Daily Archives: May 8, 2019

09 May, Thursday – A Journey of Opportunities

9 May 2019

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Acts 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey. Now it happened that an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia, and was in fact her chief treasurer. He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and meet that chariot.’ When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ ‘How can I’ he replied ‘unless I have someone to guide me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit by his side. Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this:

Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a lamb that is dumb in front of its shearers,
like these he never opens his mouth.
He has been humiliated and has no one to defend him.
Who will ever talk about his descendants,
since his life on earth has been cut short!

The eunuch turned to Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’ Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the Good News of Jesus to him.
Further along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, there is some water here; is there anything to stop me being baptised?’ He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and Philip baptised him. But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea.

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John 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.

‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

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“Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route”

Heeding the call of Christ can be a lonely thing, a test of one’s faith. It’s not like planning a trip where you know the start and end of your journey, where you’d be staying, and what you’d be doing. When God sends us on a journey, He doesn’t tell you how the big picture is going to look like. It is only revealed to us one step at a time, and for the rest of the trip we are to put our whole trust in Him. If you are on a mission for God, or heeding His call to do something, be not afraid – you are in good company.

In today’s reading, we see that Philip was commanded by the angel of the Lord to “get up and head south”. There was no explanation as to what exactly he was to do there, where he was going to stay, even the end destination seemed a little vague: Philip was only asked to head down on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, but not necessarily that Gaza was his stop (we learn that he later ended up in Azotus, about 50km from Gaza). To compound the difficulty, he was commanded to take the desert route, a lonely, dusty, and hot route. Chances of meeting anyone else – zero. But God had other plans.

Along the way, Philip had an encounter with an Ethiopian. Not just any Ethiopian, but a court official, a eunuch in charge of the queen’s treasury. From the description, he appeared to be a learned and spiritual man, with people under his command. And the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot”. What are the odds of such a chance encounter on a lonely desert road? Not only did Philip manage to catch up, but he was subsequently invited to sit with the Ethiopian to explain the meaning of the Scripture he was reading. As we learn, Philip ends up baptizing the Ethiopian, and the Ethiopian, filled with the glory of God’s love, continues on his way home, rejoicing and no doubt proclaiming the wonders of God Almighty.

To me, this tells us a few things: 1) when we are called to do something for God, it will more likely than not end up being a solitary task, or one that most people won’t understand; 2) when we follow the path God has laid out for us, we travel not with a map, but with faith, for half the time we won’t know what our journey will look like and what kind of obstacles we will meet; 3) it is not the destination, but the journey, the process, that counts. As an extension, we don’t have to wait till our final stop to do something wonderful for God, we can do it along the way; 4) God will place people along our path who will either help us or be in need of our help, and sometimes in the most unlikely of situations; 5) we may start our journey as we are, but our journey will inevitably change us, our experiences will enlighten us, as it did with the Ethiopian. So as before, it is the process of who we become that matters in the end; and 6) it doesn’t matter about race or religion, rich or poor, powerful or lowly, scholarly or not – there is no distinction in God’s eyes when it comes to God’s salvation through Christ Jesus. And God’s grace went with the Ethiopian who was eventually baptized.

We are all on this journey called life. Even if you have not found a specific calling, life itself is the journey. It may be a lonely one, or an unknown one, but today’s reading tells us that on this journey, God will present us with the opportunity to do something worthwhile, something that will make a positive difference to others, no matter how small. The question is, will we go and join up to meet with it as Philip did?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Father Almighty, we pray for the wisdom and enlightenment to recognize the opportunities in life that You have given us where we can make a positive difference. Help us to open up our minds and not doubt it, but in wholehearted faith, embrace it knowing that You will have a plan for it.

Thanksgiving: Father Almighty, we give You thanks for this journey called life. It can be a bumpy ride, but we thank you for the ups and downs and for the perseverance to carry on, one step at a time.

08 May, Wednesday – Knowing the Father

8 May 2019

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Acts 8:1-8
That day a bitter persecution started against the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles fled to the country districts of Judaea and Samaria.
There were some devout people, however, who buried Stephen and made great mourning for him.
Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison.
Those who had escaped went from place to place preaching the Good News. One of them was Philip who went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.
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John 6:35-40
Jesus said to the crowd:
‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.
But, as I have told you,
you can see me and still you do not believe.
All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I shall not turn him away;
because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will,
but to do the will of the one who sent me.
Now the will of him who sent me
is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me,
and that I should raise it up on the last day.
Yes, it is my Father’s will
that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and that I shall raise him up on the last day.’
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…I shall raise him up on the last day.

What a ‘bold’, adrenaline-filled week it has been from the apostles’ perspective – casting out demons, healing the sick and even chastising the Sanhedrin and Pharisees at the risk of losing their lives for Christ. And what a far cry from the downcast, disheartened, distraught bunch that witnessed the gruesome crucifixion after the long, arduous trek up Calvary.

It truly is amazing how people can perform ‘out of their skin’ given the right motivation. As a fervent supporter of Liverpool Football Club, I have witnessed more than a few games this season when previous teams would have capitulated. This current crop, however, are a different kettle of fish altogether. Not only are they fighting tooth and nail for the fans, their manager (a Catholic, no less) has obviously given them the belief that they are destined to win something. And I hold firm that after yet another bruising encounter last weekend, which will take the championship to the final day of the season, the team will be raised up on the last day; even if they do not win the league in spite of amassing a record points total.

And such is Jesus’ call to all of us – that we live our lives here on earth to the fullest, as destined by God when He created us. It is our responsibility to our maker to make the right choices and to go down the paths that have been marked out for us. But then, what happens when we make a wrong turn? What if we get led down a wrong path because of circumstances beyond our control? Brothers and sisters, our God is a merciful, loving and forgiving God who is always waiting for us to come back to him as long as we are sincere and contrite. He will never deny us the chance to live the life that will lead us to His pastures on the day we leave this earth. It is a promise already made by Jesus in today’s gospel – that whoever sees his Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.

I don’t know about you but I have seen Him, in a vision during a retreat in 2012. And I continue to cling on to that vision each time I fall when I sin against Him. I continue to look for Him at every mass and every adoration session, always willing Him to appear again before me so that I can jump into the sea like Peter did; and to be the ‘rock’ that others can rely on so that their burdens are lightened. Looking back on the past few months, it has been rather ‘adrenaline-filled’ for me, especially in ministry where I have said ‘Yes’ on more than a few occasions.

Brothers and sisters, when the chips are down and you wonder if all your efforts are ‘worth it’, just bear in mind what the apostles had to endure as they were sent out into the world to preach the Good News. Let us always fix our gaze upon the Lord and hold fast in the belief that come what may, we will be standing before Him on the last day, waiting to walk into His open and loving arms.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the grace to live a life that is pleasing to you and that edifies your everlasting love for us so that those around us can be inspired as well.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for moulding us and for shaping us into your sons and daughters. And for never letting us go in spite of our failings and shortcomings as we navigate life.