Monthly Archives: April 2014

Wednesday, 30 Apr – Love

30 Apr – Memorial of Saint Pius V, Pope

Born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. Worked as a shepherd as a boy. Received an excellent training in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar; he joined the Order himself in 1518, taking the name Michele. Studied in Bologna, Italy. Ordained in 1528 in the diocese of Genoa, Italy. Teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa. Professor of theology in Pavia, Italy for sixteen years. Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, working for stricter adherence to the Order‘s Rule. Inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, Italy. Commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On 4 September 1556 Michele was consecrated Bishop of Nepi e Sutri, Italy against his will. Inquisitor in Milan and Lombardy in 1556. Created cardinal on 15 March 1557. Grand inquisitor on 14 December 1558. Part of the conclave of 1559 that elected Pope Pius IV. Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on 17 March 1560. As bishop, Michael worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God. Chosen 225th pope in 1566.

Upon his ascension to the papacy, Pius V immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published; foundations were established to spread the Faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. Pius spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. Pius faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and in interaction with other heads of state. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

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Acts 5:17-26

The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.
But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.

When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.

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John 3:16-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

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God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life

John 3:16 is one of my favourite verses in the Bible. I remember singing it once in a choir, and the whole song was just made up of this one line. Maybe it was because we practiced it over and over again, hence it resonates deeply within me. It speaks volumes on the depth of God’s love for us.

I’d like to share something I read some time back, after the Sichuan earthquake in China in 2008. It was about a teacher who died protecting his students when the school collapsed in the earthquake. He pushed his students underneath the desk and then covered the desk with his body so that when the structure gave way it fell on him rather than on the desk hiding his students. He didn’t die instantly from the impact, but kept his students’ spirits up by asking them to sing songs with him until he died from his injuries. He, along with the other teachers who perished protecting their students, was hailed a hero. But somewhere out there, a father has lost his only son who died protecting other people’s sons and daughters.

I’m only human and can only understand this from a humanly perspective, but I believe that when we talk of love that we feel, that is universal i.e. it is of God and from God. Though it is probably a fraction of the magnitude of God’s love, I would like to think the feeling is similar. So every time I read this verse, I find it so hard to comprehend how someone could give up his son to be sacrificed so that he can save other people who may or may not love him in return. I believe that this teacher felt more than just a moral obligation to do his duty to save his pupils; he must have cared for them very much to take such action.

Likewise with God, He must love us very much, in order for Him to give up His only Son to save us. Remember that Jesus prayed till he sweated blood, asking God to take this cup away from him. Yet, Jesus knew that it was God’s will that he should be crucified. God still wanted to save us either way. Romans 5:7 states that it is already difficult enough for one to consider dying for someone who was righteous, maybe one might consider it if he was a good man. But how many would do it willingly? The best example in the Bible next to Jesus would be Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-12) because God asked him to, to test his faith.

It is so easy for us to read this as text in the Bible without fully comprehending the magnitude of such a love for us. Perhaps because the only love we know is one where we can see, touch, feel, hear and reciprocate, perhaps with our parents, spouses, children or close friends. But with God, it is a bit more complicated. His love is around us but it is like the wind that we cannot really see nor hear. However, just because we can’t experience it the “human” way we know, it doesn’t mean that we can take it for granted. God gave us not just His only Son, but a chance at new life. “Whoever believes in him… may have eternal life”. How wonderful this is! God hates the sin but not the sinner, and we can always turn to Him and ask for a second chance. He loves us dearly, and He will never forsake us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times when we have taken Your love for granted. Help us to fully understand the magnitude of your love and be mindful of it always.

Thanksgiving: Lord, words cannot express the gratitude I feel for the lengths You have taken to redeem me, a sinner. I pray that I may never forget the price You paid for me. Thank you for not forsaking me.

Tuesday, 29 Apr – Innocence

29 Apr – Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena

Youngest of 24 children; her father was a wool-dyer. At the age of seven she had a vision in which Jesus appeared with Peter, Paul, and John; Jesus blessed her, and she consecrated herself to Him. Her parents began making arranged marriages for her when she turned 12, but she refused to co-operate, became a Dominican tertiary at age 15, and spent her time working with the poor and sick, attracting others to work with her. Received a vision in which she was in a mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring. Some of her visions drove her to become more involved in public life. Counselor to and correspondent with Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. Stigmatist in 1375. Lived in Avignon, France in 1376, and then in Rome, Italy from 1378 until her death. Friend of Blessed Raymond of Capua who was also her confessor. Proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.

– The Patron Saint Index

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Acts 4:32-37

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.

There was a Levite of Cypriot origin called Joseph whom the apostles surnamed Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He owned a piece of land and he sold it and brought the money, and presented it to the apostles.
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John 3:7-15

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

‘How can that be possible?’ asked Nicodemus. ‘You, a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things!’ replied Jesus.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
we speak only about what we know
and witness only to what we have seen
and yet you people reject our evidence.
If you do not believe me when I speak about things in this world,
how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’

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If you do not believe me when I speak about things in this world, how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?

A father was explaining to his young son how rainbows were formed in the sky. He tried to explain it scientifically in the best way possible, only to be greeted with a look of confusion and consternation from his son. Eventually the son cried out, “But Dad! God put it there because He promised Noah!”

Sometimes I wish I had a child’s innocence. As an adult, I think that I tend to over-think things, which is not always healthy. Dough, if kneaded too much, will not rise as it should; likewise if you overwork your problems, it may not get resolved. In addition to mulling over things too much, I find that I depend on myself more than I do on God to sort out my life. A child on the other hand, depends on his/her parents for everything, even answers to difficult questions.

Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus about being born again in the Holy Spirit. We, with our wisdom of hindsight, understand what it is that Jesus is talking about, but if the roles were reversed and if we were Nicodemus instead, who had yet to experience Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, we too would probably be as confused as Nicodemus. God’s plans are infinitely beyond our understanding, and perhaps it is not meant for us to know in its entirety, but to be revealed piece by piece when the time is right as deemed by God. We just have to trust Him that everything will fall in its place in due course, and that He will direct our steps. If we knew too much, we would keep questioning everything instead of trusting God, so much so that God would probably want to answer “Because I said so!” with every “But why?” we posed.

Sometimes we just have to accept that we may not have the answer to everything, and we just have to accept things as they are, and have hope that they will be better or in our best interest. God wants us to trust in Him for everything. He wants us to be still and know that He is our Father, who will protect and love us always. It is only when we are still that we will be able to hear and understand the “heavenly” things that He wants to reveal to us. Are we prepared then to go forth before God in a childlike manner?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray that we learn to put our trust and hope in You and lift everything to You in Your Holy Name, no matter how trivial the matter.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks oh Lord, for watching out for us always and having our best interests at heart. Thank you Lord for loving us as You do and taking care of us.

Monday, 28 Apr – Rebirth

28 Apr

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Acts 4:23-31

As soon as Peter and John were released they went to the community and told them everything the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they lifted up their voice to God all together. ‘Master,’ they prayed ‘it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them; you it is who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why this arrogance among the nations,
these futile plots among the peoples?
Kings on earth setting out to war,
princes making an alliance,
against the Lord and against his Anointed.

‘This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.

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John 3:1-8

There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

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What is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit

I have been discontent for a while with an issue that I am facing. For months I have been wrestling with this issue, feeling everything from frustration to victimization. I know that I have to find a way out, and I have prayed to God to show me an exit. I stay in this situation because I think I can make a difference, but the more I stay, the more I realize that I am doing myself more harm than good, for I now only see the negative side of things and none of the positive. I have asked God, Why oh why can I not see a solution? And I finally realized the answer.

My problem is that of the flesh. It is a man-made problem, by those who have caused it and by myself. There are those who have not helped the situation. Yet I have also not helped myself by confining my thoughts to stressing and complaining about the problem, thus exacerbating it. I realize that the problem is going to be there, whatever it is that I do. The people who are there, the situation that I am in – these will all remain. What I need to do is to change my outlook.

Gandhi famously once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, or in other words, it is easier to change yourself than others. How true. I may not be able to change my situation, but I can change my way of thinking about the situation. I believe that that is the Spirit. And after realizing that, even though my problem still remains, I feel a certain sense of hope that I am able to liberate myself. I have a choice whether I want to be there or not – to be a person that I am expected to be, versus the person that I am. I have a choice to follow the people whom I currently associate with, or to follow people who reflect the values that I live by. I don’t have to feel trapped if I don’t want to, and the only thing trapping me is the way I am approaching this.

Our journey of faith is so very similar. Following God is one thing, but to follow Him with all our hearts is another. It is not about changing your appearances outwardly. Our entire being inside needs to change as well. When we are born again in the Holy Spirit, we put on new garments to signify our rebirth. It would just be a “flesh” change if we did not truly believe in God and the Holy Trinity, i.e. the “Spirit” within us. Jesus told Nicodemus that if one wanted to understand and experience the kingdom of God, he had to be “born again” (i.e. baptized) of the Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can change our nature, our aims in life, our outlook, our character, and therefore our lives.

This Easter-tide as I reflect on the new lease of life that Jesus has given me through His death and resurrection, I feel rejuvenated. He has made my spirit come alive, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and has made me feel whole again. I still have my problems to surmount, but as I meet them tomorrow, I know that Jesus will be by my side.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord Jesus, I pray please be by my side as I face my daily challenges. I pray for the strength to meet them head on and strength for when I falter, knowing that I have no reason to fear man, only God.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for the awakening of the Spirit within us that makes us alive and sets us on fire for You. May this fire never extinguish within us.

Sunday, 27 Apr – He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not?

27 Apr – Divine Mercy Sunday

Our Easter Joy

Today as we hail Jesus Christ as our Lord and God, we are filled with the joy of the disciples in seeing the risen Lord. In this season of renewal we are like those early Christians, who were filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described.

– The Sunday Missal

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Acts 2:42-47

The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone.

The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.

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1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.

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John 20:19-31

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.

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You did not see Him, yet you love Him; and still without seeing Him… you believe

Arranged marriages have existed for centuries and in some places, are still in practice. For some of us, the idea of being betrothed to someone you have not met or do not know seems too foreign an idea, as we have been accustomed to the idea of love coming first, before marriage. Many a time, arranged marriages have been used as political currency. In addition, we have read several incidences of arranged marriages gone horribly wrong. But not all arranged marriages have an unhappy ending. Some couples do eventually fall in love.

The popular TV series “Downton Abbey” for example, features Lord Grantham whom himself was arranged to marry Lady Grantham in order to save the Downton estate as she was from a very wealthy family. They only fell in love a year later, and as the series show, remained quite happily in love. They subsequently try to arrange suitable matches for their eldest daughter also in an attempt to save the estate. She initially spurns the heir to the estate, Matthew Crawley, but eventually overcomes her prejudices and falls in love with him.

Is love possible if you have not met someone before? And perhaps when you do meet, you might have strong reservations initially, but would you be able to overcome it? What about loving Jesus? We weren’t all born with an immediate knowledge of Jesus, let alone a close relationship. How do you learn to love someone you have not met?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. I struggled with opening up my heart to Jesus at the beginning. I’ve doubted whether Jesus truly loves me in my times of trouble. And I guess, I am like Thomas in today’s Gospel reading: I need to see to believe.

But Jesus has shown me otherwise, that I am indeed loved. He has shown me that I was loved even before I was born (Jeremiah 1:5); that I am dear to him (Matthew 10:31), and that I am loved always (Jeremiah 31:3). This is not to mention the countless times that He has delivered me from my trials, or sent a lifeline in times of desperation. In an ultimate demonstration of Jesus’ love for me, He was scourged, crucified, and He died on the cross for me, for all my sins. Who indeed would do that for someone they have not met? Why would Jesus do that for me when I throw His love back at Him with the things that I say and do sometimes? He does it because He loves me. And He died for all of us too, so that we may live, and we may be protected, the way a parent protects a child. And if someone loves us to such an extent, perhaps we should overcome our doubts and have some faith in that love; who knows, we may eventually learn to love in return?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, I pray that I can learn to put my doubts away whenever they call, and open up my heart always to receive your love, and be able to love You as You have loved me.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, thank you for loving me so unconditionally even though sometimes I may not deserve it. Your love is kind and forgiving and I thank you for always being around to comfort me.

Saturday, 26 Apr – Preach Your Life

26 Apr – Easter Saturday

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Acts 4:13-21

The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus; but when they saw the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer. So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.’
So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’ The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.

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Mark 16:9-15

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them. But they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him.

After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.

Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’

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Go out to the whole world

We have come to the end of the first week of Easter. The entire week has been a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We also reflect on the experiences of his apostles when they were unable to find Him in the tomb where He had laid.

The Gospels have been summarised in Mark today. Jesus had appeared to Mary of Magdala and his disciples. Despite appearing in front of them, the first witnesses were so blinded and obstinate to understand that this was the resurrection which Jesus had spoken off.
They were unable to understand how Jesus, whom they had seen crucified and buried, now stood before them in flesh and blood. They were so overwhelmed in fact with fear and trembling at the consequences that would befall them after Christ’s death, that they were slow to believe in the witnesses who had seen the risen Lord. We still hear and experience wonderful miracles every day, but like the disciples, have we hardened our hearts, doubting that these good things come from God? Do we still dwell in the darkness that God our Father has set out to punish us? Do we trust more in our own fears and anxieties, than in our risen Lord?

The readings continuously tell us to be the witnesses of Christ, to live again through baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Spirit, Peter had healed a crippled man – a man well over forty years old and who had never been able to walk all his life (for he had been born crippled). Yet, by the name of Jesus, this man’s life was created anew. Now standing before the Sanhedrin, Peter bravely and with much certainty tells the chief priests about the crucified and resurrected Christ. Although the chief priests did not believe him, thousands did and they became the first Christians. Are we able to testify as witnesses, with as much boldness and conviction as Peter did?

Let us join together with our newly baptised brothers and sisters this Easter, to renew our baptismal vows. We may have gotten lost in our faith journey in the past year. For instance, we may have denied Jesus or probably doubted His love for us during all our difficult moments this year. However, we are reminded this Easter that Jesus, our crucified Lord and risen Saviour has come to give us new life. To renew the areas in our lives, which we think are beyond all hope. Our mission is to preach the Good News, and with much conviction like Peter. Jesus has promised to give us his Spirit. We can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us. Let us go out to the world and let our Christian way of life be an example to the world.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Prayer: O Lord, fill us with your Holy Spirit, so that we may go out to the world and continue to spread your word and good works, to let every man in the world experience the truth of eternal life with You.

Thanksgiving: Give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks to the faithful one, Give thanks because He has given Jesus Christ, His Son.

Friday, 25 Apr – Say It As It Is

25 Apr – Easter Friday

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Acts 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, ‘By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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John 21:1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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Glad to tell you all

It took me a while, and having gone through quite a bit of experience, to know how to convey a message straight-forwardly and send the point across. A close friend of mine kept emphasizing and teaching me how I should write – to just say it as it is. Being me, I like to share a lot before I get to the point, perhaps because I like the other to know my motivation and the background to my purpose. She taught me not to reveal too much because sometimes, people just aren’t interested. Get my point across and if it progresses, then it is open for discussion in detail.

Jesus always tries to explain things in parables, which perhaps we ourselves in this time and setting will probably not be able to understand. However, his parables would have made sense to those who heard Him at that era. In today’s reading, Peter gave an amazing reply to the priests. I read it three times trying to digest every word he had said. He just said it as it is, with lots of Spirit. Truly, he was guided by the Holy Spirit, to remind the chief priests again of what they had done and how the Lord’s plans and power cannot be stopped. Peter’s love for the Lord, and obedience to speak of the Lord’s resurrection, brought many to believe and to convert in the name of Christ.

As with the Gospel today, Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time. Once again, not much was being said. He made an appearance which made most of them wonder but His action of breaking bread opened up their minds and their hearts to realise that He has indeed risen in body. As we celebrate the Eucharist the next time, let us look into the great significance of adoration and communion. God reveals Himself in the host and may our hearts be opened to receive Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Prayer: Let us not be afraid to proclaim God’s love. He works in us, with the Holy Spirit guiding us through the words that we speak and the actions that we do.

Thanksgiving: We have received so many blessings from you O God, let us return with our deep faith in You and be the holy people in proclaiming Your love.

Thursday, 24 Apr – It Just Passes On

24 Apr – Easter Thursday

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Acts 3:11-26

Everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to Peter and John. When Peter saw the people he addressed them, ‘Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness? You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.

‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets. Moses, for example, said: The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.

‘You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.’
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Luke 24:35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

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Peace be with you

How often do we greet one another ‘Peace be with you’, apart from the obligatory exchange just before communion in Church? It may not be my usual greeting when I meet my friends, or when I walk into my office early in the morning, but it sure holds more meaning than a simple ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Day’. It just reminds us that we should enter into an environment of peace as best as we can, to solve all problems in a just manner, and not blow our heads off one another when things get too difficult. It is a greeting we often take for granted.

How do we treat the people that are closest to us? Assistants may not be by the boss’ side all the time; they could quit their job for greener pastures. Our family members may pass on as they age and we will gradually realize that we probably never had a proper conversation with them after our teenage years. Sharing God’s peace into one another’s hearts, greeting that sense of calmness and joy in having a bond and relationship, is something in which we often overlook while we get too busy with our lives.

In today’s reading and gospel, it is much about gathering people towards a God-centred life after the rising of our Lord Jesus. Peter addresses the crowd and reminds them how they have acted towards Jesus, the Messiah while He was amongst them. Jesus was a man of peace, and beginning with the apostles, that peace is to be planted into every man’s heart. There was nothing new, the people were just blinded. Similarly, in the Gospel, the apostles themselves were blinded and confused until Jesus appeared in front of them in one body and declared them as witnesses to all that had happened in Jerusalem. The Father’s peace was entrusted to Jesus, who brought that peace to the people, who were so blind not to recognise the Son of God. After Jesus’ resurrection, the people continued to receive the peace that our Father has promised to us. How beautiful and loving is our Father who only gives us the best, and does not take it away from us. So let us wish one another, ‘Peace be with you’.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Prayer: Let us not take many things for granted; let us mend all broken relationships, even if it seems difficult. We will try, we will trust, we will live each moment in peace.

Thanksgiving: We thank those who have touched us in our individual lives, giving us the support we need, loving us no matter how terrible we ourselves are; we pray for all.

Wednesday, 23 Apr – For the Greater Good

23 Apr – Easter Wednesday

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Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

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Luke 24:13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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And their eyes were opened

Has it ever occurred to you that you are meant to do greater things? I am not saying that you are Peter Parker a.k.a. Spiderman, who was bitten by a spider and mutated into some kind of a super hero, saving the world. In today’s reading, it was not Jesus himself who brought the cripple in front of the temple to his feet. It was Peter who healed the man. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and, given the gift of healing through the Spirit, made the cripple walk again. Perhaps, you have always wanted to go help a community in need, either for the elderly or unfortunate children. Maybe you had always wanted to join a ministry in your parish, to help build the Church. If you felt that your day job has taken up too much time during the week and you have always wanted to contribute your skills for social purposes, improving the spiritual or physical lives of others outside of work, the feeling and thought is wonderful, and it is never too late to even consider all the communities there are out there in your city.

Today’s Gospel speaks of the popular passage ‘Road to Emmaus’, where Jesus appeared to two men who were blind to faith. They only realised Jesus had been with them the entire journey, when He broke bread with them. When Jesus began His mission to the people, healing the sick and performing miracles after miracles on the unfortunate, even raising the dead (as with Lazarus), the crowd and his disciples gradually developed deeper faith in Him, that He is truly from God.. He certainly was not the great warrior or King of battles as expected by the people, being a descendent of David, but He was the saviour of their souls, bringing them the everlasting life promised by our Father.

Let us reflect on how our journey has been – how spiritually have we lived over the past years? Have we constantly been blinded on our own road and pathways? When we settle our hearts to go for Communion every Sunday, were our eyes opened to seeing God through the difficulties that lay ahead in our week? Did it help us to grow closer to God? Dear brothers and sisters, it is not too late to build our relationship with Jesus and let him inspire our hearts, like that of the disciples on the walk to Emmaus. It is also not too late for us to get back on that dream to step out for communities out there. I believe every little contribution counts when it comes to giving back to society. Let the skills and knowledge imparted to you, work the gifts of the Holy Spirit in you, and act for the love of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Prayer: Let us get organized O Lord, that we be the good Christians we set out to be when we were baptized, and let the Spirit lead us to a more fulfilling life for ourselves, enriching others every week.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for caregivers and people who tirelessly give up both time and money to improve the lives of others.

Tuesday, 22 Apr – Let It Go

22 Apr – Easter Tuesday

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Acts 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke to the Jews: ‘The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’

Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’ He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.

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John 20:11-18

Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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Do not cling to me

One of the top Disney animations in the beginning of 2014 has to be ‘Frozen’, with its very popular soundtrack titled ‘Let It Go’. The song was just catchy and most of us just could not get it out of our heads. I bet the chorus is ringing in your head right now. For me, the past months have a lot to do with being able to let go of things that are unimportant to me, and moving forward by working on important aspects of my career and perhaps, towards the life that I could build. It has not been easy and as I reflected on today’s readings, I felt that it is a step closer each day, letting go of negative thoughts and closed doors, moving ahead to something more hopeful.

We all have a lot of things to achieve, to complete by a certain age and time. So how do we prioritize ourselves in this set twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week time-space? We probably just have to learn to let go of and stop clinging onto matters that are just not helping us to grow morally or spiritually. For most of us, we make plans way ahead of ourselves and are unable to let go when the plan fails. On the contrary, those who are disabled or have illnesses tend to live each day waking up to a new day, making it the most important day of their lives, thanking God for the grace to live, letting go of what has already passed and embracing the present.

Today’s reading tells us of the first Christians, the baptism of three thousand in the name of Jesus, the risen Christ, and their receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like them, we can always enter a new day with God; it is our eternal life with God. As we receive the good news today, Jesus’ tells us to not just stop and wonder, but to act and search for Him. He has already risen and that is a fact. He is alive and present in our midst. We shouldn’t just stop to stand and wonder but act instead on growing our faith. Similarly, He is also telling us that no matter what difficulties we come across in our everyday lives, let us not clog our mind and spirit by complaining about things and not taking action. We are to take up that cross and carry it, trusting in Him that He walks with us and presents the best for us. Let us go and find the way of our Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Prayer: No matter how difficult and empty on some days of my life Lord, do guide me and show me the way of which You have presented for me, that I trust that it is the best You have given me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you O Lord for the health which you have given us, and also for the peace which you have given to the hearts of the sick.

Monday, 21 Apr – Denying the Truth

21 Apr – Easter Monday

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Acts 2:14,22-33

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice: ‘Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power since, as David says of him:

I saw the Lord before me always,
for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me.
So my heart was glad
and my tongue cried out with joy;
my body, too, will rest in the hope
that you will not abandon my soul to Hades
nor allow your holy one to experience corruption.
You have made known the way of life to me,
you will fill me with gladness through your presence.

‘Brothers, no one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is still with us. But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about was the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.’

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Matthew 28:8-15

Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

While they were on their way, some of the guard went off into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened. These held a meeting with the elders and, after some discussion, handed a considerable sum of money to the soldiers with these instructions, ‘This is what you must say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and carried out their instructions, and to this day that is the story among the Jews.

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This is what you must say

It is always important to communicate properly and well to others. People listen and we never know how the information given by us will be used. Do you often get misunderstood? What we are to say, and how we say it, is crucial. Do we speak of the truth? Or do we deny the truth and speak of something else, which leads others to false hopes?

In today’s readings, Peter preached of the Messiah’s resurrection to the crowd. He speaks of the resurrected Jesus who is the descendent of King David, to the people of Israel; that He was among them and was put to death. Peter was not there to preach guilt to the people of what they had done to their own Messiah, but to shout out to the people that Jesus had risen from the dead, that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them, that they have been saved. Jesus had died for them and now it is time to praise Him and do good according to the will of God. The past two months have been a roller coaster ride for me. I met with many obstacles, and it all happened in the period of Lent. There were so many occasions where I was close to making the final decision on something but either I was being played out or the entire decision just did not sit peacefully with me. I hear things that could seem truthful, but they only led to false hopes in the end. I am currently still finding stability. My loved one reminded me, when God closes a door on you, it is not a bad thing because your faith in Him will open another for you. When you trust Him, He only presents the best for you. I could not agree more.

We are not to deny Jesus’ passion for us. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and still died on the cross for us. Yet, the chief priests had to pay soldiers to speak of lies that the resurrection did not exist. No doubt, people would find it hard to believe that a body can rise from the dead and disappear into nothingness. The denial crafted by the chief priests just seems so logical for people to believe in, even to this present day. So, where does our faith lie? Didn’t we just celebrate Easter yesterday? Do you feel hopeful? Or somehow, are we still in denial and doubt that God has risen Jesus from the dead? We have heard the words and we celebrated with much joy and praises, so let us continue to deepen our faith in the truth we hear and pray about.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Prayer: O God, I often find it hard to believe because I do not see. I pray that my faith in you is fervent. Bless me with even more graces when I begin to doubt your teachings.

Thanksgiving: Give thanks for the Risen Lord Jesus, Amen