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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trinity Sunday, Year C, 22.05.2016

Proverbs 8:22-31 / Romans 5:1-5 / John 16:12-15

It is said that knowledge is power. Learning new things every day help us grow in many ways. But whatever we have learnt or are learning, there is still a massive amount of knowledge out there that remains to be learnt.

Some facts can be just trivia, which can be interesting, or amusing, or just simply amazing.

Did we know that the sentence "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter in the English alphabet? That’s why that sentence is used for typing lessons for beginners.

Did we know the the average person falls asleep in 7 minutes? That’s why the recommended time for the length of a homily is 7 minutes.

Did we know that apples are more effective at waking you up in the morning than coffee? 

Did we know that money is the number one thing that people argue about?

Did we know that the most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression?

And talking about anxiety and depression, it can stem from what we know, as well as what we do not know.

So knowledge of our present situation may lead us to depression, yet we are also anxious to know about our future.

A story goes that a young man was rather depressed about his current situation, and so he decided to go to a fortune-teller to see what his future is like.

So the fortune-teller studied his palm and then he told the young man, “You will be poor, unhappy and unmarried until you are 40.” 
And so the young man anxiously asked, “After that? After that?” And the fortune-teller replied, “After that you will get used to it!”

Maybe the truth here is that life is difficult and even depressing at times, and we have to get used to that. Or at least we have to be prepared for that.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now.”

He could be referring to what was going to happen soon, i.e. He will be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, His disciples will desert Him, He will suffer and die on the cross.

But that would be too much for His disciples to handle for the moment. It would be too depressing for them.

Yet, Jesus also added this – But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth.

So as much as the reality of life is that it is difficult and even depressing at times, there is an even greater truth that is promised by God in the scriptures.

Because in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, God has this to say to His people. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It is by trusting in the Lord’s promise of the future for us that we dare to look towards the future with hope and not with despair.

Some of us may remember Arthur Ashe. Arthur Ashe became the first, and is still the only, Afro-American male player to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. He is also the first Afro-American to be ranked No. 1 in the world. Always an activist, when Ashe learned that he had contracted AIDS via a blood transfusion, he turned his efforts to raising awareness of the disease, before finally succumbing to it on February 6, 1993.

When he was suffering from the disease, he received letters from his fans the world over, one of which conveyed: "Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?"

To this Arthur Ashe replied with this one paragraph, and it is often quoted as the paragraph that explains life: "All over the world 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semi-finals, 2 to the finals, and when I was holding the cup I never asked God “Why me?”. And today in pain I should not be asking God “Why me?”

For us, as the mystery of life unfolds before us, and especially when distress and turmoil swirl around us, we will be inclined to ask God “Why me?” But at the same time, another mystery is also unfolding before us, and it is the mystery of God who is Trinity.

Yes, we know who God is from the Bible and from what the Church taught us. We know that God is the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God the Father sent His Son to be like us in all things so as to teach us how to live life, and in turn Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Guide and to lead us the truth of life and even to the complete truth.

The truth of life is essentially the truth of God the Trinity. The truth of God is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in love with one another.

And the truth of life is that we are to live our lives in love for God and for one another so that we can look to the future with hope and love.

Over the past couple of weeks, many of us have offered our time and love to fold these Jesus Invites for others so that they will come for the parish Triduum and Feastday and to experience for themselves the love of God for them.

Over the past week, many of us have prayed for Fr. Paul Tong’s recovery and offered our services to care for him after his discharge.

These are the facts of love that we need to know, and we can see God’s love being revealed in these acts of love. When we understand these facts and acts of love, then we will be ready to understand the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we understand, then we will also want to love others as God has loved us.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pentecost Sunday, Year C, 15.05.2016

Acts 2:1-11 / 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13 / John 20:19-23

In today’s feast of Pentecost, the focus is none other than on the Holy Spirit.

As we heard in the 1st reading, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles like a powerful wind from heaven and in tongues of fire.

That day was a great happening for the Church and they began to speak in foreign languages as the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speech. It was a dramatic day.

Another occasion that we hear about the Holy Spirit is during the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation for the teenagers. 

The bishop will be there, relatives and friends will be there, the teenagers are all dressed up, many photographs will be taken.

But after that, something strange happens. The teenagers seem to go into secret service or they go undercover. Because they don’t seem to be seen around anymore.

It’s like the story about the two Christian pastors and a Catholic priest having a discussion about the problem of birds in their churches.

The first pastor said that he covered up all the holes in the roof of the church but the birds still managed to come in. The second pastor said that he called the pest control company but the problem persisted.

Then they asked the Catholic priest how he handled the problem, and he said, “Oh I just confirm them, and they never come back.”
So, the Sacrament of Confirmation seemed to have a strange effect on Catholic teenagers; they seem to have “gone off” after that.

Maybe the name of the Sacrament can be changed to something like “Sacrament of Confirmation and Last Rites”. 

But what Jesus said in the gospel will make us think again about this feast of Pentecost, about the Sacrament of Confirmation, and maybe even about “Last Rites” (which is also called “Extreme Unction” or “Anointing of the sick”.

Before He breathed on His disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He said to them: As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.

And in the 1st reading, we hear what they were sent to do – they went out of that room and they began to proclaim the marvels of God, and those who heard them were amazed and astonished.

That’s the power of the Spirit working in the disciples. And if we were there witnessing it, we would say it in our own language – That’s the Spirit!

But that was then. What about now? Do we still see the Spirit working marvels in our day and age, and will we say: That’s the Spirit!

There is one prominent member of our community who would really want to be with us in this celebration of Pentecost, but he can’t.

I am talking about Fr. Paul Tong who is in hospital and recovering from an open surgery to remove his gall bladder.

Last Sunday evening, I went to the hospital to give him the “Anointing of the sick” to prepare him for the surgery the next day. It was a rather urgent surgery.

After the anointing, he said, “I’ll be ok, I’ll be ok”. At 9pm he waved his hand to tell us to go back, and when we still hung around he waved his hand again to tell us to go home, and he said this, “I want to sleep.” I was amazed by his calmness, and a few moments after that he snuggled himself to sleep. He was such a peaceful sight. Amazing.

The operation was successful but at 89 years-old Fr. Tong was worn down by it, and he slept through Monday and Tuesday.

On Wednesday I managed to catch him on one of his lucid moments and he asked me what day it was. When I told him it was Wednesday, he raised his hand and counted, “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Can, can, I can come back on Sunday to do Mass!”

And before I could say anything, he dozed off. I was amazed by his spirit. Even though he was lying flat on the hospital bed, with tubes running here and there, he was already thinking of coming back to serve the community. What a spirit! But, that’s the Spirit.

Then on Thursday evening, the Archbishop informed me that he was coming to see Fr. Tong at 8.45pm. As the time was approaching, I could see that Fr. Tong was sound asleep and I just couldn’t bring myself to wake him up.

So I said a short prayer and then whispered into his ear that the Archbishop was coming to see him. But he was in deep sleep, and so I went down to meet the Archbishop.
Archbishop William Goh praying over Fr Paul Tong

When I met him, I tried to explain that Fr. Tong was resting, he was tired, he may not be awake to acknowledge the Archbishop and I hoped that the Archbishop won’t be disappointed that he couldn’t talk to him.

But when we went into the room, there was Fr. Tong, sitting up and wide awake and having his cup of Milo and biscuits. The Archbishop glanced at me and he probably wondered what I was talking about earlier. I could only say that the Spirit woke him up to meet the Archbishop.

We may think that Fr. Tong’s hospitalization and surgery was unfortunate, but God turned suffering into blessing and the Holy Spirit showed the mighty power of healing.

On Friday, after lying in bed for five days, Fr. Tong got up from bed and walked under the guidance of two physiotherapists. He did very well and won the praise of the physiotherapists.

The doctor said that Fr. Tong’s recovery was remarkable and he could be back in the parish by Monday. Certainly, it was the Holy Spirit gathering up our prayers for Fr. Tong that such a marvelous recovery and healing had happened.

The Holy Spirit was like a mighty wind moving our hearts to pray for Fr. Tong and moving the hearts of many members of our parish community to roster themselves to keep 24-hour vigil over Fr. Tong, so that someone will be around as and when he needed assistance.

So even though Fr. Tong could not be with us in this celebration of Pentecost, yet in his hospital bed, he already bore witness to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit working marvelously in his healing and recovery.

And it is also a testimony of how the Holy Spirit moved people to pray and to offer their service to those in need.

What the Holy Spirit did for Fr. Tong and through Fr. Tong, the Holy Spirit will also do for us and work marvels through us.

We only need to heed what the letter to the Galatians tells us (Gal 5:16, 22, 25): Learn to live and move in the Spirit. Then there is no danger of your giving way to the impulses of corrupt nature. The Spirit yields a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness and purity. Since we live by the Spirit, let the Spirit be our rule of life.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

7th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 08.05.2016

Acts 7:55-60 / Apocalypse 22:12-14, 16-17, 20 / John 17:20-26

For whatever reason, the date Friday the 13th is being termed as unlucky in the mild sense and eerie in the extreme sense.

We may recall a horror movie series that has the title “Friday the 13th” that has plenty of blood and gore in it.

Although it may be seen as just some kind of superstition, some people are not taking any chances about it.

No one would consider getting married on a Friday the 13th.  It is estimated that businesses, especially airlines suffer from severe losses on Friday the 13th.

And even if the Friday is taken out of the term, the number 13 does not go well with people and places.

There is this fear of the number 13, so much so that many high-rise buildings, hotels and hospitals skip the 13th floor and many airports do not have gates numbered 13. And having 13 people at the dinner table is considered bad luck.

The day Friday and the number 13 may be deemed as superstition and it has several origins. And surprisingly one of the origins is linked with Christianity.

The speculation was that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th one to be seated at the Last Supper, and Jesus was killed on a Friday due to Judas and his evil doings.

Whatever we may think of Friday the 13th, it is impossible for a whole year to pass without a single Friday the 13th.

And for this year, Friday the 13th happens to fall in this month, the month of May.

Whatever the world may think or say about it, and whatever we may think or say about it, we need to remember what happened on May the 13th in the year 1917.

On that day in 1917, something astonishing happened in an obscure village in Portugal called Fatima.

There, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, appeared for the first time to 3 shepherd children; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, and she continued to make her appearances to them on the 13th of each month, with her last appearance on October the 13th.

Appearing to the children, the Blessed Virgin told them that She had been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child living in that time. 

Coming at a time when civilization was torn by WW I and bloody violence, Mary promised that Heaven would grant peace to the world if Her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed.

Our Lady of Fatima, as she is called, explained to the children that war is a punishment for sin and warned that God would further punish the world for its disobedience to His Will by means of war, hunger and the persecution of the Church, the Holy Father and the Catholic faithful.

Mary also prophesied that Russia would be God's chosen "instrument of chastisement," spreading the "errors" of atheism and materialism across the earth, starting wars, annihilating nations and persecuting the faithful everywhere.

Certainly it was a terrifying fire-and-brimstone kind of message. In a way, it forced the Church and the world to look up to heaven for the answer to the turmoil and distress the world was facing.

Today’s gospel opened with this line: Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and He said a long prayer to His Father.

He too was in turmoil and distress as suffering, pain and death was waiting for Him.

But even in His turmoil and distress, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and prayed for His disciples that they will be united as one so that the world will may believe that God sent Jesus to pour out His love on the world.

Yes, Jesus prayed for His disciples that they will be united as one in their own turmoil and distress so that they can show the world how much God loves the world.

To raise up the eyes to heaven in the midst of turmoil and distress is to be have faith in God and to keep on loving so that the world can be saved.

In the 1st reading, Stephen raised his eyes to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, even though he was facing mortal danger.

Yes, we are called to raise our eyes to heaven in the midst of the turmoil and distress of our lives and the turmoil and distress of the world.

The message of Our Lady of Fatima tells us to do that through prayer and penance. 

It has been almost a hundred years since Mary had appeared at Fatima. And how have we heeded her message and her call to prayer and penance?

In the turmoil and distress of our lives and as we see the world in turmoil and distress, will we raise our eyes to heaven in prayer and to pray as one?

This coming Friday, the 13th of May, is the 99th anniversary of the first appearance of Mary at Fatima. Her message then is still relevant now and maybe even more relevant for our time.

On that day, Friday the 13th, we will gather at Mary’s shrine and raise our eyes to heaven and pray the Rosary for peace in the world. It was at Fatima that Mary urged to children to pray the Rosary for peace in the world.

So we will gather to pray the Rosary for peace in the world, for peace and unity in the Church, and for peace and unity in our families.

For some, the combination of Friday and the number 13 may seem to be unlucky and fearful. But with Mary, we will raise our eyes to heaven and turn it into a day of joy and blessings.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 01.05.2015

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 / Apocalypse 21:10-14, 22-23 / John 14:23-29

It is said that Catholics like to collect statues. That is a bit of an understatement. We not only like to collect statues, we love to have statues.

Well, here in the sanctuary, we have the statues of Mother Mary and St. Joseph. Then at the entrance there is the life-size statue of the Sacred Heart. In the room just adjacent to the canteen, there are the statues of St. John the Baptist, St. Francis Xavier, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and a smaller statue of the Sacred Heart.

There are some more statues around the compound, and so there are enough of statues to give us a feeling that this is a holy place.

By and large the statues are standing upright, and that’s the way we are used to seeing them.

Today I like to show you a statue that is not standing upright. Not only is it not upright, it is lying down, sleeping actually.
Sleeping St Joseph

If we are wondering what statue is this, or which saint is this, this peculiar statue came into the so-called “limelight” when Pope Francis visited the Philippines in January 2015.

During a speech he said this: “I would like to tell you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church.  Yes, he can do it!  We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem.”

The statue that the Pope was talking about is the “Sleeping St. Joseph” and the statue that we are looking at is the “Sleeping St. Joseph”.

Besides what the Pope said about St. Joseph looking after the Church even in his sleep, St. Joseph is a man who listens to the Word of God that is spoken to him in his dreams. And he acts on it.

It was because God’s Word has made its home in him that he was able to provide a home for Jesus and Mary.

Although he had his troubles and fears, he found his peace in God and was able to protect and provide for Jesus and Mary.

So all that Jesus said in the gospel, about keeping His Word, about a peace that the world cannot give, about not letting our hearts be troubled or afraid, all that was actualized in the life of St. Joseph.

And today, the 1st May, we also honour St. Joseph under the title “St. Joseph the Worker” and he is the saint that we turn to today as we ask him to pray for us that we offer our work for the glory of God and also to help us in the difficulties we face at work. 

So even though this statue portrays St. Joseph as sleeping, yet in his sleep he is also working. He is praying for us, praying for the Church as he is also the protector of the Church and model of all who labour.

There is this story of how St. Joseph was sent to answer the prayers of a community of nuns.

In the town of Santa Fe in New Mexico, there stands the Loretto Chapel. Inside the Gothic structure is the staircase referred to as the miraculous, inexplicable, marvelous and is often called St. Joseph’s Staircase. 

The stairway confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20’ tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. 

Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails.

Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded that access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel. 

So the Sisters made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Six months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, the Sisters concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the Sisters' prayers.

The staircase is a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for that time (1878) and some of the design considerations still perplex experts even until today.

Of course, seeing is believing, but even without seeing the miraculous staircase, we can believe it. Because with prayer, nothing is impossible, and when St. Joseph rises from his sleep and gets to work, it will be for the glory of God.

Let us ask St. Joseph to pray for us, that like him, we will keep God’s Word and let God’s Word make its home in our hearts. 

In our troubles and anxieties, may Jesus grant us His peace, and it’s a peace which the world cannot give. 

May we also sleep in peace, and rise with strength to work for the glory of God.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

5th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 24.04.2016

Acts 14:21-27 / Apocalypse 21:1-5 / John 13:31-35

There are many phrases and sayings that have the word “tears” in it.

There are “moved to tears”, “burst into tears”, “blood, sweat and tears”, “reduced to tears”, “bored to tears”, and then there is this rather unique phrase “crocodile tears”.

The phrase derives from an ancient belief that crocodiles shed tears while consuming their prey. Strange, isn’t it?

“Crocodile tears” is used to mean a false, insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief. That is certainly not easy to do that.

It is said that tears are 1% water and 99% emotions, but crocodile tears can be said to be 1% water and 99% deception.

Although much has been said about crocodile tears, much more has also been said about tears that had dropped on the face of the earth.

And most of these are tears of grief and sadness, tears of pain and suffering, tears of disappointment and rejection. We may recall St. Monica’s 30 years of tears for her son St. Augustine before he was finally converted.

Yes, the human race has shed tears since the beginning of time and the tears have not stopped since then.

But it is not only human beings that shed tear?. Would we think that God also sheds tears?

In the gospels, we can remember two occasions that Jesus shed tears.

One was when Jesus shed tears over Jerusalem because it didn’t heed the call to repentance and hence it would fall into the hands of its enemies.

The other was when Jesus wept over the death of his good friend Lazarus.

Today’s gospel began with this line “When Judas had gone” and then it continued with Jesus giving a teaching to His disciples.

There was no mention of how Jesus felt but we may wonder if He was holding back His tears of disappointment and rejection.

He had washed the feet of Judas, He had offered him a piece of bread, which was a sign of love and friendship, He even tried to hint to Judas that He knew about his plans to betray him.

But it was futile and it was in vain. Judas was determined to do what he had planned to do and even Jesus could not stop him. 

Jesus had to let him go and do what he wanted to do. The pain and the hurt that Jesus felt would have probably made Him burst into tears, tears of disappointment and rejection.

Even before the spear pierced His heart, it was already broken by the betrayal of Judas.

But here is where Jesus turned His suffering into strength, and His tears into a teaching.

From the depths of His heart, Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.

This new commandment of Jesus to love one another will give us a new perspective to our own tears.

Pope Francis has this to say about tears – Sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.

Jesus could have shed tears not just over how Judas betrayed Him, but also how Peter denied Him and also how the other disciples deserted Him in His darkest moments.

But instead of shedding tears, Jesus went on to shed His blood so as to show how much He loved us and how much He wants us to love one another.

There is a story of a wise man who went to a party and while he was among the people, he cracked a joke and the people laughed like crazy. 

After a while he cracked the same joke again, and this time less people laughed. After a while, he cracked the same joke again, but this time no one laughed.

Then he smiled and said: If you can’t laugh over the same joke again and again, then why do you keep crying over the same thing again and again?

That brings us to the 1st reading to what Paul and Barnabas said to the disciples to encourage them to persevere in their faith: We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.

So there will be hardships in life and it will happen again and again. There will be pain and hurt, grief and sadness, disappointment and rejection.

There will be tears in our eyes. But those tears must also help us to see Jesus who by the shedding of His blood has poured love into our hearts so that we can keep on loving in spite of the tears.

Just as there is no rainbow without the rain, the heart would not have a rainbow if the eyes had no tears.

Yes, in life there will be tears, but tears are also the lenses we need to see how Jesus loved us even to the shedding of His blood.

So even if our eyes are filled with tears, may our hearts also be filled with love, and healed by love, may we share our rainbows of love with those whose eyes are filled with tears.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

4th Sunday of Easter, Year C, 17.04.2016

Acts 13:14, 43-52 / Apocalypse 7:9, 14-17 / John 10:27-30

In this week’s bulletin, there is something other than the usual announcements. 

There is a photo of the Major Seminary formators and the seminarians and also a chart that shows the number of priests in the various age groups.

This Sunday is also called “Vocation Sunday” so a little information about seminarians and priests might be interesting.

A story has it that one church decided to put a rather unique announcement in its bulletin and it is titled “Obituary” and it goes like this:

Our church was saddened to learn this week of the death of one of our most valued members, and he is Mr. Someone Else. 

Someone's passing creates a vacancy that will be difficult to fill. 

Mr. Else has been with us for many years and for all those years, Someone did far more than a normal person's share of the work. 

Whenever there was a job to do, a class to teach, or a meeting to attend, one name was on everyone's list, "Let Someone Else do it." 

Whenever leadership was mentioned, this wonderful person was looked to for inspiration as well as results; "Someone Else can work with that group." 

It was common knowledge that Someone Else was among the most liberal givers in our church. Whenever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed Someone Else would make up the difference. 

Someone Else was a wonderful person and everybody expected a lot of Someone Else. Now that Someone Else is gone, we wonder what we are going to do. 

Someone Else left a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it? Who is going to do the things Someone Else did? 

Mr. Someone Else will be fondly remembered and sadly missed. 

When help is needed we can't depend on Someone Else anymore. 

May Someone Else rest in peace.

Maybe that’s a novel way of highlighting an issue that is usually faced in church.

We come to church but we don’t want to get too involved. We tend to think that when there is something to be done, then there will be “someone else” to do it, but not us.

That’s why church ministries and organizations always have a membership issue. Because we think that someone else will join and do the work.

The same goes with the priesthood. There will be someone else who will join the Seminary and be a priest. But the reality can be seen in the chart in the bulletin.

But in the gospel, Jesus said, “The sheep that belong to Me listen to My voice. I know them and they follow Me.”

Jesus founded the Church and along with it the priesthood so that there will be a continual offering of the Mass in memory of Him.

Obviously it can’t be that Jesus won’t provide the Church with vocations to the priesthood.

So Jesus is calling those He has chosen, but are they hearing His voice? And are we helping those that Jesus has chosen to hear His voice?

Our parish, the Church of the Sacred Heart, was built in 1910. It is one of the oldest parishes in Singapore and also one of the smallest, in terms of size.

But size may not matter, because small does not mean we are invisible and insignificant. 

Since it was built, this parish has produced fruits for the priesthood. 

At least five priests were baptized in this parish, and out of those five, three were ordained here, and one of them became the bishop of Penang.

And there is a seminarian from this parish (Bro. Simon Ho) who is in his third year of formation, and with our prayers we will be able to see his ordination in five years’ time.

So Jesus is indeed calling, and His voice is being heard in this parish.

But another voice is being heard and it’s calling out for “someone else”, as in “let someone else be a priest, but not me”.

“Let someone else join the church ministry and church organization, but not me”. “Let someone else do the work, but not me”.

But as in that church bulletin about the obituary, that “someone else” is gone. There is no more “someone else”.

The voice of Jesus is calling out to us. If we don’t listen, then there will be no one else who will join the priesthood.

If we don’t listen to the voice of Jesus, then no one else will pray for vocations to the priesthood.

If we don’t listen to the voice of Jesus, then it will be time to write an obituary, and it will be an obituary about our church.

But when we listen to the voice of Jesus, then the parish will bear fruit – prayers will be answered, miracles will happen, nothing will be impossible, and there will be vocations to the priesthood, as well as to the religious life.

Jesus is calling; let us listen, and the rest will happen.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C, 10.04.2016

Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 / Apocalypse 5:11-14 / John 21:1-19

We might like to think that having lots of time and nothing to do can be quite an enjoyable thing.

After all, we have always been so busy with work, with children, and with so many other things in life that we hardly have time for ourselves.

So we dreamed about some time in the future when we are retired and the children are grown-up and then we will be free and have lots of time for ourselves.

We will dream of overnight mahjong sessions, go on a cruise, go for holidays, just enjoy life.

After all, we have worked hard in life and we want to have some enjoyment after that.

But for how long can we keep playing mahjong, or going for cruises, or going for holidays? How long can we go on with lots of time and nothing to do?

Because without a challenge and a direction in life, we will begin to lose the meaning of life.

In the gospel, we hear of Peter and the other disciples at the Sea of Tiberius, doing nothing.

Though it was after the resurrection of Jesus, and Jesus had already appeared to them twice, they were not very sure what to do or where to go. They had lots of time but they had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

So Peter suggested they go fishing, hoping that they can make some use of their time.

But it was strange that they caught nothing at all after working hard all night.

Maybe because there was nothing in their minds and in their hearts, even their work also resulted in nothing. Seems like even the fish also didn’t want to go near them.

Until Jesus called out to them. Then things began to change and change so quickly. All of a sudden, there was a miraculous catch of fish. And then one of the disciples realized that it was Jesus.  And when they came back to shore, there was a breakfast ready for them.

But most importantly, Jesus was with them and life began to look different. Life began to look exciting. But it was also going to be challenging.

And at times it may seem like what the disciples went through – going fishing all night but catching nothing.

Life, indeed, has many moments of frustration and disappointment. 

We feel like we wait for nothing and we work for nothing.

Our human inclination is to want life easy and smooth. So whether in church, or at home, or at work, we want it smooth and easy.

Whether in marriage, or in bringing up kids or taking care of aged parents, we want it smooth and easy.

And we can have it our way. So in church organization, if we are not happy, we leave.

If we are not happy at work, we resign. If we are not happy in our marriage, we divorce.

But do we want to choose our way or do we want to live life God’s way?

In the 1st reading, Peter bravely said that obedience to God comes before obedience to man.

Peter could have just obeyed those with power and authority and avoided trouble and saved his life.

But that would mean giving up for nothing and giving up to nothing.

There is a story about not giving up and it goes like this:

One day a man decided to quit. He gave up on his job, his relationship, his spirituality. He wanted to give up on his life. He went to the woods to have one last talk with God. 

"God", he asked, "Can you give me one good reason not to give up?"

His answer surprised the man. "Look around", He said. "Do you see the fern and the bamboo?" "Yes" the man replied.

"When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water.  The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. 

Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not give up on the bamboo.

In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not give up on the bamboo. 

In the third year there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not give up on it

In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. I would not give up.

Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. 

Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant. But just 6 months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.

It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle."

He asked me. "Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots". 

"I would not give up on the bamboo. I will never give up on you. 
Don't compare yourself to others. The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet, they both make the forest beautiful."

"Your time will come", God said to me. "You will rise high."
"How high should I rise?" the man asked. "How high will the bamboo rise?" God asked in return. "As high as it can?" the man answered. "Yes." God said, "Give Me glory by rising as high as you can."

The Lord will never give up on us and we too must not give up on ourselves, on others and on the challenges and difficulties we face.

Instead of telling the Lord how big the problem is, let us turn around and tell the problem how great the Lord is!

Yes, God is great, all the time. May we use all our time and all our days proclaiming that God is great, all the time.