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".

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A, 23.04.2017

Acts 2:42-47 / 1 Peter 1:3-9 / John 20:19-31

Whether we like shopping or not, the ways of shopping have evolved tremendously.

When we think of shopping, what might come to mind are shopping malls, supermarkets, departmental stores, heartland shops, pasar-malam (or night bazaars).

And what we see is what we get. We not only get to see what we are interested in, we get to touch it and feel it.

Of course, some items are nice to touch and hold, but break it and it’s considered sold.

But with the rise of technology and the Internet, shopping has taken on another form, i.e.  online shopping!

From our computer screens, we go “window” shopping at those big online stores like eBay, Qoo10, Lazada, Redmart, and even if we don’t know Chinese we would have heard of Taobao.

Even though we are seated comfortably and just moving the cursor, we can literally shop till we drop. It’s almost like, if you can name it, then you can find it, and buy it.

Online shopping is getting so popular that when we want to buy something, we go online because it is cheaper and better still if it’s free shipping.

And some people can be so into online shopping that even a prayer has emerged out of it: Dear Lord. Please don’t let my husband be at home when all my online orders arrive. Amen.  

The only issue with online shopping is what we see and what we order, may not be what we get. And that’s when disappointment and frustration sets in.

So nothing is as certain as what we see is what we get when we get to touch and feel it, along with all that interaction of bargaining and choosing. 

Now we do not know what kind of shopping profile each of the apostles have. But most probably Thomas, called the twin, is not likely an online shopper.

Because even when the other disciples told him that they have seen the Lord, he answered: Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands, and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.

Thomas was not going to believe so easily what the disciples say about having seen the Lord. He himself wants to see the Risen Jesus, and not just see, but to touch, and to even touch those wounds.

To say the least, he could have been very disappointed. He had placed his hopes and dreams on Jesus and it come down, crumbling and crashing at the crucifixion. He lost it all.

Maybe that was why he was not there when Jesus first appeared to His disciples.

He wanted to be left alone and to get up and move on. He didn’t want to be disappointed again. And since the disciples told him that Jesus is risen and is alive, then he wanted to put the Risen Lord to the reality test. So it’s not just seeing, but touching, and touching and feeling those gaping wounds.

In a much lesser way, that is also a bit like our experience of online shopping isn’t it?

What we see on our computer screen excites us so much that we proceed to place an order. Our hopes and dreams begin to build on what we read about what we have ordered.

And then the disappointments come one by one. The shipping is delayed. The wrong item comes in. Or the size is wrong, the colour is not quite like what we saw, or wrong specs, or wrong this and wrong that.

In our frustration and disappointment, we would let fly some scorching reviews and write off online shopping, and go back to the old ways that we are familiar with and certain about.

It is not likely that the online seller would go out of his way to appease us by unconditional exchange of goods or quickly refund our money in order try to restore our faith in online shopping.

And here is where the difference lies. Jesus rose from the dead, He came back to His disciples to restore their faith, He came back again just for Thomas to lift him from his disappointment and even granted his request by letting him touch His wounds.

And that is the love and mercy of the Risen Jesus, the mercy that we celebrate on this Divine Mercy Sunday.

His glorious Resurrection is expressed tenderly in His love and mercy for His disciples and especially for Thomas.

And that love and mercy is also shown to us through His wounds. 

Because in those wounds of Jesus, we can also see our own wounds – wounds of disappointment, hurt, shame, rejection, frustration, envy, jealousy.

His wounds are the marks of His suffering in order to save us. By His wounds we are healed.

We look at the wounds of Jesus and the life-size statue of Jesus at the entrance shows us the wounds of His hands.

Through those wounds, Jesus is offering us mercy and healing. 

Yes, as we look at those wounds, we may also want to touch those wounds and with St. Thomas we too say “My Lord and my God”.

Jesus came to heal Thomas; He comes now to heal our wounds. Let us show Him our wounds and let Him touch it, and we will be forgiven and healed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Saturday within Easter Octave, 22-04-17

Acts 4:13-21 / Mark 16:9-15

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe". That was what the Risen Jesus told St. Thomas when he demanded to see the Risen Jesus with His wounds and even wanted to touch those wounds.

Whether St. Thomas actually went on to put his finger and his hand into the wounds of the Risen Jesus, the gospels did not say.

But if seeing is believing, then the sight of the Risen Jesus would be enough for St. Thomas. There would be no need for him to touch those wounds of Jesus.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus reproached His disciples for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

And then He said to them, "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation".

And certainly they did. As we heard in the 1st reading, when told by the Sanhedrin to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus and His resurrection, Peter and John retorted: You must judge whether in God's eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God.

As we listen to the discussions about the Resurrection of Jesus, there are as many affirmations as well as refutations.

Who are we going to listen to. Because who we listen to and what they say will also be what we will proclaim.

The disciples proclaim the Risen Christ because they saw Him. But blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

Let us believe what the gospels tell us about the Resurrection and then we will see Him and then we will go forth to proclaim the Good News.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friday within Easter Octave, 21-04-17

Acts 4:1-12 / John 20:1-14

Have we ever tried to catch fish with our bare hands? If we want to try, then we can go to the pond outside and just try to catch one of the fishes there.

Needless to say, trying to catch fish with bare hands is no easy task. It would be easier to use a small net to catch the fish, like how they do it in the restaurants after a fish is selected from the tank.

But a fisherman would use a more professional equipment like a fishing net which can be cast over a wider area to catch more fish.

In the gospel, the disciples went fishing all night but they caught nothing. It seems rather strange that they caught nothing. And they were not amateurs. At least for Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, fishing was their former profession, and it can't be that they lost all their skills and knowledge to the extent that they couldn't even catch a single fish!

And then Jesus came along and told them where to fish. And they caught so many big fish that they could not haul it in.

But more than just catching fish, the disciples caught a revelation. The Risen Jesus appeared to them, and though they didn't realised it initially, it was only when Jesus revealed Himself that they caught it.

No questions were asked, Maybe because none of the disciples were bold enough to ask "Who are you?"; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus had revealed Himself to them through the miraculous catch of fish. So more than just catching fish, the disciples caught a revelation.

In the 1st reading, Peter and John were arrested for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and imprisoned. They were "caught" by the religious authorities.

Yes, the religious authorities caught the disciples but nothing more. They didn't seem to catch anything more or anything else.

That brings about the question of faith. Faith can be taught, but more often it is caught. It is caught when others see in us a revelation of who Jesus is by our words and actions.

That will bring about a spark of faith which will slowly burn into a fire of faith in Jesus.

We are called to be "fishers of men". But we are also called to be the "fishes" of the revelation of the Risen Christ in others.

It was the fishes that revealed the Risen Christ to the disciples. May we also be the "fishes" that will help others catch the revelation of the Risen Christ and come to believe in His Resurrection.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Thursday within Easter Octave, 20-04-17

Acts 3:11-26 / Luke 24:35-48

To cling on to something or to someone means to hold on tightly to that something or to that someone.

It is more than just being attached to something or to someone. It is more like a possessiveness over something or someone.

In the 1st reading, everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, and the crippled man who was healed was clinging on to them.

It was a rather strange way to describe the man as clinging on to Peter and John. In whatever way we might want to visualise it, the healed man probably couldn't quite believe the healing that he experienced and hence, he clung on to Peter and John for assurance in the midst of all that excitement.

It was quite a different picture in the gospel when Jesus appeared to His disciples and stood among them.

In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. Even after Jesus had assured them that it was really Him, their joy was so great that they still couldn't believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.

We would have thought that the disciples would be so excited that they would crowd around Jesus to cling on to Him.

We would have done that, wouldn't we? But Jesus would want us to do more than that. Because in Holy Communion, He comes into our hearts so that our hearts would not only embrace Him but cling on to Him tightly.

Let us cling on tightly to Jesus. To cling on to other things or to other persons is certainly not worth it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wednesday within Easter Octave, 19-04-17

Acts 3:1-10 / Luke 24:13-35

What we see depends mainly on what we are looking for.

When we are looking for a particular thing, then all the other things do not seem to matter as we look for that one particular thing.

In the 1st reading, the crippled man looked at Peter and John and he begged to them hoping to get something from them.

In the gospel, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus saw Jesus but something prevented them from recognising him.

In both cases, it can be said that that they were looking but not really seeing more, other than what they wanted for themselves

The cripple wanted some financial assistance. The two disciples wanted some sympathy for their misery and disappointment.

When we are looking at only what we want for ourselves then we may not be seeing what Jesus wants to give us.

What may actually be preventing us from seeing Jesus is when we look inwards at ourselves instead of looking outwards and seeing what Jesus wants to give us.

What Jesus wants to give us is not mere silver or gold or some consolation in our disappointment.

Jesus wants to give us a revelation. When Jesus is who we are looking for, we will see Him.