Category Archives: Easter

25 May, Saturday – Persecution and Detachment

May 25 – Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

  • Patron Saint Index

Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you.”

Recently, secularism and relativism have been constantly on my mind. In silent observation, I see their effects on Christians and non-Christians alike. Let’s be clear what secularism and relativism mean.  Secularism is the indifference and rejection of religion. It’s a desire to exclude religion from social activities and civic affairs. Relativism is the idea that there are no universal, objective truths, only points of view; and each opinion or judgment is valid only for the person or group holding them.

At first glance, these attitudes seem to be innocuous. Separating church from state and to be open to different opinions, they seem like good ideas. Tolerance of one and all, this is the making of a perfect world. However, you and I know that this is not the case. Current secularism deems religion, particularly Christianity as outdated, unnecessary and ‘mumbo jumbo’ for people who need emotional crutches. To the people who drank from the secular fountain, God is but an imaginary being and should be relegated to the realm of fairy tales and has no place in society and its discussions. Religion, particularly Christianity, has been shunned. You don’t need to look very far for signs of this. Companies like Starbucks, Google, Facebook and many others have succumbed to the demands of secularists and have done away with the words Christmas and Easter in all their promotion materials. Even to the point that the design of the disposable Christmas coffee cup has become a great debate (at least in North America). What are these people so afraid of? A God that loves them so much that He was willing to die for us? That, truly is a threat. Because admitting that would make us see ourselves in a different light and we may not like what we see.

The idea of relativism hides behind the guise of freedom. The freedom of choice, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. Yes, freedom is important, but within the freedom, there are safeguards that do not allow us to hurt others. Like in the case of freedom of the press, we cannot propagate hateful and discriminatory thoughts, speeches or actions against another. Likewise within freedom of will, there are boundaries to protect ourselves and others. Relativism has done away with the safeguards because it does not admit that there are truths that cannot be denied, such as God and His teachings, and that there are boundaries that cannot be crossed (such killing of the unborn child or terminally ill – abortion and euthanasia, which are legal in parts of North America).

Christians, let us persevere in our faith and not fall victims to the pressures of the world. Let’s fashion ourselves like the unbeatable ‘bobo dolls’ that bounce back again and again in the face of adversity and hostility. A daughter of a friend of mine wanted to bring a nativity set for show and tell to school, and was told by the teacher that it is not permitted to bring religious artifacts to school.  However, another child was able to bring a menorah, perhaps the teacher deemed it to be cultural and not religious.

Whatever the case, with the increasing sentiment of secularism and relativism, with the persecution of Christians on the rise, let us stand firm in our believes. May our faith be strengthened like the immovable rock against the tide. If we feel ostracized and criticized, let us remember that the people also rejected our Lord Jesus. But in the end, our Lord triumphed over death and sin. We can share in that glory if we remain faithful and unwavering in our love of God and His Word.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

24 May, Friday – Expressions of Love

24 May 2019

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘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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What I command you is to love one another

Some time ago, if someone were to ask me, “What is love?” I would simply say it is an emotion, a feeling, and a need. Whenever I heard the commandment from Jesus, “to love one another as we love ourselves”, I secretly thought that it was an impossible task. At the best of times, we are selfish creatures and at other times, we don’t even love ourselves to the best of our abilities. If so, where would bad habits come from?  (I have plenty of them).

It was not until I started to listen to the Catholic podcasts, Word on Fire, that it slowly dawned on me, what Jesus meant. The love that Jesus speaks of is not the emotion and feeling that I thought. For those are transient and often not something that we can choose or control. The love that Jesus speaks of is a choice. A choice of willing the good of others. Think about it for a minute. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this so quickly. Love is a choice that we make, willing the good of the other.

It is not a casual hug and kiss and “I love you”. It is not wanting to spend all your time and attention on the other person. Although these are forms of expressions of love, the love that our Lord talks about is deeper. If you love someone, wouldn’t you want the best for them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the best, for them to achieve the best? Wouldn’t you guide them if they were heading down a wrong path? Wouldn’t you sit with them and share their sorrows and their joys?

If we truly love someone, not only would we want the best for the other, we would pray fervently for them, for their salvation. What is the best thing in this world that is free yet priceless? That is the love of our Lord, the peace and joy that only He can provide. Willing this for others, and expressing this in our hearts, in our words and actions is the true meaning of love. An important note is that we choose to love. Love is not given because the other is deserving or because they are family or related. But because we choose to love as the Lord has loved us.

How do we love others, if not in an emotional way? Simply by not engaging in gossip, not being envious or jealous of the other, and only correcting them justly; these are some of the ways we can love the others. The correcting of another is a tricky one. Beware of the feeling self-righteousness. In correcting others, intentions must come from a place of love and truly wanting the good of the other. It should never come from a place of pride and thinking we are better, smarter and therefore can point out the errors of another. These are but a few suggestions, I am sure you are able to find more ways to love others as you love yourself.

Love, as I understand it now, is not an uncontrollable emotion, but a choice that I make. Even if the other has wronged us or the love is not reciprocated, we can still choose to will the good of the other by praying for them earnestly, by leading them to Christ in everything we do and say. In other words, if Christ truly lives in us, love for others comes naturally.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other. Let us remember this as we sing “Christians love one another, as we share the true living bread. Jesus is our God and our brother; with His flesh and blood we are fed. Everyone who loves is born of God. Jesus is our life, God is love.”

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

23 May, Thursday – Saved Through Grace

23 May 2019

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.
‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’

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John 15:9-11

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.’

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I shall return and rebuild the fallen House of David; I shall rebuild it from its ruins and restore it

It is Easter Sunday that I am writing this. A day of extreme joy at the resurrection of our Lord, that was dampened by the suffering imposed on our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka by the evil that exists in this world. It was on Easter Sunday that terrorists attacked three churches (two of which are Catholic) and three hotels. In total, more than two hundred were killed and even more injured. Many of them were attending Sunday Mass, much like we were.

It has been an observation of mine that the current societal climate is growing in intolerance. We are indeed paying more attention to the marginalized people, which in a really good thing, but in our haste to appear just, we actually become more discriminatory. In advocating for the rights to abortion and homosexuality while disclaiming the rights of the unborn and a meaningful family unit, in advocating the personal choice and relativism (in truth, religion and all else), yet disclaiming the truth that our God has revealed and dismissing it as emotional and fantasy jargon; have we really reduced the amount of marginalized people or have we simply switch groups of people to marginalize?

Catholics and Christians have been taught to promote peace. That is our Lord’s commandment. Therefore, while we weep with our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and pray for their recovery and mend their sorrowful hearts, we will pray for forgiveness for the perpetrators. It is NOT saying what they have done is ok, but to say to them that we acknowledge the evil that they have committed. We are not letting the effect of their sins affect us, their penance will be given by God, who alone has the right to judge. In the meantime, we will stand stronger and firmer in our resolve, in our faith, in our love, by the grace of God. We will not be shaken by the evil in this world, by the marginalization and persecution of our faith, we stand firm and in unity, waiting for our Lord to come and rebuild the fallen house of David. After all, Jesus has conquered death and sin, nothing is impossible for Him.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; and we pray that all unity will one day be restored.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God in our land.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

All praise to the Father, from who all things come;

And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son.

And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to stand firm in our faith in all the adversity. May we grow stronger and ever more faithful. Our prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka and those affected by the terrorist attacks, may You watch over your children and help rebuild Your holy church.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your abundant Grace, and Your undying love, in our joy and our sorrow.

22 May, Wednesday – Home

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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Make your home in me, as I make mine in you

Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of what a ‘home’ really is. I have been in Singapore for almost two decades but I still wish I could go back to the Philippines as my family is there. However, there are some differences between me and my family that makes it difficult for me to consider going back ‘home’. It makes me feel like my home was not there.

So I asked God where my home would be. I was so restless and agitated because I wanted to have a place I could call home. A home is where we know we can find love. A home is where we know we can be safe. A home is somewhere we run to whenever we get tired. A home is somewhere we can find acceptance for who we really are. This is why everyone of us wants to find our home, and that’s why I have been restless.

Then God answered, ‘Your home is not a place but with a person.’

Back then, I thought that it would be with the person God has selected to be my husband. You see, I was reflecting on Ephesians 5 where a wife is called to submit to her husband, and the husband is called to give up his life for his wife. To submit means to submit to the mission the husband is given, so back then, I thought that it was a call for me to make my home in my future husband.

While I was reflecting on this, I realized that my home being with a person is not just with any other person. True, when I get married, my home will be with my husband. But I will have another home. My home will ultimately be with the person of Jesus Christ.

How will that happen? I need to make a decision to want to make a home in Christ. The beautiful thing about our Faith is that God always proposes, he never imposes. He invites us to make our homes in him, but he never forces us to. And whenever he invites us, he also shares what we will receive when we say ‘Yes’ to him. When we decide to make our homes in Christ, he will make a home in us. However, we need to make a decision because God meets us half way.

I know it’s not always easy to make a decision, especially when God is concerned, but I have faith that we could trust God that the home he will provide will be filled with love, security, rest and acceptance.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please give us the grace to decide to make our homes in you. It may take a while to build those homes, so please be patient with us.   

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your promise of a home.     

21 May, Tuesday – How Do You Explain God’s Peace

May 21 – Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in the state of Jalisco in Mexico in 1869. He was ordained priest at the age of 30, and became parish priest of his home town of Totatiche. He took a special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and founded a mission for them. When government persecution of the Catholic Church began and the seminaries were closed, he opened a small local ‘auxiliary seminary’. He wrote and preached against armed rebellion, but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero rebellion. He was arrested on 21 May 1927 while on the way to celebrate Mass at a farm. He was executed without a trial, but not before giving his remaining possessions to his executioners and giving them absolution.

With him are celebrated 24 other Mexican martyrs of the early 20th century.

-Universalis

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Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.

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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’

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A peace the world cannot give

One of the answers that frustrates me even until now, is whenever I ask questions about God, I get the answer synonymous to ‘You just know.’ In fact just yesterday, someone just told me, ‘God is often quite simple. He speaks to us at where we are at and in a way that we will know.’ I felt it didn’t help that much.

But after having been a Catechist for so many years, I find myself answering questions in a similar manner. You just know. You just know because there is peace.

How do you go about explaining peace? To someone who has not had a God experience, maybe they will term it as gut feeling that something good is about to happen. However, when peace is mixed with sadness and grief, how would you explain it? I learned that you can only fully understand it once you experience it. And God was gracious enough to give me several of these peace-in-the-midst-of-sadness experiences.

When I was 16, I was offered the chance to come to Singapore to study. I was literally crying my heart out because I would be leaving my high school friends. Even though I was crying, I felt peace that I needed to come here in Singapore. And indeed, it was such a blessing! While Singapore is a wonderful country, God’s greatest gift to me here was that I got to know him here more deeply. I etched that feeling of peace in the midst of turmoil in my mind.

Now, whenever I am troubled, I go back to those feelings I have, and search for peace amidst the turmoil in my life. It has become a yardstick for me on how God uniquely communicates to me and how God shows me this peace that the world cannot give.

So how do you explain God’s peace? It’s the inner peace you feel despite the turmoil. The same peace you will feel when you are happy. And this is when you are doing God’s will. You’ll just know it. That’s it.

But to fully understand peace, one must have an actual experience of it. So let’s pray to learn to identify and have an experience of this peace in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, the peace that you promise is the peace the world cannot give. We will not be able to see it unless you reveal it to us. Help us be perceptive to this peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, giving us something beyond this world – the peace of heaven.

20 May, Monday – Always There

May 20 – Memorial for St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest

Bernadine (1381-1444) was a Friar Minor, a priest, an itinerant preacher, and a theological writer. His preaching skills were so great, and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, public relations, etc.

Bernadine’s charismatic preaching filled the piazze of Italian cities. Thousands of listeners flocked to hear him and to participate in dramatic rituals, which included collective weeping, bonfires of vanities, and exorcisms. He was a renowned peacemaker, in the Franciscan tradition, who tried to calm feuding clans and factions in the turbulent political world of the Renaissance. His preaching visits would often culminate in mass reconciliations, as listeners were persuaded to exchange the bacio di pace, or kiss of peace.

Bernadine was sensitive to the demands of secular life, and tried to negotiate between Christian ethics and a conflicting code of honour that stressed retaining face in a public world. He argued that the catalyst of civil discord in the urban setting was malicious gossip, which led to insults, and, too often, vendetta by aggressive males. His surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:5-18

Eventually with the connivance of the authorities a move was made by pagans as well as Jews to make attacks on the apostles and to stone them. When the apostles came to hear of this, they went off for safety to Lycaonia where, in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.

A man sat there who had never walked in his life, because his feet were crippled from birth; and as he listened to Paul preaching, he managed to catch his eye. Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Get to your feet – stand up’, and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the language of Lycaonia, ‘These people are gods who have come down to us disguised as men.’ They addressed Barnabas as Zeus, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him Hermes. The priests of Zeus-outside-the-Gate, proposing that all the people should offer sacrifice with them, brought garlanded oxen to the gates. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening they tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past he allowed each nation to go its own way; but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you: he sends you rain from heaven, he makes your crops grow when they should, he gives you food and makes you happy.’ Even this speech, however, was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.

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John 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

Judas – this was not Judas Iscariot – said to him, ‘Lord, what is all this about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.’

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Even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how God reveals our vocation to us – his unique call for each one of us, which is the easiest way to sainthood. One of the points that I’ve read is that the call keeps coming back. The call is something that is consistent. That call, however, is not always loud and clear – but its presence is undeniable. It is like air, barely noticeable but it’s there.

This is very assuring. God doesn’t leave us to ourselves even though we are not always with him. I was fortunate enough to have a vivid experience of this during my birthday this year. And it left me crying tears of joy!

During my birthday, God took me on a journey from the day I was born. I have always known that God was always present in my life but I have always pictured him somewhere at a short distance from me, like a parent watching a kid play in the playground. However, he showed me that we was not just watching over me, he was really beside me as I went through the ups and downs of my life. God made sure that I saw him present in the different stages of my life. I would like to share with you God’s account of my birth because I think this is similar to all of us. I would like to invite you all, if I may, to close your eyes and imagine the day you were born and as you are growing up. Imagine God saying this:

I was there when you were born. I waited nine months for this day. I was so happy to hear you cry. I told your guardian angel to take very good care of you. I told her you are so beautiful.

When I saw your first smile, it melted my heart. Your giggles were adorable.

When you first made the sign of the cross, I was so happy. Finally, you were calling me.

When you took your first steps, I was waiting at the end. I hoped you will always walk towards me.

I was there when you were praying. I was there during your first confession.

I was there when you were feeling so sad. I whispered to you, ‘I will never leave you.’ I’m glad you heard me.

Throughout this day, I would like to invite you all to reflect on where God is in your life. I hope you see him literally beside you, and not just someone watching over you. I hope you see him feeling your joys, and pain. I hope you see how happy he is whenever you give him a bit of your attention.

He has given you signs and proof that he is just there for you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help me always feel your presence in my life. Do not let me forget that you are beside me, with my guardian angel. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for staying with me, and for being happy that I exist.

19 May, Sunday – We are Renewed

19 May 2019

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Acts 14:21-27

Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans.

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Apocalypse 21:1-5
 
I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’
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John 13:31-33,34-35
 
When Judas had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another;
just as I have loved you,
you also must love one another.
By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples.’
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Now I am making the whole of creation new

One of my favorites quotes is from G.K. Chesterton: “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.”

I think after we’ve walked away from home, we might find that the place has become ‘new’, and discover that it was what we have been looking for all this time.

How is that connected to today’s reflection? Well, thinking of how new the creation would be, I thought of whether ‘new’ means having an overhaul, like the old will no longer be there. Or will it be more of a renewal?

Currently, I am in a journey towards discovering myself – who am I that God made me to be? I was hoping to uncover something different. The more I searched for myself, I realized that I kept on discovering just me – the ‘me’ that I’ve known all along but that was covered with wounds, and sins. It’s like looking for something that has always been in front of your eyes.

It made me then think of how the whole of creation would be made new. Because from the beginning of time, God has made us to be at peace and communion with him, and it was because of original sin that we are suffering from our wounded nature, perhaps God will finally remove the effects of the original sin in us. We become new, but not really new. It’s like finally coming home to the place we were once in.

What does it mean for our lives? I think it will be different for different people. I think some of us who feel that we need to discover ourselves should be delighted that we are discovering ourself – the one who has been with us all along – we don’t have to look too far. Maybe, for those of us who are struggling with sin, we can rest assured that we were created good, and that being in sin is our unnatural state – we don’t have to be so difficult with ourselves.

I think that to all of us who are struggling to find a new self, I believe that the ‘self’ God made us to be is already very good. God never abandoned the old: As St Augustine said “New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” Maybe this is how we are made to be a new creation.

It is indeed a great paradox! Just like our faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, You who make everything new, please help me allow you to transform me, so that I will finally find the me that was hidden.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for loving all of me, even if I am yet to be renewed.

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.