Sunday, 10 February 2013 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time and Chinese New Year (Scripture Reflection)

We have seen today, that the Lord is everything for us, and He loves, and cares for us deeply. There is no other being with greater love. He provided for us in our daily lives, He guided us, taught us, and blessed us with abundance. That we have enough but not excessive, so that we may live comfortably, but not be ensnared by the lures of money and therefore greed.

As today, Chinese around the world celebrate Chinese New Year, the most important day in the whole Chinese calendar year, let us reflect on the readings today, with regards on the matter of blessing and prosperity, on which Chinese New Year frequently base itself on. On Chinese New Year, we Chinese visit one another in the family and relatives, and bring one another the spirit of joy and love. The day is a celebration of life, and of love, through the family blessed by God with ample goods and graces. This is what we should remember on this festive Chinese New Year day, and not instead, the culture of materialism, that increasingly become more and more common amongst Chinese, and people around the world in general.

Chinese New Year has often been associated with wealth, prosperity, money, auspiciousness, and lavishness, with lavish reunion dinners, lavish new clothings, and concerns about etiquette while visiting one another. In today’s modern world, intense commercialisation and materialism has led to Chinese New Year celebrations to become increasingly elaborate. This also applies to other types of celebrations around the world, which are becoming increasingly commercialised and with focus placed much on the glamour and glitz instead of the true meaning of the celebrations themselves.

Jesus reminded us today, that God as our Father has given us everything that we need, and that He as the Ultimate Judge of all life too, has the life of all creation known and measured, without our knowledge of these. Indeed, no matter how much wealth we accumulate in this life on earth, how many houses, cars, or even private jets we have, ultimately, when we die, we will not bring these with us. What we instead bring with us is just ourselves, our soul. Will you rather choose to be wealthy in this world and then judged unworthy by the Lord in the end? To suffer separation from Him all eternity, out of which there is no hope? Or would you rather to be not so wealthy in this world, but build up spiritual wealth instead, and be richly rewarded by God for your meaningful life filled with actions out of love for others and God?

Do not however, be mistaken. God does not hate or condemn wealth and money, and indeed, naturally, we need those to support ourselves, our own families, and to live rather comfortably. However, the main point is, not to be mastered by these instead of us mastering them. We must take charge of our wealth, and whenever we can, try to share some with the less fortunate.

Unfortunately, in our present day world, as it had happened in the past as well, many people guard their treasures with greed and jealousy, without even thinking of others in need. Many concern themselves everyday on the pursuit of gathering more wealth, buying more luxury goods, possessing more cars and other amenities, until to the point that they are actually mastered and enslaved by wealth, instead of the other way around.

Wealth is not everything indeed, and although it is essential, we Christians should heed the message in the readings today, to know how to feel ‘enough’, to know the ‘limit’ of our wishes, and to know how to be satisfied. We should look at others around us, when we are engrossed in our pursuit of wealth and prosperity, so excessive that we neglect even to look around. There are many others amongst us who are not so fortunate, and these people are already very thankful when they even have enough to eat for the day, and there are even those who do not have enough.

One may then ask, isn’t the Lord saying that He provides enough for all of us everyday? Then why are there these people who beg? Why are there people who hunger? Why then there are people who still die of neglect and poverty? This is because, the Lord does His work, through us, through His children, and Jesus taught us in the Scripture to give thanks to God for what we receive, and to share them with our fellow brothers and sisters in God.

It is we who ought to open our ‘granaries’ of food and ‘banks’ of wealth to share some of excesses we have, which we do not need, with those who cannot afford them. Remember, the Lord does not disdain or hate wealth, it is just that He wants all of us to live happily in love, sharing our joy together, sharing our sorrow together, in a community based in the faith in the Lord, who gives enough to all everyday, without the need to worry.

The poor no longer will need to worry about what they will survive on tomorrow, and whether their children will be taken care of properly, and the rich will also no longer need to worry about what investment to make tomorrow, where to profit on tomorrow, and what car or what property to buy tomorrow. Do as you always do, and work as you have always worked, but do not make yourselves slaves to your career and to whatever you are doing. Rather, always remember the Lord in all things that we do, and make Him the centre of our lives. We will realise that once we put God into all things that we do, we will no longer desire more and more, and will be satisfied with whatever blessings and generous gifts God has given us.

Let us therefore, in this Chinese New Year celebration, renew the commitment to love one another, and not just within one’s family, but also to others beyond that, for we are all one family in Christ. While we party, drink, and eat much food, remember always in our prayers those who are less fortunate. Whatever excesses we have in our celebration, let us pass them to them, that they too will be able to joyfully participate in the celebration. Let us be inclusive as the Lord wants us to be, and not be greedy and exclusive.

All said, as the other readings show us, we still have our missions to fulfill, namely to reach out to others who have yet to listen to the Word of God and the Good News, and that is why Christ told His disciples on the boat to go out and put the net out to the deep. So far, we have caught the ‘fish’ on the surface and those who are near, but there are many who are located deeper and farther away from the love of God, who are yet caught by us.

Christ made Simon the fisherman into Peter the fisher of man, and so did He make the other Apostles fishers of men. This mission, reiterated by Christ after His resurrection, to go out to all the nations and deliver to them the Good News of the Lord, and baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, is still true today, and all of us Christians, should also reach out further and deeper, to those amongst us, who are yet to receive the grace of the Word of God.

Do not worry that we cannot do this mission as Christ asked us to. Remember that God provides everything for us, and He will provide all that we need to do our mission. We can begin simply with our own lives, to live a life of love and faith to God, such that we become such a shining beacon of goodness, that others will come to us, and through us, God will make His wonderful work, and the Word of God will be brought to all mankind, even through just one faithful and dedicated disciple of the Lord.

Let us be fishers of men, just like the Apostles, beginning from ourselves, and even our own families. I myself came from a non-Christian family background, and although my mother is a Catholic, but my father is not, and he was a very staunch follower of his own beliefs. It is not easy to bring the Word of God, the Good News to everyone, but we can begin indeed in showing that God is Love, and through His Spirit, that our own actions will be filled with love and all, even those who do not yet believe in God, will believe in Him, through us, and our actions.

May God bless all of us on this wonderful day, and bless all the Chinese people throughout the world celebrating this magnificent Chinese New Year, and remind us always that on top of the parties and the celebrations that we have, we also have a mission to do, that is to share the Good News to all, and indeed, to share the joy, happiness, and blessings that we receive, particularly on this festive moment, with those who have little or none. God bless us all, and bless His holy Church! Amen.

(Special) Sunday, 10 February 2013 : Chinese New Year Day Mass (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 6 : 31-34

Do not worry and say : “What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? or; What shall we wear?” The pagans busy themselves with such things, but Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart first on the kingdom and justice of God, and all these things will also be given to you.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

(Special) Sunday, 10 February 2013 : Chinese New Year Day Mass (Second Reading)

James 4 : 13-15

Listen now, you who speak like this, “Today or tomorrow we will go off to this city and spend a year there; we will do business and make money.” You have no idea what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? No more than a mist which appears for a moment and then disappears.

Instead of this, you should say, “God willing, we will live and do this or that.”

(Special) Sunday, 10 February 2013 : Chinese New Year Day Mass (Psalm)

Psalm 90 : 1-17

Lord, You have been our refuge through all generations. Before the mountains were formed, before You made the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity – You are God.

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night. You sow them in their time, at dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

Your fury consumes us like fire, and we are helpless before Your anger. Our evils lie before You, who scrutinize our hidden sins. Our days pass away in Your wrath; our years are gone in no time. Seventy years to our life or eighty if we are strong, yet most of them are sorrow and trouble; speeding by, they sweep us along.

Who knows the extent of Your anger? Who has seen the end of Your wrath? So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o Lord? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. Make joy endure as the misery did, and the years in which we were afflicted. Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glorious power by their children. May the sweetness of the Lord be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

(Special) Sunday, 10 February 2013 : Chinese New Year Day Mass (First Reading)

Numbers 6 : 22-27

Then YHVH spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them : This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say :

‘May YHVH bless you and keep you! May YHVH let His face shine on you and be gracious to you! May YHVH look kindly on you, and give you His peace!’

In that way shall they put my Name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

Sunday, 10 February 2013 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Chinese New Year) (Gospel Reading)

Luke 5 : 1-11

One day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat and continued to teach to the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.”

This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both boats almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons.

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.

Sunday, 10 February 2013 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Chinese New Year) (Second Reading)

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-11

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.

Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest. Then He appeared to James and after that to all the apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me. For I am the last of the apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an apostle. because I persecuted the Church of God.

Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace towards me has not been without fruit. Far from it, I have toiled more than all of them, although not I, rather the grace of God in me.

Now, whether it was I or they, this we preach and this you have believed.

 

(Alternative reading – shorter version, 1 Corinthians 3-8, 11)

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.

Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest. Then He appeared to James and after that to all the apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Now, whether it was I or they, this we preach and this you have believed.

Happy Chinese and Lunar New Year to all who celebrate it around the world!

Happy Chinese and Lunar New Year of the Year of our Lord 2013 to all those who celebrate it.

May God bless this upcoming year with abundant blessings and graces. God bless us all. Amen!

Sunday, 10 February 2013 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Chinese New Year) (Psalm)

Psalm 137 : 1-2a, 2bc-3, 4-5, 7c-8

I thank You, o Lord, with all my heart, for You have heard the word of my lips. I sing Your praise in the presence of the gods. I bow down towards Your holy Temple and give thanks to Your Name.

For Your love and faithfulness, for Your word which exceeds everything. You answered me when I called; You restored my soul and made me strong.

O Lord, all kings on earth will give You praise, when they have heard Your words. They will celebrate the ways of the Lord, “Great is the glory of the Lord!”

With Your right hand You deliver me. How the Lord cares for me! Your kindness, o Lord, endures forever. Forsake not the work of Your hands.

A great article from the weekly bulletin of Church of St. Francis Xavier, Archdiocese of Singapore on Chinese New Year and Its Significance to Chinese Christians

http://www.catholicnews.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8402:jesus-and-qyuq-abundance&catid=187:news-mosaic&Itemid=119

This article was excellently written, especially when trying to harmonise and find the common ground between the Chinese culture and the Christian faith, which although they have their fundamental differences, there are similarities that we should not ignore.

It is fitting indeed that Chinese New Year celebration this year falls on Sunday, 10 February 2013, which is also the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, whose readings have parallels with the core of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Please spend some time to read this article, and especially for Chinese Christians out there, to make the Chinese New Year celebrations we have, into a truly Christian celebration. Not just of partying and feasting, but also to show and spread love and joy, and sharing them with one another, giving thanks to Christ who made all things possible.