Tag Archives: conversion

7 November, Wednesday – On Carrying Our Crosses

7 November

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Philippians 2:12-18

My dear friends, continue to do as I tell you, as you always have; not only as you did when I was there with you, but even more now that I am no longer there; and work for your salvation ‘in fear and trembling.’ It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life. This would give me something to be proud of for the Day of Christ, and would mean that I had not run in the race and exhausted myself for nothing. And then, if my blood has to be shed as part of your own sacrifice and offering-which is your faith I shall still be happy and rejoice with all of you, and you must be just as happy and rejoice with me.

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Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “‘ Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

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“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”

Before we were Catholics, my family and I were Buddhists. I remember the first time I embraced Christianity.  At the time, I was a fresh-eyed fifteen year old. What did I know about what it would mean to embrace Christ?  Instead of encouragement and support, I was yelled at by my father for fraternizing with ‘those Christian fanatics’ (he had a real flair for hyperbole in his younger days!). Any talk of Christ at home was considered an act of rebellion. I remember countless dinner table conversations spiralling into shouting matches when I tried to witness to him. So I staged a revolt in my own way. I held my faith in my heart and continued praying and witnessing to him. When he dragged us for worship at the Buddhist temple, I would sit outside in the hot sun and resolutely refuse to enter. I wouldn’t pick up his joss sticks or pray at the ancestral altar in my grandmother’s house. Typical teenage behaviour, and then some! In the end, Dad relented and even found his own way to Christ. It took him 20 years, but that’s just a blink of an eye in God’s time. Dad is back with God now, and I know he is well and at peace.

Looking back, that act of rebellion as a willful 15yr old was my first taste of ‘carrying my cross’. I was completely out of my depth. What did I know about what I was doing? I didn’t know where to look for help. There was no internet, no Universalis or USCCB or Word On Fire homilies to give me hope. I didn’t have guidance. My father banned me from Christian Bible study groups and from going to mass, so I didn’t have a steady support network. I only had the Holy Bible, and a King James’ at that, not the easiest of versions to grasp. And I had prayer. So I turned to both.

Connecting the dots backwards, I can see that every trial back then was preparation for my faith journey today. With necessity and the Holy Spirit as my teachers, I reached for His Word because it was the only source of comfort that I had. It’s a common complaint these days that it’s hard to read the Bible, that the verses are difficult to decipher.  Yes, the Word can be hard to grasp, so I will always be thankful for the start that I got because of my circumstances.

God helped me to carry my cross as a 15yr old; He’s still helping me to carry my cross as an adult. The challenges are a little more complex now (family, marriage, children) and the path ahead, more obscured than before.  But His Word, the Holy Spirit and prayer are the same, reassuring constants I hold on to. God’s faithfulness to us truly never ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the courage, patience and fortitude to carry our crosses daily.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His Word, for the Holy Spirit’s inspiring power and for the people God puts in our lives to give us help, hope, encouragement and sustenance.

22 September, Saturday – A Conversion, Claiming Our Identity

22 September

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1 Corinthians 15:35-37.42-49

Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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“what is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable; what is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; what is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful; what is sown is a natural body and what is raised is a spiritual body.”

Throughout the week, we have been hearing what we can do to claim this identity, but knowing all these is not good enough until we allow Christ to transform us, to accept and to receive this grace, this mercy — that we are all sinners and unworthy but very much perfectly loved by this God.

Many times, we serve or pray, trying to atone or to make up for past sins and trying to be holy in order to be worthy. Yet, we simply can’t, and we find ourselves struggling even more because our strength, motivations, intentions in themselves aren’t perfect to begin with.

In the first reading today, we read about a raising. This raising that can only be done by God — raising the dead to life. Once again, we are called to this dying of self. However, we don’t just ‘die’. As in the Gospel, we need to allow the seed — the Word of God — to take root in our life, to really experience this conversion, to experience God and His love, to internalise, to allow Him to be in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Together with the support of the greater community and our family in Christ, we need to claim our identity and believe in the eternal resurrection — that one day, all that we do here on earth would be to glorify God and His people; because we love God and His people, because we love His creation — His people. That it is no more I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

This is the main goal of our lives, the hardest to reach and sustain. And it is precisely now that we allow God to work, to trust and hope in Him, that as long as we give our very best, He will not be outdone in generosity.

“As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may there be a conversion in our hearts, in our lives. Help us to realise, see and understand what is important in our lives, what we are living for. Help us not to just focus on what you can do but to focus on you in everything we do. Help us to, one day, say with conviction and love that you are our Father and that we are yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your word and this beautiful image of how you will raise us up into your kingdom. That we have the hope of being with you, in unity for eternity.

22 June, Wednesday – Bearing Good Fruit

22 June  – Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

– Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 22:8-13,23:1-3

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord.’’’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him as follows, ‘Your servants’ he said ‘have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book’; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king’s presence.

On hearing the contents of the Book of the Law, the king tore his garments, and gave the following order to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s minister: ‘Go and consult the Lord, on behalf of me and the people, about the contents of this book that has been found. Great indeed must be the anger of the Lord blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says by practising everything written in it.’

The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him, and the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and all the people, of high or low degree. In their hearing he read out everything that was said in the book of the covenant found in the Temple of the Lord. The king stood beside the pillar, and in the presence of the Lord he made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.

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Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

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“Open my eyes, O Lord”

In my life, I have been called brash, emotional, funny and wear my heart firmly on my sleeve. My emotions show up in all facets of my life; my work, family life and most of all, when I’m driving.

Many times, I am overcome with brief flashes of anger. When these occasions strike me, I tended to lash out with unkind words. I remember the times when my wife gently telling me that the children were in the car and were watching, and learning from how I was behaving.

This was one of the realizations that I had when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat early this year. I realized that because I was feeling angry and at times, felt worried and anxious, and these feelings were manifesting themselves negatively.

Jesus reminds us today that a sound tree must produce good fruit. Thus, how we think, act and behave, our fruits, reflects how we attuned we are to God and how well we are walking in His path. These provide a very important feedback mechanism and personally, a daily examination of our conscience helps us evaluate where we are and where we need to be.

In our daily lives as Christians, let us continue to turn to God for the strength and wisdom to continue learning how to develop “good fruit”, so that we will have the temperance and fortitude as we go through the growth process.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, may we continue to be open to Your corrections as we learn to become good fruit. Help us Lord to recognize instances when we may not be the best that we can be.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for blessing us with a conscience and giving us loving people in our lives who will correct us in our efforts to become better children of Yours.

6 June, Monday – Willing Suspension of Disbelief

6 June – Memorial for St. Norbert, bishop, religious founder

St. Norbert (1080-1134) had been born to the nobility and raised around the royal court. There he developed a very worldly view, taking holy orders as a career move when he joined the Benedictines. A narrow escape from death led him to a conversion experience, and taking his vows seriously.

He founded a community of Augustinian canons, starting a reform movement that swept through European monastic houses. St. Norbert also reformed the clergy in his see, using force when necessary. He worked with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Hugh of Grenoble to heal the schism caused by the death of Pope Honorius II, and for heresy in Cambrai, France with the help of St. Waltmann. He is one of the patron saints of peace.

-Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 17:1-6

Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord lives, the God of Israel whom I serve, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except at my order.’
The word of the Lord came to him, ‘Go away from here, go eastwards, and hide yourself in the wadi Cherith which lies east of Jordan. You can drink from the stream, and I have ordered the ravens to bring you food there.’ He did as the Lord had said; he went and stayed in the wadi Cherith which lies east of Jordan. The ravens brought him bread in the morning and meat in the evening, and he quenched his thirst at the stream.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

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Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Yesterday we talked about conversion. Upon re-reading my entry, it occurred to me that I might have given the impression that conversions happen instantaneously. They do not. The saying, ‘All in God’s time’ really is true. Some conversions take years, with hard edges smoothed out like patient water on rock. And the process of change doesn’t begin to happen until we give ourselves over to God. That’s essentially the Beautitudes’ cornerstone message, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? Jesus doesn’t say that the poor are especially blessed, nor does he equate being ‘poor in spirit’ to material poverty. The first reading from 1 Kings 17 offers a dramatic visual. We see Elijah the prophet, humble in obedience, relying only on a stream and the pickings of ravens for his sustenance. Being ‘poor in spirit’ is an attitude, a state of mind where we acknowledge our dependence on Him, and relinquish control of our common sense, giving ourselves to God. Can one be wealthy and still be ‘poor in spirit’? Yes, if we can recognize that our wealth is impermanent, transient in its quality. Can we be comfortable and still ‘poor in spirit’? Probably not because being comfortable implies a lack of struggle, and without struggle, there is no finding God.

At this point, some of us will be saying ‘Yes, well you can’t take everything literally in the Bible. How can a man survive on grubs and worms brought to him by ravens? That makes no sense!’ We will never be able to prove with confidence that Elijah really survived on bird food, but while the Bible may not be all fact, it IS all truth. We will never be ‘poor in spirit’ until we give ourselves over to God and realize that we are nothing without Him. Recognizing that our efforts are futile, that our ambitions are worthless without His grace, is the first step. So is the ‘willing suspension of (our) disbelief’. The Beautitudes are an affront to modern sensibilities. And that’s just the thing. God wants us to suspend ourselves, our wills, our thoughts and like Elijah, give it all over to Him. Can we do it? “The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever” (Psalms 121:8).

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the awareness to recognize that not everything that happens needs to be about us. We pray for the humility to give ourselves over to God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those whom He sends to aid us when we fully depend on Him. We give thanks for the opportunities that He provides us to do the same in return.

5 June, Sunday – Conversions and Resurrections

5 June 

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1 Kings 17:17-24

The son of the mistress of the house fell sick; his illness was so severe that in the end he had no breath left in him. And the woman said to Elijah, ‘What quarrel have you with me, man of God? Have you come here to bring my sins home to me and to kill my son?’ ‘Give me your son’ he said, and taking him from her lap, carried him to the upper room where he was staying and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, do you mean to bring grief to the widow who is looking after me by killing her son?’ He stretched himself on the child three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, may the soul of this child, I beg you, come into him again!’ The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah and the soul of the child returned to him again and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. ‘Look,’ Elijah said ‘your son is alive.’ And the woman replied, ‘Now I know you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth itself.’

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Galatians 1:11-1

The Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.
Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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“Young man, I tell you arise!”

I love a good comeback story! Who doesn’t see in himself the hero of his own tragicomedy? The failed, flawed individual ever optimistic, always on the verge of a comeback. We want to succeed. To claim greatness.  We want to recognize that same yearning and struggle in someone else. So with indefatigable optimism, we cheer him and ourselves on.

Scripture is filled with comeback stories. One of its brightest has to be Paul. Paul, the Christian slayer, the zealot Jew. Filled with high-minded wrath and fury, Paul is struck down on the road to Damascus.  He loses his sight, but learns to see with his heart. Conversion is a lot like resurrection. Paul does a complete about-face after meeting Jesus, and switches sides.  Proving that you can be at once, a hero and a traitor.  Be vilified by your old friends, and embraced by your new ones. With Christ, one really can lose one’s life and gain another.

And that’s the visual in today’s readings – the parallel between resurrection and conversion. “Young man, I tell you arise!”, says Jesus to the dead man. “Let the life breath return to the body of this child”, says Elijah to the dead boy. Modern day resurrections lack the drama of the stories in scripture, but they’re no less meaningful. Change happens, in incremental steps perhaps, but it does happen. Living in Christ, we’re more aware, more mindful of things that would never have occurred to us before. We no longer see with just our eyes, but through the prism of hearts renewed.  Hearts lifted up by his Hand.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who have taken the sacraments of baptism and confirmation this Easter, that their journeys continue with courage and grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who work to help new Christians find their faith. Taking the first step is hard, staying on the path is even harder. We give thanks for all those who help us to keep to the narrow road.

15 May, Sunday – Pentecost Every Day

15 May – Feast of Pentecost

The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” Like Easter, it is tied to a Jewish feast. 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law.

From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries.

Symbolically, the parallel with the Jews is exact. We are freed from the slavery of death and sin by Easter; with the Apostles, we spend some time as toddlers under the tutelage of the risen Jesus; and when he has left, the Spirit comes down on us and we become a Church.

-Universalis

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

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John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

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To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

I am an adult convert to the Catholic faith, and I was baptised at a time when confirmation was held a year after baptism. I recall squirming nervously when my fellow catechumens swapped stories about the confirmation retreat – I imagined uncontrollable hysterics, a massive departure from the prosaic faith I thought I was being initiated into.

And because our God is a God of surprises and the Spirit is always working in us, eighteen years on, I now yearn deeply for the gift of tongues, just so that I can cross that liminal space between our good God and me in moments of worship and prayer, in humble recognition that language cannot adequately express my profound awe and gratitude for His abyssal love for me.

So what happened along the way? I was jolted from my routine faith by a personal tragedy, a devastating loss that showed God’s hand was, and is always, over me. Desiring Him intimately became a natural consequence of this newfound relationship. Gradually, I found my prayers moving from an intellectual acknowledgement of the presence of the divine, to interacting with God in them — meeting Him as a dear friend whom I can commiserate freely with and draw strength from, because He is in the midst of the panoply of all my relationships, struggles and dreams. And the Feast of Pentecost celebrates this reality — the mysterious movement of God in our lives through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that as persons sacramentalised in the Spirit, we too have been sent forth to “renew the face of the earth”: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”   May the Holy Spirit be before you, behind you and within you, as you animate today and every day that Christ lives, proclaiming ‘the mighty acts of God’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Heng San San)

Thanksgiving – Most loving Father, thank you for always meeting me where I am. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who inspires, enlivens and renews me. Thank you for gifting us with the Spirit so that we may always draw close to You.

Prayer – Lord, help me to be ever docile to the gentle promptings of the Spirit, so that I can always find God in all things. I pray earnestly and humbly for the gifts of the Spirit, so that these may grace me to do your Kingdom work with courage and candour, helping those whom you place in my life journey to strive always and only towards You.

19 April, Tuesday – Seeking the Gift of Faith

19 April

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Acts 11:19-26

Those who had escaped during the persecution that happened because of Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they usually proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching to the Greeks, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them as well. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

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John 10:22-30

It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied:’

‘I have told you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;
but you do not believe,
because you are no sheep of mine.
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’

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I am deeply intrigued by today’s gospel.

The passage today specifically mentions the “Portico of Solomon”. This “portico”, or “porch”, was located on the east side of the temple of Herod. This was the place where justice was carried out and where the king would deliver his judgements. I find it very significant that our Lord would be having this conversation there.

I have always yearned to have a stronger faith since I was a young boy. In this search, I have read the Bible, religious books, attended retreats and searched hard. I must confess that I struggled spiritually and often felt that I was praying to a void; there was many times I often wondered if God was listening to me.

I recently attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held at the Catholic Spirituality Centre and came away discovering an intimacy with God that I have never experienced before. Ironically, I wasn’t even aware of such a lack but this realisation came to me, totally without effort on my part. This is truly something that was gifted me. A true act of grace from our God.

So it is with what Jesus speaks about in today’s gospel. Despite having explained His teachings and having demonstrated His divinity through miraculous acts, the people continue to demand that Jesus reaffirm that He is the Messiah. Clearly, faith is a gift from God and that without this gift, all of us would struggle to believe.

Let us then, brothers and sisters, continue to pray fervently for this gift, and to look forward to reuniting with our Lord and God in his heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Dear Father. We pray that You will gift us with the gift of faith. Allow us to always desire for You and to always believe in You. Help us Lord to continue on this quest, even if there are periods of spiritual dryness.

Thanksgiving – Thank you dear God for allowing us to believe in You and for giving us a vision of what to expect when we reunite with you in Heaven. Thank you for loving us and for sending us the holy advocate in the Holy Spirit. May You be praised always!