Tag Archives: christian unity

8 May, Sunday – Christian Unity

7 May – Seventh Sunday of Easter

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Acts 7:55-60

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.

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Apocalypse 22:12-14,16-17,20

I, John, heard a voice speaking to me: ‘Very soon now, I shall be with you again, bringing the reward to be given to every man according to what he deserves. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city.’

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to make these revelations to you for the sake of the churches. I am of David’s line, the root of David and the bright star of the morning.

The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ Let everyone who listens answer, ‘Come.’ Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.

The one who guarantees these revelations repeats his promise: I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus.

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

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Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you… that they may be one as we are one… so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.

The Gospel this week indeed needs to be cherished. Such desire, such great love, so precious, so divine. His love for us is so great that none of us can afford to be left out. The plea, a prayer for all of us to come together… to not just be united in our interests or personality but united in love.  The love which Christ has given and showed us.

Many times we choose who we want in our lives, what we want in our lives, how we want to live.  But, have we considered love?  Have we considered Christ? Truth is, we see and go to where we can find “love”. We are selfish to only want to receive, whether it’s education, whether it’s the best deals, or opportunities…. we will only be a part of something if we are able to benefit.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Stephen, giving his life for the sake of the Good News. In the second reading we read of how Christ welcomes us and asks us to come to Him.

This unity, this love which Christ preaches is one of giving, of inviting. It isn’t about how good we are or if we are worthy of Him.  It is a love that He gives simply because He loves you. The message of our faith, it isn’t just to receive Christ into our lives but if we’ve truly received Him, we will want to share Him with all. To be one with Him, knowing that He already desires to be with us.  But greater than that, to also be one with all.

Let’s not divide but unite, for it isn’t about how good we are but about how great God is. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you… that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one… Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am… so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them. (Jn 17:20-26)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for your message and for constantly leading us towards you. Thank you for constantly reaching out to us. Thank you for wanting to unite us all with you and your Father. Thank you for your life. Thank you for your love.

30 April, Saturday – Building Conflicts

30 April – Memorial for Saint Pius V, Pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

-Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

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Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number

The church that I attend has been undergoing a redevelopment plan that has been ongoing for as far back as decades. As I have been told, this project has been deemed rather ‘controversial’ over the course of its long history. As one could imagine, there are many stakeholders in a major redevelopment plan such as including the church leadership, the pastoral staff, the administrative and support teams, the deacons, the congregation, adjacent neighbors and government building commissions; all of whom have their own views and opinions, myself included. Having only attended this church since I started seeking and, eventually accepting Christ, I personally feel that I have a vested interest in its outcome. Yet the most important stakeholder that we need to focus on is God and whether this plan is in line with His plans!

Conflict can, and often does, arise within the church setting. The early Christians faced disagreements such as whether to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (as we read about on Thursday’s reflection). In time, they resolved their differences through obediently following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in guiding them to the answer God wanted. They allowed His Word to show them the truth.

Whenever there is conflict in a church, it is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve these tensions. First and foremost, the parties need to have the right focus – which is on God and not on themselves. They also need to consider their own role in the conflict and be willing to work with the other individual(s) to address the problem in a loving manner. The point is not to win an argument, but rather to improve the ministry when His people handle it in a Christ-like manner.

Brothers and sisters, the church is more than just a building where people gather. It is a collection of God’s people, that serve as the body of Christ, doing His work in a world that desperately needs its Prince of Peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for Your will to be done in our church communities. May the power of Your Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to glorify You in all that we build.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks for our church families who encourage us throughout our time on this world.

28 April, Thursday – Us and Them

28 April – Memorial of Saint Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr

Saint Peter Chanel (1803 – 1841). He was born in France, at Cuet (near Belley), in 1803. He had been a priest for three years when he was accepted by the Marists, a missionary order. He was sent out to evangelize the island of Futuna in the Pacific, where cannibalism had only recently been banned by the local ruler, Niuliki. At first all went well, and Father Chanel and his lay assistants made many converts; but as he learned the local language and gained the confidence of the people, Niuliki became jealous and fearful; and the baptism of his son and his son’s friends was the last straw. While Father Chanel’s companions were away, Niuliki sent men who set upon him and clubbed him to death. His mission had lasted only three years: he is the first martyr of the South Seas.

-Universalis

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.

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

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

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

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

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

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John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’

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He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.

The neighborhood where I grew up in New York was considered to be one of the most diverse places in all of the United States. Within a few square miles, there is a wide range of ethnic groups including Asians (Chinese, Korean, Indian), Latin Americans, African Americans, Caucasians, Jews, etc. The neighborhood had this clustering effect, where one group would live, work and play in one part of town, while the other groups would do the same just adjacent to each other. Easily – you could walk from one end of the neighborhood to the other and feel like you’ve traveled to different continents around the world.

What made for great diversity also, at times, made for harsh stereotyping and social exclusion. Those same neighborhood groupings manifested themselves amongst the different social groups at school. It was easy to befriend the kids who looked and dressed like you because of the similarities in language, cultural experiences and ‘values’. What was harder was finding commonality with the other kids who were different to you. Many times, there was an ‘us or them’ feeling that permeated in the school halls.

In the first reading from today, we are told of the debate that the early Christians had on whether Gentiles were to be considered eligible to receive the Gospel. The Gentiles didn’t follow the Mosaic laws. They weren’t circumcised and ate ‘unclean’ foods. They were considered heathen to the Jews at the time. Yet the Apostle Peter made the case that God saw no distinction between the Gentiles and the Jews. Paul and Barnabas backed him up by detailing signs that God showed them. James referenced scripture. For by faith He had purified their hearts and baptized them with the Holy Spirit. So in effect, there is no ‘us and them’. There simply is just us.

Today, let us celebrate the differences of the people around us. For all of those differences, we are all the same – broken people who are wonderfully loved by our Almighty Creator and have been given the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for the people and the places in this world that are suffering from conflict and division. May You help them heal their differences and find commonality through You. 

Thanksgiving – We give thanks to the peacemakers in our homes, schools, churches, workplace and communities.