Monthly Archives: February 2014

Friday, 28 Feb -Teachable in Love

28 Feb 

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James 5:9-12

Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord; remember it is those who had endurance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the patience of Job, and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth, or use any oaths at all. If you mean ‘yes’, you must say ‘yes’; if you mean ‘no’, say ‘no.’ Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgement.

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Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

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It was because you were so unteachable

When I read the Gospel today, I immediately thought of my mum. And a part of me began to soften. My dad left home when I was about two years old. And a divorce quickly followed. I began living alone with Mum while Dad would regularly visit. But rarely would the two of them be present in the same room at the same time. They did try initially, but quarrels would ensue. Then, somehow along the way, my parents managed to put the broken pieces aside and an amicable relationship grew. Even when my dad remarried and eventually had his own kids, Mum never stopped them from visiting or from becoming part of the family. She also never remarried, even to this day. Bygones became bygones, and all that matters to them now is their relationship with me as parents.

Yet from time to time, the past will quietly resurface again. For instance, just the other day, my dad quietly commented out of the blue that he couldn’t imagine how he had just walked out of the house and left. It sounded as if he was questioning his younger self as to why he had chosen to do that. We were eating dinner after a movie ( our regular monthly activity) – just him, my half-brother and I – at a cafe when he suddenly said this. I could see him lost in his thoughts and mentally questioning himself for it. I can only guess that, upon looking back, the older version of him probably would not have done what the younger one had.

As I read today’s Gospel, I ponder upon the words of Jesus and I can’t help but wonder if I am teachable enough for marriage? Being engaged, there are a lot of unknowns that lie ahead of me. What if my hotheadedness of youth, and my volatile emotions, leads me to rashness that I’ll regret in my old age? Marriage, I believe, is like a venture that two people go into. It is a venture because a lot is invested with the hope of return – our time, our efforts and our youth. We may even decide to give up our careers, country, home, finances, or even dreams for the sake of being happy in our marriages. But when our returns seem bleak, and our sacrifices huge, we may start to re-evaluate our choices.

Jesus, however, reminds me today that marriage is not a venture, but a commitment that we make to embark on a lifetime journey with a person. It is meant to be a  life changing process, filled with challenges. Rather than thinking what we can get out of marriage, the focus is actually more on the journey. Like life, the route of marriage is a dynamic one. We can choose how we want to respond in it. The choices we make affect the way it grows – like our bodies. The beauty of marriage I think is that we, as humans, have the ability to grow. We can learn from our mistakes – especially in the way we treat each other – and grow from the challenges we encounter .  And we have God to guide us in it. When we grow, our marriage grows.

The key question, however, is whether we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit into our marriage? Are we willing to turn to Him, and to give each other the time and space that we need to grow (as the Holy Spirit slowly transforms us) on this journey together? Are we willing to learn how to  love someone who is essentially an entirely different individual from us? Sometimes this may mean learning new ways of relating to our spouse or changing old patterns of thinking. It may also mean realizing that our way may not always be the best way of doing things. And even if we still think that it is, love may also mean going along with our spouse’s preferred way of doing things, and respecting them as individuals for it. Marriage is essentially still a journey made by two people and each has something to learn from it. Are we willing to accompany each other on this journey of faith and growth together?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Lord, grant us the humility to remain teachable in love.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for blessing us with our parents, children and spouses

Thursday, 27 Feb – Marinated in the Spirit

27 Feb 

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James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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Have salt in yourselves

I’ve discovered the joy of baking recently! Not so much cakes and pastries, but good ol’ plain and simple meats. It’s convenient to cook and easy to make for a quick dinner. The best part is, there’s not much washing involved and you don’t have to waste time watching a fire. All I have to do is grab some meats on my way home from the supermarket (usually chicken thighs or salmon steaks for me), pre-heat the oven the moment I get home (at about 240 degrees celsius) and marinate the meat. Contrary to popular belief, marinades don’t necessarily have to be complicated or messy. All you need to do is rub some salt and oil over the meat, add a generous amount of grinded black pepper and leave the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes. You can then bathe, watch some television or catch up with your family as the dish cooks. Once it’s done cooking, wrap the dish up with foil, leave it to rest for about 10 mins (to get the juices going) and voila! It’s Martha Steward made easy.

And it’s really amazing how much flavor you can get out of the meat with just the above recipe. You don’t need French marinades or European imported salt to get the “oooh”s and “aaah”s out of it. One needs to be careful though with how much salt is added to the dish. A little really does go a long way. The key thing about using salt in marinating your meat is this: there must be contact between your fingers and the meat. Try rubbing salt over your chicken with a brush or a knife – the results are not as taste-worthy as one that has been thoroughly massaged and rubbed through. If you like red meats, then you might want to leave the salt longer on your steaks and pork chops (at least 30 minutes in the fridge before putting it in the oven to cook). That’s because salt also acts as a tenderizer. It actually breaks down the protein in your meat, which makes it softer in texture. The longer you leave it to chemically react with the proteins in your meat, the softer your meat will become.

Why am I talking so much about cooking? Let me explain – in today’s Gospel, I was struck by the above sentence. It sounded as if Jesus was asking us to “marinate” ourselves. I almost wanted to laugh. For a person who enjoyed baking meat, it was quite a hilarious notion! How do I marinate myself, Lord? I asked. Then it struck. We are invited today to “marinate” ourselves in the Holy Spirit. The only way we can become effective Christians, adding flavor to the world, is to allow ourselves to be marinated with the Holy Spirit. And marinating, as shown above, is a process which requires firstly, contact and secondly, time for us to have a “chemical reaction” or transformation inside. What this means is this: we need to have contact or interaction with the Holy Spirit –regularly. How this is done, is usually by prayer. And oftentimes, it also involves us being open to the Holy Spirit initiating contact with us. This can happen as we’re listening to songs, or reading a book or even as we’re speaking to someone.

It can take the form of soft promptings in our hearts or a sudden, quiet thought in our minds that strikes us. When we allow the Holy Spirit to interact with us, a “chemical reaction” occurs overtime and we become increasingly more and more in-tune and sensitive to the workings of the Spirit. The transformation happens subtly in the beginning, but overtime, the changes are noticeable. The moment we allow ourselves to be “marinated” in the Spirit, change begins even without us realising. It is a silent, almost invisible, gradual process until the effects are more obviously felt.

We also become more aware of our own inner workings, and of what is right or pleasing to God. This is because the Spirit breaks down our pride, just as salt breaks down the meat. Self-awareness is a nudge by the Holy Spirit if it leads us towards God and increases us in love. We begin to expand ourselves for others and for God. Neuroticism, on the other hand, detracts from God and consumes us instead. We become overly focused on ourselves (be it the good or the bad) and we forget about others and God. It’s like being marinated in vinegar rather than salt.

My brothers and sisters, as we draw closer to Lent, let us remember the importance of prayer and of remaining close to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Let us aim to become fully “marinated” like Christ and flavorful as Christians, so that we can become the salt and light of this earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Lord, transform us in your Spirit. Break down our pride so that we may become tender and open to you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for the many opportunities that you have given us to become transformed by your Spirit. We also thank you for the people whom you have placed in our lives to help us grow closer to you.  

Wednesday, 26 Feb – You Never Know

26 Feb 

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James 4:13-17

Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading, and make some money.’

You never know what will happen tomorrow: you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’ But how proud and sure of yourselves you are now! Pride of this kind is always wicked. Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn’t do it commits a sin.

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Mark 9:38-40

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’

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You never know what will happen tomorrow

Remember that Masters application that I wrote about on Monday? The second university finally responded a few days ago – and they offered me a place! Praise God! I am excited at the thought of being in a new environment, meeting new people and experiencing an entirely different culture. And I am grateful to God for providing me with the opportunity. What was once a dream has now a chance of becoming a reality. All thanks to Him.

Yet, at the same time, I am also feeling nervous as new concerns have begun to flood my mind. For instance, I am beginning to wonder if I will miss home the moment I am gone? Will I be able to adjust to the new environment? I am also worried about my Mum. Already, she is experiencing some separation anxiety at the thought of me leaving. And then, there is the concern about finances. I would need to ensure that I have sufficient savings to tie me through the entire year of study, as I will no longer be earning a regular income. To complicate matters a little, my fiancé and I are intending to marry sometime next year and have a family. Discussions have been underway and we are still in the process of brainstorming.

With so many things in mind, the joy and blessing of an answered prayer is overwhelmed by the anxieties of an uncertain future, packed with too many plans. Ironically, plans that I have made in an attempt for a more foreseeable future. Have you ever had that experience before? Even as I think about these issues, my mind is going into overdrive, coming up with Plans A, B and C for each of the concerns that I’ve raised. The permutations can be endless. And paralyzing.

I am reminded however by today’s first reading that it is not my plans that will determine the future, but God. As James says, “You never know what will happen tomorrow… The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’ ” I am struggling to fight a battle that I cannot fully see. Who knows how the future will develop except for God, who is omniscient? I think what is important here is the realization that ultimately, God is the one who determines our steps. Yes, we can make plans, but at the end of the day, when our plans do come to pass – it is because our Lord has willed it so. The converse is therefore true. If what we had planned did not come to pass – then maybe, just maybe, our Lord had willed it not to be so. In this light, missed opportunities are not failures, but redirections by God.

Take for instance the tale of Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp. In 2009, he had applied to work for Twitter and Facebook. He was rejected by both. Nevertheless, he stayed positive and started up his own company. Now, five years later, he has just sold his company to Facebook for a whopping $19 billion. Who would have thought that?

Today I am challenged to surrender my plans (and all other back-up plans) to God. I am challenged to remain positive and if my plans do not come to pass, it is because our Lord has willed it so (and He has better plans). And if I am unable to come up with a plan, I am challenged to surrender my situation to God and say, “Lord, you take control”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Lord, grant us the humility to accept your will in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for working all things together for our good.  

Tuesday, 25 Feb – “Tooth and Nail”

25 Feb 

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James 4:1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires. 

You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. 

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start?

One of the things that puzzle me the most about children is how easily they can make-up after a fight. One moment, you can see them crying or fighting over toys. The next moment however, you’ll find one kid running to join the other and soon both are having a whale of a time. How in the world did we lose our knack of doing that? Isn’t it an innate ability? Contrast that with disputes among grown-ups. Being in the legal industry, it’s pretty much a common sight. You see grown men and women fighting tooth and nail all the time.

Disputes often come about because we believe in what we are entitled to. And when we’re deprived of what we believe we deserve and what we think we ought to have, that’s when our battles and dissatisfaction starts. We’re dissatisfied with how things turn out and we are driven by our need to obtain for ourselves the outcomes that we think will satisfy. These outcomes may not necessarily involve material wealth. It can also be something as intangible as deploring someone for the purpose of building our self-esteem, or forcing an apology for the sake of vindication, or just showing our displeasure for the sake of establishing the insignificance of someone else. There are many ways in which our various desires can drive us into wars and battles everyday.

In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples quarreling over who is the greatest.  They too are driven by their own inner desires. Jesus, however, highlights an important truth with a simple act. He takes a child, sets the child in front of them and places his arms around him. One can imagine this loving scene in contrast to the earlier hostile one. What I find disarming, is how Jesus turns the attention of the fighting disciples away from their argument and focuses it instead on the unsuspecting little child. Compared to the disciples, he has no part to play in their equation of “greatness”, but he is wrapped in Christ’s love. In fact, Christ goes on to say that whoever welcomes one of these little children welcomes Jesus and God himself! The focus is on who the child is and not on what he has done.

Little children have essentially one very basic desire. No matter how mischievous a child may be, essentially, their only desire is to be loved and very much accepted by their parents. Their self-esteem and sense of self-worth is built essentially on the love and acceptance of their parents. Their quarrels are easily forgiven as long as love is what they receive. And they trust their parents to be the provider for their needs. That was how God had created it to be.

The challenge for us today is learning how to be like little children. To let go of the things that we fight tooth and nail for. Are we willing to let go of the desires that have led us instead to misery, and to tell God, “Father, I want to learn to be like a little child and find my contentment in you.” Can we challenge ourselves to trust in God, our heavenly Father, for the fulfillment of our needs?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Lord, please grant us the wisdom to let go of those desires that have driven us to misery and to find our contentment in you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for always being there for us.

Monday, 24 Feb – “Unfazed in Faith”

24 Feb 

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James 3:13-18

If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions. But if at heart you have the bitterness of jealousy, or a self-seeking ambition, never make any claims for yourself or cover up the truth with lies – principles of this kind are not the wisdom that comes down from above: they are only earthly, animal and devilish. Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked. A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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Everything is possible for anyone who has faith

At the end of last year, I decided to apply to do my Master’s overseas. I applied to two universities in Chicago. My intention was first, to narrow the geographical distance between my fiancé and I; and second, to satisfy my deep-seated desire to experience what it was like to study overseas. I remembered praying and asking God that, if it was his will, to make a way for me. The first university responded sometime in February, just after my birthday. I was excited when I saw an email from the university in my inbox, but my excitement soon turned into disappointment when I realized that my application had been rejected.

Disheartened, I started feeling uncertain and began doubting if my desire was in-line with God’s plan. The second university had not yet responded and I was half afraid of what their decision might be. I prayed again (with a little more fervor and desperation this time) and entrusted my dream into God’s hands, but there was still a little voice inside me that was scared to trust God with my plan.

In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples trying to cast out an unclean spirit from a boy, but without any success. We then hear the father of the boy speak to Jesus. From his words, we can tell that he was probably affected by the inability of the disciples to cast out the spirit. One can almost imagine the tone of resignation in the father’s voice. After all, his son had been plagued by the unclean spirit almost all his life, since childhood. “If you can do anything,” he says to Jesus, disheartened by what he had just witnessed and trying not to get his expectations up.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? How many times have we, disheartened by our circumstances, come to Jesus secretly doubtful as to whether he will (or even has the ability to) answer our prayers? When we pray, we pray halfheartedly, with doubts in our minds. Jesus, however, encourages the boy’s father to ask again, and to give Him his faith. He also encourages the disciples by telling them that the unclean spirit could only be cast out with prayer. He is telling his disciples and the boy’s father to persevere in their faith and in their prayer.

Prayer is more than just petition. It is also about being honest with God about our fears and our inhibitions and telling God that despite our doubts and lack of faith, we still want to come to him and seek him. With prayer, we are asking God to help us, in spite of our lack of faith, because we want to surrender our burdens to Him.

Jesus is encouraging us today to pray, and not to give up in our prayer. Especially when our petitions may seem to go unanswered. Is there a petition in your heart, which you are afraid to surrender to Jesus? Or a petition that may appear to have gone unanswered and you wonder if Jesus is even there? Jesus is asking us to come to Him. Like the father of the young boy, He is asking us to give Him our faith today.

I am encouraged by today’s Gospel to pray, even when my circumstances may appear unchanged.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for the courage and humility to persevere in prayer, even when our circumstances may appear unchanged. 

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for the people who have prayed for us and who are still praying for us today.

Sunday, 23 Feb – “Game Changer”

23 Feb – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord is Compassion and Love

We cannot celebrate the Lord of love without resolving to be more like him; for we are built into him like stones into a Temple erected to give glory to God. We belong to him.

– The Sunday Missal

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Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18

The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:
‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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1 Corinthians 3:16-23

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.

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

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Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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Eye for eye and tooth for tooth

There’s a similar phrase in today’s modern world that mirrors the quote above. It’s called “tit-for-tat”. And it happens pretty commonly. It begins at the playground and continues even when we grow up – in schools, at the workplace, in our marriages or even on the road. It’s the “take that” mentality where we want to give the other a taste of their own medicine so that they will understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end. Some will call it “justice”. Others will call it “retribution”. After awhile, it becomes a cycle. And life ends up being like an endless match, where we’re constantly trying to see who can score the most goals against the other.

In today’s Gospel, however, we are confronted with a different mentality. In fact, as followers of Christ, we are called to abandon this “tit-for-tat” mentality and to become a “game changer” instead. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines “game changer” as “a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way”. Jesus is a game changer. For instance, he healed lepers, ate with sinners and saved an adulteress from being stoned. These were acts that were controversial to the Jewish community and it challenged their norms. It changed the way the Jews (and subsequently the pagans) looked at their relationship with each other and with God.

We too are called to be game changers. Today, Jesus instructs us to offer the wicked man no resistance, to offer our left cheek to those who have hit us on our right, and to offer our cloak to the man who sues us for our tunic. All these are game-changing acts because it goes against the norms that we’ve been living with. It’s interesting how Jesus instructs us to look at what we can give to our enemies, instead of what we can take (or retrieve back) from them.

That may mean holding back our tongues when a stranger lashes out at us, resisting the urge to join in gossip about a fellow colleague who has offended us or that boss whom we feel is prejudiced against us, giving our spouse the cold shoulder because they have done something that hurt us, or cussing at the taxi driver that suddenly zipped in front of us. Instead, we could respond gently to the stranger, speak objectively of our bosses and colleague in front of others, treat our spouse kindly and pray for the rash driver. We are called to have bigger hearts, because as Christians, what difference would we make if we loved only those who love us?

Forgiveness brings with it grace – the grace to let go and to be open to the blessings that God has in store for us. It gives life not just to the forgiven but to the forgiver as well. When we choose to react differently to the wrong that is done to us, we are giving ourselves and other people around us, a chance to turn the situation around. It opens up space in our hearts for God to pour out his blessings through us so that we can become channels of God’s love and peace. Are you willing to become a game changer for God today?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Lord, grant us the grace and the courage to become the person with the bigger heart. Help us to become game changers for you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for the people who have responded kindly towards us even when we have been angry, unfair or unreasonable.

Saturday, 22 Feb – Evil Will Never Prevail Against God’s Word

21 Feb – Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

This feast has been celebrated in Rome since at least the fourth century. It signifies the unity of the Church founded upon the Apostles.

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1 Peter 5:1-4

Now I have something to tell your elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.

Today’s Feast of the Chair of St Peter had been instituted in the Church since at least the 4th century. I admit: as a teenager, I had read numerous jokes about different tribes of people being screened by St Peter at Heaven’s pearly gates, and not understood a pip why the need for a gatekeeper! Obviously I had not yet read this episode in the Bible. Since then, my experience and reflections on this detail of our Faith has evolved from ignorance to reverence.

“Who do you say I am?” (Mt 16: 15)

Each of the disciples had their distinct roles to play during Jesus’ earthly ministry. They each had a unique charism. Peter was none the wiser of his particular charism until Jesus proclaimed it over him. Why was Peter singled out? The exchange between Jesus and Peter in today’s Gospel passage must be read in totality with the events thereafter – when Jesus foretells his death and resurrection (Mt 16:21-23); Peter’s denial is foretold (Mt 26: 31-35); and finally, the fulfillment of Peter’s denial (Mt 26:69-75). This is no unnecessary detail that of all the disciples to whom Jesus posed this question, “Who do you say I am?” it is Peter who had answered resolutely, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Yet soon after this anointed revelation, we see Peter waver with doubt and fear of losing his beloved Jesus to death and (inconceivable) resurrection, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (Mt 16:22). We hear Jesus fiercely rebuke Peter “You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mt 16:23). Can we ever imagine Peter’s shock, bewilderment and hurt at this retort from his dear friend and Lord?

Not long after, we hear an over-earnest Peter declare his steadfast allegiance to Christ, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you… even though I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mt 26:32, 35). Sometimes, by being too familiar with a text, we easily preempt with the benefit of retrospect, Oh yeah, and then Peter obviously goes on to deny Christ three times as foretold – but good for him, God forgives! Well, yes and more! Should we not contemplate their entire relationship with the painful and slow passage of time?

When after the cock crew, Peter remembered what Jesus had foretold of his denial, “he went out and wept bitterly” (Mt 26: 75). His sorrow was realizing that all his best intentions and resolve were fraught with his intrinsic humanness. He, like any one else, was a sinner through and through no matter how anointed he had been, or how blessed and happy Jesus had called him. The bitter irony of Jesus’ happy declaration that he was the rock on which God would build His Church, was even more painfully etched into Peter’s existence. Minutes, hours, and days passed over his betrayal. I doubt he could sleep. He must have been depressed. He must have felt utterly worthless and cowardly – turning over every moment and conversation he had with Jesus. Wishing he had never thought himself better than he actually was; wishing he could rescind his words, disgusted at his foolish bravado, soaking in his remorse. Yet, Jesus had foretold the betrayal of this stubborn man – and had already offered Peter his forgiveness.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17)

Why would Jesus, knowing the fallibility of this wavering man, declare him a rock and foundation? Peter’s steadfast devotion to Jesus was his true and inmost self – his spiritual gift and deepest potential. But Jesus knew too, that Peter’s weakness was his tendency to be consumed by earthly things, and not of things divine. Therefore Jesus prayed for Peter, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). With the prayers of Christ himself for the strengthening of Peter’s will, the first Church was built. Though the physical foundation was in the person of Peter, the substance of his authority came from Christ the Son of the living God, the Holy Spirit, and our Father in heaven. This is why we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter today. We give thanks for the institution of God’s Church upon His first chosen human servant-leader.

Many have cast stones at the numerous stained personas of the Papacy since St. Peter – and rightly so for evil is evil, and Christ himself had overturned tables in the Synagogue. Sin is undeniable, as St. Peter would have confessed bitterly of his own betrayal. But I wonder, had he remained consumed by his failures, choosing to bind himself to his faults, and focused on his sinful nature, more than on Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness, would we still have our Christian faith today?

Truly, Peter did galvanise his brethren as Christ had commanded him. For that, he would have had to learn to forgive himself; to loose his binds; and to retrain his heart and mind on eternal realities. He had to abandon his past in order to embrace his truest and inmost potential in marriage with God’s perfecting love. I think of St. Peter as Noah, and our Church as the great Ark. Noah had to trust God’s command – build a ridiculously monstrous wooden boat on dry land, gather all the creatures of the earth into it, majestic elephants and even troublesome rodents! The slowness at which our 2000-year old Church seems to evolve in relation to the rest of the times, recalls the seeming pointless drifting of the ark. But these are mere appearances. The mystery of faith is perpetually beyond our intellectual grasp – this includes the reasons why Christ would vest Peter with any authority at all, given his track record. The life and ministry of St. Peter could very well be symbolic of our Church on earth.

During the siege of the countries of Europe around the late 18th century, French Emporer Napoleon Bonaparte was reported to have said to Church officials, “Je détruirai votre église” (“I will destroy your Church”). When informed of the emperor’s words, one of the great statesmen of the Papal court, Ercole Cardinal Consalvi replied, “He will never succeed. We have not managed to do it ourselves!”

When I mentioned reverence at the start, I was not referring simply to my posture towards the Chair of St. Peter, our Papacy. It is the Word of our Father in Heaven that I am “held captive” in awe by, and have chosen to reverence. This is one of the mysteries that I will never comprehend, but by faith believe it – that St. Peter was justified not only by his love and faith in Jesus, but also by his humility and courage to take seat on the chair of God’s Church, despite his great failures. By this, I know that the seasonally scandalous secular “throne” in the eyes of this world belies God’s immutable omnipotence and omniscience over all He has instated. Though I mourn Peter’s past betrayals, I remain deeply happy as Jesus had called him, because I believe that the gates of the underworld can never hold out against God’s kingdom and His promises. Man may fail and sin may plague, but God’s Word and His Church will prevail. We must always look to God’s goodness and not lose hope!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Let us pray for the servant of God’s Church our Pope Francis, that the Holy Spirit guide him. May our Father protect him, all in his office, and our clergy from temptation to sin – that they remain humble and true in service, for God’s glory.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the courage and steadfast service of our good and faithful Popes before. We praise God for His grace and mercy for us all.

Friday, 21 Feb – Naughts and Crosses

21 Feb – Memorial of Saint Peter Damian

Youngest child in a large but impoverished family of local nobility. Orphaned young, Peter was sent to live with a brother who mistreated him and forced him to work as a swine-herd. A pious boy, Peter was eventually sent to live with another brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna, Italy; Peter was so grateful that he took the name Damian. Well educated in Ravenna, in Faenza and in Parma Italy. Professor. He was known for his life of strict austerity.

Around 1035, Peter gave up teaching to retire from the world and become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He was forced to spend time in recovery; he used it to study Scripture, and when he was healthy, he was assigned to teach his brother monks and then the public. Economus of Fonte-Avellana; prior of the house in 1043, a post in which he served for the rest of his life. He expanded the monastery, greatly improved its library, and founded sister hermitages in San Severino, Gamugno, Acerata, Murciana, San Salvatore, Sitria, and Ocri. Friend of the future Pope Saint Gregory VII.

Attended a synod in Rome in 1047, and encouraged Pope Gregory VI to support a revitalization of Church zeal and clerical discipline. Wrote Liber Gomorrhianus, which described the vices of priests, mainly in their concern with worldly matters, with money, and the evil of simony. Created cardinal-bishop of Ostia on 30 November 1057. Fought simony. Tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more worldly. Strongly opposed anti-pope Benedict X. Legate to Milan for Pope Nicholas II in 1059; worked there with Saint Ariald the Deacon and Saint Anselm of Lucca. Supported Pope Alexander II.

A prolific correspondent, he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including a one of Saint Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire to live as a simple monk, but was routinely recalled as papal legate, called upon to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. Declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

– The Patron Saint Index

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James 2:14-24,26

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show. You believe in the one God – that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless. You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called ‘the friend of God.’

You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified. A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.

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Mark 8:34-9:1

Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’

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If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me

Walking the road with Jesus was never going to be a walk in the park. We have to deny ourselves, and walk a path that we may not want to, but if we keep our eye fixed on Jesus, the walk will be easier to bear. Sometimes we find ourselves in a difficult position, having to choose God over things we would prefer to do or have, or people we would love to be with. I want to share an experience from my life where the cross I bore was one of the heart.

Years ago, I came to know someone whom I believed I loved. I think that anyone with eyes knew that it was not a good match, but when you believe yourself to be in love, you are always the last to see reason, and the last to see the truth. You try to justify everything; you believe that if God is love, and God is perfect, then this must be perfect love in God’s eyes. It was all wrong to begin with and it was a mistake. It was a relationship that God would never have sanctioned, but when you are young you don’t want to believe anything else. The hard part was, he was already spoken for. A part of me did not want to come in between anyone, but the other, stronger, part did not want to lose him. I spent many nights lying awake thinking about this, and praying about it. Many nights ended in tears because I was fighting a battle within me. I felt that I could not do what I had to, because I feared the hurt and pain that I would have to endure. But I prayed, and God spoke to me and asked me to believe in Him, believe that if I gave up what was wrong, and did what was right in God’s eyes, that it would all work out for the better. In other words, God was asking me to take up my own personal cross, give up what my human heart perceived was the right thing, and let Him take the place of pride in my heart.

I believe that this is what taking up your cross means: putting God first, and everything else becomes secondary. This basically means to follow God’s commandments, His word and teaching. If we lose our lives for His sake, we will save it. But if we choose our lives first over God, we will lose it. I came perilously close to losing it. I won’t deny that it took me a while to finally give this man up. When I did, I won’t deny that it was not easy. I had taken some sort of love heroin and I was addicted, and now I was trying to come clean. The heartache was unbearable, and it was a very difficult time in my life. I could not turn to anyone, except to God, and I told Him so. I imagined I sat at Jesus’ feet crying, and after some time, I felt comforted. Jesus encouraged me through His word. He helped to make it bearable. I didn’t really notice it, but one day I realized that I had stopped thinking of that young man, and that I was in less pain. Now when I reflect back, I realize that that man would never have been part of God’s plan and if I had refused to listen I would have suffered more. I finally met a better man, one who loves me, and I knew that he was the one that I had been waiting for, and we are now happily married.

Maybe you might think that this is a frivolous story. But the point is this. Sometimes, taking up our crosses to do what is right by God will cause us pain and heartache, more than we think we can bear. But the cross that Jesus bore for us is infinitely heavier. He carried all our sins for us. Yet He will help us bear whatever burden we have to make our yoke lighter. God assures us that our sacrifice and our efforts will not come to naught: “Whoever has left house or brothers and sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands for my sake and for the Gospel, will not lose his reward.” (Mark 10:29-30). That walk with Jesus will ultimately become a walk in the park, with Jesus always as our loving companion.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, we ask for your mercy and forgiveness for the times when we have placed our own needs and wants before you. We pray for the strength of heart to follow you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for helping us to bear our burdens when they overwhelmed us. Thank you for your constant reassurance and comfort that all will be well in the end.

Thursday, 20 Feb – Classes of Society

20 Feb 

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James 2:1-9

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. In spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor. Isn’t it always the rich who are against you? Isn’t it always their doing when you are dragged before the court? Aren’t they the ones who insult the honourable name to which you have been dedicated? Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture: you must love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law.

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Mark 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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But as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law

I read a book recently called “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan. The book revolves around a Chinese Singaporean young man who is bringing his unsuspecting American girlfriend back to meet his moneyed-to-the-hilt family (and extended relations) in Singapore for the first time. While it is a satirical read, it is also painfully real, and Kwan acknowledges this from his personal upbringing in a similar background.

To cut things short, the poor American-Chinese girlfriend, Rachel, is minutely scrutinized by the young man’s relatives, and classified as not of similar stock, due to her financial position and educational background (despite that she was from Stanford University and is a lecturer in economics). The book describes the reality of how society is classed not just in Singapore but I am sure, all over the world. We are categorized like cattle based on our finances, marital status, education, material goods, and whom we socialize with, amongst other things. Why, we even judge in church as to who serves in church more than others, or sings better, or is more knowledgeable in Scripture. Why do we do this?

A person having a better financial standing does not automatically get elevated to a higher position than a poor person in God’s eyes, so says Jesus in today’s reading. Being in a perceivably “better” society or race does not create favours in God’s eyes. Jesus never discriminated with whom he was dealing with, be they tax collectors or Samaritans (as in the case of the Samaritan woman who gave Jesus a drink), even though these were social taboos of the time. God created us all equal (see Galatians 3:28) and more importantly, in His own image. We were created out of love, and we are all loved by God. We are all one in Christ Jesus. James reminds us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. If Jesus could break the barriers of stereotyping in his day, why can we not emulate his example? At the end of the day, it does not matter how rich we are in our bank accounts, but how rich we are in the bank of faith.

We came into this world as equals, and we will leave this world as equals. God will judge us no different from the way He judges the next person. And how we will be judged will be based on how we have judged others, and how we have treated and loved others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, we ask for your forgiveness for the times when we treated others on lesser terms. Let us not be hasty to judge, but open up our hearts instead that we may love one another.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for showing us mercy and for loving us unconditionally. Help us to follow your example and love one another as you have loved us.

Wednesday, 19 Feb – I Can See Clearly Now

19 Feb 

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James 1:19-27

Remember this, my dear brothers: be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper; God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger; so do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you – accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves. To listen to the word and not obey is like looking at your own features in a mirror and then, after a quick look, going off and immediately forgetting what you looked like. But the man who looks steadily at the perfect law of freedom and makes that his habit – not listening and then forgetting, but actively putting it into practice – will be happy in all that he does.

Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion. Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

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Mark 8:22-26

Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, and some people brought to him a blind man whom they begged him to touch. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Then putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly. And Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’

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Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly

The hymn “Amazing Grace” is my favourite hymn of all. The first verse in particular has a beautiful line: “I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind but now I see”. It resonates deeply my personal walk of faith with Christ as a convert. Before I knew Jesus, I was angry and upset. I think this was the catalyst needed to open up my eyes to the wonders and love of God. I mean, I was angry at God at one point, even before I became a Catholic. I remember thinking, feeling at that point of time, that God was saying to me: “Why don’t you see, that you could love me too, and it would be a love higher than no other?” I was scared – scared to believe, scared to be involved too deeply, scared of what others might say. And yet the more I knew about God, the more I was drawn to Him. It seemed inevitable, and I think God had determined that it was my time to know Him better. I mean, I believed in God before that, but not as I do now. I believed that there was a higher power, and that we should all do good. I think I had the right destination in mind, just maybe not quite the right route. So it felt like I was going round in circles. And I suppose, if one is blind and had no one to guide, it could literally be that way: going round in circles.

Today’s Gospel reading is about the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida. Jesus healed several blind men in the course of his work. There were the two men in Galilee (Matthew (9:27-31), and the man who was born blind (John 9) in addition to the man in Bethsaida. The difference between these two healings and the one at Bethsaida is that the man in Bethsaida was healed progressively, and not right at once. If we were to read further, we would note that the two men in Matthew and the man in John had professed faith in God and believed that he could heal them.

So what about the man in Bethsaida? He was a little different. He was brought to Jesus, and Jesus was asked to touch the man. There is no mention, however, of this man’s profession of faith. He could possibly have been brought there by friends or relatives who believed in Jesus. Perhaps this man was not quite a believer in Christ and did not have the faith like the other blind men, quite like myself before I accepted Christ. I don’t mean to say that if one does not believe in Christ, that Christ will only heal in degrees. I believe that this healing underscores that when we are spiritually blind or immature, or have yet to come to know about Christ, we may not see things clearly at first, like the man from Bethsaida. Our faith and knowledge of Christ develops progressively and once fully formed, we see as God would have us see.

Let us then return to the first reading of today from James 1:25: “But the man who looks steadily at the perfect law of freedom and makes that his habit… will be happy in all that he does”. God wants to open up all our eyes to the wonderful promises and love that He has stored up for us, but in making us see, He also wants us to use our sight to see what we as believers of Christ should be seeing: the ability to do what is right in God’s eyes. In other words, let us ask ourselves in terms of our faith and works, are we looking but not seeing?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who have yet to know you and your way. We pray that you will open up their eyes to see your wonders, their minds to receive your Word, and their hearts to receive your love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving me my sight spiritually. I was not worthy, but you opened up my eyes to the wonders and the power of your unending love. Praise be to you always!