Monthly Archives: May 2011

Tuesday, 31 May – Why We Do What We Do

31 May – Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This day is called the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary because on it Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, whom, as the angel had told her, God had blessed with a son in her old age.

– Patron Saint Index
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Romans 12:9-16

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.
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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
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Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit

People who work hard for a certain cause very often experience burnout, especially so if they do not take care of themselves. I was like that too, and in certain ways still am. When I joined the financial planning industry, I was astonished at the number of motivational talks and workshops that are held for financial planners.

I soon came to realise that many financial planners also face burnout especially when the results that they are getting are dismal compared to the amount of effort they are putting in. That’s when I came to realise the reason for the number of motivational talks. The industry, recognising the high attrition rate, does what it can to motivate its people regularly. One common thread running through all the motivation talks I have attended was the constant reminder of the purpose of being in the financial planning industry, that is, to help people make educated and informed decisions about their personal finances.

This is one of the reasons why I chose this profession. I recognised that I lack motivation in life, and attending these talks and sessions will be helpful for me to keep me motivated and grounded in the work that I do.

In today’s first reading, St. Paul writes to the Romans and encourages them to work with untiring effort. How is this possible? We know that when we are high in the spirits, such as after attending a retreat or a LISS seminar, we are willing to take on lots of work for the Lord. But as time passes, we are burdened by these commitments and eventually burn out. How is it possible then for us to work for the Lord with untiring effort? We need an unending source of motivation to lift our spirits. What is this source?

The gospel reading tells us this source. When Mary visited her cousin, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy, for he was in the presence of the mother of the Lord who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled. We often think that Joseph (and Elizabeth) leapt for joy because Jesus was present, but the text actually tells us that it was Mary, not Jesus, who made them leap for joy. This was their motivation – that in their presence was someone who believed in the promises of the Lord and through her actions, God’s promises were to be fulfilled.

What is the source of your motivation in life? What keeps you going? What keeps you working hard? Is it your family? Your loved ones? Your belief in God? The promise of eternal life with God?

Very often, when we are feeling burned out and depressed, it is because we have lost sight of the purpose of why we do what we do. To minimise their effects on us, it is good to write down our purpose, our goals, and let these motivate us when we are feeling down. It doesn’t prevent us from feeling depressed when things aren’t going our way, but it sure helps us get out of the dumps by focusing our attention on why we do what we do.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for clarity of mind and heart whenever we seek to do Your will in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the people who remind us of our purpose and goals in life.

Upcoming Readings:
Wed, 01 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15; Memorial for St Justin, Martyr
Thu, 02 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Fri, 03 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 18:9-18; John 16:202-23; Memorial for Ss Charles Lwanga & Companions, Martyr
Sat, 04 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 18:23-28; John 16:23-28
Sun, 05 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11; Seventh Sunday of Easter; World Communication Sunday

Monday, 30 May – Open My Heart

30 May
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Acts of the Apostles 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.
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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.

‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’
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The Spirit of Truth will be my witness

At the recent Prayer retreat I attended in April this year, it was very difficult to hear Jesus. There was spiritual warfare the week before the retreat and it was a struggle for me. It was only on the 2nd day of the retreat did I realise what was the cause of my inability to experience Jesus. As we were praying in silence, emotions of fear, anger, bitterness, uncertainty all surfaced up for me. I realised too that I have always been asking Jesus for things, but very seldom I took the time to listen to Him. I saw how self-centred, selfish and broken I was in front of HIM, yet He continues to love me unconditionally. It was really humbling facing this truth and I lifted the entire situation to Him. My heart was open and I saw how He worked through me for the rest of the retreat.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but to share how the Lord has worked in our life. In the first reading, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart and she accepted what Paul was saying. She wanted Paul to stay in home so that she could sit at his feet and hear more about Jesus. She would have probably invite more people to meet Paul and to listen him testify about the Lord.

In the Gospel, we are reminded that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to be with us. When we are filled with the Spirit by his grace, we want to know more about the Lord. We want to be in fellowship with others. We have so much to share and to learn from each other – not only those who have walked with the Lord for a long time, but also those for whom the good news is brand new.

Are you ready to open your heart to the Lord? Are you ready to experience the joy and love He has for you? In child-like faith, ask Him to show you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Patricia Ang)
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Prayer: Lord, fill us with your grace and love. Use us as an instrument for your glory. Bless us abundantly so that we can be a blessing to others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for loving us unconditionally and moulding us in your likeliness.

Upcoming Readings:
Tue, 31 May – Zephaniah 3:14-18 or Romans 12:9-16; Luke 1:39-56; Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Wed, 01 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15; Memorial for St Justin, Martyr
Thu, 02 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Fri, 03 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 18:9-18; John 16:202-23; Memorial for Ss Charles Lwanga & Companions, Martyr
Sat, 04 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 18:23-28; John 16:23-28
Sun, 05 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11; Seventh Sunday of Easter; World Communication Sunday

Sunday, 29 May – The Inner Voice

29 May – Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Spirit of Truth
We celebrate the coming of Christ’s Spirit of truth on the Church, the source of the Church’s proclamation of the Christian message to the world.

– The Sunday Missal
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Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17

Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
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1 Peter 3:15-18

Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring. And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.

Why, Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.
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John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you for ever,
that Spirit of truth
whom the world can never receive
since it neither sees nor knows him;
but you know him,
because he is with you, he is in you.
I will not leave you orphans;
I will come back to you.
In a short time the world will no longer see me;
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.
On that day you will understand that I am in my Father
and you in me and I in you.
Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’
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He will give you another Advocate

Silence is golden. It is only recently did I discover the impact of this statement. Spending some quiet moments daily allows me to hear the inner voice more clearly. I am able to see how the small things that happen daily are by the grace of God. Take for instance, though at times I am tired of my mum’s nagging, I see the unconditional love that she has for me, the way she takes care of me. Last week when I fell sick and coughing badly, she boiled soup and bought cough drops for me. Meals prepared were filled with tender loving care. Whenever I travel, mum will ensure I have all the sufficient stuff – medicine, currency, clothes etc. When I was having communication issues with my friend, the Lord showed me a book “Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti”. In that book, it showed me where I need to grow and have a better understanding of how men and women deal with issues in life. Through the daily reflections from Fr William Goh, I am able to hear and understand the bible better. At times the voice even addresses the issues in my life.

In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us if we love him, we will keep his commandments. He assures us that he and the Father are one. Whoever loves Jesus, will be loved by the Father too. Hence Jesus loves us and will show himself to those who love him. This is done through us grace and by the Holy Spirit. When we sanctify Jesus in our hearts, we are confessing that our lives are no longer our own. We belong to him. We are telling him that we are telling him that we intend to love him daily by our words and actions.

Will there be any difference if we put Jesus in our lives? Will you be more peaceful? Will you be aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Will you be able to say no to temptations?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Patricia Ang)
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Prayer: Lord, fill us with your grace and love. Use us as an instrument for your glory. Bless us abundantly so that we can be a blessing to others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for loving us unconditionally and moulding us in your likeliness.

Upcoming Readings:
Mon, 30 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:11-15; John 15:15:26-16:4
Tue, 31 May – Zephaniah 3:14-18 or Romans 12:9-16; Luke 1:39-56; Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Wed, 01 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15; Memorial for St Justin, Martyr
Thu, 02 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Fri, 03 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 18:9-18; John 16:202-23; Memorial for Ss Charles Lwanga & Companions, Martyr
Sat, 04 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 18:23-28; John 16:23-28
Sun, 05 Jun – Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11; Seventh Sunday of Easter; World Communication Sunday

Saturday, 28 May – Rejection For My Faith

28 May
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Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.
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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’
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My choice withdrew you from the world

Whenever I say grace before my meals in public, especially in front of my colleagues, I always feel out of place. Some of them would stop eating and wait for me. Others might continue what they’re doing but no longer speak as freely until I am done. Only after I’m finished, will there be a sense of relief on their part (and mine) that the “awkward moment” has passed.

Saying grace is merely one of the many examples in which I have felt out of place being a Catholic. There are many times when I have wished I could go along with the crowd and accept popular values. I wish I could accept cohabitation so that friends of mine who are cohabitating do not think I reject them, and thereby distant themselves from me, just because I reject such a lifestyle. There are so many times when I wished I was not a Catholic so that I could laugh with the crowd, agree with them, and be embraced by them.

The fact is I do have a choice. I can reject my Catholic beliefs and identity to blend into the secular world if I want to. I can be embraced by the crowd if I want to. But I don’t want to do this and it’s not because I’m afraid that God will punish me if I do. I don’t want to because I believe that the teachings in my faith are truths that will liberate me and lead me to the fullness of life that my heart seeks. I have tasted this liberation and life whenever I have chosen to die to myself and follow these teachings, increasing my conviction in their veracity.

Yet, this does not mean that the journey is easy. Every time I have to acknowledge my Catholic identity and uphold my faith, I experience rejection from others. Some reject me because they simply reject anything “Catholic”. Some reject because they are unwilling to be challenged to move out of their comfort zone. Others reject unintentionally, where they reject because they equate disagreement as rejection.

Rejection is always painful; nonetheless, let us be comforted that continual rejection from the world serve as constant affirmations that we are with our God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help me to be encouraged that I am with you whenever I am away from the world.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for family and friends who do not reject us, even when they disagree with us.

Upcoming Readings:
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter

Friday, 27 May – Feeling Unsettled

27 May – Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop

Augustine (d. 605) was a monk and abbot of St. Andrew’s abbey in Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great with 40 brother monks, including St. Lawrence of Canterbury to evangelize the British Isles in 597. Before he reached the islands, terrifying tales of the Celts sent him back to Rome in fear, but Gregory told him he had no choice, so he went. He established and spread the faith throughout England; one of his earliest converts was King AEthelberht who brought 10,000 of his people into the Church.

He was ordained a bishop in Gaul (modern France) by the Archbishop of Arles. He became Bishop of Canterbury, and was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. He helped re-establish contact between the Celtic and Latin churches, though he could not establish his desired uniformity of liturgy and practices between them. He worked with St. Justus of Canterbury. The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury are still referred to as occupying the Chair of Augustine.

– Patron Saint Index
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Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.
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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’
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Unsettled your minds

Lately, I have been so consumed with my studies and placements that I have not spent much time with my mother. This has resulted in feelings of guilt and worries that she might be unhappy with me. Yet, I was unaware that I was living in this constant state of guilt and worries. All I knew was that I felt unsettled and was thereby easily irritated and unhappy.

Just a few days ago, my mum kissed me out of the blue and said, “You’re such a lovely daughter. I love you.” This gesture took me by surprise as I had not articulated my insecurities to her. Yet, there she was affirming me of how she delighted in me and loved me. What also surprised me was how I instantly felt a sense of peace and relief wash over me. It was as if something in my chest and mind had been lifted, as if someone had pressed the “reset” button and my irritation and tension dissolved. It was only then that I became aware that my unsettled state was caused by insecurities of how she felt about me.

In today’s first reading, the people in Antioch were also unsettled. Just as how I was insecure of whether or not I was pleasing and “doing enough” in my mother’s eyes, perhaps they too were insecure about whether they were pleasing and “doing enough” in the Apostles eyes. Just as how my mother’s affirmation brought me relief, peace and encouragement, they too were delighted and encouraged upon receiving the letter from the apostles.

My brothers and sisters, when people around you are irritated, grumpy, or negative, it might be that they too are unsettled by insecurities of where they stand in your eyes. Will you attack and reject them for being in that state? Or will you look beyond how they are behaving and encourage them with your love?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Father, help me to be generous and charitable in encouraging others.

Thanksgiving: Thank You, Lord, for showing us in your quiet ways that love is not something that is earned, but is a gift that is freely given and received. Help us to love freely.

Upcoming Readings:
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter

Thursday, 26 May – Avoiding Pain

26 May
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Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.

‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’
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John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’
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If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.

I am a person who believes that if I am going to do something, I must do it to the best of my ability, if not I rather not do it at all. In psychology, we call this an “all-or-nothing thinking”. Such a mentality applies to almost everything I do and has brought much success in my life. It has driven me and thereby enabled me to achieve high distinctions in my studies. It has brought me much praise and recognition from people I’ve worked with because they know they can rely on me to deliver high quality work. It has enabled people, especially those with similar high standards, to trust and approve of me.

On the flipside, this mentality has also cost me. Since maintaining such high standards naturally require more time, I have grown impatient and intolerant of people interrupting my work. I have ignored the needs of my family many times and failed to devote time and been present to them. I am easily burnt out from work and thereby often feel angry, drained, and frustrated. I also procrastinate a lot because it is tiring to force myself to constantly maintain such high standards.

This mentality has also paid a price in my relationship with God. There are many times at mass when I struggle to concentrate and be present. I am there but my mind and my heart are not. I therefore think, “Since I am struggling so hard to pay attention, I might as well not try at all”. I give up fighting to be present at mass and instead choose to be a passive participator. This mentality not only impacts me at mass. As I read the verse above, I know that there is no way I can keep God’s commandments perfectly. Since I am doomed to fail, I might as well not even try to remain in His love.

Yet, where will this mentality get me? Sure, it protects me from feelings of failure. It protects me from feeling like I am not good enough to keep God’s commandments. But while I may avoid these negative feelings, I will also never experience that joy of being close to God. I will shut myself off from experiencing His personal love and care for me. I will not grow in intimacy in my relationship with Him.

I need to make a difficult choice. On one hand, I struggle to accept feelings of pain, failing, and rejection. Yet, I know that if I continue applying this mindset to avoid these feelings, I will never achieve a life that I truly desire: a life where I grow close and intimate to God and the people who matter to me. I need to make a choice for if I ignore this and keep doing what I have been doing, I will soon find myself protected from painful emotions but also detached from life (the people, values, and desires that truly matter).

What about you? Has my sharing made you uneasy? Why do you think this is so? What will you do? Will you ignore the uncomfortable feeling and continue living as you always have? Or will you sit with the discomfort in order to achieve what you really want in life?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want You. Even if I fail to remain in Your love constantly because it is impossible to keep your commandments perfectly, I rather have these occasional moments than none. Yet I am afraid of the pain of feeling like I am not good enough and the feelings of failure. Please help me.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who walk with and support us in challenging times.

Upcoming Readings:
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter

Wednesday, 25 May – Why Is God So Useless?

25 May – Memorial for St Bede the Venerable, Priest & Doctor of the Church; Memorial for St Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

– Patron Saint Index

Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

– Patron Saint Index

Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

– Patron Saint Index
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Acts of the Apostles 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.
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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’
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If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it.

The verse above frustrates me because there are some things in my life which I have asked for time and time again, yet have not received. Don’t I pray enough, God? Don’t I try to be mindful of your presence as much as possible? Don’t I have a heart that is increasingly like Your’s? Yet why is it that I have not received certain things that I want?

The questions above can be summarized as: Aren’t I doing enough to deserve what I want?

This mindset is similar to that of the eldest son in the parable of the prodigal son who bitterly told his father, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf’ (Luke 15: 28-30). Like him, I too work hard each day. Like him, I work so that I can deserve what I want. Like him, I am bitter that I have worked so hard and still I have not received it. Like him, I cry, “It’s not fair!”

The father’s response to his son was, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours”. What the father is telling his son is that he has not held back from giving everything to his son. He has not deliberately withheld something that the eldest son wants so that the eldest son will continue to strive to earn it. No. He has given everything.

It is comforting to know that similarly, God loves me and thereby does not withhold anything from me. Yet, I cannot help but also think, “Is this all He can do for me? It’s not good enough! I still don’t get what I really want! Why is my God so useless?”

Isn’t this the same mindset that the people who crucified Jesus had? They were seeking a Messiah who would bring them freedom, but specifically in the form of political freedom. However, when given a Messiah who offered them freedom not in the way they wanted but in an even more important and better form (i.e., spiritual freedom), they grew angry and rejected Him.

Like them, I too reject God because He does not deliver what I want, in the way I want it. Yet, perhaps like those who crucified Jesus, I too am blind to see that God is giving me what I want but He is delivering it in an even more important and better way.

I am blind and unable to see this right now. But I believe that if I continue to remain with God, one day I will see the verse above take flesh in an even more meaningful and important way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Father, You love me so much that You refuse to indulge me with all my petty and minute desires. Instead, You want to bless me with so much more. I am blind but help me remain with You so that one day, I will see.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for always wanting to give us even more than we can ever realize possible.

Upcoming Readings:
Thu, 26 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter

Tuesday, 24 May – Struggles To See God Daily

24 May
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Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.
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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
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They gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the pagans.

The line above strikes me because besides writing these reflections, I hardly share with others what God has done in my life. This is mainly because I struggle to find God in my daily living. After all, today is just like yesterday, and yesterday is just like the day before. I wake up, I rush to get ready for work/study, I try my best to fulfill as much as possible on my list of things to do, and then I go to bed feeling exhausted and preparing myself for the same meaningless day to repeat itself. I have tried to find God each day and there are times when I have succeeded. Mostly, however, I have failed. To avoid disappointment, I now hardly try.

Unlike me, it seems as though Paul and Barnabas find God in their daily lives with ease. The manner in which they shared with the church how God was with them and how they witnessed Him moving the hearts of the pagans makes me question why it is so easy for them to see God and so difficult for me?

Putting myself in their shoes, I think that I would only see God opening the door of faith to non-believers when I see the non-believers deeply moved by the spirit, motivated to embrace the faith, and wanting to become a Christian. Also, I think I will only be able to see God working in my life if He reveals Himself in either big and/or novel ways. Specifically, something unique or outside of my ordinary routines must happen before I acknowledge that God is present in my life.

Perhaps the reason why Paul and Barnabas could see God in all that they did was because they did not have the same standards/expectations as I do. Perhaps for them, having a non-believer sit down and listen to what they had to share (even if the non-believer did not express interest to become a Christian or to know God even more) was a sign to them that they were witnessing the early beginnings of faith for that particular individual. Perhaps Paul and Barnabas were able to see the beauty of God in ordinary and familiar routines, such as through how God took care of them by giving them food to eat each day.

I, on the other hand, have a tendency to overlook what is already present and seek more. Where once I yearned to be able to study psychology, now that I have achieved it, I easily take it for granted and concentrate my energy and time pursuing new goals that engage my interest. Where I am assured of my family’s love, I take them for granted and do not spend much time with them; choosing instead to chase goals that have yet to become realities in my life. However, all these blessings that I overlook and take for granted remain goals and wishes in some others’ lives.

If you, like me, struggle to find God in your daily life, let us take a moment to reflect on the “ordinary” blessings already present. Let us also notice the simple gestures of faith – we might not see faith manifested in concrete gestures (e.g., someone being baptized), but we will encounter the authentic faith of each person in their journey at this moment in time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Lord, change my heart so that instead of chasing endless goals, I will instead prefer to celebrate my life and the lives of others.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for those in life who are able to celebrate the simple and the ordinary.

Upcoming Readings:
Wed, 25 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:1-6; John 15:1-8; Memorial for St Bede the Venerable, Priest & Doctor of the Church; Memorial for St Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin
Thu, 26 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter

Monday, 23 May – Is Your Heart Opened Or Closed?

23 May
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Acts of the Apostles 14:5-18

Eventually with the connivance of the authorities a move was made by pagans as well as Jews to make attacks on the apostles and to stone them. When the apostles came to hear of this, they went off for safety to Lycaonia where, in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.

A man sat there who had never walked in his life, because his feet were crippled from birth; and as he listened to Paul preaching, he managed to catch his eye. Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Get to your feet – stand up’, and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the language of Lycaonia, ‘These people are gods who have come down to us disguised as men.’ They addressed Barnabas as Zeus, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him Hermes. The priests of Zeus-outside-the-Gate, proposing that all the people should offer sacrifice with them, brought garlanded oxen to the gates. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening they tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past he allowed each nation to go its own way; but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you: he sends you rain from heaven, he makes your crops grow when they should, he gives you food and makes you happy.’ Even this speech, however, was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.
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John 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

Judas – this was not Judas Iscariot – said to him, ‘Lord, what is all this about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.’
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Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured

I didn’t like the verse above when I first read it because it seemed to me that God only cured those who with faith. This bothered me as I felt that I am not a person who has “enough” faith. It therefore appeared that God would never cure me from my various struggles.

What, however, does having “enough” faith mean? What does having “enough” faith look like? Is it only people who pray daily who have “enough” faith? To me, it is. It is those who set aside time each day for the Lord who are the ones who have faith. It is those who can somehow “sense” God’s will who have faith. It is those follow God’s ways “perfectly” who have faith.

Based on my standards above, the crippled man from birth above did not have faith. After all, Paul’s preaching was his first encounter with the Lord. Yet, Paul saw faith in him. What is this faith that Paul saw? It was not faith based on the set of rituals and rules that I described. The faith that Paul saw was a heart that was open.

The crippled man’s heart was open to listen to Paul’s preaching and probably yearned for an experience of the resurrected God. As such, he was able to receive God into his heart and into his life. His physical healing represented his new life from God. Crippled from birth, he was now physically free to live and move in a way that he had never known was possible.

When I reflect on my relationship with God, there are many times when I have closed my heart to Him because I feel that I have not performed my “holy” rituals and rules. Yet, whenever I surrender, abandon all these preconditions that I have placed on our relationship, and simply ask Him to come to me as I am, I always experience my heart opening and a renewing of our relationship.

Like the crippled man in today’s first reading, you and I can experience a life that we have never known possible when our hearts are open to God. What is preventing your heart from being opened to the Lord today? Is it rules and rituals? Pride? Anger? Fear of the unknown? Comfort in a life of being away from Him? All of the above? Something else? Let us abandon whatever it is that blocks us and allow Jesus to enter into our hearts. Through Him, we will experience the freedom, joy, and abundance that we have never tasted.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Lord, I fear that when my heart is constantly open to You, You will keep hurting me by picking on me and telling me that whatever I do is “not good enough”. I surrender this wound to You today and ask You to heal me and set me free, as You have for my brother in today’s first reading. Amen.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for always wanting to give us a life that is even more abundant and full than we have ever experienced before.

Upcoming Readings:
Tue, 24 May – Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28; John 14:27-31
Wed, 25 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:1-6; John 15:1-8; Memorial for St Bede the Venerable, Priest & Doctor of the Church; Memorial for St Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin
Thu, 26 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, 22 May – Salvation

22 May – Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Spirit Of Truth
We celebrate the coming of Christ’s Spirit of truth on the Church, the source of the Churchs proclamation of the Chistian message to the world.

– The Sunday Missal
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Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.
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1 Peter 2:4-9

The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down. They stumble over it because they do not believe in the word; it was the fate in store for them.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
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John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and 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.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
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There are many rooms in my Father’s house

One of the things I struggle with is to trust that I will enter heaven. The fear that I may somehow do something wrong and end up in hell is so great that I find myself constantly striving to be the “good”. Whenever I pray, I strive to purify myself by seeking out areas in my life that are sinful so that God will forgive me, not think of me as a “proud Pharisee”, and I will eventually have a place in heaven. I keep putting myself down in front of God so that I will appear “humble” in His presence. After all, Jesus said that only the lowly will be exalted! Yet, this practice makes it hard for me to stay in God’s presence. I dislike praying more than I need to because it is so tiring and painful to keep putting myself down.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reassures His disciples to trust that He will get them to heaven; they do not have to worry about how to get there on their own. He tells them that He is preparing a room for each of them. On one hand, I can believe that there is such a room up there with my name on the door, carefully prepared by Jesus to include all my favourite things – comfortable pillows, baby colours on the walls, etc. On the other hand, I see this room as one that will somehow remain empty, because I will never be able to occupy it. Somehow, while I trust that Jesus will try to get me to heaven, I do not trust myself to follow Him because I know that my sinful nature will make me turn from God every now and then. If I happen to die in those moments when I turn from God, wouldn’t I then end up in hell? As I always tell my friends, “I trust God to lead, but I don’t trust myself to follow”.

Yet, reflecting on this attitude, I realize that I don’t really trust God to take me home. I place 50% of trust in God, and 50% in myself. God will do His part, but I will fail in mine. Is this really what trust is? A 50-50 equation? Doesn’t  trust require 100%? I trust God 100% in certain areas of my life, such as in how He will take care of me in this life regardless of what happens. I trust God to take care of me even if I don’t get the jobs I desire or if I end up lonely, rejected by everyone I love. Yet, I realize that I do not trust God to lead me home to Him.

What about you? Do you trust that Jesus is preparing a room for you – based on your preferences and idiosyncratic ways? Do you trust that He will lead you into that room? If you, like me, struggle to trust, let us together pray for the grace to surrender this area of our lives to God. The alternative is that we will continue to be our own god in this area of our life, carefully planning our own way to heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
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Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I surrender my life after my physical body has passed away to You. I trust in Your love for me, to bless and care for me more than I can ever fathom.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for revealing our deep seated fears in order to heal us.

Upcoming Readings:
Mon, 23 May – Acts of the Apostles 14:5-18; John 14:21-26
Tue, 24 May – Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28; John 14:27-31
Wed, 25 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:1-6; John 15:1-8; Memorial for St Bede the Venerable, Priest & Doctor of the Church; Memorial for St Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin
Thu, 26 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter