayer. Then we will experience the power of the Holy Spirit and we will see signs and wonders.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

7th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

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

Last Wednesday, there was a historical meeting between two Christian heads-of-state.

For such a meeting, we would expect the usual formal protocol and etiquette between political leaders like smiles and handshakes, and more so since both are also Christians.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump. But it was a meeting that was closely watched because both had voiced out criticism about each other even before they met.

Before his election to the presidency, Donald Trump had said that he planned to build a border wall between the US and Mexico.

But it happened that the Pope was returning from a trip to Mexico, and he said: A person who thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian. 

Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event: For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.

So with such a public tension in the background, the meeting between the two was closely watched and also photographed.

As we know, Pope Francis is quite photogenic. He is usually photographed as smiling and even laughing.

But one photo that has gone viral showed a glum-looking Pope standing next to a smiling Trump, and that was immediately compared to other earlier photos of a smiling Pope with other heads-of-state, including the former US President Barrack Obama.

Yes, it was a high profile meeting between the two leaders, one religious and the other political, both had a disagreement, and the world was watching, photographing and commenting.

Yes, people were watching, photographing and commenting. But was there anyone praying? 

Well, at least Pope Francis and Donald Trump would be praying in preparation for their first meeting. Both are Christians, and Christians should pray for anything and everything.

But at least there is another person who would have prayed for them. Because in the gospel, there was this line said by Jesus: I pray for them.

Just four words that tell us the priority and the importance of prayer. And if Jesus can say that He prays, then all the more, we as His disciples should pray and must pray.

And that priority and importance of prayer is truly understood by the early Church. In the 1st reading, we heard that the apostles were in the upper room and joined in continuous prayer with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus. 

The 1st reading made it a point to mention Mary, and it was the last mention of her in the Bible, and it portrays her as praying with the Church and for the Church.

And we can be sure that Mary also prayed for the Pope and the US President in their first meeting.

Indeed, the whole aspect of prayer is so important and fundamental in the life of a Christian. So it may be said that a Christian who does not pray cannot be considered a Christian, and a Christian who does not pray is also rather disgraceful.

A Christian, through prayer, is united with Jesus, and goes forth to tear down walls and build bridges.

This Sunday is also known as World Communication Sunday. The Church wants to emphasize that communication must lead to communion. 

Prayer is our communication with God. Prayer must also lead us to a communion with others.

As Christians, we are called to communicate the love of God to others, so that we will tear down walls and build bridges. And Jesus prays that we will do just that.

Which brings to mind how we use our electronic communication devices. Are we using it to tear down walls and build bridges? Or are we using it to build walls and burn bridges?

And here Pope Francis has shown us how to communicate in order to have communion. His meeting with Donald Trump ended off with a warm exchange of gifts.

The Pope had a theme with his gifts, and it was theme of peace.

He presented Trump with a medallion and he said: This is a medallion with an olive tree which is a symbol of peace. It has two branches, which were divided in the middle because of war. And the olive tree is slowly trying to bring them together for peace. It is my strongest desire that you can be an olive tree to make peace.
Donald Trump responded: Thank you, I will remember what you said.

It was a beautiful ending to the meeting between the two leaders. 
Jesus prayed for them. Mary and the saints also prayed for them.

May we also pray that in our communication with others, walls will be torn down and bridges will be built for peace and communion.