Monthly Archives: March 2020

1 April, Wednesday – There is Freedom

1 April 2020

_______________________

Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

_______________________

John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’

______________________

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed …

Whenever it is the First of April, there are lots of pranks and jokes everywhere. Today, we can still see jokes around on the internet. Many people are making jokes about how they are near to insanity because of the compulsory home quarantine. Here in Manila, we are obliged to follow the 24/7 home quarantine and only one person is allowed to go out to buy essential things at a specific time. We are under home quarantine until the 14th of April. Many people overreact, thinking their current situation is a deprivation of their freedom. Maybe they are right. They are slaves of their own desire to go out, meet people, and spend their money anyway they want.

Our Gospel for today depicts a deeper meaning of slavery. If you are told by Christ, “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free”, what would be your response?  We may be like the Jews who answered, “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free?”  We are probably not slaves physically. But the reality is, it is not about our status in life. Rather, it is the state of our soul. If we really want to experience freedom, we have to stay away from sins. It is one of the challenges in life. We have to stop tolerating the cliché, “We are all sinners, and there is nothing we can do about it.” We can do something about it. If we go through our Penitential Rite, there is this part: “that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”  We sin by our actions. We sin by the words that come out of our mouths. We sin by just thinking ill thoughts. We sin by just doing nothing.

Recall your activities these past couple of days. Have you done anything to hurt others? Have you thought of hurting others? Or, could you have done something to help others?

In this time of pandemic, our actions are very limited. We must use this opportunity for us to not commit sin. By simply obeying the rules of our community, we can commit less sin. Our government is not perfect and there is not much we can do. Instead of giving off negative vibes online, let us join various dioceses in celebrating mass online and other community prayers. This is also the time when people do panic buying. When we buy things, let us reflect if we are buying for the quarantine period or for the whole year. Remember, there are other people who also need to buy things. If you are in a community where there is a relief-giving program, re-evaluate yourself and think if you belong to those who are in dire need. There might be others who might need it more. With the simple act of kindness that we do, we walk away from sin.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we are deeply sorry for all our sins. May we continuously have faith that through our Lord, Jesus Christ, we will surpass our current situation. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly God, thank You for our leaders, medical workers, security personnel, and other people who are brave to be front-liners in handling COVID-19. Amen.

31 March, Tuesday – Meditating on the cross

31 March

____________

Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

___________________

John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.
Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

___________________

If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins

Have you ever looked at a cross closely and intently?

I have developed a habit of sitting in a quiet church and just meditating upon the cross. Even during Mass, I focus on Jesus hanging on the cross. Then I am overcome with strong emotions. I use the word emotion because I lack the proper word to fully express the change in heart and mind.

When I gaze upon the cross and think about how our Lord suffered for our salvation, how He loved us so much that He laid down His life for us, I am moved to tears. Not only did He die for us, but the humiliation, the torture and the suffering that He went through, thoroughly makes me ashamed of my sins.

Just when I reach the depth of despair and shame, it dawns on me that the ransom has been paid. Jesus has paid a hefty price for my spiritual wellbeing. He loves us and wants what is best for us. He doesn’t want us to wallow in our misery, sin and suffering. He wants to share His life with us, life eternal. All we have to do is simply accept His invitation.

Once we accept His gift, it is then our responsibility to make sure that we stay ‘healthy’ spiritually, and to stay on course. We should not let Jesus die in vain by being unrepentant of our ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are so many pitfalls in this secular world where relativism blinds us at times. It is our duty to be steadfast and not waver in our love and obedience to God, just as Jesus did not waver in His sacrifice to bring us peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be steadfast in our love and obedience to You, our God.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and sending Your Son to atone for our sins.

30 March, Monday – Judging others

30 March

___________

Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim. He had married Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, a woman of great beauty; and she was God-fearing, because her parents were worthy people and had instructed their daughter in the Law of Moses. Joakim was a very rich man, and had a garden attached to his house; the Jews would often visit him since he was held in greater respect than any other man. Two elderly men had been selected from the people that year to act as judges. Of such the Lord said, ‘Wickedness has come to Babylon through the elders and judges posing as guides to the people.’ These men were often at Joakim’s house, and all who were engaged in litigation used to come to them. At midday, when everyone had gone, Susanna used to take a walk in her husband’s garden. The two elders, who used to watch her every day as she came in to take her walk, gradually began to desire her. They threw reason aside, making no effort to turn their eyes to heaven, and forgetting its demands of virtue. So they waited for a favourable moment; and one day Susanna came as usual, accompanied only by two young maidservants. The day was hot and she wanted to bathe in the garden. There was no one about except the two elders, spying on her from their hiding place. She said to the servants, ‘Bring me some oil and balsam and shut the garden door while I bathe.’

Hardly were the servants gone than the two elders were there after her. ‘Look,’ they said ‘the garden door is shut, no one can see us. We want to have you, so give in and let us! Refuse, and we will both give evidence that a young man was with you and that was why you sent your maids away.’ Susanna sighed. ‘I am trapped,’ she said ‘whatever I do. If I agree, that means my death; if I resist, I cannot get away from you. But I prefer to fall innocent into your power than to sin in the eyes of the Lord.’ Then she cried out as loud as she could. The two elders began shouting too, putting the blame on her, and one of them ran to open the garden door. The household, hearing the shouting in the garden, rushed out by the side entrance to see what was happening; once the elders had told their story the servants were thoroughly taken aback, since nothing of this sort had ever been said of Susanna.

Next day a meeting was held at the house of her husband Joakim. The two elders arrived, in their vindictiveness determined to have her put to death. They addressed the company: ‘Summon Susanna daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim.’ She was sent for, and came accompanied by her parents, her children and all her relations. All her own people were weeping, and so were all the others who saw her. The two elders stood up, with all the people round them, and laid their hands on the woman’s head. Tearfully she turned her eyes to heaven, her heart confident in God. The elders then spoke. ‘While we were walking by ourselves in the garden, this woman arrived with two servants. She shut the garden door and then dismissed the servants. A young man who had been hiding went over to her and they lay down together. From the end of the garden where we were, we saw this crime taking place and hurried towards them. Though we saw them together we were unable to catch the man: he was too strong for us; he opened the door and took to his heels. We did, however, catch this woman and ask her who the young man was. She refused to tell us. That is our evidence.’

Since they were elders of the people, and judges, the assembly took their word: Susanna was condemned to death. She cried out as loud as she could, ‘Eternal God, you know all secrets and everything before it happens; you know that they have given false evidence against me. And now have I to die, innocent as I am of everything their malice has invented against me?’

The Lord heard her cry and, as she was being led away to die, he roused the holy spirit residing in a young boy named Daniel who began to shout, ‘I am innocent of this woman’s death!’ At which all the people turned to him and asked, ‘What do you mean by these words?’ Standing in the middle of the crowd he replied, ‘Are you so stupid, sons of Israel, as to condemn a daughter of Israel unheard, and without troubling to find out the truth? Go back to the scene of the trial: these men have given false evidence against her.’

All the people hurried back, and the elders said to Daniel, ‘Come and sit with us and tell us what you mean, since God has given you the gifts that elders have.’ Daniel said, ‘Keep the men well apart from each other for I want to question them.’ When the men had been separated, Daniel had one of them brought to him. ‘You have grown old in wickedness,’ he said ‘and now the sins of your earlier days have overtaken you, you with your unjust judgements, your condemnation of the innocent, your acquittal of guilty men, when the Lord has said, “You must not put the innocent and the just to death.” Now then, since you saw her so clearly, tell me what tree you saw them lying under?’ He replied, ‘Under a mastic tree.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God has already received your sentence from him and will slash you in half.’ He dismissed the man, ordered the other to be brought and said to him, ‘Spawn of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has led your heart astray! This is how you have been behaving with the daughters of Israel and they were too frightened to resist; but here is a daughter of Judah who could not stomach your wickedness! Now then, tell me what tree you surprised them under?’ He replied, ‘Under a holm oak.’ Daniel said, ‘True enough! Your lie recoils on your own head: the angel of God is waiting, with a sword to drive home and split you, and destroy the pair of you.’

Then the whole assembly shouted, blessing God, the saviour of those who trust in him. And they turned on the two elders whom Daniel had convicted of false evidence out of their own mouths. As prescribed in the Law of Moses, they sentenced them to the same punishment as they had intended to inflict on their neighbour. They put them to death; the life of an innocent woman was spared that day.

_________________

John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

_________________

‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

It is quite amazing how people jump to conclusions very quickly. There are many videos circulating on the internet which remind us that what we see is not what the original intention was meant to be. The readings of today remind us of the need to not take everything at the surface level but that we need to probe deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It feels really good to be accusing another person of their wrongdoings. I will be the first to admit that I have done such an action before and that it is not the best of behaviour. What makes it worst is that the process starts from within my mind. There is an entire whirlwind of thoughts and words in my head which go about whenever I see a person. It could range from the behaviour they are exhibiting to the words which they are saying. The strangest thing is that I get very worried that these remarks are being said by others about me. In other words, I am worried about being judged!

Indeed, such is the nature of my life where I judge others and yet seek God’s forgiveness whenever I fear that I am being judged. The readings of today remind us that such actions have already been present since Biblical times. What matters is that we are always contrite and willing to turn to God immediately for forgiveness. However, what is even more important is when we ask God to allow us to probe deeper into why we are behaving in this manner. Only by bringing such behaviour to the light will we be able to discover the flawed nature of ourselves and submit ourselves to God for healing. Let us take this time to offer to God all our weaknesses and ask Him to heal us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the humility to submit all our flaws to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us despite our imperfections.

29 March, Sunday – Accepting No as an answer

29 March

____________

Ezekiel 37:12-14

The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.

____________

Romans 8:8-11

People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

______________

John 11:1-45

There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:

‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles,
because there is no light to guide him.’

He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’

On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

_____________

but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you…

As an undergraduate, I often heard of friends who asked their professors for extensions for their assignments. However, there was one professor which would always not reply to his emails. This made my friends wonder if he received their email request. Endless conversations would revolve around on how they should proceed until somebody pointed out that not answering the student is in itself an answer. I believe that the readings in today Gospel remind us of the need to accept “No” as an answer from God.

The death of Lazarus was indeed a painful experience for Jesus. In fact, we read that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) which is the shortest verse in the Bible. He must have felt a loss for his good friend. Perhaps Jesus weeps every time he sees us sin. Sin weakens and destroys the relationship we have with God. It is one of those things which bring us enormous pain in the relationship that God has with us. Maybe sometimes God says no to us in our prayers because granting us what we ask for could result in the weakening of our relationship with God.

Jesus asks that we stay close to Him in every time and age but especially so in this season of Lent where we are called to unite with the sufferings which He is going through. Covid19 is causing a lot of faithful to be unable to receive the Holy Eucharist but perhaps in this time of absence, we can choose to remain closer to God through the reading of Sacred Scripture and the reading of good Catholic Christian authors. These will allow us to become closer to God and allow us to discover the deeper meaning of the answer of “No” in our prayers to God

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us the grace to accept your will in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show us love in our lives.

28 March, Saturday – Mob Mentality

28 March

_____________

Jeremiah 11:18-20

The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned. O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’

But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence,
who probe the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.

_________________

John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’
_____________________

But this crowd which does not know the law is accursed

I need to turn off my Twitter feed, I think. It’s become an angry mob. Or at least, I need to reset my preferences to mute out the chaos. There’s enough of that now in my life, I don’t need an echo chamber cranking up the volume. The thing about mobs is that they’re emotional. And they’re loud. With a mob, perception is truth, whether or not it’s justified. Once stirred up, a mob has the power to move people into making bad decisions; decisions that change lives, not necessarily for the better. And a mob’s fluid, amorphous nature is easily manipulated by people with less than noble intent. We saw this during our last election. We’re seeing it again now.

The Pharisees did exactly that, manipulate the mob to their own ends. Maybe they didn’t do it overtly, but by planting doubt and fear, the Pharisees turned the people against Jesus. Some of these people would have been at his sermons, might even have witnessed his miracles or experienced his healing power. How quickly people forget when they’re trapped in a hive mind and buoyed along by sentiment.

As we all struggle to deal with the global pandemic that’s upon us, let’s try to remember this. We have Christ as our moral compass. We have His Word to hold on to, to anchor ourselves while the rest of the world is losing its mind. Let’s not give in to the temptation to lash out at our neighbors, let’s not yield to our paranoia, our need for control, our instincts toward self preservation. Let’s hold on instead, to the ever faithful, ever constant Word of God, as we try to navigate ourselves out of these treacherous waters. May the healing power of Christ be on us all.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for deliverance from this pandemic. May we come out of this humbler, kinder and with greater self awareness of our shared responsibility towards each other.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the peacemakers in our lives. We give thanks for those who put the greater good of others over themselves. We give thanks for all the unsung heroes who have taken on the fight to keep us all together during these difficult times.

27 March, Friday – Finding Kindness

27 March

____________

Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

_________________

John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.
As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’
Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

______________

Because his life is not like that of the others, and different are his ways.

Amidst the storm of angry tweets clogging up my Twitter last week, one stood out for me, giving me hope that we have not all become debased hoarders of bread, eggs, cleaning products and toilet paper. One Augie Nash wrote that while he was standing in the checkout line at Sam’s Club, he witnessed a younger man offering an older couple, “bread and anything else you didn’t manage to find” from his own shopping cart. Wowzers! I’ve had similar experiences of my own. While on a flight to NYC two weeks ago, a woman in the next aisle offered me her spare mask and alcohol wipes. And last week, while at the grocery store searching desperately for eggs, a woman offered to split the last 4 boxes in the shelf with me, instead of grabbing them all for herself. Anyone who has been in an American grocery store or tried to order wipes, masks or sanitizer on Amazon will know that right now, this stuff is worth its weight in gold.

Scarcity brings out the worst in human nature. I’m sure that by now, we’ve all seen the videos of people fighting over stuff at grocery stores. But I believe that these difficult times also separate the wheat from the chaff. Right now, when kindness and generosity have mostly given way to fear and self-preservation, these random acts of kindness remind us all that there is still goodness in us. There are still those of us whose lives are not like others, whose ways are different. There are still remnants of us who are not selfish or self-preserving. And God has always rebuilt a people for Himself from remnants.

Now is the time to rise up and be counted. To come together, to put aside the things that divide us and find common ground. Now is the time to be strong for those around us, to be kind to one another, to live and not just preach the principles of our faith. Because we are all in this together — and either we learn to heal as a people, or we’ll die fighting each other.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for protection and safety of all those battling this plague at its frontline. We pray for God to give them strength, good health, courage for the battle and wisdom to make good decisions.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who are putting their own lives on the line, to get us through this difficult time.

26 March, Thursday – Self-Quarantine

26 March

___________

Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

_______________________

John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

__________________

They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them

Week 1 of California’s coronavirus ‘self-quarantine’ measures has been a complete joke. For one, there’s been a near-apocalyptic rush for groceries. Makes you wonder why we’re bothering with the travel bans. All you have to do to catch the virus is go to Costco. Hordes of people queue to get in at dawn. They queue for trolleys. They queue to check out. No one is respecting the 6ft rule. People are pushing and shoving to clear products from aisles. Even during the worst days of the Great Financial Crisis in 2008, we never fought over milk and eggs. We are now.

On some level, this rabid behavior is about maintaining control. When you obsessively hoard toilet paper, face masks, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes, what you’re really doing is trying to ‘control’ your life. And perhaps that’s what the Hebrews were doing with their golden calf — trying to preserve a way of life. We’ve all grown accustomed to the years of peace and plenty. We’re now being forced to reckon with what may be years of famine. It will be a shock to a lot of us. Just like the Hebrews in the desert, we’re not ready to give up the lives we led. All that wining, dining, latte drinking, online shopping; we can’t fathom it. I can’t fathom it.

It’s probably no coincidence that all this is happening during the holy season of Lent. As we face the loneliness and isolation of self-quarantine, maybe now is a good time to give up this need for control and hand the reins back to God. What else are we going to do? Lent is a time of repentance, of quiet prayer, of reflection, of conversion. Lent is also a time of self awareness. Did we go too far? Did we become distracted and lose our way?

I haven’t been to confession in a long while. I don’t even know if they’re doing them anymore with all these church closures and bans on public gatherings. I’d really like to tell God, “Wow, I really screwed up this time. I got distracted, forgot Your priorities, forgot your blessings. I lost my way. I’m done with all that noise now. Please find me here. Please.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We ask for God’s forgiveness for our arrogance and complacency during the years of peace and plenty. We pray for His mercy and His guidance during these uncertain times.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our families and loved ones. We give thanks for God’s protection of them and His love for us, even while we are difficult to love.

25 March, Wednesday – Surreal

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on March 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

_________________

Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

___________________

Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

_____________________

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

_______________

Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?

Things have gotten a bit surreal here in America. Schools have closed, grocery stores have been mobbed, and all over, there’s an eerie sense of America hunkering down for what’s shaping up to be a lost year. Who would’ve thought that in the space of a month, the world as I’ve always known it would have upended itself and turned completely on its head? It’s only March but already I feel worn down. I’m tired. Like Ahaz, I’m afraid to hope, afraid of what’s to come, afraid even to pray because I can’t find the words.

When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to let fatigue cloud your judgment. The isolation and loneliness from all this ‘social distancing’ isn’t helping either. I’m trying to hold on to the light. Whether it be turning off the doomsayers on TV or weeding in the garden or listening to a Lenten podcast, I’m trying to stay positive. But positivity takes effort. Holding on to hope takes effort. Happiness takes effort. And some days, I feel like I just haven’t got it. I’ve seen a lot of panics before but not one quite like this. Will life go back to the way it used to be? I really don’t know.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like, for Israel to hold on to the hope of a Savior for so long. I feel like such a wimp by comparison. Some people are just built for the long haul. They’re made of the strong stuff. They find reserves to keep the flame burning. I don’t think that person is me. How did Mary find the nerve to say, “Let it be done unto me”? Did she know the full extent of what she was getting into or did it not matter to her? Is that what it means for the “Holy Spirit to come upon you, and the power of the Most High to overshadow you”? Because I could really do with some of that right now. I don’t think I’ve lost my faith, but I am shaken by what’s happened and the speed at which it’s happening. God be with all of us now.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for faith, for strength, for positivity and patience during this difficult and surreal time in the world. We pray that God sustains us emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, so that we in turn can be strong for our friends and families. And we pray for the wisdom to make good decisions during this difficult time.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the first responders, doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are at the front line of this global health crisis. God keep them safe, give them strength, give them courage. All things are possible through you, Lord! All things!

24 March, Tuesday – What a dumb question!

24 March 2020

___________

Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross.

He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river.

He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

__________________

John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move. One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.

________________

“Do you want to be well?”

I was in a pensive and reflective mood as I sat quietly by myself in front of Our Blessed Mother’s statue at the Cathedral one morning. For those of you familiar with the place, the statue stands amidst a shallow pool of water surrounding it. A disturbance in the water catches my eye. A beetle (a rather large one actually), had fallen in and was struggling for its life. As I stepped towards it to try to rescue it, something happens, the beetle despite its size, suddenly started walking on the water. It was able to move about with its feet on the surface of the water and eventually got itself to safety. Hmm… it seems that God is not the only one able to walk on water.

Jesus asked the blind man in the Gospel, “Do you want to be well?” Kind of a dumb question, right? (No offence, Lord), given that Jesus knew that he had been ill for a long time – 38 years. That’s a long time. Yet, the crippled man was never able to make it into the pool of Bethesda whenever it was stirred. The crippled man is a representation of humanity – our brokenness, our helplessness, our longing to be whole again. And yet, the crippled also embodied the brokenness of humanity in many other ways —  our ineptitude to save ourselves (38 years and he was not able to find a way to reach the pool), our infidelity (by betraying Jesus to the Pharisees in performing the miracle on a Sabbath), our ingratitude (there was no mention of him thanking Jesus for healing him), unrepentant(he was seemingly unresponsive to Jesus’ rebuke to turn away from his sinful ways). Yes – the cripple was in a really sorry state. Much like humanity. Much like us.

I did a bit of background reading on this passage and it seems that back in the day, the stirring of the water in the pool was done by none other than the Holy Spirit himself. Hence, the point is made that it is only God himself, through His Holy Spirit, that can bring about our healing, restoration and renewal. Not man’s piety nor his dutiful performance of religious rituals nor his wealth, nor his ‘connections’ nor his ‘science’.

You see, God needed to ask the question, “Do you want to be well?”, of all of us. Why? Because He has promised us freedom of our wills. God is faithful to all his promises. He promised we could have our free will and that He would respect that (I do wonder if He ever regretted this). The second reason for asking is because He knows a “yes” from us needs to come with a conscious commitment to allow God to do His work of healing and restoration in us. Often, such healing will come with a willingness on our part to let go, to surrender our will, to trust in Him no matter how demanding, painful and senseless that path can often appear to be, to change from our sinful ways and to die to self, to pride, to unforgiveness, to self-righteousness. Hence, maybe the question Jesus asked was not really that dumb after all? As the saying goes — be careful what you ask for – you might just get it.

In closing, let me get back to the saga of the beetle. You see, a few things needed to happen for it to be saved. Firstly, it needed to stop struggling, which would then allow the water molecules to re-form themselves and to create sufficient surface-tension to hold the weight of the beetle and allow it to ‘walk’. Just as we do. Secondly, it needed to be at the right place at the right time – in this instance, falling not into just any old pool of water but the pool that surrounds Our Blessed Mother’s statue – I can almost hear our dearest Mother, with her infinite love for all of God’s creatures, beetles included, saying “no beetle is ever going to drown – and no child of mine that clings to me and my Son, will ever be lost — not in my pool, not on my watch.”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. The pools of our poor lives are stagnant and fester with sin, hurt, regrets, sorrows. We are all wounded and broken. We have been waiting by the cesspool of our souls for your grace to cleanse and heal and restore us once again to the wholeness that you created us to be. Not because you have abandoned us, but because we have turned away from you.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For never abandoning us, for never forsaking us despite the countless times we have chosen foolishness, arrogance, pride and sin instead of your loving will for us.

23 March, Monday – Fearing the Painted Devil

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

_______________

Isaiah 65:17-21

Thus says the Lord: Now I create new heavens and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered, and will come no more to men’s minds. Be glad and rejoice for ever and ever for what I am creating, because I now create Jerusalem ‘Joy’ and her people ‘Gladness.’ I shall rejoice over Jerusalem and exult in my people. No more will the sound of weeping or the sound of cries be heard in her; in her, no more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young; not to live to be a hundred will be the sign of a curse. They will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

_______________

John 4:43-54

Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. He himself had declared that there is no respect for a prophet in his own country, but on his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.

He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a court official there whose son was ill at Capernaum and, hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son as he was at the point of death. Jesus said, ‘So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!’ ‘Sir,’ answered the official ‘come down before my child dies.’ ‘Go home,’ said Jesus ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus had said and started on his way; and while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover. ‘The fever left him yesterday’ they said ‘at the seventh hour.’ The father realised that this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’; and he and all his household believed.

This was the second sign given by Jesus, on his return from Judaea to Galilee.

_________________

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe”

I wondered to myself how I would react if Satan himself one day appeared before me and shouted at the top of his voice into my face, “Jesus Christ is the Son of Almighty God!”. After waking up (from fainting from sheer terror upon seeing Satan), would I then accept his proclamation? Or would I reject it, because it was Satan that said it? On the flip side, if an angelic figure of great light, were to appear and said, “Jesus did not rise from the dead but was carried back by angels and laid to eternal rest in the bosom of God.”  Would I then believe that to be the truth?

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth laments: “It is the mind’s eye that fears the painted devil”. Why is truth of God’s willingness and ability to love and care for us so hard to grapple with? Why are we so fixated with what we can touch, see and feel before we can believe? Why do we usually place the messenger before the message?

And more often than not, evil, pain, sorrow, fear, rejection, injustice, terror (and the list goes on), is ever more present, more visible and more experienced than goodness, justice, plenty, peace, joy and so on.  Wars, poverty, sickness, death, human indifference, when relationships break down and rejection from friends and relatives arise from the most minuscule of reasons. When stability in relationships, in livelihoods, in leadership and even in our values and beliefs are all so transient, fleeting, self-serving and inauthentic. When compassion, understanding, forgiveness, play second-fiddle to anger, judgement, ambition and resentment, how do we see God in all these? Our ‘instincts’ have been conditioned to say, quite literally, “I will believe it when I see it”. We are really telling God, “I will believe in you when I see what you can truly do, and how all that is good that you have come to bring into this world, actually happens”. Till such time, God remains an idea in our heads and the devil it seems, sometimes appears more real, more present.

But perhaps the irony of everything is that even when God gives us clear, undeniable and irrefutable evidence of His presence and graces, of His love and mercy, of His providence and protection, we still find it hard to believe. Consider the countless miracles witnessed by the apostles, yet they cower in fear and cowardice in the upper room. Like the apostles, we too very quickly forget and continue to refuse to believe in God’s love and power in all the difficult circumstances of our lives, despite the times we have seen Him walk on water, multiply the loaves, raise the dead, cast out devils, heal the sick, rebuke the storms, hang on the cross and rise from death. Well, perhaps, it is always that little child in us that says, “well, these things happened to other people, they did not happen to me”. And until and unless it happens to me, God is not real.

When we seek signs to ‘prove’ the existence of God, it simply points to the lack of faith on our part. When God sends us signs and we still choose to doubt, it’s not only a double-whammy for God but more so for us, for it shows even more acutely, the smallness of our minds and how truly pathetic our faith really is. Thank God that God is God, for otherwise, there is no hope for us. I close with this warning of Prophet Jeremiah:

“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” (Jeremiah 5:21)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Forgive our human frailty which makes us unable to trust in that which is unseen and to cling on always to all our deep fears and insecurities. You know how we need your constant assurances and affirmations of your saving presence and sovereignty in our lives. You know how weakly we cling on to our dismal faith in you, if we can even call it that.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your unfailing patience and understanding to us. Thank you for being a Father that looks not on the frailty of His child, but on his need for a Father’s love and saving grace of Almighty God. Help us to see, to know and to trust in Jesus. Send us your Holy Spirit to set us free from the painted devils that torment us, and stops us from experiencing your love for us.