Weekly Reflection (16 Jun 2019)

Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C

Proverbs 8:22-31
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

Theme of the week: The Holy Trinity – a God that creates, saves and sanctifies.

The doctrine of Holy Trinity teaches us that we have one God who manifests Himself as three distinct Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To the Father, we attribute the work of creation; to the Son the work of Salvation; and to the Spirit the work of Sanctification (i.e. make holy). The three Scripture passages this week each focus on one Person of the Holy Trinity.

The poetic verses of the First Reading recount the creation story through the eyes of a personified Wisdom. Wisdom was with God the Father in very early beginning, before the heaven and earth was created. These verses of King Solomon explain that everything the Father created, he created with His boundless wisdom. The passage concluded by saying that Wisdom is “delighting in the human race” (verse 31). It was with His wisdom that God created the human race; and it is with wisdom that He took delight in us, his creation. As one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom is bestowed on us through Baptism and Confirmation. Like God, we have the capacity to inject wisdom into our daily decisions and actions. In order to do this, we need to invite God to come, to pierce through our fallen state and act through us in everything that we do.

As a fallen man or woman, no matter how righteous we are, we are never good enough to earn our own salvation. The Second Reading explains that it is by faith that we obtain grace; and it is by grace that we share in God’s glory through our salvation. Our sufferings, no matter how severe, are not means by which we earn our salvation. Nevertheless, sufferings have a purpose and it is through the eyes of grace that we see the purpose of sufferings. As the passage explains, suffering gives rise to endurance; endurance to character; character to hope – and it is hope that ultimately sustains us through all the hardships of life, as we journey toward our ultimate goal of salvation. Suffering, grace and salvation, these are the milestones of our lives. As Paul said in 2 Cor 4:10, we carry in our bodies “the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” Hence, let us heed the call of Lord Jesus the Son, take up our crosses and walk his way – the way to salvation (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34, Lk 9:23).

The night before His Passion, Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel passage, Jesus explained that just as He is not inferior to the Father, the Spirit is not inferior to the Father or the Son. For everything the Father has is Jesus’; and all that the Spirit says is from Jesus. This is the foundation of the Church’s teaching on the Holy Trinity, the cornerstone of the Christian faith: three distinct Persons in one God. As finite beings, we can never fully comprehend an infinite God. That is why Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (verse 12). In fact, the theology of the Holy Trinity was not explicitly revealed to us at the time the Bible was written – nowhere in the Bible is the Holy Trinity is explicitly mentioned. It was not until 381AD, when the leaders of the Church met in the First Council of Constantinople, that the Holy Spirit revealed the Trinity to us through that Ecumenical Council. Since the dawn of Christianity, 21 such Ecumenical Councils were held; and through these the Holy Spirit made many revelations to the human race. In this way, as we seek greater insight into God’s infinite wisdom, the Holy Spirit continually reveals God’s truth to us, making us one holy people in the Lord. Sanctifying us and making us holy – this is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 



Weekly Reflection (9 Jun 2019)

Pentecost Sunday Year C

Acts 2:1-11
Romans 8:8-17
John 14:15-16,23-26

Theme of the week: Let us be open to the grace bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth, Strength and Sanctification.

While Jesus was on earth, he left us many teachings. Before Jesus departed, he promised to send us a paraclete, that is, an advocate or an assistant. He promised that the paraclete the Holy Spirit will teach us everything, and remind us of all that Jesus has taught us (verse 26). The Spirit helps us understand Jesus’ teachings more deeply; and reveals to us new truths in the teachings. Over the centuries, the Holy Spirit has revealed many truths to us, e.g. the Trinitarian nature of God; Jesus being fully God and fully Man – truths that are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible but are today universally accepted by all Christians – Catholics and Protestants alike.

The First Reading recalled how it all began – the First Pentecost. The disciples, afraid of persecution by the Jews, hid in the room. Then, the Holy Spirit descended. Upon the Holy Spirit descending upon them, the disciples were transformed. Instead of feeling afraid, they boldly stepped outside to proclaim God. Our Church was born on that Pentecost Day. That the Spirit descended as a rush of violent wind (verse 2) is significant, especially to a Jewish person. In the Jewish language, the word for wind is ruah, which also means spirit. A Jewish reader, aware of Jesus’ promise of the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), on reading this would immediately realise that Christ’ promise was being fulfilled.

This story of Pentecost exemplifies a key role of the Holy Spirit, that is, to strengthen the followers of Christ and form them into the Church, the body of Christ. In the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), all people spoke one language. Their pride drove them to build a tower that was to reach the heaven to rival God. As a punishment, God scattered them all over the world and made them speak different languages. Hence, sin brought division upon the world. The damage humankind sustained at the Tower of Babel was repaired on Pentecost Day. At Pentecost, upon the descend of the Holy Spirit, people “from every nation under heaven” (verse 5) understood the Apostles in each “own native language” (verse 8). Hence, what sin divided at the Tower of Babel, the Holy Spirit reunited at Pentecost. The fact that the Apostles proclaimed the Good News to all nations (verse 5) reveals to us another important fact: that salvation is universal, the Good news is to be proclaimed to all nations.

The Second Reading urges us to abandon the way of the flesh and live according to Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, we subject ourselves to the limitations of the flesh – pride, prejudice, lust and other concupiscence. Like the people at the Tower of Babel, living accordance to the flesh can only lead to destruction (verse 13). Brothers and sisters, do you know that we are made in the image of God not just in appearance? God resides in us as the Person of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that came upon the disciples on Pentecost Day. Our living body is in fact the tabernacle of God the Spirit. By living according to the Spirit, such living brings us everlasting life, for “the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (verse 10) And as surely as the Spirit dwells in Christ and raised him from the dead, the Spirit dwells in us and will one day raise us from the dead. And the one thing that will cause the Holy Spirit to leave our bodies is when we commit mortal sins. A body tainted by mortal sins is no longer in a state of grace to host the Holy Spirit. To restore the state of grace, to welcome the Spirit into us once more, we need to be purged of our sins and be reconciled to God. Such is the grace bestowed upon us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may continue to guide, protect and teach us the Church, and for all times to come. Alleluia!

 



Weekly Reflection (2 Jun 2019) – 7th Sunday of Easter

7th Sunday of Easter Year C

Acts 7:55-60
Apocalypse 22:12-14,16-17,20
John 17:20-26

Theme of the week: Pray that all sons and daughters of God may one day be united in Christ.

The First Reading recalls the martyrdom of Stephen. There is striking similarities between the manner of Stephen’s death to that of Christ. Like Christ, Stephen was tried before the Council (Acts 6:12); dragged out of the city (verse 58); and killed. Before he died, he prayed to God to forgive his killers (verse 60), before committing his Spirit to God (verse 59). As the first martyr, Stephen became the first one to heed Christ’s call to take up his cross and follow in his footsteps, and he did so in a very literal way indeed. While you and I may not be called to literally give our lives for Christ, we are nevertheless called to carry his cross and follow in his footsteps. What is my response to this call? Do I humbly submit myself like Stephen, or do I try to run away?

The Second Reading describes a scene in heaven where martyrs like Stephen, “those who wash their robes” (verse 14), receive the gift of eternal life. Verse 17′s use of the words “come”, “thirty” and “water” reminds us of Isaiah 55:1 – “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters”. Isaiah 55 was referring to the Israelites’ return to earthly Jerusalem, their earthly home. Whereas the Book of Apocalypse uses the same imagery of thirst and water to refers to our return to the Heavenly Jerusalem, our heavenly home. It is in this New Jerusalem that the faithfuls, those who carry their crosses and followed Christ, will receive their eternal reward.

The death of Stephen was brought upon by believers who did not recognise Christ as God. In other words, it is through the division among the people of God that Stephen was put to death. In the Gospel, Christ prayed for these who do not know God (verse 25), that in time they will come to believe in Christ (verse 21), and be united in belief with other believers. In fact, disunity does not just manifest between believers and non-believers. As we have seen in the case of Stephen’s martyrdom, unity can also manifest among believers. This is the reason both Christ and Stephen prayed for their killers, their separated brothers, before their respective deaths. Lets pray for all our separated brothers and sisters, believers and non-believers, that all of us may be united as one body in Christ. May the Lord’s peace be with you. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (2 Jun 2019) – The Ascension Of The Lord

The Ascension Of The Lord, Year C

Acts 1:1-11
Hebrews 9:24-28,10:19-23
Luke 24:46-53

Theme of the week: May the Holy Spirit embolden us to be witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and forgiveness.

The event of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in a dramatic way, was foretold by the prophet Joel several hundred years before the actual event took place (Joel 2:28-29). A reflection of the First Reading reveals to us why Pentecost is so important. One of the reasons that drove the people to demanding Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday was disenchantment – the people were disenchanted that Jesus did not use his popularity to overthrow their Roman rulers and restore the kingdom of Israel. In the First Reading, we were told that even after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples were still bounded by these earthly expectations. Hence they asked, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (verse 6) What about me? When I pray to God, what do I pray for? Like the disciples in the First Reading, is my relation with God simply a mean for me to achieving physical attainment – that car I wanted, the promotion I sought or the contract I was striving to win?

The Second Reading provides the context to help us move our relationship God to beyond physical attainment. It compares the sacrifices made by the earthly priest with that of Jesus, the heavenly high priest. Like the disciples and many of us, the earthly high priest was stuck in the physical, as he “enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own” (verse 25). The earthly priest sacrifices the blood of animals in a temple built by man, Jesus sacrificed his own blood and was taken into the heavenly sanctuary. Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus bought us our salvation. By his sacrifice, Christ paid for our sins and reconciled us to God.

What is beyond physical attainment then? In the First Reading, just before Christ was taken up to heaven, He called upon the disciples to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (verse 8). This is a call to us too, for we too are called to bear witnesses to the Lord. The Gospel passage echoes the same call. Christ proclaimed to the disciples, “You are witnesses of these things” (verse 48). Witnesses to what, you might ask? The disciples were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and God’s forgiveness. On resurrection, the disciples were eye-witnesses to the event. On forgiveness, most of them abandoned Jesus after he was captured, yet Jesus forgave them and promised to pour out the Holy Spirit upon them. What about me? Do I not experience the resurrected Christ each time I receive a Sacrament? Do I not experience God’s forgiving grace each time I celebrate Reconciliation? Then, just as the early disciples, am I not called to be a witness to His resurrection and forgiveness? My brothers and sisters, this is our call on the Lord’s Ascension.

Let us reflect on this in the coming days. Let us move our relationship with God beyond physical attainment. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit empowers you and I, as He did with the early disciples, to carry out the important mission of bearing witnesses to Christ. May the Lord be with you. Emmanuel.

 



“A little while”

‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’ Then some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying to us, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”; and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ They said, ‘What does he mean by this “a little while”? We do not know what he is talking about.’ Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.

John 16:16-20

 

“A little while” was mentioned seven times in this passage, during a discourse that took place after Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. In the Bible, the number seven signifies perfection. Bearing in mind that the Gospel of John tends to convey deep truths through rich symbolism, what is John’s message to us in this passage?

The phrase “a little while” is translated from mikron in Greek. When used in a chronological sense, mikron means a short time, which certainly convey the literal meaning of text. However, mikron can also mean the littleness of something. Taken in this sense, what is the greater reality that awaits the disciples that dwarfs even the dying and rising of Christ that was to come? What is the greater reality that awaits you and I, one that is greater than even the dying and rising of Christ?

The physical reality of the Jesus dying and rising, no doubt a great miracle by itself, carries no greater meaning if it remains for us an amazing miracle. As we seen again and again in the Bible, miracles by themselves do not convert hearts. The parting of the Red Sea did not stop the Israelites from fashioning and worshiping the golden calf. Likewise, supernatural miracles such those in Lanciano Italy in 750AD and Fatima Portugal on 13 Oct 1917 did not sway many people into believing. Neither did many modern day miracle cures attributed to the grace of God that science cannot explained.

In dying and rising, Christ transcended the physical limitation of life and death and of time and space. In dying and rising, Christ points us to the heavenly reality that awaits all believers. In dying and rising, Christ washes away out all our inequities so that this heavenly reality can be our reality. Beyond the physical miracle, these are the greater reality that awaits us, a reality in perfection, as indicated by the seven times the Greek phrase mikron is mentioned. Viewed in the context of the greater reality, our earthly sufferings are not our final sufferings; neither is our earthly rewards our final rewards. As the Gospel passage aptly concluded:

“You will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.” John 16:20


Weekly Reflection (26 May 2019)

6th Sunday of Easter Year C

Acts 15:1-2,22-29
Apocalypse 21:10-14,22-23
John 14:23-29

Theme of the week: The Spirit of Truth reminds us of Christ teachings. Throughout history, the Holy Spirit unites us into One Church as He adds to our understanding of Christ’s teachings.

The First Reading describes an important episode in the history of the early Church. As the disciples started baptising Gentiles into the Church, some Jewish converts came to the Church at Antioch and attempted to impose the Jewish law of circumcision on the Gentiles. This argument was in fact not a new one. Gal 2:11-14 described an earlier instance where Paul disagreed with Peter because the latter would not share table-fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles. To resolve this issue, Paul and Barnabas travel to the Head Church at Jerusalem to ask the Apostles for a ruling. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles ruled that circumcision is not necessary. However, in what appears to be a compromise (remembering that Peter himself was of a different opinion to Paul in the earlier incident), the Apostles forbade the partaking of blood, meat from strangled animals, meat sacrificed to idols, and meat from marriage of certain kindred.

The Second Reading portrayed a vision of heaven, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on the gates of the New Jerusalem. In the context of the issue of Gentile salvation, the city rests on twelve foundation stones, each inscribed with an Apostle’s name. In this way, the twelve Apostles are the new twelve tribes, signifying that the call of salvation goes to all of humanity, not just the nation of Israel. Importantly too, the twelve foundation stones and the inscription of the Apostles’ name also indicates that the New Jerusalem is founded on solid foundation – the Apostolic foundation. In the New Jerusalem, there is no longer a need for temples, as God Almighty and Christ the Lamb are the Temple (verse 22). There is no longer a need for a place to help humans reach out to God, as God is living in their midst. What a wonderful vision!

In the Gospel, before his departure, Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit to teach us everything and to remind us of his teachings. Thus, the role of the Holy Spirit is not only to reemphasise Jesus teachings, but also to add to our understanding of these teachings. The Holy Spirit is alive and living in us today, and continues to reveal God’s truth to us.

Aside:
Doctrinal disagreements are not a new phenomenon in the Church. Today, in the age of a global Church connected by Internet and social media; and challenged by secular values and relativism, doctrinal disagreements are likely to draw even sharper oppositions, even at the highest level in the Church hierarchy. In discerning opposing concerns and viewpoints, it is important that we appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of opposing viewpoints. As we read in the first reading, this was exactly what the Apostles did in the early Church. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the early church fathers addressed the needs and aspirations of opposing sides so that each may accommodate the other’s preferences. It is through opening our hearts to be guided by the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures; and discerning with charity and sensitivity; that we may all stay united in the Lord even in the face of disagreements.

 



Weekly Reflection (19 May 2019)

5th Sunday of Easter Year C

Acts 14:21-27
Apocalypse 21:1-5
John 13:31-35

Theme of the week: Let us evangelise and make disciples of all nations; and help others experience the love of Christ through our love.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded his followers to “make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In fulfilment of this command, Paul made three missionary journeys to spread the Good News. Typical of the experience of missionaries, Paul’s journey was not always easy. For example, last week, we heard how Paul and Barnabas were persecuted by fellow believers out of jealousy. The First Reading describes the conclusion of Paul’s first missionary journey, as Paul (accompanied by Barnabas) brought the Good News to pagan communities across modern day Syria, Cyprus and Turkey. One significant event that occurred at this time was the appointment of elders in the local church. Since Paul and Barnabas could not always be at the local church, they appointed representatives to carry on God’s pastoral work in their absence. This was in fact a foreshadow of the Sacrament of the Holy Order, where priests are ordained by the Bishop to carry out pastoral work at local communities.

In the Second Reading, we turn our attention to two teachings of the Church regarding End Time. To help us appreciate these teachings, let us first understand the historic context. From 540BC, the Jews started returning to the Holy Land from their exile to Babylon. Upon returning, they commenced the rebuilding of the Temple and the city. Using the rebuilding of the earthly Jerusalem as a backdrop, Isaiah 65:17-19 prophesises the arrival of a New Jerusalem, where the people of God will live in eternal joy:

“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.”

Then in Ephesus 5:22-33, Paul uses the earthly marriage between husband and wife to describe the union between Christ and His Church, the people of God, on the last day.

The Second Reading brought to fruition both of these visions. It describes how the old world is replaced by a New Jerusalem (i.e. heaven): “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them” (verse 3). In the New Jerusalem, there will be no more death, mourning, crying and pain (verse 4). In God’s “making all things new” (verse 5), we recall human being’s state of Original Perfection in the story of creation, before the Fall, when “it was very good” (Gen 1:31). In heaven, we will be restored to our Original Perfection in union with God, as God created us to be. As we approach the end of the Easter season, we will do well to remember this always. For this is the Good News of Easter. Satan is defeated. Alleluia!

In the Gospel, Jesus gave us an important commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (verse 34). Jesus no longer walks on earth, but his work continues through us. We are the sacraments of Christ and it is through us that non-believers come to experience the love of Christ. Following in the examples of Paul and Barnabas in the First Reading, we are asked to evangelise and lead others to the New Jerusalem. We are tasked by Christ to make Him present to others by the show of our love. It is by our love that we set ourselves apart from the secular world: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (verse 35). While it may be difficult to love as unconditionally as Jesus did, we must nevertheless take up this challenge and strive to fulfil it in the best way we can. Let us reflect: in my daily life, how have I live up to Christ’s call? As a Christian, do I bring forth the love of Christ in all my human encounters?

May the Holy Spirit be with us as we strive forth. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (12 May 2019)

4th Sunday of Easter Year C

Acts 13:14,43-52
Apocalypse 7:9,14-17
John 10:27-30

Theme of the week: In the face of persecution, let us hold steadfast to our faith, and subject ourselves to the care of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

In the previous week’s Scripture, we heard how Peter and the disciples were persecuted, flogged, and ordered by the chief priest to stop proclaiming their faith. In this week’s Fist Reading, Paul and Barnabas encountered a similar fate. As Paul and Barnabas became more popular, they drew the jealousy of the Jews (verse 45). The Jews then incited the authority to stir up persecution against Paul and Barnabas (verse 50). In disgust, and as command by the Lord in Mt 10:14, Paul and Barnabas “shook the dust off their feet in protest against them” and left (verse 51).

When we work and speak in the Lord’s name, persecution is inevitable. The type of persecution Peter and the disciples suffered in the previous week’s text is the type most likely to originate from outside the faith community. In contrast, being persecuted out of jealousy, as faced by Paul and Barnabas in this week’s text, is most likely the type of persecution we face from within the faith community. This is the type of persecution that is most hurtful indeed. My brothers and sisters, let us take a moment to look deep in our hearts and reflect on our own lives. Ask ourselves this question: Have I persecuted others in my faith community out of jealousy? May be it was the time when I grew jealous when I am being outshone by others. Or may be it was the time when I am not getting the attention my work deserves. If so, have I in fact being a source of division in my community? Contrary to true spirit of ministry work, have I in fact been rejecting God through what I say and do?

The Second Reading describes a scene in heaven where a large number of martyrs, having died for their faith, gather around the throne of the Jesus. The martyrs are dressed in white (signifying purity) and held palms in their hands (signifying triumph). At this sight, we recall the scene of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem in Jn 12:12-15. As a continuation of the previous week’s message and an extension of the First Reading’s message of rejection, this scene reminds us that sufferings and rejection in this earthly life are only temporary. Disciples like Paul and Barnabas recognised this and preached without fear – and in so doing often putting themselves in harm’s way. These, and countless martyrs through our Church history, understood that it is better to hold steadfast to one’s faith, suffer in this life and enjoy eternal glory; than to reject God in this life and suffer eternal damnation.

In the Gospel, Jesus uses the imagery of sheep farming, an imagery familiar to his audience, to describe the Kingdom of God. One of the greatest fears of being a sheep must have been the fear of being devoured and eaten by the wolf! In the context of salvation, we are the sheep and Satan is the wolf. Thankfully, we have Jesus as our Good Shepherd, who assures us that under His care, no one will snatch us out of his hand (verse 28). How reassuring! To receive His protection, we need to stay in the pan and subject ourselves to Him. Alas, that is not what we always do. Sometimes, we are lured from the safety of Jesus’ care to seek out ungodly pursuits – be it jealousy, greed or other evil intention. By simply being a member of a faith community does not confer us the right to salvation. The Saints and martyrs lived their lives as great examples for us, showing us that faith needs to be actively lived. Let us follow the examples of these great men and women. Amen.

 



Weekly Reflection (5 May 2019)

3rd Sunday of Easter Year C

Acts 5:27-32,40-41
Apocalypse 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

Theme of the week: Obey God rather than any human authority. And if you are persecuted for your faith, then rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.

Have you been persecuted for doing what is right? Have you been persecuted for speaking in the name of Jesus?

In the First Reading, reminiscent of what is to come in the years ahead, the early Christians were persecuted for preaching the name of Jesus. We hear of how the high priest had the disciples flogged and then ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus (verse 40). However, rather than succumbing to pressure of the authority, the disciples “rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name” (verse 41). In spite of them being persecuted, the attitude of the disciples is perhaps best summed up by Peter when he boldly declared, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (verse 29).

My dear brothers and sisters, in this present age, we too face persecution – in our secular society, in our workplaces and perhaps even within our Christian communities, where we are constantly pressured to keep quiet; to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Faced with many accepted norms of our secular society that go against our Christian beliefs, what is our stand? Should we succumb to the so-called social norm, or should we, like Peter, boldly declare that obedience to God supersedes obedience to human? And if we should suffer for the righteous stand we take, do we rejoice rather than complain? As 18th Century British philosopher and politician Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” Think about this for a moment: in the light of the examples set by Jesus and the early disciples, should “doing nothing” even be an option for us at all?

The Second Reading paints a heavenly vision of all creatures and angels gathering around the throne of God, worshiping and glorifying Jesus. This vision is in direct contrast to that of the First Reading. In this heavenly vision, praises were universal and there is no fear of persecution. If we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus on earth (as Jesus predicted we would in Luke 21:12), this vision puts everything into context. Compared to eternity, our life on earth is but a fleeting moment. As such, isn’t it better to be obedient to God in this life and be at peace for eternity; than to be obedient to human in this life and suffer eternal damnation?

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mt 5:11-12).

The Gospel recalled the post-resurrection story of Jesus appearing by the Sea of Tiberias. The event reminded us of Jesus’ calling of his first disciples in Luke 5. Through the fruitless labour of the apostles (they caught no fish), we are reminded that without God, we human can achieve nothing. With the Lord’s help, however, the apostles caught a huge haul of fishes, a stark reminder to the apostles of their mission as “people catcher” (Luke 5:10). The amazing thing is, in spite of the large haul, the net did not break. Hence, what seems improbable in human terms is easily achieved with God’s help. Hence, do not lament your lack of ability – God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. In responding to God’s mission to us to evangelise and to stand firm in our beliefs, let us not lament that we are not strong enough, not eloquent enough or not smart enough. For when we answer to God’s call, He will provide us the means.

Toward the end of the Gospel passage, Jesus asked Peter “do you love me” – not once but three times (verse 15, 16, 17). Peter three affirmative answers stand in stark contrast to his three denial of Jesus at the temple. This is an amazing transformation for Peter, from one too timid to admit his association with Jesus to one that would eventually be martyred for his faith, as he obeyed God rather than any human authority. In the Gospel, Jesus then asked Peter to take care of His sheep and His lamb – giving Peter the authority to be our earthly shepherd. As the First Pope of the Catholic Church, Peter passed on this authority through a unbroken chain of successors to our present Pope, as the Pope acts as the earthly shepherd of God’s people.

 



Weekly Reflection (28 Apr 2019)

2nd Sunday of Easter Year C

Acts 5:12-16
Apocalypse 1:9-13,17-19
John 20:19-31

Theme of the week: Now resurrected, Christ brings forth his grace to us through his Sacraments, administered to us through earthly intermediaries.

The First Reading paints the picture of an early Christian community, with Peter as its first leader. It is a model community that we should emulate – they met regularly; were unafraid to proclaim their beliefs; and were growing in numbers. As they cured the sick and cleansed those possessed by unclean spirits, they carried out the mission of a Christian community in bringing goodness to the world. These acts of healing were an early form of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In this Sacrament, as in all other Sacraments, the grace of God is administered through the hands of earthly intermediaries, such as in some cases, through Peter’s shadow (verse 15).

The Second Reading marks the beginning of the Book of Revelation, in which John had a vision. In the vision, he came face to face with the risen Christ, who was referred to as “one like the Son of Man” (verse 13). The use of the same phrase as Dan 7:13 to refer to Jesus is not coincidental. Rather, it draws our attention to John’s vision coinciding with that of Daniel from the Old Testament: Jesus is the Eternal King of the living and the dead (verse 17-18, Dan 7:14). In the passage, Jesus comforted John (“Do not be afraid” – verse 17); and proclaimed to him “I am the first and the last” (verse 17). Jesus was there when the world was created (John 1:1-3) and will be there to raise us up on the last day (John 6:40). He was dead but is now alive – he has conquered death. Having conquered death, He holds “the keys of Death and of Hades” (verse 18). And this is Good News for all of us: through Jesus’ work of redemption, we now enjoy everlasting life with Him.

The Gospel passage tells the story of Jesus’ appearance to the Apostles after His Resurrection. Through these encounters, Our Lord conferred graces upon his followers:

  • Jesus’ first greeting to the disciples was “Peace be with you” (verse 19). The resurrected Christ brings us true peace, a peace that only God can give.
  • Jesus endowed the disciples with the Holy Spirit, which was brought forth dramatically subsequently on Pentecost Day.
  • Jesus gave the disciples the authority to forgive sin, an authority exercised today by the priests through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As with the Anointing of the Sick in the First Reading, we witness the grace of God administered through the hands of earthly intermediaries.
  • In the episode of “doubting Thomas”, the Lord’s last words to Thomas were “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (verse 29). This is a stark reminder to us that the essence of true faith is to believe without needing proofs. (See also Hebrew 11:1-3)

Our Lord has conquered death and conferred to us grace through his Sacraments. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (verse 29). Doubt no more, praise be to God, for He has risen!