15 Apr – Second Sunday of Easter
We welcome Debbie to the OXYGEN Team:
Debbie is a woman who always knew her Belovedness, but frequently straddled the border between receiving her identity and giving up what she thought she could gain on earth. In the recent tussle, God won her over with his relentless pursuit. She comes from a small family in Singapore. She works in architecture, enjoys writing, and sitting in a good spot of sun to read – coffee within reach. In 2010, she started reading Oxygen through her good friend Jean (also a contributor) and toyed with the idea. Finally in taking this baby-step to write in the beginning of 2012, she hopes to discipline herself in the new habit of meditating and contemplating on His Word, and in doing so, nurture her relationship with Jesus Christ, as her Saviour, friend, and confidante.
Faith: Our Victory Over The World
We come together today like that first group of believers, united heart and soul, and celebrating our victory over the world through our faith in Christ, the Son of God.
- The Sunday Missal
Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35
The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.
The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.
None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.
1 John 5:1-6
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth.
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.
Have you sometimes found yourself thinking, “I wonder how true this person’s faith story is. Why does God seem to do such amazing wonders in others’ lives and yet not mine?” Naturally you soon found yourself doubting that God really answers prayers – perhaps your friend was reading too much into things, or just exaggerating. But if it were true, why does God hide Himself from me?
It seems that other than the tangible things of this material world, it is in our human nature to compare our ‘worth’ even when it comes to the intangible matter of faith. We cannot escape our worldly measures of what is considered good enough, and so, become trapped by our limited understanding of who God is and how God reveals His presence to us. Let us together be Thomas the Twin in today’s Gospel reading.
“How is it that my other brothers were honoured with the presence of our beloved Teacher who chose just the time to appear to them, when I had gone out to draw water for everyone? Was I not busy serving my brothers with this little sacrifice of mine? And look now how excited they sound – with annoying chatter that Jesus had appeared to them – exclaiming, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ Obviously they spare no thought for my feelings. But my Lord, why did you do so when I was the only one missing out on the action? Did you not want to see me and speak with me too? Am I not worthy of your presence?”
I could imagine the feeling of hurt and insignificance that Thomas must have felt, prompting him perhaps to retaliate, ‘Unless I see the mark in his hands… and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ I could sense Thomas’ injured pride and indignation at having been left out of Jesus’ mind!
We may be inclined to think that this story tells us to have complete faith in God which ideally, does not demand to personally witness Him or His mighty works. After all Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Yet upon further contemplation, we see the great compassion of Jesus who looked upon Thomas so mercifully and knew that he too wanted a part of this great mystery. So again He appeared to all twelve disciples with the intention of justifying Thomas’ faith – ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Jesus had heard all of Thomas’ unbelief and answered every question borne from his wounded pride. Immediately Thomas was humbled and exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Do you still doubt whether God has heard your prayers or would reveal Himself to you by granting your long-awaited desires? Do you find yourself saying: Lord, if you just grant this one wish (e.g. job promotion, excellent examination grades, a relationship, recovery from illness), I would know you are really God. By this, we limit God’s graces and might to our specific demands with the ultimatum, ‘Unless’.
Pride and envy can really blind our sensitivity to God’s presence in the littlest details and we feel justified to issue Him ultimatums to prove Himself to us, since others have enjoyed His graces.
But God is ever-present in the seemingly insignificant details in our daily lives. When you breathe in the sweet smell of a passing shower after a long hot day, God is there. When you hear the crunch of dried leaves under your feet, think of how naturally the trees renew their foliage. When you mutter a brief prayer-thought “Stop!” as you run after your bus, and a kind soul at the bus stop waves their hand to flag it down for you, He is there in that very moment.
It is when we appreciate the smaller Heavenly gestures on earth, that we avoid the pitfalls of our impetuous pride demanding God’s response to our grand specific prayers. We are never insignificant to our loving Father. More than our spoken prayers, He blesses us and answers our every need with little whispers scattered throughout our day. As assured us in the first reading, ‘There was not a needy person among them… it was distributed to each as any had need.’
When we place our criteria over God’s grace and use earthly measures to compare among each other the different graces we receive, we grow envious and impatient, becoming prideful and doubtful like Thomas. Let us humbly remember that God does not need to prove His great love for us. He already has, in Christ Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: We pray Lord that you enable us to see with humbled eyes your infinite gestures of love for us in all the insignificant details we were once ignorant to, so that we may always find communion with you in all things.
Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for your compassion and mercy for those times I have challenged you.