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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: Know your place

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
26 April 2018, 7:26 am
Good morning everyone,

As we continue our reflection on the teachings that Jesus shared with his disciples - and by extension, the ones he shares with us - today, John's gospel reminds us that no slave is greater than his master, nor any messenger greater than the one who has sent him (Jn 13:16).

If we consider the classroom setting, it might be easier for us to think about the fact that - in general - the students are taught by the teacher.  Although at some level, wise teachers can always learn things about themselves, the task at hand is that of sharing knowledge and forming the minds of those who have been entrusted to our care.  If this is true in the case of classrooms, it is equally the case in the relationship we share with our God.  Our loving Father is constantly at work, teaching us valuable lessons that shape the people we become.

Since God's wisdom is infinite, we should always remember that we are the messengers who have been sent to share with others the good news that we ourselves have experienced and come to believe.  Our teacher is - and always will be more loving, more forgiving, greater than we can ever hope to be, and our God will always gently invite us to stretch our understanding of ourselves and of the relationships we are called to live with others and with Him.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Mark

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
25 April 2018, 7:14 am
Saint Mark
Religious painting by Guido Reni, 1621
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical Feast of Saint Mark, the evangelist (which means the writer of the gospel).  After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them: 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature' (Mk 16:15).  The Eleven then set out to share the Good News in every part of the known world.

Saint Peter travelled from Cesarea to Antioch and then through Asia Minor where he visited the early Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (cf 1 Peter 1:1) before arriving in Rome around the year AD 42.  Somewhere along the way, Peter met Mark and invited him to join his journey. Mark wrote down the sermons that Peter shared along the way, thus composing the text that has come to be known as the Gospel of Mark before he left Rome and made his way to Alexandria.

In AD 49, Mark travelled to Alexandria, Egypt (cf Acts 15:36-41) and there he founded the Church of Alexandria.  Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Coptic Catholic Church all claim to be successors to this original community of Christians.  Some aspects of the Coptic liturgy trace their roots back to Mark himself.  He was chosen as the first Bishop of Alexandria and is honoured as the founder of Christianity in Africa.

May Saint Mark intercede for us today so that the Lord will give us the special gift of holy bravery to share the joy of our faith with those we meet.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Hear His voice

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
24 April 2018, 6:44 am
Good morning everyone,

Have you ever heard a voice calling your name - even from far away, even in a crowded room - and known instantly that you needed to answer?  It takes time and repeated efforts for human beings to become so connected to one another that we instantly respond to the sound of another person's voice.  The most well-known of these may be the voices of our mothers, fathers, grandparents or children, but the same depth of connection exists between us and God.

From the day of our Baptism, Jesus has been calling our names.  At some level deep within each one of us, our hearts have always longed to hear his voice, and when we hear it - even though it might seem to be spoken at a great distance from us - we instantly want to respond ... because at that level, deep within us, we know instinctively that Jesus loves us and will do everything in his power to protect us.

Let us listen today for the voice of our Shepherd (cf Jn 10:27).  He knows us, he knows our hearts, he knows the things that can tempt us to seek out other voices, and despite all that, he still loves us.  Why would we not want to follow him?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The gate

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
23 April 2018, 6:17 am
Good morning everyone,

A part of the task that Jesus had to perform was to help his disciples to understand how they (and we) must live and act in order to allow His light to shine in our lives.  He used the image of a sheep pen (something that would have been very familiar to them) to illustrate his point: whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep (Jn 10:1-2).

The human heart will naturally seek out independence.  There is an attitude that seems innate within us that, if untrained, will lead each of us to seek out our own goals, our own happiness - even if it means that we do so to the detriment of all other people around us.  This is the reason why all human concepts of community must include clear definitions of the limits within which that community is to function.

Jesus' idea of community is based on the limits of love.  If we want to live as his disciples, we must recognize his place of prominence in our lives.  This place of honour is not based on any sense of competition but purely centred around his love for us.  However, if we are unable or unwilling to recognize him as the source of this self-giving love, if we somehow try to set our own rules for belonging within the community of disciples, we are like thieves and robbers (cf Jn 10:2). 

Let us pray today for the grace to enter through the gate (cf Jn 10:1), to be thankful for all that we have received and trusting that our Shepherd will never lead us astray.

Have a great day.

I know my own

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
22 April 2018, 9:02 am
Every year, on the fourth Sunday of the Easter season, the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  This is usually the day when I tend to think about my own priesthood: about the call from God that was whispered in my ear.  I didn’t answer it right away; in fact, I would say that each day, God continues to whisper in my ear, to invite me to be a priest, and each day, I need to respond to that whisper: I need to say yes to the many ways that Jesus calls me to lay down my life for his people (cf Jn 10:11).

Some of the tasks that Jesus places in my path bring great joy, but others are not easy.  The reality is that over the twenty-five years of my priesthood, the number of priests who are serving in this diocese has declined.  There are about half the number of priests today compared with the number of priests there were then.  The decline in numbers is also being experienced in other dioceses and it is not confined merely to priests: there is also a decline in the number of Religious men and women, by which I mean Sisters, priests and Brothers who belong to various Orders.

Why has this happened?  Has God stopped whispering in the ears of our young people, or is there some other reason?  In truth, I believe that there are a number of reasons, each of which adds another layer to the puzzle.  I do not believe that God has stopped whispering, but perhaps we have forgotten how to listen for these whispers, or perhaps we have grown deaf to them because they are drowned out by competing noises.  Saint John says in today’s second reading that we are all children of God (1 Jn 3:1), but the world does not know us as such because the world no longer seems to know him.

How many of our family members and friends were Baptized and raised with faith as part of their lives, yet have forgotten how to listen for God’s whispers?  There are at least two (if not three) generations of people who now believe that faith is a private matter between God and me, or that it’s not so important for me to make time to be part of a faith community – except perhaps at Christmas or Easter.  Isn’t it funny how so many people have managed to fill up the space that would once have been considered Sacred with so many other activities that they readily admit that they are too busy to find time to take part in a local parish community?  Does this mean that the Church has somehow failed to communicate the fact that we are all precious children of God, or is it simply a matter of convenience that so many people seem to want to pick and choose the elements of faith that are convenient?

It’s difficult at times for us to see these realities in a positive light, but could it be that we are living in a time when persecution is not so much a matter of physical conflict but rather a matter of apathy?  If this is the case, then we must listen all the more for the whispers of God’s voice, prompting us to boldly proclaim the truths that we believe.  Like the apostles Peter and John, people may try to ignore what we have to say about our faith (cf Acts 4:7) but we must always be willing to bravely testify to our faith.  Like Peter, we must courageously tell others that Jesus, the stone that was rejected by the builders, has become the cornerstone (Acts 4:11).  Jesus needs each one of us to joyfully respond to the whispers he shares with us, to share the news of our faith with those we meet, and to encourage others to do the same.

His Word Today: Who to believe

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
21 April 2018, 8:06 am
Good morning everyone,

Do people sometimes tell you things that you find hard to believe?  When such occurrences come to pass, do you take the time to verify their validity or do you just take someone's word? ... and if you should doubt, do you bother to pursue the investigation in case it might be true or do you just dismiss the news as idle gossip?

When Jesus tried to speak with his followers about heaven, many of them were shocked at the words he was using (cf Jn 6:61).  Some of them even complained: This saying is hard, who can accept it (Jn 6:60), and many of those who were following after him left and returned to their former ways of life (cf Jn 6:66).

It's not easy to be a disciple of Jesus.  There are many temptations attempting to lure us into believing that we are somehow making a mistake, that we should turn back and return to more familiar territory, but to do so would be to sell ourselves short; remember that God knows what we're capable of and he believes in us.  Still, the choice is up to us.  Each day we must choose to follow Jesus.  If we are convinced that this is the right path to follow, even despite the pressure to turn away, we too will respond like Simon Peter did: Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Eat in order to have life

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
20 April 2018, 7:27 am
The Last Supper
Oil on canvas by Joos van Cleve (1485-1540)
Good morning everyone,

Today's reflection is based on food - divine food.  When Jesus explained the importance of nourishing our hearts and souls on this divine food, it was a difficult concept for people to grasp.  Even today, it is still something that is not easy to understand.  Receiving the Eucharist is an act of faith, not primarily an act of reason.  Because it is an act of faith, the Eucharist is not easily understood by the reasoning of the world.

Jesus did not explain what the Eucharist would look like, or what it would taste like; rather he spoke about what it truly is: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood, you do not have life within you (Jn 6:53).  In fact, the Eucharist has been referred to as the unbloody sacrifice of Christ, referring to the fact that during the Mass, we do not gaze upon the bloody body of Jesus as it was seen on Calvary, but rather on the body and blood of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine.

Each time that we celebrate the Mass, Jesus offers us his unbloody sacrifice - his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine - in order to nourish our hearts and souls and to strengthen and enliven our faith.  Pray today for the ability to see the world as Jesus sees it, and for the courage to respond in faith to the needs of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Destined for heaven

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
19 April 2018, 7:32 am
Good morning everyone,

One day after another, we are aware of our own activities but how often have we stopped long enough to consider that beyond the realm of our own actions, there is another actor at work.  Trying to explain this truth to the crowds who gathered around him, Jesus said:  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day (Jn 6:44).

Before we can think a thought, God has already thought it; before we can conceive of a work of charity, God has already figured out all the details about how our actions will interact with others; before we can even begin to consider the possibility of love, God has already loved us with the greatest of loves, and before we can even begin to think about heaven, God has already begun to prepare a place there for each one of us.

Although the thought of being separated from those we love brings profound sadness, people of faith have heard the words of the gospel over and over again.  As we make our way through life, we pray for the grace to believe day after day that God our Father is drawing us to himself, and when our time here on earth is complete, he will raise us up from the confines of death - just as he raised Jesus - and take us to heaven where we will live with him forever.  This is the good news of the Easter season: Jesus is risen!  Alleluia!

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Bread for eternal life

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

When the crowds who had been fed on the bread and fish came looking for Jesus, he deepened the teaching that he shared with them.  What he wanted them to understand was that he did not only feed their stomachs; God's word also feeds our souls.  In fact, Jesus says: I am the bread of life ... whoever comes to me will never hunger (Jn 6:35).  It takes some discipline on our part to open our hearts and souls to God in prayer, but if we do, he will always provide more than we could ever want: companionship, love, acceptance, even forgiveness.

Anyone who has experienced the gentle presence of Jesus will know that he makes himself present to us at a level much deeper than physical sight and touch.  In fact, he makes himself known to us at the level of our hearts and souls.  Having encountered him in prayer, we are all the more able to recognize his presence in the daily events of our lives, yet he leaves us free to choose every day whether we believe in him or not (cf Jn 6:36).

The choice is ours - every day we must choose to believe in Him.  In response to our choice to believe, Jesus - the bread of life - promises to reward us with the fulfillment of a promise: he will raise us up and we will enjoy eternal life (cf Jn 6:40).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 April 2018, 7:47 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (ka-TEE-ree tek-a-KWEE-tha), a Mohawk girl who was born around 1656 in the village of Ossernenon, located west of present-day Auriesville, New York.  Tekakwitha's father was a Mohawk and her mother was an Algonquin who had been baptized a Roman Catholic and educated by French missionaries before she was captured in a raid and then adopted and assimilated into the tribe of Mohawks.  Tekakwitha also had a younger brother.

From 1661-1663, there was a smallpox epidemic among the Mohawks which claimed the lives of Tekakwitha's parents and her brother.  She survived but was left with facial scars and impaired eyesight.  Adopted by her father's sister and her husband, Tekakwitha then moved to a new village on the north side of the river called Caughnawaga.

Tekakwitha was a modest girl who avoided social gatherings.  She covered much of her head with a blanket because of the smallpox scars.  As an orphan, she was under the care of her relatives, but according to Mohawk practice, she would have been cared for by her clan.  She became skilled in traditional women's arts - including making clothing and belts from animal skins; weaving mats, baskets and boxes from reeds and grasses; and preparing food from game, crops and gathered produce.  As was the local custom, she was pressured to consider marriage around the age of thirteen, but she refused.  Other attempts to encourage her to marry were equally unsuccessful.

At the age of 18 years (in 1674) she met the Jesuit priest, Father Jacques de Lamberville who was visiting in the village.  She told him her story and about her desire to become a Christian.  He subsequently introduced her to the Catechism and taught her about Jesus, the bread of life (Jn 6:35).

Tekakwitha was always mild-mannered and well-behaved.  She did everything she could to remain holy in a secular society.  At the age of 19 years, she was baptized on Easter Sunday - 18 April 1676 - and was given the name Catherine (after Saint Catherine of Sienna).  The name Kateri is the Mohawk translation of the Christian name Catherine.

After her baptism, she remained in Caughnawaga for another six months but was accused of sorcery by many Mohawks who opposed her conversion.  In 1677, she moved to the Jesuit mission of Kahnawake (ga-na-WA-ge), located south of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River, where she lived for the remaining two years of her earthly life.

Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri Tekakwitha was beatified by Saint John Paul II on 22 June 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 October 2012.  Her feast day is observed in Canada (on 17 April) and in the United States of America (on 14 July).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Food that endures

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 April 2018, 7:52 am
Good morning everyone,

Today's gospel passage addresses a very human temptation.  After Jesus had fed the five thousand and after he and the disciples had left and travelled across the sea to Capernaum, the crowd that had stayed behind came looking for Jesus.  When they arrived, Jesus did not turn them away, but he did question their motives: you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled (Jn 6:26).

If we too seek to follow Jesus, we too must question our motives.  Why do we want to seek him out?  Have we received some answer to our prayers?  Has our prayer up until now had to do with asking for things, for success, for earthly gain?  If so, Jesus cautions us, like he cautioned those who came looking for him that day: Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life (Jn 6:27).  This sounds like an easy task but it is anything but easy.

Luckily for us, Jesus points out the first step of the process if we want to change our focus from earthly reward to eternal life: believe in the one that God has sent (Jn 6:29).  Pray today for the grace to believe.  God will open our eyes to see the world as he sees us, to love others as he loves us, and he will help us to work for the food that endures.

Have a great day.

We are witnesses

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
15 April 2018, 8:26 am
I’ve changed parishes a number of times during my priesthood.  Each time, there are some things that make it feel as though I’m starting over, from the very beginning.  For the first little while, I look out at a sea of faces as I preside at the Mass, and I wonder: what’s that person’s story?  It’s one thing to see a person standing in front of me, but it’s an entirely different thing to be given the privilege of getting to know that person – to know his or her history, to understand the things that make that person happy, to be aware of painful moments that have been experienced and that have left their scars.  We don’t always get a chance to know people at that level, but if we do, we should consider it to be truly a privilege.

The twelve apostles had a particularly privileged opportunity to live with Jesus for three years or so.  I can only imagine what they must have learned from him, what they must have learned about him.  Even other disciples – followers of Jesus – who sat at his feet and listened to his teachings were indeed fortunate, however I think that some of them did not recognize the extent of their good fortune, not until they encountered the risen Jesus.

We hear about two such encounters in today’s gospel: the first is the adventure that was experienced by the two disciples who encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus (cf Lk 24:35) and the second is the apparition that took place while they were speaking (cf Lk 24:36-48) about that encounter with the other disciples.

It would have been one thing to know Jesus up close: to be familiar with his favorite foods, his likes and dislikes, the things that excited him and the things that bored him ... but the disciples were also the ones who witnessed the fulfillment of his promise: that he would rise from the dead.  Those who encountered the risen Jesus saw something truly extraordinary.  Never before had anyone died and then come back to life.  Never before had anyone spoken to them about the fulfillment of the Law, the prophets and the Psalms (Lk 24:44), yet they were granted the extreme privilege to meet him, to see the marks of the nails in his hands and his feet, to witness him eating among them just as he had done countless times before.

Their encounters with the risen Jesus also marked each one of the disciples in a permanent, unchangeable way.  Even today, anyone who has had the experience of meeting Jesus in prayer and of hearing him speak to our hearts can truly say that he or she is deeply fortunate.

Like the disciple Peter, who spoke about his encounter with the risen Jesus at the gate of the temple (cf Acts 3:13-19) and like John, who wrote about his encounters with the risen Jesus and about the truth that he had come to believe, we too have been granted the great privilege of being called God’s children (1 Jn 2:1) and we have also been entrusted with the great gift of knowing him (cf 1 Jn 2:5).

We are witnesses to these things (Lk 24:48), if we have the eyes to see them.

His Word Today: Setting out

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
14 April 2018, 7:23 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passage for today places us in the early evening hours.  After having spent a day with Jesus, his disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat and set out across the sea (Jn 6:16-17).  Jesus did not go with them, but rather they set out on their own.  This journey was a test of faith for the disciples and it brings to mind the many times that we still find ourselves in situations that put our faith to the test too.

As children, we had our parents to show us the way, to guide us and to teach us, but at a certain point, every young person must set out on the journey of life.  Like the journey of the disciples, we set sail across the waters and must face the trials that come, even if strong winds should blow and stir up the waters beneath us (cf Jn 6:18).  What is most important is that we should never forget that Jesus is right beside us at all times, walking on the waters (cf Jn 6:19).  His appearance is never meant to jolt us or frighten us; rather, it is meant to comfort us and to encourage our hearts.

He will always guide our steps, giving us the full liberty of adults but all the while watching over us with abiding love, just alike a parent who guides a child until we arrive at the shore to which we are heading (cf Jn 6:21): eternal life in heaven.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Feeding the multitude

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

Two weeks into the Easter season, the scriptures continue to feed our thoughts and our prayer.  In a world where we can so easily access such material abundance, it may be difficult to conceive of the possibility of true hunger, but our loving God is keenly aware of the hunger that is in our hearts and souls: hunger for direction as we make our way through life, hunger for acceptance even in spite of the imperfections that we know only too well, hunger for love that is offered with no strings attached.

The wonderful news is that our God is aware of our hunger, yet he invites us to use this very hunger in order to respond to the needs of others.  A large crowd followed Jesus (Jn 6:2).  When he saw them coming, he was immediately concerned about providing for them.  Jesus also sees us coming to him: he knows the worries and pondering that we carry in our hearts and he is concerned about our hunger for finding just solutions to the concerns that we carry with us.

Jesus is also aware of the gifts that we have to offer.  At times our abilities may seem small and insignificant when compared with the needs that we encounter.  Remember that with just five barley loaves and two fish (Jn 6:9), Jesus was able to feed a multitude.  Offer your gifts to him today - no matter how few they may be.  Ask him to use your gifts in some way to accomplish his plan, then just stand back and watch in amazement.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Testify to the truth

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
12 April 2018, 7:56 am
Good morning everyone,

In these days which are part of the celebration of the Easter season, we are reminded over and over again about the wonderful gift that God gave us in sending his son Jesus to live among us.  Saint John's words remind us today that the one who comes from heaven testifies to what he has seen and heard (Jn 3:31).

Have you ever stopped to think that God sent his Son to live among us so that we could receive the testimony of one who has seen God for himself, one who has heard his words spoken as though the conversation had taken place around a kitchen table?  What better witness could we have of God's truth than Jesus?  Yet, many who have heard his words - even in modern days - either have difficulty accepting his testimony or refuse to believe it (cf Jn 3:32).

If we are among the ones who have difficulty accepting his testimony, perhaps we should ask ourselves: why do I have difficulty accepting the testimony that Jesus presents, and what will it take for me to listen for this word?  If on the other hand, we ourselves are among those who accept His testimony, we might ask ourselves: how do I strive to be a witness of Jesus in my interactions with others, especially those who are skeptics and those who find it difficult to believe?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Stansław

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
11 April 2018, 7:27 am
Saint Stanisław, by Ardith Starkostka
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates one of the most well-known Polish saints.  Saint Stanisław (Stanislaus) was born at Szczepanów, a village in Lesser Poland, the only son of the noble and pious Wielisław and Bogna. He was educated at a cathedral school in Gniezno (then the capital of Poland) and later, according to different sources, in Paris or Liège. On his return to Poland, Stanisław was ordained a priest by Lambert II Suła, who was Bishop of Kraków at the time.

After Bishop Suła's death (1072), Stanisław was elected his successor but accepted the office only at the explicit command of Pope Alexander II. Stanisław was one of the earliest native Polish bishops. He also became a ducal advisor and had some influence on Polish politics.

Stanisław's major accomplishments included bringing papal legates (representatives) to Poland, and re-establishing of a Metropolitan See in Gniezno: a precondition for Duke Bolesław's coronation as king, which took place in 1076. Stanisław then encouraged King Bolesław to establish Benedictine monasteries to aid in the Christianization of Poland.

Even today, walking through the streets of Kraków, visitors can feel the faith that unites the people of that nation, and Stansław played a big part in that rich history.  His body is buried in the Cathedral of Kraków (known as the Wawel Cathedral).  Kneeling in prayer in that holy place, visitors can almost hear the words of this holy man who preached so many times within those walls, speaking the words that we still hear in today's gospel: God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (Jn 3:16).  May Saint Stanisław intercede for us today so that we may constantly strive to grow in our faith and gratitude for our God's constant and abiding love.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Nicodemus remembers

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 April 2018, 7:31 am
Good morning everyone,

I wonder what it was like for the disciples to reflect on their experiences of being in the presence of Jesus.  Today's gospel might be part of the thought and prayer of Nicodemus.  While Jesus walked this earth, Nicodemus was curious about the things that Jesus taught, but he had to be careful not to be perceived as a follower of Jesus since he was also one of the important people in the Jewish community and he didn't want to risk losing his status.

After Jesus rose from the dead, I wonder if Nicodemus lay in bed at night and remembered the words that Jesus had spoken to him: You must be born from above (Jn 3:7) ... and just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (Jn 3:15).  When Nicodemus first heard these words, I wonder whether he found them strange.  I wonder whether he pondered their meanings and I wonder whether he came to a deeper realization of their truth after Jesus had risen from the dead.  How often have we puzzled over these words and what they mean?

In retrospect, it might be easier to understand that Jesus was speaking about being spiritually born through the sacrament of Baptism, and that he himself had to be lifted up on a cross so that we could have the reward of eternal life.  The good news is that Jesus has already given his life for us, we already have a place reserved in heaven.  Like Nicodemus, we just need to ponder these realities: in Baptism, we have already been born into the life of faith; Jesus has already been lifted up; therefore, all we need to do is to ask him to help us to believe every day ... he has already prepared a place for us in heaven where we will know the exceeding joy of eternal life.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Fiat

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
9 April 2018, 7:25 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  Solemnities are the highest level of celebration accorded by the Church.  In this case, the event that is being celebrated is the apparition of the angel Gabriel to the young virgin of Nazareth whose name was Mary (cf Lk 1:26-27).  Mary was a very young girl - some say as young as 14 years old - but already she had been betrothed to Joseph.  Plans had been made for her future, but then God sent his messenger to share a surprise with her, a modification of her own plan: a divine plan that had been put in place a long time ago, one of which she was totally unaware.

From a human point of view, it seems that God reveals plans to us from time to time that bring about changes in our own plans, but in the grand scheme of things, perhaps it is the case that God's plans were made long before we were around.  When these plans are revealed to us, they appear to be surprising, but often, when we look back at the way things have worked out, especially if we see these things through the lens of faith, we understand that what first appeared as a surprise was always part of a much larger plan, and we are merely the instruments through which our God continues to carry out his eternal design.

Some of the details of the conversation that took place between Mary and the angel are recounted in Saint Luke's telling (cf Lk 1:28-35; 38).  Mary's questions are asked from a human point of view, but the angel's explanations point out a plan that is far beyond the scope of any human reasoning.  When we realize the short-sightedness of human reasoning compared to the wisdom of God, it is very difficult to contradict it.  Rather, we must pray for the grace to accept the eternal plan and surrender our will into the hands of our loving God who is much wiser than we could ever hope to be.  If we can find it in our hearts to repeat Mary's fiat, the immediate reward is an awesome knowledge of freedom and a sense that we are cooperating with His divine plan.

Have a great day.

A call to be people of mercy

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
8 April 2018, 8:13 am
On March 13, 2015, Pope Francis surprised the entire world by inviting us to experience an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The theme for this Jubilee was Merciful like the Father.  Mercy is a subject that is very dear to the heart of our Holy Father, and he wants to do everything he can to help all of us to encounter this special gift that God offers to us.

The gospel passage that we have just heard gives us a glimpse into the merciful heart of our God.  It begins by describing the encounter between the disciples and the risen Jesus inside the house where the disciples had met (cf Jn 20:19).  Despite the fact that the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you.  He didn’t knock; he just appeared among them and showed them his hands and his feet.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:20).  They had heard him speak about rising from the dead, but it wasn’t until they saw him for themselves that they were able to rejoice.

If the other disciples were unable to truly believe that such a miracle was possible, is it any wonder that Thomas, one of the disciples who was not with them when Jesus appeared (Jn 20:24) was skeptical about accepting the witness of the other disciples? ... and what about us?  Week after week, we gather here to pray; we recite the words of the Creed: I believe in God ... I believe in Jesus Christ ... who was crucified, died and was buried; ... on the third day, he rose again from the dead (Apostles’ Creed) but do we truly believe that Jesus rose, or is there still a part of us that needs to see the mark of the nails in his hands (Jn 20:25) before we will believe?

It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not give up on Thomas.  Even though he was not present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Jesus came back to give Thomas another chance, and that’s what he does with us too.  Jesus wants to give each one of us a chance to encounter him in our lives so that we can come to believe that he is not just the object of a story that is told year after year.  Jesus is living in our midst and when we encounter him, he speaks the same words to our hearts as he spoke to the disciples: Peace be with you! (Jn 20:19, 20, 26).  Peace is Jesus’ wish for each one of us and mercy is the face that we encounter when we meet him.

This second Sunday of the Easter season is known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a special gift for all of us, a reminder that whenever we are in the presence of our God, the first gift He wants to show us is mercy.  Recognizing and celebrating God’s mercy has been a long-standing part of the life of our faith.  It was because they had encountered Christ’s mercy that the first disciples came to believe in him and it was through personally experiencing mercy that others have also been drawn to learn more about who God is, how he sent Jesus among us to reveal his merciful face to us and how the Holy Spirit continues the work of sharing mercy with us today.

The process of learning about God and about his mercy is called Evangelization.  In a few weeks time, we will have an opportunity to hear more about people’s encounters with divine mercy during the New Evangelization Summit.  There is more information about the summit in your bulletin today, including a post card that provides all the information you will need and directions about how you can participate.  I want to invite each one of you to consider accepting a personal invitation to attend the Summit on April 27 and 28th so that we can all learn more about the great gift of God’s divine mercy.

His Word Today: From despair to renewed hope

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 April 2018, 7:31 am
Good morning everyone,

As we draw closer to the end of the Easter Octave, today's gospel passage reveals the humanity of the disciples.  Knowing that those first followers of Jesus were very human makes it easier for us to see ourselves as modern-day disciples because even though we may be aware of the Lord's gifts of joy, hope and generosity that are awakened within us by the Resurrection, there is always room in the human heart for doubt.

Saint John tells us today that six of the disciples were together one day and Peter said to the others: I'm going fishing (Jn 21:3) and they all agreed to go along with him.  Could it be that they wanted some recreation, or was this a sign that these six men who had once known the excitement of a new adventure had actually given in to doubt?  Even for the most committed of disciples, there are always days when we might be tempted to turn away from the task that Jesus entrusts to us: the task of sharing his joy and his love with those we encounter, the task of telling them about the excitement we have experienced as we have gotten to know him.  This happens when we give in to the temptation to follow the wisdom of the world rather than seeking the freshness of the gospel.

Even though we may be tempted to turn to worldly sources of satisfaction, the miracle of Easter is real.  Jesus meets us in the midst of our doubt, just as he did with the disciples.  Standing on the shore in the early hours of the day, Jesus asked a question: Children, have you caught anything to eat? (Jn 21:4-5)  In these words, Jesus calls to us too.  His words ring in our hearts: have you found answers to your questions?  Have you been able to satisfy your thirst with the offerings of this world?  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we will answer him with one simple word: No, because as much as the world around us might try to lure us away from our faith, the answers we might find in other places are most often shallow and incapable of responding to our deepest desires.

Thankfully, Jesus is always willing to show us the way.  When the disciples had come up empty-handed, he simply invited them to cast the net again (cf Jn 21:6) but this time listening for his directions, following his advice.  When we allow him to lead, we will always find the answers to our questions.  Let us not be afraid to ask Jesus to help us today.  He alone can direct our thoughts and actions.  He alone can show us where he needs us to throw our nets, and he alone can fill those nets with responses that will fulfill our deepest desires.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: From joy to generosity

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
5 April 2018, 7:27 am
Good morning everyone and Happy Easter.

As we continue our way through this first week of the Easter season, the scriptures place us with the disciples in the upper room.  The two disciples who encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem and found their companions.  Can you imagine what that encounter must have been like?  The two who had returned from Emmaus would have been excited to tell the others about their encounter with Jesus: how he had walked with them, spoken with them, all the while unfamiliar to them until they had recognized him in the breaking of the bread (cf Lk 24:35).  Mary Magdalene would most probably have been there too, along with Peter and the other disciple (who is most probably John).  They too would have had joyous news to share.

In the midst of that excitement, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you' (Lk 24:36).  Despite the fact that they would have been startled to see him standing there, it is interesting to note that he did not intend to scare them, but rather to console them.  His greeting was an offering of peace, and peace is a precious gift that can only be offered by God.  Once again the disciples would have been overjoyed, and in case they should have any further doubt about whether he was truly risen, Jesus asked them for something to eat (cf Lk 24:41).  They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it ad ate it in front of them (Lk 24:42-43).

The joy that was Jesus' gift for his disciples bore fruit in generosity.  Jesus asked for something to eat so that he could prove to the disciples that he was not a figment of their imagination, but their immediate willingness to offer him fish was also significant.  Even today, when we encounter true joy, we also want to be generous.  It seems that one response flows from the other, perhaps in hopes of prolonging the pleasant experience that brought about the joy.  Pay attention today to the occasions when you encounter the gift of joy, and how often does this joy arouse within you a desire to be generous?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Walking beside us

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 April 2018, 7:13 am
Jesus appearing to two disciples
on the road to Emmaus
William Brassey Hole (1846-1917)
Good morning everyone,
Happy Easter,

At some point on that first day of the week, the day when Jesus' resurrection was discovered by Mary Magdalene, two of Jesus' disciples set off for a village located seven miles away from Jerusalem ... (Lk 24:13).  Along with their companions, these two followers of Jesus had been excited about the lessons they had learned from him and about the promise that his words conveyed.  Perhaps for that reason, they were even more disappointed by the events of his trial, his punishment and his crucifixion.  Within their hearts, they felt as though their hopes and dreams had been dashed.  Early on that morning, before Magdalene came running from the tomb, these two disciples had set off, but instead of being excited about the message that they had to share, they were speaking to one another about the hopes and dreams that had been frustrated (cf Lk 24:14).

As they were speaking together, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them (Lk 24:15).  Although they did not recognize it at first, this encounter was about to awaken them from their gloom and fill them with the joy that is the trademark of the gospel's freshness.  As he did with Magdalene, Jesus approached the two disciples with amazing gentleness, inviting them to explain for themselves the truth that they were experiencing in the depths of their hearts.  Speaking this truth helped them to recognize the validity of their feelings, but also allowed Jesus to enter into their hearts and to replace their sense of defeat with hope.

Even today, Jesus walks at our sides.  He is keenly aware of the joys and the challenges that inhabit our hearts and he is constantly inviting us to tell our own stories: experiences of success as well as day-to-day struggles.  In each case, he encourages us to discover the freshness of his words and of his presence.  Invite him to surprise you today and to remind you of the joy that can enliven our hearts and cause us to run out toward the encounter with our brothers and sisters so that we can tell them about the adventures we encounter on the roads of our faith journeys and the ways in which we have discovered the presence of the risen Lord.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The fragile soul

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 April 2018, 7:52 am
Good morning everyone,

He is Risen, Alleluia!  The Octave of Easter - the eight days that begin with Easter Sunday and end with Divine Mercy Sunday - are celebrated as though they were just one day.  The scripture passages we encounter on these days describe moments in the lives of the disciples that took place on that first Easter morning.

Like yesterday's gospel reference, today, we stand once again with Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb.  In Saint John's account, Magdalene is so consumed by her grief that she doesn't seem to hear the question that the angels ask: Woman, why are you weeping? (Jn 20:13).  Even when the question is repeated (cf Jn 20:15), she seems to be unable to comprehend it.

When we are grieving, our minds seem to shut off.  It takes repeated attempts - sometimes over many days, weeks, or even longer periods - for our powers of reasoning to recover from the trauma.  At such times, those who are attempting to accompany people who are grieving must always remember that they have been entrusted with a precious task, and that they must always be gentle with the fragile soul that is in need of healing.  Jesus himself shows us how to carry out this delicate task.  When he encountered Magdalene outside the tomb and saw that she was grieving, he simply called her by name.

If we too are unable to recognize the risen Jesus in our midst, perhaps we should begin by listening for his voice.  Even if we have forgotten how to pray, we can begin by listening.  Jesus is constantly but ever so gently calling each of us by name, and when we hear his voice, we awaken to the joy of encountering him in all his risen splendour.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Belief and unbelief

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
2 April 2018, 8:13 am
Good morning everyone,

Happy Easter!  Today, we encounter the figure of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who are running from the empty tomb.  With mixed emotions, they are on their way to tell the disciples about what they have discovered, but even before they get to the place where the disciples are hiding, they encounter another experience that is unbelievable: Jesus meets them on the way and greets them (Mt 28:9).

The women were filled both with joy and with fear at the discovery of the empty tomb: the fear was understandable because they really didn't understand what they were seeing.  Perhaps someone was trying to trick them, but at the same time, there was joy - a joy that they didn't want to show for fear that what they hoped had happened hadn't really taken place.

Perhaps we too are a bit cautious in the way we live our faith.  Maybe we want to believe that what Jesus said has come true: that he is risen indeed, but perhaps there is still a part of us that worries about whether there is truth in these words.  Some people in our world would do almost anything to make us believe what they want us to believe.  At times such as these, we must do as others have done before us: place ourselves before the Lord and dare to speak just a few words - Lord I believe; help my unbelief (Mk 9:24).  The risen Christ helped the women to believe.  He can help us too.

Have a great day.

Can it be true?

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
1 April 2018, 8:06 am
Have you heard the news?  How often have we heard this phrase ... or some derivative of it?  Sometimes what follows is myth and sometimes it is truth, but in most cases, we shouldn’t believe anything to be true until we can find some proof.  That’s the principle, but it seems to me that in today’s world of fast-paced information exchange, some people accept any rumour as gospel, even before they have verified the sources.

Today, Christians around the world are gathering in places just like this one because we too have heard the news.  Some of us may be here because we have heard the news from someone else, but we have not yet had a chance to verify the sources.  Some of us believe this news to be true because we trust the sources from which we have received it, and others of us have no doubt at all that the news is true because we have heard the truth for ourselves.

Someone might ask: What is this great news, and why all the fuss?  The answer lies in the experience of the women who went to the tomb early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark (Jn 20:1).  These women had spent time sitting with Jesus.  They had heard him say that on the third day he would rise, but among themselves, they had whispered: who among us believes that such words could actually come true?  Even today, as we sit and chat with our family members and friends, how often do we speak about heaven, about the time when we will no longer walk on this earth?  Such subjects are taboo, yet this is precisely what the women were witnessing.

Numbed by fear and disbelief, they ran ... to Simon Peter and the other disciple ... and said to them: ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him’ (Jn 20:2).  These are words of fear and confusion, human words that portray human emotions.  Peter and the other disciple also set out and went toward the tomb ... running (Jn 20:3).  They too could not believe what they were hearing.  It was only when they reached the place and saw for themselves: the linen wrappings lying there ... and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself (Jn 20:5-7) that they believed.

Later on, Peter, Paul and the other disciples would speak openly about that moment when they witnessed the fulfillment of the good news that Jesus had spoken about: that one day he would rise.  We hear a part of their testimony in the other readings today (Acts 10:37-43; Col 3:1-4).  Because they were able to speak about it, we have heard the good news, and this is the reason why we celebrate today, why we greet one another with exultant joy, why our voices ring out: He is risen!  Alleluia!  Happy Easter!

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