Sunday, October 21, 2012

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Mission as Stay-cation

Picture: cc Mike Licht

Sisters and brothers, I think we are all familiar with the word vacation, right? We’ve probably all been on vacation before. We know what the word means. To vacate is to leave a place unoccupied. So to go on vacation literally means to leave our home, to spend some time in some other place. And our usual idea of going on vacation is simply to visit a foreign country. To cross a border somewhere. Whether by flying to Europe, or to the Holy Land, or simply by driving across the Causeway. For many of us, to go on vacation is to visit another country.

But that’s not the only way to go on vacation. It seems that, lately, for whatever reason, more and more people are choosing not to go abroad. They prefer to stay right here in Singapore. Some take their family to a chalet in Changi. Others–with more money to spend–check into a local hotel. In fact this kind of local vacation has become so common, that a new word has been invented for it. It’s called a stay-cation. But is a stay-cation a real vacation? Is it really possible to go on vacation without leaving the country? The answer, of course, is yes. Stay-cations can be real vacations because the main point of a vacation is not really to go overseas. People go on vacation because they need to take a break from their usual routine. They need a change in place and pace. And you don’t always have to go to another country for that. To truly go on vacation, we don’t necessarily have to cross a border between one country and another. What we do have to cross is the boundary between work and play, between tension and relaxation, between stress and calm. And it’s possible to cross this boundary without leaving Singapore. Just as it’s possible to fail to cross it even after we’ve travelled to a faraway place. How many of us, for example, have returned from an overseas holiday feeling even more tired and stressed out than before we left?

Sometimes the best, the most restful, kind of vacation is a stay-cation. And this is true not just of vacations. Something similar can be said about the Christian’s mission as well. What do we usually think of when we hear the word mission or missionary? Very likely, we may imagine someone who travels to a foreign country to preach the Good News. For example, our beloved Sacred Heart Fathers–who have served this parish faithfully for so many years–are all missionaries in this sense. We think also of the many good Singaporean Catholics, who go on overseas mission trips. People who visit slums in the Philippines, or orphanages in Cambodia. Singaporean Samaritans who go out of their way to help the victims of natural disasters to rebuild their homes, or who provide them with food and clothing. Very often, when we think of missionaries, we think of people like that. People who travel overseas.

But what about those of us who, for one reason or another, may not be able or willing to make the trip. Do we not have a mission? Are we not also called to be missionary? Is it not possible, and even necessary, to be on mission while staying in Singapore? To answer these questions, we need to do what we did with the word vacation. We need to examine the meaning of the word mission.

As you know, the word has a Latin root, which means to send. And, by virtue of our baptism, all of us Christians are sent on the same mission. We share in the one mission of Christ. And our Mass readings today remind us just what this mission looks like. First of all, Christ is sent to fulfil a specific need that every human person experiences. A need that we expressed just now, in our response to the psalm. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you. May your love be upon us… Regardless of whether we are rich or poor, young or old, woman or man, local or foreigner, all of us have a deep need to know how much God really loves us. We need to know that God is on our side. That God wants us to be happy. That God wants to be our Friend. That God accepts and embraces us as we are. Even though we may continue to struggle with our own sinfulness. For without this basic experience of God’s love, we often end up doing what we see the disciples doing in today’s gospel.

Like them, we become anxious and insecure. We begin to compete with one another for glory. We fight among ourselves to be first in everything. And while we are doing all this, we fail to notice the sufferings of those around us. Even our closest friends and family. This is precisely what we see happening to the disciples in the gospel. The reading begins from verse 35. In the earlier verses–from 32 to 34–Jesus had been telling his disciples that he would soon to be handed over to the scribes and Pharisees, who would have him tortured and killed. Jesus–their Lord and Master, their close companion and friend–tells the disciples about all the terrible things that will soon befall him. All the horrible suffering he will have to undergo. But the disciples offer the Lord no sympathy or consolation. Their only response is to start arguing about who among them is the greatest.

Unlike the disciples, however, God is painfully aware of the sufferings of each one of us. Especially the sufferings that result from our failure to realise just how much God really loves us. In response to our need, God sends his Son among us on a mission. To convince us of God’s love for us. To do this, Christ crosses the boundary between heaven and earth, between God and humanity. Even to the extent of sharing in our temptations and our sufferings. As the second reading tells us, in Christ, we have a high priest who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. And the first reading states that Christ was crushed with suffering in order to justify many, to justify us, by taking our faults on himself.

This, sisters and brothers, is what the mission of Christ looks like. This is the mission that we are all called to share. The mission to help others to experience the love of God. And we don’t always have to go abroad to do this. For isn’t it true that Singapore too is mission territory? Isn’t it true that, as rich as some Singaporeans may appear to be, there are still many people here who need our help? We may think, for example of the many migrant workers among us. Not just the professionals, with whom we may compete for the jobs we like, but especially the blue-collar labourers, who do the work that locals are unwilling to do. Building our flats, scrubbing our toilets, cleaning our cars. Workers who are often victimised by employers who are unscrupulous, or even a little crazy. As much as the suffering people overseas, these strangers among us need to experience God’s love in real and tangible ways too. Is it not our mission to reach out to them as well? To speak up for them, when their rights are denied? Even to somehow share in their sufferings and pain, as Christ shared in our own?

And it’s not just the materially poor who need our attention. What about the many local children who struggle to cope with the pressures of school and of growing up? What about the adults, who feel burdened by the demands of work and family. People who are lonely and depressed. Who experience a deep hunger for God without even realising it. We don’t have to go far to meet these people. They are all around us. In our workplaces. In our neighbourhoods. Sometimes even in our own homes.

Sisters and brothers, we don’t always need to cross international borders to reach out to those in need. But we do have to cross a crucial boundary within ourselves. The boundary between competition and sharing, between indifference and caring, between selfishness and love.

Sisters and brothers, on this World Mission Sunday, is it perhaps time for us–for you and for me–to take a missionary stay-cation today?


  1. Perhaps, we should also ask ourselves if we are willing to take up our own cross with pride. Most people, although they are Chrisitians, tends to hide away the crosses/cruicifixes on their neck. Why did they do this?.. Afraid that they may receive enquiries on their religion? Or they just don't feel comfortable that they are a believable of Christ?

    When I saw how people tried to get so competitive even on their missionary work, I felt sadden. It is either they fell insecure or they want to let people aware that they are the "Seniors" in this area. They have totally defeat their main intentions as a missionary.

    We are supposed to convey God's love for each and everyone of us to the unbelievers. To show them how great our God is, and how our Christianity Faith can bring comfort and charity to the needies. Missionary work and evangelisation are meant to be full of love and charity, not superstitious or imaginations to scare away the enquirers.

    Remember the hymn: Ubi Caritas

    WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
    Christ's love has gathered us into one.
    Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
    Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
    And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

    We are to love each other with a sincere heart. Not a superficial one. Two days ago, my nephew asked me, "Aunty, is Jesus real?" I looked at him with love, and told him, "Yes of course, He is real. He was born way, way before than anybody on this earth."

    1. Indeed, it is very sad and painful to see around us the (subtle) rivalry, competition and powerplay - in a parish ministry and this is probably prevalent in any parish...and all these rivalry etc has discouraged some sincere people from coming forward to serve God in the Church...

      Yet, when we serve God for His Greater Glory, let us strive to FOCUS on the LORD of the works and not on the works of the people (the games they play etc)..

      Let us constantly ask ourselves this question "WHO are we serving?"

      If we serve God and God alone, then, GOD will show us what to do and how best to stay close to HIMSELF and focus on seeking only HIS WILL.

    2. Psalm 120 says:
      I shall lift my eyes to the hills: where is my help to come from?
      My help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
      He will not let your foot slip: he will not doze, your guardian.
      Behold, he will not doze or sleep, the guardian of Israel.
      The Lord is your guardian, the Lord is your shade;
      he is at your right hand.
      By day the sun will not strike you; nor the moon by night.
      The Lord will guard you from all harm; the Lord will guard your life.
      The Lord will guard your coming and your going
      both now and for ever.

  2. Thanks be to God for Psalm 120.

    Indeed, how true it is - that God is present to protect us always.

    "He will not let your foot slip........
    The Lord is your guardian, the Lord is your shade;
    He is at your right hand.
    By day the sun will not strike you, nor the moon at night...
    The Lord will guard you from all harm, the Lord will guard your life".

    May GOD PRESENT in HIS WORD (& in Scriptures) touch and heal our broken hearts, often wounded and so much in need of a healing touch which only God can provide.

    Deo Gratias.


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