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Saturday, September 24, 2016

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 25.09.2016

Amos 6:1, 4-7 / 1 Tim 6:11-16 / Luke 16:19-31

For those of us who love art, or know something about art, then we would also know the names of famous artists.

So here are the names of some art pieces and let us see if we know who is the artist is. They are all by the same artist anyway.

So here it comes – Sunflowers; The starry night; Irises; The potato eaters. So, who is the artist?

Yes, it’s Vincent Van Gogh. His masterpieces range from US$50 – US$100 over million dollars.

For those of us who love art and can appreciate art, then we would certainly love to have one of the masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in a prominent place in our home. Yes, we would like to have a US$50 million masterpiece from Vincent Van Gogh in our home.

But would we like to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home?

If we know something about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, then we will probably understand why we might not want to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home.

Vincent Van Gogh lived from 1853 – 1890. In his lifetime, he produced 2000 artworks. But he had very little success as an artist. 

In fact, he only sold one painting “The Red Vineyard”, for less that US$2000 in today’s price.

Besides that, he was also temperamental, depressed and also difficult to get along with, and other things besides. Then at 37 years-old, he took his own life. It was only after his death that his works became famous and renowned.

So that is why we won’t mind having a multi-million-dollar painting by Vincent Van Gogh at home. But we certainly won’t want to have him in our home.

Similarly, we don’t mind having a Bible in our home. In fact, we should have the Bible, the Word of God, at home.

But, would we welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, into our home? We would say – Of course, we want to have Jesus in our home.

But Jesus does not come alone. Because He comes along with His close friends. And who are they? Well, they are the poor and helpless, the problematic and difficult people, the Vincent Van Goghs.

We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the close friends of Jesus. Because the Bible tells us that God is on the side of the poor and needy and helpless.

Indeed, God is closest to the poor and helpless, the weak and the lowly, the defenseless and the oppressed.

At least in today’s 1st reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the gospel tell us that. And we must see it!

Yes, God is for them. God cares about them. And God will console them. If not in this life, then it will be in the next.

God will console them and comfort them in His bosom and wipe away every tear from their eyes.

That was what happened in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

We can call that a reversal of fortunes, and the reversal is not temporal; it is eternal.

Although it is just a parable, it makes us see that the reversal is for real.

It was real enough for the rich man. In the flames of agony, he looked up and saw Lazarus and even knows his name.

While on earth, he certainly saw Lazarus, or at least he knew he was at the gate. But he just chose not to see, not to know, not to care.

But in the flames of agony, the rich man saw. Yes, he saw, but it was too late, and it was forever.

In Singapore, we don’t usually have beggars or destitudes or Lazaruses sitting at our doors.

Yet we cannot say that the poor and needy do not exist.

Just come every 1st Sunday morning at the old parish hall and we will see the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at work, distributing rations to the poor and needy.

And we will see for ourselves who are the poor and needy, the helpless and the rejected. So we can’t say that we didn’t see, or we don’t know.

Or maybe we saw, and we knew, and we feel that we can do nothing about the multitudes of poor and needy and helpless.

Granted that it is an immense challenge, but let’s talk about Mother Teresa and her favourite number.

Most probably, her favourite number is the number 1. And the following quote from her might tell us why it’s 1.

She said : “I don’t agree with the big ways of doing things. Love needs to start with the individual. To love a person you must make contact with that person. To love the poor you must make contact with the poor. 

When you do that, you cross the enormous divide between you and the poor, and it’s somebody you have actually touched.”

She continues by saying : “I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time.”

So most probably, Mother Teresa’s favourite number is 1. For her it is one person at a time.

So the Word of God in today’s readings makes us open our eyes.
God is not asking us how rich we are or how much we can give to the poor and needy.

Rather, God is asking us this : How much do we care? How much do we love? How much do we want to see?

And we don’t have to see far, see wide or see too much.

Let us look at the one who is at the gate.The one who is poor and needy. The one that we can help. 

And that one may not be outside the gate. That one may be within our gates.

But we may have become numbed and indifferent.

Let us listen to the voice of God prompting us to see, to care and to love the one who is poor and needy and helpless, the one who is difficult and problematic, the Vincent Van Goghs.

Yes, they are poor and needy, they may be difficult and problematic, but they are God’s close friends.

And it is they who will lead us into God’s bosom, forever.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 18.09.2016

Amos 8:4-7 / 1 Tim 2:1-8 / Luke 16:1-13

One of the health issues affecting Singapore now is the Zika virus, but the situation is closely monitored and kept under control.

The info that we have about the virus is this: Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Zika is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. 

For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Symptoms of Zika are similar to other viruses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya.

So it seems that people may be infected with Zika and not know it. But there are those signs that a person may have a health problem, and if those signs are similar to the symptoms of Zika, then it would be good to go for a medical examination.

So we know what are the signs that indicate a person has a health problem. 

But do we know what are the signs that indicate that a church has a spiritual problem?

That could be rather difficult to answer and not that comfortable to address, especially when we see that the Sunday Masses have good attendance, there is a priest to celebrate Mass, people are singing (or at least they lip-sync). So what signs of a spiritual problem are we talking about?

There can be many signs of a spiritual problem or what is going wrong with a church. Some examples are these:

There is too much politicking in the church. Those who serve in ministries are snobbish and proud. Nothing changes for the better; in fact, things are deteriorating. The leadership has no vision or mission. The preaching is poor and uninspiring. The church is always asking for money.

If the above sounds familiar when we think about our parish, then our parish has a spiritual problem, and something is wrong.

In the gospel, Jesus gave just one indication of what is going wrong not just with a church, but it is also for an individual, for a group, for an organization, and even for a nation.

And that indication is what is often called “the root of all evil”. It is none other than the love or the obsession with money and worldly riches.

Jesus gave this teaching which is often not heeded: No servant can be the slave of two masters. He will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

Jesus goes on to say: The man who can be trusted with little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?

This teaching of Jesus reminds us that having money is not a sin. We use it for daily necessities and to get on in life.

But it is the love and obsession for money that will separate us from God and from loving Him alone.

Certainly, as a church, money is just that little thing that we can be trusted with and should be trusted with.

But as a church, Jesus has entrusted us with something much greater; in fact a genuine treasure.

Let’s go back to what are the signs that a church has a spiritual problem or that there is something wrong.

One of those signs is when we begin to settle for the natural rather than believe in the supernatural.

We begin to look for solutions to problems using human logic and rationale instead of looking into the Scriptures for directions and motivation.

And as we look at the 2nd reading, St. Paul tells Timothy this: My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving. 

And that is the genuine treasure that Jesus has entrusted us with – the power of prayer – prayer that is expressed in petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving, offered for everyone.

And as the Lord God said in the 1st reading: Never will I forget a single thing you have done.

By the same token, Jesus will also never forget a single prayer that is offered, especially to His Sacred Heart.

With the power of prayer, we will be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.

With the power of prayer, we will able to face our problems, as well as the problems in the church and the problems in the world.

The Zika virus will come and go, crises will come and go, money will come and go, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).

And He will not forget the petitions that we offered to Him, petitions that will be answered so that we will have a greater love and devotion to Him, and that we carry out the mission of salvation because He wants all to be saved.

So let us always lift up our hearts reverently in prayer. Jesus has entrusted us with this genuine treasure of the power of prayer. Let us be faithful to it.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 11.09.2016

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 / 1 Tim 1:12-17 / Luke 15:12-17

The date September 11th, or 911, brings back images of horror and terror. Images of passenger planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the subsequent collapse of the buildings. Images of the dead and the injured and the faces of shock.

That day, fifteen years ago, terrorism escalated to an international level with a subsequent war on terrorism, and the war still continues without any sight of an end.

The reign of terror has scourged the world since 911 and security in almost every country is put on high alert but terror has always reared its ugly head with heavy casualties and bloodshed.

In many ways, life has changed dramatically since that day 15 years ago and we seem to have forgotten what peace and security is.

And in a way, we may also have forgotten what happened a hundred and six years ago on September 11th, 1910.

On that day, the first Catholic church of the 20th century was built in Singapore, and it is none other than this church. Before that there were already six other churches.

So although it was not the first church to be built in Singapore, it was the first in the 20th century and it is a blessing for the Church in Singapore in its mission of proclaiming the Good News and being a sign of salvation.

It is a modest church, not as big as the ones built earlier or later, and it was said that after a novena to the Sacred Heart that Fr. Gazeau who built this church, secured the site for the building of this church.

And legend has it that because of the lack of funds and a mix-up in the drawings that the interior looks like the exterior, and the exterior looks like the interior.

Whatever it may be, whether it is a mix-up or a mistake, God made it a beauty and a mystery. So in the end the church still looks beautiful and is beautiful.

And that is the beautiful mystery of who God is. And we must not forget that. Because to forget that then we will forget how God is blessing us in every situation.

In the 1st reading, we heard about how the people of God forgot who God is and forgot how He had blessed them.

The Lord God said to Moses: Your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostasised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made for themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice.

So even though the people of God had witnessed for themselves the marvels and wonders that God worked for them in the land of Egypt and freed them from slavery, they were quick to forget all that and they don’t remember how much God had blessed them.

But at the pleading of Moses, God relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.

In the gospel, it was the Pharisees and the scribes who have forgotten who God is when they complained: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

They forgot how their ancestors had sinned gravely against God and yet God forgave them. 

On the other hand, it was the tax-collectors and sinners who seemed to remember the mercy of God as they seek the company of Jesus and to hear what He had to say.

Today we are gathered here in this church to hear what Jesus had to say.

Today, we remember that 106 years ago this day, the seventh church in Singapore was blessed and consecrated and the Church in Singapore rejoiced with the blessings of God.

Indeed, it was a day to remember and a day that needs to be remembered.

Because we must remember that Fr. Gazeau prayed and made a novena to the Sacred Heart and then he got the site to build the church.

We must remember that even though there may be a mix-up in the drawings and not enough money, the church in the end still looked beautiful and dignified. 

So we can see God’s blessings and God is still giving us His blessings.

Remembering what Fr. Gazeau did, our devotion to the Sacred Heart must be renewed and strengthened whenever we have a need and seek God’s blessings.

And today would certainly be a good day to offer up a petition to the Sacred Heart and ask for God’s blessings.

But more than just praying for our own needs, we must pray for our country and for our world.
Since September 11, 2001, we live in the anxiety and fear of growing terrorism and a terrorist attack.

But we must also remember much earlier in September 11, 1910, God poured forth His blessings on this church. 

As we gather to hear what Jesus had to say, we also remember how God has blessed us and we must continue to remember and ask for His blessings on us, on our church, on our country and on our world.

We pray that God will pour forth His mercy on those who commit evil so that they will turn from their evil ways and turn to God to receive His blessings of mercy and forgiveness.

We also must pray that we will not forget God’s blessings and continue to be a channel of God’s blessings for others.



So let us rejoice in God’s blessings and may the angels in heaven rejoice with us on this beautiful day.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 04.09.2016

Wisdom 9:13-18 / Philemon 9-10, 12-17 / Luke 14:25-33

We have been told that the earth is round and we believe it. Pictures from space show that the earth is round. From our earliest school days, we were taught about the solar system and about the planet Earth.

Those are facts and we believe it without further questions. 

But from our limited observation, the earth seems flat. As far as we can see, it is flat. When we go to the beach and look at the horizon, we see that it is flat. And even from the plane, the earth looks flat enough. 

Well, if the earth is really flat, then there would a solution for those people who give us problems. We just have to bring them to the edge of the world and then push them over! Problem solved!

But as it is, the problems of life are not so easily solved. Maybe that is why the earth is round. We push one problem away and it travels round the world and comes back again. 

So even though we know that the earth is round, we wish it was flat. If it was flat, then we just have to bring these problems to the ends of the world, or the edge of the world and push them off and they would disappear from the face of the earth.

So what we wish the world to be can be very different from what the reality is. And what we ourselves wish to be, can also be very different from the reality.

Just like once upon a time when people thought that the earth was flat and the sun rotated round the earth, we would also like to be the center and everything and everyone rotate around us.

And then when discoveries were made about the solar system and that it was actually the earth that rotated round the sun, people initially found it hard to believe.

It was until explorers sailed round the world and came back that people slowly began to accept that the earth was round and that it was the earth that rotated round the sun.

Just as it was difficult for people then to realize that the earth was round, neither would it be that easy for us to understand the mind of God.

As the 1st reading would tell us: What man indeed can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord? The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable.

In the gospel, Jesus used the examples of building a tower and a king marching out to war against another king of a larger army. 

The point is that on what resources are we relying on? If we relying on ourselves and our own abilities, then we are likely to fail and to fall.

That is why Jesus tells us that we cannot be His disciples unless we give up all our possessions.

In other words, we cannot be the centre and want everything to rotate around us. Only when Jesus is the centre, then will everything come together.

Today the Church celebrates the canonization of someone who is familiar to us, someone of our time.

Pope Francis will officiate the canonization of Mother Teresa at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. 

Sister Teresa began teaching history and geography in Calcutta at St. Mary’s, a high school for the daughters of the wealthy. She remained there for 15 years and enjoyed the work, but was distressed by the poverty she saw all around her.

In 1946 Sister Teresa traveled to Darjeeling for a retreat. It was on that journey that she realized what her true calling was: “I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”

It took two years of lobbying before Sister Teresa set aside her nun’s habit – adopting instead the simple sari and sandals worn by the women she would be living among, and moved to a small rented hut in the slums to begin her work.

She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. 

Mother Teresa experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during those early years. 

But when the call is from the Lord, then He will also provide the necessary graces to overcome the difficulties.

There are many stories about the life and work of Mother Teresa but this story shows that her work and mission was not about herself but rather for the Lord and for others.

One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, scolded her and spat at her face and refused. 

Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Thank you for what you have given for me. Will you now give something for my children?

The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted for the children.

Mother Teresa knew she was not the centre, nor can she can make everything and everyone rotate around her.

She let Jesus be the centre and when He called her for the mission she got things in motion with His help.

That is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. To give up the possession of wanting to be the centre. Only Jesus can be the centre; then everything will come together.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 28.08.2016

Ecclesiasticus 3:17-20, 28-29 / Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 / Luke 14:1, 7-14

The history of mankind has seen many great conquerors who built great empires.

We have read about Alexander. He was called the Great and rightly so. His empire stretched from Europe to Asia.

Then there was Caesar and the great Roman Empire.

Then a period of time passed before another great conqueror surfaced in Europe. We have heard of Napoleon Bonaparte. He also marched through Europe and conquered most of it.

In the year 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte captured the city of Rome, and took Pope Pius VI prisoner.

Napoleon thought that he could intimidate the Pope and force him to become his puppet because the Church had considerable political power at that time.

But the Pope refused to neither cooperate with Napoleon nor be his puppet, and in a fit of anger, Napoleon shouted at the Pope: If you do not do as I command, I will destroy the Church.

The Pope replied: Oh no, you won’t. Napoleon retorted: Oh yes, I will - within a year.

To which the Pope calmly replied: If we, who are the Church, have for 1800 years, failed to destroy the Church with our sins, I doubt very much you will succeed.

Well, the Church still exists, whereas Napoleon Bonaparte had passed on as just another memory in the pages of history books.

One of the follies of becoming mighty and powerful is that one also becomes proud and arrogant.

Power and might become a “right” that is used to push and to pull in order to get what is wanted.

And usually the casualties are the lowly and the powerless and those who cannot defend themselves. They get swept aside to make way for the powerful and the mighty.

But the 1st reading has this to tell us: The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, He accepts the homage of the humble.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable when He noticed how the guests picked the places of honour.

The parable highlights the fact that our human desires go for the first place and not the last; we desire for the lofty and not the lowly; we want the most and not the least.

But the Lord looks on the lowly and He accepts the homage of the humble and He fills the hungry with good things.

Yes, there is something that the lowly and humble can teach us about the ways of God, because it is to the lowly and humble that God gives His blessings.

It is also through the lowly and humble that God shows His power and might, as this story of the lion and the mouse will show us.

A small mouse crept up to a sleeping lion that had just finished his meal. The mouse longed to have some of the scraps of the leftover meal.

"Since he's sleeping," thought the mouse, "he'll never suspect I'm here!" With that, the little mouse sneaked up and tried to pull off a scrap of the meal. The lion awoke and quickly caught the mouse between its claws.

"Please," said the mouse, "let me go and I'll come back and try help you someday." The lion laughed, "You are so small! How could ever help me?"

The lion laughed so hard he had to hold his belly and he let go of the mouse. The mouse jumped to freedom and ran until he was far, far away.

The next day, two hunters came to the jungle. They went to the lion's lair. They set a huge rope snare. When the lion came home that night, he stepped into the trap and was caught in it.

He roared and roared! He tried with all his might but he couldn't pull himself free. The mouse heard the lion's pitiful roar and came back to help him.

The mouse eyed the trap and noticed the one thick rope that held it together. He began nibbling and nibbling at the rope until the rope broke. 

The lion was freed and was able to shake off the other ropes that held him tight. He stood up free again!

The lion turned to the mouse and said, "Dear mouse, I was foolish to ridicule you for being small. You not only helped me, you saved my life too!" 

So as much as the mighty and powerful lion is noted for its strength and is even called ‘the king of the jungle”, the lowly and humble mouse can be called upon in the time of need.

Well, back to Napoleon Bonaparte. Towards the end of his life, he was exiled on the small rocky island of St. Helena.

There, the former conqueror of civilized Europe had time to reflect on his life and even on Jesus Christ.

He made this statement: Other conquerors founded their empires by force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love and humility.

Napoleon Bonaparte finally understood why he cannot destroy the Church. His pride is no match for the love and humility that the Church is built upon.

So as the Church we must remember what the 1st reading taught us: be gentle in carrying out your business and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.

The power of love is seen in gentleness and humility. To be gentle and humble is what we are called to be. With that we will overcome the pride and arrogance of the world.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 21.08.2016

Isaiah 66:18-21 / Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 / Luke 13:22-30

Today the 2016 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, comes to a close. The Games started on the 5th August.

It is a major international multi-sport event with more than 11,000 athletes taking part and 306 sets of medals were given out.

The Olympic Games are held every four years and hence for some athletes, it’s a “now or never” opportunity.

And certainly it can be a great ecstasy to win a medal at the Olympics, and we Singaporeans knows how it feels as Joseph Schooling won for Singapore the first Olympic gold medal.

Singapore won only one medal but it was enough for an overwhelming celebration for our nation.

But let us also remember that Joseph Schooling had to overcome the disappointment of finishing last in the men’s 100m freestyle semi-finals, which was the other event that he competed. So winning the gold in the 100m butterfly in record time is really an achievement for him.

And if we think that Usain Bolt, aka “Lighting Bolt”, has always been the winner, well, he too knows how it feels to come in at last place in a race, although it was due to injury.

Still, to come in last on the world stage is like being an extra in a movie set; you are just there for decoration and it’s like self-humiliation.

In the gospel, Jesus said something interesting about being first and being last.

He said that those now last will be first, and those now first will be last.

He seems to be using a sporting competition as an analogy, where there is a first place and a last place.

And then He seems to be talking about a reversal of fortunes, where the first become last, and the last become first.

He could be talking about a race, a race of another nature, a spiritual race. 

As how 1 Cor 9:23-25 puts it - in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. They run in such a way as to win the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.…

So it is a race where we want to win but it is not to be in the first position.

It is a race where from the last position we want to encourage others to go on ahead of us so as discover for themselves their own strengths and abilities.

It is a race where if there are others behind us, then we want to motivate them to be better than us so that they won’t feel dejected and rejected.

It is a race where we run but for a very different objective.

And it will take a lot of training in humility to see the spiritual objectives and to do it for a crown that is imperishable.

And this kind of spiritual training in humility is certainly not easy because it goes against our instinct to be in the first position and to be a winner, and not a loser.

But as the 2nd reading tells us: The Lord trains the ones that He loves and He trains all those that He acknowledges as His sons. 

Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as His sons.

The suffering that is part of our training is to help us let go of what is perishable so as to win what is imperishable. 

The race of life is a race uphill. To win it without a struggle is perhaps to win it without honour. If there were no difficulties, there would be no victories. If there is nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to achieve.

And the first race would be in our own thinking. Let’s say that there is a race and there are only three runners and you are one of them. 

You would want to go for the first position, the gold medal, and if not then it will be the silver.

Would you settle for the third position, the bronze medal, which is as good as being the last?

But to accept the third position means that you let two other people go ahead, and that is Jesus, others and then you – J,O,Y. Indeed there is joy in being third, or last. So it’s not about gold or silver or bronze. Rather it is about Jesus, others and then you. J-O-Y. That’s the joy of the race.

Joseph Schooling won an Olympic gold medal but he also brought joy to a 12-year old Pathlight student who dedicated a “mouse with medal” drawing to him.

For 12-year-old Jolie Lim, who is autistic, Joseph Schooling's historic win is an inspirational story about overcoming life's challenges. 

To express how she felt, Jolie produced an A3-sized drawing under the encouragement of her mother.

Jolie had hoped to meet Schooling to pass him the artwork during his victory parade on Thursday, but she had to sit for her PSLE exam in the morning.

After the exam, she and her mum could only rush down to Raffles City Shopping Centre, the last stop of the victory parade, at around noon. However, Jolie is afraid of crowds and was unable to catch a glimpse of the swimming star.

At her mother’s request, The Straits Times helped to pass on Jolie's drawing to Schooling's minders. The drawing, which took Jolie three hours to complete, depicts a mouse with a gold medal, beating its larger competitors including an eagle, a cat and a dog.

On Thursday night, Schooling responded in an 11-second video, thanking Jolie for her drawing. It was a simple gesture, but one that meant much to Jolie.

Schooling is a winner, but he also helps others to be winners. 

The joy of winning is when Jesus and others go before you. It’s a joy that all the medals in the world cannot give.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Assumption of the BVM 2016, 14.08.16

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 / 1 Cor 15:20-26 / Luke 1:39-56

Can you make a guess what is the happening news over the past week?

There is also the National Day celebrations held for the first time at the Sports Hub. There is the Olympics in Rio with the Singapore swimmers making some waves. 

But earlier in the week, the thing that is capturing all the attention is a game, a game that is played using the mobile phone, a game that is called “Pokemon Go”. 

And the craze over that game is almost like incredible. There are hordes of people walking around looking at their mobile phones, instead of looking out for the traffic, and then stopping all of a sudden and then swiping on their phones.

I see this as I stand at the front of the church. Then I was told that the church is one the Pokestops. In fact, the whole stretch of Tank Road has Pokestops at the Teochew Building and the Hindu temple and also the SHRM college.

And then I was told that all landmarks are Pokestops, and that includes religious, cultural and historical places. It seems like the purpose is make people go to these places and to learn more about these places and also to make friends along the way who are also playing the game. So that’s why the game is called Pokemon Go – to go to these places and catch those Pokemons and make friends.

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game, meaning it meshes the virtual world with the real world on the smartphone. Players navigate their neighborhoods and parks using the game's built-in maps. The maps are real, based on Google Maps. On the map, virtual characters known as Pokemons appear. Players try to catch these Pokemons by traveling to the character's location on the map. 

Once there, they must "capture" the Pokemons by hitting it with a virtual ball. The entire virtual world is experienced through the smartphone. 

It is interesting that people get so caught up with this game, maybe because it is the blending of the virtual reality and the real world. 

But if people get so caught up with this augmented reality, then do they know of another reality, and that is the mystical spiritual reality?

The 1st reading gives us a glimpse of this mystical spiritual reality. 

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with twelve stars on her head for a crown.

What would we think about that? Is it real? Just as the game would need a smartphone in order to enter into the augmented reality, we also would need something to see and enter into that mystical spiritual reality. We need to have eyes of faith to see what the 1st reading is telling us.

We not only need eyes of faith, but we would also need to have ears that would listen to the sound of the Good News.

In the gospel, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb, and filled with the Holy Spirit, she made this pronouncement to Mary: Of all women, you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Today we celebrate this blessedness of Mary in her Assumption into heaven. Having completed the course of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory by the grace of God.

Jesus, by His Resurrection, conquered sin and death, and He ascended into heaven to open the gates for us and Mary is the first to receive the fruit of His salvation. Mary believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. That promise is also made to us who believe.

But just as Elizabeth proclaimed that Mary is blessed, we too must ask for that blessing and be a blessing for others.

Last Saturday, the Pokemon Go game was launched in Singapore and there were people at the front of the church doing their catching. 

One of our Year of Mercy helpers was at the front waiting to receive a pilgrimage group coming to our church. She saw a young man doing his catching, and not being too sure what he was doing, asked him what it was about.

It turned out that he is a Catholic and his family lives in Oxley Rise but they don’t come to this church.

He himself has not stepped into this church before and so she gave him a “tour” of the church and explained a few things to him. He noticed the statue outside but he didn’t realise it was the statue of Mother Mary until she told him. And he kept commenting how beautiful the church is and that he will come here for Mass since it is so nearby.

It is not an unusual story of conversion or miracle, but that young man came here for an augmented reality. But he left here with an experience of a mystical spiritual reality.

That Year of Mercy helper was a blessing for him and I believe that God will also bless her for her service to God and to the church for being a helper in the Year of Mercy.

Being one of the Pokestops has its pros and cons. Some of us might think that it would be a nuisance when these gamers wonder around outside the church. (We made it clear that they can’t do their catching in church).

But can we also be a blessing for them by helping them to realize that there is more to life than just that augmented reality in their smartphones?

Yes, there is the mystical spiritual reality that is waiting to be encountered and we can help them experience this reality by being a blessing to them.

Let us pray that we be blessed just as Mary is blessed. Let us serve the Lord and do whatever He tells us so that we will receive His blessings. And with God’s blessings, let us also be a blessing for others.