26 March – 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, 7 from our writing team, along with 2 guest writers, Gerard and Beryl, have contributed to the reflections. It is a long read, but we hope that it will be an enjoyable and inspiring one!
Debbie (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.
Responsarial: Psalm 103:1-2,5-6,10,12-14,24,35
R/: Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.
Creation From Chaos
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.
In our lives, we experience quite a lot of dark times, some darker than others. Losing a loved one, losing a job, being betrayed by a friend, being betrayed by a spouse, or being betrayed by your Church community are just examples of the darkness in our lives.
As I reflect on today’s reading, I am amazed at how God slowly put structure, beauty and life in the world. The first thing He did was to dispel the darkness by creating light. This light showed how chaotic everything was. In the same way, God gives us light to see what is really happening in our lives.
God then proceeds to create order, addressing one need after another: the heavens and earth, the oceans, the plants, day and night, the animals, and the pinnacle of creation – man. I’m pretty sure God could have made all these in one day, but he had a plan and ‘staggered’ creation.
When we are in our dark moments, God does not simply wave a magic wand to put everything in order. We go through a process of healing, of moving on, of forgiving. Things fall into place, but not all at the same time. We just need to have faith that one day, everything will be very good.
Last year, I went for a retreat and God showed me my brokenness. My parents separated when I was eight but most of the people I know would think everything in my family was ok. I excelled in my studies, I didn’t do drugs, I wasn’t in any destructive relationship. But my retreat revealed how much hurt was in me, and that I was too afraid to believe in true love between human beings. I left the retreat thinking that I was fully healed. Little did I know that it had to take more time for the healing process to be completed. Just like how God created something out of the darkness, God was creating, or re-creating me, slowly, in phases, in stages. I’m not sure if I’ve reached the pinnacle yet. But I’ve been seeing the oceans, the plants and the animals in my life.
Are you in the dark? Have hope. God is creating a masterpiece out of this darkness.
(by Stephanie Villa)
Prayer: Dear Lord, at times I don’t see what you intend to make out of me. It is dark and it hurts. And sometimes, the phases are taking too long. But when I look at your wonderful creations, it reminds me that you have something great for me.
Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for this gift of life. I may not see its beauty now, but I’ve seen something beautiful every now and then.
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.’
Responsarial Psalm 15:5,8-11
R/: Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.
There were times when I did not like what I do. Times when I wanted to stop, hide, and run away from all my deadlines and responsibilities. Instances when I wished to escape and leave everything and everyone. Temporarily.
Abraham must have felt devastated upon learning that his son, Isaac would be the offering. I cannot imagine if he had been able to sleep that night, thinking that he would be giving up his son for God. He could have said, “No!” Nevertheless, he followed what God told him and prepared for everything. There were questions that I wanted to ask. How did he take it when he was informed that he would be offering Isaac as a holocaust? What were his thoughts before going to sleep? Was he even able to sleep the night before? Did his wife, Sarah, know that Isaac would become an offering? How was he feeling while on the journey, knowing that he would leave his son on the place of sacrifice? What was Isaac’s reaction when he was tied up by his father?
But on the third day, it was revealed that God was testing Abraham. Isaac was saved from being the burnt offering. God indeed provided the sheep for the offering. A ram caught by its horns in the thicket replaced Isaac as the holocaust. This tells us that God provides for everything. And God sent us His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to be the Sacrificial Lamb for man’s redemption. We do not need to die on the cross to atone for our sins. Jesus has already done that and saved us.
Similarly, God also showed his saving grace to Jesus Christ. On the third day after His death, Jesus rose from the dead. And it is for eternity. After the sacrifices and death of Jesus Christ, there is the Glorious Resurrection.
In our daily activities, let us be like Abraham who followed God and who was ready to surrender everything. Saying “Yes!” to the Lord is easy. But actually following Him can be difficult. I personally struggle to faithfully follow God’s commandments.
Let us continue giving our all in everything that we do even if we are in a really difficult situation. Let us be reminded that the suffering we feel is nothing compared to what Christ has sacrificed for us. In whatever hardships that we experience, let us remember that God never leaves us and He will lead us to surpass the rocky road.
(by Beryl Baterina)
Prayer: Dear Lord, please let us be like Abraham to do our daily work as best as we can. May we have the strength to endure anything that we will face and a heart that will lift everything to You.
Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for pouring upon us your divine providence that enables us to follow Your will.
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: …
Canticle of Exodus 15
R/: I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!
Rescued, We Are Victorious
“Yahweh, is my strength and my song, to him I owe my deliverance. He is my God and I shall praise him, my father’s God and I shall extol him. Yahweh is a warrior; Yahweh is his name.”
In this reading we read about the parting of the Red Sea, the freeing of the Israelites out of Egypt and from slavery. We read about the wonder, the power and might of God. We understand that as long as God is with us, nothing can stand against us.
But our lives, no matter how close we seem to be, or how faithful we are to God, will continuously be faced with problems and, at times, even the non-believers seem to be more ‘well off’ compared to us. When we make comparisons, we are unknowingly walking ourselves into slavery, walking ourselves back into Egypt, walking away from God. We fall into sin, focusing on the external rather than on our identity, on the influences rather than the truths, on the world rather than on God.
This reading isn’t just about how powerful God is but how powerful we can be. We are the ones who can walk out of our slavery. We too can lead others around us out of this slavery too. We can overcome sin, temptations and, more importantly death, because of the death of Christ.
It isn’t about what we have but whether or not we know who we are. And in Christ, we know we are saved as He is our salvation. We are rescued, we are victorious and we are loved. Let us see beyond the imperfections and insecurities that we have but to know we have the best gift of all, the gift of Life. Let us celebrate our lives, this victory and our salvation.
(by Benjamin Mao)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask you to continue to be our strength and our song. To deliver us from evil and to bring us to everlasting life. Lead us and bless us always. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of your son. Thank you for your sacrifice and your love for us. Inspire us and we continue to learn to be more like you each day. Amen.
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.
Responsarial Psalm 29:2,4-6,11-13
R/: I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me.
The Lord Comes to My Rescue But What About His Anger?
I did forsake you for a brief moment but with great love will take you back.
Very often, as a thankful, grateful Christian I can see our God’s loving hand of protection, guidance and providence in my life. This can come in many ways in our various walks of life. For example, when the Lord delivers us from a bad boss or an unreasonable client. Or when angels steer us away from disaster. Or when false accusations of wrongdoing are miraculously acquitted because of the unexpected change of heart of an accuser or witness. For these, we must be truly grateful for His grace and go on our knees to thank and praise our loving, caring God.
But, I realise that there are times when the Lord did turn His face away because I did not follow his way and was not faithful to His word and commands. These times, though less pleasant, also require our reflection and deserve close examination. For we cannot just attribute the ‘good stuff’ to Him and the ‘bad stuff’ just happened by chance, because nothing is by chance.
If I fail to reflect on my trials and times of darkness, I may actually be missing out on what the Lord is trying to tell, train or teach me. He may be admonishing me for my lack of love in my actions, or for the times I have chosen the easy way instead of His way. Sometimes, it’s to wake me up from my own twisted self-rationalisation that I am doing what God wants… when it’s actually what I want. We must not forget that the Lord is loving, but that He is also holy and wants us to be holy. We should strive to be perfect and holy like him.
Time and time again, whenever I have realised that I have erred and do what I can to change, He would quickly come to my rescue and bail this poor soul out of trouble. That’s grace, that’s our great and mighty God. For I am His even when His anger is upon me but His anger is only for a short time but His love and blessings are forever.
(by Gerard Nah)
Prayer: Lord, help me to be attentive and discerning to your presence and messages in my everyday life. May I be sensitive to your promptings and have the courage to change my ways no matter how hard it may be.
Thanksgiving: Abba, Father, thank you for always trying to train me for your kingdom. Thank you for training my soul, my body and my spirit, and for all the times you have delivered me by your gentle and omnipotent hand.
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.
Canticle of Isaiah 12
R/: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
What is Your Spiritual ‘Minimum Wage’?
Your wages on what fails to satisfy
What do we do after getting our pay-check? So we spend a little on food at the start of the month, we pay some bills, we pay the loans, we ignore the credit card bill, we spend on more food, we save some for the holidays in two months time, we give some to our parents, we give some more at someone’s wedding, we spend on a new bag, we pay for the gym membership and other social clubs and then we dig for coins to give as offertory on Sundays. If we could just take a pause on things that count as being satisfactory to life… are the things that we do life-giving? Whether we derive a genuine deep happiness in someone’s life through material needs or uplifting someone’s spirituality and mood through our Lord, it requires minimal or none of our wages.
I am someone who is very sensitive to money, whether it is about how much I have, or how I spend, or how it is being managed. As much as I dislike being judged on the material wealth of what I do not own, we are certainly being categorised based on our material wealth and status wherever we go, whomever we meet. We will never know the life of the other person and so we should not make quick judgements on how he spends his money. In today’s reading, the Lord reminds us to look towards Him as the way of life, and not be distracted by things that do not satisfy our soul. This requires great wisdom on how we manage our money, but it is not to say that we are to be lazy and not make ourselves useful to society.
As I have been moving about between cities for work, I have recently settled down and do not plan to move again. I have been blessed with a stable job and my skills have been noticed and respected. I have always told myself to find a ministry at my parish when I settle in. So I am sharing with you this Lent, that I am doing the life-giving things that the Lord has opened for me. I have returned to OXYGEN as a contributor and I am rostered to be a Lector at this year’s Holy Thursday mass at this parish that I have been attending. As we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord tomorrow, let us be mindful of the bread and wine that matters month by month, day by day. We pray to better ourselves at work and so that we will do greater things in the name of the Father, and be truly satisfied.
(by Austin Leong)
Prayer: We pray especially for those who are having difficulty in finding a job and feeding their family, that opportunities open for them and that they know in their hearts, the Lord is watching over them.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the food we have, the clothes we wear and the roof over our heads. May we be able to help those who have trouble even to meet these basic needs.
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.
Responsarial Psalm 18:8-11
R/: You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.
Prayer As Conversation
Had you walked in the way of God, you would have lived in peace forever.
This reading from the book of Baruch is not often read during the Liturgy of the Word in the Easter Vigil celebrations because of pastoral considerations – i.e. length of time. However, if we do take time to reflect on the reading, we discover the importance of God in the history of Israel. The people of Israel were reminded that straying away from God brought about difficulties in their lives.
Sometimes it is easy to blame God for all the troubles and woes which we experience in our daily lives. Yet, Baruch reminds us of the need to possess the Wisdom of God to be able to discern the reasons for why we are going through a particular dark patch in our lives. This Wisdom comes from being familiar with the Law of God. This is not the same as being able to recall the 10 commandments in order, the ability to recite prayers without any assistance, or even full attendance at Church events. Familiarity with the Law of God requires us to enter into prayer with God to ask Him to share with us what He so desires for us.
Prayer must be done as a conversation with a friend except that now, this friend is Jesus, who is willing to hear what we have to say. This conversation does not need us to talk all the time. Being silent in prayer to hear what God has to share with us is something which we often fail to do. This is especially so in the midst of our pre-occupation with our troubles. Jesus wants us to depend on Him for His love and to show us that what we want in solving our problems is nothing compared to what He can offer if we trust in Him. Let us spend time to find out what is hindering us from discovering the voice of God speaking to us in our lives.
(by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Jesus, I trust in you.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who spread the Love of God to those yearning for solace and comfort.
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.”’
Responsarial Psalm 41:2-3,5,42:3-4
R/: Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities…
Last month, I went through a cleansing fast because I found that I was getting lethargic at the end of each work day and my energy levels were low. Immediately after the fast, I went for my annual company medical health screening. The results that came back recently totally validated my decision to do the cleanse, while also fasting from meat and alcohol for Lent. My previously high cholesterol levels plummeted to below the minimum reference range. As a result, my doctor told me to cut my medication in half and to do another check in a few months’ time to see if I could discontinue the statins once and for all. I have actually never felt fitter nor healthier since perhaps more than 10 years ago.
At the last healing service at CSC, Fr Erbin sprinkled the congregation with holy water during mass. I was blessed to receive a generous outpouring as the water hit my face. I thought to myself, ‘How amazing it feels to not just be physically cleansed but also cleansed from within.’ This is probably the first time in my life when my physical and spiritual selves have been aligned and cleansed. When I went for confession on Tuesday night, it was a wonderful 20 minutes spent in conversation with a priest who has always made me feel the presence of the Holy Spirit whenever he gives me absolution.
Somehow, this Holy Week feels different for me. The sacrifices I made during Lent have resulted in a ‘cleaner’ person in more ways than one. As I look back, I am indeed grateful to the Lord for protecting me and for steeling me against the temptations that came my way. This journey into my own desert never filled me with fear nor dread. In fact, I woke up each day raring to go and eager to face my daily challenges. Of course I faltered along the way but Jesus was always there to encourage and to give me a helping hand. Especially during those times when I felt totally helpless.
Today, I am a new person physically. Many friends and colleagues have commented that I am radiating a new energy and have a spring in my step. As part of my training routine, I did the Treetop Walk last weekend with an 80% loaded backpack and completed the nearly 10km circuit with ease. I know that one month ago, I would not have been able to do it. I praise and thank the Lord for giving me the willpower and determination to cleanse myself of my impurities – both physical and spiritual.
Brothers and sisters, have you all emerged from your journeys cleansed and refreshed? Or are you still wandering in the desert of your hearts? Wherever you are on your journey, know that the Lord will deliver you from the suffering and pain. And that you will be cleansed of all your sins and impurities as long as you open your heart to His everlasting love.
(by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Lord, bless us all today as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Saviour, who continues to walk with us in our own desert, never forsaking us and always ready to lend us a helping hand.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way and delivering us from our trying circumstances.
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.
Responsarial Psalm 117:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
R:/ Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Intertwined for Life
If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him
What does it mean to be dead to sin, for that is what we are, when we die with Christ? While looking up this topic, I realized that I could draw a lot of parallels to my newfound role as a mother.
Before I entered motherhood, my life was pretty simple: work, sleep, eat, spending time with my husband. We could go out whenever we wanted to, and ate whatever we felt like eating. Getting ready to leave the house was but a work of a moment. As every parent would know, when you have kids, going out is a completely different adventure altogether. From tanking up the baby (so that baby is well fed for the journey) to making sure you have everything in the diaper bag, it is almost like going on a mini excursion. Ever since becoming a mother, my life has changed. I’m not as carefree as I was before, I am more careful of my diet, and I am completely attached to my little son. Sure, I can go back to that pre-parenting time but at what cost? The “old” me seems a thing of the past now. My life and that of my boy are now intertwined. When he is hungry, I feed him; when he cries, I feel it. We are so in “sync” that I have become familiar to his needs and wants even though he has no means of expressing himself other than by bawling.
I imagine that dying to sin in Christ Jesus is quite like that. Our old sinful lives were not intertwined with anything other than to ourselves. We were not yet “aware” of the love and grace of God, but once we accepted Christ, that was when we made that transition into our new lives. We accepted and acknowledged the Word of God by living our new lives according to the Word. For some of us, the transition was more profound, nevertheless our lives have changed. Salvation is at hand when we live with Christ, and we are no more the wandering souls that we were from before. Jesus gives us a purpose to live, not just a new life but a new meaningful life with Him. We are no longer a dead branch, cut off from a tree, but one that can be grafted to bear fruit once more. Sin no longer has a hold on us, but it is something that we must work to preserve, to prevent sin from becoming masters of our lives once more.
Our new lives in Christ Jesus gives us hope and purpose, yet it is not meant to be an easy path. Just as parenting has its downs as much as its ups, we have to “pick up our cross”. But like being a mother, with such highs to be had from looking at your wee one, would we even want to go back to our old lives when there is Christ waiting for us and journeying with us? For my part, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
(by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, I pray for the strength to carry my cross on my newfound life with You. Help me when my cross gets too heavy to bear, that I may have the strength to see it through to the end of the journey.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for this wonderful life with You. Thank you for Your salvation and promise that You will journey with me always.
On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but on entering discovered that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. As they stood there not knowing what to think, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women lowered their eyes. But the two men said to them, ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?’ And they remembered his words.
When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.
Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.
The Heart Remembers
Remember what he told you… and they remembered his words
The heart remembers. But we usually attribute memory as a brain activity, borne by neural pathways and chemicals. The kind of memory the Gospel refers to is one that takes place in the heart. We hear the two angels telling the women at Jesus’ tomb to ‘remember what he told you.’ The angels did not explain what had happened, but merely pointed the their hearts towards the words Jesus had spoken before: ‘that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.’ Immediately, they remembered and responded.
The kind of memory that a heart stores up is of a different phenomena. It is mystical and it is romantic. I don’t mean romantic as ‘lovey-dovey,’ but rather, a certain stirring inside the chest that reminds one of an ancient and cherished secret. Falling in love can sometimes feel as though the heart remembers an inchoate experience of one-ness and fulfilment – a déjà vu which had pre-existed in deep memory.
I think this is why when we meet the Son of Man, Jesus, this relationship can feel so personal and real. We identify; and we feel known. That we are loved, beloved, and blessed. Yet after some time, after experiencing some kind of trauma (like the women and the disciples did), we might forget. It is natural, and God understands. So He continues to send us messengers to remind us: through the Mass, priests in their homilies, friends, family, and ultimately, our own devotional quiet times where we contemplate on His living Word which is the Way, Truth and Life.
Today, as hundreds and thousands around the world receive the Sacrament of Baptism into the Faith, we the faithful who had been privileged to begin this journey earlier, are called to renew our Baptismal Promises – to reject Satan and renounce all his works and empty promises; to profess our faith in the God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Why? Because we can easily forget. We would rather choose to lean in to the world’s empty promises and the lies of the evil one; instead of leaning in to God’s promises, Jesus’s love, His Passion and Resurrection.
Our sisters and brothers who will be baptised can look forward to experience a transformation so profound and inward in the secret rooms of their hearts and souls… that Jesus is Love and Love now dwells in them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you might even wonder at the familiar comfort and completeness of this love! Because your heart that was knitted by the loving will of God the Father, knows Him. You will remember the way home and this feeling of home – even if you had never been here before. It is all Grace.
May our hearts always remember Jesus’ deep love for us, even unto death. May our hearts respond like the women at the tomb – who received with childlike faith and passed on the glorious news. May we suspend our intellectual judgements – unlike the other disciples who thought the story ‘seemed pure nonsense.’ Instead, may we be like Peter who repented and rushed too see Jesus and be with him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: We pray for all who will receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist this Easter. That they may experience God’s great love for them and feel welcomed into our loving Catholic family.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for never giving up on me, for always reminding me to come back to you, confident of your love and compassion.