Thursday, June 30, 2005

Paradox of Discipleship

The gospel is full of paradoxes.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. Matthew 11:29

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach Mark 3:14
It was the last one that caught my attention today, when I was reading the homily of Pope Benedict on yesterday's Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul to "be with Him" and yet also "sent forth to preach". Both contradictory actions, but yet both necessary of discipleship.

We have to be with Him, to centre our lives around Him. But not to the extent of "Me and my sweet Jesus". We still have to bear fruit, if not we will be the branch that is cut off from the vine. Similarly we cannot go and preach, and not be with Him. If not who is it that we are preaching? Where would we draw our strength to continue?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Feast Days and Anniversaries

St.PeterSt.PaulToday is the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.
Which makes it my feast day. What a great saint to be named after. Both pillars of the church. One for the Jews and one for the gentiles. One who denied and reconciled, the other persecuted then promoted the faith.

And from the second reading comes these inspiring words.

"I have fought the good fight to the end;
I have run the race to the finish;
I have kept the faith;"
2Tim 4:7
Sheer arrogance if I were to say those words of my life now. But truely he had led a life worthy to say those words. For me, I just hope to live my life, striving toward this high standard.

And two priests celebrate their sacerdotal anniversary. Today is Fr Aloysius Ong's 2nd anniversary, and tomorrow is our dear Fr John Sim's 21 years of serving the Lord in his church. May they both continue to grow in His love and be loving shepherds to God's people for many more years ahead. Till they too finish the race.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What if only ONE can be found?

I was reading a post of Gerry's blog, about Abraham pleading with God, for the sake of the innocent people in Sodom. And it really struck me.

What if Abraham had continued to bargain with God? But as I read through the passage again, I found it funny that it said

"The LORD departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home." Gen 18:33
It was as if God didn't want to give Abraham any more chance to bargain down.

On a more serious note, I was reflecting...on this whole notion of ONE, "What if only ONE can be found?" Gerry wrote that if it was only for ME, ONE person, Jesus would still have pleaded, and God would not have destroyed.

But for me, that ONE person wouldn't be ME, I will be part of those in sodom, and I can just see Jesus, pleading with the Father, "What if only ONE can be found?" And the Father answered, "I will not destroy it", and the Christ answers, "I am the ONE."

devilAnd this image comes to mind, the one from "The Passion of the Christ", where the devil comes out to tempt Jesus in the Garden of Gethsamane. I can't remember the exact words, and I can't find my Pasion VCD to check. But it was something like "the weight of the sin of the world is too much for ONE man to bear." And that is for me the best revelation that I've got out of that passage linking the old & new testaments. Better than the one of Isaac carrying the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice, better than Moses with his arms outstretched during battle.

Dunno why today seem to have a lot of images in mind. The last one, is inspired by a verse in one of the new testament letters. Through one man's disobedience we have death, but through another's obedience we have salvation. And I'm just thinking of the judgement day... and the only ONE person fit enough to go to heaven is Christ. And I better be clinging on to Him at that time, if not I won't be going up with Him.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

You go into the vineyard too

Saw this in the latest Shorelines newsletter on the call to work in the Lord's vineyard.

"And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too'" (Matthew 20:3-4).

From that distant day the call of the Lord Jesus "You go into my vineyard too" never fails to resound in the course of history: it is addressed to every person who comes into this world.

You go too. The call is a concern not only of Pastors, clergy, and men and women religious. The call is addressed to everyone: lay people as well are personally called by the Lord, from whom they receive a mission on behalf of the Church and the world. Each person should take into account what he does and consider if he is laboring in the vineyard of the Lord
It was referencing the Apostalic Exhortation by Pope John Paul II on the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World. Was attracted to the beginning part about the parable and our call, but when I saw the length of it...didn't bother to read on. Some other time maybe.

The other thing is, today I went to CTK for mass, and since I was alone and I've not been to CTK for quite a while, when it came to the time for the Our Father. I found myself apprehensive. "To hold or not to hold hands???" All this talk about holding builds unity, should not hold as unity should come at the sign of peace, and much more. Both sides have their points, and I was reflecting....can we please be united, make a decision and just stick to it. It's more distracting and dis-united now, then it ever was before. Nobody seems to be following the "neither discourage nor encourage" decision anyway.

But anyway... it's not the most important thing. Shouldn't be thinking about it too much. Especially when there's a youth sub-comm meeting to prepare for.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Still on the topic of gifts, don't know why it keeps popping out everywhere. First when at evening mass at IHM, I heard the last line of the second reading

how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
And Yes, Jesus Christ is really God's greatest gift to us all. Everything else we have pales in comparison with our Lord and Saviour. And then I read the "Dear Padre" column in the bulletin. This guy preferred to give than to receive, and the question was "Is it more blessed to give?"

The Padre's answer was that receiving gifts is sometimes harder than giving. Sometimes we feel unworthy or paiseh to receive. Not so much because of the gift, but the love behind the gift. And that is one of the reasons we find it so hard to accept God's gifts to us, because we don't see ourselves worthy of His love. We can't believe that the Father will forgive us, that Christ could die for us, and that He trusts us to carry on His mission empowered by Holy Spirit.

I remember Celine mentioning something she learnt about receiving... It requires humility. And in addition, we need to receive the gifts with gratitude. Gratitude that acknowledges the love that is behind the gift and treasures it with respect. Which is why I found this Calvin and Hobbes strip in Friday's New Paper particularly apt.
"When you have something you take it for granted and its boring." That's so forget and take for granted the gifts. That's why we have to really be grateful for the wonderful gifts that our amazing Lord gives us.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Love the giver more than the gift

Yesterday at the end of Youth Fest 2005, after the mass, Bro Michael Broughton came on the stage to give a talk. But he delivered it in a very unique way... Almost like Baz Luhrmann's Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), with very short sentances, but to the point.

But one thing which struck me, was when he mentioned the giver and the gift. I can't remember what exactly it was that he said, cos my mind went into overdrive cos it linked so much with the previous post.

So I came home and searched for quotes about the giver and gifts, and found two.

Love the giver more than the gift.

Brigham Young
The challenge here is to look at things as gifts. And of course with faith then we believe that there is a giver. And wow! as I'm typing this, I'm thinking that it links with the LISS testimony given by Alan Wee at today at the 9am mass. At first he talked about the healing of his knee, but then he totally dismissed that the healing wasn't important. It was his realisation of his lack of faith. His reliance on self that he had overlooked the giver of gifts. The discovery of God in his life.

It's so easy to get caught up with the gifts. Because its always there, tangible. It's like lets say I have a Godfather, who sends me a laptop for my birthday, I could really get caught up with it. And if he wasn't there at my birthday party, I might even forget to thank him for it. And most likely, over time, I would take for granted that it still IS a gift, not WAS.
For the gift without the giver is bare.

James Russell Lowell
In my cupboard, I still see two gifts, the hawaiian shirt that evelyn and gerald gave me for my 21st birthday, and a polo-T that the community gave me for my birthday. And upstairs in my box there are lots of stuff that I keep for sentimental reasons. Now the thing is to look at what God the giver has given me. The challenge to recognise the many gifts that He has given. To be humble enough to realise that EVERYTHING is a gift. Even to realise that is a gift of the Spirit - Wonder and Awe.

3 recent examples come to mind about gifts that we can get so caught up with that we forget the giver.
MONEY/WEALTH - This one is particularly hard to see as a gift, because it either comes from our parents or through our own hard earned work. And thus so easy to place it as our number one priority as it offers the "power" to be in control of our lives, to give comfort, things which the giver freely gives, not through our own efforts. (Last Tues Sharing)
PRESTIGE/SUCCESS - To be recognised, to be famous, to be successful, all appeal to our ego. Using the example of the triathlete twins, they have got the gifts to excel in sports, hopefully they keep the giver in mind.
MUSICAL TALENT - This a bit linked to the previous point, but I'm just bringing it up cos I heard our choir practising Christmas songs. In June!!! Yup they have the gifts, and yup they should use those gifts. But it's so easy to hide behind that gift and forget about developing the relationship with the giver.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Where your treasure is...

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
This verse has appeared twice this week. First at our Tues nite sharing passage from Luk 12:34 and again in today's gospel from Mat 6:21

It didn't strike me on tuesday but today, mainly because of an article that I read in the today's TODAY Newspaper. It was in the sports section and caught my eye because of the headline :
If you read the article, you would see how it ties in with the treasure and heart part.

These two 13-year old twin boys, who are so gifted in their athleticism, were called up by the Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS) to join their junior training scheme. But the only day they can train for the cycling part is on sunday which clashes with their church service. Steady lah... finally someone or sometwos willing to put God first. (Had to be protestant. We Catholics have sat sunset mass)

But the most annoying thing in the article was the comment made by the TAS honorary secretary, Mr Stephen Lee.
"That's the problem we have in this country, It's disheartening when athletes can't sacrifice for their sport."
I've got so much to say about that comment that I don't know where to start. Maybe "It's heartening when christians don't sacrifice their faith." Kudos to the parents of Araunah and Ornan Wei and to the boys. They obviously know where their treasure is and where their hearts are.
Piece of Trivia
Araunah and Ornan are two different names given to the same person in the old testament. The same passage appears in 2Sam & 1Chr, but with the different names. Wow to the parents for knowing this and naming their twins so significantly
Now if only the bishop or a priest would say :
"That's the problem we have in this Church, It's disheartening when Catholics can't sacrifice for their faith/soul."
We Catholics are so good at this, put other things first and try to find God in it. I don't think its mere coincidence that Christ follows up to end Matt Chpt 6 with
"Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.
Mat 6:33
Like Fr William Goh I think once preached, whatever you put as your first priority becomes your god. It becomes your master. And so I pray that I may always strive towards making God my Number One priorty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Trust & Being Trusted

Tues Nite Sharing - Lk 12:16-34

One of my favourite quotes is from this passage.

Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?
The theme of the last 2 Tues Nite Sharings were on Faith, and it was what I was reading in "Reaching For The Invisible God". And I just realised, it's been nearly a month since I started reading that book, and I'm not even one quarter through it. But I guess it's good ;Þ, cos this tues sharing was on trust, and just so happen, the theme in the book also moved from faith to trust.
A faithful person sees life from the perspective of trust, not fear.
Philip Yancy
And he goes on to talk about faith being trust in a loving God. If we thank Him for the blessings He gives us, we should also trust Him that He will guard us during times of trials. After all He is sovereign (A term we never hear for quite a while) And we can draw a parallel of this trust that we should have of God, with the trust we have in a good friend. If we trust that a friend is reliable, and he doesn't show up at a certain time, that trust would tell us, that there has to be a good reason.

This was really put to the test over the weekend, while we were at confirmation retreat, we got news that Desmond Tham passed away. Shocking because he's only 29 and just married a year and a half. Here's a young guy who exercises regularly, compared with Fr Fossion who smokes, drinks, eats cheese & butter every morning. I was at a loss for words to say to Andrina. How do we see God in that? The only explanation or consolation I have is to trust God. As is said in the first reading of the funeral mass.
"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace."
Trust was also mentioned on sunday, at the closing mass of the Confirmation Retreat. But this time the sermon by Friar Michael D'Cruz was not about us trusting God, but that God trusts us too. Christ has entrusted us with His mission here on earth. He used the comparison of a mother "trusting" her child to go to the market alone, on an errand. Although not too sure if that's relevant to this generation. Maybe that's why most of them weren't paying attention.
Faith sees even the darkest deed of all history, the death of God's Son, as a necessary prelude to the brightest.
Philip Yancy