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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 Saint Bernadette parish in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

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

Filfill the Law

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 February 2020, 8:05 am
At the beginning of today's gospel passage, Jesus says: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (Mt 5:17).  David Bivin, an Israeli-American biblical scholar teaches that the phrase to fulfill the Law is often used to mean to properly interpret the Torah (the Law of God) so that people can obey it as God really intends.  In other words, to fulfill to Law is to do as God truly wants us to do.

If we want to discover God's will, and if we want to do what he wants us to do, we need to develop the habit of listening for his voice, and we need to develop the habit of acting on his words.  The entire bible is filled with details about all the things that our God has done since the beginning of time in order to convince us that we are loved, first and foremost by God, but the fact that God loves us does not mean that He is somehow bound to do what we want him to do.  I wonder sometimes if this understanding of love has not been turned upside down in our modern-day society.  For example, it is right that parents should love their children, but love for their children does not mean that parents should always do what children want them to do.

It is truly an act of humility - not humiliation - for us to realize that we are not entitled to God's love yet God chooses to help us, and God's choice is motivated by perfect freedom, offered from a place of pure love.  The Law that God gave us was not meant to limit us, but rather to ensure that we use the gift of God's love which has been freely given to us in a way that is good for us and for others.  As the Book of Sirach counsels: If you trust in God, you ... shall live and ... act faithfully as a matter of your own choice (Sirach 15:15).  In other words, having experienced God's love, we will come to trust Him and we will also learn how to freely share God's love with others, as a matter of choice.

Love cannot be compelled; it must be freely offered and freely accepted.  This means that even if we desire to offer love to another person, that other person must be free at all times to refuse our offer.  It might seem strange to think of God ever saying no to us, but this is the point.  If we truly want to live in a mature and loving relationship with God, we need to respect God's freedom, and we need to realize that God always respects our freedom.  We should always seek to use our freedom in a way that gives glory to God.  If we do, we will strengthen our relationship with God and with others.

Today we have come to pray together.  Here, in this place, we ask the Lord to show us what he truly wants us to do in the coming days, how we can be his faithful disciples.  No one compels us to gather here.  We have freely chosen to come, so that we can seek the wisdom of God, advice which is capable of guiding our steps in the coming days.  As we celebrate the Eucharist, a sacrifice that was made freely on our behalf, let us ask forgiveness for the times we have ignored God's invitation to follow him, and let us embrace the gift of God's law and the true freedom that it leads us to discover.

His Word Today: Saints Cyril and Methodius

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
14 February 2020, 7:10 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passage today recounts the encounter between Jesus and a deaf mute (Mk 7:31-37).  As he did in other cases, people brought ... a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him (Mk 7:31-33).  It is interesting to note that other people who had heard (or encountered) Jesus' good works were bringing this man to Jesus.  This is one of the signs of the fruitfulness of God's presence in our lives: when we have encountered Him and discovered the power of his love in our own lives, we are driven to share this good news with others ... even to bring them to Him.

Jesus took the man off by himself, away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man's ears and touched his tongue (Mk 7:33).  In other words, he stopped, recognized the man's need and tended to him.  Perhaps we know what it is like to encounter Jesus in this way.  Perhaps we have had the great privilege of experiencing his gentle yet powerful presence in our own lives.  Perhaps we have even seen the power of Jesus at work, opening the ears of those who had previously been deafened to the sound of His voice and touching the tongues of those who have been muted so that they can regain the power of speech.

Saints Cyril (826-869 AD) and Methodius (815-885) were brothers and Byzantine Christian theologians.  They are most famous for inventing the Cyrillic alphabet which allowed them to translate the scriptures and to evangelize the Slavic people.  Like Jesus who opened the ears of the deaf man, Saint Cyril and Methodius made it possible for the Slavic people to hear the good news of the Gospel proclaimed in a language that they could understand.  Having opened their ears in this way, these two holy brothers also played a big part in freeing their tongues so that they in turn could share the joy of knowing Jesus with others.

Be on the lookout today for the ways in which Jesus invites us to be the agents of change, and pray for the courage to cooperate with such endeavours if you are invited to take part.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Foreign

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
13 February 2020, 7:54 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we encounter the meeting between Jesus and a woman who he would never have met under normal circumstances.  She was a Syrophoenician, not a Galilean; she was a woman, not a man; and Jesus was not in his home territory, where he would have been most comfortable.  Still, the woman bravely came forward to present her plea on behalf of her daughter, and Jesus welcomed her prayer (cf Mk 7:24-26).

What can we learn from this encounter?  Jesus was not afraid to welcome the plea addressed by the woman, and neither is he afraid to listen when we offer our prayers.  The woman must have been brave in order to voice her request, and so we must also be brave, confident in our faith so that we too can voice our requests in prayer, trusting that Jesus will stop, stoop down to us and listen to our prayers.

With the knowledge of God's openness to listen to our prayers, let us bravely approach; let us confidently speak our concerns and let us grow together in our trust that our prayers will be answered.

Have a great day.


His Word Today: Defile

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
12 February 2020, 6:24 am
Good morning everyone,

When Jesus appeared on the scene, he brought with him a new message which was spoken with freshness.  This message was born and first nourished within the Jewish faith.  Today's gospel passage gives us an example: Nothing that enters ... from outside can defile a person, but rather the things that come out from within are what defile (Mk 7:15).

This teaching was meant to differentiate the new way from the ancient tradition of dietary laws, but Jesus wanted to extend his teaching far beyond the confines of food.  Rather, he challenges us to keep care of our own behaviour and language.  The reason for this is so that we may realize the truth that faith is meant to be lived and that living our faith has its influence on those we meet.

What words come out of my mouth?  What thoughts arise in my heart?  Do these words and thoughts reflect the faith that I am striving to live?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Our Lady of Lourdes

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
11 February 2020, 7:16 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.  The first apparition of the lady who appeared to Bernadette Soubirous occurred on 11 February 1858 while the 14-year-old girl was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend.  The lady appeared eighteen times in all during that year.  Although the local authorities discounted reports of the visions, they were eventually confirmed.  Lourdes is now a major Marian pilgrimage site especially for those who are sick.

This day also marks the World Day of Prayer for the Sick.  Each year, we pray especially for those who are sick and suffering on this day, entrusting them to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin.

At another time in history, Jesus expressed his displeasure at those who would honour him with their lips but whose hearts were far from him (Mk 7:6).  Thankfully, in the Blessed Virgin, we find the example of a mother who genuinely cares for us, one who deeply wants to be close to us and to care for us, especially when we are sick.

Today, we ask her to intercede for us so that we in turn may honour our God not only with our lips but more importantly with our hearts.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Scholastica

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 February 2020, 8:13 pm
Good evening everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical Memorial of Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict of Norcia.  History tells the story of Benedict who settled at Monte Cassino.  Scholastica established a religious community for women located at Plombariola, only five miles from her brother's abode.  They would visit each other once a year, usually in a nearby farmhouse where they would discuss spiritual matters.

The gospel passage for today's Mass tells us of a moment when Jesus and his disciples came to the land of Geneseret (Mk 6:53).  As Jesus visited that land, we might say that Benedict visited the land where he established the Abbey of Monte Cassino.  To this day, that Monastery still stands and continues to welcome pilgrims who come to visit.  In his time, Jesus brought healing to those who he encountered in the land of Geneseret.  Many of those who visit Monte Cassino also find healing and answers to their prayers.

Today, we ask Saint Scholastica to intercede for us so that we too might be aware of the ways in which Jesus passes by.  These are indeed moments of grace which should be celebrated.

Have a great day.

Be salt for the earth

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
9 February 2020, 8:02 am
In a few days' time, we will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of Prayer for the Sick.  In anticipation of this important day, it is fitting that we should spend some time reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from our interactions with those who are sick and suffering.  Each week, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are weakened as a result of illness, but truly being present to those who are suffering in this way is an integral part of living our faith, for in doing so, we touch the wounds of Jesus.

In the gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: you are salt for the earth (Mt 5:13) ... and you are light for the world (Mt 5:14).  These words must have sounded perplexing to those who first heard them.  Even though many years have come and gone, each time we read these words, they should sound equally as perplexing to us today.  What does Jesus mean when he says that we are salt for the earth.  Scripture scholars tell us that salt has always been important for preserving food, and for enhancing its taste.  Therefore, Jesus used these images in order to tell us that we have a duty to enhance our encounters with others by sharing our faith with them.

It may seem paradoxical that the society we live in can be filled with so much wealth and yet there are so many of our neighbours who suffer the poverty of loneliness.  Many of us are extremely tech savvy and yet we are forgetting the art of socializing.  Canadian society would have us believe that the introduction of a practice known as Medical Assistance in Dying is a matter of respecting an individual's right to choose, yet the promised inclusion of Hospice and Palliative Care as alternate options for taking care of those who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses has yet to be enshrined with the same level of acceptance.

On 31 January of this year, the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter on behalf of all Catholic Bishops in this country in which he unequivocally affirmed and maintained the fundamental belief in the sacredness of all human life, a value which we share with many others ... including persons of different faiths and of no faith at all.

Jesus challenges us to be light for our world.  We do this by speaking out whenever the values and beliefs we have learned are being tested.  We do this by respecting the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death.  We do this by proclaiming the mystery of God, not in lofty words or wisdom (1 Cor 2:1) but rather by offering the food of our faith to those who are hungry for acceptance and by satisfying the needs of those who are truly afflicted (cf Is 58:10), especially those who cannot speak for themselves.

His Word Today: Conscience

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
7 February 2020, 7:12 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel account for today's meditation speaks of King Herod.  When he first heard about Jesus, many people were not sure who this newcomer was.  They were trying to hypothesize about who it was.  Some said that it might be John the Baptist who had come back to life.  Many had heard about John, and those who had heard John speaking were exited about the possibility that John might have come back to life.

Herod too had encountered John.  In fact, he had issued the command to behead him (cf Mk 6:26-29) but in secret he was intrigued by John's words.  Herod could not afford to speak of his admiration for John, but deep down, he longed for the possibility of John's return.  This may be the reason why, when he heard about Jesus, he said: It is John who I beheaded.  He has been raised up (Mk 6:16).

Is there a part of us that is like Herod?  Is there someone who we regret having lost contact with?  Is there someone we long to see again?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Paul Miki and companions

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 February 2020, 7:40 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel for today's meditation presents us with a moment when Jesus was instructing his disciples.  He summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two ... having instructed them to take nothing for the journey (Mk 6:7-9) but that which was absolutely essential.  These words, first spoken to the twelve continued to be spoken to us as well.  We who endeavour to live our faith in modern times are also encouraged by Jesus to take only that which is absolutely necessary with us for the journey.

Today, the Church celebrates and prays with Saint Paul Miki, a Japanese Jesuit priest, and his companions who were martyred by crucifixion in 1597.  Christians have faced persecution everywhere in the world, so the threat that they would be put to the test was nothing new, yet it has consistently been an essential part of God's plan that where the faithful are persecuted, the seeds of faith are most often planted and most fruitfully flourish.

Even in places where there is the threat of persecution, Jesus continues to send his disciples out ... instructing us to take nothing for the journey except for that which we absolutely need: faith in Him, trust that He will never leave us alone and a willingness to serve.  The reward that comes with such commitment is the gift of joy, the joy of knowing that we are faithful servants with many ancestors in faith - who we call martyrs and saints - to help us.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Agatha

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
5 February 2020, 7:50 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates and prays with Saint Agatha, a virgin and a martyr who is most highly venerated as the Patroness of Sicily.  She is believed to have been born either in Palermo or Catania around 231 A.D. and completed her earthly pilgrimage around the year 251 A.D.

From her very early years, this very beautiful girl dedicated her life to God and chose to become a consecrated virgin: choosing to remain celibate and to give her life entirely to Jesus in a life of prayer and service ... but this did not stop men from desiring her.  One of those men was Quintianus, a high-ranking diplomat who thought that he could force her to marry.  Despite persistent proposals, arrests, physical torture, imprisonment and starvation, she remained faithful to her promise.  In fact, she endured all the taunts and torture with a sense of cheer.

The gospel passage for today's Mass places Jesus in his own hometown at the moment when he confirmed: a prophet is not without honor except in his native place (Mk 6:4).  These few words have been proven to hold truth, not only in the case of Jesus but in the life of Agatha and many others of the saints.  May this young saint intercede for us today and help us to remain steadfast in our belief.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Long suffering

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 February 2020, 8:01 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the gospel passage mentions a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years (cf Mk 5:25).  Like all the people mentioned in the gospels, this woman also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the situation that faces at least some of us.

If we want to understand the suffering of that woman, perhaps we can look to modern-day examples. I think for example of all those who suffer from addictions: to alcoholism, to coffee, to shopping, to food, to so many substances.  Those who look upon such situations from the outside might be tempted to think that the addicted persons should be able to simply do without the objects of their addictions, but that is precisely the point - addictions are controlling and they are unforgiving.

Addictions lead many in our world to live long suffering lives.  Even if they are aware of their weaknesses, and even if they may want - with every breath they breathe - to be able to better the control that the addictions can hold upon them - to be free of their addictions, in reality, they truly suffer.

Do we know of someone who suffers because of addiction?  At some level, are we too being held or controlled by some kind of addiction?  In the case of the woman with the hemorrhages, she came to Jesus.  What will it take for us to come to Jesus?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint John Bosco

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
31 January 2020, 7:47 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical Memorial of Saint John Bosco, otherwise known simply as Don Bosco (Father Bosco), an Italian priest, educator and writer who was born on 16 August 1815 and died on 31 January 1888. While working in Turin, where the population suffered many of the ill-effects of industrialization and urbanization, he dedicated his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth. He developed teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, a method that became known as the Salesian Preventive System.

While he most certainly had a great love for children, I wonder whether he was really aware of the fact that he was doing such good work.  Many of us can easily recognize good work when it is accomplished by others, but we are sometimes slow to recognize the fruit of our own efforts, like the image presented in the gospel today of the sower who witnesses seed sprouting but is unable to explain how it happens (cf Mk 4:26-27).

Teachers among us may understand the struggles that Don Bosco faced while he attempted to influence the lives of so many children, yet all of us are aware of the many ways in which we expend efforts in an attempt to do the Lord's work ... but how often do we take a moment to recognize the fruits of our labour?  Are there instances that we are aware of when such fruits came to our attention?  Are we aware of the profound sense of unworthiness that so often invades the hearts of those who come to know the depth to which they influence others?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Pride

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
30 January 2020, 7:55 am
Good morning everyone,

If an athlete wants to excel at his or her sport, that person needs to dedicate many hours to honing skills, but increasingly in recent years, there is a growing awareness of the importance of taking pride in the awareness that all the work has been done and when the time comes for competition, athletes need to believe in themselves and be proud of the fact that they can be successful.

The same principle of pride applies to our faith.  Jesus says: Is a lamp brought to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lamp stand? (Mk 4:21)  In other words, the faith that has been passed on to us is not meant to be hidden behind falsely motivated meekness; rather, it is meant to be demonstrated so that its light might illuminate not only our lives but the lives of others as well.

Have we ever encountered situations where we are tempted to hide our faith?  If you answered yes, perhaps today is a good day to pray for the virtue of courage - paresia - the courage that allows us to take pride in who we are, the courage that allows us to take pride in our belief in God, the courage that makes it possible for us to share the light of our faith with others.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Sowing

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
29 January 2020, 7:47 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passage proposed for our prayer today is that of the well-known parable of the sower (Mk 4:1-20).  This is one of the few times when we see Jesus explaining his teachings in such detail, and this particular parable should always cause us to stop and to examine where we are in our faith journey.

Some of us are indeed standing along the paths of life, not spending much time worrying about all that is happening around us ... and some of us are so caught up in other concerns that we find little or no time or energy to expend the effort needed to worry about whether we are standing on the side of the road or in the middle of a field.  Some of us may well be sitting in the midst of thorns and other preoccupations that choke off our desire to open our hearts to the Word.  If we are fortunate enough to be able to appreciate the Word that is given each day, let us give thanks.

Regardless of where we are along the path, let us be bold enough to ask the Lord to strengthen our faith, to place the fresh soil of his Word in our hearts, to water it with his tender care and with a deepened sense of gratitude for his presence, and to warm the seeds of his teachings with his presence and with his love ... so that we may all be able to better appreciate the gift that He offers to each one of us every day.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Thomas Aquinas

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
28 January 2020, 8:02 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), an Italian-born Dominican friar who distinguished himself as a philosopher, a theologian and a jurist.  The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called the Philosopher—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.

It seems somewhat fitting that on the occasion of such a feast day, the scriptures present us with a moment when we need to ponder the scene that unfolds in order to uncover the wisdom that is being revealed.  The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.  A crowd seated around him told him, 'Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.'  But he said to them in reply, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' (Mk 3:31-32).  Only at this moment does the full meaning of Jesus' teaching come to light.  He says: ... whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mk 3:35).

What appear at first glance to be a reproach directed toward Mary and the disciples is actually a word of high praise, for she showed us (and she has continued to show us) how we can all live as disciples of Jesus: ... whoever does the will of God ... is my brother and sister and mother.

May Saint Thomas help us today to identify all those who, like Mary, are faithful disciples: those who show us how to do the will of God, and encourage us to do the same.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Angela Merici

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
27 January 2020, 7:51 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Angela Merici (21 March 1474 - 27 January 1540), who was born on a farm near the small town of Desenzano del Garda (Lombardy, Italy).  Following the death of her parents and her only sister, she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis.  A deeply spiritual woman, she had a vision in which she learned that she was to found an association of virgins who would dedicate their lives to the religious training of young girls.  Like the scribes in today's gospel passage (Mk 3:22-30), Angela would have questioned the source of this inspiration, but eventually came to believe it to be of God.  Proof of this truth came to light in the fact that the association was such a success that she was invited to start another school in the neighbouring city of Brescia.

On 25 November 1535, Angela gathered in a small house near the church of Saint Afra in Brescia, along with 12 young women who had joined in her work,  There, they committed themselves in the founding of the Company of St Ursula, placed under the protection of the patroness of medieval universities. Their goal was to elevate family life through the Christian education of future wives and mothers. They were the first teaching order of women religious.

Merici taught her companions to be consecrated to God and dedicated to the service of their neighbour, but to remain in the world, teaching the girls of their own neighbourhoods, and practicing a religious form of life in their own homes. The members wore no special habit and took no formal religious vows. Merici wrote a Rule of Life for the group, which specified the practice of celibacy, poverty and obedience in their own homes. The Ursulines opened orphanages and schools, first in the region around Brescia and later in various places throughout the world.

Saint Angela, who listened to the call of the Lord to be of service to those in need can help us today to be attentive to the Lord's inspiration.  It is He who always brings to light the situations in which He needs us to say yes.

Have a great day.

A great light

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
26 January 2020, 8:24 pm
All around the world, the Church is celebrating today the very first observance of the Word of God Sunday.  This is an initiative that Pope Francis has entrusted to the whole Church so that together, the Christian community will focus on the great value that the Word of God has in our daily lives (Aperuit illis, 2).  For many years, in various parts of the world, efforts have been put forward to help people to grow in their appreciation for the Word of God as an inspiration for our prayer and as a means of motivating us to carry out good works.  Therefore, this new emphasis, which will be highlighted each year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, is meant to help revive the responsibility of all believers to be knowledgeable in Sacred Scripture and to keep it alive through committed efforts to pass on the Word to future generations and to foster their understanding this Word which is capable of giving meaning to the life of the Church in the different conditions in which she finds herself.

Because the Word of God Sunday will always be observed on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, it will also have great value for ecumenism: the ongoing dialogue between the Catholic Church and other Christian faith traditions.  As you know, we are concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity today.  Obviously, it is not a mere coincidence that the Word of God Sunday is observed in such proximity to this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Rather, it is the fruit of a choice that is intended to mark a further step in ecumenical dialogue, placing the Word of God at the very heart of the commitment that Christians are call to make every day.

Last weekend, we mandated new Lectors for this parish.  I thought about postponing that moment until this weekend in order to further emphasize the importance of the Word of God in the midst of our weekly assembly, but perhaps it is enough that we should recall that beautiful moment when our brothers and sisters said yes to the invitation to proclaim the Word of God in the midst of this assembly.

The significance of today's celebration is also echoed in the words that we have heard proclaimed today.  The prophet Isaiah says: the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Is 9:2), the psalmist reminds us that the Lord is my light and my salvation (Ps 27:1), and the gospel account demonstrates that even for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, a light has dawned (Mt 12:16).  This light that helps and guides us as we make our way through life is the Word of God, a word that is living and active, a word that is just as alive today as it was when it was first proclaimed.

Day after day, at every gathering of God's people, we listen to this Word and we pray that this Word will take root in our hearts so that our lives may be perfumed with its odour and so that we may live by its guidance.  Not everyone is able to be present for every moment at which the Word of God is proclaimed in this place, but we are all capable of reading the Word of God on our own.  It only takes a few moments; we only need to read a few words, or a few lines each day.  If we do, we will discover more and more the truth that Saint Paul speaks today: the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18).

His Word Today: Saint Francis de Sales

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
24 January 2020, 7:11 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales (21 August 1567 - 28 December 1622).  Known for his deep faith and his gentle approach to dealing with the religious divisions of his day as a result of the Protestant Reformation, this Bishop of Geneva (Switzerland) is also known for his writings on the subjects of spiritual direction and spiritual formation.

Today's gospel passage (Mk 3:13-19) points to a moment in Jesus' life when he too had to seek direction and inspiration in prayer before appointing twelve of his disciples whom he also named apostles (those who are sent) (cf Mk 3:14).  Any of us who are called upon from time to time to make decisions can understand that this must not have been an easy task for Jesus to accomplish.  Rather, he had to pray, to seek heavenly wisdom and to allow himself to be inspired by it in order to make informed and wise decisions about who he would call and send.

This truth still holds for us today.  Like Jesus, we too need to pray for heavenly guidance, especially when we are faced with important decisions.  Perhaps in such situations, we can also call upon Saint Francis de Sales, asking him to inspire us with the gifts of direction and formation so that we too can be wise in carrying out the tasks that the Lord asks us to accept.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Crowds

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
23 January 2020, 7:38 am
Good morning everyone,

It is curious to note that in today's gospel passage, Mark describes great crowds of people who came to Jesus.  They followed him from Galilee ad from Judea ... they came from Jerusalem, from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and from the neighbourhood of Tyre and Sidon (Mk 3:7-8).  In fact, it even seems that Jesus had to ask the disciples to implement some crowd control (cf Mk 3:9).

We were not physically present to see those crowds, but many of us may recall the vast crowds that gathered to listen to the preaching of Pope John Paul II at any of the many World Youth Day gatherings he hosted, and other such gatherings that have followed since his death have been just as impressive.  Such crowds only assemble in order to listen to words that are compelling.  The speaker must have a message to impart, and that message must be relevant in order to reach vast numbers of people.

If we were among the crowds that gathered to listen to Jesus, what kinds of questions would we have in our hearts?  What kinds of answers would we be seeking?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Vincent, Deacon

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
22 January 2020, 7:43 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the third-century deacon named Vincent, otherwise known as Vincent of Saragossa. He was born at Huesca, near Saragossa, Spain and spent most of his life in the city of Saragossa, where he was educated and ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Valerius of Saragossa.  The Bishop commissioned Vincent to preach throughout the diocese, and because he (the Bishop) himself suffered from a speech impediment, Vincent acted as his spokesman.

During the persecution of Christians which was carried out by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Vincent and his Bishop were both imprisoned.  Both continued to profess their faith, even when to do so meant that they would be severely punished.  In the case of Vincent, such a decision led to his ultimate martyrdom, but his example of care for his brother provides us with a living example of the words spoken in the gospel today: when Jesus entered the synagogue, there was a man there who had a withered hand (Mk 3:1).  Despite the discouraging words offered by the leaders of the time, Jesus healed the man, a sign of his concern for his brother.

Concern for those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ can sometimes challenge us to make some difficult decisions, but in the end, to do so is to act according to the example of Jesus himself.  May Saint Vincent of Saragossa intercede for us today and help us to always place the needs of others ahead of our own perceived desires.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Agnes

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
21 January 2020, 7:24 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we remember and pray with Saint Agnes, a young girl who lived at the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth century after Christ.  Agnes (from the Latin agnus, which means lamb), was born circa 291 AD in Rome and she died a Martyr's death on 21 January 304 AD during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

To this day, Agnes is venerated most especially in Rome where, on this day every year, lambs are presented to the Holy Father.  The Pope blesses them and then they are shorn.  The wool from the sheep that are blessed is then returned to the Holy Father and woven into the pallia - the woollen scarves that will be worn by those who will be appointed as Metropolitan Archbishops in the coming year.

This tangible link with the faith that was lived by Saint Agnes and by others who have endeavoured to live out the faith that has always been inspired by God, and made known to us in the love of Jesus Christ helps us to keep before us the words of advice that we hear today in the gospel of Mark: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath (Mk 2:28).  Let us ask Saint Agnes to help us today to live as people of faith, seeking to be able to recognize the goodness of God that is all around us and giving thanks for the gift of a loving God who is so attentive to our needs.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saints Fabian and Sebastian

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
20 January 2020, 5:47 am
Good morning everyone,

Anyone who has launched a new project or tried to implement a new way of doing things may be familiar with the fact that not everyone we encounter will welcome the novelty of such approaches.  In fact, it takes a little while - and sometimes a lot of patience - for people to see the wisdom of new approaches and to turn away from established routines.  In the meanwhile, they will often challenge new ideas, sometimes inflicting much pain and suffering, whether or not such suffering is an intended outcome.

We see evidence of this truth in the gospel passage for today's Mass. The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fasting.  People came to Jesus and objected: 'Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' (Mk 2:18)  The people's curiosity can even be interpreted as a kind of judgement.  Many of us would perhaps question our motives, unless of course there was another, clearly defined truth unfolding, which was the point that Jesus wanted to emphasize: New wine is poured into fresh wine skins (Mk 2:22).

New approaches can often be surprising.  New, fresh ways of looking at situations can often provide opportunities for renewed and invigorated approaches.  Such was the case with both of the Saints who are celebrated today.

The early Church experienced great persecution.  Many questions were asked by those who were unfamiliar with the new Way, but the Holy Spirit has constantly been at work, and therefore God has continually been surprising us with new approaches.  In the early part of 236 AD, Fabian had come to Rome while elections were being held for a new Pope. Although he was present, Fabian was in the mind of none of the electors, yet according to the story, after 13 days of the conclave, a dove suddenly descended upon the head of Fabian. To the assembled electors, this strange sight recalled the gospel scene of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist and Fabian was elected by acclamation.

After the death of Saint Fabian, there came another example of commitment to the novelty of the faith: this time in the person of Saint Sebastian (256-288 AD).  In 283, he entered the army at Rome and eventually became one of the Praetorian Guards, all the while keeping secret the fact that he himself was a Christian.  Because of his unwillingness to sacrifice to the Roman gods, as was the practice of the time, he was arrested and sentenced to death.  Once again, Sebastian's insistence on a new way led to great suspicion and suffering but ultimately, his conviction led him to gain the martyr's crown.

May these two venerated men continue to intercede for us today, inspiring us to be aware of the ways in which the Holy Spirit is still calling us today to something new.

Have a great day.

Beginning

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
19 January 2020, 8:07 am
Having now completed the liturgical season of Christmas, today, we mark the beginning of Ordinary Time.  It is perhaps fitting that the gospel passage we have just heard places us with John the Baptist, reflecting on the encounter he had when Jesus was baptized.  The words of the gospel make it sound as though John is telling the story to someone after it has already taken place: I saw Jesus coming toward me and remarked to those who were nearby: I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel (Jn 1:31).

The baptism of Jesus is a fitting image for our reflection today because this Sacrament transforms us and makes us children of God, a new creation.  For as long as we live, we are constantly discovering the meaning of this truth.  Baptism is a Sacrament of rebirth through which we receive graces from God in order for us to set out on the journey of faith.

During the liturgy today, we will call forward and mandate a number of our brothers and sisters who have responded to the call of the Lord to share their talents and gifts with us: some of them will proclaim the Word of God in the weekly assembly and others will assist with the distribution of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.  Each of these is a call from God; from the moment of our Baptism, he is constantly calling to us, encouraging us to recognize the talents and gifts with which we have been graced,  and encouraging us to use these gifts in order to share the joy of our faith with others.

The first reading we heard today says it this way: The Lord said to me: 'You are my servant ... in whom I will be glorified' (Is 49:3), but the Lord goes on to say: I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the end of the earth (Is 49:6).  Our God is glorified when we use the gifts he has entrusted to us in order to serve others.  In this way, we share the light of our faith, and do what we can to spread the good news of the gospel.

This weekend marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Throughout this coming week, there will be a variety of moments set aside in various places throughout the world when people of various Christian traditions will gather to pray together.  Even if we are not able to take part in any formal sessions, we can all join our prayers, asking the Lord to renew within us the grace of our Baptism.  All Christians share a common Baptism.  Even though we may pray in different ways, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, all looking forward to the day when we will once again be able to stand around the same Eucharistic table and share the Lord's meal together.

In the meanwhile, we can ask Saint Paul to pray for the grace of unity among all Christians.  May he who was called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:1) ... intercede for us so that together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:2), we may be living signs of the grace we seek and the peace that we hope for as gifts from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

His Word Today: Speaking

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 January 2020, 7:13 am
Good morning everyone,

Have you ever wondered what it was like to sit at Jesus' feet ... to hear him teaching?  Perhaps you have had the experience of being in the presence of an extremely good teacher, one who manages to capture your attention and hold on to it.  One who knows you well enough to be aware of the moments when you are paying attention and the times when you are not, or the things that will excite you and the things that you find boring.

Jesus was a good teacher, one of those who knew how to hold the attention of those who were listening, one who knew how to speak to the issues that were important or pressing on the minds and hearts of those who were listening.  This is the reason why many gathered together so that there was no longer any room for them, not even around the door (Mk 2:2).

If you were one of those who was gathered around the door and trying listen to Jesus' words, what would you be hearing?  Would Jesus words be intriguing?  Have you ever considered the fact that others are always listening to what we say?  Do they find what we say intriguing?  How can we give life to those who hear our words?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Pity

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 January 2020, 8:29 am
Good morning everyone,

The gospel passage for today begins by setting the scene: Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand to heal the leper (Mk 1:41).  The heart of our God is infinitely capable of compassion.  When we are weak, our God provides the strength that we need.  Even when our desire to help others overwhelms our physical capacity, our God is still willing and able to restore us.

I do will it; be made clean!  With a word, Jesus restored that man to wholeness.  In the same way, with a word, he is capable of restoring us to wholeness.  All we need to do is to call out for help, but first, we must be aware of our need.

The leper called out for help because he hoped that Jesus would be able to restore him to wholeness.  What prayer do we raise to heaven?  Like that leper, we too must learn to trust that our prayer will be heard.

Have a great day.

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