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Saturday, August 29, 2015

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 30.08.2015

Deut 4:1-2, 6-8 / James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 / Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The word “smart” is generally used to describe the intelligence level of some people.

When we say that a person is smart, it would mean that the person is clever, bright, intelligent, sharp-witted, quick-witted and maybe even shrewd and astute.

And if we say that a person looks smart, it means that the person is neat and well-dressed and maybe even stylish. But that’s only for the looks; it does not say much about the intelligence.

Nowadays the word “smart” is not just used to for people but also for devices and appliances.

So there is the smart phone, the smart TV, the smart car, and whatever they could make smart and smarter.

But no matter how smart things can become, they depend on one thing – that little chip that is called the CPU (central processing unit).

So smart devices or appliances can’t choose to do whatever they like. They can only do what they are programmed to do, and we can’t tell them to do otherwise.

So there is no point shouting at the computer or handphone or calling it “stupid”. They are only following their programmed instructions and they will stick to it.

In a way we can call them “robots of habit” – they will just do what they have been programmed to do and they won’t ask why. They can’t.

In today’s gospel passage, we heard the Pharisees and scribes asking Jesus why His disciples do not wash their hands before eating, and hence not respecting the tradition of the elders.

Jesus called them hypocrites, because they were only interested in regulations and traditions.

Putting it in another way, the scribes and Pharisees are like “robots of rituals”.

They have been programmed by human regulations and human traditions which they follow meticulously.

And these “robots of rituals” can also talk – they criticize others for not following the programmed regulations and traditions.

And the quotation from the prophet Isaiah sums up the crux of the matter : These people honour me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.

In other words, the scribes and Pharisees follow the regulations and traditions like “robots of rituals” and they can even criticize others for not doing so.

But the heart is not there. Just like robots have no heart; they only a CPU that runs the program.

While regulations and traditions have a useful purpose and rituals can help to sanctify, it is the heart that matters.

Because it is the heart that gives life to regulations and traditions and rituals, and then they become expressions of love.

Without the heart, we become like “robots of rituals” that only look smart but with no meaning or understanding.

There was once a monastery, where the abbot had a very punctual cat. Every morning, just before prayer, it would begin wonder around and distract the monks.

After a few weeks of this irritating habit, the abbot gave permission for the cat to be tied up. After a few years, the abbot died, and the cat outlived him, and the practice to tie up the cat continued. Eventually, the cat died.

The monks of the monastery, upon realising that there was no cat to tie up before prayer, brought in another cat, and so, every morning, the cat would be tied up so that prayers could go ahead.

The tradition continued and original cord that was used to tie up the cat was revered as a relic. Books on devotions and novenas were written on the spiritual significance of tying a cat before prayers. 

Prayers to the “holy cat” were compiled and studied devotedly and pictures of the cat were being mass produced.

Just a story to show how absurd traditions can become and people can turn into “robots of rituals”.

And this can even happen at Mass. We come for Mass and a programme kicks in and we become “robots of rituals”.

We know when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel, when to say “Amen” and when to take out some money to put into the collection bag.

But is there anything happening to our hearts? Do our hearts feel the love of God that makes us aware of the sinfulness that is lurking in our hearts?

Jesus pointed out what could be the sinfulness of our hearts – fornication, theft, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.

All these make our hearts unclean but we come before the Lord in the Mass so that He can cleanse our hearts with the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross.

When we want to be cleansed, then our hearts will change. We won’t be “robots of rituals”; we become God’s holy people and we offer a worship that is pleasing to God as we offer to God a humble and contrite heart.

We are not called to be smart. We are called to be holy so that we will be holy in our worship and in our relationships and we become truly human and we will also become truly loving.

Then we will be able to cleanse this world of sin and evil, and we will also help to turn robotic human beings into persons of love.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 23.08.2015

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18 / Ephesians 5:21-32 / John 6:60-69

Language is made of words by which we communicate with one another.

It is not a matter of how many languages we know but how well we can use a language to communicate with others.

But as much as we should use simple words so that others can understand what we are saying, language can be quite a complex matter.

There is politically correct language. So a short person is not called short but vertically challenged.

Or a fat person is not called fat but horizontally challenged. And the homeless are called residentially flexible. 

Why are those terms called politically correct is logically challenging – it has got nothing to do with politics or correctness.

It may sound nice but whether it is clear or not is another matter. 

When it comes to language, it is said that if we can’t say it simply enough, then it may mean that we don’t have a good command of the language.

Because language to the mind is more than light to the eye.

So there is simple language that enables us to speak the same language and we understand and get connected.

And then there is abusive language and foul language that contains swear words or “f” words that are repulsive that does no good to anyone at all.

And in today’s gospel, we hear of another description of language – intolerable language.

That was how some of the followers of Jesus described His doctrine of the living bread that came down from heaven.

Jesus said that He is the living bread that came down from heaven, and the bread that He gives is His flesh for the life of the world.

What Jesus said is neither abusive nor foul, and it is simple enough to be understood.

His followers understood what He said but they could not accept what He taught. And so they call it intolerable language.

Putting it simply, they were saying that Jesus was talking nonsense, and that He was absurd and ridiculous.

And that was because Jesus said that the bread that He shall give is His flesh for the life of the world.

And that anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life.

It was nonsensical and absurd and ridiculous to them, and they could not tolerate it so they left Jesus.

And what about us? Can we accept the teachings of Jesus? Don’t we feel disturbed by His teachings?

Well, by the fact that we are here for Mass may mean that we accept and believe in the teachings of Jesus. 

We say “Amen” when we receive Holy Communion, and we believe that we are receiving the Body of Christ, that we are eating His flesh.

But what about the other challenging and difficult teachings of Jesus? 

Like for e.g., “love your enemies, and pray for those who and persecute you” (Mat 5:43-44).

Or how about this : “Offer the wicked man no resistance; if anyone strikes you on your right cheek, offer him the other as well” (Mat 5:39)

Or, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:27).

In fact, every page of the gospels is filled with some kind of hard teachings of Jesus.

These teachings of Jesus may sound absurd and ridiculous, yet His words are spirit and they are life, and they contain the message of eternal life.

In fact, Jesus and His message are like a paradox, which may initially seem absurd and ridiculous, but nonetheless true.

Yes, it is the truth, but it is only after going through the pains of the trails of life, when we let others “eat our flesh” that we can discover the truth of Jesus and His message.

Because it is in these trials of life that we will have to decide whether to leave Jesus or to believe in Him; whether to stay with Jesus or to stay away from Him.

And if we believe in Jesus and want to stay with Him then we too must speak His language.

His language may not be politically correct but it is the language of love and it uses words like “sacrifice”.

Besides the spoken language, there is also another language called the body language.

In other words, our bodies must also communicate what our mouths have spoken. 

If we believe that Jesus has the message of eternal life, then we too must speak the same language, and we too must offer our lives in love and sacrifice and let others “eat our flesh and drink our blood”.

That sounds like intolerable language and rather repulsive.

But if we were to believe in Jesus, then we will have to speak His language of love.

Jesus expressed His language of love in His sacrifice on the cross.
May we speak likewise and act likewise.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Assumption of the BVM, 16.08.2015

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 / 1 Cor 16:20-26 / Luke 1:39-56

The statue of our Lady that is in the front is a restored statue. 

Until recently, it was kept away at the loft of the church. But if we had seen the statue before the restoration we would know why it was kept away at the loft and away from public view.

Among other reasons, it was quite poorly painted over and hence not suitable for public veneration.

There was also not much information about the origins of this statue and what was its purpose, besides the fact that there is already another similar statue of our Lady which is now at the side altar.

But in the course of the restoration, there were some discoveries. 

There were at least five coats of paint on it and that changed the expression of the face. (It was like Our Lady had too much makeup).

Also when the paint was all removed, we realized that it was a bronze statue with fine details and good features. And being a bronze statue it is certainly a solid statue.

(After Mass you may want to come and admire the statue and of course say a prayer to our Lady on this her feast-day)

The intention is to put the statue at the shrine outside the church which will be erected in due time.

You may ask why is the statue all white. Why not put some colours on it? 

Well, let it be white for the time being. Also white represents purity and virtue, which is also very appropriate for Our Lady.

And today as we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, this statue in its whiteness tells us about the blessing that God bestowed on Our Lady.

As Mary said in the gospel – “He has looked upon His lowly handmaid. Yes from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”

The Assumption of Our Lady is the fruit of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. 

In gaining salvation and opening the gates of heaven for us, Jesus brought Our Lady body and soul into heaven to reward her with the fullness of salvation.

But her reward did not come about just because she was the “mother of my Lord” as Elizabeth would put it.

Yes, Mary was immaculately conceived to prepare her to bear the Son of God at the Annunciation.

But when she said “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me” it was not just only at the Annunciation.
For Mary, the will of God is to be done for all her life.

And so the Assumption is God’s acknowledgement of His lowly handmaid who did His will during her entire life, from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion.

And as God rewarded Mary with the Assumption into heaven, we also remember that Jesus gave Mary to us to be our mother when He was on the cross.

The last mention of Mary in the Bible is in Acts 1:14. There she was in prayer with the rest of the disciples.

And just as she was there praying with the early church, Mary is also praying now with the present church, praying with all of us, praying for all of us.

And we better believe in the power of Mary’s intercession, because it’s prayers from heaven.

There is this story about a Catholic girl who wanted to get married to this non-Catholic man.

During the pre-nuptial inquiry, the non-Catholic man readily agreed to baptizing the children.

Usually it is like this:  Before marriage anything also can, but after marriage, it is another story.

Anyway after marriage and when the couple was expecting their first child, the husband said to his wife.

“Now if it is a girl, you can go ahead and baptize her, but if it is a boy, then I want him to follow me in being a free thinker.”

But the wife protested and she said:  But you agreed when we met the priest.  How can you go back on your word?

But the husband was adamant.  The wife was sad and she said:  I’ll tell my mother.

The husband said:  Go ahead; she is not going to change my mind anyway.

Well, the husband didn’t know which mother she was referring to. She went before Mother Mary’s shrine and she prayed, “Dearest Mother I am so sad that my husband did not keep his word.  But I really want to have all my children baptized:  Please help me.”

And, help she did, because the first child was a girl, the second was a girl, the 3rd was a girl and the 4th was also a girl.

Now of course, the husband was happy with his 4 girls.  But one day he just happened to ask his wife if they will ever have a boy.

The wife said:  As long as you don’t allow the boy to be baptized, then we are only going to have girls.  I told my mother about it, and so, that’s why it’s like that.

The husband said “Your Mother?” And so the wife related the whole story of praying to Mother Mary and all that.

Well to shorten the whole story, the husband took back his words, their next child was a boy, he got baptized, and eventually the husband was so amazed that he also got baptized.

Amazing story.  You better believe it, or I’ll tell my mother.

Whatever it is, Mary’s intercession will help to remove all the obstacles and doubts that we face just as all the unnecessary paintwork was removed from her statue.

And what we will see is the purity of our faith and then like Mary we will do the will of God.

And just as God has done great things for Mary, God will also do great things for us.

Not just on earth but also in heaven. Let’s believe it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

National Day, 09.08.2015

Isaiah 63:7-9 / Colossians 3:12-17 / Luke 12:22-31

A couple of weeks ago, a movie was shown in the cinemas and it’s still showing, although it’s coming to the end of its run.

The movie had an uninteresting title – “Ant-Man” – but what is interesting is that Ant-Man is one of the original superheroes of the Avengers in the Marvel comics series.

Maybe compared to the size and power of the other superheroes like Superman and Iron Man, the profile of Ant Man was getting smaller, literally, and maybe slowly forgotten until the recent movie.

That’s why there is this tag line in the movie trailer “Heroes don’t get any bigger”. Quite appropriate to describe Ant Man and his role.

Besides the size of the hero, in that he can become as small as an ant, there are also some cute lines from the movie.

Like when the scientist who developed the Ant Man suit was trying to convince the main character of the movie to help stop the villain, his reply was this – I think our first move is to call the Avengers.

And when the scientist was getting desperate, he put across this direct proposal to the main character – I want you to be the Ant Man.

And the response was this – Just one question … is it too late to change the name?

Obviously, the name Ant Man doesn’t sound like a grand hero’s name and the size of an ant almost says it all.

But there is an interesting line in the movie that expresses the profound meaning of size, and the smallness of it.

“When you are small, you have superhuman strength; you are like a bullet”.

Yes, size does matter, but if size is all that mattered, then the king of the jungle would be the elephant, and not the lion. But as it is, we call the lion the king of the jungle.

And talking about the lion, our country’s name is  “Singapore”, which means “Lion-city”.

The name sounds big and grand, but the reality is expressed in the logo for this year’s National Day, which is the SG50 and the little red dot. 

The little red dot represents what we have come to know as home and our 50 years of independence. The logo celebrates the Singaporean spirit – signifying that our dreams are not limited by the physical size of our island nation.

So being small does not mean that we are invisible. In fact as a little red dot, Singapore has become quite visible on the world map, and also quite incredible.

And for a country that does not have any natural resources and can’t produce enough food to feed its population, Singapore is like a survival miracle and we need to be proud of that.

And the gospel text chosen to celebrate our country’s National Day is indeed appropriate as Jesus tells us this: Do not worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life means more than food, and the body more than clothing.

And Jesus concludes by saying : Your Father well knows you need them. So set your hearts on His kingdom, and all these other things will be given you as well.

To live in Singapore in certainly to live quite precariously. We are such a small country, almost like an ant compared to the other countries around us.

Although the ant is small, tiny actually, it has a remarkable strength. It is said that ants can carry about 100 times its own body weight.

In the gospel, Jesus used the images of ravens and birds, flowers and grass to teach us that just as God provided for them, then all the more God will provide for us and for our country.

And the image of the ant, or ants, can also be relevant for us who are the Church in Singapore.

The book of Proverbs 6:6-8 tells us this about the ant – “Go to the ant; ponder her ways and grow wise: no one gives her orders, no overseer, no master, yet all through the summer she makes sure of her food, and gathers her supplies at harvest time.”

We may remember one of Aesop’s fables about the ant and the grasshopper. It goes like this:

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. 

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" 

"I am helping my fellow ants to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same." 

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "We have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. 

When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger - while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. 

Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need.

It is said that Singapore is an economic miracle and a success. 

And we the Church in Singapore has the duty and obligation to pray that our country will not only progress economically, but that there will be peace and democracy, justice and equality.

St. Augustine has this to say: Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

Yes, we must work, like the ants, that our country will grow and progress materially.

But we also must pray, as St. Augustine had taught us, that God will continue to watch over our country and guide the leaders in governing so that there will be peace and democracy, justice and equality.

May God bless Singapore and also the Church in Singapore.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

18th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 01.08.2015

Exodus 16:2-4,12-15 / Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 / John 6:24-35

The month of August can be called the month of flags. And it is not just any flag but the flag of our country.

And we would have noticed as we come to church today, the flags fluttering in the wind at the entrance. Yes not just one flag but a few flags. 

And as we celebrate our country’s 50th year of independence in a week’s time, putting up the flag is not just being patriotic; it is the most profound sign of who we are and what we are as Singaporeans.

And the flag is not just a piece of cloth with some design on it. It is a national symbol and it has to be treated with respect – it is not to touch the ground and flags that are discoloured or worn out are to be returned to the Community Centers for proper disposal.

So the flag is the symbol of our nation. The elements of the flag denote a young nation on the ascendant, universal brotherhood and equality, pervading and everlasting purity and virtue, and national ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

So putting up the flag is a sign that we are proud to be Singaporeans and that we are the symbols of the ideals of our nation.

But if we are not the symbols of our nation’s ideals, then the flag is just a piece of cloth with some designs but with no real meaning.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus mentioned something about signs.

He told the people that they were not looking for Him because they have seen the signs but because they had all the bread they wanted to eat.

And He continued by telling them not to work for food that cannot last but to work for food that endures to eternal life.

And the people asked Him what must they do if they were to do the works that God wants.

And Jesus gave this reply – to work for God means that they must believe in the One He has sent.

And then they asked – what sign will He give to show them that they should believe in Him.

And it is here that Jesus brought them back to the purpose of why they were looking for Him.

Earlier they had eaten the bread to their hearts’ content. But it seems that they did not understand the sign that Jesus was showing them in the bread.

The bread was the sign of God’s love for them. Jesus is the true bread that came down from heaven, the true bread that gives life to the world and fill empty and hungry hearts.

But for the people they were just interested in filling their empty and hungry stomachs, but their hearts are still empty and hungry because they were not filled with the bread of life and truth.

As St. Paul would urge the Ephesians in the 2nd reading, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that is corrupted by illusory desires. 

To see the sign that Jesus is giving is to undergo a spiritual revolution so that they can put on the new self that is created in God’s way, i.e. the goodness and holiness of truth.

And so it is with us. Just what are we working for and what are the directions and the goals of our life?

Are we happier now that we were before? Are we happy with our job, with our marriage, with our family?

Are we happier now that we are older? Or do we think that we were happier when we were younger?

Are we like the Israelites in the 1st reading who think that they would be happier to be under slavery in Egypt than to have freedom in the desert? 

But that is certainly an illusory desire which thinks that happiness and contentment is found everywhere else but not in the here and now.

No point going even to the moon and the stars to search for happiness, because as long as we are not happy on earth, even if we go to heaven, we might think it is hell.

The purpose of receiving Jesus the bread of life, is to open our eyes to life, and to see where are the areas of our lives that we can grow in happiness and love. 

God made all things good, and He made man the best, because man is made in the image and likeness of God.

And God uses His beautiful creation to remind us of the beauty of our lives, and how to be happy.

The following are some images of creation, symbols of happiness, so that we can see for ourselves, what we need to be, in order to be happy.

Be like the sun. Arise early, and do not go to bed late. 
Be like the moon. Shine in the darkness, but submit to the greater light. 
Be like the stars that decorate the dark sky and make it beautiful.
Be like the birds. Eat, sing, drink, and fly free.
Be like the flowers. Loving the sun, but faithful to the roots. 
Be like the faithful dog, but faithful only to the Lord. 
Be like the fruit. Beautiful on the outside, and healthy on the inside. 
Be like the day, which arrives and leaves without boasting.
Be like the well, giving water to the thirsty. 
Be like the firefly, although small, it casts its own light.
Be like the water, good and transparent 
Be like the river, always moving towards a greater goal.
Be like the flag, so that we can be proud of our nation.
And above all things, be like the heavens: A home for God.

If any of these images caught our attention, then act on it.

Let that image be our inspiration and motivation in our journey towards happiness.

May Jesus, the bread of life, fill the hunger of our hearts and the thirst of our souls, so that we become signs that point to God.

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.