20 May, Thursday — God’s Love For Us

May 20 – Memorial for St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest

St. Bernadine (1381-1444) was a Friar Minor, a priest, an itinerant preacher, and a theological writer. His preaching skills were so great and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, public relations, etc.

Bernadine’s charismatic preaching filled the piazze of Italian cities. Thousands of listeners flocked to hear him and to participate in dramatic rituals, which included collective weeping, bonfires of vanities, and exorcisms. He was a renowned peacemaker, in the Franciscan tradition, who tried to calm feuding clans and factions in the turbulent political world of the Renaissance. His preaching visits would often culminate in mass reconciliations, as listeners were persuaded to exchange the bacio di pace, or kiss of peace.

Bernadine was sensitive to the demands of secular life, and tried to negotiate between Christian ethics and a conflicting code of honour that stressed retaining face in a public world. He argued that the catalyst of civil discord in the urban setting was malicious gossip, which led to insults, and, too often, vendetta by aggressive males. His surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience.

– Patron Saint Index

Acts 22:30,23:6-11
Jn 17:20-26

“…so that the love with which you loved me may be in them…”

To this day, I can vividly recall the moment when I realised that God loved me unconditionally, despite my sins, my flaws, my (then) insecurities, fears and doubts. It was May 2011, when I attended Conversion Experience Retreat #24 and on the first night, I experienced His warmth in an adoration session before the Blessed Sacrament — my first ever. Two days later (back then, the retreat was held over 4 days), I experienced God’s immense love during my Sacrament of Reconciliation. There I was, on my knees, sobbing away and holding on to the legs of my confessor.

Wave after wave of love seemed to flood through me as He caressed my head and kept stroking it, assuring me of His UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR ME. This is the exact same love that God showered upon Jesus, Mary, the apostles, the martyrs…I don’t know about y’all but that’s some truly vaunted company. While I used to love being seen partying with celebrities, models, and the like, this took ‘being with the ‘IT crowd’ to a whole other level. Never in my life could I have imagined that I, a sinner, would be loved with the same intensity as Christ — He who gave up His life for us and rose again.

And so, for the past ten years, I have been on a rocky journey of self-awareness. It has had its ups and downs but as I look back, I can see clearly the periods when His love for me sustained me through some of the rough times. In fact, looking back at the last decade, I have discerned that even at my lowest points, I have been held up higher than in the previous 45 years — what I like to term my ‘desert years’. It can only be because God’s love was sustaining me, supporting me and providing me with the foundation with which to love, care for and empathise with others around me.

For example, my old self would certainly not be devoting an ounce of energy, let alone time, to music in the way I am doing now. Being part of the music ministry that used to support the retreat (there has not been a CER since COVID-19 hit us), and now as part of the Core team, has opened my eyes, ears and yes, my heart, to brothers and sisters who yearn to worship and listen to His Word. With Singapore now dealing with an apparent rise in cases, I am not sure when we can all gather again as a congregation and sing as one. All we have to sustain us is His great love for us. And the faith that He continues to love us like no other — the same way He loved Jesus and His flock.

Brothers and sisters, there is no rational approach to understanding the capacity and immensity of God’s love for us. We can attend all manner of retreats, seminars and sharing sessions to hear testimony from others. But until we ourselves experience it in our very hearts and in our very being, we can only wish it upon others…        

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for God’s love to flood the hearts of all those who are suffering, and who are searching for answers. Whatever afflicts them, may God be with each and every one of His sons and daughters today. And may He grace them with a love that knows no boundaries.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord, for the love you shower us with. A love that knows no boundaries, and that is no different from the love you have for those who gave up everything to follow you.

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