17 September, Tuesday – The devil loves attention … don’t give him that satisfaction

Sep 17 – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

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1 Timothy 3:1-13

Here is a saying that you can rely on: To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble wok. That is why the president must have an impeccable character. He must not have been married more than once, and he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable. He must not be a lover of money. He must be a man who manages his own family well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved: how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God? He should not be a new convert, in case pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned. It is also necessary that people outside the Church should speak well of him, so that he never gets a bad reputation and falls into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons must be respectable men whose word can be trusted, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money. They must be conscientious believers in the mystery of the faith. They are to be examined first, and only admitted to serve as deacons if there is nothing against them. In the same way, the women must be respectable, not gossips but sober and quite reliable. Deacons must not have been married more than once, and must be men who manage their children and families well. Those of them who carry out their duties well as deacons will earn a high standing for themselves and be rewarded with great assurance in their work for the faith in Christ Jesus.

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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.

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Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience 

Archbishop William once shared at a retreat, that of all the 7 deadly sins, the greatest is pride, followed very closely by vanity; that all of humanity succumbs to these sins and many a good soul has been lost by their deadly effects. Surprising? Insightful? Not really. We have only to consider Lucifer to know that these were precisely the two great sins and temptations that got him (and one third of the angels) thrown out from heaven. Consider seriously, how pervasive these temptations are and how real they are within our own spiritual struggles. Allow me, in this sharing, to dwell on how these temptations can also specifically undermine the very basis and foundations of our worship of God, especially during the Eucharistic celebration.

Max Lucado once said, “seek not the adulation of men but the applause of heaven”. My theme and sharing today is drawn from the first reading, which paints the virtues and qualities needed in Catholic leadership and in the context of ministering to the community and in Catholic worship. God demands perfection from us. He knows he’s not going to get it but He nevertheless demands it of us. However, I believe the perfection he seeks for us is not in doing things perfectly and faultlessly, but rather, from the standpoint of absolute authenticity and sincerity when we worship and serve Him. God seeks perfection not in terms of what we do but why we do it. That this must stem only from one motive alone – our sincere and authentic love for Him and through that love, our love and service for others. Many, if not almost all of us will fall short of this perfection but heaven is a place where only Saints are worthy to be in. And only the Saints in heaven are perfect, as God is perfect.

Before I dwell more on the issue of authenticity of service, especially in Eucharistic celebration, allow me to say that whilst I will probably be quite judgmental in my comments and observations, I do not absolve myself of guilt in the behaviors I will be commenting on. I was, and still am, guilty of some of them. Pride and vanity tempt all of us. I hold to the view that at Holy Mass, there is only one person that must to be glorified and worshipped – God.  But yet, I can’t deny that I do find some who serve during Mass competing with God for attention and glory. Those who seem to have the notion that Mass is a stage where they get to perform and showcase their talents, or their ‘beauty’ or their intelligence or their wealth or their ‘authority’ or their ‘power’. Lectors and cantors, Altar Servers, Choir Masters, Eucharistic Ministers, Wardens, at times even the Priests themselves – the way they sometimes go about doing what they do, the way they dress, they way they are made up, the way they exercise their authority when giving Communion or directing movement in Church, they seem to  be bringing attention and glory to themselves.  It seems to be very much about them and not about creating the circumstances and atmosphere that can help all to come to an authentic encounter with God and community as one body of Christ, which is what the Eucharistic Celebration is intended to be. Yes, undoubtedly, our eyes and heart should be fixed on God and not on the people around us. Allowing ourselves to be distracted, agitated and frustrated is very much indicative of our own imperfections and weakness. Nevertheless, when we serve, we should all consciously try to bring less of ourselves to glory during Mass and allow God this privilege instead.

My sharing is titled, “The devil loves attention” … perhaps in small, insidious ways, by tempting us who serve in Liturgical ministries, to focus attention on ourselves during the Eucharistic Celebration, the devil gets to achieve exactly the effect of taking attention and glory away from God, which is the purpose and summit of our faith – the Eucharistic worship, communion and adoration of God’s love for us and in the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son, for us. The devil, the master deceiver, is far more subtle and insidious than simply expecting attention to be given to him. Instead, he prefers that we give attention to ourselves. He whispers ever so subtly into our ears… “go ahead, grab your moment of glory, you deserve that for all the hard work and sacrifice you have put into serving the Church all these years – show the people how beautiful your voice is, how expensive that suit you are wearing, how important that role you are serving at the Altar,  how eloquent the way you speak, how honorable the seat that has been reserved for you.

The devil loves attention…but do not give him the satisfaction. Be conscious of how he attacks us at our weakest — our pride and vanity, in order to deny the graces that God wants to give us. Battle him by constantly questioning and checking our own authenticity and sincerity in service to God and the Church, especially during the Eucharistic Celebration.

If you listen carefully, in the distance, you may be able to hear the sound of applause for you. But it’s not very distinct… can’t quite make out if the applause is coming from the Saints in heaven or from the poor souls in the other place. Can you?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Save us from the desire of being esteemed or extoled or honored or that others may be loved more than ourselves. Save those of us who have the privilege of serving in Ministry from the sin of arrogance and vain-glory. Give us, instead, a true spirit of humility to know it is You whom we serve and the authenticity to serve you humbly and with great love for You.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for all whom you have blessed Holy Mother Church, who serve with sincere hearts and authentic love for You and Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Thank you for the inspiration they bring and for the way by their example, to experience Your true presence and unfailing love.

 

16 September, Monday – True disciples know and follow the lordship of Christ

Sep 16 – Memorial for Sts. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr; and Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr

Cornelius (d. 253) was elected after a year-and-a-half period during which persecutions were so bad that papal ascension was a quick death sentence. He worked to maintain unity in a time of schism and apostasy. He called a synod of bishops to confirm him as rightful pontiff, as opposed to the anti-pope Novatian. Cornelius was eventually exiled by Roman authorities to punish Christians in general, who were said to have provoked the gods to send plague against Rome.

Cyprian (190-258) was baptised when he was 56. By the time he was bishop, he had been a Christian for only 3 years! When the Roman emperor Decius persecuted Christians, Cyprian lived in hiding, covertly ministering to his flock; his enemies condemned him for being a coward and not standing up for his faith. He supported St. Cornelius against the anti-pope Novatian. He too was exiled and martyred when the Decius’ successor continued with persecution of Christians.

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1 Timothy 2:1-8

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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 But only say the Word

There is a 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg called ‘Schindler’s List’, which tells of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved countless Jews from the Holocaust during WWII. A moment from that movie, which left an indelible mark on my psyche, is the scene in which the Commandant of the Concentration Camp, sitting in his pajamas on a balcony, has a steaming hot cup of coffee to his side table. He sits casually, with a lighted cigarette lazily and precariously balanced on his right lip corner. In his hand, a sniper rifle, cocked and ready. The sniper lens zooms in on a hapless, random Jew, in rags and whose ribs could be counted. In the next instant, the head of the Jew gets blown off in a pink cloud of blood and brains. Those walking around this hapless Jew are terrified but continue walking as if nothing has happened. Indifferently, the Commandment, peers through the lens to look for the next target to practice on. After several more hapless victims, Oskar Schindler finally confronts the Commandant who promptly reminds Oskar of just how much power he wields. To which Oskar replies – “real power lies not in those who have the ability to wield it, but to those who have it but always choose not to wield it”. To Oskar and the likes of St Maximillian Kolbe, the life of a Jew, every person in fact, was not irrelevant and unnecessary. It mattered enough to risk and to give up one’s own life.

The point being made is not about earthly power – but the power that comes from knowing one’s identity rooted in Jesus Christ. Jesus, Son of the Living God, is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. However, he chooses not to wield that on us. He chooses to become one of us. This does not alter nor diminish one iota of what his true character and essence is – but simply points to the truth that He knows who He is. And there is no need for him to prove His power, despite the many times we desperately ask Him to show it to us in the circumstances of our lives. He only needs to affirm the fact of His love for us.  Jesus can walk away from His power and assume the condition of a slave because He knows exactly who He is – the Son of God. He is not here to impress us. He is here to save us.

At the Sermon on the Mount, in the chapter preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus lays down the formula to perfect discipleship. In today’s Gospel, through the person of the Centurion, is Luke’s illustration of what Jesus had just finish teaching His disciples. The Centurion is the one who did good deeds toward his enemies; he gave to his enemies as he built from his own funds the synagogue in Capernaum. He behaved correctly whether or not this love was ever returned to him. This man not only heard the Word of God, but was Luke’s example of a man who built his house on the rock solid foundation of that Word…he sends for the Master. He hears of Jesus and acts. He is a doer and not merely a listener. This Centurion is the example of one who loves supernaturally. As Jesus told us to love without expecting anything in return, we see in this account, one who loves his slave. He loves someone who most would despise and mistreat. He loves his servant. He also loved the Nation of Israel. Normally, Roman leaders hated their slaves and mistreated them. They hated their enemies. Here, this man loves those who are his enemies. He shows us how a true disciple lives out his identity. A Roman Centurion, one who wields power, commands lives, has authority over the liberty and life of those under his charge – usually does not give a hoot about the well-being of one of his numerous, insignificant servants, whose only purpose of existence is to be used to serve his purpose and discarded when no longer useful. He usually does not hold the respect, admiration and support of those whom he lords over. He does not need to show humanity; only power and authority.

Yet this Centurion was different. The Jewish leaders were actually fond of this one and even petitioned on his behalf to Jesus to save his dying servant. The Centurion himself was respectful, kind, considerate, had a sincere love and concern for those over whom he not only had authority over, but responsibility over. He was humble, considered himself unworthy of the attention of Jesus, but had deep faith and hope in where true power really lies – Jesus, Son of God, with real authority over life itself. Before the identity of Christ – the Centurion knew where he stood… unworthy that Jesus would enter under his roof. But yet, with deep faith that His word alone, had the power over life and death.

It was not a priest, a Levite nor a Pharisee – no, it was the Good Samaritan, the Gentile, the Roman Centurion – these were the ‘unworthy’ and ‘unqualified’ God chose to show the rest of us the way of true discipleship. Those who truly know their identity and have discovered that true discipleship can only take place when you are clear of who you are a disciple of. And translating that into a living faith. When you know the Living God, your nothingness becomes that which will save you. Because only then, you become totally consumed by the grace of God. Only then, despite your unworthiness, God will say the Word that will heal you. For how can one lead others to Christ when one is himself/herself lost and astray. Only in humility and by God’s healing word and grace, can we be led on the path of true discipleship. These are the words we echo at every Eucharist – through our communion with the living presence of Jesus, is the source of our own true identity.

Jesus marveled at the Centurion. He was amazed at the faith he had. It took Jesus by surprise. Now that is something you don’t see happening every day. When was the last time you made Jesus’ jaw drop in admiration and amazement of the greatness of your faith, the authenticity of your humility and the fidelity of your discipleship? There seems to be applause in the distance for you … but does the clapping come from above or from below?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. It is easy for us to find ourselves lost along the road of our discipleship. Help us when our pride, our worries, our pain, the weight of our crosses and the deceptions of the evil one make us want to give up and to walk our own path. We do not have the wisdom, the strength and the courage – help us.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you because time and again, during our darkest moments, you send the light of your Spirit and the love of your Mother to come to lift us, to comfort us and to gently tell us to get up and to carry on. Help us walk our discipleship with victory such that when we finally enter the gates of heaven, you and all the saints will stand up and give us applause for a race well-run, a journey well-travelled. 

15 September, Sunday – The lost, the least, the last

15 Sep 2019

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Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life. To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 15:1-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’
He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”
‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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I have found my lost sheep

At the lift landing in front of the Adoration Room at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, hangs a painting. The scene is that of today’s Gospel on the Prodigal Son. Do spend a moment to look at the painting if you have the opportunity. There are some interesting subtleties weaved into it. The painting depicts shadows of the main protagonists, which essentially reveal what is truly behind the actions that are visible in the painting. The one that left a deep impression is that of the father, in his old age, ambling towards the son who has returned and is running towards his father. The shadow of the elderly father, however, shows him running at full speed, arms outstretched towards his son. It was poignant in the way it was able to convey the desperation of the father to embrace his son, of how much he missed the son, how deeply he longed for his return, how relieved from the endless years of worry at finally seeing that his son was alive and safe, how long-awaited and joyful the anticipation of finally being able to hold his son again in his arms…the son whom he thought was forever lost. But who, who in his heart, could never still worry about and hope for his return?

God our Father loves us. That we all know, kind of. My take is that most of us do not know how much He loves us. We cannot fathom this in full, because He loves us with Divine Love whilst our love is only human. That’s why His love is beyond anything we could ever experience in the limits of our frail, fallen and foolish human nature. It is the divine and incomprehensible love of our Father that makes the impossible possible for us. Because nothing is more powerful than that love which throws everything out the window to come to the rescue, so long as one of His own is in danger, hurt, wounded, broken, lost, astray, in peril of mortal danger and eternal damnation; who cries out in desperation to the Father’s love. So long as that one of His own chooses to be loved and saved by the Father, nothing, absolutely nothing, will get in the way of that saving love.

The longing of the Prodigal Father lies not in his inability to enter into the lives of His children, but in the inability of His children to turn to the saving love of the Father. We remain lost, broken, tired, frustrated, in despair, in desperation, in oppression, the least, the last, so long as we continue to choose to be so. By holding ourselves out from our Father’s love for us. Our Father is ever waiting for us to allow Him to save us, to heal us, to console us, to protect us, to provide for us, to redeem us, to comfort us, to guide and lead us, to love us. That moment comes when we finally realize we cannot save ourselves because we realize we are indeed the lost, the least and the last. But take courage, it is precisely because we have our Father’s love that the lost, the least, the last become the found, the greatest, the first. It is what He exists for. It is what He sacrificed His own Son for. It is what our faith is all about – the relationship of us loving God and God loving us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We are so clueless about the love you have for us which is immeasurable, unknowable but yet so abiding, unchanging and unchangeable. Help us to come to see and experience that love. And to be saved by that love.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for time and again, your loved has lifted us from our nothingness and our unworthiness. For all the times, in your love for us —  you allow us the privilege to be found, to matter, to be first in your heart.

14 September, Saturday – Of Hope and Promise

Sep 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God sent His Son into the world… so that through Him the world might be saved

Have you heard people complaining about the unfavourable lot that life has dealt them or the difficult circumstances they are going through? I cannot help feeling bemused when they end their lamentations with the statement “but this is a cross I have to carry”.

We encounter many struggles at different stages in our lives, especially as we try to live out our faith. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to carry our crosses and proclaim the Good News to the world. Yet many of us forget the significance of the Cross. Some even begrudge the challenges it brings, so much so that it gets relegated as a sweeping statement to connote a sense of helplessness.

Much like the Israelites from the first reading, we complain when things do not go our way, sometimes to the extent of doubting God’s plans for us. However, God shows His mercy and compassion even after we let Him down time and time again. This is best illustrated when He sent His Son to die an excruciating death on the cross for our redemption.

The Cross represents the sacrifices Jesus made for us to save us from our sins. For us, Jesus on the cross expresses God’s unconditional and faithful love, and how He gave His life so that we might live life to the fullest. There is no sin too great for God to forgive, as long as we believe that we have been forgiven. Once an instrument of torture, the Cross now stands as a symbol of hope and promise.

In embracing the Cross, each of us is challenged to follow Jesus as He leads us to the way of the Cross. We are called to model his obedience and to die to our pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance and prejudices.  On today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us reflect on what the Cross signifies in our lives and how best to live out our identities as Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may obediently abide in you amidst the trials and tribulations in our lives.  We pray for strength to journey on the path of the Cross, trusting that You are ever present with us.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the triumph of the Cross over sin and the promise of eternal life with You. 

13 September, Friday – Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes

Sep 13 – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

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1 Timothy 1:1-2,12-14

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

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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.’

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Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly

Very recently, we had a new member join our community. She recently had her own conversion experience and was filled with enthusiasm and eagerness. She wants so much to be in a community to keep her faith strong. And she is so grateful to now be a full-fledged member, despite our very demanding schedule. I love watching her worship. Full of joy, it comes from the heart and it shows. She is like a breath of fresh air – only that the way she dresses doesn’t quite conform to our standard code of dressing. She is a beautiful woman and dresses very fashionably. Very alluring. Our leaders were quick to point this out and I was tasked to gently advise her to be less ‘distracting’; especially when we are ministering. Before I knew more about her, I was wondering what job she held that allowed her to dress this way.  Don’t get me wrong, her dressing is by no means risqué nor lewd. It’s just that in our Christian community, we all tend to be a little prim. In any case, I found out that she held a senior teaching profession in the medical industry.

Quite recently, Archbishop William also published a reflection called ‘Studs and Tattoos’ about superficial judgements on people. What matters most is not what they wear or look like, but what their heart is like. We should never judge a book by its cover.

We are all, at some point or other, guilty of judging people. I too had my own fair share of ‘lessons’. I am plagued by my own prejudices and judgements of people – especially when they don’t match up to my expectations. It may be how they perform a task, how they react to things, how quickly they respond to requests, or why someone doesn’t help someone else in need when they are perfectly able to. ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’.  Harper Lee in ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ said ‘you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.’   We never know the story or the circumstance that led the person to behave the way they did.

Jesus doesn’t fault us for having failings. But he invites me to look to my own blind spots first. If the just person falls seven times, how often do I fall?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, make me more aware of my inadequacies, so that I may become gentle in dealing with others.

Thanksgiving: God thank you for seeing each of us from the inside. Thank you for seeing us with a generous and compassionate gaze. Thank you for not despising or condemning us for our shortcomings and failings. Lord, today make us gaze at annoying people as kindly as you do.

12 September, Thursday – Forgiveness is God’s medicine

Sep 12 – 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.

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Colossians 3:12-17

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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Bearing with one another and forgiving one another

It’s just ironical or divine intervention that I am to write the reflection for today’s reading. I can’t forgive. Not always and not easily. It’s hard to forgive and sometime I don’t want to. What do you do when something in your life is too huge to forgive? This inability to forgive has caused me much grief. This led me to question and beat myself up – was I being a good Christian?

The gospel today is really hard to follow. As humans, we suffer rejection, betrayal, loss, abandonment, infidelity. The list is endless. We get wounded by the people we love most and those closest to us. Over the last few years, I went through a series of breakdowns in relationships and loss. One after another. Each time I steeled myself up and bulldozed myself to move ahead, something else happened. All that came to a resounding crash earlier this year. Everything came to a head. I felt utterly alone. My mental and emotional health were in shambles.

I dealt with these difficult situations by simply cutting them out. People come and go in our lives. Situations change. That’s life. That’s a fact. Over time, I stopped thinking about these things and they started to blur in my mind. Truth be told, I felt a sense of freedom, not having these people in my life. I no longer felt anger nor resentment. But one thing never went away – the hurt and pain was like an irritating pincer lodged in the flesh of my heart. A sermon I heard once stuck in my mind – no matter how you feel, offer up your prayer to those people you find hardest to love. I persisted in my ‘lousy prayer’ to the Lord for all of these people, even when I felt nothing.

If one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  Yup, it’s not easy to follow. While I felt guilty for my unforgiveness, I was in no capacity to be Christ-like, to forgive. In fact, in my emotional deficit, I could not find it within myself to give, to love, to care, to be compassionate. Truth be told, holding on to that anger and hate felt good.  It ‘vindicated’ my pain of being betrayed and wronged.

The biggest revelation for me is that the Lord doesn’t expect us to do this ourselves. It’s by His grace and timing that allows us to heal and forgive. He knows when the time is right and will create the time and place for restoration, mending and healing of brokenness. By my own strength, I could not possibly forgive these people for the hurt they caused me. But I declare today that God is real and working in our lives. Our God of love and compassion knows our circumstance, the depth of our wounds and how much we can take. Over the past few months, God has created 3 occasions for reconciliation with the people who hurt me tremendously. Each of these scenarios can only be explained as the work of God, for no amount of planning by anyone could have fabricated these occurrences. One by one, I feel that my heart has forgiven these people.

I learnt that forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to condone or accept what was done to you. It’s not ignoring your hurt or pretending that nothing happened. It’s not burying the pain that you forget about it. The journey to healing and forgiveness required me to face pain and suffering. I had to acknowledge these feelings within me and allow myself to feel these emotions. Forgiveness is choosing to put an end to my suffering and pain by allowing God’s light to shine on the situations. Forgiveness seems unfair because it requires me, the hurt party to show an act of compassion, to make the first move. But withholding forgiveness does not punish the other person. It actually exhausts me. Forgiveness has actually very little to do with the person that hurt me, and a lot to do with me. Forgiveness is God’s medicine. It healed me. It freed me from the prison of hurt and pain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray to forgive through you. That our pain and suffering can be healed, so that we are free to give life to others. We pray for the people who have wronged us, and ask forgiveness if we have hurt others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the ultimate act of forgiveness is your dying on the cross. Thank you for laying down your life us. May we choose always to forgive, just as you have forgiven us.

11 September, Wednesday – Seek Him

11 Sept 2019

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Colossians 3:1-11

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry. And it is the way in which you used to live when you were surrounded by people doing the same thing, but now you, of all people, must give all these things up: getting angry, being bad-tempered, spitefulness, abusive language and dirty talk; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.

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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.’

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If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above.

I had my conversion experience some 8 years ago and was baptized a Catholic 27 years ago. I’d like to believe that I am a follower, and a practicing Catholic. So, I am risen in Christ! To be risen also means that I first had to die. I am to consider myself dead to sin, dead to the earthly patterns and desires. But sometimes, I fall. Actually, I tumble and roll into the trenches.

Today’s first reading tells us “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above.” I worry about the most human of things – what is my life’s purpose? Am I adding value each day? What happens if I have cancer? Will I have enough to last through my golden years? (CPF’s marketing haunts me till today).

Today’s reading reminds us that if we want to break away from the past as well as the lies in our lives, where we place our gaze is important. Instead of looking down, or looking behind, Paul challenges us to look up, look out, look in and look around.

Recently, I was scrolling through my social media feeds. I came across this teaching by a certain pastor, who preached ‘I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.’ (Ephesians 4:1). However before we walk, we have to sit. How well we walk is how well we sit (or rest). We must know what has been accomplished for us through Christ. Know what has been accomplished for us. Rest in what Christ has done, rest in the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t try to do before you are. Rest. And out of the rest comes spirit directed activity. We need to have a revelation of who we are, and what we do comes out of who we are. Through our baptism, we share in Christ’s threefold mission as prophet, priest, and king. What we do comes from knowing who we are. I am a prophet, priest and queen!

My problem is, and has been, one of busyness and activity. I am seeking, searching, and doing a lot. I am looking everywhere but within. I am reminded in the most creative ways by Jesus (he knows how distracted I am) that before I try to run and do, I need to be still and rest in Him

Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. This is hard for me. As I shared, I worry and fret about so many things. I worry that I don’t plan for things. And I reprimand myself for a lack of faith when I do plan for things. Not that taking action and planning is wrong; but I’ve learnt the need to be silent and still, to hear where the Lord is leading us. And to move with the Holy Spirit as it leads. I’ve also learnt that what is ‘right’ and logical for me (and perceived by the world as acceptable), isn’t always what our Lord has planned for me. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Yup, it’s hard to fully let go, nor is it easy to understand. But God has written the blueprint of our lives in his big book.

Therefore, since we died with Christ, we don’t have to follow the rules of a hollow and deceptive philosophy. Since we’ve been raised with Christ, we have a new status and therefore, a new way of life. We now have a power source for living.

Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. The word “seek” is present tense, which in Greek indicates continuing action. In other words, Paul is telling us to seek and to keep on seeking the things that are above. It is a lifetime quest.

As Christians, God wants us to be aware of many things: the power of prayer, the sufficiency of the cross, the depth of His love, the power of forgiveness, the need for patience. He wants us to know from where we have come and where we are going.  He wants us to put away the old man and put on the new man.

But God also wants us to use our minds and our mental faculties in a holy, constructive, and faithful way. He wants our attitude to be positive. He wants our focus to be on Him and what is Holy. He wants us to know that we are dearly loved by Him.

So brothers and sisters, let us fully die to ourselves and live in the new life of our baptism as priests, prophets and kings. Let us not be burdened by our past lives, our own expectations and that of others. Let us let go of our past and cast our eyes fully on the Lord and seek what is of Him, of above. Through His strength, grace and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Loving Father, help us to understand the precious relationship we have with Christ and what it means to be in Christ and to be seated with Him in heavenly places. Help us to set our hearts on the wonderful things that You have prepared for those that love You, and more and more may we be a reflection of Christ to all those we meet today, in His name, pray AMEN.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for the blessed hope that is set before all those that trust in Christ Jesus. Thank You that each of us are in Christ and He is in us. That the day is coming when He will return to take us home to be with Him in heaven. Help us to set our minds on things above and not on earthly things and to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to You, in Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

10 September, Tuesday – Ultimate Guidance

10 Sept 2019

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Colossians 2:6-15

You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received – Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some second-hand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.

In his body lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fulfilment, in the one who is the head of every Sovereignty and Power.

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh. This is circumcision according to Christ. You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead. You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross; and so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession.

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Luke 6:12-19

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.
He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Can you imagine that? The last person I expected to find praying fervently would be Jesus! After all, He is the Son of God, and He has a close relationship with the mighty God, who He calls “Abba” or Father.  It is through Jesus’ relationship with God that we can call Him our Heavenly Father as well.

So why on earth would Jesus need to pray? Throughout the Bible, it is often mentioned that Jesus prayed, frequently going off somewhere seeking solitude. He prayed intensely, lengthily and completely. He prayed for guidance, prayed for reassurance and prayed for help. But in all His prayers, He remained obedient and wanting to do God’s will.

It dawned on me that if Jesus, the Son of God, found it important to pray, how much more so for you and me? I for one, admit that I need all the guidance, reassurance, help and support that God is offering.  Then why wouldn’t we want to pray every day, every moment and every chance we have?

Now, it is difficult, if not impossible for most people to pray endlessly or for long periods in a day; after all, we all have busy lives and schedules and endless commitments. It would be unrealistic to ask someone to pray for hours on end; but it is completely doable and realistic for one to pray 5 to 15 minutes a day…for a start. Trust me, once you start praying regularly, you’ll never get enough.

I never used to pray every day, but only on Sundays in church. I didn’t know how much I was missing until I could not find any guidance from family or friends that brought me peace. It was then that I turned to God. Peace only came about when I prayed repeatedly. Sometimes reciting prayers, sometimes simply talking and unloading the issues at hand, and sometimes sitting quietly alone in the church. I started with 5 minutes a day, once a week, then it became twice a week and for longer periods.  Then it became more frequent and lengthier.  It has become so much a part of me that if I miss my daily ‘talk’ or prayers, I feel a part of me is missing, like my morning coffee. I am not holier because I pray, it is recognizing that I am incomplete until I pray that makes me want to pray more.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, teach us the importance of prayers, the importance of maintaining a relationship with you and God our Father through prayers.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for listening to our prayers and providing guidance and answers, even though they are not what we want or expect; but what is best for us.

9 September, Monday – Unpopular and Infuriating

Sep 9 – 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 as well, 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

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Colossians 1:24-2:3

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ. It is for this I struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving me irresistibly.

Yes, I want you to know that I do have to struggle hard for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for so many others who have never seen me face to face. It is all to bind you together in love and to stir your minds, so that your understanding may come to full development, until you really know God’s secret in which all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

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Luke 6:6-11

On the sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up! Come out into the middle.’ And he came out and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’ Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was better. But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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“Stand up!  Come out into the middle.”

Strangely, I feel that these words spoken by Jesus to the man with a withered hand, can be addressed to all of us; especially in today’s climate of political correctness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for good manners and politeness. However, I do believe that political correctness has gone awry. Instead of the general freedom that we seek, we are now more limited in voicing any opinions and beliefs. We often remain silent or even deny our personal beliefs, just to ‘keep the peace’.  But is it really peace, or our pride of wanting to be ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ that we want to keep?

Let’s be honest, Jesus’ teachings were not, are not and will not be popular on this good earth. In fact, they are downright unpopular and infuriating at times. But as true followers of Christ, we need to stand up for our beliefs. We need to come into the middle and stand firm in defending our faith, even if we cause unwanted attention and ridicule from others. I am not promoting fights or heated arguments with others; Jesus was peaceful and so must we, be peaceful. But on the occasion when we are in the midst of opposition and against the tide of sentiments regarding our God, we have a duty to stand up and defend Jesus and His teachings – peacefully and respectfully. Political correctness does not mean we have to agree or avoid the issues, simply avoid offending the others. Hence, peacefully and respectfully disagreeing would not, and should not, offend anyone who is reasonable.

We are called to stand up, in big ways or small. Why wouldn’t we stand up if we can be like the man healed from a withered hand?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the courage to stand up for Your teachings in the face of opposition.  Grant us the grace to live according to Your teachings.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus as our teacher and guide.  His strength amongst opposition shall be our aim and example.

8 September, Sunday – Confusion vs Wisdom

8 Sep 2019

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Wisdom 9:13-18

What man indeed can know the intentions of God?
Who can divine the will of the Lord?
The reasonings of mortals are unsure
and our intentions unstable;
for a perishable body presses down the soul,
and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind.
It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth,
laborious to know what lies within our reach;
who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?
As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from above?
Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened
and men been taught what pleases you,
and saved, by Wisdom.

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Philemon 9-10,12-17

This is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me.

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Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

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Who can divine the will of God

Have you ever had the feeling that nothing ever makes sense? If our God is a loving god, why do we have to go through some of the challenges, headaches and heartaches that we do? Why is there so much suffering in this world amidst so much beauty?

The first reading today helps to shed some light onto these ever perplexing questions. First of all, we must understand that God’s wisdom and will are not easily knowable by humans. Our minds cannot conceive the intricacies and complexities of God’s grand schemes. How does one start to understand a God that is deeper than the vast oceans, taller than the highest mountains and more infinite than the universe? Because of our fallen human nature and perishable bodies, we cannot comprehend the wisdom of God and His ways unless they are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. In order for us to hear the Holy Spirit, we must be in tune, in communion with our God by striving to be holy (going to confessions, prayerful, trusting in God and wanting to do His will).

It is a societal belief that in order to be in control and/or self sufficient, we need to acquire knowledge.  However, God is divine and we cannot know Him completely in our time on earth. We cannot even acquire and master half the knowledge within this world. Why would we think that we can understand our God without His divine help? Why wouldn’t we trust in His plans instead?

We teach our children and tell ourselves that we have to be independent and self reliant —  “Heaven helps those who help themselves.” We take pride in all our achievements and successes. Of course, we should celebrate those accomplishments, but we must never forget that the credit does not belong to us alone.  Everything we have, every good that we do, every accomplishment we achieve are all graces from God. As Bishop Barron said, (paraphrasing here) our accomplishment came from collaborating with God.  Therefore, we can’t take credit for everything. In fact, we would be wise to rely on the Grace of God and trust in His plans. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to do our part; it just means that we rely on His guidance and wisdom and trust that He knows what is best for us. Sometimes, it may be a short stroll and sometimes it may be a long walk; whatever the case, you can rely on our Lord to be walking beside us all the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help us to realize all that we are, all that we have are Graces given to us. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for guiding us and for always being by our side.