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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. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 17.05.2015

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 / 1 John 4:11-16 / John 17:11-19

Last Thursday was the feast of the Ascension of the Lord and it was a day of obligation.

A day of obligation means that we come for Mass, and before that we go for Confession if necessary and of course we receive Holy Communion.

And of course for all the effort that we make to come for Mass on a weekday, the blessings that we receive is certainly beyond measure.

Indeed blessed are those who make the offering of their time for God.

But then again, there were some who forgot. They forgot that it was a day of obligation. Still God will be gracious to them because there is the availability of Confession. 

And just in case they forgot to come for Confession before Mass, then the “special offer” is that after Mass it is also available  : )

It is understandable if some forgot because of the busyness of life and the stress of a working day.

But there is also this “selective remembering” – we make a tick in our minds on what we want to remember because it is important, and the rest we just let them hang loose in our minds.

So we may remember the news that we heard on the radio but we may not be able to remember what the readings of today were all about.

In the 1st reading Peter remembered what the scriptures foretold about Judas – that someone else must be chosen to replace him as one of the Twelve apostles.

For us it may not be that important whether it is eleven or twelve. 

But the meaning of the number 12 is considered a perfect number, in that it symbolizes God's power and authority, as well as a perfect governmental foundation. It also symbolizes completeness, or the nation of Israel as a whole. 

And so for the Church it symbolizes completeness and unity and hence Matthias was chosen to complete the 12  apostles.

And it is for this completeness and unity of the Church that Jesus prayed for in the gospel. 

Yes, Jesus prayed for us on the night before His death and this gospel passage is a passage that we ought to remember.

Jesus prayed for us that we won’t be lost in the world since we do not belong to the world. Because we belong to God.

As the Beatitudes would say, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.

But Jesus also prayed that we will be protected from the evil one.

As much as Jesus taught us the Beatitudes, the devil has his own set of “better-titudes” and it goes something like this:

"Better are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in church; They are my best workers. 

Better are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked; I can use them. 

Better are the touchy; with a bit of luck, they may stop going to church; They are my missionaries. 

Better are those who are very religious but get on everyone's nerves; They are mine forever. 

Better are the troublemakers; They shall be called my children. 

Better are those who have no time to pray; They are easy prey for me. 

Better are the gossipers; For they are my secret agents. 

Better are those critical of church leadership; For they shall inherit a place with me in my fate. 

Better are the complainers; I will encourage them. 

Better are you when you read this and think it is about other people and not yourself; I've got you!"

So if the world thinks better or highly of us, it may not necessarily mean that we are blessed. 

In fact, Jesus prayed that we will be protected from the evil one so that we don’t let ourselves belong to the world.

Even though we are in the world, we belong to God and Jesus prayed for our protection.

Yes, life is fragile, and we need to handle it with prayer and pray for protection.

On Friday morning there was a fatal accident at Ponggol. A 30-year-old woman was knocked down by a bus and died from her injuries.

I know that lady. She journeyed in the RCIA class, I officiated her marriage and blessed her house. And now I am going to do her funeral.

No words can really console her husband and the 4 year-old son she left behind.

For those who journeyed with her in the RCIA and her friends in Church, they will grieve and they might ask those hard questions.

I pray that God will protect them from a faith crisis and I ask you to join me in prayer too. 

My obligation to them will be my presence and prayers.

And that is what the 2nd reading is telling us to remember – No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another, God will live in us and His love will be complete in us.

To love one another is our obligation. Love is our only protection. 

Because where there is love, there is God.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

6th Easter Sunday, Year B, 10.05.2015

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 / 1 John 4:7-10 / John 15:9-17

The game of tennis is a quite popular game. People follow the game, watch the game on tv (which can last for a few hours) and of course some play the game.

But tennis is certainly more than just a play-play kind of game. 

Because top professional tennis players can become millionaires, and the top names are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, etc.

And these top players play in top tournaments like Wimbledon, US Open, French Open, etc.

But for all the big names and the big money, the game of tennis is actually quite a simple game. All you have to do is to hit the ball back into your opponent’s court. That’s all you need to do to win the game. It’s as simple as that; but it requires a lot of skill to do that.

And you know what it is said about life and tennis? Life is like a game of tennis. The player who can hit every ball across seldom loses.

So the simple logic about tennis is that when the ball comes to you, you don’t keep the ball. You always return the ball, so to speak.

And that is also the simple logic about life and love. In life whenever love comes to us, we don’t keep it for ourselves. We have to return it. So in a way, life is like a game of tennis – we return the love, just as we return the ball.

And that is what Jesus is telling us in the gospel – As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.

For Jesus, love is not for keeps. The love that He received from His Father, He gives to us.

And the love we receive from Jesus, we in turn must give to others.

And Jesus even makes a commandant out of it – Love one another as I have loved you.

In other words, as Jesus has loved us, so must we love one another.

It’s a commandment; it’s not a suggestion, nor is it an option.

We often hear of this phrase “love offering”. It is often written on boxes in church events and it is a way of asking for donations to offset the cost of holding the events.

It gives us the notion that we can give whatever we wish and we are not obliged to give a large sum nor are we required to give all we have.

But for God, when it comes to a love offering, it is nothing less than all. 

As we heard in the 2nd reading, God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son so that we can have life through Him.

So it is not our love for God, but God’s love for us when He sent His only Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

Yes, love is a sacrifice, and a love offering is a total offering because God’s love for us is a total sacrifice.

Today we also celebrate Mother’s Day and in so many ways we see how our mothers’ love is like a total sacrifice.

In their love for us, we see how God has loved us.

There are many inspiring and heart-warming stories about how mothers love their children with a total sacrifice.

There is this story of a mother’s love for her son, but it’s a rather sad and it is narrated by the son, and it goes like this.

My mom only had one eye. I hated her… She was such an embarrassment. She cooked for students and teachers in school to support the family.

There was this one day during primary school where my mom came to say hello to me. I was so embarrassed.

How could she do this to me? I ignored her, threw her a hateful look and ran out. The next day at school one of my classmates said, “EEEE, your mom only has one eye!”

I wanted to bury myself. I also wanted my mom to just disappear. I confronted her that day and said, “If you’re only going make me a laughing stock, why don’t you just die?”

My mom did not respond… I didn’t even stop to think for a second about what I had said, because I was full of anger. I was oblivious to her feelings.

I wanted out of that house, and have nothing to do with her. So I studied real hard, got a chance to go abroad to study.

Then, I got married. I bought a house of my own. I had kids of my own. I was happy with my life, my kids and the comforts. Then one day, my Mother came to visit me. She hadn’t seen me in years and she didn’t even meet her grandchildren.

When she stood by the door, my children laughed at her, and I yelled at her for coming over uninvited. I screamed at her, “How dare you come to my house and scare my children! GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!!!”

And to this, my mother quietly answered, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address.” – and she disappeared out of sight.

Then one day, a letter regarding a school reunion came to my house, and after much thought, I decided to go for that reunion. 

After the reunion, I went to the old shack where my mother lived, just out of curiosity.

My neighbors said that she died a few days ago. I did not shed a single tear. They handed me a letter that she had wanted me to have.

“My dearest son,
I think of you all the time. I’m sorry that I came to your house and scared your children.
I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I may not be able to even get out of bed to see you. I’m sorry that I was a constant embarrassment to you when you were growing up.
You see, when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn’t stand watching you having to grow up with one eye. So I gave you mine.
I was so proud of my son who was seeing a whole new world for me, in my place, with that eye.
With all my love to you,
Your mother.”  (Author Unknown)

A rather sad story for Mother’s day but it serves to remind us not to take our mothers’ love for granted.

And that would also remind us not to take God’s love for granted.

God’s love for us is seen in how our mothers give their love to us.

And that love is not meant for us to keep. Just as in the game of tennis, we don’t keep the ball; we return it.

Let us love our mothers, let us love God, let us also love others. 

It’s a commandment; not a suggestion, nor an option.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 03.05.2015

Acts 9:26-31 / 1 John 3:18-24 / John 15:1-8

The definition of awareness is this: knowledge or perception of a situation or fact; concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.

That’s the dictionary’s definition of awareness. Or putting it plainly, it can be as simple as asking if we remembered which foot it was that stepped into the church as we entered. Is it left foot? Or right foot?

While we are still thinking and trying to remember which foot it was, here comes another question. Is there anything different or is there anything new that we see today in church?

Well, we may have noticed two statues at the side altars. And if we looked closer, we will see that the statue of Mary has a new coat of paint [a makeover? : P : )] 

And if we are trying to make out who the other statue represents, a good guess would be St. Joseph, and so indeed it is.

The statue of Mary was brought down from the loft about three months ago and had to be cleaned and it took two months for it to be restored to what it is.

The statue of Joseph, however, was nowhere to be found and so presumably it was damaged and thrown away.

Until we were alerted that it could be at another church and so indeed it was.

So we had it taken back on Thursday, had it cleaned and we tried to remove as much of the peeling paint as possible. It looks ragged and worn out but nonetheless it is intact and sturdy and hardy. 

Then on Friday, the 1st May, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we had the statue blessed. It was so timely.

Putting the statues on the side altars seems like a mismatch. One looks so new and clean, while the other looks like it’s covered with mud and rather dirty.

But for those of us who are with the parish long enough, we will know that the two statues are at their rightful place.

They were there since the church was built in 1910 but for whatever reason they were removed some time back.

But now that they are back in place, it does seem that everything is connected again. At least for those of us who are in the parish long enough, it does seem that all is at last connected again.

And if statues can talk, they would be saying “It’s nice to be back.” And if the statue of St. Joseph can talk, he would say “I want to be restored!” (He will be …)

The fact is that when things are in place, then they can be connected.

Similarly, when we are in place, then we will also be connected.
And the place that we need to be in is none other than in the heart of Jesus.

That is our home and that is where we get connected with Jesus and with each other.

Jesus used the imagery of the vine and branches to express this connection with Him. He even said that cut off from Him we can do nothing at all.

As we heard in the 1st reading, it was so with Saul, who would later take the name of Paul. At first he tried to join the disciples, but they viewed him with suspicion and he could do nothing at all.

It was only when Barnabas took charge of him and introduced him to the apostles that he began to preach fearlessly and bear fruit in his ministry.

So it was only when Saul was connected with the rest of the disciples and found his home with them that he was able to bear fruit.

As for us, we need to come to an awareness of the spiritual realities as we enter into the house of God. Because without awareness, nothing can change.

Awareness is not about which foot steps into the church first. 

Awareness is that we have stepped into the house of God, the home of Jesus.

And coming to the home of Jesus, the connection begins as Jesus makes His home in each of us and connects us together.

And as we look at the statues of Mary and Joseph at where they belong, we can also see they have come home to Jesus.

Their being now at their proper places is certainly not just the work of man but more so the work of God.

Because it is Jesus who has brought them back to their places in church. 

And through Mary and Joseph, Jesus is also telling us that He wants us to come and make our home in His heart.

And connected to Him and connected with each other, we will bear fruit. We must bear fruit.

So there is this Service Offering form that was distributed last week.

There is something that we can offer to Jesus in service of His church and for this parish.

The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice. 

It is for us to decide whether we want to offer our service and bear fruit for Jesus. 

Mother Mary and St. Joseph are here to make us aware of that. They will be praying for us. May their prayers bear fruit in us for Jesus.
Church of the Sacred Heart

Saturday, April 25, 2015

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 26.04.2015

Acts 4:8-12 / 1 John 3:1-2 / John 10:11-18 

One of the most prominent Church figures in the 20th century is Pope John XXIII. He was canonized on the 27th April 2014.

Besides the fact that it was he who got Vatican II Council started when nobody expected a 78 year-old Pope to do so, he was also prominent because of his figure.

Before he was elected Pope in 1958, one of his appointments was being papal nuncio to France. It was then that one of the French diplomats described him as “a sack of potatoes”. And if we look at photos of John XXIII, we will somewhat agree.

But one of the prominent characteristics of John XXIII was his sense of humour. Once he went to a school and there he asked the boys what they would want to become when they grew up, and one of them said that he would want to be a pope.

The pope smiled and said: Oh anyone can be a pope. Look at me! If I can become a pope, anyone can become a pope.

Such was the humour of John XXIII. But jokes aside, he knows that not anyone can be a pope, just as not anyone can be a priest.

This Sunday, the Church also celebrates Vocation Sunday and the Church is called to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.

We are called to reflect upon Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and the reflection is focused on the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.

The reflection goes further for those whom Jesus is calling to be His priests and to follow Him to lay down their lives for His sheep.

It is often said that God will provide. And so it can also be said that God will provide priests for His Church.

But the crisis that the Church is facing is the falling numbers in vocations to the priesthood, and at present there are only 10 seminarians in the Major Seminary, and that is already ringing the alarm bells for the future.

Added to that are the scandals that have rocked the Church and smeared the dignity of the priesthood.

With all those factors weighing in heavily on the Church, the resultant is that there is a growing skepticism and cynicism about the priesthood.

This skepticism and cynicism is reflected in this so-called poem and the title is none other than “No one wants to be a priest” and it goes like this.

It goes like this: 
No one wants to be a priest because …If he begins Mass on time, his watch is fast;If he begins a minute later, he keeps people waiting.If he preaches too long, he makes people get bored;If his homily is too short, he is unprepared.If his voice is strong when preaching, he is shouting;If his voice is normal,people do not understand what he is preaching about;If he goes to visit families, he is always out:If he does not, he does not care for them.If he asks for donations, he is a money-face;If he does not do it, he is too proud and lazy.If he takes time in the confessional, he is too slow;If he makes it too fast, he has no time for his penitents.If he renovates the church, he throws away money;If he does not do it, he allows everything to rot away.If he is with the youth, he forgets the old.If he warms up to old aunties, he must be missing his mummy.If he keeps distance from all of them, he has a heart of stone.If he is young, he has no experience;If he is old, he should retire.As long as he lives, there are always people who are better than him;BUT IF THE PRIEST DIES....THERE IS NOBODY TO TAKE HIS PLACE!Because no one wants to be a priest!!!
But God will provide and the Church must keep praying that those who are called will respond.

And the Church must also pray for those who have responded to the call to be good shepherds who will lay down their lives for the sheep.

As for myself, having been a priest for 17 years, when I was appointed parish priest of this parish, I knew that the sacrifice will have to go one notch higher.

And this sacrifice is best expressed in the Eucharist where I lead the community into prayer with the sign of the cross at the beginning and call upon God’s blessings on the community at the end of the Eucharistic celebration.

In between, I pray that we will be delivered from every evil and that we will have peace and be safe from all distress.

The fundamental task of a priest, as the 2nd reading would put it, is to form his people to be God’s children and to be like Him.

And if his people do not behave like God’s children, then the priest is called to do penance and pray for them because he is accountable for their souls and their salvation.

So I am accountable for your soul and your salvation. And do I want to be held accountable? 

I can only firmly say “Yes” because I am doing this for God who has lavished His love on us by calling us His children.

And God wants all of us His children to be with Him in heaven. And it is my mission as the priest and the spiritual father of this parish community to do that.

Pope John XXIII died on the 3rd June 1963 and his last words were these: "I had the great grace to be born into a Christian family, modest and poor, but with the fear of the Lord. My time on earth is drawing to a close. But Christ lives on and continues his work in the Church. Souls, souls, may they all be one.”

I had the great grace to be a priest serving in this parish community. I also hope to teach you the fear of the Lord and to love Him. 

May you pray for us priests that we continue the saving work of the Lord so that we will all be one in Christ … on earth, and in heaven.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 19.04.2015

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / 1 John 2:1-5 / Luke 24:35-48

If we had to keep watch at a funeral wake, there is not much that we can do but to wait for people to come and pay respects.

And if the wake is at the void deck of a block, then when it comes to the late hours of the night, there can be some things to keep us occupied.

Some might gamble the night away; some might be occupied with their hand-phones; some might just watch TV or whatever.

But when I was growing up, when it comes to the late hours of the night, that will be the time when the uncles and aunties will start to tell ghost stories.

And we the kids will be huddled together in terror as we listen and we won’t even dare to go to the toilet.

Some ghost stories sound so ridiculous as I think of it now, but still it made a deep impression on me and my cousins then.

One story is that we have to keep watch around the coffin and to prevent any black cat from jumping over the coffin.

Otherwise the body will rise and start jumping all over the place. 

So the legs of the deceased will be tied together so that they can only jump around and can’t chase people. That’s what we kids were told.

It sounds so ridiculous, right? But when we were kids we just believed everything that was told to us. And we even remember it until now. And maybe even until our dying day.

But seriously, ghost stories only instill fear and at times death and darkness become bigger than our faith in God.

In the gospel, the two disciples told their story of what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they had recognized Jesus at the breaking of bread. But then He vanished from their sight.

To the rest of the disciples, that sounded like some kind of ghost story. So when Jesus appeared and stood among them, they were in a state of alarm and fright, and they thought they were seeing a ghost. 

And if Jesus had vanished from their sight again, then what we would end up with is a ghost story. After all, it seems that ghosts would appear here and there and then disappear.

But Jesus calmed their fears when He showed them His hands and feet. He invited them to touch Him and He even ate a piece of grilled fish before their eyes.

He proved to them that He was no ghost, and that He was alive. 

And they were overjoyed though they were dumbfounded.

And as He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, there is one truth that came across profoundly.

And that is the God that they believed in is the God of the living and not of the dead, for in God, all are alive.

And the proof is that Jesus is standing right there before them, and certainly more alive than they are.

When death strikes and takes a loved one away, it is difficult to think about that person in the other world.

We might wonder where that person is and other questions that seem to have no answers.

My father, my papa, passed on in June last year. He is the first in my immediate family to pass on and with no experience of a death in the family it was quite chaotic.

Nonetheless, a wake was held, the funeral was conducted, he was cremated and we continued to offer Masses and pray for his soul.

Then at All Souls Day last year, my mum asked me if papa was already in heaven.

I was a bit stumped for an answer and so I told her that I will try to find out, although I didn’t know how.

And then I was told, at short notice, of my posting here. So I squeezed some time to visit my papa at his niche. 

Well, I told him that I am coming here, and I might as well tell you that this was the church of his baptism and also my parents were married here.

Anyway I told my papa that I need to tell my mum whether he is already in heaven so I asked him to pray for my intentions as I begin my ministry in this parish.

As we may know, in the canonization process, at least two miracles must have been performed through the saint's intercession after his or her death, besides an additional miracle for granting beatification. So all in all, it’s three miracles.

Of course, I am not going to put up a cause for my papa’s canonization, but if he is in heaven then I would need his prayers. 

So I asked my papa to pray for my intentions for this parish, not just for three intentions, but I think by now it’s already three thousand and still counting.

To say the least, all my petitions were answered – difficulties were eased, things got started and going, problems had solutions. 

And I will keep asking my papa to pray, not just for me but also for you.

And I want to share with you one sign that enabled me to confidently tell my mum that my papa is in heaven.

About a month or so after coming here I had to fill up a form and I needed to know Fr. Paul Tong’s birthdate. So I asked him and then I had to ask what year was he born in and he told me it’s 1927. He was born in the same year as my papa. And indeed Fr. Paul Tong is like a father to me.

And as if that is not enough, only recently I had to ask Fr. Vincent Chee what year he was born in, and he told me it’s 1937. It’s the same year as my mum! I doubt no more!

It’s not an awesome sign but it’s enough for me to say that my papa is alive and interceding for me and for you and for the parish.

Yes, my papa and all our deceased loved ones are alive and share in the Resurrection of Christ.

So ask your deceased loved ones to intercede for you in your struggles and difficulties of life.

And when we have our prayers answered, then let us give thanks to God.

Let us forget about those ridiculous ghost stories and be witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ and His presence among us.

And rising from our sinfulness, let us also be witnesses to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

It has to begin with us; it has to begin from us.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 12.04.2015

Acts 4:32-35 / 1 John 5:1-6 / John 20:19-31

Just taking a moment to look around, are we able to see who is missing?

We may wonder what kind of question is that. How would we know who is missing? In the first place we may not even know the names of the persons sitting in front of us or behind us or even beside us.

Of course that is something that needs to be worked at – getting to know each other by name – instead of feeling like a stranger in Church, of all places!

But even if we really know each other by name, are we able to see who is missing?

Well, we may say that those who are missing are those who have chosen not to come here.

But having said that, there is a certain group of people who are missing because they can’t come here.

One of them is my relative who has a chickenpox infection and the rashes broke out on Tuesday so she has to be confined at home.

And because chickenpox is contagious, she can’t come to Church even if she wants to. 

And also she certainly won’t want to come to Church with all those rashes and blisters on her face and hands.

I asked if she would want me to go over and pray for her.

She declined and said that I might get infected, although I already had chickenpox.

And she also said this – If I am missing from Church nobody will notice; but if you are missing from Church everybody will know. 

And nobody will go near you if they know you have chickenpox.

In the gospel passage, when the Risen Christ appeared to His disciples, we know who was missing from among them.

Thomas didn’t have chickenpox, he also didn't have a bad bout of flu nor was he on medical leave.

He chose not to be with the disciples. We were not told why he chose to stay away.

But when the disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, he refused to believe and he demanded that he would want to put his finger into the holes into those hands of Jesus and even his hand into His side, before he could believe.

It could be that his faith was so shattered and he was so devastated that nothing short of touching those wounds of the Risen Christ could make him change his mind.

Well, Thomas got what he asked for. Eight days later when he was with the rest of the disciples, the Risen Christ appeared again, and He came specifically for Thomas.

Whether Thomas put his finger into those holes and his hand into the side of Jesus is left to us to speculate.

But it was not so much for Thomas to put his finger and his hand into those wounds of Jesus. 

Rather it was for Jesus to touch the wounds of the shattered and devastated Thomas.

Thomas has often been called the “Doubting Thomas” and that is because Jesus said to him “Doubt no longer but believe.”

But the “Doubting Thomas” may also be the “Hurting Thomas” in that his shattered faith at the death of Jesus was too much for him to bear and so he didn’t want the rest of the disciples to see him at his worst. And so he stayed away from them. 

The missing Thomas was not just a doubting Thomas but also a hurting Thomas.

So as we look around we may begin to “see” who is missing. Some can’t be here because of they are aged and home-bound or ill or hospitalized.

But some are not here by choice. They may have been disappointed or angry with God or had a bad experience with a church member or with a priest (sigh …)

But we who are here may also not be that steadfast in faith either. 

We may have “spiritual chickenpox” with rashes and blisters that are painful and hurting. But it is all within.

But just as chickenpox is contagious, we too spread our pain and hurt onto others resulting in more pain and hurt.

Today the Risen Christ comes to us and touches our wounds to heal our pain.

More so, today is also called “Divine Mercy Sunday”. Jesus is the mercy of God and He wants to heal us so that we can believe in Him and in His love for us.

We are not asking to put our finger and our hand into those wounds of Jesus. 

We are asking Jesus to put His hand into our hearts to heal our pain and hurt.

When we are healed of our doubting and our hurting, then we will be able to reach out to those who are missing.

May our prayer be that we bring back those who are missing so that together we will proclaim Jesus as “My Lord and my God!”