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Saturday, July 25, 2015

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 26.07.2015

2 Kings 4:42-44 / Ephesians 4:1-6 / John 6:1-15

Coming for Mass can be quite distracting and challenging, especially if we are hungry.

In Singapore where eating is like a habit and a lifestyle, (despite the fact that our country produces hardly any food) to be hungry for a prolonged period of time sounds abnormal and strange.

Still, hunger cannot be undermined because hunger fans the emotions of anger.

Some clever people have amalgamated the words “hungry” and “angry” into a new word called “hangry” to mean a state of anger caused by lack of food.

It is true that hunger can cause a negative change in the emotional state of any living being.

That’s why it takes a lot of patience to run a food business and to face hungry and demanding customers.

Once, I was at a food court and waiting behind another customer to get beef noodles. And I thought I heard her telling the cook that she wants the beef medium rare.

The cook just nodded and prepared the so called “medium rare” beef noodles for her.

So when my turn came I was curious and I had to ask if there is such a thing as “medium rare” beef noodles. 

The cook replied that it is better to pretend to give the hungry customer what she wants than to argue about the existence of “medium rare” beef noodles (smart cookie!)

In today’s gospel, food, and the multiplication of food is indeed a point for reflection.

But the reflection is not on how it was multiplied. Rather, the reflection is on why the food was multiplied. 

A large crowd was following Jesus, impressed by the signs He gave by curing the sick.

And they continued to follow Him simply because He made them feel loved.

He had shown his love for the sick by curing them. He showed His love for the crowd by teaching them the way of love.

And now as He sees the hungry crowd before Him and He knew exactly what to do.

He was going to show them another sign of His love, His love for them.

He was going to show His love for them by satisfying their hunger.

So regardless of how the loaves and fish were multiplied, the miracle pointed to one thing.

It showed that when God loves, He loves generously and He even loves in excess.

After all, when the remainders were collected ,they filled up 12 baskets.

Now that is the God that we are called to believe in - a God who loves generously; a God who gives generously.

But that is where the problem begins; because very often the attention shifts from the Giver to the gifts.

In the gospel, when the crowd saw the miracles that Jesus had worked, they wanted to make Him their King.

At first they followed Jesus because they hungered for truth and for love.

But now they got distracted by material benefits.

Now, they are interested in more food, more comfort, more security, more possessions.

And that is precisely our story.  Yes, we believe in God especially when He gives.  But what about when He doesn’t?

Yes, the God that we believe in is a God who loves us generously and provides for our needs.

Yet the God that we hunger for is the God who was nailed to the cross, died on the cross, so that we can have life.

If we only turn to God for food, clothing, shelter, wealth, then we are just like “hungry beings” – we will never be satisfied or contended.

If “hungry beings” are always thinking about food, then poor beings are always thinking about wealth and riches.

To be wealthy and rich but without honour and integrity is like tasteless food; it will satisfy the hunger but it won’t taste good.

A successful businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. 

Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. 

He called all the young executives in his company together. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO”

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and told his wife the story. 

She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. 

After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. 

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by- still nothing in Jim’s pot. 

He just knew he must have killed his seed but he didn’t say anything to his colleagues. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil.

The year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. 

Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick in his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. 

He took his empty pot to the board room. When he arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. Jim held his empty pot and many of his colleagues laughed at him.

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide at the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO.” Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!” 

Then he spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. 

He thought, “Now he knows I’m a failure! Maybe I’ll be fired!” 

When he got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. 

Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. Then he announced, “Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!” He continued, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. So, he is the one who will be the new CEO!”

Just a story to remind us that hunger for success cannot be at the expense of honour and integrity.

Jesus did not give in to the crowds to become popular for the wrong reasons.

We are reminded that we are human beings and not “hungry beings”.

We only need to follow God’s ways and He will open wide His hands and fill the hunger of our hearts.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 19.07.2015

Jeremiah 23:1-6 / Ephesians 2:13-18 / Mark 6:30-34

I am sure we know what the initials “RIP” stand for.

We see those initials on tombstones and on niches – and of course we know it stands for “Rest in Peace”. (Not Rise If Possible!)

It seems that only for those who have passed on, those who have died, only they are entitled to “rest in peace”.

But for the living, and that means us, we can go around wearing T-shirts with the big letters RIP – and they would stand for “Rest If Possible”.

In an urban society like Singapore, we are plagued with nothing less than busyness.

In fact, we can be so busy that RIP can also mean “Ripped Into Pieces”.

Maybe that is why we tend to go overseas for holidays. We want to get away from it all, to have some rest and some peace. And yet we carry along our mobile devices so as to be connected to the internet and to emails and whatever.

Even when we are in the toilet (sometimes it is called the restroom), we still cannot “rest” in peace.

Because someone will come along and knock on the door and say things like: You are still in there? Can you hurry up?

And we can also forget about Sunday being a day of rest.

Sundays can be so filled with busyness, that we need to recuperate from Monday to Saturday.

But whatever day it might be, we are always busy, we are always “on the go”. But where are we going?

We heard in the gospel that Jesus had sent his disciples “on the go”, to go on the mission of preaching repentance and deliverance and healing.

They had been busy, and no doubt they liked it because they saw how the authority of Jesus worked in them – people repented, evil spirits were cast out, the sick were cured.

And also there was so much more to do that the disciples didn’t even have time to eat. But they were excited and enthusiastic and they wanted to go on for more.

And that’s when Jesus jammed the brakes and told them to come away to a lonely place and rest.

Yet, the irony was that it was Jesus Himself who ended up “on the go” – He set Himself to teach the crowds.

In other words, Jesus ended up being busy.

And the so-called “rest” that He wanted for His disciples was certainly short-lived, if ever there was any at all.

So, what is it that Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel?

Is it that there will be no rest and peace all the days of our lives, until we are over and done with life?

Come to think of it, rest and peace is so elusive, isn’t it?

For example, parents will never rest from their responsibilities and they will always worry about their grown up children.

Married couples would long for some peace between each other.

Those who are sick would long for a good night’s rest without pain.

Those who have done something wrong would long for peace and reconciliation.

So we may be longing for a good rest, but we better not say we are dying to rest. Because we might just end up in eternal rest!

But just like that short moment of respite that Jesus and His disciples had in the boat before they reached the other side, God will also give us just enough of rest, so that our hearts will have just enough of peace.

Because our God who gives us rest is also restless.

Because He cares for those who are like sheep without a shepherd.

As we heard in the gospel, when Jesus stepped ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He set Himself to teach them at some length.

In doing so, Jesus taught His disciples a profound lesson.

The happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but those who learn to live with things that are less than perfect, and to have compassion on others.

There is a story of group of graduates, highly established in their careers, who got together to visit their old university professor. 

Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite -
telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the simple and cheap ones. 

While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.  In most cases, it is just the quality of the cup and in some cases even hides what we drink. 

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. Then you began eyeing each other's cups."

The point of the story is that Life is like the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups.

They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. 

Sometimes, by concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

Compassion is like good coffee. We are like the earthenware cups that contain the good coffee of God’s compassion.

Those who are tired and wearied by the troubles of life would long for the aroma and thirst for a drink of the coffee of God’s compassion.

No matter what kind of cup we think we are, we can always offer others a drink of God’s compassion.

God’s compassion will offer rest to the weary and peace to the troubled.

May we be the cups that will contain God’s compassion and may we ourselves find rest and peace in God.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

15th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 12.07.2015

Amos 7:12-15 / Ephesians 1:3-14 / Mark 6:7-13

Last Tuesday, something happened in Singapore that made big news.

We would have surely read about it, or even got caught in it.

On Tuesday evening, at peak hour, and for an unknown reason (they are still investigating) the trains stopped.

It was a massive breakdown that affected 54 stations simultaneously and it left 250,000 passengers stranded.

It was quite a chaos as passengers scrambled for the free bus rides or tried to get other means of public transportation like the taxis.

For our country where things run efficiently and where we tend to grumble when the trains are delayed or when there is a minor breakdown, this is a big “fail” for public transportation.

It seemed like everything just stopped. It’s nothing to laugh about it especially if we got caught in it.

It may remind us of this wry saying – A bus station is where the bus stops. A train station is where the train stops. On my desk there is a work station …

And so when the trains stopped, there were generally two kinds of reactions of those who were affected – those who think of themselves, and those who think of others.

There were the unpleasant behaviour of those who pushed and jostled in order to get their way, and also those who took advantage of the situation like the private taxi fare hikes.

But there were others who gave way to those in need and practiced charity in the midst of adversity and even took upon themselves to give directions and do crowd-control before the police arrived at the scene.

Truly in the midst of adversity, the character is revealed, and the choice to be selfish or self-giving is put to the test.

In today’s gospel passage, we heard that Jesus summoned the Twelve and sent them out in pairs.

The acceptance to be sent out is the foundation of Christian discipleship.

It means that to be a disciple, one would have to be self-giving. A disciple cannot be selfish or to think of oneself.

For a Christian disciple, salvation is not a private business. We don’t go to heaven alone. It is our mission to bring others to heaven.

In other words, their salvation is our concern, because God wants everybody to be saved. 

We have to think of others, even if they don’t appreciate it or take it for granted or even downright rejecting us.

Maybe this story of the mousetrap might help us understand the welfare and of others is our concern.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall and saw the farmer and his wife opening a package.

"What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered, but he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. 

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his knife to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. So there goes the chicken.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbours came to take care of her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well and eventually she died. So many people came for her funeral, so the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

The moral of the story is that when we hear of someone who is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern us, remember - when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep our eyes for one another and make an extra effort to help one another.

When it’s every man for himself, then all necks end up in the chopping block. 

God thought of us and He made the first and decisive move in Jesus Christ, Who laid down His life for us to turn us from our selfish ways of self-destruction.

When the trains stopped on Tuesday, some thought only of themselves and became selfish.

Some thought of others and became self-giving to solve the problems of others.

As for us, the disciples of Jesus, let us heed the call to be sent to others and to be with them in their problems.

Let us make their welfare our concern. Their salvation is our mission. Because it is together with them that we will go to heaven.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 05.07.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The family and society has gone into two disturbing directions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 28.06.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it takes a lot of faith to believe that.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

12th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 21.06.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what were the disciples expecting Jesus to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good news is this: God says No!

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

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

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

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

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

It goes like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Year B, 14.06.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is where a soldier did something rather gruesome.

The soldier used a lance and pierced His side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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