Tag Archives: renewal

19 May, Sunday – We are Renewed

19 May 2019

________________

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.’
__________________________
Now I am making the whole of creation new

One of my favorites quotes is from G.K. Chesterton: “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.”

I think after we’ve walked away from home, we might find that the place has become ‘new’, and discover that it was what we have been looking for all this time.

How is that connected to today’s reflection? Well, thinking of how new the creation would be, I thought of whether ‘new’ means having an overhaul, like the old will no longer be there. Or will it be more of a renewal?

Currently, I am in a journey towards discovering myself – who am I that God made me to be? I was hoping to uncover something different. The more I searched for myself, I realized that I kept on discovering just me – the ‘me’ that I’ve known all along but that was covered with wounds, and sins. It’s like looking for something that has always been in front of your eyes.

It made me then think of how the whole of creation would be made new. Because from the beginning of time, God has made us to be at peace and communion with him, and it was because of original sin that we are suffering from our wounded nature, perhaps God will finally remove the effects of the original sin in us. We become new, but not really new. It’s like finally coming home to the place we were once in.

What does it mean for our lives? I think it will be different for different people. I think some of us who feel that we need to discover ourselves should be delighted that we are discovering ourself – the one who has been with us all along – we don’t have to look too far. Maybe, for those of us who are struggling with sin, we can rest assured that we were created good, and that being in sin is our unnatural state – we don’t have to be so difficult with ourselves.

I think that to all of us who are struggling to find a new self, I believe that the ‘self’ God made us to be is already very good. God never abandoned the old: As St Augustine said “New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” Maybe this is how we are made to be a new creation.

It is indeed a great paradox! Just like our faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, You who make everything new, please help me allow you to transform me, so that I will finally find the me that was hidden.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for loving all of me, even if I am yet to be renewed.

17 March, Sunday – New Romance

17 March 2019

______________

Genesis 15:5-12,17-18

Taking Abram outside, the Lord said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can.’ ‘Such will be your descendants,’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

  ‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.

  When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,

from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River.’

______________

Philippians 3:17-4:1

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

  So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.

______________

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

______________

… do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. 

How often do we assume that we already know someone very well just because we have known them for long? As the saying goes, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Abraham was already 99 years old when God promised him a child and descendants so many that they would outnumber the stars in the sky. As faithful a man of God that Abraham was, I believe he experienced seasons of doubt, moments of questions. Even curiosity, at the far-out promises God was fond of making. I suppose that is why he could not help but ask, “‘My Lord, how am I to know that I shall inherit [this land]?’

God was not offended. Instead, he generously offered Abram a visible sign of his covenant in spectacularly consuming his burnt offerings. Likewise in the gospel passage today, God presented Peter, John, and James with the Transfiguration of Jesus in order that they might commit this spectacular event to long-term memory, that Jesus was the Messiah and that they should obey him. We often label these as ‘mountain-top experiences’ precisely because God plucks us out from the banality of our daily business and reveals a magnificent and eternal truth to us – that His promises are true and His Word is life.

From my personal experiences, I can tell you that even these ‘mountain-top experiences’ can become old. We can be desensitised to such an amazing ‘spiritual display’ if we presume to know that God would speak to us in the same way every time.

I made a 3-day personal silent retreat recently. Although I had a routine of making this a yearly affair, I had not done one in past the two years. However, I had clear memories of how past retreats had been for me, and subconsciously expected to experience a similarly intimate, connected, and restful time. I had expected God to re-create my spiritual encounters with inspiring visions and impart messages to enlighten me on my next steps in life. Reality turned out far from history.

While I spent many hours praying and resting at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament, I received little in the way of inspiring visions and images which used to energise me. I was frustrated and disappointed. I thought: Wow, it sure looks like the early days of courtship with God is over, and we’ve moved on to the boring ‘married life’ stage of ‘no surprises’ and ‘no anniversary celebrations’. Haha!

It was only at my final morning before leaving the retreat house, that I realised a better truth. God did speak to me – He was present with me throughout my retreat in a completely different way. It was I who was out of sync with my new normal of spiritual and mental state. So much had changed in my life over the past few years! I got married, I became a mother, and I am now also a caregiver to my husband. God knew what I needed! He gave me REST – lots and lots of it. I didn’t get powerful visions because I didn’t need those. But I sure slept and napped with abandon like a wee newborn – no chores, child, or caregiving that demanded my energy and attention. I was able to SIT, GAZE, SING at the feet of Jesus. Just me and my Lord in the chapel.

God was showing me that ‘boring’ can also be beautiful. And this time, I experienced God romancing me in a completely new way. He says: I am right there in the eye of your storm; I am right there cradling you in your ‘Snooze’ button; I am always with you. Stay with me and I will show you.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray for all who feel tepid in their relationship with our Heavenly Father. Trust that He is wooing you, trust that He is the one waiting for your unrequited love. Let your guard down, let Him in.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for always romancing me in new ways, for winning me back to yourself, for never letting me go. 

12 September, Wednesday – The Sermon On The Plain

12 September – Holy Name of Mary

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters. The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

1 Corinthians 7:25-31

About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.

Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.

_____________________

Luke 6:20-26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

_____________________

“For the world in its present form is passing away”

Imagine the setting – Jesus has been praying all night. At the crack of dawn, he stirs. His disciples are still as they watch him. He chooses twelve men from amongst them, men he thinks will take his new church forward, who will do his father’s work. He smiles, tired but satisfied. He comes slowly down the hill. His disciples follow tentatively behind. Everyone is hushed, overwhelmed by their thoughts. The rays of sunlight illuminate the thirteen men as they come into sight. Flushed from exhilaration, overcome by emotion, awed by the nearness of Christ, the apostles glow from within.

Standing on the plain that morning watching the whole scene play out, the significance of that visual would not have been lost on the crowd gathered there. They would have remembered the old Hebrew stories of another saviour generations before, one who had liberated his people from slavery, who went up the mountain to bring down God’s commandments. Here, as Jesus addressed the throng, that sense of a new order would not have been lost on them. This was God’s plan for humanity, a plan to save them from their sins, a plan to set them free. Jesus was the new Messiah.

“The world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31), cries Paul. This is the fundamental message of the Sermon On The Plain, a message of rebirth and renewal. Through Christ, the old order would give way to the new. Jesus himself had proclaimed as such just a few verses before, in the parable of the ‘old and new’ – “No one tears a piece from a new coat to put it on an old one… no one puts new wine into old wineskins… new wine must be put in fresh skins” (Luke 5: 36-38). This message of renewal is all the more relevant now as our Church struggles to purify itself. There will be some of us whose faith will be shaken, some who will give up and fall away, some who will go back to their old ways. In this time of chaos, when you can’t tell the difference between what’s real or false, or who God’s prophets are, go back to the one thing that is unshakeable – the Word of God. Read the Bible, meditate on its truths. Read them to your children, to your families, to all those close to you. Hold on to it, pray on it. It will be your anchor and your filter. Its message will cut through the noise. In every age, Christ has been the source of all renewal. He will not fail us now if we call to him and hold on to him. Like the throng gathered on the plain that morning, remember that you too have been called, you too are blessed, and you are to rejoice when you are denounced for holding on to Christ.

“Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven!”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the endurance and spiritual maturity to be able to withstand this time of chaos in our Church. We pray that God helps us to discern His true prophets.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who silently toil for the good of God’s house, who live their faith on the understanding that God’s is the only opinion that matters.

5 June, Sunday – Conversions and Resurrections

5 June 

_____________________

1 Kings 17:17-24

The son of the mistress of the house fell sick; his illness was so severe that in the end he had no breath left in him. And the woman said to Elijah, ‘What quarrel have you with me, man of God? Have you come here to bring my sins home to me and to kill my son?’ ‘Give me your son’ he said, and taking him from her lap, carried him to the upper room where he was staying and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, do you mean to bring grief to the widow who is looking after me by killing her son?’ He stretched himself on the child three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, may the soul of this child, I beg you, come into him again!’ The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah and the soul of the child returned to him again and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. ‘Look,’ Elijah said ‘your son is alive.’ And the woman replied, ‘Now I know you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth itself.’

_____________________

Galatians 1:11-1

The Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.
Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord.

_____________________

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

_____________________

“Young man, I tell you arise!”

I love a good comeback story! Who doesn’t see in himself the hero of his own tragicomedy? The failed, flawed individual ever optimistic, always on the verge of a comeback. We want to succeed. To claim greatness.  We want to recognize that same yearning and struggle in someone else. So with indefatigable optimism, we cheer him and ourselves on.

Scripture is filled with comeback stories. One of its brightest has to be Paul. Paul, the Christian slayer, the zealot Jew. Filled with high-minded wrath and fury, Paul is struck down on the road to Damascus.  He loses his sight, but learns to see with his heart. Conversion is a lot like resurrection. Paul does a complete about-face after meeting Jesus, and switches sides.  Proving that you can be at once, a hero and a traitor.  Be vilified by your old friends, and embraced by your new ones. With Christ, one really can lose one’s life and gain another.

And that’s the visual in today’s readings – the parallel between resurrection and conversion. “Young man, I tell you arise!”, says Jesus to the dead man. “Let the life breath return to the body of this child”, says Elijah to the dead boy. Modern day resurrections lack the drama of the stories in scripture, but they’re no less meaningful. Change happens, in incremental steps perhaps, but it does happen. Living in Christ, we’re more aware, more mindful of things that would never have occurred to us before. We no longer see with just our eyes, but through the prism of hearts renewed.  Hearts lifted up by his Hand.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who have taken the sacraments of baptism and confirmation this Easter, that their journeys continue with courage and grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who work to help new Christians find their faith. Taking the first step is hard, staying on the path is even harder. We give thanks for all those who help us to keep to the narrow road.