Tag Archives: rebecca grace

18 November, Friday – Time to be cleansed of our sinful ways

Nov 18 – Memorial for the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Basilica of St. Peter is located within the Vatican City. It occupies a unique position as one of the holiest sites and as the greatest of all churches of Christendom. It is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and, according to tradition, was the first Bishop of Antioch and later the first Bishop of Rome, and therefore the first in the line of the papal succession.

Catholic tradition holds that St. Peter’s tomb is below the altar of the basilica, which is why many popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. There has been a church on this site since the fourth century. Construction on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on Apr 18, 1506, and was completed in 1626.

While St. Peter’s is the most famous of Rome’s many churches, it is not the first in rank, an honour held by the Pope’s cathedral church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Contrary to popular misconception, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a basilica.

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside The Walls is one of four churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome. This basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Paul where it was said that after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial over his grave.

In 386 Emperor Theodosius I began the erection of a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept. The work including the mosaics was not completed till the pontificate of Leo I. Under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the basilica was again extensively modified. As it lay outside the Aurelian walls, this basilica was damaged during the Saracen invasions in the ninth century. Consequently, Pope John VIII fortified it, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry forming the town of Joannispolis which existed until 1348 when an earthquake totally destroyed it.

On 15 Jul 1823, the negligence of a workman repairing the roof resulted in a fire which almost totally destroyed the basilica. Alone of all the churches in Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, and the Emperor of Russia sent the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian government, which declared the church a national monument.

The basilica was reopened in 1840 but was reconsecrated only 15 years later at the presence of Pope Pius IX with 50 cardinals. On 31 May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the basilica to come under the control of an archpriest. On the same day, he named Archbishop Andrew Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as its first archpriest.

  • Wikipedia

_____________________

Apocalypse 10: 8-11

I, John, heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go,’ it said ‘and take that open scroll out of the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’ I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’ So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and swallowed it; it was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time about many different nations and countries and languages and emperors.’

_____________________

Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.

_____________________

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.

The first thing that came to my mind after reading today’s gospel was — maybe it is time to detox the soul.

I’m a person who is very much into healthy eating and taking care of the body. However, I do not believe detoxes actually work, as our bodies come equipped with organs to do all the heavy-duty cleaning.

Our souls and hearts, on the other hand, are a completely different matter. These do not come with self-cleaning mechanisms. Instead, we need to roll up our sleeves, don some rubber gloves and get down on the floor to do some serious scrubbing. It is up to us to purge our souls and hearts, also known as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, from dirt and debris, better known as sins.

Jesus’ fury at seeing the traders selling and blatantly extorting temple visitors is probably what would happen if He saw the corruption that is taking place in our spirits as well. These traders had ‘contaminated’ a house of worship with their corrupt practices by overcharging temple visitors for the sacrificial animals and shekels (Jewish currency) they need to use.

In the gospel, He chases away all the traders demanding that they respect the House of God. “My house is meant for a house of prayer,” says Jesus quoting from Isaiah (56:7) and Jeremiah (7:11) respectively, “but you have turned it into ‘a den of thieves’.” In a similar way, let us pray that He can chase away the sins living in our soul and polluting His home.

But it won’t be easy, brothers and sisters, as we must also allow Him to come into our lives and guide us in this ‘spring cleaning’ effort. And unlike the temple in the gospel, this job requires us to play a part as well and work on purifying ourselves.

Remember, it is a never-ending job to keep dirt away. I mean, have you ever been able to just clean your room once and never have dust settle anywhere?

(Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

_____________________

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you will guide and show us how to purify our souls in order to prepare the best dwelling place for You.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the ability to recognise our sinful ways Lord and the never-ending perseverance you give us to rid ourselves of sin.

17 November, Thursday – Can we recognise God’s love?

Nov 17 – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Hungary, married woman, religious

Elizabeth (1207-1231) was a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. At the age of 13, she married Prince Louis of Thuringia. She built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood, and tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teachings, not theirs.

Once, when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon Louis’ death, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine-stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields.

_____________________

Apocalypse 5:1-10

I, John, saw that in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne there was a scroll that had writing on back and front and was sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a powerful angel who called with a loud voice, ‘Is there anyone worthy to open the scroll and break the seals of it?’ But there was no one, in heaven or on the earth or under the earth, who was able to open the scroll and read it. I wept bitterly because there was nobody fit to open the scroll and read it, but one of the elders said to me, ‘There is no need to cry: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and he will open the scroll and the seven seals of it.’

Then I saw, standing between the throne with its four animals and the circle of the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been sacrificed; it had seven horns, and it had seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits God has sent out all over the world. The Lamb came forward to take the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, and when he took it, the four animals prostrated themselves before him and with them the twenty-four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense made of the prayers of the saints. They sang a new hymn:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll
and break the seals of it,
because you were sacrificed, and with your blood
you bought men for God
of every race, language, people and nation
and made them a line of kings and priests,
to serve our God and to rule the world.’
_____________________

Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’

_____________________

…you did not know the time of your visitation>

The temple of Jerusalem served as a symbol and reminder of God’s constant presence with his people in the city.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is there crying and lamenting for the city of Jerusalem. All because God had sent prophets and finally, His Son himself, to teach His people about having faith in God and following the right path to eternal life. Instead, the pride and arrogance of the Jews blinded them to the pure teachings of Jesus. They refused to acknowledge his presence and ‘visitation’ as their saviour.

I don’t like being told I’m wrong and should do things a different way. Let’s face it, none of us do; but sometimes, that method will turn out to be the better and more efficient way to accomplish something. It is when we realise that we were wrong all along and that, with that little nudge in the right direction, we’ve been set back onto the right path. We’ll also be thankful for the person who guided us back to where we were supposed to be headed.

Have you ever thought that that person might be God actually ‘visiting’ us? Probably not. We need to remember that God’s visits are meant to bring peace in our lives. Obviously, he isn’t going to be popping into our lives with tons of fanfare to announce His presence but will work through others, gently nudging us in the right direction. Sometimes not so gently, but it is all meant to make us better people.

In the same way a parent disciplines their child to make sure they grow up into a decent person, our heavenly Father also ‘disciplines’ us, but by using the hands of others.

Jesus’ prophecy in the gospel strongly echoes Jeremiah’s prediction of the destruction of the first temple of Jerusalem; but it also offered hope of faith restoration and deliverance from evil. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-22)

Hence, our own peace can only be achieved when we give ourselves over to faith in God and let Him guide us instead of having our pride take over.

(Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

_____________________

Prayer : Lord, we pray for the wisdom to recognise when You are trying to nudge us back onto the right path. May we never get upset at the person that You have chosen to teach us, through Your own subtle way, what it is You want us to do in this life.

Thanksgiving : We give thanks for everyone You have placed in our lives, past, present and future, that have helped mold us into who we are today.

10 September, Saturday – Live out your beliefs

10 September 

_____________________

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

My dear brothers, you must keep clear of idolatry. I say to you as sensible people: judge for yourselves what I am saying. The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf. Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar. Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real? Not at all. It simply means that the sacrifices that they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God. I have no desire to see you in communion with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons. Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

_____________________

Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.

‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

‘Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations: as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!’

_____________________

Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that there is no point constantly calling him “Lord”, the person we obey, if we do not actually do what he asks. And one of the things he asks of us is to scrape away the shaky, sinful layers in our lives. The very layers that built up over time when we became complacent of our salvation. When we unintentionally decided that having faith is enough. Actual action would not be required and all sin would be immediately deemed ‘null and void’ just because we believe in God. No repentance necessary.

It won’t be easy to shovel away the dirt and loose sand before we hit the hard rock to build our house on but when the storms of life come, all that cleaning would have been worth it because our faith is strong enough to weather it out.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Actions speak louder than words’, and nothing can be closer to the truth. The gospel also tells us that our actions are the fruits we produce. Not our knowledge of the Word. We can easily memorise the whole Bible (okay, maybe not THAT easily but you get the picture) but Jesus calls us to live out what we learn and believe in.

What we do is a reflection of what we believe in. It is these actions which actually demonstrate our Christian faith and belief. Do we forgive when we are wronged? Do we offer food to the beggar on the street? Do we hold the door open for the person behind us? Do we do everything the Lord has asked us to do?

Sure, people may form a first impression of us based on what we say but it is our actions that leave the lasting impression. It’s not just enough to do but we need to do with a willing heart. That is the mark of genuine belief – that everything we do is based on our belief that is so deeply anchored in our hearts, it’s second nature. Even our attitude is a testament to our faith in God.

My brothers and sisters, a good heart will produce good thoughts, that brings about good deeds, and good deeds are meant to be shared with everyone. This is how we show the world the Word of God. Like the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the strength and willpower to scrub away our sinful nature, no matter how abrasive it is. Keep us strong dear Lord as we focus on filling our lives with good deeds while removing our harmful actions in our everyday lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times You have picked us back up and took back our repentant selves each and every time we fell into sin.

9 September, Friday – Forgive before judging

9 September – Memorial for St. Peter Claver, Priest

He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

– Universalis

_____________________

1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-27

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize. You must run in the same way, meaning to win. All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath that will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither. That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air. I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.

_____________________

Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told a parable to the disciples, ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.’

_____________________

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Raise your hand if you have ever been quick to pass judgement on someone without knowing the full extent of the situation. How about if you’ve delayed (or denied) forgiving someone because you firmly believe they’re in the wrong? Even if you know deep in your heart that you’re not a saint either.

It’s easy isn’t it? To criticize someone when they slip-up. Yet, how many of us are willing to look at our own shortcomings and criticise those instead? Theoretically, I would gladly say, “Of course, I am willing to take a look at myself and fix what’s wrong.” In practice however, I would never do it, or would do it extremely grudgingly and maybe once in 20 blue moons. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking along these lines.

I couldn’t make it to World Youth Day this year but someone I know posted on Facebook the words of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in the days leading up to it. “If we deny our wounds, we will inflict wounds on other people,” he told the crowd gathered in front of him.

If you think about it, this holds true for everyone. How can we even attempt to ‘fix’ someone else if we are broken ourselves? Yes, we as Christians are called to evangelise and shine the light towards God. But that in no way means hand them a book of instructions that we have yet to read and apply ourselves.

Jesus calls us to walk the talk in today’s Gospel and walk the talk, we must. So, let us try to practice forgiving each other, no matter how big or small the mistake. We may sometimes forget the wrong years down the road but the other person may never forget that they were never forgiven.

Remember, our journey towards God is not meant to be easy because changing is never easy. Lots of scraping and chiselling is needed to form a statue out of a block.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the strength to forgive and forget the same way You do for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people you’ve placed in our lives and the ways they have unintentionally hurt us. We know that this is Your way of teaching us to be more understanding and forgiving. Just as You are.

1 July, Friday – Salvation Does Not Belong Just to Us

1 July 

_____________________

Amos 8:4-6,9-12

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
That day – it is the Lord who speaks –
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I am going to turn your feasts into funerals,
all your singing into lamentation;
I will have your loins all in sackcloth,
your heads all shaved.
I will make it a mourning like the mourning for an only son,
as long as it lasts it will be like a day of bitterness.
See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
days when I will bring famine on the country,
a famine not of bread, a drought not of water,
but of hearing the word of the Lord.
They will stagger from sea to sea,
wander from north to east,
seeking the word of the Lord
and failing to find it.

_____________________

Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

_____________________

 “And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but the sick.”

I sometimes wonder why it is easy for us born into the Catholic faith to judge those of other denominations, especially those who belong to the newer churches. I’ve heard Catholics say that these brothers and sisters of ours just seem to be drifting from church group to church group. Not really sticking to one and always in search of that something – that special connection with God. In truth, this does not, in any way, make their form of worship wrong. In fact, I believe that God calls all of us to worship him differently.

In a way, we’re behaving like the Pharisees in today’s gospel. We believe we are the ‘elite’ who should have ‘exclusive access’ to Jesus, greeting and celebrating Him with all the necessary protocols in place. Now, I’m in no way putting down our rituals and sacraments. They are just as important as prayers, sacrifice and charity in Christian living; instead, I’m asking that we do not put down those who do not follow these customs.

We need to remember that Jesus came down from heaven to find and heal the lost and injured. To save them and to show them God’s love and mercy. Think about it — no one asks a doctor to make a house call if they’re well or are just in need of a check-up; it is always when we are so sick or left immobile that we call emergency and ask for an ambulance. Or call the clinic to ask a physician to come to our bedside.

Essentially, this is what today’s Gospel is trying to tell us. God made an appointment with His Son, Jesus, to treat and heal us. The tax collectors and sinners were the ones who needed ‘treatment.’; not the Pharisees who, seemingly, knew what already needed to be done in order to enter heaven.

After all, would those who believed that they were right wish to listen to someone tell them how to do what they thought they already knew what to do? No. Instead, those who are at a loss as to what to do, or have seen the error of their ways, are the ones who might actually listen and follow. Those whose spirits are craving to be back with God.

And it’s not just those who seem to be drifting from church to church or clinging on to ways we Catholics deem different from our own that need saving. We ourselves are just as lost, if not more, and are in just as much need of Jesus’ teachings, mercy and gift of salvation.

(Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray that we may never judge others who have heeded your call, no matter what their past may be. Help us see that no Christian is perfect, only forgiven and saved by your merciful love.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for sending your Son to save us from the shackles of sin. It was through his suffering and bloodshed that we were able to be reunited with you. Amen.

30 June, Thursday – Have Faith for the Forgiveness of Others

30 June 

Dear Readers, we apologise for the late despatch of today’s readings and reflections due to oversight to publish the post on my part. We wish you a blessed Thursday and weekend ahead. 

God bless,
Debbie

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

These holy men and women are also called the ‘Protomartyrs of Rome’. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.

Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3385

_____________________

Amos 7:10-17

Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel as follows. ‘Amos is plotting against you in the heart of the House of Israel; the country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying. For this is what he says, “Jeroboam is going to die by the sword, and Israel go into exile far from its country.”’ To Amos, Amaziah said, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” So listen to the word of the Lord.

‘You say:
‘“Do not prophesy against Israel,
utter no oracles against the House of Isaac.”
‘Very well, this is what the Lord says,

‘“Your wife will be forced to go on the streets,
your sons and daughters will fall by the sword,
your land be parcelled out by measuring line,
and you yourself die on unclean soil
and Israel will go into exile far distant from its own land.”’

_____________________

Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.

_____________________

Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.”

It is easy to pray for ourselves. Truth be told, I do it all the time. Almost every prayer of mine is dotted with, or centred around, what I want. Rarely, and I say this shamefully, do I remember to include what others have asked me to pray for. It is not done deliberately but out of forgetfulness. And it does make me feel bad. Especially if the other person is going through a very tough time and is seeking the power of communal prayer to help ease their burden or pain.

In today’s passage, Matthew says that Jesus sees the faith of the paralytic’s friends and bestows healing just because his friends believed in Jesus’ healing powers. Think about it, they travelled so far, carrying their poor friend on a stretcher and probably had to push and beg their way through an enormous crowd just to get to Jesus. Sure, the one who was healed would also have believed in Jesus; but, he wouldn’t have been able to get to Him if it hadn’t been for his friends.

This is also what praying together as a community can do for others. It makes our prayers more powerful, almost magnified, yet not being magnified in the sense that it gets louder and becomes practically like shouting in God’s ears. Instead, it is the fact that more than one person is asking for a certain miracle. It reflects our call to servitude. It is us asking God to free someone else of their troubles so that they can also experience the joys that come from living as one of God’s miracles.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for those who have asked us to pray for them. Let us not forget that we are all part of the Body of Christ and interconnected with each other.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for your merciful love and forgiveness. For the very fact that just having faith in You is enough to heal us from any affliction. Amen.

26 April, Tuesday – Challenges Are Part Of The Journey

26 April

_____________________

Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.

_____________________

John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’

_____________________

…”We all have to experience many hardships,” they said, “before we enter the kingdom of God.”

As I’m writing this, “Victor’s Crown”, a praise and worship song, is playing on Youtube and this particular verse seems so relevant to today’s first reading.

“You will wear the victor’s crown. You will overcome.”

To follow Jesus is to abandon what the world wants and to do what God desires. Jesus did tell us to pick up our cross and follow Him. To do so, is to go through a lot of challenges. Practically everything that God wants seems to be against what the world tells us we should ACTUALLY want.

Brothers and sisters, facing trials and tribulations are necessary to shape us. We cannot grow if we do not leave our comfort zones. No one became successful without having to jump over at least one obstacle. More often than not, there were a lot more than just ONE obstacle to overcome. Scientists failed many experiments before discovering an effective drug. Inventors created plenty of junk before designing the perfect product. Even a butterfly has to break open its cocoon to be able to fly and reveal its beauty.

However, just because things can get tough for us at times, it doesn’t mean God has left us to fend for ourselves. He never asks us to take on more than we can shoulder. Instead, He presents us with difficulties so that we may develop or sharpen a “skill” that would help us in our mission. For example, He makes us humble through taking away a source of income (something we considered very important) so that we can be compassionate towards those who don’t have it.

It may be hard to see or believe but when all hope seems lost, God is still present. He gives us His grace so that we can get through the rough patch in our lives. He wants us to turn to Him. Depend on Him. Know that He is God. The secret is in prayer.

He does this so that we can receive and enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. This is, without a doubt, the greatest reward of all. It is our “Victor’s Crown”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for the strength to overcome the challenges You present to us so that we may grow in faith and love for both You and humankind.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for Your unending grace that help us face the obstacles in this life. We also thank you for the comfort in the knowledge to know that You never abandon us in our times of need.

24 April, Sunday – Love Everyone

24 April – Fifth Sunday of Easter

_____________________

Acts 14:21-27

Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

  They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

  On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans.

_____________________

Apocalypse 21:1-5

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

  Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’

_____________________

John 13:31-33,34-35

When Judas had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another;
just as I have loved you,
you also must love one another.
By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples.’

_____________________

I give you another commandment; love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.

In the book of Exodus, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus gives his disciples this new (and final) commandment – Love one another just as I have loved you. This order from our REAL Commander-In-Chief sums up the original Ten Commandments, and is also (to me anyway) the toughest one to follow. To love someone seems easy, especially if it is someone whom we actually like. We willingly dish out respect, honour their wishes, and do almost anything to make and keep them happy. We’re also willing to forgive their mistakes at the slightest hint of an apology. Sometimes, no apology is even necessary.

When I saw this verse, the first thing that popped in my head was my vengefulness. I have real issues with people who have wronged me. Even if it was just once many years ago, that demon known as Vengeance will still come back to torment me. I have tried many times to let go, but trust me when I say it is not easy. Sometimes, I think I have finally let go but if they do just one tiny thing wrong, I will immediately be fuming on the inside.

This is where turning to the Bible has helped me a lot. It has revealed to me how Jesus truly lived. Not just what I learnt in Sunday School. Although those early Sunday morning lessons did help shape some of my Christianity, it cannot compare to what actually reading, and absorbing, the Word has done for my faith. Prayer has also been a source of soul-comfort.

In today’s Gospel, we are called to follow Jesus’ example and Jesus was all about love. He was sent to save the downtrodden, the hurt, the misguided, the marginalised, the hated. In a nutshell, the ones who are the most difficult to love. He performed so many miracles for them much to the chagrin of many of his disciples. Yet, He didn’t care because He knew that God created us to love each other, just as God loves us.

Brothers and sisters, let us emulate the same type of love that Jesus showed everyone more than 2,000 years ago. Let us be willing to treat everyone the same way we treat our own loved ones. Let us spread the same love God shows us to the rest of the world.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for the courage to give the same kind of love that Your son showed us. There will be many times when our egos get in the way of doing your works of love. When this happens, Lord, we beg for your forgiveness. Enable us, Lord, to show the world the same kind of forgiveness You give us. Amen.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give you thanks for the gift of the Word. The Word that heals and the Word that guides us as we take each and every step closer to you. Amen.