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Fourth Sunday of Easter / Good Shepherd Sunday
Acts 2:14, 36-41 | 1 Peter 2:20-25 | John 10:1-10
“We are in the midst of Easter season and it is marked by the presence of this white candle at Mass, which we call the Pascal candle.
This candle was lit on Easter Vigil night and those who were here then, you would remember that the church was in darkness except for this one light from this Pascal candle, symbolising the presence of Christ overcoming darkness.
The Easter celebration is precisely about Christ’s triumph over death and sin.
This Easter season continues for 50 days and this candle will be kept on the Feast of Pentecost after the last evening Mass. It will be kept and will only be taken out on two occasions: At baptisms during the year and at funeral Masses.
Why? Because at baptisms, it will remind us of Christ being the Light to the newly baptised. Christ, the One showing them the way. And at funerals, it is to remind those grieving for their loved ones that it is Jesus the Light who is taking them to His heavenly inheritance.
This Easter season, you will also find that at Mass, we listen to accounts of what happened after Jesus’ Resurrection and Him appearing to His disciples. However, today, on the fourth Sunday of Easter, why are we ‘going back’ to read about Jesus’ teaching before He died?
It is because this is the Church celebrating Jesus as the Good Shepherd, reminding us that He is the One guiding us, the lost sheep, back to the sheepfold… In humility, we accept that we need Him to guide us.
Jesus says that He is the gate of the sheepfold. He is the One who lets people in and out. But who are the ones who want to go in? They are the ones who are called by name.
Each of us were called by name at our baptism… but often, we can get lost. Either because we are not listening to the voice of the Shepherd, or we may have been led away by ‘thieves and brigands’. Or perhaps, we have just shut our ears to the voice of the Lord, allowing ourselves to listen instead to the noises of the world.
This is particularly true today, when we do not discern or pay enough attention to God’s voice. We allow distractions to overcome the soft whisper of the Lord guiding us, showing us what is right and wrong.
All too often, because of our weaknesses, we tend to choose the way which is not of Christ. We struggle with these choices, we struggle because we make such decisions based only on our own preferences and selfish desires.
Jesus also says that all others who have come are thieves and brigands. He is making references to the Old Testament. The prophets Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Zechariah… they spoke about the bad shepherds, who are only concerned about getting benefits at the expense of the flock.
That was why I asked earlier for you to reflect, what sort of shepherd have you been? The shepherd need not just be a priest, but also those who guide other people. As parents, do we guide and help our young ones to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd?
Like Jesus, as His disciples, we, too, are gatekeepers in our own way. Have we shut others out so that people do not know Christ? Have we become so comfortable and unable to accept change that we do not welcome newcomers into the fold? Have we been too closed-up?
How are you welcoming people into your church community?
Today, we have examples of people who have heard the call of the Good Shepherd, and they have responded.
As you know, I am working with the seminary and the seminary is now based at this parish, Church of St Teresa, but in about a year’s time, we should be moving out to our new premises at Upper Bukit Timah, St Joseph’s Church.
Allow me to invite one of our seminarians to share his vocation story of how he heard the voice of Christ…
For the young people, perhaps the Lord is also speaking to you… It is a matter of whether we want to respond.
Just yesterday, I had three persons who came to see me by appointment. And two of them said that they are interested to journey for the next few years, even though they are not sure and have just graduated.
One of the fears that they have is how their family would take to it. One said that his mother didn’t want him to be a priest because who is going to look after her when she is old? We priests, too, have families. And yes, these are the worries people will have, but the Lord always finds a way to put things in order for us.
I have experienced it myself. I have a mother who is 83 years old. She was also sick recently, but the Lord has sent angels along the way to help.
It is important to remind ourselves: How do we tune ourselves to the soft whisper of the Good Shepherd. Do we play a part in letting the young think that worldly concerns are more important than their faith journey?
This Sunday, the CatholicNews has a page on questions regarding vocations. Do get a copy.
There is also a booklet on the faith stories of priests — this round it happens to be mine. Get a copy or give it to someone who might be thinking of answering the call to the priesthood. Pray and ask the Lord to bless them… Amen.”
– Fr Valerian Cheong
Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:24, 22-28 | 1 Peter 1:17-21 | Luke 24:13-35
“In the Gospel today, we see the Good Shepherd at work, going for the lost sheep. The two disciples were at a loss. Not that they had done anything wrong, no.
Second Sunday of Easter / Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 2:42-47 | 1 Peter 1:3-9 | John 20:19-31
“There is a place in the city area of Singapore near the Esplanade, opposite the hotel called Swissotel. There, you have a monument, which was put up in the late 1960s.
That stone monument was built in conjunction with what was, at that time, called “the blood debt”. Maybe many of you among the younger generation do not know what it means.
You see, Singapore asked the Japanese to give a sign of reconciliation for what happened during the Second World War. They asked the Japanese for $50 million Malaysian dollars. Singapore later used part of that money to build the memorial to war victims as a sign of reconciliation with Japan.
Now, forgiveness goes that way. There are three steps to forgiveness.
First, you decide to forgive. That is at the level of the mind.
Second, healing. This is at the level of feelings.
And third, reconciliation. We begin to do things together.
There is a statement that I always hear people use, and it has to be completely abandoned: ‘Forgive and forget’.
You should never forget. Because if you forget, you are going to do the same thing again.
You must remember what happened, but without bitterness, anger or revenge.
Once you have decided to forgive, you enter into the process of healing. You give yourself time, and after that comes reconciliation.
That is the gift of Easter. Offered as mercy to the world by Christ.
And this mission of forgiveness is given to all of us, not only to the Apostles. Because Jesus said it to the disciples as we read in the Gospel today. The disciples were more than just the 12.
It is all of us, with that mission and power of forgiveness.
So time to ask ourselves: Do I need to forgive some people in my life? And do I need to be forgiven? Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017
Acts 10:34, 37-43 | Colossians 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9
“The joyful message today is that Jesus has risen from the dead. Alleluia!
Today’s Gospel reading tells how Mary of Magdala finds the stone at the entrance of the tomb moved away and the body of our Lord missing.
This is only part of the story. Later, we are told, she would return and mistake Him for the gardener and then realise that He is the Risen Lord when He calls her by name.
There will be times, surely, when we are like Mary of Magdala facing an empty tomb. There will be moments of confusion, moments of despair. Like the disciples, we also struggle to remain committed to our faith.
But this is only part of the story. The other part is that, like the disciple whom Jesus loved, we are also loved by the Risen Christ and we have been gifted.
To be gifted in the spiritual sense is to be able to remain steadfast and believe that, ultimately, God is always in charge.
There is a story to illustrate this: A man was praying one day when the Lord showed the man a large rock in front of his cabin and told him to put his shoulder against the rock and push against it with all his might.
The man did this day after day for many months, but the rock was unmovable.
Seeing that the man was getting discouraged, the evil one entered the picture and said, ‘Well, you have been pushing against that rock for such a long time and it hasn’t moved one bit. Why are you killing yourself over this? You are never going to move it.’
These thoughts disheartened the man and gave him the impression that he was a failure and the task was impossible.
The man prayed and said, ‘Lord, I have been pushing so hard and did what You asked of me, but after all this time, I have not even moved the rock by one millimetre. What is wrong? Why am I failing?’
The Lord responded compassionately and said, ‘My child, when I asked you to push against the rock, you obeyed. And I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention that you were expected to move the rock.
‘Your calling was to be obedient, to push, and to exercise your faith and trust in my wisdom. This, my child, you have done. I will now move the rock.’
Very often, we use our intellect to decide what we think is best for ourselves.
What God wants from us is just obedience and faith. God wants us to trust that, ultimately, He wants what is best for us.
What God expected from the man was simply to push against the rock, and what God wants from us is to PUSH – which stands for ‘Pray Until Something Happens’.
By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but realise that it is God who will eventually move the mountains.
When everything we do seems to go wrong, when our jobs get us down, when our spouse and children do not feel the need for God and do not wish to accompany us to church, when finances are tight, and when family and friends don’t agree with us, PUSH — Pray Until Something Happens…
Let us do whatever it takes to keep this relationship with our Risen Lord. And the only way we can do this, as in all relationships, is to be consistent and sustain communication with our God through prayer… Christ is alive so that we may share in His life now, and in the life to come.
Father Bosco, Father Romeo, Father Arro and I wish everyone of you a blessed Easter season. May the peace and joy of the Risen Christ be with you and your families always. Amen.”
– Deacon Clement Lee
Fourth Sunday of Lent, 26 March 2017
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 | Ephesians 5:8-14 | John 9:1-41
“There is a word I do not use and I do not like to use, but I hear it very often. The word is ‘Luck’.
‘I managed to catch the bus just in time, so lucky!’ No, it is not luck, you are blessed by God.
‘Wah, so lucky that we got the flat!’ No, it is not luck, thank God for the blessing.
‘I couldn’t believe my luck, I won the first prize at the company dinner!’ No, it has nothing to do with luck.
In another way, it is so easy for people to say there is ‘bad luck’, not unlike the people in the Gospel today who think that the man was born blind because of sin.
‘Luck’ is pagan. It is a word used by people who do not know God.
It is a word that is not Christian, used by people who want to ignore God and how He is very much in our lives.
Today’s Gospel talks about a blind man who came to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, because he finally realised who Jesus was and the blessing he received.
What about us? Are we blind to God and His blessings?
When we are selfish, we are blind to the needs of others.
When we are filled with pride, we are blind to our own faults and the goodness of others.
When we are prejudiced, we are blind to the truth.
When we are materialistic, we are blind to the Gospel values and our hunger for spiritual needs.
When we are always in a hurry, we are blind to the beauty around us.
We ask the Lord to heal us of our blindness in so many areas, to enlighten our minds, so that in the times we experience joy, when we are blessed, we think of Him and not of ‘luck’, and we thank Him.
And we say to Him, ‘Lord, I believe. I believe in You and no one else.’ Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Third Sunday of Lent, 19 March 2017
Exodus 17:3-7 | Romans 5:1-2,5-8 | John 4:5-42
“It is an impossible situation. A man, according to the Jewish tradition, does not speak to a woman in public. A Jew does not speak to Samaritans. They hate each other.
That woman is a sinner who has five husbands, and the one she has now, number six, is not her husband.
And Jesus is asking her for water. She is there, ashamed of herself, frustrated, angry, and she asks Him how can He ask her for a drink of water.
She is rejected by the people of her own village, but Jesus, slowly, one step at a time, shows her that He cares for her, that He has compassion, that He does not judge, that He does not condemn her, that He trusts her.
We know this story of the Samaritan woman and the message is the same: Inside each and every one of us, there is a spring of living water. We are sons and daughters of the Father. We are the people for whom Jesus suffered, died and rose.
And so, can we follow the way of the Samaritan woman? Can we trust God the way she trusted Him?
During this time of Lent, we are told so many times, ‘Come back to Jesus, come back to the Church’. Of course, I don’t think there is anyone among us who is like the Samaritan woman with five or six husbands, no.
But among us there are quite a few who have neglected the call of Christ.
You come to Mass on Sundays, ya, but what about coming closer to Christ? Don’t wait until the day you get into trouble to come close to Him.
During this time of Lent, there will be the call for confession. For our church, it is on 7 April. There are many among you who have not made a confession for years. Yes, I say ‘years’.
You may say, well, what is the point? Do I need it? And the Church and Christ say ‘yes’! You need to renew in you the spring of living water.
Think it over. On that Friday night on 7 April, I would like the church to be overflowing with people coming to make their confessions… but yet the church will probably not be even full.
What do you think? The Samaritan woman, rejected by everybody, became an apostle. And she brought the Good News of Jesus to her village.
In all of us, there is a sleeping apostle who needs to be awakened and to bring the Good News of Jesus to others. Ask yourself, ‘Do I share Jesus with people around me?’
Lord God, purify me, forgive me. I am not a big sinner, but I am average. I take You for granted, I am busy with so many other things.
Lord, touch our hearts and make that spring of water flow beautifully in each and every one of us. May the Samaritan woman pray for us. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Second Sunday of Lent, 12 March 2017
Genesis 12:1-4 | 2 Timothy 1:8-10 | Matthew 17:1-9
There is a story that goes that Leonardo da Vinci spent many years painting his masterpiece, ‘The Last Supper’, and he wanted to find people to model for each of the 13 people depicted in the painting.
One day, da Vinci saw a young man by the name of Pietro Bandinelli who looked like his vision of how Jesus should look, a face that expressed love, tenderness, and compassion. The young man agreed to sit and model for da Vinci.
Then about 10 years went by and da Vinci still hadn’t finished the painting because he couldn’t find the right model for Judas. He wanted someone whose face portrayed despair, wickedness, greed, and sin.
Finally he went to a prison and saw a man there that looked like his vision of Judas and he said: ‘This is the face that I want.’
Arrangements were made for him to pose as a model and after he had done the painting, da Vinci asked the man for his name.
‘Don’t you remember me?’ the man asked, “My name is Pietro Bandinelli.’
When he said that, da Vinci was in shock. ‘Aren’t you the same one who modelled as Jesus?’ he asked.
The man said yes and da Vinci asked: “What happened to you? Your face? It was so angelic, but now, it’s so depressed, it’s gone through so much in so short a time.’
And the man said that after he had modelled for the face of Jesus, he went through depression, turned to crime, temptations brought him into sin, one after another. Robbing people, he was thrown into prison and made to do hard labour, so the face changed.
The moral of the story?
We are all given the face of Christ. But each time we sin, each time we turn away from God, we distort that face, so much so others cannot recognise the face of Jesus in us.
But we are Christians. The indelible mark of baptism has been given to us, that is why we call ourselves Christians.
And we are called to put on the face of Jesus, to resemble Jesus in what we do and say.
The greatest compliment any of us can receive is when someone says to us: ‘I see Jesus in you.’
That is the greatest compliment. Nothing else.
That means we are already manifesting Jesus, and that is what people need to see in each and every one of us.
So as we continue in the season of Lent, let us try our very best to radiate the face of Jesus, because we already share in the divinity of Christ.
Let us pray and ask the Lord to give us that grace to always do what is right and good, so that with every encounter with others, they will have that opportunity to see a little bit of Jesus in us. And they will come to know and love Jesus, through us.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday 26 February 2017
Isaiah 49:14-15 | 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 | Matthew 6:24-34
“One of the realities we can’t escape in life is that of making decisions. Decisions that sometimes can be painful, difficult, but necessary.
When it comes to that, the best decisions, those that leave us confident that we have done so, are those made with a clear discernment and acted upon because of the best advice.
Who then gives us the best advice?
The answer would have to be the one who knows everything. And why would the person know everything? Because He created the world.
When it comes to looking at life, seek first the kingdom of heaven, which is essentially to seek first what God would want of us and ask us to do.
Whether in making small or big decisions, we have to ask ourselves if it would be in line with what God wants us to do? Would it be pleasing to God? Would it be something that goes against what He teaches?
We listen to advice from someone who knows best. And the One who knows best is God.
No matter how good the advice may be from our friends or family, what is important when I make a decision is that I trust in Him.
Do we trust and believe that God knows best?
Jesus tells us that the giver is the better person to rely on than the gift that he gives us.
That is why He says in the Gospel that you cannot be the slave of God who is the Giver, and slave of money, which is the gift.
Money today would be more than currency. In Scripture, money represents all created goods, all created reality that serve and help us.
Which is more important for us? The Giver or the gift? God, or the many wonderful things that God has created?
Very often, we prefer the gifts. We get more carried away by the gifts of God: We get carried away by our health, our success, our wealth — to the extent that we ignore and forget the Giver.
God is our Master, we enjoy the things He gives us, but subject to His will.
Will God approve of how I use His gifts? If I use them regardless of what He thinks, then I have made the gifts my master.
Sometimes we feel that following God doesn’t pay off, just like what is described in the first reading.
So we have to ask ourselves if we trust God even when things don’t go our way? Do we blame God?…
Trust is activated only in times of difficulty and crisis. It is when things are not going well that we have to trust God. In trusting, we express our love for God…
The way we handle our problems or cope with difficulties and hardship, are they an inspiration to others of how much we trust in God?
The antidote to worries and anxieties is to trust in God. The power of this is seen when we truly live this out.
Let us pray that we will not only just encourage each other to be trusting in God, but by the way we show each other that we are trusting.
We think of one area that is causing us worry and anxiety, and bring it to the Lord at this Mass. We pray for this and for one another.”
– Fr Ambrose Vaz
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday 19 February 2017
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 | 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 | Matthew 5:38-48
“I feel very shameful when I read the news early this week. Because of what happened in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Maybe some of us have already forgotten it.
The newspapers analysed that this man (Kim Jong Nam) who was killed in broad daylight might have been criticising his own country, or that he might have links to people opposing the dictatorship of North Korea.
They may be possible theories, but no one has the right to kill him.
That is what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel. This kind of behaviour is nothing but the law of the jungle, the survival of the strong.
Christ speaks to us about forgiveness, and doing away with vengeance or retaliation.
For the Jews, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ was already better, because with their neighbouring countries, vengeance was fearsome. It was ‘three eyes for one eye and three teeth for one tooth’.
Jesus is telling us to do away with all these.
He was very firm and decisive about changing the various ways that people are treated because they are of a different race, of a different position or status in society.
We must not accept the way people have been used, and in some cases, used in slavery. We must be very firm in rejecting such treatment.
Then Jesus says: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
This means forgiveness.
It may take a long time, it may not appear very successful, and yet… we think of a man like Nelson Mandela, who was jailed for 27 years because of his political choices. When he came out, he did not try to take revenge, he did not put an accusing finger to anybody. He simply said: ‘What can we do together?’
He came out of the hardship without any bitterness and harshness.
If you look around you, you will see that from a very young age, children are already speaking about their ‘enemies’. Meaning, the boy or girl with whom they are not friendly.
One boy, for example, was speaking very often at home about his friend. One day, his mother asked him if his friend was a clever boy. And the boy said no, the friend is the last one in class.
‘Do you sit next to him?’ the mother asked. Yes, the boy said. ‘Please go and sit somewhere else,’ was the mother’s reply.
That is how we bring harshness and division in the world.
Are there, in our lives today, people that we have pushed away, people that we consider our enemies? Let us ask Jesus to bring reconciliation.
If someone wants your tunic, let him have your cloak; if you are asked to go one mile, go two miles. Jesus is not asking you to be stupid and let people take advantage of you, no.
He is saying give people an obvious sign that you care — and then the world will slowly become God’s kingdom.
Lord, free me from the tendency to make enemies, make me a friend. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday 12 February 2017
Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21 | 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 | Matthew 5:17-37
The temptation facing us today, when we have so little time, is that we tend to choose the path with the least struggles.
But the result is that we remain very superficial in our relationships with people, or we find a way to do as little as possible.
You hear people say, ‘Don’t work hard, work smart’.
Because we are trying to do things the easy way out, when we don’t succeed, we get angry.
By angry, I don’t mean just a one-time outburst of anger — that is very normal. Anger is an emotion and there is nothing right or wrong about that.
What I am referring to is ‘chronic anger’. You know, people who are persistently angry, in the morning, in the afternoon, at night. They are angry with everything and everybody.
What they don’t realise, is that they make life miserable not just for others but also themselves. They become ‘allergic’ to all kinds of things, they push people away, nothing is ever good enough for them, and so forth.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is telling His disciples they must go beyond what the scribes and Pharisees do. He tells them He is here to bring God and people together. And these new laws are not like the old ones — they go right into the hearts of all people.
The Jewish people know that they must not kill. And if they kill someone, they have to answer it in court. That is the law they know.
But Jesus says it is not just killing that is wrong. Anger, where we always bite people with sharp words, we have to be careful with that, that constant bitterness in our hearts.
So what do we do? To such people, we have to show kindness, compassion and forgiveness and to share in their lives. We have to take care of their hearts and listen to them.
In the Old Testament, God is presented as a punishing God, an angry God, but the way Jesus is presenting God in the New Testament is a Father who loves us and forgives us.
A Father who shows kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Jesus gave us a new commandment to love one another, which means to care for one another.
We are not going to change an angry person by avoiding him or fighting with him. We change the person by showing compassion, by showing love and forgiveness.
When someone is loved, anger dies. That is what love can do, because God is a God of love.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday 5 February 2017
Isaiah 58:7-10 | 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 | Matthew 5:13-16
“When we are sent out into the world as Christians, we are to do good and dispel darkness.
Are our words life-giving? Do we give words of encouragement or do we put others down through our actions or speech, such as when we are sarcastic or grumbling? Jesus says that is not being salt of the earth.
He also uses the imagery of light. Light brings about truth. As disciples, we reflect the light of Christ, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun at night.
You might also recall on occasions when you have been to concerts, and someone takes out his or her mobile phone and switches on the light function. And soon everyone follows suit and after a while, the whole stadium or concert hall is flickering with light. And it can be a touching sight.
In our little ways, we can shine like that, so that others, too, can pass on that light. We have our limitations, but we can always build up an atmosphere of support for one another, so that eventually, Jesus will provide eternal light for us.
When we start our day, do we pray for the people with whom we are coming into contact? Do we pray for our business clients, for strangers we meet, or for someone we know who is in despair? Do we pray that we can say the right the words, do the right thing, and ask the Lord to use us as instruments and mouthpieces for Him?
In the first reading, prophet Isaiah said that if you bring relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like noon. What does that mean? At noon, if we are out in the sun, we will see that we have hardly any shadow. If we do acts of charity and mercy, we will not cast darkness to people around us.
What are these acts of charity? Share your food with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless poor, clothe the naked, and do not turn away from our kin. There are so many opportunities day in and day out to exercise these works of charity and mercy.
When you do that, prophet Isaiah says, then will your light will shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. It means when we carry out such acts, something happens internally within us. We will be healed of our emotional or psychological wounds, and other things that weigh heavy in our hearts. We may be asking why we keep struggling with certain sins. These works of mercy will help us to quickly heal ourselves. Isn’t that beautiful?
If you do away with the yoke, he adds, meaning if we do not cause hardship to others, perhaps by not making our colleagues and subordinates miserable at the workplace, or if we do away with the clenched fist or the wicked word, if we give our bread to the hungry, our light will rise in the darkness. What is this ‘clenched fist’?
We may think it is a fight or a punch. In the Old Testament, the clenched fist is used to describe a person who refuses to let go of the loose change he has, because his stinginess will not enable him to release what he has. How generous are we to share our possessions with others?
The Scripture readings this Sunday is asking us to be action-oriented in our faith, and not to just reflect about things or ask questions.
If we are asking ourselves, ‘How do I find meaning in what I do?’, then let us be led by the readings today and grab the opportunities that come our way this coming week. Identify the needs of those around us, do God’s work and reflect the light of Christ to them, so as to experience the true meaning of discipleship. Amen.”
– Fr Valerian Cheong
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday 29 January 2017
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13 | 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 | Matthew 5:1-12
“So it is the bishop who gets to sit down when preaching. I am not the bishop, but it is simply that my legs are getting tired. So, as long as I can speak, I can give the homily sitting.
Blessed are you… This passage of the Gospel that we call ‘The Beatitudes’ is Jesus showing us the way to make the 10 Commandments into a way of life.
And the first is giving us the gist of Jesus’ message: Blessed are the poor in spirit.
It means two things: First to acknowledge that everything comes from God. Everything we have, our life, our health, our family, our work, the food on the table, the friends around us, the country where we live… all these are gifts from God.
Ad we take them for granted. Every morning, we must acknowledge that there are people who have passed away during the night. And yet, we are here. Every day, the alarm clock is waking us up, and we don’t feel very happy about it. But it is a blessing.
Are we able to say ‘Thank You’ to God, and to ask Him to show us how to share our blessings with others?
That brings us to the second point: These blessings come from God and God gives them to us in order that we may share them with others.
Jesus shows us a variety of ways to share these blessings: Blessed are those who are gentle. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed those who fight for justice.
Everyone, not just Catholics but every human being, receives gifts from God. And these are to be shared with others.
Each one of us should ask ourselves: How can I share my gift with others?
I know a woman who is in her early 60s, married. Her husband works, her children are grown up and working, her grandchildren are in school, and she is alone at home with her cat.
She came forward and asked if she could go and visit sick people and those who are home-bound.
At the beginning, people did not understand why she was doing this. They told her: ‘Why? Remain at home. Don’t need to take all that trouble to go around.’
She thought: If I remain at home, what do I do? Watch television the whole day? Remain in my armchair? I better do something with my time.
She has a special gift for sick people. She does it her own way. And I know the sick people she visits are very happy that she spends time with them.
So what is my gift, we may ask? Some among us are peacemakers, able to make things happen to bring about reconciliation between people. Some among us are pure of heart, for example, they are able to see the politics going on in the office and try to help people to get along. Some are merciful, and they understand the weakness of people and to encourage them.
Each of us are blessed.
At the start of this Chinese New Year, the Lord is telling us, look, you are blessed, so bless others. Then we will be able to build the kingdom of God.
‘Happy new year!’ we say to each other these days. Yes, this is the time when we say ‘Thank You’ to God for His blessings and to share them with others. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday 15 January 2017
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 | 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 | John 1:29-34
“John the Baptist summarises his whole attitude towards Jesus in one statement: He must increase, I must decrease.
Then comes the question: Why is John so contented and satisfied with playing second fiddle instead of vying for a place of honour with Jesus?
The answer is simple. It is because he knew exactly the reason for being in this world.
For he said: I came baptising with water so that He might be revealed. And because John the Baptist knew why, he was able to hand over the baton very smoothly to Jesus.
Perhaps for our own reflection and personal growth, we can ask ourselves two questions: Why did we come into this world? What is God’s plan for me in my life?
Think about it later. But if we don’t have a personal answer to these questions, chances are, we will spend our lives chasing after everything and nothing in the rat race of envy and jealousy – the people we perceive are better than us.
In other words, instead of working and living in harmony and co-operation with God and other people, we – who do not know the reason for our being – are often driven by unhealthy rivalry and competition.
And so as we begin this new liturgical season in Ordinary Time, marked by the green vestments that we wear, let us put John the Baptist before us as a great example of what it means to be ordinary. Because we can accomplish great things even by being ordinary.
John the Baptist considered himself unworthy to even undo the sandals of Jesus. Yet Jesus extolled him as the greatest prophet ever, praising him at one point: Among those born of women, there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.
So in our ordinary ways, we, too, can be great.
Let us pray and ask the Lord to give us that grace to be contented with what we have and who we are, recognising that we are all children of God. This is grace in itself, that we are baptised and belong to God.
Upon recognising that, let us then go forth in the ordinary days of life, to continue to do great things for God. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Sunday 8 January 2017
Isaiah 60:1-6 | Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6 | Matthew 2:1-12
“Legend has it that the names of the three wise men who visited the infant Jesus were Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. There is also a folklore that there were four wise men, and the name of the fourth was Artaban. He, too, saw the star and decided to follow it, taking with him a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl as his gifts for the newborn king.
His three friends waited for him at an agreed spot, but on his way there, Artaban came across a man lying wounded by the roadside. He stopped to help, took him to an inn and settled things for him. When he finally reached the meeting spot, his three friends had left without him.
Needing a camel and fresh supplies etc, he used his first gift, the sapphire, to buy these things so that he cam go across the desert. When he got to Bethlehem, he was too late, for Joseph and Mary had fled to Egypt.
In the inn where he was staying, there was a two-year-old boy whose parents feared for the child’s life, because King Herod had ordered the slaughter of boys aged two years and younger. When the soldiers came, Artaban traded his second gift, the ruby, to the soldiers for the life of the child, and the boy’s life was spared.
Artaban kept on searching for this king and this went on for 30 years. In his old age, he decided to return to Jerusalem, and there, he was told that this elusive king that he was looking for was going to be crucified.
He hurried towards the hill, hoping that his last gift, the pearl, could be traded to save the life of Jesus. However, he bumped into a little girl who was fleeing from a band of soldiers. The girl’s father had incurred a large debt and she was to be sold as a slave. So Artaban took his pearl and traded it for the girl’s freedom.
Now he had no more gifts, and he still went on, hoping to get a glimpse of this king. As he made his way through the streets, an earthquake shook the ground, roof tiles from houses flew down and one hit his head directly. Lying on the floor and bleeding profusely, he knew he was going to die. He was heartbroken, not able to see this king.
As he goes in and out of consciousness, he hears a gentle voice: ‘Do not be heartbroken, my friend. You have been helping me all through your life. When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink. When I was a stranger, you took me in. You had me with you all through your life.’
This story of Artaban, in a way, is similar to what we experience. Like Artaban, all of us dream of doing something great. As time passes, circumstances beyond our control interfered with our dreams and sometimes, these dreams have to change, or even disappear.
For example, a talented young woman dreams of a professional career in business or the arts. But she meets this wonderful guy, falls in love, gets married and starts a family. She gives birth to a child with special needs. Slowly, the young woman’s dreams begin to fade. She ends up giving of herself full-time to her family.
Her story could end there. And some of us may say, ‘What a sad story. She did not fulfil her dream’.
However, it doesn’t end there. It goes on until she hears Jesus’ gentle voice whispering to her: ‘You are truly precious to me. For you have been helping me all your life. What you did for your family, you did for me.’
This is the message today as we celebrate this feast of the Epiphany. We are reminded that we all have a gift to give to our King of Kings.
And our gift is not a one-time gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh. No, it is a full-time gift of love and service.
Love and service not just for ourselves but for the good and betterment of others.
Some people may consider us foolish for giving this sort of gift. They consider it foolish because they don’t know how our story ends.
If we can be faithful just as Artaban was, living a life of dedication and service, ours will end with Jesus saying to us: ‘Come, you are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. For whatever you did to the least among you, you did it for me.’
So as we celebrate this feast and Eucharist, let us pray in all earnestness that we continue to give of ourselves as a gift to God, totally, in faithfulness, love and service. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
The Nativity of the Lord, Sunday 25 December 2016
Isaiah 52:7-10 | Hebrews 1:1-6 | John 1:1-18
“I want to welcome those who have come especially for Christmas. Quite a number of you come to church mainly for Christmas and Easter. You are passing parishioners, but the Lord is near to you and say to you, ‘Welcome, my son. Welcome, my daughter.’
What to say on Christmas? Praying and thinking about it, two things came to my mind.
First, Christmas is God making time for us. We have no time, we are busy people, no time for ourselves, no time for others, no time for God.
Once, during a retreat, we were asked to write down how do we use our time within one day.
Many people – I speak of lay people – many people’s time is spent at work, time spent sleeping, time spent with the family, with watching television, on the computer, eating… and the last item is God. Sometimes, God was not there.
And if God was there, how long the time spent with God? Many people put a question mark.
Christmas is God spending time with us.
Jesus came and went through nine months of pregnancy. No fast channel. He spent 30 years in Nazareth, to tell people, ‘Yes, I am one of you. I care for you.’
What about ourselves? Many of you come on Sunday and that is the usual time spent with God. What about daily life?
Every day, we say morning and night prayers. To my mind, it does not have to be long. In the morning, I say to God: ‘Be with me today’. Or, ‘Show me how to love today’.
Evening prayer is: ‘Thank you for being with me today.’ Or, ‘Thank you for helping me today.’
Then, from time to time, we pray longer. But it is important to begin and finish the day with God daily. It won’t take longer than three minutes, but God has to be a part of our lives.
Make time for God.
It won’t distract you from anything else, and it won’t be an obstacle to you. On the contrary.
So this is the first thought I want to share with you: Do I make time God? Because God makes time for me. How do I know?
Every new day is a gift for me. In the morning, if I am alive and I get up, it is because God keeps me alive. Every day, there are people who do not get up. We get up. We are here today. He gives us time daily.
And then, second point is, Christmas is God building a bridge between heaven and earth. There are many famous bridges in this world, but the longest one is the one between heaven and earth.
God comes to live with us. Look at the crib. A newborn baby. So loving and so much to give.
He tells us we can depend on Him. He is supporting us, so we can be a bridge to others. Pass on to other people kindness, patience, appreciation, forgiveness.
Pope Francis says very often, we do not need wars, we need to build bridges. So pass on to others the kindness of God we received.
So two messages today: Make time for God and be a bridge to others. With that, I wish you a blessed, meaningful and healing Christmas. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Fourth Sunday of Advent, 18 December 2016
Isaiah 7:10-14 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24
“The Scripture readings this weekend focus our attention on the ‘yes’ of Joseph, the man Mary was betrothed to marry.
Jesus came into the world after a young virgin said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.
We also read today about the coming of Emmanuel, a Hebrew name which means ‘God-with-us’ or ‘God-is-with-us’.
‘How would we know that God is with us?’ a young boy was questioning his dad about the presence of God. We cannot see Him physically, cannot hear His voice, cannot touch Him or hold His hand, he added.
The dad took a glass of water and asked the boy if he saw anything in the water. The boy said there was nothing in the water. The dad then put 2 spoons of salt into the water and asked the boy again if he saw anything. The boy said yes, he saw salt settled at the bottom of the glass.
Next the dad took a spoon and stirred the salt until it was dissolved. He asked the boy again what he saw in the water. The boy said he did not see anything now. ‘But you do know there is salt in the water,’ the dad said. ‘And you can taste that the water is salty,’ the dad added.
All of us are blessed with 5 senses, gifts that we take for granted. If we do not eat, we would never know the sense of taste. If we do not breathe, we would never know the sense of smell. If we were blind, we would never see the beauty of Creation. If we could not feel pain, we would never appreciate the touch of a loved one. And if we were deaf, we would not know what the sound of music would be like.
At every Mass, we hear music from the choir. We respond and sing with our voices in praise of God. On solemnities and certain feast days, we smell the incense in church as our collective prayers are offered and rise to God. We listen to the Word of God, and we behold the sight of our Lord in the communion Bread, and we taste Him. When our senses function together, we achieve a heightened sense of participation and enlightenment. We are empowered to encounter and experience God and know that God is with us.
In the first reading, we are told that we should not tempt God by asking for signs to justify our faith in Him. Still, God gives us a sign anyway. His prophet foretold that the virgin would conceive and give birth to a Son and they would call Him ‘Emmanuel’.
God is with us.
During World War II on an island in the pacific, two young US Marines were separated from their unit. Alone in the jungle, they could hear enemy soldiers approaching. Scrambling for cover, they found and took refuge in one of many caves. The enemies were searching the caves in turn and they knew it was a matter of time before they were found. Falling on their knees, they prayed, ‘Lord as You promised, we know that You are always with us. If it is Your Will, protect and save us.’
They waited in fear and as the enemy soldiers approached, they watched in amazement as the soldiers decided to move on after glancing at their cave. When it was all clear, the Marines decided to leave and to their surprise, they found that a spider had spun a web at the entrance of their cave. This made the cave entrance look as though no one had entered it for a long while. That was why the enemies moved on.
When we’re in trouble, the God who is with us can work in the most amazing ways.
During this time of the year, we follow the practice of exchanging gifts with others. We might even be joining the crowds on Orchard Road or other malls after Mass to get things, since it is the last shopping weekend before Christmas.
Consider for a moment: If we wanted to get a gift for Jesus this Christmas, what could we give Him?
Besides presenting our Lord with gold, frankincense and myrrh, the wise men who visited the baby Jesus gave Him their hope. When everyone saw the darkness of the sky, these men saw the light – the star that led them to Jesus. The star that sent them searching for the Messiah.
When night comes and we are faced with life’s problems, what do we see? Do we only see the darkness or do we see the light? Do we experience hopelessness or hopefulness?
Just as He did some 2,000 years ago, God sometimes use the darkness to reveal His light. Astronomers will tell you that the stars you see at night are always there, it is just that we cannot see them in the daytime when the sun shines.
Indeed, when the sun is shining and things are going well, we might feel that we do not need God or look for Him. We sometimes forget that God, like the stars, is always there with us. Isn’t it true that we tend to be closer to God when we are desperately in need of His help? Let us give God our hope this Christmas.
While we are doing that, let us also give Him our time. Before they offered Him their treasures, the wise men offered Jesus the presence of themselves, when they fell on their knees and worshipped. Let us do the same. The Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4 verse 29, says: When you seek Him with your whole heart and soul, you will find Him.
The gift of hope, the gift of time, the gift of worship. These are the three gifts that the wise will always give to God. And we do not have to rush with the shopping crowd this weekend for these.
Let us pray that we will always say ‘yes’ to our Lord God, as the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph did. And we will always offer Jesus our gifts of hope, time and worship. Amen.”
– Deacon Clement Chen
Second Sunday of Advent, 4 December 2016
Isaiah 11:1-10 | Romans 15:4-9 | Matthew 3:1-12
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas, how focused are we on the Lord? Is He the centre of our life? Because if we are going to prepare a straight path for Him, it means we are focused on HIm.
Today, we have to understand what God wants of us, what He likes of us.
The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah – 600 to 700 years before the birth of Christ – and he gives us an image of how traditional enemies would be capable and required to live in peace. It is something that is so transforming, that traditional enemies in the animal kingdom are friends. They are playing together.
That is a powerful message and understanding of Christmas. We can’t say we are ready for Christmas, unless we are ready to live this way, to be able to live at peace even with our so-called traditional enemy.
Maybe it is that one particular person in our family, extended family. Maybe our place of work, neighbourhood, someone we don’t like, someone who has hurt or irritated us, and yet, to be able to live in peace with them.
We can’t say we are ready for Christmas unless we are working on this, unless we desire this, and unless we are able to celebrate this.
So it’s a good time to ask ourselves today: How do we look at the people in our lives, towards whom we are prejudiced, unforgiving of, or resentful? Are we willing to reach out and live in peace with them? Because that is what the whole image of the Messiah coming among us is all about, what the prophet Isaiah spoke about.
And today, the reality is, what God has promised would happen, will happen. The only difference is whether we will be part of it.
The promise that Christ will triumph, every knee will bend, every tongue will proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Will we be part of that celebration? The decision is on us, to the extent that we follow, to allow Christ to be the centre of our lives. Only then will we be able to experience this peace, this joy.
St Paul carries on with this in our second reading. Paul tells us it can only lead to God’s glory for you to treat each other in the same friendly way Christ treated you.
Today, my dear friends, do we have that same willingness as Christ, to even sacrifice for the sake of others who have hurt us? Are we willing to be patient, kind and understanding?
As we look once again in the Gospel reading, John the Baptist would call the Pharisees and the Sadducees a brood of vipers. Vipers are very colourful snakes. What was John the Baptist trying to say? Externally, you are so attractive, so beautiful, but you are full of poison. In other words, are you a hypocrite?
The same can be said of us. We appear to be nice, loving, we may even come to church, say our prayers, but are we genuinely reflecting Christ? Are we people of genuine love, kindness, patience and mercy?
John the Baptist said to them, well if you really want to, produce the appropriate fruit. In other words, it is by the way and quality of our life, that we show how sincere we are.
And so, John the Baptist would say that any tree that fails to produce good fruit, will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Today, as Christians, what is the good fruit we are supposed to produce? It is the good fruit of love, mercy, patience, understanding.
So we are about three weeks away from Christmas. Let’s make this the best Christmas we have had, by producing the best fruit. In a practical way, let us think of someone we are going to forgive, who is difficult to accept. Let us show that we are prepared for the birth of Christ, to be as friendly to that one particular person as He is to us.”
– Msgr Ambrose Vaz
First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5 | Romans 13:11-14 | Matthew 24:37-44
“Advent means ‘coming’ and we are recalling three types of the arrival or coming of Jesus this period.
First, we prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus in history. We remember the events surrounding His birth, how He entered this world as a little child more than 2,000 years ago.
Then, we have Jesus coming in majesty, which is at the end of time, the Second Coming of the Lord on the Day of Judgement, when we have to give an account of our lives. This is what we heard in today’s Gospel.
And in between these two arrivals, we have the daily coming of the Lord – Jesus coming into our lives every day.
The first part of Advent, starting from today to Dec 16, we will focus on the Second Coming of Jesus. The readings today highlight that.
The second part of Advent, from Dec 17 to Christmas Eve, we will be focusing on the coming of Jesus in history, preparing us to celebrate Christmas.
So today, we begin with this awareness that we are called to be ready – ready for the Lord. Are we ready to welcome Him?
The world tells us how to be prepared, but the world’s notion of getting ready for Christmas is very much centred on the commercial aspect. We are told what we need to buy, to eat, to wear, to decorate, and then we will have a wonderful holiday.
But for us, Christmas is more than an event, more than a calendar day. Christmas is for us to experience the love of God, of God becoming man to save us, and how we must prepare to give Him an account of our lives.
In the Gospel, Jesus warns us, using an event that took place, which is written in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis: the flood that destroyed the whole world except for a few, such as Noah and his family.
Jesus looks at that disaster and He compares it to the time when He will come in judgement. Jesus is telling us that if we don’t do something about our lives now, it will be the same as it was in Noah’s days.
What is that similarity? First, there is the element of surprise. The flood came suddenly and people did not expect it. And when Jesus comes again in judgement, it, too, will be sudden.
Second similarity: Very few people were prepared for the flood, only Noah and his family. And that was because they were listening to what God was telling them. So when the Son of Man comes again, how many people will be ready? Would they have been listening?
Third, the unprepared people were preoccupied with their own things. When Jesus comes again, will our focus be on something else?
Jesus said something disturbing: Before the flood came, people were eating, drinking, taking wives and husbands. And we ask, what is so wrong about eating, drinking and getting married? After all, we are encouraged to nourish ourselves by eating and drinking, and to see marriage as a way of life.
However, Jesus was not criticising them for what they were doing, but what they were not doing.
What were they not doing? They were not putting God at the centre of their eating, drinking and marriage.
They were too preoccupied with their own activities and not recognising that all their activities flow from God and through God.
We can be the same. We forget about God as we busy ourselves with our daily work, and we do not put Him at the centre of what we do.
We forget why we are doing what we do, we forget that we have to be responding to God, and we forget that we are doing what we do to serve Him.
So we ask ourselves, where is God in my life? How significant is He?
Do I feel that I can manage my life and the things I do without Him? Do I realise that what I am doing may not be enough? I may be efficient and achieving many goals, but to not connect the outcomes with God is wrong.
In our first two readings, we find examples of what happens when we welcome God into our lives. How did the people behave, as our readings show?
First, they were excited to meet God. They wanted to go up to the mountain, so that He can teach them and they can follow His way. Are we eager to experience what God wants us to do? Are we eager to know what He wants to teach us? Are we excited to walk in His path?
Second, they will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. It means they take and transform the weapons that can hurt people and turn them into instruments that will help people instead, instruments for ploughing and harvesting.
For us, are we willing to transform our anger, hatred, our weapons that hurt people into something positive and helpful? We may not use swords, but we use our tongue, which is sharper than a sword, and we hurt people through gossip, uncharitable comments and angry words. We need to change our ways, to help and encourage others.
Saint Paul in the second reading reminds us to come out of darkness into light, from the darkness of sin, and to live decently as people do in the daytime.
Many of the things we do for Christmas is in terms of material preparation. But Jesus tells us we have to do spiritual preparation.
So we thank God for this season of Advent, we thank Him for reminders to experience His coming into our lives.
And the way we welcome Him is to live the way of life that He teaches us and that He himself lived when He walked on earth.
Jesus tells us to stay awake, because we can so easily slip back into our old ways. We need to be constantly alert so as not to fall back into sin.
We call on Him to help us to be watchful. In a practical way, we reflect on what is the one area in our lives that needs to be changed, so that we can truly say we welcome Jesus at Christmas.
We ask Him to help us make this the best Christmas we ever have. Not because we can have the best food and drink and presents, but because it will be the one that we truly become more like Christ, more patient, giving and compassionate. We pray for one another for this as we celebrate this Mass.”
– Msgr Ambrose Vaz
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 13 November 2016
Malachi 3:19-20 | 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 | Luke 21:5-19
“They were admiring the Temple of Jerusalem that was in the year 30, just before Jesus went back to heaven. And in the year 70, 40 years later, the Temple was completely destroyed by the Roman army. And when you go to Jerusalem now on a pilgrimage, you will see ruins of the Temple and the wall of its basement.
You go to Rome, and you see ruins. You go to Greece, and you see ruins, You go on the Nile for a cruise, and you see ruins. You go to Indonesia, to Borobudur, ruins of a magnificent temple. You go to Cambodia, to Angkor Wat, ruins of a marvellous kingdom. You go to China, Xi’an and there is the tomb of the ruler of a dynasty. You go to South America, to Peru, to this place called Machu Picchu, and you see the ruins of the Inca empire.
Yes, this is the world. Powerful kingdoms have ruled the world: Egypt, Greece, Rome… they conquered the world. And now, other powers have come.
What is important for us is to remember that the Word of God conquers all the nations of the world.
There are refugee camps now, exiled people around the world, there are conflicts and wars.
Christ says, fear not. I will give you the words of wisdom, not a hair on your head will be lost. Of course that is only an image, we are all losing our hair, but it means, ‘I take care of you in every condition, stand in confidence, don’t give up’.
The temptation is to give up, to say, oh, things are going from bad to worse. No! No.
We look at the world of today, it is better in many ways than before. And yet we have the same selfishness, same pride, the same conflicts.
And we need to stand in confidence and not to give up, and to bring into this world what Christ has brought into the world: a relationship of love, a world where we accept to serve.
When are we the followers of Christ? When do we meet God? It is when we care for one another. And then we have nothing to fear.
Why are we here today? 2016? The world was supposed to finish in the year 2000. How is it that we are still alive? Who were the people speaking of the end of the world?
I remember people telling me that time, ‘Father, don’t go back to France in the year 2000, because the computers and the planes will go poof poof, they will all go down…’
We are here standing in confidence. Don’t give up. We have our love to share. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, 6 November 2016
2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14 | 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 | Luke 20:27-38
“Every morning, when he comes into the dining room, Father Romeo peels off one sheet of the calendar, and on one of these days, he said, ‘Aiyah, so fast… so fast, we are already in November, the year is finishing.’
And I, I say, ‘Thank God for a new day.’
Fr Romeo is young, but I’m old, so a new day is precious.
We are the people of life.
During the month of November, of course, we acknowledge that there is another world of which we know practically nothing: Where people who are gone from this world are one with God or are on the way to God.
Yet that is our strength and consolation. Today’s Gospel touches on what it means to face the reality of death, or what we call death. And Jesus tells us to face it with confidence and hope.
Personally, I do not like to use the word ‘death’, because death as people define it to be ‘the end of life’ is not true.
Death is not the end of life. As the priest will say later on in the Eucharistic Prayer, life is not ended but changed. Jesus has freed us from death. And death is a passing from this world into the world of God. Death is to enter into a life with God.
Already in this world here, we have the gift of eternal life.
So why should we be frightened to die? Why should we fear? God is a God of mercy.
During our lives, of course, we have ups and downs, there are and there have been sins, but we are forgiven sinners. All that is negative has been taken away when we ask for forgiveness. Every Sunday when we begin our Mass, we say, ‘Lord, have mercy’. So do not be afraid.
I think it is really important for us to share this confidence and hope with people around us, who so often are so afraid of death, and the tendency is to try to hide the death with a lot of ceremony and music and what-not, because we do not want to face the reality of death.
Just say simply, ‘Lord, take me into Your hands of love, now and forever’. And then we let Him.
We are a people of hope because life does not come to an end. Life is changed and life is changed for the better. So Lord, when You want, take us into Your hands. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, 30 October 2016
Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2 | 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2 | Luke 19:1-10
“The good news we are celebrating this evening is that Jesus wants to be with us. Jesus wants to come into our lives. That is the good news. When you go home, when you meet people in the streets, you meet friends, tell them this good news: Jesus wants to come into our lives.
The Gospel I just proclaimed, Jesus calls Zacchaeus, ‘Come down! Hurry! Because I must stay at your house today.’ What a beautiful wish of Jesus. We can appreciate the urgency in the tone and voice of Jesus. Hurry, He says. Don’t waste anymore time. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t put it off. Let’s do it now. Now.
That is what our heart has listened to now. That is what Jesus has offered us, an invitation to each and every one of us. No matter how undeserving, how unworthy we are, how much we have sinned, or stayed away from God, no matter how grievous our sins, Jesus is very insistent: I want to be part of your life, a part of you.
The first reading is very, very encouraging. We are told God is merciful to all, He overlooks our sinfulness, so that we can repent.
The key word is this celebration today is ‘repent’. Repentance. And it brings about conversion. This is what God wants to bring about in all of us. Through His great love for mankind, His abounding mercy and compassion, He executed His plan to send His Son Jesus into the world – all this done so that we can repent. Every action of God, every description of His love, every dimension of God in our lives and in the human race, God does this so that we can repent.
And Zacchaeus is a fine example of repentance. Zacchaeus’ life was full of brokenness. He was a senior tax collector. Tax collectors in those days were put in the same basket as thieves, murderers, prostitutes. Great sinners. And because they were employed by the Romans, they were regarded as traitors by their own Jewish people.
And although Zacchaeus’ job made him plenty of money, he was lonely, unhappy and hated by his own people, considered an outcast.
This was the Zacchaeus that Jesus spotted behind the leaves in the trees. He wanted only to have a peep at Jesus, but he didn’t realise that the attempt to peep at Jesus would change his whole life.
The conversion story of Zacchaeus attests to this saying: No one who meets Jesus is ever the same again. No one who encounters the Lord, who allows Jesus to come into his life, will remain the same again.
You cannot recognise Zacchaeus anymore when he said he was going to give half his property to the poor. Gosh, that’s a lot. You there, sir, I think you have a big condo somewhere in Sentosa, isn’t it? I recognise you. So just imagine, you are going to give half your big condo to the poor. Great work and contribution.
And if he had cheated anybody, Zacchaeus would pay the person back not the same amount but four times the amount. Can you recognise Zacchaeus anymore as the rogue, the cheat and sinner? Conversion has already taken place. No one who meets Jesus is ever the same again.
The Jesus makes this solemn declaration: Today, salvation has come to this house of Zacchaeus.
The message of the conversion of Zacchaeus is an invitation to each and every one of us to celebrate God’s love, to experience the mercy of God our Father, especially in the ending weeks of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On November 20th, the Jubilee Year will come to its happy conclusion. We want to experience the merciful love of the Father.
And in order to respond to this invitation of Jesus, we need to make ourselves first available to God.
So many times we say, ‘I have no time’. Your friends invite you to come to church? I have no time. Your friend asks you to read Catholic News? I have no time. Your friends ask you to join a prayer group? I have no time.
Make ourselves available to God.
Secondly, we need to empty ourselves to make room for God’s grace and love to fill us. Otherwise God cannot come in. We are choked up to there with a lot of problems, cares, and anxieties. We have to empty ourselves.
Lastly, we have to open the doors of our hearts, so that God can come in. How can a house with closed and locked doors allow anyone to come in? How can God in Jesus come and stay with us if we do not open the doors of our hearts?
When we come up to receive Holy Communion, the Sacred Host offered to us, the Body of Christ, this is God knocking at our door. When we declare to you, ‘The Body of Christ’ as we hold up the Host, it is God.
Let us accept this invitation and let us say, ‘Amen!’
‘Amen’ means I ma going to open my heart. ‘Amen’ means please come in. ‘Amen’ means yes, Lord, I accept You to be my Lord and my God.”
– Fr Anthony Ho
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 16 October 2016
Exodus 17:8-13 | 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2 | Luke 18:1-8
“Some time ago, I received a card without any name of sender, and printed simply on it were these words: ‘Life is fragile. Handle with prayer.’
I found this very meaningful.
To pray is to put ourselves in the loving hands of God.
It’s to tell God: You care for me. You have created this beautiful world in which I live. You gave me life. And You bless me in so many ways.
Now Lord, I put myself into Your hands, take care of me.
Do we pray? Do we pray often? Do we pray daily? Or do we pray simply when we come to church on Sundays?
It is not a question of long prayers. Start with short prayers in the morning and in the evening: Lord, be with me today. Lord, give me Your love today.
That’s enough. You are in a hurry.
And in the evening, tell Him: Lord, thank You for today.
You are tired, you want to sleep, you want to relax. But morning, evening, a few seconds to turn to the Lord.
And we must go on praying when things get difficult. Pray for what we would call the impossible.
People come to me and say, Father, can you pray for me? I am going for an operation. Cancer stage 4. Father, can you pray for us, we have a big conflict within the family. Father, can you pray for me, I have been retrenched. Father, can you pray for me, our marriage is on the rocks.
And it seems that there is no solution. But God is the Master of the impossible.
And never give up. Always turn to Him and say, I am in Your hands of love with my cancer. I am in Your hands of love, I am jobless. I am in Your hands of love, the family is breaking up. Show us, how to put love in our hands.
Pray for the impossible.
Pray also for ordinary things.
You know at the beginning of this week, I had to go to the dentist for extraction of the tooth. Aiyah, not very pleasant. All these needles and so forth, and I told the Lord, ‘I am afraid. Please do something. Give me courage, help me to remain peaceful.’ And it went on very well.
Let us turn to God as a normal thing. God is part of our lives.
And sometimes we are tempted to say: God does not answer my prayer.
What does it mean? We think that God does not answer our prayer because we don’t get what we want. But that’s not the way He answers prayers.
God answers prayers by giving us the experience that He comes near to us, that He is part of our lives.
To pray will not give us a magic answer or solution. But to pray will make things clear in our minds, free us from prejudices, free us from pre-conceived ideas.
To pray will help us to discern between what is important and what is not.
And besides these shorts prayers daily, from time to time, make time to pray in a longer way.
Saturday, you go shopping, you go to the supermarket, you go out for dinner. Do you ever think of going to the Adoration room and just spending 10 or 15 minutes there?
We have a routine. Daily we read the newspaper, we watch television. Do we put prayer in our routine? And do we make time for the Lord on special occasions?
By praying, we make ourselves go nearer to God, and we experience that we are loved.
And because we are loved, we go on with life, confident and peaceful.
Yes, Lord, help me to pray daily. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 9 October 2016
2 Kings 5:14-17 | 2 Timothy 2:8-13 | Luke 17:11-19
“As we listen to today’s Gospel, many ask, ‘Was Jesus looking for praise, for gratitude?’ Because it seems rather strange. Elsewhere in the Gospel, He tells us to do the right thing without expecting any thanks.
Then we read today that Jesus did something good. He cured the lepers and then He was waiting for them to come and say ‘thank you’… Jesus asked what had happened to the other 9 who were cured, why was it they had not come back to praise and thank God – except this foreigner?
And then Jesus told the man who came back to give thanks to God: ‘Go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’ Why did Jesus say this?
We realise that Jesus was telling the man that there is a great difference between being cured and being saved.
Today, perhaps, many of us are satisfied with just being cured. We need relief, a cure for a certain problem. Could be a medical problem, a financial problem, a relationship problem. Once our problem is settled, we feel happy.
We ask ourselves, are we satisfied just having our problems solved? That sickness, that financial issue, as long as my problems are taken away, that is all we care about?
Or is there something more important?
Jesus is telling us in the Gospel that more important than being cured of our sicknesses is to recognise our need for God.
Therefore Jesus worked this miracle, and He hoped that through this miracle, these 10 people would recognise the importance of God, of God working through this cure, and that they would acknowledge that.
The other 9 were cured, but just one was saved. Because salvation, or being saved, is believing in God, believing in Jesus, recognising that He is the Way to God the Father.
Only one of the 10 recognised this. Throwing himself at the feet of Jesus, he praised God and thanked Jesus.
Do we go through situations in life where we experience healing and relief, and then we just stop there? Or do we allow those situations to make us believe in God, to trust even more in Jesus? If we do that, then in the words of Jesus, your faith has saved you.
In other words, being cured doesn’t mean we are saved. There are people who don’t believe in God or who oppose God, and they are cured of sicknesses or find relief from their problems. This can make people feel a false sense of security, that having this relief is all that they need in life.
In our first reading, Naaman, a Syrian general, was sent to Israel to find a cure for his leprosy. And the prophet Elisha told him to go to the River Jordan, take a bath to cleanse himself and so on.
The big difference between Naaman and the 9 lepers was that Naaman immediately recognised the cure he received was because God was doing it for him.
So impressed was Naaman that he even asked permission to take back soil from Israel, because in those days they believed you cannot pray to the God of that place unless you are in the place itself. And since he did not belong to Israel but Syria, he took some soil from Israel back home so that he could pray on that soil to the God of Israel. Such was the faith of Naaman.
Through this, we can see how a cure helped him to believe in God. We need to recognise, too, that God is present in our lives. In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that God is always faithful, because that is His nature. We may be unfaithful, but God is always faithful.
Let us pray that when we find relief from our problems, we will never just stop there, that we are never contented just seeking a cure.
Even more, we pray that we will have faith in God, because to be saved is much more important than being cured. A cure is something we find in this world only. To be saved leads us into eternal life.
So are we invested in short-term joy or long-term, eternal joy? Our responsorial psalm tells us that the Lord has shown His salvation to the nations. The Lord has offered to all of us the chance to be saved, but only if we believe in that saving grace.
So we pray that in every situation of our lives, we will be led to trust God more and more, in good times as well as in bad times.
We pray in a special way for that one area in our life where we still find it difficult to trust Him, to believe Him, to allow Him to take charge. We pray during this Mass that the Lord will help us to overcome that difficulty. We pray for this and for one another as we continue this celebration.”
– Msgr Ambrose Vaz
Feast of St Teresa of the Child Jesus, Sunday 2 October 2016
Isaiah 66:10-14 | 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 | Matthew 18:1-5
[Parish Feast Day]
“Most of the time during this feast, we will speak about St Teresa’s love for God… but we are in the midst of the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This evening, my reflection will be on the theme of mercy from St Therese’s perspective.
If you ask me how to sum up the whole bible and who God is, it can be summed up in two words: ‘love’ and ‘mercy’.
These two attributes describe in essence who God is.
Mercy is an expression of love. The one who loves will always be merciful and compassionate.
This is important for all of us. Many of us, as St Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 13, even if we have all the gifts but do not have love, we are nothing.
Many of us in church, we can be serving, but we may be doing it without love and mercy. How many of you – whether you are a warden, choir member – serve with love, consciously?
Very often in serving God, in serving others or the poor, many of us are motivated by pride, ego.
That is why among church members, those people who are apparently serving God, they are really the most divisive people. They are always fighting, always complaining, causing tension. Why? Because they want to have things their way, because their ideas are not accepted.
Many of us suffer from low self-esteem. At the back of our minds, we serve with the intention to be recognised and appreciated.
That is why many people try to build up their self-esteem through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, to see how many ‘likes’ they get. The more ‘likes’ they have, they think they are great and feel great. If they have few ‘likes’, they feel discouraged.
In the first reading, we are told to exercise mercy and compassion: ‘Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you.’
The Church is to be a merciful Mother to all. We make up this Church, all of us, so how can the members of this Church offer mercy and compassion?
It begins with the recognition and experience of being loved by God unconditionally. If you don’t feel that you are loved by God, you cannot truly love others.
You cannot make use of others to find your self-esteem, your sense of confidence.
Being loved by God is the foundation. Without that, no service can be performed with pure love.
Often I find that in church, there is in-fighting, because people are not serving with sincere intention. They are serving with self-interest, seeking self-glory or recognition.
If you serve with pure love, you will not get disillusioned with people and the Church, even when they reject your ideas, because you have no self-interest. We become unhappy because we serve with selfish motives.
As a bishop, for example, I have a vision for the diocese. I have a dream for this Church, I share it, but whether this dream is realised or not, it doesn’t affect me as a person, because it is not my ambition. I don’t need to be happy only when the dream is realised. I have nothing to gain. I accept whatever the Lord wills for the Church.
Unless you have pure love and you serve with sincere hearts, you can never be happy in a ministry. Ask yourself, what is the secret of St Teresa?
When she was a young Sister, she wanted to do big things for God. She thought if only she could be a missionary like other saints, to go to the East and spread the Gospel, she would be loved by God. She couldn’t.
As a nun in a convent, she decided to fast for the missions, but she was in poor health and her Mother Superior forbade her to fast. She was down, because she felt useless and couldn’t do anything for Jesus.
One day, she read 1 Corinthians 12, where Saint Paul speaks about the Body of Christ, and how its members are given many gifts. He listed the gifts and St Teresa was a bit enlightened after reading that, but she realised she had none of those gifts Paul mentioned!
She went deeper into spiritual desolation until she read 1 Corinthians 13, our second reading today. Paul says that there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.
Love is the heart of the Church, it is everything. Knowledge, even service, are secondary to love.
St Therese realised that to serve God effectively, we just need to do everything with love and for Love. Even a small little action done out of love pleases God.
That is why when we serve in church without love, it might do the church some good, but it will do you no good.
St Therese had a vision: God showed her a beautiful garden where there were all kinds of flowers and plants. She always wanted to be the rose, but God showed her that if the garden were nothing but roses, it would be a boring garden. A garden is beautiful because there are a variety of plants. Every plant and flower makes a difference to the garden. Not everyone can be a rose, just like we all have different vocations.
That was when she decided to be a little flower. And she is called The Little Flower.
St Teresa is a beautiful saint, because she gives us hope that all of us can become saints. We don’t have to be a martyr, president, bishop or priest, we simply have to love genuinely, generously, unconditionally. You can be a bus driver, road sweeper – anyone who does anything with love for God and others can be a saint.
If you have the capacity to love, you are already on a good start. But where does the capacity to love come from?
It is in the Gospel today. Jesus tells us that unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God…
Do you have that experience of being a child of God, a child of the heavenly Father? St Teresa experienced it.
Those of you who are parents, which child do you not love? Even if your child is ugly, stupid, suffers from physical or mental disability, that is still your child. You love your child not because the child is pretty, handsome or intelligent. You love your child simply because he or she is your child.
Parents are protective of their children… Think about it, if we are the children of the heavenly Father then how much more the Father loves and protects each and every one of us?
When you have experienced and basked in this love of God, this love should flow through you and from you. Let this be manifested in selfless service and compassion to others. Amen.”
– Archbishop William Goh
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 25 September 2016
Amos 6:1,4-7 | 1 Timothy 6:11-16 | Luke 16:19-31
“Imagine a man who dies and arrives at the gates of heaven, at the judgement seat of God. And God scans through the Book of Life but does not find the man’s name.
He announces to the man that his place is not in heaven.
The man immediately protests: ‘But what did I do? I didn’t do anything!’
Then God replies: “Precisely. Because you did not do anything, you don’t have a place in heaven.’
That man could be the rich man in today’s parable. This parable has left many readers wondering why the rich man was not given a place in heaven.
We are not told that he got his wealth by illegal or foul means. We are not told if he was responsible for the poverty or misery of Lazarus. We are not told if he had committed any crime or evil deed. We are not even told if Lazarus had begged from him and he refused to help.
All we are told is that he was eating well and dressed in fine clothes, just as any successful human being would do.
So the question arises: why was he denied a place in heaven?
If we have that question, then it has a lot to do with the way we think about sin.
More often than not, we think that sin is caused only by our thoughts, words and deeds.
We forget the fourth and very important aspect: the sin of omission.
At Mass, when we say, ‘I confess to Almighty God…’, we tell God and all gathered here that ‘I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do’.
This ‘failing to do’ is the sin of omission.
And this parable reminds us that this sin of omission can expel some from heaven.
The poor man Lazarus was lying at the rich man’s gate and the rich man simply couldn’t care less.
He probably said to himself that what happens to the man outside the gate is none of my business; I mind my own business, people should mind theirs.
He may have done nothing against Lazarus, but he also failed to do anything for Lazarus.
He failed to reach out to share some of the blessings that he has with Lazarus.
Interestingly, the name ‘Lazarus’ is the greek form of the Hebrew name ‘Elisha’, which means ‘God is my help’.
Lazarus is not just a poor man, but a poor man who believes and trusts in God. This must be why he found himself in the bosom of Abraham after he died, because of his faith and trust in God, and not just because he was poor.
The good news is that if we feel like Lazarus right now, battered by sickness, poverty and pain, forgotten by society and those whom God has blessed in this life, if we hold onto our faith and trust in God, all would be good at the end with God.
And for those of us who we feel that we are blessed by God right now, we need to open the doors of our heart and share our blessings with those who are not so privileged.
Probably, there is a Lazarus lying at our gates, in our homes, at work, in school, that we failed to notice.
Let us pray for the grace to recognise the needs of those around us, and also to have the courage to respond generously and lovingly to those who are in need. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 18 September 2016
Amos 8:4-7 | 1 Timothy 2:1-8 | Luke 16:1-13
“In the parable of the dishonest servant, we see that being smart or shrewd or astute, is not an end to itself.
One can use one’s smarts and intelligence to do mean and horrible things. For example, many con artists and terrorists are very intelligent and smart people and they use it to create unhappiness for others.
Today’s parable challenges us to be smart in the pursuit of God’s kingdom, just as God-less people are smart in their pursuit of their own selfish goals and ambitions.
Jesus uses the example of the smart and astute steward to teach us that we need to be smart and astute in the Lord’s service.
We are to imitate the steward not in his dishonesty, but in his astuteness – for his prudent vision of what laid ahead of him when he realised that he was going to be dismissed by his master.
We are challenged to be smart managers because God has entrusted His creation in our hands and we are His stewards or managers. Our task as followers is to expand God’s kingdom, starting with our own selves.
We have been given the necessary resources to do this, we have been equipped with the gift of faith, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit and we have been given this grace and opportunity of time. Later, we will all have to give an account of how we have invested and used these resources that were given to us.
I stress again that Jesus is not praising the steward’s dishonesty in this parable. What Jesus is more concerned with is the lack of spiritual foresight on the part of His followers.
The point He is trying to make is that we as His followers should have more foresight and be more prudent in planning ahead for our spiritual future, just as the worldly are wise in planning ahead for their financial and material future.
The world we live in, there are many distractions coming at us in many different ways. We can be so distracted accomplishing all these material goals that we get confused. We don’t know where we are. From time to time, we question our own motives in life. Are we truly happy in gaining this material excess?
There are consequences that flow from our decisions, and there are also consequences that flow from our non-decisions.
When we think about it, ‘not to decide’ is a decision in itself, because we are making a decision not to decide. It is a neglectful decision and this can have bad consequences.
For a down-to-earth example of a non-decision: Each time we come to church to pray, some of us take that neglectful decision of not switching off our mobile phones. What is the consequence? We distract not just ourselves, but those around us. So neglectful decisions have consequences.
This is particularly so when we neglect our spiritual lives and decide not to invest time and resources into it.
The Gospel today invites us to be smart managers for our spiritual lives. The smart steward used what he could not keep (his master’s finances) to get what he needed badly (the goodwill of others), to make friends with his master’s debtors so that in the future, he has something to hold on to.
To stay on the path to eternal life that God has given us, what steps are we taking now?
We must be shrewd in making preparations for the Kingdom that awaits us. We have to do a stock-take of our own lives and ask ourselves in all honesty and sincerity, if God were to call me today, will I be able to hear Jesus telling me face-to-face, ‘Come, my servant, the Kingdom is yours because you took the necessary steps and preparations in your spiritual life’?
If not, then we need to do something about it now. Let us pray that we always have our ears and our eyes fixed towards God, to be the builders of His Kingdom here on earth, but more importantly, for our own spiritual benefit, too. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 12 September 2016
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 | 1 Timothy 1:12-17 | Luke 15:1-32
“Each one of us in the eyes of God are most precious and we are given priority. We might get lost because of our own decision. We might say, ‘I don’t need God anymore.’
That is a decision some of us make, but we cannot stop God from loving us. It is a tremendous assurance, that no matter what we decide in our lives, no matter if it is self-destroying, God is there to rescue us and to make us whole again.
What a tremendous assurance, and at the same time, how frightening it is, to know how much we are loved.
People are precious and sacred. We can never do too much in order to reach out to people.
In the business and corporate worlds, you lose one sheep out of 100, you lose one coin out of 10… you may say, never mind. The boss may say, don’t waste time looking for the lost one, capitalise on the 99 or the nine we have, and write him out, nothing to worry about. We have no time to waste on him or her. We have more important things to do. We have to go on.
And that is how people are left behind, unattended, ignored.
I remember a gentleman, quite a big businessman, visiting the Cheshire Home at Serangoon Gardens, where you have so many handicapped people… people who have found a shelter. I know some of them who have been sheltered there for 40 years. And that man said that it was a waste of energy and money to have such institutions.
When people ask me if the Church in Singapore is alive, I say yes. Why do I say that?
Not because of the new churches we build, or the many organisations we put at the service of the people, but because we have St Theresa’s Home, St Joseph’s Home, Villa Francis Home, St Vincent Home, we have, quietly, a special home for Aids patients.
Ask me if the Church is alive and I say, go and see what’s happening. These are signs that the Church is alive.
Because it is a Church going towards the lost ones, towards the ones who could be so easily ignored, in a world, where we must go ahead, faster and faster. There, we make time, we make space, we spend money, we show care for such people.
This is the way of Jesus. This must be our way. This must be the way of the Church, that no one is lost. Because in the eyes of God, those who we call lost, are those who are specially loved.
Last year, Pope Francis did two things in the Vatican, to the surprise of many. He built shower stalls and he opened a barber shop. Why? Because when he spoke with the poor, he was told that to find food is not difficult, but to find a place to have a shower is.
Others who were rather dishevelled, apologised to him for not being properly trimmed.
Now at the side of St Peter’s Square, you have these shower stalls and this barber shop where people go to serve the poor. The Church is alive. Let us, too, take part in that service for others. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4 September 2016
Wisdom 9:13-18 | Philemon 9-10, 12-17 | Luke 14:25-33
“I’m sure all of us are familiar with the 4th Commandment which tells us to honour our father and mother. We also know the new Commandment that Jesus gave us: Love one another as I have loved you.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying: ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.’
How are we to reconcile these seemingly contradictory demands? How can we hate those whom we are supposed to love? More importantly, why?
The paradox of hating those we love is dramatised in the most fascinating way on the 8 Sep 2001, in the women’s final of the US Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, New York, because for the first time in the tournament, the world watched an emotional match as two sisters who love each other very much fought with each other on the court.
We can only imagine what went through the minds of Venus and Serena Williams as they battled each other, suspending their love for each other, temporarily hating each other.
They had to ‘hate’ each other because one was standing in the way of the other to becoming a champion. One was seen as an obstacle to the other’s dream to wear that crown of victory. So they had to ‘hate’ and fight each other.
Venus eventually won that game but she did not do her usual jump to celebrate the victory. She went immediately to the net, put her arm around her sister and said ‘I love you’.
She did that because the game was now over. Her sister was no longer an obstacle to her victory. In other words, what she was doing was to convey something like, ‘Sorry but I had to do it, I had to fight you hard, because you were standing in my way, but in reality, I still love you.’
That was a rare example of hating those we love, but from it we can learn much about this injunction to ‘hate’ our loved ones. You see, in normal circumstances, taking from the example, both Venus and Serena loved one another. Similarly we love our parents, our siblings, our spouse, indeed everyone else – except when they become obstacles in our bid to that crown of eternal salvation.
We must be prepared to wage an uncompromising war, so to speak, to see that no person or thing stands in our way to make us lose that crown.
For example, let’s say my father is a crook and from a young age he taught me how to shoplift, to steal, to rob and take the goods back home. I commit crime after crime but I wasn’t caught. But then one day, I discover Jesus, the Truth. Now there is an obstacle.
Not that I don’t love my father, but he is seen as an obstacle to me because he is teaching me the wrong values and I have to push him aside. I have to walk the path that Jesus is directing me. That is where the ‘hate’ and the fight comes between me and my father, because he is seen as an obstacle.
Now don’t go and say after this Mass that Fr Bosco’s father is a crook, ah. No, no, no, he is a good man and taught me well. I am just giving you an example. It is Jesus’ message that I am trying to bring across to you.
And notice Jesus also said that our possessions can become an obstacle in our bid for that crown of salvation. He said, ‘None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions’.
Our material goods and our desire for material goods can become our demi-gods. Our quest to want more of these things will make us lose sight of God and put Him in second place, then third place, fourth place… until we lose that crown of eternal salvation.
That is why Jesus is warning us not to allow our people and possessions, that will blind us from what is already in our possession.
The Gospel today invites us to take stock of our lives to learn to let go of what is preventing us from being a true disciple of Jesus, and to always have recourse to God. For without God, we can do nothing.
Let us pray for that strength and grace to remain steadfast in our journey towards the kingkdom that God wants us to possess. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, 28 August 2016
Ecclesiasticus 3:17-20, 28-29 | Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 | Luke 14:1, 7-14
“I would like to begin this homily by recounting a story I read in the Catholic Digest some years ago. It goes like this:
On a flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged, well-off, white South Africam woman found herself seated next to a dark African man. She called the cabin crew attendent over to complain about her seating.
‘What seems to be the problem Madam?’ asked the attendant. ‘Can’t you see?’ she said very loudly, ‘I can’t possibly sit next to this disgusting man. Find me another seat!’
‘Please calm down, Madam,’ the stewardess replied. ‘The flight is very full today, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll go and check to see if we have any seats available in business or first class.’
The woman gave a snooty look at the man beside her and to the many of the surrounding passengers.
A few minutes later the stewardess returns with the good news, which she delivers to the woman, who cannot help but look at the people around her with a smug and self-satisfied grin.
‘Madam, unfortunately, as I expected, economy is full, and so is business class. However, we do have one seat in first class. It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it was outrageous for someone to be forced to sit next such an obnoxious person.’
And with that, she turned to the African man sitting next to her and said: ‘Sir, if you’d like to get your things, your seat in first class is ready for you.’ At this point, the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation.
When we hear this story, we would be shocked at the prejudice of the woman, and feel sorry also for the man who was insulted. And we would also identify with the rest of the passengers for applauding the crew who took that man to first class.
From this story, we see there is truth in what Jesus said in the Gospel today: Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.
The question then arises: Why would someone want to exalt him or herself? Or in the language that Jesus uses, want the best place at the table.
Well, one reason could be the feeling of being inferior to others, the lack of self-confidence, and to compensate this, they try to exalt themselves.
The solution to the feeling of being inferior to others or a lack of self-confidence is not to boast or behave like a snob or demanding your place at the table.
The solution is to recognise that we receive our value from God, and not from the opinions of others. These opinions play a factor but they do not and will not determine our value.
Our value is that we are equal in dignity in the eyes of God. We are all sons and daughters of God.
Those who are proud or boastful do not realise that everything they have come from God.
In God’s eyes, we are equally precious. Jesus came to save all of us, not an elite group, not a special group, but all.
We should be proud to call ourselves children of God.
In first reading, the first few lines tell us: Be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver. The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly. And then you will find favour with the Lord.
Jesus is our best model. He is meek and humble of heart, so learn from Him. He humbled Himself to be a man even though He was God. He humbled Himself to be among the poor, the sick, the outcast. He humbled Himself to wash the feet of His disciples.
The greatest manifestation of His humility was at the Garden of Gethsemane. As a human, Jesus had free will, but yet He surrendered His will to the Father there.
Jesus came to serve and not to be served. He served in total humility. This is the message we are to take home. We are not to give glory to ourselves but to the greater glory of God.
Let us pray with all earnestness that we be truly humble in our service to God and to others, so that in doing so, we be builders of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 14 August 2016
Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 | 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 | Luke 1:39-56
“If we look at Sacred Scripture, we find that from the Old Testament, the focus in the Book of Genesis is about the fall of man, Adam. In the New Testament, we have the birth of a king, Jesus, who redeems humanity through His death.
That is why theologians from the early centuries called Jesus the ‘new Adam’. But as soon as we say that, we see that there is a missing link, because the story of the fall of man is not just the story of Adam, but of Adam and Eve.
If Jesus is now seen as the new Adam, Mary then is the ‘new Eve’. Just as the full story of the fall cannot be told without Eve, so the full story of our redemption cannot be told without Mary.
If you look at the Old and New Testaments, you can see what are called ‘inverted parallels’.
In the Old Testament, Eve came from the body of man, Adam. God took one of his ribs and created woman. In the New Testament, the reverse is taking place: a man, Jesus, comes from the womb of a woman, Mary.
In the Old Testament, Eve disobeyed God and led Adam to do the same. In the New Testament, Mary first said obeyed and said ‘yes’ to God, and in the growing years, began to teach Jesus how to say ‘yes’ to God in all that He did.
It comes as no surprise therefore that we hear Jesus repeat this, especially in the Gospel of John: I have come not to do my will but the will of the Father.
The disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray and He taught them the Lord’s Prayer, where they pray to God the Father, ‘thy will be done’.
When Jesus was in agony before His arrest, he prayed to God to ‘take this cup from me but if it be Your will, let Your will be done’.
Mary and Jesus were in obedience to God.
In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve were living in paradise, enjoying life until their disobedience. For Jesus and Mary, they had to suffer after saying ‘yes’ to God.
However, while Adam and Eve suffered the immediate punishment of the fall, Jesus and Mary shared the blessing of redemption and the fullness of life with God. For Jesus, He ascended to heaven and for Mary, she was assumed, or taken up, to heaven.
In the Gospel today, Elizabeth addresses Mary as ‘blessed’ because she was the highly favoured one, reason being, she carried in her womb, Jesus.
So the Assumption teaches us that at the end of her earthly existence on earth, Mary was assumed both body and soul into heaven. In this doctrine, we see the collaboration of man and woman in the work of salvation, all the way from the fall to the redemption and the fruit of the work.
The Assumption shows us the sacredness and eternal destiny of the human body.
It enables us to tell the full story, that salvation is given to all, male and female. It is a celebration in anticipation of what we hope to achieve, to be in the glorious presence of God in heaven.
Mary is given many titles, and one is the Mediatrix, meaning she acts as the mediator, the intercessor. She takes our prayers to her Son and leaves it to Him to grant them.
There is this story of a 7-year-old boy who wanted a bicycle for Christmas, but his parents said no. So he wrote to Santa Claus: ‘Dear Santa, I have been good this year…’
Then he stopped and thought: I shouldn’t be writing to Santa, I should be writing to Jesus! It is Jesus who will grant me this, and He is above Santa.
So he took a new sheet of paper and wrote again: ‘Dear Jesus, I have been good throughout the year…’
Then he stopped again. He thought: No, Jesus knows me and He knows I have not been that good this year. If I tell a lie, Jesus won’t give me the bike.
Frustrated, he went into the living room, looked at the family altar and an inspiration came. He took a stool, climbed to reach for one of the statues, cradled it carefully and took it to his room. He wrapped it in towel, opened the last drawer, placed it in it there and covered it with clothes.
He shut the drawer, sat back on his desk and started writing on a new piece of paper again. ‘Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again…’
Yes, the boy knew the power of Mary but his thinking is not all there. He knew Mary would intercede for him, but he was blackmailing Jesus, giving Him an ultimatum.
If we look at our own lives, we also like to give ultimatums to God and we try to bargain: If You grant me this, I will do this, this and this.
We don’t have to do that or give ultimatums. All we have to do is ask. Scripture tells us, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you. But we must ask with sincere hearts and be open to God saying no to us, because He is infinite Wisdom, He knows what to give us and when. We must be prepared for a ‘no’ from time to time.
The point is, Mary always brings our prayers to Jesus. So let us turn to her to pray with and for us, that we, too, may be able to walk in her footsteps and Jesus’ footsteps, always being attentive to the Word of God and do the will of the Father upon hearing the promptings in our hearts. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7 August 2016
Wisdom 18:6-9 | Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 | Luke 12:32-48
“‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock’.
On Friday evening, those of us who have handheld devices, we were getting shocking news popping up on our screens, that there was a plot to shoot rockets into Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands from batam, Indonesia. For those who didn’t see the news, yesterday morning’s headlines in The Straits Times would have caused us to cringe with fear, that there is a possibility that rocket missiles could be fired into our country.
And what was the response from the authorities? They tried to keep us at peace and said they already knew about this plot and our skies are safe because our air and military defence are constantly trying to prevent any external infiltration into our air space.
A few months ago, we were already told to be alert and vigilant and to be realistic, that it is not a case of ‘if an attack were to happen on our shores’, but ‘when it will take place’.
This is indeed shocking news. We are told to stay awake, be alert.
Now if you understand this in a secular context, then you would be able to understand what Jesus was referring to in our Gospel passage today when He told His disciples that there is no need to be afraid. What does Jesus mean here?
He is telling the people not to be worried and not to be scared, but to trust in Him. In other words, to have faith.
We have a long list of the people who trusted in God in our second reading, and we are told in the Letter to the Hebrews that only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for. Only faith.
My dear inquirers (from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), we were looking back and tracing our own journey of faith today. We need to have faith in order for us to grow, in order to have the fruitfulness of being Christians. All the three readings remind us how the people of the Old Testament clung on to the faith, the promise.
In the first reading, it says, ‘our ancestors… once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in, they would joyfully take courage’.
The second reading tells us of the people clinging to a certain promise. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that there was a promise, and that was why Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other patriarchs relied on that promise of God. That promise was how to go about walking the faith in their daily lives.
Are we people who believe? If so, like those in the Old Testament, we need not have something concrete in front of us to walk the faith. They just knew that the promise was made by God.
You know the story of Abraham, in chapter 12 of Genesis. And inquirers, we reflected on that this morning, when God spoke to Abraham to take this journey and leave his land and country, Abraham didn’t know where he was going. He was groping in the dark, you can say, but what kept him moving was his belief. He trusted in God. He knew God was going to guide him to green pastures. The One who spoke to him was not going to be a disappointment.
Dear inquirers, soon to be catechumens, we are walking ahead on this journey. We are clinging to a promise and a hope. You have traced your faith journey in your morning exercise, looking at the ups and downs in your lives, seeing the hand of God and realising that it was God who has been guiding you all these years.
Today, as you make this concerted effort in your Rite of Acceptance, what the Lord is telling you is that, ‘It is I who have chosen you and I want you to walk alongside me towards this promise’.
Nobody expected Abraham to have a son. We also see Sarah his wife relying on faith. And I quote: ‘It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it.’
‘He who made the promise’. This ‘He’ is none other than Jesus Christ for us, the Son of God.
Dear inquirers, the promise is for us to grasp now, to want to experience it, to want to cooperate with God to fulfil it. And I have told you, when you receive an invitation, you can either accept it, reject it or ignore it. The promise is here, and after accepting it, what happens after that, we do not know, just like in Abraham’s case. He just went on faith.
Jesus tells us not to be too anxious about the earthly things or fleeting things that cause us to worry. He assured His disciples not to be afraid. We are His ‘little flock’, and in order to be this little flock, we need to be little, to be humble, to know we have to cling on to a God who is there to guide us, rather than we play god ourselves in our lives.
Very often, we subconsciously play god based on our own desires and wants. We make decisions that are not what God wills of us. Sometimes we take things in our hands in areas of morality. Jesus is telling us we must walk on faith. He gives us examples in the parables today: See that we are dressed for action and have our lamps lit.
We must stand ready and not doubt His presence. Today, inquirers, the Lord has touched you, the response is to accept the invitation. And as a gesture of helping you to walk on this promise, the parish is giving you the Sunday Missal to help you prepare for the weekend readings, to prepare your prayer life, to give you some verses as your mantra for every week ahead, to listen to God’s Word and more importantly, to cling on to His Word that so many before you have done.
May you embark on this journey as a catechumen from today, to express your desire to be one with Jesus. And may He guide you to places you do not expect and have an exciting journey with Him.”
– Fr Valerian Cheong
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 31 July 2016
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 | Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 | Luke 12:13-21
“According to our parish census, 60 to 70 people who come to church here live in Sentosa. And when Sentosa Cove began to have people moving in, I was asked to bless a few apartments.
In those days, a condo there was $1.5 million. Bungalow, $2 million. One year later, the condo was $2 million. The bungalow, $3 million. A good return on the investment.
I’m told that now, a condo is between $4 million and $6 million. And a bungalow, about $10 million to $12 million minimum, or more… around $16 million. And in the papers, we can read about bungalows which can be as high as $37 million.
There is nothing wrong with having money, to have landed property, to invest money, to have a good savings account.
What we have to look at is: Have I become more possessive of what I have? To possess a house, landed property, a good bank account… it’s all right. I need to put some money aside for a rainy day, otherwise, I would be a fool.
But do I become possessive of what I have? Is money becoming the treasure of my life? Am I tempted, like the man in today’s Gospel, to grab and to hold?
What went wrong with the man in the Gospel, when he has so much to keep? Only one thing. He did not ask himself what he could share with others.
The question he had for himself was, ‘How to keep all that for myself?’ It was not about how to share with others.
And as far as money is concerned, the word we use very often is ‘more’ instead of ‘enough’.
When we go into a new job, we see if the salary is more than our previous salary, not about whether we will feel more comfortable in that job, no matter how much the salary is.
Brothers and sisters, we are blessed by God. And as far as money and property are concerned, when we look at our bank account, the first thing we have to say is, ‘Thank you Lord’.
We have been working very hard, and very long nights, sure, but God is keeping us in good hands.
God is putting you in a place where you can find a job. In a country where there is peace. And to make money, would not be possible without these basic blessings of God.
So let us be thankful to God for all the commodities we enjoy. Money is one of them.
Let us ask ourselves: Are there people around who need my help? Or am I taken up totally by the money I like to make?
I knew a couple in their 70s, retired, and they had no more children at home. Every evening when they had their dinner at 7pm, they would listen to their radio at the dinner table for the results of the share market.
And the appetite depended on the results of the share market. The shares went up, very good appetite. Shares remained at the same level, mmm… can do. But when the shares went down? No appetite. And maybe a scolding for the maid because the food was not tasty.
If the husband was the one advising the wife on those shares, then he was getting the scolding every time the shares went down.
A former broker once told me: ‘Years ago, I was a broker for a company. I felt I was making too much money, and I felt there was something wrong. I did no know why. I simply told them I’m getting old, and I came out of the situation.’
He felt the power of money and how enslaving it could become. To be rich is not to have money. To be rich is to enjoy what I have, to be happy about it.
That man in the Gospel is busy building new barns and he won’t be able to sleep. He is thinking what will happen to the crop and so forth if a fire takes place in my barn?
People who have money are often very insecure and filled with anxiety.
Let us enjoy what we have. Let us thank God. Let us discern what’s going on.
Yes, Lord, thank You for the money You give us. We need it. It is a commodity. Let us keep it as a community and let us know how to share it. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 24 July 2016
Genesis 18:20-32 | Colossians 2:12-24 | Luke 11:1-13
“A man told his friend: ‘You know, although I don’t pray, I consider myself a good Christian, because I do my work well and I don’t harm anyone.’
His friend looked at him and said: ‘If you do your work well and don’t harm anyone and you don’t pray, what is the difference between you and a computer? Computers work well, don’t harm anyone, and they don’t pray.’
This friend drives home an important point – we can be so busy with our lives that we forget what life is truly about. We can get so involved in pursuing what money can buy, we forget about the things that money cannot buy.
In the Gospels, Jesus did not say we are to work always. He said that we are to pray always.
We are not made to be workaholics. We are sons and daughters of God through our baptism. And it is a pity to see work sometimes reducing us to the level of machines or computers.
Today’s Gospel, we see Jesus Himself at prayer and the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.
You know, seeing someone in prayer is always very edifying for me. It inspires me also to want to pray.
When I was growing up, when my parents took me to church, we dipped our fingers into the holy water font, made the Sign of the Cross, genuflected, and knelt down and be quiet before Mass started.
I would do what I was told, but I did not understand what was going on. I followed the instructions. As I knelt there, there was no prayer on my lips or heart. I just went through the motions.
But slowly, over time, I started praying the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary’s.
Then during my time in school, my prayers were centred around me – to get good grades and my wish to win trophies in sports.
Even at the seminary, I still wouldn’t know how to pray well. I would sit back and watch the senior brothers, who would be fully immersed in prayer and meditations. And to a certain extent, I desired this and yearned for it deep down, just like the disciples in today’s Gospel. They saw Jesus doing it and they longed for it.
Their request can be seen as them asking for a proper disposition when entering prayer, what the state of the mind and heart should be when one is praying. And the reply that Jesus gave them can be summarised in one sentence: the disposition for Christian prayer is that of a child to his or her father.
We look at what Jesus told them: When you pray, say ‘Father…’, and at the end, He said, ‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
In other words, according to Jesus, prayer is a child-father affair, based on a relationship of familiarity and love. He speaks to us of a relationship that is based on tenderness and intimacy, and not on power and authority.
To pray is to put ourselves in a situation where we see God as Father and speak to Him like His children.
If you have young children, you will know that when they speak to you, they put into words or body language what they feel in their hearts. And children trust parents to always give them or do to them according to their best interests.
We go to God likewise with this spirit of trust and expectancy, knowing that God will always do for us whatever is in our best interest.
And children – like that friend who asked for food in the Gospel today – they refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. You say ‘no’ to them today, tomorrow they go back to you with the same request.
That is the persistence that Jesus wants to bring across to us, the disposition we need to have for our prayer life, to keep going to God repeatedly.
God becomes more intimate to us that way, when we improve our relationship with Him.
Start by spending quiet time with Him. If you read the books on saints and their lives, most of them will tell you that they spent at least an hour before the Blessed Sacrament or an hour in prayer.
My advice to you: Don’t be overly ambitious, because to get to that one hour takes a lot of effort. The saints reached it and they knew the value of it.
For those of us who have not started praying regularly and want to start dedicating time to it, be realistic, be practical. If you start with an hour, I can assure you that after a week, you will abandon it because it seems long and tedious to you and you are not used to it.
Start with something we can hold on to and commit to every day, maybe 10 or 15 minutes.
But make sure we be faithful to that 10 to 15 minutes. Slowly but surely, we will increase the time because we can see the benefits of prayer taking hold of us.
Remember: Prayer is a relationship and it takes time to grow and deepen. As the old saying goes: 7 days make one week, 7 days without prayer makes one weak.
Let us ask the Lord to give us strength to re-dedicate ourselves to prayer. And if we have a healthy prayer life, we pray for those who do not have it. For those of us who do not have it, may the Lord touch us, to change our ways and to spend more time with Him. I assure you, you will see a total difference.
We pray for this grace. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 17 July 2016
Genesis 18:1-10 | Colossians 1:24-28 | Luke 10:38-42
“Reading today’s Gospel, we can sympathise with Martha on some level because we may feel that Jesus was being a little unfair to her. If you look at the Gospels, there is a great emphasis on doing good deeds, and yet in today’s passage, He praises not the doer, but the one who simply sits down and listens to Him.
To set the record straight, it wasn’t that Jesus didn’t appreciate what Martha was doing. And He was not scolding her, no. What comes across was His concern for her.
He was making a point for the benefit of people like Martha, who are essentially very generous people, but overly anxious about getting things done. It was not that she was busy but that she was too busy, always anxious and worried. She was, to a certain extent, a slave to her duties.
Our daily lives are made up of and revolve around a lot of chores and duties, which basically fall into two categories – the urgent and the essential.
Many things we do could be said to be urgent, but only few are truly essential. And we must distinguish between the two.
Like Martha, we tend to give priority to the urgent. The essential gets postponed until much later. And later, if it is done at all, it is done hurriedly and sometimes even badly.
So how then are we to tell what our priorities in life are? The best way to recognise our priorities is to pray and reflect on our day-to-day living. For example, we ask ourselves, to what do we give most of our time? What draws most of our energy?
Sadly, it may sometimes take a tragedy or emergency to put things into perspective for us and to remind us of what truly matters.
When Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the late Archbishop of Chicago, learnt that he had terminal cancer, he said: “I came to realise how much of what consumes our daily life is trivial and insignificant.”
In other words, we have all the wrong priorities. When we look at Mary in today’s Gospel, she had her priorities right. She dropped everything to listen to the words of Jesus.
Many of us, on the other hand, would be able to identify more with Martha, because we are also very, very busy people, constantly short of time. And when we can sympathise and empathise with Martha, chances are, we are workaholics.
What is required of us is to look beyond the daily chores and routines, to what is truly essential for us. That would make a difference.
We need to devote more time to ourselves and above all, devote more time to prayer and reflection. If we spend more time in prayer with God, I assure you, our lives would be calmer, less driven by anxieties and worries, and would be deeper and richer. Everything around us would benefit. Our spiritual life would benefit, our relationships with others would benefit, and our work would be more productive.
Action and contemplation are not to be contrasted. Both are necessary and have to be integrated into life.
So the message is clear: We must know what our priorities are, what the essentials in life are, and to have a balanced proportion.
Let us pray and ask the Lord to give us the wisdom to make the right choices, to put Him as our number-one priority, so that He can guide and steer us into choosing what is essential in our lives. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 10 July 2016
Deuteronomy 30:10-14 | Colossians 1:15-20 | Luke 10:25-37
“The Gospel tells us about a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan passing by a wounded man, but does not give us any detail about the man who was in distress. Was he a Jew? Was he a rich man? Was he going on a business trip? We know only one thing about him, and that is the most important: He was in need of care.
He was in need of someone who would give him care. Care is the short word that summarises the whole Gospel passage of today and it is a vision and challenge for us this week: Do I care for people?
In Singapore we have maids, also called domestic helpers, and in recent years, caregivers. What a beautiful word. I would like to be called a caregiver. And people appreciate caregivers so much that often in an obituary, the caregivers are mentioned. And indeed the caregivers had given more care to the deceased than the brothers or sisters or other relatives.
Monday morning, I was already thinking of my homily and praying to the Lord about what message He wants me to share over the weekend. And then while taking my breakfast and looking at the newspapers, my homily was in there.
There was an article with a title as I have never seen before. Maybe you did not notice it. The headline was, ‘Trying to raise kind kids’. What a beautiful idea. And what a challenge.
I have read articles about how to make your children fluently bilingual, oh yes. How to give them artistic gifts, so go for ballet, piano and so forth. Or how to make him a rugged fellow. Play football, taekwondo etc. But I have never seen an article talking about how to raise kind children. And it was a mother talking about how she and her husband were trying to teach their children to be kind towards others.
Mind you, this quality does not come by itself. What is in each and everyone of us is a tendency to selfishness, always myself first.
Not like the Samaritan who took care of the wounded man and then asked the innkeeper to take care of him and paying for the service where necessary.
And I think it would be a very good thing if, at the end of the day, we could ask ourselves that simple question: Have I been kind today? Have I been a man or woman of kindness?
The world is in need of care. And care and compassion go together. Christ speaks of compassion, and we are in the year of compassion.
What the Gospel is telling us is about our sins of omission. When we say, ‘I confess to Almighty God…’ at Mass, we ask forgiveness for what we have failed to do. And it is so easy to forget that we have sinned that way.
Help your children to be aware that the power of compassion is within us, but it can be suffocated by pride and selfishness. We must help it to grow.
I know a family where they are trying to raise children to be kind and sometimes, the parents ask the children at bedtime, ‘Have you been kind today?’ One boy said yes and the mummy asked, ‘What did you do?’
‘I help mama to find her glasses.’ The grandmother had lost her glasses and the little boy helped her. What a wonderful gesture of kindness. Another one said, ‘I let the two girls to go before me to get their food.’ How simple, how wonderful.
To comfort a colleague who seem to be troubled. To go to someone who is lonely. To share your lunch with someone who is alone. These are simple acts of kindness and care.
Let us pray to God, but I would say also, let us pray to the Good Samaritan, who would qualify as a holy person today.
And while you ask the Lord to help you care more for others, ask the Good Samaritan to show you how to do it concretely. And then we can do away with sins of omissions. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 3 July 2016
Isaiah 66:10-14 | Galatians 6:14-18 | Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
“Do you have peace in your heart? Do you have peace in your family? Do you have peace at work? Peace in your decisions?
Peace is not the absence of war, or storms in your life. That is a negative way of thinking about peace.
Peace is the presence of Jesus Himself. Peace is positive.
Peace is acceptance. Peace is affirmation. Peace is hospitality.
Jesus says that whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’
And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.
When I visit and knock on your door at home, do you have to open four locks? One lock that is the bolt on top, one is the bolt below, one that is the door, one that is the gate?
Because when you have four locks like these, you may also have one big lock on your heart.
How do we open our hearts to welcome others into our lives? How do we show our appreciation of others, whether they are familiar to us at home or not so close at work?
What about the times when people or strangers have made you feel welcome? How did that feel? Do we give them thanks?
When we disagree with others, can we disagree gracefully without telling them that they are the stupid ones?
Everytime we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus is here giving us His peace. At the start of Mass, the priest, standing here in the person of Christ, may say: ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.‘
During the Gloria, we sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will’.
Before we offer each other the Sign of Peace, we hear: ‘Peace I leave you, my peace I give you’, and ‘The peace of the Lord be with you always’.
And at the end of Mass, we are told: ‘Go in peace, and proclaim the Good News’.
Will you be a peacemaker, or a troublemaker? Give to others a sign of God’s peace. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 26 June 2016
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 | Galatians 5:1, 13-18 | Luke 9:51-62
“Often, we tend to write people off based on one bad experience or an unfriendly encounter with them. We rarely give them a second chance. For example, if someone is late for an appointment or someone did their work badly.
We hold on to that old-age saying: once bitten, twice shy, three times, don’t even try, four times, you better go and die.
We set very high standards for others and expect them to meet these standards, and we don’t accept their excuses and slip-ups.
Then when it comes to ourselves, we can be so blind to our own weaknesses. By holding on to this philosophy, we end up being very unfair to the parties concerned, because who among us would want to be judged on a couple of wrong decisions or moments in our lives? We do others a terrible injustice when we behave this way.
In today’s Gospel, James and John were quick to write off the villagers and we see Jesus rebuking them, giving them a scolding, because He doesn’t advocate violence or condemnation but champions mercy and compassion.
If you notice, we even seem to show more compassion to our plants and animals than to other people. For example, just try to envision this: If you see a puppy running up the sanctuary, we may smile because we find it humorous, and some may even exclaim, ‘Oh! So cute!’
But if it were a toddler running up the sanctuary, our response would be to shake our heads in disgust, get irritated, stare at the child, and then ask who are the irresponsible parents, and go tsk-tsk-tsk and frown at the parents when they appear.
We become like the scribes and Pharisees and we make judgment on those we think have done something wrong. We seldom measure the faults of others with the same scale that we set for ourselves.
The Gospel invites us to extend the same compassion that we would like to receive if we were caught in a similar situation.
One way of overcoming this tendency to ‘punish’ others is to have a sense of humour, not that we approve of it, but in doing so, we would be able to extend mercy and compassion more readily.
There is this story of a strict disciplinarian father who always picked on his teenage son, and one evening, as he passed by his bedroom, he was surprised to see that the bed was neatly made and things were packed up in order.
Then he saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow. It had the word ‘Dad’ in big letters.
With the worst premonition, he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.
It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mum and you.
I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice. But I knew you would not approve of her because of her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and that she is much older than I am.
But it’s not only the passion, Dad… she’s pregnant.
Stacy said that we would be very happy. She owns a trailer, and we share a dream of having many more children.
Stacy has opened my eyes that marijuana doesn’t hurt anyone. We will be growing it ourselves and trading it with others.
In the meantime, we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so that Stacy can get better.
Don’t worry, Dad. I’m 16 and I know how to take care of myself.
Someday I’m sure that we will be back to visit, so that you can get to know your grandchildren.
your son John
PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Tommy’s house. I just wanted to remind you there are worse things in life than a bad report card. It’s in my desk drawer. I love you. Call me when it’s safe to come home.’
Yes, the father is reminded to be more compassionate to his son.
Jesus is also calling us to do the same.
He looks beyond what we are, to what we can become.
He is not so much interested in our past, as He is in our future.
He is not so interested in our liabilities as He is in our possibilities; not so interested in our abilities, but in our availability.
So as we continue with the celebration of the Eucharist, let us pray to the Lord to help us let go of our prejudices and judgmental nature, to give us a heart that is truly compassionate, merciful and loving. Just as Jesus welcomes us sinners, let us be compassionate and willing to welcome others into our lives. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19 June 2016
Zechariah 12:10-11 | Galatians 3:26-29 | Luke 9:18-24
“A 15-year-old boy and his father were driving past a tiny airport in a small town in Ohio, US, when suddenly a low-flying plane spun out of control and nose-dived into the runway. The boy yelled for the father to stop the car.
Minutes later, the young boy was pulling the pilot out of the plane. It was a 20-year-old student pilot who had been practising take-offs and landings. The young pilot died in the boy’s arms.
When the boy got home, he wept in his mother’s arms, saying, ‘He was my friend, he was my friend.’
That night, in that state of shock, he couldn’t eat anything, so he went to bed and just laid there. The boy had been working part-time and saved every penny he earned for flying lessons too. His goal was to get a pilot licence at the age of 16.
His parents wondered what effect the tragedy would have on him. Would he give up on his dream? They agreed the decision would be entirely his.
Two days later, the boy’s mother took some food to his room. On his dresser, she saw an open notebook. At the top of the page, she saw in big letters: “THE CHARACTER OF JESUS”.
Beneath it was listed a series of qualities:
Jesus was sinless.
He championed for the poor.
He was unselfish.
He was close to God.
The mother saw that in the boy’s hour of distress, he had turned to Jesus for guidance.
And then she turned to ask if he had made any decision about flying lessons.
“Mum, I hope you and Dad will understand, that with God’s help, I must continue to fly,” he said.
He did eventually become a pilot. And on 20 July 1969, he became the first man to walk on the moon. That boy was none other than Neil Armstrong.
And very few people who watched that historic event on TV knew that one of the reasons he was walking on the moon was Jesus. That he drew his strength and guidance from Jesus to come to a crucial decision as a teen that was responsible for his eventual landing on the moon.
I like that story because it answers Jesus’ question in today’s Gospel: Who do you say I am?
For young Neil Armstrong, he didn’t give any theological answers. He gave a very personal answer. He looked deep into his own heart to describe how he experienced Jesus. And he wrote that list about Jesus.
Each one of us must answer that question ourselves: Who is Jesus personally for me?
For some of us, Jesus is someone we can turn to for guidance in times of confusion. For others, He is someone they can turn to for strength in times of trial. For some of us, He is someone who understands us when we don’t even understand ourselves.
There is a second part to the Gospel. The first part asks how we experience Jesus. The second part asks how Jesus experiences us.
Jesus said: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, he must take up his cross and follow me. In other words, are we for others, what Jesus is for us?
Are we people whom others can turn to for strength, for guidance?
In short, the Gospel presents us two important questions for us to answer.
First, does Jesus play an important part in our lives? Or is Jesus someone we think about only for an hour or so every Sunday at Mass?
Second, does He experience us as His followers, or one of His fans? Do we imitate Him or do we merely admire Him? Do we pick up our cross and follow Him, or do we sit at the side and watch Him and applaud Him carrying His cross?
We have to answer in all honesty, these two questions in our daily living.
As we continue this Eucharistic celebration, we pray that we have a true and intimate relationship with Him, and in doing so, we can truly imitate Him unto others.
Today being Father’s Day, we also pray for all fathers in the house, that they, too, may reflect the image of Jesus, the love and compassion of Jesus unto all they encounter. Each one of us as fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, we take on that role of being a shepherd, to guide our children. We ask for these graces in all that we do and say. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 5 June 2016
1 Kings 17:17-24 | Galatians 1:11-19 | Luke 7:11-17
“It has been said that talking about death is a taboo subject because there is an uneasiness with death. And because of this uneasiness, the bereaved person or family, many a time, is left alone, ‘ignored’ by their neighbours.
It isn’t that the neighbours are unsympathetic, but just that they are not sure what to say or how to respond to a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
And in some situations, you may even find neighbours crossing the road where the wake is, to avoid contact to discuss this because they feel embarrassed and don’t know what to say.
In striking contrast, the Bible never avoids talking about the reality of death. Death is not seen as a taboo subject because death is not as final as it seems.
And in today’s readings, death is mentioned twice. Interestingly enough, the emphasis is not so much the power of death, but the compassion shown to the one who has experienced that loss
In the first reading, we have Elijah – who would not have survived the terrible time of drought had it not been for the generous hospitality of a widow. She shared what little food with him, and as a reward, he promised that her food supply would not run out until the famine was over.
Suddenly, another tragedy creeps in – her son dies. And in the way sometimes that people respond and react to tragic circumstances, she points the finger at Elijah to say it is all his fault. She blames Elijah.
And what does Elijah do? He takes the child, stretches over the child, and prays to God to intervene.
And what does God do? God does intervene. And the boy is restored to life and it is only then that the woman recognises Elijah as a holy man.
In the Gospel, we have the element of compassion once again being brought to the forefront. Jesus and his companions witness a procession taking place. It is the funeral procession of a young man, the only son of a widow. And Jesus knew she would be all alone. During the time of Jesus, if you are a woman or child, you are considered a second-class citizen. And He felt sorry for her. The original Greek text says He is moved to the core of His being, filled with compassion.
And what did He do? Gently He comforts her, He touches the bier. It is an action totally unexpected because by having physical contact with death, he makes himself now ritually impure. But He doesn’t care. Why? His compassion overrides everything and in a few moments, He hands over the young man, restored to life, back to his mother.
No one asked Jesus to intervene, no one expressed anything. Jesus took the initiative by Himself. Why? Because He was moved by compassion.
Of course, the young man would die years later – what he received was only a temporary reprieve. But in restoring him to life, Jesus reminds us that His almighty power will work an even greater miracle: not just the mere restoration of life, but a raising-up to a new life, the resurrection. It will be a wonderful life beyond our imagination and one that will last forever.
Our natural instinct is to fear death and the process of dying, but as believers, we know that Jesus has truly risen from the dead and now waits to draw us through that passage of death into a new life.
And when that day happens, we will echo the words from the responsorial psalm which sees death as being shortlived. ‘At night there are tears but joy comes with the dawn. You have changed my mourning into dancing’. And like the psalmist, we cry out, ‘O Lord my God, I will thank You forever’.
And so as we continue the celebration of the Eucharist, let us pray and ask the Lord to fill our hearts with compassion, so that we can be instruments of compassion and healing to those who have lost their loved ones. And also for ourselves that we do not fear the hour of death wnen it approaches us, because it is a door to enter into an intimate and everlasting relationship with God. Let us pray for these graces. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, 29 May 2016
Genesis 14:18-20 | 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 | Luke 9:11-17
“A parishioner told me about a meal where the person who invited other people for dinner paid $450 per person. There was sashimi, lobster, sea urchin, wagyu beef, and there was sake as well. So expensive a meal for one person.
We cannot help but think of how many people can be fed with that kind of money.
Here we recall the words of the former superior-general of the Jesuits, Father Pedro Arrupe, who said: ‘When people are hungry anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete.’
Mother Theresa also said that we should see Jesus in the faces of the poor, and ‘to turn our backs on them is to turn our back on Jesus’.
Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, reminded us that even before we can receive the Eucharist worthily, we have to ask forgiveness for all the things we have done wrong. “Our Creator gave us life and the Eucharist to sustain our life. But we have in the world instruments of death of inconceivable magnitude,” she said.
There is a strong connection between the Eucharist and Jesus’ love for His people. It was a total giving of Himself for us.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, and we read Luke’s version of the multiplication of loaves and fish. It is a significant miracle and it appears in all four Gospels.
The scenario is familiar to us: Jesus asks His disciples to feed a crowd and they were not confident, but to their amazement, Jesus broke the bread and not only was there enough to feed 5,000, there were leftovers.
We can see ourselves as the hungry crowd. And we should also see Jesus’ concern, compassion and generosity as He feeds us, offers Himself to us in the Eucharist. He is the nourishment that we get.
Then there are times we may see ourselves as the disciples. We have no confidence and are overwhelmed by our lack of resources to deal with so many problems around us, and we are inclined to dismiss these problems and avoid them.
In such a case, we should recall Jesus’ words: ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’
Jesus wants us to give what little we have, and do our best with what we have.
Empowered by the Eucharist that He feeds us, we should be confident and have faith that God will take what little we have to offer and create bigger things with it.
It is the same when we look at the hungry and malnourished people and children in the world today. What are we doing to help in our own little ways?
If someone can spend $450 a person for a meal at Waku Ghin, can you not spare $5 or $10 for the needy and hungry in the parish?
Let us remember Jesus’ words to the disciples to feed the masses, and do our part to try to eliminate the hunger of the world, to involve ourselves in parish activities that respond to the needs of the poor, for example.
Look around you, look at the people hungry for food, hungry for love, hungry for forgiveness and understanding.
As we partake in this Eucharistic meal, we take the challenge to be bread broken for the world – share with people who are hungry and especially those hungry for the Bread of Life, to be Christ to people around us.”
– Fr Romeo Yu-Chang
Trinity Sunday, 22 May 2016
Proverbs 8:22-31 | Romans 5:1-5 | John 16:12-15
“A typical gesture of our Catholic community is the sign of the cross, together with the words ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
And for us, it is our whole faith put into a nutshell.
A God who created, and a God who creates the world out of love.
A God who provides, a Father.
A God who is Saviour, who saves us from the self-destruction of sin.
A God of love, whose Spirit of unity gathers us as one people.
All what we traditionally call the Trinity. The word ‘Trinity’ is not to be found in Scripture. The word was coined later on in the history of the Church to express that marvelous God of love that we cannot comprehend.
And yet, the essential is there: God is a God in communion.
He is present in all creation, and we just have to look around us.
We believe in a God who, in His love, created the world. And we enjoy what He gives.
And He gave throughout the ages, delighting especially in a relationship with us.
How often do we say ‘Thank you’ to God for the weather? For the past two months we have been grumbling: so hot, so hot, so hot.
And when it rains, we still grumble: so wet, so wet.
When you are in your car, the bus, and you look at the beautiful trees lining our roads, do you ever say ‘Thank you’ to God for the trees, for the birds, for the flowers? For not being a desert, but for being such a beautiful place with so many blessings?
Do you ever say ‘Thank you’ when you see the sun setting over Sentosa? Or do you think only about eating there?
We thank God for the world, which is given to us out of love, entrusted in our care.
It is marvelous that the same world that has been around for millions of years is still able to answer the needs of a growing population.
Of course, it is due to people producing more and in better ways, but it is God’s gift to us.
Then God comes into the world to meet us where we are, to save us and free us from sins. He once lived among us, and still now, God enters our lives and shares in our hardships.
A God who forgives and gives hope. Who forgives if not God?
And how do we feel about forgiving? Not so easy.
We need the Spirit of God, who is the vitality of life. The Spirit of creativity and of renewal, who allows us to go beyond duty or obligation.
We often say, ‘That is not my job, not my duty, I am not supposed to do that’. God never says that. God is one with whom we do not bargain and who does not bargain with us. God wants cheerful givers because He is a God who gives and fills us with joy, a God of freedom and unity.
Father, Son, Spirit – the one and same God.
We are not following a dominating God who demands and rewards us according to what we do.
We follow the One who comforts us, as Jesus comforted His disciples in the Gospel, giving us the Spirit when things get difficult.
We are in communion, united with God. Let us be confident and comforted in the hands of this great gift: Father, Saviour, Spirit. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro
Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2016
Acts 2:1-11 | 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13 | John 20:19-23
“One bright Sunday morning, Benson’s mother hurries into her son’s bedroom and tries to wake him up.
‘Benson, come on, it’s Sunday, time to get up, get dressed, time to go to church,’ she says.
Benson mumbles from under the covers: ‘I don’t want to go.’ His mother says: ‘What do you mean? Get up and go to church.’
Benson replies: ‘I don’t want to go and I’ll give you two reasons why I don’t want to go. Firstly, I don’t like them, and secondly, they don’t like me.’
The mother looks at him and says: ‘Now, that’s plain nonsense. You’ve got to go to church and I’ll give you two reasons why. Firstly, you’re now 50 years old. Secondly, you are… the parish priest.’
Now this sleepy Benson could have been any of the Apostles that Jesus gave permission to be His witnesses to go to the ends of the Earth.
But if we recall in Scripture, the moment Jesus was put to death, what did they do? They ran to the upper room and hid there because they were afraid of the Jews. Like Benson, they knew that the people around them did not like them. They knew that their message was different and unpopular at that time. Therefore, they felt like wrapping themselves up in bed, and not facing the hostile world surrounding them.
And when we look into our own lives, we too, are sometimes like that. Going to church quietly, receiving Jesus in our hearts quietly, and then returning home quietly.
What about that commandment Jesus gave us? To be His witnesses, to share the Good News of God’s love to all around us?
You see, my brothers and sisters, more often than not, people do not like to be reminded of God. We say to ourselves that God and religion are very sensitive topics. We say to ourselves: ‘I’m afraid they will tell me off if I speak to them about God, or I’m afraid they may not listen to me, or I’m afraid they may call me a freak, out of touch with reality.’
Therefore, like Benson, we give up on our God-given duty and go on enjoying our comfortable silence and sleep, so to speak.
Now, thankfully for Benson, he has a guide, who is his mother who wakes him up and persuades him to go back and preach.
Now this is the kind of work that the Holy Spirit does to the hearts of believers. When fear and trouble tends to freeze our faith and silence us into submission and despair, the Holy Spirit warms us up and powers us to go out there and to make a difference.
It is the Holy Spirit that sends us out on this mission, and our mission is to tell everyone the Good News, that God is our Father.
God is Father of us all, despite all the differences in culture, language, social status, we are one family, and should therefore, live truly as brothers and sisters.
Our mission is to break the barriers between us and them, between male and female, between Jew and Gentile, between the rich and the poor, to speak the one universal language of brotherly and sisterly love.
Now one reason Benson’s mother gave to him to wake up, was that he is now 50 years old. In other words, he is now of age.
Christianity is now more than 2,000 years old. Yet, in the so-called Christian civilisations, the celebration of God through Christ has not been fully understood.
We say to ourselves, ‘What I can I do? I’m only a single individual. What difference can I make in this world?’
Perhaps we could learn from the children’ story of the squirrel and the owl. The squirrel asked the owl: ‘What is the weight of a single snowflake?’
And the owl said: ‘Why? Almost nothing.’
The squirrel went on to tell the owl about a time when it was resting on the branch of a maple tree, and it was counting the number of snowflakes that came to rest on the branch, until it reached the number 1,973,684.
And with that last flake reaching the branch, suddenly, the branch snapped, throwing the squirrel and all that snow onto the ground.
The squirrel looked up to the owl and said: ‘That sure was a lot of nothing, wasn’t it?’
The point here, is our daily personal efforts to spread the reign of love and justice may be as lightweight as snowflakes, but by heaping all our snowflakes together, we may together be able to break that heavy branch of sin, evil and injustice that is growing rapidly in our world.
And so, dear my brothers and sisters, as we continue in our celebration of the Eucharist, let us pray in earnestness, that the Holy Spirit empowers us, first of all, with love, and secondly, with courage, so we can lead the Church, to be positive witnesses to who Jesus is, in our lives.
I end off, with a simple prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them, the fire of your love. Amen.”
– Fr John Bosco Pereira
Seventh Sunday of Easter, 1 May 2016
Acts 7:55-60 | Apocalypse 22:12-14, 16-17, 20 | John 17:20-26
“Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit, and that will close the Easter season.
Today, we are given a glimpse of the whole mission of Jesus, what He came here to do. Our Gospel gives us a part of Jesus’ prayer before He was arrested and put to death.
There, He gives a testimonial to God the Father, tells the Father what He has done, what He has accomplished.
This part of the prayer, He prays for us, those who come after the apostles and the early Church, that we will continue to be faithful – faithful in reflecting God, reflecting the oneness of God.
In the prayer, Jesus tells the Father this: I have made Your name known to them.
Today we wonder what is so difficult about making someone’s name known. But we need to realise that in the Bible, when the word ‘name’ is used, it is much more than just a sound by which someone is called.
The name of a person represents what the person is all about.
So what Jesus is saying is that I have made them realise and revealed to them what You the Father is all about – how loving, patient, forgiving and kind You are.
If we call ourselves Christians and disciples of Jesus, it means that His mission is our mission. If Jesus made the Father known to the people, we as followers have to do the same.
We cannot say we are disciples if we do not have that same mission and interest.
Have I made the name of God, of Jesus known to others? Have I revealed to the world how loving God is?
The way we can make someone known to others is by practical experience. We show how God is patient, merciful and kind – by being patient, merciful, and kind to others ourselves.
The first reading gives us the example of Stephen, who was making the name of God known to others. He was a witness to God’s love, forgiving those who put him to death.
Do we forgive our family members, the people with whom we work and study, the stranger on the street?
In second reading, we are given a glimpse of the end of time, a picture of all those who are happy with their rewards. They have gone through the great persecution, they have remained faithful in standing up for the values Christ gave them…
The reading also gives us the assurance that anyone who wants to, will have the Water of Life and have it for free – free because Christ already paid for it with His blood.
So we ask ourselves, do we really want to be good? Do we really want to reflect Christ, or do we make excuses like ‘I can’t’, ‘I haven’t been given a chance’, ‘God doesn’t love me’?
Next Sunday, we will celebrate Him giving us His Spirit, so we have no more excuse. If we really want to live a life with Christ, we can.
Today, it is also World Communications Sunday. Pope Francis invites us to make use of social media and all forms of communication to communicate the truth of God.
There are many false notions of God today, they make Him out to be a tyrant and don’t feel His love. We need to communicate the truth that God is a loving Father who understands we are weak and invites us to experience His strength.
We also celebrate Mother’s Day today and it is interesting that it coincides with World Communications Sunday this year, because mums are communicators of love – not in words but in living.
The sacrifices they make bringing a child into the world and being there to nurse and support the child gives us a beautiful image of God.
So we thank God for our mothers, who gave us a concrete expression of His love.
But let us not just admire models of love. Let us also imitate these models of love.
Let us in our own lives make a decision to be more loving, forgiving and reflective of God.
We pray for this as we celebrate this Mass, and in a practical way, we think of one area in our lives where we find it difficult to love in the way God loves.
And during this Mass, we ask the Lord to help us in this area, be it to be kinder, more patient, to a person or in a situation. We ask the Lord to help us so that we can truly be a model of love.”
– Monsignor Ambrose Vaz
Sixth Sunday of Easter, 1 May 2016
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 | Apocalypse 21:10-14, 22-23 | John 14:23-29
“In the first reading we heard of some tension and conflict going on in the early Church. The people of Jewish background wanted the followers of Jesus of non-Jewish background to follow the Jewish traditions. So they decided to come together and listen to each other and discern together before coming to a decision peacefully.
Peacefully – that is the word.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is giving us that blessing of peace. And at every Eucharist, we celebrate just before communion, the priest says ‘Peace of the lord be with you always’.
Are we people at peace?
Very easily, we are people stressed, worried, in conflict.
And the Lord is inviting us to bring that gift of peace bestowed on us into our daily lives.
To be in peace doesn’t mean there is no trouble or tension. Conflict and tension remain in our lives and in the life of the world.
But to be at peace means to accept life without anger, without bitterness.
‘I will give you a piece of my mind,’ people would say. Keep your mind. You need it.
The Lord make us realise that because He has given us peace, we should be at peace with ourselves, with God, with others.
Maybe one of the most difficult things is to be at peace with ourselves. We are not happy with ourselves. We have low self-image, we say that people are looking down at us. We feel we are not appreciated because we have done so much for others.
We must accept ourselves as we are, and as I often tell people: Be in love with you.
You have to love yourself. Because if we don’t love and don’t accept ourselves, we will never be able to live together with others. We become a source of bitterness and conflict.
Too many of us are bitter, about life with others, and disappointed with ourselves and others.
We need to be at peace with ourselves.
Too often, we feel God is far away. The complaint so often is that God doesn’t hear our prayers. Not so long ago, I was with a family where the mother had passed away and the little girl was telling me, ‘I pray, I pray, I spoke to God, and yet my mother – gone.
It is difficult but these are the times when we should never ask ourselves ‘Why?’, but to remember how much God loves us.
The peace we find in ourselves, this inner quiet, it means we have to be free from despair and sadness.
Peace is a source of hope and love. Take seriously this peace bestowed on us now during the celebration of the Eucharist.
It is not simply a good wish, but we proclaim that God is giving us that peace. It is an affirmation and proclamation.
And after we receive it, pass on this peace, pass it on, next to you, around you – I know so-and-so, I don’t know so-and-so, it doesn’t matter, I share with others what I received from the Lord. Amen.”
– Fr Michael Arro