Thursday, January 27, 2022

Mentiri Spiritui Sancto | Lie to the Holy Spirit

"Then Peter said, "Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself." — Acts 5:3 (NLT) 


Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay


The Bible passage today reveals a terrifying lesson from a married couple named Ananias & Sapphira. They were among the believers who at that time “were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32). The believers listened to the apostles who with great power testified about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:33-34). People came and put money from the sales of their land or homes voluntarily at the Apostles’ feet. They submit to God and His work.

When we believe in Jesus, He cares not only of our afterlife future but also the life we live on right now. He provides. On the other hand, when we really believe in Jesus, we become generous with our possessions. It doesn’t dominate our lives anymore, but God and His will. Nevertheless, we must question it in our hearts, how serious was Ananias & Sapphira’s sin that God had to put them to death.

It was weird that when everyone was so sincere and devoted to God, these two were not. I am not a theology expert to explain. Meanwhile I have been contemplating on a verse that Jesus once said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt 6:24). Based on this reference, next might be the reasons why “they agreed to cheat and keep some of the money for themselves” (v.2, CEV) which ended their lives.

First, they loved it more than God. It had become their idol. To be more specific as in Matthew 6:24, it was the opposite of love, they hated God. Ananias and Sapphira might want to be recognized as one of the generous rich people who gave their possessions up for others. They did it for themselves not for God. Maybe they were struggling before selling it even holding grudge that they had to do it to be able to be considered good. Actually, they didn’t have to sell it. As Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (v.4, NLT). 

Second, they despised God. The Oxford dictionary explains the word ‘despise’: to dislike and have no respect for someone or something. The word of God and the preaching of the Apostles about the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus Christ for saving themselves meant nothing to them. They did not even respect the Holy Spirit who was at work so greatly during this early church development. That’s why lying in front of these great Apostles of God was not a problem to them. Miracles and wonders were made, but they apparently were not in awe. They were not afraid of God’s power. On the contrary, a true follower of Christ will have true sadness when disappointing God. Our friend Fr. Fransiskus Diaz told us once about godly sorrow - that is when we feel so sorry for our behavior towards God. 

No one noticed the hypocrisy of this couple. They looked religiously decent. But Peter who was filled with the Holy Spirit knew. It's hard but true. That not every one at Church is a real Christian. That's why Jesus gave a parable about the weeds and wheat in the same field (Matt 13:24-30). The farmer (Jesus) plants wheat but the enemy (the Devil) sows the seeds of weeds among the wheat. In his early church God needs to give an example to all, of what they have to be aware of. The death of the two seized the whole church with fear (v.10). God did not allow Satan's work to succeed at His church. 

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is an example of a manipulative behavior towards the Holy Spirit, marked by hypocrisy and insincerity. It was Satan who played at the backside. They used God for their own purpose while they submitted to Satan’s purpose. Peter said to him, "Ananias, why did you let Satan take control of you and make you lie to the Holy Spirit by keeping part of the money you received for the property? (v.3, GNT)

Let’s be careful with our motivation. Submit to God, not to anything else. May God help us all.


 Reflection on Acts 5:1-11 by Desire Litaay 
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Omnia Communia | Share Everything

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." —Acts 4:32(NIV)


Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels
 

 

The early believers lived together. They lived as one heart, one mind, and one soul in service, fellowship, prayers and witnessing. Their oneness makes them willing to sacrifice for their brothers and sisters. They support each other not only spiritually but also materially. Everyone's property belongs together and no one is in need.

It is interesting that "no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own." Now we live in a culture where people value privacy very much. Many people don't want to be disturbed because they are having their quality time. "This is my time to watch movie, this is my time for bla..bla.." etc. Meanwhile, many people are also proud of their ownership: "This is my life,… this is mine, this is the result of my hard work" Often we see on social media many people showing off their possessions. We see them as successful because we are used to measure things by "what people get, receive or have." Yet everything becomes invalid after death. Living only to hunt and defend property will be in vain after death. Why don't we become human beings who measure everything by "what can I give or share?"

Reading the way of life of the early church makes us realize that we don't have to feel a loss about giving up or share what we have in order to become God's disciples. Driven by the love of Christ, the early church was willing to sell its possessions to be presented for the continuation of God's work, one of which was diakonia (34-35). Everything we have is a gift from God. We have no right to claim everything is ours before God, the Owner of Everything. Service and togetherness to be a disciple of God is a special thing. Let's imitate the way of life of the early church who felt worthy to sacrifice everything they had for the sake of togetherness and mission of the Church.

 


Reflection on Acts 4:32-36 by Fransiskus Diaz, SVD.

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Fiducia | Boldness

"And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word... After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." — Acts 4:29&31 


Photo by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash



Reflecting on the historical accounts by St. Luke, on the Acts of the Apostles, I think it's more appropriate to be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4-5 & 8 recorded previously:
 
"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, '...you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.'"

As in the days of the early Apostles, it was the power of the Holy Spirit working through each of the apostles that they were able to face intense persecutions, including imprisonments, floggings and martyrdom. For many the Gospel was boldly preached in Jerusalem, in all Judea, Samaria and even the far reaches of the earth along the Roman roads which criss-crossed the powerful Roman empire that straddled continents.

Since the time after Christ's first Coming, Death & Resurrection, the Holy Spirit has fanned the flames of evangelism across continents and eventually brought about the Christianisation in many parts of the European continent. Subsequently, resulted in the Christianisation of ex-European colonies, countries like the Philippines, where Roman Catholicism is a major religion or even small countries like Singapore where selfless missionaries left the comforts of homes and loved ones to board ocean-going ships that landed them onto our shores and established the first Catholic outpost 200 years ago. And so as the ministers and missionaries of other Christian denominations such as the Anglicans, Methodists and countless others.

I truly believe that the current storm of Covid-19 has been permitted by God to allow His Bride on earth, ie, His sons and daughters-in-Christ, to rise up and show a hurting world that salvation can only be found in One Name, ie. Jesus Christ, not in the vaccines nor technological advancements. In fact as Augustine had written, "Our heart is restless until it rests in you." St. Augustine's life exemplified the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as he had spent the early years of his life as an atheist with numerous flings, and broke the heart of his Christian mother until the Spirit of God convicted his heart through a formidable bishop St Ambrose. He finally turned away from sinful living and devoted himself wholeheartedly into a religious life and became one of the greatest theologian in church history, and in AD395 became the bishop of Hippo.

Each of us, no matter how far or distant we may think we are from God, has the power to rise above our circumstances and become bold witnesses of His Grace, with the help of the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete.

I will close with this Worship Song of Love to the Holy Spirit – Come Holy Spirit

Verse 1
Come Holy Spirit, fall on me now
I need your anointing, come in Your power
I love You Holy Spirit
You captivated my soul
and everyday I grow to love You more

Chorus
I'm reaching for Your heart
You hold my life in Your hand
Drawing me closer to You
I feel Your power renewed

Nothing compares to this place
Where I can see You face to face
I worship You in spirit and in truth

Ending
I worship You in spirit and in truth (3x)




Reflection on Acts 4:23-31 by Chris Tan 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Salvos fieri | Power to Save

"Only Jesus has the power to save" - Acts 4:12 (CEV). 


Every day we focus on many things, people, duties, situations, etc. We are usually busy and think that everything is very important. We get lost in words, actions, circumstances. We even cannot find peace and work in a hurry. We become like a man who could not walk by himself (v. 9). So he needed the healing process. Luckily he met with the Apostles Peter and John who told him about Jesus Christ.

Do we have such friends who do the same? Or are we such people who share with others the Good News about our Saviour?

He is the One. He is the stone (v. 11). He is the foundation of our lives. We can call his holy name and get cured by Jesus. There are many things and situations that we cannot change on our own. Yet, everything and everyone can change by his divine power.

The Gospel about Jesus from Nazareth spread throughout centuries. No one can deny the powerful miracles which happened. But many people try to keep this message from spreading. For that reason, we as Christians have to preach the Good News. Especially nowadays we cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard (v. 20). We do not want to give up. We are to praise Jesus and to tell others everything about his truth. 

Let us pray together and meditate on the Word of God. May the Holy Spirit fulfill us with the divine strength and wisdom to overcome all the difficulties. In this way, we will rejoice and also help our brothers and sisters to trust in the power of Jesus' name. Amen.


 Reflection on Acts 4:1-24 by Józef Trzebuniak SVD.
 

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, January 17, 2022

Respice | Pay Attention

"And he gave them his attention..." —Acts 3:5 (NASB) 






The man in Acts 3 was lame from birth and he begged for money every day. But actually not only him. Human beings have been striving for money for ages. Generally money has become a god. Something that we think will keep us survive.  

When Peter and John noticed this man begging for money, the scripture says they looked at him intently (with all attention) and said, “Look at us!” (v.4, NASB). So the beggar fixed his attention on them (v.5). Often, a beggar doesn’t care who gives the alms. Because he focuses on the money, not the giver. That moment, they wanted to tell him about what they had which was more valuable than money. But he needs to pay attention. Because it is about Jesus Christ and His power. It is a very precious thing. And his response is crucial.

The rest was magical. He was cured in the name of Jesus Christ. He didn’t get money at that time, but he received The Lord Jesus who did the miracle in his heart. As Jesus once said to a blind man, “your faith has healed you” (Mark 10:52). The once-a-lame-man followed the apostles into the temple courts, jumping and walking, praising God (v.8).  He didn’t go and find his own way after receiving the miracle. The joy it brought was so much more than he could express when receiving money. He received an assurance of his life.

The thing about money is, we can never rest our lives on it. As we have more, there are always unexpected needs require this saving. So it decreases and we get worried. On the other hand, when we manage to keep it safely, it will never be able to guarantee a peaceful happy life. I have seen many people died with lots of savings in their bank accounts. Some were even young and in very healthy conditions. My pastor once said, “It is not lots of water and exercises that give you a long life”. It’s not in our power.

We need to pay attention and notice what Jesus does in our lives. Otherwise we would think that everything happens is a coincidence and lose the joy it brings when Jesus blesses us.

As Jesus enters your life, miracles happen. Did you notice? Did you pay attention?




 Reflection on Acts 3:1-10 by Desire Litaay
 
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Unianimiter | Togetherness

"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people..." —Acts 2:46-47 (NASB) 


Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash



Reflecting on the beautiful historical accounts by St. Luke, a trained physician, showing the generosity of the early believers who shared all they have, and there was no one in need. A drastic contrast to the rich modern churches in our affluent societies, where busy church goers often walk past the homeless along the sidewalks, turning a blind eye or averting their eyes to ignore what their hearts were pleading with them, ie, to reach out in love to the poor and lonely. It reminded me that my possessions are entrusted to me as a good steward of God's gifts in my life to those who are vulnerable and displaced because of the economic upheavals caused by the covid-19 pandemic. Many are suffering presently from countless losses, whether in jobs, in health or loss of loved ones to the dreaded virus.

How can I as part of Christ's Body on earth use my possessions to bless those around me? How can I be Jesus' mouthpiece to a hurting world? How can I reduce my personal expenditure so that I can be more charitable with my income? I remember growing up in a crowded 1-room rental flat with little possessions, there were 6 of us (including 2 adults) packed into a space less than 36 sq m. However, I retain fond memories of those years, because neighbours were very friendly with one another, and doors were always opened to us children to play and hang out with the neighbours' kids. The whole neighbourhood was our playground.

I contrast those sweet memories with more recent ones where I lived in a 5-room flat, and my immediate neighbours would close their doors the moment they heard us at our front doors. It seemed to me that as Singapore made strides in economic progress, with bigger disposable incomes and bigger living spaces, our hearts have become narrower where many feel alienated and dis-connected within their own neighbourhoods. I do miss the simpler days from my childhood, where mobile phones nor internet existed but people made efforts to connect with one another, be it in sharing of living spaces, food or even helping to look out for those who were in a financial hardships.

Maybe this humanitarian crisis allowed by the Almighty God to pass through our lives in this historical moment as a wake-up call to humanity, to view each other as one common human race, that we need all the more to look out for the least and the lost among us. Because they too are someone's grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister. When a part of this God-given family is hurting, the family hurts too.

May we individually as a people of God, open our hearts and lives to those who have fallen through the cracks in life and extend a hand in compassion and love to those who have fallen behind. This is how collectively; we will emerge stronger and wiser as one human race through this humanitarian crisis…
I will close with this poem: 

When the Storm Passes – by Alexis Valdés
When the storm passes
and the roads are tamed,
and we are the survivors
of a collective shipwreck.

With a weeping heart
and a blessed destiny
we will feel happy
just for being alive.

And we will hug
the first stranger
and praise the luck
of not having lost a friend.

And then we'll remember
everything we lost
And all at once we will learn
all we had not learned before

We will no longer be envious
because we have all suffered
We will no longer be lazy
And will be more compassionate

What belongs to all will be worth more
than that never achieved
We will be more generous
and much more committed 

We will understand how fragile
it means to be alive.
We will sweat empathy
for who is and who has left.

We will miss the old man
asking for a dollar in the market
we didn't know his name
although he was next to us

And perhaps the poor old man
was your God in disguise.
You never asked for his name
because you were in a hurry.

And everything will be a miracle
And everything will be legacy.
And life will be respected,
the life we have won.

When the storm passes
I ask God, full of sadness
to return us to be better
as he had dreamed we would be.

Translation of Alexis Valdés  poem "Esperanza" (Hope) written in Spanish in March 2020 about the humanitarian crisis brought by the Coronavirus and the "hope" of how we will feel when the "Storm Passes" ("Cuando pase la tormenta"  -  Esperanza).

(Alexis Valdés is a Cuban composer, singer, musician and poet residing in Miami. Translated by CP.)






Reflection on Acts 2:41-47 by Chris Tan

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Conpuncti Corde| Cut to the Heart

"When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'" — Acts 2:37

 

 

 

Through the preaching of God's Word by Peter, people realized that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of God and they had crucified him. The word of God pierced their hearts, opened them up, and showed them the dark reality of what was going on inside themselves. They really saw who Jesus was, they saw who they were, and they saw how they had turned away from God. They had to feel fear and gross.

Seeing how evil they were, they said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Peter told them to repent. They must turn back, they must repent. The first requirement to become a Christian is to have the courage to repent and open oneself to the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads people to realize about themselves and see who they are before God. "When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8, NIV).  I believe, the Holy Spirit accompanied Peter in his preaching so that people were moved and saw their sinful selves. Peter convinced them of their sin for crucifying Jesus who was Lord. This made them sad. Grief over sin is the beginning of a repentance.

They asked, "What should we do?". This is a reaction that must exist when a person is aware of his sins. He must want to do something to end that sin! Have you ever experienced grief caused by your sin? What's your reaction after being aware of your sin?  Let us follow the Spirit as he uses the Word to expose and convict us of our sin, and call us to turn to Christ.

 

 

Reflection on Acts 2:37-41 by Fr. Fransiskus Diaz, SVD.

(Listen to the Podcast here)


Monday, January 10, 2022

Promissio| Promise

“Jesus was given the Holy Spirit, just as the Father had promised... [He] has given the Spirit to us" — Acts 2:33.





Last Sunday on the 9th of January we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord. From this celebration which was described in the Gospel of Luke (3:21-22), we learn a lot for ourselves.

Jesus was able to perform many miracles because he was united with the Holy Spirit and the Father. He felt the strength and love of the Father during his mission on the earth. We as Christians also can make great things if we are in communion with the Holy Trinity. Moreover, all the people can receive such spiritual gifts because God the Father is omnipotent.

What kind of gifts are they? Apostle Paul reminds three of them: the gift of prophecy for sons and daughters, visions for young men, and dreams for old men.

At the beginning of the New Year, we would like to experience these supernatural gifts. Since there are so many doubts, anxieties, problems which we are to solve in this year. We know that sometimes miracles are necessary. Otherwise, we cannot manage everything.

The Word of God helps us to see these miracles in the sky above and on the earth below. It means in the spiritual and material world. Both in our soul and in our body. The Lord tells about the difficulties, darkness, and even blood which we must survive. But afterward, the wonderful day of the Lord will appear. That is the Good News.

My dear friends, sisters, and brothers in Christ Jesus, we can be saved if only we will ask our Lord for his mercy and grace. Let us work miracles, wonders, and signs in the name of Jesus. He is always near us and in our hearts. So we are to rejoice and to live in hope during the whole New Year 2022.


Reflection of Acts 2:14-36 by Fr. Józef Trzebuniak SVD.

(Listen to the Podcast here).


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Connumeratus | Part of us

“...concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. In the past he was included in our number and took part in this ministry." — Acts 1:16-17






From today’s reading (Acts 1:15-26), I chose verse 16 and 17, which tell us about betrayal. Speaking of betrayal, we are invited to return to the past. The word “in the past” in verse 17, invites us to remember some memories when we were still with families, friends or relatives in the past. As humans, we have met a lot of people since we were kids. Some of them were good people but some were bad who sometimes only took advantage of friendship and togetherness. The betrayal experienced by Jesus tells how fragile our status as human beings is. Sometimes we easily fall, to the point of sacrificing other people who have taken part in our lives.

When we ourselves are betrayed, then as humans we will definitely feel a deep seated wound. At those moments, indeed we are not alone because Jesus had already experienced a heinous betrayal by his own disciple, Judas. Jesus accepted his betrayal with an open heart even though he probably felt deeply hurt when Judas kissed Him only to hand Him over to the executioners. Without saying a word, Jesus surrendered and gave himself wholeheartedly without trying to defend himself even though He was completely innocent. Because of Jesus' example, we are expected to be able to understand the situation of those who betray us and even we are asked to be able to forgive sins and mistakes that have been made. It is very hard but if with broken hearts we surrender everything sincerely to God, surely He will comfort us in time and will give recompense to those who hurt us in God’s own way. 

So in the course of time, if we are strong in facing difficult times, troubles and trials, we will be able to reminisce those stories with a smile of victory because those who planned something evil against us have found the answer from God.


Reflection on Acts 1:15-26 by Sr. Yanti Purnawati SFSC
(Listen to the Podcast here)