Tag Archives: feastdays

15 May, Sunday – Pentecost Every Day

15 May – Feast of Pentecost

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

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

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

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

-Universalis

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Acts 2:1-11

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

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

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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

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

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

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

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John 20:19-23

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

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

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Heng San San)

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

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

Thursday, 3 Jul – Humbled By A Bottomless Unbelief!

3 Jul – Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle

Apostle. He was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. Preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way. He eventually gave in to God‘s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.

His symbol is the builder’s square; there are several stories that explain it:

– he built a palace for King Guduphara in India
– he built the first church in India with his own hands
– it is representative building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)
– he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

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.’

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You are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household.

“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” This oft-quoted aphorism by the flamboyant Oscar Wilde is well loved by many. However, how many really know why he had written this? This was actually a line from one of his last plays A Woman of No Importance, which he had written in the declining years of his life. Even more intriguing (and far lesser known) is the fact that Oscar Wilde, for all his publicly homosexual and hedonistic life, had requested for a deathbed conversion to the Catholic faith and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick in his last hours. This is no mere literary theatrical line, but the declaration of true contrition of one man’s soul. In this context, we can better understand and more richly appreciate the reasons this literary great was inspired by the Holy Spirit to reflect on his entire life. This quote is far more beautiful because of its story – and it wields the banner of hope and mercy!

Just last Sunday I had the chance to write a reflection on the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. Both Peter and Paul had crucified Christ in their own ways – Peter by his three-times denial of Christ before the cock crew, and Paul by his zealous persecution of Christ’s first followers until his road to Damascus experience. Likewise, I am reminded today that the apostle Thomas was none-the-holier than his brethren Peter and Paul!

Though Thomas walked very closely with Jesus in the three years of his public ministry – he was there at the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the healing of the paralytic, the blind, and the miracles – he too denied Christ at the Cross, and doubted Christ in his resurrected body. “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.” (John 20:25)

Thomas is a Saint with whom I feel great affinity with, because my faith journey is fraught with my heart of bottomless unbelief. Though I have encountered Christ in so many forms, through so many experiences and wonderful people, somehow, I still harbour within me some undiscovered doubts. In this, I have often failed my Lord. However, one particular experience I had with Jesus has radically transformed my understanding of the humbling necessity of this ‘bottomless unbelief’.

One evening, I went to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at the Adoration Chapel, finding myself completely alone with my Lord. Incidentally, I was reflecting on this exact Gospel passage as I gazed upon the crucifix – Christ with mouth agape, nails in his hands and feet, a gash in his side. My incessant and stale prayers were banging on the inside of my head and heart. I felt no relief, no comfort, no peace, and no assurance that my prayers would be answered. I was in prayer-agony. Out of the blue, I was drawn towards the crucifix and felt beckoned to touch that gash St Thomas himself had challenged. Just as Jesus had commanded Thomas, “Give me your hand; put it into my side”, I obeyed. The moment I traced my finger gently along the carved serration of the wound in Jesus’ torso, I completely broke down. Through the clarifying of my tears, I saw the true extent of my unbelief! I had discovered a new depth of my doubts.

We are incapable of perfection – especially not perfect faith. But I have been so joyfully humbled to realise that a heart deeply desiring the Lord Jesus will never be denied clarification and purification. With the counsel of the Holy Spirit, I grow more aware of my weaknesses every time. We are assured that even one’s faintest contrition becomes the doorway that flings open to admit abundant graces from our Lord. Just as Oscar Wilde eventually realised, every sinner has a hopeful future when he turns to a God of unending mercy and love – I am certain he would have echoed St Thomas’ exclamation, “My Lord and my God!” when he finally received his long-awaited Baptism and Sacraments.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
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Thanksgiving:  We praise and thank God for the wonderful inspirations and gifts he bestows on us, that we truly use our talents to bring God glory.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we never turn our back on your Divine Love and Mercy. Help us to turn away from our sinful past and continue walking towards our future in your Light.