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.
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.’
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)
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.