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.’
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.’
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)
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.
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