Daily Archives: January 24, 2019

25 January, Friday – 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 fulfilment 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)

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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.”’

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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.’
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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.

24 January, Thursday – Asking and Taking

25 January 2019

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Hebrews 7:25-8:6

The power of Jesus to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.

To suit us, the ideal high priest would have to be holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners, and raised up above the heavens; one who would not need to offer sacrifices every day, as the other high priests do for their own sins and then for those of the people, because he has done this once and for all by offering himself. The Law appoints high priests who are men subject to weakness; but the promise on oath, which came after the Law, appointed the Son who is made perfect for ever.

The great point of all that we have said is that we have a high priest of exactly this kind. He has his place at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent of Meeting which the Lord, and not any man, set up. It is the duty of every high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices, and so this one too must have something to offer. In fact, if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are others who make the offerings laid down by the Law and these only maintain the service of a model or a reflection of the heavenly realities. For Moses, when he had the Tent to build, was warned by God who said: See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

We have seen that he has been given a ministry of a far higher order, and to the same degree it is a better covenant of which he is the mediator, founded on better promises.

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Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he warned them strongly not to make him known.

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He cured many and as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him

The scene of our gospel reading today is markedly different from yesterday. Today, we see Jesus mobbed by the crowd, pressed in from all sides, by people eager to meet the new miracle worker in town. In Jesus’ time, access to healthcare was a luxury available only to the powerful and the wealthy. Most people did the best they could within their limited means. This included consulting local medicine men, witch doctors and false healers, all who were more than eager to exploit the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. They saw in Jesus, a new kind of hope. No one was really interested in the healing he could bring their soul; everyone was just in it in order to be healed physically, so they could get on with their lives. In a way, the mob was exploiting Jesus too for their means, and he knew it – “he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him”.

Many of us treat our prayer time as an opportunity to rattle off a litany of requests to God. I have often wondered what it must be like to be on the receiving end of this. I know I get annoyed when friends and family just take and take and take, without even thinking of how they might give back. It makes me feel used and taken advantage of. I feel exploited. I get angry and resentful. Wouldn’t God feel the same? Though He is above these negative human impulses that doesn’t mean He won’t recognize our selfishness in the long ‘lists’ we call ‘prayers’. If when we approach God, we just focus on asking and taking instead of giving and serving, why would God listen to us?

Jesus doesn’t want believers who are just interested in taking. He wants to have a relationship with us, and a relationship is a two way street. He called us because he saw in us, a quality that he wanted in a friend. Perhaps we should re-examine our intentions then, rethink our prayers to see if we are in this for what He wants, or whether we are simply here for the asking and the taking.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness to examine our prayers and our petitions. When we ask, do we ask with the right intentions?

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of God that allows us to become better versions of ourselves.