Sunday, May 18, 2014

Disturbances for Dwelling-Places (Rerun)

5th Sunday of Easter (A)

Pictures: cc Andy Roberts

Sisters and brothers, do you like disturbances? I don’t. I like peace and quiet. I like it when my home is neat and tidy. When everything is in its proper place. When my routine is un-disrupted. I don’t like it, for example, when I enter the restroom and find that the toilet roll has been used up and nobody has bothered to replace it. Disruptions like that are inconvenient. I don’t like them. Sometimes I wish that there were no disturbances in my life.

But it’s important for someone like me to remember that disturbances may be not always be a bad thing. Sometimes they are even necessary. Think of this beautiful worship space of ours, for example. Think of how and why it came to be built. Some of us may still remember how we felt when the beloved old church was torn down. Not that many years ago. We may also remember the disruption we had to endure when this new church was being built. For many weekends we had to worship in the parish hall. And, here on this spot, where once there stood a House of God, there was in its place only the noise and dust of construction.

Why did we put ourselves through such inconvenience? Was it because we like disturbance? No. One of the reasons we did so was because our community was growing in number, and the old church could no longer accommodate everyone comfortably. We chose to endure the disturbance of construction so that we could make space for more people.

Enduring disruption to make room for others. This is also what we find in our first reading today. While the earlier chapters of the Acts of the Apostles tell us about how peaceful and united the early Christian community was, today, in chapter 6, we find a disturbance. The Greek-speaking Jewish Christians are complaining that their widows are being left out of the daily distribution of food. What to do?

Well, if the apostles were as allergic to disturbances as I am, they might have been tempted to do nothing. They might have said something like: We are very busy people. We have been chosen by God to preach the Good News. Don’t bother us with such trivial matters. But, thankfully, the apostles are not like me. They don’t say such things. Instead, they take the trouble to re-structure, to renovate, the whole community. They commission a group of new leaders to take care of those whose needs have been neglected. The apostles, and the rest of the community, choose to endure disturbance so as to make room for others.

Of course, in the first reading, unlike us, the apostles are not constructing a new building. A physical structure. But still, in a very real way, they are building up the church. In the words of the second reading, the early Christians are allowing themselves to be living stones making a spiritual house. Through their willingness to endure disturbance so as to make space for those in need, they are making spiritual sacrifices. They are building upon the foundation, the cornerstone, that is Jesus Christ. They are doing what Jesus himself does in the gospel.

Today we read from chapter 14 of John’s gospel. The scene is the Last Supper. Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet. Judas has just left the room to betray his Master. Soon, in chapter 18, Jesus will be arrested and sentenced to death. But before that happens, here in chapter 14, Jesus delivers his long farewell speech. He comforts his disciples and explains to them his reason for leaving them. Do not let your hearts be troubled, he tells them. There are many rooms in my Father’s house.... After I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too. With a heart filled with love, Jesus goes to his Passion. He endures the disturbance of the Cross. So as to make room for us in his Father’s house.

But that’s not all. In addition to telling us the reason for his departure, Jesus also tells us how to follow him. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, he says. No one can come to the Father except through me. In order to arrive at the dwelling places that Jesus has prepared for us, we need to do for others what he himself has done for us. Like the early Christians in the first reading, we need to be willing to endure disruption, in order to make space for others. First of all, of course, to make space in our lives for the Lord himself. To make sure that we turn to him in prayer everyday. Bringing to him our concerns. And also allowing him to make known his concerns to us. The things he wants us to do. The people he wishes us to help.

For even as we busy ourselves with our own daily routines, the Lord continues to invite each of us to reach out in some way to those who have been left out. People who desperately need others to allow themselves to be disturbed in some way. Just so that the needy may have more space to live. More room to breathe. Definitely, we may think of people who need material help. But there are also those who require emotional support. Or even spiritual companionship. People who need us to lend a helping hand. To share a caring word. To offer a heartfelt prayer...

Just yesterday, I happened to spend some time with a bunch of Catholic young adults, who had gathered at our spirituality centre for a conference organised by Caritas Singapore. What were these young people doing? Whiling away the better part of a precious Saturday at a Catholic conference. Listening to others talk about the needs of the poor in Singapore and beyond. These admirable young people had chosen to endure disturbance, in order to make space in their hearts and their lives for others. Especially those most in need. Those most easily forgotten.

During the course of the proceedings yesterday, I found myself much moved by something that one of the participants shared. He talked about how he, a young adult in his twenties, had come to join the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. An organisation whose members’ average age is probably around sixty or more. The young man spoke of how, while doing full-time National Service, he had visited the elderly father of another NSman. The old man had suffered a stroke. Was barely able to talk. Or to walk. And unable to pay his medical bills. It was a sight that our young participant had never seen before. It broke my heart, he said. And from that moment, that generous young man became determined to do whatever he could to reach out to the poor in Singapore. He decided to allow himself to be disturbed, so as to make room for others.

Sisters and brothers, especially in this joyous season of Easter, we continue to celebrate the willingness of Christ our risen Lord to suffer disturbance for our sakes. To make room for us in the halls of heaven. How are we being invited, in our turn, to make room for others, in our world and in our church, in our hearts and in our lives today?


  1. Dear Risen Lord,

    Thank you for allowing the many restless moments in my life -

    Thank you for disturbing the peace in my heart and in my life, just so that You can enter into my life more deeply - that I may GROW in You. .

    Lord, May I learn to co-operate with You to rise above every disturbance/unrest which You allow to come my way.

    May I learn to let You be God in my life and to surrender my will and my plans over to You.

    Lord my heart is restless until it rest in You.

    Please convert and transform all my unrest/dis-ease (moments of restlessness and lack of inner peace) into Your Joy, Your Light and closer walk with You. Amen.

    Seeing Is Believing
    18 May 2014

  2. Dear Fr Christopher

    I appreciate your reflection very much for the simple but effective way in which you help us reflect on our own lives and how we all need to be instruments of the Lord. God bless and I hope you would do daily reflections too. Thank you.

    1. Hello,

      Not sure if you've noticed, but Fr Chris has daily reflections on our current cycle of readings in the archive on this blog - check the 2008 entries, which you can access on the right frame (scroll down to see the links to the archive). For example, reflection on today's readings (Friday) is here:

      Happy reading!