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

His Word Today: Forgiveness

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
30 March 2020, 8:10 am
Good morning everyone,

The scripture passages proposed for today's meditation present two cases that illustrate the great power of wrongdoing and the even greater power of forgiveness.  The first case is that of Suzanna, the wife of Joakim.  Falsely accused, she was brought to trial (Dan 13:28-41).  Regardless of the fact that the evidence brought against her was false, Suzanna was powerless to mount an argument in her own favour.  The gospel account presents a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery (Jn 8:3).  Unlike the case of Suzanna, this woman was guilty and she was well aware of the consequences she faced under the Law.  Like Suzanna, she too was powerless to mount an argument in her own favour.  In both cases, these women needed the help of an advocate, someone on their side who would be willing to argue their case for them.

Is this not the case for us as well?  The laws of our land have changed.  Women are no longer powerless in this country, but there are still many people who need an advocate: someone on their side who is willing to argue their case for them.  This is also true when we stand before God: we need an advocate to plead our cause, especially when we have sinned.

When we come before God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there is a part of us that can relate very well with the powerlessness of the two women mentioned in the scriptures today, but luckily for us, Jesus is waiting to welcome us.  Like he did when the scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman to him, he looks upon us with tender love.  At times when others would accuse us, at times when we feel most powerless because we have sinned and know that we deserve punishment, he looks upon us with tender love.  Jesus does not ignore the sins that we have committed, but neither does he use them to condemn us.  His response is always: Go, and from now on, do not sin any more (Jn 8:11).

Let us pray today for the great grace to hear these words in the depth of our own hearts.  Jesus speaks these words today to each one of us, offering us the great grace of forgiveness.  This year, many of us are being invited to live our Lent in a very different way.  The presence of the new coronavirus has caused many of us to be isolated within our own homes and as a result, even though we might want to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Easter, it is not possible.  The Church is aware of the suffering we are enduring and wants to be close to us.  Last Friday (20 March), some special provisions were outlined in order to make it possible for us to encounter the merciful heart of Jesus in preparation for Easter, and this past Friday, the Holy Father granted an indulgence to all those who participated in a moment of prayer that he led in Saint Peter's Square.

During the Mass he celebrated at the Casa Santa Marta on the morning of 20 March, Pope Francis said:  I know that many of you go to celebrate confession before Easter, but many might say, where can I find a priest, a confessor, because I can't leave the house, and I want to make my peace with the Lord.  I want him to hug me.  He is my Father.  I want his embrace.  How can I do that unless I find a priest?  Do what the Catechism says.  It is very clear.  If you can't find a priest to go to confession, speak to God.  He is your Father.  Tell him the truth: Lord, I did this and this and this. Forgive me.  Ask him for pardon with all of your heart, with an act of contrition and promise him that afterwards, you will go to Confession, but do this and right away, you will return to God's grace.  You yourself can draw near - as the Catechism teaches us - to God's forgiveness without having a priest at hand. This is a favoured moment, this is the right moment. An act of contrition that is well made.  Thus, our souls become white as the snow.

Let us give thanks today for the great gift of God's mercy and let us celebrate today the power of his forgiveness.

Have a great day.

A significant encounter

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
29 March 2020, 1:18 pm
Detail from 'The Resurrection of Lazarus' by Giotto
The gospel narrative for this fifth Sunday of Lent recounts three particular moments in the life of Jesus and of those who were dear to him.  Each of these moments provides us with food for our reflection and prayer.

The first moment is presented in this way: The sisters of Lazarus sent a message to Jesus, 'Lord, he whom you love is ill' (Jn 11:3).  Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem.  On many occasions, their home had been a place of welcome for Jesus and his disciples.  They were friends of his, so when Lazarus was dying, they sent word to him, probably thinking that he would want to visit with him.  Hidden in these few simple words is also a plea: the sisters had no doubt heard of other occasions when Jesus had performed miracles; perhaps they too hoped that Jesus could cure Lazarus.

How often have we heard such news?  A friend of ours, an acquaintance or a family member has fallen ill.  Perhaps he or she has been hospitalized.  Maybe we have even heard that there is not much time left.  Most of us would try to move mountains so that we could be present, so that we could see our loved one, just one more time.  Even if we are physically present at the bedside of someone who is gravely ill, there is a sense of powerlessness as we watch our loved ones growing steadily weaker, yet it is a comfort for us and for others to be close to those we love when such experiences occur.

This is what makes Jesus' response even more curious.  Instead of running to his friends side, he said: This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory ... (Jn 11:4).  His disciples must have been perplexed by these words, yet there was a lesson that he wanted to share.  Sometimes it happens that we pray for certain outcomes but it doesn't seem as though God answers our prayers.  In such moments, we have a glimpse of the questions that must have circulated among the disciples at that particular moment.  Jesus waited two more days before he set out for the home of Martha and Mary (cf Jn 11:7).  Even if we try to be people of faith every day, it can still be very difficult for us to learn to put our own wills aside and to trust that God will answer our prayers in His time.

The second moment that feeds our prayer is described in this way: When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home (Jn 11:20).  Perhaps Mary was overwhelmed by her grief at the moment when he arrived and Martha did not want to trouble her.  Instead, she went outside the house to speak with Jesus.  It is evident that Martha was disappointed: Lord, she said, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (Jn 11:21). These are words of anguish, but they are also words of deep faith, a depth of faith that is further demonstrated in the second part of her declaration: ... even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.  Even in the depths of her sadness, Martha believed that Jesus could change the situation.

For the past few weeks, it seems that many parts of the routines that we considered to be normal parts of our lives have been changed.  First, the coronavirus was discovered in another part of the world, then it began to spread.  At first, perhaps we thought that it would have been possible to contain the contagion, but then the relentless march began.  In recent weeks, we have watched the number of cases of COVID-19 rise continually, even in this country.  Political leaders, health care professionals and many others are doing everything they can to control this unknown virus, and to prepare for the eventuality that someone - perhaps many people - will need to be treated.  As we hear news of the increasing number of cases in various parts of the world, we too have been calling out: Lord, our brothers and sisters, the ones you love, are ill.  We pray and we hope that those we love will be kept safe, but we really do not know what will happen.  Perhaps all we can do is to repeat the words that Martha spoke: ... even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him (Jn 11:21).  We must pray and we must place all our loved ones in the arms of God, trusting that he will not abandon us.

In China, in Italy, in Spain and in many other countries throughout the world, many of our brothers and sisters have already fallen victim to this new virus, and many of them have died.  This is an alarming truth, but even in such times of powerlessness, we Christians have the gift of our faith to help us.  The prophet Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord God has said: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves ... (Ez 37:12), and we saw further proof of this in the gospel today.

The third moment that is described recounts the details when Jesus came to the tomb and told those who were there with him: Take away the stone (Jn 11:38-39).  Physical death is not the end of the story.  In a few days' time, we will begin the celebrations for Holy Week, yet even now, the encounter between Jesus and Lazarus reminds us that God has the final word.  In the midst of their disbelief, Martha and the others stood by and watched as Jesus called out to the dead man: Lazarus, come out! (Jn 11:43).  Only God can speak such words.  Only God can call out to those who are dead and raise them to life. The spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us (Rom 8:11). This is the hope that has been planted in our hearts ever since the day of our Baptism.  One day, when Jesus calls our name, this hope will become a reality: we too will be raised and set free.

His Word Today: See

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

As a child, I used to be fascinated by encounters with those who could look at what seemed to be regular, every-day occurrences, and be able to recognize God's presence.  It takes some time, and a certain amount of experience in order to be able to see God's presence, and then it takes courage in order to point it out, but this is what we disciples need to do every day.  The world around us needs us to see the events of this time through the eyes of faith, and to have the courage to speak boldly about what we see.

People who saw Jesus, who heard him speak, knew him, knew where he was from.  They knew his family, they knew his reputation (cf Jn 7:28), but they did not recognize him as the fulfillment of God's plan.  Only through the eyes of faith have we been able to recognize in Jesus the fulfillment of the prophecies that had been spoken long before he came to live among us.  The words from the Book of Wisdom are a foreshadow of the suffering that he endured.  As we read them today, we are transported into Holy Week, to the drama of Good Friday: He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.  Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.  For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.  With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him (Wis 2:13-20).

Let us pray today for the grace to see the happenings in our world through the eyes of faith.  With God's help, we will be able to look at what seems to be the every-day occurrences happening around us, but we will see them differently.  Instead of choosing to ignore the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, let us look compassionately at the challenges they face.  Instead of condemning them or ignoring their plight, let us do our part to take care of them.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Testimony

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
26 March 2020, 8:07 am
Good morning everyone,

Today's gospel passage (Jn 5:31-47) begins by pointing out an interesting truth which we should always remember.  Jesus says to the Jews: If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true (Jn 5:31-32).  This maxim holds true even today: if I speak on my own behalf, no one is bound to trust my words.  Others may choose to believe them based on established credibility, but in the absence of such previous experience, hearers would be right to question any words I spoke.

Jesus then goes on to give further testimony: The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me (Jn 5:36).  The Jews who were hearing Jesus' words that day did not understand that Jesus was the Son of God, but Jesus was steadfast in his mission.  He knew what he was about.  He had been sent by God the Father in order to testify to the fact that God is always close to us, like a loving father, watching over us and wanting us to walk with him on the journey of life.

Today, Christians all over the world are still called to testify to the truth that God our Father loves us, is watching over us, is walking with us on the journey of life.  We know that Jesus came to earth in order to do this and we need to share this good news with everyone we meet.  Let us not be afraid to tell others about the reason for our joy.  The Holy Spirit is still with us today, walking with us, guiding our steps and inspiring us to be faithful disciples.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Annunciation

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
25 March 2020, 6:45 am
Good morning everyone, and happy feast day.

Today, the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord.  In the midst of our Lenten observances, we celebrate today with great joy because our God has given us a sign.  In the depths of our fears and worries about keeping ourselves and our families safe while the cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across this country, today we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us' (Is 7:14; 8:10).

At the conclusion of his Angelus greetings this past Sunday, Pope Francis asked all Christians to pray together.  In these days of trial, while humanity is trembling under the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians to unite their voices in prayer to Heaven (Angelus, 22 March 2020).  His Holiness is asking us to pray the Lord's Prayer at 12:00 noon Rome time today (that's 7:00am EDT).  What a wonderful expression of faith this is: voices of all Christians, voices of all confessions all calling on God with the words that Jesus has taught us while we prepare to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ at Easter.

In the midst of our uncertainties, the Lord is with us.  He is a loving and caring father who is close to all his children.  He knows our worries.  He knows our fears.  Together, let us turn to him, the one who sent his angel to a young woman in Nazareth (cf Lk 1:26-27) to proclaim the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, to send his angels to surround us and protect us.

Several times a day, let us raise our voices in prayer:  Our Father ...

Have a great day.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Lord's Prayer

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we have agreed to meet, all Christians of the world, to pray the Lord's Prayer together, the prayer that Jesus taught us.

As trusting children, we turn to our Father.  We do this every day, many times a day; but in this moment, we want to implore mercy for humanity during the trial of the coronavirus pandemic.  And we do this together, Christians of all Churches and Communities, of all traditions, of all ages, languages and nationalities.

Let us pray for the sick and for their families; for the health care workers and for all those who are assisting them; for the Authorities, the Military and the volunteers and the ministers within all our communities.

Today, many of us are celebrating the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of the Virgin Mary, when in her Yes, here I am, which was humble and total, she herself mirrored the words - Here I am - spoken by the Son of God.  We too entrust ourselves with full trust into the hands of God and with one heart and with one soul, we pray:

Our Father ...

His Word Today: Life

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

It seems that in these days, life keeps changing: one day after another there are more and more things that are impacting our lives in increasing degrees.  Yesterday, the Premier of Ontario announced that as of tonight, all non-essential businesses will have to close their doors and all employees will have to work from home.  These increasingly severe measures are for our good, but it seems as though they are restricting our movements more and more.

It might be hard to comprehend the fact that these increasing protective measures are all aimed at increasing our collective chance at overcoming the threat that is being imposed by the scourge of this new virus, but this is exactly the point. In the midst of forced isolation, how are we supposed to find life?

The liturgical season of Lent provides us with a privileged moment during which we can come apart from the daily grind that we call life, but we often say that it is difficult to discipline ourselves enough to truly appreciate the gift of this time.  Perhaps this year, while we are being forced to live this time at a different pace, we can listen afresh to the good news that is being proclaimed.

In the prophecy of Ezekiel, we hear the story of water that gushes in the desert: Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.  Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail (Ez 47:9, 12).

The Lord has not left us alone to face the trial that stands before us.  This is a privileged time.  Our God wants to walk this road with us.  This trial will lead to a renewed abundance of life, but perhaps we can only picture it at the present moment, just like the man who had been ill, lying by the pool of Bethesda for so long (cf Jn 5:5).  Had he dared to hope for so long that things would get better, or had he almost given up hope when Jesus came by?

The words that Jesus spoke to that man, he also speaks to us: Rise, take up your mat and walk (Jn 5:8).  In these times of trial, Jesus calls us to rise above the temptation to regard these very strange times as some kind of punishment.  Rather, we are being called to see these precautions as necessary steps to protect us and for our own good.  Let us ask the Lord today to refresh us with the water of his love and to help us to rise so that we can walk in faith.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Trust

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
23 March 2020, 6:39 am
Good morning everyone,

Beginning today, I will share these reflections by email and on the blog as I have been doing, but in addition, I will publish these reflections on our new parish Facebook page.  In these times of social isolation, people are looking for community, people are looking for inspiration, and we are learning how to use the methods of communication that are at our disposal in order to reach out to those who we cannot physically see.

We all need to find heroes in these dark days.  Heroes are the ones who provide us with inspiration.  Heroes are the ones who help us not to loose sight of what is truly important.  The gospel passage proposed for today's reflection gives us an example of the way in which heroes can inspire us.  When Jesus returned to Cana, he was met by a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death (Jn 4:46-47).  We can almost hear the anguish in this man's voice, yet he had heard about Jesus and trusted that Jesus had the power to save his son.

Many of us cannot remember a time when we had to be quarantined in order to protect ourselves from the threat of a virulent disease, yet this time is perhaps a new way for us to live Lent.  Perhaps we are being invited to discover a new level of trust: trust in our family members who perhaps we have taken for granted, trust in our officials who have our better interests at heart as they make very difficult decisions, trust in the medical professionals who are being called upon to care for those of us who cannot care for ourselves.

Let us pray for the gift of trust to be renewed in our hearts, and let us take advantage of this precious time to ask the Lord to grant us the grace of trusting others, and entrusting ourselves to the care of the divine physician who can cure a dying boy with a word, spoken to a distraught father: Go, your son will live (Jn 4:50).

Have a good day.

From darkness into light

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
22 March 2020, 8:39 am
The passage we have just heard in the gospel was beautifully illustrated in Franco Zeffirelli's classic film Jesus of Nazareth.  Renato Rascel, the actor who played the part of the blind man was very convincing.  He did not have perfect teeth, he was unkempt and he was rather scruffy.  He definitely would not have been invited to any dinner parties put on by the rich.

It is interesting to note that the gospel account focuses on Jesus who was walking along, and saw this man who had been blind from birth (cf Jn 9:1).  Jesus is always the one who sees us first, even before we are aware of our need for him, he already sees us.  He sees our weaknesses, he sees our hesitancy to come to him, he knows that even though we want to follow him, we are sometimes afraid to approach him, so instead, he comes to us. He recognizes our frailties and even if we cannot find the words or the faith to ask for help, he is always ready to come to our assistance.

What did Jesus see in that man?  All those who passed by him on the street had perhaps learned to ignore him.  There was nothing striking about his features, and his clothing was no doubt dusty and torn, yet Jesus does not see us in the same way that we see one another.  In the reading from the Book of Samuel, the Lord instructed Samuel: Do not look on the outward appearance of the person who stands before you ... for the Lord does not see as the human sees; the human looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7).  Jesus saw his heart, his desire to be cured, and he came to his help.  Jesus sees our hearts too.  He knows how sincere we are when we pray and he comes to our help.

In this telling of the gospel story, Jesus did not wait for the man to ask for his help.  Instead, he spat on the ground and made mud ... he spread the mud on the man's eyes and told him to go, wash in the pool of Siloam (Jn 9:6-7).  Jesus did not ask him to do anything extraordinary, he only asked him to go and to wash his eyes.  The man ... went and washed, and came back able to see.  This man who had lived in darkness all his life was suddenly granted the gift of sight.  Without asking, the Lord had shed light upon him.  What a wonderful gift that must have been.  I wonder how long it took him to stop squinting, before he was able to appreciate his ability to differentiate shapes, colours, people, objects, walls ... all the things he had never been able to fully appreciate before.

Like this man, we too were once in darkness, but now in the Lord, we are light (Eph 5:8).  The global pandemic which we are experiencing at the moment has necessitated the adoption of protective measures that many of us have only heard about, but never experienced.  It seems so strange that the normal social behaviours that have characterized our daily lives have been so drastically altered that now we find ourselves with no sports to entertain us, no gatherings where we would normally be able to visit with friends, no ability to assemble on Sunday for the weekly celebration of the Eucharist.

It truly feels as though we have been plunged into darkness, but our faith encourages us, even now, not to lose sight of the fact that Jesus came to shed light on situations that seem to be the most doubtful.  Jesus is with us, even in this moment.  He wants to open our eyes, and he needs us to be his faithful disciples.  After that man had been cured of his blindness, even the Pharisees began to ask him how he had received his sight.  He did not hesitate to speak his truth.  He said to them: He put mud on my eyes, then I washed and now I see (Jn 9:15).  That encounter could not have been easy for him.  The Pharisees would never have asked those questions without having some hidden reason.  Yet that man was not afraid to testify, to tell his truth.

And what of us?  In these times when we are being asked to implement such drastic isolation methods, do we see these times as a punishment, or are we able to recognize the reasons for social distancing?  Do we think of this experience as an imprisonment, or are we able to see this situation through new eyes that allow us to be present to others in ways that we have not considered for a very long time?  Perhaps this is a wake up call for all of us, a privileged moment to move from darkness into new light, a chance to relate to others with simple gestures like telephone calls, bringing light into their darkness too.  We can still share the good news of our faith.  We can still speak our truth.  We can still proclaim our faith, perhaps with renewed understanding, and like the man in the gospel, we too can say: Lord, I believe (Jn 9:38).

His Word Today: Changing

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
20 March 2020, 8:08 am
Good morning everyone,

In the past two weeks, it seems that life has changed drastically for many of us.  It's hard to remember that students in some of our Colleges are still enjoying their Spring-time reading week, and students in our elementary schools are still officially away from school, for this is the official March Break.  Was it coincidence that everyone we know seems to be socially isolating at this time?  This seems to be a bizzare way of forcing us all to take a break.

And as we take this break, as all things come to a halt, what word can we look to for guidance?  Today's gospel passage reminds us of the most important of the Commandments:  Hear O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone! (Mk 12:29)  We can refocus our attention and remember that the Lord is the one who is in charge.  He calls us to love the Lord ... with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength (Mk 12:30) and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

We can love our God by turning to him in prayer and we can love our neighbours by reaching out to them in these days: through telephone calls, offering to do errands for those who cannot so easily get out of their homes and finding all manner of creative ways to stay connected to them.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Joseph

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

Today, the Church celebrates and prays with Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Matthew's gospel says that Joseph was a righteous man (Mt 1:19).  Other translations say that he was a just man or that he was faithful to the law.  Based on these descriptions, we can be reassured that God chose wisely when he designated Joseph to be the one who would accompany Mary in her task of raising Jesus.

In the context of our lives today, we can look to Joseph and ask him to share his wisdom with us.  As he watched over Jesus and Mary, may he also intercede for us.  In this time of heightened anxiety when so many of us are socially isolating, we turn to Joseph and ask him to help us not to close ourselves off from the concerns of our brothers and sisters, but rather to be increasingly generous in our willingness to care for one another.

May he who exercised such tender care in providing for the Holy Family teach us by his example to be equally as caring for our immediate families, for the families who have been entrusted to our care and for the family of all God's people.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Greatest

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
18 March 2020, 8:46 am
Good morning everyone,

In today's gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples: whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:19).  We can look to the teachings of Jesus to discover the Commandments and to begin to understand how it is that we should live them, but if we want practical examples to help us even more, we can also look to our parents and our grandparents.

At the beginning of the Mass which he celebrated yesterday morning inside the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican, the Holy Father encouraged us all to pray for the elderly who are suffering because of the isolation that has been imposed by the increasing need to combat the COVID-19 virus.  May God grant them wisdom, he said.

Today, let us be thankful for our grandparents, for our parents and for all those who have taught us the commandments, all those who have helped us to discover the treasure of our faith.  May they be rewarded for their faithfulness and eventually find their place in the kingdom of heaven.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Patrick

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 March 2020, 8:26 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church remembers and prays with Saint Patrick, one of the primary patron Saints of Ireland.  Sometime during the late fourth century or early fifth century A.D., Patrick served as a missionary and as a Bishop in Armagh (Northern Ireland).  He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland and the primary force behind the conversion of a society that had until then been practicing a form of Celtic polytheism.

This would have been a major revolution at the time, but then again, so was the teaching of Jesus during his time.  Matthew's gospel tells us that Peter approached Jesus one day and asked him, 'Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? ...' (Mt 18:21).  In the midst of a society that had been founded on competition, Jesus came to teach another way that is based not on the quest for worldly achievement, but on the power of forgiveness and love.

Let us ask Saint Patrick to intercede for us today so that we too might learn to recognize and appreciate the gift of forgiveness in our own lives, and to come to know the power of His great love for all his disciples.

As Pope Francis asked at the beginning of his Mass yesterday morning, let us also pray for all those who are sick, and for families who are being increasingly isolated: their children are not going to school, more and more parents are being isolated as well.  May the Lord help them to discover new ways, new expressions of love, new ways spending time creatively and of living together in this new situation.  Let us pray for all our families, for relationships within our families at this time, that these relationships might flower and bring about much good.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Entitled

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 March 2020, 8:38 am
Good morning everyone,

In today's gospel, we find Jesus inside the synagogue in Nazareth.  He had come home and was in the synagogue (cf Lk 4:24), presumably following the religious tradition that he had learned from childhood.  Knowing that one of their own had come home, perhaps those who were gathered somehow thought that he would have some word of wisdom to share with them, or perhaps that he would have a work of great power to share.

There is a danger when we take for granted an expectation of receiving favours.  The danger is that the one who is providing the favours may have a different plan in mind.  We can bring prayers and requests to God, but it is not up to us to presume that we will receive the favours that we request.  Rather, we need to trust that in His goodness, God will give us everything we need.  To do otherwise is to exhibit what in modern-day parlance might be termed an attitude of entitlement.

Today, let us pray for the grace to place ourselves trustingly in the hands of God and to allow him to direct our paths.  He knows what we need even before we can find the words to express ourselves.  Why would we not trust that he also knows what is best for us?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Awakened

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
13 March 2020, 7:04 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the gospel points us to yet another of Jesus' parables.  In this case, one with which he surprised the leaders of his time.  Even today, everyone loves listening to stories, but what happens when we recognize ourselves in the persons being portrayed?  In the case of the chief priests and the elders, they were awakened to this fact when Jesus said: the Kingdom of God will be taken from you ... (Mt 21: 43).

In recent weeks, the onset of COVID-19 has provided us with a wakeup call as well.  In this case, there is increasing vigilance and a tinge of fear.  There are still many questions, and it seems as though we are all feeling our way, relying on those who can provide the most accurate information and advice.

In the coming days, let us pray especially for those who are suffering from this disease, for those who are providing medical attention, for those who have to make difficult decisions.  It is an added difficulty to be criticized for such decisions, especially when they are made for the good of others.  Let us pray for the grace to live this moment with serenity.  Perhaps we will be awakened to a renewed vigour in living our faith.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Carried

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

In today's gospel passage we hear the story of a poor man who spent most of his earthly life suffering.  There are many of our brothers and sisters, even those who are in no way hidden from us, but who suffer in silence.  How many of these do we actually see?  How many of them are invisible to us.  In the parable recounted by Jesus, the poor man died and was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham (Lk 16:22).  Beyond the reaches of tangible reward, the one who had endured such suffering during his earthly life was comforted.

This parable is a wake up call for us not to become too comfortable with our own situations.  Jesus constantly invited others to see the world not through the eyes of competition, but rather through the lens of mutual service and love.

If we strive every day to do this, we will be able to look out for all those who so often fall between the cracks in society.  Every one is a brother or a sister and every one is worthy of love.  Every one in need matters.  Let us do our best to respond to their calls.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Service

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

Today's gospel passage places us with Jesus and his disciples at a certain point along the road on the way to Jerusalem.  Jesus wanted to prepare them ahead of time for the reality that was about to unfold.  In Matthew's telling, he (Jesus) said to them: ... the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes and they will condemn him to death ... (Mt 20: 18).

Having spent so much time getting to know him, we might have thought that the disciples might have been able to grasp the heart of Jesus' message: that his life, and ours, should be based in service to others as a way of demonstrating love.  This message sounds extremely simple, but it can take a very long time for us to hear it, much less understand it (cf Mt 20: 20-22).

Perhaps this Lenten season is a privileged time for us to question our own motives for choosing discipleship.  What are we looking for: a place of honour in the kingdom or a heart that seeks to serve like Jesus did?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: False

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 March 2020, 8:23 am
Good morning everyone,

Above all else, Jesus constantly called his disciples to live their lives honestly: to be authentic about who they were.  At times, he pointed out situations where people were not living according to this value, in order to make his point.  Evidence of this is found in today's gospel passage: The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses (in other words, they are the legitimate leaders by virtue of the positions they hold, therefore do and observe all things they tell you (Mt 23:2-3).  However, Jesus went further: but do not follow their example.  This rebuke still stings if we ourselves have abused power that was legitimately given to us.

If we truly want to be disciples of Jesus, we should constantly be on the lookout for situations where we are called to exercise leadership in his name, but even more so, we should always be aware of the temptation to allow power and control to be falsely used or badly represented.  Otherwise, we run the risk of modelling our lives after those of the leaders of old who abused the power that had been entrusted to them.

Today, let us pray for the grace not to fall prey to the temptation to use our authority to fulfill false ambitions.  Rather, let us entrust ourselves to the care of our heavenly Father, who will always call us to authenticity in all we do and say.

Have a great day.

What's really going on?

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
8 March 2020, 7:34 am
As we continue our journey toward Easter, the image placed before us today is that of the Transfiguration.  Joseph Cassidy, an Irish bishop who died in 2013 used to speak of this event in the life of the apostles in this way:  Jesus knew that his disciples would find it difficult to understand and to accept the fact that he had to suffer and die.  In order to help them to understand the big picture - which included the necessity of suffering and dying but also the glorious reality of the resurrection, Jesus took ... Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain.  There, he was transfigured before them (Mt 17:1-2).  He changed in his outward form or appearance.  His face shone like the sun and his face became dazzling white.  Moses and Elijah also appeared, stood with Jesus and talked with him.  Bishop Cassidy explained that they did this in order to encourage Jesus too, so that when the time of his suffering appeared, he would also be strengthened by this experience and be able to endure all that was to come.

Can you imagine what it was like to stand there, on the top of the mountain, and to experience such a sight?  In the face of all that splendour, Peter's first reaction was a desire to set up three dwellings (cf Mt 17:4).  What a worldly reaction this was: he wanted to offer them some earthly comfort.  Poor Peter was incapable of understanding the full magnitude of what he was witnessing.  God's perspective on reality is always much wider than the scope of our possibilities.  In the first reading, we heard God calling to Abram: Go from your country ... to the land that I will show you (Gn 12:1).  God invited Abram to widen his horizons, to set out on an adventure, to look beyond the scope of his own comfort, God invited Peter, James and John to see beyond the scope of their own horizons too, and God invites us to dream beyond the limits of this world, so that we can dare to see the limitless expanse of heaven.

How often does it happen that God is right in front of us, showing us his divinity and his plan for our lives, and we choose instead to focus on logistics and on worldly preoccupations?  Can we dare to look beyond?

Today, as we celebrate the Mass, we will witness one of the greatest miracles of all time: bread and wine will be transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.  The Eucharist is the sacrament that allows us to have a glimpse of God's glory and power, right here before our eyes.  For just a moment, heaven and earth meet.  As we witness this miracle today, where will our hearts and minds be focused?  Will we be checking the time, or will we be revelling in God's glory?  Will we be thinking about things that we need to accomplish in the coming week or will we be aware of God speaking in the depths of our hearts?

God's words to the disciples were a wake up call for them: Get up and do not be afraid (Mt 17:7), and Saint Paul echoes these very words by inviting us to join with him in suffering for the Gospel, relying on the power of God who saved us and called us with a holy calling ... according to his own purpose and grace (2 Tim 1:8-9).  These words of encouragement prompt us to refocus on the things that are truly important: not worldly considerations but an attentive ear and an open heart, ready to welcome the ever-living Word of God that calls us to be living examples of heaven right here on earth.

His Word Today: Authenticity

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

Today we encounter yet another of Jesus' teachings.  This time, he is calling his disciples to live their faith with authenticity.  To illustrate his point, he said to them: unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:20).

The scribes and the Pharisees were well known to the disciples.  They were the ones who were entrusted with the task of interpreting the Law of Moses, but in practice, they often would ignore their own teachings, as though they themselves were above the Law.  Jesus instructed his own followers to be on guard, so that they would not fall victim to such thinking.  Instead, he called them to develop an understanding of their faith as an authentic gift which was the response to an invitation to love.

Even today, we can fall victim to the temptation to think that we are better than others.  Let us ask for the grace today to heed the words that Jesus has spoken; by seeking to follow him, let us strive to reflect His goodness in the words we speak and in the actions we demonstrate to others.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Ask, seek, knock

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

Today, the Lord uses three verbs to point out the actions that we should take whenever we want to present a petition.  He says: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Mt 7:7).  Jesus is inviting us to present our needs to the Lord, and to be persistent in doing so, like a trusting child might present a petition to a loving parent.

There is great trust in these words.  The openness and willingness that Jesus displays by inviting us into such a relationship with God is already a sign of the openness and the trust that he himself was enjoying in his own frequent encounters in prayer.

If during this Lenten journey, our hearts have been opened in a new way, and we have been filled with a desire to come to the Lord, these words of Jesus should encourage us on our journey, and if there are others who need us in turn to encourage them to come to the Lord, perhaps these words can help us to speak to hearts that yet do not know how to draw close to Him.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Here

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 March 2020, 7:32 am
Good morning everyone,

Jesus speaks some harsh words in today's gospel: This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah (Lk 11:29).  People were crowding around Jesus.  What were they looking for?  Jesus knew their hearts, and he knows our hearts.  How often do we turn to Jesus, looking for signs?  How many of our prayers include requests? Do we truly know what we are looking for when we come to Jesus?

It might seem strange to hear Jesus say: no sign will be given .... but if we truly understand the context in which these words were uttered, we will also know that the sign the people should have been looking for was standing right in front of them.  Jesus is and was the sign of God's presence in the midst of His beloved people.

Are we still looking for signs?  All we need to do is to look to Jesus.  He is the only sign that we truly need and he is right here, close to us, walking with us, loving us and teaching us how to love one another.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Nerves

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 March 2020, 7:42 am
Good morning everyone,

Perhaps you remember a time when you had a chance to meet an idol or a hero.  In anticipation of such an encounter, you may have played and replayed the conversation ahead of time in your head: questions you wanted to ask, complements or comments that you might have liked to voice.  A meeting with someone we admire can be a nerve wracking experience.

I wonder if anyone has been nervous as they prepare to speak with God in prayer.  The human heart can easily be convinced of the fact that more words need to be spoken, especially when we are nervous, and we can also repeat our prayers using different words, all in hopes of giving voice to our deepest desires in just the right way.  However, Jesus reassures us that we need not worry about the words we use when we pray.  In fact, he says: when you pray, do not babble ... (Mt 6:7).

Instead, Jesus assures us that our Father knows what we need, even before we ask (cf Mt 6:8).  Therefore, we should learn to pray using conversational language, like trusting children who are speaking with a loving parent.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Goal

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

We are still in the opening days of the Lenten period, and already, the scripture passages encourage us to be conscious of the end times.  It is good that as we begin this time of reflection and prayer, we hold before our eyes the final goal to which we are headed: eternal life in heaven.

Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes in his glory ... he will separate us one from another (Mt 25:31-32) and he will either reward us or condemn us based on our ability to have recognized his presence in the people and situations that we have encountered in this life.  We need reminders of this eventuality in order to always remember that we cannot delay our decision to choose to do good; otherwise, one day it will be too late and we won't be able to choose any more.

Let us set out today, choosing to do good.  Jesus has already given us an example of compassion and how we should care for one another.  Let us not wait until it is too late to follow this example.

Have a great day.

Tested by temptation

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
1 March 2020, 8:17 am
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Mt 4:1) - some translations of the scriptures speak not of the wilderness but of the desert.  Like Jesus, we too have been led by the Spirit into this holy season of Lent.  Like Jesus, we have begun this journey with a resolve to change our hearts.  At some level, every one of us is seeking.  The mere fact that we are here is evidence of the fact that we want to follow Jesus, even if that should mean that we need to follow him into the desert, to the place where all the superfluous things in life are stripped away, leaving us with a privileged space in which we can encounter our God.

When we dare to shed the unnecessary layers that are cluttering our hearts, we are often reminded of the things that are essential.  In terms of our faith, we are reminded of the fact that God created us, formed us out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into our nostrils the breath of life (Gn 2:7).  From that very first moment of human existence, God has always loved us.  The Lord God planted a garden (Gn 2:8) in order to provide food for us.  It was God's original intention that we should live in that garden, that place of beauty and tranquility, but almost immediately after Adam and Eve had been placed there, they were tempted.  The serpent took Eve's words and twisted them: You will not die, he said (Gn 3:4); instead he provided another explanation: when you eat of the tree, your eyes will be opened.  Every one of us has encountered such experiences.  We have all encountered the evil one's trickery.  In some cases, we ourselves have become masters at believing what we want to believe.

Oh how lost we would all be if the story had ended there.  Instead, thankfully, God sent Jesus to show us the way.  Saint Paul reminds us that just as sin came into the world through one man ... so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all people (Rom 5:12, 18).  This is the reason for our hope.  No matter how lost we might be, there is always hope.  Jesus came to show us the way.   God knows that we sometimes need to take baby steps, and we need some help, someone to show us the way, so he sent Jesus.

At the very beginning of his public life, as a young adult, immediately after he was baptized, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Mt 4:1) so that even in that experience, he could show us that it is possible to face temptation and to overcome the devil's cunning.  The gospel writer describes three moments of temptation; each one of them is more cunning than the one before it.  Knowing that Jesus was hungry, the devil first entices him to command ... stones to become loaves of bread (Mt 4:3).  If he had given in to his hunger, Jesus might have been tempted to use his divine power to do just that, but he wanted to use that opportunity to teach us, so he responded: Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4).  In other words, we cannot allow any physical thing to become more important to us than our relationship with God, as difficult as that might be.  The devil didn't give up.  In fact, he took Jesus to the holy city ... to the pinnacle of the temple - the place most revered as a place of encounter with God, and quoted words from the Psalms that are still prayed today: 'He will command his Angels concerning you ... on their hands they will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against a stone (Mt 4:6).  And when even this did not tempt Jesus, the devil continued, tempting him with the possibility of wealth beyond his wildest dreams (cf Mt 4:8-9).

Like Jesus, we too are tempted, from the moment that we set out with the best of intentions.  The devil is always at work, constantly trying to find ways to twist our words or to entice us to believe that things are different than they seem.  We need help in order to stay focused.  It's ok to be tempted, for in the end faith needs to be tested so that we will know how strong it is.  When we are tempted to give in, let us always remember that Jesus has gone before us.  He is walking this road of Lent with us and is always ready and willing to help us.  All we need to do is to ask for his help and he will always come to our assistance.

His Word Today: Inquiry

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
28 February 2020, 7:08 am
Good morning everyone,

In these opening days of the Lenten season, the scriptures present us today with a situation that might not be so far from our own lived reality.  The disciples of John approached Jesus and asked: 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast? (Mt 9:14).  This question is asked out of curiosity, for it was the custom of the time to fast as a sign of one's piety and desire to come close to God.

Fasting is still part of the Church's tradition today.  This ancient spiritual practice helps us to distance ourselves from the noise of everyday life: the clatter that is constantly ringing in our ears to the point that we no longer even recognize its presence.  Once we have distanced ourselves from the noise, we can begin to listen more attentively for the voice of God.  This was the point that Jesus wanted to make with those who asked the question: Can the wedding guests mourn while the bridegroom is with them? (Mt 9:15).  In other words, Jesus' disciples were spending time in the presence of God: something that we all long to do.  There was no need for them to fast in order to get close to him.

Unlike those privileged few, we must make it our diligent care in these first days of Lent to identify the noises that keep us from listening for the voice of God, and we must be courageous about taking steps to silence those noises as much as we can.  Only then will we be able to devote our attention to the still, small voice that is calling out to us.

Have a great day.

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