Daily Archives: August 18, 2016

19 August, Friday – True Neighbourly Love

19 August – Memorial for St. John Eudes, Priest, Religious founder

John Eudes (1601-1680) established seminaries, and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary Eudists to promote virtuous secular parochial clergy not bound by vows, but dedicated to improving the clergy through seminaries and missions. He also founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity who worked for the welfare of penitent women. He was the author of the liturgical devotion of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord was laid on me, and he carried me away by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley, a valley full of bones. He made me walk up and down among them. There were vast quantities of these bones on the ground the whole length of the valley; and they were quite dried up. He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘You know, Lord.’ He said, ‘Prophesy over these bones. Say, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord says this to these bones: I am now going to make the breath enter you, and you will live. I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; and you will learn that I am the Lord.”’ I prophesied as I had been ordered. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a sound of clattering; and the bones joined together. I looked, and saw that they were covered with sinews; flesh was growing on them and skin was covering them, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, “The Lord says this: Come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead; let them live!”’ I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life again and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They keep saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone; we are as good as dead.” So prophesy. Say to them, “The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“You must love your neighbor as yourself”

I remember that as a 12-year-old, I had an opportunity to make some extra pocket money by taking on a project to paint my aunt’s private apartment, located in the Grange Road area. One day, after completing work for the day, I was waiting for my aunt to return home. It was late, and I was hungry. In the end, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and went to the neighbour, rang the doorbell and left the keys to the apartment with them and went home.

My aunt was not impressed when I subsequently called her to tell her how retrieve her keys (and that’s putting it mildly!)

Growing up in a 3-room flat in Tanglin Halt, a relatively poor area, the door to our home was always open, except for when we went to bed. I remember the hustle and bustle, neighbours walking in freely to “hang out” and have chats. I lost count of the numerous times the aunty next door came in with extra food they had cooked just so they could check, or the times I actually ate at the neighbours. In fact, I spent so much time there as a child I even learnt how to speak Hainanese (a dialect), an ability which I sadly lost. I remember the love that I experienced. I remember how Mr Foo, the photographer, took so many photos of me, taking the time and effort to give us copies of the prints, or how another aunty took on the effort to iron ALL of our clothes just so my grandaunt would not have to work so hard. I saw how the neighbours went out of their way to help each other, even if it meant making sacrifices and inconveniencing themselves. It was such an amazing environment for me to grow up in.

Coming back to the story of my aunt. On a subsequent visit, she sat me down and explained why it was dangerous for me to have done what I did. What would happen if the neighbour was dishonest and had chosen to duplicate the keys? What if she got robbed? Suffice to say that all described scenarios were dire.

I realised, when I was older, how ironic the situation was. When one ‘progressed’ up the socio-economic ladder, one became more closed, effectively becoming more self-centred, while being materially poorer meant that there was a bigger community to depend on. Truly, while I wasn’t a Christian in the early days, I experienced God through this community.

By loving our neighbours, we become ‘other’-focused. We learn to see the good in others, learn to help others. The more we help and love, we more we learn to help and love. We learn that we are not the centre of the universe.

Fast forward some 40 years and most of us live in relative seclusion. Engagements with our neighbours are perhaps limited to polite smiles while waiting for the elevator, if we are lucky. In all likelihood, many of us would be staring into our mobile devices, or engaged in the latest games. This has resulted in many of us living our lives in isolation, or acrimonious situations when neighbours disagree. Living in isolation leads us to be self centred.

The Lord, in today’s gospel, teaches us to see God in others, which is why loving others as much as we love ourselves as a commandment is second only to loving God with all our hearts, soul and mind.

Let us all go and open our doors to our neighbours! Let us reach out to those around us; at home, at work and in the community at large. Doing so will help us to achieve the greatest commandment, and will empower us to love our God even more.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will learn to keep our eyes open to be kind and to be able to reach out to our neighbours; at our homes, our workplaces, in our community-at-large. Teach us, Father, to be sensitive to Your promptings and also help us to grow in Your love by loving those around us not superficially, but sincerely, and deeply.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Father, for showing us Your love for us through those around us. Thank you Jesus, for teaching us that the importance of not just loving our Father personally, but to love Him through loving our neighbours.