Message From Your Pastor Dear Parishioners You would recall my sharing about the difficulty in drafting a short Message for The Holy Family Connection - was it because time was really short or was that just an excuse. Writing has now become a chore - having written precious little for a long while. Like most people today, my writing is limited to e-mails besides the homily for the weekend. The latter does not require serious writing. When it comes to email, few bother to write in good English; it’s ok as long as the message gets through. On further reflection, I realise that this easy approach could easily spread to other areas of life. To slacken in one area and feel comfortable with it, makes it easier subsequently to get complacent in other areas. Hence any detected slackening should sound alarm bells as it impacts the high standards set for oneself and for others. Do fatigue, stress, repetitive tasks, work load exonerate us from full application to our duty and responsibility? What else is needed beyond heeding the alarm bells with regular review and reflection? I need fellow workers and colleagues to nudge and remind me of the ideal. Seeing them fully committed and dedicated to people and ministry, I feel truly lifted. Nothing works like a good model to challenge one’s sense of complacency. It happens at home, the work place and in church ministries; you slacken but do not feel guilty until a family member, a colleague or a friend nudges you back to reality and reminds you of your dreams and ideals. It is always a struggle to keep to one’s dreams and ideals. Sometimes, the personal stories which are shared with one another can inspire us to greater heights. The stories and faith sharings in our NCCs, our RCIA, the Connection and in our prayer groups could inspire us to give our very best to God, to our families and to the Church Community. The faith community grows through the faith sharing and testimony of its members. Let us not only share our grumbles and complaints. God has heard enough of them. And we too. Instead let us learn to share our life and faith stories. The Year of Faith is an indirect acknowledgement that the Christian faith worldwide has slackened. Hence the Church has issued a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord” so that our lives can better radiate the truth of Jesus and His love to those around us. This is a call which each one of us can respond to - beginning with looking at how well our life and faith are integrated. We must want to rediscover our faith, live our faith and celebrate our faith. Let us begin NOW. God bless.
(See article on page 9)
QUIZ Cover pix: See article on Page 3
1. 2. 3. 4.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for _______________" Only John mentions this miracle of Jesus in his Gospel account. Jesus’ last words on the cross. Many were healed by Jesus yet only this person’s name has been mentioned in the Gospel. 5. To whom did Jesus say, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 6. The money-changers and traders were cast out of the temple by Jesus during the feast of the _______. 7. In Acts 4:11, Peter selected Psalm ______ to talk about the rejection of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. 8. In the letter to the Romans Ch 10, Paul quoted Prophet ______ from the Old Testament, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings” 9. In the letter to the Hebrews, Christ is the eternal High Priest after the order of _______ who offered himself as sacrifice for our sins. 10. Name the seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom, who were the first ordained deacons of the Church. ANSWERS 1. they shall be called children of God. (Mt 5:9) 2. Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. (Jn 2:1-11) 3. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) 4. Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus (Mk 10:46) 5. Peter and Andrew (Mt 4:19) 6. Passover (Jn 2:13-17) 7. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. (Ps 118:22) 8. Isaiah (Is 52:7) 9. Melchizedek (Heb 5:9) 10. Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolaus (Acts 6:5)
“MY LORD AND MY GOD!” –
Our Faith-Filled Response to Jesus
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord,” but he answered, “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” Eight days later, the disciples were in the same house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him: “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20:24-29)
How do you feel when you read this Gospel text? Do you find Thomas’ profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and God wonderful? Does Thomas’ progression from doubt, scepticism and disbelief into faith, belief and trust inspire you? Do you also desire to grow in your faith and say whole-heartedly to Jesus “My Lord and my God!” just as Thomas did? We will soon be entering into an exciting time of spiritual growth in the Catholic Church as we usher in the Year of Faith. Many documents, articles and programs which are available to us can help us in our journey to grow into a deeper faith in the Lord - the same faith which compelled Thomas to profess Jesus as Lord and God, drove him to be a fearless witness of the Lord’s Resurrection and preach the Good News in faraway lands, including India and finally to lay down his life for his Lord in glorious martyrdom. Like Thomas, all of us are called to grow in faith and to profess our belief in God our Father who loved us and made us; in Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save us and is risen from the dead; in the Holy Spirit who dwells in us to lead and guide us in our daily lives. You may be thinking: “This sounds great, but how do I do it? What steps can I take to grow in faith?” Here’s a layman’s three-step ABC process we can use.
The three-step ABC process to grow in faith
The First Stage of the Process is AWARENESS and this really has got to do with our getting to know our faith better. It is learning about the content of our Catholic faith through the many resources available to us. We have the Bible – the Word of God that teaches us, gives wisdom and clarity to our minds and lights up our way along this journey of life (Psalms 19:7-10 and 119:105). We also have an amazing treasure in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that gives us a systematic knowledge of the content of faith and how we live out this faith in our daily lives. So, this step deals with the HEAD and knowledge, and the application of our intellect and reason in acquiring it. How much do you know about your faith? How would you benefit from learning more about the faith you profess? The Second is BEING. This deals with the HEART and goes directly into the core of who we really are – sons and daughters of God (Rom 8:14-17) who loves us infinitely and unconditionally (Jer 31:3 and Is 43:1-4). This deep personal experience of God fills us with the joy of believing and spurs us towards knowing God more and being faithful to him. This step, then, is about having an authentic experience of God, who is Love (1 Jn 4:16). When did you last experience God’s love? How did you feel then? Would you and your family like to experience more of the Father’s great love?
The Third is COMMUNICATION. Growing our faith, knowing God better and experiencing His love and mercy must drive us to act – with our MOUTH, HANDS AND FEET. Here, we are called to share our faith with others with joy and enthusiasm, paying heed to Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples…” (Mt 28:19). Moving in the power of the Holy Spirit, we let our lives bear witness to the presence of the Risen Christ in our world, so that the hearts of others will be touched. Whom do you know in your family, workplace or community who would benefit from hearing you share the Good News? So then, faith is primarily about being in a Loving Relationship with God. God loves us and made us and wants the best for us. Our faith-filled response to God can only, and must be, to love Him; to believe and trust Him in every area of our life; to seek to know Him more; and to help others we love to also experience His love and mercy.
The Wheel of Faith
As this Year of Faith begins, we need to get our fundamentals right and to simply make a start. It begins with small steps, but like the mustard seed in the Gospel, faith that is nurtured regularly will increase and grow into a large tree that provides nourishment and shade for many. The “Wheel of Faith” below will give us some insights into where we currently stand and highlight some practical things we can do to grow our faith. Here’s a short exercise for each one of you to do. Take a look at the wheel and the six areas – Prayer, Eucharist, Scripture, Service, Community and Study. After asking the Lord for his guidance, identify where you stand in these various areas by marking it out on the various spokes. The scale is from 0 to 10 with 0 at the centre of wheel indicating non-existent and 10 at the outer end of wheel being excellent. After having identified each area, join the 6 various parts together. What do you see? Is your “Wheel of Faith” round and balanced? Or is it somewhat irregularly shaped? If you were driving your “Vehicle of Life” using this wheel, what do you think your ride is going to be like? Is it smooth and safe? Or is it bumpy and challenging? What steps can you to take to strengthen your “Wheel of Faith”? In the next issue, we shall explore these six areas in more detail. In the meantime, let’s continue to love the Lord, believe and trust Him and seek Him at all times. Damian Boon has been a member of the Parish Pastoral Council since its inception in 2005.
Insight / NCC Blog
Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Mark Ortega In his apostolic letter dated 11th Oct 2011 entitled the “Door of Faith" (Porta Fidei), our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, declared 11th Oct 2012 to 24th Nov 2013 as the "Year of Faith" to enable us “recall the precious gift of faith” and to “rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed”. All Catholics are to make “a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (“CCC”). The CCC contains a wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. It is therefore as important as having the Bible at home! The CCC, published fairly recently in 1992, was the product of an Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops convened by the late Pope John Paul II on 25th Jan 1985 to celebrate the graces and spiritual fruits of Vatican II, to study its teaching in greater depth in order to adhere to it and to promote its knowledge and application. Interestingly, the person tasked by Pope John Paul II to head the project to draft the CCC was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (our present Pope). It was envisaged that the Catechism should faithfully and systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church and the authentic Magisterium, as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers and the Church's saints, to allow for a better knowledge of the Christian mystery and for enlivening the faith of the People of God. It should take into account the doctrinal statements which the Holy Spirit has intimated to the Church down the centuries. It should also help illumine, with the light of faith, the new situations and problems which had not yet emerged in the past. The CCC is therefore structured into four parts - the Creed; the Sacred Liturgy, with pride of place given to the Sacraments; the Christian way of life beginning with the Ten Commandments, and finally, Christian prayer. For example, if you wish to have a deeper understanding of the Creed that you recite at Mass every Sunday, this is covered in the first part of the CCC. The second part of
the CCC includes everything you wish to know about the sacraments - baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance and reconciliation. The Church’s teaching on social justice – respect of the human person and on equality and differences among men is found in the third part of the CCC. If you ever wondered about the meaning of the words in the Lord’s Prayer, the answer can be found in the fourth part of the CCC. Apart from using the CCC as a handy reference guide for questions, individuals and/or small faith-sharing communities can also use the CCC alongside the Bible as a tool to reference, read, pray over and treasure the rich resources contained in the CCC. In using the CCC in this fashion, the Sacred Scripture provides the starting point for reflecting on the faith, while the Catechism of the Catholic Church serves as the supplement and reference for the authentic presentation of the content of the faith. In this way, it is hoped that the combined use of the Bible and the CCC will help Catholics better grasp the content of their faith and its practical application in Christian living. In this Year of Faith, we are called to intensify our reflection on our faith. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him. We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples. Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (Jn 6:27).” Mark Ortega is a member of the PPC Exco 2011-13 and has been a catechist for 6 years.
Visit to St Joseph’s Home Telok Kurau Neighbourhood Christian Community (TKNCC), as part of its ongoing corporal works of mercy, visited St Joseph’s Home run by the Canossian Sisters, which provides shelter, care and love for the aged and destitute regardless of race or religion and also a hospice for patients with advanced illness. Members, ranging in age from upwards of eight, came together very early on a Sunday morning armed with ham sandwiches and yu tiao ‘fuel’ for the day ahead and supplies for the home including milk powder and coffee. On arrival, they gathered for a short prayer before meeting Sr Geraldine Tan, the
Cheryl Wee, TKNCC
administrator of the home. The first order of the day was to assist residents to the chapel for mass. While many were in wheelchairs, those who were not mobile were not left out. They attended mass propped up on beds that had been wheeled into the chapel which had been designed with their needs in mind. The inclusiveness of this community, the visiting celebrant’s homily (Jn 6:51-58) and the cantor’s purity of voice as he led the responsorial psalm truly added to the beauty of the mass. Lunch was served after mass - a simple meal made up of rice, meat and vegetables cooked to a soft consistency. Continued on page 5...
YOUhf / NCC Blog
“No matter what happens, God is always with us” Aloysius, who was born a Taoist, shares his conversion story... I was born into a Taoist family. When I was fourteen years old, my dad passed away due to illness and hence I had to start working and could not go to school. After two or three months, some counselors from my school came home looking for me. They told my mum that the school would provide me with everything and that I needed to attend school. She agreed to let me go back to school but requested me to continue working after school hours to provide for the household. Due to the demanding schedule of work, I did not have much energy left for studies and often skipped school or slept in class. This went on for about two years.
From then on, I knew that Jesus will never abandon me and that whenever I would stray away, He would always call me back. As an Altar Server, I truly experienced His Real Presence through the Eucharist and discovered that God has a plan for me. I started discerning to find out my vocation in life, be it the priesthood, religious life, singlehood or marriage. My friends repeatedly asked me “Are you insane? Why do you always go to Church?” and I would tell them, “God is my Father, Mary my Mother and Jesus is my elder brother. They are my family members; no matter what happens, they are always with me.”
One day, I decided I could not take it anymore and ran away from home. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I providentially met Br Collin Wee, who referred me to Boys’ Town Singapore - a Catholic Institution run by the Gabriel brothers. This was the turning point in my life. At Boys’ Town, by God’s grace, I resolved to focus on my studies and completed my N Levels, something I could never have imagined previously. I also requested to attend the Rite for Christian Initiation for Youth (RCIY) and was baptized in May 2011. It was not easy even after being baptized, as I often skipped Sunday mass, did not pray and became directionless. However, the Lord Jesus was always faithful and never failed to look for me. One day, the Altar Servers at Holy Family Church were having their annual fundraising and recruitment drive. I was prompted to sign up and I grew closer to God, more disciplined and conscious of my direction in life by serving at Mass.
My brothers and sisters, I wish to share with you that God has a plan for each one of us here. He is the only person who will be with us, no matter which point of life we are at. Do not stray away from Him! Pray to him and also to our Blessed Mother Mary. Let them guide you to eternal life. Amen! I wish all of you happiness and fruitfulness in all that you do, especially in this Year of Faith. Finally, I would like to share Jesus’ words from the Bible which are very dear to me: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (Jn 10:27-28)
Continued from page 4... VISIT TO ST JOSEPH’S HOME
TKNCC assisted the staff in feeding residents who could not eat on their own. When lunch had been cleared, it was time for Bingo! There was much laughter and camaraderie once the game got going. Even the staff and Canossian sisters joined in the fun. Residents were thrilled to receive a prize when they completed a line on their Bingo ticket! Soon it was nap time for the residents and TKNCC bade their farewells. No doubt this visit will provide the burning spirit within to continue being the eyes and hands of Christ to others (see members’ reflections below). Wrapping of gifts brought together camaraderie and good team spirit. Visiting the home was an eye-opener for us.
It was heartening to see them enjoying their game of Bingo and to see their smiling faces when they won their prizes.
- Jeffrey and Nancy Chelliah
- Joseph Teo
Experienced the spirit of love and giving. - Cecilia Tan
We experienced bonding as a community of faith. - Steven Ang
I feel sad to see elderly people in wheelchairs and disabled and always wonder what their lives were like before.- Jennifer Gan Almost immediately, God opened wallets for us and donations began to come in. The initial donation was not even requested and came from someone outside of Telok Kurau and Holy Family Church and who had only heard me explain the project in the course of a conversation on a different matter. To me it was a clear sign to go ahead and ask as we were not asking for ourselves but for those in need, and hence, asking for Christ. – Shireen Lim, TKNCC leader
Cheryl Wee brings excerpts from two separate conversations where both mother and daughter share their individual faith journeys and experiences with her.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Is 54:8) Christine Lim How can cancer cells just disappear?
Red, son Christine with husband an's 1st and mum Joyce on Ryl
When I was in my early twenties, I noticed that people all around me had a religion so I too went on my own to HolyFam to find out more about the Catholic Church. They said, “Yes. We have this Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) coming up. Would you like to join?” I did but I stopped going after two home sessions because people would share, “Oh, I felt blessed today because God did this”; “I spoke to God today”; “We were praying and the cancer cells just disappeared and never came back.”; “The doctor gave three months to live and now she has got a clean bill of health”. And I couldn’t believe this crap because I’m very scientific; I believe in rational explanations as opposed to something spiritual. How could cancer cells just disappear without medication or chemo? And I had nothing to contribute because God hadn’t touched me in any way. Couple of years later, I accompanied a friend who wanted to find out more about the Catholic faith. I told him, “Let us go and try this out again”. Unfortunately, this time round it was even worse. We stopped after just one session because he came out saying, “What the hell! We didn’t even learn much about the Bible or the church. In fact we shared stuff and it just sounded too good to be true somehow.” That was my second shot at the RCIA. At my RCIA session the third time around, when they asked me what I thought of God, I told them, “God to me is like a magician, a wish granter - a genie in a pot in church. So I ask him for things that I wish for. I go to church only to pray for something specific - hoping the guy I like would give me his number, for an A in my exam instead of a B - and leave within five minutes. I don’t know what else to do in church. I am ashamed to say but I never think about God or go to church otherwise. I only think of Him in times of need - when I want something, ask God; when I’m troubled, ask God; when my migraine attacks hurt real bad I pray, “Oh God, help take this migraine away from me”. I don’t know any specific prayer. It is always a conversation between me and God silently in my head. But I would never say, “Thank God I left the house late else I might have been hit by a car or something””. Five years ago, my dad was diagnosed with last stage pancreatic cancer. Somewhere midway through the whole incident, an aunt came along who advised my mum and dad to pray. That’s when my mum and dad started praying. And whenever they prayed, my dad didn’t feel any pain so it seemed to help them a lot more. My dad was baptized just before he passed on that same year. My mum knew that it was only because of God that she was able to pull through those eight to nine months. She then embarked on the RCIA journey, got baptized and became very active in church (see article on page 7).
Rylan led me back to God
Last year, I gave birth to my son. I had scary thoughts when I was pregnant - that he was strangled by the umbilical chord, that he came out stillborn. It was just one of those times I thanked God that he came out normal, that he was healthy, for everything. Four months later, he had a little growth on his left groin. It was nothing serious but it scared the hell out of me. Although my husband and I are volunteers in Make a Wish Foundation, I could not imagine a four-month old baby going through an op. On the day of the op, Rylan could not have any milk from 12 midnight to 7 am. Mum and I didn’t sleep the entire night. My mum kept telling me to pray, “Speak to God earnestly. Just pray and it will work. Ask of Him that all this will take place fine”. I prayed. He woke up around 3 am whimpering a little and all we did was shush him and put him back to sleep and he slept. He next woke up at 7am when we were already on our way to the hospital yet he wasn’t crying even though he hadn’t had a single drop of milk for seven hours although he was used to being fed every two hours. In fact, he was happy. I found it very, very odd and I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence. I told myself I had to go back to church and embark on the journey once again to see what’s in it for me, whether I would be open to receiving God. I shared my story about how I thought God was to me before and then how it brought me here today. I wasn’t skeptical when others shared stories. I didn’t feel maybe it was just a coincidence. I thoroughly enjoyed all the sharing. It was just me wanting to be there, feeling happy that I was there. I went home eagerly wanting to return the following week. And as I progressed through the journey, I started to learn more about God. I then realized that all along, I had been blocking God out of my life and not accepting why certain things happen in a certain way. When things didn’t go my way, it was always God who didn’t grant my wish – the genie who didn’t work his magic. I didn’t stop to think that it didn’t happen because God had something else planned for me. I was spiritually blind before, but now it dawned on me that God has a plan for each and every one of us. For example, my son’s illness made me want to spend more time with him when in the past I would think, “Oh God, it’s the baby, he’s tying me down, I can’t go out, I can’t do my stuff anymore”. Nowadays when I pray or speak or chat with Him, it is not so much about asking for anything but thanking Him even if things don’t go my way because He has something else in store for me and I know He has a plan. I just have to open my eyes and see what He is trying to do for me. My mum sort of has this image of Rylan - first baptism, a few years later altar boy and after that priest. The whole journey is fixed already.
“I think I can do more” Joyce Lim Rylan birthday
I enrolled for my catechism course in 1977 along with three others here in Holy Family Church with Fr. Edgar de Souza - just three-to-one in his office. But I was not called at that time. In 2006, my husband, Vincent, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctor gave him three months to a year. It was very tough because my son, Melvin, used to travel frequently and my daughter, Christine, was usually out, so I was left alone to go up and down to hospital. I would go to work, then go to hospital, go back to office, do a bit of work, rush back to hospital to see him, have lunch then leave only after he said that I could go back to office. On and off, he would call and ask, “Are you busy? When are you coming? Have you eaten already or not?” Even if I didn’t eat, I would tell him I did or he would scold. Both my sister in-law and I always prayed the rosary for him. After the third op, my sister-in-law said she would arrange for a priest to baptize and anoint him but he said he wasn’t ready. Every now and then, she would call and say, “Ask Vincent when should I arrange for the priest to come”. But he always refused. One day, after the final operation, Vincent suddenly said, “Call Evelyn to arrange for a priest to baptize me”.
I kept my promise
When Fr Simon Tan came to baptize him at home, nobody had briefed Vincent that he must have a godfather. When I asked, “Who do you want me to arrange?”, he said one of his cousins, Charlie. Annie and Charlie who lived nearby have been Catholics for many years. Vincent was very happy even though his sister, cousin, niece, Annie, Charlie - and I can’t remember whether it was my daughter or son - were the only few to witness his baptism. He passed on three months after he was baptized. He talked to me, planned a lot of things for me. He said, “Can you promise me that you will go and get yourself baptized?” I said, “Promise you?” “Yes, promise me”, he said. “You don’t go and baptize, I in heaven, you don’t know go where”. In my heart, I was thinking, “Alamak, die already also look for me.” So I said ok. Vincent passed away two days after Christmas, his first as a baptized Catholic. When I showed Fr Edgar’s letter to Fr Simon confirming that I was ready to be baptized as I had already completed my catechism class, he said, “Oh, 1977 is too long, cannot. You still have to go through the RCIA”. So I came to this church. On seeing the letter, Fr Chris said, “1977 is too long. You have to come for the Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)”. He would call every time he saw me in church but I did not attend RCIA at Holy Fam. Andrew Goh, who had ministered at Vincent’s funeral, had given me his name card saying he has RCIA in Hokkien and that I could be baptized in six months. I was searching high and low for Andrew Goh’s card when he called on the phone, “Joyce, Andrew Goh here”. I said, “Andrew, how come you know I’m looking for you? I’m looking for your card”. So Andrew asked, “Are you ready to come for my class?” I said, “Yes, that’s why I’m looking for your card. I cannot find and now you call me. Ok, I come”. We were baptized at the Church of St Peter and Paul. I looked at Vincent’s photograph and told him, “I baptized already. You can find me, you can find me now”. And I kept my promise. After my baptism, since I didn’t know anybody, I decided to go to church to join a ministry. I sat alone as I didn’t know whether to join the ministry for the sick or the choir even though I didn’t have a good voice. My daughter advised that I better not join the ministry for the sick because when I talk, I cry so better join the choir. So I said, “Ok, I will try. I am old already so I must see which group I can fit in right? Early in the morning, there are just some very few elderly folks. I think I cannot get up too early”. I tried 9:15 am, ok. I then attended the 11:15 am mass although I didn’t make any attempt to go and approach Damian and the Sunday evening mass as well. When I attended the sunset mass on Saturday, I said, “Alamak, all youngsters, never mind, I start again, check which one to join”. So I just sat down and prayed, “God, can you please guide me. If you think I should join this group, you tell me to stand up and walk”. And I found myself standing up and walking towards Damian. I had asked God many times after each mass but he had never answered me so I would just sit there and go home. That day, I sat a second time and said, “If you think I fit into this group, you ask me to get up and go there and I will go there”. And again I found myself approaching Damian. After politely introducing myself, I asked, “Damian, can I join your choir?” Waaaahh, he just opened his eyes so big. “Yes, sure, why not, come”. Straight away I came. This is the first ministry I joined, so no matter how, I just continue.
Going Red with joy
After my baptism, I came to church to pray for Christine and Melvin to come closer to God. So now the Lord has answered my prayer for Christine (see article on page 6) but Melvin is still not ready. My son-in-law is a Filipino cradle Catholic. He is very humble, very good. I really thank God that he has come into our family. We call him Red (short for Renaldo). He brings a lot of laughter into our family. He always makes me laugh. Even up to today. I know he’s playful. Every time when I go out he will say, “Mummy, go where?” and I always say, “Go church”. On Sunday morning if I get up kalang kabut rushing to church, he will say, “Mummy, hurry up, the Lord is calling you.” One day, he put one empty luggage, pillow and a few other things in front of my gate. The moment I opened the door, I saw the bag and I asked what my pillow and all were doing down there. And Christine said, “Yeah, Red says you might as well carry your luggage and go and stay in church”. I take it that it is only a joke. He is just playing fool. He just wants to make me happy. And they always find time to be with me. I’m asking the Lord to give me strength, strength so that I can do more. I think I can do more.
Faith Blog / Events
“How do you know this is the right religion?” Mei Ling’s faith journey as narrated by Cheryl Wee. Mei Ling’s first visit to a Catholic Church in Melbourne to attend Christmas mass along with her sister-in-law did not prompt her to convert from Buddhism although for some reason, she found it very warm. She entered the church as incense was being burnt. She just felt very peaceful and calm but was inspired to know more about the Catholic faith only after meeting Kenneth in 2009. Although he was actively involved in the choir and in the Liturgical Ministry at Holy Family Church and took his faith very seriously, he never once asked her to convert while they were dating. But she attended mass just to support him as she knew he would be singing in the choir.
Mei Ling became serious. She shared, “I actually downloaded how to pray the rosary on the iPad. After I started praying, I found that things changed in my life. I felt His presence in my life. And during the retreat, Mei Ling and hu sband Ke it was just so funny. It was one retreat for at Vatican City nneth only a few hours yet somehow my outlook just changed. It is very, very hard to describe how or why prior to the retreat I was just watching like a bystander as if I was not involved at all. But after the retreat and after praying, I thought maybe this could be the faith for me. But I still had my doubts.”
The RCIA journey
Fifteen minutes with Fr Damian
Mei Ling soon noticed some changes among the people in her group, particularly in one gentleman, who started to become friendly although he had kept to himself initially and used to be very quiet. One day, while on an outing to visit churches, he shared how praying the rosary everyday had changed him. He kept telling her to pray the rosary too. Seeing his transformation,
Mei Ling was baptized at Easter this year.
During their marriage preparation course, Kenneth shared with her the importance of living in and raising children the Catholic way. Last year, she signed up for the Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Holy Family since she always felt that it is important for a married couple to share the same values and the same faith as it is very hard to bring up children if the parents do not agree on the religion. She found it difficult and sometimes stressful to attend the Wednesday sessions as she worked at night although coming for RCIA on Sundays was no problem. Initially, Mei Ling found the RCIA sessions a bit awkward as she recalled “I didn’t really know where this was heading as I was just listening to someone telling me stories”.
She continued, “All of us in the RCIA have to go through interviews with the priests. I thought it would be just a simple interview with Fr Damian where he would want to know if I am serious and would test my knowledge about the Catholic faith. I never thought that this short fifteen minutes conversation just talking to him, would evolve to be so deep so as to touch my heart and that I would end up in tears. I asked Fr. Damian, “How do you know this is the right religion? There are so many religions in this world. And even if we were to study all of them, at the end of the day, we would still have no idea which religion is the right one. As for me, I chanced upon this religion by fate because I met my husband. That’s all I know about the faith.” I also told him about my grandmother who had passed away and how I felt very sad. It was just a very deep conversation. We even spoke about heaven and he told me that heaven is a very beautiful place and if everyone went to heaven they wouldn’t want to come back.”
It's all about "Love" This year's theme at the Milestone Wedding Anniversary Event organized by the Family Life Ministry (FLM) team "Called to love, Unconditionally" , sa challenged couples to relook their ere Th nty Au d Uncle Albert an le models. marital commitments and see how far 55 years - true ro they have managed to love as Christ loved us. It was truly "the Event worth waiting for" as couples looked forward to this opportunity to renew their vows and to share a beautiful spirit-filled moment once in five years, to experience His love and blessings in this special mass. Knowing that they were sharing this beautiful journey with others probably helped them cherish this milestone in their marriage. Our celebrant, Father Peter Wee, captured the essence of it all by saying that realistically (or rather humanly), there is no such thing as unconditional love as to get to that level, we need a condition and that is to be able to love at the level of our Lord and God. Initially it seemed as if he had not agreed with the theme but when we reflected on what he had preached, it is clear that he wanted us to fully understand the meaning of this Love incarnate which is articulated in St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians "Love is patient...never boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish, ..not resentful, ...delights in the truth, is ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes (Ch 12:31 - 13:8). "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:9-12) aptly
Christine Lye Chairperson, FLM
summarized our theme. To be able to love this way, we need to be deeply rooted in Christ. Many marriages today are not as resilient and lasting. Although the vows are said so beautifully amidst the pomp and pageantry and elaborate décor, yet in reality the most difficult part for most couples is to always be there “for worse”, “in sickness” and “in poverty”. Very often couples are not willing to work hard at their marriages and look for the slightest reason to break the vows “to honour and cherish till death do us part”. That is why we must continue to help them accept and embrace both the bitter and the sweet and to strive towards that ideal love. Any Catholic couple celebrating their big milestones will tell you that the secret ingredient is being God-centred and being a part of the church community. A great testimony can be found in those who serve the church. Many successful active Catholics have successful marriages. At least I can speak for my team in the Family Life Ministry. I can proudly say that we are very couple-oriented and very familyoriented. This is the reason we treasure this annual project and put in so much love, effort and creativity into making this event truly memorable and meaningful for our celebrating couples. The photos alongside capture the loving touches that we have given to each and every aspect of the celebrations. Gerard and Jenny, 20 years and full of fire...
– Jesus Christ, the Good News
Bible Apostolate team
“Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent: And he said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.” This verse from Ecclesiasticus Ch 24:8 speaks of the coming of Jesus as Wisdom to dwell among men. The Old Testament includes a wide variety of books - The Wisdom Books – Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, that reflect a very important side of Israel’s religious faith. To these have been added, the Song of Songs and the Book of Psalms. Real wisdom is found in the fear of God which is the very foundation of true wisdom. All wisdom comes from God since He alone is wise. 29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 32 He also uttered three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. Solomon’s reputation for wisdom was so great that Israel considered him to be the founder of their wisdom tradition. On the basis of 1 Kings 4:2934, he is believed to be the author of the Book of Proverbs and The Song of Songs. The Book of Ecclesiasticus stands out from previous wisdom writings in Israel by its intense concern with two themes, namely, Salvation history, as a lesson for learning wisdom and immortality as an explanation of how God rewards the sufferings of the just. Our story of Salvation History takes us to the Return after seventy long years in Babylon, when Cyrus, the King of Persians, released the people of Israel to return to Judah and to rebuild their Temple. The Israelites were steeped in the knowledge that their exile was a physical living-out of their spiritual separation from God. In the ensuing years, the rulers of the Maccabean family, the Hasmoneans, provided little peace with the religious leadership divided and Israel was filled with political strife and assassinations. Pompey, the Roman general became an ally and in 63 B.C. entered Jerusalem and killed the priests in the Temple. Judah became a Roman protectorate. Hasmonean rule ended in 37 B.C. when the pro-Roman Herod the Great was made King of the Jews. Rome was the dominant world power when Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great was Tetrarch of Galilee. The Jews were home, but in a sense they were still “slaves” subject to foreign empires and spiritual “exiles”. They waited in longing for the coming of the Messiah and for the promised Jubilee.
The Messianic Fulfilment
In the Old Testament, we saw how God had already begun the work of Salvation a long time ago. Jesus, the fulfilment of God’s Salvific action in the New Testament – is God’s intervention in our life, God’s concrete salvation for all, the definitive moment. 10 In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. Prophet Isaiah in Chapter 11:10 proclaimed the coming of the Anointed One, “of the root of Jesse” who will be a light for the nations. The time had come for the fulfilment of God’s promises. The new King was heralded by the angel Gabriel himself who said he would be called “Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). In the dark of the night, the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem heard the angel announcing “news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:11). The Magi came from the East knelt in adoration and “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2:11) fulfilling the prophecy of Micah: 2“But you, O Bethlehem Eph'rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2). In the historical perspective, the birth of Jesus heralded the Great Hope of Israel – the Kingdom of God. Israel was not just a political entity but the Kingdom and Servant of God. Peace and justice would reign and the people would enjoy prosperity when there was true justice. The long awaited Messiah, the Anointed One, in Greek, Christos, would restore the Davidic Kingdom, as told to the prophet Nathan in the second Book of Samuel: 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘…and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth... Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house..’ (2 Sam 7:8, 11). Jesus launched his public ministry by announcing the Year of Jubilee and freedom to captives. Then he went out to proclaim and effect that freedom by seeking the lost, healing diseases, and forgiving people their sins. His early teaching focused on the need for repentance and he taught that whether in prayer or following the law, the attitude of the heart was all-important. Jesus called his disciples to follow him in the law of love.
The New Testament
Jesus himself left no literary remains; information regarding his words and works came from his immediate followers, the apostles and their disciples, who first proclaimed the Kerygma - the redemptive death and resurrection of the Lord. The word “euaggelion” or “good announcement” which we translate as “gospel” did not refer to a book or writing but to a proclamation or message. Jesus chose companions who travelled with him and saw and heard what he said and did. Their memories of his words and deeds supplied the raw “Jesus material”. In the latter part of the first century, we witness the apostolic preaching by those who had seen and heard Jesus and to whom He had appeared after His resurrection (1 Cor 15:5-7). They had come to full faith in the Risen Jesus as the one through whom God had manifested the ultimate salvific love to Israel and eventually to the whole world – a faith they vocalised through confessional titles - Messiah/Christ, Lord, Saviour. We speak of these
preachers as “apostolic” because they understood themselves as sent forth (appostellien) by the risen Jesus and their preaching is described as kerygmatic proclamation (kerygma) - intended to bring others to faith. The evangelists or writers of the Gospel were not eye-witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus. The Gospels are therefore not literal records of the ministry of Jesus. Their goal was to bring readers/hearers to a faith in Jesus that opens them to God’s reign or kingdom –“basilea”. Of the four canonical books that record the “Good News” brought by Jesus Christ, the first three accounts namely Matthew, Mark and Luke, share many similarities that they are called ‘synoptic’ which means ‘with one eye’. It is also probable that a common oral tradition was committed to writing independently by each of the three Synoptics, and consequently with variations. The Fourth Gospel, according to John was written much later towards the end of the first century A.D.
Mark is commonly thought to have been the first written of the four Gospels, dating probably between the mid or late 60’s. Both Matthew and Luke drew on it. Traditionally the author is attributed to Mark, a follower and “interpreter” of Peter, identified as John Mark in Acts, addressing a community that seemingly had undergone persecution and failure. He presents Jesus as the Son of God, whose ministry was characterised by a succession of mighty works which, to those who had eyes to see, were signs of the presence of God’s power and Kingdom. His Gospel was seen less as a direct witness to the life of Jesus or to the period of oral transmission than as a witness to the Christian communities of Mark’s day.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
The Gospel according to Matthew is the church’s Gospel par excellence as it has served as the New Testament’s foundational document of the church, rooting it in the teaching of Jesus – a church built on rock against which the gates of hell would not prevail. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29), the eight Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer are among the most widely known treasures in the Christian heritage. Not only is it the only Gospel to use the term “church” - ekklesia (16:18; 18:17) but both its contents and structure indicate an interest in providing clear and coherent guidance to a community of Jewish believers. The Gospel of Matthew has often been described as a Jewish-Christian Gospel – written by a Jew to convince fellow Jews. It is a Gospel of Committed Christianity with the guidelines for true discipleship. It begins with the Infancy narrative – of God-with-us, Emmanuel (1:23) and ends with Emmanuel, Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, to the close of the age" (28:20). As in Mark, Jesus begins his ministry telling parables because his open preaching meets hostility and rejection. When he begins speaking in parables, it is in fulfilment of the prophecy in Psalm 78:2 - “I will open my mouth in a parable”; as shown in the following verse: “All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable” (Mt 13:34). The understanding of the parables by the followers of Jesus is fundamentally the commitment called faith which enabled the disciples to grasp the significance of Jesus’ teachings.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
The Gospel according to Luke sets forth the words and works of Jesus as the divine and human Saviour, whose compassion and tenderness extended to all who were needy – the poor. The universal mission of Jesus is emphasized by tracing his genealogy back to Adam, the father of the race (3:38); by including references to a despised people - the Samaritans (10:30-37; 17:11-19); by indicating that women have a new place of importance among the followers of Jesus and by the promise that the Gentiles would have the opportunity to accept the Gospel. The writer is anonymous and ascribed to a physician, Luke, a Gentile convert who was a friend of Paul. The Gospel was probably written around 80 A.D. In one of the three great hymns or canticles of the Lukan Gospel, the Benedictus, Zechariah praises God for his “visitation” of his people; for their redemption in fulfilment of the promises to Abraham (1:68-69). The story of Jesus brings to completion the ancient and fundamental promises of God that gave birth to a people. The figure of Abraham and the fulfilment of the promises play a more central role here than in the other Gospels because Luke is concerned with connecting the Church’s story to Israel. And it is a story of salvation.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
The Gospel of John, also known as the Fourth Gospel, is explicitly a theological reflection in the form of the story of Jesus Christ, the Divine Son of God, to highlight the nature and mission of Jesus for a theological purpose. The author is a Hellenistic Jew and Chapter 21:24 points to the “Beloved Disciple” but his identity is not clear although the Church Fathers associated him with the name John. The Gospel begins with the Prologue 1:1-18 – a hymn that encapsulates John’s view of Christ – a divine being (1:14) who is also the light (1:5, 9) and God’s only Son (1:14, 18) comes into the world and becomes flesh. Although rejected by his own, he empowers all who do accept him to become God’s children, so that they share in God’s fullness. The background of this poetic description of the descent of the Word into the world and the eventual return of the Son to the Father’s side (1:18) lies in the picture of personified Wisdom who was in the beginning with God at the creation of the world and came to dwell with human beings. The Book of Signs in Chapters 1:19 to 12:50 show the Johannine usage of works or signs as miraculous deeds or statements about the future (12:33; 21:19) that manifest who Jesus is, His purpose, His glory and His relation to the Father. They present Jesus as the fulfilment of Jewish messianic hopes. Only in John is the term “Messiah” forthrightly used of Jesus and is announced in various ways in the opening chapter of the Gospel by John the Baptist: 29 … "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.'… The figure of the lamb is rich in symbolism in Judeo-Christian thought as atonement for sin; as deliverance from evil as the Passover lamb; as Suffering Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53:7. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he Answers: 1. Isaiah (Is 61:1-2) 2. Jonah (Mt 12:39-40) 3. Words of lament, mourning and woe (Ez 2:8-10) 4. Daniel (Dan 8:11-14) 5. A heifer (Hos 4:16) 6. Amos (Am 1:3) 7. Isaiah (Is 53:1) 8. Jesus Christ (Ezek 21:27) 9. Belshazzar (Dan 5:5-29) 10. Jeremiah (Jer 1:10) 11. Obadiah 12. Baal (Jer 2:8)
opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Jesus is the Messiah who brings eschatological judgement and deliverance by offering Himself to wash away our sins. In John 3:15-21, Jesus proclaims for the first time the basic Johannine theology of salvific incarnation. He is God’s Son come into the world so that everyone who believes in Him has eternal life and is not condemned. The Book of Glory in Chapters 13-20 is enunciated in 13:1 with the announcement that Jesus was aware that his “hour” had come to pass from this world to the Father, showing to the very end his love for his own who were in this world. He turns his attention to his disciples, to those who accept him, the Word reveals his full glory in his hour of return to the Father in death, resurrection, and ascension.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
Luke’s story continues in his Jerusalem narrative of the Book of Acts – the beginning of the church and the basic plot of Acts is sketched in “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:47-49). This phase of the church is a period not of Jesus’ absence but of his presence in a new and more powerful way. In the Acts narrative, Luke shows that God has kept his promise to Israel – a restored Israel – which received the blessings God has promised to Abraham, blessings that reached the Gentile world as well. The Pentecost story in Acts 2:1-4 uses external symbols to describe the witnesses’ internal transformation. The essential work of the Spirit in the form of mighty wind and tongues of fire transforms eyewitnesses into “ministers of the word” (Lk 1:2). The Book of Acts traces the story of the Christian movement from the resurrection of Jesus to the time when the apostle Paul was in Rome, preaching the Gospel unhindered. Luke’s purpose was to awaken faith by showing the triumphant progress of the Good News and to defend Christians against the charge that they were destructive of the Jewish institutions and a troublesome element in the Roman empire. The historian–evangelist Luke has done justice in this first book of church history in his narrative on the Apostles especially Paul.
THE LETTERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Christian movement found its first and most vivid voice in the letters of the Apostle Paul that bear his name - Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, Philemon; the Pastoral Letters, I and II Timothy and Titus. His Letters revealed the range and depth of his thoughts and his passion to preach the saving act of Jesus Christ in the Paschal Mystery – the crucified “Lord of Glory” (1 Cor 2:8); as Apostle to the Gentiles and first Christian theologian. Written in the fifties of the first century, the Letters of Paul are the oldest sources of early Christian writings. Paul was not the founder of the Christian movement but joined after the apostles had already begun their missionary activity (Gal 1:17). His writings show a dependency on the apostolic tradition of the early church and calls attention that he is “handing on” what he has received. (1 Cor 11:2, 23). “For I delivered to you as of first importance, what I also received..” (1 Cor. 15:3). He was first of all a founder and pastor of churches. Paul’s activity as an apostle and missionary proclaiming the gospel and founding churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe had much to do with the development of his theology. He began to realize gradually the universal scope of Christian salvation as he worked with Jews who failed to accept the message and with Gentiles who did. The seven Catholic or General Letters in the New Testament are James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Jude. Their authorship is attributed to other apostles for whom they are named. Most are not written to individual communities but to broader audiences hence the term, “catholic” or universal. The letter to the Hebrews is a Biblical sermon that interprets Jesus in the light of the Old Testament. In the past it was sometimes attributed to Paul but neither the author nor the audience is explicitly mentioned.
THE REVELATION TO JOHN OR “THE APOCALYPSE”
The Revelation to John or “The Apocalypse” is a fitting close of the Holy Scripture, for its final chapters depict the consummation towards which the whole Biblical message of redemption is focussed. It is a highly symbolic narrative that interprets a historical crisis – the persecution of Christians in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D) and provides hope for a better future. Revelation transcends the apocalyptic genre because of the Christian experience of Jesus. Like all the writings of the New Testament, its expectations concerning the future are shaped by its acute awareness of God’s present power demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit. In Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, we read – “By divine Revelation God wished to manifest and communicate both himself and the eternal decrees of his will concerning the salvation of mankind” (Para 6). The Old Testament was to provide an understanding of God and how God deals with mankind to prepare for and declare in prophecy the advent of “Christ, redeemer of all men, and of the messianic kingdom” (Para 16). The Person of Jesus is revealed in the New Testament and in the most definitive way. Christ has fulfilled all that was written of him in the Old Testament and as Word-made-Flesh, established on earth the kingdom of God. “All mankind are called by God’s grace to salvation” (Lumen Gentium, paragraph 13, 14). “The Church, now a pilgrim on earth is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is mediator and the way to salvation”. We, the new People of God, the Church, are called to reveal the Light of Christ in a life of Christian witness, of faith and love.