Tag Archives: hope and faith

25 March, Wednesday – Surreal

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on March 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

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Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?

Things have gotten a bit surreal here in America. Schools have closed, grocery stores have been mobbed, and all over, there’s an eerie sense of America hunkering down for what’s shaping up to be a lost year. Who would’ve thought that in the space of a month, the world as I’ve always known it would have upended itself and turned completely on its head? It’s only March but already I feel worn down. I’m tired. Like Ahaz, I’m afraid to hope, afraid of what’s to come, afraid even to pray because I can’t find the words.

When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to let fatigue cloud your judgment. The isolation and loneliness from all this ‘social distancing’ isn’t helping either. I’m trying to hold on to the light. Whether it be turning off the doomsayers on TV or weeding in the garden or listening to a Lenten podcast, I’m trying to stay positive. But positivity takes effort. Holding on to hope takes effort. Happiness takes effort. And some days, I feel like I just haven’t got it. I’ve seen a lot of panics before but not one quite like this. Will life go back to the way it used to be? I really don’t know.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like, for Israel to hold on to the hope of a Savior for so long. I feel like such a wimp by comparison. Some people are just built for the long haul. They’re made of the strong stuff. They find reserves to keep the flame burning. I don’t think that person is me. How did Mary find the nerve to say, “Let it be done unto me”? Did she know the full extent of what she was getting into or did it not matter to her? Is that what it means for the “Holy Spirit to come upon you, and the power of the Most High to overshadow you”? Because I could really do with some of that right now. I don’t think I’ve lost my faith, but I am shaken by what’s happened and the speed at which it’s happening. God be with all of us now.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for faith, for strength, for positivity and patience during this difficult and surreal time in the world. We pray that God sustains us emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, so that we in turn can be strong for our friends and families. And we pray for the wisdom to make good decisions during this difficult time.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the first responders, doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are at the front line of this global health crisis. God keep them safe, give them strength, give them courage. All things are possible through you, Lord! All things!

3 July, Tuesday – In Place Of Human Sensation

Jul 3 – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He 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 of 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.

 What does it mean to be a part of God’s household? It means that we share in equal sonship and inheritance to God’s love. God gave His promise to the newly-baptised that, through Christ, all are one. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:17-18)

This reality is important for all of us believers, no matter the length of time of confessing faith in Christ. Some Christians may boast of greater experience in biblical knowledge, or fellowship with a larger church, or denomination as evidence of being premium citizens in God’s house. However, the truth is clearly far from that. If anything, such pride has no place in God’s kingdom, and those who are now first may later find themselves the least and the last.

St Thomas was one of the first disciples, the inner circle of twelve who followed Christ closely and was party to his life in ministry. Despite this, we see that Thomas himself was not immune to moments of despair and unbelief in his beloved Master, when his faith was challenged, and sorrow obscured his vision.

You and I are probably not too far off too, when we find ourselves troubled in our life journey and relationships. How is it that we can fall from such great conversion experiences into the throes of doubt and questions? Perhaps this image is dramatic. Even so, for the most of us, the mildest of our unbelief can indeed manifest in cynicism and indifference. This may take the form of a blasé routinized life of weekly Mass and mindless mumbling of the Penitential Act and the Lord’s Prayer, etc… Ya-ya-ya… Yes, sometimes, that would be me. And sometimes, I would be jolted to sheepish attention by the deadest of such voices coming from the person next to or behind me in the pews.

The hope that springs from today’s biblical passages is that we are not all that different in our unbelief. Even though what causes us to drift and backslide from God may be uniquely difficult or painful, we certainly share in the ‘inheritance’ of doubt with the first apostles whom we now call saints!

Nevertheless, we can and will be able to re-encounter Christ if we desire to seek Him – to even own up to our doubt and say, “Unless I see this, so show me Lord.”

If God had not loved us so, he would not have sent us Jesus. He would have left us to the hellish perils of unbelief and despair – and that is a lonely geography.

Jesus reappearing to Thomas with the evidence he asked for is not for God’s vindication. It is most simply to save us from our flawed human nature that thrives on the senses. Touch me. Feel me. Hear me. See my works and miracles. Not for My sake, but yours.

God accepts our human nature, and therefore gifts us His Spirit to lift us out of our spiritual poverty. This grace and mercy is humbling and beautiful. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15-16)

No matter our previous states of unbelief, we can now be a part of God’s household just like St Thomas.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me not to rely on my senses in order to trust and believe in You. Help me in my moments of doubt and weakness.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Jesus for sustaining me with your grace and hope.