S+L logo

Daily Scripture reflections
by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing

Rev. Anthony Man-Son-Hing is a priest of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Born in Georgetown, Guyana on 23 November 1965, Anthony moved to Canada along with his family in 1974.

He attended elementary and secondary schools in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and received a Bachelor of Arts at Wilfrid Laurier University (1988), He pursued Theology studies at Saint Augustine's Seminary in Toronto (1988-1993) and was ordained to the priesthood on May 14, 1993 for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Fr. Anthony is currently serving as Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and Ste-Marie parishes in Elliot Lake, Ontario as well as Pastor of Ste-Famille parish in Blind River, Ontario.

— The following content is reproduced with permission of Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing

His Word Today: Saint Agnes

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
21 January 2019, 8:11 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Agnes of Rome, a young girl who was born circa 291 AD and is believed to have died in 304 AD). Details about her life cannot be authenticated but she is believed to have been a young girl of about thirteen years of age, a virgin who was martyred who was martyred in Rome during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian on 21 January 304.

Tradition teaches that she was a beautiful young girl from a wealthy family.  She had many suitors of high rank and the young men, slighted by her resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.  She was brutally tortured and killed for her choice to follow Christ.

When Jesus was asked about why his disciples did not fast, he responded by asking a question: Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? (Mk 2:19).  Agnes knew that nothing else would suffice because she had already met the bridegroom who loved her - and who loves us - with infinite love.  We too are invited to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus: to realize that he is the deepest desire of our hearts, and nothing else will do.

Have a great day.

Respecting their dignity

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
20 January 2019, 8:45 am
A few years ago, I was serving in an inner-city parish where we were fortunate enough to count many people among our parishioners who were relatively well off, but there were also those who were silently suffering.  They always appeared with a smile, but we knew that they needed help.  In the modern parlance, these were the working poor: the ones who had to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.  We searched for a while to find a way to respond to their needs, all the while remembering that we needed to respect each person’s dignity.

Respecting each person’s dignity is something that Jesus did with grace.  In the gospel account that we have heard today, he was at a wedding party and a situation arose that could have ended up being very embarrassing for the young couple.  Mary saw the first signs of trouble and brought the matter to Jesus’ attention (cf Jn 2:3).  With reluctance, he responded to their needs out of respect for his mother and also for the personal dignity of the couple, not wanting them to face the prospect of being judged by their guests.

Jesus is concerned for the dignity of every person, and so should we.  It would have been easy for us to provide hand-outs for the people who came knocking at the door of our inner-city parish, but that would only have responded to an immediate need.  Instead, we wanted to find a different way.  After much thought and prayer, we decided to open a Community Kitchen: a place where we would teach parents and adults who were income-insecure how to cook.  We opened the parish kitchen and invited clients to cook with us.  Each week clients learned how to cook one dish each and at the end of a two-hour period, each client went home with enough portions of each dish to feed his or her family.  It was so rewarding for us to see the pride on their faces as they left, knowing that their families would be able to eat, but also knowing that they had learned something about cooking, about budgeting, about portion control ... and most importantly that they were not alone in their struggle.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us today that for the sake of the dignity of our brothers and sisters, we must not remain silent when we encounter situations where their dignity is being overlooked (cf Is 62:1), and Saint Paul reminds us that each of us has been given gifts of the Spirit which we must use for the good of others (cf 1 Cor 12:8-10).  We often speak of the Spirit’s gifts when we are addressing children or adults who are being Confirmed but all of us need to remember that these gifts are given.  They are not intended to be hidden away, because if we hide them, we risk the possibility of forgetting that we possess them.  Instead, we should be on the lookout for the Spirit’s gifts.  When we recognize them in others, we should call them forth and invite others to use them for the good of the community.

Today, the Church celebrates the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and in the coming week, we are being invited to pray for the unity of all Christians.  As we remember and pray for these brothers and sisters of ours, let us also remember that we should always be willing to use our talents, which are gifts of the Spirit, in order to respect and enhance the dignity of others.

His Word Today: What?

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
18 January 2019, 7:14 am
Good morning everyone,

If you've ever found yourself in a situation where you are reacting rather than observing a certain episode, then perhaps you've had a glimpse of what it was like for the scribes who were present and witnessing the moment when four men brought a friend of their's and lowered him into the house where Jesus was (cf Mk 2:3-4).

For those who were used to obeying the rules - all the rules - it must have been difficult for them to witness the roof of the house being torn off, and worse yet, for some late-comers to think that they could push past the crowds to get close to Jesus.  Even Jesus himself was suspect in their eyes.  In response to what they saw and heard, they muttered: Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins? (Mk 2:7).  Yet they too must have been amazed when Jesus said to the paralytic: ... rise, pick up your mat and walk (Mk 2:11).

The scribes thought that they were present that day to pronounce judgement, but in the end they were the ones who were most surprised.  Why should it be any different for us?  In situations where we might be tempted to think that we are the ones who should be speaking authoritatively, perhaps we should prepare ourselves to encounter the gift of awe in the presence of God.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Anthony

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 January 2019, 8:24 am
Anthony the Abbot
by Francesco de Zurbarán (c. 1640)
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Anthony the Great (otherwise known as Saint Anthony of the Desert, Saint Anthony of Egypt, Saint Anthony the Abbot and Saint Anthony the Anchorite).  Born on 12 January 251, he is revered among the Desert Fathers and among all those who have followed the tradition of monasticism in the Church.  He died on 17 January 356 and was instantly revered as a saint.

Saint Anthony of Egypt is often appealed to against infectious diseases, especially skin diseases.  Perhaps it is fitting that today's gospel passage recounts the story of Jesus' encounter with a leper who knelt at his feet and asked: If you wish, you can make me clean (Mk 1:40).  This act of courage has been repeated on countless other occasions as others have asked Saint Anthony to intercede on their behalf, asking God to make them clean.  As he did with that man, Jesus always responds to our prayers with the same reply: I do will it, be made clean (Mk 1:41).

Those of us who suffer from various skin diseases can still present our prayers to the Lord, and we can ask Saint Anthony to intercede on our behalf.  Imagine the joy that was on the face of that leper as he heard Jesus' response to his question.  The same can be ours if we dare to present our prayers to the Lord; he will always reply: I do will it.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Compassion

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 January 2019, 7:25 am
Good morning everyone,

Today's gospel passage describes a number of encounters that Jesus had with those who were sick (Mk 1:30-34).  In each case, I can imagine him seeing the sick persons and looking at them with profound love, as though he could always see the fullness of each person's potential independent of their illness and love them.

This is what he calls us to do as well: to encounter the people who's paths cross ours, to recognize the fact that none of us is perfect, but rather that each of us is a work in progress, and to encourage our brothers and sisters to recognize the goodness within each of us, to believe that we are all children born of a loving God.

Wherever we may be, let us ask the Lord to give us the grace to see the good in others, to believe in the potential for goodness in everyone we meet and to concentrate on that goodness so that we can truly see one another as brothers and sisters sharing a common journey.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Recognize

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
15 January 2019, 7:42 am
Good morning everyone,

Some people spend many years trying to find their fit in life, but when we find it, everything feels better; everything seems to click, and people who know us can see that we're in the right place, doing the right thing ... even if we ourselves can't.

When Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach, everyone was watching him: checking him out.  While some of them were looking with critical eyes, others were looking with understanding.  In the synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out: 'What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?' (Mk 1:24), almost as though he could truly see that Jesus was in his element.

Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing someone who is in his (or her) element?  Do you feel as though you yourself are in your element?  Pray today for the grace to recognize those who have found their niche.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Fulfillment

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
14 January 2019, 7:04 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church begins the celebration of the first week of Ordinary Time.  As though the curtain is opening on the ministry of Jesus, today's gospel describes the moment when he came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel ... and saying: the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:14-15).

Many centuries later, we are still awaiting the second coming of Jesus, but even as we wait, the kingdom of God is at hand.  Each day, there are signs of God's presence among us, signs of the work that is being carried out by the Holy Spirit ... in our very midst.  If we believe this to be true, then we will strive every day to develop the gift of a new sight which is capable of perceiving this work as it unfolds.

It all begins with a humble prayer.  Ask God to help you to open your heart today, to believe in the gospel and to develop the gift of spiritual insight that will allow you to see him at work.  Then, be prepared to be surprised: the evidence is all around us.

Have a great day.

I am well pleased

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
13 January 2019, 8:59 am
Today’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord concludes our annual celebration of the liturgical season of Christmas.  Having recalled the key moments in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, today we focus on the moment when he was baptized.  Jesus’ public ministry began on the day when he was baptized (cf Lk 3:22).  Saint Luke tells us that after he had been baptized, Jesus was praying; while he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him ... like a dove and a voice came from heaven saying: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

As it was for Jesus, so it was for each one of us.  On the day of our baptism, the parish community gathered.  Our parents and godparents brought us to the church and a priest (or a deacon) poured water over our heads while repeating the words that are part of every authentic baptism: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  This action takes place in a matter of moments, but it is a very significant moment in the faith life of God’s people.  Through the Sacrament of Baptism, the child (or the adult) who is baptized becomes a child of God, a part of a family of faith that traces its roots back to the time of Abraham and the prophets.

Through Baptism, we share in a common history that includes the words of the prophet Isaiah which we heard in today’s first reading.  At a time when our ancestors were searching and wandering aimlessly, Isaiah offered words of consolation and hope: Comfort, O comfort my people ... a voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord’ (Is 40:1,3).  In this way, God wanted to show us that even in the time of the prophets, long before the coming of Jesus Christ, He – God – was always close to us – to his people, encouraging us to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

But how do we prepare the way of the Lord?  What can we do?  We can begin by telling our children and our grandchildren about the day of their baptisms, how we celebrated and were filled with joy as we celebrated that significant moment in their lives.  We can also learn from the words of the Apostle Paul, offered in today’s second reading: Beloved, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all (Ti 2:11).  The Spirit of God, given to each of us on the day of our baptism helps us to renounce worldly passions ... and to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly while we wait for the fulfillment of the blessed hope of ... Jesus Christ (Ti 2:12-13).

The Spirit of God is given to us on the day of our Baptism.  From that very day, God is constantly at work within us, revealing Himself tenderly and lovingly to us.  Sometimes we can carry on for years, living our lives and paying little or no attention to the presence of God, but God is always present, just waiting for us to discover the truth that he is already living and working in our hearts.  Let us pray this week for this grace: let us ask God to reveal himself to us, to show us how he is at work within us.  Perhaps then we will have a glimpse at the meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism.

His Word Today: Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
12 January 2019, 1:10 pm
Good afternoon everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys (17 April 1620 to 12 January 1700), a French nun who was born in Troyes (France) and travelled to Fort Ville-Marie (now known as Montreal) in 1653.  There, she founded the Congregation of Notre-Dame of Montreal, a group of Sisters who did wonderful work educating young girls, the poor and children of First Nations.  She also developed one of the first uncloistered religious communities.

Like John the Baptist, she prepared the way in the hearts of many young people so that they could encounter the Lord.  Her community continues even today to do the same work across this country.  Each day, they strive to imitate the work of the Baptist, paving the way so that Jesus can be discovered ... and then recognizing that He must increase, and we must decrease (Jn 3:30).

Today, let us ask Saint Marguerite to help us increase our awareness of the children who are part of our lives - in some cases, that might be little ones, and in other cases it may be any variety of persons whose paths intermingle with ours.  Through our example of faith, joy and acceptance, may they too encounter the loving presence of God.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Compassion

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
11 January 2019, 7:11 am
Good morning everyone,

At some point or another, we have all known the experience of feeling left out: this can apply in the case of a child who has been passed over in the process of choosing teams for a friendly game or competition, or in the case of friendships, or promotions ... and so many other situations.  It is never a good feeling to realize that we have been excluded in such a way, because there is always a part of us that yearns to be included.

In the time of Jesus, some of the people he encountered really knew what it was like to be excluded, but luckily for them, Jesus devoted his energies to promoting inclusion - sometimes to the chagrin of others.  One of the ways he did this was to approach those who were suffering with leprosy: a virulent skin disease which if left untreated is extremely contagious.  Today's gospel passage speaks of one such man who was extremely brave; he dared to approach Jesus, to fall prostrate and to plead with him: Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean (Lk 5:12).  Jesus did not hesitate.  He stretched out his hand, touched him (which meant that he put himself in danger of being contaminated) and said, I do will it; be made clean (Lk 5:13).

Jesus' words and actions give us a glimpse into the compassionate heart of our God, who knows each one of us - including our joys and our sorrows, our concerns and our fears.  Our God reaches out to us every time we call out for help.  There is no hesitation.  Instead, there is always a gentle touch and a caring word that whispers: I love you, I want to help you.  When we hear these words in prayer, let us simply give thanks.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Coming home

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 January 2019, 7:42 am
Good morning everyone,

Today's gospel passage places us at a moment in Jesus' life when he returned to Galilee ... and news of him spread throughout the region (Lk 4:14).  We can imagine the excitement among the people of that region who had already heard about him and were eager to meet him and to hear him speak.

Furthermore, he came to Nazareth, where he had grown up (Lk 4:16), perhaps for the first time in many years, and in that place too, people who certainly knew Jesus as a child would have been eager to hear him speak.  Their first opportunity came in the weekly gathering in the synagogue on the sabbath.  He stood up to read and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (Lk 14:16-17).  At first glance, it may have seemed that the choice of this scroll was a random act, but there are never random acts when God is involved.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where Isaiah prophesied about him (cf Lk 4:18-19).

Jesus is still present among us today.  We cannot see him, touch him or hear his voice in the same way as those who were sitting in the synagogue that day did, but he is constantly travelling with us as we make our way through life.  People who heard about him, about his words and about his good works were excited to meet him when he came home.  What about us?  Are we excited to encounter Jesus today?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Closeness

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
9 January 2019, 7:52 am
Good morning everyone,

After Jesus had fed the crowds, Saint Mark's gospel tells us that he sent his disciples on ahead of him while he took charge of dismissing the crowds.  I wonder what the disciples thought when he told them to go on ahead of him.  After all, they had just witnessed a wonderful moment of joy.  Had they wanted to stay with Jesus, to remain in the moment of celebration?

We are told that when it was evening, the boat (carrying the disciples) was far out on the sea ... Jesus saw that they were tossed about while rowing ... and he came toward them (Mk 6:47-48).  As the sun was setting, the disciples were encountering difficulty on the water.  Even though they may have felt abandoned - having left Jesus on the shore - he came toward them because he knew that they needed his help.

There are times when we too feel as though Jesus is far from us.  At times when we feel most alone, abandoned and left to fend for ourselves, Jesus is actually closer to us than we can imagine.  He always comes to us, especially at times when we are in need.  Today, let us ask him to help us, so that we can always be aware of his presence in our lives.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Raymond of Penyafort

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
8 January 2019, 7:40 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates and prays with Saint Raymond of Penyafort, a Spanish Dominican Friar who lived in the 13th century (circa 1175 - 6 January 1275) who was responsible for compiling a collection of canon laws which remained an integral part of the Church's law until the 20th century.  He is considered the patron saint of lawyers, especially canon lawyers.

As a canonist, it was Raymond's responsibility to embody the heart of the Shepherd who was moved with pity for the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mk 6:34).  It is the heart of Jesus that always demonstrates the merciful love of God.  Inspired by his example, his faithful followers constantly seek out those of our brothers and sisters who are lost, disoriented or in need of help and inspired by the Lord's example, our task is to respond to the needs of others so that we can bring them to encounter the merciful presence of our Saviour.

Today, we ask Saint Raymond to pray with us, imploring the Lord to show us his face in the faces of our brothers and sisters, and inspiring us to do as he did: to respond to the needs of others with love and mercy.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint André Bessette

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
7 January 2019, 8:05 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passage for today's Mass begins by informing the reader that Jesus heard that John had been arrested.  Perhaps because he was afraid for his own future, he withdrew to Galilee (Mt 4:12).  In fact, it was from that place of seclusion that he began to preach and say: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' (Mt 4:17).

Many words of wisdom have been uttered from places of seclusion and from the lips of those who appear to be the most unassuming people, including a simple man who lived in Montreal, Quebec in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th.  Saint André Bessette simply welcomed guests who came to visit.  With an intense devotion to Saint Joseph, he continually strove to point out that the holy man who stood in the shadows, who was often forgotten in favour of his holy son and his beloved wife, should be remembered at all times.

Today, the Church remembers and prays with Saint André.  We are thankful for his devotion and his insistence on pointing out the presence of yet another example of faith who withdrew from the limelight, yet continues to intercede for us.  May Saint André too continue to pray for all of us, and help us to seek out those who - even in our day - continue to place others in the limelight, so that we might thank and celebrate them for their devotion and faith.

Have a great day. 

Find your star

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 January 2019, 9:03 am
One of my childhood memories of Christmas was the manger scene that would be set up in every house that we would visit.  Among the most elaborate was the one that was set up in my grandparents’ home.  To the eyes a child, that scene was an absolute wonder.  It covered half of a ping-pong table and included what seemed to be an entire village of buildings in addition to the stable.  There was a magical quality to the figurines.  Each time we visited during the weeks leading up to Christmas, there were more and more parts of the village set out upon the table, and the little people seemed to move from one part of the scene to another, including the wise men who would begin their journey on the very edges of the scene and slowly make their way toward the crib until the Epiphany, when they would finally arrive.

While Saint Luke’s gospel recounts Jesus’ infancy narrative, it is Saint Matthew who tells us the details of the visitors who came from the east.  They searched for the child who had been born king of the Jews, for they had observed his star at its rising (Mt 2:1-2) and wanted to pay him homage.

Saint Matthew wrote his gospel in order to help Christians who had been converted from Judaism to preserve the details of the life and ministry of Jesus.  It is significant that Matthew is the only one of the gospel writers to tell the story of the visit of the Magi.  Perhaps he wanted to demonstrate the fact that Jesus was born and lived among us, not only so that Jews could learn about him, but in order that all people would be able to hear the good news that God came to his people.  The light of faith was always intended to be spread throughout the world – even to its farthest ends, and therefore we must understand the visit of the Magi as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: Arise, shine he says, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! (Is 60:1).

Guided by the light of a star, the wise men set out in search of the child.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy (Mt 2:9-10).  The same gift of joy that was shared with the shepherds when the angels told them about the birth of the child was also shared with these visitors from afar, and this same gift of joy is also shared with each one of us if we – like the Magi – are willing to set out in search of Jesus.

How their hearts must have burned with joy as they knelt before the infant king to present their treasures.  That overwhelming joy was also present in the heart of Saint Paul after he had encountered Jesus, so much so that he set out and travelled extensively in order to share the good news with many who were not of Jewish origin.  Because of his zeal Gentiles have also become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus (Eph 3:6).

Today, all of us are once again little children gathered around the manger scene.  There is a part of us that will always marvel at the way that the little figurines seem to move, and there should always be a part of us that stands in awe when we realize that we are all sharers in the promise of eternal life because Jesus came to live among us.

His Word Today: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 January 2019, 8:09 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the scriptures place us - along with some of the disciples - standing beside Jesus as they ask him: Rabbi, where are you staying and they hear him answer: Come and see (Jn 1:38-39).  This is the same question that we too must constantly ask of the Lord.  In our thirst to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must ask him every day to show us the place where he dwells, and we must constantly trust that he will invite us to walk along with him - to come and see the places where his mercy needs to be demonstrated, where his words of compassion need to be uttered, where he himself is being neglected and needs someone else to speak out.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who is remembered especially in the United States of America today, reminds us that our interior life of prayer and relationship with God is nothing but the continuation of our Saviour's life within us.  At times, we may be tempted to think of an interior life - of prayer, of contemplation, of communication with Jesus - as simply a life of prayer, but if we open our hearts every day to the presence of God in our lives, we will soon discover that it is God who continues to act in and through us.

Today, let us give thanks for the gift of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, and let us ask the Lord to open our eyes to the wonders that he continues to accomplish in and through us every day.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Looking forward

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 January 2019, 7:58 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passage for today's Mass cites the words of John the Baptist at the moment when he set eyes on Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).  Echoing the moment when he leapt in his mother's womb, John's excitement at seeing Jesus is now expressed in words with a marvellous understanding of the mystery of God's love at work in our world.

Behold the Lamb of God, he says.  Jesus is God's lamb, the one who trusts implicitly in his Father and is willing to follow him as a lamb follows a shepherd.  Jesus can and does teach us how to follow our Father, how to listen for his word - which is spoken in the scriptures and in the depth of a prayerful heart - and he teaches us how to trust the voice of the Shepherd who has the power to take away the sins of the world and lead us all to the joy of his kingdom.

We have not arrived at that joyous reunion yet.  However, even as we look forward to the joy of that moment, we can already discover the joy of looking forward to it, and we can anticipate it with expectant hearts even as we live out the life that God grants to us while living here on earth.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
2 January 2019, 7:17 pm
Basil and I were both in Athens.  We had come, like streams of a river, from the same source in our native land, had separated from each other in pursuit of learning, and were now united again as if by plan, for God so arranged it.

I was not alone at the time in my regard for my friend, the great Basil.  I knew his irreproachable conduct, and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation.  I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him.  Many fell immediately under his spell, for they had already heard of him by reputation and hearsay.

What was the outcome?  Almost alone of those who had come to Athens to study he was exempted from the customary ceremonies of initiation for he was held in higher honour than his status as a first-year student seemed to warrant.

Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together.  In this way, we began to feel affection for each other.  When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal.  Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.

The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning.  This is an ambition especially subject to envy.  Yet between us, there was no envy.  On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry.  Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other's success as his own.

We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit.  Though we cannot believe those who claim that everything is contained in everything, yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.

Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it.  With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions.  We followed the guidance of God's law and spurred each other on to virtue.  If it was not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule of discerning right from wrong.  Different men have different names, which they owe to our parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements.  But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.
(Sermon by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop; Oratio 43, in laudem Basilii Magni, 15, 16-17, 19-21; PG 36, 514-423)

The Act of Pondering

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
1 January 2019, 7:55 am
Throughout the Advent period, the scriptures introduced us to the people who played various roles in the story that is unfolding during the time of Christmas.  First there was John: the one who prepared the way; then we met Mary and through her, we also met Joseph and others who were part of their respective families.  During the Christmas season too, we are invited to see the nativity through the eyes of all those who were there.  We have already heard about angels who appeared to shepherds in the fields.  Today’s gospel passage speaks of the visit of the shepherds who went with haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger (Lk 2:16), but in the context of today’s liturgy, the shepherds’ visit allows us to focus on Mary.

On this day, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary who we recognize as the Holy Mother of God.  Today, we also commemorate the fifty-second World Day of Peace.  Saint Luke tells us that Mary was contemplative.  At the moment of the Annunciation, she treasured the angel’s words and pondered them in her heart.  All mothers ponder!  Pregnancy itself invites such an attitude, as an expectant mother is increasingly conscious of the new life that is growing within her so it should not surprise us to hear that Mary treasured the words she heard and pondered them in her heart (cf Lk 2:19).

For generations – even before the time of Mary – the words of Aaron’s blessing had been spoken on a daily basis in all Jewish homes.  Both Mary and Joseph had heard these words from the days of their childhood.  Mary probably pondered the words of that blessing too: May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Nm 6:24-26).

Perhaps on many occasions even during her pregnancy, she had pondered these words.  Perhaps she had wondered all along the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem how it was that God was blessing her and her beloved Joseph.  Perhaps she marvelled at the way God was caring for them – keeping them – by finding a place for her to rest, and then shepherds surprised them by bursting into the cave and telling them about a message they had heard from a choir of angels.  Could it really be true that God was blessing all of humanity?  Yes.

God kept Joseph and Mary safe throughout all that ordeal.  Despite all the obstacles, God orchestrated the safe delivery of Jesus.  In spite of the shadows that were looming, God’s face shone on their little family.  Mary saw God’s face in the face of her son as he suckled.  She saw God’s face in Joseph’s eyes as he gazed in wonder and joy upon the son he had been invited to care for, and she saw God’s face in the other-worldly joy of the shepherds.

Aaron’s blessing spoke of the gift of peace.  The shepherds had spoken of angels who had sung a song of peace.  Dear brothers and sisters, the nativity invites us all to ponder – like Mary – the wonderful truth that when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son (Gal 4:4) to bring us the gift of his peace.

We are part of a family

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
30 December 2018, 8:34 am
Every one of us is part of a family: we all have a mother and a father.  Some of us have other siblings and extended family as well.  In modern times, the concept of family has become much more fluid but at its core, every family is meant to include adults who are the keepers of tradition and wisdom and children who look to their parents, guardians and other adults in order to learn the traditions and wisdom that are meant to be passed on to them.

The writings of Ben Sirach the Sage speak of some of this wisdom in today’s first reading in the context of the family of faith to which we all belong: Whoever honours a father atones for sins ... and whoever respects their mother is like one who lays up treasure (Sir 3:3-4).  Children don’t always know what it means to respect their parents or their elders, except if they have learned this behaviour from others.  Respect begins with an appreciation for the fact that parents have wisdom and knowledge which they are willing to impart.

It is often only when children themselves become adults, and their parents grow older, that we are able to truly grasp the meaning of the wisdom that is set before us today.  If we have had the privilege of spending time in the company of elderly parents or grandparents, the words of Ben Sirach will apply even more to our situations: help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives.  Even if his mind fails, be patient with him ... kindness to your father will not be forgotten (Sir 3:12-14).

Today, we continue our prayerful gaze upon the holy family of Nazareth.  Saint Luke tells us that Jesus was obedient to Joseph and Mary ... and increased in wisdom and in years, and in favour with God and human beings (Lk 2:51-52).  Jesus’ parents probably were the first to tell him about the wisdom of Ben Sirach.  I wonder if the words we heard today from the prophet made sense to him when he first heard them read to him, or whether he too needed to grow in his understanding of their worth.  As time went on, perhaps Jesus heard these words echoed in his heart as he gazed upon Joseph in his old age.  We are not told any details of that time in their life, but we can surmise that there must have been a time when Jesus helped Joseph, just as Joseph had helped him in his younger years.  Perhaps there were times in Joseph’s life when his mind began to fail him.  Jesus is always patient with us; perhaps Joseph was among the first to benefit from his divine son’s kindnesses.

We too can ask Jesus to show us the same kindness that he showed to his parents.  We can also ask him to teach us to be patient with ourselves and with others.  Saint Paul gives us some practical advice about how we can recognize the fruit of God’s kindness and patience at work within us.  As God’s chosen ones, he says ... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience (Col 3:12).  Each of these is a gift from God.  In fact, only with God’s help can we learn how to recognize these traits and to use them wisely.

In the coming days, let us all ask Jesus to help us to open our hearts to him so that his word can dwell richly in our hearts (cf Col 3:16), and let us give thanks for the gift of our families, the schools of discipleship in which we live every day.

When God appears

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
25 December 2018, 8:52 am
Each year, when Christmas arrives, we hear the story once again.  We know the characters very well: Joseph, the just man; Mary, a young girl who is betrothed; shepherds who heard the good news proclaimed to them by angels ... The picture seems to be the epitome of serenity and peace, but I think that serenity was the last thing on the minds of that young couple.

All the plans had been put in place.  Joseph, a good and just man, a carpenter from the village of Nazareth in Galilee was betrothed - formally promised in marriage - to a young virgin who also lived in that place.  Perhaps by the time we happen on the scene, the plans had already been put in place for a wedding to take place, and then everything seemed to come crashing down around them.  Joseph heard the news that Mary was with child.  Being a good and just man, he decided to dismiss her quietly, but then the plot thickened even more: an angel appeared to him and told him that the child was from God, that there was a much larger plan unfolding and that he and his betrothed were being invited to be part of it.

Joseph agreed to cooperate with the plan.   He did not dismiss Mary, but then there was yet another unexpected turn of events: a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered (Lk 2:1).  The Romans were very orderly in every aspect of governing.  They determined that in order to keep proper records about the population of their empire, everyone would go to their own towns to be registered.  So it was that Joseph ... went from the town of Nazareth ... to the city of David called Bethlehem because he was descended from the house and family of David ... along with Mary to whom he was betrothed (Lk 2:4-5).  Knowing that she was with child, Joseph probably would have preferred to keep her safely at home until the child was born, but he didn’t dare disobey the order to partake in the census.

There were other things about poor Joseph’s plans that also had to be changed: when they arrived in Bethlehem, there was no room for them to stay in any normal accommodations, and to make things even more complicated, while they were there, the time came for Mary to deliver her child (Lk 2:6) so he had to find somewhere for her to rest.  They ended up not in a hotel, but in a stable, not in a hospital but surrounded by animals.  Against the bracing chill of the night air, a stable filled with animals would have provided some warmth and shelter from the wind but it certainly was not ideal.  Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes to keep him warm (Lk 2:7).  In the manger, it was not sheets and a pillow that made him comfortable, but the food that had been placed there for the animals.

There was nothing either normal, expected or preferred about the way all this came about, yet the grace of God appeared in this way, bringing salvation to all (Ti 2:11).  We too can find ourselves in situations where even the most well-intentioned of our plans sometimes get turned upside down.  In such situations, perhaps we need to pause and consider the possibility that God may be at work.  Because Joseph and Mary said yes, their lives were changed forever.  Because they said yes, a people who once walked in darkness, who lived in a land of deep darkness ... have seen a great light (Is 9:1).

Merry Christmas!  Buon Natale!  Joyeux Noël!  Feliz Navidad!  Feliz Natal!  Fröhliche Weihnachten!  Wesołych Świąt!

His Word Today: Speechless

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
24 December 2018, 8:16 am
Good morning everyone,

On this final day before the Church begins the liturgical season of Christmas, the scriptures present the image of Zechariah at the moment when he and Elizabeth are presenting their child in the temple.  Like the episodes of other encounters with the angel, this part of the story also recounts marvellous happenings and an overwhelming need to sing for joy.

In contrast to Mary's response of faith, when Zachariah encountered the angel Gabriel, he expressed skepticism (Lk 1:18).  In response to his questions, the proof of God's miraculous presence was confirmed by the fact that Zachariah's speech was taken away until the moment when he confirmed the plan that the Lord had set out.

We do not know how long Zachariah may have dreamed about having a son who would bear his name, or who would carry on his blood line, but in the end he was asked to say yes to a plan that was devised with a much wider scope than he could ever have imagined.  It took an extended period of time without the strength of his voice for this man to realize the significance of this moment in time.  Was he exuberant or reluctant to write on that tablet?

May his example of faith help us to grow in trust so that we too might be willing to understand that God's plans for us are far beyond our own comprehension.  At times we need to stop talking in order to get out of the way; only then are we able to recognize the way things are meant to be.

Have a great day.

A special visitor

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
23 December 2018, 8:13 am
Every year, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we encounter Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Different parts of the story are recounted from one year to another.  This year, we meet Mary as she arrives at the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth; the moment of their initial meeting is described in the gospel of Saint Luke as a particularly joyous occasion, and this joy helps us to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb (Lk 1:41).  In many parts of the Orient, when two people meet, they will bow to one another as a sign of greeting and respect for each other.  In some traditions, the belief is that the two persons who meet are recognizing the spirit that dwells within the person they are meeting.  Even before Mary and Elizabeth had exchanged any words, the child Elizabeth was carrying within her was aware that the Son of God was near, and with a leap, was alerting Elizabeth to the fact that this beloved relative of hers was indeed highly favoured.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (Lk 1:42).  The scriptures speak of the angel’s conversation with Mary and so we know that Gabriel revealed to her the fact that her relative Elizabeth had ... conceived a son in her old age (cf Lk 1:36) but we are not told of any such apparition to Elizabeth, so it is possible that Elizabeth was unaware of Mary’s joyful news until the young girl arrived on the threshold of the older woman’s doorstep.  If this was indeed the case, the child leaping in Elizabeth’s womb and the words of greeting she offered are both signs that even before his birth, John the Baptist recognized the person of Jesus, and John’s joy was echoed in Elizabeth’s words.

During the three months that Mary stayed with Elizabeth (cf Lk 1:56), they had many occasions to spend time together.  Both these women would have been aware of the prophets and the words they had spoken.  It is quite possible that they pondered together the words that we heard in today’s first reading: from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel (Mi 5:1).  Along with their wondering about what the future would hold, both these women – the older one who had already lived her life, who had perhaps given up on the possibility of ever knowing the joy of having a child of her own, and the younger one who was only just setting out on life’s journey – would have pondered the wisdom of the prophet’s teaching.  What wonderful conversations they must have had.  I wonder if they both had moments of quiet reflection and prayer during which they were aware that they were in the presence of God, already participating in the miracle of bringing forth the one who would prepare the way and the one who would rule in Israel.

As we continue our preparations over the next few days for the celebration of Christmas, let us ask Mary and Elizabeth to share their joy with us.  Let us also humbly place ourselves in the presence of our God, as they did, simply saying: I have come to do your will (Heb 5:7).

His Word Today: Novena Day 6

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
22 December 2018, 7:28 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passages which precede the account of the Nativity of the Lord focus today on the response that Mary makes to Elizabeth's greeting.  This is the first time that Saint Luke records the words of Mary following her yes, offered in answer to the angel's invitation.

Mary's words are a song of praise, a song that has echoed down through the ages, ever since she first uttered them: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my saviour (Lk 1:46-47).  This is followed by a litany of praise for all that God has accomplished in her own life and in the lives of his people from one generation to another, finally focusing on the great gift of God's mercy.

Mary's Magnificat - the title by which this song of praise has come to be known - is repeated daily on the lips of those who pray the prayer of the Church, known as the Liturgy of the Hours.  This prayer can be prayed by everyone who has recognized God's presence in their lives; for all that God has done in us, and for all that God continues to reveal to us, we sing a continual song of praise.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Novena Day 5

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
21 December 2018, 7:14 am
Good morning everyone,

As we look to Mary for an example of how we should strive to live our faith, today, we see her setting out and travelling to the hill country in haste (Lk 1:39) in search of her kinswoman Elizabeth.  The angel Gabriel had told her that Elizabeth ... in her old age, was with child and Mary immediately set out in search of her.  She knew that Elizabeth was an older woman and so she would need help, but Mary also knew that Elizabeth carried within her another part of the secret that she herself had discovered.

The moment of meeting between these two women must have truly been a time of great joy.  Two women met one another, but at that same instant, the child in the womb of the older woman recognized the presence of God in the womb of the younger woman.  As if to communicate his reverence for the child in Mary's womb, the child in Elizabeth's womb leapt for joy (cf Lk 1:41).

Have we ever been aware of being in the presence of holiness?  Have our hearts leapt with joy at such moments?  If so, we will never forget what that was like.  In fact, that precise moment will continuously echo in our memories - as though it had only just happened - and we will find strength in that memory to continue leaping with joy every time that we are in the presence of Jesus.

Have a great day.

→ Previous posts from Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing