Monday, February 27, 2017

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 28-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 35:1-12 / Mark 10:28-31

To make sacrifices and to give up what we are entitled to or what is rightfully ours are not words we would like to hear.

Because the human tendency is to be possessive and to hoard more than we need.

And to be rebels at the idea of giving up what is ours and to even make sacrifices for the sake of others.

So in the gospel, we heard Peter asking Jesus: What about us? We have left everything and followed you.

So what was Peter and the rest of the disciples going to get for all they have given up?

Maybe we should ask ourselves: for all that we gave up and sacrificed for the Lord, what did we get? How were we rewarded? (If ever we were rewarded!)

The 1st reading exhorts us to make our sacrifices cheerfully, because just as the Lord God has given us, so we too must be able to give up what is even rightfully ours.

It continues by saying that a virtuous man's sacrifice is acceptable, and its memorial will not be forgotten.

But what we should not forget is that it is God who first made the sacrifice.

He sacrificed His only Son to save us. All our sacrifices amount to nothing compared with that.

We can only offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and be generous to others just as the Lord is generous to us.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 17:24-29 / Mark 10:17-27

It would be interesting to ask people what they want in life.

Interesting because of the answers that they might give.

The probable answers are: I want health; I want success; I want freedom; I want independence; I want to be rich, etc.

How many would say this: I want to find meaning in life.

Or, I want to be the person that I am created to be.

That can be the question for our reflection. What kind of person do I want to be?

Do I want to be a deceitful person, a greedy person, a nasty person, a selfish person, a wicked person?

Or do I want to be a loving person, a generous person, a compassionate and caring person,  a trustworthy and honest person?

Such a question is essentially a question of identity.

Because in answering the question, we begin to ask about who we really are, why we are created, and what is the meaning of our existence.

All those questions point to a turning back to God, which is in essence, a repentance.

As the 1st reading puts it, to those who repent, God permits return, and He even encourages those who are losing hope.

In other words, when we are losing meaning and hope in life, God comes to us with open arms and gives us meaning in life.

As it is, if wealth is lost, nothing is really lost.

If health is lost, then something is lost.

But if meaning in life is lost, then everything is lost.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

8th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 26-02-2017

Isaiah 49:14-15 / 1 Cor 4:1-5 / Matthew 6:24-34

If we can recall, about two years ago, the Archdiocese was in quite a financial squeeze.
Because, all of a sudden, there was a number of large-scale renovation and building projects that ran into triple digit million dollars.

Call it bad timing, bad planning or no planning, the flurry of renovation and building activities also set the hearts of the hierarchy and the laity alike in a flurry.

Doubts and anxieties arose because there is a time frame for the completion of those projects and whether the money can be raised in time.

Just to give a rundown of the churches involved and the amount of money that was needed:
Church of Sts. Peter and Paul - $8m
Novena Church - $40m
The Cathedral - $40m
The Church of Transfiguration - $60m

There were fears about donation fatigue; or an economic recession that would reduce the fundraising momentum; there were thoughts and talks of delaying or postponing some projects.

But all four churches had valid reasons for the work to be done immediately and so in the end, the four renovation and building projects were carried out concurrently.

Indeed, it was a time of high anxiety, and worry, as the funds crept in slowly, but steadily.

That was two years ago. Last June, Sts. Peter and Paul  was completed, and it was beautiful. About two weeks ago, the Cathedral was re-dedicated and it was awesome. The Church of the Transfiguration was just completed and the first Mass has been scheduled on Holy Thursday. Novena Church is coming up soon (1 August) and it certainly will be worthy and ready for the Saturday devotions to Our Lady.

A priest of one the four churches was telling his congregation about the funds that were needed for the renovation works. When they heard about the amount, there was a controlled “Wah!!!” reaction. The priest then said, “Oh don’t worry, we already have the money. It’s all in your pockets. You just have to take it out!”

What the priest said is an echo of what Jesus is teaching us in today’s gospel. Jesus tells us not to worry about money, about what to eat, about what to wear, about tomorrow.

Jesus is telling us not to be gripped by worrying about all these because our heavenly Father knows we need them all.

All these will be given to us. But there is something we must give first. We must give God first priority. We cannot serve two masters. It’s either we serve God, or we become slaves to worry and it’s usually worry about money.

But when we set our hearts on God’s kingdom and on His righteousness, then all these other things that we need will be given to us.

But the temptation is to worry about ourselves first, before we think about what God wants of us. 

Putting it in construction terms, we want to build our house first, and only when we have whatever leftovers, then that will be for God’s house. But that’s not putting God first.

That’s when we forget what Ps. 127 is telling us: If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour. If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising and your going later to rest, while He pours His gifts on His beloved as they slumber.

Yes, we will worry and work in vain if God is not first over everything.

It’s like what we heard the people saying in the 1st reading: “The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.” And the reply from the Lord is this: “I will never forget you.”

And in many ways, the completion and the dedication of the Cathedral is a testimony of what God has done for the Church in Singapore, as well as our generosity in building the House of God.

But there was an incident that happened during the renovation of the Cathedral that showed God’s hand working together with our hands.

It was the discovery of the 173 year-old time capsule found under one of the Cathedral’s columns. But the discovery wasn’t without some drama. During the renovations, the pediment (the triangular upper part of the front of a classical building) facing Victoria Street collapsed.

That was bad news as the completion will be delayed and more money will be needed. But in the midst of the rubble, the 173 year-old time capsule was discovered, and it revealed artefacts of a time in the history of the church, and also the cornerstone that was laid when the Cathedral was first built.

The news of the discovery of the time capsule and the cornerstone brought about a renewed interest in the renovation of the Cathedral and subsequently a fresh flow of funds for the renovation.

And now the small pieces of the bricks from the collapsed pediment are sold as souvenirs to raise funds for the Archdiocese.

So just when the time capsule and the cornerstone was about to be forgotten and lost in the renovation works, the pediment had to collapse so that they can be revealed.

Certainly the collapse of the pediment doesn’t seem to be like good news initially, but it revealed God’s hand of blessing when the Cathedral was first built, and His hand of blessing on the Cathedral now as well as God’s hand of blessing on the Church in Singapore.

At present another House of God, the Church of the Transfiguration, is still in need of $16 million to pay up for the construction. And the Archdiocese is also in need of $230 million to prepare the Church for the future.

Those are staggering amounts of money. It’s a worry but it also calls for our generosity.

So will we give to God for what He has given to us?

The Lord has not forgotten us and will never forget us. Let us also not forget the Lord and how He has blessed us.

Friday, February 24, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 17:1-15 / Mark 10:13-16

From what science is telling us, we know how vast the universe is and how much mystery there is in it.

There are things like black holes and many other galaxies.

In our galaxy alone, there are billions of stars, each separated by millions of light years.

In the face of such vastness and coupled with so much mystery, we may feel that we on earth are quite insignificant.

Because there is so much more around us.

But is this "more" just measured by size and vastness?

The 1st reading brings us back to the reflection of how much "more" we are.

This "more" is much more significant than that of the whole universe.

Because God our creator clothed us with strength like His and made us in His image.

He filled us with understanding and knowledge.

He put His own light into our hearts to show us the magnificence of His works.

Hence, we may already be exploring outer space, yet we need to reflect and understand and appreciate our inner space.

And it is only with the heart and the simplicity of a child that we can praise and glorify God, our Father and Creator.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 24-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17 / Mark 10:1-12

No man is an island and it is not good for man to be alone. Even if we want some time to be alone by ourselves, we won't stay away from others for too long a time

No doubt we come into contact with others whom we generally call friends.

But have we ever made an assessment of our friends? Do we know who are the fair-weather friends and who are the faithful friends?

The 1st reading tell us this: If you want to make a friend, take him on trial, and be in no hurry to trust him.

And then it goes on to describe the several types of fair-weather friends that we need to be wary of.

But towards the end of the passage there, there is a turn and a twist. It says that those who fear the Lord will find a faithful friend. Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends, for as a man is, so is his friend.

In other words, as much as we look for a faithful friend, the question comes back to us in that are we also a faithful friend to others?

More so in a marital relationship, the spouse must be the best friend and the most faithful friend.

So if we find ourselves always complaining about our friends and our spouse, then it is time to ask ourselves what kind of friend are we and what kind of spouse are we.

And whoever fears the Lord will be a true friend and a faithful spouse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-02-17

Ecclesiasticus 5:1-8 / Mark 9:41-50

Time is what we want most. Yet, time is also what we waste most.

The irony is that the more time we have, the more time we will waste.

By and large, we think that we have a long future ahead of us.

We think that there will always be a tomorrow. Yet, that is not a certainty.

That is why the 1st reading urges us not to delay our return to the Lord and not to put it off day after day.

The last line of today's gospel passage gives us an aspect of our lives to think about.

Jesus said: Be at peace with one another.

More than just the need for reconciliation with those whom we have crossed swords with, the more urgent need is to stop hurting others and being a pain to others, whether it is with our words or actions.

Jesus tells us to cut off our hurtful and sinful words and actions because in the end we will have to pay the debt of our sins.

Let us ask the Lord to cleanse our hearts for from the bounty of the heart, the mouth speaks and the hands act.

Let us also ask the Lord to grant us His peace so that we will live in peace with the Lord and with one another.

Let us not delay. Let us do it now. In a way, it is now or never.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chair of St. Peter, The Apostle, Wednesday, 22-02-17

1 Peter 5:1-4 / Matthew 16:13-19

One of the prominent features of the Catholic Church is its unity.

This unity is seen in worship, in teachings and generally in practices.

This unity is also symbolized in the figure of the Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church.

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter is an affirmation of the authority given to St. Peter by Jesus to lead the Church on earth.

Jesus said: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.

The Church in its 2000 years of history has seen glorious times, challenging times, turbulent times and dark moments.

But the very fact that the Church has survived those turbulent and dark moments only goes to show that the Pope draws his authority from Christ, and that the Spirit is guiding the Church.

Nonetheless, the authority and leadership of the Pope is always being challenged.

In the area of morality, issues like abortion, the sanctity of life, same-sex marriage have often been brought up to ridicule and criticize the Church and inevitably the Pope.

In the area of faith, heresies and schisms have undermined the authority of the Pope.

From within as well as from without, the Pope and the Church had suffered potshots from numerous quarters.

Yet in the midst of these criticisms and confusion, let us keep faith with the Church and in obedience to the Pope.

Let us remember what Jesus promised the Church: The gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.

Let us also remember to pray for the Pope and the leaders of the Church.