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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: the Chair of Peter

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
22 February 2018, 7:59 am
The chair of Peter, the Apostle
above the Altar of the Chair in
Saint Peter's Basilica
Good morning everyone.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter (Mt 16:13-19), and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope, Francis. Today, we celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle Peter, and we renew our assent to the teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined, and to all the acts of the ordinary teaching authority of the Church.

The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated in Rome on 22 February. In each of those cities, a chair (cathedra) has been venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass.

Today, let us pray especially for Pope Francis.  May the Lord grant him many years of health and zeal to continue leading the Church and teaching us by his words but more importantly by his example about how we can all become more compassionate, loving and forgiving people.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Peter Damian

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

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk who lived in the eleventh century and was known for his commitment to reforming the Church.  Peter was born in Ravenna around 1007 and studied theology and Canon Law, first at Ravenna, at Faenza, and finally at the University of Parma.  At the age of 35 years, he gave up his secular career and entered a hermitage near Gubbio.  He was a highly respected member of the Benedictine Order and insisted on monastic and clerical reform and austerity.

Despite his preference to remain a hermit and an itinerant preacher, he was chosen by his former superior and consecrated Cardinal Bishop of Ostia on 30 November 1057.  At first, he had been reluctant to accept the Office but once he was consecrated, he was as steadfast in fulfilling the role of leader as he had been in his life as a hermit and a preacher.

The life of Saint Peter Damien is an example of the fact that when God calls, sometimes we are reluctant to answer - like the young Jonah who was called to convert the metropolis of Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-2).  However, God doesn't give up until we choose to cooperate.  He always knows what's best for us, even if we are not so sure ourselves, and he will work with us, gently inviting and putting us in situations where we will constantly be urged to accept his invitation ... until we do.

Is God calling you to do something wonderful?  Are you resisting God's invitation?  Why?  History has proven over and over again that God only ever wants the best for us, and in the end, he always gets his way.  Pray for the strength and the spirit of surrender to do what he tells you to do.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Like rain and snow

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
20 February 2018, 7:42 am
Good morning everyone,

Today's first reading (cf Is 55:10-11) gives us some wonderful food for thought and for prayer.  God's word is living and active.  Each time it enters our ears, we hear something new.  This Word is alive and is meant to give us life too.

Isaiah uses the image of the rain and snow that come down from the heavens.  Just as they do not return there until they have watered the earth ... so shall God's word be that goes forth from his mouth ... it shall achieve the end for which I have sent it.

Whether we are aware of it or not, God's word is at work all around us: speaking in the quiet of prayer, placing us in situations where God needs us to be present so that we can act and speak in his name.  Sometimes we are not aware of this grace until we develop the habit of being attentive for it, but when we become accustomed to looking for God, we discover quickly how close he is to us and how often he invites us to be his hands, feet, eyes and ears in the world (cf Saint Teresa of Avila).

Pray today for the grace to be aware of the many ways that God uses our talents to touch the hearts of others, and be on the lookout for the ways in which his word is at work, watering the earth of our hearts with the warmth of his love.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: For the least of these

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
19 February 2018, 8:04 am
Good morning everyone,

Some words have the power to stop us in our tracks.  The description that Jesus shares with his disciples about the final judgement is one of those moments.  There will be no room for games when that moment arrives.  Jesus' words will be uttered very calmly, but the truth that they speak will leave some of us rejoicing and others knowing that we have fallen short.

These are words that we need to hear often.  They are words that we need to reflect on and always remember because they are like a litmus test that we can use to measure how we are living our faith.  Jesus did not come to share just a good story that we were meant to hear, but a story that was meant to change our lives.  The love of God compels us not only to discover a relationship of love between us and God, but also to cultivate such relationships with others.

Today, be on the lookout for Christ who is waiting for you in the person who is hungry and needs you to provide nourishment. He is present in the person who is thirsty and waiting for you to quench that thirst (cf Mt 25:37).  Jesus is the stranger who appears at your door, the person who is shivering in the cold yet unable to look you in the eye, all the while hoping that someone will find a way to provide some warmth (Mt 25:38).  The suffering Christ is hidden away in hospital and locked away in prison, ignored by most of society but waiting in hope that someone will visit and offer a word of compassion (Mt 25:39).

Some words have the power to stop us in our tracks and to remind us about what is truly important.

Have a great day.

Time to clean house

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
18 February 2018, 8:23 am
A few days ago, we began the season of Lent.  During this period of preparation for the celebration of Easter, the liturgy invites us to enter into a privileged experience of being in the presence of Jesus.  Saint Mark tells us that after Jesus was baptized, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness for forty days (Mk 1:12-13) so we can take comfort in the fact that as we begin this Lenten experience, we are not alone.  Jesus is travelling with us along the road.

We might begin by asking ourselves: What is it that I hope to accomplish this Lent?  Each of us needs to grow in some way, so Lent allows us to stop what we are doing, to look around us so that we can get our bearings, and then to return to the Father who is waiting for us with outstretched arms.

The first reading for today’s liturgy, taken from the Book of Genesis, reminds us of the story of Noah and his family who were saved from the flood.  After the waters had receded, God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants ... (Gn 9:10).  Our God is always faithful to his word.  He remembers the covenant he made with Noah and establishes a covenant with each one of us at the time of our Baptism.

All these many centuries later, we need to stop during the season of Lent so that we can remember that God has created a covenant with each one of us.  Perhaps as time has gone by, we have forgotten how precious we are in the sight of God, but he has never forgotten.

We need to look around us: look at the life that we have lived up to now and ask ourselves whether we have been faithful to the covenant that God created on the day of our Baptism.  If not, this is the favourable time for us to be honest with ourselves and with God.  He is appealing to our consciences (cf 1 Pet 3:21) and asking us to be true to ourselves and true to him.

The Church teaches that Baptism cannot be repeated, but if our journey this Lent should indeed lead us to recognize the fact that we have strayed from the original joy of knowing that each one of us is a precious and beloved child of God, we can still return to the Father through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few years ago, the entire Church was invited to live a Year of Mercy: a time when we were all invited to encounter God the Father’s merciful heart.  Many people took advantage of that special year to rediscover the joy of Baptism and the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but even after we have encountered the merciful heart of God and celebrated his forgiveness, there is always the challenge of keeping our consciences clean after we have received absolution.  The answer to that question is simple because the Sacrament of Reconciliation does not just allow us to rid ourselves of our sins; it also fills us with God’s grace so that we can face the future.

As we set out on our journey this week, let us pray for the grace to walk with Jesus.  He came to forgive our sins but also to make us holy.  Let us ask him to help us to come back home, into the loving embrace of our Father.

His Word Today: A sober second look

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 February 2018, 7:45 am
The Calling of Saint Matthew
James Tissot (1836-1902)
Good morning everyone,

Even in these opening days of the season of Lent, the Lord invites us to take a sober second look at our lives.  In order for us to be aware of the attitudes and practices that we need to work on this Lent, the prophet Isaiah points out two things that we can do:  remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech (in other words, dare to fast from considering yourself better than others, refrain from gossip and the temptation to jump to conclusions without first checking out the facts); .. bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted (which is the same as saying: give alms to the poor, give what you have so that others may also share in the bounty of God's goodness (cf Is 58:9b-10a).

It might help to remember that Jesus is always with us as we continue our pilgrim journey through life.  He is right by our side, pointing out areas where we need to be healed, aspects about our own behaviour that we need to change, and helping us to find the courage to turn away from sin and return to the gospel.  This is exactly what he did in the life of Levi the tax collector: He saw a poor soul that needed help, he called to him and invited him to change his ways (cf Lk 5:27).

Be aware today of the tender and loving gaze of Jesus that is focused on you.  He knows you and loves you deeply.  Listen today for his voice that is calling you by name and inviting you: ... come, follow me!

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Understanding fasting

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

During the liturgical season of Lent, the Church encourages us to use the venerated practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in order to rid ourselves of self-serving behaviour and to re-focus our efforts on gospel values.  One of the traditions of this sacred time is that of fasting, but how are we to understand the true meaning of this discipline?

The prophet Isaiah challenges us to honestly examine the intent of our fasting.  He warns that if the aim of our discipline is self-serving, it will be ineffective, ending in quarrelling and fighting (Is 58:4).  Instead, if we sincerely use fasting as a method of drawing closer to God, it will help us to become more aware of the needs of others and also to find creative ways to respond to their needs (cf Is 58:6-7).

Fasting is traditionally observed on Fridays in the season of Lent.  While we most often think of fasting from eating meat, there are many other ways of using this discipline as a way of waking us up to the needs of others.  Perhaps some of us may need to fast from food, but we can also fast from television, from whiling away our spare time sitting in front of a computer, from whatever habit we have developed that keeps us focused on our own desires.

Once we have identified the fasting that we need, we will be better able to respond to God's call: Return to me with your whole heart (Joel 2:12).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Choose life

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

The drama of yesterday's liturgies - including the tracing of ashes on the foreheads of modern-day disciples of Jesus is echoed once again in the words of the scriptures.  Today, I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom ... choose life then, that you and your descendants may live (Deut 30:15, 19).

During the season of Lent, God invites us to come close to him.  He opens his heart to us, but it is up to us to respond to His invitation because God never imposes his will on us.  He sets before us the possibility of opening our hearts and welcoming him into our lives: the possibility of choosing life.  We also are free to turn away, to chose another option, but why would we, unless we have never experienced the life-giving presence that is the gift of God.

Each of us must choose life today, and we must also seek out opportunities to help others to choose life as well.  Perhaps there are children in need, perhaps there are elders who are being neglected.  In these and so many other situations, we can choose to be examples for others today.  Choose life, choose to live, choose to share the good news that we have discovered so that others too may come to know the fullness of life and love that is God's gift to us.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Lent begins

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
14 February 2018, 7:33 am
Good morning everyone,

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent.  For the next forty days, we prepare for the celebration of the Lord's resurrection, but before we can get to the great celebration of Easter, we first need to listen for the Lord's invitation.  This invitation is issued in very simple but blunt words.

Return to me with your whole heart (Joel 2:12).  It's as though the Lord is pleading with us: come back to me, please! If these words were spoken by any other human being, I might be tempted to think that the speaker had realized the error of his ways and that he was now pleading for a second chance, but God is not like any other human.

The story of Lent is the ultimate love story.  More than a romance, it is the re-telling of God's infinite love for each one of us.  This season is given to us each year so that we (mere humans) can be reminded yet again of the fact that God loves us beyond our wildest imaginings.

As we mark our foreheads with ashes today, let us remember that we are deeply loved, that God is offering us another chance to turn away from sin and to return to Him.  He wants to reveal his tender heart to us so that we will come to know the depth of his love.  Let the story begin ....

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Open and willing hearts

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
13 February 2018, 7:39 am
Good morning everyone,

Today is the day we call Shrove Tuesday.  The word Shove is the past tense of the verb to shrive, which means to absolve.  On this final day before the season of Lent begins, we feast.  In an attempt to use up all the leavening agents in our households, we make pancakes of various sorts and celebrate, even though we are conscious of the fact that the Lenten Fast begins tomorrow.

Already today, the scriptures begin preparing our hearts so that we can live the coming season of Lent as a time of blessing.  The Letter of James cautions us not to see this time as an opportunity for God to tempt us.  Indeed, God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire (James 1:13-14).

During this day of feasting, let us do our best to be aware of God's generosity.  May God's goodness to us allow us to be conscious of the grace we need in order to have hearts that are open and willing to be formed by God's gentle love, eyes to see the gifts that He places before us and ears to hear His voice which is always guiding us as we make our way through this life (cf Mk 8:17-18).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Learning perseverance

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
12 February 2018, 9:27 am
Good morning everyone,

In the gospel passage for today's liturgy (Mk 8:11-13), we see a glimpse of Jesus' humanity.  The pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus ... He sighed deeply ... and said: 'Why does this generation seek a sign?' (Mk 8:11-12).  Every one of us has had such a day: when we have spent what seems to us to be a significant amount of time explaining something, we may think that others understand what we have said, but there will always be someone who doesn't.  When they ask a question that seems to betray the fact that they have not been attentive to our words, we can become exasperated, just like Jesus.

At times such as these, there is great wisdom in the letter of James.  The writer advises that we should consider it a joy  ... when we encounter various trials (Jas 1:2) for ... the testing of our faith produces perseverance (Jas 1:3).

We cannot always control the situations we will face in a given day, but we can control the way we react to those situations.  Today, pray for the grace to recognize the challenges that are placed in your path not as occasions to become exasperated, but rather as opportunities to see such trials as God at work, testing our faith and teaching us to persevere.  After all, anything truly worth possessing - such as the gift of perseverance - is worth the work that we put into learning how to recognize and appreciate its presence in our lives.

Have a great day.

I do choose

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
11 February 2018, 7:27 am
Saint John Paul II was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease as early as 1991.  Although this diagnosis was not revealed publicly until much later, it is significant that on May 13, 1992, His Holiness instituted the World Day of the Sick which has been celebrated annually since that time on February 11, the Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Perhaps it is not by coincidence that the scripture passages assigned for this Sunday’s Mass speak of those who are sick and suffering.  In the first reading, taken from the Book of Leviticus, we hear the Lord’s voice setting guidelines for identifying the disease that we now know as leprosy.  The concern with setting up a quarantine for lepers was most probably aimed at ensuring that the disease would be contained and have little opportunity for spreading among the community.  However, the requirement for anyone who has the leprous disease to wear torn clothes, to let the hair on their heads be disheveled, and to cry out ‘Unclean!’ whenever anyone else came near (cf Lv 13:45) ultimately condemned those who suffered with this disease to living lives of loneliness, separated from family and friends, thus adding to their sense of rejection.

Saint John Paul was acutely aware of the isolation that illness imposes, but he was also determined to do everything he could to ensure that those who suffer never lost their voices.  Instead, he invited the entire world to pray for those who are sick.  The Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes was chosen for this special commemoration because many pilgrims who have visited the Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes have reportedly been healed of their infirmities through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.

It takes great courage and faith to resist the temptation to feel isolated, especially when we are sick.  What courage it must have taken for the leper mentioned in today’s gospel to approach Jesus!  Against all established regulations, he came to Jesus ... knelt before him and begged: If you choose, you can make me clean (Mk 1:40).  When we are sick, we barely have the energy to get out of bed, yet the example of this leper shows us that we can all call out for help.  It doesn’t take too many words, but it does take faith.  Like the disciples in last week’s gospel, all we have to do is ask and Jesus will always respond: I do choose.  Be made clean! (Mk 1:41).

Jesus knew the established rules about lepers keeping to themselves, and he also knew that if a leper were ever to be cleansed, he was required to show himself to the priests and to make an offering as a sign of thanksgiving for the healing that had been received (cf Mk 1:44; Lv 14:1-32).  This is the reason why he asked the man to say nothing to anyone, but rather to fulfill the law. However, the man went out and began to proclaim it freely (Mk 1:45) because he was overjoyed.

Today, let us remember those of our families and friends who are sick.  Let us pray for them in hopes that they too will be cured of their illnesses.  Like the leper who was cured, may they one day also joyfully spread the news that God has worked wonders.

His Word Today: Saint Scholastica

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

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Scholastica who was born approximately 480 A.D in Nursia (in the Province of Umbria, Italy).  A ninth-century tradition held that she was the twin sister of Saint Benedict.  Saint Gregory the Great (540-604 A.D.) wrote in his Dialogues that Scholastica was dedicated to God from a young age.

A long-standing tradition within the Benedictine community holds that Scholastica lived in a convent at Piumarola, about five miles from Monte Casino - the Abbey that Benedict established as the first place for his brothers to live together, however it is also possible that she lived in a hermitage along with one or two other religious women in a cluster of houses at the base of Monte Casino.

Saint Mark speaks in today's gospel about the concern that Jesus had for the people because they have been with him for three days and had nothing to eat (Mk 8:2).  This concern was also present in Scholastica's heart; in her case, se wanted to spend time with her brother.

Despite the fact that they lived as adults in different houses, it is believed that once a year, she would go to visit her brother at some place near his abbey and they would spend the entire day praying together and discussing sacred texts.  On one such occasion, after they had completed their evening meal and continued their conversation for a while, Benedict was preparing to return to the abbey but Scholastica begged him to remain so that they could continue their discussion. Not wishing to break his own Rule, Benedict refused, insisting that he needed to return to his cell. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside of the guest house in which they were housed. Benedict asked, What have you done?, to which she replied, I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery. Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.

Three days later, from his cell, he saw his sister's soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove. Benedict had her body brought to his monastery, where he had it laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself.

Let us pray today for the grace to recognize occasions when we too can be as gracious as Scholastica was, spending time with others, sharing the adventures of our hearts with them but most of all, acting out of genuine care and concern for others because as we know, they are all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Ephphetha

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
9 February 2018, 7:05 am
Good morning everyone,

I love the gospel passage for today's liturgy.  Saint Mark explains that Jesus left the district of Tyre and went ... into the district of the Decapolis (a Greek word meaning 'ten cities', referring to a centre of Greek and Roman culture located in present-day southern Israel, Syria and Jordan: a region which at the time was otherwise predominantly composed of ancient Semitic-speaking peoples).  There, people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hands on him (Mk 7:32).  Jesus took the man aside, away from the crowd, put his finger into his ears, spat and then touched his tongue (Mk 7:33).  Then, he looked up to heaven and said to the man: Ephphatha! (Be opened!).

Even today, when we celebrate the Rites of Baptism, one of the rituals we can observe is the rite of Ephphetha.  Like Jesus, the priest, deacon or bishop prays for the child using the words: The Lord Jesus made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.  May he soon touch your ears to hear his word and your lips to proclaim it to the praise and glory of God (Rite of Baptism for Children).  As he speaks the words, the priest, deacon or bishop will touch the child's ears and mouth.

This action is accomplished in a matter of moments, but like all other actions and words that form parts of the Church's sacramental life, it has profound meaning and merits our thought today.  If we have been baptized, the Lord has also touched our ears and our lips so that we can hear his Word, so that it can enter through our ears and make its way to our hearts.  From there, it can continue until it finds a home in our hands (cf Pope Francis, General Audience, 7 February 2018).  In this way, we are called to continue the work of sharing the good news of the gospel with those we meet, both by proclaiming it with our lips and putting it into action through the work of our hands.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Josephine Bakhita

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

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita.  Born around the year 1869 in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, not far from Mount Agilerei, she was part of the prestigious Daju people.  While she was still a very young girl aged 7-9 years, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and forced to walk barefoot to El Obeid, approximately 960km away.  Due to the trauma of her abduction and ensuing slavery, she even forgot her name.  Instead, the slavers gave her an Arabic name: bakhita, an Arabic word which means 'lucky'. Over the course of twelve years, she was sold over and over again, and eventually found herself in the service of an Italian family not far from Turin.

In November 1888, the Michieli family, who were served by Bakhita, left her in the care of Canossian Sisters in Venice while they returned to the Sudan.  Their intention was to eventually take her with them, but when they returned to Italy one year later, she refused to leave the convent.

The fact is that during their absence, Bakhita started learning about Christianity, and by the time they arrived and tried to take her away, she appealed to the superior of the institute for baptismal candidates (Catechumenate) for help.  They complained to the Italian authorities and the Italian court ruled that since the British had induced Sudan to outlaw slavery before Bakhita was born, and because Italian law did not recognize slavery, Bakhita had never legally been a slave.

Bakhita chose to stay with the Canossians, and a few months later, on 9 January 1890, she was baptized and took the Christian names Josephine, Margaret and Fortunata (the Latin translation of the Arabic word bakhita).  Josephine was also confirmed and received Holy Communion on that same day.  Three years later, she entered the novitiate of the Canossian Sisters and on 8 December 1896, she took vows.  She lived in the Canossian convent at Schio, in the northern Italian province of Vicenza for most of the next 42 years.

Josephine's gentleness, calming voice and ever-present smile earned her a place of great respect among the citizens of Schio.  She who was born in Sudan but spent the majority of her life in Italy helps us to see the encounter of Jesus with the Syrophoenician woman (Mk 7:24-30) in a new light.  She who was a foreigner dared to ask Jesus for a favour, and because of her persistence and faith, Jesus granted her request for help.  Like the woman in Mark's gospel, Josephine also prayed for the people she encountered and sought to serve them lovingly.

Both the Syrophoenician woman and Saint Josephine Bakhita encourage us today to open our hearts to the people God places in our lives.  In that way, we can begin to recognize their needs, but perhaps more importantly, we can dare to allow them to love us and to show us the tender face of God.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Not from outside

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
7 February 2018, 7:30 am
Good morning everyone,

On many occasions during his public life, Jesus challenged the established authority in an attempt to show his hearers and followers that there is another way to live, a new way that is not based on power and prestige but rather on the simple joy of living.  Jesus used all kinds of examples, including the Jewish dietary laws, to make his point.

In today's gospel passage, Jesus explains to his hearers:  Nothing that enters someone from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile (Mk 7:15).  In this way, Jesus wanted to make a point, not by contradicting the Law of Moses which had defined the concept of living kosher (Lv 11), but by pointing out that it is attitudes and behaviours, what comes out of a man that defiles him (Mk 7:20).

Jesus' primary concern was that the children of God should recognize God's love for them and their primary innocence in His eyes ... and then that they should live in the light of this love by loving others.  Unfortunately, if they are allowed to run rampant, human tendencies alone will blind us to this fact and will focus our attention more and more on egocentric ends.  Jesus cautions us against becoming too focused on ourselves, lest we fall victim to the sins of murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly (Mk 7:21-22).

Every day, we have another chance to live our faith, so today, ask Jesus to help us all be aware of the traps that keep us focused on ourselves and our own desires.  Instead of being defiled by self-serving behaviour, ask Him to help us to be outward-focused so that we can identify the needs of others and be courageous enough to make a difference.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Japanese Martyrs

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 February 2018, 7:41 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and his companions, also known as the Martyrs of Japan.

Paul Miki was born (around 1562) into a wealthy Japanese family. He was educated by the Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and became a well known and successful preacher – gaining numerous converts to Catholicism. The local daimyō (feudal lord), Toyotomi Hideyoshi, began persecuting Catholics for fear of the Jesuits' influence and intentions, and possibly that of European visitors.

Miki was arrested and jailed with his fellow Catholics, who were later forced to march 966 kilometers (600 miles) from Kyoto to Nagasaki; all the while singing the Te Deum. On February 5, 1597, upon arriving in Nagasaki—which today has the largest Catholic population in Japan—Miki was tied to a cross and then his chest was pierced.

How often did Paul Miki repeat the words uttered by Solomon in today's first reading: Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below (1 Kings 8:23)?  These words may well have been on his lips as he preached his last sermon from the cross.  It is widely believed that like Jesus, he forgave his executioners, stating that he himself was Japanese.

Crucified alongside him were Joan Soan (de Gotó) and Santiago Kisai, also of the Society of Jesus.  Along with twenty-three other clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

Today, let us ask Saint Paul Miki and his companions to intercede for us, so that we might have a deep desire to sincerely follow in the footsteps of Jesus, not merely honouring him with our lips, but with our hearts as well (cf Mk 7:6).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Agatha

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
5 February 2018, 7:45 am
Saint Agatha
by Bernardino Luini, 1520
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Agatha.  It is believed that she was born in Catania or in Palermo (Sicily) in 231 AD.  It appears that when she was 15 years old, having dedicated her virginity to God, Agatha, who was from a rich and noble family, rejected the amorous advances of the low-born Roman prefect Quintianus who then persecuted her for her Christian faith.  He sent her to a brothel but the keeper of that establishment found her to be uncooperative so eventually, Quintianus sent for her, argued with her, threatened her and then finally had her put in prison.  There, she was tortured in many ways, including the cutting off of her breasts with pincers.

There were further confrontations between her and Quintianus and when she persisted in her denials, she was sentenced to be burned at the stake, however an earthquake saved her from that fate.  Instead she was sent back to prison and there, it is said that Saint Peter the Apostle appeared to her and healed her wounds.  Agatha died in prison in the year of Our Lord two hundred and fifty three, during the reign of Decius, the emperor of Rome.

The Cathedral in Catania (Sicily) is dedicated to Saint Agatha.

Saint Agatha is one of a long line of saints venerated in the Catholic Church.  Have you ever wondered what degree of devotion she must have had in order to be so steadfast in her resolve to follow in the footsteps of the Lord that she was able to dedicate her virginity to God at such a tender age?

The passage of Saint Mark's gospel which is read at today's Mass describes a crowd of people who come running in search of Jesus (cf Mk 6:53-54).  These people from the land of Geneseret must also have recognized something special in the person of Jesus, something that caused them to come scurrying about the surrounding countryside (Mk 6:55) in search of him.  Saint Agatha discovered this same level of dedication at a very tender age.  And what about us?  Have we fallen in love with Christ to the point that we would be willing to give our lives for him?

May the witness of Saint Agatha inspire us to delve deeper in our commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus today.

Have a great day.

Why so much suffering?

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 February 2018, 8:22 am
During the months of July and August last year, I remember hearing that while we were enjoying the summer weather, throughout the southern hemisphere, people were suffering terribly because there was a particularly virulent strain of the flu.  A few months later, it seems that the tables have turned.  There are reports all across North America of people who are suffering from the flu and this strain is particularly stubborn.  It seems to debilitate everyone, confining those who normally are fit and full of life to their beds ... and what about those who are elderly, fragile and already unwell?

At some point in life, young children and adults alike will ask: why is there so much suffering in the world?  Why are some people born into the lap of luxury while others know nothing but poverty?  Why do some people live well into their 90s and even past the age of 100 years while others die so young?  If God is all-powerful, and we are beloved children, why is there so much suffering in the world?

In the gospel passage we have just heard, Jesus meets Simon’s mother-in-law.  She is in bed with a fever (Mk 1:30).  Saint Mark tells us that they told Jesus about her at once.  After all, they had seen him cure so many others; why not ask him to cure someone who was known to them, close to them, loved by them?  Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up; then the fever left her ... (Mk 1:31)  All they had to do was ask, and he immediately tended to the situation: he came to her, he took her by the hand and he lifted her up.  This is what our God does for all of us as well.  When we are feeling sick, when we are weak and have to rely on others, all we have to do is ask Jesus to help us.  He will always come to us, he will always hold us by the hand and he will always lift us up out of our suffering.

During his life on earth, the scriptures recount many occasions when Jesus encountered suffering: he never managed to put an end to suffering; he didn’t cure all the people who were sick; he didn’t take away the trials of every person who was poor; there are still people in our world who are misunderstood and there are still many who are cast aside, forgotten and abandoned.  No human being ever wants to admit that we are weak, but if we were constantly fit, able-bodied and strong, I think that we would be tempted to forget about Jesus; instead, we would be tempted to think that we don’t need God.

The stories of those who were cured by Jesus should inspire all of us to believe that he wants to cure all those who are suffering.  He wants to be close to us, he wants to take us by the hand, he wants to lift us up.  When we confined to bed because of illness, fragility or age, we can always call out to Jesus, and he will always come to our help.  When we are aware of others who are suffering, we can ask Jesus to be close to them.

There will always be questions for which we cannot find any suitable answers.  Whenever we do, we can always pray, share our concerns with our God.  He is always near.

His Word Today: Saint Blaise

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 February 2018, 7:40 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Blaise, a physician and Bishop of Sebastia (a city in ancient Armenia, located in modern-day Turkey) who was martyred in 316 AD.

According to the Grande Encyclopedie, Blaise, who had studied philosophy in his youth, was a doctor in Sebaste in Armenia, the city of his birth, who exercised his art with miraculous ability, good-will, and piety. When the bishop of the city died, he was chosen to succeed him, with the acclamation of all the people. His holiness was manifest through many miracles: from all around, people came to him to find cures for their spirits and their bodies; even wild animals came in herds to receive his blessing. In 316, Agricola, the governor of Cappadocia and of Lesser Armenia, having arrived in Sebastia at the order of the emperor Licinius to kill the Christians, arrested the bishop. As he was being led to jail, a mother set her only son, choking to death of a fish-bone, at his feet, and the child was cured immediately. Regardless, the governor, unable to make Blaise renounce his faith, beat him with a stick, ripped his flesh with iron combs, and beheaded him.

In many places on this day, the blessing of Saint Blaise is given: two burning candles, blessed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (which was yesterday), are held in a crossed position by a priest over the heads of the faithful or the people are touched on the throat with them. At the same time the following blessing is given: Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, may Almighty God preserve you from infections of the throat and from all other afflictions. Then the priest makes the sign of the cross over the faithful.

Jesus is always watching over his beloved people, caring for those of us who are sick.  When he sees us facing such trials, or when he sees us struggling in some way, his heart is moved with pity for us .. and he willingly begins to teach us many things (Mk 6:34).  Today, let us ask Saint Blaise to intercede on our behalf, to keep our families and loved ones safe from throat ailments and from whatever sicknesses they may be facing ... and let us also ask for the grace to look upon the world around us through his eyes, to see the struggles endured with others and to come quickly to their help.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The Presentation of the Lord

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
2 February 2018, 8:24 am
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
by Giotto di Bondone
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  It was the prophet Malachi who spoke of the events celebrated on this feast.  He said:  And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire (Mal 3:1).  Many years after Malachi had proclaimed these words, When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Lk 2:22).

So it is that 40 days after the birth of the Lord (begin counting the days on December 25), the days prescribed for the purification of Joseph and Mary were complete, and they came to present him to the Lord.  By bringing their child to Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary were respecting the Torah - the law of the Lord which states:  Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord (cf Exodus 13:2).

While it is customary for Christians in some parts of the world to remove Christmas decorations on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), in other parts of the world, Christians have historically waited until the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord to put away all signs of their Christmas celebrations.

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord has also traditionally been known as Candlemas. On this day, many Christians (especially Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics) bring candles to their local churches, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.  For Christians, these blessed candles serve as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who referred to himself as the Light of the World.

As we remember and celebrate the Presentation of the Lord today, ask the Holy Spirit to point out the ways in which you can share the light of your faith with others.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Sent out two by two

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

The gospel passage for today's liturgy tells us that after having spent some time living with Jesus, listening to his teachings and learning from him, he put them to the test. He summoned the twelve and to send them out two by two (Mk 6:7).  What would it have been like to be one of those twelve?  It's one thing to listen to someone else sharing their wisdom with us, but when we ourselves are called upon to share our own wisdom with others, it can be a bit unsettling.

Any teacher who shares lessons with us offers us a gift.  That same teacher can also test us - sometimes with questioning or with an examination of some kind - in order to verify whether the information has found a place in our brains.  However the rest is up to us: each one of us needs to struggle with the lessons we have learned, to question its validity in our own hearts and in light of our own lived experience.  Then we need to fall on our knees and pray about what we have learned, allowing our God to see the truth of the lessons we have learned in the light of faith.  Only then will we be able to confidently teach what we have learned.

Jesus knew that the disciples had barely reached the first level of this approach to learning.  Undoubtedly, they would have had many occasions along the way for questioning him, for struggling within themselves, perhaps even for praying about what they had heard.  Still, as they set out to try teaching others about what they had learned, Jesus knew that they still needed help.  That's why he gave them specific instructions: Take nothing for the journey ... (Mk 6:8).  Anyone who has ever set out on a journey knows that any baggage we bring with us can sometimes weigh us down.  Jesus wanted to help his disciples to free themselves from every concern that would distract them from the mission of telling others about the joy of their own encounter with him, and the same is true for us.  Jesus sends us out every day - two by two.  We are never alone along this journey.  He is always with us, and he invites others to walk with us as well.

Can we identify the baggage we try to carry with us?  Each one of us is sometimes tempted to hold on to things that ultimately weigh us down and threaten to distract us from the mission of sharing the good news of the gospel.  Can we let go of such things and dare to set out in search of homes where others will welcome us and listen to the words we have to share?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint John Bosco

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

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint John Bosco, a priest who lived in the nineteenth century, mostly in the city of Turin (Italy).  Don (Father) Bosco - as he was most well known - was born 16 August 1815 in the hillside village of Becchi (Italy).  John's family were farmhands and since the early 1800s was a time of great shortage and famine in the Piedmonte region, this meant that he and his family had to work very hard to earn their living.  This resolve was strengthened even more when John's father died and left his mother a widow with still-young children.

Poverty prevented John from any serious attempt at schooling.  Rather he was a shepherd and received his early training from a priest.  John left home at the tender age of 12 and went in search of work as a farm-servant.  At first he begged unsuccessfully but eventually he ended up working on a wine farm.  Finally, in 1830, John met a priest who identified some talent and supported his first attempt at formal schooling.  He went on to study at the seminary in Chieri and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Turin in 1841.

Having known the effects of poverty as a child, John had a particular concern for helping street children, juvenile delinquents and other disadvantaged youth in the metropolitan city to overcome poverty through education.  He developed teaching methods based on love rather than punishment: something quite revolutionary for his time.  Don Bosco's legacy lives on today in the presence of the Salesians of Don Bosco; the Institute of the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians; the Association of Mary, Help of Christians; and the lay movement known as the Association of Salesian Cooperators.

His ingenuity and ability to find techniques to teach children using unconventional methods made Don Bosco all the more like Jesus who also found ways to reach out to people's hearts and to help them come to believe in themselves by first believing that God truly loves us.  Jesus always believed that others could learn new things, even if they themselves found it difficult to accept his words because they could only see him as the carpenter's son (Mk 6:3).

Today, ask Saint John Bosco to pray with you, to help you to see the potential that is possible when children learn to believe in themselves.  Ask him to help us - even though we may be children with many years of experience - and to encourage our hearts so that we can be living examples of love for others today.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Pleading for others

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

There is a wonderful thing that happens when God is at work: seeing evidence of joy - in the life of the demoniac who is cured, in the blind man whose sight is restored, in the leper who is cleansed, in the sick who are healed ... -  others are captivated and live in hope of experiencing this joy in their own lives.

This is the case in today's gospel, where we meet one of the synagogue officials who has perhaps heard about Jesus' ability to heal the sick and the possessed.  Jairus has recognized something special about Jesus.  He comes to him, falls at his feet and pleads earnestly with him (Mk 5:22). The anxiety is evident in his voice as he pleads his case:  My daughter is at the point of death.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live (Mk 5:23). It's not difficult to understand how distraught Jairus must have been.  Even the hope that Jesus might be able to do something to help his daughter would have been enough to motivate him to go in search of help.

When a parent has to tend to a sick child, when that child is so sick that there seems to be no hope, the parent(s) will do anything to restore the child to health. We can imagine what that encounter with Jairus was like.  Jesus looked into his face and saw the panic in his eyes.  What did Jairus see in Jesus' face? ... warmth, welcome, compassion and hope?  I'd like to think he did ... and then Jesus went off with him (cf Mk 5:24).  Along the way, word arrives that Jairus' daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer? (Mk 5:35).  These are the words of someone who believes that somehow human beings can define limits for God's goodness, for love and concern for his beloved children.  Jesus did not stop and turn away that day, as though he would be powerless to help the child.  Instead he continued, encouraging the grieving father: Do not be afraid, just have faith (Mk 5:36)

Jesus walks with us at all moments of our lives.  Sometimes we are aware of his presence and sometimes we aren't, but he is always there, encouraging us with these same words: Do not be afraid, just have faith.  If we can come to believe in this truth, we will soon find that we are indeed captivated by Jesus and able to live in hope of experiencing the joy that he freely shares in our own lives.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The Gerasene demoniac

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

Today's gospel passage describes an encounter that Jesus had with a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit and who dwelt among the tombs (cf Mk 5:2).  This poor man had probably been shunned by his family, friends and community and found himself confined to a graveyard - where very few other living humans were to be found.  This man crossed paths with Jesus that day, and their meeting provided Jesus with an opportunity to make a difference in his life.  The writer of the gospel of Mark goes into quite some detail so that we are aware of the extent of this man's suffering, but Jesus is portrayed as meeting him only for a moment: a significant moment.

This story allows us to know the depth of the possessed man's suffering (cf Mk 5:3-5) but it also allows us to see the tender and merciful heart of Jesus in action.  Mark does not tell us the precise words that Jesus spoke to the possessed man, except that he continually called the unclean spirit to come out of him (Mk 5:8).  We can imagine that Jesus would have been extremely respectful of the person who was standing in front of him.  Although he was firm in his commands for the unclean spirit to leave him alone, he was also tenderly concerned for the well-being of the man who had been suffering for so long.

Eventually, Jesus was able to convince the unclean spirits to leave the man alone.  He (Jesus) probably didn't make friends that day with the swine herders but he managed to restore health to the man who had been tormented for far too long.  Perhaps worried that Jesus had managed to destroy a herd of swine that was relatively considerable in size, the townsfolk asked him to leave the territory of the Gerasenes, and as he was preparing to leave, the man who had been made clean wanted to go with him (cf Mk 5:18).  This is understandable, but Jesus knew that the man could do more good sharing the story of his own encounter with others, so he told him: Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord ... has done for you (Mk 5:19).

Jesus is constantly at work, encountering us each day and doing wonderful things in and through us.  He is always calling us to do our part to share the news of all that he is doing in our lives with our family members and friends and with those we meet.  Not everyone's story is as dramatic as the Gerasene demoniac's encounter, but each of us has a story to tell.  Open your ears today to listen in love to the adventures that are recounted by those you meet.  You never know who will share a tale of faith with you, and if the opportunity should present itself, be willing to share your own story with others.  We have no idea how our lived example may influence another person who is thirsting for the life-giving presence that an encounter with our God can give.

Have a great day.

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