Monthly Archives: April 2019

1 May, Wednesday – Staying faithful to God

1 May 2019

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Acts 5:17-26
The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.
But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.
When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.
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John 3:16-21
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’
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They did as they were told

I have observed how young sportsmen and musicians seek to continue to train for their sport even though sometimes it is taking too much effort. They do it because they feel very strongly in their cause. They will not hesitate to spend countless hours and even money to travel down to the place just to ensure that they achieve the desired outcome. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay focused on the task and to never forget the purpose of why we are called to be in the world.

The first reading reminds us of how faithful the two apostles remained despite being imprisoned. They had no regret of what they did previously and they were willing to stay the course despite the possible punishments which they may face. They had a deep encounter with the Lord Jesus and this was what motivated them to continue to stay the course come what may.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of the need to stay faithful to the light of the world. This is what he stood for and he paid the ultimate price for us. As we go about our daily lives, we could spend time to reflect upon what God has called us to do. Only by orienting our lives towards God will we be able to remain faithful, even unto death.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to continue to love you with all our heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who show us what it means to love you.

30 April, Tuesday – Knowing the Father

30 April 2019

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Acts 4:32-37

The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.

  The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.

  None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.

  There was a Levite of Cypriot origin called Joseph whom the apostles surnamed Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He owned a piece of land and he sold it and brought the money, and presented it to the apostles.

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John 3:7-15

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

‘How can that be possible?’ asked Nicodemus. ‘You, a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things!’ replied Jesus.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
we speak only about what we know
and witness only to what we have seen
and yet you people reject our evidence.
If you do not believe me when I speak about things in this world,
how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

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The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” 

As I read today’s gospel readings, this line struck me as both very poetic and rather strange. “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”. While we may have received the Holy Spirit in our baptism, there is still no guarantee that we will know what happens to us tomorrow, or the day after. From time immemorial, Christians have lived in the deep uncertainty of fear, persecution, and even violence. Little has changed today, as recent events in Sri Lanka show.

As Jesus has reminded us in Mark 13: 32, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”.

Having grappled with illness and my own uncertain mortality, this is a thought that has kept me awake on many a sleepless night. However, the Holy Spirit has imbued us with one importance piece of knowledge: that we have a God who loves us. A God who will receive us with open arms when we breathe our last amidst our earthly sufferings, and who will forgive a contrite heart when we come before Him, muddied in our own shame and sins. But we need not wait till that day to seek our Father’s forgiveness.

Since we know neither the day or hour, we must try to live each day as if it is our last, as if the Lord will call us to Him tomorrow. As Jesus goes on to teach in Mark 13: 33, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come”. As Jesus has so often taught us, we must repent, for the Kingdom is coming. And above all, we must love each other, as He has loved us. Love and Repentance. This is what it means for the Christian to be watchful during our many nights of fear and terror. It never gets any easier, but the least we can do is to keep trying every day.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we ask for Your wisdom and providence, as we continue to navigate this vale of tears. We ask only for the obedience to follow you, our Shepherd, as we traverse these dark valleys, in the blessed hope of entering into the Kingdom that You have prepared for us.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for the certainty of Your love. We thank You for continuing to love us even when we have been wayward and sinful.

29 April, Monday – Baptisms of Fire

29 Apr – Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin, Doctor

1347 – 1380 – She was born in Siena and, seeking perfection, entered the Third Order of the Dominicans when she was still in her teens. In 1370 she was commanded by a vision to leave her secluded life and enter the public life of the world. She wrote letters to many major public figures and carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, urging him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States. She burned with the love of God and her neighbour. As an ambassador she brought peace and harmony between cities. She fought hard to defend the liberty and rights of the Popes and did much for the renewal of religious life. She also dictated books full of sound doctrine and spiritual inspiration. She died on 29 April 1380. In 1970 Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church.

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Acts 4:23-31

As soon as Peter and John were released they went to the community and told them everything the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they lifted up their voice to God all together. ‘Master,’ they prayed ‘it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them; you it is who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why this arrogance among the nations,
these futile plots among the peoples?
Kings on earth setting out to war,
princes making an alliance,
against the Lord and against his Anointed.

‘This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.

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John 3:1-8

There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

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Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

Easter Sunday has just passed us. How did Lent go for you? Through several conversations with my friends, I found out that Lent was a particularly difficult period of time for most of them. For some, the 40 days of Lent can often be described as a parched desert season. We had all undergone a kind of stripping bare from certain luxuries (whether by choice or circumstances). We put on a penitent cloak of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. It was tough. We went through a certain kind of poverty or deprivation and longed for the redemption and joy of Easter.

What happens then, after the high and jubilant victory of Easter? It is a day where many of our churches (hopefully) have multiple Baptisms of new brethren who have completed their RCIA journey. This baptism of water is a symbol of their new life with Christ. A cleansing, purifying, rebirth into the Christian faith which will guide them for the rest of their days. We welcome them with joyful embrace of new family.

Yet, one thing we tend to fail to ‘forewarn’ our new brethren is to be certain that there must and will be several more baptisms that will happen over their lifetime as Christians. This is partly why some eventually fall away even after baptism, as soon as harsh waters of life wash over them. This ‘baptisms of fire’ is the descending measure of God’s great love to purify our hearts and minds and souls through the Holy Spirit. It is what we read of in today’s First reading – the Acts of the Apostles.

The disciples finally recognise that the Lord they followed in life is the true Messiah. At the same time, because of his death, they were persecuted more than ever! Indeed, the joy of recognising and claiming this redemptive miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection (the world’s first Easter), was followed swiftly by danger, persecution, and a lot of suffering. This was their baptism of fire. And there were many more in their lifetimes…

Each time I go through a particularly painful, sorrowful period of my life, I recall this powerful imagery of Abraham preparing an altar obediently to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. I consider this wrenching journey that Abraham made across the countryside to the place of sacrifice as his baptism of fire – the intense trial after the deep, great joy (of Isaac’s birth). We all need this baptism in order to purify our heart’s desire to love God and follow Christ.

Are we following Christ for personal profit; because we feel loved in a certain community; or, a misguided perception that faith is a kind of self-help tool; or, that we feel estranged from children who may have suddenly embraced a new religion…? The reasons could be a dime a dozen. These reasons could be a part of one’s considerations… but here’s the hook – God wants ALL of you and me. And so, the fires will come, not because God is making sport of us. But because He is burning up all the dross that has clogged our hearts and minds over the years, that prevents us from fully, totally, and freely following him… back to His Kingdom.

Yes, our “YES” to God the Father at baptism has to be total, free, and without reservation – just as wedding vows are made.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Help me O Lord, to offer up to you freely, fully, and without reservation, every part of my life. Because You first loved me.

Thanksgiving: I am ever grateful for the many models of faith, great examples of total surrender that we find in the early Church, Our Lady, the apostles, and the many saints of the Church.

28 April, Sunday – Doubting Thomas

28 Apr – Divine Mercy Sunday

The Congregation for Divine Worship decreed in 2003 that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, wit confidence in divine benevolence, the difference and trials that humankind will experience in the years to come”. Devotion to the Divine Mercy was promoted by St. Faustina Kowalski, canonized 30 Apr 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

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Acts 5:12-16

The faithful all used to meet by common consent in the Portico of Solomon. No one else ever dared to join them, but the people were loud in their praise and the numbers of men and women who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily. So many signs and wonders were worked among the people at the hands of the apostles that the sick were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping-mats in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall across some of them as he went past. People even came crowding in from the towns round about Jerusalem, bringing with them their sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were cured.
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Apocalypse 1:9-13,17-19

My name is John, and through our union in Jesus I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure. I was on the island of Patmos for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus; it was the Lord’s day and the Spirit possessed me, and I heard a voice behind me, shouting like a trumpet, ‘Write down all that you see in a book.’ I turned round to see who had spoken to me, and when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands and, surrounded by them, a figure like a Son of man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a golden girdle.

When I saw him, I fell in a dead faint at his feet, but he touched me with his right hand and said, ‘Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld. Now write down all that you see of present happenings and things that are still to come.’
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John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

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But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

I’ve always found it unfair that among the disciples, Thomas is given the nickname ‘the doubter.’ Sure, he did say that his belief was conditional on being able to dig his hands into Jesus’ wounds, but we would do well to remember that this was a man who just days before, had witnessed his Master being beaten to a pulp, disfigured and then die excruciatingly on a Roman cross. Who could blame him then, if his first reaction to the claims of Jesus’ resurrection, was that He would believe Jesus was alive when he saw him alive?

Furthermore, the proof that Thomas had asked for was nothing more than what the other disciples had themselves experienced. John records that when Jesus appeared to the group of disciples sans Thomas, it was only when he showed them his hands and sides that the disciples rejoiced “because they saw the Lord.” So, if Thomas was a doubter, the other disciples were no better. They were simply at the right place at the right time. No amazing feat of faith there.

So why did the John’s Gospel single Thomas out?

I think the clue lies in John’s statement of intent at the end of the passage: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

If John’s goal in writing his gospel was that his readers would come to believe in Jesus, what good does highlighting Thomas’ skepticism do? Why plant a seed of doubt in such an important moment in history?

Unless for John, in that kernel of doubt lies the potential for strong and true faith. For what is doubt but faith that is suffering from malnutrition? And what is unbelief but faith that has been mistreated and destroyed? Yet unbelief and doubt in the Christian understanding is not the same thing. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, nor is it the same as unbelief. Doubt is a state of mind suspended between faith and unbelief so that it is neither of them completely and it is each partially. It is caught between a desire to believe and a desire to negate. The prayer of the father with the possessed boy describes this state well: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”. (Mark 9:29)

From this perspective, far from being a disciple of inferior stock that Jesus chided, John holds out Thomas for us as a model of how one becomes a disciple of Jesus. In other words, what happens to Thomas is exactly what John hopes will happen to each of us when we read his story.

Thomas is neither naïve, nor a fool who accepts every wild claim and seems to require no evidence whatsoever for his beliefs. In that, he represents many people today who approach things realistically and with varying doses of skepticism. If we have an understanding that true faith is doubt-free, then not only does it lead to a view of faith that is unrealistic for many today, it also results in a view of doubt that is unfair. The phrase by Anselm of Canterbury, which has become a classic definition of theology, is worth repeating here — “faith seeking understanding.” This means that faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ often awakens an investigative search for deeper understanding. Is it not true then that doubt is not an obstacle of faith but an essential ingredient in it?

Thus, when ‘doubting’ Thomas did finally encounter the Risen Jesus, his reaction was evidently more profound than the other disciples. Not only did he declare Jesus as ‘my Lord’, a title reserved for the Roman Emperor – but also “My God,” – the highest affirmation made of Jesus in all the Gospels.

At the end of the day, it is not enough to believe that Christ is risen just because others have said so. The Apostle Thomas reminds us that true faith comes from the desire to search and encounter the Risen Lord for ourselves.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)

Prayer — O Risen Lord, I find it difficult for my heart to rejoice in what my mind rejects. Give me a hunger and desire to search out for You. Let me know you and love you so that I may rejoice in you.

Thanksgiving — That your Word promises “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

27 April, Saturday – Proclaim in words and in deeds

27 April 2019

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Acts 4:13-21

The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus; but when they saw the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer. So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.’

So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’ The court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.

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Mark 16:9-15

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them. But they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him.

After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either.

Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.’

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Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation

The Lord said, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” However, often there is a tendency to tell ourselves we are not good enough, or we need to be better, or worse, we need to be perfect in order to do God’s work. Are we giving enough justice to God in our unwillingness to step forward as his disciples? This is the devil’s doing, to stop God’s work from even beginning by having us think ourselves as too small or unworthy! So don’t let the evil one manipulate us this way!

In today’s account in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John were considered uneducated laymen, yet the rulers, elders and scribes (learned men themselves) were intimidated by and, dare I say, afraid of the disciples’ fervor and conviction! When we have the fire of Christ in us, and when we are doing God’s will, he enables us!

I would like to share a story of a gentleman that guided my parents in their conversion to Catholicism. Uncle A, an elderly gentleman who spoke only English and Malay in his early years, was instrumental in bringing many non-English speaking elderly people to Christ. He once told me that he will go before our Lord, asking for His graces each time before he ministers to the old and frail. He would then travel about in Singapore riding his motorbike, to speak about our Lord to the old folks either in the hospital or at their home, in a smattering of broken Mandarin and dialect. After more than 40 years in this ministry, Uncle A is now fluent in many different dialects. Not to mention the many souls he has saved for God! He heeded our Lord’s call, and with a sincere heart and fearlessness, God empowered him in His ministry. Whenever I falter or have my moment of doubt, Uncle A is my inspiration. So fear not, God has our back!

In a different way, I am reminded that even in our broken states, we can be powerful instruments for God. The image of our beloved Saint Pope John Paul II in his final days, clinging onto his staff and still ministering to his flock. This image of him alone touches many, and without speaking a word, he bore witness to the world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Jesus, empower us to step forward in proclaiming your word! In whatever ways you deem fit, use us! For we are your instruments on earth, take away the doubt, take away the fears so that the light you have placed in us at our baptism can be seen by all and they will come to know you!

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing us with the many gifts and talents, those we embrace today, and those yet to be fulfilled. We thank you!  

26 April, Friday – Be Transformed this Easter

26 April 2019

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Acts 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, ‘By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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John 21:1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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The name of Jesus Christ is the only one by which we can be saved

In today’s gospel, it appeared that the disciples were feeling lost without Jesus. Not knowing what to do, they went back to doing what they were familiar with, that is, fishing. But our Lord, knowing their confusion and disheartened state, appeared to them with breakfast! Oh, how loving our Lord is. Upon recognizing Jesus, Simon Peter jumped into the waters immediately and swam towards our Lord. And it is the same Peter that proclaimed fearlessly to the chief priests, rebuking them for rejecting our Lord, the keystone.

In many ways, today’s readings showed us how the lives of the disciples were transformed after encountering the resurrected Lord. Many became martyrs, laid down their lives for Him, no longer were they fishermen but “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Easter signifies new birth, so how are we being transformed today? Do we continue to reject Jesus as our keystone, like the chief priests of old, with our sinful ways? Do we just go back to our old ways? Or are we stepping into a better version of ourselves to glorify our Lord?

When we find ourselves in the unchartered waters of life, be it illness, a new job, loss of a loved one, etc., let us be reassured that Jesus is here, always on standby to provide for us. He is the keystone — He is the way, the truth and the life, the only one by which we can be saved.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: My Lord and my God, as we renew our baptismal vows this Easter, let our lives be transformed as we step forth, in your name, with courage and strength to do the Father’s will.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, thank you for all the blessings and gifts you have given us, the biggest of all Our Lord Jesus Christ!

25 April, Thursday – He reigns triumphant, in the end so will we

25 April 2019

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Acts 3:11-26

Everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to Peter and John. When Peter saw the people he addressed them, ‘Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness? You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.

‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets. Moses, for example, said: The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.

‘You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.’

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Luke 24:35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’

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Everything written about me…. has to be fulfilled

Time and time again in scripture, and even Jesus himself during his ministry, foretold his death and resurrection. Yet, how many of us truly appreciated it? Sure, it is understandable in the days right after his resurrection, there was excitement coupled with bewilderment, to see Jesus alive and well walking among men – I imagine it probably caused a mayhem. There must have been such disbelief at seeing Jesus walk into the room to dine with the apostles! And many other ‘Ah-ha’ moments!

But what about today? Are we still in shock? Do we still question even after all these years? With all the witnesses before us, all the martyrs and lives of the saints; with all the evidence and knowledge, do we still doubt? Are we just going through the motion and downplaying the significance of the resurrection?

Like the people of Jerusalem in days of old, I too have this mixed feeling of joy and doubt. I am ashamed to admit it, but it is true. Our human logic simply cannot fathom this possibility and yet, I know deep down, my Saviour lives. And I guess I will just have to hang on to that! There will be days of darkness and doubt, and we cannot see the path ahead of us. But I am assured of not only His love but I know I have a God who truly understands. A God who entered the darkness of sin, yet all light, just so He can say to me, “I know it is difficult, I know it is painful and I know it hurts.”

And brothers and sisters, that… is enough for me.  For He reigns triumphant, in the end so will we!

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: O Lord my God, you came to show us the way. In the season of Easter, we want to celebrate your victory over death. Teach us too, to celebrate the little victories in our lives; to look for the moments of new beginnings around us, and cling onto your promises that we too will reign triumphant, if we have you at our side.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, thank you for never giving up on us, and for Jesus our Saviour to show us the way back to you.

24 April, Wednesday – Putting on Jesus

24 April 2019

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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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Luke 24:13-35

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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In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!

Years ago, my wife and I attended a programme where we experienced a renewal in our Christian faith. Soon after, we were asked to help facilitate another run of the sessions at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We journeyed with a few couples over a few months and were asked to continue as cell group leaders.

While we agreed to take on the role, we found the path extremely challenging. We felt wholly inadequate for this task and experienced doubt. I remember constantly questioning myself; thinking that we were not ‘holy’ enough to guide others.

After about a year, the constant stress wore us down before we finally decided to step down as leaders. We felt drained, uninspired and defeated.

Quite a few years later, both of us went for the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER).  I began to feel God’s hand in my life in ways I had never experienced. I no longer felt alone. While my retreat was some three years ago, I continue to experience Him every day.

When the first parish-level CER was planned for the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS), my wife and I were asked to serve in the Praise and Worship Team. The preparation for this took a total of eight months and the retreat was an amazing success; we saw renewals in many of the participants and the music played an important part in the whole experience.

What was different about the CER? We relied constantly on God; praying and lifting all our efforts and concerns to Him. While we continued to work hard, we knew that with God in the picture, all was going to be well.

In the first reading of today, Peter and John also did just that. It was interesting to see how Peter, a man wracked with constant doubt, step up and become a different man, “…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene”.

Like him, let us all do everything in Jesus’ name. We do everything with His strength, not ours.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray for the strength and faith to turn to You, Lord Jesus. Let us not rely on our own strength, but Yours!

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for being with us in all we are and all we do!

23 April, Tuesday – Recognising Jesus

23 April 2019

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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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She knew him

The number 10,000 has popped into prominence in the self-development industry of late. It has been said that in order to achieve complete mastery in any subject, one has to be doing that activity for a minimum of 10,000 hours.

My children have always loved eating pizza for as long as I can remember. As a very young child, my daughter enjoyed pizza so much that the cost became almost prohibitive. To save money, I started learning how to make pizza at home. The earliest efforts were often stodgy and floppy, although I followed the recipes I had either gotten off cookbooks or from friends (the Internet was not quite the powerhouse it is today). Having said that, the family often (although not always!) enjoyed the final products.

Fast forward to today — I no longer need to work on recipes, and I can tell the consistency of the dough just by looking or touching it. Instinctively, I know if I need to add any other ingredients to balance out the flavours or textures. I recognise the raw ingredients by their smell and can tell if they are good, or off.

All this comes about simply because I have done one thing — I have spent a lot of time making pizza.

In today’s Gospel, we see Mary Magdalene recognise Jesus the moment He chose to reveal Himself to her. I have wondered if I have missed seeing Jesus in my life because I have not spent enough time on my relationship with Him in prayer, reading the bible, or in reflection. Even if I did recognise Him, is my relationship with Him deep? When I read the Gospel, I see Mary as someone so filled with love for our Lord, and someone so filled with sadness when she thought that the body of Jesus had been taken away.

Let us build our figurative 10,000 hours with God. Let us spend more time with Him, learning His thoughts and ways. Let us spend more time reading the bible, praying, reflecting and in service for others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the faith to continue to want to spend time knowing You and loving You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful for Your love for us. Thank You for always reaching out to us; for showing us the way to become more intimate with You!

22 April, Monday – Our Faith

22 April 2019

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Acts 2:14,22-33

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice: ‘Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power since, as David says of him:

I saw the Lord before me always,
for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me.
So my heart was glad
and my tongue cried out with joy;
my body, too, will rest in the hope
that you will not abandon my soul to Hades
nor allow your holy one to experience corruption.
You have made known the way of life to me,
you will fill me with gladness through your presence.

‘Brothers, no one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is still with us. But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about was the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.’

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Matthew 28:8-15

Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

While they were on their way, some of the guard went off into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened. These held a meeting with the elders and, after some discussion, handed a considerable sum of money to the soldiers with these instructions, ‘This is what you must say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and carried out their instructions, and to this day that is the story among the Jews.

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They will see me there

It is interesting how people can interpret the same event very differently.

In today’s Gospel, we see the women running to tell the disciples, joyfully, of how they have seen our Lord, and His instructions to go to Galilee to meet with Him. On the other hand, we also see the guards, who, on witnessing the same, not only did not experience conversion, but also allowed themselves to be bribed by the high priests into lying about the happenings.

The Israelites, as the chosen people, have been on the receiving end of God’s graces. I am struck by how, despite being led by Moses out of Egypt, or seeing the parting of the Red Sea, or even by being protected by God from the various plagues (including the killing of the firstborn), were so quick to begin grumbling about God. What was worse was their brazen disregard for our God, choosing to instead casting and worshipping the graven image of Ba’al once Moses stepped away to Mount Sinai.

This only tells me the importance of developing our personal relationship with our God, and of spending time with Him. Without this relationship, I am convinced that no amount of miracles we witness will bring us closer to God.

In this period of Easter, we see how God has sent His only Son to suffer and to die for us. What bigger act of love is there that God can show us? Let us take this time to reflect and continue to develop our relationship with, and to grow closer to our God.

Have a blessed Easter season my bothers and sisters!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will be blessed with a closer walk with You always. That we may continue to see Your hand in all that we see and experience.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful to You, oh Father, for our eternal love for us. Thank You for always being there for us.