All posts by Nicholas Chia

18 May, Saturday – Evidence Based Faith

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone but in later life, he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric thought John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 13:44-52

The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:

I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’

It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

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John 14:7-14

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.

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Whatever you ask for in my name I will do…         

We sometimes want all the facts in the world before we believe in something, including the Lord, the God of all. The Bible is our evidence and so is the Sacred tradition, yet we find it hard. All the more reason for us to depend on God to lean on Him, so that we don’t only see and understand, but we believe.

In today’s gospel, we are once again reminded about how powerful yet how personal our God is. He wants to carry out our requests by answering our prayers. Such a sweet Daddy God we have.

So I urge you, sisters and brothers if you are staring at a mountain ahead of you and feel helpless, fret not, we have a God who will bulldoze this mountain in a way only He can, if we just let Him. But sometimes we are guilty of trying to use our man-sized shovel to level out a seemingly large mountain. Surrender your mountains to Him and let Him be God.

Let us praise Him in our joy and our sorrow. Whatever the season of life we are in, let us make it a humble offering onto His throne and unto His feet.

Let us be diligent by remaining in the truth always, regardless of the circumstances we face; because in truth, we constantly face a loving God who fights all our battles.

Also, let us be action-oriented and reach out to others, so that we are able to be a light to others who know Him not.

I have recently been working on my baking skills and am very drawn to bring the fruits of my labour to students at my university who are sitting for exams. One of the main exam halls, is just beside my office and I see these students daily, different ones every day. I pray that my intentions turn to actions too. Please pray for me too as I pray for you all.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, show us to what extent you want us to reach the ends of the earth. Help us to trust you more. Lord, our lives are in your hands.

Thanksgiving: Lord, tune me into your instrument of worship. I lift up my hands in your name.

17 May, Friday – You are my Son

17 May 2019

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Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

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

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John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

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

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

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No one comes to the Father except through me          

No one comes to the Father except through the Son – this is one of the most powerful and true statements, it’s the truth. This truth has many implications and it affects everyone.

I recently attended a seminar on New Evangelisation where one of the speakers, a pastor, pointed out that if on the funeral day of someone we knew, they asked us why did we not tell him/her about our Jesus, what would we say? My eyes and heart welled up immediately as I thought of all my loved ones and acquaintances who have not embraced Christ. Just thinking about it caused me much distress. However, I still do not always tell others who my Lord is; in fact, I even pass on such opportunities.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to look deep inside your life, so that you are able to see and set right everything, so that we are truly one with Him. If there is a sin we need to confess, let us go for confession. Confession is a place of affirmation, not condemnation. If you need to make peace with someone, reach out. Whatever is not right, let us pray that we can set it right through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And let us pray that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit gives us an opportunity to share the Good News and the love of God with everyone we encounter. I can imagine that there are different methods in each situation but this should not be a reason for us not to share our words.

Recently I was at an event, and I was surprised that someone kept talking about her husband, although it seems that reference to him was not relevant. It took me sometime to realise that it was her way of telling us what a great man she married and that singing his praises was only natural to her. Most of us can be like that, when we share even the most mundane of things – the best deals and food in town, the richest person in our society or office, the well-dressed person, the high achiever and even the sweetest person we know. Why is it then do we feel that it is ridiculous to talk about the Lord and His goodness?

Lord, Holy Spirit, lead us, guide us and empower us with your gifts of steadfast spirit and boldness, so that we are your mouthpiece for all our days.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, Holy Spirit, bless us and lead us to your Son, so that we and everyone we know will know the Son.

Thanksgiving: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, love the Lord and know the Lord and share Him with others.

16 May, Thursday – Saved by His Precious Blood

16 May 2019

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Acts 13:13-25

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

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

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John 13:16-20

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

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

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

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

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I know the ones I have chosen        

What does it mean to be saved by His precious blood and to be known and chosen by God? It does not get more intimate than this at all.

He shed His blood for the salvation of the entire world, no exceptions here. It is He, the sacrificial lamb, that led us to new life when He died on the cross for our sins – the sins of the whole world. His love was so great that He submitted to death to atone for us.

Now then what is it to be chosen and known? Who is in this group? To draw some perspective, I want to highlight a video I watched recently. The speaker, Jackie Francois Angel said that she is Catholic because of the Eucharist. She explained that being in union in body, mind, spirit and soul is the most intimate union, much like the union between a man and his wife. She goes on to explain that is what the Eucharist is. It is therefore also not surprising that many refer to marriage as a foretaste of heaven as it also mirrors the union we share with the Lord in the Eucharist. Jackie also quoted John 6:53-56: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarrelled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”. Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Therefore, essentially as a Catholic who partakes in the holy mass, we enter into marriage with the Lord, as He had commanded us to.

So are we known and chosen by Him? Initially Jesus had 12 apostles who ate His bread and drank His blood, which today we as Catholics do likewise. As Catholics, we also stayed with the Church Jesus instituted under St Peter, our first Pope. Though today, we no longer walk for miles and are immersed in technology, we are as Christian as the apostles. It is no doubt that our Church stood the test of time, amidst grave persecution, yet it stands in front of the Father, depending on Him to wash our sins through the Eucharist and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Dear sisters and brothers, if we are but known, chosen and loved to this extent, how do we respond to this love? Let us seek answers from the Lord who lives and the One who loves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, help us to be truly worthy of you. Though we cannot earn your love, we want to know how to love and adore you more.

Thanksgiving: I will sing of your love forever, for you washed me cleaned and kept me close.

15 May, Wednesday – Aligning our lives to God

15 May 2019

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Acts 12:24-13:5

The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers. Barnabas and Saul completed their task and came back from Jerusalem, bringing John Mark with them.

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So these two, sent on their mission by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. They landed at Salamis and proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; John acted as their assistant.

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John 12:44-50

I, the light, have come into the world

Jesus declared publicly:

‘Whoever believes in me
believes not in me
but in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me,
sees the one who sent me.
I, the light, have come into the world,
so that whoever believes in me
need not stay in the dark any more.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully,
it is not I who shall condemn him,
since I have come not to condemn the world,
but to save the world.
He who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already:
the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
For what I have spoken does not come from myself;
no, what I was to say,
what I had to speak,
was commanded by the Father who sent me,
and I know that his commands mean eternal life.
And therefore what the Father has told me
is what I speak.’

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And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak

The role of a voice recording is not to speak for itself but instead it is to faithfully transmit whatever the speaker has spoken. If the voice recording does not accurately reflect what was spoken, we would suspect of it being doctored. This is exactly what the Gospel of today is reminding us. As Christians, we are called to follow whatever God has called us to do.

The role of the Christian is to follow the identity of Christ. This means that we must learn how to surrender our will to God. This is not as easy as it seems because it requires the individual to realise that God is our creator. This means that we will need to learn how to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and allow God to take control of whatever we have in our midst.

Man loves to be in control. Uncertainty is unacceptable in this day and age. Yet God does not call us to a period of uncertainty but instead to trust in God. Trusting in God is not the easiest task to do but it does allow us to discover what it means to remain obedient to him. St Paul and Barnabas was obedient to the Holy Spirit’s direction to preach the word. This is also what we are called to do. As we continue with our daily lives, let us never forget to realign our lives back to God and yes, to submit to His will because God knows best.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we remain docile to the workings of your spirit in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many people who have shown us what it means to trust God.

14 May, Tuesday – Our Earthly Home

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let his camp be reduced to ruin,
Let there be no one to live in it.

And again:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.

There has been much more awareness regarding climate change in recent months. Scientists have warned us that our planet will become inhospitable to human life as we know it, should nothing be done to reduce carbon emissions and improve our consumption habits. The rise in global temperatures and the extinction of animal species will happen innocuously, much like in the parable of the boiling frog.

While we look forward to meeting God in our heavenly eternity, we must steward the earthly home that He has entrusted us with. Very often, we think of our faith as internally and people-directed. However, we can apply our Christian way of being to how we treat our environment. This discipline preserves our planet for future generations until He comes again, whenever that may be. This echoes today’s Gospel reading where John extols us to go and bear fruit “that will last”.

Seeing the world through a Christian lens makes it possible for us to see God in all things; both in the beautiful and the bad. Coupled with the agency that we have over our choices, we in fact do have plenty of control over how things turn out and what our attitudes towards those outcomes are. Perhaps it is timely for us to look at the world differently and to examine how we live our physical lives so as to synchronise our faith with our actions.

May we all act responsibly as we confront this existential crisis.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, we pray for our environment. May world leaders and our brothers and sisters work together to preserve what you have so richly blessed us with.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for blessing us with the wonders of nature and this beautiful world that we live in.

13 May, Monday – Trust in God

13 May – Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

This feast commemorates the visions of Our Lady seen near Fátima in Portugal in 1917 by three shepherd children, Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The visions occurred on the 13th day of each month from May to October, and by October huge crowds were gathering at the site of the visions and reporting visions and miraculous occurrences themselves.

Pope John Paul II was devoted to Our Lady of Fátima and attributed his survival of an assassin’s bullet on 13 May 1981 to her intervention. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who died in the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919-20, were beatified on 13 May 2000.
– Universalis
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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full

I have seen how pet owners take good care of their pets. This is especially so when they are very young and the owner has seen the pet grow up. The pet trusts in the owner’s decisions and willingly obeys whatever the pet asks. In the same way, God our creator, calls us to a plan which we are unaware of in our lives. This plan requires us to trust in God in faith and love.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd will listen to the voice of the Lord. This is sometimes difficult for us to do especially since we do not know what is the plan which God has for us. The world we live in demands that we live in certainty. This comes in the form of endless confirmations, reducing risk and uncertainty and sometimes even doubt of what God has called us to do.

The mystery of the Christian Faith asks that we trust in God’s plan for us and that we allow Him to act in our lives. We may not know what to expect but we can trust in God that He has the best plans for us. In the world we live in, it is difficult for us to surrender our will to the Father because what He wants from us is different from what we want. Let us take it to the Lord in prayer today to see what God calls us to do and then let us be courageous to accept this call.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to accept your will.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to show us how to live our life as Christian

12 May, Sunday – Role Model in Faith

12 May 2019

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Acts 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the Sabbath and took their seats.
When the meeting broke up many Jews and devout converts joined Paul and Barnabas, and in their talks with them Paul and Barnabas urged them to remain faithful to the grace God had given them.
The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:
I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’
It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
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Apocalypse 7:9, 14-17
I, John, saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. One of the elders said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and because they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb, they now stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them, because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.’
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John 10:27-30
Jesus said:
‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
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Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
The role of the Christian is called to evangelise to the people around them. This does not mean going out to a stranger to share with them the Gospel although if that is a suitable way to reach out to them, then one could consider using it. However, in order to be good people of evangelisation, we will need to have good role models which we can draw an example from. The readings of today show us the traits of a role model which we can emulate.
The apostles in the first reading were very happy to have heard the Word of God and diligently shared the word with the people in the world. They continued to spread the word to the non-Jewish community. God’s salvation is not limited only to one group of people but is extended to the entire world. This means that we will need to continue to spread the word of God to the people in the world who matter to us.
Sometimes we can share the faith with the Christian community who are living in our midst. Fellow Christians also need reminders to know of the need of why God is needed in their lives. The faith journey which they are in could be at a low point – they might need some encouragement in order to push themselves out of the situation they are in.
Jesus reminds us that His sheep know Him. To know Christ requires us to spend time in reading the Bible and also to spend time in prayer. Only by being in contact with God can we learn how to trust in His plan for us. The world we live in is one which keeps us occupied and distracted from be in touch with God. We need to constantly be in touch with God to discover what He wants from us. God is the role model which we should emulate and this will definitely allow us to discover the plan which He has in store for us.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we remain faithful to the message of love which you have preached.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to show the way to Heaven.

11 May, Saturday – Pre-Packaged Promises

11 May 2019

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Acts 9:31-42

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Peter visited one place after another and eventually came to the saints living down in Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat.’ Aeneas got up immediately; everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.

At Jaffa there was a woman disciple called Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek, who never tired of doing good or giving in charity. But the time came when she got ill and died, and they washed her and laid her out in a room upstairs. Lydda is not far from Jaffa, so when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two men with an urgent message for him, ‘Come and visit us as soon as possible.’

Peter went back with them straightaway, and on his arrival they took him to the upstairs room, where all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the dead woman and said, ‘Tabitha, stand up.’ She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter helped her to her feet, then he called in the saints and widows and showed them she was alive. The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.

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John 6:60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?

‘It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit
and they are life.

‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

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“Do you also want to leave?”

Do you remember watching the film Jerry Maguire back in the 90s? A heart-warming story of sports agent Jerry Maguire (played by Tom Cruise) who gets dismissed because he wrote a mission statement about his views on the sports management business which he felt was dishonest, and his aspiration to change that. Remember the part where he leaves, and no one initially follows him? Jerry feels terribly embarrassed and gutted at being abandoned, even by his personal assistant whom he assumed would leave with him. In the end, Renée Zellweger, who plays Dorothy ends up being the only person (besides the fish) who goes with him.

In today’s reading, Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples about the Bread of Life, that he is that Bread of Life given by God, sent from heaven. He tried to explain that if they partook in his body and blood, they would be saved and have eternal life. Some of his disciples couldn’t understand it, perplexed at how an ‘ordinary’ carpenter’s son could be sent from heaven. Earlier in the reading from John 6, they had asked Jesus to perform a sign so that they could believe in him (John 6:30). They were hoping for something along the lines that their ancestors had seen, i.e. manna falling from heaven, but little did they realise that the miracle, the manna they were looking for, was actually sitting in front of them. Because they couldn’t accept what Jesus was trying to explain to them, only wanting a sign in the form that they had in their minds, they decided to abandon Jesus, and went back to their old ways. At this point Jesus asks the Twelve Apostles, “Do you also want to leave?”

Contrast this with the first reading from the Acts, where Peter travels to Lydda and Sharon and Joppa, where he cures Aeneas who was paralysed, and brings Tabitha back from the dead. On both occasions, it is said that the inhabitants of the said towns heard about the miracles he performed and turned to the Lord.

In my humble opinion, the question that arises for me in today’s reading is this: are we sometimes fixated by a certain idea of how our prayers to God should be manifested if and when answered, that we become blind to the true promise that Jesus gives us, which could be in another form that is least expected? And if that petition of ours does not come to pass, do we feel disappointed that it didn’t happen how we wanted it to happen and therefore think that God isn’t fair? Do we then abandon God altogether, or do we try to understand why and what else might God be trying to tell us? Are we, like the disciples, looking for a sign or miracle before we dig in our heels of faith, or are we like Peter who says, “To whom shall we go?” because there is no one else besides Jesus who is the truth? If not the truth, then where else?

Jesus tried to explain that he is the Bread of Life, and the disciples couldn’t understand it, so they left him. Instead of abandoning him, perhaps it would have helped to ask for wisdom to understand rather than a sign. Just because we don’t ‘get it’ the first time, doesn’t mean that it is silly or doesn’t make sense, and then abandon it altogether. Like doing a math problem or reading a text, if we give up so easily because we didn’t understand it the first time, then we are at risk of missing out the worlds that could be open to us if we had stuck to it, or the sense of fulfillment that comes with sticking with it and understanding it at the end.

If our lives currently feel like riddles, perhaps we should ask God for wisdom to unravel the message that lies within. The solution is not abandonment. The solution is to ask.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for wisdom to understand what you have in store for us, even if it doesn’t turn out how we might have expected it. At the end of the day, your will be done.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for not leaving us, even though sometimes we might have left you. Thank you for believing in us and supporting us in your gentle way. 

10 May, Friday – Chosen by God

10 May 2019

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Acts 9:1-20

Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find.

Suddenly, while he was travelling to Damascus and just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.’ The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand. For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink.

A disciple called Ananias who lived in Damascus had a vision in which he heard the Lord say to him, ‘Ananias!’ When he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord’, the Lord said, ‘You must go to Straight Street and ask the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying, having had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.’

When he heard that, Ananias said, ‘Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your saints in Jerusalem. He has only come here because he holds a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.’ The Lord replied, ‘You must go all the same, because this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and at once laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way here so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately it was as though scales fell away from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. So he was baptised there and then, and after taking some food he regained his strength.

He began preaching in the synagogues, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’

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John 6:52-59

The Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue.

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“this man is a chosen instrument of mine…”

If my father were alive today, he would be celebrating his 76th birthday in 5 days’ time. Sadly he passed away three years ago after battling a long illness. In his memory, I would like to share how our gracious Lord Jesus came into his life and gave him the peace that escaped him for so long.

My dad was not born a Christian. In fact, he shunned Christianity for the most part of his life. I liken his conversion to Saul’s conversion, every time I think about it. Growing up with him was not easy – he was distant and had a temper. We were all scared of him. If we wanted something, we would rather not ask and keep quiet than risk incurring his wrath and snorts of disapproval. We had an aunt and uncle who were, and still are, very faithful Christians. When they came from abroad to visit, they would make it a point to visit and the visit would ultimately end up with my uncle telling my dad about Jesus and Christianity. It was sometimes embarrassingly painful to watch as my dad would immediately lose interest and his gaze would dart elsewhere. Had smartphones been invented at the time, he would most definitely have diverted his attention there. He would sometimes ridicule and criticize some of our relations’ Christian faith, dismissing their attempts to preach to him as being overzealous. At a wedding once, the entire party stood up before the dinner to say grace, but my dad sat stoically in his chair, looking around with a smug smile on his face while the rest of us stood up out of respect. It was an uncomfortable scene to behold.

But then my dad fell sick. He had been ill before, and had a bypass when he was in his forties, but this was more serious. He had cancer. For weeks following his diagnosis and multiple hospital stays, he could not rest. He complained he felt uneasy inside, not at peace, even when he slept. By this time, my sister and I had both converted to follow Christ, and we, along with my brother, had all grown up and flown the nest. One day, I received a call from my mother: in a ‘desperate’ attempt to find peace, my father had wandered into my room and had picked up a spare Bible that I had left there and had started reading it. From thereon, his conversion was swift. My uncle and aunt visited again shortly after and were one of the first who witnessed this conversion. His demeanor changed and he sat patiently listening and asking questions. He started going to church. After my mum and him both got baptized, they become really active at church joining various ministries. Even his personality changed – he became happier and was always smiling and laughing, more approachable and loving. He wasn’t 100% cured of his old habits, but he became a much warmer person. He prayed every day, twice a day, sometimes more especially towards the end of his life. He meditated on God’s Word regularly, and where he would have crumbled before, his faith kept him going all the way to the end.

As in the case of Saul, God chose my dad as an instrument to show that He is Almighty and only He is capable of thawing a hardened heart. God saw my dad as worthy to be saved, and that he would be a testament of God’s love, even if my dad had shunned it for so many years. Every Easter, we are reminded that we have all been chosen and called by God, to be saved and loved by Him, to be a living testament of His love and abundant promises. It is up to us to live that faith and make the calling worth the while. If God can choose and convert my dad, what more are the promises that lie in store for us who have already been called and chosen by God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Father Almighty, I pray for my father, that he may enjoy eternal rest with You. We pray for all those who have yet to come to know You, that they may have their hearts thawed and experience the glory of God as Saul did.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for giving my dad to us when he was alive. He may not have been perfect, but he was as good a dad as he could have ever been. Thank you for the memories.

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.