APRIL 03, 2016, Vol 66, No 07
Q: I would like to pose the following question in the Questions on the Faith section of CatholicNews. Why did God harden the following characters in the Bible which contradicted His gift of free will?
- God hardened Pharaoh’s heart which resulted in many dying from devastating plagues (Exodus 9:12).
- God hardened the hearts of Gentile kings so that they would not sign peace treaties with Israel which resulted in the total extermination of their peoples (Joshua 11:20).
- St John mentioned that the reason why many Jews did not believe in Jesus was because God hardened their hearts (John 12:37-40).
David Woon. Singapore
A: When one approaches Scripture with an intent to learn and understand, it is always useful and perhaps even pertinent to know the difference and/or connection between doing hermeneutics and exegesis.
Generally speaking, hermeneutics deals with the philosophy and science of interpretation of the biblical text and would cover things like the role that divine illumination or insight plays in the interpretation of the text, and in this case, what was actually being communicated to us.
“Dear Pope Francis, why do you need that tall hat?”
I had to laugh out loud as I read my daughter’s question to our beloved pontiff. Little did I know then, that less than a year later, we would find ourselves face to face with Pope Francis himself, sans his tall hat, at the Vatican, on the feast of the Chair of St Peter (Feb 22).
The call for these questions to Pope Francis was made by Ms Julie Phua, a catechetical coordinator at our parish, the Church of St Ignatius, during a retreat for children who were preparing for their sacraments in 2015.
As my daughter, Faith Ng, aged eight then, was not part of that retreat, she wrote her question at home when I asked her if she had any questions for the pope. Besides her burning question about his choice of headgear, she also asked him why some saints had “the wounds”, and drew St Francis of Assisi bearing the marks of the stigmata.
All the children's letters were submitted and we gave no further thought to it. Months went by. Out of the blue, I heard from Julie that Faith’s letter had been shortlisted for a book titled Dear Pope Francis. It came as a wonderful surprise! We also learnt that the question submitted by Maximus, aged 10 in 2015, from the Church of the Risen Christ, had also been selected. He had asked, “I would like to find out – why did God create us even though he knew that we would sin against him?”
Close to 60 couples came together to pray a special Stations of the Cross designed for couples to reflect on the Lord’s Passion and how it related to their marriages.
Marriage Encounter (ME) designed the special Lenten programme, which was held at the outdoor Stations of the Cross at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 11.
According to the organisers, Lent is a season of reflection, re-evaluation, repentance and reconciliation. Very often the people we hurt most are the ones closest to us. Harsh words and actions or indifference can hurt spousal relationships.
This realisation gave rise to this unique Stations of the Cross, initiated by ME three years ago, for married couples to experience deeply the significance of the Lord’s Passion on their relationship.
Seventy-eight young people from various parishes came together for the first Combined Polytechnic Catholic Camp organised by the Office for Young People (OYP).
Previously organised by the Combined Polytechnic Catholic Students (CPCS), this was the first time that the students were collaborating with OYP to run the camp, also known as SHINE.
“After running away from God for a long time, SHINE has helped me to remember who I am: a child of God. And God loves me the same, no matter what I do or have done,” said Paul Young, 16, a freshman at Temasek Polytechnic.
Many others said they felt “empowered”, “renewed” and “assured” through their experience at the camp, held at the OYP premises at Lorong Low Koon.
The camp was open to Catholic youths who are entering or are now in polytechnic. It aimed to serve as a starting point for them to form a community and to empower them spiritually in their student life in the various polytechnics.
The sessions were given by the OYP staff and chaplains on topics such as who God is, being a child of God and living out this identity, and belonging to a Christian community.
The Office for Young People (OYP) held its first spiritual preparation session on March 12 for those intending to go to World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow, Poland, later this year.
OYP will be bringing an archdiocesan contingent of about 170 pilgrims to the Church-organised international event to be held from July 25-31. Archbishop William Goh will be leading the group, along with Frs Jude David, Brian D’Souza and Jovita Ho.
The archdiocesan trip itself is expected to last from late July to early August.
During the March 12 spiritual preparation programme, the first to be held for the upcoming WYD for these pilgrims, participants got to know each other through icebreakers and sharing sessions.
A time of praise and worship followed during which participants learnt the WYD song.
Sr Jean Marie was born in Penang, Malaysia, on Oct 29, 1930, as the elder of twin girls in a family of seven children. The young Jean Marie was an excellent sportswoman who was a sprinter with the Penang Athletic Association and played for the state’s hockey team.
At 21, she first felt God’s call to Religious life when she joked about joining the “nuns in Singapore who could drive”, since she loved to drive. Although she had no real intention of joining the FMDM then, she felt a constant restlessness until she finally announced to the Lord, “Lord, if this is what you want, I surrender!”
She joined the FMDM as a postulant in 1953 and made her first profession in 1956.
After her profession, she trained as a radiographer in the Royal Northern Hospital, London. She qualified in 1958, moved to Singapore and worked at the Rotary Club X-Ray Department attached to Tan Tock Seng Hospital until Mount Alvernia Hospital was built in 1961.
Spiritual maturing and growth requires an ongoing transcendence of the ego. Meditation helps to achieve that so one can experience one’s true self in God through Jesus.
This was one important message that Benedictine monk Fr Laurence Freeman shared with more than 700 people who attended a meditation retreat on March 12 and 13.
The Singapore chapter of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) organised the retreat, held in Catholic Junior College.
Fr Freeman, WCCM director, last led a meditation retreat in Singapore in November 2014 themed The Eight Big Problems of Life.
For the March 12-13 retreat, titled Milestones: Stages of Life in the Light of Meditation, the Benedictine monk began with an introduction to the meditation process. Meditation, he said, is a way of prayer in which the mind and the heart become one.
The late Fr Robert P. Balhetchet lived the life of a priest to the fullest, but also suffered a lot as he felt misunderstood, unappreciated and unfairly treated, said Archbishop William Goh.
Fr Balhetchet was a “very bright, very intelligent man”, an eloquent preacher and teacher who spoke the King’s English, said Archbishop Goh at the March 19 funeral Mass for the former rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
The late priest taught in the seminary and many other places, Archbishop Goh noted.
Fr Balhetchet died on March 15 (see obituary below) from pneumonia.
Speaking to the congregation gathered at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Archbishop Goh said, “If you ask Fr Balhetchet what is the secret of being happy as a priest, he would tell you this: ‘Give your life in service to your brothers and sisters.’ And that was what he did.”
Leaders and well-wishers of the yet-to-be-built Church of the Transfiguration (COTT) in Punggol gathered to celebrate their very first monthly Mass on Palm Sunday.
The March 20 event was held at the school hall of Holy Innocents’ High School on Upper Serangoon Road. The 150-strong congregation sang and waved their palms as the Palm Sunday procession made its way from the hall entrance to the altar onstage.
The Mass was celebrated by parish priest Fr Joachim Chang and assistant parish priest Fr Ignatius Yeo.
As many of the church’s liturgical ministries are still not formed, wardens from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour were on hand to assist at the Mass, alongside altar servers, lectors and communion ministers from other parishes.
The choir however, comprised the newly-formed COTT choir, singing for the very first time at Mass.
The event, called Crucis Singapura, was organised by the Jesus Youth movement. This was the sixth year in a row that the group has held the spiritual activity to help participants experience a little of Christ’s suffering on His journey to Calvary.
Participants, including families with children, started out from nine different locations, with the earliest group starting at 7 am from Joo Koon. They walked in pairs and converged upon the Church of the Holy Spirit at about 3 pm.
Along the way, they prayed the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the rosary and interceded for various intentions.
The Saturday evening Palm Sunday Mass was special for parishioners of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul. It was the first time they were attending Mass in their newly restored church building after one and a half years worshipping under a tent.
Parish priest Fr John Chua, together with concelebrants Frs Edward Lim and Fr Joseph Koh, expressed their gratitude to God at the start of the March 19 Mass for the successful completion of the church restoration.
Speaking to the 500-strong crowd which included RCIA Elect and their godparents and sponsors, the priests thanked the people for rendering help, financial support and prayers for the project.
Parishioner Sunny Wee, 67, commented, “It is timely that the church opens its door again for Holy Week. The beautiful stained glass makes a difference to worshipping in this church. The church has been wonderfully restored.”
Pope Francis has invited governments to have a moratorium on executions during the Year of Mercy, and it would be “commendable” for countries to join him in this desire.
Apostolic nuncio to Singapore, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, made this point during his speech at a March 13 Mass to celebrate the third anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam was the guest of honour at the Mass, which was celebrated by the nuncio, Archbishop William Goh and several priests at St Joseph’s Church, Victoria St.
In his speech at the end of Mass, Archbishop Girelli told the crowd that on Feb 21, Pope Francis appealed to world leaders to reach an international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is difficult to be a Christian in the world today. We are living in a time where there is a sense of hopelessness; in a world that seems so divided, where people are lacking meaning, purpose and direction in life.
Many no longer know what they are living for and why they are living at all. We no longer believe in life after death, or the next world. We view the world with much scepticism and cynicism. We have given up on the institutions of marriage, family, the government and even religious institutions themselves!
Such is the state of disillusionment and confusion brought about by relativism and materialism. In a world that has increasingly banished God, the balm for pain and suffering in this life is substituted by momentary relief in material comforts and distractions from endless fads and pursuits. Life for many is simply about reaping and enjoying, without much thought of the after-life.