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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Corpus Christi Sunday, Year A, 18.06.17

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / John 6:51-58

Generally speaking, most of us, if not all of us, experience some kind of memory loss, aka forgetfulness.

Sometimes it can lead to embarrassing situations, but at times it can lead to difficult situations.

A typical situation is when the computer asked us to type in the password, and then to our horror, it says that our password is “incorrect”. We jump into panic mode, and the more anxiously we try to remember, the more unlikely we can get it correct.

Or if we were asked what we had for breakfast or dinner, would we be able to give a snap answer? Or would we roll our eyes upwards and think hard as we try to recall?

Come to think of it, if we forget what we put into our mouths, it says a lot about our awareness of what we are eating and that we may be taking food for granted.

There is this saying: we are what we eat. But if we can’t even remember what we have eaten, then how are we going to remember what we are going to be?

In the 1st reading, Moses recalled for the people their 40 years in the desert, and how the Lord made them feel hungry and fed them with manna.

He told them to “remember” and “do not forget”, which is rather odd. If there was nothing else to eat everyday but manna and manna and manna, then what is there to remember, or what is there to forget?

But the thing here to remember is that it was the Lord who fed them and they must not forget that more than just manna, they were fed by the Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord, the Word that gave them food in the form of manna.

Now in the gospel, Jesus gave a long discourse about what the real food is when He says: For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me and I live in him.

This Sunday the Church celebrates the great feast of “Corpus Christi”. We are reminded of what we are putting into our mouths as we come up for Holy Communion.

It is the Body of Christ that we are eating. And what we eat, we must become, meaning to say that if we truly believe that we are receiving Jesus, then we must become like Jesus. We must remember that; we should not forget that.

This Sunday is also a day to remember for 14 of our young children. Today they will receive the Body of Christ for the first time.

Yes it will be a day where many photos will be taken of them as they look smart and pretty. But they must remember this day as the day they first received Jesus into their hearts, and they must not forget to become and grow like Jesus every day.

Now young as they are, can they fully understand what they are receiving? Will they remember what this is all about? Or will they slowly forget and become indifferent to all this?

Some of us may remember the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He was a renowned TV evangelist in the 1950s. He was interviewed on national television and he was asked this: You have inspired millions of people all over the world. Who inspired you? Was it a pope?

He responded that it was not a pope, or a cardinal, or another bishop, or even a priest or nun, but rather a story of an eleven year old Chinese girl.

He explained that when the communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the church. After being locked up in his own house, the priest looked out the window and was horrified to see the communists enter the church. Once inside, they went into the sanctuary, broke open the tabernacle and in a hateful act of desecration, threw down the ciborium scattering the Sacred Hosts on the floor. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts had been in the ciborium: thirty-two.

When the communists left they either didn’t notice, or didn’t pay any attention to a little girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything. That night she returned, and slipping past the guard at the rectory, entered the Church where she made a holy hour in reparation for the desecration she witnessed of the Blessed Sacrament.

After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, and kneeling down, she bent over and received Jesus in the Holy Communion with her tongue since it was not permissible at the time for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.

Each night, the girl returned to the church to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue just as she did the first night. 

On the thirty- second night, after having consumed the last Host, she accidentally made a noise that awoke the guard who was asleep at his post by the priest’s residence. From his window, the priest could only watch in horror as the heartrending scene unfolded before his eyes. The girl tried to run away but the guard caught up with her and beat her with the butt of his rifle. It was a sad and tragic ending for that 11-year old girl.

When Archbishop Fulton Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day for the rest of his life. He also taught others to receive the Body of Christ reverently and to always remember that it is Jesus they are receiving.

As for that 11-year old girl, her story not only inspired Archbishop Fulton Sheen, her heroic act of going to the church every night at the risk of her life to adore and receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament serves as a powerful testimony that young children know what, or Who, they are receiving, and that should also make us remember when we come up for Holy Communion.

The feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that Jesus feeds us with His Body. As we look at the stained glass of the Sacred Heart, then we will also realize that Jesus is giving us His Heart, feeding us with His Heart, so that He can make our hearts like His.
Let us remember this; and may we not forget this.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trinity Sunday, Year A, 11.06.2017

Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9 / 2 Cor 13:11-13 / John 3:16-18

We are quite familiar with Christian symbols like the Cross, the Sacred Heart, the Alpha & Omega, the IHS monogram, the dove and the 7 tongues of fire, etc.

These symbols are uniquely Christian and, more or less, we know what it stands for and what it means.

But there are some symbols that are rather obscure and the meaning may not be immediately clear and it may need some explanation.

For example, St. Joseph, as we see in the stained glass, is holding a lily flower. We may wonder why would a man like St. Joseph hold a lily flower. Legend has it that the suitors of Mary were asked to leave their staffs in the Temple as God would give a sign as to who would be the husband of Mary.

As it turned out, the next day, a lily flower was growing on the staff of Joseph, and so he became the husband of Mary. Besides that the lily also symbolizes the character of St. Joseph who is virtuous and just, as well as purity.

Another symbol is the pelican, it is shown as vulning itself, or plucking its own flesh, to feed its young when no food is available.

Hence, the pelican is a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist. A point of interest is that on some bishops’ crozier, the top is shaped like a pelican with its head bend down to pluck its flesh to feed its young. It symbolizes the bishop’s duty to feed his people with spiritual food and to care for their souls.

Another rather obscure symbol is the shell. The story is that St. Augustine was trying to write the thesis about the Holy Trinity and he was stuck for words, and so he went out for a walk on the beach.
There, he saw a child running up and down, scooping water from the sea and pouring the water into a hole in the sand.

When St. Augustine asked the child what he was trying to do, the child replied: I am trying to pour all the water of the ocean into this hole in the sand.

St. Augustine laughed and said that it was impossible, to which the child answered: Neither can you try to put into mere words the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

And with that, the child disappeared, leaving behind the shell. So the shell has become a symbol of the mystery of faith, and the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Today the church celebrates Trinity Sunday. It’s a great mystery, and trying to define the Trinity is like trying to pour all the water of the ocean into a hole in the sand.

But certain symbols can help us meditate and reflect on the mystery of the Holy Trinity, like the triangle, the shamrock, the three forms of water, steam and ice which are substantially the same, etc.

But essentially, the mystery of the Holy Trinity revolves around the mystery of love between the three Persons in one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And that love is poured out to humanity, who is made in the image of God, so that we can love one another with the love of God who is Trinity.

As we heard Jesus said in the gospel: God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

There are three profound moments when the love of God entered into the world, and these are:
- At Bethlehem when God was with us
- At Calvary when God was for us
- At Pentecost when God is in us

These three profound moments symbolize how the love of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit entered into the world and poured out their love for the world.

So there are many symbols that point to God. At times they point to just one Person of the Trinity, and at times they point to the three Persons in one God.

But there is a symbol that is unique to our parish, and only to our parish, and it is this “Jesus Invites” envelops, that is prepared for the celebration of our parish feast day.

These are folded with love by the members of our parish, from as young as 3 years old to some who are 80 years old.

When we unfold or open up the envelope, it is just a piece of paper with some designs and some words which may not have much meaning.

But when we follow the tutorial to fold it, then it becomes a heart-shaped envelope, and a petition slip can be inserted into it.

And there are three movements here – the one who folded it; the one who distributed it; the one who receives it.

In a way it symbolizes the work of the Trinity - The Father who creates; the Son who saves; the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and brings us back to God.

So we can say that these “Jesus Invites” envelopes are symbols of God’s love and Jesus is inviting us to come and offer our prayers to God at the triduum and feast day, whether the prayer is for ourselves or for others. 

Jesus wants us to come and experience the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Jesus also wants us to bring someone along who might be in need of God’s love.

The symbol of that love is already given out. Let’s take it and share it with others. Let us respond to that love and let us help others to respond to God’s love.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year A, 04.06.2017

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

Today is Pentecost Sunday. And we usually associate Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Pentecost means the Holy Spirit. 

But to begin with, the meaning of the word “Pentecost” has almost nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fiftieth”.  It points to the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), which is held on the fiftieth day after the Passover.

The purpose of that feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest.

So as it is, going by the meaning of the word Pentecost, it is the “fiftieth day”. It does not say anything about the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest”, nor does it say anything about the Holy Spirit.

But in the 1st reading, we heard about how Pentecost, or the “fiftieth day” which was first associated with the Jewish “Feast of the Harvest”, became connected with the Holy Spirit.

When the Pentecost day came round, the apostles had all met in a room, when suddenly, they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. 

And that was how Pentecost (or the fiftieth day) became associated with the Holy Spirit. 

And from the readings, we can see how the Holy Spirit was manifested. The Holy Spirit came like a powerful wind from heaven, and then like tongues of fire, and then the gift of speech.

There is the variety of gifts but always the same Spirit. And the Risen Christ breathed on His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit.

All these are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but in all the readings, there is one common factor that indicated the presence of the Holy Spirit – words.

In the 1st reading, the disciples began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

The 2nd reading states that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

And in the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.

Words can be so common, and even so plentiful as some people can be so long-winded, but words can be so powerful in that the Holy Spirit is manifested through words. 

Which brings to mind the saying: Think before you speak. And if silence is golden, then speak only when your words are better than silence.

Yes, think before you speak. And as we think about it, the word THINK can be an acronym that reminds us of how the Holy Spirit wants us to use our words.

So before we speak, we should “T-H-I-N-K”.

T stands for “true”. Are we speaking what is true? The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Truth and when we speak what is true, then the Holy Spirit is present. But if we speak what is not true, then an unholy spirit is present, an unholy spirit that is up to no good.

The second letter “H” stands for helpful. What we say must be helpful and not harmful. Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Pro 12:18). The Holy Spirit is our Helper, so when we speak what is helpful, the Holy Spirit is truly present. 

The letter “I” stands for inspirational. And there is a big difference between inspirational and impressive. One uses simple words that can inspire, while the other uses bombastic words to impress. So which “I” do we want to be?

The letter “N” stands for necessary. Is what we are going to say necessary and needed? If it is not necessary and not needed, then, never mind – just don’t say it. 

And finally “K” stands for kind. Word should be kind and not used to kill. Kind words reflect the nature of a kind person. By our words, we will know what is inside of us.

So think before we speak – T-H-I-N-K. 

And just “think” is one word, so what we say must also be true, helpful, inspirational, necessary as well as needed, and kind. 

In other words, all that must be fulfilled in the words that we speak. One can’t do without the others. We can’t say what is true without being kind as well. We can’t say what is necessary and needed without being inspirational and helpful too.

So all conditions must be met, so that we will have to think before we speak.

When we speak what is true, what is helpful, what is inspirational, what is necessary and needed, and what is kind, then we will truly experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, and others will experience the Holy Spirit through our words.

And then we will also truly understand what Jesus means when He says “Peace be with you”.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

7th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

Acts 1:12-14 / 1 Peter 4:13-16 / John 17:1-11

Last Wednesday, there was a historical meeting between two Christian heads-of-state.

For such a meeting, we would expect the usual formal protocol and etiquette between political leaders like smiles and handshakes, and more so since both are also Christians.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump. But it was a meeting that was closely watched because both had voiced out criticism about each other even before they met.

Before his election to the presidency, Donald Trump had said that he planned to build a border wall between the US and Mexico.

But it happened that the Pope was returning from a trip to Mexico, and he said: A person who thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian. 

Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event: For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.

So with such a public tension in the background, the meeting between the two was closely watched and also photographed.

As we know, Pope Francis is quite photogenic. He is usually photographed as smiling and even laughing.

But one photo that has gone viral showed a glum-looking Pope standing next to a smiling Trump, and that was immediately compared to other earlier photos of a smiling Pope with other heads-of-state, including the former US President Barrack Obama.

Yes, it was a high profile meeting between the two leaders, one religious and the other political, both had a disagreement, and the world was watching, photographing and commenting.

Yes, people were watching, photographing and commenting. But was there anyone praying? 

Well, at least Pope Francis and Donald Trump would be praying in preparation for their first meeting. Both are Christians, and Christians should pray for anything and everything.

But at least there is another person who would have prayed for them. Because in the gospel, there was this line said by Jesus: I pray for them.

Just four words that tell us the priority and the importance of prayer. And if Jesus can say that He prays, then all the more, we as His disciples should pray and must pray.

And that priority and importance of prayer is truly understood by the early Church. In the 1st reading, we heard that the apostles were in the upper room and joined in continuous prayer with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus. 

The 1st reading made it a point to mention Mary, and it was the last mention of her in the Bible, and it portrays her as praying with the Church and for the Church.

And we can be sure that Mary also prayed for the Pope and the US President in their first meeting.

Indeed, the whole aspect of prayer is so important and fundamental in the life of a Christian. So it may be said that a Christian who does not pray cannot be considered a Christian, and a Christian who does not pray is also rather disgraceful.

A Christian, through prayer, is united with Jesus, and goes forth to tear down walls and build bridges.

This Sunday is also known as World Communication Sunday. The Church wants to emphasize that communication must lead to communion. 

Prayer is our communication with God. Prayer must also lead us to a communion with others.

As Christians, we are called to communicate the love of God to others, so that we will tear down walls and build bridges. And Jesus prays that we will do just that.

Which brings to mind how we use our electronic communication devices. Are we using it to tear down walls and build bridges? Or are we using it to build walls and burn bridges?

And here Pope Francis has shown us how to communicate in order to have communion. His meeting with Donald Trump ended off with a warm exchange of gifts.

The Pope had a theme with his gifts, and it was theme of peace.

He presented Trump with a medallion and he said: This is a medallion with an olive tree which is a symbol of peace. It has two branches, which were divided in the middle because of war. And the olive tree is slowly trying to bring them together for peace. It is my strongest desire that you can be an olive tree to make peace.
Donald Trump responded: Thank you, I will remember what you said.

It was a beautiful ending to the meeting between the two leaders. 
Jesus prayed for them. Mary and the saints also prayed for them.

May we also pray that in our communication with others, walls will be torn down and bridges will be built for peace and communion.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 21.05.2017

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / 1 Peter 3:15-18 / John 14:15-21

Do we know what is the hottest news in town? It’s on everyone’s lips anyway.

If we are still wondering about what is the hottest news in town, think no further. The hottest news in town is that it is hot, it is hot and it is hot! It’s on everyone’s lips right?

We don’t need to check the temperature to know that it is hot.

Have we heard of those “the weather is so hot” jokes? The weather is so hot that:
- The only milk available is evaporated milk
- The chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs
- Swimming pools have become protected areas 

But jokes aside, we wonder if the hot weather has anything to do with another phenomenon.

What has the warehouse opposite IMM, the Punggol construction site, Changi Airport Terminal 2, Shenton House, Paya Lebar Bakery, Katong I12, Woodlands flat and the taxi on Commonwealth Avenue, all have in common? 

They all caught fire!

So the warning is obvious. In this hot weather, don’t play with fire. It’s already hot enough, don’t make it hotter!

And of course in this heatwave, it would be wise to follow some good advice, like:
- Drink more water. (but that would only increase the price of water)
- Eat more fruits, but durians are excluded, for obvious reasons
- Wear light clothing, but that doesn’t mean wear less clothing. 

That’s pretty good advice for the hot weather. But advice is advice. 

Whether we want to follow it or not, that’s really up to us.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

In no uncertain terms, Jesus is also telling us that if we love Him, then we must keep His commandments.

Jesus is talking about commandments. It’s not about advice, not about options, not about suggestions.

Commandments are imperative. They have to be obeyed. It’s not negotiable, we cannot bargain with commandments, at least not with the commandments of Jesus.

And even if we are not that well versed with the Bible, we know what are the commandments of Jesus.

And that is to love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength. And to love our neighbour as ourselves. 

Together with that is also the new commandment, i.e., to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

The practical expressions of these commandments are as challenging as trying to keep cool in hot weather.

For example, we should forgive and even love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

We know we should not bear hatred or take revenge. We know we should not judge or condemn or slander others. 

We should not lie or cheat, we should not be devious or malicious.

We should be kind and compassionate and generous. We must pray and be faithful to God.

These are the commandments of Jesus and they are also the truths of life, and we know it. We should know it.

Yes, we know it, but do we really believe in it?

Because if we really believe in it, then regardless of what others think or say, we will live by the truths of life because in the final analysis, that’s how we show that we love Jesus.

There is this reflection called the “Final Analysis” which tells us how to live out the truths of life in this world.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; 
Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; 
Be honest and frank anyway. 

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous; 
Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; 
Do good anyway. 

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. 

So in the FINAL analysis, it is more than what we think about the truth. It is about what we do with the truth. It is about living out the truth. It is about showing how we love Jesus. It is about witnessing to Jesus.

Pope Paul VI said that modern man listens more to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are first and foremost witnesses.

So it’s not about telling others what to do in the hot weather. We must show how to keep cool in the heat.

Similarly, it is not about telling others how to be a Catholic, or criticize them when they don’t behave like one. 

We have to live out the truth, and live it out in love and the Spirit of truth that Jesus will send will help us to do it.

So that hot weather or cold weather, rain or shine, we will always love Jesus and that love must also flow out to others.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 14.05.2017

Acts 6:1-7 / 1 Peter 2:4-9 / John 14:1-12

We have heard of this term “monkey business”. Obviously it means that it is not anything serious. Rather it means doing something silly or stupid or foolish.

But that does not mean that monkeys are silly or stupid or foolish. 

Monkey business can be serious business. At least when it comes to one monkey at Segar Road in Bukit Panjang.

That monkey made some news two weeks ago. That monkey had terrorized residents by going into their homes to get food and bitten seven residents. Video footage of it showed that it can even crawl on the walls of high-rise HDB flats to get into the homes.

It had eluded capture many times, but two weeks ago, they managed to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart and it ended up in the net.

But the on-going debate is whether the monkey encroached on the humans’ space or is it that the humans encroached on the monkey’s space.

That’s because the HDB flats are just next to the natural reserve. 

The issue is that while some people think that the monkey has encroached into the humans’ space and did harm and damage, others think that it is the humans who have encroached into the monkey’s natural habitat.

So, essentially the issue is about the question of space. 

Whose space is being encroached upon? And it is not just between man and monkey.

Between nations and nations, between communities and communities, between groups and groups, between persons and persons, there will be tensions when space is being encroached upon, tensions arise when another’s space is intruded upon.

And that was the issue in the 1st reading. In the daily distributions, the Hellenist widows were being overlooked and so a complaint was made against the Hebrews.

In other words, one group got space but another group did not, although they were entitled to it. And hence the tension arose.

And seven men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom, had to be appointed to look into the matter.

More than just about the distribution of food, they had to ensure that each group had their own space and that it is respected, so that there can be peace and harmony in the community.

But the issue is more than just having our own space. It also deals with the question of our place in the community, our place in our society and our place in our country.

We want to have a place on earth so that we know what we are standing on and where we are standing on, what belongs to us and what is rightfully ours.

So when our place and our space is encroached upon or intruded upon, whether by man or by monkey, we will get defensive and protective over what is ours.

The problem comes in when we want to expand our space. 

Inevitably, we will encroach and intrude into other people’s space. 

And that’s when tensions and problems arise.

That’s nothing new actually. That’s how quarrels and fights and wars begin isn’t it?

And here, Jesus has something important to tell us in the gospel:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am now going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.

Jesus is telling us, He is promising us, that we will have a place in the other world, He had already prepared a place for us in heaven.
But in our desire for our personal space, we want to have a permanent place on earth, and we forget about our eternal place in heaven.

Yesterday, the 13th May, is the centennial of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. Yes, it has been a hundred years already, since the first apparition in 1917.

The message at Fatima is the call to prayer and penance for the conversion and salvation of the world.

Connected to that message is the reality of hell, and the three children were given a vision of hell and the souls that were lost to the devil.

Yes, the devil wants to tempt us to think that our space and our place in this world is all that we have. And hence we begin to focus on increasing our space and reinforcing our place.

And we do that by desiring to increase our wealth and whatever material gains.

And slowly we will forget about our eternal place in heaven that Jesus had promised and prepared for us.

So we need to heed the message at Fatima and the call to prayer and to go back to penance in order to resist the subtle temptations of the devil. 

Prayer and penance also helps us to let go of the things of earth and to focus on the things of above.

It has been a hundred years since Jesus called out to us through Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima.

Let us not take another hundred years to heed that message.

We don’t want to lose our place in eternity.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 07.05.2017

Acts 2:14, 36-41 / 1 Peter 2:20-25 / John 10:1-10

Around this time of the year, there is a spike in prayers. And then towards the end of the year, there will be an avalanche of prayers.

The reason for these two surges in prayers is because of exams! 

Yes, it is the exam fever time, a time when the brains of the students get heated up trying to remember the things that they were supposed to know.

And so it will be a time of fervent prayer: students will be praying; parents will be praying; grandparents will be praying; the whole clan will be praying. And of course the priests will be praying. Better still if we can leave all the praying to the priests right? It’s their job anyway.

A story goes that a student went to a priest to ask for prayers.
Student : Father, please pray for me to do well in my exams
Priest  : Yes I will. And if you do well in your exams, then what?
Student  : Then I will go the university
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will graduate and find a good job with a good pay
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will get married and have a family
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will work hard and have a lot of money
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will retire and enjoy life
Priest  : Then what?
Student : …

Then what huh? Somewhere along the way, there must come a time when we have to stop and ask ourselves “Where am I going?” and “What is the meaning of my life?”

But such questions can be difficult to answer. It can even be scary to think about such questions. Because it may mean changing directions or even changing our life altogether.

But such questions cannot be addressed by looking at the mirror and searching for answers there.

We may need to look beyond, and to listen to what God is saying to us before we can think about it and decide what to do about it.

We may need someone to tell us what life is all about and what directions we need to take.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd with a loud voice, and their message was this: 
The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.

It was a straight-cut message, with no frills, but the result was amazing.

Because upon hearing this, the people were cut to the heart, and they asked: What must we do?

More than just words, the people heard the voice of God and they were ready to do something about their lives.

Yes, the voice of God was heard in the voices of Peter and the Eleven as they addressed the people. God spoke to His people, and God still speaks to us through human instruments that He has chosen and appointed.

In the gospel, Jesus says that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd, one by one he calls his own sheep, the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He calls out to us. This 4th Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday and it is also called Vocation Sunday.

The word “vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare” which means “to call”. On this Sunday, the emphasis is on the call to the priesthood and also to the religious life.

But with the vocation crisis, with seminaries and convents and even churches in other countries closing down, we wonder if the Good Shepherd had stop calling out to men and women to dedicate their lives to serve Him in the Church? Could it be that Jesus had stopped calling?

Or is it that we have stopped talking about it and shied away from talking to the young about the priesthood and the religious life?

And if we ever talk about it, it may sometimes come out in the wrong ways. Imagine if a young man comes along and says “I think I want to become a priest”, and then someone retorts “If you can become a priest, then I can become the pope!” It may sound like a joke, but that young man would probably never mention anything about the priesthood again.

Or at times, in order to discipline our children, we will say this to them: You want to be naughty, I will bring you to church and you stay with Father and you become a priest!

So it gives the impression that the priesthood is not for good boys but for naughty boys!

But that is certainly not the voice of Good Shepherd calling out to His sheep to enter into His service.

We must encourage people to think about the calling to serve the Lord, instead of just talking to them about passing exams with good grades.

Yes, we want our young to know how to make a living but we also want them to know how to live a life. We want our children to have a spiritual life. 

Yes, we must pray for more good and matured people to answer the call of Jesus. 

And we must also  remember that intercession invokes intervention.

We pray, we intercede, and God will intervene, and He will intervene through us so that we can be His voice to call out to those He has chosen.

When Peter and the Eleven spoke, the people were cut to the heart.

So too we must speak about vocations, so that in those whom Jesus has chosen, their hearts will be cut and opened for the voice of Jesus to enter.

And may they respond to His voice, so that we will know that God still speaks to us.