Thursday, October 25, 2007

Face the Cross

I just realised that I have not blogged about my mum's situation. On the night of July 6th, my mum had a massive stroke, and was rushed to the hospital. The bleeding in her skull caused much pressure on her brain, which resulted in a great deal of damage to her brain. She has been unconscious since the operation to remove and control the blood in her head. But thanks to God's grace and the many people praying for her, she has recovered enough to be discharged, and is now in a nursing home where she can get proper medical care and therapy.

Choir singing

On sunday, the youth choir from my parish went to the nursing home to sing to my mum. Their beautiful voices filled the ward, and though my mum can't respond, but I believe that she could hear their singing. But not only were their voices angelic, but the words in the songs really brought home a message. One song in particular, "Face the Cross", touched me deeply. Below are the lyrics and you can download the song by clicking on the title.
Face the Cross

You came into the world as a tiny Child,
small and unassuming.
From Your first conscious thought,
You knew Calvary was before You, looming.
You knew who You were,
what You would do,
why You had been sent to this place:

To face the cross, never turn away,
the salvation of the world hangs in the balance.
You must face the cross,follow and obey,
knowing God will make a way
for You to face the cross.

Mary, on Golgotha's hill,
mourning ev'ry wound,
broken hearted, crying.
You can't believe your eyes,
cannot bear to see your son and Saviour dying.
You heard His first word,
held Him in your arms;
now you pray to heaven for grace

To face the cross, never turn away,
the salvation of the world hangs in the balance.
You must face the cross, follow and obey,
knowing God will make a way
for You to face the cross.

How hard it is to look upon that dying form,
to resist the urge to run for cover from the storm.
But each of us is free to choose
to turn away, or to stay

and embrace the cross;
stand and face the cross.
The salvation of the world hangs in the balance.
Stand and face the cross,
never turn away;
follow and obey,
knowing God will make a way
for you to face the cross, face the cross.
Face the cross.

The words of the song encouraged me to face this cross and the many other crosses that the situation has created in my life and family. Especially the last verse about the urge to run, the choice to turn or to stay, and to embrace.

It has been a difficult time in terms of coming to terms, both emotionally and practically (one of the reasons why this blog has been stagnant). But thankfully there are the many blessings and graces that have been showered on me and my family by God that has helped us through, and keep us trusting in Him. As it says in the last verse "knowing God will make a face the cross". I will try to blog about the blessings another time, hopefully in the next post.

Just a small request to all who read this blog. Please pray for the vocation recollection this friday to saturday (26th-27th Oct), that the aspirants coming will be able to discover God's call in their lives, and have the courage to follow it and the strength to face whatever crosses may come.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Facebook Evangelisation

It has been a long time since I last logged on to blogger. Cos of the many things that have been happening, difficulty in putting my thoughts into words, and lastly my super tiredness. But something just sparked a small flame in my head.

facebook logoI read in Straits Times about companies banning people from using Facebook, because of the time spent "throwing sheep" at one another. Just a thought came to mind, since people are throwing sheep and giving alcohol to one another, why not use facebook as an evangelising tool. Giving each other scipture quotes, love, encouragement, blessings. Or maybe like the aquarium and garden apps, have an altar app, where people can give each other crucifixes, icons, candles, incense. Currently there are no such apps, just the normal bible quotes, Catholic Friends,

Not sure how to create an app, and how long it will take. So if there is anyone who would like to embark on this journey of using technology to evangelise, the help is always welcome...I haven't touched programming in ages, and the new technology is way beyond me. For the rest, just a request for your prayers, that this venture might be for the greater glory of God... oh no I'm starting to sound Jesuit ;Þ

Sunday, June 03, 2007


When I found out that this blog is featured in this week's Catholic News together with the blogs of Fr Aloysius Ong, Fr Christopher Soh and God's Rhinos, my first reaction, was oh no...the blog has not been updated for a really long time. I've been really busy since the last post, with the vocation retreat, metaphysics, history of philosophy and scripture assignments due, and hebrew exam coming up next week.

Oh my, just found out from the malaysian brothers that a similar article was published in The Herald, the malaysian version of Catholic News. You can find that article at this website. I will post link to the Catholic News article when it is uploaded on the website.

With all this publicity,I think that I better post an update on this site to show that it is still alive.

1) The Vocation Retreat was a big success, we had an overwhelming 53 young men who came to find out more how God is calling them to serve Him in His kingdom. Thanks for the prayers, especially the one all the way from Japan.

2) I've updated the links on this blog, to include those of the priests featured, and a few other friends/groups who use blogs to spread the wonders that God is working in their lives.

3) Do keep us seminarians in your prayers as they finish up their assignments and sit for their exams this coming week.

4) And lastly, do pray for us seminarians in the month of june, some who will be going for their retreat, and others like myself who will be going for our pastoral work, that God will continue to bless us with His grace, and that we will be powerful witnesses of His Good News to all we encounter.

The next post will most probably be when I'm in St Joseph's Home for my pastoral. Will share more on what God reveals to me there.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Old Testament Joke

Here's a joke we heard in our scripture class.

Q: Who was the greatest sinner in the Old Testament?
A: Moses, because he broke all the ten commandments in one day.
Been too busy to blog. But just going to do a short one.

If you are reading this between 11-13 May, do pray for the Vocation Discernment Retreat that is going on. We've got a good number of young man coming to discover how God is calling them to serve Him in their lives. So pray for us organisers and the participants. That this weekend be a wonderful encounter with the Lord.

Thanks and God bless you all.

P.S. Even if you read this post after the retreat, just say a short prayer for the retreat and vocations in general. With God there is no time difference ;)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders

This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Catholics and will put us to the test! Always remember (as I try to remember) that you carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself "Catholic.
This is the last paragraph of the 5 Cents story I posted on mon. I got it again in my email today, but what is more weird is that today on the MRT back from our pastoral at St Joseph's Home, I encountered an example similar to this.

Two of us seminarians were on the NEL chatting away, talking about the upcoming Vocation Retreat. When two seats became available, we sat down and continued talking. Then I heard the word "seminarian" whispered, and I overheard a middle-aged couple sitting opposite us talking about us both, that we are seminarians, and that she recognised the logo on our t-shirts. I must have been straining my ears to catch what they might be saying about us, when the woman and I made eye-contact. She mouthed the words seminarian, and I just smiled back, nodded my head and mouth back yes.

After that it was this weird situation, the couple were in this kena caught talking about people mode and did not look over at us, and I was stuck wondering what I should be doing. The train was still quite full with people standing around, so was like quite awkward to start a conversation across the train carriage. Thoughts like should we introduce ourselves, make small talk. So in the end all I managed to do was wave and say goodbye when they got off at the stop.

This was like the situation of the priest in the bus in the 5 Cents story. The idea of me being a public figure has not really sunken in. There have been instances before where strangers have recognised and approached me. But the story and this incident, reminds me that there could also be others who might be observing me without me knowing. Now as a seminarian, more so as a priest. This means that I could be proclaiming Christ through my actions, or a cause of scandal for others by my actions.

But I think the scarier thing would for me to be so conscious of myself and image, that it becomes hypocritical. That I do good so that others may see, or portray a front, instead of changing the inner-reality of my life. Thus I pray for the grace to change my life, so that what is inside me, is what people see on the outside, "the name of Christ on my shoulders". Or as the bishop would say during the ordination rite when he hands the book of Gospels over
"believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."

Friday, April 27, 2007

We are Easter People

This phrase "We are Easter People", is something I sometimes hear when I go for funeral wakes. Often by faith-filled family members who believe that their loved one is in the loving arms of God. We are Easter People, because Christ has died for our sins, and risen over death, and will bring us to eternal life with Him. So all this time, the term Easter people, has always been about celebrating Christ's victory over death, and giving us salvation.

But this year, Easter people has taken on a new meaning for me. It all started with the Vespers on the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist. The Psalter Antiphons were in relation to Mark as the Evangelist and his mission to spread the Gospel a.k.a. the Good News.

I have become a minister of the Gospel according to the bountiful gift of God, alleluia.

I do all things for the sake of the Gospel, to have a share in his blessings, alleluia.

To me this grace was given, to preach to the peoples the unsearchable riches of Christ, alleluia.
Somehow they struck me, especially the second one "I do all things for the sake of the Gospel." I guess because I think it is a struggle for me to see all that I do as for the sake of the Gospel. The more I reflected on it, especially in the following days meditation, I realised that the readings for Easter season focus on the spread of the Gospel, the Good News that Christ is risen.

We have the stories of Mary Magdalene and the Emmaus disciples bringing the news to the disciples. But more importantly the great commission of Jesus, to the disciples to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth. And this week in the first readings, we have the stories of Peter, Steven, Philip and my favourite Saul.

Indeed, Easter isn't just about us celebrating this wonderful event for ourselves. It is a challenge for us to live as Easter People, that is, to share this Good News to everyone we meet. Each time in the Mass, when we come to celebrate that paschal mystery, when we partake in the Eucharist, it is so that we can carry that mystery, that Good News out of the Mass, and proclaim it to the world, in the lives that we live. To be Easter people really is to live (or attempt our very best) like the Evangelist
"I do all things for the sake of the Gospel, to preach to the peoples the unsearchable riches of Christ."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Was Jesus a Christian?

After seeing Gerry and even Sr Wendy updating their blogs, and the constant reminder by a fellow brother that Christ has resurrected already, its time that my blog rose from its silence since Ash Wednesday. And with even MSC starting to blog on not one but three blogs, how God is working in their lives, really gives me the motivation to follow their example. You can find the blogs here, here and here.

This also coupled with the fact that I've had a constant theme hammering into my head from friday to today.

It all started with the Gospel on Friday Jn 6:1-15, when we were doing sharing, the phrase that struck me was "A large crowd followed him". This verse struck me, because just the day before I saw this interesting post on the S.A.L.T. blog on, the christian version of youtube. There I saw the christian version of the Mac vs. PC ads, Christian vs. Christ Follower, which i've put at the end of this post for your viewing pleasure. Anyway back to the Gospel passage, I contrasted the "Large crowd" that followed Christ but were receiving, and the disciples who were serving.

This got me thinking of what it means to be a Christ follower like in the videos. Ironically as much as the spoof ads were trying to criticise the "Christian" with his rigid rule following, the "Christ follower" goes the other extreme of not bothering with any rules, going on own personal preferences. There is another video on Godtube which talks about this. The balance that we need to find is not to be a slave to rules of the religion, and also not to totally disregard the rules. Like Jesus said, the Law was made for man, to help man to live the way God intended. but not to take it to the extreme of the pharisees. We need to know what the spirit of the Law is, and how it is helping us to live the Christian Life.

Anyway, over saturday, I was struck down by severe diarrhea, and during the many times I was on my "thinking seat" a question occurred to me - "We know Jesus was a Jew, but was Jesus a Christian?" It really made me think, and fundamentally it really boils down to what is the definition of a Christian. Is he one who believes in Christ? follows Christ? does good? As I thought about it further, it wasn't about reaching a yes or no answer to the question, it was really about what it meant to be Christian.(must be all the philosophy classes getting into my head) But anyway I got carried away, and started thinking how maybe that would be a good way for cathechism or RCIA, where the class debates over yes or no. Ultimately they will have to answer what it means to be Christian first.

Anyway, carrying on the theme of following Christ, in Sunday's Gospel, we see again Jesus' command in the last two words of the Gospel - "Follow Me". This being after Christ asked Peter of his love, and to feed and tend His sheep. And in today's Gospel, we see Jesus' commenting on the "Large crowd that followed Him", that they were following Him for the wrong reasons.

So really, what does it mean to be Christian, Christ follower, disciple, believer... at the end of the day the name itself isn't important. It is how it translates into our life that counts.

I will end of with this inspirational story that I received this morning, then I have to get back to my studies and all my assignments.

P.S. Jude just passed me a copy of the Catholic News. And on the front page the quote says "Come, follow me. I will make you Fishers of Men."

A priest moved to a new parish and some weeks after he arrived, he had occasion to ride the bus from his home to the city. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a 5 cents too much change.

As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, "You'd better give the 5 cents back. It would be wrong to keep it." Then he thought, "Oh, forget it, it's only 5 cents. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from God' and keep quiet."

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, then he handed the 5 cents to the driver and said, "Here, you gave me too much change." The driver with a smile replied, "Aren't you the new priest in my parish? I have been thinking lately about going to mass. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday"

When the priest stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest lamp post, held on, and said, "Oh God, I almost sold your Son for 5 cents."

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read.

This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Catholics and will put us to the test! Always remember (as I try to remember) that you carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself "Catholic."
Christian vs. Christ Follower Ads





Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Ash WednesdayIt's that time of the year again, the day when we mark our foreheads with ashes and make lenten resolutions. This year somehow it has a "New Yearish" feeling to it. I'm getting emails on lent and ash wednesday and fasting. I'm reading blogs with people writing of their thoughts on ash wednesday and their lenten resolutions.

This year as I think of my own resolutions, I am reminded once again of the spirit behind whatever I plan to do. Firstly, by my own post last year where I'm reminded that whatever I plan to do or give up, has to lead to a filling up with God. And secondly, reading Fr Chris' reflection for today invites me to be discerning about what I plan to do.

This is the aim that we will have to keep continually before us even as we journey through these forty days. This is the purpose that we have to consider in choosing the places we will visit, the kinds of prayer, fasting and almsgiving we will undertake. And in making our choices it is probably less important what we do, than why we do it. Our activities will be helpful only in so far as they help us to turn more wholeheartedly to the Lord.
At mass I found myself thinking of which meals I wanted to fast, what activities I wanted to give up, and how I wanted cut away all distractions. But still I find myself falling back into the old habit of just concentrating on what I want to give up (and maybe slim down after all that CNY feasting).

Praise God for these two timely and apt reminders, and also for the other people who have inspired me with their efforts to make this lent holy through their emails and blogs. May God bless all our efforts, give us strength to persevere and humility not to forget that it is not by our own efforts, but by His love and Holy Spirit that He has given us that we are able to continue..

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


A young, new preacher was walking with an older, more seasoned preacher in the garden one day. Feeling a bit insecure about what God had for him to do, he was asking the older preacher for some advice. The older preacher walked up to a rose bush and handed the young preacher a rosebud and told him to open it without tearing any of the petals.

The young preacher looked in disbelief at the older preacher and was trying to figure out what a rosebud could possibly have to do with his wanting to know the will of God for his life and ministry. But, because of his great respect for the older preacher, he proceeded to try and unfold the rosebud while keeping every petal intact .. . It wasn't long before he realized how impossible this was to do.

Noticing the young preacher's inability to unfold the rosebud without tearing it, the older preacher began to recite the following poem:

RosebudRosebudIt is only a tiny rosebud
A flower of God's design;
But I cannot unfold the petals
With these clumsy hands of mine.

The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I.
GOD opens this flower so sweetly,
Then, in my hands, they die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud,
The flower of God's design,
Then how can I have the wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?

So, I'll trust in Him for leading
Each moment of my day.
RosebudRosebudI will look to Him for His guidance
Each step of the Pilgrim's way.

The pathway that lies before me
Only my Heavenly Father knows.
I'll trust him to unfold the moments,
Just as He unfolds the rose.
Got this in an email today, and found it quite inspiring.
So often I like the young preacher am so impatient... stubborn... unsure... unworthy... on this journey, and we wish to know what is ahead and in store for us before we make a decision and take the next step on this journey. But God is inviting us to trust in Him, and walk each step at a time, because He is our destination, and yet He is walking by our side all the time.

Just as I was about to post this, I found this on someone's blog, who herself is struggling to feel God's presence by her side.
In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that You are God
In the secret of Your presence
I know there I am restored
When You call I won’t refuse
Each new day again I’ll choose
There is no one else for me
None but Jesus Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise
In the chaos, in confusion
I know You’re Sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do Your will
When You call I won’t delay
This my song through all my days
All my delight is in You Lord
All of my hope, all of my strength
All my delight is in You Lord.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sandals for the Journey

sandalsAnother reflection I had from last thursday's Gospel from Mk 6:7-13 was inspired by the sharing of one of the brothers in the seminary. He highlighted the point that when Jesus sent out the twelve, He instructed them to take a staff and to wear sandals because it would be a long journey.

Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, 'Do not take a spare tunic'. - (Mk 6:7-9)
The words "long journey" struck me, and got me thinking. Now that I am on this journey that Christ has sent me on, am I wearing sandals? Why do I need to wear sandals for this journey? And what are these sandals that are going to be helping me on my journey.

It immediately brought to mind what happened to me on my way back to the seminary the day before. I decided to take a slow walk back to the seminary from Punggol MRT station, under the "white elephant" of a LRT line that is not in service, but at least it gives me shade. So as I was walking, reading my book, I realised that I had walked into a patch of mud. Seeing no way of walking around it, I just decided to go through it as quickly as possible. At the end of it, the bottom and sides of my sandals were caked in mud, with just a bit overflowing onto my feet. This image told me that is what sandals are for. They provide comfort from the hard rocks and hot roads and they provide protection for the feet from getting muddy and dirty.

So on this spiritual journey, that we are on, what are these sandals that Christ is asking us to put on? I think it is not so much a what, more of a who. Personally I felt, that these sandals are the close friends that walk with us on this journey. They give us comfort, protect us from getting dirty. But the most striking symbolism that I got out of this whole reflection was, they are the ones that we step on, and so easily take for granted. Only when you make the mistake of walking into mud (or deep shit), and they are the ones who get dirty for you, then you realise the importance of having them.

And that is the amazing about our Lord. He knows that when we start this journey, we would need these sandals. Maybe that is why those who try to go on it alone, either get discouraged, or will find some sandals on their way.Personally, I am glad for the sandals that God has given me. So often I have taken them for granted, and God is reminding me, to take good care of them, because they will take good care of me.

So who are your sandals on your journey? Maybe go up to them, send them a sms or an email, and say:
"Thanks for being my sandals for this journey. Thanks for the comfort and protection you have given me all this time. I know that I don't say this much, but I appreciate all that you have done for me."
And send them a link to this post, so that they know what you are talking about. Not many people like to be called sandals.

Last question...."Who am I a sandal for???" Something to think and reflect about.

Friday, February 09, 2007

First-hand or Second-hand Faith?

One of the first few things I learnt in the seminary was the difference between a second-hand faith and a first-hand faith. The second-hand faith was a faith that was passed down to a person either from their parents, spouse or even friends. Whereas a first-hand faith was one that was earned and gained by that person himself.

"When that whole generation had been gathered to its ancestors, another generation followed it which knew neither the Lord nor the deeds which he had done for the sake of Israel." (Jg 2:10)
When we reached the Book of Judges in our Salvation History class this year, we saw how the Israelites were unfaithful to God. When the generation that had experienced the miracles of the Lord from the Exodus to the Promised Land, had passed away, the subsequent generations gave up their own faith. Because they were relying on a faith based on an experience that was not their own, but that of their forefathers.

Looking at our lives through the lens of the lives of the Israelites, we too are in danger of having history repeat itself, where the next generation lacks depth in their faith, if we too do not help them to encounter the Lord in their lives. That next generation is the youth we have in our church today. Children who are brought up following their parents to church for mass and Catechism classes. The youth who are searching for their identity amidst a society marked by relativism, materialism.

There will come a point in a youth’s life where they start to realize that the faith they practice, all the do’s and don’ts, are their parent’s and not their own. Especially in this generation that is not afraid to ask the question, “Why must I…?”, unless they encounter the Lord personally, the faith becomes just rituals and laws that have little impact on their lives. Sin becomes a breaking of a rule more than a breaking of a relationship with God.

So how can we facilitate our youth to have that encounter of the Lord? How do we help them to take ownership of their faith, to move from a second-hand faith to a first-hand faith? I personally went through such a period in my life, where the faith was just a way of life, about how to be good. Not one based on a relationship with a living and loving God. And as I look back at my own conversion and transformation, I can summarize some of the things that have helped me into the letters A–E–I–O–U.

Affirmation & Encouragement
If we are dealing with a set of rules and laws then the negative motivation of correction and punishment would be the way to enforce them. But since we are trying to cultivate a relationship, we need to positively motivate our youth. This means affirming their past actions, and encouraging them to continue and to grow in their faith journey even if they falter. We need to affirm them of the gifts they have, and encourage them to use and develop these gifts in their ministry.

"It is unthinkable that a person should accept the word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn." (Evangelization in the Modern World – Pope Paul VI)
One of the areas we need to encourage our youths would be the mission aspect of their faith. In the deepening of my own faith, I discovered that my faith has to include a mission, just like the disciples, God wants us to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation” – Lk 16:15. If we have truly discovered a treasure in our encounter with the Lord, we should be like the disciples at Emmaus, who rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the others the Good News that the Lord is risen. That is evangelization. God has a purpose for each and every one of us, to continue that Mission, which is part of the vocation that He is calling us to.

Inspiration not just Instruction
On teachers’ day this year, the newspapers carried many stories of great teachers. And when we look at the testimony of the students, we see a common trend. Teachers are remembered not for what they taught, but for how they inspired their students with the love and conviction with which they taught. In trying to help our youth have a first-hand faith, not only do we need to instruct them on the faith, we also need to inspire them by our own lives. Priests, parents, teachers and especially among the peers, need to show by the examples of their lives, that they lead Christ-like lives, rather than on the values of the world. This is especially true in the way we handle the difficult situations in our lives, just like the early Christians, with courage, trust in the Lord and above all, Love.

We also need to create the opportunity for the youths to experience the Lord. We need to have activities that cater to the broad range of youths of different spiritualities and different levels of faith. What we need are fun activities like camps, games, social activities to attract the youths and allow them to meet and interact with other youths who are convicted in their faith. Included also are mission trips and retreats for youths to empower and to deepen their faith. Small youth communities where youths can come together to learn more about the faith, share, support and challenge one another on their faith journey should also be considered.

Uniqueness & Unity
"For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another." (Rom 12:4–5)
St Paul beautifully expresses what it means to be Church in his analogy of the many parts of the body. The youths in the parishes cannot be alienated from the rest, neither should they minister nor be ministered to just like the rest of the members of the parish. Even among the youths, there will appear differences in age, charisms and ministries. The challenge would be to nurture them in the uniqueness and yet bond and unite them to identify themselves as Christian youths, and as part of the Church.

Journey Magazine Front Cover Design 2006This is the article that I mentioned two posts ago. I wrote it for last years edition of the seminary magazine "The Journey". Actually only the first part about First-hand or Second-hand faith is related to the post on God having no grandchildren. The second part is just some ways in my own life that has helped me move from second to first-hand faith, or a discovery of my true image as a child of God. There were some photos in the article, which I will try to add on later. Also if anyone wants a copy of the seminary magazine which has other articles by the seminarians, you can email me at and I will try to get it to you.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Fishermen and Fish, Shepherds and Sheep

Just after uploading my last post on the minister and the ministered not being on the same level, I open my email and see Fr Cantalamessa's sermon on this Sunday's readings. Here's a short extract. Go here for the full text.

But the difficulty which I noted reappears in another form. Let's say that we do need shepherds and fishermen. Why is it that some should have the role of fishermen and others of fish, and some that of shepherds and others that of sheep and flock. The relationship between fisherman and fish, as that between shepherd and sheep, suggests the idea of inequality, of superiority. No one likes being just a number in the flock and recognizing a shepherd over him.

Here we need to rid ourselves of a certain prejudice. In the Church no one is only a fisherman or only a shepherd, and no one is only a fish or a sheep. We are all, in different ways, all at the same time. Christ is the only one who is simply a fisherman and simply a shepherd.

Before becoming a fisher of men Peter himself was fished for and fished for again, many times. He was, literally, fished for when, walking on the waves, he was overcome with fear and was on the point of sinking; he was fished for again, above all, after his betrayal of Jesus. He had to experience what it meant to be a "lost sheep" so that he could learn what it meant to be a good shepherd; he had to be fished out of the depths of the abyss into which he had fallen in order to learn what it meant to be a fisher of men.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

God Has No Grandchildren

Reflecting on today's first reading(Heb 12:18-19,21-24), the phrase that struck me was

everyone is a 'first-born son'
The first thing this brought to mind me of was an email that a friend had just sent to me yesterday.
Judges 2:10 (JB) says: "When that generation too had been gathered to its fathers, another generation followed it which knew neither the Lord nor the deeds that he had done for the sake of Israel."
They had forgotten. We must become children of God. Every generation has to be Converted anew. Each generation has to be called into God's life to know the fidelity of God, to step out, and to base their life on the word of God. It's not enough to say that my mother was Catholic, my father was Christian. Until you come to that moment in your life when you choose the God you will serve, you have not begun to experience conversion. The reason that the word of the Lord does not speak to our people is because, most simply, they have never been converted. Many church-goers are in fact baptized pagans. Our parent's faith is not ours until we walk the journey ourselves. God has no grandchildren.
This reminds me of the article that I wrote for the Seminary Magazine last year on First-hand or Second-hand faith. Which then reminded me that I still haven't posted that article on this blog. The great procrastinator I am.

But as I reflected further, what really struck me was the word "EVERYONE". That everyone...all are first-born children of God. No first class/second class, no senior/junior, no smart/stupid (you get the point). This is the struggle that I faced last week, when we went to St Joseph's Home for our pastoral. The supervisor told us to just treat all of the residents as another human person and we will be fine. But that's like the easiest thing to say but most difficult thing to do. I was very nice to the people there, smiling, making small talk to those who I could understand and communicate with. But at the end of the day, the realisation was still that I was not able to see them as an equal, as another first-born child of God. I saw them as ministry, as people in need of assistance, who I could give something to but who are unable to give back to me.

Yes, I could say, they gave me the opportunity to love, to be humble, to be in touch with human frailty. But those still do not mask the fact that I fail to see them as a fellow brother or sister. I see their bodily weaknesses but am unable to see that equal God image that makes us one and the same. To put it simply, there is a sense of superiority, a sense of having to go down to their level and not that we are all on the same level.

And as I reflect on the Gospel(Mk 6:7-13) where Jesus sends out the disciple, I realise that this goes further in actually all my ministry. Am I able to see the God image in another person? Or do I feel that I have something to offer to this person that he or she lacks. We always talk about conversion, but maybe we have been looking at the conversion of the person, from bad to good, from sinner to saint. But what the actual conversion should be is a conversion of heart, to help a person discover his true image, who he really is, a child of God, not about changing his image.

I think that this has been my challenge, what it really means to love the person for who they are. In the case of the people in St Joseph's home, to love not out of sympathy or pity or charity(as we have cheapen the word today), but to love them because they are God's children, my brothers and sisters. Equal in the most basic and important way. And in the case of ministry, to be able to be of service, because of what I have that they don't, but because of what they are and to appreciate that in them.

Friday, January 19, 2007

You are kinda missing the point

Today in the Introduction to Old Testament class, we began first with an intro to the Bible. And Fr Vaz gave a very simple way to explain something we learnt in Salvation History last year. He wrote this four words on the board.

Story -> Message
Event -> Experience
Basically it means that the bible contains so many stories, especially the old testament, but what is more important is the message behind it. When we look at an event in the bible, lets say the story of Gideon in Judges Chapter 7, are we more interested in how the 300 Israelites defeated 135,000 enemies, whether they used the pincer attack, hammer and anvil (Terms I learnt in the army). Or are we really interested in the God-Message which the writer was trying to convey to us - That God was delivering His people from their enemies; that with His power 300 men can defeat a great army; and most important of all for the Israelites that He is the true God and to turn away from their idols. This is how we are to understand the Scriptures, to discover the God-Message in each passage. Once we get the message, the story fades away, and then we are challenged to apply it to our lives.

This clip from Narnia really illustrates for me in two ways this whole idea of missing the message for the story. Here the beaver is explaining the prophecy to the children, and Susan remarks that it doesn't rhyme. This must be how God must have been how the wise men must have felt when they consulted the chief priests and scribes. These guys knew the words of the prophecy, but didn't know the message.

The second way is something which is from my own experience, though some of you may also share it. As a young child, my mum would borrow the video of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from the church library, and me and my sisters would watch the cartoon over and over again, to the point of being able to repeat the lines of the characters. But embarrassing to say, it was only just a few years ago, that I found out that C.S. Lewis was a Christian writer, and that Narnia was an allegory with Christian meanings. All the time I was watching it as a child, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, but was always wondering what this show was doing in a church library. The only message I could see was good defeating the evil. I never saw Aslan as Christ who sacrificed his innocent life for the life of Edmund, the resurrection, and all those other Christian themes in the show.

It really hits hard when I realise, that as much as I can be critical of the scribes, judas and even the jewish people for failing to see Christ in front of them, this one movie sorely reminds me that it happens to me and anyone of us. So often we miss the message and just concentrate on the story. And actually what Fr Vaz wrote goes even further than just stories. Events and the Experience. Are we focusing on the event and not the experience, not just those recorded in the Bible, but those that happen in our lives. He used the example of Christmas, are we so caught up with the deco, the dressing up, the crib, the food that we forget the real experience of God's love for us. I guess this example has been "nagged" to us every year.

But another example I found very relevant to our current life is whether we are missing the point of the mass. Have we been so caught up with the mass as an event, and missing out on the God-experience. This thought came to my mind when I read a question in Zenit 17/1/2007, asking "What is the position now on people not going to Sunday Mass in their own parishes?" This is a growing phenomenon, especially in Singapore, where it is so easy to go to another parish, maybe because the priest preaches better, the choir sings nicer, more parking, aircon...the list goes on. But as Father Edward McNamara answers in his reply, while the people are not obliged to go to their own parish for mass, it is highly encouraged. Because that is where one's community is. And our faith is one which has a strong community element. But these days most people are going for mass out of obligation not because of a sense of belonging to a community. While that is kind of the first step, but then we have to move further into the meaning of the mass. Are we among strangers or experiencing the communion with our fellow brothers and sisters? Are we there to celebrate mass or to attend mass? To give thanks or to ask for favours?

Another article in tuesday's Digital Life about Singapore animators, has this guy saying that when he watches animation movies, he finds himself trying to figure out what technology and algorithms the movie was made with. Reminded me so much of when people are SO caught up with the liturgy of the mass and missing the whole experience.

Just realised that there are so many examples of missing the point. The one sermon of Fr Chris Soh that I can remember was on the feast of the 3 Archangels, during my 8 day retreat at Kingsmead Hall. He spoke about Angels being God's messengers, but instead of looking at the message, we try to figure out whether Angels really exist. He went on to explain the meaning of Michael(Who is like God), Gabriel(Strength of God) and Raphael(Healing of God). But it is so typical of us to know their names but not their message.

Ok, this post is getting out of hand...Going to end of with one last line, just so you get the message of this whole post.
Stop being Caught up with the Story and Missing the Message.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


This afternoon, just before our mid-day prayer, I was doing some thinking of advertisments which can be used for sessions to explain the faith or values, when the Honda advert below came to mind. I was quite delighted with that idea when lo and behold, the Scripture reading for our mid-day prayer was:

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit - 1Cor 12:12-13.
This kind of things can really give you a WOW! feeling of God's presence.

I was thinking about the idea of community, being many different parts AND working together, which was why I thought of this ad. But as I thought further, there is also another more subtle lesson to learn from this ad. While it was nice to see the "domino" effect of the many different parts of the car from the start to the beginning, that is all it is - nice to see but going nowhere. And my realisation was that it was because the different parts were doing things that were not their intended purpose. Why is the wiper crawling on the floor? Why is the exhaust pipe spinning around? Sure they fulfilled some function, but in the end they did not move very far. Then we look at the finished product, the car. The car is made up of all those parts, used in the correct way, each one doing what they were meant to do, and the end result is that the car moves, and all the parts move together and further.

That is SYNERGY. One of those coporate buzzwords that we try to use to make our presentations more impressive and bombastic. I still remember one of my modules in uni, where there was this student we called "Synergy guy", because at every tutorial we had, he was sure to talk about synergy. Synergy is the phenomenon that takes place when two or more things working together achieve more than the sum of their individual achievements. In english, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In maths, that means 1 + 1 = 3 or 4 or 5.5...

And maybe that is what is lacking in the Church and communities. There are many different talents, different gifts, different individuals, all moving on their own and but not moving together and thus not getting very far. Some want to move, but on their own they only move a certain distance. Others are not even moving. How do we achieve this synergy? How do we move together.

Using the ad as an example, I think it really stems from knowing one's purpose. The wheel is meant to rotate, but it needs to be connected to the engine to go fast and far. The nut on the other hand shouldn't be rolling around, it should be holding the parts of the car together. The wiper definitely shouldn't be wiping the ground, it should be cleaning the windscreen to make sure the driver can see where to go. Sadly to say, we are hampered by some parts who are standing alone and not connected, some parts who are playing roles they are not supposed to be doing, or doing it because the ones meant to do it are not doing it.

Personally, I know I am probably in one of those catergories, and that is why I know I have to continue on this road of discovery of self (who God made me to be), and purpose (what He wants me to do). And the last part of fitting myself into the bigger picture of the communities I am in and the Church as a whole. Working with other different individuals so that synergy can take place, to accomplish Christ's mission here on earth, and bring all of us together into eternal life.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fr Chris Soh, WYD '08

Now I know why my friend asked me about the wedding at Cana. Anyway I just found out that Fr Christopher Soh, S.J. has a blog which he puts up reflections on the daily readings. And I found the one on today's readings to be very good. Fr Chris is a very good preacher, and it was a joy to listen to his homilies. I can still remember the homily he preached on the Feast of the Archangels, when I was doing my 8-day retreat in 2005.

Another event that has been building up excitement is the World Youth Day in Sydney in July 2008. It is almost exactly 1.5 yrs away, or as the website says 547 days to go.

Some interesting information I found on the website

  1. Dates : 14-20 July 2008
  2. Venue : Sydney (duh!)
  3. The basic tenets of World Youth Day are:
    • An expression of the universal Church
    • An instrument of evangelization of the young
    • An 'Epiphany' of the youth of the Church
    • An effective sign of ecclesial union
    • A pilgrimage of faith, both spiritually and practically
  4. Costs of the WYD packages can be found here.
    They range from A$175 - A$395(excluding airfare)
  5. If you don't want to pay, you can sign up as a volunteer, which could be an interesting experience by itself.
  6. For a more enriching experience, there is the "Days in the Diocese" event which takes place in the dioceses around Sydney from 10-14 Jul. This is where you can spend time in one of the dioceses, and take part in special activities that they organise before everyone makes their way to Sydney. I wouldn't mind going for the Melbourne one.
  7. You can listen to Fr Roderick's Podcasts live from WYD '05 in Cologne, Germany.
Personally, I had a wonderful experience in Manila, Philippines on 1995, and I believe Sydney would be a greater one, because of the change in my own faith life and this whole idea of being part of a universal Church. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

God's wine is the best!

First day back in the seminary, and taking a short break from all the cleaning up that we have to do. This year we are low on manpower, only 14 of us compared to 23 seminarians last year. So more work to go around.

This morning I read a sms from a friend, asking me something about the Wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11). He asked "What is the significance of the line "Everyone serves good wine first......but you have kept the good wine until now."

The first thing that came to my mind, was that it was emphasizing the power of Jesus, to not only turn water into wine, but into good wine. Then as I was unpacking my stuff in my new room (we change room in the seminary every year) I saw a book I bought in the Philippines - Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament. In it I found a commentary on the Wedding at Cana, and a reference to the wine. It compared the wine of men which had run out with the wine that Jesus gave.

We want the wine of life, we want to taste something better than the daily drudgery which the world and cheap religion offer us.... We thought we had something good, but it turns out to be cheap wine compared with what he offers us. The relationship he invites us into is more than we ever could have expected. It sets our heads spinning! It makes us drunk with gladness! It's like gallons and gallons of the best wine!
And just before I started this post, I saw a referrer to my blog. Someone searched google for "homily + the miracle of changing the water into wine" and came to my blog.

I guess it is God's reminder for me as I begin this new year, that this is what I have in store for me this year... the best wine. Now all I need to do is to follow what Mother Mary told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Thank you Lord for this reminder of your promise to give the best to us. Help me to always surrender to your will, even if it were something as illogical as filling empty jars with water. As I strive to follow your will, fill me with your joy and peace which is like the best wine that nothing and no one else can give. Amen.

Monday, January 08, 2007

I Live My Life For You

On 3rd Jan 2007, I was invited back to Maris Stella, my Alma Mater, to give a sharing to the students and staff on the first day of school. They were launching the theme for the year - "I Live My Life For You", and the teacher-in-charge wanted to use me as an example of a Marist who has gone on to live his life for others.

This all started when I got a sms from my ex-teacher, Mr Kwok. This was a man who could just stand on stage and stare quietly and the whole hall will be silent. Some bit of that "respect/fear" still remains to this day. So he asks me if i would answer some questions on my life that he would be able to use for his introductory presentation of the theme on the first day of school. And then after I emailed him the answers, he drops the bombshell, whether I could share that in person, on stage in front of the students and staff, on the first day of school.

In light of my latest catchphrase "Say Yes First, Ask Why Later", I look back at that event and can see all the answers to my Whys after saying Yes.

The first amazing thing was how wonderful our God works. First I meet Mr Kwok in OLPS when I was there on my one month pastoral in june. I never knew that he was Catholic. And just before I got his email, I met up with Fr Gerard Louis, CSSR, who was just ordained and he was telling me how he was celebrating mass back at his Alma Mater. This got me wondering, what can I do for Maris Stella? I will probably have to wait till I'm ordained before I would be able to go back to say mass or hear confessions. And then the email came. Great timing or what. This realization really only hit me, when I was on stage and sharing how this whole thing had taken place. My nervousness of my stage fright changed to an amazement of God's hand in it.

And this sharing was also not only about me giving back something to Maris Stella, I found myself gaining much more from it. As I stood at the side of the hall waiting to be called onto stage, I was listening to the presentation of the theme, and the challenge to live our lives for others, and when Mr Kwok introduced me as a Marist who is living that life. This has really caused me to stop and reflect. Am I really that example? Am I really living my life in the service of others? Sometimes it is so easy to take that for granted and to forget it.

Which brings me to the last thing that occurred to me - This Blog. This whole episode has inspired me to start blogging again after such a long break. While this blog was started out to help me in my reflections, and to improve my writing skills, there is also the element of sharing and testimony to God which could benefit those who read it. I must remember that if I blog, it is not only for myself, but that whoever reads it may be touched or inspired by God's working in my life.

I just found out that someone emailed my blog address to another person, and realised that my blog is getting around. In that email he talks about various ways that blogs can be used for ministry. Somehow that perspective has slowly been forgotten. Ironically I spoke about it at IHM two years ago. So thanks to Maris Stella for challenging me to "Live My Life for You" and Daniel too for reminding me of this ministry.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Novena - Say Yes First, Ask Why Later

Dear brothers and sisters, we just celebrated the new year on Monday, which means this is the first novena of the year. I am sure that many of us over the course of the last few days have been reviewing the year that has gone by, and come up with resolutions, decisions, to change something, to do something. I too have gone through that process, of thinking how I can better live this year.

But this year as I was doing my new year resolutions, I have had a revelation in my life that I would like to share with you. I found myself asking “How am I going to live as a better Christian this year”. Actually it all started when I watched the movie “Nativity Story”. It is a really good movie, especially for the Christmas period, because it gives us an idea of the thoughts, the fears and the struggles that Mary and Joseph must have faced.

In the Nativity Story, there is one scene, where Mary and Elizabeth are grinding wheat and making bread. Elizabeth asks Mary, “Are you afraid?” and Mary replies “Yes”. Then Mary asks Elizabeth, “Elizabeth, Why is it me God has asked? I am nothing.” This question “Why is it me God has asked?” has been going through my mind ever since. “Why me? Why not someone else? Who am I? What have I to offer?” And the answer I got was, “If not you then who? I made you for a purpose, you are not some random act or an accident.”

And that is the amazing thing, my dear brothers and sisters, that God has a purpose, a reason for each and everyone of us being here today. There is a reason why we are all here in 2007, in Singapore, working or studying at a particular place, with the friends we have. All so that we can be like Mary, and bring the light and love of Jesus to the people around us and to the world.

I just read in yesterday’s NewPaper, a story about a man, Wesley Autrey, who jumped in front of a train to save a man who had fallen onto the tracks. In the interview he said, “I saw someone in distress and went to his aid”. And his mother added, “He was there to help somebody who needed help more than him. He didn't think twice. He dived in, like he said. He helped the guy and God helped them.” Notice the words “He didn’t think twice”, I think if I was there at the train station, I might have thought twice, “Why me, why do I have to be the one to jump onto the track to save the guy?” And by the time I think and think, the chance would have been gone. It really made me reflect on the many times I have hesitated, I have questioned God that I missed the opportunity.

I can recall a few instances of on the bus and MRT, when I see an elderly person needing a seat, I think should I, should I not? And by that time, someone else has already offered their seat. Too often I spend more time thinking of the Why God is asking me, instead of the more important question of What God is asking me? We see Wesley Autrey who did what he had to do. We also have a perfect Christian model in Mary, who said Yes to God. She only questioned later, Why her, not because she wished it was someone else, but the wonder and awe that God would choose her who is nothing.

So my brothers and sisters, the question that we need to ask ourselves as we begin this new year is “What is God asking?”. What is God asking me to do this year? What is God asking me to do in my life? Who does He want me to reach out to?

It could be a simple gesture of visiting an old folks home to bring joy to the residents there. It could be to bring reconciliation among family members. These are only examples, because as I said earlier, each and everyone of us is unique, in our own different circumstances. And God is calling each of us to be Light of the World and Salt of the Earth here and now.

For me I know God is calling me back to the Seminary after my holidays, to continue my formation, to continue to grow in my relationship. I ask that you keep all of us seminarians in your prayers, and also to continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. That more young men and women will find out what God is asking of them, and that they will have the courage like Mother Mary, to say Yes first, and ask Why later. Amen