Monthly Archives: September 2019

30 September, Monday – For or Against?

Sep 30 – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

_______________________

Zechariah 8:1-8

The word of the Lord of Hosts was addressed to me as follows:

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. I am burning with jealousy for Zion, with great anger for her sake.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. I am coming back to Zion and shall dwell in the middle of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem will be called Faithful City and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. Old men and old women will again sit down in the squares of Jerusalem; every one of them staff in hand because of their great age.

And the squares of the city will be full of boys and girls playing in the squares.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this. If this seems a miracle to the remnant of this people (in those days), will it seem one to me?

It is the Lord of Hosts who speaks.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this.

Now I am going to save my people from the countries of the East and from the countries of the West. I will bring them back to live inside Jerusalem.

They shall be my people and I will be their God in faithfulness and integrity.’

____________________

Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

______________________

Anyone who is not against you is for you

I have just gone through probably the most significant event in my university’s short history – the groundbreaking for our future campus in the north-east of Singapore. While the event went off well by all accounts, there were more than a few significant glitches during the planning which left much to be desired. And while I tried hard to hint and goad my core team of 3 towards finding viable options/solutions each time they faced a hurdle, I found myself shaking my head many times, having to come up with the solution each time.

During the rehearsal on the day before the event, I finally blew up and let out my frustrations at the emcee (a former student whom we had employed). Naturally, I felt that I had let myself down and apologised the next day to everyone present, emphasising how I was used to working with professionals who always brought perfection to the table. I had inevitably forgotten that half the team consisted of students who had actually volunteered their time to make the event a success.

As a result, I have begun to question if, in my desire to achieve perfection in my work, I have placed unnaturally high expectations on those around me. After all, none of them have come from the cutthroat commercial world I used to inhabit. This was echoed by a senior staff who left us after the event (he had tendered his resignation two months prior) who cautioned that many in my division may not be able to take my intensity at work, especially so when things go wrong. But I took comfort from the fact that he said everyone was behind me in terms of what I was trying to achieve.

So while no one is ‘against’ me in terms of my vision, I have been wondering if my staff may not be ‘for’ how I strive for perfection every time. Indeed, I have heard that there is a sub-culture of ‘just doing the bare minimum’ which is getting more pervasive —  something totally against my own belief system when it comes to work. I recall my late father saying, “If you want to embark on something, do it to the very best of your ability. Otherwise don’t bother wasting other people’s time.” I have always taken this to heart and applied it to my work situations. I reckon that whatever the outcome, as long as others around you see you doing your utmost to deliver on something, they will always be ‘for’ you because you have done your best.

Jesus, on the other hand, had it tough. Because those who were ‘for’ Him turned ‘against’ Him at the end in varying ways – they denied Him, some abandoned Him, many others condemned Him to death. Yet, in His most anguished state, He asked His heavenly Father to forgive them. This was His ultimate expression of love for us and till today, I struggle to reconcile how I can tolerate (let alone forgive or accept) those around me who are ‘against’ me in subscribing to a different work ethic from me. At times, I tell myself, “This is not my company, so just go with the flow.” But, brothers and sisters, I think you would agree that compromising on our own standards is akin to not living out one’s calling. And once you start on that slippery slope, it is extremely difficult to come back up.

It is only through God’s merciful love that anyone who has fallen from grace can make it back to His table. I pray, brothers and sisters, that He can help me find the grace to accept others as they are, and to recognise that the phrase ‘doing my best’ means different things to different people.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Jesus, we pray for all those who are in difficulty and yet strive each day to fulfil their responsibilities as parents, grandparents, bosses, managers, executives, caregivers, counsellors, lay people and professionals. Give them a spirit of excellence that allows them to give of their very best each and every day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your ever-loving, merciful blessings and graces upon those who struggle to provide for their families.

29 September, Sunday – Proof of Life

29 September 2019

_________________

Amos 6:1,4-7

The almighty Lord says this:
Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

______________________

1 Timothy 6:11-16

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

________________________

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

_________________________

They will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead

My journey in ministry has taken an interesting turn of late, and I am curious as to what the Lord has planned for me. As I navigate new waters and start to be called upon by our spiritual director, who has been making his presence felt in many ways, let’s just say that his methods may be a tad ‘unconventional’ for those around who have been serving for a long time. I must say, though, that he has brought about much-needed change at the centre.

And while some of the changes appear to be merely cosmetic, I can appreciate why they had to be implemented. Sometimes, change needs to be seen in order to be felt. And when visitors see these changes and comment on them, the ripple effects can be quite beneficial. “Wah, so clear!”; “Finally there are new screens. Can see the words better.”  (both referring to the new monitors that have been installed); “Like a breath of fresh air.” (referring to our new logo). Of course, the more cynical among us may ‘pooh pooh’ the changes but there is no denying the positive vibes radiating among those who welcome change.

In this day of instant gratification, it has taken us literally close to 2 years to effect these much-needed changes. Some may be puzzled and ask, “What took you so long?” I, for one, have experienced the inertia that is present when things start to get a wee bit too comfortable and familiar. It is human nature after all, to be content with the tried and tested, to stick only to what we know and not try new things, new ways in order to improve. Countless meetings debating the merits and pitfalls of processes and procedures come to naught when the mindset is ‘if it ain’t broke, just let it be.’ Just yesterday, a ministry brother and myself finally identified a whole wall of decommissioned, discarded equipment to dispose of. What a carthartic experience it was, as we finally shed years of ‘baggage’ and legacy (for me at least).

So how do we convince those who continue to stick to their old mindsets and ways of thinking that in order to move forward, one needs to change from the inside? Even after Jesus rose from the dead, there are many who doubt, many who continue to live in sin, many who question if He actually is present in our lives. We just have to look around in our parishes to gauge whether people actually believe Jesus is present during mass. Because it appears that unless there is clear evidence, many of us just don’t accept the fact that He is truly with us and continues to walk among us.

Brothers and sisters, how long are we going to continue living in denial? How long are we going to carry on thinking that we are right all the time, and that others around us don’t know what they are talking about? How long are we going to continue to preach to others without listening closely to fresh perspectives? How long are we going to say, “I have been around longer than you, therefore I know better”?

Jesus died and rose from the dead. In doing so, He changed the lives of those who saw, those who heard and those who believed. Let us continue to believe that He is changing lives even today.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Jesus, you continue to light our paths and carry us through all the seasons of our lives. May you always continue to be the guiding light as we navigate through the rough seas.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for never giving up on us.

28 September, Saturday – God’s Full Measure of Mercy

28 Sep 2019

_____________________

Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15

Raising my eyes, I saw a vision. It was this: there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out her breadth and her length.’ And then, while the angel who was talking to me stood still, another angel came forward to meet him. He said to him, ‘Run, and tell that young man this, “Jerusalem is to remain unwalled, because of the great number of men and cattle there will be in her. But I – it is the Lord who speaks – I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”’

Sing, rejoice,
daughter of Zion;
for I am coming
to dwell in the middle of you
– it is the Lord who speaks.

Many nations will join the Lord,
on that day;
they will become his people.

________________________

Luke 9:43-45

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.”’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

______________________

Many nations will join the Lord, on that day; they will become his people. 

Imagine the last days when we are all gathered outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. Yet, as today’s first readings prophesy, it is an unwalled city (Zechariah 2:4-5) and the Lord Himself is dwelling gloriously in the midst of it, casting a mighty ‘wall of fire’ around her where fortress walls should stand. Who will we discover being admitted through the wall of fire around her?

Today’s readings remind me of this hymn:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.
 

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

The man with the measuring line in the first reading today seems to be conducting a vain and futile endeavor – to measure Jerusalem’s breadth and length. I cannot help but think of the best intentions of even the most righteous and self-righteous people I have met, who believe they know just how God will measure us up for the deeds of our lives.

Fraternal correction must be conducted with charity, justice, and mercy. But within this desire to call out a brother or sister to their failings or sins, is ultimately a mirror of reflection for the one who brings this charge against the sinner – how have you truly loved your neighbour in the midst of professing your judgment and correction? How pure is your heart? How humble have you been in acknowledging to God for your own times of failure?

This is not to say that no one is ever righteous enough to correct another with love. But indeed, we should not claim to think we know better whether this present momentary sin of others would be the death knell for the sinner and presume his or her condemnation outside the walls of Jerusalem. One’s present state of life does not convict them to an eternal state of life – but we must commit them to prayer with great love.

We are told that Jerusalem is unwalled. It is only God’s glorious wall of fire – a fire of justice and mercy – that will be the true measurement for the eternal length and breadth of his Heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of wisdom and greater love when we exercise our Christian duty of fraternal correction.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the love of my fellow Christians who courageously challenge me to accountability for my actions – even at the expense of risking misunderstandings.

27 September, Friday – The Long Game

Sep 27 – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

________________________

Haggai 1:15-2:9

In the second year of King Darius, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai, as follows, ‘You are to speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the high commissioner of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people. Say this, “Who is there left among you that saw this Temple in its former glory? And how does it look to you now? Does it seem nothing to you? But take courage now, Zerubbabel – it is the Lord who speaks. Courage, High Priest Joshua son of Jehozadak! Courage, all you people of the country! – it is the Lord who speaks. To work! I am with you – it is the Lord of Hosts who speaks – and my spirit remains among you. Do not be afraid! For the Lord of Hosts says this: A little while now, and I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations and the treasures of all the nations shall flow in, and I will fill this Temple with glory, says the Lord of Hosts. Mine is the silver, mine the gold! – it is the Lord of Hosts who speaks. The new glory of this Temple is going to surpass the old, says the Lord of Hosts, and in this place I will give peace – it is the Lord of Hosts who speaks.”’

_____________________

Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.
‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

____________________

Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former… And in this place I will give you peace, says the Lord of hosts!

Early in our marriage, my husband and I made the decision that we would not have children together. He had been married previously and already had two wonderful children. There was no need for us to complicate their lives by introducing another sibling. I was despondent at first, at the prospect of never being able to experience motherhood. I’ve since come to realize that nurturing happens no matter if they’re biologically yours. Biology is only part of the criteria for motherhood. God will find you where you are. He thinks out of the box and His is the long game – with emphasis on the word ‘long’.

Motherhood has come late to me. When I wasn’t looking, it snuck up on me, eased itself in at the breakfast table, at family dinners, at school plays and graduations, proms and milestone moments. I didn’t ruminate over it because when you’re a stepmother, you don’t want to overthink it. You’re happy with what time you have with your stepchildren. You don’t try to push for more. It isn’t your place to, and I never wanted to impose on them. I was just glad for their company and thankful to be able to watch them discover the world as young adults. One day though, out of the blue, I got a beautiful handwritten Mother’s Day card. And then a Christmas card. And a birthday card. And another Mother’s Day card, with my official title on it – stepmother. Then a heartfelt letter. Soon I had a small collection of them, these precious cards and letters, tangible evidence that in some radical, unconventional kind of way, I too, had earned the responsibility of motherhood. God’s is the long game. He thinks out of the box. I have come to appreciate this now and marvel at it with the wonder of the humbled. He found a path for me where there was none. I didn’t even realize as it was unfolding, not even after that first Mother’s Day card. How blind was I? And how lucky am I to have been blessed thus, when all along I had thought it was too late?

The people of Haggai’s time would similarly not have guessed that the ‘house of glory’ being referred to was Christ, our Saviour. Who would’ve thought it? It was so out of the box, such a radical idea, so impossible! And it took so long! Even when Jesus walked among His people, few saw him for who he was. Only Peter was inspired enough to proclaim, “You are the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20).

God’s is the long game. He hears even the prayers we are afraid to whisper, the ones we don’t ruminate too hard on in case we’re building up false hope for ourselves. But be certain of this – God will find you wherever you are. And in His wonderful, loving, radical way, He will change your life in ways that will surprise you – when you’re least expecting it.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who think their time in life has passed them by. Do not lose hope. God’s is the long game! Be open to it, because His blessings will come when you least expect it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the work that God has done in our lives, for the way He has shaped us, when we weren’t looking or expecting it. We give thanks and are truly humbled by His grace and His blessings. 

26 September, Thursday – On Empty Pursuits

26 Sep 2019

______________________

Haggai 1:1-8

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, high commissioner of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, as follows, ‘The Lord of Hosts says this, “This people says: The time has not yet come to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. (And the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai, as follows:) Is this a time for you to live in your panelled houses, when this House lies in ruins? So now, the Lord of Hosts says this: Reflect carefully how things have gone for you. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm. The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes. So go to the hill country, fetch wood, and rebuild the House: I shall then take pleasure in it, and be glorified there, says the Lord.”’

_____________________

Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

____________________

You have sown much, but harvested little

The latest Michelin Guide for Singapore was announced last week. My Instagram account was inundated when I woke up, and stayed inundated for the next 24 hours – who got 3 stars, who got 2, who didn’t make the list – with all the joy and indignation around it. In my twenties, a Michelin Guide announcement in my adopted cities of Singapore, HK, London and NYC was a big deal. It would have caused me to pause, analyse and make travel plans around. There would have been flights and hotels to book, dinner reservations to secure (a huge effort once a restaurant received or was upgraded a star) and meetings to rearrange, just so I could go eat at the latest and greatest tables, as determined by the gods of Michelin. In my mid-forties, that whole game has gotten old. Looking back, I’ve often wondered, what all that was for? Did I really derive joy from it? And what do I have to show for it now? What was the whole point in the end?

Today’s verse from Haggai is an apt indictment of my former days – “You have sown much, but harvested little, you eat and drink but are not satisfied, you clothe yourselves but still feel cold, and the labourer puts the money he earns in a tattered purse” (Hg 1:6). We’re all susceptible to falling into the trap of mistaking activity for achievement. And if you like food as much as I used to, a Michelin announcement is a catalyst for lots of activity. But not everything that seems urgent is important… or worth doing. And though it was an enjoyable enough endeavour at the time, it all seems hollow now. I would say the confusion I felt last week reading the Michelin announcement, was similar to Herod’s head scratching — you labour to one set of goals, thinking they’re the be-all and end-all of your existence only to find at the end, that it was all meaningless. What was the point of it all anyway? I really couldn’t tell you. And shame on me, I have nothing to show for it except perhaps a little self-realization.

“Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasure for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy nor thief come and steal it” – Matthew 6: 19-20

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness to abandon the futile, empty desires of our heart that have no meaning and lead to no fruitful end.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who gives us wisdom and directs our efforts so that we might be a children of God who bear good fruit.

25 September, Wednesday – Called to Proclaim

25 Sep 2019

_______________________

Ezra 9:5-9

At the evening sacrifice I, Ezra, came out of my stupor and falling on my knees, with my garment and cloak torn, I stretched out my hands to the Lord my God, and said:

‘My God, I am ashamed, I blush to lift my face to you, my God. For our crimes have increased, until they are higher than our heads, and our sin has piled up to heaven. From the days of our ancestors until now our guilt has been great; on account of our crimes we, our kings and our priests, were given into the power of the kings of other countries, given to the sword, to captivity, to pillage and to shame, as is the case today. But now, suddenly, the Lord our God by his favour has left us a remnant and granted us a refuge in his holy place; this is how our God has cheered our eyes and given us a little respite in our slavery. For we are slaves; but God has not forgotten us in our slavery; he has shown us kindness in the eyes of the kings of Persia, obtaining permission for us to rebuild the Temple of our God and restore its ruins, and he has found us safety and shelter in Judah and in Jerusalem.’

_____________________

Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

_______________________

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

I once went for a holiday where I did not have any check-in baggage. Instead, I had just a small hand-carry suitcase which contained all my clothes for the entire duration of the trip. My travel companions were all surprised by how little I carried. They wondered if I had packed enough clothes. It turned out that I had packed enough for myself and they had to lug their heavy bags every where they go.

We carry in our lives a lot of baggage. The past hurts which we have suffered and also the nasty remarks made by others all add unnecessary burden in our lives. The Gospel of today tells us that we need to travel ‘light’ and to move around with the least of items so that we can easily proclaim the Word of God to the people around us.

This is easier said than done. The ability to trust in the Lord is something that is very difficult to do. We are unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into the darkest recesses of our heart to heal the hurts we have. This could stem from a desire to want to stay uncorrected because it would risk exposing our own failures. Yet proclaiming the Gospel in the world requires us to live authentic lives. Authentic lives are lives where our speech and actions all are in sync with each other. As Christians, these 2 are the best ways we can reach out to the people around us.

What can we do to be ready to journey in a world where there is so much uncertainty in our lives? We can nourish ourselves with Scripture and the Sacraments which provide us with the grace to live out a Christian life in the world around us.  Strengthened by these two pillars, we will be ready to accept the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel to places where we never expect to do so. Let us trust in the Lord and make use of the tools which He has given us to proclaim His message of love wherever we go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us go in peace to glorify you with our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to proclaim the Word of God.

24 September, Tuesday – Love in disguise

24 Sep 2019

___________________

Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20

King Darius wrote to the satrap of Transeuphrates and his colleagues: ‘Leave the high commissioner of Judah and the elders of the Jews to work on this Temple of God; they are to rebuild this Temple of God on its ancient site. This, I decree, is how you must assist the elders of the Jews in the reconstruction of this Temple of God: the expenses of these people are to be paid, promptly and without fail, from the royal revenue – that is, from the tribute of Transeuphrates. May the God who causes his name to live there overthrow any king or people who dares to defy this and destroy the Temple of God in Jerusalem! I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed to the letter!’

The elders of the Jews prospered with their building, inspired by Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished the building in accordance with the order of the God of Israel and the order of Cyrus and of Darius. This Temple was finished on the twenty-third day of the month of Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs and, as a sacrifice for sin for the whole of Israel, twelve he-goats, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.

The exiles celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Levites, as one man, had purified themselves; all were pure, so they sacrificed the passover for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.

___________________

Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

___________________

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice”

Filial piety is one act which certain societies emphasise upon. There is a need to demonstrate in word and action one’s respect for the authority of elders.  This can entail the correct salutation in talking to others and also the need to speak with an air of deference.

The Gospel today may appear to put Jesus as a person who is disrespectful of Mary his mother and also of his relatives. Children are expected to welcome their parents and acknowledge their presence when they arrive. Jesus’s answer today seems to contradict this belief but if we read deeper, He is actually showing to others that Mary is truly the first disciple.

Mary was the first to respond to God’s word delivered through the angel Gabriel. She trusted totally in God and said yes. This act of faith meant that the history of salvation was changed. God became man and the world had a Saviour.

Jesus had taken the above request and changed it to a statement to accord to Mary the highest level of honour. Mary said yes to God and had fulfilled what Jesus had said. She put into practice what God wanted from each of us.

As we go about in our daily lives, may we spend time in prayer to discover what God wants from us in our daily life and allow God the Holy Spirit to work within us and allow us to be responsive to His word.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all who have responded to God’s call generously

23 September, Monday – Pray, hope and don’t worry

Sep 23 – Memorial for St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy’s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo’s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio’s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don’t worry, you will soon be cured.”

  • Patron Saints Index

________________

Ezra 1:1-6

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah to build the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of that place with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem.”’

Then the heads of families of Judah and of Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, in fact all whose spirit had been roused by God, prepared to go and rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem; and all their neighbours gave them every assistance with silver, gold, goods, cattle, quantities of costly gifts and with voluntary offerings of every kind.

__________________________

Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowds:

‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

__________________________

Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him

We live in a world which thrives on gossip and scandal. People are interested in the ‘tea’ of people’s lives. I must admit that even I am of that nature. However, I have learnt that perhaps we are called not to intrude in the lives of others but rather to reflect on if our lives reflect the life of a Christian.

We are called to be the light of the world. This means we must be able to boldly proclaim the Gospel wherever we are e.g. home, workplace, school, in our commute and in church. To do this, we need to be honest with our shortcomings and ask God for the grace and help to work with these shortcomings.  It is not an easy thing to accept that we are fallible but as Christians, we can draw strength from God to help us deal with these weaknesses.

Today we celebrate the memorial of Padre Pio. Padre Pio is an example for each one of us in the modern world. He bore with great patience the sufferings, challenges and trials put before him. He drew strength from his unwavering devotion to our Blessed Mother. He showed to the people that God was truly present in their midst.

I like to leave you with this line which Padre Pio mentioned to the pilgrims who came to see him, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” May the good Lord bless you in the week ahead.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: St Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors

22 September, Sunday – Purposeful life

22 September 2019

_________________

Amos 8:4-7

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

______________________

1 Timothy 2:1-8

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

________________________

Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.
‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

_________________________

No servant can be the slave of two masters

There was once a friend of mine who had to worry about care giving arrangements for her young child and her professional career. She was unsure which was important for her. This tension is faced by many people in their lives. But in the spiritual domain, this is presented to us in a special way in the Gospel today – what is important in our life?

Each of us hold many identities in our lives. We live the life in our professional domain, our family life and our social life. Yet I believe that these are masks that we put on. Jesus invites us today to re-focus our attention towards what we are called to do in our lives. It is to use the resources we possess to advance the mission of a Christian – to evangelise the word of God to all around us.

God is calling you and me to a special purpose in our lives. This requires a discernment into the voice of God. There will be distractions in our life but Jesus reminds us that we can only serve one master well.

Through prayer and reading of Scripture, God speaks to us and shows us the way that He wants us to follow. If we co-operate with Him, it will lead us to a life filled with joy and peace. It is not a life which is obstacle-free or free of problems but a life where we can handle the challenges confidently.

I pray for each one of you that you respond generously to God’s call.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us accept the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help others clarify their purpose in life.

21 September, Saturday – Only God Can Judge Me

Sep 21 – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

  • Patron Saint Index

_________________________

Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

______________________

Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

______________________

I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Matthew the tax collector, was a sinner in the righteous eyes, yet was chosen and called to be Jesus’ disciple, one of the twelve apostles, and continued to become one of the great evangelists. Today’s Gospel reminds us, “Who are we to judge anyone?” And especially if we call ourselves Christians, should we not show mercy to everyone, just as Jesus did?

Some of the gripes of people who have fallen away from the faith, are that we Christians or Catholics are hypocrites. We claim to be righteous, to be holy and do good, yet often we are quick to judge a fellow brother or sister, just because they do not conform to certain outwardly appearances or practices. Do we take the time to understand someone else’s circumstances, and even if they may truly be at fault, do we exercise compassion?

I serve in a ministry where I have the privilege to hear people’s stories; their willingness to be vulnerable and share deeply always touches me. And often I am shocked by what they have gone through, the phrase ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ always rings true. People are very capable of hiding under a mask, but when there’s trust and mercy, they will dare to be uncovered.

Last month, I shared a personal testimony on my return to the church in front of a bunch of total strangers. With the help of trusted friends, I rewrote my story many times, cautious of the unknown audience I was going to be delivering it to. When the day finally came, I was filled with nervousness and anxiety, but I believed that it was a safe space, and that the people present, strangers as they may be, could possibly identify with me and parts of my story. I got emotional and choked at one point, but I also think that just proved my humanness.

The whole experience was very humbling, and at the same time, edifying. As part of my testimony, I shared that despite all my sins and mistakes, God was still always there. And like Matthew the tax collector, God still chose me. I understand first-hand, what’s it like to be judged without mercy, but I know that it is God who sees me, and I am good enough for Him. I also pray that I can strive to be like Jesus, and be the conduit for grace and love to flow.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be compassionate and merciful to everyone, especially to those whom we find difficult. Help us not to be judgmental, but to be kind and graceful, just as you are.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always being there, for choosing us, and for always loving us, despite our shortcomings. Amen.