MASS SCHEDULES

Holy Thursday 1 April 2021
No morning Mass
6.00 pm
8.00 pm

Good Friday – 2 April 2021
10.00 am
1.00 pm
3.00 pm

Holy Saturday – 3 April 2021
Easter Vigil – 7.00 pm

Easter Sunday (Usual Sunday Mass Times)
6.45 am
9.45 am
11.30 am
5.30 pm

Masses are capped at 250 attendees for Masses.  Kindly book your Mass online at myCatholic.sg.  Admission is strictly by advance booking. Please bring your NRIC for verification and TraceTogether Token for check-in.

Monday to Friday:

  • 6.30 am
  • 6.00 pm

Saturday:

  • 6.30 am
  • 5.30 pm

Sunday:

  • 6.45 am
  • 9.45 am
  • 11.30 am
  • 5.30 pm

Public Holiday:

  • 9.00 am only
  • Sunday Mass – 10:00am
  • Weekday Mass – 12:00 noon

CatholicSG YouTube & CatholicSG Radio

10 April, 2021, Easter Saturday

April 10, 2021

INCREDULITY AND OBSTINACY


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:13-21PS 118:1,14-21MARK 16:9-15]

In the gospel, we read how slow the disciples of our Lord were in coming to believe in His resurrection, in spite of the fact that they had been walking with Him for three years, listening to Him and seeing Him performing so many miracles.  When Mary Magdalene told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He was alive, they did not believe her.  So, too, the two disciples who were on the way road to Emmaus and saw the Lord. They “went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.”  Finally, we read that the Lord appeared to the Eleven and “reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”

Why were the disciples reluctant to believe in the resurrection of their master when the Lord had been forewarning them and hinting to them about His passion and resurrection?  They were overcome with grief.  When we are overwhelmed with our loss in life, especially our loved ones, we are not able to go beyond our grief.  Having been deprived of our loved ones, we do not want to go through the whole process of grieving again.  Isn’t it true that there are some dog lovers who, when their pets die, do not want to have another dog again because they do not want to go through the long bereavement process again?  Also true for those of us who have suffered infidelity and abuses in relationships.  We dare not start another relationship for fear of being betrayed again.

Now if the disciples who had walked with the Lord for the last three years themselves were incredulous and cynical in believing the good news of the resurrection of our Lord, what can we expect from those who had no personal knowledge of Him?  Surely, they would have been even more skeptical and disbelieving!  Why?  Firstly, it went against their doctrine regarding the resurrection of the dead, especially those who belonged to the Sadducees section of the Sanhedrin.  Even for the Pharisees, their faith in the resurrection was only at the end of time.  Secondly, they were responsible for executing Jesus, calling Him a fraud, a religious deviant and a political rebel.  How could the apostles now proclaim that the man was healed in the power of His name?   They would lose credibility and most of all, the ramifications would be consequential.  They would lose their status quo and their religious institutions would be under threat.  They had simply too much to lose.  Hence, they had to insist that they were right in ordering Jesus to be put to death.  He was a criminal, a blasphemer and a false Messiah!  Surely such a man could not have been raised by God from the dead!

However, once they saw the Lord, their whole perspective changed.  Encountering the Risen Lord results in a sense of mission.  Jesus told the Eleven, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”  And that was what they did.  In the first reading, when the Sanhedrin “called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.” Truly, if we had seen and heard something so wonderful as this, we too would not be able to stop proclaiming.  The lack of the zeal to evangelize and talk about Jesus belies our claims that Jesus is Lord and our Saviour.  How can we compromise our faith in Jesus as the Lord and unique Savior of the world if we had truly encountered Him as the Risen Lord!  

But perhaps, we have not!  Indeed, how many of us can really say we have seen the Lord? In truth, an encounter with the Risen Lord was something confined to the apostolic witnesses.  As St Paul wrote, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”  (1 Cor 15:3-8) Hence, not everyone saw the Risen Lord.  This is because He could only be seen by those who had faith.

For us all, just like the Sanhedrin, can we excuse ourselves for not believing since we had no direct encounter with the Risen Lord?  The truth is that for us, the way we encounter the Risen Lord is by believing in the testimonies of those who had seen Him.  The end of today’s gospel is a reminder that Jesus reproached His disciples for refusing “to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  This was the case of St Thomas who refused to believe the testimony of the rest of the apostles that they had seen the Lord.  So the obstinacy of not believing in the testimonies of those who had seen the Lord leads to a greater obstinacy of not believing in the resurrection of our Lord.

How, then, do we surrender in belief to the testimonies of those who had seen the Lord? Firstly, through their transformed life.  Even though the Sanhedrin did not have any personal contact with our Lord, yet they could see for themselves the effects of those who were His disciples.  In the first reading, St Luke noted, “The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus.”  The apostles were fishermen and they were not rabbis but they spoke with authority, conviction and passion, without fear of being physically punished or fear of the religious authority.  What changed them was that they were associates of Jesus and they had encountered the Risen Lord.  Otherwise, how do we explain the sudden reversal of their cowardice in the face of their master’s arrest and now standing before them proclaiming His resurrection?

Secondly, they could see the healing miracle before them.  “When they saw the man, who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer.”  There was no way to dispute that the man was not healed.  They themselves were aware of this reality.  “It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  They were not interested in discussing how the man could have been healed by Jesus whom they condemned to death.  Their minds were already made up.  They were stubborn.   They were not ready to objectively study the phenomenon they had witnessed and the basis of the claims of the apostles.  Instead, they sought to silence the truth of the matter.  Since it would have been political suicide to imprison the men because the crowd had seen the miracle, they them warned not to speak about the name of Jesus.  “The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.”

We who have not seen the Lord personally, certainly would have heard of the many beautiful testimonies when people encountered the Risen Lord in prayer, worship or in miracles, especially of healings.  Indeed, there are many testimonies of radically changed lives of those who have encountered the love and mercy of God.  Many who were skeptical of God and His gifts now believe in Him.  From a worldly life, many live as true disciples of our Lord, serving Him in Church and witnessing His love to their friends.   Some of us have experienced the power of God in our own lives, when we received the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy, the gift of healing, etc.   Many of us can feel His presence and His divine assistance in our daily life, guiding us to make right decisions and giving us the courage to continue to do the right thing in spite of the many oppositions we meet each day.  When we feel discouraged and helpless, the Lord comes into our lives, sending us His messengers and angels to comfort us, strengthen us and give us the strength to continue.   Indeed, these are the means by which we too encounter the Risen Lord today.  Let us not be obstinate anymore!


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.

09 April, 2021, Easter Friday

April 9, 2021

FINDING ENCOURAGEMENT IN MISSION AND MINISTRY


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 4:1-12PS 118:1-2,4,22-27JOHN 21:1-14 ]

We can imagine how Peter and John must have felt after healing the crippled man.  They saw the power of God at work in their lives through Jesus.  But for “an act of kindness to a cripple”, they were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin who felt threatened by their teaching on the resurrection, particularly of someone whom they had just condemned to death.  The Chief priests and the Sadducees did not accept the doctrine of the resurrection as it was not found in the Torah but in the oral traditions of their fathers, which the Pharisees accepted. In spite of being interrogated, they were not ready to give in to the obstacles placed by the authorities of doing good in the name of Jesus.

Unlike the apostles, many of us give up easily in witnessing for Christ or serving Him when we are opposed and challenged.  This is true for priests and religious even.  We are disillusioned that for the sacrifices we make, the good we do freely and generously without counting the cost, we are met with persecution from without, and from within, jealousy, competition, betrayal and slander because of politicking and the desire for recognition and power.  In many situations, our lay volunteers would just step down and resign, wipe the dust off their feet and move on to serve in other religious and charitable organizations.  For priests, they would retreat and just do the minimum, and give up their zeal in serving the Lord and His people.

But sometimes we give up our mission and ministry because of the mistakes and follies we committed.  We feel sinful, guilty and inadequate to continue.  We cannot forgive ourselves and feel unworthy to continue serving God.  This was the case of Peter.  He had betrayed the Lord when He was arrested, denying Him three times before the Chief priest’s servants.  He was utterly ashamed of himself.  When the Lord turned and looked at Peter, he remembered the words of the Lord, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times”, and “he went out and wept bitterly.”  (Lk 22:61f) Since then, he could not forgive Himself and he was not too sure whether the Lord had forgiven Him for his betrayal, more so when he was appointed to be the leader of the Twelve.

Many of us cannot forgive ourselves for the mistakes we made, and the sins we committed.  The devil will remind us that we are no longer worthy to serve Him.  Just like the world today, when someone in office or anyone does something wrong, he or she is condemned by the social media, and his or her name will forever be sullied in the minds of the people.  Condemned, that person would never be given a chance to redeem himself or herself.  This is how the devil works in the world today, driving people who made mistakes to hell by causing them to be rejected by society and then falling into deep depression, and eventually suicide.

How, then, can we find the strength to resist persecution and opposition, and encouragement to deal with our own failures in leadership?  Like Peter, we must take time out by going to where we are most comfortable and do what we are good at doing.  That was what Peter did.  He told his close friends, “I’m going fishing.”  Indeed, this was what he was doing before he dropped the nets to follow Jesus.  Perhaps he felt unfit to be a disciple, much less a leader of the Twelve.  So going fishing would be the best option.  We too must do that as well.  We need to take a break and go to a quiet place to be with ourselves or to do things that will uplift us whilst we spend time thinking through our unsettled issues, fears and brokenness.

But what was also very significant was the response of his friends.  They replied, “We’ll come with you.”  In such moments as these, sometimes we need to bring our close friends along with us.  Such friends must not be too intrusive and over reaching.  Just sitting quietly by our side, feeling with us in our pain and struggles may be all that is needed.  At other times, we may need them to give us a listening ear, and offer some wise counsel at the opportune time.

When we withdraw from the world, the Lord will come to meet us.  Indeed, we must never think that the Lord is absent when we are down.  The Lord was watching Peter without him knowing of His presence, just as He watched Peter when he denied Him three times.  So even when it was night, as the gospel mentioned, Jesus was present with Peter.  For Peter, it was darkness and shame.   He could not see the Lord in his guilt and sorrow, just like Magdalene in her grief.  How true that when we are in pain, we often feel that the Lord is far away and that He does not care.  But in truth He does.  He is waiting for an occasion to reach out to us.

The gospel noted that when it was light, the Lord once again reached out to Peter.  “Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’”  By so doing, He reminded Peter of His mercy and love for Him when he was first called.  Repeating the same miracle when Peter could not find any catch even though he was an experienced fisherman, Peter’s memories returned.  But it was John who was able to recognize the Lord, exclaiming, “‘It is the Lord.’  At these words ‘It is the Lord,’ Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water.”  In jumping into the water, a symbol of being cleansed of his guilt and sin, he had the courage to return to Him.

“As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it.”  Jesus prepared a meal for the disciples.  Jesus then said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”  Having meals means fellowship.  So the act of calling them to have breakfast with Him was a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness.  More importantly, it was the beginning of healing for Peter because the fire of betrayal was healed by the fire of mercy.  By preparing breakfast over the charcoal fire, Jesus was healing the memory of Peter who denied Him three times at the charcoal fire that night.  Indeed, we need to overwrite our bad memories with positive memories.   By serving them bread and fish, Jesus was also reminding them of the Eucharist that He celebrated for them at the Last Supper.  This Eucharist, we call the “breaking of bread.”  The identity of Jesus was confirmed when they saw Him doing what He did when He multiplied bread for the 5000 and at the Last Supper.  The evangelist noted that “none of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?; they knew quite well that it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish.”

Recognizing His Lordship is the key to finding salvation, as what Peter and John said to the Sanhedrin. Recognizing His Lordship of course presupposes that we have faith in His resurrection.  The apostles reaffirmed that only because Jesus is alive and risen, that the miracle could have been performed.  They said in no uncertain terms, “It was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”  To recognize His Lordship means that we will submit to His Word in all things.  This was what the disciples did.  It is important to take note that Jesus commanded Peter to throw the net out to starboard and then to bring some of the fish they had just caught to Him.  They obeyed.  Obedience to the Lord is the key to finding salvation.  Indeed, the apostles later on would tell the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”  (Acts 5:29)


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.

08 April, 2021, Easter Thursday

April 8, 2021

CHRIST THE FULFILLMENT OF THE SCRIPTURES


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 3:11-26PS 8:2,5-9LK 24:35-48]

Emmanuel Kant wrote, “Experience without perception is blind.  Perception without experience is empty.”  In the case of the Jews during the time of Jesus and the primitive Church, they had the experience but they lacked the perception.  They had seen Jesus before He was crucified, healing the sick, casting out demons and performing miracles such as calming the storm and multiplying bread for the multitude.  Yet, many seeing the signs could still not perceive His true identity.  So too in today’s first reading when Peter healed the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.  They were amazed that the man was healed.  “Everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to them.”

St Peter took the occasion to explain to them that the healing happened all because of Christ.  “When Peter saw the people he addressed them, ‘Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness?” Peter made it clear that it was not him who healed the crippled man.  He denied any power or credit for the healing of the man.  He could heal only in the name of Jesus whom the Father had raised from the dead.   “It is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”  In Hebrew thinking, the “name” of a person signifies the power of the person.  Peter sought to help the Jews understand that Christ was the center of all that was happening.  The focus should not be on him nor on the healed cripple but on Christ.  God was using this event as a lesson to instruct them on the truth about Jesus, His person and identity.

Salvation is through Christ alone because He is the One appointed by God as the Messiah.  Peter described the role of Jesus using a cluster of significant titles from the Old Testament to show that Jesus was not someone that came from nowhere and then claimed to be the Savior of the world, like some cult leaders today.  Neither was Jesus known through some kind of esoteric knowledge, as in the New Age Movement today.  Jesus was the One predestined by God for the salvation of humanity since the beginning of time after the fall of Adam and Eve.  Indeed, it was important for the early Church to establish that Jesus was in continuity with the Old Testament and the scriptures and therefore with the salvific plan of God.

The Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ and given full meaning in Christ.  In the resurrection triptych, Luke the evangelist underscored how Jesus in His appearance would always instruct those who saw Him that His death and resurrection was part of God’s plan in fulfillment of the scriptures.  When the women were at the Tomb, the two men in dazzling clothes told the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  (Lk 24:5-7) Then at Emmaus, the Lord reprimanded the two disciples, “‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”  (Lk 24:25-27)

And today’s appearance to the Twelve was again followed by His reiteration of this fact of continuity and fulfilment of the scriptures.  “‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’”

That was what Peter and John did after healing the crippled man.  They took pains to enlighten the Jews about how Jesus was truly the fulfillment of the scriptures that they believed in.  He began by saying to them, “You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus.”  Indeed, they all believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God had promised that through Abraham, “in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  This promise is now fulfilled in Christ.   St Paul, writing to the Ephesians said, “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.”  (Eph 1:11f)

Jesus is also the fulfillment of the prophets as well.  Moses did say, “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people.”  (cf Dt 18:15-19) The prophet Samuel prophesied the everlasting reign of the Davidic dynasty.  “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”  Jesus, precisely, as the Son of David established His everlasting Kingdom by His death and resurrection.   Jesus is called the servant of God in reference to His role as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah where the servant was called to be the light of the nations and also the One who would carry the sins of His people in His body.  (cf Isa 42:1-953)

Jesus is also the fulfillment of the psalms when God raised Him from the dead, which Peter cited earlier on, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.” (Acts 2:25-32) Then His sufferings were also recorded in Psalm 22. His eternal kingship and divine sonship were hinted in Psalm 110:1 “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  Indeed, as the Lord said, “everything written about me, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.”

It was their ignorance of the scriptures that led them to kill the author of life.  “It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”  But Peter did not fault them as they did not know what they were doing, as judged by the Lord when He was being crucified. Rather, it was all foreseen in God’s plans.  “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing, this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that Christ would suffer.”

But now that they know the truth, how should they respond? “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets.”  What about us?  Are we convinced that the One we believe to be Lord and Savior is the One destined by God as confirmed by the scriptures? Indeed, our faith in Christ is well founded not just in continuity with the Old Testament but strengthened by His death and resurrection.  Truly, our faith is based not just in what the apostles testified about seeing the Risen Lord but also confirmed by the extension of Jesus’ healing works through them.  Faith in Christ is all that is required to find salvation.  We must strengthen our faith by reading the bible so that we can appreciate the beauty of God’s plan of salvation in Christ.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.

07 April, 2021, Easter Wednesday

April 7, 2021

RECOVERING OUR LOST HOPE


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 3:1-10PS 105:1-4,6-9LUKE 24:13-35]

Two disciples of our Lord who had lost hope in Jesus “were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened.”  They had gone through a shocking and scandalizing weekend.  How could “Jesus of Nazareth who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people” end up being handed over by their chief priests and leaders to the Romans who sentenced Him to death, and had Him crucified, they asked.  Indeed, it was deeply disappointing and a great disillusion.  They would have asked, “Where is God in all these?”

We too have gone through our own disillusionment in life.  We spend years looking after our children, putting them first in our lives and sacrificing all we have for them.  But now that they are grown up, are working and doing well in life, they have become ungrateful, uncaring and intolerant of us.  We feel that all our sacrifices have gone to waste.  Perhaps it could be that you have given your best, gone beyond your duty of service, and the organization you worked for all these years has betrayed you.  We feel so disillusioned that the organization has repaid our dedication and hard work with evil.

So, like the disciples, we are downcast, and like the man in today’s first reading, we are crippled by life’s events.  We feel that there is no more hope left.  This was why the disciples were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They had given up hope in Jesus and their dream of being freed from the Romans.  As they said, “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.”   We no longer have much to look forward to in life except just to exist each day, like the crippled man who had been in that condition for so long that he did not expect anything more than some money so that he could survive each day.  “When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us’. He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them.”  Indeed, when we have lost hope beyond mere existence, we are truly crippled.

Why did they lose hope in God and unable to recognize the Risen Lord in their lives?   Firstly, because their sufferings made them look inwards towards themselves.  They were downcast, wallowing in self-pity, licking their wounds.  Instead of looking up and outwards, they were looking down and inwards.  When we do that, we are not able to see where we are going and certainly unable to see far, beyond our disappointments, fears and challenges.  Too much self-introspection leads to depression, which cannot help us to move out.

Secondly, they had false expectations.  They had their own image of what our Lord was supposed to do.  They were hoping for a political liberation.  But what Jesus wanted was to give them the true liberation, which was freedom from sin and slavery to oneself.  When Jesus did not live up to their expectations, their hopes were dashed.   We too have our false expectations of how God should help us.  We make our demands on God, as if God is there to fulfill our will and petty ignorant requests.  We make God in our own image and when He fails to do what we want, we give up on Him.   Instead of allowing God to be God and the Lord of our lives, we want to control God!

Thirdly, they lived in confusion and doubt.  They had heard some astonishing reports that some women from their group “went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, came back to say, ‘they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive.’”  Some of their friends went to the tomb “and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.”  We, too, are skeptical of testimonies of people encountering God.  We do not believe in miracles.  We dismiss all those who have spoken of their encounter with God or those who claimed healing of their emotional and physical illnesses; and those times when the Lord came to their help by making the way possible for them through others.   When we are skeptical like the apostles, we will not be able to see the Risen Lord.

Fourthly, they were forgetful.  In their sorrow and grief, they forgot what the Lord had told them earlier and forewarned them of His passion and resurrection.  How true when tragedy strikes!  This is why many so-called good and devout Catholics give up on God when they meet misfortunes in their life.  Some might have even gone for theological studies or attend many scripture classes, but when trials come their way, they forget all that they had learnt or studied.  The truth is that just mere academic knowledge about Jesus cannot save us when things are not in our favour.  We need to encounter Him personally so that in times of trial, we can recall those events where we had met Him radically.  Without a personal encounter with Him, we cannot remember His love and mercy for us.

How, then, can we recover our lost hope in life and in God?   Firstly, we need to talk about our pains to our friends.  This is the first step.  Keeping our pains to ourselves will only cause us to be more depressed because we are imprisoned by our grief.  We must articulate them first, so that we feel that we are understood even if there is no real help.  Knowing that we are understood and that others are in solidarity with us in our pains and struggles gives us courage to take the next step, which is to find someone who can give us a different perspective of life, of God and of our sufferings.

The second step therefore involves seeking direction from a wise and holy man, and of course from our Lord Himself.  We must have the receptivity to invite such people into our lives.  If we are closed and push everyone out of our lives, no healing can take place.  The disciples welcomed Jesus who “came up and walked by their side.”  They did not reject sincere friendship and most of all, challenging questions that He asked, “What matters are you discussing as you walk along?”  They were ready to share.  Indeed, Jesus did give them a new perspective of looking at His passion and death. “Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?”

Thirdly, we must go back to the scriptures to remind us of God’s plan for humanity.  Our Lord, “starting with Moses and going through all the prophets… explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.”  We must always go back to the scriptures to find out God’s plan for us.  The scriptures would have to be fulfilled.  Reading, studying and praying the scriptures will help us to understand our sufferings and challenges in the context of God’s redemption for humanity.  We must pray the scriptures until, as the disciples said, “our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us”.

Fourthly, there is no better place to encounter the Lord than in the Eucharist, for there He is present to us sacramentally in the breaking of the bread and in our fellow brothers and sisters.  This is the privileged place to encounter the Risen Lord, so that we will find strength from Him and support from our brothers and sisters.  Indeed, it was at the breaking of bread that the eyes of the disciples were opened.  “Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him.”

Finally, when our vision and hope are restored, we must go back to our vision and share with everyone, this time with passion, enthusiasm and faith.  “They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” We too must go and share with our fellow Catholics and non-Catholics how we have encountered the Risen Lord in the scriptures, in the Eucharist and in our brothers and sisters.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.

06 April, 2021, Easter Tuesday

April 6, 2021

A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 2:36-41PS 32:4-5,18-20,22JN 20:11-18]

St Peter’s first sermon on the Feast of Pentecost took pains to illustrate “how Jesus a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him, then delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death.”  (Acts 2:22-24) The conclusion is that “The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”  Upon hearing these words, the Jews “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent.’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Indeed, the fact of having killed the Messiah out of ignorance and that God endorsed Him as Lord and Christ, repentance would be the right and sincere response to the truth revealed to them.  Repentance simply means a change of heart because of the realization that one has been wrong, not just with respect to the identity of Jesus, as for the Jews, but always wanting to live our way of life in defiance of the Word of God.  We want to continue to live a life of sin in contradiction to the life of truth and charity.

Repentance is always in response to the Word of God as heard when proclaimed.  Unless we open our minds and hearts to the Word of God, we will not be able to find repentance because our hearts would not be stricken.  The Jews in Jerusalem were receptive to the preaching of St Peter.  And as a consequence, their hearts were ready to receive the call to repentance, “they were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”

Repentance, of course, in its negative sense is to turn away from our sins and ignorance about God, but positively it calls for a turning towards God.  This is why the corollary of repentance is faith in God.  Turning towards God involves hearing God speaking to us in a personal way, as what happened to the Jews when they heard St Peter’s sermon.  They felt God was addressing them and they felt guilty of being accomplices to the killing of the Messiah.  They were grieved when their motivations, evil intentions and ignorance were exposed.  But because they were receptive, they repented and accepted forgiveness.

So, too, in a similar manner, Mary Magdalene in today’s gospel was oblivious to her attachment to the earthly Jesus before His resurrection.  Whilst it is true that she deeply loved the Lord, her love was not pure.  She was attached to our Lord in such a way that her love was self-centered.  It was about her losing her ability to see the Lord and touch Him as before His death.  Mary was still living in the past.  She was crying for herself, not so much for the Lord.  In other words, she was attached to the Lord for her sake rather than loving the Lord for Himself.  She was weeping for herself because she could no longer see the body of our Lord.  So preoccupied with her sorrows and grief was she that she was not able even to recognize the presence of the angels, or our Lord who was standing behind her.  When our love is not pure, our perception of Jesus, whilst better than those who do not recognize Him at all in their lives, will prevent us from growing in faith and deepening our relationship with Him.  This is the greatest danger of those who think that they know God well and have a deep faith in Him but are unwilling to be open and be receptive to new ways of relating with Him and the new approaches in meeting Him. This is particularly true for those who are steeped in their devotional practices and spirituality, believing that theirs is the only way to encounter God.

Similarly, like the Jews, only when she heard the Lord addressing her personally by name, did she come to recognize the presence of the Risen Lord.   In the final analysis, real conversion can only come about when we have a deep and personal encounter with the Lord.  When we come to meet Him personally, then all the different methods of prayer do not matter because they are but means to bring about a personal encounter with Him.  It is not a question of which devotion or spirituality is better but whether we are being led to experience Him deeply in our hearts and our minds.   One can claim to have the right liturgy, right worship and the right practices, but unless they lead us to a personal relationship with God, there will be no change of life, no increase of charity.

But if we are willing to let go of our prejudices and narrow and fixed mindsets, we can have a new relationship with the Lord beyond our expectations.  This was what the Lord said to Mary.  “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  Mary was assuming that in her relationship with Him, she could just continue on as before.  But Jesus made it clear that because of His resurrection, this relationship had to be transformed and move to a more transcendental dimension and not just remain earthly.  When the Lord forbade Mary to touch Him, He was telling her to stop how she used to relate to Him.  Mary needed assurance that Jesus would not leave her again.  She needed to touch the Lord to assure herself that the Lord was real and truly there.  However, Jesus invited her to go beyond just a tangible relationship with Him, and to a relationship with His Father in the Spirit. 

Having returned to the Father, Jesus is now able to lead us to a greater unity with the Father in the Holy Spirit.  His return to the Father means that we can now share His joy as well.  This explains why our Lord did not say to Mary, “I have risen from the dead” but that He was returning to the Father.  His Father had always been the reference point in all His teaching.  He is the way to the Father.  Returning to the Father after completing His mission on earth was His greatest joy.  (cf Jn 14:28) For His return would allow us to receive His Holy Spirit.  Our relationship with the Lord should ultimately lead to a Trinitarian relationship with God.  When Jesus returned to His Father, He made it possible for us to be united with Him as well because He sent us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and Himself.  In other words, because of our relationship with Jesus, we now know who the Father is, and His Father becomes ours and His God is ours as well.  It is our union with the Father through the Son in the Spirit that we will find our greatest happiness.

Clearly, this also means that by His death, resurrection and ascension, He founded a new community and a new family.  Jesus instructed Mary to tell the disciples, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  At the cross already, Jesus told Mary to take John as her Son and be the mother of the new family of God. (Jn 19:26f) At the cross when He was pierced by the spear of a soldier, blood and water flowed, (Jn 19:34) symbolizing the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, the way to enter into the Christian community and be a member of the family of God.  This was what Peter said to the Jews, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Because we have a common Father and a common brother in our Lord and are united with them in Spirit, Jesus called His disciples the first time as “brothers.”  He said to Mary, “But go and find the brothers, and tell them.”  We are no more just slaves or even friends of our Lord, but we are now His brothers and sisters.  This is the fulfillment of what our Lord taught earlier on when He praised Mary saying, “Here are my mother and my brethren!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  (Mt 12:49f) As a consequence, St Paul wrote, “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:14-17) This is our joy and our hope in the final analysis, to be with God in Christ Jesus through His Spirit.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.

05 April, 2021, Easter Monday

April 5, 2021

FACT OF BODILY RESURRECTION


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACT 2:1422-33MT 28:8-15]

The foundation of Christian Faith and Christian Hope is rooted in Christian belief in the bodily resurrection of our Lord.  Without the corporeal resurrection of our Lord, there is no justification for Christians to believe that Jesus is Lord and God, much less have faith in the resurrection of the body at the end of time.  These two corollary beliefs are tied to the reality of the bodily resurrection of our Lord.  This is why the early Church took pains to substantiate their faith in the bodily resurrection of our Lord after His tragic death on the cross.  Right from the start of the early Church, and in later times, including the modern rationalistic skeptical generation, the bodily resurrection of Christ has been disputed and challenged.  How, then, do we give an answer to those who challenge our faith in the bodily resurrection of our Lord?

Firstly, we must dismiss the hypothesis that the disciples were visionaries and therefore hallucinated the appearances of our Lord.  Nothing is further from this truth.  No one in the early Church accused the early disciples of hallucinating.  There was no collective hypnosis of the disciples.  On the contrary, the resurrection narratives showed otherwise, that the apostles and the disciples were very skeptical when they heard of the resurrection of Christ.  More so, when the first people to bear witness to the resurrection of our Lord were women.  In the ancient days, the testimonies of women were not accepted in law.  That was why, when the Lord sent them to tell His brothers, they were all skeptical.

The Lord reprimanded them for their obstinacy in not believing the reports and testimonies of those who had seen Him. “Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”  (Mk 16:14) Even Peter, who was the first to reach the Empty Tomb said nothing.  “Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.”  (Jn 20:6f) St Thomas was adamant in refusing to believe that the Lord was risen even when the rest confirmed the truth of His corporeal resurrection.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  (Jn 20:24)

Secondly, it was suggested that perhaps they did see Jesus, but it was only an apparition.  This is to say that He was a ghost, which was something that could be accepted by many people since most of us believe in spirits.  Some people noted that St Paul spoke about the appearances of our Lord without referring to the Empty Tomb, that His body was missing and not found.   Again, the gospel takes pain to emphasize that Jesus was not a ghost.  Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”  (Jn 20:27) When He appeared later to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus invited them for breakfast.  And we read, “Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”  (Jn 21:12f)

Thirdly, there is also the far-fetched theory that His body was stolen by the disciples from the Empty Tomb.  In today’s gospel, the evangelist exposed the attempt to cover up His resurrection by the authorities.  When the guards told the chief priests all that had happened, they bribed them with a considerable sum of money with the instruction to say that “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”  Such a possibility is untenable.  Firstly, if the guards were to fall asleep at night, they would be put to death for allowing the prisoner to escape.  Even if they did fall asleep, the stone covering the tomb was so heavy it would have taken a few people to remove the stone and surely by so doing, they would have awakened the soldiers.

It would be inconceivable for the disciples to steal the body of Jesus and then go about proclaiming Him as Lord and Saviour.  If, during the time when Jesus was still alive, they ran away and dared not even acknowledge Him as their master, what would they do with a dead body? Surely they would know that if their master could not save them when He was alive, and not even Himself, how could they now believe that Jesus would protect them from their enemies?  What changed them from being cowards to being so heroic as to stand before the people and the Sanhedrin and rulers to testify to the resurrection of our Lord unless they had seen Him?

Indeed, encountering the Risen Christ is the basis for faith in Him as Lord and Saviour.  From this encounter, Peter and the apostles were ready now to proclaim Christ as Lord and God, as what we read in today’s first reading.  The disciples, after encountering the Lord, went back to the scriptures to find confirmation that Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of God’s promise.  And so Peter stood up with the Eleven and in a loud voice said, “Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power since, as David says of him: I saw the Lord before me always, for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me. So my heart was glad and my tongue cried out with joy; my body, too, will rest in the hope that you will not abandon my soul to the Hades nor allow your holy one to experience corruption. You have made known the way of life to me, you will fill me with gladness through your presence.”

Finally, how do we explain why some could see the Risen Lord and some could not? The fact remains that the corporeal resurrection of our Lord cannot be empirically proven.  There is no way to test and verify the truth of the corporeal body of the Risen Lord.  The Risen Body is a transfigured body, pertaining to this world and yet goes beyond this world.  This explains why the Risen Lord could walk through locked doors to appear to His apostles; and could vanish before the eyes of the disciples at Emmaus.  The resurrected body is not confined by space and time.  But it is truly a body, not a spirit.  This is what the witnesses of the resurrection want us to understand.

The way to encounter the Risen Lord presupposes faith.  Although the guards witnessed the power of God when the stone was removed and Jesus appeared like lightning in white clothing, “For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.”, it was only to the women that the angel said, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”  (Mt 28:4-6) The women had faith in the Lord.  Their faith was intuitive love.  Faith is primarily not reasoning but love.  No wonder the Lord appeared to the women first, because only love can perceive His presence intuitively and personally.   Reason comes only after the experience.

Indeed, theology is faith seeking understanding.  We must first believe to understand before we can understand to believe.  This requires faith and a personal relationship with the Lord.  Jesus did not appear to the men first simply because men tend to use their reason and not feel with their hearts.  To try to prove to those who do not believe in the resurrection of our Lord would be a futile endeavor.  We must lead people to encounter Him in prayer, worship and in relationship. Only then can their hearts open their minds to believe.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.

Bible

If you love, you will keep my commandments.