Monday, 20 Apr – Branding

20 Apr 

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Acts 6:8-15

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’

Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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For on him the Father, God, has set his seal

I felt compelled to write this after I had attended Easter Vigil at a church in the east side of Singapore. We went there, not knowing anyone but only because my partner’s brother had been baptized there in 2009. So imagine our surprise when we bumped into friends from our centre and also friends who were there to support the candidates. It was my second time attending mass in that particular church and the entire celebration was perfect from start to the end. It was as if God had staged this just for me, after a rather emotionally draining two weeks at work. The true meaning of Easter hit home for me when I saw the tears of joy in the eyes of some of the newly-baptised Catholics as they turned to face the congregation.

With their baptism, God indeed set his seal on the 37 adults and children that night. And in His generosity, He didn’t leave out anyone present. For I witnessed the celebrant, Father Bruno, gleefully sprinkling everyone with holy water as he bounded up the stairs to the choir loft and, after anointing the choir, looking over the balcony and sprinkling the congregation below once again. Truly, this was a child of God who was overflowing with joy as he celebrated the long mass with us. And he was not afraid to show all of us how happy he was to be doing the Lord’s work.

Since February, I have been privileged to embark on a spiritual recovery journey with 12 other brothers. At each meeting, no matter how low or how elated we are, we have made it a point to be truly open and honest with each other within the group, without any fear. Truly, the Lord has blessed each and every one of us and set his seal upon the group as our sharings get deeper and deeper each time we meet. I, for one, am not sure where the group will end up spiritually after a year; but I know that He is working within each one of us. Each of us is beginning to live life according to how God ‘branded’ us on our baptism and, as we pray for and support one another, I am confident that the group will continue to progress and grow in our spirituality.

Brothers and sisters, our God wants us to live the life that He has destined each of us for so that we can give glory to Him wholeheartedly. His seal is on our hearts and in our soul. Each time we make the sign of the Cross, we are ‘branding’ ourselves as a child of God. And though we each have our own unique identity, all we need do is to spend some quiet time with the Lord and look deep down within our hearts. You may not find it so easily at the outset but it is certainly there – the imprint of Jesus Christ in our very being. It is who we truly are – a son, a daughter of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Lord, grace us with fortitude and patience so that we may live as your true sons and daughters, steadfast in faith and sure in your infinite love for each and every one of us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, loving Father, for keeping watch over us every single moment of our life.

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