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Saturday, December 20, 2014

4th Sunday of Advent Year B, 21.12.2014

2 Sam7:1-5, 8-11, 16 / Romans 16:25-27 / Luke 1:26-38

Today is the 21st December. In the month of December when the date begins with a “2”, then it means one thing.

It means that Christmas is nearly here. After all it is just a few more days away. That would sound scary if we haven’t even put up the Christmas tree yet!

How can we not be aware that Christmas is nearly here?

In fact, for the rest of the world, Christmas is not nearly here; Christmas seems to be already here.

Since mid-November, the shopping malls and the supermarkets are already playing Christmas music.

And by now, most companies would already have had their Christmas parties and all that.

So it seems that Christmas Day, the 25th December, is the final day for Christmas celebrations.

And Christmas presents are already given out before Christmas Day. Not only given out but maybe opened already before Christmas Day.

So even though Christmas is nearly here, for the rest of the world, Christmas is already here, and maybe over and done with.

But whether it is nearly here or already here, the Christmas event, whether religious or otherwise, seems to have been taken for granted.

It is taken for granted in the sense that we expect it to happen, and that it must happen.

But today’s gospel passage reminds us that Christmas nearly did not happen.

Today’s gospel passage is commonly known as the “Annunciation” and we are familiar with the dialogue between the angel Gabriel and Mary.

We take it for granted that Mary will say yes to all that the angel Gabriel told her.

But when we take a closer look at the passage, then we may realize that Christmas nearly did not happen.

Because when the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, she was deeply disturbed by his words and she wondered what it could mean.

And then she questioned the possibility of her conceiving a child since she was a virgin.

Even though the angel Gabriel told Mary that nothing is impossible with God, that did not necessarily and satisfactorily answer her questions.

But in the end, Mary accepted what was told to her by the angel Gabriel.

So as we can see, Christmas nearly did not happen. And if Mary had said no, then Christmas would not have happened.

For Christmas to happen, Mary had to lay aside her plans and go 
along with God’s plans. 

Similarly in the 1st reading, king David had to lay aside his plans to build a house for God. Instead God would build a house for him, and that house and David’s sovereignty will always stand secure before the Lord and David’s throne will be established forever.

Yes, God’s ways are higher than man’s ways and God’s thoughts are higher than man’s thoughts. When we go along with God’s ways, then the Christmas event is happening again.

But that would mean that we have to let go of our ambitions and directions and go along the way of God.

There is this story of a teacher, Miss Hazel, who had ambitions of being a principal and even a superintendent of schools.

But in her class was this boy, Teddy, who certainly qualified as the last and the least. He was disinterested, untidy, messy, with a deadpan face, expressionless and with a glassy unfocused stare.

Whenever Miss Hazel spoke to Teddy, he always answered in monosyllables.

But Miss Hazel played her cards carefully. Although she would say that she cared for all in her class, deep down inside her she wasn’t being completely truthful. She disliked and resented Teddy.

Even then, she knew more about Teddy’s family background than she wanted to admit. The records read like this:

Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude but poor home situation. 

He could do better. Mother seriously ill and he receives little help at home.

Teddy is good boy but a slow learner. His mother died this year. 

His father shows no interest in him.

Well, it was Christmas time and the boys and girls in Miss Hazel’s class brought her Christmas presents. 

They piled their presents on her desk and crowded around to watch her open them.

Among the presents, there was one from Teddy. She was surprised that he had brought her a gift. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with scotch tape, and written with these words: For Miss Hazel, from Teddy.

When she opened Teddy’s present, out fell a gaudy jade-stone bracelet, with a couple of stones missing, and half a bottle of cheap perfume.

The other children began to giggle and smirk over Teddy’s gifts, but Miss Hazel had enough of sense to silence them by putting on the bracelet and spraying some of the perfume on her wrist.

And then holding her wrist up for the children to smell, she said, “Doesn’t it smell nice?”, and the children taking the cue from her, nodded with “oohs” and “aahs”.

At the end of the day, when the other children had left, Teddy lingered behind. Then he slowly came over to her desk and said softly, “Miss Hazel … Miss Hazel … you smell just like my mother … and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you liked my presents.”

When Teddy left, a stunned Miss Hazel got down on her knees and begged God to forgive her.

The next day when the children came to school, they had a “new” teacher. Miss Hazel had become a different person. She was no longer just a teacher; she had become an agent of God. 

She was now a person committed to loving her children and doing things for them that would live on after her. She helped all the children, especially the slow ones and especially Teddy.

By the end of the school year, Teddy showed dramatic improvement and had caught up with most of the students. 

Well, Teddy moved on to another class and Miss Hazel had a new class of students to teach.

Then one day, she received a note that read: Dear Miss Hazel, I wanted you to be the first to know that I came in second in my class. Love, Teddy.

Four years later, another note came: Dear Miss Hazel, they just told me that I will be graduating with honours in my class. I want you to be the first to know. The university has not been easy but I liked it. Love Teddy.

Another four years later – Dear Miss Hazel, I wanted you to know to be the first to know that I am getting married. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy.

Well, Miss Hazel went to Teddy’s wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat, and of course, wearing that bracelet and that perfume. 

She deserved to sit there; she had done something for Teddy that he could never forget.

And as she sat there, she thought to herself, “This is better than being a school superintendent.”

Certainly it is. When we let go of our ambitions and our plans and our directions, and go along the way of the Lord, we become gifts to ourselves and we become gifts to others.

Mary showed us how to do it. When we do what she did, then Christmas is not only nearly here, it is also already here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, 14.12.2014

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11 / 1 Thess 5:16-24 / John 1:6-8, 19-28

As we began the Mass, we lighted the third candle of the Advent wreath, which is the rose-colored candle.

It also signifies that the third Sunday of Advent is also called "Gaudete Sunday". "Gaudete" means rejoice.

Yes, the first reading tells us to exult for joy in the Lord and to rejoice in God.

The second reading also tells us to be happy at all times and to pray constantly.

Yes, a rose-coloured candle standing in the midst of three dark- purple candles tells us that life can have its joyful moments amidst disappointment and sadness and sorrow.

Similarly, life can also have its funny and surprising moments amidst the serious and stiffness of life, and I hope we can smile a bit from this following story.

From the shadows in the distance, the man watched as the family packed their bags in the car, locked the doors and then drove off for their holidays.

The man waited till it was dark and then he emerged from the shadows and he went to the front door and rang the door-bell of the house.

When there was no answer, the man, a seasoned burglar picked the lock of the front door and got in.

Then just to be sure that no one was in the house, he called out, "Is there anyone in?"

Hearing nothing, he was about to move on, when he was stunned by a voice, "I see you, and Johnny sees you!"

The burglar panicked and called out, "Who's that?"

And again, the voice came back, "I see you, and Johnny sees you!"

Terrified, the burglar switched on his torchlight and pointed it towards the direction of the voice.

He was relieved to see that it was a parrot in a cage and it recited once again, "I see you, and Johnny sees you!"

The burglar laughed to himself and said, "Oh, shut up stupid bird. 

Anyway, who is this Johnny? Is it another bird friend of yours?"

And the parrot replied, "Johnny is right below me!"

And the burglar shined his torch at what was below the parrot's cage.

And there he saw Johnny, a huge Doberman, looking at the burglar with those eyes, and growling.

And then, the parrot said, "Go Johnny, go!"

Well, it is good to have a little laugh on this "Rejoice Sunday".

Back to something serious. In the gospel, we heard of a man sent by God, and his name was John.

So who is the John? Of course we know he is John the Baptist. But the gospel passage tells us more about who John is.

John is a witness, a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.

And John would say this about himself: I am, as Isaiah prophesied – a voice that cries out in the wilderness: Make a straight path for the Lord.

That is who John is. And the next question would be – who are we then?

The 1st reading tells us that the Spirit of the Lord has been given to us, and that the Lord will make integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations.

So the Spirit of the Lord will make us into persons of integrity and walk the straight path of Lord so that God will be praised.

So what is integrity? Once upon a time, there was a selfish and greedy man. He liked everything to be his own. He could not share his belongings with anyone, not even his friends or the poor.

One day, the man lost thirty gold coins. He went to his friend’s house and told him that he lost his gold coins. His friend was a kind man.

As his friend’s daughter was coming back from an errand she found a bag that contained thirty gold coins.

When she arrived home, she told her father what she had found. The girl’s father told her that the gold coins belong to his friend and he sent for him. 

When the selfish and greedy man arrived, he told him how his daughter had found his thirty gold coins and handed them to him. 

After counting the gold coins, the man said that ten of them were missing and had been taken by the girl as he had forty gold coins. 

He further demanded that he will recover the remaining amount from him. But of course the girl’s father refused.

The man left the gold coins and went to the court and informed the judge there about what had taken place between him and the girl’s father.

The judge sent for the girl and her father, and when they arrived the judge asked the girl how many gold coins she found. She replied thirty gold coins. 

The judge then asked the selfish man how many gold coins did he lose and he answered forty gold coins.

The judge then told the man that the gold coins did not belong to him because the girl found thirty and not forty as he claimed to have lost.

And then the judge told the girl to take the gold coins and that if anybody is looking for them he will send for the girl.

The judge then told the man that if anybody reports that they have found forty gold coins he will send for him. 

It was then that the man confessed that he had lied and that he lost only thirty gold coins but the judge would not listen to him.

Just a story about integrity and honesty and that truth will prevail. 

But that is also who we are and when we are who we should be, then we will truly rejoice in the Lord.

As the 2nd reading says – never try to suppress the Spirit; think before you do anything, hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.

With that we will receive joy from the Lord and then the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

2nd Sunday of Advent Year B 07.12.2014

Is 40:1-5,9-11/ 2 Pt 3:8-14/ Mk 1:1-8

If there is one word to describe the month of December, it will be this word – shopping!

Ever since early November, the media on all platforms have been bombarding us with sales, sales and sales, and urging us to buy, buy, and buy.

All of that is under the cover of Christmas – buy presents, buy gifts, buy for yourself, buy for your loved ones, buy for your friends.

We may tend to think that commercialism has made Christmas into a great shopping event.

But guess who started this “shopping for Christmas”?

If you were to ask me, I would say that it was those wise men.

And what they bought were not cheap stuff. In those days, gold, frankincense and myrrh were commodities of great value.

So they “shopped” for those things to present them to the infant king of the Jews.

And they may not have gone shopping with their wives. Otherwise, there would be more than three gifts.

If their wives had gone along shopping with them, then probably there would be diapers and milk powder for the baby, and essence of chicken and bird nest for the mother.

So there it is, the origins of Christmas shopping and it has not stopped ever since.

But from the way the gospel described John the Baptist, it was quite obvious he didn’t do any Christmas shopping.

He wore a garment of camel skin, like as if he was going for some fancy dress party.

What he ate was far from the food that is usually associated with Christmas. Whatever wild honey might taste like, the locusts look like something from “Fear Factor”.

And instead of a backdrop of winter wonderland with evergreen Christmas trees, it was the dry and hot desert sands of the wilderness.

On this 2nd Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist makes his appearance and he is waking us up from dreaming of a white Christmas.

He was that messenger who prepared the way for the Lord, and making His path straight.

What John the Baptist did then, he also wants to do now as we enter into the 2nd week of Advent.

He calls out for repentance and for the forgiveness of sins.

And the target here is to make straight the paths of our hearts for Jesus to enter.

But very often the paths of our hearts are twisted and make crooked by the voices of the world.

Christmas time is also an occasion that children make use of to dictate to their parents what they want for Christmas.

And what they want may not do any good for them, and many parents find it difficult to explain to their teenagers why some music or movies or magazines or clothing are not acceptable. 

There is this story of a father whose teenage son wanted a computer game for his Christmas present.

The son said that although it was expensive, it had high ratings and reviews and it was a gamer’s choice.

But it has a lot of violence and blood and gore, as well as some sex here and there and also foul language.

The father said no, the son pestered for an explanation. The father tried to explain but in the end it was still “NO” and the son sulked.
The next day, the father baked some brownies and asked his son if he would like to try some.

But he told his son that he needs to tell him what were the ingredients used before he can eat it.

It was a family recipe and the best ingredients were used, but the father added something new.

When the son asked what it was, the father calmly replied that he added dog poop.

The father stated that it was just a teaspoonful and he had taken great care to bake the mixture at the right temperature and for the exact time. The father said that the brownies will taste superb.

Even with all the assurances that the brownies will taste great, the son reeled and frowned and refused to take any.

The father acted surprised. There was only one additional ingredient and it would barely be noticed, but the son stubbornly refused to try the brownies.

Then the father explained that the computer game that the son wanted was just like the brownies.

Evil would mask itself in the voices of the world to say that the computer game is exciting and thrilling to play, and some violence and sex here and there is just part of the game.

But just like the brownies, just a bit of an extra ingredient makes all the difference between a great brownie and a repulsive one.

So whenever the son wanted to do something or get something or see something that he should not, the father would merely ask him if he would like some of his special dog poop brownies. No explanation or argument would be necessary.

Yes, the voices of the world of commercialism would twist and turn the paths of our hearts to get us to buy something we should not and eventually block out Jesus from entering into our hearts.

We need to shop, but let us shop wisely. The wise men bought gold, frankincense and myrrh to present them to the infant Jesus to symbolize His royalty, divinity and humanity.

May what we buy be used for the service of the Lord and to make the paths of our hearts straight for Jesus to enter.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B, 30-11-14

Isa 63:16-17, 64:1, 3-8/ 1 Cor 1:3-9/ Mk 13:33-37

There are many ways to know how healthy we are or how our body is feeling.

We can go for a medical check-up, or take advantage of those free consultations to see how well we are.

But one of the best ways to know how healthy we are and the physical state of our body is to see who we feel when we wake up.

If at the point of waking up, we feel fresh and rejuvenated then we can be sure that we will go through the day energetically, and we will even go be in a good mood throughout the day.

We may not even need that cup of coffee to get us started and we may even be waking up before the alarm goes off.

But this is often not the case. Very often, the alarm wakes us up and at times we can even not hear the alarm!

Oh yes, we can oversleep and we jump-start the day and get into that morning rush as we try not to be late for work or for school or for whatever.

If we can oversleep and the alarm can’t even wake us up, then we must be very tired and not in good shape.

And even if we can wake up and drag ourselves out of bed and when we look at ourselves in the mirror, then we can really see how we feel.

Very often, we look sleepy, with eyes only half-opened.

Our face looks tired and feels tired. It looks like as if we had been working all night instead of sleeping. It is strange to look tired when we wake up.

Even a cup of coffee may not get us started. May a few cups are needed.

And if we wake up feeling tired, then most likely we will feel tired throughout the day, tired and maybe moody.

So, how we feel when we wake up in the morning will certainly have a bearing on the rest of the day.

Today, we begin a new liturgical year, a new Church year, with the 1st Sunday of Advent.

We can say that today we wake up to a new Church year.

The season of Advent prepares us for Christmas. So the 1st Sunday of Advent is like the alarm clock ringing. The 4 weeks of Advent to slowly wake us up to Christmas.

But are we hearing the alarm and slowly waking up?

Or do we just wake up for a while and then back to sleep and end up oversleeping?

If after sleeping one whole night and we still can’t quite wake up or feel tired upon waking up, then something must be wrong.

Well, we can ignore the signs and continue to sleep and end up oversleeping and then jump-start and rush through Advent and through Christmas and rush through life, and end up getting more and more tired about life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus kept repeating this phrase – stay awake!

Jesus wants us to look at the areas of our lives that tire us out physically and spiritually.

He wants us to look at it and stay awake and keep looking at it instead of closing our eyes and sleeping through it and think that they will go away somehow.

Yes, we open our eyes and look at our lifestyles and our eating habits, especially those that are unhealthy and doing damage to our health.

We open our eyes and look at our spiritual life, eg, our prayer life and our awareness of the presence of God in our lives.

We also look at what is bothering us – our frustrations, worries and anxieties, our disappointments, resentment and anger.

All these trouble our hearts and burden our minds so much so that as we are sleeping, our minds and hearts are not resting.

Hence, when the alarm wakes us up, or when we try to wake up, we feel too tired and we just want to continue sleeping.

But to continue to sleep and then end up oversleeping will not solve any problems – in fact, the problem will only keep increasing.

And that’s why Jesus tells us to stay awake and to open our eyes to look at our problems. It is only when we keep looking at the problem, then we will slowly see the solution.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christ the King, Year A, 23.11.2014

Ezk 34:11-12, 15-17/ 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28/ Mt 25:31-46

I am a priest and I should be preaching the gospel, but today I would like to give the ladies a little fashion tip when they go out for a date.

It is said that when a lady goes out for a date, she must put on at least three items – high heels, earrings and lipstick.

Oh, talking about lipstick, there is a little joke: Why did the girl put lipstick on her forehead? Ans: Because she wants to make up her mind.

So, when people can’t make up their minds, just tell them to put lipstick on their foreheads! :D

And talking about make-up, it is meant to enhance the beauty of a person.

Of course, there must be some natural beauty but a little make-up here and there can either enhance some features or cover up some blemishes.

On the other hand, too much make-up will make a face look too artificial and bad make-up can make a face look like something from a horror movie (especially if the make-up is not water proof).

But there is one more purpose for make-up, and that is, it is used for disguises.

With some skillful make-up, a face can look quite different, be it for younger or older, or be it for prettier or uglier.

Now we can’t say that Jesus wears make-up (He always looks good), but He is pretty good (excuse the pun) at disguises.

There is this story of St Martin of Tours who was a Roman soldier and a Christian.

One cold winter day, as he was riding into the city, a poor beggar stopped him and asked him for money.

Although St Martin had no money, he was moved with compassion for the poor man who stood shivering in the cold.

St Martin gave him what he had. Taking off his soldier’s coat, he cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar.

That night, St Martin had a dream. In his dream, he saw heaven and all the angels and Jesus standing in their midst.

Jesus was wearing half of a Roman soldier’s coat. It was that half that St Martin had given to the poor beggar and St Martin realized that the poor beggar was actually Jesus in disguise.

Yes, Jesus is very present in this world but He always moves around in disguises.

So, if people were to ask us where to find Jesus, we can point to the tabernacle we may even dare to point to ourselves – after all we are the Body of Christ.

But today’s gospel parable tells us where to find Jesus and also who He is disguised as.

He is disguised as those who are hungry and thirsty, as the stranger, the sick and those in prison.

And that’s why it is so challenging to see beyond the disguises of Jesus.

His disguises are what we frown upon, and what we would rather avoid because they are not nice to look at.

Jesus says: I was hungry. We would be standing in the middle of a buffet and say: I don’t know what to eat.

Jesus says: I was thirsty. And we say: Upsize the drink for me.

Jesus appears as a stranger. And we will call the police.

Jesus may be in the naked and we would look at our wardrobes bursting with clothes and say: I have nothing to wear.

Jesus is in the sick. And we ask: Is it contagious?

Jesus is in the prison. And we say: Better keep those behind bars!

Yes, it is not that easy to recognize Jesus in His various disguises.

But there is a blessing behind the disguises of Jesus. (Maybe that’s where we get that phrase – A blessing in disguise)

Because we heard in the gospel parable: Come, you whom my father has blessed. I was hungry you gave me food; I was thirsty you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me; in prison and you came to see me.

In other words, the poor, the needy, the homeless, the least, the lonely, and these we find at the bottom of the social ladder as actually God’s blessings in disguise.

Let us remember these words of Jesus: I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 16.11.2014

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / 1 Thess 5:1-6 / Matthew 25:14-30

There is one profession that is hardly talked about but at the same time we can hardly do without.

It is also a dying profession, and ironically it concerns the dead.

This profession is the grave digger and there isn’t a more polite term or politically correct term to it.

A newspaper article some time ago mentioned that there are only about 10 grave diggers in Singapore.

Even though cremation of the dead is a more preferred means, there are still some who opt for burials and that is where the grave digger comes in.

Modern machinery like the excavator may make the job easier but the grave digger will be needed to “tailor” the hole for the coffin to go in.

So there will always be a need for this profession though it is not nice to say that they make a living out of the dead.

In the gospel parable, it can be said that the 3rd servant is like a grave digger – both were into digging holes.

But unlike the grave digger who makes a living out of his digging, the 3rd servant lost his living from his digging. It can be said that he dug his own grave.

Whatever talents or money that his master gave him, he dug a hole in the ground and buried it.

In the parable, the talents that the master gave the servants represented something more than money.

It represented a gift – a gift of life and love.

In burying this gift, the 3rd servant exposed his attitude towards life and love.

Not only that, he even defended his attitude by focusing on his master’s hard and demanding expectations.

In doing so, he tried to shift the problem from himself to his master.

But that’s also our tendency, isn’t it? To always say that others have a problem, but not ourselves.

Like the ostrich, we bury our heads in the ground, refusing to look at the reality of our lives.

But as how the parable goes, the master exposed the servant’s attitude.

And we too will be exposed, sooner or later, but exposed for our own good, if we are willing to accept it.

There is a story of a young successful businessman who owns a big company.

Then he came to know a girl and he was attracted by her simplicity, humility, kindness and pleasant personality.

As they entered into a love relationship, the young successful businessman decided to check on her background.

So he called his assistant to engage a private investigator to check on the girl, but of course, without saying that he was the one who wanted the report.

After a couple of weeks, the private investigator’s report came in and the assistant passed it to that young successful businessman.

The report went like this: The girl in question comes from a middle class family. She holds a decent job in a manufacturing company, is hardworking and honest, kind and helpful.

But there is a problem. Lately, she has been going out with this young businessman who is noted for being ruthless in his business deals. He is crafty and cunning, and will resort to any means just to make money.

End of the report. Just a story, but what a twist it had at the end.

The story does not go on to say what happened to the young businessman.

And as in any story, if we were to put ourselves in the shoes of that young businessman, then what would our reaction be.

Would we refute the private investigator’s report and bury our heads in the ground and refuse to see the reality of ourselves?

Would we say that the private investigator is biased against us and tarnishing our reputation? Or worse, would we think that the “young businessman” in the report refers to someone else?

Say what we may, but like the 3rd servant, we have this tendency to bury our heads in the ground and shift the problem towards others.

But on the other hand, we can also be like the other two servants who used their gifts and talents to help others discover themselves in an enlightening and non-threatening way.

Let me share another story to show you what this means.

A boy had a very bad temper that was getting out of hand.

His father prayed about it and came up with this idea to help him.

He gave his son a hammer and a bag of nails, and he told his son: Every time you lose your temper, go to the wall and hammer a nail.

So the boy did just that – every time he lost his temper he took the hammer and hit the nail into the wall.

And if you have tried hitting a nail into the wall, you will know it is not that easy. Because you often end up hitting your thumb

So after a while, the boy thought that it was easier to control his temper than to keep hitting nails into the wall.

Then one day, the boy told his father that he could now control his temper because he had stopped hitting nails into the wall.

The father said: Well done, my son.  Now for every occasion that you felt like losing your temper but managed to control it, pull a nail out of the wall.

The son thought it was strange but did as he was told. So slowly the nails came out of the wall. And after some time, all the nails were pulled out of the wall.

The son told this to his father, and the father brought the son to look at the pock-marked wall.

He said to his son: My son, every time you lose your temper, it is like a nail being hammered into someone’s heart.

You may have apologized and the nail taken out, but the crack and the hurt remains, like this pock-marked wall. But learn this lesson, and you will be a better person.

It is interesting to note what the father did. He prayed first, and then he called upon whatever wisdom and experience he had to help his son overcome his bad temper. 

Today’s Gospel parable reminds us that God has given each of us, all the gifts, talents, wisdom, experience, that we need to make the most out of life.

That’s God’s gift to us. Our gift to God will be to use His gifts to us to help others make the most of their lives.

In other words, we are not called to bury hopes and joys. Rather we are called to share life and love.

Life and love are God’s gifts to us. What we do with that life and love is our gift to God and to others.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Souls Day 2014, 02.11.2014

Isa 25:6-9 / Rom 5:5-11 / Mt 11:25-30

One of the most emotionally charged occasions that we often come across would be at a funeral.

The death of a person, and more so a loved one, is usually accompanied with grief and sorrow and tears.

Words of condolences are few and short because no amount of words, no matter how profound can bring a dead person back to life.

And if words are to be used, then they must be carefully chosen and it is certainly not a time to take the matter lightly or make a joke out of it. But things can go wrong, unintentionally of course.

Like this one about the florist’s mistake. On opening his new shop, the owner received a bouquet of flowers. He became dismayed on reading the enclosed card because it read “Deepest Condolences”.

While he was wondering about the message, his phone rang. It was from the florist, apologizing for having sent the wrong card.

“Oh, it’s alright,” said the man. “I am a businessman and I understand how these things can happen.”

The florist said, “But I accidentally sent your card to the funeral wake.”

The man asked, “Oh! What did it say?”

The florist replied, “Congratulations on your new location.”

Certainly it was an awkward mistake, unintentional and no one would be laughing at it.

Nonetheless, it may reflect in a certain way, our hope for a departed loved one.

We hope and we pray that our departed loved ones would be in heaven and enjoy eternal rest, and are at peace.

As we would often hear at funeral wakes – he/she is in a better place, a better location, so to speak.

And that’s the purpose of coming for Mass on All Souls Day. We pray that God will grant our departed loved ones eternal rest in His presence.

But things may not be as simple as we would like it to be, as in that when we die we will go straight to heaven.

Because the reality is that as in life, so it is in death.

We who live in this world would know how much we can be attached to this world.

We are attached not just to things but more so to our loved ones and to the relationships that we have built in this world.

Even at our last breath, we may not want to let go easily of our life and detach ourselves from our loved ones.

Even though the Lord of life is calling us to the eternal light, we can’t help but keep glancing at the lights of this world that we have shared with our loved ones.

My father passed away in June, just three months before he could celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary with my mum and the family.

He had hoped and talked about it before his death but he didn’t get to live to celebrate it.

Although he died peacefully, we also know that he had some earthly hopes that could not be fulfilled.

And so this year’s All Souls Day is especially meaningful for my family and me as we pray that my father will rest in peace.

Similarly, you too have come to pray for your departed loved ones that they will rest in peace.

As the Church teaches us, “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation. But after death, they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Yes, we must pray for our departed loved ones, as well as for those who are forgotten or who have no one to pray for them.

More than just moving to a “new location”, we pray that they will see the eternal light and set on a new direction, a direction towards the God of life who will give them eternal rest.

And even as we pray, may we even while on earth, set our direction towards God and find life and love, peace and joy.