Monthly Archives: January 2016

Sunday, 31 January – Speak With Love

31 January

Dear Readers, today we have a new contributor – Rebecca Grace – to join our OXYGEN family! Rebecca responded to our Christmas Day call last year for volunteers to share their faith reflections. It is wonderful to now have her on board. Here’s a little bit about Rebecca Grace:

The name is Rebecca and I am a born and bred city girl from Kuala Lumpur who was sent away (yes, unwillingly) to Penang to pursue my degree in biotechnology. There, I learnt how to grow up, become independent and, at the exact same time, become more dependent on God. I loved learning biotechnology but my calling seemed to have been in journalism and this is where I’ve been for the past two years. OXYGEN became a daily affair when a work contact Josephine Dionisappu told me they were looking for contributors for the Christmas season. Her timing couldn’t be more perfect as I had broken my leg on an assignment and was stuck at home for at least six weeks with nothing to do besides watch the rest of the family get ready for Christmas, and boring satellite TV. My first thought about writing the reflections was “Why not? This could be push me to get in touch with God through the Bible and not just solely on prayer. This could be my chance to actually hear Him and not my own voice.” Kind of like reading a text message in a rock concert. The noise distraction is there but if you focus on the lit-up screen, the words will sink in. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to OXYGEN.

________________

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19

In the days of Josiah, the word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying:

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.

‘So now brace yourself for action.
Stand up and tell them
all I command you.
Do not be dismayed at their presence,
or in their presence I will make you dismayed.

‘I, for my part, today will make you
into a fortified city,
a pillar of iron,
and a wall of bronze
to confront all this land:
the kings of Judah, its princes,
its priests and the country people.
They will fight against you
but shall not overcome you,
for I am with you to deliver you –
it is the Lord who speaks.’

________________

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

________________

Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

________________

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.

Wars, the migrant crisis, earthquakes, floods. All these disasters (among others) and sadness plaguing the world has most of us talking a lot. Filling our newsfeeds and conversations with a million suggestions on how to help those affected, or condemning those who started the problems in the first place.

Yet, how many of us can truly say that we’re speaking out of love, care and compassion instead of a want to appear righteous and just? It’s amazing how much we’re willing to give our two cents worth on an issue but immediately stumble and stutter when asked what we’re doing to help fix the situation.

“Words with actions,” is the core message when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, and it’s a message that we need to be reminded of constantly. We need to feed our souls, not our egos.

It is easy to forget that we’re not just here to speak of God’s works but actually do them as well. God has called us to be His hands on Earth when we were baptized.

Today’s readings remind us on the importance of action over words. Action is a form of love. Jesus has called us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. It is not enough to just talk any more but we need to get ourselves involved and actually do something. I can practically hear the excuses spilling out of your mouths but hear me out. Time is tight for most of us, but we can always donate money or items to help ease the burden of the afflicted. If money is an issue, spend a few hours with your friends or family helping in shelters or homes instead. It is still time with your loved ones and you’re spending it by helping to spread God’s love to the world.

So dear brothers and sisters, let us play our parts as Catholics and extend a helping hand to our downtrodden neighbours. No action is too small nor any gesture too big in the eyes of God. So long as it is done with a good heart.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, bless us with the conviction to reach out and help those most in need.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks, dear God, for the abundance you blessed us with in order to help our downtrodden neighbours.

Saturday, 30 January – Who Then Is This Whom Even Wind and Sea and Computers Obey?

30 January

________________

2 Samuel 12:1-7,10-17

The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David. He came to him and said:

‘In the same town were two men,
one rich, the other poor.
The rich man had flocks and herds
in great abundance;
the poor man had nothing but a ewe lamb,
one only, a small one he had bought.
This he fed, and it grew up with him and his children,
eating his bread, drinking from his cup,
sleeping on his breast; it was like a daughter to him.
When there came a traveller to stay, the rich man
refused to take one of his own flock or herd
to provide for the wayfarer who had come to him.
Instead he took the poor man’s lamb
and prepared it for his guest.’

David’s anger flared up against the man. ‘As the Lord lives,’ he said to Nathan ‘the man who did this deserves to die! He must make fourfold restitution for the lamb, for doing such a thing and showing no compassion.’

Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. So now the sword will never be far from your House, since you have shown contempt for me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

‘Thus the Lord speaks, “I will stir up evil for you out of your own House. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. You worked in secret, I will work this in the face of all Israel and in the face of the sun.”’

David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die. Yet because you have outraged the Lord by doing this, the child that is born to you is to die.’ Then Nathan went home.

The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David and it fell gravely ill. David pleaded with the Lord for the child; he kept a strict fast and went home and spent the night on the bare ground, covered with sacking. The officials of his household came and stood round him to get him to rise from the ground, but he refused, nor would he take food with them.

________________

Mark 4:35-41

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’________________

Quiet! Be still! 

Recently we attended a formation session for World Youth Day pilgrims at our parish. Just before we started the session with praise and worship, the projector was acting up, so one of our leaders asked us to start praying the Hail Mary. We went on to one Our Father and The Glory Be, by then the hymn was projected on the white screen. As I was writing this reflection, two days later, my computer showed a blank screen and I did the same as we had the other day. Since I could not imagine trying to explain why I had to pray for these things, I called our internal help desk and moved away from the computer. When I return a few minutes later, my computer was back in action.

Personally I am always intrigued by Jesus when He challenging his apostles in scriptures by asking them to have more faith. Ironically, when I am faced in situations which require faith, I am restless and nervous.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us the same questions, what are the reasons behind our fears? Yet – He commands the seas to “Be still” first. Interesting chronology – that He would first deliver us from the predicament which we are facing and only then question us about our lack of faith.

Some of us are facing situations which seem hopeless – terminal illness, broken marriages, loss of a job, financial duress, sense of abandonment and sudden change of events which robs us from the life we had. Jesus says the same thing today to us, urging us not to be frightened, calming down our fears and soothing our pain right after He commands our ‘storms’ to be still.

Just like He has forgiven David and Judas, He forgives us and loves us. He is our Father and He wants us to live. He looks not on our faults or failures nor our lack of faith. He simply is our hero who would snatch us out of any fire and keep us safe. He loves us so much that He gives us the choice of wanting to love Him and trust Him.

I know Him and I know He has not forsaken a single person. Let us not nail our human inflicted suffering towards Him. Like David, we have all invited pain and suffering into our lives and for those we need His mercy. For the rest my dear sisters and brothers who are cherished dearly by my Lord, offer them to Him as you wait for calmness in your life. He will come through for you, He will not have it any other way. “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And remember, “You can do all things in Christ that strengthens you,” (Philippians 4:13) And as we wait on Him, let us be mindful that though it may seem that we are waiting for a breakthrough and a prayer to be answered, in reality we have kept Him waiting for us to return to Him with a heart entrenched with faith and a life governed by a clean heart.

Today let us offer Him the areas in our life that suffers and is void of His light. Let us allow Him to help us with our faith and let us acknowledge that we are not able to always trust Him like we ought to. For those times, we count on His grace and we ask our Mother to continue to pray for us.

When we are faced with hopeless thoughts and temptations, let us command it with the same authority of Our Lord – “Quiet, be still.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7) If all of us kept telling the devil to flee away from the very beginning – imagine what the world will look like? 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father we are sinners and sometimes cannot trust ourselves. Help us to trust you more each day.

Thanksgiving: Jesus I trust in you.

Friday, 29 January – Have Mercy on Me Lord in Your Goodness

29 January

________________

2 Samuel 11:1-4,5-10,13-17

At the turn of the year, the time when kings go campaigning, David sent Joab and with him his own guards and the whole of Israel. They massacred the Ammonites and laid siege to Rabbah. David, however, remained in Jerusalem.

It happened towards evening when David had risen from his couch and was strolling on the palace roof, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David made inquiries about this woman and was told, ‘Why, that is Bathsheba, Eliam’s daughter, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers and had her brought. She came to him, and he slept with her. She then went home again. The woman conceived and sent word to David; ‘I am with child.’

Then David sent Joab a message, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite’, whereupon Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came into his presence, David asked after Joab and the army and how the war was going. David then said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and enjoy yourself. Uriah left the palace, and was followed by a present from the king’s table. Uriah however slept by the palace door with his master’s bodyguard and did not go down to his house.

This was reported to David; ‘Uriah’ they said ‘did not go down to his house.’ The next day David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk. In the evening Uriah went out and lay on his couch with his master’s bodyguard, but he did not go down to his house.

Next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Station Uriah in the thick of the fight and then fall back behind him so that he may be struck down and die.’ Joab, then besieging the town, posted Uriah in a place where he knew there were fierce fighters. The men of the town sallied out and engaged Joab; the army suffered casualties, including some of David’s bodyguard; and Uriah the Hittite was killed too.

________________

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

________________

To His own disciples He explained in private

Many of us know, intellectually that the most important relationship we have is with our Lord. Some of us are blessed to know it through the course of life as we walk with Him. It matters not where we are in this walk and the depth of our relationship with our Lord right now, as we are reminded that He explains things to us in private. Just as words exchanged between lovers and knowing glances between best friends, He continues to stay tuned to us.

We spend so much of our time at work, commuting, socialising and investing in our futures, yet all these things and people are only temporary. We cannot get our relationships with our family members and loved ones right, if He is not ever present in our lives. The choice is ours to let Him in, daily.

Personally I have heard the sweet voice of our Saviour during my prayer time, at adoration, at mass and through visions. He has blessed me with great insights into my future and He has a great reason to do so which I partially understand through my limited human understanding. Yet like an ungrateful child I doubt Him because I do not see the straight path towards His plans for me. During the times when I doubt Him, I also go through a bout of pain deep within that affects my relationship with those whom I hold dear. It feels like I’ve had an ‘emotional divorce’ from God and it hurts too much. As His child and lover, the onus is on me, to continue to trust Him and quite frankly it is best for me that way.

Sisters and brothers, when we have derailed and feel estranged let us draw close to Him. Let us attend mass daily, go for confession, spend time in adoration, read the scriptures and pray the rosary. These precious gifts bring us right back to Him despite our pain and sorrow. If we only cling to Him in time of need we will fall in the category of ‘the crowds’ in today’s gospel who listened to the basics and lived their faith as an obligation. But we are created to be His disciples, to lean on His breast and draw from His heart and share His gaze. To do that we need to do what the first disciples did, to spend time with Him, to allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, to surrender and receive, to be childlike with Him and yet as passionate after His heart like a lover. Our willingness and His grace and mercy will take us through.

David was known as the man who was after God’s own heart, yet He was tempted and sinned to an extend that caused the life of an innocent man. If that was David’s fate, what are our chances? Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that though we feel unworthy and at times inadequate like the mustard seed, we can be sown to become the largest plant and provide shelter and hope to others through the message of His love and truth.

Today and onwards, let us draw close to Him so that we are His disciples who receive from Him our own sustenance and that of the whole world. Aren’t we all called to be evangelisers who are capable of setting the world ablaze by sharing Jesus?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father draw us close and never let us go too far away. We give you control over our desires that may cause us to stray away from you. Please create in us a heart that yearns to beat close to yours, always.

Thanksgiving: Praise you Lord for your mercy and goodness for without which even our own best efforts will be in vain.

Thursday, 28 January – Nothing But You Lord

28 January – Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him,and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

-Patron Saint Index

________________

2 Samuel 7:18-19,24-29

After Nathan had spoken to him, King David went in and, seated before the Lord, said: ‘Who am I, O Lord, and what is my House, that you have led me as far as this? Yet in your sight, O Lord, this is still not far enough, and you make your promises extend to the House of your servant for a far-distant future. You have constituted your people Israel to be your own people for ever; and you, Lord, have become their God.

‘Now, O Lord, always keep the promise you have made your servant and his House, and do as you have said. Your name will be exalted for ever and men will say, “The Lord of Hosts is God over Israel.” The House of your servant David will be made secure in your presence, since you yourself, Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, “I will build you a House”; hence your servant has ventured to offer this prayer to you. Yes, Lord, you are God indeed, your words are true and you have made this fair promise to your servant. Be pleased, then, to bless the House of your servant, that it may continue for ever in your presence; for you, Lord, have spoken; and with your blessing the House of your servant will be for ever blessed.’

________________

Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

________________

The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you

This is a fair yet scary one, to be measured in the same measure we use for others and to be treated the same way we treat others. All of us make mistakes. Yet we don’t want to be treated the same way as how we have treated others.

We demand that others are kind, punctual, tactful, merciful, understanding and reasonable. Surely the list goes on, but sometimes when it comes to situations when we did not uphold the expectations we had imposed on others, we somehow try to justify it.

Over the past few months, I noticed that when I am disappointed with someone, it is a mirror image of a disappointment or hurt that I had inflicted on someone else. Recently, I was rather troubled with the thoughts of someone owing me money. I kept thinking that this person had taken me for granted and taking their time to pay the debt. And since this was a rather close friend, I tried to find the best way to approach it. Each day I prayed about it and God kept asking me to wait. Within a few days I suddenly remembered that I owed some money to a friend who had offered to pay first on the day we had lunch. Knowing how much not ‘receiving my dues’ affected me, I am more careful every time I needed to pay for something. There were many instances when I dwell on the mistakes of my sisters and brothers, God reveals to me that I had the same shortcoming which needed correcting so that I can be refined by Him. The Lord, in His mercy, brought to light my weaknesses (in a loving way) as a Father would correct His child.

St Thomas was obedient (though I can only imagine what He endured) so that he can answer His priestly calling. I am profoundly struck by his response to the Lord who asked him what reward he would like and responded “none but thee.” St Thomas and also King Solomon probably had a trust so profound in the Lord that they knew all they needed was Him and His wisdom… nothing more.

Today, when we pray are we bringing out a long shopping list of favours to the Lord? Or are we able to surrender everything to Him – the longing of our hearts, our dreams and desires so that we allow Him to do as He wills? If we are not there yet, what is holding us back?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father we have all we need and want none but thee. Help us to surrender daily to you and submit to your will. Mother Mary and St Thomas, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your perfect plan of sending down a Saviour, your only Son, to us. Your Love is unending.

Wednesday, 27 January – Hear the Word and Accept it

27 January

________________

2 Samuel 7:4-17

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I have never stayed in a house from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today, but have always led a wanderer’s life in a tent. In all my journeying with the whole people of Israel, did I say to any one of the judges of Israel, whom I had appointed as shepherds of Israel my people: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” This is what you must say to my servant David, “the Lord of Hosts says this: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. (It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Yet I will not withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from your predecessor. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

Nathan related all these words to David and this whole revelation.

________________

Mark 4:1-20

Jesus began to teach by the lakeside, but such a huge crowd gathered round him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there. The people were all along the shore, at the water’s edge. He taught them many things in parables, and in the course of his teaching he said to them, ‘Listen!, Imagine a sower going out to sow. Now it happened that, as he sowed, some of the seed fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground where it found little soil and sprang up straightaway, because there was no depth of earth; and when the sun came up it was scorched and, not having any roots, it withered away. Some seed fell into thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it produced no crop. And some seeds fell into rich soil and, growing tall and strong, produced crop; and yielded thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

When he was alone, the Twelve, together with the others who formed his company, asked what the parables meant. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God is given to you, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may see and see again, but not perceive; may hear and hear again, but not understand; otherwise they might be converted and be forgiven.’

He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those on the edge of the path where the word is sown are people who have no sooner heard it than Satan comes and carries away the word that was sown in them. Similarly, those who receive the seed on patches of rock are people who, when first they hear the word, welcome it at once with joy. But they have no root in them, they do not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, they fall away at once. Then there are others who receive the seed in thorns. These have heard the word, but the worries of this world, the lure of riches and all the other passions come in to choke the word, and so it produces nothing. And there are those who have received the seed in rich soil: they hear the word and accept it and yield a harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’

________________

Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.

God has been faithful and consistent. He has never failed us and yet we sometimes are challenged to hold on to His words. Either because we are judging God by our own standards or because we simply succumb to the devil telling us to do so. Whatever the reason or the excuse, we need to sow it in our hearts and minds that we can accept His words and that He will never fail us.

After a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebration I suddenly felt the sting of being single. Going through the emotions I suddenly remembered the bible verse I read in the morning, “Whatever we ask God, we shall receive, because we keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants”. His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to from the book of 1 John. I was surprised by the drastic turn of events in my heart despite reading of God’s promises earlier that day, pondering on my how I allowed His Words to fall on rocky ground. I know that I am someone who follows the commandments, lives the life He wants and loves others as He wants. It is not perfect and I am not without my failings, yet my heart and mind knows that He will grant me the desires of my heart. For my own sake and in my journey to perfect my life in His terms, I have to claim this promise. That would mean holding on to Him so tight, that in my weakest moment He reminds me that I am from Him. To remain joyful and faithful when I am not sure what that truly means, I seek our Mother’s hand… handing my troubled heart and situation to her.

I realised that I have to read the scriptures with an attentive mind and heart during my daily prayers so that I can hear the voice of my Beloved and be attuned to Him. We are both, after all, very interested in building our relationship together.

So while others live my dreams, I learn what it means to be patient and attentive to His word. He is my Maker, not only does He know what is best for me, I can imagine that His word is more soothing and comforting than my mum’s and my friend Cathy’s.

Our humble obedience to listen to His word protects us when harm is presented at us. Just as how we sometimes replay the words of our partners in our minds, we need to be able to replay His message of truth, hope and love and that will save us from all that is not of Him.

Why are we not watering our soul with His word daily? Isn’t nourishment to the soul more important than nourishment to the body?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father we pray that we learn to quench our thirst in your Word and Your truth. Give us good memory and wisdom to remember scriptures even in our darkest hour and help us draw from You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for teaching us, feeding us and constantly talking to us through so many ways, including your precious Word.

 

 

Tuesday, 26 January – Travelling Light

26 January – Memorial for Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

-Patron Saint Index

________________

2 Timothy 1:1-8

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

________________

Mark 3:31-35

The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’________________

…but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God

Part of the training for sprinters, short distance runners, jumpers, even boxers, include conditioning with weights. Extra weights are strapped onto their ankles or arms to enable their bodies and movements strengthened. Eventually when these weights are removed, their bodies are accustomed to performing at a higher level under previous strenuous circumstances. The feeling of suddenly being set free from the extra baggage is liberating and one gets a sense of exuberance in form and strength.

In a way, the sweetness and hardships of life are part and parcel of being on this earthly pilgrimage. They are the extra (but unavoidable) baggages of beautiful memories or wounded experiences. Certainly, we can and should steer clear of consciously sinning against others and actually, ourselves and God. These are often the very regretable baggages that we find the hardest to shed – when we cannot seem to forgive ourselves. Or, to let go of toxic and abusive relationships, because perhaps unwittingly these very miseries have been allowed to cement our identity. It is a struggle that is real. Even with an epiphany of this realisation, some of us may still wrestle with the will to put the past down.

But this is not our natural state. Just like the sportsmen, the extra weights serve a certain purpose – to sand down our rough edges, soften our stubbornness, build up our resilience, or gift us with empathy. But these good and bad conditions will not be forever – we can trust God to work meaning and good out of whatever present hardships and battles we now face. It is hard to make sense of everything now, but God delights in redemption.

This is a reminder that Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus when they were commissioned by Paul to go forth and shepherd God’s flock in Ephesus and Crete. In a sense, they not only ‘cut kinship ties’ with their own families in order to serve the greater glory of God, they also had to shed the strings of dependence on Paul who was by then imprisoned. Paul exhorts them to “bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.”

We see this apparent relinquishing of earthly kinship ties by Jesus in the Gospel too. I used to feel sad that Jesus was ‘denying’ Mother Mary and his kinfolk who were waiting to see him – ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?… Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’ These were the people who loved him dearly, brought him up, clothed, fed and protected him. What kind of treatment were they getting? Heartbreaking.

However, I understand now that this is not a dismissal of their worth to Jesus. This was Jesus in his Priesthood speaking. Having come of age and left his home, his purpose, mission field and identity were no longer confined to Nazareth and his familial ties. This is one of the great sacrifices Jesus made in order to follow his purpose anointed by God the Father. Likewise, our Pope, Bishops, Priests, Religious and Consecrated persons do the very same in Jesus’ footsteps when they profess their final vows and commit their whole life in service to Christ and his Bride, the Church.

Among us, God has called some to walk this very path. God has also chosen some of us as parents to these very faithful servants. We might not know yet. When this season beckons and the moment reaches us, may we generously and humbly seek God’s Kingdom. To trust that we have been given each other for a reason, that we might sanctify each other for the true liberation of Eternal Life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for our Pope, Bishops, Priests and all religious who leave their families to serve us and bring us Jesus. Lord, keep them strong in faith, conviction and fill them with Your love and mercy.

Thanksgiving: We thank our families for loosening their love over time in order that we may learn and grow into who we are called to be.

Monday, 25 January – Honesty Is Humility

25 January – Feast of The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

(Source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1271)

________________

Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

________________

Mark 16:15-18

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
________________

I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus…

Being in relationship with others is so tough. I am not only referring to the romantic kind. There are all kinds – friendship, professional relationships, and kinship. There are various difficulties in keeping good relations with the people around us. However, one of the simplest and commonest obstacles is honesty.

For some, the closer and more intimate the relationship, the harder it is to be vulnerable and honest. For others, it is hardest to be honest with their bosses and colleagues. Depending on the depth and intimacy of understanding we desire to cultivate with each person, we will decide how much of ourselves to reveal. Because honesty involves taking a huge risk.

We risk being rejected, ridiculed, and wounded. We can risk much more, trying to be honest – losing the relationships we cherish, or losing a job.

Before Saul became Paul, he was a religious zealot who not only knew the Law, but saw it as his true calling to persecute and imprison the ‘blaspheming’ followers of Christ. “I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death…” But Saul was struck down from his high horse on the way to Damascus, by a bright light – and the stunning voice of Jesus. In that brief conversation with Jesus (whom he could not see), a deep convicted conversion took place within Saul’s being.

Let’s not romanticise his conversion though. It took Saul time to reach Ananias who helped him regain his sight. He had to go through a baptism in the name of Jesus, to wash away his sins. He had to be taught the Law of Love (and not just the Law). This change of heart was not wrought by a stroke of lightning as his initial encounter suggests. Saul the Zealot became Paul the converted, who later became the Apostle over his entire lifetime. He is now a Saint for us because of his very virtue of honesty and humility.

By his honesty, we now have his account and admission of his past sins of bringing death to many innocent Christians, his struggles with his fleshly nature, his iniquities against God, the sensitive dynamics of Christian communities, the hardship of growing old, and numerous letters to the Corinthians, Philippians, Ephesians, etc. However for me, the most significant example of his honesty and humility was when he first confessed confusion and ignorance – I said: What am I to do, Lord?

These six words completely changed his life from a know-it-all faithful and law-abiding Jew to a humbled sinner. At that point, Saul became Paul in spirit. He surrendered his plans, will and intellect to Jesus and sought direction.

Christianity is not a club. Our faith is not membership, and the length of our faith journey does not count necessarily for seniority, maturity, wisdom, nor evangelising skill. None of these appearances matter when Christ calls out to us. I am reminded today that the mark of a true follower of Jesus, is the willingness with which we respond to Him “What am I to do, Lord?” instead of insisting to do things our way, our time, our vision. Honesty about our own abilities, helplessness and brokenness is the stepping stone to humility and deeper intimacy with Jesus and others. Only then will we be like Saint Paul, a most humble but fervent evangeliser.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Pray for us Saint Paul, that we will be more like you, willing to lay down our will and intellect if God so calls us to in each situation. Help us be honest and humble with ourselves.

Thanksgiving: I am grateful to all my friends and loved ones who have taken risks to be honest and vulnerable with me, even when we all fear being hurt or rejected.

Sunday, 24 January – Permission To Be Sad

24 Januar

________________

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10

Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – and Ezra, priest and scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’

________________

1 Corinthians 12:12-30

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it stopped being part of the body? If the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it was not a part of the body? If your whole body was just one eye, how would you hear anything? If it was just one ear, how would you smell anything?

Instead of that, God put all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’

What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. So our more improper parts get decorated in a way that our more proper parts do not need. God has arranged the body so that more dignity is given to the parts which are without it, and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

________________

Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

________________

Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.

Sometimes I find it really hard to be a Christian. Afterall, we are told that the Gospel is the Good News, and who would be convinced by my witness if sometimes this Good News made me sad or caused me to struggle with not being ‘good-enough’? It is even harder, from my experiences, when I am aware of the need to ‘die to myself’ (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:22-24) in order that Christ may live in me, but my Flesh does just the opposite that my Spirit desires.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I often feel discouraged trying to live out many of the paradoxical Beatitudes. This includes being wronged unjustly, but choosing to pray with drops of sweat for the ability to rise above petty and vengeful thoughts and feelings. This includes choosing to be hopeful and joyful amidst the swamp of external pressures, feelings of loneliness, and emotional undertows. I am aware that I am not, and cannot be perfect. But lately, the sneaky lies of the evil one have manipulated my need for perfection, and caused me to take too seriously and severely the words of Jesus, ‘Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). Oh I could never live up to Jesus’ impossible command! Should I just give up?

The First Reading shows us a scene of Ezra the priest reading out the words of the Law (think, the book of Numbers, Leviticus in the Old Testament) to the assembly of believers. How reverential they were, how contrite of heart they were that they wept and mourned their iniquities as they listened to God’s Word. But instead Ezra told them, “do not be sad, do not mourn – go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine… this day is sacred to our Lord, do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.”

As I read it, I wondered – is it wrong to be sad? Is it okay if I just cannot feel joyful and strong in this present moment? Is this considered ungratefulness to God?

Well, I can only think of one reason that I should be, and must be joyful, even if my emotions tell me otherwise. “This day is sacred to our Lord” – this day refers to the Sacrifice of Jesus, crucified for me and resurrected, to show me the extent of God’s grace and redemption.

In my darkest hours, I know that I have permission to be sad, or angry, or mad, or disappointed. But I don’t have to remain so. The perfection that Jesus calls me to is not an emotional perfection. Neither is it perfection in my physical capabilities. The “perfection” I sought had been cleverly distorted by the devil into accusatory chains around my soul that I am not good enough for God; that count my failures more than my efforts; that smother me in guilt and shame. My soul, at its quietest depths, simply wants to keep on loving God and abiding in Him. But it was hard to stay afloat with the weight of these lies.

Except: I forgot that I was not to do this all alone. I forgot that I had my Advocate, the Holy Spirit with me and for me. I had the sacrifice of Jesus’ Precious Blood and Body to fall into and cry out for. I realised I had not given myself the permission to be sad. I had not allowed myself to admit my struggles, my fatigue of maintaining an unassailable demeanour as someone who could rise above hurt and exhaustion easily. Someone who was an all-rounder fearless warrior of God.

But that is far from true. I am full of brokenness. I had forgotten that in spite of this, I am clothed in the Love of God. In my need for perfection, I had tried to dissect my needs (emotional, spiritual, physical) into separate entities (a ear, an eye, a foot) and to ‘discipline’ them to perfection. Yet Paul tells the Corinthians this, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. God has arranged the body… that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it.”

This suffering from a deep interior estrangement is real for some of us. May this sharing bring some encouragement and comfort – we do have a permission to feel sad, weak and inadequate. We don’t have to look all put-together and tough.

Jesus suffered like us – betrayal, abandonment, fatigue, physical hurt. He was not immune and neither are we. This joy we are called to does not come from within us, nor from favourable circumstances, nor approval from others; but from God through Christ our Lord. Our proof is in the sacred Eucharist. Taken and blessed; broken and given.

I take comfort and draw joy from the Eucharist. That this Body of Christ will slowly heal and love me into peace and wholeness. I have a lifetime to keep on trying, even if I sometimes grow sad in the moments I falter.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to surrender my misconception of perfection. I just want to love you in simple ways, and to feel your tender love in the little things.

Thanksgiving: God’s infinite mercy is a living spring that never runs dry. Let us not just look at it and nod our heads, but to stoop low and drink from it.

Saturday, 23 January – Skipping Meals

23 January 

________________

2 Samuel 1:1-4,11-12,17,19,23-27

David returned from his rout of the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag. On the third day a man came from the camp where Saul had been, his garments torn and earth on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and did homage. ‘Where do you come from?’ David asked him. ‘I have escaped from the Israelite camp’ he said. David said to him, ‘What happened? Tell me.’ He replied, ‘The people have fled from the battlefield and many of them have fallen. Saul and his son Jonathan are dead too.’

Then David took hold of his garments and tore them, and all the men with him did the same. They mourned and wept and fasted until the evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, for the people of The Lord and for the House of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

Then David made this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan.

Alas, the glory of Israel has been slain on your heights!
How did the heroes fall?
Saul and Jonathan, loved and lovely,
neither in life, nor in death, were divided.
Swifter than eagles were they,
stronger were they than lions.
O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul
who clothed you in scarlet and fine linen,
who set brooches of gold
on your garments.
How did the heroes fall
in the thick of the battle?
O Jonathan, in your death I am stricken,
I am desolate for you, Jonathan my brother.
Very dear to me you were,
your love to me more wonderful
than the love of a woman.
How did the heroes fall
and the battle armour fail?

________________

Mark 3:20-21

Jesus went home, and once more such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.________________

Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.

There have been many times when I skipped meals because I was too busy at work. I would be so focused on some project or tied up in a meeting, that I’d end up not remembering to eat. Although it might be a good way to find an extra hour or two in the day and increase one’s productivity, the long-term health effects of missing meals can be very damaging. In a 2007 scientific study published in an industry journal entitled “Metabolism”, it showed that test subjects who consumed only one meal a day, were at higher risk for high blood sugar levels, diabetes, stroke or even heart disease.

In the Gospel reading from today, we read of how Jesus is so busy attending to the needs of the Israelites that seek Him out that He ends up forgoing His own rest and meal time. He was performing such great miracles (healing the sick, curing the blind and calling on the sinners) that crowds from all over wanted to ask for His healing touch. This would have consumed lots of Jesus’s stamina, attending to the needs of so many. But because He loved the people so much and saw how great their needs were – Jesus willing sacrificed Himself for them.

The Lord created us with a longing hunger that only in Him we can truly be satisfied. Yet oftentimes, we are just too distracted or busy with our daily routines that we try to ignore those hunger pains. Today, let us consider whether we are getting the requisite spiritual nourishment we need each and every day? Let us set aside a fixed time daily to properly consume His Word.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the bread of life, our Saviour Jesus. Whoever goes to Him will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Him will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who suffer malnutrition in places that lack the proper resources and institutions to feed its people. We pray that You send Your angles to them and satisfy them according to Your will.

 

Friday, 22 January – Spilled For A Reason

22 January

________________

1 Samuel 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel and went in search of David and his men east of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds along the route where there was a cave, and went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave; David’s men said to him, Today is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.”’ David stood up and, unobserved, cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.

Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David bowed to the ground and did homage. Then David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”? Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you. “I will not raise my hand against my lord,” I said “for he is the anointed of the Lord.” O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand. Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind. I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life. May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you. (As the old proverb says: Wickedness goes out from the wicked, and my hand will not be laid on you.) On whose trail has the king of Israel set out? On whose trail are you in hot pursuit? On the trail of a dead dog! On the trail of a single flea! May the Lord be the judge and decide between me and you; may he take up my cause and defend it and give judgement for me, freeing me from your power.’

  When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ And Saul wept aloud. ‘You are a more upright man than I,’ he said to David ‘for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil. Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested? May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today. Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.’
________________

Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.________________

I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead.

I was having dinner with a friend of mine this evening. After being served our ice teas, I heard a crash behind me and suddenly felt a splash of water hit the back of my pants and jacket. As my back was turned, I didn’t see it happen, but the waiter had drop the tray and caused a glass full of wine to spill all over me. It would have been easy to just snap and cause a big uproar! It was within my right to scold him for his carelessness! Or better yet, I could have demanded that his supervisors severely discipline him on the spot!

But I didn’t.

Maybe I didn’t get mad at him because I know what it’s like to be a waiter. Before he retired, my dad used to be a waiter at a restaurant where he’d work twelve hour days. When I was younger, I’d go to help out at the restaurant during summer holidays. I had to be on my feet most of the time running around taking orders, serving dishes and cleaning up tables. It was never glamorous work – but it was always important to do it with a positive attitude (because patrons came back for the good food and friendly service). For me, it was an unpaid summer “internship”. For my dad – it was our family’s livelihood.

Maybe I didn’t get mad because I saw a young man (apologizing profusely) trying to make a start at a new job – instead of seeing a person who had just done me harm. We all make mistakes and being able to ask for forgiveness is what God desires for us. Furthermore – being willing to forgive is also what Jesus teaches us – “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37)

Maybe I didn’t get mad because I was more focused on the plight of my friend. We had agreed to meet on short notice because he wanted my advice. He had just been told that his company was shutting down their Hong Kong office and that he and his staff would no longer have jobs. The news was a shock and he wanted to hear how I had coped with a similar experience I had a few years ago.

And so it dawned on me. God didn’t place me there so that I could get free drinks and dessert from the restaurant for the spilt wine. He also didn’t place me there to have a nice meal and to just socialize with a friend. He placed me there so that I would have the opportunity to live out my Christian testimony through my actions (and inactions) and that in some small way – lead those around me to know a God who can give them the hope and assurance that only Jesus can.

(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su)

Prayer: Heavenly Father – we pray for those who are experiencing a change in their career paths. We pray that You lead them in a direction that brings honor and glory to You. 

Thanksgiving: Lord – we give thanks to You for Your great mercy for You could have condemned us for our sins. However, you took pity on us and sent Your one and only son, Jesus Christ, to spill His blood for us so that we may be right by You.