Daily Archives: April 18, 2017

19 April, Wednesday – Fire and Fear

19 April 2017

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Acts 3:1-10

Once, when Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the prayers at the ninth hour, it happened that there was a man being carried past. He was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in. When this man saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple he begged from them. Both Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us.’ He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God. Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.

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They recognised him at the breaking of bread

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

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Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?

I have a little calendar that sits on my desk about God-sized dreams. It is about finding and fulfilling your purpose, the purpose that God put you on this good Earth, no matter what the odds are. I look forward to turning each page, eager to read the phrase of the day. I find that it touches a lot on determining if that dream within us is a God-sized dream — it fills your whole being with a mixture of yearning and fear; yearning to learn and lean towards God for guidance and strength, and fear of not knowing where the road leads but trusting anyway that God will take us by the hand.

When Jesus came into the world to preach, he offered nothing but the Truth. Just as Peter said to the crippled man, “I have neither silver or gold but what I have I give to you”, Jesus is saying to us “I am offering you the Truth”. As humans, our natural instinct is to question if this is ‘the real deal’. How do we know if this is indeed the Truth and not some scam? Do we even believe what Jesus has to say? We think we know everything, and we are so good at being skeptics; indeed, how would we know?

The old adage ‘the truth shall set you free’ rings true. When something is explained to us and we learn of the facts, there is a dawn of realisation that descends upon us. Suddenly, we see things in a different light and we understand; and what we were afraid of before because we didn’t understand, we are now no longer afraid of anymore. The truth releases us from our own shackles of myopia and fear. The disciples going to Emmaus were downcast over the events that had happened, until Jesus came and interpreted the Scriptures to them, showing them that the things that had occured had to occur for God’s glory to come into being.

Understanding the bigger picture and God’s plan, they were released from their sadness. The cripple in the first reading accepted the Truth of Christ and was released from his deformity. How many more examples in the Bible of people accepting Christ and were released from what was holding them back! How about when we accept Christ in our daily lives, be it accepting Him for the first time or just accepting that we should surrender our problems, ailments, sickness, fears and worries to Him wholeheartedly, because He truly wants to save us. God’s glory will come into being if we lift our lives to Him.

Secondly, once we set our lives free, our human fear no longer has control of our hearts. God does, and He fills it with a gush of life, where fear once ruled. “Were not our hearts burning within us?” asked the disciples. It consumes us and makes us want to exclaim out loud! The fire that God sets alight in our hearts not only burns out the old doubts but warms our entire being. This is an everlasting flame, it cannot be extinguished so long as we take care of it through obedience to God. Yes, there is a fear of not knowing, but it is a good fear in that I am trusting God with this purpose that He has put in me, and I am nervous because it is so much bigger than I am. It is not a fear of failure but a fear of God in us, just like Moses was filled with terror at what God wanted him to do. But if we accept this, then God will always be with us. That fire will keep on burning for as long as we love God with all our hearts. That fire is a holy fire, it will fill us like nothing we have ever experienced. It will warm us and guide us, like a flame that will extinguish the darkness in our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my heart will never be shackled by my human fear, that I will learn to trust more in Your complete plan for me, even though I may not see or understand it fully.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for setting our hearts on fire with your Word, and for setting us free from fear!

18 April, Tuesday – Searching for Jesus

18 April 2017

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Acts 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke to the Jews: ‘The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’

Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’ He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.

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John 20:11-18

Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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Who are you looking for?

I always look forward to the Easter Vigil service when we welcome into our community the newly-baptised and those who are to be confirmed. It is indeed heartening to see each year, the number of children and young adults who take the leap of faith and accept Jesus as their Lord and master. Having been a cradle Catholic and baptised from birth, I have often wondered if I would have made the same decision to follow Christ if my parents had not done it for me.

My own search for Jesus was never a real conscious one. Instead, I was fortunate to have attended the Conversion Experience Retreat in 2011 and had my personal encounter with Him then. Since then, I have encountered Him in many other retreats and along the Camino as well. And in spite of my many encounters over the years, I constantly feel the need to see Him again, whether in the flesh or to feel the touch of His presence.

Brothers and sisters, we search for meaning each day in our lives as we plod on with our daily routines. But after 40 days of Lent, have we ever stopped to reflect and examine ourselves to see if we have grown in our spitiruality? For now that Christ is risen, surely He has reawakened in us the fire that we were given at our baptism and during our confirmation. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Mary who she is looking for, then when she finally realises it is Him, He tells her not to cling to him.

We tend to cling on to hope, especially in times of distress and when we face choppy seas. Yes, Jesus is and always will be there to save us. But what about the times when we do not see him nor feel His calming presence? Does that mean that He no longer cares or is too busy to help us? I think the opposite is true. Just as He prepared Mary and His disciples for life ‘without’ Him in person, He is now ‘present’ in everyone and in every situation we encounter after His resurrection and ascension.

If you open your heart and look hard enough, you will see Jesus in everyone around you. Yes, even in that difficult colleague or family member. Brothers and sisters, that is how we will be able to save ourselves from this perverse generation – by looking at others with the eyes of Christ. Who you are looking for may actually be closer to your heart than you think.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that we are able to discern Christ’s presence in our daily lives and in our own hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for sending your Son into our world and for the gift of discernment.