Monday, April 23, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, 24-04-18

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

The word "foreigner" is a rather neutral term.

And depending on what form it takes, we react to it differently.

When foreigners come as tourists or businessmen or investors, we will certainly welcome them with warm hospitality.

But what if foreigners come as refugees?

We may remember that when South Vietnam fell in 1975, there was a refugee problem in SE Asia, and Singapore was also affected.

Although we may sympathize with the plight of the refugees, we also see them as a problem.

Yet as we heard from the 1st reading, the first Christians were also refugees, fleeing from persecution, and they brought their faith along.

We can be sure that they faced no less the problems that present day refugees faced.

Yet they still kept their faith and the Lord helped them, and others came to believe and were converted, and hence the missionary spirit of the Church was started.

We may not be refugees because of our beliefs, but still we must always rely on the Lord for His providence and protection.

Most of all, we must listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and follow Him closely so that we won't be lost along the way.

In the midst of life's difficulties and struggles, let us keep our hearts focused on our Good Shepherd and follow Him into our eternal home in heaven.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

4th Week of Easter, Monday, 23-04-18

Acts 11:1-18 / John 10:1-10

Whenever we talk about food, we talk about it as if we live to eat. Oh, surely we love good food and it is a pleasure whenever we can have a delicious and satisfying meal.

But essentially, food is for our sustenance and it is critical for our survival. In other words, we eat to live, and not really the other way round.

In the 1st reading, Peter seemed to have a vision about food, as he saw a big sheet with all sorts of animals and wild beasts, everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly.

And then a voice told him to kill and eat, but he protested with his religious dietary laws, that nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed his lips.

And then came a revelation as the voice from heaven told him: What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.

But before we start to think about religious dietary restrictions and even those who are vegetarians, the vision was necessary for Peter and necessary for the early Church.

It was to open the mind of Peter to be sent to pagans, who were non-Jews, and that he cannot see them as people to be avoided.

It also opened the minds of those who criticised Peter for mixing with the pagans and eating with them.

And this also reminds us that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.

This also reminds us that as we come for the Eucharist, we have come to the table of the Lord. Let us lay aside what divides us so that we can be united with the Lord in this sacred meal.

Jesus came so that we can have life and life to the full. As we partake of this sacred meal, may we also be strengthened to work for unity within the Church and also outside of the Church.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 22.04.2018

Acts 4:8-12 / 1 John 3:1-2 / John 10:11-18

We may recall that this year, Ash Wednesday fell on a particular day – 14th Feb – which is also popularly known as Valentine’s Day. So for Catholics who have to observe that obligatory day of fasting and yet wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their loved ones, they could have a special romantic candle-light dinner with bread and water. Well, it’s not that often that Ash Wed falls on Valentine’s Day.

Also we may recall that Easter Sunday fell on the 1st April, which for the secular world is a day of jokes and pranks as they call it April’s Fool’s Day. 

So it seems like for this year, God had a sense of humour – Ash Wed falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday on April Fool’s Day.

But for the Church in Singapore, 14th Feb is a significant day because it is the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral. So this year, the Cathedral did not celebrate the anniversary of its dedication because of Ash Wed. But because the Cathedral is dedicated to the Good Shepherd, then it would be celebrating its feast-day today, since this Sunday is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

The Cathedral was dedicated to the Good Shepherd because in the early days after Singapore was founded, a priest, Fr. Laurent Imbert, stopped over in Singapore and he could well be the first priest to celebrate Mass on this island. 
Later, he secretly joined the other missionaries in Korea, which at that time was persecuting Christians. When the persecutors were closing him on him, he wrote that famous letter to his fellow missionaries, saying that “the good shepherd is the one who lays down his life for his sheep”. He hoped that by surrendering himself, the authorities would spare the lives of the other Catholics. Subsequently, he was tortured and beheaded.

Back in Singapore, when the building of the Cathedral was completed and to be dedicated, news of Fr. Imbert’s death was known, and so were the contents of his letter. It was then decided that the Cathedral was to be dedicated to the Good Shepherd, in memory of Fr. Laurent Imbert.

Last year, when the Cathedral was re-dedicated after extensive renovations, the relic of St. Laurent Imbert was also interred into the altar of the Cathedral. And with that, the connection between the Cathedral and the man whose letter inspired the name of the Cathedral came to a full circle. St. Laurent Imbert not only knew the Good Shepherd, but like the Good Shepherd, he also laid down his life for his sheep.

Today, as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we hear once again what Jesus says of Himself – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.

And on Good Shepherd Sunday, the Church also highlights the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. The Church echoes the voice of her Good Shepherd in calling out to those who hear His voice to follow Him and to lay down their lives in service for God and for His people.

But with the drastic drop of the number of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life as well, we may wonder if the Good Shepherd has stopped calling. So has Jesus stopped calling? Or have we stopped listening?

The fact that the Church is called to be the sign of salvation means that God will always provide for the Church. In every age and from one generation to the next, God will always call out to those whom He has chosen to be priests to serve as shepherds of God’s flock.

But to lay down one’s life in service of others calls for sacrifice. When it comes to making the sacrifice, the tendency is that we expect others to make the sacrifice, but not us.

The voice of the world says that sacrifice is for losers. The world wants to be served and not to serve.

But the voice of Jesus tells us that He came to serve and not to be served and to even lay down His life as a ransom for many.

So it can be said that the salvation of many depends on the sacrifices of a few, those few that are called and chosen.

And we have seen these few, and we may even know some of these few.

Bro. Simon Ho, who is one of our parishioners, is now in his 4th year of formation in the Major Seminary. He gave up a promising teaching profession to answer the call of the Good Shepherd. We pray that he will persevere and that one day we will be able to see his ordination.

Fr. Michaelraj left his native diocese in India to serve in Singapore, which is a new and challenging environment for him. But he has done well and we pray that he will be blessed for answering the call of the Good Shepherd and that he will be a blessing for us too.

And Fr. Paul Tong, at 91 years-old, is still actually in active service and not retired, as some might think he is. For him there is no retirement or finishing line when it comes to laying down his life in service of God and His people.

So we priests and seminarians ask for your prayers that we will continue to serve you with the love of the Good Shepherd.

And we pray for you too, that if God calls you, or calls your son to serve in the priesthood, you too will make that sacrifice.

Only a few are called and chosen, and when those few make the sacrifice to lay down their lives in love and service, then many will be blessed, and many will be saved.

Friday, April 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May our hearts remain always in the love of God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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