Monday, March 30, 2020

There are some things in life that are just not shareable

There is a familiar story that we come across in the gospel of Matthew (25:1-13) where Jesus speaks about the ten bridesmaids or virgins, and we are told that five of them were wise, and five of them were foolish.  All were waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, and all grew sleepy and tired, but when the bridegroom and his entourage arrived (presumably after midnight), all ten were awoken, but the five who were wise had brought with them extra oil and began to trim their lamps.  An interesting development then arose where the five who were foolish and did not have any extra flasks of oil with them asked those who had extra oil to help them out.  They responded that they could not share their oil, and when the bridegroom’s entourage came, the door was opened and those who had oil in their lamps went in with the bridegroom, and those who had no oil were left outside and the doors were shut.  

Technically and logically, there is not much that is puzzling about this parable on the level of its literature.  The language is simple and direct, and there is a certain logic to it, with the one major unsettling thing being the seeming selfishness of the five bridesmaids who told the other five that they couldn’t share their oil, and had advised them to go to those who sell it and buy some for themselves. 

It does seem to be rather uncharitable on the part of those five with the extra oil, doesn’t it?  After all, doesn’t the Christian life put so much stress on the virtue of charity, and this includes the willingness to share what one has, especially with those who need it most?  Where is the heart of charity of those first five?  And they got to go into the banquet hall with the bridegroom!  Where is the justice in this parable?  Did someone forget to send them the memo?

We need to realize that oftentimes, parables are multilayered in their teaching point, and the analogues that are used in the parables are not often immediately deciphered for what they mean, and if one doesn’t break through the surface, one can sometimes end up hardly learning its important point.  The oil that needs to be shared is the crux of the matter here, and until we get a better grasp and appreciation of what this oil is, this parable will not sit well with us as Christian disciples.

At the very heart of the Christian life is the love that God has in his Trinitarian relationship of three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This never-ending, ever-giving and always emptying love is the reason why every Christian needs to have his or her heart more and more expanded and enlarged to imitate as much as he or she can, the pattern of this divine and dynamic love. 

It is the reason why the Christian practices and embraces forms of mortification and sacrifices, and endeavors to live lives of effortful humility.  When one is able to join all those dots, one then begins to see how imperative it is to not only worship and adore this trinity of divine persons, but also to have a relationship predicated on love and adoration as well.  And it’s not the kind of relationship that one has with one’s friend or pal that I’m referring to here.  That’s way too simplistic and disrespectful, which is why I often squirm a bit whenever I hear Christians saying that Jesus is their friend and that they relate to him on the level of a friend or a ‘buddy-ol’ pal’.  Jesus is way more than a mere friend.  He is certainly more than just a pal.  He is divine and he deserves much more than friendship that we often mess up with our earthly friends.  Yes, at the Last Supper, Jesus did say that he calls us friends, but that doesn’t give us any license to dispense with any reverence and adulation that befits the King of kings and the Lord of Lords.  

So what is this ‘oil’?  It is precisely the kind of reverential yet personal relationship that every Christian needs to have through effortful cultivation with God in and through the meandering route that is our life.  Oil that is bottled and material and which can be measured using a measuring cup is definitely shareable.  It can be portioned out, re-bottled and with some science, can even be synthesized where a synthetic form can be manufactured.  

But ‘oil’ that is essentially a relationship built on trust and devotion and one that is shown by giving one’s life over to God cannot be portioned out, measured out, cannot be re-bottled, and definitely cannot be synthetically produced.  There are just some things in life that cannot be shared and a relationship with God that is deep, mature and sacrificial in nature is one of them.  At best, the five bridesmaids who had the extra oil could only ask that the other five who lacked the extra oil go and ‘acquire’ it from those who sell it, if these purveyors exist at all.

Why was this such an important point that Jesus chose to use a parable to convey its truth?  In all likelihood, it is because the human person has a shared tendency (probably stemming from the original fall) for seeking quick fixes in life. Here he seems to allude to the fact that for the very pertinent and germane issues of life, there just are no quick fixes.  A lot of these require a process and it is going to be in the ‘sturm und drang’ of life that these are learnt, processed and acquired.  There is no instant ‘oil’.  It’s a bit like the reserves that a country has which has been squirreled away and invested when times were good, and can dip into them when times are dire and challenging.  Only in this case, these are our ‘spiritual’ reserves.

And this is where the doctrine of purgatory perfectly dovetails with the core teaching of this parable.  What is purgatory but a time of purification for the soul which, for probably a different million reasons, had such a small heart of love that was pure, unadulterated and unmixed for God – probably like the extra oil in those flasks of the wise virgins.  Purgatory is where one willingly allows the purification of the heart to take place, before one can eventually enter appropriately to be united with the bridegroom.

In this time of the coronavirus, a vast majority of people are living in lockdown or stay-at-home conditions.  Use this time advantageously and prudently to cultivate a more affective and personal relationship with God.  These efforts of yours will help to increase the ‘oil’ in our flasks.  

How do we start this?  Begin by making it real.  Say (whether it is in the silence of your heart, or really out loud as your pray) “Lord my God, you alone deserve all my love, praise and adoration, but in reality, I give you much less than I should.  I want to love you with all my heart, mind and soul, but my love for you is so little.  Help me to love you as I should.  With you grace, may I be able to love you for who you are, and not only for what you can do for me.  Purify my love until you can see the reflection of your face in my heart.”

Monday, March 23, 2020

Cherishing the word of God must not just be symbolic.

In my coming to 19 years in the priesthood, I have celebrated many funeral Masses for baptized Catholics.  In the Rite for Catholic Funerals, before the Mass begins, there are certain symbols that can be incorporated into the funeral Mass, and they pertain to the faith life of the deceased.  Some of these are either placed directly on the casket which is placed in front of the sanctuary of the church or chapel, whilst others are placed around or near the casket.  

The first is the funeral pall, which is a large white cloth symbolizing that the deceased was a baptized Catholic who was given the garment of salvation in baptism.  Two other symbols may be placed on the casket as well – a crucifix, and a bible or the Book of Gospels.  If these are used, there are words that the celebrant says, which accompany the action of the placement.  The words that accompany the placing of the bible are “in life, so-and-so (name of the deceased) cherished the Gospel of Christ. May Christ now greet him/her with these words of eternal life: Come, blessed of my Father!”

Every single word in the Liturgy has a purpose and a meaning.  No word or phrase in the liturgical rites of the Church is there for the sake of ornamentation or aesthetics.  This is mainly because in Liturgy, the work of man encounters the reality of God and his love.  Every word has deep meaning, and every phrase speaks of a reality that the words endeavor to convey.

Though placing these are options that may or may not be used, I have rarely seen a celebrant omitting them.  Maybe it is because the word ‘may’  is in fine print, many priests think that it is obligatory.  When I am not very sure of the how the deceased when alive was led by the Word of God, I find myself sometimes wondering if I should omit that part of the rite which isn’t mandatory, and I find it helpful to have a chat with the deceased’s family members to get a rough idea of how their loved one practiced the faith.

After all, the word ‘cherish’ is a word that is pregnant with meaning.  One shouldn’t use that word in any cavalier or casual way.  How one cherishes someone or something is conveyed by how one’s life has been filled with or filled by the thing or person one has cherished. You can tell if a husband has cherished his wife by the fact that when he was alive, he was always talking about her, thinking about her, and having his whole life revolve around her and her happiness.  You can tell that a person has cherished his grandchildren when he is often doting on them, spoiling them with treats and gifts, and doing what grandparents are wont to do simply because they love them to bits.  

To say in a public setting that someone who is in a casket in front of them that he/she has ‘cherished the Gospel of Christ’, symbolized by the placing of the Bible, which is the Word of God, needs to convey a similar reality.  This should mean that the deceased would have been known to have talked often about the person of Christ, been a great devotee of Christ, gave over his or her life to Christ and made Christ his or her ultimate standard in life, and was perhaps very familiar with the Word of God.  

Now I am not saying that I have not believed what I said at the liturgy when I celebrate the funeral Mass for someone whom I had never had the opportunity to encounter and know when he or she was alive. Of course I do hope that the words match the reality, and that in life, the deceased was known to truly cherish the Gospel of Christ.  

This blog reflection is not a criticism of those who had passed on before.  It is an encouragement to all Catholics who are still on this side of heaven, and to encourage them to live out their faith lives so that when the time comes for them to be in the casket at that point in the funeral Mass, that the words actually do convey the reality – that when the congregation at the Mass made up of their family and friends and relations hear that phrase spoken, that their hearts will swell in agreement that indeed, the deceased truly was someone who cherished Jesus – cherished his word, cherished his love, cherished his commandments, cherished his teachings, cherished his leadership and cherished the tremendous gift of his salvation in Christ.  Of course, it would be ideal that the person’s own life testimony was already so well known that there is no need for any further commentary (a.k.a. eulogy) made by anyone about the deceased’s life and that saying anything good about the one in the casket would be gilding the lily.  

We are in perilous and challenging times now as we live in the threat and danger of the COVID-19 contagion.  Many countries have closed their borders, severely restricted travel, and some are in serious lockdown.  In my 55 years of life, I have never seen anything so massively affected by something that cannot be seen by the naked eye.  We have witnessed devastation of land and lives by natural disasters and terrorist threats and from a safe distance, we have empathized and even done a small part to help to alleviate their plight.  The human race has a new common enemy which doesn’t allow for easy detection nor effective protection from.  

If there is a time that we need to hunker down and go deep into our faith to muster up the courage to face this threat to our existence with a supernatural strength, it is now.  If there is a time that we need to find our footing in life anew by being familiar with the holy Word of God in Sacred Scripture and as those words of the liturgy say, to ‘cherish’ the Word of God, it is now.  Especially for those of us who are in countries where we are finding ourselves given the gift of time to be in ‘lockdown’ mode, it is not the time to find ourselves ‘locked down’ in our faith.  There are many millions who have little or not access to the Sacraments, but no one should have no access to the word of God in Sacred Scripture. 

If you don’t know where to start reading the Word, start from the Gospels.  Establish a reading plan and better yet, do this with your family members and if you need additional resources to understand the word, go on-line to the plethora of material in the web that will help you to understand and apply the word to your lives.  And know this – that when you do that, and when the time comes for us to climb out of this crisis mode, your faith would have been fed and strengthened because you have allowed yourself to grow in your relationship with God through being familiar with his word.  You have really begun to cherish the Word by tapping on its endless supply of hope in times when hope seemed lacking to so many.

If the reality is that we are much more familiar with and are using our devices or computers much more than we are familiar with and are using our bibles, those words of the presiding minister at our funeral Mass about our cherishing the Word of God would ring rather hollow.  Those words are not "(name) cherished Netflix/Amazon Prime Video/video games in life...".  The words are about Scripture and how one has cherished and lived a relationship with God through God's word.  Make that a reality now, and it is never too late to start.

Then, when the time comes for us to be in that casket in our funeral Mass, the celebrating minister priest can with full confidence clearly declare that “in life, (insert your name here) cherished the word of God.  May Christ now greet him with these words of eternal life – come, blessed of my Father!”

Monday, March 16, 2020

Lent – a period most timely for forgiveness.

Everybody goes through Lent differently.  Of course, the Church has always recommended the "big three"  - prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and I am not suggesting that one should ignore them or take them lightly.  But what we can easily miss is that these three Lenten practices are meant to expand our hearts so that our love for God and for one another becomes purified.  This can be missed, causing us to just ‘go through the motions’ of Lent, and leave our hearts unchanged when Easter comes 40 days later.

One of the hardest things to do, whether in Lent or out of Lent, is forgiveness.  If we are honest with ourselves, it’s much harder and way more effortful than prayer, fasting or almsgiving.  But because true forgiveness requires of us to really enter into the pain and sorrow of an injured past, that journey inward has a difficulty rating that far surpasses the ‘big three’.  I am not referring of course, to forgiveness of some small mistake or oversight by people who are the ‘small players’ in life.  Forgiving these people hardly requires us to go deep and is no ‘skin off one’s nose’, as the saying goes.

What I am referring to are those pains and injuries that have caused us to harbour grudges and those memories which are so vivid that they give us heartburn when we open those doors to our past hurts, doors which somehow never get fully shut and are always left ajar no matter how hard we may try to slam them close.

These ‘pains and injuries’ may not even be people.  They may be situations of tragedy, disaster and/or catastrophe.  Forgiveness in these cases involves much more of a letting go, which can only come from our side, because we are the ones who are holding on to them.  And some of us are holding on to them with a death-like grip.

As far as people are concerned, there could be a million reasons why we could be withholding forgiveness from them.  Sometimes, in a very unhealthy way, the kind of grudges and anger that a person can have against his antagonist can be like a trophy which is not only placed in a special display case in the living room of one’s heart, but is often also taken out and polished and shined so that the anger and pain is kept gleaming like the top of the Chrysler building in New York City.  You know this to be true, especially when you take special delight in rehashing the story and bringing out its delicious details of how that person had caused you so much hurt that there is now a hole in your heart that is deeper than the Mariana Trench.

How does one forgive?  The problem with so many people isn’t that they have unforgiveness.  This is such a common occurrence.  In fact, it’s much rarer to find people who don’t have issues or persons whom they need to forgive than to find people who have them.  The big question is how?  Unfortunately, it's an art-form that isn't well taught and if it is, one of the most futile and ineffective ways of forgiveness is to base it on forgetting the incident.  It's not effective at all, because the heart has a memory storehouse that also has a refusal to forget.  Hence, if forgetting is a hallmark of forgiveness, then all people who have really forgiven those who had hurt them should be walking around with serious dementia.

I have discovered that one of the questions that we need to ask ourselves when struggling with forgiveness is to ask what is it that we are waiting for to happen before we forgive.  It may seem to be a strange question, but it needs explanation.

Very often, people who are hurting are really waiting for something to be undone, for someone to say something (examples are “I’m sorry”, or “I admit that I’m wrong”, or “I was really such a dumb fool at that time”, or “I was really selfish and I regret doing that”, etc), or even waiting for something that was cherished but was damaged or broken to be repaired first and some recompense given (and this could be something material, or even a relationship like a friendship or a marriage).  I’ve even heard of relatives who have harboured grudges that have lasted decades because aunt so-and-so did not invite her cousin or nephew to the wedding dinner of her child.  I’m not trivializing these issues at all in giving them as examples, but I am trying to make you, my reader, able to connect and relate with this very important topic of forgiveness.

Articulating this is a very important step in forgiveness.  If you gloss over it, your forgiveness will not only be small, but you would prevent the peace that you want in your heart to happen from taking place.  We need to be absolutely clear about WHAT IT IS THAT WE ARE WAITING FOR to happen before we forgive.

When we are clear, the next thing we need to do is to ask the next very important question – is our forgiveness going to mean anything FOR OUR SOUL once whatever we are waiting for to happen actually takes place?  My point is this – if you are completely convinced that your heart will be healed and that you will be in peace once that hoped for ‘thing’ happens - when you actually hear that apology that took years or decades to be uttered, or the damage to be repaired, and then you extend the forgiveness which you had been holding back all these years as some form of revenge, the forgiveness you extend will hardly merit your soul earn you any graces.  In fact, your forgiveness that you extend at that point will have no value at all in God's eyes.  Like those Pharisees who prayed at street corners to win mens' admiration, Jesus says "they have had their reward".  

You see, forgiveness is very much like a band-aid (or medical plaster, in Singapore English) that one places on a wound, or chemotherapy that is used to treat and kill cancer tumors. If a wound that has healed over has absolutely no need of a medical plaster applied to it, like the way a cancer-free patient has no need of any chemotherapy, in an analogous way, neither does a wounded memory or past that has been addressed by one’s hoped for word or action need forgiveness.  Forgiveness at that point is not only unnecessary, but has hardly any value anymore.

God wants us to extend forgiveness when the wound is raw and bleeding, when the memory hurts and when the heart is broken.  Why? Because that is the time when a lot of effort is needed to forgive.  Too many people are waiting for there to be no more reason to forgive before they forgive, and that misses the point of forgiveness altogether.

We need to remember that the model of forgiveness for every person is Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. When he died for all of humanity, there was not a single sorry that was said first, he did not wait for a broken promise to be mended, he did not only die after a recompense of any form was made. He extended forgiveness despite not getting anything because Jesus needed to put the balm of salvation on the open and bleeding wound over all of humanity.  Heaven knows that if he were to wait for humanity to be sorry for its sins before dying on the Cross, he would still be there waiting to die. More to it, the Cross would not have the redemptive power that it has now.  

There is a reason Jesus said that forgiveness is something that needs to be given not seven but seventy times seven times.  He knows that we human beings have a tendency to hold on to hurting memories for whatever reason.  Forgiveness is hardly ever a one-time act, because our memories are vivid and active. Those painful memories seem to have a life of their own.  Like the Mogwai who, when the conditions are right, not only proliferate but turn into nasty and evil Gremlins in the movie of the same name, these memories of hurt that we harbour also have a tendency to proliferate and fester and cause us to become nasty when the conditions are right.  We may need to forgive the same hurt with effort each time the memory strikes at the heart and re-opens the wounded past, and make sure that those conditions don't allow us to harden our hearts.

Lent is a very good time to do this without waiting for that ‘thing’ to happen before we extend forgiveness. Please don't say "oh Father, it is easier said than done".  You are stating the obvious.  It's your knee-jerk reaction to say this.  I have never said it is easy.  Neither was Jesus going to the Cross a walk in the park.  Don't give yourself excuses and a pass from doing this just because it is difficult.  If it is easy, it's hardly meritorious for our souls.  Our love for our enemies needs to be effortful in order for it to be meritorious for our souls.  

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Homily for 3rd Sunday in Lent

As the Masses in Singapore are still suspended till further notice, here is a recording of this Sunday’s homily (3rd Sunday in Lent).  God bless you.

Fr Luke

Monday, March 9, 2020

What does faith really look like?

Faith is a word that many people use without much thought given to what it really means.  For many, it is more of a concept or an idea, and as such, it has a certain invisibility about it.  As a result, to have faith is then a bit like having some form of ‘force-field’ where one has a spiritual Wi-Fi connection with God.  The more one has faith, the more bars one has on one’s spiritual Wi-Fi connection display.

Does faith have an external display in life though?  Is faith something that has a visibility on the outside of one’s heart and soul? Some would say that a person who physically shows up in a place of worship and performs the requisite drills of gestures and rote phrases like “Amen” and “And with your spirit” is displaying faith on some level.  In some ways, it isn’t completely wrong to say that these can be evidence that someone has faith, but everyone knows that just mimicking gestures and mouthing phrases that one can repeat without much effort may just be a revelation that one is good at doing those two things well – mimicking and mouthing phrases.  When I look out at my congregation at Mass in front of me, and I see before me a few hundred people who seem to “know the drill” without question, I do see a public manifestation of some incipient faith through their physical bodily motions and response to prayers.  But in truth, just looking at this alone tells nothing much about the individual, partly because these things require very little from the individual. That is because actions can be done or performed perfunctorily or passively, where one’s heart can be absent from the motions themselves.

Of course, it isn’t my place or duty to make any judgments on what is going on in the peoples’ hearts and minds. God only knows the million and one things that can be assuaging each individual’s conscience at any given time, whether it is during Mass or outside of it.  Faith is definitely more than what one sees on the outside.  Yet, I believe that each person can and should be clear that there is a certain gauge which one ought to check in regularly to see how healthy or unhealthy one’s faith life is.  We do this (or at least should be doing this) with our physical health by getting our blood pressure, sugar levels and even cancer-markers tested. Every Christian has a similar obligation to do this for our spiritual health.  But what is the marker?  What is the standard to meet?

It came to me while I was meditating on the first reading from this Sunday’s Mass readings (2ndSunday of Lent) where in the first reading from the book of Genesis, we see how Abram displayed his faith so clearly.  He is called the “Father of faith”, and for good reason.  He put aside his fear, his uncertainty, and his own self, to allow God to have his way with him and his life.  

Ultimately, that is what the contour of our faith life needs to display as well.  I often say that we begin to live the high bar of the Christian life when we live with the axiom that ‘our life is not about us’.  

I wonder whether the people who hear me saying this are hearing this – put yourself and your dreams and your ideals down, and don’t have any aims in life, and just sit in the corner and just wait for God to reveal in some big and dramatic way what direction your life should take.  I am not saying this at all.  We are not lemmings who have no will of our own and just follow what is leading in front of us. To be sure, very very few people in life have that kind of supernatural revelation of God’s plan for them in the specific way that Abram had.  Scripture scholars would not be in total agreement with how God’s plan was revealed to Abram, because it isn’t even clear whether it was an inner locution, or some external theophany that was given to Abram.  But what is crystal clear is that Abram put aside all that gave him security, all that gave him comfort, and all that gave him some sense of familiarity, just so that he could be obedient to the deepest stirrings of his heart.

Living a life of faith has a lot to do with living a life of grace.  And what does a life of grace look like?  It is when one has allowed very little room for sin to grow and sit stubbornly in one’s heart.  After all, sin is not just doing bad things, but wanting to do what we want, when we want, especially when we know that it ultimately hurts and injures our relationship with God and with our fellow man and woman.  Sin happens when we only listen to the wants and needs of our ego.

To live a life of faith necessarily means that even though my choice for sin looks attractive, comfortable, desirable and enticing, I want to make a choice against it, mainly because I believe that my life will be one a much more joyful plane when I say no to those temptations, delightful though they may be.  I have an ultimate delight in my God that trumps many times over the delight that sin may give me, and I know this to be a fact because each time I say yes to sin, I always end up knowing that I made a very stupid, selfish and self-centered choice.  Abram must have intuited all this (probably not in such a graphic way), and it earned him the accolade of being the father of faith.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Audio recording of a homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

Dear readers, 

This is an audio recording of the homily of the Mass of the 2nd Sunday of Lent.  (please click on the link below the image)

As the suspension of public celebration of Masses will be lifted from next Sunday onwards, this will be the last podcast of my homilies.  I hope the past podcasts of the previous weeks have helped in your prayer and reflection when the Masses were suspended.  

God bless

Fr Luke

Monday, March 2, 2020

Sometimes we really are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. In those moments, it is crucial that we entrust the process and the end result to faith that requires a certain degree of levity.

In all clear cut situations, it is relatively easy to make the right decisions and the correct paths to take in life.  The writer of the Book of Deuteronomy shows this so vividly when we are told “… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life”.  Everyone, to a man, would in every clear-cut situation want to choose life.  These either/or choices may be clear, but if we are frank and honest, most of life’s decisions and choices are not so clear, not so black or white, not so ‘life or death’.  They often lie in the ‘grey’ area, where the end result could go either way. 

One clear and very relatable example of this is when the chief shepherd of our Archdiocese of Singapore Bishop William Goh made the decision to have all public Masses suspended on 13 February, in order to prevent our large gatherings in the 31 parishes across the island from becoming clusters where the coronavirus could become sources of uncontainable spreading and further infestation.  Although many Catholics in Singapore lauded the Bishop for making this decision, there were some (and there always will be) who not only believed that he did the wrong thing, but to also then accuse him of being a man who had very little faith in God.  Some of the vitriol hurled at him was far less charitable and courteous.  This is thus a very clear example where the end result is one that is ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t’.

What do we do when we are faced with such a situation in life?  When there is a lot of time to prepare for the decision before coming to making it, one has the ‘luxury’ of taking it to prayer and seeking light and wisdom from God, perhaps even seeking some counsel from others, and to see if our ponderings are in line with God’s divine will.  But what if something comes along rather unexpectedly and catches us off-guard? What if the event or situation is a ‘black swan’ – a term given to mean an event that is unpredictable and beyond the expectation of anyone, with its consequences being notably severe and serious? Sometimes these situations catch us off-guard and leave us with only one foot on the ground, if at all.

It is in those times that our faith in God is about the only thing we can depend on and cling to.  But how does this faith look like?  Just saying that we need to have faith can sound a bit cheap and platitudinous, akin to how a well-meaning nanny would stroke the tresses of a frantically wailing child under her care and say “now now, it will all be better”. And if that is so, it not only doesn’t help, but can be something that is rather condescending as well.

But what marks a person of faith can be detected in the way that we allow things to happen,even when they go a bit awry, and letting this happen sometimes even requires of us to not take things too seriously.  

I know it seems like I am advocating a certain cavalier attitude towards everything and treat even serious things like a joke.  I am not at all advocating this.  But I am saying that real faith is what equips us to handle and to face whatever travesties and tragedies that life can present to us, and to not treat it as if it is the end of the world.  Faith is the power that enables us to not be overcome by the unexpected ways that life can turn out, simply because faith assures us that no matter what may happen to us in life, no matter how anxious things may seem, no matter how ‘damned-if-you-do, and damned-if-you-don’t’ things are, they can never rob us of the promised eternal joy that awaits us after we die.  This should be the difference between the way a person of faith handles such situations versus the way a person without faith in God would handle it.  

As the coronavirus situation spreads its ominous tentacles across the globe right now, it is evident that the stock market is going into a nosedive.  If the fear and anxiety in you is predominantlycaused by the bleeding situation of the stock market and share prices, it only reveals one thing – that this is your god, and this god is way more influential and powerful in your life than the God of Jesus Christ.  But our ‘god’ may not be something to do with finance or economics.  It could take the form of our family, our loved ones, or our health.  It may sound harsh, but the evidence is plain for all to see.  Putting our eggs in the correct basket of life doesn’t seem to be an important thing until we see how fragile and flimsy the basket is in times of volatility and turbulence.  Understanding this, it should bring us to a new appreciation of Jesus’ instruction that the most important commandment is ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind’.  Being able to do this gives us a blessed assurance.

Having this kind of assurance is gold in those times when there are unexplainable loose ends no matter how neatly and precisely we have cut the cloth.  Having this kind of faith is what gives us the confidence to not have a meltdown in any crisis situation because our faith is not so much in the confidence that God will make things better, but that even if things don’t become better, God is still ultimately in control, and God’s will is being done.  

But of course, what undergirds all this has to be that each day we have been training ourselves to be in communication with this God in whose hands is everything, because nothing can happen if he isn’t allowing it to.  It means that we have to have been constant and consistent in our prayer life, and have established a lasting and solid rapport with God, and not only love God, but also are assured again and again that this God loves us unconditionally.  

If we do not have that as our supporting foundation for our faith, we may be trying to smile while we are in the midst of a storm, but that smile is probably just a shallow fa├žade that doesn’t have a good reason for its existence, other than that we don’t want others to see our true face of panic and despair.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Audio recording of a homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent

As the suspension of all public Masses is still not lifted this weekend, to help Catholics to reflect on their own this is the audio recording of the homily for the Mass for the 1st Sunday of Lent.

Praying that all will stay safe and practice good hygiene,

Fr Luke