Reflection Writings in Biblical Passages

Sirach 27:4-7 and Luke 6:39-45

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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To-day’s First Reading is taken from the Book of Sirach. This is a beautiful Old Testament book of wisdom on good religion and wise living. The passage chosen for to-day’s reading parallels the theme of to-day’s gospel. It is an excellent preview for the gospel.

The author of Sirach uses 3 images: the shaken sieve separating the grain from the husks, the firing and baking of a clay pot in the furnace, and the care of the fruit tree. They all make the important point that speech is the principal criterion for evaluating a person. The conclusion is : “never praise a person before he speaks, for this is the way people are tested” (Sirach 27:7). Jesus, in the gospel, also presents to us 3 images: a blind person leading another blind person, logs and specks, good and bad fruit. They all underline the fact that our thoughts, words and actions reveal a much deeper reality about ourselves: they all show the state of our heart. Our heart is best shown by our words; and Jesus concludes His teaching to-day by saying: “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Both Sirach and Jesus lay emphasis on the fact words ultered by a person define the person’s heart to others.

So the things you say, and how you say them expose and unveil the condition and attitudes of your heart. Many people speak without thinking how their words affect others. Or, if they do think about what they say, they don’t realize that they are motivated by selfish pursuits and interests rather than seeking to assist others by lovingly serving them. You may have doubts on a person’s character when he is silent. Your doubts are dispelled when the inner aspect of a person is revealed in an open speech; because what comes out of the mouth reveals the heart. Our language shows our background, whether we are educated or illiterate. Our accent indicates which part of the country we are from. It tells about our age, our sex, our temperament, our profession, our honesty, our moral values, and our outlook on life. Our words give a glimpse to people of who we really are and what is important in our lives.

Most people think actions reveal the heart. There is even a saying we have all heard: “Actions speak louder than words”. I cannot disagree with that, but the Bible says that words speak loud enough by themselves. It is “out of the outflow of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). It is “the tongue that sets on fire the course of our life” (James 3:6). “It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him” (Mark 7:15). In our times, we have seen the foolish boldness of some political candidates when they were challenged to a public debate of the issues. How many elections have been won or lost simply because of the power of the spoken word to reveal the integrity (or lack of it) of an individual. For what comes out of the mouth give us a clue to what a person thinks and feels. We need to be careful in our speech. Think before we speak, and we will never regret our words. Words spoken cannot be recalled. It is not always possible to undo the harm caused by thoughtless talk. Proper speech is not just saying the right words at the right time, but controlling our desire to say what is not needed to be said and something we should not have said at all. Unfortunately, very often the wrong use of the tongue gives rise to gossiping, putting others down, speaking ill of others, bragging, manipulating, false teachings, exaggerating, complaining, flattering and lying. Before we speak, we need to ask ourselves: Is it true, is it necessary, and is it kind?

Remember, a few hurtful words spoken in anger can damage or even destroy a relationship that took years to build up. This is especially true in marital life. Remember also we are not fighting on our own power and strength. The Holy Spirit will give us power to monitor and control what we say. We should ask for God’s grace to let our speech disclose His love that over-flows our hearts.

Just as a tree is like by its fruit, so people are like by their words. Words are a test of a person’s character. To-day’s gospel concludes Jesus’s discourse on judgment of others using the analogy of the fruit born by a tree. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:45) Jesus teaches that everybody produces some kind of fruit. Good fruit comes from those with good hearts, and evil is produced from those with evil in their hearts. What is the fruit? It is our words, not our works. It is our words Jesus wants us to listen to. Don’t be a fruit inspector. Don’t go around with your check list of Christian works which you think necessary for people to have in order to be a Christian. Works rarely reveal the heart. Words do. A person can be the nicest person in the world, and volunteer for community service, and give away large amount of money, and faithfully attend church regularly. And how do you know they do all of this? Because they love to tell you about it. If you look at their actions only, you would have to say that they have a pure heart. But when you listen to their words they may reveal a proud heart.

But this is not the point of to-day’s gospel. Jesus is not giving us a standard by which we can judge others. To rightly apply what Jesus is saying, we must remember the context of His words. He is not talking about our attitude toward others, but about our attitude toward ourselves. He is talking about taking the plank out of our eyes first. Jesus is saying that my words reveal my heart. Your words reveal your heart. Not so much to others, but to you. Before you start making judgment about other people’s hearts based on their words, listen to your own words first. Jesus is challenging us to bear good fruit by positively looking at ourselves and seeing where we can improve to speak from a caring and loving heart.

So here are some personal questions for each of us: Do I spend times in idle talk? Do I sometimes speak without taking the time to reflect on my motives? Are my words and actions in reference to people motivated by selfish desires or by loving concern for them? What steps should I take to examine my words and actions and see if they are producing good fruit? What can I do to enrich the life and growth of people whom God has placed under my care and responsibility?

In sincerity and humility, let us pray: “Lord Jesus, we pray for the wisdom of being prudent in our speech. Forgive us for the times we have spoken recklessly without reflecting on what you have us to say or do. Help us to look to you always and to follow your example of loving service”.

Jeremiah 1:17-19; Luke 4:21-30

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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To-day’s gospel reading starts at the same place where we ended last week’s gospel. Jesus shared a profound truth with his towns folk in the synagogue in Nazareth. He declared: “To-day this scripture in your hearing has been fulfilled.” (Luke 4:21). He had just applied to Himself a reading from prophet Isaiah proclaiming good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, release to the captives and freedom for the oppressed. He also made a proclamation of the Jubilee Year of the Lord’s favour (Luke 4:18-19). The Jubilee to Him was a symbol of His Messianic appearance which He proclaimed because He had been anointed with the Spirit to do so. The Messiah is here! The Messiah long expected by the Jews is finally here!

This is Our Lord’s testimony concerning Himself. The moment He declared Himself to be the Messiah, He immediately met with objection. People of Nazareth had seen Jesus grow up among them. They were surprised to hear Him proclaim Himself the anointed one of God, of whom Isaiah spoke. They now had 2 choices: either to accept Him as the fulfilment of the prophecy, or to reject Him. The privilege of being the home-town of the long- awaited Messiah and the one whom the Heavenly Father at River Jordon proclaimed His Divine Son was too much for them, because of their familiarity with Him And familiarity breeds contempt. They had known Jesus as a local boy good at carpentry workmanship with his father, Joseph, but not at prophecy. “Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3). “Where did he get all this? What is this wisdom that is given to him?” (Mark 6:2). They saw Him as an ordinary uneducated carpenter, and failed to recognize that He was the Carpenter who carved the universe and set everything in order for human to live on this planet Earth.

The people in His home-town synagogue could not see the Sun because they were blind (有眼不識泰山). In their prejudice and obstinacy, they refused to accept Jesus. They quickly turned on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origin – proof that He’s more than just “the Son of Joseph”. The sign He gave them was that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. From these two prophets’ lives, He reminded them of the instances in the Old Testament where Gentiles had been preferred to the Jews. With all the widows in Israel suffering in the famine, Elijah was sent to Serephta to a Phoenician widow. With all the lepers in Israel, Elisha cleansed only Naaman, a Syrian. In each instance, the prophets by-passed “many ….. in Israel” to bestow God’s blessings on non-Jews who had faith that the prophets were men of God (1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14). Jesus emphasized that “none ….. not one” in Israel was found deserving. This added fuel to the fire. The congregation in the synagogue was infuriated. They turned against Him, thrust Him out of the synagogue and “brought Him to the brow of the hill, on which the city was built” (Luke 4:29). They attempted to cast Him down headlong to His death. For those who have been to Nazareth, they will find that it lies in a cup of hills. A short distance from it to the south-west is a wall of rock about 80ft high which drops about 300ft to the Plains of Esdraelon. It is there that tradition places the scene where the people attempted to cast Jesus off. Did they succeed in throwing Jesus off the cliff? No. For He passed through the midst of them. How? Perhaps with the majesty shown to the money changers running in panic before Him in the Temple court of Jerusalem.

This reminds us of His temptation in in the wilderness earlier in the same chapter of Luke. There, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, placed Him on the pinnacle of the Temple and said to Him. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, the angels will protect you and bear you up – you will not dash your feet against a stone.” (Luke 4:9-11). Now, in the present instance, Jesus could have allowed Himself to be hurled off the cliff. Can you imagine the reaction of the crowd seeing Jesus being supported and protected by angels? But this was not the time to reveal Himself as the Son of God. This was just the beginning of His ministry and the climax of His life – his crucifixion and resurrection – were yet to come.

The point is: When Jesus declared Himself to be the Messiah and the Son of God, His enemies made attempts on His life. To-day’s gospel passage records the second murderous attempt on Jesus’s life, the first one was made by King Herod in Bethlehem when Jesus had just been born. Jesus became a tumbling block when His divinity was proclaimed. His own people could not accept Him when He humiliated Himself to the human level, taking on the form and habit of man. When He began His prophetic mission to share with people the good news of God’s salvation, He quickly met with hostility, opposition and rejection. Speaking in the name of God and stating what God commands people to do unavoidably runs into opposition of evil. This is the fate of prophet Jeremiah in the 1stReading. Jeremiah, while still very young, was called to the task of speaking for God. He pointed out the wrong-doings of his people in Judah, the southern Kingdom of Israel. He spoke “against the kings and princes, against priests and people” (Jeremiah 1:18). Because of his valor in preaching God’s words, arrest, imprisonment and public disgrace were his lot. He pre-figured Jesus Christ and pre-figured all Christians in all ages who suffer because they try to do what is right.

God calls each of us to follow Jesus and to spread the good news. Do you know that we, having been baptized, have received and shared the prophetic mission of Jesus? You may not see yourselves as prophets, but God depends on you to speak out in His name to all people, to proclaim God’s love and justice to all especially the oppressed and the marginalized. Many will react in fear or scorn to words of faith and hope. They may even persecute you as they did to Jeremiah and Jesus. But you have God’s promise: “They will fight against you, but They shall not prevail over you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).

In confidence, let us pray in the words of to-day’s R.S.: Loving Father, I will sing of your Salvation. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts and of your deeds of salvation all day long. You are my hope. You are my trust. Help me to share your gift of salvation with others. Give me courage to live as your beloved child, to put up with misunderstanding, rejection and hatred for your sake.

Mark 7:1-23

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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Can one be religious without knowing God?The Pharisees and scribes were very committed to their religion. The studied the Torah – the five books of Moses. They followed the Mosaic Law, performing the rituals and practicing the traditions. Did they have a relationship with God? Were they practicing religion or developing a living relationship with God?

 To-day’s gospel gives an answer to these questions. A delegation of Pharisees and teachers of law travelled a long way from Jerusalem to Galilee to raise a question to Jesus about taking meals with unwashed hands. What could be so important about this question of washing hands before meals? To the leaders of the Jews, this was no minor question. It was important to them because it was part of the traditions and the heart of their religion. It concerned all the laws of ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness that God laid down in Leviticus to separate His people from the surrounding gentile nations. God’s primary purpose was not to keep His people physically fit and clean, but spiritually fit and clean. In the ceremonial law, God used the obvious need to clean outwardly as a picture of the much deeper need to be inwardly clean and pure. God’s purpose has always been to change lives completely, from within. His people in every generation echo David’s prayer: “Create a pure heart in me, O God”(Psalm 51:10). But the Jews in Jesus’s time – like some people in our church to-day – paid less attention to inward cleanliness and focused on outward religious practice and behavior. They might be outwardly clean, but inwardly sinful. They made their religious practice known and noticeable; but their hearts and their lives were full of sins against God’s laws. Even when they observed the laws, they honoured God by ensuring that nothing unclean would pass their lips. They turned the law inside out, making it a matter of simply performing certain external actions.

In answering the criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus addressed the real issue; what makes a person clean and pure? Jesus pointed out: “Nothing that enters a person from outside can defile that person”(Mark 7:14). Food enters the mouth, goes into the stomach and out of the body. Food cannot truly defile a person, nor can food draw a person closer to God. “It is what comes out of a person, that and nothing else, is what defiles”(Mark 7:15). Our world is plagued by deceit and corruption, violence and war, evil and hatred. These are what defile the world, and cause so much sufferings, pains and unhappiness. Where do all these evils come from? And Jesus gave us a long frightening list: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly”(Mark 7:21-22).

What comes out of a person is through his mouth – his words. What words? Lies, foul words, angry words, threatening words, blackmailing words, profaning words … you name it. It is our speaking that makes us unclean or corrupt, because it reveals what is in the heart. Sinful words betray sinful thoughts and sinful emotions springing from the heart. They reveal a deep and inward defilement. You may think what defiles a man is his action, but his action is the product of his own heart. So what is in your heart? Do you find the presence of malice, unkindness, hatred, impurity or quarrelling? Have you allowed the enemies of Christ to sow seeds of evil and let them take root in your heart? Do you harbor impure and filthy thoughts? Is your heart driven by excessive greed and narrow-minded selfishness? Do you hold grudges against anyone? These seeds of evil, if allowed to blossom, will make our world a frightening, violent and turbulent place.

It is the teaching of Jesus that the part of a man that really matters is his heart. What matters to God is not so much HOW we do, but WHY we do; not so much what we ACTUALLY DO, but what we WISH IN OUR HEART to do it. Thomas Aquinas once said, “Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention”. We cannot call ourselves good because we observe the external rules and regulations. People may be outwardly religious without truly being followers of Jesus. We may be going to church regularly, saying prayers regularly, and giving regular donations to charities. These things are fine so long they help to generate a true spirit of interior piety. Do we pay too much attention to externals, following rules without thinking about the intention behind? Outward works of piety are the means to holiness, not holiness itself. Holiness is interior; it is the soul’s growth in its relationship with God. Jesus reminds us that we do not make ourselves holy by our actions. Holiness is not found in external acts alone. Holiness comes from within and is evidenced in our living relationship with God, reflected in our actions and attitudes that emerge from our heart. The quality of our life is measured by the qualities of what we have in our hearts. The important thing that God needs from us is a pure heart. When your heart is truly pure, you are blessed because you will see God (Matthew 5:8). So, rather than pay more attention to physical purity like the Pharisees, we should let god transform us as St. Paul tells us: “Let your hearts be inwardly transformed, so that you will know the will of God”(Romans 12:2). For in word purity determines outward purity.

Purity of heart is what we should seek for. When each human heart across the globe has been purified, our world would be a better place to live. We thank Our Lord for His teaching in to-day’s gospel. We now in humility pray to Him, “Lord Jesus, I am prone to be a Pharisee, to think of holiness in terms of appearance – a long solemn face, a grave manner, the recitation of many prayers, denying myself a lot of pleasures. All the time, I can neatly combine such appearance with a mind rashly judging my neighbour and a heart nourishing hateful and unforgiving feelings. Lord, teach me what religion really is - that it is a living and loving relationship with our Heavenly Father. Show me that from the heart come both evil and goodness. Teach me that it is the heart that matters. And then make my heart like unto thine!”

Matthew 13:18-23

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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The seed in the gospel message is the Word of God. When scripture speaks of the Word of God, it always means the revelation of God and His plan and purpose for humankind.

Each time you hear the Bible spoken in the power of God’s spirit, God’s Word – the seed – falls on the soil of your heart. Every truth of God from the Bible is seed to your heart. It may concern the Holy Spirits’ work, a call to a disciplined life, or a call to greater intimacy with God. Or it is a specific call to serve Jesus, a challenge to trust Him or a call to repent. Is that seed lost? Does it wither? Is it choked by the care and anxieties about worldly things? Or by God’s grace, does it produce a “crop” in your life, and in the lives of others? What does your response to God’s word reveal about the condition of your heart?

So into which of the 4 categories of situation of soil mentioned in the parable would you put yourself? Where do you classify yourself? Even if the soil of your heart is soft and deep and fertile, it is absolutely incapable and helpless to bear any spiritual fruit by itself. Life must come from the seed – God’s grace. Nothing else can supply this life, neither effort on our part or any human philosophy or human ingenuity. Without the seed of grace, there is no spiritual life. Human effort alone can do nothing! 

Once the seed is in the ground, then everything depends upon the soil. The seed gives the beginning of life, but it does not produce virtue or sanctity automatically. It comes into the soil of our soul to work there. But once it is there, everything depends upon the co-operation of the soil. Unless we strive for virtue, unless we exercise the necessary self-discipline of avoiding occasions of sin, of striving for silence of heart and for a sincere prayer life, then the seed cannot take root. The seed and the soil must work together for sanctity. 

Let us approach Jesus in faith and in repentance and ask Him to do with the condition of our heart. “Lord Jesus, with your seed in my heart, I long to produce a plentiful harvest. Soften the soil of my heart that it may not be hard like the path, or rocky and shallow, or congested with the thorns of worry. But make it receptive of your word and capable of producing a life fruitful in faith and in charity.”  

Matthew 12:1-8

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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The Pharisees criticized the disciples for breaking the law of Sabbath by picking and eating the grain. Jesus did not defend the disciple’s actions. Instead, Jesus taught His critics more about Himself.

Jesus began with a story familiar to the Pharisees. Once, when David fled from King Saul’s murderous rage, David and his men ate the consecrated bread reserved for the priests. Neither the priest nor David and his men were considered guilty, though they broken the regulation. Now, the Son of David, surrounded by His disciples, asked the Pharisees, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? “ (Matthew 12:3). These were bible experts, yet they misunderstood God’s law and God Himself. God never sought to deprive His people.

Again, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have you not read in the law that on Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent?” (Matthew 12:5). Every Jew knew that on Sabbath the temple sacrifice doubled and so did the work of the priests. Yet priests were not guilty of breaking the Sabbath because God’s service took precedence over Sabbath rules. How much more was this true of the disciples! They served Jesus Christ, the one greater than the temple. All the sacrifices and temple rituals pointed to Christ, the true temple (John 2:19-21).

The Pharisees were the keepers of rituals. From the height of authority, they tracked the faults of others. Details blocked their vision and a compulsive search for impersonal purity deadened their hearts. They quibbled over ritual and failed to grasp God’s mercy, which lay at the heart of rituals. God is the Father of Mercies and it is His will that we imitate His mercy. The same attitude of mercy which God has to us, now we are to show to our neighbours. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their stubborn ignorance of the spirit of God’s word in the scripture. Do you profess to have great faith, or hold scrupulously to the Bible, yet disobey God’s basic command to act justly and to love mercy? (Matthew 9:13). Jesus condemns all religion that lacks God’s love and mercy reaching out to all sinners.

Let us pray: “Lord Jesus, you are the Lord of Sabbath and Lord of all. Teach us the truth about Sabbath rest. And let your mercy flow through us that we may be as merciful as you are toward our neighbours.”

Matthew 10:16-23

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves”(Matthew 10:16).

Can you picture an animal, a combination of a serpent and a dove? What would it look like? A serpent’s head with the body of a dove? Or a dove’s head with the long body of a serpent? Here Jesus, the great preacher, chose the memorable combination of these two animals to emphasize His point, saying that we must be like a serpent and a dove – of course not to have the physical form of their combination, but to have their characteristics, namely, shrewdness and simplicity.

The reason is that we are sent by Jesus like sheep to live among the wolves. Sheep cannot survive in the world of wolves. But doves can. Serpents can. Doves can fly above the pack of wolves, and serpents can burrow underground and share their space.

Nowhere but here is a serpent held up as a positive role model. The serpent was “subtle” or “crafty” or “shrewd” (in Genesis 3:1). The dove, on the other hand, was thought of as innocent and harmless, and were listed among the “clean animals for sacrifices” (Leviticus 14:22). At the time of Jesus’s baptism in River Jordan, the Holy Spirit was seen descending “like a dove upon Jesus” (Matthew 3:16). To this very day, doves are used as symbols of peace, and serpents are thought of as “shrewd”.

Who has these two combined qualities? Jesus is our exemplar, our model. He showed that He was as wise as a serpent in the way He taught. He knew enough to discern the differences in His audiences. He used the story-telling technique in His teaching. He refused to be caught in the many traps that His enemies laid for Him (Mark 8:11; 10:2: 12:13). Jesus also showed that He was as harmless as a dove in every circumstance. He lived in pure and holy life (Hebrews 4:15). He acted in compassion (Matthew 9:36), and He challenged anyone to find fault in Him (John 8:46; 18:23). Three times Pilate judged J to be an innocent man (John 18:38; 19:4,6).

So we Christians are to be shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove. How do we line up these traits? How do we join the two together – the serpent and the dove, prudence and holiness? Thomas More (1477-1535), a popular saint among the English speaking Catholics, showed us how to live among wolves in a time of political and religious crises. He was Chancellor of King Henry VIII. He had the wisdom of a serpent to understand the world affairs of his time; he also had the innocence of a dove not to neglect his soul. His faith and conscience made him refuse to accept the King of England as Head of the Church, and for this he was decapitated. We need to be prudent about secular things. To have knowledge in our vocation is a commendable wisdom, but with this wisdom, join the dove’s innocence; that is to say, follow your vocation but not neglect your soul. Many people are wise for the world, but fools for their souls.

So in our prayers to-day, let us ask: “Lord Jesus, we pray for the gifts of holy shrewdness and holy simplicity, in perfect balance, as you have taught us.”

Matthew 9:9-13

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me’”(Matthew 9:9).

In Rome, there are many magnificent churches dedicated to the apostles and martyrs. Among these, there is a small church belonged to the French Congregation (San Luigi dei Frances) in the centre of the city dedicated to St. Matthew. Inside this church, one finds a masterpiece of the famed Caravaggio – a paining completed in 1599-1600 entitled “The Calling of Matthew”. This painting depicts the moment at which Jesus inspires Matthew to follow him. Out of the deep shadows, Jesus steps out with his outstretched hand pointing in the direction of a group of men at table. One of those men extends his own hand, gesturing towards himself, as if saying: “Me?” This is the calling of Matthew. And we know that Matthew’s response was immediate: he did not hesitate; he got up and followed Jesus.

What caused Matthew to be so decisive and determined to follow Jesus? Surely Matthew had met Jesus, or at least had heard of him before. Matthew probably had listened to Jesus speaking on the outskirts of the crowd. He might have felt his heart stir within him. He might have wondered to leave his old life and his old shame and to begin again. Now he found Jesus standing before him. He heard the challenge of Jesus: “Follow me”.Matthew accepted the challenge. He got up from the customs post, left everything and followed Jesus. He probably left behind on his table stacks of coins. What happened to them? We may picture a mad rush for the money, with lots of pushing, shoving and cursing. The table was probably picked clean within seconds.

We marvel that Matthew could walk away from his place of employment, from his familiar way of life, so readily and completely. What did he give up? What did he find? He lost a comfortable job, but found a destiny. He lost a good income, but found a wealth surpassing anything he could imagine. He lost security, but found an adventure of the like of which he had never dreamed. When Matthew left the tax-collector’s table that day, he gave up much in the material sense to share poverty with Jesus. In exchange, he found God and became an heir to a fortune. For the first time in Matthew’s life, his heart and conscience were at peace. He could not have thought how God would use him to inspire millions and millions of people to follow Christ like him because they have read and believed the Gospel he wrote.

By becoming Christians, we have decided to follow Jesus as his disciples. What have we left behind by following him? Do we still crave for wealth or fame or success in whatever field we are in? By accepting Christ’s challenge to follow him, we may find ourselves poorer in material things. We may have to abandon our worldly ambitions. Yet such loss is garbage compared with the surpassing delight of knowing Jesus and having Him as our friend.

So in answer to Christ’s calling to-day, I say: Lord Jesus, I hear your call. I will follow you all the way.”

Matthew 6:19-23

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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Jesus in to-day’s gospel calls us to clarify our value in this life. What you value most is what pre-occupies you, the thing that you prize in your life. It is your treasure.

Your treasure may not necessarily be the material possessions. It can be your spouse, your children, you physical appearance, your health, your ability, your reputation or your career. For many men and women, their treasure is the family or relationship. These things are not bad. The point is that there are other things which are much more important than these.

In to-day’s gospel passage, Jesus describes two kinds of treasure. One kind of treasure is on earth, the other is in heaven. Earthly treasure is subject to the hazards of life. It is temporary and cannot last. Heavenly treasure remains forever. Nothing can harm it. This world’s treasure promises superficial satisfaction but often gives much anxiety and disappointment. Rust, thieves, sickness, accident, natural disaster or death may take it away. Heaven’s treasure gives deep and lasting peace to the heart and is in perfect security because it is “an incorruptible inheritance – undefiled and unfading reserved for you in heaven” by God (1 Peter 1:4).

What is the heavenly treasure? How can we acquire and store it up in heaven? This, in fact, is the question asked by the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked how to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17). Our Lord’s answer was: “Go, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). A man’s true treasure, therefore, is what he gives away in charity. The more he empties himself for God’s sake, the more he gains. What he loses, he keeps; what he spends, he has.

Another way of storing up treasure in heaven is to serve the members of the body of Christ with deeds of kindness. Even seemingly small acts of love will not go unnoticed by God. Jesus Himself promised, “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose his rewards”(Matthew 10:42). Whatever is done to His disciples is taken to have been done to Jesus Himself who identifies completely with His disciples (Matthew 10:40). Our Lady will reward the smallest act done for the least one who belongs to Him. 

Let us pray: “Heavenly Father, you will see to it that I have all I need in life. You will take care of all I need generously. Release me from the pull of material things and earthly worries. Help me to focus my life on you. You alone are my treasure, my reward and my inheritance”.


Feast of St. Peter & Paul

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles. We are here this morning celebrating the two greatest Apostles, Peter and Paul. Their role in the salvation history is of greatest importance.

Peter was important because he was the first Pope and kept the Church united which was growing rapidly in the years following the Pentecost. In the first years after Pentecost, it was the Jews who accepted Jesus as the Saviour and so the early church was a very Jewish church. But as time went on Paul began to preach also to non-Jews, the Gentiles as they were called. All of us are gentiles. Paul’s preaching was very successful and he brought huge numbers of non-Jews into the Church, so much so that the number of Jews in the Church was greatly out-numbered by non-Jews. It is because of Paul that we are now in the Church. So both Peter and Paul had very important tasks in the early Church, Peter maintaining unity in the Church which during his lifetime had already spread throughout the Middle East and Europe, and Paul who taught the Jews that Jesus was the fulfillment of their Old Testament hopes and taught the non-Jews that Jesus was the savior.

Peter and Paul were very different men and of very different personalities. Peter, the rock, was impetuous and a strong leader. God used his skills to lead the followers of Jesus after his death. Paul was a highly-educated Pharisee. His letters and his missionary journeys were of inestimable value to the Church, then and now. When these two apostles began to follow Jesus, they were not asked to be different men. God knew from the beginning what gifts they would be given. Rather, they were asked to dedicate the gifts they already had in the service of the gospel.

As we look at the different personalities of Peter and Paul, we see that God called them to use their personalities to spread the gospel, Peter to use his impetuous love to look after the flock, and Paul to use his training as a Pharisee and his strength of character to ensure that the non-Jews would be welcomed into the Church.

It is a reminder to us that we too have been given gifts. Our talents and our weaknesses can become God’s means of helping others if we allow. There are unique ways in each one of us that we can spread the Good News. God does not want us to be someone else. He wants us to dedicate the person that we are to his service, in our small ways. Not everyone is asked to do great things. “But we are asked”, said Mother Theresa, “to do small things with great love”.

On this feast of the two great lovers of Jesus, let us pray, “Our Lady, help us to recognize that you are the Christ and that we are your chosen ones. Small and unworthy as we are, we offer ourselves to you and ask you to work through us as you did with Peter and Paul”.

Matthew 5:27-32

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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To-day’s gospel passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus describes the spirit of the New Testament. He demands that we, His followers, go beyond the ten commandments. He says: “It was said, ‘Whenever a man divorces his wife, he must give her a decree of divorce’. What I say to you is: everyone who divorce s his wife ... forces her to commit adultery. The man who marries a divorced woman likewise commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32).

 What lies at the root of adultery is lustful desire. Lust is one of the 7 deadly sins. Lust is a sin of weakness, of the flesh. It is a desire for the sin of fornication or adultery. It is a wrongful desire in the will, not just the feelings, something actively and willingly consented to, not just passively experienced. Jesus clearly says that the desire for adultery is adultery itself: “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in the heart” (Matthew 5:28).

In criminal law, in order to be a crime, two elements must be present: the guilty mind (mens rea) and the guilty act (actus rea). One without the other cannot constitute a criminal offense. Here Jesus lays down that a sinful thought even without action is sufficient to be a sin. Jesus demands his followers not to practice divorce or re-marriage; he further demands us who follow him to practice purity of mental attitudes.

This teaching of Jesus challenges us at the core of our daily lives. As was the case with Jesus’s teaching on the Eucharist, many people to-day, upon hearing Jesus’s teaching through the church on marriage, will say “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” and they walk away (John 6:60, 66). Many people nowadays take the view that fornication or adultery, much less the desire for it, cannot be sinful. They say fornication is the act between two consenting adults, permissible by the municipal law and condoned by society. It does not hurt anybody. This view is of course wrong. St Thomas Aquinas long ago refuted this argument by pointing out that fornication is contrary to the love of our neighbor because it is opposed to the good of the child to be born, and it is a sufficiently weighty matter for mortal sin because “every sin committed directly against a human life is a mortal sin.”

So you have the view of the world and the criteria of Jesus set before you. You make your own choice as to which master you’re going to serve. You are made for God who alone can satisfy your desire. You are born for higher things, things that earn for you an unending glory and eternal happiness. By keeping control of your desires, you maintain the purity of mind and heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

So let us pray:

“Lord Jesus, my smallness, and weakness are well known to you. Have pity on me. Strengthen my control over sinful desires. Pull me out of the mire of worldliness and help me to fix my eyes always on you. You alone are my object of pursuit”.

John 19:31-37

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“These events took place for the fulfillment of Scripture: ‘Break none of its bones’” and “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (John 19:37).

After Jesus’s death on the cross despite the demand of the enemies that His legs be broken, the soldier simply pierced His side with a lance to verify Our Lord’s death. God worked through this soldier to fulfill His word spoken in Exodus about the manner of eating of the paschal lamb, “you shall not break any of its bones” (Exodus 12:46). Again, God through the prophet Isaiah says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). These prophecies were accomplished on Mt. Calvary.

In the ordinary course of nature, shortly after death, a body no longer bleeds. But when the soldier pierced the side of Jesus’s dead body, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred: a stream of blood and water flowed (John 19:34). This happens when the heart is ruptured, and the blood which mixes with the clear fluid surrounding the heart flows out. Blood is the price of our redemption and the symbol of the Eucharist. Water is the symbol of regeneration and Baptism. The flowing out of blood and water from the heart is a visible sign of God’s intervention – a sign that Jesus poured out His life for us in an act of total sacrificial self-giving. His incarnation, He stripped Himself of glory and power to assume the humble form of a servant. At His death, He did not even spare the last drop of His life-giving blood for the atonement of our sins. The price of our redemption was not primarily Our Lord’s pain and suffering, but His overwhelming and unconditional love. This act of love demonstrates the meaning of what we are celebrating to-day – the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

This feast reminds us how little we are aware of his gentle love and how much we have neglected his love through our ingratitude and our forgetfulness. In the revelations of his sacred heart to Margaret Mary of Alacoque in France between the years 1673 and 1675,Jesus told this cloistered nun: “My divine heart is so passionately fond of the human race and of you (Margaret Mary) that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning love any longer. They must burst out through you”. Jesus was sad about the indifference and ingratitude of the greater part of humanity. He asked for the receiving of Holy Communion of reparation on 9 consecutive First Fridays. He also requested that there be a special liturgical feast for his Sacred Heart in the Universal Church to be celebrated 8 days after the solemnity of Corpus Christi.

This devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is now broadened by the devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, given to St. Faustina Kowalska in 1931. From this new devotion, our trust in God’s boundless love and mercy is re-kindled. The incomprehensible treasures in this new devotion are symbolized in the blood and water gushing forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The devotion to the Sacred Heart has flowered and has seemed to come to a full circle in the devotion to the Divine Mercy, particularly in its emphasis on the graces flowing from the Heart of Jesus, healing and forgiving souls, through the sacraments of mercy.

To-day, we express our love to the Sacred Heart to whom are families consecrated; we place our total trust in him and run to him in our problems and need. He always has a place in His heart for us. This Sacred Heart burning with love for us will protect us and care for us and give us peace and tranquility. And so we pray:

“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us as we place our trust in you”.

John 21:15-19

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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A fig tree is a large shade tree with palm-shape leaves commonly found in Palestine. In the Old Testament (OT), a fig tree was the favourite of all trees. It was often associated with the grapevine as a symbol of peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25). Its fruit – the fig – is soft, sweet and pear-shaped full of tiny seeds. We readily see fresh figs from Israel on sale at the City Super. Jesus must have eaten figs in His life time on earth.

Today’s gospel tells us that the next morning after Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the last week of His life, He and His disciples were coming from Bethany to Jerusalem. He was hungry. Just outside the wall of the city, He noticed a fig free covered with leaves. Jesus went over to get some figs, but it had no fruit. He laid a curse upon it, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again” (Mark 11:14). The disciples heard Him say it. The next morning, when they passed by the fig tree again, “they saw the fig tree withered to its roots” (Mark 11:20).

Jesus was a man of reasons with absolute self-control. It couldn’t be of unsatisfied hunger that made Him condemn the fruitless fig tree. After all, Mark explicitly tells us that ”it was not the season for figs” (Mark 11:13). Was the cursing an aimless display of divine power at random? Certainly not! Jesus wouldn’t do things unnecessarily and meaninglessly. He was teaching His disciples by parable this time, not by telling, but by acting. This was a parable by action. Like the prophets in the OT, Jesus made use of symbolic action to drive a lesson home. The day before when Jesus entered the temple, He was challenged by the religious leaders. In His eyes, the fig tree was a picture of the moral and religious hypocrites who rejected Him. The blooming leaves of the tree promised fruit, but there was none. Like the Pharisees and chief priests, the fig tree did not fulfill its purpose – all show but no interior virtue, all appearance but no fruit. Jesus couldn’t put up with such hypocrisy. Jesus was teaching not about fig trees, but about men. For fig trees, it may not be the season for figs. For men, it is always the season to bear fruit. There is no off-season in which it would be against the order of nature for men to render their duty to God or to their neighbors. We are told to “be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mathew 5:48). We are to be fruitful at all times “in season, and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). God may come to visit us to look for fruit at an unexpected time.

We profess to be Christians. We put forth fine green leaves before people. Do we have the virtues of a Christian? Have we humility of accepting joyfully to be what we are and to do what we should do? Have we sincere charity of loving all men and wishing them well?  


“Lord, my prayer is that you abide in me, and I in you. Do at least give me a burning desire to have these virtues, and a firm determination to pay the price”.

Mark 10:1-12

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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The teaching of Jesus on marriage and divorce challenges us at the core of our daily lives. As was the case with his teaching on the Eucharist, many of us to-day, on hearing to-day’s gospel message, may say: “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” (John 6:60). We find Jesus’s teaching hard not in the sense that it is difficult to understand, but in the sense that it is unacceptable, harsh and offensive. And so we walk away. Yes, we do walk away, Jesus’s view of marriage is not generally accepted.

What do people think of marriage these days? The modern view of marriage is that marriage is not necessary. Man and woman simply live together – cohabitation. There is no commitment between them. They get together and separate from each other as they like. For those who enter into marriage for whatever reason, they first enter into a “pre-nuptial agreement” to protect their property from being given to the other party in case of divorce. The divorce rate in Hong Kong is very high. The data collected at the Family Court shows the average length of marriage lies around 11.5 to 12.7 years among the divorcing couples. Even among the Catholics, the divorce rate is increasing.

Jesus view on this is clear. He declares: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). Adultery means a married person having intimate relations with someone who is not his spouse. We may reason that if a marriage ends in divorce, then the slate is clean – the person is free to marry a second spouse without committing adultery. Our reasoning would be legitimate if a divorce could end a marriage, if the state or even the Church possesses the authority to do so. But Jesus courageously and uncompromisingly proclaims “What God has joined together let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9). The man and woman are no longer two (Mark 10:8) but become one in body, mind and spirit for the entirety of their lives. Marriage is within God’s sole jurisdiction. The union is established by God and cannot be set apart by either civil law, or social customs, or mutual consent of the parties concerned. In a Christian marriage, the two become one in a permanent and inseparable unity even when the spouses or the state consent to the legal fiction of a divorce.

The teaching of Jesus is hard indeed, but is a necessary dose of medicine for us. To make marriage beautiful, joyful and wonderful, we need to invite God to participate in our family life founded on a Christian marriage. It takes three to get married, says the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The third party is God. God is LOVE. When absolute love dwells in Christian family life, the two are bound together and the marriage bond is strengthened and sealed. And so we pray:

“Father of creation, it is your plan that the union between man and woman be sacred and inviolable. Bless and sanctify Christian marriages. Protect them from the threats of evil. May Christian families be free from violence, rejection and division. And may all who live in there find comfort and peace.”

John 16:20-23

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy” (John 16:20).

When we were children, joy easily and readily came to us. Usually a game and a time to play with friends are sufficient to make our days: whether in a ball game, or go swimming, or an outing to a new place. When we are adults, that kind of joy is hard to find.

The good news of Jesus is not a promise of a perfectly joyful life in the here and now, free of pain and filled with never-ending bliss. Jesus promises to give us joy, but the joy comes only after our endurance of adversities and trials. Jesus says, “You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy” (John 16:20). Do you believe this re-assuring message spoken by Jesus on the night before his death? Do you believe: grief or sorrow, endured in the name of Jesus, can be turned into joy? There are times when we Christians face the joyless moments of dissatisfaction and trials, while those who follow the world rejoice. But the day will come when the roles are reversed. The world’s seemingly joy will turn to sorrow, and our apparent sorrow will turn to joy. Our joy arises not from the things of this world, but takes its root in the continual presence of Jesus. For He assures us, “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one shall take from you” (John 16:22). 

Joy often comes after we have suffered through hard and tough times. Joy is the result of labour. Academic achievement comes after day after day and month after months’ studies and researches. A masterpiece in arts is the result of careful preparation and long hours’ of hard work. It’s just like the disciples who were able to grasp the full meaning of life and attain their true greatness after they had embraced the difficulties and persecutions in their lives. Our virtues are proved and our faults are revealed during these adversities.

All this grief or sorrow is for a purpose. And the purpose is “that our joy may be full” (John 16:24). Our suffering and sorrow are like the pain of childbirth. The suffering is acute, but from the sorrow comes joy. As with a mother who holds her newborn baby for the first time, the joy of the disciples who saw Jesus again after his resurrection made their pain of the preceding days fade away. The picture of childbirth gives us the idea of fruit accomplished through pain. The church was born from sufferings and sorrow. The sorrow will pass but the believers’ joy remains.

Let us conclude and pray:

“Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see that there is more to this life of faith than meets the eyes. For with you comes another life beyond this one, another chance at childlike joy that no one can take away. Fill me with the joy of your eternal life”.

John 15:9-17

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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What is the difference between Christianity and the other religions? What is the feature characteristic of Christianity? The distinct mark of Christianity, I would say, is that we Christians believe our God has condescended Himself to become man. He stripped Himself of all heavenly glory to become one of us. God took upon human flesh in the person of J and lived among us. He came not to be served (Matthew 20:28). He did not want to treat us as servants or slaves. He wants companions. In to-day’s Gospel, He calls us friends. In the short gospel passage, Jesus stresses on this point twice: “You are my friends if you do what I command you ... I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my father” (John 15:14-15).

So Jesus is our friend. Most people do not see Him as a friend. They can acceptJesus as a sovereign God, but hardly as a friend. How can we picture Him as a friend? Can I desire Him to be my friend?Jesus, however, has no difficulty in treating us as His friends. In Capernaum Jesus said to the paralytic who was lowered down from the roof on a stretcher, “Friend, they sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:19 NIV). Again, He called His audience friends: “I say to you, my friends, be not afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more than they can do” (Luke 12:4). When He was told that Lazarus, the brother of Mary Magdalene, was sick, He even said “Lazarus, our friend, sleeps. But I go that I may wake him from sleep” (John 11:11). Jesus is known as the friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34). At the time of His arrest, He said to Judas who betrayed Him, “Friend, for what purpose have you come?” (Matthew 26:50). Now think about for a moment: who were these people whomJesus called friends? They were the sick, the thieves, the prostitutes and Judas, the betrayer. IfJesus treated these people as friends, does He not possibly see us as His friends. What kind of a friend is He? How does He express His friendly love for us?

Jesus expresses His love in many ways to show that He is our beloved, intimate and genuine friend. He comes to accomplish things for us that we can never achieve by ourselves. He takes initiative in the relationship. He says, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). His love is especially shown in His sacrificial death on the cross to pay the debt of our sins: “Greater love than this no one has, to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). He is an indwelling friend, not the result of our work, but because of His unconditional love. It is not based on who we are and what we have done. We are obnoxious, rebellious, selfish, greedy and unlovable sinners, but He calls us friends. Do you think you deserve to have a friend like that? God who created all things now says “I want you to be my friend”. What a tremendous offer this is! To be His friend, to be taken into His confidence. No longer do we need to gaze longingly at God from afar. We are not like slaves who have no right to enter into the presence of the master unless called. We have unlimited access to Him. He is always there for us any time.

What is the effect of His love upon our life? The effect is revolutionary. When you accept Him, everything is changed. He shares His divine life with you. “I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That is what He said. He challenges you to achieve your best. He enables you to bear fruit – fruit of the spirit: love, joy, self-control, peace, gentleness and kindness. You will also be introduced into His intimacy, into His confidence. He shares secrets with you. “I call you my friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). He tells us about Heaven, Hell, God’s plan of salvation, His passion, death and resurrection. All this He reveals to us unreservedly. Do you have a friend who shares with you His secrets? When you become His friend, you will be delighted and warmed by His tenderness and friendship. Such a state of affairs would change your whole life, consume your time, your interests and your liberty.

Do you want to have a friend like Jesus? Or who would you choose as a friend? Friendship is essential in our life. One cannot live happily without a friend. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Thus God gave Eve to Adam to be his companion, his intimate friend. God made Eve for relationship. It is God’s plan for everyone to have a close friend in his/her life. A friend is a treasure, the most valuable asset in one’s life. A friend is someone who loves and accepts you despite your faults, someone who enjoys your company, someone who helps you to radiate, someone who drives and motivates you. Do you want to have a friend, a genuine, loyal, devoted friend who sticks to you no matter what happens? 

Where can you find such a friend? Do you go to the bar or to Lan Kwai Fong in the Central District to choose your friends. That is not the right place to start your friendship. That is the kind of friendship that only satisfies your wrong direction. Or do you choose your friends on the social networking sites such as the Facebook or Instagram? Each day, thousands of people through the social media are chatting with on-line friends whom they never meet in real life. To get immediate affirmation they expose everything about themselves, putting themselves in danger. Friendship in the virtual space is unreal. True friendship is a relationship that involves the sharing of mutual interests, reciprocity, trust and the revelation of intimate details over time and within specific context. Lasting friendships are built on far more than a Facebook history. The friends you know best are those who have seen us at our worst – and love us anyway. This kind of friendship is only crafted through the nitty-gritty life moments that we would be embarrassed to disclose on Facebook.

Jesus doesn’t offer His friendship in a mysterious way: God does not hide Himself behind the screen. He doesn’t shout His love from heaven. He shows His love on earth. He emptied Himself of His divine majesty and power to become one of us. He lived among us. He hung out with and even ate with tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes and embraced them as His friends. To-day, His presence is even more powerful among us under the veil of the tiny host. He is in the tabernacles 24 hours of the day, available to us at all times. No time He is unavailable. He is present to us with the concern and love of a friend to a friend. We all have to come to death one day. Your doctor cannot save you when your time is up. If J is your friend, you are safe and secured. He stands close by you. “If God is for you, who is against you?... Who shall make accusation against the elect of God?” (Romans 8:31-33). Jesus has prepared Heaven for you. He is the kind of friend who has gone before us to prepare Heaven for us for all eternity. “I go to prepare home for you”(John 14:3), He said on the night before His passion. He desires to spend all eternity with us. To live your life without Him is a tragedy. Without Him, your whole life turns into an empty vacuum; it is a waste of coming into this world.

Do you really see Jesus as your friend? Are you a friend of Jesus? “You are my friends if you do what I command you: love one another as I love you” (John 15:14, 12). To qualify ourselves to become His friends, we need to pass this test of loving one another, especially those in our home and in the church community. Stand loyal to Him, and remember that His honor is at stake in our life.

For this purpose, let us pray:

“Lord Jesus, divine friend of my life, I thank you for accepting me as your friend. You love me even to the extent of laying down your life for me. Give me grace to help me to lay down my ideals, my plans, my life and my everything for you and for those you put under my care”.

John 14:1-6

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“Let not your heart be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me” (John 14:1).

The disciples were troubled. Of course, they were. This was the night before Jesus died. Not before long, they would have the worst experience of their lives: to witness the passion and death of their beloved master. Their world would soon be shaken and would collapse in chaos. This was a time of painful separation. In such a situation, how could Jesus tell the disciples not to allow their hearts to be troubled? A short while before, when Jesus had foretold Judas’ betrayal, Jesus Himself was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). His troubled spirit increased as He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). Betrayed and condemned by men, and forsaken by His Father, Jesus was troubled for us. He took on our punishment so that, in the midst of every trouble, all who turn to Him in repentance and trust may know peace (Romans 5:1-6).

In the quoted statement, Jesus was trying to help the disciples face the cruel and sorrowful events of the following day. But notice: Jesus doesn’t say “Keep your life untroubled”, but “keep your heart untroubled”. To some extent, our lives are unavoidably troubled, and very often full of trials and tragedies. When tragedies affect us, especially when someone dear to us has to leave us for good, how are we affected? There is a deep abiding grief that you cannot measure. We are emotional human beings. There is a sense of emptiness. We were so much together, but now I am left alone.

All these emotions are natural and normal. God knows how we feel. The issue is how to deal with it. Some people get busy. Instead of facing the issue, they get busy. Some people starts another relationship: get married again. Some people indulge in drinks or other undesirable habits. These are not the right ways.

In times of such turmoil in our life, Jesus says that deep down within ourselves, at the center of our conscious existence, we are not to be troubled, regardless of the adverse elements swirling around us on the outside. There may be troubles in ourlives, but our hearts can be securely insulated or unaffected because we “have faith in God, and also have faith in Jesuscrist”. Put your whole trust in God, and let him be your love and fear above everything. All earthly things are transitory and are passing away. All things pass away, and you with them.

Let us recall the exhortation of St. Teresa of Avila who used to say:

“Let nothing trouble you; let nothing frighten you,. All things are passing away. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.”

John 6:52-59

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” asked the Jews." (John 6:52).

One of the most controversial teachings of Jesus was, and still is, the Bread of Life discourse. After Jesus had said, “The man who feeds on this bread shall live forever” (John 6:58), He lost His followers. Many of His early disciples walked away.

He was considered crazy. Indeed, it is mad for any man to offer his flesh to eat. But we must note here our Lord was not speaking of any man, but “the Son of Man”. He said, “if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). This title, the Son of Man, has special significance. The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen (in “Life of Christ” p.141) explained that “‘the Son of Man’ referred to the expiatory sacrifice He would offer. Not the dead Christ would believers feed upon, but the Glorified Christ in Heaven who died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. The mere eating of the flesh and blood of a man would profit nothing, but the glorified Flesh and Blood of the Son of Man would profit unto life everlasting. As man died spiritually by physically eating in the Garden of Eden, so he would live again spiritually through eating the fruit of the Tree of Life”.

That is why J insists that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. We must note in this short passage of the gospel, there is a constant repetition of the words “eat” and “feed on” which appear 5 times. These verbs are overwhelmingly insistent as does the constant reference to “flesh and blood, food and drink”. We Catholics rightly understand that these words refer to the Eucharist as the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I prefer to take these words literally. I will not take the Eucharist as a sign or symbol, and say that its effects depend upon the subjective disposition of the receiver. I believe the tiny little host contains the Body and the Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Christ. In this short discourse, given in a synagogue at Capernaum (John 6:59), Jesus repeated no less than 5 times what He said about His body and blood. The full meaning of these words did not become apparent and clear until the night before He died. In His last will and testament made in that night, Jesus left us an inheritance which no dying man has ever been able to leave, namely, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity for the life of the world.

In the Blessed Sacrament, under the appearance of bread and wine, Our Lord gives us His flesh and blood for the food of our souls. He found it not enough for Him to become one of us by adopting a human nature like our own. He found it not enough for Him to share the hardship of a life like our own – to suffer and die and atone for our sins, in our name. He loved us. He would not rest until He should give Himself totally to us and be completely united to us. In His love, He devised the most extraordinary method of union, so that He might abide in us, and we abide in Him. In this way, we become one entity with Him as He is one with the Father. It was His ardent desire and in fact His last prayer that “all may be one as you, Father are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us” (John 17:21).

How challenging and how wonderful it is! Each time I receive the Eucharist, Christ personally enters into me in a most intimate union. I will throughout the day think and work together with Him. What a grace and what a joy! How can I respond to Him but say,

“Lord Jesus, I cannot fully comprehend the mystery of your love. All I can do is open my heart to receive whatever you want to give. I know to-day will be a wonderful day because you are with me”.

John 6:1-15

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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“When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:5).

In response to Jesus’s question, Philip was good at answering the situation. He skillfully estimated the number of people and computed the costs. He arrived at the conclusion that 200 days’ wages would not be enough to buy food for the large crowd of people. Andrew too was good at making the assessment. He discovered a boy with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, and concluded, “What good are these for so many?” (John 6:9). So they were stumped. There was no solution. The situation looked hopeless. The people would not be sustained in the wilderness where there was nothing. We, of course, with the benefit of hindsight, know what happened in the end. We know that Jesus miraculously provided more than enough food for every man, woman and child.

“Jesus knew well beforehand what he would do” (John 6:6). J has always been God, one with the Father, for all eternity. He needs nothing from us. He certainly didn’t need the disciples’ help. He raised the question to Philip to test him (John 6:6), to involve him in the subsequent performance of this great miracle of feeding a crowd of 5,000 men. What a great privilege that Jesus included Philip, Andrew and the other disciples in His work.

Similarly, Jesus to-day includes you and me in His work from time to time. In our lives, we often meet with problems that humanly speaking are beyond our means to solve. Like the disciples, we are stumped by certain situations in our families, schools, workplaces, community and parishes. We are overwhelmed with worries and anxieties, trials and difficulties. Everything looks hopeless. That is precisely the time we must turn to Jesus and ask for his help. That precisely may be the opportunity thatJesus gives us the privilege to involve us in his work. For he might just work things out in ways we could not even imagine. The important thing in these situations is to leave everything in His hands. In the hands of Jesus, little is always much, insufficiency becomes abundance.

So We pray,

“Lord Jesus, I hand over to you all those situations I view as hopeless. Let me know if there is any way I can help you work things out”.

John 20:1-8

By Bro. Francis Cheung, OP

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Years ago I joined a pilgrimage tour, organized by the Franciscans, to the Holy Land. I visited the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The tomb on which the sacred body of Jesus had once laid is inside the Basilica, to the left hand side of its entrance. Before reaching the tomb, one has to pass through a small room known as the Chapel of the Angel to commemorate the angel who rolled back the stone and announced to the women that Jesus had risen as he had said (Matthew 28: 2 and 5). No sign is put up there asking people to keep silent; no guard guarding over the tomb to keep order. Yet all visitors line up orderly for their turn to go inside in silence and reverence. The tomb is of pure stone. It is absolutely an empty tomb. I stood before it for a few moments. I thought of St. Luke’s scriptural passage: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6). This is the best news the world can find! If J has not risen, you and I will absolutely have no hope, no assurance of life beyond this. “If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of all men (1 Corinthians 15:19). So what is the message of Resurrection? The message is not that Jesus died on the cross, his body buried, guards were dispatched to keep watch, the covering stone was open and the body disappeared. That is the event. These were the things that took place. The message that I understand about the Resurrection is Jesus Christ is alive.

Our Lord is alive. He is not in the tomb. He has risen as He said time and again before His passion. Turn to Matthew 16:21-23 you will find that Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus talked about His passion and death. Jesus talked about it again after the Transfiguration in Matthew 17. One reference after another Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die, but to rise from the dead of the third day. That is exactly what happened on that early dawn when Mary Magdalene was on her way to the tomb and prepared to add spice on Jesus’s body because the burial was done so quickly and hastily. She was shocked to find the tomb empty. She immediately concluded someone had taken Jesus’s body. She quickly ran to tell the disciples the distressing news: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:2). Later Peter and John came and entered the tomb. The linen cloths in which Jesus was buried were lying there undisturbed. The napkin for His face and head was folded neatly in another place. This couldn’t be the work of enemies. They would not have left the tomb in such a neat order. Jesus’s body seemed to have evaporated and disappeared. Our Lord was not there! The God we serve is not in the tomb.

As announced by the angel, He has risen! ALLELUIA! This is a day of great joy. We rejoice to-day not because of His presence in the tomb, but because of His absence from the tomb that causes us to rejoice. Why do we rejoice? Because Jesus is alive! Our sins have been forgiven and we are eternally safe and secure in Jesus. He came to give his life for the ransom of many. “In him we have redemption through his blood, in him we have remission of sins according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is evidence that God the Father accepted his death as payment of our sins. If God did not accept his death, he would not have resurrected. Resurrection proves that the Father accepts his atoning death for our sins. Resurrection enables us to see Him guiding our life again. The message of the Resurrection is not just a man rose from the dead, but what He did for us are true and accepted by God the Father.

So you and I are to live forever. This life is only a journey. When Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die” (John 11:25-26), Jesus knows what life and death are about. Life to the believer is simply a door. One day, God who loves us must transfer us from this earth to Heaven. Does that mean God removes death from us? No! 1 Corinthians 15 says: He pulls out the sting of death; death has lost its power. In Jesus, there is hope for all mankind. For those of us who gather in Jesus’s name, and persistently hope and work for peace, love and justice and forgiveness death has totally lost it power, and we do not live in vain. Death becomes the victim and life becomes victorious as before so that you and I when leave this life: absent from the body, presence with the Lord. We walk through the door of death to go to the eternal God, into His presence.

Through a relationship with the risen Christ, we are going to experience a bodily resurrection – a blessed life that never ends. The first person to resurrect is Jesus. We are his brothers and sisters. We are to resurrect like Him. How to bury the body is not important. This physical body whether thrown into the sea, or exploded in war, or consumed in fire, when Christ comes, will in the twinkling of an eye be transformed from perishable to imperishable, from mortal to immortal. Death will be swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15:53-55). What does the body look like? “It shall bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:49). “We shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). Are you worried what are you going to look like in Heaven? I promise you, no matter how good looking you are, your beauty is beyond any beauty on this earth. I don’t know if there is mirror in Heaven. Probably not. Because there is no sin in Heaven, no vanity. I can assure you there is no ugly people there. When we go to heaven, our bodies will be transformed to bear the glory of the almighty God, a body perfect, fit to live in Heaven, not limited by time or space, can move freely in new heaven and new earth – unrestrained by time, unrestrained by space or locality, in all perfection. Everyone is a trophy of the gift of God, bearing the image of heaven, bearing witness in testimony before the angels that our Heavenly Father’s love for us is so absolutely fantastic and so complete. He reached down to save sinful men to become saints. That is the message of resurrection, not just somebody died and rose again.

There is nothing to be feared of. Because of Christ’s resurrection, our destiny to go to heaven in body and soul is guaranteed. Heaven is our eternal home. We can face to-morrow with confidence, assurance and perfect peace. No matter what we are to face, we will be victorious. The world may be full of stress, strife, violence, hurt and shame, full of sorrow, pain and discouragement, we walk along the path with the Son of God to guide, strengthen, help and empower us. This life is not what it is all about. This is part of the journey. Someone is out there waiting for us at the other end of the journey, to fulfill His awesome promise: “I will come back to receive you that where I am, you also may be” (John 14:3). You are heaven bound. You have a one-way ticket purchased by the cross of Jesus.

With joy, let us lift our hearts and minds in thanksgiving and pray:

“Lord Jesus, by rising from the dead, you return in the power of God in a manner beyond the reach of suffering, despair and death. You are with us in a new way, accessible to us all beyond the limitation of time and space through the Holy Spirit. We rejoice that you are really here with us. Infuse us with hope and courage so that we may by our lives witness to one another and to those who do not yet believe that we have met you in faith”.