Daily Archives: May 11, 2017

12 May, Friday – Why be Christian?

May 12 – Memorial for Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs; Memorial for St. Pancras, Martyr

Nereus and Achilleus (d. 98) were soldiers in the imperial Roman army, and members of the Praetorian Guard. They were converts to Christianity and baptized by St. Peter the Apostle. They were exiled for their faith, suffered with St. Flavia Domitilla, and were martyred together by beheading.

  • Patron Saint Index

Pancras (c. 290) was a 14-year-old orphan brought to Rome by his uncle St. Dionysius. He was a convert to Christianity, and was martyred with St. Nereus, St. Achilleus, and St. Domitilla for publicly proclaiming his faith.

Pope St. Vitalian sent his relics from the cemetery of Calepodius in Rome to the British Isles as part of the evangelization of England, so they would have the relics of the Church at large, and to install in altars in new churches. St. Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the first church in England to St. Pancras, and subsequent churches throughout England are similarly named after him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:
‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you. What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every sabbath. Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.
‘We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the second psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.’

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John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’

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There are many rooms in my Father’s house

The other day, I read of a book written by an ex-Atheist who had become a born-again Catholic and I wondered, if God is love, and since the Catholic Church believes in ecumenism, would we too celebrate when a non-Catholic makes a commitment to other religions other than Catholicism, such as Islam or Buddhism? After all, they are making a commitment to a way of life that they believe will lead them to become better persons. Do we celebrate that as well? Or do we still see it as a ‘factional’ loss?

In today’s gospel reading, we see two seemingly contradictory phrases. In one paragraph, Jesus mentions going to his Father’s house to prepare a room for his disciples, in a place where there are many rooms. Conventionally, one would view it as Jesus saying that there are many rooms for all of us who are followers of Christ. However, Christ’s words struck me differently when I read it. If Christ was going to prepare a room for his disciples, does it mean that our Father’s house has many other rooms for those who are not conventionally regarded as Jesus’ disciples? For instance, if God is love, and we believe that other religions lead people to God, then wouldn’t it also mean that there are rooms for others in God’s house? Yet, Jesus says, “No one can come to the Father except through me.” What does that mean? The words of Christ are thought-provoking and they are a mystery.

Perhaps they are for all the people who lived before Jesus’ time, but who believed in God – the ones that Paul spoke about in the first reading. Perhaps, they are also meant for people who will live in the future, those who never had a chance to encounter Christ personally but who have come to know God by knowing love. After all, there are people who may be beyond the scope of the Church, but are within God’s mercy.

The crux of today’s reflection though is this: “Why are we Christian? Why do we believe in Christ?” Is it solely because we want a foothold in heaven? Or is there something about Him that has changed our lives and broadened our visions? Have we grown comfortable in our perceptions that we fail to see the underlying message of Christ? Namely, that God’s love and salvation transcends all boundaries. It wasn’t just limited to a special group of people whom God had chosen as his own. If our beliefs have led us to forsake the individual for the sake of doctrine, then we may be missing out on truly knowing the person of Christ.

Today, let us take some time and reflect on this question, “Why do I believe in Christ?”

 (Today’s Oxygen by Daniel Tay)

Prayer: We pray for Christians to gain greater clarity on why we believe in Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for his gift of love.

11 May, Thursday – Servant Leadership

11 May 2017

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Acts 13:13-25

Paul and his friends went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the sabbath and took their seats. After the lessons from the Law and the Prophets had been read, the presidents of the synagogue sent them a message: ‘Brothers, if you would like to address some words of encouragement to the congregation, please do so.’ Paul stood up, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out, and for about forty years took care of them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in Canaan, he put them in possession of their land for about four hundred and fifty years. After this he gave them judges, down to the prophet Samuel. Then they demanded a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. After forty years, he deposed him and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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John 13:16-20

After he had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus said to them:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
no servant is greater than his master,
no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.

‘Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly. I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: Someone who shares my table rebels against me.

‘I tell you this now, before it happens,
so that when it does happen
you may believe that I am He.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever welcomes the one I send welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’

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After he had washed the feet of his disciples

Last year I went for a company trip with my wife, some colleagues and our agency leader. On the first day when we reached our hotel, we alighted from the bus. While some of us stood around waiting for the luggage to be unloaded, our agency leader helped to unload and carry the bags from the bus to the hotel. This left a deep impression on my wife, who later remarked, “That’s a good leader.”

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus had some words for his disciples, but these were spoken only after he had performed the act that he wanted his disciples to emulate – he had washed their feet. Christ led by example and he asks us, his disciples, to practice servant leadership – to serve those who follow us.

In his first year as Pope, Pope Francis frequently spoke out against clerical careerism, where clergy see their role as a career, much like us in the corporate world. Yet, in Christianity, it is meant to be the other way around – where the higher is one’s position, the lower he is called to place himself in service to others. This is the way of Christ.

This is why the Pope, the highest position in the Catholic hierarchy, has the title “Servant of Servants”. The message that Pope Francis wants to send to the world is this – that Christianity is all about service to the lowest of society. It is ultimately about the individual and loving them, with God’s unconditional love for him or her.

Today, let us reflect on the opportunities we have to be Christ to another by serving them.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)

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Prayer: We pray for Christians who think they should be served; may Christ shine his light on them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for a wonderful servant leader.