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Saturday, November 7, 2015

32nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 08.11.2015

1 Kings 17:10-16 / Hebrews 9:24-28 / Mark 12:38-44

Just about a month back, the most talked about abbreviation is the PSI. PSI stands for Pollutant Standards Index, which is a number used to provide the public with an easily understandable indicator of how polluted the air is.

But now that the air has cleared, the PSI is no more a burning issue (literally).

But even when it was at a record high of 300+, some people can still make some humour out of it:

“Haze is so bad, when I ordered some raw sashimi, it turned into smoked salmon when it reached my table.”

“The Singapore Flyer was built to blow the haze away.” “Gardens by the Bay became Gardens by the haze!”

A chocolate maker had this slogan: "Haze driving you nuts? Have a Haze-lnut."

And when the PSI was indicating a serious problem, then the solution was the N95.

The N95 mask was like the most sought after commodity, and when demand exceeds supply, then the price hike kicks in.

So it seemed that for a health hazard like the haze which affects everybody, the question of protection lies in affordability – we get an N95 mask if we have the money for it.

And if we were living near the source of the haze where the PSI is in the range of 1000, would we ever think of giving the mask to someone who needs it? 

In the 1st reading, we heard about the prophet Elijah asking for food and water from a widow.

We must remember it was a time of famine, there was a severe food shortage because there was a severe drought for 7 years. So there was no rain, no crops and no food.

As for the widow, she was going to prepare the last meagre meal for herself and her son and after that there will be nothing left to eat. They will just wait to die of hunger.

Yet when Elijah asked for food, that widow, despite her desperately hopeless situation, shared the last of what she had to eat.

For her generosity in that kind of extreme situation, she was rewarded with the miracle of a jar of meal and a jar of oil that would allow her and her son to survive the famine.

Yes, miracles happen in extreme circumstances, but only when people are willing to make the sacrifice.

In the gospel, we heard of yet another widow who gave all she had to God - just two small coins, two small coins of the smallest denomination.

Jesus acknowledged her generosity, saying that from the little she had, she gave it all, even what she had to live on.

We do not know what happened to that poor widow as the gospel made no further mention of her.

But what do we think? Will God bless her for her generosity? Will God provide for her needs now that she has nothing left?

We might be thinking, that poor widow should have kept at least one coin for herself in order to buy some food, isn't it?

Whatever we might be thinking, the widow in the 1st reading and the poor widow in the gospel certainly gave us an example of radical generosity.

What the two widows gave was hardly anything of value in normal circumstances - just a bit of food and two small coins that hardly worth anything.

But what was given was desperately needed by the two widows. It was a sacrifice because they had to let go of it.

Very often, we who have much more, somehow believe very little in God's promise of providence. Because letting go is so hard to do.

There is a story that is simply titled "The Rope". It begins with a mountain climber who wanted to climb the highest mountain.

Since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone.

So he climbed and climbed, and even right into the night he climbed, even though he couldn't see much in that pitch darkness.

As he hastened his climb to the summit, he suddenly slipped and fell into thin air. Great fear seized him as his life flashed before him.

As he kept falling into certain death, suddenly he felt the rope that was tied to his waist pulled him very hard.

His body was hanging in the air with only the rope holding him, and in desperation he cried out "Help me, O God, help me!"

Suddenly in that pitch darkness, a deep voice came from the skies "How do you want me to help you?"

The man was surprised but he quickly answered "Save me, O God, save me!"

The voice said "Do you really believe that I can save you?"  The man answered, "Yes, yes, I believe, I believe!"

The voice said, "Then do as I tell you. Cut away the rope that is tied to your waist."

There was a moment of silence. The man decided to hold on to the rope with all his might.

The next day, the rescue team saw an intriguing sight. The climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope with his hands holding it tight. His body was only 10 feet from the ground.

Indeed, letting go is hard to do. But it is in letting go that we live and become alive.

Jesus had said that he who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who gives up his life for Jesus will save it.

The widow of Sidon in the 1st reading tells us this truth. We can also say the same of the widow in the gospel that God will provide for her.

And we can also say that God will provide for us. Yet like the two widows, we have to learn to let go.

We have to learn to let go of ourselves and give ourselves to others - our life, our love, our time, our energy.

Every little sacrifice is appreciated by Jesus, just like how He commended that poor widow on her offering.

When we surrender everything into God’s hand, then we will see God’s hand in everything.

No matter how hazy it is, we will see God’s hand in everything.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Saints Day, Year B, 01.11.2015

Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14 / 1 John 3:1-3 / Matthew 5:1-12
The Church of the Sacred Heart was built in 1910 and so it’s already 105 years old.

And when we look around at the interior as well as the exterior, we can say that it is solidly built.

To build a church like this in 1910 is certainly no easy task but the funds came in not just from generous donors but also from the humble widow’s mite. 

So everyone contributed, regardless of how big or how small the sum was.

So if building a church is no easy task, then how about building a university?

Back in 1953 when the idea was mooted by the Chinese community leaders in Singapore to build the then Nanyang University, there was no government funding.

But the plan to set up the university received overwhelming support from the Chinese community, with both the rich and the poor donating generously to the building fund. 

Contributions were received from the working class, and that included the taxi drivers, the hawkers, the trishaw pullers and … the cabaret dancers.

Who would expect this group of the working class to contribute to the building of Nanyang University.

It was surprising and also unexpected that the trishaw pullers and the cabaret dancers would do their bit for an institution that they would probably never benefit from.

But to this day, when the story of how Nanyang University was built is told, the big donors were acknowledged, but so were the working class of the taxi drivers, the hawkers, the trishaw pullers and the cabaret dancers.

It goes to show that when people see a higher objective and purpose, they will bring themselves to work towards it and to fulfill it.

Today the Church celebrates All Saints Day. We honour all the saints who form “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) for us and for the whole Church.

We acknowledge the countless men and women who are in heaven and who saw the higher objective and purpose of their lives when they were on earth.

Now that they have attained their eternal reward, they take on another objective and purpose but it is no more for themselves.

They want us to join them in heaven and they are praying for us as we journey on earth with all our challenges and difficulties.

Those saints are people just like us and they have gone through what we are going through – worries and anxieties, doubts and failures, desires and sinfulness.

So if we going through a difficult time with a wayward spouse and children who have fallen away from the faith and from the path of life, know that we are not alone.

St. Monica prayed continuously with tears for the conversion of her husband and then for her son St. Augustine.

Her prayers were answered and she will pray for us too that our prayers will be answered.

If we feel stressed at work and have a difficult boss, then let us turn to St. Joseph, patron saint of workers.

He knows how stressful it was to protect and provide for Mary and Jesus and yet he didn’t utter a word of complaint and he is a model for workers.

And when we find ourselves in a desperate situation, be it financial or emotional or spiritual, there is St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of desperate cases.

He knows how exasperating it was to share the same name as that apostle who betrayed Jesus. He was almost forgotten until people in desperate situation turned to him for his intercession, and he has never failed them.

And talking about forgotten saints, today is also a day that we remember our patron saints.

Most of us go by our baptism names which is usually a saint’s name.

It would be good to find out more about our patron saint because besides being a model of holiness for us, our patron saint is also praying for us.

So today as the Church celebrates All Saints Day, there is an outpouring of prayers from heaven for us.

The saints in heaven are asking God to grant us His blessings so that we can live our lives in the spirit of the Beatitudes that we heard in the gospel.

Beatitudes is not about attitudes. Beatitudes means blessings so that in gentle and merciful, in being pure of heart and poor in spirit, in being peacemakers and in doing what is right and just, we become a blessing for others.

The contribution of the saints is their prayers for us and for the Church.

Our lives of holiness will be our contribution to the world as we bring about God’s blessings to our world.

Life is difficult. People may abuse us and persecute us and speak all kinds of calumny against us.

But we are assured of the prayers of the saints and the blessings from God.

Let us rejoice and be glad, and look forward and upward to our reward in heaven.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 25.10.2015

Jeremiah 31:7-9 / Hebrews 5:1-6 / Mark 10:46-52

One of the peculiarities of the Catholic Church is this fervent devotion to saints.

Needless to say, the most popular of devotions is to Mary, the Queen of all Saints.

That is quite evident especially in the month of October, which is traditionally called the month of the Rosary, and the Rosary is a form of devotion to Mary.

Following that the many other devotions to saints would look like some kind of international buffet spread.

And there are also patron saints for all kinds of needs and situations and vocations in life.

St. John Vianney is the patron saint for confessors and priests.

For a safe journey, there is St Rafael the Archangel to turn to. For throat ailments we can turn to St. Blaise (3rd February). 

We invoke the intercession of St. Anthony of Padua for lost articles (keys, passport, mobile phone, etc.) 

But if ever that all else fails, then there is one more option to invoke, and that is St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of desperate situations.

The feast day of St. Jude Thaddeus, who was one of the 12 Apostles, is on the 28th October.

St. Jude is a popular saint; sometimes he is called the patron saint of hopeless cases.

Maybe “hopeless” is not quite the correct word to use here.

But certainly the word “desperate” is something we are familiar with and that we can identify with.

In the Catholic Church, St. Jude is venerated as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.

St. Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter (Letter of Jude) stressed that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh and difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them.

So it is a very encouraging and consoling letter.

That is just one of the reasons why St. Jude is invoked as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.

But in the past, many Catholics have mistakenly confused St. Jude with Judas Iscariot because their names sound similar in Latin as well as in other languages.

As a result, the faithful avoided venerating him or invoking him for prayers.

Therefore, St. Jude Thaddeus is also called the “Forgotten Saint”.

But because veneration of St. Jude was minimal, hence only people in the most dire of circumstances would call upon him, those that are termed as a “lost cause”.

And surprisingly, when those in a really desperate situation or a lost cause turned to St. Jude, their petitions were answered.

Hence, the veneration of the “Forgotten Saint” was revived, and St. Jude has become one of the more “popular” saints.

In the gospel, the blind man Bartimaeus (or son of Timaeus) was a desperate case as well as a lost cause.

Regardless of whether he was born blind or afflicted with blindness, his blindness was a lost cause – there can be no cure.

Besides his blindness, he also had quite a desperate situation.

He was “forgotten”. He was only known as Bartimaeus, or son of Timaeus. People had forgotten his name!

His blindness had enveloped him in darkness, and his “forgotten” status pushed him into desperate loneliness.

So here is a classic desperate case and a lost cause – a blind beggar, with a forgotten name, only known as the son of Timaeus.

But when he, whose name was forgotten by people, heard that Jesus was passing by, he cried out to Him by an ancient and royal name: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!

It was an acclamation – Jesus, Son of David, and followed by a lamentation – Have pity on me!

And for that, he got scolded by the crowd and told to shut up.

Because people like to hear acclamations, but they frown upon lamentations. People get disturbed by the cries of lamentation.

It seems that the afflicted are to suffer in silence.

To cry out aloud in lamentation is rude, it is not proper and it disturbs the peace. And it doesn’t sound religious.

But that is not what the Bible teaches. In fact, in the Bible, there is a book called the Book of Lamentations.

In other words, the Bible teaches that the religious response to suffering is not to suppress it or hide it or to keep quiet about it.

Because remaining silent and hiding it is as good as making suffering a hopeless case, and that there is no possibility of change, because God doesn’t care at all.

But that is not true! Because when that son of Timaeus called out to the Son of David, something happened. Yes, Jesus stopped and called for him.

Yes, God listens to the lamentations of His people, the cries of suffering, the groans of anguish and distress, the screams of pain.

Lamentations express the hope that God will listen and that things will change.

Certainly God does not forget those who are suffering and who cry out to Him.

God will stop and listen, just as Jesus stopped and called for the son of Timaeus, that blind beggar whose name was forgotten by people.

Well, St. Jude Thaddeus knows what it feels like to be forgotten. 

And as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes, St. Jude reminds us that those who are suffering in pain and anguish must not be forgotten.

St. Jude will gather the prayers of those who are suffering and present them to Jesus.

And what better day to pray to St. Jude Thaddeus than on his feast day, the 28th October.

Better still to come for Mass on that day and spend some time in thanksgiving, and to ask St. Jude to pray for us.

We have our desperate situations and high anxieties, especially as our children are having their exams, and not only they are stressed out, we are also stressed out.

Or, we may also know of persons whom we think are “hopeless cases” – they are addicted to gambling, drinking or in some kind of sinful attachment.

Let us remember that with God, there is no such a thing as a hopeless case. 
But of course, without God, then everything is hopeless.
Let us ask St. Jude to pray for us. We will face desperate situations, but there is hope that things will change.
Because God won’t leave us desperate and hopeless. 
God will not forget us. Because our names are carved in the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16)

P.S – When we are going through something hard and wonder where God is, let us remember that the teacher is always quiet during a test.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mission Sunday, Year B, 18.10.2015

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Ephesians 3:2-12 / Mark 16:15-20

According to the official Catholic Church Directory (2013) of the Archdiocese of Singapore, there are 31 parishes.

The highest parish population is 10,000. The lowest is 600. Can you make a guess which is the parish with the lowest population?

Yes, we the parish of the Sacred Heart has the lowest population of 600, and the parish with the highest population of 10,000 is the parish of Holy Trinity.

In other words, the parish population of Holy Trinity is more than 15 times the parish population of Sacred Heart.

Yet, both parishes have the same number of Masses for the weekend, i.e. 6 Masses – 1 Chinese Mass and 5 English Masses.

But if based on the parish population of 600, then we would only need to have two or, at most, three Masses on a Sunday. And yet we have five Masses on a Sunday. And all the five English Masses are full and sometimes even packed.

Maybe the population of 600 is based on the residents staying within the parish boundaries.

The parish territory is like the shape of peninsula Malaysia. It begins from the junction of Bukit Timah Road and Stevens Road, going down to Scotts Road and Orchard Road and right down to Outram Road.

If we can picture it in our minds, our parish territory is a happening place.

Just mention Orchard Road and that’s where the shopping and entertainment is, the restaurants and the hotels are there, and the posh and pricy residences are there.

And then somewhere among all these glittery places is the Church of the Sacred Heart. 

So it can be said that we are the church in Orchard Road. But do we know that? Do the shopping malls, restaurants and hotels in Orchard Road know that? 

Maybe the Mt. Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard Road knows that because they will call the parish when the patients there need some pastoral care.

Other than that, the church of the Sacred Heart seems to be tucked away in a quiet corner of a happening area.

In the gospel, Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven and commissioned them to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.

So the mission for the Eleven is to go out and proclaim the Good News.

And what Jesus told the Eleven, He is also telling us to do likewise.

So now, go out to where? Maybe to go to that happening area called Orchard Road. Well, that would not be too difficult, would it?

But to proclaim the Good News in Orchard Road? How are we going to do that?

There is a story of a male nurse working in a hospital. Because of his shift work, he doesn’t have time to be involved in church activities, other than just coming for Mass.

He heard that the mission of all Christians is to proclaim the Good News and he wondered how he could do it.

Then he came across the idea of getting prayer cards and giving them to the patients that he is taking care of in the hospital where he worked.

So he got some prayer cards and if the patient consented he would leave a prayer card on the side drawer of the patient’s bed.

One day while going about his duties, a patient stopped him and thanked him for the prayer card. The patient said no one ever asked if he needed prayer or talked to him about religion until that male nurse gave him the prayer card. 

It was just a small gesture of giving a patient a prayer card but in doing so the male nurse had done his part in proclaiming the Good News.

So taking a point from there, this weekend as the Church celebrates Mission Sunday, we have placed this prayer card at the entrances of the parish. 

On one side is the picture of Jesus and the other side is a prayer to the Sacred Heart.

Take a few prayer cards and give it to whoever we think needs a prayer and pray it with them too.

And if we are going to Orchard Road then give it to whoever we meet and tell them that there is a church in Orchard Road.

Orchard Road may be a happening place but with all its ritz and glitz, it may also be like a desert and this church would be the oasis for a place of rest and quiet and prayer.

As the 1st reading puts it, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that He may teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths”.

The church is open daily from 6am to about 7.30pm, and if people were to come to the church in the later part of the evening when the church is locked, they can pray at the statue of the Good Shepherd.

And in time to come, we will also erect a shrine of Our Lady where people can spend a quiet moment in prayer. (The details of the shrine is in the bulletin)

Yes, we just have to go out there and proclaim the Good News and the Lord will work with us.

Our parish is small and lowly, but the Almighty will do great things with us. We just have to go out and proclaim.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 11.10.2015

Wisdom 7:7-11 / Hebrews 4:12-13 / Mark 10:17-30

By and large, we human beings are quite predictable creatures and that is because we are creatures of habit.

From what we do, to what we say, to how we think, we can be habitually predictable and predictably habitual.

Which can be a good thing because that will put some stability and regularity into our lives.

Being creatures of habit, we will form a routine in our lives that is familiar and comfortable for ourselves.

So we will wake up at a particular time, and get up on a particular side of the bed; we will have a particular pattern of washing up and a particular way of having breakfast and a particular way of starting the day.

Not only are we creatures of habit when it comes to routine, we are also creatures of habit when it comes to sinning!

We have heard of people saying: I always commit the same sins! (At least I have heard of that before)

Well, if you always commit the same sins, then it may mean that you are a habitual sinner.

Anyway if you commit new sins every day, then you would need serious spiritual help. 

Whether it is sin or other things, we have this habit of attachment.

Yes, we are attached to our habits because we have this habit of attachment.

We are attached to what is familiar. That’s why changing jobs can be a chaotic experience.

Just overnight and our working environment is so new to us and we have to start from scratch to prove our worth.

Shifting to a new house can be equally chaotic and even traumatic for the older people.

You lose your things, you lose your way, and if you don’t settle down quickly, you may even lose your mind.

Yes, we are all creatures of habit and our main habit is the habit of attachment.

We attach ourselves to what is familiar, to what is comfortable, to what is stable and secure.

To move out of these so-called “comfort zones” is to enter into a possible “danger” zone, where things can be chaotic and even traumatic.

In the gospel, we heard of a rich young man who was pretty comfortable in life.

He was also religiously habitual, as he faithfully kept the commandments, which he had kept from his earliest days.

So why did he want to go to Jesus and even knelt before Him and say, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

That rich young man was pretty comfortable and secure, materially as well as religiously.

He was already having a good life here on earth. But he also wanted to do something to secure eternal life. And he was sincere about it.

And that’s why Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him.

That rich young man was a sincere seeker and he was humble enough to kneel before Jesus and ask what he should do to inherit eternal life.

Yet, when Jesus told him what to do, his face fell.

And the reason was that, as much as the rich young man was willing to do more, yet he couldn't do with less.

And with that, he went away sad. And we will not hear of him again in the gospel.

The rich young man had a habit – a habit of attachment. He was attached to his possessions, and in a sense, he was possessed by his attachment.

His habit is undeniably also our habit. We are attached to our possessions, and we become possessed by our attachments.

We may not possess great wealth, but it may be our health, our achievements, our promotions, our reputation, our enjoyment.

Yet, the wisdom of life tells us that life is a journey of progressive poverty.

We will, slowly but surely, lose our youth, our health, our memory, our eyesight, our hearing, and in the end we will lose everything. 

And then we will go back to where we came from.

A mother brought her young son shopping. They passed by a bakery. The aroma of freshly baked pastries wafted through the air. 

The boy stopped in his tracks, with his eyes fixed on the window display. His gaze was on a delicious-looking piece of chocolate cake. He drooled over the tempting cake.

Knowing the son’s interest, the doting mother bought the cake for her son. Her son was elated, his face beamed with delight and he squealed in joy.

The cashier put the cake in a box and handed it to the little boy. 

The boy could not wait to have his cake and immediately set to open it. 

As it was lunchtime, the mother did not want the boy to eat his cake then. So she took the cake away from the boy and said, “You can eat this later in the afternoon, ok?”

The boy reacted with a tantrum and loud wailing. He squat on the pavement outside the shop, his face was red and tears rolled down his cheeks, he screamed, “Mummy bad, bad mummy!”

Passersby stopped and stared at the boy and his mother. They wondered what had happened. The mother felt awkward and embarrassed.

Before the mother bought the boy the cake, he didn’t have anything. Now that the mother had taken the cake away, he is simply restored to his original state. He didn’t lose anything. There is nothing sad about that. 

Looking at ourselves, aren’t we all like that boy?  We want our spouses to do things for us. We want to watch a certain TV programme. We want to have a certain phone, buy a certain car, own certain brands, go to certain restaurants, and taste certain food.

But, we didn’t have all these to begin with. And then when we have them, we feel like we can’t live without them. We have been “kidnapped” by these things.

Like what Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher said, “What we possess will in turn also possess us.”

A man was fishing by the river. He had been fishing for a few hours under the hot sun and had a few beers. Soon, he dozed off. 

Suddenly, there was a strong tug at the end of his fishing line. A big fish had taken a bite and was hooked to his line. The sudden tug woke the man and in his confusion, he lost his balance and fell into the water. The man struggled in the water, with his rod in his hand and the fish still hooked to his line. 

A boy who was strolling by the river with his father, was bewildered by the strange sight of the man and the fish both struggling in the water. He turned to his father and asked, “Daddy, is the man catching the fish or is the fish catching him?”

So similarly, are we catching the fish or is the fish catching us?

When we want something and because we don’t possess it and we become unhappy, then this thing itself has already possessed us and brought us unhappiness. 

In fact, what we need, we already have it. And we should be thankful for that.

Jesus is looking steadily at us and loving us. That is all we need – for Jesus to look at us and love us.

Let us look at Jesus and love Him now. Because in eternity, we will be looking only at Jesus and loving Him. That is true happiness. And that is all we need.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

27th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 04.10.2015

Genesis 2:18-24 / Hebrews 2:9-11 / Mark 10:2-16

The month of October reminds us of many things. It reminds us that it is the last quarter of the year and like the toilet roll, the closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

Before we know it, the school term will come to an end, it will be a time to go for holidays, Christmas will be soon and we will wonder what kind of bonus we are going to get.

But before we move on too fast, the Church wants us to pause and holds out the Rosary before us. Yes, for the Church, the month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. And why is it so?

It began at a place called Lepanto on the coast of western Greece.

A great naval battle took place there on the 7th October 1571. A hastily gathered coalition Christian fleet from European Catholic states set sail to face the mighty main fleet of the Ottoman Empire which was sailing in from the east.

The Christian fleet was greatly outnumbered by the Ottoman armada. The Pope at that time, Pope Pius V, called on the Church to be united in a Rosary crusade to help the Christian soldiers in that battle.

Because defeat for the Christian fleet would mean that Christian Europe would be overrun by the Ottomans and that would mean the end of Christianity in Europe.

Furthermore, the unity of the Catholic Church was severely weakened by the Protestant Reformation which began in 1517.

So by 1571, the Pope could only call upon a handful of loyal Catholic states to unite and fight the invading Ottomans. 

Also, the Ottomans took advantage of a disunited and weakened Christian Europe to launch an attack and were confident of a victory.

So the two forces clashed at the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea. 

And after 5 hours of intense fighting, the Ottomans were decisively defeated, and the Ottoman advance was halted and the Mediterranean Sea was freed of Ottoman occupation.

But before the Christian fleet set sail, all the soldiers were given rosaries and it was said that the Christian soldiers fought with swords in one hand and rosaries in the other.

The victory was credited to the Virgin Mary’s intercession, and even Pope Pius V, who was hundreds of miles away from the battle scene, had a foreknowledge of the victory when he gave thanks for victory even before the battle ended.

Though the victory was termed “miraculous” yet it does not mean that no lives were lost or that no blood was shed.

About 7500 Christian soldiers died, and on the Ottoman side there were about 20,000 dead, or wounded or captured.

The Christian fleet lost 17 ships, but the Ottomans lost 50 ships, and 137 ships were captured and about 10,000 Christian slaves rowing the Ottoman ships were freed.

Certainly a major defeat for the Ottoman Empire from which they never recovered and it was indeed a miraculous and religious victory for the Church.

The intercession of Mary was reinforced in the faith of the Church and the Rosary earned its reputation as a powerful form of prayer.

But the Rosary is not just a simple prayer prayed by soldiers and sailors in a war zone.

It is simple enough for children to pray it and they must be taught how to pray it. 

They may not know what the repetitive prayers of the Rosary means, but Psalm 8 tells us that on the lips of children and of little ones, God has found praise to foil the enemy and to silence the foe and the rebel.

It’s just like how we say “Amen” at the end of the prayers at Mass. 

We may not even remember what was prayed but our collective “Amen” means that the prayers will be presented to the Lord.

Similarly the prayers of the Rosary said by children has the ability to call upon the power of God in times of distress.

But children won’t know how to pray the Rosary if we the parents and adults don’t teach them how to pray.

Donoso Cortes used to say : "Our world today is in a poor state because there are more battles than there are prayers".

And many of the battles are fought, of all places, in the home.

As in a war, there are no unwounded soldiers. In other words, in every war, there will be casualties.

And just as in a war, so it is in a divorce – there will be casualties. 

And the first casualty in a divorce is love – God’s love.

And following that will be the next casualty – the children. 

The end of world would not be caused by a nuclear holocaust. The end of the world would come about when there are no more prayers and when children don’t know how to pray anymore.

The month of the Rosary reminds us that it is our duty to teach our children how to pray the Rosary and to pray it with them.

Some people may say that the Rosary is monotonous repetition of prayers. Père de Foucauld used to say: "Love is expressed in a few words, always the same, repeated time and time again "

But it is precisely out of these monotonous repetition of prayers from the lips of children and of little ones, God has found praise to foil the enemy and to silence the foe and the rebel.

And out of the lips of children and of little ones, God will put an end to wars in the world and the battles at home.

A Rosary a day will keep the war away.

So let us pray the Rosary and pray it with our children every day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 27.09.2015

Numbers 11:25-29 / James 5:1-6 / Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

We cannot deny and in fact we are aware of the tension between Catholics and Christians.

Even though we believe in the same Jesus Christ and in the same God, yet very often Catholics and Christians are like enemies.

We may have relatives or friends or colleagues who are Christians.

Whenever we meet them, we will try our best to avoid talking about religion. We would rather talk about the haze. 

But very often, it is the Christians who ask us about the practices of the Catholic Church.

Of course there are times when some of the Christians just want to criticize us Catholics.

They accuse us of praying to statues and worshipping Mary and they irritate us by quoting the Bible so much.

Not only their Bible knowledge is better than us, but for some of their questions, we don’t even seem to know the answers.

They ask questions like “why go for confession to a priest when we can confess our sins directly to God?” or “why pray to saints?” or “why pray for the dead?”

Of course if we don’t know the answers to their questions then we have to find out or read up or discuss with our fellow Catholics.

Nonetheless, the golden principle is to never criticize other religions, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism or Hinduism or Islam or Judaism.

Because the Catholic Church teaches that these other religions also have the seeds of truth because they teach people to live good and moral lives.

But the Catholic Church also teaches that we have the fullness of truth in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus Christ teaches us the fundamental truth in the respect for other religions.

He told his disciple John not to stop someone from casting out devils in His name.

Because someone who works a miracle or a good deed in His name is not likely to speak evil of Him.

Because of this teaching, hence we must refrain from criticizing other religions, because they also exhibit rays of truth that teaches mankind to be good.

Even if they are the ones who criticize us, we must not do the same.

That is because Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and for those who treat us badly.

The teaching of Jesus is that we don’t pay back evil for evil. Rather we pay back with a blessing.

When we follow these simple but truthful teachings of our faith, people will indeed see the truth of our religion.

Nonetheless, we also cannot deny that some of the criticisms against us may be valid and have a point.

We should pay attention when people say things like “can Catholics do this kind of thing?” or “how can Catholics be like that?”

Especially when our neighbours and friends and colleagues know that we are Catholics.

It would be a real shame to hang a crucifix or a holy picture at the main door of our house, and yet at home we quarrel and yell and scream at each other as if we are doing some kind of exorcism and fighting with the devil.

There is a joke that goes like this: In the first year of marriage, the husband talks and the wife listens.

In the second year of marriage, the wife talks and the husband listens.

In the third year of marriage, the husband and wife talk and the neighbours listen.

Yes, the bad examples of Catholics always undermine the faith and give the Church a bad name.

Jesus said in the gospel that anyone who is an obstacle or a bad example to the faith would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck. That is a serious warning.

So today, Jesus is calling us to reflect and examine our lives and especially our actions.

His stern teaching is this - to cut off immediately whatever wrong we are doing, lest we give a bad example to others.

When we Catholics do something wrong or something bad, people not only wonder what kind of faith we have, but they also wonder what kind of God we believe in.

So whenever we hear of criticisms against us, let us not react by getting defensive.

Let us see if there is truth in the criticism, however ugly or painful it may be.

They may even reveal to us whether we are for God, or are we against God.

May we be good and faithful Catholics, so that others can see that we believe in a God of love.

And with the love of God, let us be prepared to give a reason for what we believe in and work for what will bring people to God rather than do something wrong and turn people away from God.