Monthly Archives: February 2019

19 February, Tuesday – God is my GPS

19 February 2019

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Genesis 6:5-8,7:1-5,10

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that the thoughts in his heart fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long. The Lord regretted having made man on the earth, and his heart grieved. ‘I will rid the earth’s face of man, my own creation,’ the Lord said ‘and of animals also, reptiles too, and the birds of heaven; for I regret having made them.’ But Noah had found favour with the Lord.

The Lord said to Noah, ‘Go aboard the ark, you and all your household, for you alone among this generation do I see as a good man in my judgement. Of all the clean animals you must take seven of each kind, both male and female; of the unclean animals you must take two, a male and its female (and of the birds of heaven also, seven of each kind, both male and female), to propagate their kind over the whole earth. For in seven days’ time I mean to make it rain on the earth for forty days and nights, and I will rid the earth of every living thing that I made.’ Noah did all that the Lord ordered.

Seven days later the waters of the flood appeared on the earth.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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“Do you still not understand?”

I love the GPS I have in my car. It has pretty cool graphics and a very soothing voice-over. Most of all, it has been a life-saver from the countless times I sat clueless trying to figure out where my destinations were, or when I find myself trying to find the quickest possible way to get to where I am going and worrying that I would not make it there in time. I love it also for the times my GPS has steered me away from endless frustrations and hours lost, getting caught in jams.

As great as these features of my GPS may be, there is one aspect which I love even more… for all the times I have taken a wrong turn, and trust me, there are plenty of those despite the best efforts of my GPS, it does this wonderful thing – it recalculates the route to get me back on track.

God is my GPS and He recalculates my route for me for the countless times that I have taken a wrong turn. And the fact that I still take wrong turns despite having such wonderful technology at my service, is due to no fault of the GPS, but to my lack of attention, to my confusion, to my stubbornness and pride (for the times I said to myself against my GPS “nah … I am pretty sure it was this way when I drove on this road 20 years ago”,) only to discover, that a certain part of Singapore has since changed beyond recognition.

God is the divine navigator in our lives and he has an in-built Google Map that is accurate and updated at every second; in fact, He is the Google map. When we turn to him and allow Him to lead us (and this is usually the big IF in our lives), we get to our destination safely, efficiently and in precise time. We will not encounter any undue traffic jams (although traffic jams will always be around, which we cannot avoid because of sin in this world), and we will not waste ‘fuel’ in terms of emotional, physical and spiritual energy wasted along the way. And, of course, most importantly, we get to the place we are supposed to get to – the places in our lives where God’s presence can be found and experienced. With God as our GPS, we get to our ultimate final destination – the bosom of God himself, when we complete our earthly road-trip.

My GPS is also infinitely patient with me – regardless of how many times I make a wrong turn, especially for the times I choose to disregard it. It does not scold me or mock me, nor give up on me (I trust your GPS system is the same?) – it simply recalculates. It finds the new path which I need to take, even if sometimes, a U-turn may be needed. It shows me how to get back on track. It stays true to its purpose and mission – which is to get me to my destination.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Our lives are confusing and complicated, our wills are stubborn and prideful, our world is full of deception, temptation, dangers and perils. Our souls are tired and battered and we often feel like not carrying on in the journey. It is easy to get lost, discouraged and tempted to stray away from you. We need you to recalculate our way back to you, our true north, where we can always find light, hope, clarity, strength and salvation. Where we can come home to you – our Father who loves us and rejoice that we have arrived safely back into your arms.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you the gifts of your love for us, of your Son, the Holy Spirit, our Blessed Mother Mary, the Saints and the sacramental life of the Catholic faith. In these you have given us the GPS we need to bring us safely back to you in all the cross-oads of our lives and for when we make the final journey back to you.

18 February, Monday – Yes, God does demand the best from us

18 February 2019

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Genesis 4:1-15,25

The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. ‘I have acquired a man with the help of the Lord’ she said. She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil. Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for the Lord, while Abel for his part brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast. The Lord asked Cain, ‘Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?’ Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out’; and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him.

The Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I do not know’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?’ ‘What have you done?’ the Lord asked. ‘Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood, crying out to me from the ground. Now be accursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands. When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth.’ Then Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today you drive me from this ground. I must hide from you, and be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!’ ‘Very well, then,’ the Lord replied ‘if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for him.’ So the Lord put a mark on Cain, to prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.

Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth, ‘because God has granted me other offspring’ she said ‘in place of Abel, since Cain has killed him.’

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Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

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“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, for your burnt offerings are before me always.”

In my reflection today, I point to another parable that is probably very well-known to us – that of the Widow’s offering of the 2 coins found in Mark 12:41-44. In that parable, the message is clear that in the eyes of God, offering 2 little coins means everything to God, if it is everything you have left to your name on planet earth, versus giving 2 million gold bars if you have 2 billion more in reserve somewhere collecting dust. It is therefore simple and clear – God does not look at the absolute value of our offering to Him but in relative terms. In fact, God does not consider our offering, in and of themselves, at all … be it in our gold, our time nor our talents. He considers instead, our sincerity. In God’s reckoning, he looks at the sincerity in our hearts in what we offer Him.

Do we give him sincere adoration in prayer, or do we hope to gain His favor when we praise and worship Him? Do we offer him authentic service in Ministry or do we or put on a good show of our ‘devoutness’ to gain the adulation of men and seek privilege in Church? Do we offer him true sorrow and repentance for hurting our brothers and sisters when we fail to love them as God did, or do we hope to avoid retribution and punishment? Are we truly grateful for all God has given us, including the crosses in our lives, or are we grateful to God only when He has granted our wishes?

In the story of Cain and Abel, let us examine again the specific offerings brought to God:

“Cain brought to Jehovah an offering from the fruit of the ground. Abel, he also brought from the firstborn of his sheep, their fat portions”. (Genesis 4:3-4).

In the ancient cultures, people were not supposed to bring just any old ordinary fruits, grains, and animals to their God. For the gift to be acceptable, it had to be the best of what they had to offer. And the first of their harvest, as well as the firstborn of their flocks and herds, was to be offered to God. Why did God have regard for Abel’s offering, but not for Cain’s? Abel brought God his best, and put God first. With his offering, Abel richly thanked and honored the God who had given him life, health, wealth, and wellbeing. Cain just brought whatever ordinary produce he had on hand. Was that any way to thank the One who gave him his very life, and made his crops to grow, flourish, and bear fruit? In short, God accepted Abel’s offering because it was offered out of a heart full of sincerity and gratitude. God did not accept Cain’s offering because it smacked of being a half-hearted effort to curry God’s favor or to do the bare minimum so long as we need not get inconvenienced and to stay within our comfort zone.

What then are our own offerings to God – the best we are able to from the sincerity of our hearts? Or what we can spare? Sometimes, because we believe in an all-loving, all merciful, all faithful God, we think that is ‘okay’ if we fall short of giving our best to God. On the contrary, dear brothers and sisters, it is not okay …for God does demand the very, very, very best from us. He knows we will always fall short of it but that does not mean that He does not expect us to make the sincere effort on our part. And it begins from our hearts; start from there to offer your best – most loving, most sincere, most authentic, offering to God. For our God deserves only the best from us. He has said so when He commanded us to love Him with all our hearts, our souls, our minds and to love our brothers and sisters the same. The first and THE most important commandment since the beginning of time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, free us from the great evil in us of our ingratitude and insincerity to you. Deliver us from the spirit of this world that deludes us into the falsehood that you deserve only our mediocrity, our inauthenticity and our compromises in our worship and service of you and our brothers and sisters. Help us Father. We cannot rise above all these without your saving grace and love. Forgive us for all the times, we have been too human, forgetting that we are your children – children of the Almighty God.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you for giving us your very best – your first born and only Son to save us, Mary to bring us the love of a perfect mother and the Holy Spirit, to sanctify, empower and advocate for us, for all the times we have given to you anything and everything… except our best.

17 February, Sunday – The Truth is out there

17 Feb – Memorial for Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites

The Order of the Servants of Mary (Servites) was named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V. It was founded in 1233 by Sts. Alexis Falconieri, Bartholomew degli Amidei, Benedict dell’Antella, Buonfiglio Monaldi, Gherardino Sostegni, Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and John Buonagiunta Monetti.

They were beatified on 1 December 1717, and canonized on 1887 as The Seven Holy Founders. On the Feast of the Assumption in 1240, the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading “Servants of Mary”. Mary told them:

“You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of St. Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”

From their first establishment at La Camarzia, near Florence, they moved to the more secluded Monte Senario where the Blessed Virgin herself conferred on them their habit, instructing them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to admit associates. The official approval for the order was obtained in 1249, confirmed in 1256, suppressed in 1276, definitely approved in 1304, and again by Brief in 1928. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285, there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century, it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India.

The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870.

The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the “Seven Dolours of Our Lady”. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. An affiliation, professing exclusively the contemplative life is that of the “Hermits of Monte Senario”. It was reinstated in France in 1922.

Cloistered nuns, forming a Second Order, have been affiliated with the Servites since 1619 when Blessed Benedicta di Rossi called the nuns of her community “Servite Hermitesses”. They have been established in England, Spain, Italy, the Tyrol, and Germany.

A Third Order, the Mantellate, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri under St. Philip Benizi (c. 1284) has houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, Canada, and the United States. Secular tertiaries and a confraternity of the Seven Dolours are other branches.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 17:5-8

The Lord says this:

‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.

‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.’

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1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20

If Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

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Luke 6:17,20-26

Jesus came down with the Twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

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“Your faith is in vain”

In the context of our Christian faith, truth prevails regardless of the choices we make, what we choose to believe in or otherwise, and what this world chooses to value versus what God reveals to us of the values that prevail in His kingdom. For example, if Satan himself was to appear in front of you one day and declare, at the top of his voice, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living and Almighty God, what would your reaction be like (shock and eye-popping aside)? Would you focus on the fact that this was a sentence uttered by Satan and hence become questionable or false? Or to recognize that regardless who states it, truth prevails. That our Lord is the son of the living Almighty God regardless who proclaims it, remains truth. Nothing changes that because God’s truth will always prevail. It is a light that the darkest darkness cannot overcome. And what is this truth? The readings today hold extremely important revelations to us about the truths of the resurrection, the fidelity of God and of His Kingdom values which are the very foundations of our Catholic faith.

God’s truths are absolute, not relative nor subject to the interpretations of man. There is no wishy-washiness, no ambiguity, no ifs and buts, no double-entendre, nothing equivocal – about what is being revealed today. The resurrection is not a “maybe it did happen, maybe it didn’t? ”. The fidelity of God is not a “perhaps if I counted on Him, things might turn out okay”. And the kingdom values of the Beatitudes point to what God holds cherished, despite how our world says, “… you gotta be kidding me … how can persecution, sorrow, hunger for justice, denunciation, being hated, poverty and humility possibly be good and be part of the Gospel values?

Yet, they are. God is infinitely bigger than our faith. God does not increase or diminish on the basis of the relative strength or weakness of our human faith. When the evil one uses the circumstances of our lives, our emotions and our thoughts to create falsehood, distraction and deception, God’s truth remains eternal, unchanged and unchanging – the truth of His love for His children, His power over all of creation, His unfailing fidelity to His own, His mercy, His grace.

For God speaks in words that are absolute:

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.”

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers”

“Blessed are you … Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven …”

You can take these promises of God to the ‘bank’ and cash those in when you meet face-to-face with Him one day.

The truths are often antithetical to what can be understood, seen or felt. They transcend our thoughts and emotions, which the devil often uses to dumbfound us and deceive us away from the truth. They transcend all human science, understanding, senses, pride and convenience. God’s truth does not rely on what is known, what is seen and what is felt by man. Rather only on what is BELIEVED by him. It dwells and bears fruit only when we choose, through the Holy Spirit, to believe. To believe in His Word, His Character, His Wisdom, His Grace, His Love.

“If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain; If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable creatures of all”.

If you stop believing right here, right now, this very instance, in the resurrection of Christ, the fidelity of Christ, the Kingdom of Christ… indeed, your faith is in vain, and indeed, you are most pitiable. For then, there is only, falsehood and nothingness.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Help us as we do battle each day in a world that more often than not, chooses not to believe that you are our living God but a dead thing hung on a piece of wood, to not rely on you to be our ever-faithful God, and that chooses not to live in your kingdom of deferred eternal salvation but rather on instant gratification.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gift of your Spirit which brings all falsehood to eternal truth, all darkness to eternal light and all living death on earth to eternal life in your heavenly Kingdom.

16 February, Saturday – Real ‘soul’ food

16 February 2019

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Genesis 3:9-24

The Lord God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

To the woman he said:

‘I will multiply your pains in childbearing,
you shall give birth to your children in pain.
Your yearning shall be for your husband,
yet he will lord it over you.’

To the man he said, ‘Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

‘Accursed be the soil because of you.
With suffering shall you get your food from it
every day of your life.
It shall yield you brambles and thistles,
and you shall eat wild plants.
With sweat on your brow
shall you eat your bread,
until you return to the soil,
as you were taken from it.
For dust you are
and to dust you shall return.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live. The Lord God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the tree of life also, and eat some and live for ever.’ So the Lord God expelled him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Mark 8:1-10

A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said. Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.

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“I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat”

When I was young (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was) and read the Gospel about the multiplication of loaves of bread and the few small fishes that fed thousands, I simply marveled at the miracle itself and nothing more.

Years later, when I read this passage again, I discovered how much I actually missed. The nuances within this Gospel reading deserve deeper reflection.

Our Lord Jesus is supremely intelligent, compassionate and merciful. He never says anything meaningless; and often, His words have deeper meaning than first thought. The bible itself is like a treasure trove, just when you think that you have discovered all, you find that there are more to it than meets the eye.

Jesus is loving and merciful. He was concerned that the people who were with Him for three days, had nothing to eat. He was not merely concerned about their physical being, but their spiritual well being as well. After all, at that time, they did not partake in the bread of life yet – the Holy Eucharist.

Coincidentally, the three days the crowd had been with Jesus is a foreshadowing of the three days before the resurrection; and the seven loaves and seven baskets of scraps are significant as well. Do they not remind you of the seven sacraments that nourish our souls?

Most, if not all of us, are hungrily searching for something — some meaning, some purpose to our lives.  We often get distracted by the glitter, the lights and sounds of the secular world. Often, we indulge ourselves and gorge on the ‘junk food’ that is out there. Sure, they may taste wonderful at first, but if we only knew what they contain, how they are made, and the health risks involved, we would probably stay away from them. What more when it comes to our spiritual health? Would we willingly partake in things that could harm us or jeopardize our soul? Would we willingly risk losing eternal life in heaven for a few brief moments of pleasure on earth? Would we willingly follow the false prophets or the wolves in sheep’s clothing that would lead us into the harm’s way; rather than follow the one true shepherd that can guide us out of danger and into safety? Jesus is offering us real food that truly satisfies the hunger and for the good of our souls.  It is up to us to decide if we want to partake.

I know what I would like to choose. True, I may stumble and make some bad choices now and then, but the Lord is always calling me, waiting for me so He can heal me. Like the sheep that listens for the shepherd’s voice, I want to listen for Jesus’ voice, to make the right choices and not fall into the traps and distractions that are devoid of sustenance for our souls.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to heed Your voice and Yours only. You are the true Shepherd that has our best interests and helps us to make the right choices.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the bread of Life, true food for our soul.

15 February, Friday – Looking beyond the surface

15 February 2019

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Genesis 3:1-8

The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

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Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

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“He has done all things well…he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Admittedly, I am a germaphobe. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me wherever I go. I don’t even like holding onto the hand rails of escalators or public staircases. Imagine my reaction when reading the passage where Jesus healed the deaf man with speech impediments by putting His fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle!

If I simply focus on the chosen method of healing, I would have missed the whole picture. The important point is the Jesus healed the man. He “makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak”. Our Lord is capable of the impossible, if only we believe and trust in Him.

The method chosen may not be what we expect or want, but it doesn’t diminish the act of healing in the slightest bit. In fact, we should glorify God that He is able to turn something that seems unpleasant into a beautiful thing! How wonderful is our God and how wondrous are His ways!

For the foodies out there, there is a Chinese delicacy called ‘stinky tofu’. For those who are unfamiliar with this delicacy, as the name suggests, it is very pungent. In the fermenting and cooking process, the smell is very strong and repugnant (to some). However, the end product is flavourful beyond imagination and simply delicious!

Similarly, we need to focus on the outcome, even when the process may not be what we desire or expect.  Whether we are in need of healing in our lives or in need of spiritual growth, our Lord will often surprise us with His chosen method. His way may include some discomfort and growing pains, but we need to trust in the Lord and have faith that our Heavenly Father has a plan and He knows best our needs. In the end, our Lord will provide!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Please grant us the grace to believe and trust even when we don’t understand Your plans for us. Jesus, we trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, You know us best, even more than we do ourselves. We thank you for giving us what we need and not what we want.

14 February, Thursday – Humility at Heart

14 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop

Cyril (827-869) was the brother of St. Methodius. Born of Greek nobility, his family was connected to the senate of Thessalonica, and his mother Maria may have been Slavic. He studied at the University of Constantinople and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and when he became a monk, he took the name Cyril. He was sent with Methodius by the emperor in 961 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia, a mission that was successful, and which allowed him to learn the Khazar’s language.

In 863, he was sent with Methodius to convert Moravians in their native tongue. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today. After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Cyril may have been bishop, but he may have died before the consecration ceremony.

Methodius (826-885) was the brother of St. Cyril. He studied at the University of Constantinople, and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and sent with Cyril by the emperor in 861 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They helped develop an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today.

After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Methodius was ordained a bishop. He evangelized in Moravia, Bohemia, Pannonia, and Poland. He baptized St. Ludmilla and Duke Boriwoi.

He was Archbishop of Velehred, Czechoslovakia, but was deposed and imprisoned in 870 due to the opposition of German clergy with his work. He was often in trouble over his use of Slavonic in liturgy, with some claiming he preached heresy. However, Methodius was repeatedly cleared of charges. He translated the Bible into the Slavonic languages, and pioneered the use of local and vernacular languages in liturgical settings.

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Gen 2: 18-25

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed:

‘This at last is bone from my bones,
and flesh from my flesh!
This is to be called woman,
for this was taken from man.’
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.
Now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame in front of each other.
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Mk 7: 24-30
Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.
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“The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.”

Ouch! Such harsh words! Could they really have been spoken by our loving and merciful Lord?

I must admit that today’s Gospel confused me for the longest time. I simply couldn’t comprehend how Jesus, who is holy and all good, could possibly say such things that sound so rude.

Until one day, when I came upon a Catholic Devotional resource that shed some light and meaning on today’s Gospel reading, I began to see it in another light. There are three things that are of great importance and it helps to be reminded of them.

First of all, Jesus is incapable of being mean or cruel. Our Lord never does things without a purpose nor does He say things frivolously. Therefore, He must have had a good reason for saying what he said. Let us never forget that Jesus is part of the Trinity, true God and true man; and as such, we cannot fully comprehend the full design of God’s plans with our limited human intellect. That is, compared to the infinite wisdom of God, the human intellect can be found lacking. As God is the master painter, and we as onlookers, may not see the whole painting, but only the one stroke that seems like a mistake. Little do we know, the one stroke that seems out of place, could be the start of a beautiful masterpiece.

Secondly, the Syrophoenician woman represents a wonderful reminder. We are unworthy of God’s grace and mercy. There is nothing that we can do or say to earn His grace and mercy. They are a gift. We may think that we deserve His grace, and take His love and mercy for granted, much like we take our loved ones for granted. But we must remember and remind ourselves that we do not deserve, and cannot lay claim to, God’s love except thru the divine mercy of Jesus. Picture a friend who contacts you only when they need your help, but fully expects to be invited to all your family celebrations. Let us not fashion ourselves with such insolence and ungracious attitude.

Lastly, the response of the Syrophoenician woman should shake us out of complacency. We should have unwavering trust in our Lord and His mercy. This is not the same as believing that we deserve His grace but acknowledging our unworthiness and praying for mercy while maintaining confidence in deliverance.  When God seems silent or distant, it is often that He wants us to be stronger and grow spiritually. During these times, we should cling to our Lord, and practice unwavering faith. Instead of a faith based on emotions, we should move to a faith of pure trust in Divine Mercy.

A very important note is that we should not be saddened by our unworthiness, but rejoice in the love and mercy of God, who loves us despite all our faults and iniquities; we should rejoice in His most holy and unconditional love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will not take Your love and mercy for granted, and that we have unwavering faith in Your Divine Mercy.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy and for calling us your children though we be unworthy.

13 February, Wednesday – Am I a Pharisee?

13 February 2019

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Genesis 2:4-9,15-17

At the time when the Lord God made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, nor was there any man to till the soil. However, a flood was rising from the earth and watering all the surface of the soil. The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Then the Lord God gave the man this admonition, ‘You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden. Nevertheless of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die.’

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Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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It is from within, from the human heart……and they defile a person.

Recently, there was some media attention on a HIV data leak in Singapore. The accused is a foreigner who came to Singapore to start a new life with his partner. Only that this person is HIV positive and therefore presents several issues – one of which was being unable to obtain an employment pass. So, through a series of lies and deception, the love story progressed and turned horribly wrong.

As the story unravelled, there are people who could be affected by this data leak – it is traumatic for them. Coming out and letting loved ones know of their condition is hard enough – let alone having this information available for public consumption. They are worried and afraid of what people will think if they knew their conditions. Would they be ostracized? Would they lose their love ones, dignity and their livelihood?

We fear people with HIV because we equate this to AIDS. The fact is that the majority of people living with HIV will never develop AIDS, with treatment. We are educated that people contract HIV through sexual behaviour and needle or syringe use. Only certain bodily fluids — blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk — from a person who has HIV, can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream for transmission to occur.

Today’s HIV person is like a modern-day leper. It’s what was from the ‘outside’ that made him ‘tainted’.

In Jesus’ time, people were so scrupulous about rituals and foods being unclean. Today’s gospel tells us that what renders us impure is not what enters us from outside but what’s in the heart.  What matters is the state of our hearts. He warns us not to be so legalistic like the Pharisees – performing acts just to keep up appearances, so that people will see us as holy and righteous because we go by the book. But what really counts is the inner motivation, not the act in itself.

Where in my life have I been a Pharisee? Have I served in my ministry with the purest of intentions? Have I served with a heart of love and compassion but felt irritated and impatient with a fellow ministry member? Have I let these external irritations fester in my heart?

How has someone who has been so ‘holy’ and ‘prayerful’ turn around and cheat and betray someone else?

How can an act of love become selfish and self-serving?

In the story that I began my reflection with today, it may not be the disease that will cause the man’s fatality, but the lies and deceit that will cripple his heart, and cause him to lose what’s precious to him.

Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for the healing of this gentleman and his partner – in body, mind and spirit. And pray that whatever we do and say – may it come from a place of love, forgiveness, and compassion.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, may we not be defiled, separated from God, by the sins of the heart, evil intentions and sinful actions. Lord, by your grace protect our hearts and help us to be loving and compassionate.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, that your grace transforms us from within. Thank you Father for forming us in your image and likeness. May we be worthy of you.

12 February, Tuesday – Good Fruit

12 February 2019

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Genesis 1:20-2:4

God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’

God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.

Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he had rested after all his work of creating.

Such were the origins of heaven and earth when they were created.

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Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’

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Be fruitful and multiply.

When I was younger in my faith journey, I thought that when God said ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, it meant procreation. In my youth, I had it all planned – I would be married and have children. That’s how I would be fruitful. I looked up the definitions of the words. ‘Be fruitful’ means to be producing good results or being productive, the word ‘multiply’ means to increase or cause to increase greatly in number or quantity. Fast forward to today – I am not married, nor do I have children. Does that mean that this line in today’s first reading has little to do with me? Or am I not being fruitful because I have not produced any offspring?

Jesus was 33 years old, did not have any wife nor kids; does that deem him also unfruitful and unproductive? As I pondered on this deeper, I know that we are all called to be fruitful. Whether married or single. We don’t have to ‘produce fruit’ in order to be fruitful. We could have a fruitful trip to the store if we bought all we wanted at good discounts. Or if we made a trip to the market and came home with the freshest produce. For me it would be finding good quality chorizo at the weekend market.

As Christians, we are called to be fruitful with our vocations, our time and gifts that God has given to us. Fruitful in our behaviour, attitude, words, and thoughts. To be fruitful means to follow Christ. To love what He loves. To do what He commands from a loving motive and with a joyful spirit. This obedience is both predestined by and empowered by God Himself which removes any grounds for boasting in how fruitful our lives or ministries become. It is by God’s grace and our abiding in Christ that we produce good fruit.

So what are some ways we can be fruitful and multiply?

In the workplace, we have to be responsible, diligent and do our part in the organization. Getting away with the bare minimum, getting our colleagues to do the heavy lifting, gossiping, back stabbing and being a ‘tai chi master’ is not fruitful.

As caregivers or parents, when we care for, love and look after the needs of our children, parents or aged relatives.

As children, when we are responsible for our actions, when we do the very best at our studies, when we volunteer to help a friend who is struggling with a subject, when we take out the trash after dinner or clean out our room.

As a single, when we can give of our time to help a charitable organisation, look out for the elderly in our neighbourhood, be a listening ear to someone struggling with depression, cook for someone who doesn’t have regular meals, or when we use our talents and resources to benefit others.

So as long as we are living lives that pleasing to God, when our lives are a reflection of Jesus in our hearts and we bring Him glory (whether we have children or not) – we are fruitful and multiplying. Indeed, we can be spiritually fruitful and multiply the citizens of the Kingdom of God when we obey Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

So go forth my brothers and sisters, with Jesus in living in us, let us be fruitful and multiply.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, and help us to live fully and faithfully to our covenant. May our lives be spiritually fruitful and pleasing to You. May our hearts burst with love and a great desire to bring joy to others because you, Jesus, first loved us. 

Thanksgiving: God, thank you making us in your image and your likeness. Thank you for looking at us and saying ‘indeed it was very good.’ Now may we live our lives worthy of you.

11 February, Monday – Do you want to be healed?

11 Feb –Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick

Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.

It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.

On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fradulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.

Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 1:1-19

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

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Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

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All who touched it were healed

Dementia and depression among elderly folks are real and on the rise; these are common conditions in older people, and they frequently occur together. In Singapore and our aging population, the numbers are alarming:

  • The Department of Statistics estimates that 83,000 elderly persons will be living alone by 2030, compared with the 47,000 seniors aged 65 and above in 2016.
  • 1 in 5 elder people shows signs of depression
  • 129 elderly committed suicide in 2017 — a record high since 1991

My parents passed on several years ago and I am thankful that my brother and I did not have to deal with elderly parents with dementia and depression (though we had other challenges). However, the God of surprises led me to come face to face with this recently.

I have an elderly couple as neighbours – probably in their late 70s and mid-80s. The husband passed away in November last year, leaving his wife. She now lives alone, apart from her remaining child. This lady, as I am beginning to discover, suffers from depression and early on-set dementia. I have always felt that her family was being uncaring and irresponsible for leaving her alone, especially in grief and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. However, I am sure that there are reasons for her condition and why her family is behaving this way. Everyone has a story.

Our interactions have been generally neighbourly in nature – we look out for her in case anything happens at home, we share our food with her just so she has meals. Oh, she can well afford things, it’s just her medical and emotional condition prevent her from looking after herself.

Recently, these interactions have become a call for help and a way of seeking attention. One day, she called me, announcing she was going to commit suicide. Having no knowledge of how to deal with such matters, we attended to her by inviting her over as a means of distraction and hopefully, some form of comfort. Long story short, that episode was one of her ways of seeking attention – attention she was not getting from her family and loved ones. However, these have turned a bit uncomfortable for me. One day, she called me 7 times and even stalked me at home. She became passive-aggressive and accused my poor helper of something which was completely misconstrued by this lady. The next day, she apologized. But I knew it was time for me to take steps to draw healthy boundaries. We are now limiting our interactions with her and not taking the daily calls.

However, I struggle. How do I balance what is loving and charitable, while protecting my own sanity? Demented people make up stories in their heads and are often paranoid. What happens if one day she makes up a story that we poisoned her meals? How did an act of charity turn so wrong? Can a person so desperately in need of help, help herself?

This brings to mind the story of the healing at the pool; the man who lay helplessly by the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:1-14). “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” Of course we all want to be healed of our sickness, but really don’t know how; or are too afraid to let go. We hold on to our emotional wounds, our scars, our grudges, bitterness, unforgiveness, hurts, anger; we use these to build an emotional wall to prevent additional forms of pain and suffering from penetrating. It becomes like a security blanket, a badge of honour. We stalk about getting rid of that blanket, how it’s awful, and stinks, and we’re so desperate to be free of it. But when anyone tries to tug it away, we hold on tight.

Do you want to be healed?

We need to participate in our healing. Healing can be even more painful than the original wound. Broken bones have to be set. And that setting can first mean re-breaking.

We pray and ask God to heal us, to strengthen us, to remove this issue in our life, to free us of our infirmities. But are we truly willing to be healed? Are we ready to let go of the security blanket and give Jesus access to those scabbed, wounded places? If so, it means we have to get up and walk. It means using sedentary muscles not used to exercise. It means allowing blood to flow into places long paralyzed. It could hurt. And it would probably hurt a lot — at first.

But it’s the difference between living your life pool-side, and swimming freely in the abundant life God has for you as His child.

Do we have faith enough to believe that Jesus can heal us? Today, I pray that my neighbour and her family be healed physically, emotionally and mentally, that broken relationships be healed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, we lift up all those who are suffering – mentally, emotionally and physically. That they will be willing to let go of the walls of suffering built over the years and let you come into their pain and heal them.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for recognizing our desires to be healed. Thank you for healing our bodies, and awakening our hearts. Thank you for giving us back a sense of purpose, freeing us from the bonds of self-pity, pride, fear, discouragement, hopelessness and resignation.

10 February, Sunday – The love of God shown to the unlovely

10 February 2019

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Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord of Hosts seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings.
And they cried out to one another in this way,

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
His glory fills the whole earth.’

The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said:

‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of Hosts.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said:

‘See now, this has touched your lips,
your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’

I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.
Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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Luke 5:1-11

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

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The grace of God which is with me

Recently at Friday Growth, our spiritual director Fr. Andrew asked us to share with the person sitting next to us, what graces we received recently. “It’s important to acknowledge what God has done for us, no matter how small,” he extolled.

My sharing partner said that it was by the grace of God that she was able to find a contractor (by chance) to renovate her home, a major ‘add and alter’ job. He did it within budget, on time and beautifully. That, to her, was God’s grace.

Another person shared that she had been estranged from her son for close to 9 months – a fight and exchange of harsh words last year caused her son to leave home and cut all communication with her. For a mother, that is heartbreak and extremely painful. Grace for her happened just before Christmas. Her son re-established contact with her and they are slowly mending that relationship.

For me, I simply shared that it was by God’s grace that the day was uneventful. And I meant it. Since January started, I feel like I am being pulled in all directions. Not having a conventional job, people tend to think that I have a lot of time on my hands. Perhaps I avail myself too easily – especially to people or situations who need my help. From helping a neighbour in grief, to ministry work – everything started with the best of intentions. But lately, I started to feel resentful. Maybe because I have been trying to deal with some issues myself, but having to spend copious amounts of time on others’ issues and their demands on my time, I am feeling exhausted and used.

What is Grace? Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favour of God.

We see God’s grace permeating in all the reading’s today – we see God’s goodness and man’s unworthiness in Isaiah’s response in the first reading. In the second reading, Paul perceived himself as so unworthy and unfit to be called to apostleship because he “persecuted the church of God.” And finally in the gospel, despite Simon’s disbelief, God showed his grace by giving them more fish than their nets could hold.

Brothers and sisters, do we count ourselves as so unworthy and so unfit to receive God’s grace today? Are we so caught up in our own sufferings or perceptions of how things ought to be, that we fail to see God’s grace in our lives? Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

For me, although I am feeling exhausted and used, God’s grace is giving me the time, intellect and resources to be able to do His work. I just need to draw strength from Him and believe that everything works for a greater good.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, help us to be good stewards of the graces given to us. Set us free to serve others with the gift you have given us, for the glory of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thanksgiving: Every good and perfect gift comes from you, Lord. Thank you for your graces showered upon us, even when we are unworthy and unfit.