Tag Archives: holy spirit

11 June, Sunday – Grace, Love and Fellowship

11 June 2017

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Exodus 34:4-6,8-9

With the two tablets of stone in his hands, Moses went up the mountain of Sinai in the early morning as the Lord had commanded him. And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.
He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

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2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Brothers, we wish you happiness; try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with the holy kiss. All the saints send you greetings.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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John 3:16-18

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘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.’

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“that the world might be saved through him”

For most Catholics, the notion of the Holy Trinity is something that is intrinsic to our faith, and deeply familiar in our practice of this faith. We hear it preached by our priests, grace our lips with it during the profession of faith, and in many ways, experience the truth and divinity of the Holy Trinity in our everyday lives. It is through the providence of God that we experience the goodness of our lives. Even the very air we breathe is a gift from Him!

Yet, it is in the person of Jesus Christ that we are given a human incarnation of God: a master, teacher, brother, and friend. When I think of Jesus, the image of the Divine Mercy always comes to mind. The look of infinite mercy in the eyes of the Lord, the streams of red and white emanating from Him, symbolic of His dual nature; fully human and fully divine. I like to think of Jesus as a bridge between us and God. As today’s Gospel passage affirms, it is through Jesus that the world is saved.

Yet, in our busy everyday lives, it is often easy to forget about this important role of Jesus, with our gaze often diverted to our work, social lives, and daily distractions. This is where the third person in the Holy Trinity becomes crucial. While much less is said about the Holy Spirit in scripture, other than the fact that He came down onto Jesus like a dove (John 1: 32) and was sent to the Apostles through the breath of the Lord (John 20:22).

Yet the Holy Spirit continues to be with us, guiding our minds and souls, and animating our friendships and fellowship with each other. This is why St Paul says in today’s readings: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you”. It is by the grace of our Lord that we are saved, the love of God that we are granted this salvation, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that we continue to spread this salvation to others.

Let us never forget to share this fellowship of the Holy Spirit with others, so that the grace and love of our Lord and God can flow to all around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the grace to perceive Your gifts and goodness in our daily lives, and the charity to share these with others.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always being there for us, in His Triune Majesty. May we never cease to recognize the grace, love, and fellowship that is granted us every single day.

9 December, Friday – Wisdom

Dec 9 – Memorial for St. Juan Diego, hermit, layman

John (1474-1548) was born an impoverished free man in a strongly class-conscious society. He was a farm worker, a field labourer, and a mat maker. He became a married layman with no children. Even as a pagan, he was a mystical and religious man and became an adult convert to Christianity at around age 50, taking the name Juan Diego. He was widowed in 1529.

He was a visionary to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Guadalupe on 9 December 1531, leaving him the image known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. On 20 December 2001, a second miracle attributed to Juan Diego’s intervention was decreed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and was approved by Pope John Paul II. He was canonized on 31 July 2002.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 48:17-19

Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you,
I lead you in the way that you must go.
If only you had been alert to my commandments,
your happiness would have been like a river,
your integrity like the waves of the sea.
Your children would have been numbered like the sand,
your descendants as many as its grains.
Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.

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Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place:

“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t be mourners.”

‘For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’

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“Anyone who follows you, Lord, will have the light of life.”

~  Responsorial Psalm

Today’s readings help us to go deeper as we reflect on our frailties and weaknesses. We are hardly contented nor grateful for what we have, usually seeking more. More often than not, we seek the things and pleasures of this world. But there are also times where we feel unworthy, put ourselves down, where we lose our self-esteem. “What is good enough?”, “What do I live for?” are the questions we ask ourselves, but, if in the context of the world and its pleasures and desires, there will never be an answer, for our answer will continuously change as we seek to have everything yet always feel empty.

Even in the context of our faith where we desire to seek Christ. Are those just words or are we actively seeking? How are we seeking Him? Where are we seeking Him? The Gospel today talks about how we have differing opinions of who and how we think God is, what God should be doing and so on. Many times we’ve unknowingly played God while trying to seek Him.

God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to be with us, the sign we all wanted, an example we all could learn and follow, for us to fully trust and believe. But all we did was to nail Him to the cross and crucify Him. And even then, He still sends us the Holy Spirit.

The truth is, we need to acknowledge that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We desire to seek Christ, but only in certain areas of our lives. We lack wisdom. The first reading then gives us an insight as to what we need to do; not just what we want, but what we really need and are searching for — happiness, integrity, belonging and to be loved.

Let us desire this wisdom as we prepare ourselves. That we may be true witnesses of Christ, not just by word but by our actions, our way of life. Let us focus on the things that last, to cherish those that God has placed in our lives, especially those that money can’t buy. With this wisdom, let us now ask ourselves, “What is good enough? What do I live for?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the gift of wisdom, that we may learn to discern our actions and desires in order that we may seek you intentionally, to know as well as to lead all to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your Word, for your inspiration and your grace. Continue to speak to us in your own special way. Thank you for showing us the way, for being patient and for loving us unconditionally. Amen.

22 May, Sunday – Delight in the Spirit

22 May – Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

The true God is one in Trinity and a Trinity in One: come, let us adore him.

The fundamental dogma, on which everything in Christianity is based, is that of the Blessed Trinity in whose name all Christians are baptized. The feast of the Blessed Trinity needs to be understood and celebrated as a prolongation of the mysteries of Christ and as the solemn expression of our faith in this triune life of the Divine Persons, to which we have been given access by Baptism and by the Redemption won for us by Christ. Only in heaven shall we properly understand what it means, in union with Christ, to share as sons in the very life of God.

The feast of the Blessed Trinity was introduced in the ninth century and was only inserted in the general calendar of the Church in the fourteenth century by Pope John XXII. But the cultus of the Trinity is, of course, to be found throughout the liturgy. Constantly the Church causes us to praise and adore the thrice-holy God who has so shown His mercy towards us and has given us to share in His life.

Trinity Sunday
The dogma of faith which forms the object of the feast is this: There is one God and in this one God there are three Divine Persons; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three Gods, but one, eternal, incomprehensible God! The Father is not more God than the Son, neither is the Son more God than the Holy Spirit. The Father is the first Divine Person; the Son is the second Divine Person, begotten from the nature of the Father from eternity; the Holy Spirit is the third Divine Person, proceeding from the Father and the Son. No mortal can fully fathom this sublime truth. But I submit humbly and say: Lord, I believe, help my weak faith.

Why is this feast celebrated at this particular time? It may be interpreted as a finale to all the preceding feasts. All three Persons contributed to and shared in the work of redemption. The Father sent His Son to earth, for “God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son.” The Father called us to the faith. The Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, became man and died for us. He redeemed us and made us children of God. He ever remains the liturgist par excellence to whom we are united in all sacred functions. After Christ’s ascension the Holy Spirit, however, became our Teacher, our Leader, our Guide, our Consoler. On solemn occasions a thanksgiving Te Deum rises spontaneously from Christian hearts.

The feast of the Most Holy Trinity may well be regarded as the Church’s Te Deum of gratitude over all the blessings of the Christmas and Easter seasons; for this mystery is a synthesis of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. This feast, which falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, should make us mindful that actually every Sunday is devoted to the honor of the Most Holy Trinity, that every Sunday is sanctified and consecrated to the triune God. Sunday after Sunday we should recall in a spirit of gratitude the gifts which the Blessed Trinity is bestowing upon us. The Father created and predestined us; on the first day of the week He began the work of creation. The Son redeemed us; Sunday is the “Day of the Lord,” the day of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit sanctified us, made us His temple; on Sunday the Holy Spirit descended upon the infant Church. Sunday, therefore, is the day of the Most Holy Trinity.

– Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch (Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-05-22)

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Proverbs 8:22-31

The Wisdom of God cries aloud:

The Lord created me when his purpose first unfolded,
  before the oldest of his works.
From everlasting I was firmly set,
  from the beginning, before earth came into being.
The deep was not, when I was born,
  there were no springs to gush with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
  before the hills, I came to birth;
before he made the earth, the countryside,
  or the first grains of the world’s dust.
When he fixed the heavens firm, I was there,
  when he drew a ring on the surface of the deep,
when he thickened the clouds above,
  when he fixed fast the springs of the deep,
when he assigned the sea its boundaries
 – and the waters will not invade the shore –
  when he laid down the foundations of the earth,
I was by his side, a master craftsman,
  delighting him day after day,
  ever at play in his presence,
at play everywhere in his world,
  delighting to be with the sons of men.

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Romans 5:1-5

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. But that is not all we can boast about; we can boast about our sufferings. These sufferings bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance, and perseverance brings hope, and this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

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I was by his side… delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence.

This is a season of great newness for me. I have been restless and agitated in the undercurrents of my days. It involves planning my research topic, a wedding, and a relocating with my fiancé to Boston – all taking place in a matter of months between them. Friends are excited and think how fortunate I am. But I have refrained from revealing my stresses or compassionately giving myself the space to talk through things because I did not want to seem self-absorbed or worrisome. There has been so much to plan, discuss, and strategise that my perfectionist alter-ego goes into panic mode! My tendency to shelve the most important (but invisible) aspect of my wellbeing – my spiritual life – to the cobwebbed corners of my mind, has once again seized me. I am constantly learning again what it means to truly cleave unto my Lord with humility, that I cannot do everything, and my ways are never higher than His.

Yet the Holy Spirit is ever-gentle, when I am not. And with His infinite wisdom, He has prodded me with the beautiful imagery of today’s Proverbs scripture. I am calmly reminded that God created the Holy Spirit to be my Advocate – the One who will fight alongside me, ever-loyal to my Baptismal vows even when I am not. If we savour this particular scene in Proverbs – ‘The deep was not, when I was born, there were no springs to gush with water… When he fixed the heavens firm, I was there…’ – we realise that just as God the Father is the Alpha and Omega, the Holy Spirit was with Him at that very point in time. Doesn’t this sound like the description of our Genesis creation?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)

And I am struck to recall the parallel in the gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

How great is God’s wisdom and purpose for the world, and little, present-day me. As I contemplate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity celebrations today, I feel humbled that our God is far mightier than a three-in-one recipe. Meanwhile, the Martha in me needs to get things done now, right, well. Sometimes I bulldoze my loved ones and even myself. I do not spend enough time contemplating the majestic mystery of our Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God has given of Himself to us in Three Divine Persons, because we are spiritual beings created for relationship – a deep, abiding, transforming relational union that preceded our very existence. The Spirit of God is the lifeblood that connects our spirit to the Father, Creator Blest.

The Holy Spirit is given so many names – Word, Breath, Life, Light, Wisdom. But the most beautiful of all that I have discovered today is Delight. How true this is of a life in the Spirit. When we are connected deeply to our lifesource, the Holy Spirit, we will continue to delight in God, ‘at play everywhere in his world, delighting to be with the sons of men,’ to delight in life’s lot and course. Be it stillness, stalemate, or staggering changes. Our faith, prayer, and love of the Spirit will bring us pure delight, deep joy and peace. One that surpasses all understanding and circumstances.

There is so much to delight and marvel at in my journey with God. He has not only blessed me with someone to love, but this someone loves Him too. My fiancé was baptised this Easter, and soon we will be joined in the Sacrament of Matrimony. I cannot wait. Paths in life can be messy, unplanned, and frazzling. I am comforted with this gentle reminder that I am never alone, for ‘the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us’ (Romans 5:5).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Help me Holy Spirit, to drop my pens, tasks and checklists, and sit at Your feet to listen, learn, and patiently pray my way through all that I am going through.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the life changes and growth I now face (nerve-wrecking as they be). I have prayed for each of these dreams which God is slowly unwrapping before me. Ever wide is His mercy and deep His love. He never fails, He always surprises. Amen!

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.

9 May, Monday – Come, Holy Spirit

9 May

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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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… and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Today we are reminded of our Baptism, it isn’t just that we are blessed with water or oils but truly the Holy Spirit. The receiving of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism… it isn’t just a ceremony where we are declared officially but, more than that. We are renewed. We are empowered. We have a mission. We have a purpose. We are part of a greater community. We will never be alone.

In our world today, we face many times with the feeling of loneliness. When we don’t have friends around us, we feel we are not loved. That we are not good enough or inadequate. That we are missing out on life. Indeed, it is easy to say God is always with us and we shouldn’t feel lonely. Maybe we can ask ourselves where is it we’re heading? Whether being with friends actually help us be less lonely or is the feelings simply temporary?

Christ understood His mission. He appointed twelve disciples. Yet, He eventually completed His mission alone, on the cross. But He was never alone as He was aware of His mission, given by His Father.

His life, our example. His death, our salvation. It isn’t that we will never feel lonely, but a knowing that whenever we do feel so, we are reminded of Him and our Mission.

As we approach Pentecost, we look forward to an empowerment, a renewal, a new stirring for “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)

Let us conquer our fears, better our weaknesses, pardon sinners and love all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Holy Spirit, we pray for your guidance for a greater awareness of You in our lives. May we remain faithful and do Your will in our daily lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Holy Spirit, for the many gifts you have bestowed upon us. Thank You for being with us even when we fail to recognise you. Thank you for your protection.

5 May, Thursday – Passing on the Baton

5 May – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

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Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

  Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

  As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

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Ephesians 1:17-23

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Luke 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

  ‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

  Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

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You are witnesses to this

In the Ascension of the Lord, we might conjure up images of Jesus floating upward into the sky. In fact, fundamentally, heaven is not a locale at all but our definitive relationship with God, just as hell is the eternal severing of our ties with God. Heaven is where God is, and to be with God is to be in Heaven. And so what Ascension celebrates is that Jesus is fully, totally and forever reunited with the Father. It is the final prize that we all look forward to, since Jesus has paved a way for us.

Father Joachim Chang, the priest who has been tasked with building the new Church of the Transfiguration that will serve the community in Punggol, wrote recently on FaceBook – “When one cannot understand why he is born, he will find it hard to understand why he will die.” Indeed, just as the Ascension is about Jesus’ reunion with God the Father, it is also about Him passing on the baton to his apostles. For He said, “you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed the ends of the earth.” And I do believe that in the same way, He has breathed life into each living person with a purpose and a meaning for each of us. It is our responsibility and our urgent need to live out that purpose.

If we were to distill it down to our terms, this might mean a journey of discernment about marriage or religious life, or the type of work to go into. Personally I am trying to discern the type of work I should commit my life to – accounting, or social work, or early childhood care, or theology? As I ponder on personal questions more deeply, I realize that even the journey of discernment has a God-purpose. Our journeys, rather than our destinations, are our purpose. And if we are authentic and genuine in our desires to follow the Lord’s ways, these journeys can become a testament to his greatness and ignite conversion experiences for others close to us, who observe us on our journey. For evangelization is the duty of each and every Catholic who has found the treasure that is God.

(Today’s OXYEGEN by Serene Frances Wong)

Prayer – Dear Jesus, help us discover our purposes in You, that we may live lives glorifying Your name. Amen.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for the gift of time on this Earth, that we may enjoy the adventure before our time is up to return to the Lord.

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.

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.