4 Apr – Easter Vigil
The Easter Vigil Mass features a total of nine readings. It is an Oxygen tradition to have a reflection for each of these readings. This Easter, five from our writing team, along with two guest writers – Sandra and Geraldine, have contributed to the reflections. It is a long read, but we hope that it will be an enjoyable and inspiring one!
(on behalf of the Oxygen Team)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.
God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.
God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.
God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.
God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.
God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’
God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.
Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing.
God blessed them
This age-old reading from Genesis reminds us with vivid imagery, that God has the ability to create order from chaos, light from darkness, fertile life from barrenness. Even at the beginning of time, God assured us of His love and providence – “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth… See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food” (Genesis 1:28-29).
As we come together to celebrate this Holy Vigil, He asks us to lay down our weariness, our loneliness, the restless wandering of mind and heart, the chaos in our lives. Breathe deeply; breathe in His peace. Be assured believer! As sure as the sky, the earth, the stars in the sky and the teeming life laid out on this earth, you too were lovingly made. Be assured believer! You are beloved!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
Here I am
The past week has been one rifled with deep emotions for our nation. Our founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is finally at rest. I am a product of what his works gave us but probably one of the few who did not fully understand & appreciate what Mr. Lee had done for us. So it truly surprised me to see the outpouring of love, appreciation and support for him during these last few days. As I devoured the eulogies this Monday morning, particularly the more personal ones of Hsien Yang and Wei Ling – I vicariously saw a side of Mr. Lee that was ‘human’, like you and I. Not the super tough politician in his public life. He gave up his life for this nation. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, he probably said in his own way “Here I am.” when called. Tasked with this monumental charge, He brought this little fishing village to the ranks of a nation even the big boys respected and admired.
Just over this past week, a priest shared that despite being 20 years in the priesthood, he was still being called to new challenges & new ministries. This is in spite of his own perceived unworthiness and weakness, ‘broken goods’ he calls himself. In his own words, ‘I am freaking out!”.
How ready are when we are called by our Lord? How readily and with deep faith do we say “Here I am, Lord!” just like Abraham when tested by God to demonstrate his faith and obedience in tangible terms.
How strong is our faith in God? That we are willing to give up what is loved, prized, familiar and comfortable to us? How often have we seen situations with our own eyes and acted on our own steam – only to be let down and left feeling empty; unfulfilled.
How strong is our faith in God? Can we be like Mary when she said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Certainly not I. I too am freaking out.
Early last year, I took the decision to quit corporate life – to recalibrate and to figure out ‘what’s next?’ Needless to say, I made this decision amidst much trepidation, uncertainty & yes, fear. I certainly struggled with my faith and trust in Our Father throughout this journey – deciding to leave a job I was familiar with, a job that provided me with a comfortable and steady income stream, but was slowly suffocating me. I struggled and fought with God when He asked me to take the step. I resisted for 6 months and one day in prayer, peace came over me. I was ready to take that step with my Father.
Reflecting on my faith journey this past year, I came to a realization literally over the last few days, that while I have been praying and discerning about where my future lies, my eyes were so fixed on the destination that I failed to appreciate where the Lord has led me to today.
God has planted in me a new love. A new passion. I had taken on an inordinate interest in liturgical vestments. Yup, you heard me right. I was suddenly interested in what the priests wore, the styles, the embroidery, and the altar linens. It is by God’s grace and provision that my cousin has a small uniforms business which opened me up to her pool of staff and vendors to play around with my new-found interest. To date, we have made cassocks and albs for priests, altar servers’ cassocks, a personal altar cloth for a beloved priest and a processional canopy to be used this Holy Thursday! Each piece pondered over, designed and laboured with love, planted in my heart by my Father.
Where this is leading me, I don’t know. Maybe I will land another corporate-type job. Or just maybe…He will take me on a different journey.
Someone said to me recently, ‘God is not who you think He is.” Some of you will have different reactions to that statement, but I knew exactly where this person was coming from. In our own wisdom, we ask God to lead us to a place, a destination we feel is best for us. But do we really? Can we see with God’s eyes the wonderful possibilities that He is planning for us?
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
So, with the recent events, I started thinking: “If I died tomorrow, what would I want to be remembered for?” Well, I may not in this lifetime contribute as much compared to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. I may not be known by everyone. My life may be of little consequence to many people. But I would like to be remembered as someone who loved and lived life as led by our Father. Someone who dared to say “Here I am.” Someone who would give whatever she could to another who asked.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Loving Father, increase our faith in you. When confronted with the difficult situations that life presents us, give us the grace to take that small step, knowing that you Lord, will give us the strength to go that extra mile. Lord, you promised that if we walked in obedience, we will live the fullness of life in You.
Thanksgiving: Dear Father, we come before you with grateful hearts. We praise and thank you for every blessing and gift that you have given us, and will continue to give us. We stand in awe for your infinite goodness. We pray that our lives will be a witness to others of your goodness so that they will experience Your love and grace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’
Then the angel of God, who marched at the front of the army of Israel, changed station and moved to their rear. The pillar of cloud changed station from the front to the rear of them, and remained there. It came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. The cloud was dark, and the night passed without the armies drawing any closer the whole night long.
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove back the sea with a strong easterly wind all night, and he made dry land of the sea. The waters parted and the sons of Israel went on dry ground right into the sea, walls of water to right and to left of them. The Egyptians gave chase: after them they went, right into the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
In the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians from the pillar of fire and of cloud, and threw the army into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could scarcely make headway. ‘Let us flee from the Israelites,’ the Egyptians cried. ‘The Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians!’
‘Stretch out your hand over the sea,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘that the waters may flow back on the Egyptians and their chariots and their horsemen.’
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and, as day broke, the sea returned to its bed. The fleeing Egyptians marched right into it, and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the very middle of the sea. The returning waters overwhelmed the chariots and the horsemen of Pharaoh’s whole army, which had followed the Israelites into the sea; not a single one of them was left. But the sons of Israel had marched through the sea on dry ground, walls of water to right and to left of them.
That day, the Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. Israel witnessed the great act that the Lord had performed against the Egyptians, and the people venerated the Lord; they put their faith in the Lord and in Moses, his servant.
It was then that Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song in honour of the Lord:
The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward
Discernment – How do you know when to move forward and when to not? How do you know what God’s will is or if you are actually in it?
“What if I’m hearing God wrong?”
A question I ask myself all the time.
“I am afraid.”
A lot of times we ask questions we already know answers to; even if the answer is just to wait. As for me I get impatient and want to take things into my own hands thinking God doesn’t care! He’s making me wait so long! In times of doubt, struggle or confusion it is wise to know this: God doesn’t rush. Take the time to be still. He is in absolute control and power. Yield your trust to Him and see Him work in wonderful and mysterious ways and yes, even if it takes time. God knows, He understands and that is enough.
Someone once said to me, “God has put the desire in your heart towards the direction you should follow.”
Other times we know which direction we should take or at least have an inclination towards it but we are afraid to try because it seems too big or too good to be true. “Does God really want me to do this?” and so we take our time, carefully treading unchartered territory. He is doing a new thing. Taking us into a new season of our lives but we dare not believe it. God cares and He is in absolute control. A lot of times we already know what to do. Even if to the eyes of the world it might seem foolish to turn down that job offer or change your course of study. Whatever it is, God knows when it’s time to move and when the time is right He will move you to the right course of action but for now, in whatever season you are in take the time to just be still. The Lord is fighting for you.
Ask Him again the question in your heart if you’re unsure. The answer will surely come. It’s important to be still just so you can hear God’s voice loud and clear in a time when distractions or worry shroud the voice of God deep in your heart. Seek the counsel of Godly men and women. Talk to a priest or religious. Ask God to make the answer painfully clear! Whatever it is you want to do seek God time and time again. He never grows tired or weary of answering. If anything He is delighted!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sandra Christine)
Prayer: Father, please give me the courage to take that step forward in the direction you want me to follow. Help me not be afraid knowing that you’ve got my back.
Thanksgiving: Thank you that come what may you are always with me, always faithful and always God. Thank you for the grace you give me to be still in your presence. I love you, Lord!
Thus says the Lord:
Now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.
Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.
I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.
I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;
for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.
Unhappy creature, storm-tossed, disconsolate,
see, I will set your stones on carbuncles
and your foundations on sapphires.
I will make rubies your battlements,
your gates crystal,
and your entire wall precious stones.
Your sons will all be taught by the Lord.
The prosperity of your sons will be great.
You will be founded on integrity;
remote from oppression, you will have nothing to fear;
remote from terror, it will not approach you.
But my love for you will never leave you
I watched the movie Evan Almighty last night, one of the attempts by the TV station to show a movie that they felt was in line with the Easter theme for this long weekend. Although not very successful as a comedy, I felt that the movie made a good effort at portraying how one can sometimes feel abandoned by God, although God technically is always there. At the climax of the story, Evan had already constructed the ark, all the animals were inside it, and all the people were still outside, jeering at him. At that point, he really needed a sign from God to show that all his efforts were worthwhile and meant something. But nothing came, except a temporary shower which only served to raise his hopes before crushing it. It was only at the eleventh hour, after he came to accept the uncertainty before him, when he realised that a nearby dam was about to break and release the waters from the lake.
It is common to shake our fists at God when we feel down and abandoned, as there is that expectation that since God loves us and is always there for us, we should not have to experience such despair. But this despair is more likely due to us following our own erroneous line of reasoning, such as expectation of instant results, of perfection, and an inability to accept our own shortcomings.
Currently, I am experiencing a clash between my desire to produce high-quality work versus the overly-demanding operational nature of working in school. I feel like I am just ticking items off my to-do list, moving from one item to another as quickly as I can, and not deriving much satisfaction from anything. My only motivation comes from the students and the colleagues towards whom I feel responsible. I am aware that I should be turning to God more, but the exhaustion I feel is preventing me from opening up to feeling anything else. I can only trudge on, and this Easter, I pray for an experience of the uplifting love of God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray for greater discernment in our lives.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the little moments when we realise that God is present and looking after us and our loved ones.
Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.
With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.
Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.
Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.
Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live
I find it hard to listen. I am often filled with my own thoughts, anxieties, intentions. My mind tends to be noisy and crowded with competing desires, worries, and insecurities. I wonder if this is simply my nature or if there is a permanent way out of these tensions.
One of the things I realised I constantly worry about is the state of my soul and that of those close and dear to me. It almost seems foolish to worry about something that I definitely do not have the direct solutions to, neither can I assert any transformation about — especially when it comes to others. Still, I fret about it. When I hear a message or homily, my mind flits away to someone whom I know might benefit from it. When I read a good spiritual message, I begin to make mental notes of whom I could forward it to or share it with. If I do share it, I later wonder if the person had felt encouraged or enlightened by the message — and often, if I wonder if it had the impact I thought it would.
Out of all these wonderings in these incessantly wandering mind of mine, I have come to realise, stems from a disquiet spirit. My worrisome spirit finds it hard to trust in God in such a way that admits to my own creatureliness and helplessness. I may not try to be God in big ways through grand gestures and deeds, but now I see that I have been trying too hard to second-guess God and the movements of the Holy Spirit. Somehow, I have come to imagine that I can penetrate the ways and thoughts of the Lord! How presumptuous.
“…the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.” (Isaiah 55:11)
I had not been single-mindedly paying attention to the Word of the Lord. Oh yes, even if I were to read and reflect on the scriptures and spiritual books, even if I were to sit at Mass and listen to the Homily, I may not necessarily be truly listening with pure attention and intentions — to God. As the reading today has struck me “Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy. Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.”
The Lord’s beckoning sounds so simple — listen, and pay attention. But how hard it is to listen without trying to decipher, to complicate our understanding, to contort and twist the Word to our preferences and our desires. To truly listen is to abandon assumptions and presumptions, motives and objectives, “my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”
We can only truly advance in our spiritual journey and allow God to feed our thirsting and hungry souls, if we pause long enough to humbly and simply listen. Like the dry earth aches for the quench of the rain, may we lap up the message of love from God that falls generously unto us, to soak and drink it in. I think this applies too in all of our closest relationships. Listening attentively is not always easy, and we need Jesus’ saving grace.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Jesus, you are always seeking me out, listening to my thoughts. Help me to abandon my own preoccupations and tune back in to you and your love. I am nothing without you.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for always tirelessly letting me rattle off my litany of prayer requests. Thank you for this realisation again, of my need to be still in your presence to listen to you.
Listen, Israel, to commands that bring life;
hear, and learn what knowledge means.
Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies,
growing older and older in an alien land,
sharing defilement with the dead,
reckoned with those who go to Sheol?
Because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom.
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have lived in peace for ever.
Learn where knowledge is, where strength,
where understanding, and so learn
where length of days is, where life,
where the light of the eyes and where peace.
But who has found out where she lives,
who has entered her treasure house?
But the One who knows all knows her,
he has grasped her with his own intellect,
he has set the earth firm for ever
and filled it with four-footed beasts.
He sends the light – and it goes,
he recalls it – and trembling it obeys;
the stars shine joyfully at their set times:
when he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are’;
they gladly shine for their creator.
It is he who is our God,
no other can compare with him.
He has grasped the whole way of knowledge,
and confided it to his servant Jacob,
to Israel his well-beloved;
so causing her to appear on earth
and move among men.
This is the book of the commandments of God,
the Law that stands for ever;
those who keep her live,
those who desert her die.
Turn back, Jacob, seize her,
in her radiance make your way to light:
do not yield your glory to another,
your privilege to a people not your own.
Israel, blessed are we:
what pleases God has been revealed to us.
Blessed are we, O Israel; for what pleases God is known to us!
As Children of God we should know what pleases Him. Or do we try and guess it all of our lives?
The Lord speaks to us in many ways, sometimes through scriptures, during our personal prayer time, sometimes through circumstances and people, even in trials and triumphs He speaks to us. He never stops actually. And that brings back the onus upon us, to listen to Him.
As Catholics we are called to live a life pleasing to Him, we have the commandments of moses and of the church, the church traditions, sacraments and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to give us precise direction on this journey called life.
We know that we are called to read scriptures, pray daily, serve in our parishes and live within a community of Catholics where we are accountable for one another.
Ironically we even know the things He gently nudges us about too. Sometimes I am convinced of His sense of humour of leading me to people and places I would not have gone to on my own. And at times we find ourselves wondering, “so Lord you asked me to say this or do this and now what”. If like me you have read enough stories from ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ you would wonder, ‘where is this going’, ‘what am I getting out of this’, ‘how am I a blessing to this person’ etc. But that is far from the point of our obedience, we need only use the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and act in prudence, we are not asked to have all the answers by figuring everything out.
Today, let us ask ourselves if we are going to take charge of our lives, our choices, our decisions to live a life pleasing to Him. Imagine if all of us did just that, not only will the world be a better place, we would all be living lives which are intune with the desires of our hearts. At this point, our desires and His will be the same.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord you have the words of everlasting life. Help us a life pleasing to you, all the days of our lives.
Thanksgiving: Your words are pure, sweeter than the sweetest honey, more precious than gold. Thank you Father for the precious gift of your word and all those who share your word.
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, the members of the House of Israel used to live in their own land, but they defiled it by their conduct and actions. I then discharged my fury at them because of the blood they shed in their land and the idols with which they defiled it. I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them in foreign countries. I sentenced them as their conduct and actions deserved. And now they have profaned my holy name among the nations where they have gone, so that people say of them, “These are the people of the Lord; they have been exiled from his land.”
‘But I have been concerned about my holy name, which the House of Israel has profaned among the nations where they have gone.
‘And so, say to the House of Israel, “The Lord says this: I am not doing this for your sake, House of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land.
‘“I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.”’
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts
Unrequited love is like a curse. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a beloved’s selfish indifference will be able to identify with the heartbreak and disappointment that comes from giving all of ourselves to no avail. So it is with The Lord when faced with our stubbornness and indifference. Time and again we disappoint Him, yet like the loving father who holds out in hope of the spoiled child’s conversion, Our Father waits patiently for us to repent.
Lasting conversion requires God’s grace and a willingness on our part to yield our lives to Him. We need His grace to go the distance, to rise to the occasion and be more than just the sum events of our lives. We need Him to put in us a ‘new heart’, a ‘new spirit’ that we may learn to love more than just ourselves. He is waiting to give us this new life with Him. He asks only that we trust and be receptive to change.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.
But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ 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.’
But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you
In an ideal world, it would be great if someone could pave the way for us so that we could just follow behind in the wake of their path. Sometimes we feel as though we are flying solo and in thick clouds with zero visibility. It is like learning how to ride a bicycle and your father letting go of the handle bars: in the beginning you teeter along, then you doubt yourself, and then you get scared and lose your balance, then you topple over. It is like that with God: He is holding on to our handle bars and steering us, but doesn’t mean that because we don’t see Him, that He is not there.
When Moses led the people out of Egypt, God went before them as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, to seek out safe places for the people to encamp and as a guide for their journey (Deuteronomy 1:33).
In the Gospel, the angel told Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Jesus and Salome that Jesus had risen and was going ahead of them to Galilee. In Galilee, Jesus would set out the apostles’ mission by exhorting them to carry out his work and baptize the peoples in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has risen indeed Alleluia! But while he is not present with us physically we are not alone. Jesus has led us out of the wilderness of sin and evil by being the light for our paths. He is the truth and the way, and it is this way that we need to follow, with him as our guide. Just like riding a bicycle, Jesus is steering us gently. He goes before us to prepare the path for us by removing whatever difficult obstacles that might lie along the way. He will ensure that our paths will be as smooth as possible (Isaiah 45:2).
With Jesus, we need not feel like we are losing balance. I hold on to the comforting thought he is very present in my life because he has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). My destination is secure because I know that he has gone to prepare a place in God’s house (John 14:3) so that one day we will be reunited with him.
Jesus has risen, and though he is not with us physically, remember that he is with us always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, You promised Your everlasting presence in our lives. We pray for the faith to feel Your presence especially when we are flying through the clouds of doubt.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for holding on to the steering wheel of my life. I know that while I attempt to drive I take comfort in the thought that You are there to guide me and protect me.