What is Indulgence?

July 14, 2008

During the prayer meeting, I announced about the Plenary and the Partial Indulgences that the Pope granted during the period of World Youth Day (read the news here).

For those of you who are not familiar with what Indulgence is, you may want to read a good article by Jimmy Akins.

If I may give an analogy. If you play baseball and suddenly the ball hit the window of your neighbor’s house. What happened? You are in trouble of course. Our deeds have consequences. So what we normally do is that we will go the owner of the house and ask for forgiveness.

Similarly when we sin, we transgress and we hurt God and his people. What we should do? We should go and ask for forgiveness. But is this the end of the story? Of course not.

The mercy and forgiveness will urge us to do more. We will have the urge to “repair” the damage we have done. We will have the urge to repair the window that we hit with our ball. In our spiritual lives, we will do a “penance” to repair the damage that we have caused. That’s why after we go for sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest will give us a penance. Some people call this as the “temporal punishment” due to sin. Back to the analogy of breaking the window, sometimes we felt that repairing the windows sounds like a “punishment”. But it is merely to repair the damage we have caused. The sins has been forgiven, but the damage must still be repaired.

So what is Indulgence? by definition it is

“n. 1— … the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.”

Yeah I know it’s a long sentence. But the keywords are: “sins already forgiven”, “remission of temporal punishment”, and “won by Christ and the saints”.

First Indulgence is not forgiving sins. It is given for those sins that “has already been forgiven”. And as the analogy tries to illustrate, it is a remission of temporal punishment, or to repair the damage caused by our sins. And lastly, the satisfaction is won by “Christ and the saints.

So back to the analogy, what happened is that after the owner of the house has forgiven our mistakes, and we feel the urge to repair the window, but somehow that “repairing” has been done because of some good friends of us and the owner.

It is as if a friend of us and a friend of the house owner volunteered to repair the damage for us. Out of Love for sure! Maybe the analogy does not describe it perfectly, but I hope it helps some of us to understand.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and all the saints, their martyrdom, are these “reparing” the damage. This is the treasury of the Church. The bounty of God’s love for his people. And the Church dispenses this love to its members, you and me, simply because we are part of the family.

Sometimes when we made mistake, does not our parents will take the act of repairing the damage? This is the Church, the family of God. But to educate his children, the treasury of this Love is not dispenses without condition. Jesus said, “do not throw the pearls to the dogs”. We, on our parts, must have the attitude, the repentant heart, to acquire this great gifts.

We have been bought by the Precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. And all the saints have sacrificed their lives, simply so that we can be brought back to the fold, to the family of God.


Who is my enemy?

July 13, 2008

I guess about a month ago I came across this readings on Jesus’s teaching: “Love your enemy”. I personally feel this is one of the difficult teaching of Jesus to apply in our daily life. Don’t you think so? This is the short reading from Matthew 5

[43] “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
[44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
[45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

As I prayed about it and meditate on the words, this question kept on coming to my mind, “Lord, who is then my enemy?”

I found it strange to ask, I guess most of the time, it is pretty easy for me to spot who are my enemies in lives. But that night as I prayed, I kept on asking that question, who is my enemy?

Somehow that questions brought me to a familiar scene that I have known since I was small. It sounds very simialar to a question that was asked by a lawyer who tested Jesus and asked what is the greatest commandment. And after Jesus said, Love your God, and love your neighbor, the lawyer asked,

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (luke 10:29)

And I recall Jesus answered his question by telling a story. One of the most famous story in the Bible: the Good Samaritan. There was this man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was robbed. Not only robbed, he was stripped and beaten. Then came a priest and saw him, but pass him by, and the second a levite, but he also passed him by. Then came the thrid one, a Samaritan.

We all know the story, the Samaritan helped that poor man, and did more that what people would do. And Jesus asked:

Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

It’s the Samaritan! The Samartian has chosen to be the poor man’s neighbor.  He chose to love the poor and beaten Jews. The beaten Jews, on the other hand, has found a new neighbor, a Samaritan.

If you are wondering why the story shifts, well, I was wondering as well when I prayed about it. But then I suddenly recognize that the teachings of Jesus are closely related. The questions of who is my enemy is bound to the question who is my neighbor.

If you are not aware of the history of the Jews and the Samaritan, they are enemy! Samaritan’s were israelites in the north whose religious practices have been tainted by pagan’s practices. They disobeyed the law that forbid them to mix marriages with the pagan. So the Jews consider them as stranger, enemy, gentile. Jews do not want to have any dealing with the Samaritans.

Yet amidst the history of hatred, Jesus took this to teach about love of neighbor. Jesus show how the Samaritan man somehow found the beaten Jews as his neighbor, and he chose to love him. The enemy now has become a neighbor!

Could it be that Jesus want to teaches about who is our enemy truly is? It’s not a question of identifying who are our enemies, but it is a question as we look upon our enemy, and who they truly are?

Could it be that our enemy is actually our neighbor? Could it be that our enemy is someone who is in need of our love? Could it be that this man whom we consider as enemy, actually is some one who is robbed, beaten, stripped, and helpless?

I found it in my self, that sometimes I project my fear, my insecurity, and weakness to other people. And sometimes other people become my victim. When my pride is attacked, I started to say bad words and humiliate others. When I am corrected because of my wrong doings, I started to point out others wrong doing. I started to oppress others! I started to victimize the people around me. I began to hurt others.

I felt this is what the Lord is saying to me that night, “when you look at your enemy, you will found your neighbor.” Can you see the wounds in them? Can you recognize their brokennes? Can you see that those who persecute you is someone who is in need of love? These, then, are your neighbor.

And so the commandment “Love your neighbor” and “Love your enemy” sounds very similar. Maybe it is actually one commandment if we began to see the way God sees. And so let us pray, that we may see the way God sees, and love the way God loves. That we may be called sons of God. ( like father, like son)

[44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
[45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The Emmaus is one year old in St. Mary of the Angels singapore

July 7, 2008

Can’t really believe it. Even I need someone else to remind me that we are actually one year old today. But this is truly a blessing from the Lord. He is the one who gives birth to this community.

May God’s blessing be upon this community, may we always be faithful to his Call:

to be disciples of Christ according to His heart, through ongoing conversion, sanctification and mission


A memory with Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong

July 1, 2008

When I attended a wedding in Indonesia, I heard the news that Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong has returned to the Father’s home. I was quite surprise. I didn’t know him very well or in person. I have met him several times, during my university days when he celebrated mass and when I came and visited him at St. Joseph old folks home when he already retired as the archbishop of Singapore. It is this last visit that impressed me a lot and which I would like to share.

I came to St. Joseph old folks home together with Maya and her choir to visit the parish priest who was treated there as well due to some bone fracture. After the visit, we decided to come to the archbishop emeritus’ room and have a short chat with him.

He looked older the the last time I saw him (during university days) but he was so happy to welcome us. He loved to chat and talked with all of us. He asked questions to everyone of us, where we came from, are we singaporean, or malaysian, or indonesian, etc. He also joked and made us laugh often. What a wonderful time 🙂

Then he showed us an artwork. It was a gift by his fellow bishop (from Bishop of Penang, if I am not mistaken). The artwork was made of stones of different sizes and colours.  Those stones were arranged in such a way that it forms a picture, a palace, with some trees, and rivers.

Then he started to ask us what this picture is all about. Then one of us started to guess, it’s a palace, a kingdom. Then he nodded happily. It is a Kingdom! And we are a kingdom people, he said. He started to talk about christians as a kingdom people.

And he showed us again the little stones that form all the pictures. He told us these are precious stones. And he asked who are these precious stones. We made it again to guess, this must be all of us christian. He looked happy 🙂 We are the precious stones, he said. All of us are precious in God’s eyes and we all build the kingdom of God. The kingdom is built upon the precious stones and Jesus is the corner stone.

He started to share about the twelve stones that become the foundations, and he moved on to share about Heaven and what heaven looks like. At the end, we have to go back, and he told us to come again and have a chat with him next time.

I never had the chance to have a chat with him after that time. But the meeting that day made a big impression in my life. This is the man who shepherd the church in Singpaore. Though he was just in his room, in this old folks home, he didn’t stop preaching the Gospel. He couldn’t stop sharing the faith. He kept on sharing the good news, through his joy, through his friendliness, and even through a piece of artwork. He preached about his faith and his hope in Christ using a simple gift given by his fellow bishop.

I thank the Lord for such a shepherd. I knew him only for a little while, but he has given me the message. We are that precious stones, each and everyone of us is precious, and one day, we will meet again in Heaven, in that Kingdom that we all long for.

Till we meet again your grace and thanks for shepherding us.