13 November, Wednesday – In search of wisdom

13 November

__________________

Wisdom 6:1-11

Listen, kings, and understand;
rulers of remotest lands, take warning;
hear this, you who have thousands under your rule,
who boast of your hordes of subjects.
For power is a gift to you from the Lord,
sovereignty is from the Most High;
he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions.

If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly
nor observed the law,
nor behaved as God would have you behave,
he will fall on you swiftly and terribly.
Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty;
the lowly will be compassionately pardoned,
the mighty will be mightily punished.
For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage,
he does not stand in awe of greatness,
since he himself has made small and great
and provides for all alike;
but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.

Yes, despots, my words are for you,
that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress;
for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy,
and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them.
Look forward, therefore, to my words;
yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

_______________________

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

___________________

…yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

I had the privilege of sharing 5 days with 26 other extremely smart, gifted and kind people from 11 other countries this week at a leadership development programme. Right from day one when I entered the room, I sensed that this was going to be a special few days from the positive energy and the initial ‘check ins’ when we were asked to share a bit about ourselves.

As we progressed through the days, we bonded on various levels, especially when we shared our personal challenges at work as leaders who were caught in the middle – between senior management (the C-suite) and our own teams. It was interesting that in spite of our various cultural and situational differences, the challenges we faced were remarkably similar. The clincher came on day four when we were each assigned a coach/mentor for a more than 3 hour one-on-one session. What a time of sharing and input it was for me (from a career/work perspective) as she combined learnings from her years of experience with empathy, advice and some spirituality (we discovered we both serve in Catholic organisations and had some common interests). Truly, it helped spark so many ideas and thoughts for me to bring back to work in order to make me a more effective leader.

What hit home for me was the realization (I had already suspected it) that I could not be using the same strategies from way back when I had a team of 3 to 6 staff in the current environment (I now have 13). The ways of motivating each group/individual would have to be different and I would have to tailor my approaches rather than expect each one to ‘toe the line’. And while there was a need for some structure and discipline, I could not crack the whip all the time and expect the best. I would have to listen a lot more and be more approachable (I had a very low ‘need’ score for ‘connection’ in my self-analysis). This programme was timely for me as I had been struggling for answers the past few weeks and I guess they all came flooding in over the course of the five days, especially interacting with so many like-minded professionals.

Brothers and sisters, when we hit an impasse or come to a crossroad in our lives, what do we do in order to reset, reframe and rejuvenate? Do we avoid the situation at hand and look for a new environment (something which I came to realise in the context of my almost 10 years in this current job)? Or do we consult others and seek input from those who have been around the block, even our bosses? As we yearn for instruction, do we really open ourselves up to receive? Or do we put up defences and say, “Oh, this is not me”, “This does not apply to me” or “You don’t know my situation so you are in no position to comment”?

I left the training venue filled with thoughts and edified that people all round the world actually have much more in common than we think. Perhaps we need to look within ourselves and explore what we have in common with those who are suffering, those who languish in poverty, those who are oppressed, or those who feel they have no hope. More importantly, I left feeling hopeful that equipped with new tools, I can become an effective agent of change in my workplace…and even in my ministry.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Father, you shower us with your love and constantly speak to us your words of wisdom. Give us the grace to be able to seek you out in our daily challenges and listen to your voice. Fill us with the Spirit so that we can be better versions of who we are in our workplaces, in our communities, at home with our families.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Holy Spirit, for being our guiding light and His voice in our lives.

12 November – Tuesday, Enduring Faith in Love

Nov 12 – Memorial for St. Josaphat, bishop, religious, martyr

John (1580-1623) had a father who was a municipal counsellor, and a mother who was known for her piety. He was raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 Nov 1595, in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. He was trained as a merchant’s apprentice in Vilna, and was offered partnership in the business and marriage to his partner’s daughter.

Feeling the call to religious life, he declined both and became a monk in the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil in Vilna at the age of 20 in 1604, taking the name Brother Josaphat. He was ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.

His superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given to those who brought about and accepted the union of the churches. Learning of Samuel’s work and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.

He was a famous preacher, worked to bring unity among the faithful and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. He became Bishop of Vitebsk. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church and, by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example, Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat’s Orthodox actions. He became Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.

While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group supported by Cossacks set up anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had “gone Latin” and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and place an usurper on the archbishop’s chair. Despite warnings, Josaphat went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.

Late in 1623, an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict.

“You people of Vitebsk want to put me to death. You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, and in the marketplace. I am here among you as a shepherd, and you ought to know that I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of Saint Peter, and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff.” – St. Josaphat

  • Patron Saint Index

_________________

Wisdom 2:23-3:9

God made man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.

But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

_____________________

Luke 17:7-10

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

____________________

…those who are faithful will live with him in love

It is a tough ask to remain faithful to something, someone or a belief system when one has been let down or when all around, others begin to question you. At times like these, it is only natural that one retreats into a shell and either withers away or comes out renewed, re-energised and fighting to re-establish authority or a semblance of what was once true.

As I write this, I am midway through a 5-day leadership training programme, which could not have come at a timelier moment. Much of the programme is focused on the dynamics between individuals (your boss, peers and staff), between groups and the challenges that each faces when interacting with someone like myself. Needless to say, it has been an eye-opening experience thus far and I am eager to meet with my assigned career coach over the next two days as we begin to unpack my leadership style and zoom in on the personality traits that may hinder my progress.

In battling my inner demons (albeit, rather small) over the past few months, I have come to realise that the one overwhelming emotion which arises from putting your faith in God is – love. The love that comes when you decide to shield others from blame; the love that comes when you are called to lead a praise and worship session when issues at work are demanding your time; the love that comes when you see others doing their best for you in spite of your own dark moods; the love of friends who call you out of the blue and invite you for dinner; the love of a soulmate who doesn’t demand of you but only wants the best for you, even if it means a weekend sleeping in.

I wonder if this overwhelming love is what the apostles felt each and every single day in the presence of Jesus. Because it is the only explanation why they would give everything up to follow Him. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of doing the same in today’s modern world, filled with creature comforts and luxuries of all sorts that distract us from the love of Jesus. Or do we? Have we become so blind to others around us, only caring about ourselves that we have forgotten how to love others as Jesus loved us?

Have we become such an ‘entitled’ race that we have forgotten how important it is to treat each other with respect, dignity and a common decency expected from those who proclaim to be followers of Christ? In one of the exercises we did during the programme, I played the role of a ‘customer’ and a few of the comments from the sharing/debrief session highlighted a certain sense of entitlement with regards to how we treated the ‘vendor agency’. I began to ask myself if I had begun to also feel a sense of entitlement towards my staff, treating them not with the respect that were due, but more with disdain – that they could never measure up.

Perhaps that is why whenever I look around in times of crisis, I never see the people who I need to show up – kind of like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. But unlike Jesus, who treated every single one of his apostles with love, my staff don’t form a circle around me because they don’t feel appreciated nor trusted. Even worse, I treat other subordinates even better and spend more time with them instead of those who need my affirmation more.

Brothers and sisters, research has shown that for every bit of negative feedback we have to give someone, it is necessary to first give three times the amount of positive feedback. And for those who are married, the number rises to almost six times vis-à-vis feedback for your spouse. How are we doing in our interactions with those who we spend a more than significant portion of our lives with?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Dear Father, help us to model Christ-like behavior at work, especially to our subordinates, staff and fellow colleagues. Be our guiding light in the challenging times and show us your face each time we encounter a crisis or a difficult situation.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being our model of love.

11 November, Monday – Faith Debt

11 November 2019

____________________

Wisdom 1:1-7

Love virtue, you who are judges on earth,
let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord,
seek him in simplicity of heart;
since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test,
he shows himself to those who do not distrust him.
But selfish intentions divorce from God;
and Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.
No, Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul
nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin;
the holy spirit of instruction shuns deceit,
it stands aloof from reckless purposes,
is taken aback when iniquity appears.

Wisdom is a spirit, a friend to man,
though she will not pardon the words of a blasphemer,
since God sees into the innermost parts of him,
truly observes his heart,
and listens to his tongue.
The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world,
and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.

________________________

Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’

The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

_______________________

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”

I have been facing a crisis of faith in myself over the recent weeks due to a few missteps at work. Apart from questioning my own leadership of my team, I wondered if I was becoming too complacent and starting to take my role at work for granted. Thankfully, I will be spending 5 days (starting today in fact) at a leadership training course which most of my other colleagues have already attended over the years. Many of them have attested to its effectiveness, especially since each was assigned a mentor/coach, depending on the areas of weakness that were identified during the course.

My own chat with my boss (this was something that had to be done prior to the course starting) revealed a trust that he has in me and how he felt that the 5 days would be beneficial, especially in the area of learning how to appreciate other divisions needs and then harnessing support from others, as well as my own team, to help focus on a common goal, even if it did not agree fully with my aims. This was an area he felt I needed to beef up on. Obviously, there has been feedback that I can be pretty ‘hard-nosed’ and that I do not consult enough before I make certain decisions.

I am pretty sure Jesus never went through a crisis of faith in his own leadership, simply because he was led by God the Father. The apostles could disagree and bicker among themselves but Jesus never bowed to their various idiosyncracies nor compromised and let them have their way. I think that is where I have been falling short – not staying my own course and allowing my staff to get away with many things. As a consequence, I have begun to tighten the fist again and even issued a ‘code of conduct’ (after consulting with HR). I felt that it was time to take back control and to let the team know I was not going to stand idly by while standards started to slip.

You could say that my lack of faith in my own leadership precipitated a reaction where I went into ‘crisis mode’. I myself am hoping that over the next few weeks and months, I can restore some pride and reset standards to where they once were. Not that they have gone totally downhill, just that we are on a slippery slope and traction has to be restored. Thankfully, I know that our God is with me on this journey and He is going to be more than just a bystander. I look back on the past two months and realise that He has been my cheerleader all this while, willing me to lean on him even more as I started to question my own abilities as a leader.

Brothers and sisters, when was the last time you faced a crisis of confidence and had to turn within yourself, knowing that only you could make things better? I want to encourage everyone of us today who is facing a tough situation that God is always with us – we just need to open our hearts and invite Him into our situations so that He can fill us with a faith and determination that no one else can give.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, be our guide and our healer as we journey through the rough waters around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you dear Father, for your faithfulness and your loving hand in our lives.

10 November, Sunday – Persevering in Faith

10 Nov 2019 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

_________________

2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’
  With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’
  After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.
  When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’
 

______________________

2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.
  Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

________________________

Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
  Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

_________________________

But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one

It has been a challenging two months where work has booged me down both from a physical as well as an emotional manner. There have been mistakes made which I let affect the credibility of my division and my work, thereby rendering me (in my own mind) useless and ineffective in the eyes of my bosses. A crisis led to an error of judgement where some sensitive information was sent out to a group of industry partners and that triggered a string of events which led to me having to send out close to one hundred email apologies in one night.

It happened on the evening where I was supposed to lead practice with the worship team and I was truly ‘tempted’ to call for help and ask another worship leader to cover for me while I fixed the mess at work. However, I told myself that I had to run the practice since I had already chosen the songs and taking the 3 hours (including travel) out of the office may actually help. So in faith, I told my staff involved to prepare the list of addressees while I stepped out.

Thankfully, the damage was contained and I believe that in owning up to my error, I showed all those around me (and above) that I was responsible enough to take the blame. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that the Lord had waved His loving hands over the whole situation and that by surrendering it all to Him, I had allowed him to take over. That practice session was wonderfully smooth and I went back to the office with a sense of overwhelming peace and a deep assurance that everything would be OK.

The whole episode led me to question if I had started to become ‘soft’ after almost 10 years in this job. I had one or two conversations with my deputy as well as another colleague if I had become too nice a leader and if my standards were slipping (a remark made out of concern by another HOD). I guess as the most ‘senior’ HOD around, I am expected to set some sort of example and others look up to me as some sort of benchmark for how things are done at work.

Brothers and sisters, we sometimes get too caught up with the goings-on in our career, in our everyday lives that we forget to allow God in to remind us how ultimately, we are His children and His precious sons and daughters. We let others tell us how we should behave, we let others affect our emotions too much. I have learnt, over many years, that when the storms come, there is no point getting sucked up in the vortex of noise, uncertainty and chaos. It is precisely in those periods when we need to trust in God and lean into His loving arms in faith. Because only then can we begin to discern His hand in our lives and realise that no matter how much we try, when the chips are down, it is only through surrendering in faith that He will answer our prayers and help us out of situations that we create.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer:  Abba Father, you look after all of us with a faith that demonstrates to us how precious we are in your eyes as your sons and daughters. Help us to see your hand in all that we do and are going through in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Father, for always being there for us.

9 November, Saturday – The Sanctuary

9 November – Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

The Lateran Basilica was built by the Emperor Constantine on the Lateran Hill in Rome in about 324. The feast of its dedication has been celebrated in Rome on this date since the twelfth century. In honour of the basilica, “the mother and head of all the churches of the City and the World,” the feast has been extended to the whole Roman Rite as a sign of unity and love towards the See of Peter, which, as St Ignatius of Antioch said in the second century, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.”

– Universalis

_____________________

Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

_____________________

1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

_____________________

John 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
_____________________

I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord, for my name to be there forever.

Today’s Gospel on the Temple and the sacred sanctuary that is Jesus reminds me of the pilgrimage I made to the Holy Land in Israel last year. We had made a trip to the Wailing Wall, otherwise known as the Western Wall, which was the very exact same temple that was mentioned in today’s Gospel.

We pilgrims had stood in awe and appreciated the grandeur of this structure, the only remaining fragment of the Great Temple of Jerusalem to survive the Roman destruction. It still stands today as the most sacred structure of the Jewish people. But for us Christians, this is considered a holy site because Jesus was present at this very temple. It was here that the incidents of the 4th and 5th Joyful mysteries of the Rosary took place — The Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. In his years of ministry, Jesus also preached at this temple, and it was here where He expelled all the money changers.

“Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” It was this very temple whose veil was torn in two the moment Jesus died. Jesus was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body. And when He rose from the dead, it marked the beginning of a new covenant.

The significance of this Jewish sacred structure to us Christians and Catholics cannot be understated. However, I was personally filled with confusion at that moment as I stood hesitating whether I should go up and touch the wall or not. At that time, I could not fully comprehend the significance of this place, and I seriously pondered why my fellow pilgrims were visibly moved as they touched the wall. But as I finally approached and put my hands on the cold stones, I could feel my heart pumping stronger, and it hit me, this was where ‘the Divine Presence always rests’.

On my left and right were Jews praying fervently, and yet there I was praying as a Christian. That moment was surreal to me. The prophet Isaiah called the Temple a “house for all nations”. Israel is a land where there is much fighting amongst the Jews, Muslims and Christians, but in front of the Wall, all stand equal. This is a universal centre of spirituality. The Wall has withstood time, it has witnessed war and peace, destruction and revival. For generations, it has absorbed the prayers and yearnings of those near and far.

I am still very grateful that I had this incredible privilege to go on this pilgrimage. A year on, and I am still appreciating the wonders of the Gospel coming alive to me at the Holy Land.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we pray for peace and harmony amongst all nations and religions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for reminding us of your goodness and everlasting truth. Amen.

8 November, Friday – Missionary Zeal

8 November 2019

____________________

Romans 15:14-21

My brothers, I am quite certain that you are full of good intentions, perfectly well instructed and able to advise each other. The reason why I have written to you, and put some things rather strongly, is to refresh your memories, since God has given me this special position. He has appointed me as a priest of Jesus Christ, and I am to carry out my priestly duty by bringing the Good News from God to the pagans, and so make them acceptable as an offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

I think I have some reason to be proud of what I, in union with Christ Jesus, have been able to do for God. What I am presuming to speak of, of course, is only what Christ himself has done to win the allegiance of the pagans, using what I have said and done by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus all the way along, from Jerusalem to Illyricum, I have preached Christ’s Good News to the utmost of my capacity. I have always, however, made it an unbroken rule never to preach where Christ’s name has already been heard. The reason for that was that I had no wish to build on other men’s foundations; on the contrary, my chief concern has been to fulfil the text: Those who have never been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand.

___________________

Luke 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’

____________________

Those who have never been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand.

I always remembered what my former parish priest said to me. He said that, “The Church is missionary in nature.” That statement stuck to me for the past 15 years because I never looked at the Church in that way. I always taught it was meant to be a place where people gathered and formed communities.

St Paul’s sharing in the first reading is important. He always had within him that missionary zeal to spread the Word of God to those who have not heard of it. This is an instructive lesson for us because we are also called to be missionaries. We don’t need to go to an overseas country but can stay within our comfort zone.

Evangelisation begins at home. Our families may have members who have stopped going to church or are living an ungodly state of life. We are called in today’s readings to work towards evagelising this group of people and show them that we love them. God the Holy Spirit will guide you in making the correct decision when the opportunity presents itself.

Let us pray that we have the courage to accept the challenge of evangelisation and to reach out to the people whom we often neglect, the people close to us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover what it means to be true evangelists who have a spirit of courage to preach to the people around us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who hold the faith dear to them.

7 November, Thursday – Standard of Life

7 November 2019

____________________

Romans 14:7-12

The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. This explains why Christ both died and came to life: it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. This is also why you should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done. We shall all have to stand before the judgement seat of God; as scripture says: By my life – it is the Lord who speaks – every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall praise God. It is to God, therefore, that each of us must give an account of himself.

___________________

Luke 15:1-10

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.’

____________________

It is to God, therefore, that each of us must give an account of himself

Accountancy can be an interesting subject. On one hand, book-keeping is a very tedious and exacting task. It requires the person to ‘balance’ the books according to the accounting standards of the land.  However, accounting standards are man-made codes which are created to suit the context and goals of the country. Thus, what counts as material for one jurisdiction might be different for another. The readings of today remind us that God is holding us to a standard which is both uniform and yet unique to us.

St Paul reminds us in the first reading that we are not to judge our brothers but instead focus on how God will judge us on the Day of Judgement. Indeed, there is a propensity for me to evaluate the behaviour of an individual and see if it matches with the standard which I hold myself to it. Perhaps I am putting every individual on an exacting standard because I myself am unable to free myself from this standard. I feel that God is just asking us to put our talents to good use and see if the talents we have have brought glory to God in our actions and words to the people around us.

It is this standard which is unique to each one of us. God wants us to give out best for his vineyard and at the end of our lives, we will be called to answer the question of how we have lived a Christian life to others. As we continue with our lives, we need to ask ourselves what is God truly asking us to do and how can we effectively respond to that.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the courage to spread your word in every place.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of wisdom

 

 

6 November, Wednesday – Spiritual planning

6 November 2019

____________________

Romans 13:8-10

Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

___________________

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.’

____________________

None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions

We live in a world where the attraction of the material world is very evident in our lives. There is a desire to want to accumulate as much wealth in our midst so that we can achieve the aims we so desire. Financial planners often ask the question, “Where do you see yourself in ten years time?” They use that question as the starting point for the planning of how much financial resources is needed.

We should take the same effort that people spend on planning their financial resources to plan for our eternal reward. Jesus is asking us to get ready for the next stage of our lives – the end of our life on this earth and the entering into the next. We can do so by receiving the Sacraments regularly and also to nourish ourselves with scripture readings. There should be periods of time set aside for reflection on whether what we are doing is in line with what God is calling us to do.

I ask that we take away 20% of the time we spend on our mobile phones and instead spend it on reflecting on the Word of God and in prayer. Mobile phones usage are spent either watching shows or playing games. Perhaps we can look for spiritual videos that can edify us on our commutes.  This will allow us to understand the challenges which we face in our daily lives and to accept them with patience and faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us follow you in faith and love, trusting the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who suffer persecution.

5 November, Tuesday – Self Satisfaction

5 November 2019

____________________

Romans 12:5-16

All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.

___________________

Luke 14:15-24

One of those gathered round the table said to him, ‘Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!’ But he said to him, ‘There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come along: everything is ready now.” But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.” Yet another said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”

‘The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir” said the servant “your orders have been carried out and there is still room.” Then the master said to his servant, “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”’

____________________

Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied

If I must be completely honest with myself, and with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ; I am guilty of self-satisfaction. Let me explain. On the surface, I go to church every Sunday, try to say my prayers every day, try to adhere to the Ten Commandments and don’t break any laws (maybe I use swear words now and then), but overall, I thought I was a fairly decent person. In my mind’s eye, I am a sinner, but not that bad of a sinner; definitely better than the myriad of sinners out there.

Then I read today’s First Reading plus the homily of our parish priest. I realize that I am far, far from where I ought to be. Jesus commanded us to love God above all else and love our neighbours as ourselves. Well, turns out I am not doing that well in either category.

In the today’s first reading, it says “Do not let your love be a pretence….Bless those who persecute you, never curse them, bless them…” Easy to say, but very hard to do. During this morning’s rush hour, at an intersection, a man who was at a ‘stop’ sign on a side street and was trying to turn left onto the main street on which I was traveling ‘flipped the bird’ or saluted me with his middle finger. I had previously let two other cars turn in front me and started moving forward. I felt his behavior was unjust and abhorrent.  After all, what God-given right did he have to assume I should let him in? Before I could think, my hand raised a similar salute. Almost immediately, I felt a voice inside of me saying, “Ahem, that is not the appropriate response if you claim to love me”. Sheepishly, I lowered my hand and reflected on my behavior. I do desire and profess to love our Lord with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength. If that is the case, how can I not even accept the seemingly injustice I encountered? Compared that to the injustices that Christ encountered on our behalf, my little interlude is so insignificant. The better choice would be for me to let it go and say a prayer and offer it to God.  This would for sure be pleasing to God and reflecting His mercy and love.

Now that I am aware of my fallibility and imperfections, I will watch out for it more and try even harder to become what Christ wanted us to be. Our Lord is perfect and He wants us to strive to become perfect too. I will try, I will stumble, I will fall, but I will not be self-satisfied when I focus on God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, teach us to be humble and recognize that there is always room for improvement. Help us to rely on Your grace and mercy to finally become more like the person You wish us to be.

Thanksgiving: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus and all the saints, to show us how we should behave.

4 November, Monday – Revoking Gifts

Nov 4 – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan, and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy, on Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, and helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 11:29-36

God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything?

All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

___________________

Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

____________________

God never takes back his gifts

“God never takes back His gifts or revokes His choice.” This should bring great comfort to you; it certainly does for me.

I must admit that I have an unreasonable fear of losing possessions, be it something of little importance like a sweater, or something of more importance like a credit card. The anxiety is proportionate to the value I place on the object, whether it be monetary or sentimental. This extends to the very essence of my being. Everything I have, everything I am, are all gifts from God. I fear greatly that God may rescind His generosity and take His gifts back. We all know the saying “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh”. That saying has caused me great anxiety. In my juvenile thinking, I had thought that if I tried to be good and pray with fervour, God will not take away all that He has given. How silly am I?

This anxiety has turned into fear and limits the joy and happiness that God offers me. I was too caught up in the worldly comforts, possessions and other transient obsessions. Leaving little room to truly appreciate the greatest gift He has given us – Jesus, His only Son. God offers His love and mercy to all freely and without reserve. Often, it is us who refuses to accept His gift. He never takes His gift back. In fact, it is still being offered today, every day.

Sure, God has given us our family, our friends, our home, our jobs, our possessions, etc and these people and things are all gifts from God too. Yes, they may be come and go or change through time. But that doesn’t mean that God has taken His gifts away. It simply means that He has better options for us. We may not understand or even like what He offers, but we simply must trust that our Heavenly Father has our best interest at heart. Much like a parent who offers a child some candy, but if the child gorges himself or herself on the candy without sharing, the parent will replace the candy with healthier snacks.

I am still struggling with attachments to worldly goods. I also trust that God, through His infinite mercy, will help me to break those bad habits and re-align my attachment to His true gift – Jesus. The only gift I need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help us to break our attachments to worldly goods and re-align ourselves to heavenly goals. Jesus, we trust in you.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for the greatest gift – Jesus. He is all that we need, and all that we want.