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Saturday, October 15, 2016

29th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 16.10.2016

Exodus 17:8-13 / 2 Tim 3:14 – 4:2 / Luke 18:1-8

There is one thing that we all know how to do even though we were not taught how to do it.

In fact, we don’t even need to learn how to do it, because it comes instinctively. The thing that we are talking about is that we all know how to complain.

We not only know how to complain, we seem to enjoy doing it, and we also seem to enjoy doing nothing about it.

Anyway, if we are not doing anything to make it right, then why do we keep complaining about it being wrong.

Maybe that was what came into the mind of Moses when the Amalekites came and attacked Israel at Rephidim as we heard in the 1st reading.

Israel had just come out of slavery in Egypt and they were in no state whatsoever to fight with anyone, and there came the Amalekites intending to make minced meat out of them.

The Amalekites’ unrelenting brutality towards the Israelites began with an attack at Rephidim. This is recounted in Deuteronomy (25:17–19) with this admonition: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind (typically women and children): they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land He is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”

So instead of complaining about why God brought the Israelites out of Egypt only to be butchered by the enemy, Moses ordered Joshua to march out to engage the enemy, while he will stand on the hilltop with the staff of God in his hand.

So Moses kept his arms raised with the staff of God in his hands while Israel fought the Amalekites. But when he let his arms fall, Israel also began to lose the battle.

So he sat on a stone, with Aaron and Hur supporting his arms till sunset, and Israel defeated the Amakelites. 

So instead of complaining and succumbing to despair, Moses lifted up his hands to invoke the help of God, and when his arms grew tired, he had support from Aaron and Hur, till Israel prevailed over the enemy.

So the lesson that we can learn from this is: If we want to complain, then complain to the one who can help us. Moses raised up his hands to God to invoke His help.

The Responsorial Psalm begins with this: I lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall come my help? My help shall come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

In the Mass, the priest says this: Lift up your hearts; we respond with: We lift them up to the Lord.

Yes, we lift up our hearts with all our burdens and our complains, and the priest continues with: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, and we respond with: It is right and just.

When we lift up our eyes to heaven and lift up our hearts to the Lord, the Lord God will do what is right and just for us, so that when we overcome our burdens, then we will give thanks to God.

And instead of giving in to complain, which is futile, we will be a consolation for others so that they will know that God will bless them with enough.

And that is what the gospel parable is telling us – the need to pray continually and never lose heart, and that God will console us.

The widow seems to be complaining and pestering the judge who neither fears God nor respects man. But it was her persistence for what is right and just that prevailed over the unjust judge.

And Jesus taught us this – Will not God see justice done to His chosen ones who cry to Him day and night even when He delays to help them? I promise you, He will see justice done to them and done speedily.

Yes, that is what Jesus promised us, that God will see justice done and done speedily, so that instead of complaining which is futile, we will have the consolation from God.

The following story is a narration and the tag line is “I WISH YOU ENOUGH” and the narration goes like this: 

Recently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport as the daughter's departure had been announced. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said: "I love you and I wish you enough."

The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom." They kissed and the daughter left.

The mother walked over to the window where I sat. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry.

I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?" 

"Yes, I have," I replied. "Forgive me for asking but why is this a “forever” good-bye?"

"I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is her next trip back will be for my funeral," she said.

When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, "I wish you enough." May I ask what that means?" 

She began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from the generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled even more.

"When we said 'I wish you enough' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them". Then turning toward me, she shared the following, reciting it from memory.

"I wish you enough sunshine to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."

Her tears welled up in her eyes but she was able to smile as she walked away.

Indeed we will have enough of consolation from the Lord and may that stop us from complaining about life.

Instead, may the consolation we receive make us raise our eyes to heaven and lift our hearts to the Lord in thanksgiving.

And may we also share that consolation with others and may they also give thanks to God.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 09.10.2016

2 Kings 5:14-17 / 2 Tim 2:8-13 / Luke 17:11-19

Whenever we go for a holiday overseas, there is one thing that we would most likely do.

Of course besides taking many photos, we would most likely want to get a souvenir from that place.

So if we were to go to Paris, we would probably get a miniature figure of the Eiffel Tower.

Or if we were to go to New York in the US, we would probably get a miniature figure of the Statue of Liberty.

And if tourists were to get a souvenir from Singapore, what do we think it would be? Would it be a figure of a merlion? Which can be quite strange because unlike the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, the merlion does not exist in reality.

Yet, the merlion symbolizes a reality. The body symbolizes Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, meaning 'sea town' in Old Javanese. Its head represents Singapore's original name, Singapura, or 'lion city' in Malay.

Hence the merlion is a popular souvenir for tourist when they visit Singapore. Besides being a unique symbol of Singapore, it also looks like some mystical creature that has a story to tell.

It is also a meaningful gift to present to visitors from overseas. It would be a uniquely Singaporean souvenir.

In the 1st reading, we heard of Naaman, the commander of the army of Syria, who was cured of his leprosy when he immersed himself seven times in the river Jordan.

Certainly he was overjoyed and he returned to see Elisha to thank him and to present him a gift. But Elisha refused to accept the gift, which was presumably some material reward.

And then Naaman made a rather strange request. He asked Elisha for permission to be given as much earth as two mules may carry.
We may wonder, why earth (or soil)? Why not ask for the waters of the river Jordan, since he had immersed himself in it and was cured of his leprosy? 

One reason could be that the earth reminded him of his mortality. 

Naaman came to the land of Israel as a leper looking for a cure, and it was in the land of Israel that he found hope and was cured of the dreadful disease.

But more than that, as he stood before Elisha, he said this: Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in lsrael.

And he continued: I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.

So more than just wanting to get a souvenir from the land of Israel, which would become just a memory, Naaman wanted the earth from the land of Israel because it was there that he had an experience of the God of Israel.

For Naaman, the earth from the land of Israel would be a living reminder of the God of Israel whom he will worship from then on.

That would make us think about the pilgrimages that we have made to the Holy Land or to the holy sites like Lourdes and Fatima.

We may have brought back souvenirs like religious objects made of olive wood, or statues of Our Lady of Fatima or Lourdes water.

Are these objects just reminders of our trips to these places, or are they objects of experiences which continue to live in our lives and deepen our faith in God?

In the gospel, we heard of the ten lepers who came to Jesus and called out to Him to have pity on them.

Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they were on their way, they found themselves cleansed and cured of their leprosy.

Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. 

That made Jesus ask this disturbing question: Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?

The other nine, where were they? Maybe for those nine, now that they are cleansed and cured, they can go on with their lives. 

For them, Jesus was an encounter (and a souvenir) and it probably stopped there. Their lives can now go on without Jesus. 

And Jesus even had to make this comment: It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner (who was a Samaritan).

So to put it bluntly, Jesus expects us to give thanks and to be grateful. 

And we express that thanks and gratefulness by doing reparation and expiation for our sins and for the sins of others.

This coming Thursday is the 13th October. That date, 13th October, reminds us of the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917.

An account of that day went like this – the three children were surrounded by a crowd of 70,000 persons under a torrential rain. 
Lucy asked again of the Lady: "What do you want from me?" She answered: "I am the Lady of the Rosary, I desire here a chapel in my honor to be built, that people continue to recite the Rosary every day. The war is going to end (WW I), and the soldiers will soon return to their homes." Then Lucy asked: "May I ask you for cures and conversions, will you grant them?". The Lady answered: "Some yes, others no. It is necessary that they ask pardon for their sins, that they don't offend God our Lord, and that He is already too much offended."

This is just an excerpt from the accounts of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.

The gist of the message of the apparition of our Lady at Fatima is essentially to make reparation and to offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.

And for us who are in the parish that is dedicated to the Sacred Heart, the devotion to the Sacred Heart compels us to make reparation for our sins and to offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Many souls are lost because there is no one to pray for them.

By making reparation for our sins and offering sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, we express our gratitude to Jesus, and at Mass we give thanks to God for loving us and saving us.

Let us give thanks and be grateful so that like Naaman and the Samaritan, our faith will lead us and others to salvation.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

27th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 02.10.2016

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14 / Luke 17:5-10

The Bible is a collection of sacred books, 73 to be exact, 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

A section of these are called the “Prophetic Books” and they bear the names of the prophets of the Old Testament, like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

But some of those names of the prophets are so unique (or odd) that we won’t find them anywhere else except in the Bible.

For example, there is Obadiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, names that sound like characters from the Star Wars movie.

Today’s 1st reading is taken from a prophet that also has an exotic sounding name, and that is Habakkuk.

That is certainly not a common or a popular name to begin with. A check on the meaning and etymology of that name does not reveal much, other than it probably means “embrace”.

But that 1st reading from the prophet Habakkuk certainly resonates with us in our experiences of life and how we feel about prayer, especially when it comes to how we feel about God answering our prayer.

Habakkuk said this: How long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen; to cry “Oppression” in your ear and you will not save? 

He goes on with his lamentation about injustice and tyranny, outrage and violence, contention and discord.

We can feel that Habakkuk is complaining and lamenting, and that he is angry with God for not answering his prayer and doing nothing about the evil that was happening.

And then the Lord answered with this: Write the vision down, inscribe it on tablets to be easily read; eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive; if it comes slowly, wait, for come it will, without fail. See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights, but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.

God is saying that He will answer prayers, especially the cries of distress, and that He is faithful to His promises.

But on our part, we must believe that God listens to our prayers and trust that He will answer our prayers. And we also must keep our faith in Him.

In the gospel, the apostles said to Jesus: Increase our faith. Jesus replied: Were your faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea” and it would obey you.

Yes, if only our faith were the size of a mustard seed, which is among the smallest of seeds. We don’t need to see trees being uprooted and planted in the sea. 

We just need to know that God listens to our prayers and that He will send help from on high. We just need to keep faith and wait for the Lord.

But actually we need to wait no longer because God has already sent help from on high!

Today, the 2nd of October, if it is not a Sunday, the Church would celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels.

We should know that simple nursery rhyme prayer to our guardian angel – Angel of God my guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

It is a simple and yet powerful prayer to our guardian angel because the Church teaches us that from the moment of our existence in our mothers’ womb, God has already sent each of us an angel to guard us and guide us.

We only need to call upon our guardian angels because they are the help that God is sending from on high. The following story will show us this reality.

The famous Wailing Wall or Western Wall is a great architectural monument and one of the holiest sites of Judaism and Jerusalem. 

Every day, the Wailing Wall is visited by thousands of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, and they will compose a prayer and leave a note with their wishes inside the Wall’s cracks. For nearly 2000 years the Wailing Wall by the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been a great mystery.

The Western Wall is the surviving part of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. There are several legends about the Wall’s origin. 

The Temple was built to be the most beautiful and sturdiest building in the world. On the night before the construction began, an angel came to Solomon, instructing him to entrust the Temple’s construction to the people instead of hired workers. That way, the rich, the poor, the old and the young – everyone can make their contribution according to their ability.

King Solomon divided the Temple’s construction into four equal parts, to symbolize the four sides of the world. And he entrusted the construction of each side to a different social class: the Eastern side to the wealthy, the Northern side to the statesmen, the Southern side to clergymen, and the Western side to poor people.

The upper classes began working with great enthusiasm, hiring the best workers, while the poor did the difficult construction work with their own hands, together with their wives and children. The wealthy class finished their part of the Temple first, followed by the ministers and clergymen, and the poor were the last to finish building the Western Wall.

But a miracle happened when the construction was completed: the Spirit of God descended on the Temple and blessed the work of the poor: “The labour of the poor is dear to Me, and it shall have My blessing.”

Many years went by. The Temple was destroyed by enemies and only the Western Wall survived. Legend has it than an angel came down to it, wrapped his wings around it to protect it from destruction, and said, “The Western Wall was built by the poor, and destruction will not touch it…”.

Hundreds of years have passed, but the Western Wall is still indestructible. The poor were faithful to their duty, the Lord God blessed the work of their hands, and the Western Wall stands today as a witness of God’s protection.

Yes, God will protect the humble and lowly and He will answer their prayers when they cry out to Him.

When we use a humble and simple prayer like the Guardian Angel prayer, we are actually calling upon power from on high, and that power will come.

So let us have faith in the humble and simple prayer to our Guardian Angels. And let us also teach that prayer to our children. 
It is our duty to do so. 

And just as the angel wrapped his wings around the Western Wall to protect it from destruction, our guardian angel will wrap his wings around us to protect us and embrace us with God’s love.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 25.09.2016

Amos 6:1, 4-7 / 1 Tim 6:11-16 / Luke 16:19-31

For those of us who love art, or know something about art, then we would also know the names of famous artists.

So here are the names of some art pieces and let us see if we know who is the artist is. They are all by the same artist anyway.

So here it comes – Sunflowers; The starry night; Irises; The potato eaters. So, who is the artist?

Yes, it’s Vincent Van Gogh. His masterpieces range from US$50 – US$100 over million dollars.

For those of us who love art and can appreciate art, then we would certainly love to have one of the masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in a prominent place in our home. Yes, we would like to have a US$50 million masterpiece from Vincent Van Gogh in our home.

But would we like to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home?

If we know something about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, then we will probably understand why we might not want to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home.

Vincent Van Gogh lived from 1853 – 1890. In his lifetime, he produced 2000 artworks. But he had very little success as an artist. 

In fact, he only sold one painting “The Red Vineyard”, for less that US$2000 in today’s price.

Besides that, he was also temperamental, depressed and also difficult to get along with, and other things besides. Then at 37 years-old, he took his own life. It was only after his death that his works became famous and renowned.

So that is why we won’t mind having a multi-million-dollar painting by Vincent Van Gogh at home. But we certainly won’t want to have him in our home.

Similarly, we don’t mind having a Bible in our home. In fact, we should have the Bible, the Word of God, at home.

But, would we welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, into our home? We would say – Of course, we want to have Jesus in our home.

But Jesus does not come alone. Because He comes along with His close friends. And who are they? Well, they are the poor and helpless, the problematic and difficult people, the Vincent Van Goghs.

We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the close friends of Jesus. Because the Bible tells us that God is on the side of the poor and needy and helpless.

Indeed, God is closest to the poor and helpless, the weak and the lowly, the defenseless and the oppressed.

At least in today’s 1st reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the gospel tell us that. And we must see it!

Yes, God is for them. God cares about them. And God will console them. If not in this life, then it will be in the next.

God will console them and comfort them in His bosom and wipe away every tear from their eyes.

That was what happened in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

We can call that a reversal of fortunes, and the reversal is not temporal; it is eternal.

Although it is just a parable, it makes us see that the reversal is for real.

It was real enough for the rich man. In the flames of agony, he looked up and saw Lazarus and even knows his name.

While on earth, he certainly saw Lazarus, or at least he knew he was at the gate. But he just chose not to see, not to know, not to care.

But in the flames of agony, the rich man saw. Yes, he saw, but it was too late, and it was forever.

In Singapore, we don’t usually have beggars or destitudes or Lazaruses sitting at our doors.

Yet we cannot say that the poor and needy do not exist.

Just come every 1st Sunday morning at the old parish hall and we will see the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at work, distributing rations to the poor and needy.

And we will see for ourselves who are the poor and needy, the helpless and the rejected. So we can’t say that we didn’t see, or we don’t know.

Or maybe we saw, and we knew, and we feel that we can do nothing about the multitudes of poor and needy and helpless.

Granted that it is an immense challenge, but let’s talk about Mother Teresa and her favourite number.

Most probably, her favourite number is the number 1. And the following quote from her might tell us why it’s 1.

She said : “I don’t agree with the big ways of doing things. Love needs to start with the individual. To love a person you must make contact with that person. To love the poor you must make contact with the poor. 

When you do that, you cross the enormous divide between you and the poor, and it’s somebody you have actually touched.”

She continues by saying : “I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time.”

So most probably, Mother Teresa’s favourite number is 1. For her it is one person at a time.

So the Word of God in today’s readings makes us open our eyes.
God is not asking us how rich we are or how much we can give to the poor and needy.

Rather, God is asking us this : How much do we care? How much do we love? How much do we want to see?

And we don’t have to see far, see wide or see too much.

Let us look at the one who is at the gate.The one who is poor and needy. The one that we can help. 

And that one may not be outside the gate. That one may be within our gates.

But we may have become numbed and indifferent.

Let us listen to the voice of God prompting us to see, to care and to love the one who is poor and needy and helpless, the one who is difficult and problematic, the Vincent Van Goghs.

Yes, they are poor and needy, they may be difficult and problematic, but they are God’s close friends.

And it is they who will lead us into God’s bosom, forever.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 18.09.2016

Amos 8:4-7 / 1 Tim 2:1-8 / Luke 16:1-13

One of the health issues affecting Singapore now is the Zika virus, but the situation is closely monitored and kept under control.

The info that we have about the virus is this: Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. 

For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Symptoms of Zika are similar to other viruses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya.

So it seems that people may be infected with Zika and not know it. But there are those signs that a person may have a health problem, and if those signs are similar to the symptoms of Zika, then it would be good to go for a medical examination.

So we know what are the signs that indicate a person has a health problem. 

But do we know what are the signs that indicate that a church has a spiritual problem?

That could be rather difficult to answer and not that comfortable to address, especially when we see that the Sunday Masses have good attendance, there is a priest to celebrate Mass, people are singing (or at least they lip-sync). So what signs of a spiritual problem are we talking about?

There can be many signs of a spiritual problem or what is going wrong with a church. Some examples are these:

There is too much politicking in the church. Those who serve in ministries are snobbish and proud. Nothing changes for the better; in fact, things are deteriorating. The leadership has no vision or mission. The preaching is poor and uninspiring. The church is always asking for money.

If the above sounds familiar when we think about our parish, then our parish has a spiritual problem, and something is wrong.

In the gospel, Jesus gave just one indication of what is going wrong not just with a church, but it is also for an individual, for a group, for an organization, and even for a nation.

And that indication is what is often called “the root of all evil”. It is none other than the love or the obsession with money and worldly riches.

Jesus gave this teaching which is often not heeded: No servant can be the slave of two masters. He will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

Jesus goes on to say: The man who can be trusted with little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?

This teaching of Jesus reminds us that having money is not a sin. We use it for daily necessities and to get on in life.

But it is the love and obsession for money that will separate us from God and from loving Him alone.

Certainly, as a church, money is just that little thing that we can be trusted with and should be trusted with.

But as a church, Jesus has entrusted us with something much greater; in fact a genuine treasure.

Let’s go back to what are the signs that a church has a spiritual problem or that there is something wrong.

One of those signs is when we begin to settle for the natural rather than believe in the supernatural.

We begin to look for solutions to problems using human logic and rationale instead of looking into the Scriptures for directions and motivation.

And as we look at the 2nd reading, St. Paul tells Timothy this: My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving. 

And that is the genuine treasure that Jesus has entrusted us with – the power of prayer – prayer that is expressed in petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving, offered for everyone.

And as the Lord God said in the 1st reading: Never will I forget a single thing you have done.

By the same token, Jesus will also never forget a single prayer that is offered, especially to His Sacred Heart.

With the power of prayer, we will be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.

With the power of prayer, we will able to face our problems, as well as the problems in the church and the problems in the world.

The Zika virus will come and go, crises will come and go, money will come and go, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).

And He will not forget the petitions that we offered to Him, petitions that will be answered so that we will have a greater love and devotion to Him, and that we carry out the mission of salvation because He wants all to be saved.

So let us always lift up our hearts reverently in prayer. Jesus has entrusted us with this genuine treasure of the power of prayer. Let us be faithful to it.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 11.09.2016

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 / 1 Tim 1:12-17 / Luke 15:12-17

The date September 11th, or 911, brings back images of horror and terror. Images of passenger planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the subsequent collapse of the buildings. Images of the dead and the injured and the faces of shock.

That day, fifteen years ago, terrorism escalated to an international level with a subsequent war on terrorism, and the war still continues without any sight of an end.

The reign of terror has scourged the world since 911 and security in almost every country is put on high alert but terror has always reared its ugly head with heavy casualties and bloodshed.

In many ways, life has changed dramatically since that day 15 years ago and we seem to have forgotten what peace and security is.

And in a way, we may also have forgotten what happened a hundred and six years ago on September 11th, 1910.

On that day, the first Catholic church of the 20th century was built in Singapore, and it is none other than this church. Before that there were already six other churches.

So although it was not the first church to be built in Singapore, it was the first in the 20th century and it is a blessing for the Church in Singapore in its mission of proclaiming the Good News and being a sign of salvation.

It is a modest church, not as big as the ones built earlier or later, and it was said that after a novena to the Sacred Heart that Fr. Gazeau who built this church, secured the site for the building of this church.

And legend has it that because of the lack of funds and a mix-up in the drawings that the interior looks like the exterior, and the exterior looks like the interior.

Whatever it may be, whether it is a mix-up or a mistake, God made it a beauty and a mystery. So in the end the church still looks beautiful and is beautiful.

And that is the beautiful mystery of who God is. And we must not forget that. Because to forget that then we will forget how God is blessing us in every situation.

In the 1st reading, we heard about how the people of God forgot who God is and forgot how He had blessed them.

The Lord God said to Moses: Your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostasised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made for themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice.

So even though the people of God had witnessed for themselves the marvels and wonders that God worked for them in the land of Egypt and freed them from slavery, they were quick to forget all that and they don’t remember how much God had blessed them.

But at the pleading of Moses, God relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.

In the gospel, it was the Pharisees and the scribes who have forgotten who God is when they complained: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

They forgot how their ancestors had sinned gravely against God and yet God forgave them. 

On the other hand, it was the tax-collectors and sinners who seemed to remember the mercy of God as they seek the company of Jesus and to hear what He had to say.

Today we are gathered here in this church to hear what Jesus had to say.

Today, we remember that 106 years ago this day, the seventh church in Singapore was blessed and consecrated and the Church in Singapore rejoiced with the blessings of God.

Indeed, it was a day to remember and a day that needs to be remembered.

Because we must remember that Fr. Gazeau prayed and made a novena to the Sacred Heart and then he got the site to build the church.

We must remember that even though there may be a mix-up in the drawings and not enough money, the church in the end still looked beautiful and dignified. 

So we can see God’s blessings and God is still giving us His blessings.

Remembering what Fr. Gazeau did, our devotion to the Sacred Heart must be renewed and strengthened whenever we have a need and seek God’s blessings.

And today would certainly be a good day to offer up a petition to the Sacred Heart and ask for God’s blessings.

But more than just praying for our own needs, we must pray for our country and for our world.
Since September 11, 2001, we live in the anxiety and fear of growing terrorism and a terrorist attack.

But we must also remember much earlier in September 11, 1910, God poured forth His blessings on this church. 

As we gather to hear what Jesus had to say, we also remember how God has blessed us and we must continue to remember and ask for His blessings on us, on our church, on our country and on our world.

We pray that God will pour forth His mercy on those who commit evil so that they will turn from their evil ways and turn to God to receive His blessings of mercy and forgiveness.

We also must pray that we will not forget God’s blessings and continue to be a channel of God’s blessings for others.

So let us rejoice in God’s blessings and may the angels in heaven rejoice with us on this beautiful day.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 04.09.2016

Wisdom 9:13-18 / Philemon 9-10, 12-17 / Luke 14:25-33

We have been told that the earth is round and we believe it. Pictures from space show that the earth is round. From our earliest school days, we were taught about the solar system and about the planet Earth.

Those are facts and we believe it without further questions. 

But from our limited observation, the earth seems flat. As far as we can see, it is flat. When we go to the beach and look at the horizon, we see that it is flat. And even from the plane, the earth looks flat enough. 

Well, if the earth is really flat, then there would a solution for those people who give us problems. We just have to bring them to the edge of the world and then push them over! Problem solved!

But as it is, the problems of life are not so easily solved. Maybe that is why the earth is round. We push one problem away and it travels round the world and comes back again. 

So even though we know that the earth is round, we wish it was flat. If it was flat, then we just have to bring these problems to the ends of the world, or the edge of the world and push them off and they would disappear from the face of the earth.

So what we wish the world to be can be very different from what the reality is. And what we ourselves wish to be, can also be very different from the reality.

Just like once upon a time when people thought that the earth was flat and the sun rotated round the earth, we would also like to be the center and everything and everyone rotate around us.

And then when discoveries were made about the solar system and that it was actually the earth that rotated round the sun, people initially found it hard to believe.

It was until explorers sailed round the world and came back that people slowly began to accept that the earth was round and that it was the earth that rotated round the sun.

Just as it was difficult for people then to realize that the earth was round, neither would it be that easy for us to understand the mind of God.

As the 1st reading would tell us: What man indeed can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord? The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable.

In the gospel, Jesus used the examples of building a tower and a king marching out to war against another king of a larger army. 

The point is that on what resources are we relying on? If we relying on ourselves and our own abilities, then we are likely to fail and to fall.

That is why Jesus tells us that we cannot be His disciples unless we give up all our possessions.

In other words, we cannot be the centre and want everything to rotate around us. Only when Jesus is the centre, then will everything come together.

Today the Church celebrates the canonization of someone who is familiar to us, someone of our time.

Pope Francis will officiate the canonization of Mother Teresa at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. 

Sister Teresa began teaching history and geography in Calcutta at St. Mary’s, a high school for the daughters of the wealthy. She remained there for 15 years and enjoyed the work, but was distressed by the poverty she saw all around her.

In 1946 Sister Teresa traveled to Darjeeling for a retreat. It was on that journey that she realized what her true calling was: “I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”

It took two years of lobbying before Sister Teresa set aside her nun’s habit – adopting instead the simple sari and sandals worn by the women she would be living among, and moved to a small rented hut in the slums to begin her work.

She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. 

Mother Teresa experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during those early years. 

But when the call is from the Lord, then He will also provide the necessary graces to overcome the difficulties.

There are many stories about the life and work of Mother Teresa but this story shows that her work and mission was not about herself but rather for the Lord and for others.

One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, scolded her and spat at her face and refused. 

Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Thank you for what you have given for me. Will you now give something for my children?

The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted for the children.

Mother Teresa knew she was not the centre, nor can she can make everything and everyone rotate around her.

She let Jesus be the centre and when He called her for the mission she got things in motion with His help.

That is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. To give up the possession of wanting to be the centre. Only Jesus can be the centre; then everything will come together.