Category Archives: Lent

13 April, Saturday – All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

13 April 2019

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Ezekiel 37:21-28 

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

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John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

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What action are we taking?

There was an interesting story related by Scott Hahn at one of his talks, which I caught on youtube. It tells of how when at the Pearly Gates, Scott managed to get into heaven. However, a friend of his from high school, let’s call him John, did not. At the Pearly Gates, when St Peter showed John the path to the other door, John desperately pleaded for mercy, kicking and ranting. John caught sight of Scott at the other door and asked him how come he got into heaven. Scott replied because he had come to know and to love Jesus who redeemed and saved him. John then asked Scott why he did not tell him about this Jesus all these years that they had been friends. Scott’s reply was, “Well, I did not think it would have been ecumenically and politically correct, I did not want to impose myself on you, I felt I should mind my own business and you did not seem very open to it and I did not want to jeopardize our friendship or make you feel awkward.” And as the gates to the underworld slowly closed on John, he screamed out his last desperate curses at Scott, “Damn you Scott, damn you … you could at least have tried!”.

There is a saying — “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” — a phrase which may be familiar to some of you. I especially find this quote very provoking yet very empowering. Many of us may have experienced the frustrations of encountering apathetic individuals who, when faced with situations where affirmative action was needed, simply chose to look away, turn a blind eye, shrug a shoulder. Perhaps some of these situations may be familiar to us …

…a ‘friend’ whom we have not seen for some time, suddenly connects and seeks financial help in order to provide for his critically ill child and we do all we can to pretend we never knew him;

…when we spot a beggar from a distance and we change the route we walk to avoid him;

…when the frequent company of buddies over a few pints makes for more exciting and extended evenings, knowing a spouse or elderly parent or a child sits alone and lonely at home, hoping for your return to talk to and spend time with them;

…when self-righteousness and arrogance come before desperate calls for help from the Church for parishioners to step forward to help in the many areas which sorely lacked laborers in His vineyard;

…when this world’s pleasures come before silent adoration before Almighty God;

… when we refuse to forgive a spouse, a friend, a child when we are hurt by them and continue to treat them coldly and harshly in retribution, often leaving behind scars that would never heal.

Let us reflect on how easy and insidious our own journey towards self-deception, self-righteousness and self-indulgence is. Selfishness, pride and apathy are the roots of the sins of omission that strangle our Christian virtue but the ones that they choke are often those around us whom we failed to love, to help and to serve. These situations are indeed very familiar to me. I think you know why.

Let me end by drawing on another story which brings us to the gates of hell. The parable of ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus’ in Luke 16:19-27 is a poignant reminder. Whilst the rich man was too busy maxing out on the indulgences of life, he was totally blind and indifferent to Lazarus who was at his gates, starving and with dogs licking his open sores. But Lazarus’ plight was not blind to God. God was the silent witness to all that was happening (and not happening). Precious in the eyes of God was the suffering of Lazarus. So much so that when Lazarus died, God sent angels to carry him tenderly into the bosom of Abraham. In life, Lazarus was a ‘nobody’, but he mattered to God. When the rich man died, he was just buried. No angels came for him. It would seem that the many sins of omission committed by the rich man against Lazarus made him the real nobody in the eyes of God. He remained a nameless, rich man who lived only for himself, died, was buried and was sent to Hell. God, it seemed, had long since turned his gaze away from him and focused his eyes on Lazarus instead, with a heart overflowing with mercy, compassion and love for him.

Unrepentance for grievous sins we commit will send us to hell one day; but so too will sins of not doing good when we could have and should have. Just ask the rich man, if you are ever unfortunate enough to go to the same place he ended up in.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We have sinned for all the chances we have missed, for all the graces we resist, for all the evil we have done and for all the good we have failed to do.

Thanksgiving: Father, for all the chances we have missed, for all the graces we resist, for all the evil we have done and for all the good we have failed to do, thank you for the mercy you give us through the Eucharist of your Son and through the sanctifying merits and graces of our Blessed Mother. For by these, you have redeemed us.

12 April, Friday – Praying through Pixels

12 April 2019

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.
But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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Even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do

One trait which cuts across consistently throughout the public ministry of Jesus was the way in which those around him often were not able to see the truth of who He was. They were focused more on the superficial actions of what Jesus did and what he said. The Jewish people and their leaders could only interpret the actions and words of Jesus through the lens of Judaism – and from this lens, they were not able to accept the many revelations of God through Jesus sent to be the Messiah. It is through this lens that they could only see the miracles, especially those of healing and casting out of devils. They were also not able to accept the revelations of Jesus as the Son of God (which became only blasphemy), the Messiah sent to redeem the world (reducing him to just another prophet or the reincarnations of Moses or Elijah) or that their focus was on how Jesus desecrated the Sabbath rather than the revelation that mercy is what God’s love is all about, not rituals. Because they were unable to cast off the lens of Judaism, many of them were unable to let the light of truth penetrate and they remained in darkness, to be forever lost.

Many remain lost in that darkness through modern day lenses — materialism, humanism, or even through the viewpoint of Americanism which defines a great part of the evangelical Christian sects, so dominant in America, which are so vocal in the condemnation of God’s revelations through the Catholic faith. All of which does not allow the light of God’s revelations to shine through.

In the gospel, Jesus therefore makes a simple but succinct point. That if we cannot believe his words, then let his actions bring forth the revelations and lead us to the light.

We too often lose sight of the truth of God’s presence and intimacy in our lives — of His sovereignty, His power, His mercy, His blessing, His graces. When the storms of our lives blow hard and furious, when the desert of our lives make our faith dry and parched, when we are too busy being strangled in the thorn-bushes of worry and responsibilities of this world, we question God’s promises, His Will and His word. These too become our own lenses and they too are just as powerful in preventing God’s light and truth from penetrating into the reality of our lives.

In such times, let me suggest you do this – close your bible, keep your prayer cards, store away your spiritual readings. Then take out your phone and open up the gallery where you store all the photos contained therein. As you go through them, you will probably have captured photos from a myriad of events that have happened to you — celebrations marking family milestones, the birth of your child, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, your child’s first step or perhaps the wedding of one of your children, an unforgettable outing with your best pals, various events at church, a reunion with a special someone in your life, graduation of your child, perhaps your kid did great in school and got an award, a statue of your favorite saint you chanced upon, a promotion celebration for you in your office, an amazing sunset — and of course, all those wonderful memories of the family holidays you may have had.

Your memories tug at your heart and perhaps, you can reflect and come to realize just who made all those great memories and events in your life possible in the first place. God not only blessed you abundantly, He was also present with you at those great moments of your life. More importantly, you begin to see that indeed, God acted in your life. He worked in your life to bring you providence, achievement, joy, fulfillment, growth, peace, hope.

Sometimes, he even made miracles happen just for you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We forget easily. We doubt all the time. When your will differs from ours, when we feel the weight of the cross, when the bright lights and glitz of this world beckon, we doubt. We forget who you are — Almighty God, faithful friend and brother. Instead, we see you as weak, indifferent, distant, unattainable, often, we don’t see you at all. Help us to break through the lens of our preconceived notions, of our stubborn habits, of our unbending minds and wills.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for showing us once again, who you really are and where you have always been. Thank you for bringing the light of your truth to pierce through the deepest darkness of our hearts and helping us shatter the lenses that keep us in bondage to our sins, our doubts and which stops us from reaching you. Our Almighty God, our friend and brother who never left our side. Not for even one second.

11 April, Thursday – I AM

11 April 2019

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Genesis 17:3-9

Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’

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John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’
The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:
‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’
The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’
At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

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Before Abraham ever was, I Am

Two little words. Beyond understanding, beyond explanation, beyond comprehension. The only two words given by God himself, that could ever be used to completely encapsulate God Almighty. That can contain the essence of the eternal Godhead. No other words could suffice, just two little words — I AM.

I AM…Your Almighty Creator

I AM…one with the Father and the Spirit

I AM…Spirit that moved upon the earth before the beginning of time

I AM…Son of God and son of Mary

I AM…the one the Holy Prophets proclaimed through every age

I AM…strength and courage of the holy martyrs as they spilled their blood for love of me

I AM…human weakness, broken, despised and hung upon the Cross

I AM…beyond pain, beyond suffering, beyond sin

I AM…the Resurrection…beyond death

I AM…King of Kings before whom all other kings fall prostrate

I AM…your Redeemer, Your Healer, Your Savior

I AM…beyond your ability to contain in the limits of your human nothingness

I AM…in the wounded, the broken, the forsaken, the hopeless, the despairing

I AM…the glory and splendor of the holy Saints

I AM…the foundation of the Holy Catholic Church which no power on earth and in hell can overcome

I AM…the source and summit of mercy, present in word, in flesh and in blood in the Holy Eucharist

I AM…with you, in your darkest moments and in your greatest joys

I AM…your Shepherd, your friend, your brother.

I AM…your Almighty God and you are my people

I AM…yesterday, today and for all eternity, always thinking about you and loving you, my precious child.

 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Forgive our folly for all the times we have made you so small, so helpless, so weak and unable. Forgive us for all the times, we think too large of you, that you are too far away to be able and willing to be with us, to know our pain and to love us despite our imperfections.

Help us to see, by the light of your grace, all that you have always been, that you are and that you will always be Our father who loves us, your children…the great I AM.

Thanksgiving: Father, illuminate our hearts and minds to know that your love and care for us is infinite and incomprehensible. And in that, thank you for letting us come to realize why we can never be able to contain you in the limits of our human understanding.  Help us instead to simply be limitless in our gratitude to all that you are and have been for us.

10 April, Wednesday – Free at Last!

10 April 2019

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

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

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

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

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed

I admit that I am a slave to my preconceptions, biases, habits, preferences and yes, you guessed it, sins.

In the Gospel today, it says: “If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.”

As a cradle Catholic, I took so much for granted. Sometimes during homilies, my mind often wandered and started planning what to have for lunch after and so on and so forth. I heard the words, but I wasn’t really listening. I didn’t internalize what Jesus was saying. His words fell on deaf ears.

Sometimes if the homily caught my attention, I affirmed myself in my mind. Saying to myself, “See, I’m not that bad, I don’t do that and that…” By doing the minimum, I thought I was good enough. I may have learned the truth, but I did not internalize it into my being and practice what Jesus taught. I was a cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing what teachings I wanted to accept. It wasn’t any wonder that I still felt trapped at times. Shackled to the same old habits, unable to break free.

Then an occasion arose where someone has gravely wronged me, and I couldn’t bring myself to forgive. I felt justified in my anger and desired justice and retribution. Even though Jesus tells us that we must forgive if we want to be forgiven, and to love others; I found that really hard to do and insisted on staying angry and hurt. That only brought more misery. I knew it was not humanly possible for me to change my stance and prayed for the grace of forgiveness. When I actually relinquished control and listened to Jesus, internalizing His word, I felt the chains were broken. I was no longer under the effects of the wrong done to me. I could move on. That is the power of Jesus’ word, it has the power to set us free.

At times, it may seem that what Jesus teaches is really hard to do or achieve, and may often seem counter-intuitive. But if you would only follow and trust in Him, you will see that He is the true liberator, the one that can free us from our sins, from ourselves. Jesus is God, who can achieve what is humanly impossible. For Him, everything is possible. Jesus, I trust in you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to break out of the bondage of our  own making, by relying on Your grace and Your word.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us enough to send Your Son to rescue us and to free us.

9 April, Tuesday – Meditating on the Cross

9 April 2019

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Numbers 21:4-9

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

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

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John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever looked at a cross closely and intently?

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

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

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

8 April, Monday – Truth is not Relative

8 April 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John 8:12-20

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am the light of the world;
anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark;
he will have the light of life.’

At this the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’
Jesus replied:

‘It is true that I am testifying on my own behalf,
but my testimony is still valid,
because I know
where I came from and where I am going;
but you do not know
where I come from or where I am going.
You judge by human standards;
I judge no one,
but if I judge, my judgement will be sound,
because I am not alone:
the one who sent me is with me;
and in your Law it is written
that the testimony of two witnesses is valid.
I may be testifying on my own behalf,
but the Father who sent me is my witness too.’

They asked him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered:

‘You do not know me,
nor do you know my Father;
if you did know me,
you would know my Father as well.’

He spoke these words in the Treasury, while teaching in the Temple. No one arrested him, because his time had not yet come.

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“I am the light of the world”; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, he will have the light of life

These words spoken by our Lord are so comforting, especially in the current climate, no matter where you are.

Although technology has advanced tremendously, I can’t help but feel that spiritually, we have regressed to the dark ages. With the blurring of the lines between right and wrong, there seems to be a lack of definitive moral compass. Everything is relative. Even truth. Don’t believe me? Look at the shift in the general sentiment about abortion and euthanasia. Even Ireland, traditionally a Catholic stronghold, has legalized abortions.

The current common creed among Catholics and non-Catholics, religious and non-religious alike, what is good for me may not be good for you, but that’s ok. My truth is not your truth, but that’s ok. Right?  WRONG!

This kind of relativism is the downfall of civility. One man’s truth is not only applicable to him. There are certain truths that cannot be changed, even if it pertains to another. This holds true especially when the Truth is of God, from God.

You can call black ‘ashen’ or ‘noir’ or whatever fancy name you want to give it, but it is still black at the end of the day. Our Lord Jesus is part of the most Holy Trinity, and our God. His teachings and that of His church remain unchanged and true, for me, for you and for all.

With all the misinformation and misdirection in this world to confuse and confound us, it is only right (and the only sensible thing to do) to set our eyes and attention on the Lord Jesus. He is the one who can shed some light on the madness and the darkness of this world. He is the only light that can lead us home.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to focus on You and Your teachings. Help us to follow you, to walk in Your light and to avoid the darkness.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for being our guiding light that leads us out of danger.

7 April, Sunday – Don’t Look Back

7 April 2019

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Isaiah 43:16-21

Thus says the Lord,
who made a way through the sea,
a path in the great waters;
who put chariots and horse in the field
and a powerful army
which lay there never to rise again,
snuffed out, put out like a wick:

No need to recall the past,
no need to think about what was done before.
See, I am doing a new deed,
even now it comes to light; can you not see it?
Yes, I am making a road in the wilderness,
paths in the wilds.

The wild beasts will honour me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I am putting water in the wilderness
(rivers in the wild)
to give my chosen people drink.
The people I have formed for myself
will sing my praises.

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Philippians 3:8-14

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.

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John 8:1-11

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

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No need to recall the past.  No need to think about what was done before

I was oddly touched by today’s readings. The parable of the adulteress is well known and often told. But it is the first and second readings that have struck a chord deep within my heart.

Upon reflecting on my life thus far, there are moments that I felt I was strong, have done the right thing and patted myself on the back. But more often than not, there were moments which I am none too proud of. There were things that I have done or said that are truly hurtful and I fully regret them. They have become a wound, not only to the people I have hurt or offended, but also to myself.

Not recognizing the wound for what it is, it festered until it infected all aspects of life. Like pneumonia, it takes over the whole body, and it will only clear with a heavy dose of antibiotics. The condition of my spiritual health was in a similar state. It wasn’t until I acknowledged the hurt, the wounds, the guilt, the sins, and asked for forgiveness from our loving God, did I begin to heal.

Still, it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t move on, believing that I was unworthy of the love of God, and couldn’t understand that I can be forgiven so easily. Sometimes, our human psyche hinders us, deters us from believing what is good.

But the readings today are so encouraging. God is actually telling us that when we confess our sins, He has forgiven. We need to move on, we don’t need to look back. Because that is not where we are. We need to look forward and focus on what is ahead, keep our gaze in the direction of our Lord because that’s where we are heading and that’s where we want to be. This isn’t to say we are free to do more wrong or commit more sins. Although, we probably will do wrong despite our best efforts (due to the failings of our human nature), but the key is to try with our best effort to avoid sinning for the love of our God, who is ever loving and merciful. The intention of doing the right thing and striving for good, that is the key.

The journey isn’t over. We may take detours now and then, but the race isn’t finished yet and we mustn’t give up.  With God by our side, what do we have to fear?  Jesus is my strength and my all. When I stumble and fall, He is there by my side, encouraging me and helping me to continue on.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us not to look back but look ahead in Your direction. Help us to focus our hearts, our minds and our soul on You as we journey. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for loving us even though we are unworthy and for never giving up on us.

6 April, Saturday – A moment of grace, not disgrace

6 April 2019

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

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

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

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John 7:40-52

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

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

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Pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing

I write today’s reflection with heaviness and sadness in my heart. Recently, it was in the press that a former administrative director of our community had been jailed for embezzlement. This matter was brought to light some 4 years ago. At the time, many were shocked, hurt, angry, betrayed and sad. All sorts of emotions must have surged through those who knew him better or even worked with him. It pained those who had to take the decision to make an official report. He is one of our brothers and he has fallen. Yes he was trusted by all and yet he fell. I wonder if I were to be put in his position, given the opportunity, would I too fall into temptation.

The months that ensued must have been so painful to all involved. I imagine the numbers of trips to be made to the relevant authorities, the questions asked, the probing. The agony of waiting for the trial and verdict. I am not sure why the case took so long before it went to court and sentencing. Maybe other cases more pressing and more serious in nature came before. I didn’t know him too well but the question keeps coming to my mind – why did he do it? Why would he risk his reputation, his family, his life for such a small sum of money? Was he in need or in debt?

Days after the sentencing, my heart was so heavy and sad. It was a huge mistake on his part, maybe a moment of folly and there was a price to pay. Was it worth it? I’m sure we all say a resounding ‘No.’ I imagine the pain he must be experiencing, the pain his family felt, the shame it brought to his family. But you know what was so beautiful, so loving and forgiving? Our Spiritual Director had asked us all to pray a novena for him, and his family. I could see that he was also in pain, our dear Father. That we should pray for the presiding judge to have compassion and a soft heart. “This is nothing to rejoice about, to feel alarmed or to gossip about. Our brother has fallen and we must be compassionate.”

Such is the family of God. I believe that over the years, the emotions may have faded but as we neared the sentencing date, old wounds may have been brought up again. But it was heartening to see everyone pray as a community for our dear brother. Temper justice with mercy. Justice should always be tempered by compassion. We see this incident as a moment of grace and not disgrace. These were the words that were released to the press. And I know that these words are real and come from the hearts of our priest and community.

When sentence was passed. He apparently looked resigned. But he did take a moment despite his impending incarceration, the years he will spend paying for his mistake to send a message to say “I’m sorry.”

Today’s entrance antiphon: The waves of death rose about me; the pain of the netherworld surround me. In my anguish I called to the Lord, and from his holy temple he heard my voice.

God has forgiven him. Who are we to judge? Today I say a prayer for him. For God’s grace, kindness and love to envelope him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, today we offer up our prayers to those who have wronged us, hurt us and betray us. Fill us with compassion and love. May your mercy direct our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your grace Lord. For your kind mercy and compassion. With your help, may we not sin again.

5 April, Friday – Who am I?

5 Apr – Memorial for St. Vincent Ferrer, priest

Vincent (1350–1419) was the fourth child of the Anglo-Scottish nobleman William Stewart Ferrer and his Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel. His father is reported to have had a dream in which he was told that Vincent would be a world-famous Dominican friar.

The boy joined the Dominicans in 1367. He received his doctorate of theology from the University of Lleida. He was a priest and a missionary. He taught theology, and was adviser to the King of Aragon. During a severe fever in 1398, Vincent had a vision of Christ, St. Dominic de Guzman, and St. Francis of Assisi. It was a life-changing experience.

Vincent received supernatural gifts and believed that he was a messenger of penance, an “angel of the apocalypse” sent to prepare humankind for the Judgement of Christ.

He was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada. He was counsellor to Pope Benedict XIII. He travelled through Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, working to end the Western Schism.

He slept on the floor, had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish, but all listeners understood him), lived an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker. He was reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it.

He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.

– Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

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

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

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

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

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

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

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

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

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The very sight of him weighs our spirit down; his way of life is not like other men’s

Today’s first reading profiles who is good and who is wicked. I suppose it also stems from which side you are on. There are always two sides to a story, from different viewpoints.

Our life is short and full of sorrow, and when its end comes, there is no escape. No one has ever been known to come back from the world of the dead. ….. Come on, then, let’s enjoy the good things of life, and live in this world the way we did when we were young and free of care!

How many times have our friends good naturedly told us whenever we lament about something or what someone did or did not do for us. “Life is short, don’t take things to heart and just enjoy yourself.” Isn’t that exactly what the verses in Wisdom are depicting? Are our friends wrong then? Well, everything needs to be taken into context. If we continue to read the entire chapter in Wisdom 2, we see that the ‘wicked person’ simply throws caution to the wind, enjoys life in debauchery and torments those who are not in line with their views (the just ones).

I had to read today’s first reading a couple of times before I really understood it. At first, I saw myself as the ‘just one, the good person because I am a child of God. As I read the verses again, I see traces of the wicked one in myself. I think about the many times I feel uncomfortable or irritated with a person because she is simply weird, attention-seeking or someone who seemingly is doing ‘good’ but really feeding their own agendas.

Recently, a member of our community decided to step away and pursue a different journey. This person had some grievances with our community – how the ministry is being run, how certain people within the community conducted themselves, and some other issues which were very subjective (in my opinion). Whatever the reasons, God had a new plan for my fellow sister. My last interaction with her was somewhat confrontational. I am not sure to this day what the cause was. I have searched my mind over this but cannot find an answer. I decided to just let it go. When she sent a message to all to say her goodbyes to our community, I replied with a private message to wish her well and asked for her forgiveness if I had hurt her in any way. She never responded.

So perhaps to her, the very sight of me or the mention of my name may weigh her down; irritates her. Today’s first reading might be the very words she uses to describe me. From my perspective she is the ‘godless one’. However, if I am being authentic for a moment, my first reaction to her non response and the way she has reacted to me the last few times we met – I felt that she was simply a very angry and hurt person. I also felt that her stepping away from community was a result of her anger and discontentment – from the community and God who gave her a new life. I decided to let it go and not let this rob me of my peace. But today on reading the first reading again, I realised that I too am the wicked one. Who am I to say that the way she chooses to lead her life now is not what God wants of her. They do not know the hidden things of God. God uses our pain and suffering and turns it into something good. This journey in life is what it is — a journey. Some paths come to an end and we make a turn and start on a new path. So while my fellow (or now ex) community member’s gifts and talents are clearly in music , she has chosen to heed the Lord’s prompting to exercise other gifts, and to use her to minister to others in a new way.

May the Lord always hold this sister in His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, I pray you stay close to us who are broken-hearted. Help us in our weakness. Free us from the chains of anger, unforgiveness, and sadness from disappointments. Help us see others with your eyes of love. Help us to love you more.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for suffering for us. How painful it is for you to be condemned to such a death for us – especially for those of us who choose to stay away from you and not believe in you. Thank you for such unconditional love.

4 April, Thursday – Know where the source comes from

4 Apr – Memorial for St. Isidore, bishop & doctor

Isidore (560-636) was the son of Severianus and Theodora, people known for their piety. He was the brother of Sts. Fulgentius, Florentina, and Leander of Seville, who raised him after their father’s death. Initially, he was a poor student, but after giving the problem over to God, he became one of the most learned men of his time. After he was ordained a priest, he helped his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoth Arians. He was a hermit.

He became Archbishop of Seville in 601, succeeding his brother to the position. He was a teacher and was called ‘Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages’. He was a founder and a reformer. He required seminaries in every diocese, and wrote a rule for religious orders. He was a prolific writer whose works include a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. He presided at the Second Council of Seville, and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He introduced the works of Aristotle to Spain.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722, and became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 32:7-14

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

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

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

 

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

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

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

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Yet you refuse to come to me to have life

I read ‘news’ with a degree of scepticism nowadays with the proliferation of fake news. Recently, I forwarded a WhatsApp message from a friend, who got it from her friend. This message was seeking kind-hearted people who would adopt 2 dogs as she was no longer able to keep them because she was moving to a flat.

The dogs looked so cute. I shared the message on a chat group and one of my friends called the number listed to find out more about the adoption. Turns out that this was all a hoax played on this poor lady, purportedly the person giving up the dogs. She doesn’t even have dogs.

It’s important to know where the source of your news comes from.

In today’s gospel reading, we read about Jesus’ credentials. It pains me to put myself in Jesus’ situation. Why is it that he has to ‘sell’ himself, and convince people of his credentials? After all he is the Son of God. All he wanted was to carry out the will of his Father, to do good, to save us, all in the name of love. And all that at his own expense of pain, persecution and death. Although Jesus clearly comes in the name of his Father, he is not accepted nor believed. People stood in amazement, shock and some were indignant. It must have been so exasperating for Jesus – when individuals come in his own name and people accept him. And people will keep looking at their own traditions and ways, rather than look to one who comes from God.

It’s like parents who deal with their teenagers. They try to advice and navigate their tweens and teens amidst the minefields of growing up, having experienced it themselves. We want the very best for our kids and some of us try to even prevent them from experiencing the pitfalls of growing up. But kids will be kids, they never take advice from their parents. However, if the advice comes from outsiders, friends and peers – they sit up and take notice.

And how much of this applies to us? Where do we put our faith? How often do we fall into despair when things we pray for don’t go our way — when the perfect job we have in mind goes to someone else, when that promotion doesn’t happen, when we don’t have the car or house we dream about. Or when betrayal happens, broken relationships, and when someone we love dies.

We cry out in anguish, “Jesus where are you? Why have you not heard my prayer? Why have you allowed this to happen?” I cry out all the time in frustration, believe me. But all I need to do is silence my heart and mind, look towards scripture and reflect on my own life. How often when things seem to hit the brick wall and I am convinced that that’s the end – Jesus has been there all the time and turned the situation around. The situation may not have turned out the way I wanted it to be, but I am alive and well. ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 365 times in the bible. I know it’s there and it gives me great comfort when I read it. Yet looking back, knowing in my head but not in my heart have I continued to be overcome by fear over many things. And now years later, when I reflect on those situations, were those days and sleepless nights of worry helpful? Did Jesus not prevail in the end?

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, help us to be able to differentiate the truth vs lies. Help us to know that your love prevails and to stand strong in our faith and belief that you are Jesus Christ – our God and Saviour.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the love you have for your people.