Friday, 18 March – Roses Come With Thorns

18 March

Dear Readers, yesterday we welcomed Stephanie Villa to our team of writers. Here is a little bit about her:

Stephanie is a cradle Catholic who spent the first 15 years of her life in the Philippines. When she was 13, she proclaimed herself as an ‘atheist’ when she was not able to find satisfactory answers to her questions on the Bible.

She came to Singapore when she was 16 to do her O-levels examination. During her Secondary Four year, her close friends joined a non-Catholic Christian Church. Even though she felt pressured to join them, she told God that she would not leave the Catholic Church without understanding what the Church is all about. She is forever grateful to the Holy Spirit for putting that desire in her heart.

Last year, during the feast of the Epiphany, Stephanie felt called to offer her gift of writing to God. Her initial response was to run a motivational blog www.everythinginspires.com. She met Desmond at Conversion Experience Retreat #50 in January and, after reading several doses of OXYGEN and praying about it, she decided to join the ministry. She hopes to glorify God by witnessing through her writing. 

We hope Stephanie finds a deeper purpose to her time with OXYGEN and wish her all the best in this shared endeavour with us!

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Memorial for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor

Cyril (315-386) was raised a Christian in Jerusalem. He was well-educated, especially in religion. He was ordained a priest by St. Maximus, and was a great instructor of catechumens. His instructions are still source documents for the Church’s early teachings. He became Bishop of Jerusalem in 348. He was exiled three times by the Arians, usually on some trumped up charge like selling church furniture, but actually on theological grounds. He attended the Council of Seleucia in 359, and the Council of Constantinople in 381. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.
But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.

Roses: the flowers that symblolize love. In the wild, roses have thorns. It is common nowadays to receive a bouquet of roses without thorns but receiving the word and love of God is like receiving a bouquet of roses whose thorns were not removed. We are presented with the beauty but to touch it means we will be poked by thorns. These thorns are the teachings which we do not live, or want to live, hence, we refuse to believe.

Although Jesus did many good works, the Jews realized that his claim to be God was a thorn in their side for which they were willing to stone Jesus. They were willing to trample on the rose just because they were poked by a thorn.

When I was younger, I thought it was such a thorn to be asked to dress modestly. But I thank God that he helped me understand the beauty of his teachings on human sexuality. There are still times when I get poked by this thorn – when I want to attract attention, when I just love the color of that dress. It’s difficult to hold on to the rose, but I’ve decided I won’t let go of it. That it is far too beautiful to let go.

What are the thorns in your rose for which you feel like stoning God for? The thorns are there to protect the beauty. Trust in God and don’t let go.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, please help me accept all the roses that You are sending my way. Despite the thorns, allow me to enjoy the fragrance and gaze upon these roses.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Lord, the thorns protect the beauty of the roses. Because I am grateful for the roses, I thank you for the thorns as well.

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