Spiritual Talk

【Spiritual Talk】Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Anthony Ho

The liturgical colour for this Sunday's Mass is green. Now that the Christmas season has ended and Lent has yet to come, it is Ordinary Time and green represents growth and hope. The Gospel reading is John 1:29-34 - after baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist calls Him the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. The Baptist came from a priestly family, so his words have a priestly tone. During the Passover, the lamb commemorated the rescuing of the Jewish people from slavery; Jesus was the lamb of the new Passover who would rescue humanity from slavery to sin. The Old Testament lamb was slaughtered every morning and evening in the Temple to enable the repentance and forgiveness of the people. But Jesus alone is able to forgive sins through His Precious Blood and the Prophet Isaiah describes the suffering servant as a lamb offered to death. During Mass, we also call Jesus the Lamb of God before Communion, reminding us of His Presence in the Eucharist.
Publish date: 2020 - 1 - 18

【Spiritual Talk】Baptism of the Lord – Fr. Anthony Ho

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord, which commemorates Jesus' revelation to the Jews, as opposed to His revelation to the Gentile Magi at the Epiphany and to His apostles at the Marriage at Cana. Jesus' baptism appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but only Matthew records the dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus before the baptism. Originally, John was not willing to baptize Jesus and said Jesus ought to baptize him since he knew his lowliness before Jesus. But Jesus permitted it anyways to fulfill all things. Matthew's Gospel mentions the word "fulfill" many times, meaning to fulfill the Old Testament. He describes angels, magi, John, even God the Father testifying to Jesus' identity and mission. The Holy Spirit descends as a dove on Jesus' head, while God the Father says, "This is my son in whom I am well pleased." The descent of the Holy Spirit reminds us of the Spirit of God moving above the waters in Genesis and of the dove sent above the floods by Noah - both times representing the new beginning of the world. Jesus' baptism is a new beginning and the end of the Christmas season. Our baptism is also a new beginning and gives us a new birth.
Publish date: 2020 - 1 - 11

【Spiritual Talk】Feast of the Epiphany – Fr. Anthony Ho

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of three wise men from the East who followed a star to worship Jesus and give Him gifts, as recorded in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12. Normally, this feast is celebrated on January 6th, but in some countries such as Canada, this day is not a public holiday, so it is celebrated on the nearest Sunday instead. Some people have attempted to explain the star's appearance with natural means, but the star stopped above Jesus, so this is very difficult. More people use the Jewish tradition to explain the star as an angel, just as an angel lead the Jewish people to the Promised Land. When the three wise men arrived at the house of the baby and His mother, they did not merely kneel but also prostrated themselves, a sign of worship. In Jerusalem, the chief priests and the scribes did not worship Jesus, but only foreigners did. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which were the first fruits of the Gentiles and showed Jesus as true God and true man. The early Church fathers admired the wise men's faith: although their physical eyes saw a baby, their eyes of faith saw God, and that is why they prostrated themselves and offered gifts. As faithful Catholics, our physical eyes see the Blessed Sacrament as bread, but our eyes of faith see God, hence why we kneel and offer up spiritual gifts.
Publish date: 2020 - 1 - 4

【Spiritual Talk】- The Feast of the Holy Family

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. The Gospel reading is from Matthew 2:13-23, which describes the Holy Family's flight into Egypt to escape King Herod the Great's proclamation that all male children under the age of two be killed. This was foretold by the Pharoah's proclamation in the Book of Exodus that all male Jewish children be killed. At that time, only Moses was saved by the princess who rescued him from the water; now, only Jesus was saved by Joseph who brought Him into Egypt. Moses and Jesus both played the role of saviour: Moses saved his people from slavery, while Jesus saved both His people and the entire world from slavery to sin. When Herod died, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to return to the Holy Land. In fact, the Joseph of the New Testament shares many similarities with the Joseph of the Old Testament: both were dreamers, both had fathers named Jacob, and both were persecuted by a king and his brothers respectively. The Holy Family later moved to Nazareth, a small town whose population numbered no more than 480 people at the time. Joseph led a humble life there as a carpenter, teaching us the road to sanctity: to perform well our duty to pray and work in front of the Child Jesus, and in doing so grow with Him.
Publish date: 2019 - 12 - 28

【Spiritual Talk】Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)

This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and the Gospel reading is from the Gospel of Matthew 1:18-25, which talks about Mary's betrothal to Joseph. To the Jews, betrothal was different from our modern-day engagement: the betrothed were already considered husband and wife, but the wife would continue living with her parents for another year before fulfilling the marital oath and moving in with her husband. When Mary was found to be pregnant, she had not yet lived with Joseph. Under the Mosaic law, married persons discovered to have committed adultery were to be stoned to death but the Jews were under Roman rule, so they were unable to execute death sentences and oftentimes just enacted divorces instead. There are two ways to explain Joseph's motivations for wanting to divorce Mary: (1) he knew that he was not the child's father and suspected that Mary was unfaithful yet he did not want to expose Mary to shame, so he decided to divorce her quietly; (2) he had always known that the Messiah would be born of a virgin and never suspected Mary of infidelity but felt himself unworthy to be adoptive father of the Messiah and hence wanted to divorce her. Regardless, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him that he was a descendant of David and that the child came from God, so he ought not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The angel also told Joseph to name the child Jesus, indicating that the child would inherit the line of David. Since the name Jesus means "God saves" and Jesus would save men from sin, it also indicated that Jesus was God. At the time, many Jews expected a political Messiah to free them from Roman rule, unlike Jesus, who came to free people from sin.
Publish date: 2019 - 12 - 21

【Spiritual Talk】Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) – Fr. Anthony Ho

This weekend, the Church celebrates the third Sunday of Advent; the liturgical colour is the colour of joy, rose pink, unlike the colour of penance, purple. Advent has already passed the midway point and Christmas is fast approaching. Today's Gospel reading is Matthew 11:2-11; St. John the Baptist needs more evidence to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, so he asks Him directly and Jesus responds that the blind can see, the crippled can walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf can hear, the dead are risen, and men have received the good news. He also says blessed is the one who does not stumble because of me. St. John was familiar with Scripture, so he understood that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Jesus then illustrated the Baptist's role and asked the crowds why they had come: was it to see a prophet? Jesus explained that John was the greatest of all men born to women, but even the smallest in the Kingdom of Heaven was greater than him. Through baptism, we become children of God and temples of the Holy Spirit.
Publish date: 2019 - 12 - 14

【Spiritual Talk】Second Sunday of Advent (Year A) – Fr. Anthony Ho

Apart from Jesus and Mary, Advent has a third important character: St. John the Baptist. In this Sunday's Gospel reading, the Gospel of Matthew 3:1-12, the Baptist proclaims the Kingdom of God is near and calls the people to repent. The term "Kingdom of God" is very important in Matthew's Gospel and appears 51 times. The Baptist wears a shirt of camel's hair and a leather belt, just like the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Apart from their similarity in clothing, the two men also opposed an evil king and were persecuted for it. They also prepared the way for another prophet: Elijah for Elisha, the Baptist for Jesus. And both Elisha and Jesus would heal lepers and raise the dead. Also, both men transmitted their missions at the Jordan River: Elijah was received into Heaven and passed his mission to Elisha; St. John baptized Jesus and made way for His greater mission. The baptism of John prepared the way for the baptism of Christ, which remits sins and makes people into temples of God and members of the Church.
Publish date: 2019 - 12 - 7

【Spiritual Talk】First Sunday of Advent (Year A) – Fr. Anthony Ho

The season of Advent is just before Christmas and reminds us of Jesus's Second Coming in glory. Today's Sunday reading is from Matthew 24:36-44. In the days of Noah, the people did not know God was about to punish them with a flood, so they continued conducting business, eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. But when the rains came, all but Noah's family perished in the flood. Noah was not resigned to his fate, but was obedient to God and avoided the floods. The coming of the Son of God will also be sudden and many will be frightened, just as a thief comes in the night. And when the master of the house awakens the next morning to find his treasured possessions stolen, how pitiful will that scene be! So we must be vigilant and prepare instead of wasting our time trying to predict when Jesus will come.
Publish date: 2019 - 11 - 30

Fr. Ho talks about the Sixth to Tenth Commandment

The Sixth Commandment is "Thou shalt not commit adultery"; it calls us to purity in word and action. The Seventh Commandment is "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife"; it calls us to purity in thought. Sex is sacred, because it creates life, which is sacred - sex has no place outside the marital covenant. We often treat others as objects to use and fulfill our own desires. A saint once said that it is impossible to dialogue with someone with impure thoughts, for one would lose internal peace. We mustn't only avoid sinning, but also the occasions of sin. Positively, we can receive help from the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Confession. Negatively, we should avoid idleness, which can lead us to temptation. The Seventh Commandment is "Thou shalt not steal", the Eight Commandment is "Thou shalt not bear false witness", and the Tenth Commandment is "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods". All three concern justice towards our neighbour's reputation and property. We mustn't gossip or speak carelessly, or else we will steal others' reputations. Lying is usually a venial sin, but becomes a mortal sin once it severely harms another's reputation or leads them to sin.
Publish date: 2019 - 11 - 23

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the Fifth Commandment

The Fifth Commandment is "Thou shalt not kill": we must not needlessly cause or risk the harm or death of ourselves or other people, both physically and spiritually. When we cause another to commit a venial sin or a mortal sin, we cause them spiritual harm and death respectively. Oftentimes, we use people as tools for personal benefit instead of using tools to benefit people. We have no right to destroy human life, because God created us each with an eternal soul - we reflect the glory of God which gives us dignity no matter how weak we are. But when humans are extremely old or young, they are especially vulnerable to abuse - euthanasia in old age and abortion in young age. Western society is losing its respect for human life and becoming a culture of death, but pagan Mexico used to sacrifice humans to their gods and was eventually converted to Catholicism by Mary's apparition at Guadalupe as a pregnant woman.
Publish date: 2019 - 11 - 16

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the Fourth Commandment

The first Three Commandments concern loving God above all, while the Fourth through Tenth Commandments concern loving one's neighbours as oneself. The Fourth Commandment is "honour your father and mother" - we must love, respect, obey, and help our parents; we must avoid despising, disrespecting, disobeying, and not caring about them. Just as the Church calls us to respect other legitimate authorities placed over us, our parents are representatives of God in the family and He blesses us through them. There are some exceptions to this Commandment, such as when our parents ask us to commit a sin - in these cases, we must not obey for to do so would place them above God. We ought also to help our parents materially and spiritually, such as ensuring they receive the Sacraments before death and praying for them after they have died. Children have a special duty to obedience when they have not become adults yet. But as one becomes an adult, one takes up complete responsibility for their actions and is no longer bound to obey their parents but should still listen to their advice and respect them. Jesus too obeyed His parents for His first thirty years on earth, and then obeyed God the Father in His final three years.
Publish date: 2019 - 11 - 9

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the Third Commandment

The Third Commandment is to keep the Sabbath day holy. It calls us to attend Mass and avoid unnecessary work on Sunday in honour of the day Jesus rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles during Pentecost. Fr. Chu once told a story during a homily, saying that someone gave a beggar six of the seven coins in their pocket. The beggar hit the person, stole the seventh coin, and left. Oftentimes, Fr. Chu explained, we are like the ungrateful beggar. God gave us six days to do our work but we often ignore Him and even that seventh day we steal from Him. If we do our work, studies, and chores for God, then we can temporarily pause them to focus on God on Sunday. If we cannot even let go of these duties temporarily, then we have placed them above God and made them into idols. In certain circumstances, if there is no priest nearby or if one cannot step away from caring for someone, for example, it is impossible to attend Mass on Sunday. In these cases, one must increase personal worship of God. We have four reasons to attend Mass: adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and supplication. Sunday is a foretaste of Heaven, prevents us from being enamoured of the present life, and reminds us to place God first.
Publish date: 2019 - 11 - 2

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the Second Commandment

The Second Commandment is "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" - we can only use the name of God with veneration and good reason, not for cursing or making false oaths. Usually, using His name while swearing constitutes venial sin, but it can be a mortal sin if one blasphemes God. Likewise, it is venial sin to wish little misfortune on someone, but mortal sin to wish big misfortune. In certain circumstances, we must make oaths to affirm that we are speaking the truth, such as in court. To ensure we make good oaths, three conditions must be met: the oath must be necessary, one cannot lie during the oath, and one cannot make an oath to do evil. Oaths are our medicine for our lost trust in each other - they compensate for this defect in human nature and we only make them if necessary. Traditionally, making oaths unnecessarily is considered a venial sin but lying during an oath is a mortal sin. Vows are not merely promises to God, but constitute major duties to God, such as those professed by those in the religious life. Moreoever, because we must honour the name of God, we must also honour the names of His beloved saints. Neither is swearing acceptable, for just as we use the local language when travelling abroad, we must also use heavenly language if we wish to enter Heaven.
Publish date: 2019 - 10 - 26

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the worship of God

Superstition is a sin against the worship of God. Because our spiritual marriage to Him is exclusive, it is wrong to worship false gods and attribute God's power to created things. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were like an unfaithful woman, and worshipped foreign gods through the influence of neighbouring nations. Sacrilege is another sin against the worship of God, whereby one does not respect holy things. We must ensure that our sins are free of mortal sin before we receive the Eucharist, or else go to Confession first. We also ought not to trade in holy things, unless their price is set on other factors, such as their historical or material value. Catholics do not worship Mary, the saints, or the angels, but ask for their intercession before God on our behalf - this can be seen in the Mass liturgy, when sacrifice is offered to God alone. God gives us worldly blessings through other people, like our parents and teachers; He gives us spiritual blessings through our heavenly siblings so that we might experience membership in the heavenly family. To worship the saints and angels is a grave sin. And to pray before a holy statue or card is to pray to the person depicted, not to the statue or card itself. We ought to worship God through public liturgy and private prayer.
Publish date: 2019 - 10 - 19

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the First Commandments

The First Commandment includes having faith, hope, and worship in God. Hope is a supernatural virtue; it is the anticipation of attaining the glory of Heaven and the help of the grace of God. Against hope are two extremes: despair and presumption. When we despair, we abandon the possibility of forgiveness and when we are presumptuous, we claim to love God but do not follow up with actions. We can either do evil actions in the expectation that we have already been saved, or because we haven't done any egregiously evil actions claim that we are already saved. Presumption can fester in one's heart: either we grow complacent in living our faith over time or think we have no need to enter the Church because we are already good people. St. Thomas Aquinas taught us how to pray to be ensured of being saved by God: we must pray for (1) ourselves and (2) the things necessary for salvation, and to do so both (3) fervently and (4) diligently.
Publish date: 2019 - 10 - 5

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments teach us how to get to Heaven. Simply believing in Jesus is not enough, we must have a living faith. When we meditate on each Commandment, we can ponder the things they prescribe and forbid. The First Commandment is to love God above all, and it prescribes four things: to believe in, hope in, love, and worship God; and it forbids their opposites, namely: disbelief, despair, hate, and superstition. Faith requires that we learn God's revealed Truth to the best of our ability, firmly believe it, and openly proclaim it. If we lack understanding in anything, we must seek the help of others. Once, there was a monk who read a passage of the Bible for a long time but even after praying for understanding, still could not understand its meaning. He had just decided to ask a neighbouring monk for help when an angel appeared, praised his humility, and rewarded him by revealing the meaning of the passage to him. God sometimes reveals the truths of the faith through others; some saints have revealed that God makes His will known to lesser angels through greater angels. If faith is weak, it is often because we are proud and seek to control all knowledge in our heads. In our modern society, faith suffers innumerable attacks. We must increase our faith through prayer.
Publish date: 2019 - 9 - 28

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about commandments

Among the Ten Commandments, the first three concern loving God and the last seven concern loving your neighbour. Some command us to do things; these are positive commandments. Others forbid us from doing things; these are negative commandments. Positive commandments are to be followed in certain circumstances, but negative commandments hold at all times and places. There are three levels to assessing morality: (1) the object, (2) the intention, and (3) the circumstances. Some actions are objectively wrong and we cannot justify them with an intention to do good. An evil intention can make a good action evil, but neither can a good intention make an evil action good. Circumstances can modify the morality of an action; for example, performing evil in front of others increases the harm. We should strive to do good actions with good intentions under good circumstances.
Publish date: 2019 - 9 - 21

Spiritual Talk – Fr. Ho talks about purgatory

Purgatory is the destination of saved souls who did not have any unforgiven serious sins at the time of death but did not enter Heaven immediately. Before entering Heaven, they must undergo purifying suffering in reparation for their unforgiven small sins and forgiven serious sins. Some saints experienced Purgatory through private revelations and reported that it was as painful as Hell because they could not see God. But unlike the hateful and cursing souls in Hell, the souls in Purgatory were joyful and peaceful, because they knew their suffering would purify them to be with God forever. The amount of charity that we have at the time of death determines our eternal destination. Hence, the souls in Purgatory cannot increase their charity as the living still can. We can help the souls in Purgatory to reach Heaven by praying for them and offering up our works and sufferings so God can reduce their suffering. We can pray for their souls and they can pray for us in return.
Publish date: 2019 - 9 - 14

Fr. Ho talks about souls of humans

The souls of humans were created for God, hence our greatest joy on Heaven and Earth is to be with God. But to be in Heaven is also joyful because we can be with the angels, saints, and our loved ones. If our earthly friendship is a holy one, it will continue forever in Heaven. There is no perfect happiness on Earth – we are either disappointed because we cannot obtain what we desire or are disappointed once we obtain what we desire. In Heaven, we will have eternal desire but also eternal fulfillment. In Purgatory or Hell, the greatest pain is to temporarily or permanently lose God, who is our perfect happiness. Jesus graphically describes Hell as a place of worms, fire, and gnashing of teeth. On earth, we must choose our eternal destination.
Publish date: 2019 - 9 - 7

Fr. Ho talks about death and resurrection

Death is the separation of body and soul. Once a soul leaves the body, it is subject to particular Judgment. If it carries God’s grace at the time of death, it goes to Heaven; if it carries serious unrepented sin, it goes to Hell. There was a dentist in Colombia called Gloria Pola who got struck by lightning. She went into a coma and experienced her particular Judgment saw that she was going to Hell, but God gave her a second chance, because there was a poor farmer who prayed for her recovery. God told her to witness to the reality of Judgment and today, there are many videos online detailing her experience of Judgment. Resurrection, then, is the reunion of body and soul. If God can create our bodies from nothing, He can also raise them up on the last day. But the bodies of the good and wicked are different. Those of the good resemble the glorified body of Christ and possess: brightness, subtility, agility, and impassibility. That is, their bodies shine visibly, are not restricted by spatial constraints like walls, are not restricted by temporal constraints from travelling instantly, and are not restricted by sickness and death. The bodies of the wicked, on the other hand, are ugly and painful. After particular Judgment follows general Judgment, when individual verdicts will be universally proclaimed – all our thoughts, words, and actions will be revealed to the world. We ought to be careful about these things in this life because we’ll have to account for them to God. Oftentimes, people who want to escape their own actions will also deny the existence of God. If we are upset that injustice exists in our world, we will see it rectified at the general Judgment. If we have a clean conscience, then we have no reason to fear judgment. As Christians, we ought to anticipate the judgment with hope.
Publish date: 2019 - 8 - 31

Spiritual Talk – Fr. Ho talks about Saints

There are three kinds of saints recognized by the Church: Biblical saints, traditional saints, and ecclesiastical saints. Biblical saints lived in the time of the Bible, such as Mary and Joseph. Traditional saints were martyrs, monastics, Church Fathers, and missionaries who lived in the first millennium, before a canonization process existed, so their sanctity was recognized through the liturgy. After the first millennium, a canonization process was established to investigate the sanctity of candidates for recognition as saints. If the investigation begins, the candidate is known as a Servant of God. Once evidence of martyrdom or heroic sanctity is found, the candidate becomes a Venerable. If the candidate advances to become a Blessed, the local church or community will venerate them through the liturgy like a saint. If the candidate is a martyr, then they automatically become a Blessed; but if not, then evidence must be found that they are already in Heaven. That is, evidence of an intercessory miracle that defies natural explanation must be found. If their importance extends beyond the local church or community to the universal Church, as shown by their intercessory miracles, then the Pope can proclaim the candidate as a Saint. At this point, the universal Church will venerate them through the naming of Churches and mentioning them in the liturgy. The Church has dedicated different days to commemorate different saints who gave witness to God at different times and places, showing us that everyone can walk on the path to holiness through the grace of God.
Publish date: 2019 - 8 - 24

Fr. Ho talks about the Apostles’ Creed

The Catholic Church has two main creeds: the longer Nicene Creed and the shorter Apostles' Creed. The Apostles' Creed mentions "the communion of saints", which refers to how the Church is the mystical Body of Christ, whose life is the Spirit, flowing like blood and enabling the baptized to help each other. The members of this Body also include the saints in heaven too, who care for and pray for us. We can also pray for the souls in Purgatory and help them enter Heaven earlier. Our communion with other humans reflects the communion enjoyed by the Three Persons of the Trinity. Traditionally, the Church comprises of three parts: the souls in Heaven, known as the Church Triumphant; the souls in Purgatory, known as the Church Suffering; and the souls on Earth, known as the Church Militant. Furthermore, there are three categories of saints: Biblical, Traditional, and Ecclesiastical saints.
Publish date: 2019 - 8 - 17

Fr. Ho talks about the third mark of the Church – Catholicity

The third mark of the Church is its catholicity, a term that means "universal". Since the Catholic Church must endure until the end of the ages and proclaim the Gospel to all nations, the Church welcomes everyone, whether poor or rich, educated or uneducated, people from different ethnicities. As a result, the Catholic Church translates catechism texts in different languages and sends missionaries around the world. In the past, agricultural societies were largely illiterate, so old European churches are filled with stained glass instead. The fourth mark is its apostolicity; the priests and bishops of the Church are consecrated by preceding bishops. And if we read the Church fathers, people are often surprised to find that the early Church worshipped much in the same way as the Catholic Church today.
Publish date: 2019 - 8 - 10

【Spiritual Talk】 Fr. Ho talks about the four marks of the Catholic Church

The Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” – these are her four marks. She is one because she is led by the same Pope, believes in the same doctrine, and celebrates the same Sacraments. She is holy because her founder is Christ and her Pope is Christ’s Vicar on earth, teaches doctrine to sanctify people, and provides the means for people to become saints. The Church is, in a sense, a hospital: we are patients who can get better if we obediently listen to the doctors’ advice. But no one can force us – we have the freedom to disobey and hamper our recovery. In the Church, we see many faithful who have refused to live like Christ but also many who have, the saints. These lives of faithful witness show in a visible way the holiness of the Church.
Publish date: 2019 - 8 - 3