Tag Archives: easter

29 May, Monday – Step Out and Shout Lord

29 May 2017

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Acts 19:1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples. When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’ ‘Then how were you baptised?’ he asked. ‘With John’s baptism’ they replied. ‘John’s baptism’ said Paul ‘was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him-in other words Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.

He began by going to the synagogue, where he spoke out boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.

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John 16:29-33

His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them:

‘Do you believe at last?
Listen; the time will come – in fact it has come already –
when you will be scattered,
each going his own way and leaving me alone.
And yet I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.
I have told you all this
so that you may find peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but be brave: I have conquered the world.’
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Spoke out boldly and argued persuasively
In order for one to speak boldly and argue persuasively, one has to be confident and knowledgeable in expressing the message.
Every time I know I am going for an appointment, I will spend about twenty minutes to pick up the project that the appointment relates to, and get myself prepared in approaching the meeting. This helps me to pick up the issues and focuses on what is next to be done, this also gives confidence to those involved.
Todays message to us is about being that informed Christian, filled with the powers of the Holy Spirit, that even though we feel inadequate, we can walk out and preach about Jesus. We all are empowered to be disciples of Jesus; it is not about how many degrees and certificates we obtain through education, but how deep our faith is for our Lord God. The Spirit works in us in mysterious ways, it gives us the strength to step into the unknown and be brave.
Todays Gospel not only encourages us to be brave in our faith, being the living testament as a Christian. It is also an encouragement that with God, the Spirit, we have the right mind to conquer the difficulties in life too. We are often thrown with surprises and worries in career, family, health and financial woes. These can also be conquered with trust and persistence. We are reminded to embrace suffering, to pray and work towards better situations, so that we conquer, not for ourselves, but in the name of Jesus. In this way, we live a fuller and more meaningful life.
(Todays OXYGEN by Austin Leong)
Prayer: We pray for those who are facing difficulties and feeling lost in their lifes direction, may they seek the Spirit in them, for the guidance and courage to look forward in life.
 
Thanksgiving: Give thanks for our God, give thanks to our Lord. Give thanks for Jesus sacrifice, give thanks for our Mother Marys help.

14 May, Sunday – Being Authentic

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.

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1 Peter 2:4-9

The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down. They stumble over it because they do not believe in the word; it was the fate in store for them.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

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John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.’

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“If you know me, you know my Father too.”

Even now when I am already in my fifties, I have been called ‘idealistic’. Over the course of my work life, I have changed jobs, even careers, when I found out that people did not ‘walk their talk’. Many a person has sat me down and told me to be pragmatic and that it is the way of the world. While I am obviously far from perfection, I refuse to compromise my belief that one’s life must reflect his values, or at least his journey towards his values.

Jesus alludes to this in today’s gospel. When asked by the apostle Philip to let them ‘see’ the Father, Jesus’ answer was that one sees the Father when one sees Jesus.

Let us reflect on this.

What applies to Jesus certainly must apply to us. When others see us, they MUST see God. As humans, many of us are accustomed to compartmentalising our lives. If we choose the “way of the world” when we are working, how are we then to reflect the true image of God. How do others actually see God working in us?

We see the application of this in the first reading of today. In seeking to delegate their work of distributing goods daily, the disciples did not set criteria to select men strong in the area of logistics.  Instead, they sought “seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom”. Once in possession of these, it was easy to figure out the rest.

Let us be guided by Jesus and the early disciples, that who we are may always reflect the values of our Christian faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, we pray that You may always give us strength to be unafraid to be authentic; to show to the world our faith and belief.

ThanksgivingThank You, Father God, for always sending Your Spirit to show us the right thing to do. Thank You for never giving up on us, O God.

Saturday, 18 Apr – Leading so as to Serve

18 Apr

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Acts 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

  The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.

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John 6:16-21

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

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the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews

Arguments within the early brotherhood of Christ’s followers were already present. As shown in the first reading, the Hellenists (Greeks) and the Hebrews (Jews) that comprised the early Christians, had their differences and divisions. This happened as ‘the number of disciples was increasing’. So we should not be surprised that it still happens to this day.

I believe one of the arguments of the early Christians would probably be about ‘primacy’  and ‘eligibility’ of fellowship — that is, who came first and who is worthy of being counted. We can infer this because of the specific mention of ‘Hellenists’ and ‘Hebrews’ as well as ‘widows’. The primacy of the Jews as God’s chosen people as mentioned in Old Testament scriptures could not be avoided by the Greeks who understandably may have felt second-class. Not to mention within themselves, emerged their widows, who were losing out in the ration of grain. Imagine the kind of discontent the first apostles would have to deal with and smoothen out.

Yet, they did not avoid the situation. Instead they convened a council to announce a better way forward. They acknowledged the reality of the situation, but also humbly admitted that they may not be the best persons to administer a solution. Within the Church, this was the start of ordaining bishops, deacons, and various apostolates. From this too, we see the institution of the first ‘public administration’ or ‘civil service’, in today’s speak.

What does this mean for us Christians? It is the notion of leadership, formation, and succession. The Twelve Apostles prefigure for us a leadership that is confident and secure in their own ministry, yet also humble enough to realise they could not do everything. They had a calling, but they also had real limitations.

They had a common higher purpose: ‘continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word’. They had self-knowledge: ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food.’ They cared about formation and renewal: ‘select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them’. They were aware of the importance of succession: ‘They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.’

As Christians who may also be leaders in various offices, let us reflect on our roles and duties, and ponder how we can reflect true leadership for our members and teams. One of the lessons that emerged from the fairly recent passing of ex-Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was the realisation that he had contributed to building a public system that could renew itself and relied not on one particularly person. At the same time, each and every person within the organisation or team has a valuable role and contribution. May we not shy away from leadership, nor fellowship.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we offer up this humble ministry of Oxygen in service to you. We pray that you will continue to sustain our mission and renew our team.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks for the many people you have sent our way. Writers and readers alike, who contribute to giving our work purpose and continuity.

Friday, 17 Apr – Unlikely Heroes

17 Apr

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Acts 5:34-42

One member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee called Gamaliel, who was a doctor of the Law and respected by the whole people, stood up and asked to have the apostles taken outside for a time. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin, ‘Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these people. There was Theudas who became notorious not so long ago. He claimed to be someone important, and he even collected about four hundred followers; but when he was killed, all his followers scattered and that was the end of them. And then there was Judas the Galilean, at the time of the census, who attracted crowds of supporters; but he got killed too, and all his followers dispersed. What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go. If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.’

  His advice was accepted; and they had the apostles called in, gave orders for them to be flogged, warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.

  They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good News of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.

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 John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

  Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

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There is a small boy here… but what is that between so many? 

‘Five loaves and two fish’ has become a kind of common speech for ‘offering up whatever little we have for God’s glory’. But before this scene of the little boy and his lunchbox contents slips away into a kind of taken-for-granted expectation of being Christian, may we pause to find the unlikely mirror-image for this boy’s offering in the first reading of Acts about Gamaliel.

Gamaliel is our unlikely hero amongst the Pharisees. In fact, to call someone a ‘Pharisee’ these days would be to label them a self-righteous hypocrite, steeped in the Law but empty in the heart and actions. Out of our convenient assumptions, Gamaliel comes forward to halt the Sanhedrin (or council assembly) from passing a hasty death penalty on Jesus’ first apostles. He notes that many so-called messiahs have come before Jesus, Theudas and Judas the Galilean, and gathered up a force of followers; but once they were killed, their supporters dispersed. Gamaliel then advises the Sanhedrin to be cautious against making the mistake of going against God.

What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go […] if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.’ (Acts 4:38-39)

Gamaliel was not only a wise man, but indeed a man of God. His ability to read the situation of those times is an indication firstly, that his deep knowledge of the Law translated to a keen discernment of God’s promptings to do the right thing. He was not acting on heady emotions and vengeance, but sought first the Kingdom of God. In the Ignatian tradition of discernment, he would have been aware of the spirit of consolation arising from his decision to ask for the release of the apostles. Secondly, he was unafraid to highlight the shortsightedness of the Sanhedrin. Though he was widely respected, who knew what a mob his fellowmen could turn into? Yet he stood for his beliefs bravely. Lastly, the person of Gamaliel cautions us against jumping to conclusions about a person by virtue of his/her social class, race, religion, or any affiliations. We are often surprised that God would use someone who appears vastly different from us to do His work, or save his people. Unlike us, God is not bias.

Back to the little bread boy. Gamaliel and the boy have something in common — they were close to God. The little boy being a child, was naturally trustful and sensitive to the unconditional reception he would receive by offering his lunchbox, and essentially himself. I am sure he would have shuddered somewhat thinking of the ridicule he might receive. What?! Five barley loaves and two fish, seriously?? Yet, he came forth. Likewise, the apostle Andrew must have fought the feeling of foolishness. We are told that Jesus was trying to teach the overly-rational Philip a lesson: He only said this to test Philip; […] Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’

How do we become like Gamaliel and the little bread boy? Through prayer. It is necessary that we return to our childlike selves to sit with God in silence and listen attentively to our Father’s love and words — to meditate and contemplate. Perhaps the swirling and confusing decisions we have to make in our daily lives will disperse to bring us greater clarity about the most life-giving course of action to take. Even a Pharisee like Gamaliel responded to his inner child, how about us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Lord, I want to come to you in silence, more than I have ever ventured. I pray for the grace of this discipline to trust you in stillness and surrender, instead of the constant bustling I tend to do.

Thanksgiving: We give You thanks Lord, for the inspirations of every moment, when the Holy Spirit gently nudges us to the right decisions, through our practice of sensitive listening.

Thursday, 16 Apr – Christ’s True Presence

16 Apr

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Acts 5:27-33

When the officials had brought the apostles in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.

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John 3:31-36

John the Baptist said to his disciples:

‘He who comes from above is above all others;
he who is born of the earth is earthly himself
and speaks in an earthly way.
He who comes from heaven
bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,
even if his testimony is not accepted;
though all who do accept his testimony
are attesting the truthfulness of God,
since he whom God has sent
speaks God’s own words:
God gives him the Spirit without reserve.
The Father loves the Son
and has entrusted everything to him.
Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:
the anger of God stays on him.

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God gives him the Spirit without reserve.

How many of us have ever given someone something precious of our own, wholeheartedly without any reserve? Several friends of mine have young children, and I recall watching on as their children were encouraged to share their toys. There is often a lot of cajoling and persuasion involved. But one thing is for certain, the little ones usually give up their grip on the toy when they actually feel assured of their parents’ love. The tenderness and security in mummy’s and daddy’s cuddles and tone of words is the balm comforting them that letting go of the toy in possession will be replaced by something far better — love from mummy and daddy.

A child usually learns to give and share from a young age, but not all children learn so in the same way. As we grow up, many of us have given up many precious things of ours to people who did not reciprocate our love and sacrifice. These could be gifts, trust, promises, one’s feelings, body, affections, etc… Over time, we grow disillusioned about the value of giving wholeheartedly, since it usually ends in heartbreak. So we turn to taking. Taking seems to be the more powerful act. We start to calculate the risks and benefits, we evaluate people and relationships by how much they are willing to give in to us. We are afraid to lose, afraid to be hurt, and naturally choose self-protection for survival. Hearts become hardened over time, and actually everyone loses without even realising it.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist shares with his disciples the unconditional love of the Father: ‘since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words: God gives him the Spirit without reserve. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him.’ I am humbled again to think of how our Heavenly Father suffers repeated blows when we wilfully deny His love for us in the person and sacrifice of Christ. And yet, this love is still continuously offered up for us in the Eucharist at every celebration of Mass.

God does not withhold His mercy and love for us, it is we who choose to remain in our far country when we reject His healing grace. ‘Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.’ This may read like God pronounces anger on being rejected. Yet on closer reflection, this Holy anger is one that we have provoked by our sins and transgressions against Him.

Those of us who have received the gift of Baptism, are enveloped within this Faith family. We need to do all we can to reject Satan’s lies and the sins he tempts us to. I know of some people who feel and act as if it is a privilege for God that they attend Mass each week. It is a tiresome chore and there is no true thanksgiving in their hearts. Indeed, this mindset is often the first of many falls from grace. The Host is not a mere symbol. The Eucharist is Christ’s flesh and real Presence manifest in transubstantiation at the priest’s Consecration. At every Mass, God is giving unto us His Son and Christ is offering up His body and blood for us, freely and with no reservation — only that we profess true and contrite belief.

Like the little child who learns to share and give, when we give up our unbelief, intellectual pride, and selfishness and entitlement to God’s unreserved and Holy sacrifice, we receive far more than just His pure love. We receive eternal life and our soul’s salvation. Our Heavenly Father and Holy Mother are the loving parents whispering and cajoling us into realising what greater treasures are in store if and when we surrender our wills and live within His covenantal love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: We pray for those in our Catholic brethren who do not yet fully believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist even as they receive this Eucharistic sacrifice, that they may come to the realisation and turn to true adoration and faith.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, I trust in You! Jesus, I trust in You! Jesus, I trust in You!

Wednesday, 15 Apr – Light Conquers Dark

15 Apr 

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Acts 5:17-26

The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol.

But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.

When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin – this was the full Senate of Israel – and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, ‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘At this very moment’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’ The captain went with his men and fetched them. They were afraid to use force in case the people stoned them.

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John 3:16-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

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men have shown they prefer darkness to the light

The news in the world today has been increasingly troubling. I am referring to the devastating deluge of news on the ISIS killings in the Middle East, aeroplane disasters and climatic disasters. The world feels like it is going through a collective mourning and grieving in proportions never seen before. For the season of Lent, I chose to abstain from social media because I was overwhelmed by the ceaseless outpouring of sorrowful and cruel events. It was not because I preferred ignorance. I did it for several reasons: despair, distraction and judgmentalism.

I was growing depressed about the state of the world, the complaints and viral vitriol perpetuated. It made me wonder if the people around me (for example, those I rode the train or bus with) could actually be a part of this faceless mob? I was distracted — caught in a paradox of hating the news content, but also hooked onto finding out what murkier dirt could be unearthed or reported every day. This subconscious addiction got so bad that Facebook was the first and last contact I made with the world between sleeps.

Lastly, I made that resolution to pull the plug on social media because it dawned on me that I was growing judgemental about many things. Though I was not exactly contributing to the online spats — because thankfully I simply do not have it in me to be a ‘keyboard warrior’ — I was secretly judging the persons behind the online avatars who made comments that I disagreed with. After some time, I noticed that I had grown sour, discontented, and easily annoyed in my real life!

Not surprisingly, all of this took place at a time when my prayer and interior life had taken a back seat to my daily bustle. I knew something was stirring in an unhealthy fashion, but I knew not what. So in preparation for Lent, I went on a silent retreat to still my heart and spirit. In this stillness, I recognised that each of us has been given a Light within us. This is the God-image that our Heavenly Father had first breathed into Adam and Eve, and Jesus had breathed over the first twelve Apostles. This divine breath and light is the Holy Spirit.

‘…the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’ (John 3:21)

Each of us has been given a conscience, the seed of God’s divinity, and an inner light by which we can call upon to navigate in our world — and to conduct ourselves with justice and righteousness. In the Gospel text today, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that it is not surprising that ‘men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.’ And it is a choice that we each make at every given moment, to choose light over dark, being seen by God or hiding away from Him our secret deeds.

In my retreat, by the wisdom and promptings of the Holy Spirit, I chose to walk into the light of Christ and allow my soul to busk in Christ’s sunshine. Because of this precious time-out with God, I was able to recognise the areas I needed to die to, to surrender, and to sacrifice. I also recognised that not contributing to the bad stuff in the world was not the same as contributing to bring about good. I had an active part to play in bringing joy and love to my interactions in order to truly live out my Christian purpose.

My dear brothers and sister in Christ, as we continue in this season of Eastertide, let us not forget our Lenten reflections which helped us cleave closer to the sufferings of Jesus. For those of us who may have got distracted during Lent, fret not but resolve to continue pursuing our daily relationship with Him. As we prepare for the gift of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost, we can seek the help of our Paraclete, our Advocate to take us deeper into union and trust in the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, shine your light and wisdom into all areas of my life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for always wooing us back into union with you, and showing to us the mercy for all our transgressions.

Tuesday, 14 Apr – Listening so as to Love

14 Apr – Tuesday of the 2nd week of Eastertide

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Acts 4:32-37

The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.

  The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.
  None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.
  There was a Levite of Cypriot origin called Joseph whom the apostles surnamed Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He owned a piece of land and he sold it and brought the money, and presented it to the apostles.

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 John 3:7-15

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’
‘How can that be possible?’ asked Nicodemus. ‘You, a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things!’ replied Jesus.
‘I tell you most solemnly,
we speak only about what we know
and witness only to what we have seen
and yet you people reject our evidence.
If you do not believe me when I speak about things in this world,
how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
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how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?

To listen is to love. I am learning again how to listen. Lately, I have grown frustrated about my difficulty in being empathetic to my loved ones. We cannot help hearing when people speak, when people talk to us. But to actually practise deep and meaningful listening, takes intent and commitment. This, I have come to realise.

In the Gospel text today, the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus continues. Jesus asks, ‘If you do not believe me when I speak about things in this world, how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?’ Nicodemus is a teacher in Israel, a wise man — and in these dialogues over yesterday and today, we see a wise man struggling to understand the words of Christ. Why are we presented with the person of Nicodemus? I have come to notice to motif of the wise man in the Bible stories. In many places, the teachers, leaders, priests, and wise men, struggle the most to comprehend the works and words of Christ. The wise man represents the intellectual, the powerful, the respected, and the self-righteous amongst us.

In our own ways, each of us finds ourselves most wise in the areas of our self-declared expertise, wisdom, and experience. This self-conferred ‘wisdom’ is thus the obstacle to our full listening. We think we know. And even, that we know better. Ironically, knowing blocks true learning.

How many of us like to say ‘But I’ve always known this’ or ‘I already knew’? These are the words that we may not speak aloud out of politeness sometimes, but in our hearts we could be mumbling so. It is pride that causes us to reject instruction and even to ignore a heartfelt sharing from loved ones who may be trying to express a vulnerability or hurt.

I am reminded of a retreat I once attended which had a section on “Communication”. One of the lessons I learnt then was that a good listener is not a passive participant in conversation. A good listener seeks to still his/her own internal thoughts and judgements, to focus on the speaker’s words and emotions, and is concerned to pay attention to feelings that may not be conveyed in speech, to seek understanding. However, to take this one step deeper, an empathetic listener takes all of the above and makes a genuine attempt to build a bridge of sensitive communication — by mirroring and to feedback through gestures (touch) or words, the spoken and unexpressed feelings of the person, such as to convey that he/she genuinely feels with the person’s emotions.

In this sense, though one may not identify exactly with a situation, one can always seek to identify with the emotions felt — and this act channels a flow of love between the two. I recognise this memory from the retreat as a gift from the Holy Spirit during this period of trials I am facing, and I am grateful for the chance to practice it and build the bridge of love with the deep foundations of empathetic listening.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Lord, I pray for the grace to listen intently and patiently, to feel with and empathise with my loved ones.

Thanksgiving: We give praise and thanks to the Holy Spirit who inspires us in all situations, who comforts us in all tribulations.

Monday, 13 Apr – Redemption Propels Us Onward

13 Apr – Memorial of Saint Martin, Pope, Martyr

Chosen 74th pope in 649 without imperial approval. Conducted the Lateran Council which condemned the patriach of Constantinople for Monothelitism, which claimed that Christ had no human will. This put him in opposition to the emperor who had him arrested and tortured. Paul, Patriarch of Constantinople, repented of his stance which saved Martin from execution, but the pope died soon after from damage done during his imprisonment, and is considered a martyr, the last martyred pope.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 4:23-31

As soon as Peter and John were released they went to the community and told them everything the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they lifted up their voice to God all together. ‘Master,’ they prayed ‘it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them; you it is who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why this arrogance among the nations,
these futile plots among the peoples?
Kings on earth setting out to war,
princes making an alliance,
against the Lord and against his Anointed.

‘This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.

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John 3:1-8 ©
There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

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What is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ asked Nicodemus. In times of trial, when I feel cornered by my circumstances and filled with regret over the way events and actions have unraveled, I ask the same. In essence, I cry out, “How can I ever start over on a clean slate again Lord!”

Certainly we cannot go back in time, and regret is a painful land of exile because little hurts and grave mistakes cannot be undone. Yet what if we cannot perceive a better way forward when it is hardest to fathom making peace or saying “Sorry”. We are stuck.

Yet our Christian faith proclaims another way. This way is made known to us through Jesus’ Resurrection. During Lent, we are brought to confront our sins and failings; we are asked die to our sinful nature and repent with a contrite heart. Many times after my sorrowful reflection, I resolve to repent but still wonder if my slate has truly been wiped clean. My sins may have been absolved with my Confession, but after I walk out, I admit I sometimes wonder where to from here? Even if God is OK with me, how will I be OK with the one whom I have hurt, or that person who has wounded me when we meet? What do I actually say or how should I act now? Sometimes, it’s not so simple.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ question obliquely. He doesn’t answer directly whether a man could actually be returned to his mother’s womb to be “born again”, to start over. Instead, he says plainly and unapologetically,

‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.’

With these words of conviction, assurance, and promise, Jesus is teaching us that God is not interested in time travel or rewriting history. Our God is not a god of regrets. He is not one who looks back in time to condemn us or repeat our faults, like some may experience relationships where decades-long grievances are constantly dredged up. God offers us the way of the cross and the promise of resurrection because His infinite love and mercy is fundamentally a Redemption story.

The Lord’s promise of redemption because of our faith, is one that ceaselessly propels us forward into a new day and a clean slate. Therefore Jesus makes a distinction between being born of flesh and born of Spirit. Our fleshly nature cannot be denied nor revoked. God doesn’t ask this of us. Instead we are invited to move into a new state. Jesus relinquishes his earthly body so that new thing may come — Jesus departs, and in his place he leaves the first apostles with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the reading of Acts, though Christ is no longer physically with them, the apostles call upon his name and the Holy Spirit descends upon them as the Paraclete, the Advocate and Counsellor in Jesus’ place. They are filled with this Spirit and no longer afraid: ‘As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly’ (Acts 4:31).

As Catholics, we need to be an Easter people, not just in word but also in deed. As we proclaim Christ is risen, we need to also believe actively — by loving deeply, and loving in spite of our fears and wounds. Through our faith and acts of love for those hardest to love, we collaborate in God’s plan to redeem the regret and sorrow in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Abba Father, we seek the Your mercy to heal our hurting and frightened hearts; we desire to be channels of mercy for the people we love too.

Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, you took the thief who was hung beside you on the cross to Heaven because all he asked of you was “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” You said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Thank you for showing us that you NEVER hold us captive to our past but you long to bring us onwards with you into your heavenly kingdom.