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

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

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

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

His Word Today: A little while

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 May 2018, 7:35 am
Good morning everyone,

Jesus uses a very curious phrase in today's gospel passage: A little while (Jn 16:16-20).  In just five verses, Jesus repeats this phrase five times.  Have you ever wondered what God considers to be a little while?

Time is a concept that many human beings understand well.  In this context, the phrase a little while can mean a few minutes or a restricted length of time, but when God uses this phrase, we have to widen our scope in order to grasp his meaning.  After all, God doesn't think in terms of minutes, hours, days or even weeks.  God thinks in terms of lifetimes, centuries and even eons.

With a wider understanding of the concept of time, a little while takes on a new meaning.  God pushes the boundaries of our understanding every day, always gently but constantly, so that bit by bit, our hearts too can grow, our abilities to live and love can increase, our appreciation for the gift of joy can expand.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Patience

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

Our God is so good!  There is so much that our Father wants to share with us, but he is also ultimately aware of our own limitations.  Knowing that they could not understand the fullness of his desire to live in them (and in us), Jesus told his disciples: I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now (Jn 16:12).

Human beings need time in order to process all that we learn, and sometimes the amount of time we require can truly be drawn out ... in order for us to truly understand and appreciate the wisdom of the lessons.  How wonderful it is to think that no matter how much we have learned about God, about his desire to enhance the relationship that we have with Him, there is always more to encounter, more to learn, more to appreciate, yet that is precisely the secret to true love: there is always a further depth to discover.

Let our prayer today be to ask for the grace to always set out into the deeper water, to be curious about what else our loving God has to share with us.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: the Advocate

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
8 May 2018, 7:53 am
Good morning everyone,

If we were to pause for just a moment, we could perhaps identify a few of the things that we take for granted: the air we breathe, drinkable water, a roof over our heads, food on our table, a God who is always near to us.  Yes, it's true. Our God is always close to us, even when we don't pay attention.  A long time ago, when Jesus walked on the earth, he told his disciples: it is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you (Jn 16:7).

God the Father has always loved us.  He created us in order to love us.  The Old Testament is filled with stories about the many times throughout our history when we had experienced these loving encounters.  In the fullness of time, he sent his son Jesus in order to show us what life can be like if we live in his presence.  Thus it was that the apostles and the other followers of Jesus got a glimpse of God's love in action, and after Jesus returned to the Father, they (the Father and the Son) sent the Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to abide in our hearts.  In this way, God (who is fully present in the Advocate, just as He was present at the moment of creation and just as he was present in Jesus) is now close to us.

We don't always pay attention to the things that are around us, but perhaps today, let us pay particular attention to the fact that our loving God is alive and well, living in our midst, sharing His love and His life with us ... and filling us with his joy so that we in turn can share this joy with others.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Testify to the truth

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
7 May 2018, 7:20 am
Good morning everyone,

Throughout the Easter season, the gospel accounts remind us of the privileged moments when the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples in order to strengthen their belief that what he had told them about his resurrection would actually come to pass.  The Easter season also gives us an opportunity to hear the stories of how the early Christian communities were established, thanks to the preaching and the witness of the apostles and those who came to believe.

Today, we hear Jesus say to the disciples: When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me (Jn 15:26).  Jesus knew that the disciples needed to see his risen body in order to believe, and he knows that we too need help to strengthen our faith.  This is the reason why he and the Father sent the Spirit to live among us.  The Spirit is our constant reminder that we are not alone because the Spirit testifies to the fact that our God is always close to us and will always love us. 

Listen for the Spirit's promptings today and look for evidence that God's presence is constantly but gently calling us to the truth that our hearts will immediately recognize.

Have a great day.

What he has taught us

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 May 2018, 7:39 am
A few weeks ago, I was invited to read a story to a group of children.  It’s been a few years since I’ve sat with such young children, held a book in my hands and read it aloud to them, but even as I opened the cover of the book, memories began to flood into my mind.  I remembered occasions when I had done the same thing with other children, I remembered times when other adults had read aloud to me and to other children who sat with me.  I remembered how my imagination would soar as I listened attentively to every word that was spoken.  Even the simplest of stories read aloud has the power to illustrate the deepest and most sincere of lessons; stories told aloud can provide examples of excitement, anguish, forgiveness, joy, even love.

In the gospel passage we have heard today, Jesus spoke to his disciples about love.  He said: As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love (Jn 15:9).  When all is said and done, the bible is a story of love.  God our Father has always loved us – each one of us – from the day when we were conceived.  Because he has always loved us, he invites us to come close to him every day and to speak with him.  Like a loving parent, God wants to hear us speak about the adventures we encounter each day.   Some of us lead truly exciting lives, and some of us have a knack for telling stories, but even if we are shy and reserved, we can still speak with God about our day-to-day adventures and mis-adventures.  If we are bored, we can tell him that we are bored; if we are disappointed, we can tell him that our hopes have been dashed; if we are excited, he wants to hear all about it, like a grandmother who gathers a child on her knee and listens attentively to every word that is spoken.

Jesus knew deep in his heart that God our Father loved him.  Because he had learned how to love, he in turn was able to love the disciples.  That’s how it works.  We learn how to love based on the experiences of love that we have had, but love cannot be kept hidden in our hearts; it must be shared with others.  This is the reason why Jesus told the disciples: abide in my love.  It was because the disciples had experienced the love that Jesus had for them that they in turn were able to go out to others and to share with them the wonderful evidence of love that they had discovered.

Peter shared the joyous news of God’s love with Cornelius and all the others who were listening.  Because they heard these stories of love, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word (Acts 10:44).  God works through each one of us.  As we share the good news of our faith with others, God continues to work in the hearts of those who hear our words.  We may not be aware of how our spoken words resound in the hearts of those who hear them, but we must always trust that God uses our words to reach the hearts of others, and that he is the one who knows what his beloved children need.

Saint John, one of the youngest disciples, experienced God’s love at work in his own heart.  In time, he was able to tell others about the power of God’s love, and so we have heard his words in the second reading today: we have discovered love, not because we have loved God, but because he has loved us and sent his Son to save us and to help us learn about His love (cf 1 Jn 4:10).

His Word Today: Blessed Marie-Léonie Paradis

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

Jesus urged his disciples to love one another as I have loved you.  In fact, he went on to say that no one has greater love than ... to lay down one's life for one's friends (Jn 15:12-13).  Throughout the history of the Church we have been blessed to witness many examples of this commandment being put into practice and among those wonderful examples is that of a woman who was born in Quebec City.

Alodie-Virginie Paradis was born in 1840.  She was educated by the Sisters of Notre-Dame and at the age of fourteen years, she joined the Marianites of Saint-Laurent in Montreal, a feminine branch of the Holy Cross Congregation. Despite her frail health, she was nevertheless admitted and pronounced her vows on 22 August 1857. She received the name of Marie de Sainte-Léonie (or Marie-Léonie for short), and taught in Montreal for several years until 1862.  She was then sent to an orphanage to work as a governess in New York City, and remained there until 1870.

On 31 May 1880, Marie-Léonie established the Little Sisters of the Holy Family in an effort to support and collaborate with the Holy Cross Congregation in the field of education. Paradis continued to wear the habit of her order but relinquished it on 2 October 1904 in favour of the one instituted in the new congregation. In 1905 it was Pope Pius X who relieved her of her obligations towards the Holy Cross Congregation.

Paradis soon became seriously ill with a malignant cancer, and her health slowly declined. On the morning of her death, she received permission to publish the Rule of the new congregation. She died suddenly following dinner and after receiving the last sacraments on 3 May 1912.  Pope John Paul II recognized her life of heroic virtue on 31 January 1981 and proclaimed her to be Venerable. He approved a miracle attributed to her on 17 February 1984 and beatified her on 11 September 1984 in Montreal.

May she who spent her life in service to the poor help us to always be attentive to those in our midst who show us the tender loving face of our Saviour.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saints Philip and James

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 May 2018, 7:38 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we pray with Saints Philip and James, two of the apostles who were called by Jesus to follow him.  In fact, the gospel of John describes the calling of Saint Philip as taking place the day after Jesus had called Andrew and Peter (cf Jn 1:35-43): after Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, he met Philip and said, 'Follow me'.  Philip came from ... Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote ... (Jn 1:44-45).  From the very beginning, Philip was outgoing, zealous to share the good news that he had discovered.

Saint James the Lesser, one of the brothers of Saint Jude was from Cana in Galilee.  He is credited with the writing of one of the Epistles in the New Testament (otherwise known as the Letter of James).  He was one of those who witnessed an apparition of the risen Christ (cf 1 Cor 15:7).  After the ascension of the Lord, James was made Bishop of Jerusalem, a responsibility which he fulfilled for thirty six years.  Like many of the early Christians, James was encouraged to deny the divinity of Christ, but when he refused to do so, the Jews sought to stone him, then took him to the pinnacle of the temple and cast him off.  As he lay half dead, with legs broken by the fall, he lifted his hands toward heaven and prayed to God for the salvation of his enemies, saying: Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do!

Philip and James are not so different from you and me.  Like the other apostles, they struggled at times to comprehend Jesus' teachings.  While Jesus was speaking about the relationship he has with God the Father, Philip voiced his concern: Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us (Jn 14:8).  As we celebrate their feast day today, let us ask these two apostles to inspire us so that we too can truly appreciate the treasure we have discovered in Jesus.  Let us also ask these holy men to help us hear the Lord's invitation for us to follow him and generously spread the joy of knowing Jesus with those we encounter.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Athanasius

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
2 May 2018, 7:36 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 298-373) who served as the 20th Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Egypt).  His service as a Bishop spanned 45 years but was interrupted at least five times while he was sent into exile (for a total of 17 years) by order of four different Roman emperors. Athanasius was a Christian theologian, a Church Father, the chief defender of Trinitarianism (the Church's belief that there is one God who was made known to us in three persons - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) against Arianism (the belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God, begotten of God, distinct from God the Father and therefore subordinate to the Father), and a noted Egyptian leader of the fourth century.

Athanasius was only 27 years old when he was invited to attend the Council of Nicaea (AD 325).  The Roman Emperor Constantine had convened the Council in order to address the Arian position and Athanasius - who was a deacon at the time - and assistant to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria who was present at the famous Council.  Three years later, he succeeded his mentor as Archbishop of Alexandria and continued his debates against the Arians as well as many Emperors such as Constantine, Constantius II, Julian the Apostate and Valens.  As a result of these ongoing debates, he earned the name Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world).

Life was not easy for Athansius, yet he did his best to protect the vineyard of the Lord (cf Jn 15:1).  Even today, we must always be ready to explain to others that we believe in one God who is made known to us in three ways: God the Father who created us, God the Son who came to earth and lived among us in order to teach us about the kingdom of heaven and God the Holy Spirit who is present with us today, constantly guiding our steps so that we can live as people of faith and look forward to the eternal reward of living in heaven.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Joseph, the Worker

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
1 May 2018, 8:12 am
Saint Joseph with the infant Jesus
Guido Reni, c. 1635
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Liturgical Memorial of Saint Joseph, the Worker.  Saint Joseph is portrayed in the gospel of Luke as the one who went to be enrolled ... Joseph went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child (Lk 2:3-5).

The gospels portray Joseph as a just man, one who cared for his little family.  Although we do not hear much about Jesus' hidden life, it would be safe to assume that Joseph and Mary taught him many of the key lessons that formed him into the man he was to become.  If Jesus was a peace-loving man, it was probable that Joseph had a large part to play in teaching him this attitude.  Perhaps it was Joseph who inspired him to discover this gift within himself, and to recognize that peace is a divinely-entrusted gift.  Jesus in turn would try to teach his disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you (Jn 14:27).

Today, let us ask Saint Joseph to be close to us, to teach us by his example how we too can be people of peace and justice, striving each day to speak for those who have no voice, to protect those who are defenceless and to provide for those who are in need.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Keep his word

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
30 April 2018, 8:33 am
Good morning everyone,

Have you ever noticed that when we love someone, we want to do everything we can to make that person happy?  The same is true of our relationship with our God.  During one of the final conversations that Jesus had with his disciples, John tells us that he confided this truth to them: whoever knows my commandments and observes them is one who loves me (Jn 14:21).

The wonderful thing about our relationship with God is that He is always outdoing our expectations: loving us even more than we could ever love him.  In response to our willingness to keep his commandments and to grow day after day in our love for him, the added bonus for us is that whoever loves Jesus will keep his word (because we want to do everything we can to please him), and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him (Jn 14:23).

The Father and the Son have come and made their dwelling with us.  How often have we considered the fact that they are in our midst?  Perhaps with that knowledge, we will be more attentive today to the many ways he is present to us, and maybe we will begin to look at the world in a different light.

Have a great day.

Vines and branches

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
29 April 2018, 8:55 am
There are twenty-two students in this parish who are preparing to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation next weekend.  Their family and friends will be gathering to celebrate this special day in their lives.  Those who are present will see the Bishop tracing a cross on the forehead of each of the Candidates while he says aloud: Be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Hopefully, the young adult standing before the Bishop will reply: Amen.  Then he will greet each one of them with the words: Peace be with you, and if all goes well, they will reply: and with your spirit.  The visible signs of this grace-filled moment are few but we believe that there is something much greater happening within the hearts of each of those who is Confirmed.  At the moment of Baptism, each child begins a life in faith.  At that moment, the gifts of the Spirit are already present in our hearts, but they are awakened within us in a special way on the day of Confirmation, and from that day onwards, each of us is strengthened by these gifts so that we can be witnesses for Christ in the world.

This same awakening of the Spirit’s gifts was true for the Apostles.  On the day of Pentecost, they received these gifts so that they in turn could go out into the world to spread the good news, but God was also at work in the hearts of those who heard them preaching.  We see evidence of this within the heart of Saul.  Even though he had once been persecuting the early Christians, God changed his heart and called him to become one of the disciples.  This was not only surprising for him; it would have been even more surprising for the disciples.  When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples (Acts 9:26).  He had had a change of heart, but the disciples did not know that, so naturally they were reluctant.  In fact, since they knew about his past and the fact that he had persecuted the Christians, they were afraid of him.  It was only because the Spirit was active in Saul’s heart that he was able to convince them that he was no longer an enemy, but rather a companion of theirs.  In fact, he became an ardent preacher – to the point where he himself had to be protected from those who wanted to harm him (cf Acts 9:29).

God is preparing the young people in our parish and equipping them with the courage to be able to proclaim their faith too.  This is one of the gifts that the Spirit awakens in our hearts.  As we continue to grow into adulthood, the Spirit’s gifts also help us to grow in our understanding of the special plans that God has for each of us.  All we need to do every day is remember that God lives in our hearts and that we are connected to him like the branches of an enormous vine (cf Jn 15:1).

As we become more and more aware of the Spirit’s gifts alive in our hearts and active in our lives, we are increasingly aware of the ways God makes himself known to us.  The scriptures refer to our awareness of God’s presence as the fruits of the Spirit.  The more we are aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives, the more we are aware of the Spirit at work within us.  This presence of Jesus and the work of the Spirit are pure gift.  Nothing we do could ever earn this gift, but we are the ones who benefit from these gifts, and it’s up to us to share these gifts with others who we meet.

Let us pray this week for the young people who are preparing to celebrate Confirmation next weekend, and let us love, not merely in word or speech, but in truth and action (1 Jn 3:18), and let us marvel at the gifts of the Spirit in action.

His Word Today: Just ask

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
28 April 2018, 10:07 am
Good morning everyone,

Today's gospel passage (cf Jn 14:7-14) places us in the midst of a discussion that Jesus had with his disciples.  These are privileged moments because they allow us to see into the heart of the Teacher, something that was not granted to every one of Jesus' listeners.  In this case, Jesus was testing his disciples knowledge of himself (cf Jn 14:7): If you know me then you will also know my Father.

Jesus is often portrayed in the gospel of John as having a double knowledge of himself because by the time that the fourth gospel was written, the Church had already grown in her understanding of Jesus as the Son of God.  It is interesting to note that Jesus invites us to know him, which means much more than simply knowing about him.  The gospel writer wants us to understand this phrase in a much more familiar sense, as if to say: Do we know Jesus?  Have we developed a personal relationship with him?  Do we spend time in conversation with him every day?  Do we listen for his voice?  Do we seek his counsel and guidance before making important decisions?

If we know Jesus in this way, we can be assured that if we ask anything of him, he will do it (Jn 14:14), much as we might ask a favour of someone who we trust implicitly, like a family member or a very close friend.  When we ask a favour of someone who is close to us, we already expect the answer to be yes and we already count on their collaboration, even before it is agreed upon.  The same is true of the relationship that God wants with each one of us.  We can trust him so implicitly that we can present our prayers to him and already know that he will help us.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Never alone

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
27 April 2018, 7:45 am
Good morning everyone,

Can you remember a time when you may have had to go somewhere totally unknown to you?  Were you nervous?  Whenever we have to set out into the unknown - whether that is an unknown place or an adventure that is entirely new to us, or we have to meet people for the first time, there is always a part of us that is unsettled.  Sometimes, we may experience excitement, but most often, there is at least a part of us that is uncertain.

Jesus knew that his disciples were nervous about the fact that they would have to carry on without him.  It is a natural human response for us to be unsettled by the absence of someone we have grown to trust, but Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that his separation from them was only temporary, that he would come back: Do not let your hearts be troubled ... I will come back again and take you to myself (Jn 14:1, 3).

We are never alone, even when there are no other human beings near to us.  The Holy Spirit, who God the Father and Jesus sent at Pentecost is always near to us, to protect us and to guide us as we make our way through life.  One day, Jesus will come back to take us to himself, to live with him in heaven.  He wants us to remember this so that when we must face situations that threaten to unsettle us, we can rest assured of his promise.  Perhaps if we grow in this understanding, we might be less likely to allow our hearts to be troubled.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Know your place

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Mark

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Hear His voice

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The gate

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

I know my own

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

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

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

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

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

His Word Today: Who to believe

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Eat in order to have life

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Destined for heaven

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Bread for eternal life

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Food that endures

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

We are witnesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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