Thursday, 14 May – You Are A Sign of God

14 May – Solemnity of The Ascension of The Lord

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Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

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Ephesians 1:17-23

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

Affirmed with the words of Jesus in the Gospel that we would not get harmed, there are stories of Saints going unharmed. For instance, the viper bit Saint Paul’s hand, and he shook it off to the fire that consumed the snake. Yet he remained unharmed as if nothing happened. Saint Denis of Paris had his head cut off yet he continued to preach even with his severed head as if nothing happened. There are stories of martyrs dying as the strong faith defenders. Yet all those wonderful saints manifested the same power of Holy Spirit as Jesus stated in the first reading.

What is this exact power of the Holy Spirit? It is the grace of God that enables you to convince the others of the authentication of the faith and presence of God. In other words, it strengthens your confidence and relationship with God by convincing you of the divine interventions in your lives. In times of trials, people will see the power of God that had transformed and eventually touched you. You are simply the sign of God as you are conformed by the enlightenment and presence of God within you, according to Saint Paul in the second reading. Do not be afraid but go out and show the light of Christ to the world. People, who are attracted to Christ, will come to you according to God’s Will. If you are so sure of going to Heaven in the end, why are you afraid now?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we sincerely pray for outpouring of Holy Spirit again so that we can be your instrument of peace, love and faith to the world, because we believe that You will transform the others through our encounters with them. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Glory be to the Father, to the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 May – God in Everything and Everything in God

13 May – Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

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

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

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1

Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.

So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:

‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.

‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:

“We are all his children.”

‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’

At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’ After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.

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Everything the Father has is mine

Many of us are familiar with Jesus’ words when He said that if we remain in Him and keep His words, He lives in us and we in Him. Then we can ask anything from Him and get it in God’s time. Why is that so? In this Gospel, Jesus said that everything belongs to Him. When everything is His, then how can we ask for something for ourselves?

In our Holy Communion, Lord Jesus enters into our hearts through the Eucharist and thus lives within us. In other words, everything Jesus has belongs to us as well because we are united with Him entirely and are therefore inseparable. That is, if we allow ourselves to be conformed to be Christ-like — to the same extent that three persons in God are inseparable and united with each other.

In God’s eyes, our souls are precious and therefore important to keep in Heaven. If God sees that our wishes cooperate with our salvation of the souls and we are in union with the Body of Christ, He will answer our prayers in His time. Remember, He always hears our prayers because He is everywhere and, more importantly, lives within our hearts. What matters for Him is the salvation of our souls. That was why Lord Jesus emphasized that everything, including our souls, belongs to Him. If God is glorified, we are also glorified.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we will never get separated from You for when we have possessed You, we have everything. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for everything You have given us in our lives.

Tuesday, 12 May – Union of Love

12 May

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Acts 16:22-34

The crowd joined in and showed their hostility to Paul and Silas, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners. When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’ The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They told him, ‘Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.’ Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his family. Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.

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John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Now I am going to the one who sent me.
Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?”
Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.
Still, I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.
And when he comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin, and about who was in the right,
and about judgement:
about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me;
about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more;
about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.’

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He will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgement

Almost everyone would find their convictions ridiculous or against their moral and ethical standards because they do not accept the Catholic Church’s teachings. Since they do not follow Holy Spirit, they cannot see the truth since they are very much terrified of the truth. To them, truth is often unpleasant and unbearable to accept because they prefer to stay in their own comfort zones that have long been their ‘safe havens’. Should they face a sudden change in their paths, they would find it uncomfortable and would do anything to prevent change such as surrendering part of their money to the poor or lending a hand to a neighbour.

However, we do not have to fear the world because according to the Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit has been tirelessly prompting everyone to God, no matter who he is. In God’s eyes, everyone is a child of His, baptised or not because He is the creator of everything in Heaven and on earth. In short, we are all siblings. The Catholic Church has emphasized that it is never easy to go to Hell because the Holy Spirit will keep calling everyone through the cooperation of the Guardian Angels all the time, till the people change their minds when they eventually achieve the realization of the true perspective of life.

I, for one, used to loathe my parents because of our language and communication barrier. They did not bother to get connected with me when I was young. As a native youth, I was upset with them for not being able to hear me, and I failed to understand their difficulties because of their low education and their busy schedules. Technology played an important role for my mum and myself. The main issue was that we failed to connect with each other. For instance, I failed to teach my mum how to text me and she was unable to connect with me because of her poor command of English. But now, I have learnt basic Mandarin and I am able to communicate with my parents well. As our relationship improved, I started to appreciate them and could even feel their love and joy. When they knew that I was doing well in school, they were overjoyed. That was when I felt the satisfaction. It was literally the best feeling that I had ever had in my life.

My story illustrates how the Holy Spirit led my family towards love and, ultimately, to God; for God is love. Despite our differences and different gifts, the Holy Spirit has brought us together as a community for our God who is the one Lord of all and everything. I have confidence that God will lead my entire family and everyone to the Catholic Church, that bears all the teachings and truths of Lord Jesus.

“We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging.” – Patch Adams

(Today’s OXYGEN by Michael Goo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the gift of sense of belonging in us that we may be able to coordinate the unity of the communities we are involved in for You have called us to be peacemakers. Through Your love, strengthen our union with each other for we share one Body of Christ that glorifies You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for the gift of love in our communities.

 

Monday, 11 May – Collateral Damage

11 May

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Acts 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.

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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.
‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’

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Your faith may not be shaken

As a university, we continue to grow and evolve. And after more than 5 years, I have seen many good people come and go. I have often wondered why seemingly good people decide to leave their job just as all eyes are on us and we begin to establish ourselves as a distinctive brand in Singapore.

Some of the senior management and most heads of department attended a culture building workshop recently, facilitated by a young husband and wife team. One exercise involved a handful of colleagues going out of the room while the rest of us were given ‘briefs’ about the kind of people we were and how each team was supposed to build the tallest tower possible out of a variety of material (paper cups, balloons, straws, crepe paper, markers and the like). Then halfway through the process, the handful of colleagues who had been asked to step out of the room were re-introduced into each group. But they had obviously been given a different ‘brief’ to us in terms of their culture. They all behaved pretty oddly and as they tried to assimilate into our groups, there was some obvious discomfort and even tension.

At the end of the session, we all shared that as an organisation that was so focussed on getting things done, we sometimes portrayed ourselves as cold, distant and unwelcoming. To outsiders and new employees, this could take some getting used to. While reflecting on this, I drew a parallel with my ongoing spiritual recovery journey and the other 12 brothers who are journeying together with me. As a new ‘leader’, I have had to ensure that readings are disseminated, attendance at our meetings is decent and that no one falls by the wayside – especially those who are not so regular. Unfortunately, the reality is that we have already had one or two casualties. Ordinarily, I would have taken the blow rather personally and questioned myself as to whether I had been open, caring, or even available to my other brothers who may be struggling with various issues at work or at home.

Unlike our Lord who cares for each and every one of His sheep, I feared that I may have been too uncaring as a leader. But during the recent CER#46, I pulled the same bible verse three times – 1Chr16:11-12 – He was reassuring me that all I needed to do was to look to Him in my hour of need.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord is always there waiting to catch us, no matter how wretched we feel about ourselves. He is a loving God full of compassion and mercy, ever willing to enfold us in His arms so that as His true sons and daughters, we will never fall by the wayside. I know I have to trust in Him completely to keep my group together, united in the bonds of His undying love for each and every one of us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, help us to see your face in every situation that we face. Help us to remain focussed and committed to you as we journey on this earth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always watching out for us and being there to catch us when we falter.

 

Sunday, 10 May – Choosing the Good

10 May

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Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. But Peter helped him up. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘I am only a man after all!’

Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’

While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too, since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. Peter himself then said, ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?’ He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.

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1 John 4:7-10

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

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John 15:9-17

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

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Anybody of any nationality

Many have said that the first impression on others is usually the most accurate and making a good first impression will be a lasting and, perhaps, great start to a relationship. However, for me, it takes a lot more than just the first impression to convince and judge if the person is one that I can form a strong relationship with. I used to believe that my first impression of someone is rather accurate, but over the past few years, I have learnt that people can be very pretentious; it takes a while for me to actually see through their behaviour as the bad personality gradually emerges over time. Vice versa, there have been moments where I jump to conclusions early and have not given myself a chance to know the other person better. I often fall into a dilemma where I misjudged one’s character and struggled to find a solution where I either want to have no contact with the person, or find ways to strengthen my friendship with the other. The former is usually more difficult, leading me to tell lies just to get away from the other person.

How generous is our Almighty Father that He, as the Holy Spirit, descends on anybody of any nationality. It is funny how the world, regardless of job interviews, networking seminars, social meetings, project group mates or in any situation where you have to bring out a great first impression to others and that is so important for advancement. Whereas, our Lord showers His blessings on all who accept Him in return and that is good enough for Him.

The generosity and love, which God has no limits in showering on His people, is so immense that it puts our daily behaviour to shame. I truly find it very difficult to have a relationship with someone who does not respect me, who puts me down, and sometimes makes racist remarks about me. It is not possible for me to even have a proper conversation with such an acquaintance and the first thing that comes to mind is to stay away from him or her. Today’s second reading and Gospel continuously sends out the message of how God’s love is for all. Also, how He is readily available for us to reach out to.

How can I have a heart so big and warm like our Lord’s? If we are to call ourselves Christians, and to be followers of His commandments, to ‘Love One Another’ sounds simple but it is perhaps one of the most challenging actions.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: I ask for the wisdom and patience to understand and judge my neighbours with the correct ‘lenses’ which the good Lord has prescribed for me.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the close friends and family who dare to criticise me and tell me of my faults, and also to encourage me when they see the willingness and passion in me.

Saturday, 09 May – Enduring Kindness

9 May

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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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His kindness endures forever

It can be a challenge to look at both the kindness of the Lord and the reasons why we are persecuted as Christians at the same time. Why does a kind God allow us to be persecuted? Today is the right time for us to realise that Jesus, the Son of God, was subject to great persecution and after Him, many others suffered. From the martyrs St Stephen and St Peter, right through to this day when we see many Christians denied their rights to citizenship and worship and, in some cases, killed because they are Christians.

I grew up in a small town in Malaysia and studied in a convent school which was started by the I.J sisters. As the years went by, there has been a decrease in their numbers up until the time I entered school. We had a grotto of Our Lady facing the front gate which we passed by a few times a day. Before I began schooling, I remembered stopping by at the grotto to pray with my aunts. In school, we were told to never pray at the grotto and because I never thought much of it as a child, I never even entered the grotto area to play, out of obedience.

Today, as an adult, I am infuriated of being robbed of the right to pray at the shrine of My Mother as I feel that my life as a student would have been very enriched if I sought her daily. In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that we will be subjected to suffering such as this. For some of us, the suffering could be in the form of an illness, loss of a loved one or a job, a failed marriage, financial distress, being bullied in school and being marginalised, or even being entrenched in habitual sin or addiction. Whatever our suffering and trials are, let us offer them to the Lord who has suffered first. Let us be reminded of His kindness, His faithfulness and His majestic enthronement which reigns above all people and powers who persecute and challenge us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father God, today we forgive all those who have caused us pain and suffering. Remind us each day that when we suffer, we are reunited with your suffering. Protect our brothers and sisters who suffer.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus we seek what is above, we seek your face and the hope we have in you, O risen Lord.

 

Friday, 08 May – Receive

8 May

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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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The Father will give you anything you ask him in my name
This is such a dream come true, to ‘receive all that we want’ — the promise made to us in today’s gospel. All we need to do to receive all we want is to love others. I would think that all of us, would love this offer of being able to have all that we want and ask for of the Lord. Then what is holding us back? Are we battling with the notion of loving others?

Some people are very easy to love. But can we only love those whom we wish to love? Today, Jesus tells us that He has chosen us, to love us and lead us just like He has chosen everyone He had created as His children. Therefore, we must go and do likewise.

For many years now, I have been praying to find a suitable spouse. As time goes by, I am gradually realising that when God finally answers this prayer, I may be really shocked. As a single lady, I struggle to deal with a society which has been entrenched in the lies of what love entails – how soceity defines the eligibility of a potential spouse based on looks, wealth and popularity.

We all have a set of criteria of the people we should love. That could mean loving only those who love us, while totally dismissing others. This is definitely not what God is asking of us today. He is asking us to love all His children. Personally, this is a journey which requires a lot of grace for me. Because I realise that what stands between the gift of receiving all that I want, is my unconditional love for my neighbours – the special children, the migrant workers, the dying and suffering, the noisy colleague, the annoying friend, the over-opinionated church members – it is as if God is telling me, ‘look at all of them and just love all of them.’

If today we are waiting for a breakthrough in our lives, let us ask God to strengthen our faith and let us take the first step to love all His children, whom He loves and has each called by name.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times we fail to love all your people. Renew our hearts so that they are overflowing with genuine love for our neighbours. Give us a breakthrough in our lives today, for all the prayers that are yet to be answered, help us to know what it means to wait on you Lord.

Thanksgiving: No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Thank you, sweet Father, for showing us the depths of your love by dying on the cross for us, your unworthy people.

Thursday, 07 May – The Father’s Love

7 May

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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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 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you

During mission week, which was held a week before World Youth Day, I was placed in a foster home with a family of 2 parents and their 2 teenage children. The foster parents did not speak English at all and we communicated with help from their family friend and their children. On our last night at their home, we went out for a grand meal — we had wine and had some really nice Brazilian pizza with friends of our foster parents. While at the restaurant, my foster father gently reached for me and was stroking my hair just as he would have done to his daughter. It was a simple gesture that reminded me of his love for me as a father. After staying a week in their home and being cared for like their own child, I was convinced of their love for me. And that simple act of stroking my hair was another expression of his gentle fatherliness.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that He loves us as much as the Father loves Him and I can imagine that any love shared between human beings cannot come close to the love that Jesus has for us. And because He is offering us this perfect love as our Father, He also teaches us that in order to be part of this love relationship, we need to keep his commandments. All this while also assuring us that it is possible to do so because He has been faithful to these same commandments. Today, He reminds us of His great love and how we can make it last, because He knows that it gives us great joy to know that we are part of a perfect union with Him.

Today, let us spend some quiet time before the Lord to recount the ways in which we feel loved by Him. Let us surrender the areas in our lives which need to be restored. Let us allow Him to love us in His terms and let us receive His abundant joy and share it with everyone we encounter today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Abba Father, use us as your instruments to proclaim your name to all nations. Let us sing for joy of your wondrous works today and all of our days. Forgive us for the times we failed to share you with others.

Thanksgiving: We proclaim your marvellous deeds and tell of your mighty deeds, our Lord and Father.

Wednesday, 06 May – Interdependence

6 May

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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:

‘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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For cut off from me you can do nothing

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that without Him we cannot do anything and we do sometimes wonder how is it even possible that others who live out of communion with God are able to achieve great things. This reminds me of how things were with me a few years ago when I tried hard to portray independence to everyone behind a façade of staying on my own, going on solo trips and doing it all on my own. Looking back, I realise that all I was doing was to hide my dependence and interdepended on my family and friends, because being vulnerable meant I could get hurt and disappointed. When I was lonely, I always clung on to a few friends to hang out with me and when I was in need of auto-assistance, I would especially call on those who knew more than me in a particular area. It was my coping mechanism to stay safely away, while calling upon others only in time of need.

Just like how it used to be with me, some people treat their relationship with God in much the same way. The hearts and souls of each human being have a deep longing for the Lord. Some of us fuel this by actively seeking Him and accepting His constant invitations. On the other hand, some of us portray an indifferent and independent outlook, so that others will look at our money, relationships, and happiness and give us all the credit for our hard work. Most of us are guilty of hiding behind an addiction, person, sin, material things, endless work or a bad habit to temporarily fill that longing in our hearts for the Lord. As Saint Augustine said, “My soul will not rest until it rests in you.” We all yearn to remain in Him and it is no doubt that He invites us to do just that in today’s gospel.

A life which is rooted in Christ is simply fruitful and beautiful. You have the confidence that no matter what is happening in your life, you have a hope in a mighty God. You are comforted by God when, like the apostles Paul and Barnabas, you try to carry out the will of God in your life and your ministry. I liken it very much to being in love — you could smile to yourself and you long for the time when you meet Him again in the Eucharist; you are willing to burn the midnight oil to read the Bible. And because ‘being in love’ with God means glorifying the Father and bearing fruit, you can give up your best parking lot to an elderly lady, you can smile at the mischievous child at church and give up your helping of dessert so that you can offer it to the migrant worker.

Today, let us examine our lives to look at areas in our lives in which we are taking all the credit for, and areas where we do not acknowledge the hand of God in our lives. Let us be open to the ways of the Lord of love to become his disciples.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father God, help us to get real with you by coming to you to fill our need and desire for you. Fill us O Lord, until we cannot ask for more.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for pruning us and for being patient with us especially when we feel so self-sufficient and self-reliant.

Tuesday, 05 May – Persevere in Faith

5 May

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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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 We all have to experience many hardships…before we enter the kingdom of God.

Our Lord and Saviour had to suffer and die before He entered His kingdom. He gave up His right to be in His kingdom to assume a human life, to suffer and die and to rise again so that we will have salvation and that He will live with us here and now, throughout eternity.

It was by choice that He endured this suffering and gave up His heavenly home; such is His great love. No words can describe His wonder, His majesty which is present today through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, especially through His body and His blood in the sacrament of Communion.

When I first took my current job, 5 years ago I shared an office with a colleague. One year later, we both had to move to a more compact working space with potentially 10 other colleague. On hindsight, I realise that it was not such a big deal at all. But back then, both of us were not terribly thrilled at the outset because of the uncertainty that it brought about, and possibly because we thought we had a right to a better office space. In actual fact, the moving of an office or workstation is, in itself, not really a hardship at all; and yet, sometimes, we act as if it is. Given that experience, I don’t think that if I was the son (or daughter) of God, I would have left heaven voluntarily.

Today, we face a lot of hardships; some perceived, some temporary and some truly challenging. And the Lord tells us today, that He gives us peace and this is not the peace the world gives. Anything that comes from God is perfect and so is His peace.

So while we struggle to uphold our rights to practice our religion; while, as parents and elders, we strive to impose the teaching of our faith in morality and truth in a very liberal society; and while we who are single strive to live in chastity and purity, Jesus reassures us much like the parent in today’s reading.

When I am down, lost or troubled, my parents do assure me that I need not be afraid, they give me the confidence that I can do what it takes and that God is with us during those painful times. One such time was 4 years ago when I had initially agreed to be the commentator at my uncle’s funeral. On the day of the funeral, I told my dad that I could not do it because all I wanted to do was to mourn and grieve during the funeral mass. My father assured me that the right thing to do was to commentate at the mass.

Do we expect anything less from our perfect Father? Is He not consoling us when we are humiliated, persecuted and constantly faced with dead ends? Is He not holding our hands when we need to rise up and stand up for our faith? Is He not smiling at us when we continuously uphold His teaching and live life aligned to His truth? Not many of us will have the privilege of dying a martyr like St Stephen but every time each of us ‘dies to ourselves’ so that His dominion endures throughout generations, we receive this great privilege to know the our faith is worth upholding so that we can pass it on to the generation after us.

What is God asking of you today? What hardship do you need to endure to enter His kingdom?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father God, help us to offer up all our suffering, hardship and persecution for the salvation of the departed souls. Give us the grace to accept our crosses.

Thanksgiving: With all of our hearts, and all of our lives, we thank you and praise you for the gift of your perfect Son, our perfect Father and Lord.