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Saturday, February 6, 2016

5th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 07.02.2016

Isaiah 6:1-8 / 1 Cor 15:1-11 / Luke 5:1-11 

When we walk through the main entrance of the church, we may have noticed quite a few things there.

This life-size statue of
The Sacred Heart has been
with our Church since 1910. 
Of course we can’t miss that big statue of the Sacred Heart at the side. Standing at the side, it seems to be saying “Hello” when we come in and “Goodbye” as we go out.

And then there is a table with the “Year of Mercy” pilgrimage pamphlets and information.

And then lately, about more a week ago, we added something else.

There is another table with an acrylic box and a holder with green-coloured slips of paper by its side.

That box is for petitions to the Sacred Heart and the green-coloured slips of paper are petition slips for us to write our petitions. Of course there are pencils there as well for us to write our petitions.

Just over a week and the petition box is already almost full. About 500 petition slips and almost all are used up and hence the need to print more already.

And on the 1st Friday Mass the petitions in the petition box are offered up and prayed for.

Going by the petitions that are already in the petition box it can be said that people don’t pray only when they are in trouble.

Because when we only pray when we are in trouble, then it may mean that we are already in big trouble.

Nonetheless, trouble and desperation will make us pray. There is even a “Student’s Desperate Prayer” that goes like this: "Now I lay me down to rest, And hope to pass tomorrow's test. If I should die before I wake, Then that’s the test I don’t have to take."

But prayer is not a “spare wheel” that we pull out when we are in trouble, but a “steering wheel” to direct us along the right path.

And when prayers go up, blessings come down. But if we heard of “blessings in disguise” then we must also be prepared that when our prayers go up, then the blessings might come down as a surprise.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah began with a prayer of mourning over the king’s passing, but what came down was a vision that resulted in his commissioning when he responded “Here I am, send me.”

In the 2nd reading, St. Paul recounted how he was a persecutor of the Church before his conversion. He probably prayed for success in his persecution. But would he ever think that he would change from persecuting the Good News to preaching the Good News?

And in the gospel, Peter would had probably prayed for fish, since he worked hard all night and caught nothing. But would he ever think that from catching fish for a living, he would be catching men for the Lord?

So when prayers go up, blessings come down. And when those blessings come down, they might come down in disguise and they will also come down as a surprise.

For Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Peter, they started off with their own prayers, and the blessings that came down, came as a surprise.

So when we pray, a surprise will be awaiting us. And it might just be that we will be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

There is a story of a pretty and well-dressed lady who went to see a lawyer to file for divorce.

Her husband used to be a successful businessman, and he was able to support her expensive and lavish life-style.

But when his business failed, his wife couldn’t take it and decided to file for divorce and leave him.

When the lawyer heard her story, he told her that he would like someone to speak to her, and he called in a middle-aged office cleaner.

The lawyer asked the cleaner to tell the lady how she found meaning and direction in her life.

The cleaner’s story went like this – My husband died of cancer in his late 30s, and then barely half a year later, my only son was killed in a road accident.

I had nobody left and nothing to live for. I was in grief and in shock and in a daze. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat.

I couldn’t smile. I was angry with God and resented those people who seemed so happy in life. I even thought of ending my life.

One day when I came back from work, there was a scrawny kitten at the corridor, meowing away, and it followed me to the door.

I felt sorry for the kitten, and I decided to let it in and I gave it some milk. It purred and rubbed against my leg.

For the first time in months, I smiled. Then I stopped to think. If helping and feeding a little kitten can make me smile, then maybe helping somebody in need can make me happy.

So the next day, I cooked some food and brought it to a neighbour who was elderly and sick, and it made her happy.

So every day, I would try to do something nice for someone else and it made me happy to see them happy.

I realized that a person cannot be happy unless he is thinking of how much he can help others, instead of thinking about how much he can get from others.

Now I eat well, and I sleep well, and I am happy.

And then the cleaner said to the lady: I hope that  you can be happy too, by helping others to be happy.

Whether the lady changed her mind or not, the story leaves it to us to think about it.

But the point of the story is that the poor cleaner found happiness by helping others to be happy.

She prayed for happiness and found it by helping others to be happy.

So when prayers of petition are offered up, blessings in disguise and blessings of surprise are awaiting us.

And it will help us change our own perspectives to see how God wants us to be an answer and a blessing to others.

Often we feel bad when others remember us only when they need us. But actually we should feel blessed because we are like a candle that comes to their mind when there is darkness.

So we pray, and offer up our prayer and petitions. And like Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Peter, let us be prepared to be God’s answer and blessing for others.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

4th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 31.01.2016

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 / 1 Cor 12:31 – 13:13 / Luke 4:21-30

It is said that knowledge is power. Knowledge has the power to control access to opportunity and advancement.

Knowledge comes from learning. But the more the knowledge, the lesser should be the ego.

Because the more we know, we should also realize that there is much more that we don’t know. Because real knowledge is to know the extent of our ignorance.

It is said that there are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

And if we think that praying for a miracle is almost nearly impossible then let us listen to this story.

A woman went to see a holy man and asked him to pray to God to take her husband out of this world, because he was always quarrelling with her, and she can’t live with him anymore.

The holy man paused for a moment, and then said to her:  Very well, I will pray, but I must warn you that when I begin to pray, God will decide which of you is more guilty. And whoever is more guilty will die immediately! So how? You want me to start praying?

The woman thought for a while, and then said: Err…. Never mind, no need to pray anymore. And she left, hurriedly.

Well, the truth set her free, and it also made her flee.

We may know what the truth is, but it would take a miracle for the truth to set us free.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus went to His hometown and preached the truth to His people but they despised Him.

To bring home the point, Jesus recalled for them two stories from their history about how God helped outsiders instead of their own people.

One was a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town and the other a leper, Naaman a Syrian.

But instead of believing that miracles can happen to outsiders, they became enraged and they hustled Him out of the town and took Him to the brow of the hill and intended to throw Him down the cliff.

And then something astonishing happened. Jesus slipped through the crowd and walked away.

Another miracle happened before their eyes. The truth had set Jesus free but that same truth left them obstinate and trapped in their anger.

So we may know what the truth is, but for the truth to set us free, it may require a miracle.

And that would depend on how we live our lives. Do we live as though nothing is a miracle? Or do we live as though everything is a miracle.

But for a miracle to happen would require us to put more energy to our faith and beliefs than to our doubts and fears.

Once there was a Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist.

 Everyday, when the lady prayed, the atheist guy could hear her. 

 He thought to himself, "She sure is crazy, praying all the time like that.  Doesn't she know there isn't a God?" 

Many times while she was praying, he would go to her house and harass her, saying "Lady, why do you pray all the time? Don't you know there is no God?"  But she kept on praying.

One day, she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying to the Lord explaining her situation and thanking Him for what He was going to do.  

As usual, the atheist heard her praying and thought to himself, "Humph. I'll fix her."  He went to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of groceries, took them to her house, dropped them off on the front porch, rang the door bell and then hid in the bushes to see what she would do.

When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she began to praise the Lord with all her heart, jumping, singing and shouting.  

The atheist then jumped out of the bushes and told her, "You old crazy lady!  God didn't buy you those groceries, I bought those groceries!" 

Suddenly the lady shouted and began running down the street, shouting and praising the Lord. The atheist chased after her, and when he finally caught her, he asked what her problem was. 

She said, "I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn't know He was going make the devil pay for them!"

So as it goes, for some everything is a miracle; for others nothing is a miracle.

For us who believe in God and that with His love, everything is possible and everything is a miracle.

Yes, God is love and His love is described in the 2nd reading: love is patient and kind, never jealous, never boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish; love does not take offence and is not resentful; love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth.

And as we hear these words, a miracle is also waiting to happen. As much as God is love and His love is described in the words that we have heard, God also wants to recreate us with His love.

The miracle that is waiting to happen is when we can say: I am patient and kind, never jealous, never boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish; I do not take offence and I am not resentful; l take no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth.
May this text be fulfilled even as we listen.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

3rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 24.01.2016

Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10 / 1 Cor 12:12-30 / Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Today we have come to church amidst some inconveniences of road closures and road diversions and changes in bus routes.

Whatever it is we have come here and later from here, we will be going somewhere else.

But wherever we may be going, at the end of the day, we will have to go back to where we started from – to a place called home.

Yes, there is no place like home, where we can be ourselves, wear what we like and do what we like. After all we are at home and it is there that we are truly ourselves.

And there is also no place like home, because that’s where the wi-fi connects automatically and easily. Indeed there is no place like home where the wi-fi is concerned.

In fact, there is no place like home where everything else is concerned. Home is where the day begins and home is where the day will end.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.

He had left Nazareth and went down to the river Jordon and was baptized by John.

And with the power of the Spirit in Him, He went to Galilee and He taught in the synagogues.

And now He had come home, and in a way He was a different person.

Jesus had left home and now He had come back. And His homecoming is going to be where a new story begins.

And that new story began when He unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Let us hear again what that new story, that new chapter of His life is all about:

“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

Jesus came back to His hometown of Nazareth to begin a new story of His life, a story of love, hope and dreams.

And as He rolled up the scroll and as all the eyes in the synagogue were fixed on Him, He said to them: This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.

So the story of His life was not going to begin in time to come or somewhere in the future. It was going to begin there and then. It was to begin in that “today” even as they listened.

And throughout His life, as He proclaimed the story of the kingdom of God and of the Lord’s year of favour, His hometown will become associated with His name.

Because Jesus will be known as “Jesus of Nazareth”. And when the story of His life comes to an end, the notice that was nailed to the cross will also tell where the story began: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Today we have come to church. But we have not just come to another place. We have come home; we have come to the house of God called “Church of the Sacred Heart” or often in short “Sacred Heart Church”.

We are the parishioners of the Church of the Sacred Heart. When I go to other parishes, I will be known as Fr. Stephen Yim from the Church of the Sacred Heart.

Similarly when you go to other parishes for some church function, you will be known as a parishioner of the Church of the Sacred Heart, or you will introduce yourself as such.

So the Church of the Sacred Heart is our spiritual hometown. It is from this hometown that our spiritual story begins, a story of love, hope and dreams.

And for this year, we have a profound story to tell. This year is the Jubilee Year of Mercy and our church is one of the five pilgrimage churches in Singapore.

The Year of Mercy has already begun on the 8th December 2015 and almost two months have passed. So what are we doing about it? 

As parishioners of this pilgrimage church, we are to be witnesses and heralds of God’s mercy. And people from other parishes want to know more about this.

We conducted a talk on the Year of Mercy a week ago and it was rather overwhelming. We expected to have 150 people but 270 people came and we ran short of material.

Yes, people are thirsting for the Good News and they want to experience God’s mercy. This is the Lord’s year of favour.

So we will have to conduct another talk on the Year of Mercy soon. 

The Pope has led the Church to implore God’s mercy and God is pouring His mercy on His Church and so we cannot just let this year pass by without letting it have an impact on our lives.

The least we can do is to take a few of these Year of Mercy pamphlets and sharing it with others and to accompany them on a pilgrimage to our church and to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness and healing.

Home is where our story begins. For Jesus it was Nazareth. For us it will be the Church of the Sacred Heart.

May the story of God’s mercy and love and forgiveness begin here and today and may it come to an end at our eternal home in heaven.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 16.01.2016

Isaiah 62:1-5 / 1 Cor 12:4-11 / John 2:1-12

Back in 1979, Singapore launched a rather interesting campaign. It is called the National Courtesy Campaign.

It was launched as a means of encouraging Singaporeans to be more kind and considerate to each other, so as to create a pleasant social environment.

Its purpose was to have a smooth transition to a new Singapore which would be densely populated, where people lived and worked in high rise towns, offices and factories, while travelling in crowded buses, trains and lifts.

The courtesy campaign was to encourage Singaporeans to adopt a more courteous attitude and lifestyle.

Whatever we may remember of the Courtesy Campaign, we may at least remember Singa the Courtesy Lion and that jingle “Make courtesy our way of life”.

That courtesy campaign may have left some effects in our lives. 

For example we may not be so blunt as to say “No!” to a request.

So we will say “Later” or “See how” or “Let me think about it” and we hope that the matter will be forgotten.

Once I was a friend’s house and when we sitting at the living room, he called out, “Hey waiter, get a cup of coffee for Father.” As I wondered who he was calling, his son came out of the room and went to get a cup of coffee.

I was amused and I asked him why he called his son “waiter”. He explained: Every time I asked him to do something, he would tell me “Wait” so after a while I decided to name him “Waiter”.   ; P

So we won’t say “No!” We will try to be courteous and say “Later” or “See how” or “Wait”

In the gospel we heard about the event of the wedding at Cana. It is a unique story that is not found in the other gospels.

It is also a peculiar story because of the conversation between Jesus and Mary. 

The wine for the wedding had finished and Mary came to know of it. And she said to Jesus, “They have no wine.”

The reply that Jesus gave to Mary was almost equivalent to a “So what?” or “It’s none of my business.” Whatever it may be, the reply of Jesus to His mother seemed rather blunt.

Yet, it can be said that Jesus was clear with His reply. He didn’t say “See how” or “Later” or even “Wait”. It was as clear as a “No”; no wine means no wine. 

So the wedding feast was going to turn into a wedding fiasco. 

Celebration was going to turn into embarrassment.

It seemed like nothing can be done, and even Jesus don’t seem to want to do anything about it.

But for Mary, no wine does not mean no hope.

She was like putting her own faith to the test when she said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

So even though Jesus said that His hour has not come, Mary was willing to wait and see how things will turn out.

She dared to believe that Jesus will do something, sooner or later. It may not be there and then, but His hour will come as He had said.

A priest told me of this occasion when he and a few students went to do some social work.

They took a lift to the house they were going but as the lift was going up, it jolted and stopped.

Of course they were alarmed and one of the students asked the priest to pray for the lift to get working.

The priest was hesitant and told them to wait for the lift technicians to come but they pestered him to pray.

So he casually prayed like this: Lord, if You are willing, please get this lift working so that we can get out safely. 

But the students said: Father, just ask God to get this lift working again so that we can get out quickly.

So the priest prayed again: Lord, can you please sent the lift technicians over quickly so that we can get out safely?

Again the students said: Father, just ask God to get this lift working quickly.

The priest became a little flustered and so he retorted: Why not you pray and ask God yourself.

So one of the students prayed like this: O God, help us to get out of this lift quickly!

Well, you may guessed it. The lift jolted a little and got working and running and got to the floor and the lift door opened and the students jumped out and saying “Thanks be to God.”

The priest was the last to get out of the lift, and as he did so he looked upwards and sighed. Maybe he should have prayed with more conviction like that student, and get to the point instead of trying to be courteous with his prayers.

So when we pray, let us not be too courteous with our prayers. God knows what we need but we need to have more conviction and confidence in our prayers and that His hour will come.

Mary had that conviction and confidence that the hour of Jesus will come and that was why she was able to tell the servants “Do whatever He tells you.”

What Jesus wants to tell us is to pray with conviction and with confidence. 

Let us not “see how” or “wait” or “later”. When the Lord’s hour has come we must do whatever He tells us.

May Mother Mary pray for us to have faith like hers, so that we too will see water turn to into wine.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Baptism of the Lord, Year C, 09.01.2016

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 / Acts 10:34-38 / Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

One of the things that we have been told when we were young was: Don’t play with fire.

But “Don’t play with fire” is a warning not just for children but also for grownups, regardless of how old they are.

Yes, fire is a good servant but it is a bad master. And when it is a bad master, it is something that we won’t want to play with.

And when fire becomes a bad master, what is there to do? 

There is this puzzling saying “Fight fire with fire”. But to fight fire with fire will only result in a bigger fire.

Maybe there is a word missing there, and that is “fight fire with fireman!”

The fireman, as we know, fights fire and puts it out. The fireman does not play with fire. 

In fact we can say that the fireman goes through a kind of baptism of fire, and he would know how dangerous it is.

There is a fireman’s prayer that goes like this:                 
 “O God when I am called to duty, wherever flames may rage; 
give me the strength to save a life, whatever be its age.
Help me to embrace a little child, before it is too late. 
Or save an older person, from the horror of that fate.
I want to fulfill my calling, to give the best in me. 
To guard my friend and neighbour, and protect his property.
And if according to Your will, I must answer death’s call; 
bless with Your protecting hand, my family one and all.”

Where others run away from the fire, the fireman goes to the fire, to face the fire, and to fight the fire.

To face the fire and to fight the fire, the firemen will have to go through some kind of baptism of fire.

It is a calling to go through that kind of baptism of fire, but having gone through that, the fire that now burns in those firemen is stronger that the fire that burns around them.

So the warning “Don’t play with fire” must always be observed otherwise there will be burning issues.

But as the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord, there comes another warning and it’s this: Don’t play with fire and water!

In the gospel, we heard about the baptism of Jesus. After His own baptism, He was at prayer and heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily shape, like a dove. 

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.”

Jesus was baptized by John with water, and then astounding and amazing things happened.

And John has this to say about Jesus: I baptize with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The elements of water and fire become powerful means at the Baptism of Jesus.

Jesus went through the baptism of water. And with that, He will give the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

Now, we have gone through the baptism of water. And with that we must now be prepared to go through the baptism of fire.

It is said that the most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. Indeed, the human soul on fire is a very powerful weapon.

But is it with the fire of the Holy Spirit, or with the fire of a bad master?

Is it a fire that leaves sparks of light everywhere, or is it a fire that destroys?

Yes, we have a fire within, but is it a good servant or a bad master?

One way to find out is to listen to what the letter of James 3:5 said: The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. 

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

The tongue is just a small organ yet it can be an instrument of the fire we have within.

And if the fire we have within is a bad master, then the fire that comes out of our tongues will cause hurt and destruction.

Those fiery words will burn up relationships and sow discord with gossips and slanders and lies. 

The tongue becomes like a flamethrower that burns away everything in its path.

But Jesus baptized us with the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is with the fire of the Holy Spirit within us that we fight fire with fire – the fire of a good servant against the fire of the bad master.

Hence, the holy fire from our tongues should leave sparks of light for those who hear us.

Our words must be words of love and mercy and compassion, words of kindness that encourage and strengthen others instead of tearing them down and destroying them.

Yes, we have a fire within, and the human soul on fire is a very powerful weapon. But it can also be a very dangerous weapon.

Jesus has already baptized us with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Let us not play with that fire, but let us make that fire a good servant, to serve God and to serve others.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holy Family, Year C, 27.12.2015

Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14 / Colossians 3:12-21 / Luke 2:41-52

Today’s feast of the Holy Family brings back for me many childhood memories, especially childhood memories about going to church.

When my siblings and I were still kids, my parents would usually bring us together as a family for Mass every Sunday.

We would go for the early morning Mass and my parents would have a hard time waking us up on Sunday mornings.

I can’t remember how but I think my family would make it in time for Mass, although my parents had to drive us out of the house as if the house was on fire!

Then at Mass, I also don’t know if we were actually praying but all I could remember is that if I was not dreaming, then I would be playing a fool.

I remembered on one occasion, I went to church with a safety pin on my shirt because a button had come off.

But during the homily, I felt bored, so I took out the safety pin and poked my brother.

Of course, we got into a bit of fight, and my mum intervened, and she “prophesied” that I would get it after Mass, and the “prophecy” was fulfilled.

Of course, besides Sunday Mass, my parents would make sure that we have our family rosary prayers every evening.

As I think about it now, I must say that it is my parents who formed my religious upbringing.

It was not easy for them to make me behave in church and to say my prayers, because I was the naughtiest of my siblings.

They were strict with me in my religious upbringing but now I really thank them for that, otherwise I would have gone way out.

No doubt they prayed for me, but I guess they never expected how far their prayers would go, especially when I became a priest!

Today’s Gospel presents us Jesus and His parents going to the Temple.

This is the only time we hear about Jesus as a 12 year-old.

Being the Holy Family does not mean that they have no worries or anxieties or problems.

In today’s gospel, we see the problem between parents and children.

It is not about who is right or wrong. Rather it is about a family going through the struggles and difficulties of life together.

Nowadays parents have a difficult time bringing up their children, especially in giving them a religious upbringing.

Getting them to come on time for Mass on Sunday is already difficult enough.

Trying to have family prayers is really challenging because of the busyness of everyone in the family.

Yet, without the religious dimension of the family life, then it is almost impossible to have family values.

The 1st reading talks about the filial piety of children but this cannot be fostered if the children have no knowledge of God.

Hence, if parents want children to respect them then they have to teach their children to respect God first and then the children will know what to do.

Parents have to be firm with their children in their religious upbringing like coming for Mass on Sundays and praying together as a family.

It is not easy especially when parents themselves are so busy and children are so independent nowadays.

But if there is to be any family love, warmth and unity, then God must be in the center of the family.

The family that prays together will stay together in difficult and challenging times.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph showed us in this aspect.

Mary and Joseph will   pray for us and our families that there will be love, unity, understanding, forgiveness in our families.

Yes, Mary and Joseph will pray for us but we too need to do our part.

On this feast of the Holy Family, the Archbishop William Goh has composed a “Prayer for the family in the Year of Mercy”.

In that prayer, he prayed for the healing of family brokenness through God’s mercy and forgiveness.

His prayer is inspired by what Pope Francis said about the family:
“Husband and wife, have you quarrelled? Children with parents? It’s not right, but it isn’t the problem. The problem is that this sentiment must not be there the next day... The day must never end without making peace in the family.”

Yes, we need to pray for peace in the family. But it can only come about through God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The Archbishop has given us the prayer. It is for us to decide whether we really want to pray for peace in the family.

Family peace begins with prayer. And Mother Mary and St. Joseph will be there in prayer with us for our families.

A family that prays together will stay together in peace.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, 20.12.2015

During this time of the year, the two words that are quite often used are “Merry Christmas”. At least it is often used in Church. And although Christmas is only five days away we just can’t wait to keep saying it, as if Christmas is already here.

But this year, another word seems to have surfaced and have come into prominence, along with the traditional “Merry Christmas”.

With the opening of the Year of Mercy on the 8th December, the word “mercy” has generated other connected terms like “Door of Mercy” and “works of mercy” and also the theme of the year “Merciful like the Father”.

But the word “mercy” seems to have dropped out of use in our everyday language. It seems to be out of fashion.

It seems to be restricted to Church language in the form of prayers and preaching. 

But now the word “mercy” is brought up into prominence and the Pope, echoing his predecessors, declared the centrality of mercy in the Church’s mission and message.

Along with that, and among other things, is the re-emphasis of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The understanding of mercy has its foundation in the opening lines of Psalm 50 – Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness, in your compassion blot out my offence.

So mercy is expressed in two forms – kindness and compassion.
Kindness is an act of charity to those in need and compassion is sharing in the suffering of others.

And that’s what we saw in the gospel account of what is commonly known as “The Visitation”.

The gospel account began by saying that Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Certainly it was not a casual or ordinary event. Mary has just conceived Jesus in her womb and she had her own worries and anxieties to handle.

It was certainly not a time to go travelling over the country side.

But having known that her cousin Elizabeth was already in her sixth month of pregnancy, Mary knew that she must be there for her.

It was a call to an act of mercy – to show kindness to Elizabeth in her time of need, and to share in her joy and anxiety of pregnancy.

The gospel passage reminds us that there is always something that we can give, even if it is only kindness and compassion. (Anne Frank)

Because life’s most persistent and urgent question is: “What are you doing for others?” (Martin Luther King Jr) 

Some time ago, there was this rather touching and inspiring article in the papers.

A single mother Noriza A. Mansor gets only one day off a week from her job as a bedsheet promoter.

Most would use that day to rest, but she spends it looking after an old man she met by chance as he stood in a Toa Payoh supermarket soiled by his faeces.

Noriza, 49, made headlines last October when she stepped forward to help Tan Soy Yong, 76, who had soiled himself while buying groce¬ries with his wife, who was in a wheelchair.

Others had recoiled from the old man and his stench. However, Noriza not only bought him new shorts but even knelt to wipe the dried faeces off his legs – an act which moved a bystander to tears.

Since that day, she has made it a point to visit Tan for at least six hours a week at his three-room flat in Potong Pasir.

Tan has lived there alone since the start of the year when his wife, Lee Bee Yian, also 76, was hospita¬lised for cancer.

During her visits, Noriza cleans up Tan, who cannot control his bowels, and washes his soiled laundry. She also mops the floor and tidies up the flat while chatting with him in a mix of Malay and Hokkien.

Some days, she will accompany him to visit his wife in hospital.

On other days, she will take him out in his wheelchair to the hawker centre to eat his favourite wonton noodles.

“I only wish I could see him more often. Sometimes if I finish work at 8pm, I will go to see him. But I don’t always have the time,” said Noriza.

She often works 12 hours a day, taking home around S$2,000 a month. She has three sons and two daughters aged 11 to 26. Four of them still live with her.

Yet she has no qualms about ma¬¬king time for the elderly couple. “In my life, I am never tired,” she said.

Tan told her he has a son and a daughter but Noriza said that according to social workers, the couple have no children.

Noriza believes Tan was sent into her life by God, as she lost her pa¬rents when she was 21.

Her father succumbed to cancer and her mother wasted away in depression eight months later.

She said she treated the couple as “my own father and mother”.

Tan once asked her if she had a passport. “I said yes. He said when his wife is discharged, we can go on holiday together as a family.”

She smiled wistfully. “I know this kind of thing is very hard with their conditions. But of course I told him we would.”

Certainly that was a very touching and remarkable act of kindness and charity. 

It is said that kindness goes a long way. But where does it go to?
Let us remember that every act of kindness, every act of compassion, every act of mercy, is a stepping stone towards heaven. 

Every corporal and spiritual work of mercy is to make us be merciful, just as the Father is merciful.

May this Christmas be a “Merry Christmas” for us. And may this Christmas also be a “Merciful Christmas” for us as we give to others the gifts of kindness and compassion.
Have a "Merciful Christmas"