Monday, January 23, 2012

Novena - Do You Recognise God's Voice

This week I attended a bible sharing with some university students, and they were reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel passage. One girl remarked “I can’t believe that Jesus just approached the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John, and said to them ‘Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’, and they just left everything and followed him, How did they know he was the Messiah, not some mad man? Didn't they ask him who he was, listen to what he was teaching first, make sure he was the Messiah first before agreeing to follow him?"

I don’t believe that St Mark was trying to say that was exactly how it happened. But what St Mark was trying to say was, that when God calls, it is an invitation to respond, and that is what the fishermen did.

But the problem is, how do we know when God is calling us, and what he is calling us to do? Like the university student, we all want some kind of surety. We want to know is that really God's voice? Is that what he really wants me to do?

Sometimes I get jealous when I read about the prophets in the Old Testament, how God speaks to them so directly. Like Jonah in todays 1st reading, and Mother Mary who had an angel appear to her. Why can't God speak to us like that? Then at least we can be sure of what he wants of us.

The truth is that God is still speaking to us today. The question that we need to ask ourselves is how familiar are we of the voice of God? I'm sure we all have experiences where we pick up the phone and just from the greeting of the other person, we know who it is. Especially if it is our mother or a very close friend. That is because we have spent much time speaking and listening to them that we know the sound of their voice, and even the way they talk.

So it us with God, we will only know his voice if we spend time in prayer with him. Not just praying for blessings and giving thanks, but in also listening to what he has to say, through the scriptures, the church, and even the Catholics around you.

How often we turn to God also plays a part to getting to know his will and call for us. Most people only associate God's call to the call to the priesthood, or when they have a major or difficult decision to make. But God is speaking to us everyday, even in the small things, trying to guide us in our lives if we only allow him to, and if we only ask him.

He may be saying to you that a colleague is going through a tough time and just needs a listening ear, or for you to invite your friend for Mass one day. Try asking God in the morning, what do you want me to do today.

The more we pray, the more we ask him to reveal his plan for us, the closer we will grow to him, and the more familiar we will be of his voice. So when he really asks something big of us, we will be a bit more sure that it is him speaking to us.

Then we just need to have a bit of courage and trust, and do it. We don't need to be 100% sure. The prophets, the disciples and even Mother Mary were not 100% sure of what good was asking of them. It is only as they lived out God's call that they became more and more sure.

So let us pray that we too may be more aware of God's call in out lives, and we continue to grow closer to him. Amen.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Novena - What's your Good News

Someone sent me an email with a story a few days ago, just as I was preparing what to share at today’s novena. And I found it very apt, and would like to share it with you.

On New Year’s Eve, a man and his wife were having dinner and reflecting on all that has happened in the past year. The husband started to complain of how bad the year was. His father got cancer, he had to take a pay cut, the dog died, and the list went on.

The wife was listening patiently, when all of a sudden, she said, “Don’t you think our Christmas Tree is very beautiful?” The husband was shocked at the sudden change of subject, but nodded to agree.

The wife continued, “but if you look carefully, there are a few of the bulbs that have blown. But why focus on those few bulbs, when the rest are shining brightly illuminating the tree and the room?” The husband got the message, and they started to share the many blessings they had in the year.

My brothers and sisters, it is so natural for us to focus on the negatives in our lives, the times when things don’t go the way we want them to. Just look at our newspapers everyday, bad news and scandals greatly outnumber the good news. MRT breaks down and it is the biggest news in Singapore. Orchard Road floods, and as made fun of on the Noose, we call police.

The problem with us, is that we only notice when something goes wrong, not when something goes right. MRT, floods, traffic jam, economy downturn. But you don’t see the news reporting that today the MRT and Buses ran without problem, or that it rained but there were no floods. If we look at the letters that we write in for Novena, only 80 out of 437 are thanksgiving letters (<20%). Isn’t that like the looking at the Christmas tree and seeing the bulbs that are blown?

Actually the News is not only Bad News, it also highlights when amazing things or miracles happen. But it is so easy to overlook the things that normal. Parents will always complain that their children take all that they do for them for granted. Why? Because for the children that is what parents should do normally. Similarly we take God for granted, when we only turn to him at the times when things go wrong, or we give thanks to him when he answers our prayers and makes miracles happen.

My brothers and sisters, we are people of the Good News. That God loved us so much, he sent Jesus, His Son, to remind us of the love of God, and the many blessings that we receive from Him.

So what is the Good News in your life?

Today is the last day of the year, we usually look forward to the New Year and make Resolutions to be a better person. But let us not forget to look back at the year, and count the blessings that God has done for us this whole year. I tell you honestly, if you start now and really think of the blessings, you will not be finished by the time this year is over.

So I would like to give you this challenge. Go home today, think of your blessings, and in this one week, write a thanksgiving letter, to God for his many blessings, and for our Mother who always intercedes for us. Put it in an envelope and write "Thanksgiving for Novena" and drop it in our parish office. So next week, we can really give thanks to God for his many blessings on us

I am sure that we have more to give thanks to God for His blessings than asking him for what we need. Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sharing on the readings of Tue 19th Jul 2011

Yesterday evening, my sister and I went to NTUC to get some groceries for the family. The realisation dawned on me of how things have changed. In the past, it was our parents who bought all the household necessities. We just told them what we needed. Now having grown up, we realise our part in the family and chip in to look after the family's needs. The role of a child in the family is not one who just gets looked after, but as he grows older, he realises that he contributes and is involved in the matters of the family.

And that is what Jesus is reminding us today in the Gospel (Mt 12:46-50). There is a link between our identity (who we are) and our actions (what we do). In the passage Jesus says

whoever does the will of my heavenly Father IS my brother, and sister, and mother
He doesn't say that who ever does the will of the Father "WILL BECOME", insteads he say "IS" my brother, sister and mother.

Though it might seem like a play of words, but there is a difference between the two. One who "is" Jesus' brother, sister or mother knows that he is a child of God and that he belongs in God's family. And because he belongs to the family, he will do the will of the Father. But one who "will become" Jesus' brother, sister or mother, sees himself as outside of the family, and hopes to become a family member by doing the will of the Father.

In the past, I belonged to the second category. I saw God as someone I needed to obey, who will judge me and so I needed to be good to gain His love, to enter heaven. But as I journeyed and grew in my faith, I realised my identity as truly a child of God. I didn't need to work to gain His trust and His love, but I was already immensely loved by Him. And as a child of God, I wanted to do His will. Like Jesus said to his earthly parents when they found him in the temple:
Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work? - Lk 2:49
The question we need to ask ourselves is: Am I doing my Father's will in my life today?

If we are not, could it be that we have failed to realise that we are children of God? Or am I still a young child in the faith, not fully realising my responsibilities as a member of God's family.

The other problem could be forgetfulness. Not that we do not know that we are children of God, but that we get so distracted, or we believe the lies of the tempter that we forget who we are.

Let us pray that we might truly realise our identity as children of God, as brothers and sister of our Lord Jesus Christ. And pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us to know and do the will of our Father.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sharing on the readings of Mon 18th Jul 2011

When I read the Gospel passage of Mt 12:38-42, I used to think it was best not to ask God for a sign. After all Jesus said "It is an evil and unfaithful generation that seeks a sign".

But as I continue on my faith journey, I have come to realise that signs from God are important to help us grow in our faith. It assures us of God's presence with us on our journey, sometimes leading us, other times just to let us know He is there.

One sign which God gave me which I treasure was during a silent retreat that I went for. During that retreat, it was about 5 prayer sessions of 1 hour each a day. And of course after a few days, I started to lose focus and was getting a bit tired or lazy. So there was one prayer session that I felt that my prayer was really dry and fruitless. And I started to bargain with God to let me do 30 mins, or 45 mins instead of the full hour.

I tried to persevere on, but I couldn't get my mind focused on the bible passage, and so I started to look around for something to distract me, and I saw a trail of ants. The ants were just industriously walking up and down the trail, I think to find food or something.
ant of rocks
I was really so bored and distracted at the time, that I decided to search whether the bible mentions "ants". And so I searched and found the passage Proverbs 6:6

Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise.
And I knew that God was showing me a sign, to remind me not to be lazy, but to be faithful like the ant, even if the task may seem boring or routine.

Back to the Gospel passage. If signs from God are beneficial to us, why did Jesus say what he said? It is not that signs are bad, but signs cannot be the foundation of our faith. Our faith needs to be built on our relationship with God, not external signs.

Take the example of dating vs marriage. In the beginning stages of the relationship, both parties give lots of signs of their love for the other, gifts, smses, etc. But as the relationship deepens, these external signs no longer play such an important role in expressing the love between the two.

It is the same with God, our relationship with him needs to be deepened, where it is strengthened by external signs, but not dependent on them. If we fail to reach that stage, we will be like the Israelites in the 1st Reading (Exodus 15:1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6) who despite the signs that God has shown them, complain at the first sign of difficulty, and wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt.

Our relationship with God cannot be one where he is a vending machine giving us signs whenever we want them. But it should be based on the trust that he truly is God and loves us immensely. The one most important sign that He gave us, as what Jesus says in the Gospel, is that of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again to give us hope.

Remember that during the times in our lives where we may fail to see God's signs in our lives, it could be that he is testing and strengthening our faith in him, that we still believe even if we don't see. As Jesus said to doubting Thomas:
You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe - Jn 20:29

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It is Me lah!

Yesterday's reading (Jn 20:11-18) about Mary Magdalene's encounter with the Risen Lord reminded me of my experience at this year's Easter Vigil.

Before the Liturgy of the Light, everyone was gathered around the fire at the entrance of the church. I was standing with the Fr Brian and the Altar Servers, waiting for it to start. I looked around and saw a priest in his chasuble standing at the back. I didn't recognise him, and I thought it must be a visiting priest come to join in the celebration. So I went up to him and said "Father, we are about to start, would you like to join us near the fire. He gave a laugh and said "It is me lah!". Then I realised that it was Fr Bosco. He had shaven his head and beard. He looked totally different.

I have heard that Fr Bosco had done this before during Easter, but still the sight before me left me in shock. I found myself staring trying to figure out how the hair and beard could change one's appearance so drastically. I recalled the Mas Selamat posters with him in a beard and clean shaven, and it did not look so different.


Back to yesterday's reading. As I compared Mary Magdalene's experience of the Risen Lord, with my encounter with Fr Bosco's new look, I realised the similarities.

Mary was looking for the dead Jesus' body. I was also expecting a bearded Fr Bosco, the one I was used to.

Mary recognised Jesus when he called her. I also recognised Fr Bosco by his voice, when he said "it is I lah!".

Mary would probably have known that Jesus had said that he would rise on the third day. I knew that Fr Bosco had previously shaved his head for Easter, and many people did not recognise him, and yet when I saw him, it didn't cross my mind.

Looking forward to the last day when I brought before Christ, I know that this scenario will play itself out again.

Though I know that Christ will be different from what I imagine him to be, I will still be clinging on to my image of what Christ should look like, and may not recognise him. I just pray and hope that when that day comes, I will be able to recognise his voice when he says to me, "It is Me lah!."

Here's a video to bring you some joy and laughter.
Jesus Christ is risen indeed.

Click this link if you cannot see the video.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday - Short Film

Just saw a great short film on Palm Sunday.

Click this link if you cannot see the video.

What was going on in your mind during the "long" passion reading?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Get Clean

I just saw this video on Youtube.

Click this link if you cannot see the video.

Just thought that it is a great reminder of how liberating the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be.

So for those of you who haven't gotten clean yet, there are still penitential services this evening and monday evening. Click here to see the schedule

Let's prepare ourselves to celebrate the wonderful mystery of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection that gives us Hope.