Daily Archives: August 19, 2017

20 August, Sunday – Joy in Service

Aug 20 – Memorial for St. Bernard, abbot, doctor

Bernard (1090-1153) founded and led a monastery which had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. He revised and reformed the Cistercians, and was advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young, and spritual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.

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Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

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Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

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Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

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…I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.

After nearly 5 months, I served at the most recent Conversion Experience Retreat #57 where, due to some last-minute pullouts, we were whittled down to a team of just over 20. But over the 5 days, we experienced such joy in service (and lots of laughter as well), so much so that I didn’t feel tired at all on the last day. In fact, some of us went out for a nice dinner after the thanksgiving mass as we continued to share and laugh at some of the more ‘lighthearted’ moments during our meals in the retreat.

In spite of the usual stresses and physical strains, I enjoyed myself thoroughly over the five days, with a light heart and He spoke to me through the bible verses I drew before we began each session. The verses brought smiles to my heart as I reflected during quiet moments, listening to Him speak encouraging words to me. Truly, our God is a joyful God who relishes seeing us serve with humility and giving cheerfully of our time and effort.

Brothers and sisters, there are many of us who serve in ministry and if we have lost some of the joy in serving, I encourage you to lift your worries, fears, anxieties and troubles up to God so that He can give you back the initial fervour and joy when you first decided to serve Him. Over the years, it is easy to get disillusioned, hurt or disappointed for one reason or another. We must always remind ourselves why we are serving in the first place. It is certainly not for our own glory but rather we must focus our gaze on Jesus.

For it is only when we have Jesus at the center can we truly proclaim that we are serving God in His vineyard. And when our hearts are humble, that is when the true joy of serving the Lord fills us and when we truly bear fruit that is good.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray that you continue to sustain us in our service to you so that we bear good fruit that is lasting.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times you have called us to serve in your vineyard.

19 August, Saturday – A House United

19 Aug

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Joshua 24:14-29

Joshua said to all the people, ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’

  The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

  Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.’ The people answered Joshua, ‘No; it is the Lord we wish to serve.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we will obey.’

  That day, Joshua made a covenant for the people; he laid down a statute and ordinance for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’ Then Joshua sent the people away, and each returned to his own inheritance.

  After these things Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died; he was a hundred and ten years old.

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Matthew 19:13-15

People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.

Serving God with all of my body, mind, and spirit, can be quite a challenge sometimes. This is especially so when I consider how my body, mind, and spirit, are sometimes not functioning in unity. In other words, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak – or otherwise.

In today’s scripture readings, we read of the how Joshua challenged the Israelites about their conviction and commitment to serving and honoring the Lord completely. He charged them with the evidence of their old ways of idol worship and asked them to choose only one – the Lord God, or the variety of alien gods they had. Joshua proclaims, ‘As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’ This is a bold announcement, because he was making such a statement with the witness of many households.

It struck me today that the words ‘my House’ and ‘household’ is used. This ties in with the gospel passage where Jesus tells his disciples not to withhold the little children from approaching him for blessings. A household is made up of more than one person. It is a unity and community of persons. Although the father or the patriarch may be the head of the household, he too needs to lead with a heart of service to his members. And in the proper order of things, he is ultimately leading them in service to the greater agenda of loving and honoring either one God, or a chaotic disarray of alien gods and idols.

I suppose this charges the adults and older members in any household to be accountable to their community, as Joshua firmly states: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ All of the members within one’s household take their point of reference on reverence from the leaders or heads. Simply put, children look up to their parents and learn from their actions and choices, about their values and priorities in life. If mum and dad practice differently from what they preach, the children will ultimately be confused and easily see through the discrepancies.

In this way, it is as Jesus warns us not to do: Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Sometimes, it is not so much by our actions that we set up obstacles to the faith for our little ones – it is by our lack of commitment and integrity that might discourage them and affect their experience and understanding of what it means to lead a faithful Christian life. May we pause a little while today to consider where have we led double lives in our daily choices, and who are the everyday witnesses to our willful or accidental missteps.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for eyes to see the truth about our own failures and hypocrisy. God grant us the grace to begin again responsibly and humbly.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for putting accountability partners in my life to challenge me and witness to my growth.