All posts by Desmond Soon

20 August, Monday – Time vs Money

August 20 – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

He was born near Dijon, in France, in 1090, of a noble family. In 1112 he joined the new monastery at Cîteaux. This had been founded fourteen years before, in a bid to reject the laxity and riches of the Benedictine Order (as exemplified by great monasteries such as Cluny) and to return to a primitive poverty and austerity of life.

Bernard arrived at Cîteaux with four of his five brothers and two dozen friends. Within three years he had been sent out to found a new monastery at Clairvaux, in Champagne, where he remained abbot for the rest of his life. By the time of his death, the Cistercian Order had grown from one house to 343, of which 68 were daughter houses of Clairvaux itself.

Bernard was a man of great holiness and wisdom, and although he was often in very poor health, he was active in many of the great public debates of the time. He strongly opposed the luxurious lives of some of the clergy, and fought against the persecution of the Jews. He was also a prolific writer, of an inspiring rather than a technical kind.

– Universalis

________________

Ezekiel 24:15-24

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, I am about to deprive you suddenly of the delight of your eyes. But you are not to lament, not to weep, not to let your tears run down. Groan in silence, do not go into mourning for the dead, knot your turban round your head, put your sandals on your feet, do not cover your beard, do not eat common bread.’ I told this to the people in the morning, and my wife died in the evening, and the next morning I did as I had been ordered.

The people then said to me, ‘Are you not going to explain what meaning these actions have for us?’

I replied, ‘The word of the Lord has been addressed to me as follows, “Say to the House of Israel: The Lord says this. I am about to profane my sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes, the passion of your souls. Those of your sons and daughters whom you have left behind will fall by the sword. And you are to do as I have done; you must not cover your beards or eat common bread; you must keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you must not lament or weep. You shall waste away owing to your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel is to be a sign for you. You are to do just as he has done. And when this happens, you will learn that I am the Lord.”’

________________ 

Matthew 19:16-22

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

________________

…sell what you own, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

I recently discovered Carousell and have started to list items for sale at very affordable prices. In case you misunderstand, I am not selling all of my possessions but rather, trying to clear up some of the clutter in my room; especially those unopened presents or door gifts from attending golf tournaments. Of course, I could easily have transported all the items to the Salvation Army but I just wanted to see how much some of these items could fetch.

While I can relate to the young man in today’s gospel, I wonder how much he possessed and whether he was sad at the prospect of selling everything or sad at the prospect of having to give what he collected to the poor. For me, the exhortation consists of two things: not only does Jesus ask the man to abandon his current lifestyle, He also asked him to give away all the money to the poor.

Brother and sisters, I for one would probably struggle, just as the young man did, to give all my possessions away. At this point, I think I have only reached the stage of abandoning my previous lifestyle (and not totally at that) in my walk with Christ, which alone can be a rather challenging affair. And while I have not much in terms of money to give, I try as far as possible to give of my time and effort in service within His vineyard. In other words, the ‘currency’ I am using is time rather than money.

So rather than focus on the material dimension, because not all of us are millionaires, perhaps we should all reflect on how much time we waste on the weekends window shopping, trawling the internet and just lazing the time away when we could be devoting ourselves to serving our Father in church, in a ministry or anywhere else that needs our time and effort.

What this means then is that our ‘treasure in heaven’ can be measured using time rather than riches. For what good is all the gold and precious gems on earth when we are going to be busy praising and worshipping the Lord in the heavenly kingdom?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to be mindful of every second in the day that we waste on trivial matters rather than focussing on your plan for us. And that we learn to spend more time in your vineyard toiling away so that others can produce the fruits of our labour.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the time spent with us in adoration and in prayer.

18 August, Saturday – Being Humbled

18 Aug

________________

Ezekiel 18:1-10,13,30-32

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

‘Why do you keep repeating this proverb in the land of Israel: “The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

‘As I live – it is the Lord who speaks – there will no longer be any reason to repeat this proverb in Israel. See now: all life belongs to me; the father’s life and the son’s life, both alike belong to me. The man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.

‘The upright man is law-abiding and honest; he does not eat on the mountains or raise his eyes to the idols of the House of Israel, does not seduce his neighbour’s wife or sleep with a woman during her periods. He oppresses no one, returns pledges, never steals, gives his own bread to the hungry, his clothes to the naked. He never charges usury on loans, takes no interest, abstains from evil, gives honest judgement between man and man, keeps my laws and sincerely respects my observances–such a man is truly upright. It is the Lord who speaks.

‘But if anyone has a son prone to violence and bloodshed, then this son shall certainly not live; having committed all these appalling crimes he will have to die, and his blood be on his own head.

House of Israel, in future I mean to judge each of you by what he does–it is the Lord who speaks. Repent, renounce all your sins, avoid all occasions of sin! Shake off all the sins you have committed against me, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why are you so anxious to die, House of Israel? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone–it is the Lord who speaks. Repent and live!’

________________

Matthew 19:13-15

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

________________ 

A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

I once read that God will allow us to struggle with other sins so that we don’t fall into pride. I also recently read that sometimes we do not clearly know what God wants in our lives because if we always did, we would be in danger of falling into spiritual pride. I guess pride is really a huge thing.

Pride makes us think that what happens to us is the fruit of our own efforts. As embarrassing as it may sound, whenever I manage to refrain from committing habitual sins for a long time, I tend to give myself a pat on the back, forgetting that it was through God’s grace that I was able to resist temptation. Pride makes us forget that all we own within our successes is exercising our free will to persevere to do the will of God – and even with this, we need God’s grace.

Why does the Kingdom of God belong to the little children? It’s because children’s hearts are filled with humility. They know that they are unable to do many things without help. Naturally, they would know how to rely on God better than adults do. Have you ever heard a child pray? It’s so humbling to hear the amount of trust they have whenever they utter prayers.

They also do not let pride get in the way of restoring relationships. One DJ commented that it’s so easy for children to make up because they still do not let pride or ego get in the way of relationships. If we think about our relationship with God, were there instances when we have let pride or ego get in the way? Were there instances where we were slow to seek reconciliation because we had justified our actions, thinking that we must have been right?

Pride is really destructive, isn’t it? That’s why sometimes, I fear success of any kind; because then, I have to check if I am falling into false humility. False humility is also pride. Which makes it really difficult to know where we should stand. This is a beautiful place to be in because we know that only by God’s grace can we really have a humble heart. We can’t do it on our own.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, it’s really humbling to know that every good thing I do is still a fruit of grace that comes from you. Let not pride make me feel bad about it but help me feel joyful and grateful that you are always making sure that you have my back.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for saving me from pride even if that means falling into temptation.  

17 August, Friday – The Right Time

17 August

________________

Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her filthy crimes. Say, “The Lord says this: By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins. No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you. You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.

‘“I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields. You developed, you grew, you reached marriageable age. Your breasts and your hair both grew, but you were quite naked. Then I saw you as I was passing. Your time had come, the time for love. I spread part of my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I bound myself by oath, I made a covenant with you – it is the Lord who speaks – and you became mine. I bathed you in water, I washed the blood off you, I anointed you with oil. I gave you embroidered dresses, fine leather shoes, a linen headband and a cloak of silk. I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat. I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem on your head. You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroidered silks. Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil. You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen. The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour – it is the Lord who speaks.

‘“You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers. But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last for ever. And so remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

________________ 

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

________________

Your time had come, the time for love.

Waiting on the fulfilment of God’s promise can sometimes be very agonizing. During waiting, one may experience squabbling with God, fighting with him during prayer, refusing to talk to him because talking to him hurts, and being frustrated because at the end of the day, you know that there is nowhere to go but to stay where God is. As St Peter said, ‘Lord, who shall we go to?’

The first reading gives us a glimpse at how loving and doting our God is when the right time comes. “The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendor.”

I sometimes forget that God desires our good much more than we desire them. God desires our dreams to be fulfilled much more than we crave for them. God is more anxious to fulfill his promises to us much more than our impatience to have them happen to us right now. When the period of waiting becomes unbearable, we are willing to settle. But God stands firm. He wants it perfect.

Looking back, every single life event that happened in my life happened at the right time. Every single event happened when I had the right disposition and maturity to handle it. Coming from a broken family, I grew up thinking that I had it all in control. It’s only now after God has formed me spiritually that I am invited to look through the wounds that I didn’t know were there. If God had asked me to look at them earlier, it may have hurt me more.

So what do we do when waiting becomes excruciatingly painful?

  1. Have patience and embrace the pain with God.
  2. Continue walking with God – we have nowhere else to go.
  3. Offer up our pains and sufferings for an intention.
  4. Believe that one day, God will clothe us with splendor.

Brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that we allow ourselves time to grow while waiting for God’s time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, where else can we go? Help us stay with you in trying times.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for being firm and unyielding with your timing. Thank you for not allowing us to settle but for encouraging us to wait for you to clothe us with your own splendor.  

16 August, Thursday – What Does It Really Mean To Forgive?

16 August

________________

Ezekiel 12:1-12

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, you are living with that set of rebels who have eyes and never see, ears and never hear, for they are a set of rebels. You, son of man, pack an exile’s bundle and emigrate by daylight when they can see you, emigrate from where you are to somewhere else while they watch. Perhaps they will admit then that they are a set of rebels. You will pack your baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight, for them to see, and leave like an exile in the evening, making sure that they are looking. As they watch, make a hole in the wall, and go out through it. As they watch, you will shoulder your pack and go out into the dark; you will cover your face so that you cannot see the country, since I have made you a symbol for the House of Israel.’

I did as I had been told. I packed my baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight; and in the evening I made a hole through the wall with my hand. I went out into the dark and shouldered my pack as they watched.

The next morning the word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, did not the House of Israel, did not that set of rebels, ask you what you were doing? Say, “The Lord says this: This oracle is directed against Jerusalem and the whole House of Israel wherever they are living.” Say, “I am a symbol for you; the thing I have done will be done to them; they will go into exile, into banishment.” Their ruler will shoulder his pack in the dark and go out through the wall; a hole will be made to let him out; he will cover his face rather than see the country.’

________________ 

Matthew 18:21-19:1

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the part of Judaea which is on the far side of the Jordan.

________________

He let him go and cancelled the debt.

For a long time, I have struggled to forgive others who have hurt me, offended me, or those whose actions put me in a very disadvantageous position. I knew that things would never be the same as when before the offense had been committed. I could no longer be friends or be as affectionate to them as how I used to be, and I thought because I could not be as I was with them, I was unable to forgive.

The call to forgive has been viewed by some hurting Christians as a difficult yoke to carry. It also makes us feel guilty when we think we have not forgiven others. After all, many of us desire to make Jesus happy. I was in this situation until I came across Fr Mike Schmitz’s video on forgiveness. I realized that what was making my cross heavy was not that I was unable to forgive; it was because I didn’t know what forgiveness really meant. If we have to forgive seventy-seven times, shouldn’t we know what forgiveness really means?

When you forgive, does that mean you no longer feel hurt? Does it mean you can go back to the way you were as if nothing happened? Does it mean you don’t think the other person was wrong? The answer is no. Paraphrasing what Fr. Mike has said, to forgive means to cancel the debt. It means that you will not hold the person responsible for the pain, the disappointments, or the unfavorable circumstances you are experiencing as a result of the person’s action.

Forgiving someone is a decision, it’s an action and not just a feeling. We could still feel hurt, angry and disappointed, and we can choose to forgive at the same time. For me, it means being at peace and not requiring the person to make-up for what has been done to you; some of them are not in the disposition to do so.

Forgiving doesn’t mean that things have to go back to the way things are. In fact, it may be even be better to move away from that relationship to allow for healing and growth to take place. This is very difficult especially when the relationship is with your immediate family member like parents, siblings, etc. That’s why understanding that forgiving is all about cancelling debts helps one move forward.

I would imagine the king feeling disappointed and betrayed by the servant when he could not pay him back. I would think that the king felt this even though he felt pity towards the servant. Yet, his forgiving nature prevailed. I will not be surprised if he still felt hurt from the incident even after he had cancelled the servant’s debts.

When we forgive someone, we exercise patience over their shortcomings toward us. At the same time, let us exercise patience towards ourselves and allow ourselves to feel the pain and sorrow as we decide to cancel other’s debts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are people who have hurt me and disappointed me. At times, your invitation to forgive is very difficult. Help me understand and know how to truly forgive so that the yoke I carry will not be heavier than it should.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for trials and the tribulations as they help me grow in love and faith. And thank you, Lord, because I know that good will come out of this.  

15 August, Wednesday – The Wonder Of A Woman

15 August – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The commemoration of the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Dormition, or falling asleep, as it was known in the East) is known as the Assumption because of the tradition that her body did not decay but that she was raised up, body and soul, into heaven. This tradition was already present in the sixth century; by the beginning of the twentieth century it was widespread; and after consulting the views of bishops all over the world, the Pope formally and infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption to be part of the authentic and ancient doctrine of the universal Church.

– Universalis

________________

Revelations 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

________________ 

1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

________________

Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

________________

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.

Today’s reading challenged me to write about the beauty of womanhood. You see, in today’s world, there is a loud message implying that a woman’s success is measured by how high up she can climb the corporate ladder while balancing her family life. I strongly believe that women can be as capable as men in some aspects – corporate world included – and that women also have unique qualities that make us different from men. Precisely because of our differences that a woman’s ‘success measure’ should not be the same as a man’s.

As I read the first reading, I imagined how dazzlingly beautiful Mother Mary would have looked. It was this reflection on her beauty that kept me in awe and led me to reflect on her strength, her faith, and her sacrifices she endured as she fulfilled her vocation. Our success in life is when we are able to live out the vocation God has called us to. For a woman, that should include the option of seeking to be a homemaker without being judged as less successful in society.

I have some friends who chose to be full-time homemakers. Some of them could feel that others think that they were wasting their talents, skills, and years of education by simply staying at home. But are they really? Motherhood, whether biological or spiritual, is God’s gift to women. Mother Mary lived out the fullness of her womanhood by being the Mother of Jesus, and our mother. I know that she was also a great wife to St Joseph.

My brothers in Christ, I hope that you will help us, women, to feel safe and appreciated when we choose to live out our vocation at work, at home and in ministry. Some of us may have forgotten how truly wonderful it is to be created a woman. Please continue to support us and journey with us as we live out our calling. Please be as St Joseph was to Mother Mary to us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, being a woman today is not easy. Please give grace to every woman for them to be able to live out their specific call, as you have given to Mother Mary.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for blessing this world with the beauty of women – for all our mothers, sisters, and friends.

14 August, Tuesday – Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Aug 14 – St. Maximillian Mary Kolbe, priest, martyr

Maximillian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941) was known as a mischievous child, sometimes considered wild, and a trial to his parents. However around the time of his first Communion, he received a vision of the Virgin Mary that changed his life. While still in seminary, he and six friends founded the Immaculata Movement (Militia Immaculatae, Crusade of Mary Immaculate) devoted to the conversion of sinners, opposition to freemasonry (which was extremely anti-Catholic at the time), spread of the Miraculous Medal (which they wore as their habit), and devotion to Our Lady and the path to Christ. Stricken with tuberculosis which nearly killed him, it left him frail in health the rest of his life. His insights into Marian theology echo today through their influence on Vatican II.

He founded monastries and published a magazine to fight religious apathy in Poland and Japan. By 1939 the Polish monastery housed a religious community of nearly 800 men, the largest in the world in its day, and was completely self-sufficient including medical facilities and a fire brigade staffed by the religious brothers. During his arrest by the Nazis, he volunteered to die in place of a married man with young children. He died as he had always wished – in service.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

Ezekiel 2:8-3:4

I, Ezekiel, heard a voice speaking. It said, ‘You, son of man, listen to the words I say; do not be a rebel like that rebellious set. Open your mouth and eat what I am about to give you.’ I looked. A hand was there, stretching out to me and holding a scroll. He unrolled it in front of me; it was written on back and front; on it was written ‘lamentations, wailings, meanings.’ He said, ‘Son of man, eat what is given to you; eat this scroll, then go and speak to the House of Israel.’ I opened my mouth; he gave me the scroll to eat and said, ‘Son of man, feed and be satisfied by the scroll I am giving you.’ I ate it, and it tasted sweet as honey.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, go to the House of Israel and tell them what I have said.’

________________

Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

________________ 

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray…”

During the 25 days I spent with Aunty in hospital, I was blessed to be able to witness her love for God and Mother Mary through her constant prayers, even when it was tough for her to pray. Whenever Aunty had visitors in the hospital, she would always tell them that she will keep them in her prayers, and if any specific prayer intention was mentioned, she would try her best to remember each of them. Every morning and during moments of free time, Aunty would be praying the Rosary, and asking Mother to intercede for the people she was praying for. Aunty would not turn down the chance to pray for another person, and her deep faith in Mother’s intercessions had deepened my understanding of the Rosary.

As a convert, I struggled with praying the Rosary because I could not grasp the rationale behind the Rosary. After experiencing Auntie’s daily intercessions through our Mother, I realized that the Rosary started growing on me, and I began to enjoy praying the Rosary. My cynical questions pertaining to the Rosary were no longer a priority, and instead, I am learning how to intercede for others through the Rosary.

Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a saint who strongly advocated for the conversion of souls through the intercession of our Mother. She came to him through a vision when he was 12, and as young as he was, his faith was strong. He dedicated his life to praying through Mother, even when he was facing death. As a child, he accepted that his life was to be for the Lord, and he did not question what Mother had showed him. His sacrifice for a stranger was undoubtedly a heroic act, but more than that, it was an act of love towards God’s people.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest merciful Father, grace us with the desire to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters even when it is hard to pray, and to look to our blessed Mother as the perfect example after Your heart.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank You for persevering with us and not giving up on us, especially during our moments of being “the lost sheep”. Thank You for showering us with Your love.

13 August, Monday – Dreams And Visions

Aug 13 – Memorial for St. Pontian, pope, martyr, and St. Hippolytus, priest, martyr

Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

Ezekiel 1:2-5,24-28

On the fifth of the month – it was the fifth year of exile for King Jehoiachin – the word of the Lord was addressed to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldaeans, on the bank of the river Chebar.

There the hand of the Lord came on me. I looked; a stormy wind blew from the north, a great cloud with light around it, a fire from which flashes of lightning darted, and in the centre a sheen like bronze at the heart of the fire. In the centre I saw what seemed four animals. I heard the noise of their wings as they moved; it sounded like rushing water, like the voice of Shaddai, a noise like a storm, like the noise of a camp; when they halted, they folded their wings, and there was a noise.

Above the vault over their heads was something that looked like a sapphire; it was shaped like a throne and high up on this throne was a being that looked like a man. I saw him shine like bronze, and close to and all around him from what seemed his loins upwards was what looked like fire; and from what seemed his loins downwards I saw what looked like fire, and a light all round like a bow in the clouds on rainy days; that is how the surrounding light appeared. It was something that looked like the glory of the Lord. I looked, and prostrated myself.

________________

Matthew 17:22-27

One day when they were together in Galilee, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men; they will put him to death, and on the third day he will be raised to life again.’ And a great sadness came over them.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel came to Peter and said, ‘Does your master not pay the half-shekel?’ ‘Oh yes’ he replied, and went into the house. But before he could speak, Jesus said, ‘Simon, what is your opinion? From whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from foreigners?’ And when he replied, ‘From foreigners’, Jesus said, ‘Well then, the sons are exempt. However, so as not to offend these people, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that bites, open its mouth and there you will find a shekel; take it and give it to them for me and for you.’ 

________________

“Like the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day…..”

During Aunty’s time in the hospital, Aunty had quite a few dreams and visions of heaven, and each time she woke up from them, she would have this gleeful smile on her face and a look of comfort thereafter. Upon our curious probing, Aunty would divulge that she saw Jesus or the 3 Archangels and they were dressed in splendour. She shared briefly about her encounters with them but from her expression, it was very obvious that she was in awe of the magnificence that she had witnessed, and alongside was her deep longing to be in the house of the Lord when it was her time. Aunty had been experiencing pain that was only slightly relieved by the painkillers that could be given and after her encounter with Jesus, she immediately proclaimed in victory that she was pain-free and wanted to start walking again.

Aunty’s sharing during that time had helped me to further put in perspective my knowledge of what heaven is like. Although I believed that heaven is a lovely place, I have never really thought much about what it really is. Aunty’s dreams and visions gave me a deeper understanding of not only the bible, but also of God as Father – one who hears the deepest desires of His children and who wants the best for them.

Brothers and sisters, what Aunty saw and described was reflected in today’s first reading, where the Lord was depicted as being surrounded by splendour and brilliance, and His presence radiates hope to all who believes in Him. Let us continue to entrust our lives to the Lord and cling to the hope that He brings to us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to allow You to love us as Your children, and to experience the hope that you bring to us. Teach us to cling on to Your faithfulness and to entrust our lives into Your hands.

 Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank You for strengthening our faith by providing us with witnesses and giving us the grace to experience Your splendour and magnificence through the lives of those around us.

12 August, Sunday – Don’t Look Back In Anger

12 August 

________________

1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah went into the wilderness, a day’s journey, and sitting under a furze bush wished he were dead. ‘O Lord,’ he said ‘I have had enough. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down and went to sleep. But an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked round, and there at his head was a scone baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. But the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he walked for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

________________ 

Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be set free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

________________ 

John 6:41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.

‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.

‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

________________

“All bitterness, fury, anger … must be removed from you …”

A few days after I left my job, my godmother’s mother was hospitalized and as I had the time, I started to accompany her daily during her stay in the hospital, till she returned home to the Lord. During these 25 days, I learnt a lot from her about God, her love for God’s people, her gift of intercession, as well as various lessons on how to live life without carrying unwanted baggage. One day, during one of the quieter mornings, we started talking about the reasons why I had left my previous work organization and, after I finished with my reasons, Aunty said to me, “Girl, do not keep anger in your heart”. It was a simple one liner, but it was not an easy one liner to practice. Aunty started sharing her life with me – her childhood, her marriage to Uncle, being a mother to 5 children, as well as being a prayer warrior for God. Aunty shared that there were many moments in her life where she could react with anger, but instead, she chose to forgive because anger has the ability to hinder one from loving a person wholeheartedly and without judgment, and harbouring anger could cause a breakdown in relationships.

Reflecting on my own life, I started to notice patterns as a result of anger or harbouring anger in my heart – decisions that were made based on anger usually cause hurt to someone else or myself. I had a tendency of imploding from the inside rather than confronting the individual that made me angry (unless I was extremely close to that person and I feel safe expressing my negative emotions), and I realized the detriment this had on my own well-being. Since the conversation, I have been trying to let go of anger, particularly towards certain people in my life, and although it is quite difficult, it is still something I want to persist in moving forward.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us that holding on to bitterness and anger grieves the Holy Spirit and instead of harbouring such negativity, we, as children of God, should practice kindness and compassion in our lives, and to forgive those who have hurt us in a loving, brotherly (sisterly) way. Let us learn to give our anger to God and exchange it for love, as Christ did for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us how to love our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who we find hard to love. Grant us the graces to forgive and not to harbour anger in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, thank you for your gentle reminders that we are your children and that you love us for who we are.

11 Aug, Saturday – Faith Opens Doors

11 Aug – Memorial for St. Clare, virgin, religious founder

Clare (1194-1253) loved music and well-composed sermons. She was humble, merciful, charming, optimistic, and chivalrous. She would get up late at night to tuck in her sisters who’’d kicked off their covers. She daily meditated on the Passion. When she learned of the Franciscan martyrs in Morrocco in 1221, she tried to go there to give her own life for God, but was restrained. Once, when her convent was about to be attacked, she displayed the Sacrament in a monstrace at the convent gates and prayed before it. The attackers left.

Toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would be displayed on the wall of her cell; thus her patronage of television.

– Patron Saint Index

___________________

Habakkuk 1:12-2:4

Are not you, from ancient times the Lord,
my God, my Holy One, who never dies?
O Lord, you have made this people an instrument of justice,
set it firm as a rock in order to punish.

Your eyes are too pure to rest on wickedness,
you cannot look on at tyranny.
Why do you look on while men are treacherous,
and stay silent while the evil man swallows a better man than he?

You treat mankind like fishes in the sea,
like creeping, masterless things.

A people, these, who catch all on their hook,
who draw them with their net,
in their dragnet gather them,
and so, triumphantly, rejoice.

At this, they offer a sacrifice to their net,
and burn incense to their dragnet,
for providing them with luxury
and lavish food.

Are they then to empty their net unceasingly,
slaughtering nations without pity?

I will stand on my watchtower,
and take up my post on my battlements,
watching to see what he will say to me,
what answer he will make to my complaints.

Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.

‘See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

___________________

Matthew 17:14-20

A man came up to Jesus and went down on his knees before him. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘take pity on my son: he is a lunatic and in a wretched state; he is always falling into the fire or into the water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable to cure him.’ ‘Faithless and perverse generation!’ Jesus said in reply ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ And when Jesus rebuked it the devil came out of the boy who was cured from that moment.

Then the disciples came privately to Jesus. ‘Why were we unable to cast it out? they asked. He answered, ‘Because you have little faith. I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you.’

____________________

Nothing will be impossible for you

A few years ago, a ministry friend told me that she would like me to play the violin at her wedding mass. She was so insistent and would not take ‘No’ for an answer, despite my exhortations that I had not touched a violin for more than 35 years. She simply looked me in the eye and told me to ‘have faith’ and that everything would be fine.

From those first tentative strokes of the bow, I have now come to realise that when God calls one to fulfil a talent He has given, there is no running away from the times when you will be called upon to exercise that God-given talent.

Yes, I took some refresher lessons and stumbled through some difficult classical pieces. But as I practised with the band in my ministry, what I have discovered is that I can actually ‘play by ear’; something i never knew I could do. So at praise and worship sessions now, I pick up on the first note and just play away. People have come up to me and said that they see the joy in my playing and I just smile and acknowledge that it is God who is doing the playing. I am merely His instrument.

I have also played at a few retreats where the songs were more contemplative and have felt the retreatants’ struggles and sorrows through the music. I have even fallen to my knees in tears after an adoration session, where I was encouraged to play on after the choir had stopped singing. As the blessed sacrament went past me towards the sacristy, I could feel Jesus smiling upon me and giving me a pat of encouragement. It was truly a wondrous feeling and further affirmed my new-found faith in my God-given abilities.

At times, I wonder what ever possessed B to approach me all those years ago. I can only surmise that God prompted her to help me unlock the talent i had hidden away after 1979. Brothers and sisters, each of us has a God-given talent that He is waiting for us to exercise. One way to tell if it is from Him is if the fruits are life giving and if others get to enjoy it. My other half has had her passion for art reawakened and her pieces have already touched hearts. Where it takes her, only God will know but I know there is joy, hope and peace in her paintings.

So B, if you are reading this, you are my eternal spiritual benefactor. And I will always cherish that moment when you came up to me and asked, “Can you play at my wedding?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, our talents are your gifts. Help us to exercise them fruitfully so that they may give life to those around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the artists, caregivers, chefs, dancers, educators, entertainers, formators, healers, musicians, parents, poets, priests, relief workers, singers, teachers and anyone who exercises a talent.

10 August, Friday – Serving God

Aug 10 – Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr

Lawrence was a third-century archdeacon of Rome, a distributor of alms, and “keeper of the treasures of the Church” in a time when Christianity was outlawed. On 6 August 258, by decree of Emperor Valerian, Pope St. Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded, leaving Lawrence as the ranking Church official in Rome.

While in prison awaiting execution, Sixtus reassured Lawrence that he was not being left behind; they would be reunited in four days. Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it.

On Aug 10, Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome’s crippled, blind, sick, and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

Lawrence’s care for the poor, the ill, and the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including the documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron, and to ask for his intercession. And his incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks and those who work in or supply things to the kitchen. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the middle ages as the “burning tears of St. Lawrence” because they appear at the same time as Lawrence’s feast.

– Patron Saint Index

________________

2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one.

________________ 

John 12:24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, most solemnly,
unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for the eternal life.
If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too.
If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.’

________________

“If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.”

It is an oft-heard gripe that there are barely enough priests in our diocese in order for us to be a missionary and evangelistic church. And so it falls on the laity to help our shepherds advance the cause and be the face of Christ to all who come on Sunday for mass, and to those who encounter us at our various worship sessions, during talks, seminars, retreats, wakes, wedding and even funerals.

Over the years, I have met a variety of non-believers who are either amazed at our faith, or seem quite skeptical that we believe in a god who perished so brutally at our own hands. I must admit, it took me quite a while to come to terms with the fact that we revere someone who we ourselves condemned to death by our own sinful nature.

Perhaps that’s why we have no qualms yelling at the person who cuts us off on the road, or turning a blind eye to the elderly cleaner hunched over a trolley, trying his/her best to scrape by with the little they earn. What about the colleague we put down yesterday, or the ministry member we rolled our eyes at during a recent meeting?

And yet, God continues to have faith in us. He continues to sustain us and egg us on, in spite of our unworthiness and our sinfulness. Brothers and sisters, any CEO worth his/her salt would have terminated us right away if we were ‘found out’. At the very least, we would be summoned for a dressing down or issued a warning letter to get us to ‘buck up’. On the contrary, our heavenly Father just allows us to get on with our lives. He gives us the free will to make our own choices, to the best of our ability. We choose how we want to labour in His vineyard. We set conditions. We expect returns. Then we complain and gripe about the state of our church.

It is during these trying times that God truly reveals His splendour and love for each nd every one of us. “I am the good shepherd, says the Lord. I know my own sheep and my own know me.” (Jn 10:14) and “…he is our help and our shield.” (Ps 33:20). So when Jesus exhorts his disciples to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest”, we should know that it is God who is going to give us all the strength and the tools to carry out our mission here on earth. A mission unique to each and every one of us which requires discernment, a steadfast faith and total trust in Him in order for us to fulfil HIs plan for us. Yes brothers and sisters, we are all here to fulfil God’s plan (not the other way around) and so, we have to ask ourselves if we are allowing Him to work in our hearts.

Or are we being too prideful, obstinate and unfeeling in our daily interactions, especially in our parish and ministry ‘work’ that we are missing the forest for the trees?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we want to serve you with all our heart. Give us the courage to do the work that you have planned for us so that we may carry it out faithfully and in humility.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for trusting in us and for your everlasting faith in us.