Daily Archives: April 14, 2015

Wednesday, 15 Apr – Light Conquers Dark

15 Apr 

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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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men have shown they prefer darkness to the light

The news in the world today has been increasingly troubling. I am referring to the devastating deluge of news on the ISIS killings in the Middle East, aeroplane disasters and climatic disasters. The world feels like it is going through a collective mourning and grieving in proportions never seen before. For the season of Lent, I chose to abstain from social media because I was overwhelmed by the ceaseless outpouring of sorrowful and cruel events. It was not because I preferred ignorance. I did it for several reasons: despair, distraction and judgmentalism.

I was growing depressed about the state of the world, the complaints and viral vitriol perpetuated. It made me wonder if the people around me (for example, those I rode the train or bus with) could actually be a part of this faceless mob? I was distracted — caught in a paradox of hating the news content, but also hooked onto finding out what murkier dirt could be unearthed or reported every day. This subconscious addiction got so bad that Facebook was the first and last contact I made with the world between sleeps.

Lastly, I made that resolution to pull the plug on social media because it dawned on me that I was growing judgemental about many things. Though I was not exactly contributing to the online spats — because thankfully I simply do not have it in me to be a ‘keyboard warrior’ — I was secretly judging the persons behind the online avatars who made comments that I disagreed with. After some time, I noticed that I had grown sour, discontented, and easily annoyed in my real life!

Not surprisingly, all of this took place at a time when my prayer and interior life had taken a back seat to my daily bustle. I knew something was stirring in an unhealthy fashion, but I knew not what. So in preparation for Lent, I went on a silent retreat to still my heart and spirit. In this stillness, I recognised that each of us has been given a Light within us. This is the God-image that our Heavenly Father had first breathed into Adam and Eve, and Jesus had breathed over the first twelve Apostles. This divine breath and light is the Holy Spirit.

‘…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.’ (John 3:21)

Each of us has been given a conscience, the seed of God’s divinity, and an inner light by which we can call upon to navigate in our world — and to conduct ourselves with justice and righteousness. In the Gospel text today, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that it is not surprising that ‘men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.’ And it is a choice that we each make at every given moment, to choose light over dark, being seen by God or hiding away from Him our secret deeds.

In my retreat, by the wisdom and promptings of the Holy Spirit, I chose to walk into the light of Christ and allow my soul to busk in Christ’s sunshine. Because of this precious time-out with God, I was able to recognise the areas I needed to die to, to surrender, and to sacrifice. I also recognised that not contributing to the bad stuff in the world was not the same as contributing to bring about good. I had an active part to play in bringing joy and love to my interactions in order to truly live out my Christian purpose.

My dear brothers and sister in Christ, as we continue in this season of Eastertide, let us not forget our Lenten reflections which helped us cleave closer to the sufferings of Jesus. For those of us who may have got distracted during Lent, fret not but resolve to continue pursuing our daily relationship with Him. As we prepare for the gift of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost, we can seek the help of our Paraclete, our Advocate to take us deeper into union and trust in the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, shine your light and wisdom into all areas of my life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for always wooing us back into union with you, and showing to us the mercy for all our transgressions.

Tuesday, 14 Apr – Listening so as to Love

14 Apr – Tuesday of the 2nd week of Eastertide

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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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how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?

To listen is to love. I am learning again how to listen. Lately, I have grown frustrated about my difficulty in being empathetic to my loved ones. We cannot help hearing when people speak, when people talk to us. But to actually practise deep and meaningful listening, takes intent and commitment. This, I have come to realise.

In the Gospel text today, the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus continues. Jesus asks, ‘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?’ Nicodemus is a teacher in Israel, a wise man — and in these dialogues over yesterday and today, we see a wise man struggling to understand the words of Christ. Why are we presented with the person of Nicodemus? I have come to notice to motif of the wise man in the Bible stories. In many places, the teachers, leaders, priests, and wise men, struggle the most to comprehend the works and words of Christ. The wise man represents the intellectual, the powerful, the respected, and the self-righteous amongst us.

In our own ways, each of us finds ourselves most wise in the areas of our self-declared expertise, wisdom, and experience. This self-conferred ‘wisdom’ is thus the obstacle to our full listening. We think we know. And even, that we know better. Ironically, knowing blocks true learning.

How many of us like to say ‘But I’ve always known this’ or ‘I already knew’? These are the words that we may not speak aloud out of politeness sometimes, but in our hearts we could be mumbling so. It is pride that causes us to reject instruction and even to ignore a heartfelt sharing from loved ones who may be trying to express a vulnerability or hurt.

I am reminded of a retreat I once attended which had a section on “Communication”. One of the lessons I learnt then was that a good listener is not a passive participant in conversation. A good listener seeks to still his/her own internal thoughts and judgements, to focus on the speaker’s words and emotions, and is concerned to pay attention to feelings that may not be conveyed in speech, to seek understanding. However, to take this one step deeper, an empathetic listener takes all of the above and makes a genuine attempt to build a bridge of sensitive communication — by mirroring and to feedback through gestures (touch) or words, the spoken and unexpressed feelings of the person, such as to convey that he/she genuinely feels with the person’s emotions.

In this sense, though one may not identify exactly with a situation, one can always seek to identify with the emotions felt — and this act channels a flow of love between the two. I recognise this memory from the retreat as a gift from the Holy Spirit during this period of trials I am facing, and I am grateful for the chance to practice it and build the bridge of love with the deep foundations of empathetic listening.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Lord, I pray for the grace to listen intently and patiently, to feel with and empathise with my loved ones.

Thanksgiving: We give praise and thanks to the Holy Spirit who inspires us in all situations, who comforts us in all tribulations.