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Saturday, July 4, 2015

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 05.07.2015

Ezekiel 2:2-5 / 2 Cor 12:7-10 / Mark 6:1-6

Today being a Sunday, for most of us, it would be a day of rest.

But more often than not, it is quite the opposite. Not that today is a day of unrest. But resting might be the last thing we can ever do today.

Sunday can be called the busiest day of the week. We bring our children over to church for catechism class and then to whatever class we can think of – swimming, music, tuition, etc.

Or we would doing our groceries, visit the in-laws, going shopping (it’s the Great Singapore Sale!).

But no matter what we need to do and where we need to go, at the end of the day, we need to go back to where we started from, and that is - home.

Going home may seem to be like quite a comforting thought. After all there is no place like home. But that depends on how we say it – it can have a two different meanings. Maybe the following might show us what it means.

A man is stopped by the police around 1 am and he is asked where he is going at this time of the night. 

The man replies, "I am on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the human body, as well as smoking and staying out late." 

The police officer then asks, "Really? And who is giving that lecture at this time of night, and where will it be held?" 

The man replies, "That lecture would be given by my wife, and it would be held at home." 

So no matter what, and whatever the time would be, and no matter who is there, and whether it is a comforting feeling or not, we still will have to go home.

In today’s gospel passage, we heard of Jesus going back to His home town with His disciples.

Having been away for a while, it would have been a good feeling to be back home again, to see His mother, to catch up with friends and to be back to familiar surroundings.

Things at the home town may not have changed much, but something has changed. Jesus had changed. 

From the time He left and now that He had come back, He had certainly changed.

Because with the coming of the Sabbath, Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and that astonished the people of His home town. 

Obviously that was something that He did not do before He left.

They wondered at His wisdom and His miracles. They traced out His family connections. And finally they came to a conclusion – they would not accept Him.

Jesus had changed, but to them He was still a carpenter.

And carpenters are not teachers and they cannot be teachers. For the people of His home town, that was the opinion as well as the conclusion. 

And the last line of the gospel passage tells us the reaction of Jesus – He was amazed by their lack of faith.

We would have thought that the people of His home town was rather biased against Him, their minds were probably as small as their town, their minds were closed even though they admitted that there was wisdom in Jesus.

But Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. Because faith would help us see realities, spiritual as well as rational, and faith would also open the heart to accept these realities. 

And one reality is that home is not necessarily home sweet home. The following dialogue may show us what this reality is.

Wife was busy packing in her clothes. Husband - Where are you going?
Wife - I'm moving to my mother’s. Husband also starts packing his clothes.
Wife - Now where are you going? Husband - I'm also moving to my mother’s.
Wife - And what about the kids? Husband - Well I guess ... If you are moving to your mother’s and I'm moving to my mother’s ... They should move to their mother’s.
Clothes unpacked… (hopefully…)

The reality is that the home, the family, as well as society is not as rosy as we might want to see it.

And from some of the petitions that I read (so that I can offer a prayer for them) it is quite obvious that the home can be a stressful place and family members are living in tension, and this in turn affects society at large.

The family and society has gone into two disturbing directions.

The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, whether it is a sexual orientation, or a religious direction, or a habitual addiction, you must fear or hate them.

The second is that to love someone, you must agree with everything they believe or do, even if it is morally wrong.

Both directions are wrong but the reality is that they don’t seem to be so obvious.

So even within the family there is fear and hate among members because they can’t agree with and accept each other. And what happens in the family is reflected also in society.

And when it comes to loving their children, parents may want to suppress discipline and morality and be silent when it comes to pre-marital sex and other sexual issues.

These are disturbing issues and we don’t feel comfortable about it and we would rather not talk about it.

But when Jesus taught in the synagogue, His teachings would have disturbed His listeners so much so that they would not accept Him.

But as the 1st reading puts it, whether they listen or not, they must know that there is a prophet among them.

A prophet is like a thorn in the flesh and the prophetic voice is not comfortable to listen to.

Because it awakens in us God’s law that is engraved in our hearts. 
God’s law is the law of love, and it is a love that has moral principles.

May God’s law of love be proclaimed and practised first and foremost at home and in the family. 

Then the family will truly be at home and society will in turn practice what is right and just.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 28.06.2015

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 / 2 Cor 8:7,9, 13-15 / Mark 5:21-43

When we say that something is unbelievable, it means that it is unlikely to be true or that it is too difficult to believe.

For example, the following can be rather unbelievable: Over a period of 200 years, three ships perished at the same location off the coast of Wales, on the same day (5th December) and all three ships had only one survivor. The three survivors all had the same name – Hugh Williams.

Call it incredible, or improbable, or impossible, or unbelievable, it all means more or less the same thing.

But recently, the word “unbelievable” had an added dimension to it.

A group of children were singing a song and it began with the word “unbelievable” and I wondered what kind of song is that, because it had some kind of Chinese tune but English words.

Until someone told me that the song had gone viral on the internet, and it had an unbelievable popularity.

So I went to check it out, and I was tickled by how cheesy it is, how lame the lyrics are, and yet how easy it is to sing that even the kids can sing it.

Well, if you haven’t heard it yet it goes something like this: 
“Un-un-un-un-unbelievable, that’s what you are,             
come be my coffee table and I’ll be your sofa.”
“Un-un-un-un-unbelievable, so near yet so far,              
please be the metal cable to my cable car.”

You can go and listen to the rest of the song if you wish. But I have to tell you it’s so cheesy and so corny that it would be better that no one is around when you listen to it.

But it has become popular and gone viral on the internet that even the producers and the singer thought it was quite unbelievable.

The unexpected can be quite unbelievable and many a times it is a pleasant surprise.

In today’s gospel passage, we hear of two persons who were certainly surprised.

But they had to go through a desperation. Jairus was desperate for a cure for his daughter who was desperately sick, and the unnamed woman was desperate for a cure for her haemorrhage.

Jairus had to kneel at the feet of Jesus and plead earnestly with Him. The woman had to go behind Jesus through the crowd in a desperate bid to touch His cloak.

What Jairus and the woman did was certainly not that unbelievable.

In a time of desperation and not having any other options, we would go down on our knees and touch the statues or the holy pictures in order to get some divine attention and hope for divine intervention.

But what Jairus and the woman did, and what we would do in a time of desperation is certainly not unbelievable.

The key factor in all is faith. Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has restored you to health.” To Jairus He said, “Do not be afraid; only have faith.”

Yes, the key factor is faith. Because faith sees what is invisible; faith believes the unbelievable; and faith receives the impossible.

Every week, there are something like 50 to 70 Mass intentions that are offered in the petition boxes, together with Novena petitions.

And during the feast day celebrations, there were about 2,300 petition envelopes that were offered to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Every Mass intention that is offered must be fulfilled and the Church takes a serious view on how it is accounted for.

That is why the Mass intentions must be published so that we know that our Mass intentions are recorded and the priests will look through these intentions before Mass.

The petitions that are received in the petition boxes and those received during the feast day are read by the priests and a prayer is offered for them too, and they are placed at the side altars of Mother Mary and St. Joseph.

Whether it is the offering of Mass intentions or writing in a petition, it is an act of faith.

Because faith sees what is invisible – that Jesus will read those petitions and act on it.

Because faith believes in the unbelievable – that Jesus will feel those who reach out to touch Him. And that’s why in the gospel, Jesus turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And His disciples were bewildered and said, “You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say “Who touched me?” 

Yes, faith tells us that Jesus knows and feels it when we reach out to touch Him.

And faith receives the impossible, because what is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

Surely, God’s help is only a prayer away. We only need to act on that prayer.

Jairus went down on his knees. The woman touched the clothes of Jesus.

We only need to write down our prayer in a Mass intention or a petition.

God will read it and He will act upon it. That is not unbelievable.

With faith, we will believe that God will grant only what is good for us. 

But it takes a lot of faith to believe that.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

12th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 21.06.2015

Job 38:1, 8-11 / 2 Cor 5:14-17 / Mark 4:35-41

The month of June is often called the holiday month because it’s the month of school holidays. The other holiday month is December.

And being school holidays the children would expect their parents to bring them out of the country for a holiday.

Depending on the budget, it can be anywhere from regional to the continental.

And if continental Europe is the choice, then one place that is not really the top choice would be Normandy beach in France.

But it will be the place to visit for some who were there on the 6th June 1944. They were not there on that day for a holiday, but for D-day, a day that they will not forget, and it is also a day that they hope will never happen again.

That was the day when Allied troops began a massive assault across the English Channel on Nazi-occupied France in order to liberate Europe from the German occupation.

In that one day of heavy fighting, over four thousand soldiers lost their lives. 

A soldier’s account of the landing on one of Normandy’s beaches had it that as the landing craft drew near the beach, the soldiers could hear bullets tapping on the ramp of the landing craft. 

And when the ramp was lowered, and as the soldiers charge out, it was all hell breaking loose. It was a day that the surviving veterans would never forget and they hope will never happen again.

No amount of preparation before they set off across the Channel from England prepared them for this nightmare, as they crossed over to the other side.

But it was a day to be remembered, not just for the carnage, but also for the courage that brought about the liberation of Europe.

Not so dramatic was the gospel account when Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side.”

As they set sail, they may not be prepared for what was to come, although the Sea of Galilee was known for blowing up sudden storms and claiming lives.

And indeed a gale blew up and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped, meaning to say it was going to sink.

We can imagine all the shouting and panicking in desperation, and in the midst of all that, Jesus was sleeping, head on a cushion, and maybe snoring even!

How can He? And so the disciples had to wake Him and say, “Master, do you not care? We are going down!”

But what were the disciples expecting Jesus to do?

Maybe they merely wanted Him to help them keep the boat afloat till the storm blew over and that they reach the shore safely.

But did they expect Him to stop the storm just like that. Certainly not, otherwise they won’t be filled with awe, and they wondered “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.”

Now we, we are much smarter than the disciples. Because we will ask Jesus that no storms will ever hit us.

And then, should a storm hit us, we will ask Jesus for a bigger boat to keep us safe and secure in the storm.

Surely, this is what we expect for believing in Jesus.

We expect life to be leisurely and sailing over calm and tranquil waters. 

Well here is the good news. If we are asking our God to let our lives be smooth sailing, that there will be no storms in life, and that our boats will be unsinkable, then here is the good news.

The good news is this: God says No!

And we will ask – why? We will always ask why because we can’t quite take “No” for an answer.

We are not much different from the character of Job, from the 1st reading.

Job met with one storm after another, and he too asked why???

Oh yes, we want answers, especially when storms start to blow, and ships start to sink.

Here, let us listen to a reflection that might help us to understand why God may say No to our requests.

It goes like this:

I asked God to take away my bad habit. 
God said, No. It is not for Me to take it away, but for you to give it up.    

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. 
God said, No. His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.  

I asked God to grant me patience.   
God said, No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations; it isn't granted, it is learned. 

I asked God  to give me happiness. 
God said, No. I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you. 

I asked God to spare me pain. 
God said, No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.  

I asked God to make my spirit grow. 
God said, No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful. 

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. 
God said, No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things. 

Let us remember that when God says No, it is not a rejection. 

Rather it is a re-direction; a re-direction to see that God’s plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)

So God will not say that there will be no storms in our lives or that the waters of distress will not swamp our boats.

But Jesus will be with us in the storms. But the storms that He will quell are not the storms out there but rather the storms that are within, the storms in our hearts.

To these storms He says, “Quiet now. Be calm.” As Psalm 46:10 would say “Be still, and know that I am God.”

In the midst of the storms in our hearts, we just need to listen to the voice of Jesus and be still and we will know who God is and where He is.

Yes we need to be still and be calm and we will be able to say Yes to God’s plans for us, plans that are always for our good. 

Simply because God loves us. And the prophet Jeremiah will tell us that God not only loves us, but He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Year B, 14.06.2015

Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8-9 / Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19 / John 19:31-37

As our parish continues to celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus this weekend, I would like to begin with a story that sounds rather crass or crude.

But I will tell it nonetheless and I hope you will just bear with it, although you might have heard it before.

One day the different parts of the body were having an argument to see which is the most important.

"I should be the most important," said the brain , "Because I run all the body's systems, so without me nothing would happen." 

"I should be the most important," said the blood, "Because I circulate oxygen all over so without me you'd waste away."

"I should be the most important," said the stomach, "Because I process food and give all of you energy." 

"I should be the most important," said the legs, "because I carry the body wherever it needs to go." 

"I should be the most important," said the eyes, "Because I allow the body to see where it goes." 

"I should be the most important," said the rectum, but before he could continue, all the other body parts laughed at the rectum and insulted him, so in a huff, he shut down tight. 

Within a few days, the brain had a terrible headache, the stomach was bloated, the legs got wobbly, the eyes got watery, and the blood became toxic. They all had to give in to the rectum and let it be the most important.

As much as it sounds rather crude to talk about such things, yet there is a point to it.

Some parts of our body we give them honour and take care about how they appear, like our hair, our face, etc.

But some parts of our body we cover it because of decency. And because they are covered up, we may not pay that much attention to them.

But they are no less important than those other parts that are exposed.

Earlier you heard a rather crude story. Now let us look at something rather gruesome.

In the gospel, we heard about three bodies hanging on crosses. 
Because of the religious festival, the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away.

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified and then of the other.

And when they came to Jesus, they found He was already dead. 

And here is where a soldier did something rather gruesome.

The soldier used a lance and pierced His side.

It seems that the dead body of Jesus was subjected to further abuse and the soldiers want His innards to hang out, just to be sure He is dead. That’s really gruesome.

But just as God has the power to change tragedy into victory, what was gruesome became something awesome.

The soldier pierced His side with a lance and immediately there came out blood and water.

What was pierced and exposed is none other than the heart of Jesus.

And what was exposed is not just an organ, but the very core of Jesus, the very core of His divinity and humanity.

And out of that core, out of the heart of Jesus, flowed forgiveness and healing as symbolized by the water, and also mercy and love as symbolized by the blood.

It is out of this gruesome exposition of the heart of Jesus that evokes in us our reaction and response.

In one the apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus reported said to her : "Behold the Heart that has so loved men ... instead of gratitude, I receive from the greater part of mankind only ingratitude ...".

During the triduum in preparation of the celebration of the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we came as a community in prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart and we offered our petitions in the coloured envelopes together with our wounded and weary and wandering hearts.

From a certain perspective, our petition envelopes are like lances that pierce the Heart of Jesus and He offers us His healing and forgiveness, His love and mercy.

But we may become like spiritual consumers – we put in our petition and we expect a response from God.

Pope Pius XI stated that "the spirit of expiation or reparation has always had the first and foremost place in the worship given to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus".

Reparation is the action of making amends for a wrong one has done. Practically it means going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially Communion on the First Friday of the month, and the observance of the Holy Hour.

True devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus means that we acknowledge that we had not loved Jesus as much as He had loved us, and that we have ignored His love and mercy, even though His wounded exposed Heart is offering us healing and forgiveness.

We, the priests of the parish, will pray for the petitions offered up to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

May love and mercy, healing and forgiveness flow from the wounded and Sacred Heart of Jesus to those who offered up these petitions so that they will love Him more and more.

And as we look deep into the Heart of Jesus and love Him in return, may we also remember that He commanded us to love one another as He has loved us.

To love others may at times be like letting them pierce our hearts with a lance and cause us pain. 

But when our hearts are in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then we will find consolation and be at peace.

And we will go on loving, just as Jesus has shown us in His Sacred Heart, that He will always be loving.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Corpus Christi Sunday, Year B, 07.06.2015

Exodus 24:3-8 / Hebrews 9:11-15 / Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

One of the greatest threats to Europe during the 5th Century came from Eastern Asia.

The Huns led by Attila had swept through Asia and in the year 452 was on the verge of invading Italy. 

The Huns were savage and barbaric in every aspect, killing men, women and children, plundering, sacking and destroying.

Attila the Hun was especially and utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering and famous for ripping apart his enemies and drinking their blood.

Rome which was then the seat of the crumbling Roman empire waited in helpless terror for utter destruction.

The pope at that time, Pope Leo knew he had to defend his flock and so he decided to go and meet Attila the Hun at the risk of his life and try to negotiate for peace.

Before he set off, Pope Leo celebrated the Eucharist.

As he ate and drank the Body and Blood of Christ, he thought to himself: If Attila were to rip me apart and drink my blood, then he would also be drinking the blood of Christ and that might convert him.

So with that, the venerable and simple old man went forth to meet the merciless young destroyer who only knew how to kill and plunder.

It was a tense meeting as the Pope pleaded with Attila to stop the bloodshed and spare Rome and the innocent people, and at the same time wondering when he was going to lose his life.

Then in a spectacular and surprising turn of events, Attila ordered his army to stop attacking and return to their base camp.

Many speculations were offered for this sudden and unexpected change in Attila the Hun.

It would be that a sum of money was given to him to stop him from attacking.

Or that his army was short of supplies and worn out, and there was a famine and plague in Italy at that time.

But another story has it that when Attila’s servants asked him why he suddenly changed his mind, he told them this:

While the Pope was talking to him, there appeared above the Pope’s head, two figures with drawn swords, and they seemed to threaten Attila unless he consented to do as Pope Leo had requested. Those two figures were said to be St. Peter and St. Paul.

Well, the fact was that Attila and his savage hordes turned back and Rome was saved at the mitigation of Pope Leo.

The interesting point in all this is that although Pope Leo knew that he could lose his life, he also believed in the power of the Eucharist.

He believed that Christ was in him and that the Blood of Christ flowed in his veins.

This is also what St Augustine taught us: the Eucharist is the only food that changes us to become like what we eat. We partake of Christ’s Body and Blood, and we become like Christ.

Indeed, Jesus the Lord gives us His Body and Blood so that He can live in us and we in Him.

Today, we the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is not just about the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ after it is consecrated.

It is also about us who receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion.

Yes, it is Holy Communion. We are receiving something very sacred. We are receiving Christ the Risen Lord.

And all this is happening at the Eucharist, at the Mass. And it is happening every day, and happening all over the world, because there is not just Sunday Mass but there is also weekday Mass. Yes, there is Mass every day.

And if we really believe what is happening at Mass, and if we really believe that we are receiving what Jesus is giving us, His Body and Blood, then we would be coming for Mass, not just on Sunday, but every day.

The following true story was related to Sr. M. Veronica Murphy by an elderly nun who hear from the lips of the late Reverend Father Stanislaus SS.CC. (The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary)

In a little town in Luxembourg, a Captain of the Forest Guards was in deep conversation with the butcher when an elderly woman entered the shop. The butcher broke off the conversation to ask the old woman what she wanted. She had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The Captain was amused at the conversation which ensued between the poor woman and the butcher:

“Only a little meat,” the elderly woman pleaded. “But how much are you going to give me?” the butcher asked her.

“I am sorry,” the woman responded, “I have no money but I will hear Mass for you.” Both the butcher and the Captain were very indifferent about religion, so they at once began to scoff at the old woman's answer. 

“All right then,” said the butcher, “you go and hear Mass for me and when you come back I'll give you as much meat as the Mass is worth.” 

The woman left the shop and returned an hour later. 

She approached the counter and the butcher, seeing her, said, “All right, then, now we will see.” 

He took a slip of paper and wrote on it "I heard a Mass for you." He then placed the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side but nothing happened. Next, he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone, but still the paper proved heavier. 

The Captain, who had decided to stay on at the shop to see how the small drama would end, looked at the butcher. Both men were beginning to feel ashamed of their mockery. 

The butcher placed a large piece of meat on the balance, but still the paper held its own. The butcher, exasperated, examined the scales, but found they were all right. Placing an extremely large piece of meat on the scale, it still favored the weight of the paper. 

Removing both items, he again checked the mechanism of the scale and then weighted several other items, and the scale proved to be exactly accurate. 

Exasperated, the butcher said kindly to the woman, “What do you want my good woman, must I give you a whole leg of mutton?” 
At this he placed the leg of mutton on the balance, but the paper outweighed the meat. An even larger piece of meat was put on, but again the weight remained on the side of the paper. 

This impressed the butcher so much that he converted, and promised to give the woman her daily ration of meat. He kept his promise and the business flourished more than it ever had before. 

As for the Captain, he left the shop a changed man, and became an ardent lover of daily Mass. Because of that incident, he became a daily attendant at Mass and his children were trained to follow his example. Peace and happiness in the home increased as the love of God grew in the family. Two of his sons became priests, one a Jesuit and the other a Father of the Sacred Heart. 

Later when his sons became priests, the Captain advised them to say Mass well every day and never miss the Sacrifice of the Mass through any fault of their own. 

Father Stanislaus finished by saying “I am the Religious of the Sacred Heart, and the Captain was my father.”

This story is often called “The weight of the Mass”. And indeed what we receive at Mass outweighs anything that we can ever have or achieve on our own.

Pope Leo believed in the power of the Mass and that outweighed the terror of Attila the Hun.

Our faith in the Mass and in the Body and Blood of Christ will certainly outweigh all challenges and difficulties that we will ever face.

We just need to believe that we receive Christ and that He lives in us.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trinity Sunday, Year B, 31.05.2015

Deut 4:32-34, 39-40 / Romans 8:14-17 / Matthew 28:16-20

We know what a plank is. Or at least we know what the initial meaning is. 

It is a long, thin, flat piece of timber, used especially in building and flooring.

But words have a tendency to morph from its initial obvious meaning to some other meanings that might make us wonder where they come from.

The latest meaning of plank is actually an exercise. It's hard to believe that the plank exercise could provide such a great workout, until you try it. Some trainers would even recommend conquering the plank before attempting any heavy weight exercise. 

It seems quite easy. Just get into pushup position on the floor. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms. 

Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for as long as you can. Your goal should be to hold it for two minutes. 

So even though you are not moving or lifting weights, you have to constantly squeeze your abs to hold the position. 

The surprising thing is that most people can't last 30 seconds on their first attempt. 

The longer you can hold the plank, the more resilient your lower back will be to injury, and the better your abs will look once you tone up the muscles. 

Sounds too good to be true and it seems too simple, until we try it. 

And when we actually get down it, the initial motivation will slowly wear off when we don’t see immediate results and then the exercise will be like those fancy exercise machines that end up as a clothes rack.

It’s not that we doubt the effectiveness of the exercise. It’s that we just don’t have the persistence and perseverance and we want immediate results with the least effort.

Well, today we celebrate a Sunday called “Trinity Sunday”. So what is it about this Sunday? 

Oh we will say the usual things like God is Trinity, Three Persons in one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But with God who is Trinity, what is the meaning in it for us? Do we really understand the meaning of Trinity? Or has that word morphed into other meanings?

If we have some difficulty in finding meaning in God as Trinity other than what we have been told, we are not alone.

The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise ”De Trinitate” [about the Holy Trinity], endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

He was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and pouring it into a small hole in the sand. 

St. Augustine approached him and asked, “My boy, what are you doing?” “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied. “But that is impossible, my boy, the hole cannot contain all that water” said St. Augustine. 

The boy paused, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – to comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished. 

Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach St. Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Child Jesus Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding of the great mysteries of our Faith. 

Through this story, the sea shell has become a symbol of St. Augustine and the study of theology.

And this story, together with today’s gospel passage, reminds us of the mystery that we have been immersed into, and that is the mystery of Baptism.

We are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Like the shell, we can only understand so much of the mystery of God. 

But like the shell, we also hold the mystery of God and that mystery is that of God’s love.

We scoop up God’s love with the shell of our hearts and we pour it out into the sands of the world around us.

The water of God’s love seeps into the sands and we don’t seem to see any results immediately, and we think it is futile.

And so we begin to doubt God’s love, and we hesitate, as we heard in the gospel that some of the disciples hesitated.

Over the past week, a handful of people had been folding these invitations that will be given out later. It is an invitation to the triduum and the parish feast-day Masses.

It’s rather labour intensive and about 3000 invitations have to be folded and given out this weekend. 

Will there be a response to the invitations, or will they end up in the trash?

But these invitations were folded with love, and where love is sown, there will be a harvest, maybe 30, maybe 60 and maybe 100.

Whatever it may be, the mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of God’s love.

The meaning of God’s love has not changed and yet at the same time it is also growing, and will continue to grow, and as Jesus promised us in the gospel, it will continue to grow until the end of time.

Like the plank exercise, we must not doubt its effectiveness; we only need to persist and persevere in God’s love.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pentecost Sunday, Year B, 24.05.2015

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

The living proof of Singapore’s cosmopolitan status is her adoption of four official languages, namely Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.

English is the medium of education and business – it is the first language taught in school and the main language used in the workplace.

But English is certainly not a language that is easily mastered. 

Some say that English is a funny language; others say it’s a crazy language.

It is funny as in the examples of an oxymoron, which is a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are brought together:

Clearly misunderstood; small crowd; act naturally; found missing; pretty ugly; seriously funny; only choice; original copies. But somehow we understand what it means.

Actually I came across all this when I was trying to be sure of what a continuous tense is all about. In the end I was clearly blur.

Let’s just say that a continuous tense is about verbs that end with “ing”, like talking, looking, eating, etc. It usually refers to an action that is continuous.

Of course, it is obviously not a surname, nor is it used as one. But in church there is an “Ing” family. 

We may know some of them but they may need some introduction.

There is “Miss-ing” but she is not here. There is “Complain-ing” but he usually writes a lot. There is “Gossip-ing” and she is often with others. “Argu-ing” and “Quarrel-ing” usually hang out together. “Ly-ing” is out to con somebody. And the leader of the gang is someone called “Sinn-ing”.

But that’s just one side of the “Ing” family. The other side of that family has “Lov-ing” and “Car-ing” and they are working hard to protect the family reputation.

“Encourag-ing” and “Inspir-ing” is giving them support because it is often a thankless task. “Almsgiv-ing” is reaching out to those in need and “Fast-ing” and “Pray-ing” are creating opportunities for “Forgiv-ing”.

And so that’s the “Ing” family. So, now that we know who they are, then we must also decide on which side of the family we want to be with.

Today as the Church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost, the Church also comes together as a family.

In the 1st reading, we heard that on that Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke foreign languages.

And the peoples of different nationalities heard them speaking in their own languages and preaching about the marvels of God.

And with that, something was changing. Diversity was changing into unity. The Spirit was working and the Church was manifesting.

The 2nd reading gives a good imagery of the Church as a human body made up of many different parts but united as a single unit.

And it is the same Spirit working in these different parts, in different people in different ways, but all for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.

With the Spirit working, things can change and will keep changing for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.

In the gospel, we heard that the disciples were in a room with the door closed and in fear, but Jesus came and stood among them.

From then on, things began to change, as Jesus said to them, “As the Father sent Me, so am I sending you.” After saying this, He breathed on them the Holy Spirit. 

Today, Jesus is also breathing on us the Holy Spirit. And just as He sent the disciples, so is He sending us. 

So where is Jesus sending us to and what are we supposed to be doing.

At that Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples and they went forth speaking different languages and preaching about the marvels of God, something was changing.

The hearts of those who were listening to them were changing. 

Similarly, we are sent forth to bring about a change and it must be a change for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.

And we must go forth with one member of the “Ing” family called “Pray-ing” 

And “Pray-ing” will teach us about PUSH. PUSH is an acronym for Pray Until Something Happens.

Earlier this week, I opened the petition boxes and read those petitions that were not marked “Private & Confidential”. I read those petitions so that I can pray for those who have offered their prayer petitions.

I came across a letter from a lady who wrote to Mother Mary to say that she is having a difficult pregnancy and that she was contemplating to terminate the pregnancy. 

Of course, I immediately activated all my prayer advocates to pray for this lady and I told them to PUSH.

We will pray until something happens, and we pray that it will be for a good purpose and for God’s purpose, and I call upon you to join me in prayer for that lady.

And I look forward for a Thanksgiving letter from her.

Yes, we must keep PUSHing and believe that things can change and will change and keep changing.

We keep praying that those who are arguing and quarreling, those who are complaining and gossiping, those who are missing, those who are lying and sinning, will eventually change to become loving and caring, forgiving and inspiring and encouraging.

Those disciples in that room changed from fearing to proclaiming. 

With the power of the Holy Spirit, we too will change and keep changing. 

And it must be for a good purpose and for God’s purpose.