3rd Sunday in Easter
Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Gospel of Luke 24:13-35
Are we a downcast or Easter People?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 30 April 2017

We are in the 3rd Week of the Easter Season and it would be good for us to ask ourselves, “How have our Easter celebration been for the past two weeks?”  Upon our reflection, can we exclaim like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, “Were not our hearts burning within us as Jesus talked to us and explained Scriptures to us . . . during the Holy Week and last two weeks’ celebrations?” 

Or, are we like the disciples before their conversion still feeling downcast because we are still focusing on the pains and Sufferings of Jesus, on Good Friday?  And if this is so, then are we still not recognising that Jesus has Risen and is present among us in our daily living?  Are we a downcast people who are locked in the negative perceptions and pains of life or are we an Easter people of faith in the Risen Christ?

During the Cathedral Dedication celebration two months ago, there is a true story that in many ways illustrate today’s theme of what it is to be an Easter people.  Last year, during the Easter Vigil celebration at the parish of St Ignatius, amongst the many people I baptised were, a family of four: a parent and two of their children.  To make a long story short, the parents of their 12 year old daughter, Ashley Tan asked me, “Father, our daughter has painted some 8 paintings and we would like to offer all of them to you for any fundraising worthy cause. 

So, I went to the house and saw the beautiful paintings and asked whether they could be used for the fundraising GIFT campaign for the archdiocese.  They immediately agreed and said, “Father, you can have all the paintings!”  I felt deeply touched by their great generosity.  Then, I went to Ashley, and on the side, asked her, “Ashley, you have spent so much of your time and effort painting all these beautiful paintings, they must all mean very much to you.  How do you feel about having to part with them?  Without any hesitation, Ashley looked straight into my eyes and said, that’s fine with me because the money is to be donated for a very good cause of the building of our archdiocese’s needs.” 

When I shared this story during one of our Cathedral “Lunch-time Mass” at 1.15 pm, the next day, a lady (let us call her Joyce; not her real name) came up to me and said, “Father, I was very touched by your story about Ashley and I would like to offer you two pieces of my jewellery for the archdiocesan fund raising campaign.  She then showed me a gold chain with a medal of Our Lady, and then a jade ring.  Even as I was deeply touched, I asked her, “Joyce, why don’t you give this to your daughter?  Joyce replied, “I don’t have a daughter; I only have one son.”  But, what about giving to your daughter-in-law?  Joyce then shared, “Father, for several years in our marriage, we had no children.  Then, one day God answered our prayers and I conceived and gave birth to our son.  However, our son is autistic. 

We have gone through great trials and pain in our hearts, but we are not angry with God for God has a purpose for allowing us to have this beautiful son of ours.  So, I had to resign from my teaching job, and take care of my son.  My husband has since then to work very hard to be provide for the family.  These jewellery are from my mother.  And, as I am touched by Ashley’s story, I too would want to do my part to help to build the Church of our archdiocese. 

For the Cathedral art fundraising project, I had placed each of the jewellery pieces at the reserved price of $1,200 each.  At the closing of the bid, a young gentleman by the name of Andrew (not his real name), raised his hands and offered, “$3,000 per piece of the jewellery, but on one condition, that both jewellery be returned to Joyce.”  And then a few days later when Andrew brought me the cheque, he also passed me an “Ang pow” (red packet) for Joyce and her family.  On it was written, “I was very deeply inspired by your great generosity.  Thank you very much for witnessing Christ to us.”  And, the “Ang pow” contained $1,000.  A few days later, I called Joyce and her husband and explained what happened.  Both were in tears. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, in this simple story, we see the inspiring selfless generosity of Ashley’s parents, who obviously brought up Ashley with such Christ-like values.  Ashley in turn touched the heart of Joyce, who in turned moved Andrew’s heart and made him generous too.  The whole project eventually raised $117,000 for the good cause of the needs of our archdiocese to build our church for our future children.

In short, this true story of Ashley, Joyce and Andrew is a story of what it is to be an Easter people!  Both Ashley’s and Joyce’s families were each facing different trials, pain and suffering in their lives.  Yet, their hearts were able to go beyond their trials and pain and respond generously to the opportunities that were presented to them.  They each had many reasons to be downcast and depressed, and could have chosen to live in the darkness of the misery of their pain, and continue to constantly complain about life being not fair or getting angry with God for the challenges they had to face in their families.  However, Ashley and her good Catholic parents and Joyce and her good husband were all able to see the greater good of how the archdiocesan GIFT campaign of building the future of our Church in our archdiocese is far more important than their own personal and family pain and trials. 

This is what being an Easter People is about.  We are each called to have the eyes and heart of our Risen Lord who serves His Father’s Will and the Greater Glory of His Name.  As such, we are likewise to care for the needs of others more deeply and personally, regardless of the sacrifices we are asked to make.  Does this sound impossible?  If it does, then we precisely need to open our minds and hearts more fully to the Light and Power of the Holy Spirit of our Risen Lord to see the many opportunities that God is daily presenting to us to grow into becoming the Christ-like Easter person that God Wills of you and of me. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, I am sure, there are many Ashley, Joyce and Andrew amongst us here today.  And I am sure you know that it, if you are one of them, i.e. if you have been generous in sharing God’s blessings beyond your own family needs, and with others.  And I have no doubt that you too can testify to the Truth that in being more generous with God’s Blessings and Gifts, we gain the double Joy and Blessings of life.  First, in experiencing the great consolation of the Christ-like spirit through the actual sharing itself.  And second, the abundant blessings of Peace and Love in your hearts and home, by placing God at the centre of your lives as Ashley, Joyce and Andrew did. 

Sadly, there are also those of us who have lived our lives insecurely and selfishly by basically building a cocoon or a wall to protect ourselves from harm and providing for our own family comforts, without sharing much of our blessings with others.  Such an inward and sheltered life would surely be one that is filled with anxieties, worries and pain.  Why is this so?  The answer lies in the Truth of the Life that Jesus has shown us.  He shared Himself so totally to the point of dying on the Cross, all for our sake and salvation. 

As such, if we do NOT live a Christ-like life, then we are like the servants who buried the talents in the ground or the seed that refuses to die, in order to yield a rich harvest.  It is such an attitude of living in the darkness of our inward looking ways was what prevented the disciples from recognising the Risen Lord, in their midst. 

However, if we follow the Light and act on the Love of Christ that you and I already have in our hearts, then like the disciples we too would discover our hearts burning within us.  And in doing so, we would recognise the Risen Christ’s presence in our lives, and would not miss the opportunities that God will place in your lives, so that we can then become His Light and Love to others, as Ashley, Joyce and Andrew have shown us, how it is possible to be an Easter People. 

And, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that if we truly want to be an Easter People, then let us once and for all set aside, our old and narrow ways of thinking and living where we are over-preoccupied in caring for ourselves and our families, and not others.  In doing so, we would surely end up only giving our loose change, offering our left over time and serving with disinterested and dissipate energies. 

Does God deserve such treatment from us?!  Especially, after giving Himself to us, so totally and unconditionally, through His Suffering and Dying for us on the Cross?  If not, then let us be the Christ-like Easter people and become the generous sharer of God’s Blessings, the selfless servant to God’s People and the Joyous Light and Love to all peoples that God will place in our lives daily.

PS: As a Side Remark I have no doubt, many of you here, attending this Mass would have wealth that is more than what you need even if you were to live to 95 years of age. I would urge you to seriously ponder and pray about contributing 10% of that to “TRCAS” (Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore),
AND for the rest of you,​ ​perhaps, ​you could ​nominate your CPF to “TRCAS”;>

all for need to build a vibrant church, here and now, for our children. It is no secret that 65% of our Catholics in Singapore have stopped coming to Church; we are in a crisis! Do we want our church to be “empty” like in Western Europe, in 30 years time? If not, then take my suggestion seriously to prayer. Is this asking too much? What do you think God would say to you, if you ignore this?

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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