Saturday, 4 Apr – I Will Go Before You

4 Apr – Easter Vigil

Dear readers,

The Easter Vigil Mass features a total of nine readings. It is an Oxygen tradition to have a reflection for each of these readings. This Easter, five from our writing team, along with two guest writers – Sandra and Geraldine, have contributed to the reflections. It is a long read, but we hope that it will be an enjoyable and inspiring one!

Blessed Easter!
Edith

(on behalf of the Oxygen Team)
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FIRST READING

Genesis 1:1-2:2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’

God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.

Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing.
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God blessed them

This age-old reading from Genesis reminds us with vivid imagery, that God has the ability to create order from chaos, light from darkness, fertile life from barrenness. Even at the beginning of time, God assured us of His love and providence – “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth… See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food” (Genesis 1:28-29).

As we come together to celebrate this Holy Vigil, He asks us to lay down our weariness, our loneliness, the restless wandering of mind and heart, the chaos in our lives. Breathe deeply; breathe in His peace. Be assured believer! As sure as the sky, the earth, the stars in the sky and the teeming life laid out on this earth, you too were lovingly made. Be assured believer! You are beloved!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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SECOND READING

Genesis 22:1-18

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.

Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
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Here I am

The past week has been one rifled with deep emotions for our nation. Our founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is finally at rest. I am a product of what his works gave us but probably one of the few who did not fully understand & appreciate what Mr. Lee had done for us. So it truly surprised me to see the outpouring of love, appreciation and support for him during these last few days. As I devoured the eulogies this Monday morning, particularly the more personal ones of Hsien Yang and Wei Ling – I vicariously saw a side of Mr. Lee that was ‘human’, like you and I. Not the super tough politician in his public life. He gave up his life for this nation. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, he probably said in his own way “Here I am.” when called. Tasked with this monumental charge, He brought this little fishing village to the ranks of a nation even the big boys respected and admired.

Just over this past week, a priest shared that despite being 20 years in the priesthood, he was still being called to new challenges & new ministries. This is in spite of his own perceived unworthiness and weakness, ‘broken goods’ he calls himself. In his own words, ‘I am freaking out!”.

How ready are when we are called by our Lord? How readily and with deep faith do we say “Here I am, Lord!” just like Abraham when tested by God to demonstrate his faith and obedience in tangible terms.

How strong is our faith in God? That we are willing to give up what is loved, prized, familiar and comfortable to us? How often have we seen situations with our own eyes and acted on our own steam – only to be let down and left feeling empty; unfulfilled.

How strong is our faith in God? Can we be like Mary when she said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”

Certainly not I. I too am freaking out.

Early last year, I took the decision to quit corporate life – to recalibrate and to figure out ‘what’s next?’ Needless to say, I made this decision amidst much trepidation, uncertainty & yes, fear. I certainly struggled with my faith and trust in Our Father throughout this journey – deciding to leave a job I was familiar with, a job that provided me with a comfortable and steady income stream, but was slowly suffocating me. I struggled and fought with God when He asked me to take the step. I resisted for 6 months and one day in prayer, peace came over me. I was ready to take that step with my Father.

Reflecting on my faith journey this past year, I came to a realization literally over the last few days, that while I have been praying and discerning about where my future lies, my eyes were so fixed on the destination that I failed to appreciate where the Lord has led me to today.
God has planted in me a new love. A new passion. I had taken on an inordinate interest in liturgical vestments. Yup, you heard me right. I was suddenly interested in what the priests wore, the styles, the embroidery, and the altar linens. It is by God’s grace and provision that my cousin has a small uniforms business which opened me up to her pool of staff and vendors to play around with my new-found interest. To date, we have made cassocks and albs for priests, altar servers’ cassocks, a personal altar cloth for a beloved priest and a processional canopy to be used this Holy Thursday! Each piece pondered over, designed and laboured with love, planted in my heart by my Father.

Where this is leading me, I don’t know. Maybe I will land another corporate-type job. Or just maybe…He will take me on a different journey.
Someone said to me recently, ‘God is not who you think He is.” Some of you will have different reactions to that statement, but I knew exactly where this person was coming from. In our own wisdom, we ask God to lead us to a place, a destination we feel is best for us. But do we really? Can we see with God’s eyes the wonderful possibilities that He is planning for us?

Proverbs 16:9
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

So, with the recent events, I started thinking: “If I died tomorrow, what would I want to be remembered for?” Well, I may not in this lifetime contribute as much compared to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. I may not be known by everyone. My life may be of little consequence to many people. But I would like to be remembered as someone who loved and lived life as led by our Father. Someone who dared to say “Here I am.” Someone who would give whatever she could to another who asked.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Loving Father, increase our faith in you. When confronted with the difficult situations that life presents us, give us the grace to take that small step, knowing that you Lord, will give us the strength to go that extra mile. Lord, you promised that if we walked in obedience, we will live the fullness of life in You.

Thanksgiving: Dear Father, we come before you with grateful hearts. We praise and thank you for every blessing and gift that you have given us, and will continue to give us. We stand in awe for your infinite goodness. We pray that our lives will be a witness to others of your goodness so that they will experience Your love and grace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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THIRD READING

Exodus 14:15-15:1

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’

Then the angel of God, who marched at the front of the army of Israel, changed station and moved to their rear. The pillar of cloud changed station from the front to the rear of them, and remained there. It came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. The cloud was dark, and the night passed without the armies drawing any closer the whole night long.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove back the sea with a strong easterly wind all night, and he made dry land of the sea. The waters parted and the sons of Israel went on dry ground right into the sea, walls of water to right and to left of them. The Egyptians gave chase: after them they went, right into the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

In the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians from the pillar of fire and of cloud, and threw the army into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could scarcely make headway. ‘Let us flee from the Israelites,’ the Egyptians cried. ‘The Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians!’

‘Stretch out your hand over the sea,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘that the waters may flow back on the Egyptians and their chariots and their horsemen.’

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and, as day broke, the sea returned to its bed. The fleeing Egyptians marched right into it, and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the very middle of the sea. The returning waters overwhelmed the chariots and the horsemen of Pharaoh’s whole army, which had followed the Israelites into the sea; not a single one of them was left. But the sons of Israel had marched through the sea on dry ground, walls of water to right and to left of them.

That day, the Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. Israel witnessed the great act that the Lord had performed against the Egyptians, and the people venerated the Lord; they put their faith in the Lord and in Moses, his servant.

It was then that Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song in honour of the Lord:
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The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward

Discernment – How do you know when to move forward and when to not? How do you know what God’s will is or if you are actually in it?

“What if I’m hearing God wrong?”

A question I ask myself all the time.

“I am afraid.”

A lot of times we ask questions we already know answers to; even if the answer is just to wait. As for me I get impatient and want to take things into my own hands thinking God doesn’t care! He’s making me wait so long! In times of doubt, struggle or confusion it is wise to know this: God doesn’t rush. Take the time to be still. He is in absolute control and power. Yield your trust to Him and see Him work in wonderful and mysterious ways and yes, even if it takes time. God knows, He understands and that is enough.

Someone once said to me, “God has put the desire in your heart towards the direction you should follow.”

Other times we know which direction we should take or at least have an inclination towards it but we are afraid to try because it seems too big or too good to be true. “Does God really want me to do this?” and so we take our time, carefully treading unchartered territory. He is doing a new thing. Taking us into a new season of our lives but we dare not believe it. God cares and He is in absolute control. A lot of times we already know what to do. Even if to the eyes of the world it might seem foolish to turn down that job offer or change your course of study. Whatever it is, God knows when it’s time to move and when the time is right He will move you to the right course of action but for now, in whatever season you are in take the time to just be still. The Lord is fighting for you.

Ask Him again the question in your heart if you’re unsure. The answer will surely come. It’s important to be still just so you can hear God’s voice loud and clear in a time when distractions or worry shroud the voice of God deep in your heart. Seek the counsel of Godly men and women. Talk to a priest or religious. Ask God to make the answer painfully clear! Whatever it is you want to do seek God time and time again. He never grows tired or weary of answering. If anything He is delighted!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sandra Christine)

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Prayer: Father, please give me the courage to take that step forward in the direction you want me to follow. Help me not be afraid knowing that you’ve got my back.

Thanksgiving: Thank you that come what may you are always with me, always faithful and always God. Thank you for the grace you give me to be still in your presence. I love you, Lord!

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FOURTH READING

Isaiah 54:5-14

Thus says the Lord:
Now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;

for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.

Unhappy creature, storm-tossed, disconsolate,
see, I will set your stones on carbuncles
and your foundations on sapphires.
I will make rubies your battlements,
your gates crystal,
and your entire wall precious stones.
Your sons will all be taught by the Lord.
The prosperity of your sons will be great.
You will be founded on integrity;
remote from oppression, you will have nothing to fear;
remote from terror, it will not approach you.
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But my love for you will never leave you

I watched the movie Evan Almighty last night, one of the attempts by the TV station to show a movie that they felt was in line with the Easter theme for this long weekend. Although not very successful as a comedy, I felt that the movie made a good effort at portraying how one can sometimes feel abandoned by God, although God technically is always there. At the climax of the story, Evan had already constructed the ark, all the animals were inside it, and all the people were still outside, jeering at him. At that point, he really needed a sign from God to show that all his efforts were worthwhile and meant something. But nothing came, except a temporary shower which only served to raise his hopes before crushing it. It was only at the eleventh hour, after he came to accept the uncertainty before him, when he realised that a nearby dam was about to break and release the waters from the lake.

It is common to shake our fists at God when we feel down and abandoned, as there is that expectation that since God loves us and is always there for us, we should not have to experience such despair. But this despair is more likely due to us following our own erroneous line of reasoning, such as expectation of instant results, of perfection, and an inability to accept our own shortcomings.

Currently, I am experiencing a clash between my desire to produce high-quality work versus the overly-demanding operational nature of working in school. I feel like I am just ticking items off my to-do list, moving from one item to another as quickly as I can, and not deriving much satisfaction from anything. My only motivation comes from the students and the colleagues towards whom I feel responsible. I am aware that I should be turning to God more, but the exhaustion I feel is preventing me from opening up to feeling anything else. I can only trudge on, and this Easter, I pray for an experience of the uplifting love of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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Prayer: We pray for greater discernment in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the little moments when we realise that God is present and looking after us and our loved ones.

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FIFTH READING

Isaiah 55:1-11

Thus says the Lord:

Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.

With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.
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Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live

I find it hard to listen. I am often filled with my own thoughts, anxieties, intentions. My mind tends to be noisy and crowded with competing desires, worries, and insecurities. I wonder if this is simply my nature or if there is a permanent way out of these tensions.

One of the things I realised I constantly worry about is the state of my soul and that of those close and dear to me. It almost seems foolish to worry about something that I definitely do not have the direct solutions to, neither can I assert any transformation about — especially when it comes to others. Still, I fret about it. When I hear a message or homily, my mind flits away to someone whom I know might benefit from it. When I read a good spiritual message, I begin to make mental notes of whom I could forward it to or share it with. If I do share it, I later wonder if the person had felt encouraged or enlightened by the message — and often, if I wonder if it had the impact I thought it would.

Out of all these wonderings in these incessantly wandering mind of mine, I have come to realise, stems from a disquiet spirit. My worrisome spirit finds it hard to trust in God in such a way that admits to my own creatureliness and helplessness. I may not try to be God in big ways through grand gestures and deeds, but now I see that I have been trying too hard to second-guess God and the movements of the Holy Spirit. Somehow, I have come to imagine that I can penetrate the ways and thoughts of the Lord! How presumptuous.

“…the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.” (Isaiah 55:11)

I had not been single-mindedly paying attention to the Word of the Lord. Oh yes, even if I were to read and reflect on the scriptures and spiritual books, even if I were to sit at Mass and listen to the Homily, I may not necessarily be truly listening with pure attention and intentions — to God. As the reading today has struck me “Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy. Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.”

The Lord’s beckoning sounds so simple — listen, and pay attention. But how hard it is to listen without trying to decipher, to complicate our understanding, to contort and twist the Word to our preferences and our desires. To truly listen is to abandon assumptions and presumptions, motives and objectives, “my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”

We can only truly advance in our spiritual journey and allow God to feed our thirsting and hungry souls, if we pause long enough to humbly and simply listen. Like the dry earth aches for the quench of the rain, may we lap up the message of love from God that falls generously unto us, to soak and drink it in. I think this applies too in all of our closest relationships. Listening attentively is not always easy, and we need Jesus’ saving grace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Jesus, you are always seeking me out, listening to my thoughts. Help me to abandon my own preoccupations and tune back in to you and your love. I am nothing without you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for always tirelessly letting me rattle off my litany of prayer requests. Thank you for this realisation again, of my need to be still in your presence to listen to you.

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SIXTH READING

Baruch 3:9-15,32-4:4

Listen, Israel, to commands that bring life;
hear, and learn what knowledge means.
Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies,
growing older and older in an alien land,
sharing defilement with the dead,
reckoned with those who go to Sheol?
Because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom.
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have lived in peace for ever.
Learn where knowledge is, where strength,
where understanding, and so learn
where length of days is, where life,
where the light of the eyes and where peace.
But who has found out where she lives,
who has entered her treasure house?

But the One who knows all knows her,
he has grasped her with his own intellect,
he has set the earth firm for ever
and filled it with four-footed beasts.
He sends the light – and it goes,
he recalls it – and trembling it obeys;
the stars shine joyfully at their set times:
when he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are’;
they gladly shine for their creator.
It is he who is our God,
no other can compare with him.
He has grasped the whole way of knowledge,
and confided it to his servant Jacob,
to Israel his well-beloved;
so causing her to appear on earth
and move among men.

This is the book of the commandments of God,
the Law that stands for ever;
those who keep her live,
those who desert her die.
Turn back, Jacob, seize her,
in her radiance make your way to light:
do not yield your glory to another,
your privilege to a people not your own.
Israel, blessed are we:
what pleases God has been revealed to us.

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Blessed are we, O Israel; for what pleases God is known to us! 

As Children of God we should know what pleases Him. Or do we try and guess it all of our lives?

The Lord speaks to us in many ways, sometimes through scriptures, during our personal prayer time, sometimes through circumstances and people, even in trials and triumphs He speaks to us. He never stops actually. And that brings back the onus upon us, to listen to Him.

As Catholics we are called to live a life pleasing to Him, we have the commandments of moses and of the church, the church traditions, sacraments and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to give us precise direction on this journey called life.

We know that we are called to read scriptures, pray daily, serve in our parishes and live within a community of Catholics where we are accountable for one another.

Ironically we even know the things He gently nudges us about too. Sometimes I am convinced of His sense of humour of leading me to people and places I would not have gone to on my own. And at times we find ourselves wondering, “so Lord you asked me to say this or do this and now what”. If like me you have read enough stories from ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ you would wonder, ‘where is this going’, ‘what am I getting out of this’, ‘how am I a blessing to this person’ etc. But that is far from the point of our obedience, we need only use the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and act in prudence, we are not asked to have all the answers by figuring everything out.

Today, let us ask ourselves if we are going to take charge of our lives, our choices, our decisions to live a life pleasing to Him. Imagine if all of us did just that, not only will the world be a better place, we would all be living lives which are intune with the desires of our hearts. At this point, our desires and His will be the same.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

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Prayer: Lord you have the words of everlasting life. Help us a life pleasing to you, all the days of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Your words are pure, sweeter than the sweetest honey, more precious than gold. Thank you Father for the precious gift of your word and all those who share your word.

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SEVENTH READING

Ezekiel 36:16-17,18-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, the members of the House of Israel used to live in their own land, but they defiled it by their conduct and actions. I then discharged my fury at them because of the blood they shed in their land and the idols with which they defiled it. I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them in foreign countries. I sentenced them as their conduct and actions deserved. And now they have profaned my holy name among the nations where they have gone, so that people say of them, “These are the people of the Lord; they have been exiled from his land.”

‘But I have been concerned about my holy name, which the House of Israel has profaned among the nations where they have gone.

‘And so, say to the House of Israel, “The Lord says this: I am not doing this for your sake, House of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land.

‘“I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.”’

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I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts

Unrequited love is like a curse. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a beloved’s selfish indifference will be able to identify with the heartbreak and disappointment that comes from giving all of ourselves to no avail. So it is with The Lord when faced with our stubbornness and indifference. Time and again we disappoint Him, yet like the loving father who holds out in hope of the spoiled child’s conversion, Our Father waits patiently for us to repent.

Lasting conversion requires God’s grace and a willingness on our part to yield our lives to Him. We need His grace to go the distance, to rise to the occasion and be more than just the sum events of our lives. We need Him to put in us a ‘new heart’, a ‘new spirit’ that we may learn to love more than just ourselves. He is waiting to give us this new life with Him. He asks only that we trust and be receptive to change.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Romans 6:3-11

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

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Matthew 28:1-10

After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

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But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you

In an ideal world, it would be great if someone could pave the way for us so that we could just follow behind in the wake of their path. Sometimes we feel as though we are flying solo and in thick clouds with zero visibility. It is like learning how to ride a bicycle and your father letting go of the handle bars: in the beginning you teeter along, then you doubt yourself, and then you get scared and lose your balance, then you topple over. It is like that with God: He is holding on to our handle bars and steering us, but doesn’t mean that because we don’t see Him, that He is not there.

When Moses led the people out of Egypt, God went before them as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, to seek out safe places for the people to encamp and as a guide for their journey (Deuteronomy 1:33).

In the Gospel, the angel told Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Jesus and Salome that Jesus had risen and was going ahead of them to Galilee. In Galilee, Jesus would set out the apostles’ mission by exhorting them to carry out his work and baptize the peoples in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has risen indeed Alleluia! But while he is not present with us physically we are not alone. Jesus has led us out of the wilderness of sin and evil by being the light for our paths. He is the truth and the way, and it is this way that we need to follow, with him as our guide. Just like riding a bicycle, Jesus is steering us gently. He goes before us to prepare the path for us by removing whatever difficult obstacles that might lie along the way. He will ensure that our paths will be as smooth as possible (Isaiah 45:2).

With Jesus, we need not feel like we are losing balance. I hold on to the comforting thought he is very present in my life because he has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). My destination is secure because I know that he has gone to prepare a place in God’s house (John 14:3) so that one day we will be reunited with him.

Jesus has risen, and though he is not with us physically, remember that he is with us always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, You promised Your everlasting presence in our lives. We pray for the faith to feel Your presence especially when we are flying through the clouds of doubt.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for holding on to the steering wheel of my life. I know that while I attempt to drive I take comfort in the thought that You are there to guide me and protect me.

 

Friday, 3 Apr – The Passion

3 Apr – Good Friday, Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

See, my servant will prosper,
he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

As the crowds were appalled on seeing him
– so disfigured did he look
that he seemed no longer human –
so will the crowds be astonished at him,
and kings stand speechless before him;
for they shall see something never told
and witness something never heard before:
‘Who could believe what we have heard,
and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

Like a sapling he grew up in front of us,
like a root in arid ground.
Without beauty, without majesty we saw him,
no looks to attract our eyes;
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,
a man to make people screen their faces;
he was despised and we took no account of him.

And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we, we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings us peace,
and through his wounds we are healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,
each taking his own way,
and the Lord burdened him
with the sins of all of us.
Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly,
he never opened his mouth,
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers

never opening its mouth.
By force and by law he was taken;
would anyone plead his cause?
Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living;
for our faults struck down in death.
They gave him a grave with the wicked,
a tomb with the rich,
though he had done no wrong
and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute,
he shall divide the spoil with the mighty,
for surrendering himself to death
and letting himself be taken for a sinner,
while he was bearing the faults of many
and praying all the time for sinners.

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Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

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John 18:1-19:42

Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kedron valley. There was a garden there, and he went into it with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was going to happen to him, Jesus then came forward and said, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said, ‘I am he.’ Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said, ‘I am he’, they moved back and fell to the ground. He asked them a second time, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They said, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ ‘I have told you that I am he,’ replied Jesus. ‘If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.’ This was to fulfil the words he had spoken, ‘Not one of those you gave me have I lost.’

Simon Peter, who carried a sword, drew it and wounded the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’

The cohort and its captain and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had suggested to the Jews, ‘It is better for one man to die for the people.’

Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who was keeping the door and brought Peter in. The maid on duty at the door said to Peter, ‘Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?’ He answered, ‘I am not.’ Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others.

The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together: I have said nothing in secret. But why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught: they know what I said.’ At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, ‘Is that the way to answer the high priest?’ Jesus replied, ‘If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offence in it, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.

As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him, ‘Aren’t you another of his disciples?’ He denied it saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, ‘Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crew.

They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat the passover. So Pilate came outside to them and said, ‘What charge do you bring against this man?’ They replied, ‘If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you.’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.’ The Jews answered, ‘We are not allowed to put a man to death.’ This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.
So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ he asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ ‘Truth?’ said Pilate ‘What is that?’; and with that he went out again to the Jews and said, ‘I find no case against him. But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of the Jews?’ At this they shouted: ‘Not this man,’ they said ‘but Barabbas.’ Barabbas was a brigand.

Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’; and they slapped him in the face.

Pilate came outside again and said to them, ‘Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case.’ Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, ‘Here is the man.’ When they saw him the chief priests and the guards shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him: I can find no case against him.’ ‘We have a Law,’ the Jews replied ‘and according to that Law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’

When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus, ‘Where do you come from?’ But Jesus made no answer. Pilate then said to him, ‘Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?’ ‘You would have no power over me’ replied Jesus ‘if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.’

From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted, ‘If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.’ Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated himself on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. It was Passover Preparation Day, about the sixth hour. ‘Here is your king’ said Pilate to the Jews. ‘Take him away, take him away!’ they said. ‘Crucify him!’ ‘Do you want me to crucify your king?’ said Pilate. The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king except Caesar.’ So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull or, as it was called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, ‘You should not write “King of the Jews,” but “This man said: I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’
When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, ‘Instead of tearing it, let’s throw dice to decide who is to have it.’

In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled:

They shared out my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my clothes.

This is exactly what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said:

‘I am thirsty.’

A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:

Not one bone of his will be broken;
and again, in another place scripture says:
They will look on the one whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus – though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews – asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. Nicodemus came as well – the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time – and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.

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Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed

Eight years ago, a film called “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson was released internationally. Its release ruffled some feathers and raised many an eyebrow. The film was highly controversial, due to claims of inaccuracies but more so for the degree of violence portrayed. Celebrated critic Roger Ebert called it the most violent film he had ever seen. But the screenwriters and director wanted to be as true to the biblical references that they had sourced as best as they could so that we would not lose the meaning.

I have only watched it once and I cannot bear to watch it again. I later read the “Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, the writings of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of the Passion of our Lord. This was used as a source by the screenwriters to reenact the Lord’s Passion. The details around our Lord’s scourging and crucifixion was so real it was almost too much to bear. There may be some amongst us who still question the veracity of the movie and such writings, but at the end of the day, we have to acknowledge that the scourging and crucifixion did happen, and it would not have been rated “G” (General viewing).

We all know why Jesus had to do this. We know that he died for our sins, so that we may be dead to sin and live. But what can this knowledge do for us if we do not understand or appreciate what this sacrifice did for us? Before Christ, we were living in sin. We had no way to atone for it, and no way to reconcile ourselves with God. If we are living in sin, then we are not living in God’s peace. Christ’s crucifixion was the sacrifice that enabled us to reconcile with God: “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:20-22).
We cannot heal and move on if we do not let go of the things that hurt us. If we have wronged, without forgiveness for our wrongdoing we live with the conscience of it and the hurt that it caused. It becomes like a cancer, becoming more aggressive and gnawing at us as time passes. The reconciliation that we receive from God will help us to move forward. Only when we reconcile can the healing then begin. By his wounds, we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, the magnitude of the sacrifice that You made for us is indescribable, and through it we are reconciled with God. Open our eyes and our hearts that we can truly see for ourselves and appreciate what this sacrifice means.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for saving us and healing us. By Your precious blood we are redeemed, help us never to sin again.

Thursday, 2 Apr – Chosen Ones

2 Apr – Maundy Thursday

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Isaiah 61:1-3,6,8-9

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;

to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord,
a day of vengeance for our God,

to comfort all those who mourn and to give them
for ashes a garland;
for mourning robe the oil of gladness,
for despondency, praise.

But you, you will be named ‘priests of the Lord’,
they will call you ‘ministers of our God.’
I reward them faithfully
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their race will be famous throughout the nations,
their descendants throughout the peoples.
All who see them will admit
that they are a race whom the Lord has blessed.

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First-born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him. This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

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Luke 4:16-21

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

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To comfort all those who mourn and to give them for ashes a garland, for mourning robe the oil of gladness, for despondency, praise

In the Old Testament, high priests and kings were consecrated and anointed with olive oil mixed with a combination of fragrant herbs and spices like myrrh, cinnamon, sweet cane and cassia. Moses consecrated Aaron and his sons with oil (Leviticus 8:30), Samuel poured olive oil on Saul’s head and anointed him as King of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1), and later also anointed David as King (1 Samuel 16:13). By doing so, this marked them as the chosen ones of God.

In present day, the chrism oil is still used especially during baptism. Cathecumens are anointed with the oil in the sign of the cross as a symbol of being called by God, and with this oil it is believed to strengthen cathecumens against evil and sin.

The oil marks us as being chosen by God, as the kings of Israel were in the past. What does this say for us? We each have a role to play in God’s bigger plan for the world. We may feel that we are insignificant and small sometimes. What could we possibly do? We may perceive ourselves as lacking in certain qualities and abilities, physical or otherwise, but this is how the world perceives us; it is not how God perceives us. We did not choose God, rather He chose us because He saw in us a “special something” and He formed that “special something” before we were even born (John 15:16, Jeremiah 1:5). He put us here as part of His plan, so that He could work His miracles through us. And through His miracle, then shall His power and glory be made known to all, and lead others to believe in the love and mercy of our wonderful Creator. Imagine that… someone actually believes that we are special enough to work a miracle through us. Someone believes that we are capable of doing great things, and more importantly, someone believes in us when we have stopped believing in ourselves. That in itself is quite a humbling thought.

When we are anointed, the Holy Spirit resides in us. It is the Holy Spirit who will then guide us and teach us to do the right thing by God (1 John 2:27). And if we question God’s presence in our lives or our being chosen by God, then remember Psalm 23: “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: God, we pray that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, and being worthy as a chosen child of God. May the anointment we received at baptism strengthen us.

Thanksgiving: God, thank you for choosing me to be one of Your own. Even though I don’t know yet what my purpose may be, I know that You will guide me and show me the way.

Wednesday, 1 Apr – Allegations

1 Apr 

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Isaiah 50:4-9

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.

The Lord is coming to my help,
who will dare to condemn me?

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Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ ‘Go to so-and-so in the city’ he replied ‘and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.”’ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.

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The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me?

I have a confession to make. I got really upset earlier last week with someone I work with. I had spent the better part of the past year working on something, and after presenting several re-workings at his request, I was reprimanded for not presenting a scenario that turned out to be a version that I had already prepared and presented several months ago. When I tried to explain, this person refused to listen, insisting that he was right and that I was mistaken. To add insult to the injury, he questioned the validity of my thought process and presence of mind. Not wanting to risk losing my “cool”, I refrained from arguing any further (since he is in a more senior position than I am). But I left the room feeling that I had been wronged in a very unjust manner.

I was seething inside, and brought my troubles to my husband at which point I was like a volcano eruption, pouring forth my frustration and wrath. My concerned husband tried to calm me down, saying, “Stop. This is not you”. And I realized then and there that in my anger, I had allowed myself to become beastly. I had allowed anger to “destroy” me in that single moment, and that all that bottled-up frustration was eating me inside out, changing me as a person in the process. This really was not me, and I was ashamed that I had allowed my anger to overwhelm me.

I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if Jesus had fought back the allegations meted out by his accusers. What would have happened if Jesus, knowing that he was sorely wronged, indignantly responded to these personal attacks by say, commanding a hail storm of fire or engaging in a verbal spat, knowing full well that because he is right and possessed the wisdom to argue his side of the story, he would win in the end? I imagine then that that would mean that God’s will would have gone unfulfilled, and all that Jesus had done – performing miracles, preaching, healing the sick – would have been for naught. That is a terrible prospect.

Likewise, if I had gone on to argue I know that I would end up overstepping my own boundaries. I would not be any better than the person who was accusing me; in fact I would have ended up being worse. I would have given that person more fodder for the canon, the trump card that he would use to justify his argument and weaken my character. My actions would have put to question my integrity and faith, and people would be less likely to believe that God is with me.

God knows when we have been unjustly treated. If we have not done anything wrong, then what are we to be ashamed of? We may be offended or humiliated before others, but before God we would never be disgraced. God is beside us and will uphold us in the end. If we have been wronged, let us ask God to fight our battles for us and set us right, so that we may never have to stoop down to the level where we turn to anger and sin to redeem ourselves.

God will strengthen us and help us. If God is for us, who can be against us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, I ask for Your forgiveness for that time when I allowed my anger and frustration to boil over. Instead of trying to fight my own battles in my own way, I pray Lord that You will redeem me and uphold me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for allowing me to see in time how my anger was turning me into a person that I would not have been proud of. Thank you for watching over me. I pray that You will continue to guide my paths always.

Tuesday, 31 Mar – Betrayal

31 Mar 

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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John 13:21-33,36-38 ©
While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.
When he had gone Jesus said:

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

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’

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While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me

What is betrayal?

Thesaurus defines it as “to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to”, amongst other definitions. Synonyms include falseness, deception, dishonesty, unfaithfulness.

We all know that Judas betrayed Jesus in the most extreme of ways: he delivered Jesus to the chief priests who later crucified him. Imagine how Jesus must have felt. Yes, Jesus did predict his betrayal by Judas, but knowing one thing and feeling it when it happens are quite distinct. Very often when we speak of betrayal we mean a betrayal of trust, and the disappointment that Jesus must have felt by a man who claimed to be his apostle must have been palpable.

Perhaps we may never have to suffer betrayal to such an extent as Jesus, but for some of us we might have experienced betrayal in loss of trust or expectation at some point in our lives, be it by friends, family, loved ones, colleagues. Let us reflect on how we felt at that time: first could have been disbelief, then anger and disappointment, followed by loss of respect for the person, and hurt. I would also venture an unwillingness to forgive, although over time we may learn to reconcile.

But enough about how we feel, what about how Jesus would feel if we were the ones who were the source of disappointment and hurt? Have we not done it to him before? Yes, we may not have been the ones to have planted the Judas kiss on Jesus, but when we were confirmed or baptized we made certain promises that we vowed to keep. We also promised to keep God’s commandments and to love one another. Have we taken God’s name in vain? Have we committed adultery, or borne false witness against someone, even by the seemingly “harmless” gossiping that we may partake in? We profess to follow God’s teachings, and at the sacrament of reconciliation we make the promise never to sin again because God is so good. What happens when then we do veer off the path and repeat that sin again? Do we then “press repeat” and go for reconciliation again? Do we take the sacrament of reconciliation seriously, or do we treat it lightly?

When we promise not to sin again, God gives us the grace for us to overcome our weaknesses and temptation to sin, but when we make that promise to God only to break it later, then that disappointment of God’s hope in us… would that not be akin to unfaithfulness on our part?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Dear God, for all the times that we have failed You, we pray for Your mercy and Your forgiveness. We pray for salvation, and for Your saving grace that we may be strong enough never to sin again.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for Your unending mercy and love for us. Despite that we are sinners, You loved us first. As people who love You God, we pray to keep our end of our promise to You.

Monday, 30 Mar – Help At Hand

30 Mar – Monday of Holy Week

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Isaiah 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
he who created the heavens and spread them out,
who gave shape to the earth and what comes from it,
who gave breath to its people
and life to the creatures that move in it:

‘I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,
‘to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’

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John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

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Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations

Every day we are faced with challenges that test our limits. Many a time we have felt at the end of our tether. Sometimes we ask where God is in the midst of all this. Is He listening? I know that I have cried out several times to God asking “Why???” We want to give up, give in, and surrender. In our own different ways, we cry for help. Sometimes, no one answers.

But God responds to us by saying, “Here is my servant whom I uphold!” Here is help at hand in the form of Christ Jesus, who has heard our cries and has seen us laden with our burdens. He comes to bind our wounds and give us rest. He has promised us a lighter yoke in return for giving our heavier one to him.

He comes like the gentleness of the breeze. He is aware of our fragile state. He comes with healing to strengthen and encourage us. The first reading goes on to say, “He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame”. He knows that we are at our low points: “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). When no one listens, and no one stops, and no one sees… when our souls are scraping the bottom of our spiritual barrel, the one person who has not deserted us and who will never desert us is Jesus. “Believe also in Me…” We are crying out, but then again so is Jesus.

God sent us His only Son to be our help. We may have forsaken Him at the cross, but God promised to never leave us or forsake us. If we remain in Him, He will remain in us. If we believe in God’s help, let us not yield to our own stubbornness; instead lift up our problems to Him that He may help us, for it is in our weakness that God’s power is made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

“Believe also in Me.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, so many worries and problems besiege our daily lives. We do not know where our help will come from, but You have told us that Your grace will be sufficient for us. Help us to remain constant in the knowledge that You will be there for us when it feels as though all hope is lost.

Thanksgiving: God, I give You thanks for the Holy Spirit whom You have sent to be our help. Thank you for listening and being our stronghold and support.

Sunday, 29 Mar – Public Service

29 Mar – Passion Sunday

On this day the Church celebrates Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery. 

– Sunday Missal

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Mark 11:1-10

When they were approaching Jerusalem, in sight of Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go off to the village facing you, and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, “What are you doing?” say, “The Master needs it and will send it back here directly”.’ They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go. Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heavens!’

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Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Mark 15:1-39

First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!’ But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case,’ he said to them ‘what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ ‘Why?’ Pilate asked them ‘What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.

They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: ‘The King of the Jews.’ And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying; ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’

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He was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross

As I write this, Singapore is mourning the passing of a great man. World leaders have called him their friend, others have called him a visionary. Singapore calls him “Father of the Nation”. Love him, fear him or even hate him, one thing is certain: the things that Lee Kuan Yew did during his lifetime for Singapore will be etched in the pages of Singapore’s history forever.

He is not a saint, nor is he unblemished, but it takes a certain man to assume the responsibility of building an entire nation out of nothing and lead its people through adversity to prosperity. A modern David-and-Goliath story, Lee Kuan Yew defied the odds and turned Singapore from a third-world backwater to a first-world nation. I am certain that he knew what he would face: enmity, adversity, opposition, criticism, thanklessness, and the real fear that all of this was not going to work out. But one thing he had: resolution, resolution to move forward, because it was the only way to go. It was “do-or-die”, but in his case, it was all about doing. He was after all, an ordinary man who entered into public service.

As we observe Palm Sunday today, we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: lauded by the people and greeted by the roadside. Days later, Jesus would be crucified, alone and on the cross.

He is the Son of God, yet Jesus came to us as Man and humbled himself to do God’s will. He came to us, not to be served but to serve us, and save us. He exhorted his disciples to adopt such an attitude of service over self: that would lead to the path of greatness (Matthew 20:26-28).

Jesus came to minister to us, encourage us and soothe our weary souls. But he knew what his purpose on Earth here would entail: he would be hated, spat at, despised, beaten, betrayed, and killed. It would be a lonely road. But courage, faith and most importantly, love sustained him. Jesus loved us so much that he ransomed our lives for us by his blood. His heart was moved when he saw how lost we were, like sheep yearning for a shepherd. He took pity on us when he saw our tears and heard our cries. He sat with us and celebrated with us. Our joys were his joys, our tears were his tears. He took on our pain at the hands of the scourge-masters so that we would not have to endure that pain for our sins.

As we remember the life of Lee Kuan Yew this weekend, let us remember as well the life of Jesus, and reflect on all that he has done for us, for there is no greater love than that of Jesus laying down his life for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, our reward in heaven depends on our lives here on earth. Instill in us the attitude to serve others instead of being served. Help us to take on the attitude of Jesus.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks for those elected into public service who have gone all out to ensure the well-being and welfare of the people, and we give you thanks for the service of a man who built this nation. May he rest in peace

Saturday, 28 Mar – Faithful Disciples

28 Mar 

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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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I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people

We have read in this week’s readings that God will always be there to protect and shelter us from all harm and danger. Perhaps this is a fitting way to tend the Fifth Week of Lent as we are reminded that God loves us because we are His children.

His love for us is so deep that He was willing to send His Son to us to restore the damage caused by Adam and Eve. In doing so, eternal life and happiness with God is now within our reach. The season of Lent may have gone by in a flash for some of us and we may be left wondering as to how we will go about celebrating Holy Week. Perhaps another perspective we can consider is to not view time as days, weeks and months but in terms of the different encounters we have made with the people around us and how these have brought us closer to Christ.

Bringing others to Christ and allowing them to see the Father’s love in our words and deeds is certainly a good way to enable the law of love to be made manifest. Holy Week is a good time for us to take the effort to do so for each one of the people whom we meet and let them experience the joy of the Paschal Triduum.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray that we become effective witnesses,

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

Friday, 27 Mar – Jesus Is Here With Us

27 Mar

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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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In my anguish I called to the Lord and he heard my voice

The readings of today remind us that God will always be with us through times of difficulty. Though this is something that is hard for us to appreciate and perhaps even understand, we need to be mindful of the fact that He is here with us and will never abandon us.

Jeremiah was afraid of the people around him who were giving him grief regarding his message. They wanted to do him in but God assured Jeremiah that life would be ok as God has the upper hand. In our own lives too, we need to discover for ourselves what it means when we undergo grief. There could be challenges at work or perhaps there is a situation at home which needs our attention. I believe that in all we do, we must acknowledge Jesus to be present with us. God is not a concept but a Person. Jesus is the Word made Flesh and He knows what we are going through.

It is definitely good to pray to God for guidance but perhaps we could also speak to the people around us to obtain direction as to help us clarify the noise in our lives. Let us take time to understand that what matters is God’s love. Trust and believe.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for all who love you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

Thursday, 26 Mar – What A Friend We Have In Jesus

26 Mar 

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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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Who are you claiming to be?

The readings of today remind us of the importance of asking ourselves who Jesus is in our lives? I guess such a question may seem obvious to some but I believe if we were to examine this further, we might actually find out that Jesus is not the centre of our lives. Instead he is on the peripheral and that we have compartmentalised him to a certain section of our lives.

The Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus because He had publicly professed that He was God. As Christians, we need to discover that any of our actions contrary to what God has asked us to do is perhaps similar to the throwing of stones to God. Our actions deny God and hurt Him. Perhaps we think that God is too faraway or that we have enough time in our lives to repent but I encourage everyone to take time to pause and ponder on who Jesus is for our lives.

Jesus is a friend of ours and He is our Lord. He will definitely be with us through our struggles if we let Him work through us. As Lent draws to a close, let us discover what it means to be with Him and look forward to the reward which Abraham, our father in faith, was promised for his obedience and faith in God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for all who seek you with a sincere heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who teach the Word of God