Tag Archives: faith

23 April, Sunday – The Divine Mercy

23 Apr – Divine Mercy Sunday

The Congregation for Divine Worship decreed in 2003 that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difference and trials that humankind will experience in the years to come”.

Devotion to the Divine Mercy was promoted by St. Faustina Kowalski, canonized on 30 Apr 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Memorial for St. George, martyr; Memorial for St. Adalbert, bishop & martyr

St. George (d. 304) was a soldier who was martyred for his faith. That’s all we know for sure.

Several stories have been attached to St. George, the best known of which is the ‘Golden Legend’. In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came St. George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away.

Due to his chivalrous behaviour (protecting women, fighting evil, dependence on faith and might of arms, largesse to the poor), devotion to St. George became popular in Europe after the 10th century. In the 15th century, his feast day was as popular and important as Christmas. Many of his areas of patronage have to do with life as a knight on horseback. The celebrated ‘Knights of the Garter’ are actually ‘Knights of the Order of St. George’. The shrine built for his relics at Lydda, Palestine, was a popular point of pilgrimage for centuries.

He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

  • Patron Saint Index

Adalbert (957–997) was born to the Bohemian nobility. He took the name of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, the archbishop who healed, educated and converted him. He became Bishop of Prague (in the modern Czech Republic) on Feb 10, 982. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III.

Adalbert encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and worked on it with St. Astricus. He was opposed by the nobility in Prague and unpopular in the area, so he withdrew to Rome, Italy and became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on Apr 17, 990. But Pope John XV sent him back to Prague anyway.

He founded the monastery of Brevnov, met more opposition from the nobility and returned to Rome. There being no hope of his working in Prague, he was allowed to (unsuccessfully) evangelise in Pomerania, Poland, Prussia, Hungary and Russia. He and his fellow missionaries were martyred by Prussians near Koenigsberg or Danzig at the instigation of a pagan priest. Not long before his death, Adalbert met, and was a great inspiration to, St. Boniface of Querfurt.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 2:42-47

The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone.

The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.

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1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time.

This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.

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John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, 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.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

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“…when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you, too, will be revealed with him in glory.”

In the first reading, we read about the early Christians, how they were on fire, their hearts filled with love, giving, caring, celebrating the Risen Lord. And like many of us today, we are in the season of celebration, we have the victory that Christ has won for us, the eternal life, our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins. But it is also very important that we do not take our faith for granted.

Many times, we are trapped in seeking the reward that we fail to seek the giver. Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday. Often, we seek the forgiveness, we seek heaven and eternal paradise but how often have we forgotten about Jesus, about God our Father? Even for myself, many times I’ve missed the point. It’s not about the sufferings, not about our sins nor the cross we have to carry. It is about Jesus, not just about His death but about His life. I believe that His resurrection isn’t complete till we have resurrected with Him, in Him.

This Divine Mercy Sunday, let us not just pray for mercy given unto us but that we may be like Christ — givers of mercy. For it is more than if we are saved but to want to save others also. To bring love to the people we meet. For Jesus, too, came to save and not to be saved, He came to love and not to be loved.

So once again, let us not focus on the reward, for we may find an empty tomb in front of us. But if we truly know who Jesus is, we know that He already has a place for us in heaven, in His heart. Let us not live for the reward but for the people in our lives, especially our loved ones; to be merciful and loving towards them. Christ has died for us, let us now live for Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will not focus on the reward alone but on you. For you are the example, the Divine Mercy. Help us to be more like you, in the way where we can bring you to many others in our lives. For many to encounter you through us. Make our hearts like yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your life. Thank you Lord, for taking on that journey in which you have given us hope, love and your life.

16 April, Sunday – Hallelujah the Lord is Risen

16 Apr – Easter Sunday

Alleluia!

This mass is our Alleluia; our song of praise to the risen Christ who is our life and whose triumph over death we proclaim to all the world.

– Sunday Missal
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Acts 10:34.37-43

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’
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Colossians 3:1-4

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
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John 20:1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
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For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

I recently had the privilege of serving at CER#56, after not having served for an entire year. And what a reawakening it was for me – not just from the ministering point of view, but also from the messages I kept getting from God each day of the retreat. In one of the paraliturgies, I was called to help with the praying over session, which gave me a whole new perspective on the healing graces that Jesus poured out onto each and every retreatant.

At Sunday’s thanksgiving mass to mark the close of the retreat, I teared up many times during the testimonies. One, in particular, struck deep within me and reaffirmed God’s real presence in our lives. A couple went up and shared about how they had just lost their newborn as well as the husband’s father. Naturally, they had come to the retreat feeling angry and at a loss for why God would take away their two family members.

However, as they were prayed over, God revealed a vision to each of them and reassured them that their family members were in fact celebrating with Him and feeling a lot of joy and peace; much more than they had ever felt here on earth. And that gave the young couple closure while reassuring them that their loved ones were indeed safe in the arms of our loving God.

The Lenten CER is always a special one for us because it is truly one which awakens the fire and new-found belief in the hearts of the retreatants. During the testimonies, it was evident that God had indeed been ovely generous with His graces, showering every retreatant with His awesome love and mercy. It was a joy to see everyone unburdened and free from the shackles of sin at the last day, rejoicing among themselves and, especially the couples who embraced each other tightly, holding on to each other, some sobbing openly, while others just spoke with each other like newlyweds again.

For me, the messages He sent me each day reminded me of His constant presence and how He always gives us strength to carry on, especially in our moments of weakness. More importantly, He reminded me of how we should all pray fervently and joyfully, lifting up holy hands, without anger nor argument. Indeed, this Lenten period has been a rather ‘dry’ one for me and save for the CER, I hardly made any sort of sacrifices. However, the Lord, in all His goodness and mercy, chose to redeem me by reawakening a fervour and rekindling a fire in my heart that continues to burn bright. He is risen indeed!

Brothers and sisters, Christ has come not just to save us from our sins, but to also show us how much He loves and cares for us. His resurrection is the reason we believe that we are indeed saved and that the kingdom of heaven is ours to inherit, together with our brother, Jesus. Let us walk proudly with Him at our side and claim our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you continue to shine the light of Christ into our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Sing Alleluia, the Lord is risen. He is risen indeed Alleluia.

13 April, Thursday – Remembering the Lord’s Supper

13 April 2017

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Exodus 12:1-8,11-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal.

It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord.

That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”’

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.

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John 13:1-15

It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’

When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’

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If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Holy Thursday has always held a special place in my heart. I remember first attending Holy Thursday as a Cathecumen, marveling at the humility of Jesus, who would kneel before His disciples to wash their feet. Furthermore, He washed their feet not for His own good, but for theirs. Like many of the things that God has done for us, it is always for our own good, for there is nothing that anyone can do for the good of God, who is Himself the personification of all goodness.

It is this humility and self-giving that continues to touch and amaze me every Maundy Thursday, as I watch the priest re-enact the washing of the disciples’ feet during mass. As we have seen on Palm Sunday, the Lordship of Jesus is one that defies all conventions and human understanding. While kings (and indeed, even our modern day leaders) desired to be served, Jesus chose instead to serve others. While a king would encourage his subjects to serve him, Jesus encouraged us to serve each other. This is why He said in today’s gospel, “so that as I have done for you, you should also do”.

More importantly, today’s gospel is a timely reminder, as we prepare for Good Friday, that Jesus suffered death on the cross not just for His disciples, but for all humanity. Indeed, Jesus has already called us to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12:31). He did not say ‘love your Christian neighbour’, but to love all our neighbours, regardless of who they are. In a world that is rife with conflict and divisions, it is sometimes difficult to do so, especially when we face persecution for others.

But as we prepare ourselves for Good Friday, we remember that Our Lord has suffered even more persecution for us. What is a hostile glare or a nasty comment, compared to what He had gone through for us? Like Jesus, we have to focus on living and doing the will of God, even when doing so involves going against the grain of societal expectations. Yet we also know that it is so difficult and tiring to be swimming against the tides of the increasingly secular and materialistic societies that we find ourselves in.

Thankfully, we have been given a gift and a sacrament that can refresh our souls whenever we find ourselves weary from having to live our faith in a hostile world — the Holy Eucharist. On this night, we should keep in mind of the body and blood of Christ that was given to us on the last supper. As St Paul reminds us in today’s second reading, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”. Let us never forget to proclaim His death, for He died not for Himself for for the salvation of our souls.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the grace and humility to continue serving each other, especially those who are most in need, whether physically or spiritually.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for giving us the Sacrament of the Eucharist, for continuing to give Yourself to us, so that in these troubled times, we may continue to receive Your love and graces.  

13 April, Thursday – Call to Holiness

13 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

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

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Luke 4:16-21

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

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

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

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This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”

The readings of today remind us of the priestly role which all of us are called to answer. It may appear that such duties are meant for those who have received Holy Orders but all of us are called to a life of holiness. The manner in which we go about doing so is not found buried in the Scriptures, but can be found in the readings of today and the significance of the priests renewing their vows before the local Bishop.

The priests today renew the vows which they have made on their priestly Ordination to remain in the service of the Lord and to remain obedient to the local Bishop and his successor. This is a continued renewal and conversion towards Jesus Christ. All of us are in need of reminders in our lives and some of us do so by having a diary or updating our calendars. Today’s Mass is, in a special way, allowing the priests to remember the reasons why they joined the priesthood and to rekindle in them the fervour which they first had on the date of their Ordination.

For those who are lay-people, this renewal is just as relevant. We are called to be the salt and light of the earth. There are people in this world who have been blinded by the pursuit of material goods, deafened by the music of a secular world and bound by chains of despair and darkness. As Christians, we are reminded of our common priesthood to reach out to these people and to share with them the joy of living the Christian Faith. In doing so, we continue to do the work of God by being the leaven in a world hungry for God’s touch.

The priests who are ministers of God nourish us in the Liturgy of the Word with the homily and our souls in the Liturgy of the Eucharist through confecting the Holy Eucharist. Having been strengthened by the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we can then carry out the command made by the priest at the end of Mass to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to remain faithful to you and allow us to discover what your plan is for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests in the world.

12 April, Wednesday – Not knowing the Day or Hour

12 April 2017

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Isaiah 50:4-9

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 26:14-25

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

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

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

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The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”

As I reflect on Jesus’s words: “My appointed time draws near”, I realize that it is something that He has said from the beginning of His public ministry. We often hear Jesus telling us to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2) or “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 4:17). Indeed, Jesus has long been telling telling us that the time for His Passion is near, for the Passion can also be seen as the fulfilment of scripture, as Jesus, through His death and resurrection, becomes for us, the gateway into heaven.

Yet we also know that these are words have often fallen upon deaf ears, both during Jesus’s public ministry and in our time today. Indeed, it is often easy to procrastinate when it comes to the kingdom of heaven. How often have we put off our nightly prayers because we are tired and worn out from the day? How often have we told ourselves: “It’s okay, prayer can wait. It’s okay, God will also wait. I am just so tired and busy”? It is most certainly the case for me, as I wrestle with the day to day hustle and bustle of life in academia.

But we also know from scripture that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Ths 5:2). Taking our cue from the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, we do not want to be found asleep when the Lord comes to find us. Similarly, in the parable of the ten virgins, we do not want to be like the five unfortunate virgins who did not have oil for the lamp and were hence locked out of the wedding banquet. In that parable, Jesus has told us to “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Mt 25: 13).

In the modern parlance of today, we should strive to be ‘safe rather than sorry’. Indeed, there is much safety to be found in the love and protection of the Lord. Our safehaven is in the kingdom of heaven, in the presence of our Lord. We should therefore keep praying and hoping, so that we will be ready when our Lord comes for each of us, rather than sorry and left out of the kingdom, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13:42). In a way, our not knowing the day nor hour is a bit of a blessing. For this keeps our hearts ever ready and focused on the kingdom of heaven.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: As we await the coming of Your Kingdom Lord, keep us ever steadfast in our faith and prayers, so that at Your appointed time, we will not be found wanting. 

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His loving patience in always tolerating and forgiving our human waywardness.

8 April, Saturday – On Quarrelling

8 April 2017

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Ezekiel 37:21-28

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins.

I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them.

I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

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John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’

One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

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“Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.”

I was at a church event recently, hosted by a group of women parishioners at my church who hate each other’s guts. While on the surface, everything seemed cordial enough, you could feel the tension when people spoke to one another. I’ve known this group for some time, so I was aware of the context going in to it. Everything was just a little forced – smiles, hugs, well-wishes. Why do we bother with false pretenses in church? Isn’t this the one place where we are allowed to be genuine with one another? So why do we pollute this space with our human angst? If God has a personal relationship with each one of us, how does He mediate when we fight amongst ourselves? How does He help us to find a path to peace?

We’ve always been a divided group of people, especially within the context of our beliefs. The people of the Sanhedrin in today’s gospel are no more quarrelsome and ambitious than the people of our parishes. We may not sit around and plot the death of prophets anymore, but that doesn’t mean we don’t actively participate in complaining, gossip and black balling. We are all accountable to each other, and for one another. If one person falters, the whole group stumbles as well. Knowing this, why do we still attack each other?

The reading from Ezekiel shows us an ideal that we can aspire to — that of a united church. One that does not focus on the small, insignificant human dramas of daily life. Christ died for us so that we might be free to live by his principles and teachings. God calls his church, but its members must still put in the hard work of living by that calling. That includes giving up that part of ourselves that does not serve His purpose. If our lives were ransomed with the precious blood of His son, isn’t it only fair then, that we try to honour him by putting an end to our quarrelsome ways?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the patience to overlook the slights and sharp words that are levelled at us by our brethren in Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Holy Spirit, who mediates for us and tries to keep the peace amongst us.

7 April, Friday – You will know them by their fruits

7 Apr – Memorial for St. John Baptist de la Salle, priest

John (1651–1719) studied for the priesthood in Paris, France, but quit to care for his brothers and sisters upon the death of his parents. When his siblings were grown, John returned to the seminary. He was canon of Rheims, France in 1667 and was ordained in 1678. He became a doctor of theology in 1680.

He was spiritual director of the Sisters of the Holy Infant who were devoted to teaching poor girls. He founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Christian Brothers) in 1681, and established and supported academic education for all boys.

He liquidated his personal fortune, and his Brothers expected him to use it to further his education goals, but he surprised them by saying they would have to depend on Providence. The money (about $400,000) was given away to the poor in the form of bread during the great famine of 1683-1684. St. John kept enough to endow a salary for himself similar to that which the Brothers received so that he wouldn’t be a burden on them.

He instituted the process of dividing students into grades, established the first teachers’ school, started high schools and trade schools, and was proclaimed the patron of all teachers of all youth by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.

But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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Even if you do not believe me, believe the works so that you might realize and understand

The concept of ‘frenemies’ is as old as the days of Christ it seems – false friends who pretend to come to your aid, but who in reality, can’t wait till you screw up, so that they can renounce you. Stoning may have gone out of fashion, but gossiping and backstabbing never will. Many of the men looking to persecute Jesus in today’s gospel reading would have witnesssed for themselves the miracles he performed. Some might even have been his followers who, at the first sign of hardship, turned and deserted him. It is heart-breaking when people you think you can count on disappoint you. Jesus may have been able to discern his genuine followers from his fairweather friends, but it would still have hurt him to be betrayed.

Our actions speak volumes about what’s in our hearts. How genuine we are becomes plainly obvious when we are put to the test. Jesus said, even if you don’t believe who I say I am, look at what I have done. “Believe the works, so that you may realize and understand”. In his life’s work there was a consistency. When we look at our own lives, is there a disconnect between our words and our actions? When we reflect on our faith journey, do we find that we often say what we don’t do?

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing… You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit… therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20)

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the presence of mind to be consistent in our thoughts, in our words, in what we do and what we restrain ourselves from doing.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the examples from Scripture, of men who live, think and speak their convictions.

6 April, Thursday – What’s in a name?

6 April 2017

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Genesis 17:3-9

Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’

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John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’

The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:

‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’

The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’

At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

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“No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham”

Every year during Easter, our parish confirms about a dozen adults into the Catholic faith. In the run up to this, they spend 9 months learning about being a Catholic and take on a Saint’s name as part of the confirmation process. I was one of those adults 3 years ago. My confirmation name was Martha, after the patron saint of cooks, chefs and all who labor in service of others. I chose her because her cause resonated with my new vocation in life – being a housewife and taking care of my family.

In Scripture, there is much emphasis on how a person’s identity is tied to their name. For instance, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, a subtle pen-stroke which redefined him from simply ‘venerated father’ to ‘father of multitudes’. God always had this path in mind for him, but by formalizing it in a sacramental name, He gave Abraham the confidence and grace to rise to the calling of his new life. In the New testament, the Jews confront Jesus and pointedly demand of him, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? … Who do you make yourself out to be?” The person that Jesus claims to be is a constant source of debate amongst the Jews. They saw him as simply Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary. When Jesus tells them that he has existed before Abraham, that he is “I AM”, they grow indignant and  proceed to stone him. The tension over his identity defined Christ’s ministry.

When we are baptized or confirmed, God finds us a name. That name identifies His purpose for us – whether it is to advocate for the causes of children (St Nicholas), to work in service of animals (St Francis), to fight for the homeless (St Benedict) or some other cause that resonates with us. Having a saint’s name as part of our identity can galvanize us to be better versions of ourselves, even if we don’t feel that way at the outset. We grow into it slowly, our hard edges sanded away by experience and prayer. As we move closer to the Easter Vigil, let us all take a minute to consider our baptism and Catholic names. What do they mean, and more importantly,  have we lived in adherence to His purpose for us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are being confirmed into the Catholic faith this year. May God give them the ability to discern His path for them through the noise of daily life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all those who give their time, talent and treasure to help those who are new to come to the faith.

5 April, Wednesday – On Discipleship

5 Apr – Memorial for St. Vincent Ferrer, priest

Vincent (1350–1419) was the fourth child of the Anglo-Scottish nobleman William Stewart Ferrer and his Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel. His father is reported to have had a dream in which he was told that Vincent would be a world-famous Dominican friar.

The boy joined the Dominicans in 1367. He received his doctorate of theology from the University of Lleida. He was a priest and a missionary. He taught theology, and was adviser to the King of Aragon. During a severe fever in 1398, Vincent had a vision of Christ, St. Dominic de Guzman, and St. Francis of Assisi. It was a life-changing experience.

Vincent received supernatural gifts and believed that he was a messenger of penance, an ‘angel of the apocalypse’ sent to prepare humankind for the Judgement of Christ.

He was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada. He was counsellor to Pope Benedict XIII. He travelled through Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, working to end the Western Schism.

He slept on the floor, had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish, but all listeners understood him), lived an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker. He was reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it.

He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’

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“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples”

The thing about being authentic to something is that at some point, your convictions will be tested. It’s only when you are put under duress that you discover the true nature of your hearts and the strength of your faith. In the gospel reading today, Jesus warns the Jews that it is not enough to be something ‘in name’ when they protest that as  ‘descendants of Abraham’ they are free. You have to be authentic in spirit as well, to be faithful to the principles you profess.

At Thanksgiving each year, our parish puts on an event called the ‘Family 2 Family’ charity at our church. Parishioners adopt a family over the holiday season and put together gift bags and grocery hampers for them. What started out with good intent though, has over the years, morphed into something resembling a contest. The receiving families have started to compare their gifts and begun to ask for more complicated presents – electronics goods, expensive shoes, fancy bikes. Meanwhile, the giving families try to outdo one another, with more and more lavish presents. Somewhere along the way, the whole thing turned into a competition of ‘conspicuous giving and receiving’ – and that has ruined the spirit of it.

I received a wish-list last year as part of this, which looked like something a spoiled, unsupervised child might have put together. I felt irritation, annoyance and frustration – with myself for being so ungenerous, with the organizing committee for allowing it to get to this, with the church for not policing the organizers better. And then I wondered, what is the correct Christian response to this? Protest? Walk away and find somewhere else to serve? Suck it up and go along with it? What happens when as believers, we become disillusioned with the decisions of our church leaders? I just don’t know. I DO know that I’m helping no one by feeling angry and resentful over this.

Anger and resentment have no place in Christian discipleship. How do I fix this? How do I fix me? Is it even my place to fix things? The gospel of Luke says, that “blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance” (Luke 8:15). I’m sure setting up the early church would have been an incredibly frustrating affair. Along the way, there would have been plenty of those who would have thrown their hands up and walked away. Perhaps running the good race requires the mental grit and toughnesss of a marathon runner, so that we can truly say at the end, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the grace, patience and endurance that we too might run a good race

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks to those who persevere in His service, who are able to look beyond the setbacks to a higher cause and a better good.

4 April, Tuesday – On Distraction

4 Apr – Memorial for St. Isidore, bishop & doctor

Isidore (560-636) was the son of Severianus and Theodora, people known for their piety. He was the brother of Sts. Fulgentius, Florentina, and Leander of Seville, who raised him after their father’s death. Initially, he was a poor student, but after giving the problem over to God, he became one of the most learned men of his time. After he was ordained a priest, he helped his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoth Arians. He was a hermit.

He became Archbishop of Seville in 601, succeeding his brother to the position. He was a teacher and was called ‘Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages’. He was a founder and a reformer. He required seminaries in every diocese, and wrote a rule for religious orders. He was a prolific writer whose works include a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. He presided at the Second Council of Seville, and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He introduced the works of Aristotle to Spain.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722, and became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.
Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father.

So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

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“For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins”

I turned off Instagram for Lent this year. What a great decision that has turned out to be! What started out as a curiosity when I downloaded it, had become a near obssession. It had taken over my life! Have you ever tried to account for how you spend the hours in your day? I did, and I found that 50% of the time, I was mesmerized by my phone, glancing to see who had posted updates and how many followers they had. What a colossal waste of time! I also found myself saying a lot of “I am so tired, I have no time, etc”. Yet I found time to ‘Follow’ people on Instagram?! I would look up from my screen and a whole morning would have gone by. It made no sense! It feels so empowering to take back a little bit of my life from my devices. Netflix is next on the chopping board!

Distraction is the number one cause why people fall away from the path. It’s social media for a lot of us. But it could just as easily be the pursuit of position, professional gain, family advancement, our material things, Tommy the Dog, Cleo the Cat, etc. Time is our scarcest resource, but so few of us make the effort to think about how we spend it. And Time, as surely as Day follows Night, will march steadily on, turning our best intentions into regrets and unfulfiled promises.

On our death beds, who will care how responsive we were to the people we followed on Instagram? Or how much money we accumulated through well thought out investments? Or how influential we were in life, how high we climbed to that position of power? We can take none of that with us, and these worldly achievements will count for nothing when we have to account to God how we lived our lives.

The image of the seraph, mounted on a pole was a precursor to Jesus’ words, “For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). So many of us claim we believe. We go through the motions required of us, we kneel in prayer, we take the Eucharist, we volunteer, we genuflect, what more does God want? But how many of us truly take the time to sit in meditation and reflection with Him? To know Him, to really say, I believe that HE IS The Lord?! There is almost always something better to be done than to be present to a mostly silent God. Maybe He is silent because His voice has been drowned out by the cacophony of our distractions. Maybe He won’t be found because we’ve squandered our chances with Him?

“Seek The Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the silence in our lives to seek and find Our Lord.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for His unending grace and mercy, that if we truly seek, He will be found.