All posts by Edith Koh

17 Aug, Saturday – Only in His presence can we see our true essence

 

17 Aug 2019

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Joshua 24:14-29

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 19:13-15

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

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“It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

There have been instances when I will go to mass or sit in an adoration room marveling in awe at His power and majesty — praising Him for His blessings and gifts; my heart buzzing with warmth as I soak in His presence and I pour my heart out to him; contemplating on His awesomeness, feeling blessed and grateful as I sit under His watchful eyes and simply adore Him, with no need for words.

Sadly, I have to admit, there were times too many to count, where I would sit in His presence physically, but my mind and soul would be somewhere else. As an adult, often I am distracted by worldly ways, burdened by responsibilities and worries. At times, pride, ego, the lure of fame, status and glory of this world consumes my soul and my entire being! And the noise of this world, these other gods, drowns out the precious moments I have set aside for God. How then, do we hang onto the innocence of a child as we approach God?

I am not sure if I have the answers and I continue to struggle. As one grows up, we are tainted by the environment and the people around us. This drives us to skepticism, to build up defenses to protect ourselves, inflate our ego to appear better than we are, just to be accepted by those around us and by the world at large. For the sake of survival, we mistakenly think that this is the only way to toughen ourselves, and the only way to get love and recognition, to belong. Through it all, we lose sight of the most fundamental truth and that is — we are a child of God!

I guess the more I seek Him in earnestness, the more He will reveal to me who He intends for me to be. Only in His presence can we see our true essence, our essence as a child of our Creator. And only by returning to Him with childlike disposition, can we feel complete and whole; for that is where we truly belong. In John 15:18-19 “we do not belong to this world”, no amount of trying to fit in with this whole will give us the joy and happiness our heart desires.

To serve the Lord as little children seems like a life-long struggle. As I reflect further, I recall how my children were like and draw lessons from them. I will go to my Lord with trust, adoration, awe and wonder. With a pure and joyful heart, always happy to see Him, running to tell Him about my days and my life experiences. This is how I imagine what it will be like, and I take consolation that as long as I continue to strive, I believe He will see my yearning of my soul and lay his hands on me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, have mercy on me for times where I have put other gods before you. For times where I have sought acceptance and consolation in others, and worldly things. Teach me Lord, to seek you and to serve you and you only, as a child of yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the reminder that nothing of this world will ever satisfy my soul, only in you Lord I truly belong.

16 Aug, Friday – Unbreakable Love

16 Aug 2019

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Joshua 24:1-13

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people:

‘The Lord, the God of Israel says this, “In ancient days your ancestors lived beyond the River – such was Terah the father of Abraham and of Nahor – and they served other gods. Then I brought your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan. I increased his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountain country of Seir as his possession. Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt with the wonders that I worked there. So I brought you out of it. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and you came to the Sea; the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen as far as the Sea of Reeds. There they called to the Lord, and he spread a thick fog between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea go back on them and cover them. You saw with your own eyes the things I did in Egypt. Then for a long time you lived in the wilderness, until I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan; they made war on you and I gave them into your hands; you took possession of their country because I destroyed them before you. Next, Balak son of Zippor the king of Moab arose to make war on Israel, and sent for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; instead, he had to bless you, and I saved you from his hand.

‘“When you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, those who held Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites and Perizzites, the Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I put them all into your power. I sent out hornets in front of you, which drove the two Amorite kings before you; this was not the work of your sword or your bow. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive-groves you never planted.”’

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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.’

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What God has united, man must not divide

I remember a conversation once with a colleague about her upcoming marriage. She had met her husband-to-be and after a short courtship, had decided to take the ‘big step’. Our chat soon turned to how we would know if our spouses were ‘the one’ for us. With a shrug, she told me, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, we can just break”.

I remember being surprised by her reply.

I come from a broken family, and never really had my very own ‘complete family’ to learn from. However, I was blessed to have read a lot growing up, and having started attending the Catholic Church from about the age of about 19, had many Catholic couples to model after.

One of the things I realised was that relationships evolve. An old couple (I can’t remember specifically who!) advised me that love goes through many phases. The first is one of romantic love, when the couple goes through the initial stages of courtship and intense feelings of love. This deepens into marriage and will continue to evolve with time, when the children come, when they grow, when they leave the home, when they get married and have children.

I realised that the romantic novels and movies place unrealistic ideals and expectations in our minds. In one recent conversation, a young lady confessed that she was no longer feeling quite so passionate about her partner. “I love him deeply”, she said, “but it’s not so intense anymore”. She felt troubled by that.

Our Lord instructs us that our love for each other needs to be a committed kind of love. We need to make a decision to continue to love each other, even after the initial pangs of intense, romantic love wears off. He teaches us to stand by each other regardless of the challenges and chides us never to be tempted to ‘break’ our relationships in the face of difficulty. Truly, we are never meant to break up what God has united.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will have the courage and tenacity to grow in our marriages. We ask for Your blessings and fortitude to grow in love everyday.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing the full extent of what a true loving relationship is. We are grateful for this important lesson for us, Lord.

15 Aug, Thursday – Saved through Christ

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

Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven and with God, and in God, she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, ‘within’ all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI  

  • http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050815_assunzione-maria_en.html

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Apocalypse 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.’

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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.

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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.

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all men will be brought to life in Christ

As the first disciple of our Lord, Mary certainly endured much trials and tribulations. Her life’s journey is plagued with difficulties and challenges — from the very moment the angel appeared to her and when she conceived by the Holy Spirit, there must have much fear and uncertainty. Even though she had no inclination of what is to come, she carried out her role as a mother to Jesus dutifully. And when she had to witness her beloved son’s passion, crucifixion and death, she remained faithful and trusted fully in God’s plan — a quiet witness to our Lord’s work here on earth.

Our lady showed us what being a true disciple is all about! Yes, the days are hard, and the road ahead uncertain, but she never once doubted our Father’s plan and love. She showed us what it means to be obedient, the importance of journeying on with Jesus by our side. For as long as we keep him close, we can face whatever life has installed for us. And at the end of it all, when our time here on earth comes to an end, our Father will reward us with a place in His heavenly kingdom.

There is sun after the rain, light after darkness, life after death. In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that our salvation comes from Jesus and Jesus alone. “Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ”! Through Him, with Him and in Him, we can conquer all difficulties and challenges along the way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to grow in faith and obedience just like our blessed Virgin Mary. No matter how challenging or uncertain our paths may be, with Jesus we can conquer all!

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for giving us Mary to be our mother, who lovingly intercedes for us and shows us what being a disciple is all about.

 

14 Aug, Wednesday – Courageous Reconciliation

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

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Leaving the plains of Moab, Moses went up Mount Nebo, the peak of Pisgah opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land; Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the stretch of the Valley of Jericho, city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross into it.’ There in the land of Moab, Moses the servant of the Lord died as the Lord decreed; he buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but to this day no one has ever found his grave. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye undimmed, his vigour unimpaired. The sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. The days of weeping for the mourning rites of Moses came to an end. Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. It was he that the sons of Israel obeyed, carrying out the order that the Lord had given to Moses.
Since then, never has there been such a prophet in Israel as Moses, the man the Lord knew face to face. What signs and wonders the Lord caused him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and his whole land! How mighty the hand and great the fear that Moses wielded in the sight of all Israel!
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Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

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“Have it out with him alone, between your two selves…”

I was queuing up for ice cream at a road-side vendor one day when a couple came up and waited behind me. A few minutes later, a lady also came by. However, rather than join the queue, she stood by my side and ‘joined’ the line, cutting behind me and in front of the couple.

Soon, I could hear the couple grumbling to each other, about how this lady had wrongly cut in front of them. I waited for both of them to tell the lady to queue behind (which never happened). In the end, I asked the vendor to serve the couple first, as they were rightly next. I turned to the couple, who looked relieved.

So it is the same for many of our relationships. In our interactions with each other, there is bound to be unhappiness in how we all handle our opinions or how we do things. For many of these situations, rather than speak with the other party, we choose to lament and complain to others. We play the victim, and the more we talk about what has happened, we end up becoming angrier. Our relationships become estranged and far less authentic.

In the Gospel of today, our Lord Jesus instructs us not to fall into this trap. Instead of holding it in our hearts, we are to go to our brothers and sisters and address the issues head-on. Reconciliation is the goal, but Jesus does talk about what to do in the case where one cannot find a resolution to the problems.

What surprised me in this passage is not the face-to-face discussion, but the fact that our faith is not only a vertical one (i.e., between an individual and God) but also a horizontal one (i.e., between an individual and his community). I used to think that my faith was just a private one between myself and God. This passage clearly shows my previous understanding to be limited and short-sighted!

Brothers and sisters, may we always have the courage to speak truthfully and candidly with each other. Let us interact with each other as a stable and cohesive Christian community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will be able to shed the trappings of our secular world. Help us Father, to be encouraging and loving with each other and without malice. Help us to grow in love for our community.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for teaching us that we need to be with each other authentically and lovingly.

13 Aug, Tuesday – Like Empty Vessels

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

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Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Moses proceeded to address these words to the whole of Israel, ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old now, and can no longer come and go as I will. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the Lord your God who will cross it at your head to destroy these nations facing you and dispossess them; and Joshua too shall cross at your head, as the Lord has said. The Lord will treat them as he treated Sihon and Og the Amorite kings and their land, destroying them. The Lord will hand them over to you, and you will deal with them in exact accordance with the commandments I have enjoined on you. Be strong, stand firm, have no fear of them, no terror, for the Lord your God is going with you; he will not fail you or desert you.’
Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, ‘Be strong, stand firm; you are going with this people into the land the Lord swore to their fathers he would give them; you are to give it into their possession. The Lord himself will lead you; he will be with you; he will not fail you or desert you. Have no fear, do not be disheartened by anything.’

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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.’

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the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven

When I was in my late teens, about 18 or 19, I had a group of friends who enjoyed debating and thinking about the faith, especially the ‘debating’ part. We would talk about faith issues, and extend these arguments about how they would apply to social justice. We talked about the things that should be done. In my mind, these were the ways we should take in order to change the world.

One day, I was reading the Gospel of today and it hit me that perhaps my approach had been wrong.

As I was reading, I put myself in the shoes of a little child before our Lord… and waited. I looked within myself, at what I would do then. How would I behave? What would I think?

What came out surprised me. Firstly, I was curious. I sat there, expectantly looking at our Lord; waiting for Him to show me so I would know what to do. Secondly, I could hear… silence. Rather than opinions coming from me, I was waiting for instructions. Thirdly, I could sense no ego coming from myself. I was just me. There was nothing to prove, nothing to show off, nothing to impress anyone with.

This realisation changed the way I looked at my faith. Rather than bringing a full glass, I now (do my best) to empty this glass, and empty it continually. I sit at the foot of my Lord, and simply wait.

Another thing I realised is that children change their world by directly influencing what is within their immediate sphere of control. When they play and engage their peers, they are immediately able to change their world. Rather than holding lofty ideals and “doing big things”, children change their immediate environments. How I want to be like one again.

Let us pray that we may always remind ourselves to be like little children at the feet of our God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always be able to surrender our ego and be like little children again. Help us Father to just ‘be’, and not be focused on the ‘doing’.

Thanksgiving: We bless You and thank You for reminding us, Lord Jesus. Thank You for showing how we should be living our lives and for showing how to be like You.

12 Aug, Monday – Our True North

Aug 12 – Memorial for St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Jane married Baron de Chantal. She restored order in the household, which was on the brink of ruin, and brought back prosperity. During her husband’s absence at the court, or with the army, when reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: “The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here.” She found more than once that God blessed with miracles the care she gave the suffering members of Christ.  Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by a harquebus while out shooting. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity.

She founded the Congregation of the Visitation, whose aim was to receive, with a view to their spiritual advancement, young girls and even widows who had not the desire or strength to subject themselves to the austere ascetical practices in force in all the religious orders at that time. The remainder of the saint’s life was spent under the protection of the cloister in the practice of the most admirable virtues. It was firmness and great vigour which prevailed in St. Jane Frances; she did not like to see her daughters giving way to human weakness. Her trials were continuous and borne bravely, and yet she was exceedingly sensitive.

– http://www.wf-f.org/StJaneFdeChantal.html

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Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Moses said to the people:

‘Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? Only this: to fear the Lord your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and laws of the Lord that for your good I lay down for you today.

‘To the Lord your God belong indeed heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all it contains; yet it was on your fathers that the Lord set his heart for love of them, and after them of all the nations chose their descendants, you yourselves, up to the present day. Circumcise your heart then and be obstinate no longer; for the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, triumphant and terrible, never partial, never to be bribed. It is he who sees justice done for the orphan and the widow, who loves the stranger and gives him food and clothing. Love the stranger then, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. It is the Lord your God you must fear and serve; you must cling to him; in his name take your oaths. He it is you must praise, he is your God: for you he has done these great and terrible things you have seen with your own eyes; and though your fathers numbered only seventy when they went down to Egypt, the Lord your God has made you as many as the stars of heaven.’

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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.’

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“… to keep the commandments and laws of the Lord…”

I once heard this anecdote, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

There was once 2 parties on a radio channel communicating with each other; they had detected each other on a radar out in the ocean. The conversation takes place over quite a few minutes, but the gist of it is that one party asks the other to move out of the way to avoid a collision. The reason? This vessel is a large aircraft carrier. The party had to move because this ship was much bigger.

Who was the other party?

It was a lighthouse! The aircraft carrier ended up re-routing immediately.

The takeaway for me from today’s Gospel is that we need to recognise who the real source of power and importance is in our lives. Do we pledge allegiance to our jobs, our leisure, our entertainment, the daily chores that we do? Or do we give more importance to fulfilling our duties as followers and children of God?

There was, however, another message that stood out for me. While Jesus talks about identifying the true power, He also chose to hand over the shekel (taken from the mouth of a fish!) to the tribute collectors, in order “not to offend these people”. While Jesus has the true power, He chooses His battles. This really surprised me.

Brothers and sisters, we must always remember who the real power is in our lives. So that the Spirit can help us to discern the battles to take on, and to let the less important ones pass by.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray for strength of character Father. Help us to draw this fearlessness from You. May we be courageous in our daily lives to stand up for what is true and right.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for being there for us, Father God. We are grateful that You are the true compass in our lives.

 

11 Aug, Sunday – Standing Ready

11 Aug 2019

The Lord Our God

The Lord has chosen us to be his people. Though a little flock, our history goes back into the dim and distant past. The God we worship is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We also look forward in hope to a glorious future in the Kingdom of our Father.

– The Sunday Missal

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Wisdom 18:6-9

That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that,
once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in,
they would joyfully take courage.
This was the expectation of your people,
the saving of the virtuous and the ruin of their enemies;
for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes
you made us glorious by calling us to you.
The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret
and this divine pact they struck with one accord:
that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike;
and forthwith they had begun to chant the hymns of the fathers.

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Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.
It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.
All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.
It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.

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Luke 12:32-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.
The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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See that you are dressed for action

From the time I was a child, I have always wanted to be successful in life and in my career. I started out in auditing, and finally ended up in retail banking. I enjoyed my work and looked forward to it.  Ultimately, I loved building businesses for the bank.

Needless to say, I spent many, many hours on my work.

Towards the latter part of my corporate career however, things began to happen in my life that showed me that the work I was doing was no longer ‘my’ work. All of a sudden, what I was doing no longer seemed important.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about being ready. He asks us to get rid of everything which is no longer important, and begin waiting for our REAL purpose. He tells us to get ourselves ready. To me, our Lord Jesus is telling us to prepare for 2 events.

Firstly, to be ready to move on to our final destination; to return to heaven to be with our Father. Most of us never know when this physical death will arrive and the danger is that we will be caught unprepared to meet with our God. Secondly, I believe He is also referencing Parousia, or the Second Coming of our Lord.

I catch myself living my life as though I will live forever. I fritter away my time, perhaps unconsciously believing that by the day’s end, I will continue to be alive. Like the foolish rich man in the bible, I believe I will have time to enjoy and to prepare for heaven another day.

Brothers and sisters, may we not be caught in this dangerous way of thinking; may we instead begin to prepare for the day where we meet our God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that every moment we live is for You. Help us to prepare during our limited time on earth to ultimately meet with, and live with You.

Thanksgiving: We thank You Father, for sending us this important reminder. Thank You for the gift of life and thank You for teaching us how to live this life.

10 Aug, Saturday – Invitation to say “Yes”

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

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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.

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John 12:24-26

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.

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The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Recently, I’ve had to make some hard decisions about church ministry. I was serving’ in two different ministries; I put serving in inverted commas, because truthfully I had become just a member in name for one of the ministries. It had been weighing on my shoulders, the guilt that I was no longer an active member, yet still claimed to be a ministry member and enjoyed the benefits or ‘prestige’ that came with it. A priest advised me that it was not right to have one foot in and one foot out, and it was best to make a firm decision. I knew quite clearly that my call was to serve in the other ministry, but still it was difficult to officially call it quits as I clung onto the familiarity and security of the first one.

However, once I announced my decision to the ministry leaders and made the firm choice, I felt so much lighter. It felt right to focus on just this one ministry, especially when there had been multiple signs that this was my calling. It was just a matter of whether I was accepting and believing of the signs. And in doing so, I found myself being invited to do more in this ministry; I knew that since I had answered the call to serve in this ministry, I ought to say ‘yes’.

The latest ask of me, was to share my personal testimony, in front of a bunch of strangers. This was something I was somewhat willing to do, but not quite yet prepared to; I was unsure if it was the right time, and of course very fearful of a public sharing! I spent a couple of weeks discerning, and again I could not ignore the signs He gave me. But I needed the courage to say ‘yes’, and trust that no matter my readiness or the seemingly imperfect timing, God will make a way.

In today’s first reading, I’m reminded that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” I am also reminded and comforted that even though my gift is small, He will take it all and multiply, just like the five loaves and two fishes that fed the thousands.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to remember to always run to you first, to trust that even though we are broken people, we are worthy of your love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for nothing is possible without Your grace. Thank you for taking what little we have, and multiplying the harvest in abundance.

9 Aug, Friday – Liberating Rules

Aug 9 – Memorial for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), martyr

After witnessing the strength of faith of Catholic friends, Teresa (1891-1942), originally a Jew, became interested in Catholicism and studied a catechism on her own, and she eventually ended up “reading herself into” the Faith.

She became a Carmelite nun, teaching and lecturing at two schools. However, anti-Jewish pressure from the Nazis forced her to resign both positions. She was smuggled out of Germany, and assigned to Holland. When the Nazis invaded Holland, she and her sister Rose, also a convert to Catholicism, were captured and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where they died in the ovens like so many others.

–  Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 4:32-40

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘This he showed you so that you might know that the Lord is God indeed and that there is no other. He let you hear his voice out of heaven for your instruction; on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his word. Because he loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out from Egypt, openly showing his presence and his great power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it you for your heritage, as it is still today.

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

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Matthew 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.’

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Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

The world we live in does not like to have any rules within it. There is a desire to stay free and to engage in behaviour that makes one comfortable to achieve whatever they so desire. The readings of today remind us that these rules are not meant to bind us but instead are supposed to help free us from the troubles of our daily lives.

Christianity has been perceived to be a religion of rules and regulations. However, these are supposed to help us become better Christians and become closer to God. We are all called to deepen our relationship with God through prayer. I believe that prayer will allow us to understand what God wants from us and we will then be able to understand  the intention behind the rules.

Any meaningful relationship requires work and this work will mean the setting up of boundaries. Rules are not meant to constrict us but instead to allow us to live life freely. This means that we need to die to ourselves. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that we need to give up everything and come follow him. It may seem a great sacrifice but I believe that it will all be worthwhile.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us the wisdom to surrender our will and let your will act in us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who trust in us.

 

8 Aug, Thursday – Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives

Aug 8 – Memorial for St. Dominic, priest, religious founder

Dominic (1170-1221) was born of wealthy Spanish nobility, and was the son of Blessed Joan of Aza. Joan had difficulty conceiving and prayed at the shrine of St. Dominic of Silos who had a tradition of patronage of that problem. When she became pregnant, she named the child in honour of the saint. While pregnant, Joan had a vision that her unborn child was a dog who would set the world on fire with a torch it carried in its mouth. A dog with a torch in its mouth became a symbol for the Order he founded, the Dominicans. At Dominic’s baptism, Joan saw a star shining from his chest, which became another of his symbols in art, and led to his patronage of astronomy.

Dominic was a priest who worked for clerical reform. He had a life-long apostolate among heretics, especially Albigensians, and especially in France. He founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215, a group who lived a simple, austere life. He also founded an order or nuns dedicated to the care of young girls.

At one point, Dominic became discouraged at the progress of his mission; no matter how much he worked, heresies remained. But he received a vision from Our Lady who showed him a wreath of roses, representing the rosary. She told him to say the rosary daily, teach it to all who would listen, and eventually the true faith would win out. Dominic is often credited with the invention of the rosary; it actually pre-dates him, but he certainly spread devotion to it, and used it to strengthen his own spiritual life.

Legend says that Dominic received a vision of a beggar who, like Dominic, would do great things for the Faith. Dominic met the beggar the next day. He embraced him and said, “You are my companion and must walk with me. If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us.” The beggar was St. Francis of Assisi.

– Patron Saint Index

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Numbers 20:1-13

The sons of Israel, the whole community, arrived in the first month at the desert of Zin. The people settled at Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried.

There was no water for the community, and they were all united against Moses and Aaron. The people challenged Moses: ‘We would rather have died,’ they said ‘as our brothers died before the Lord! Why did you bring the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, only to let us die here, ourselves and our cattle? Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place? It is a place unfit for sowing, it has no figs, no vines, no pomegranates, and there is not even water to drink!’
Leaving the assembly, Moses and Aaron went to the door of the Tent of Meeting. They threw themselves face downward on the ground, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘Take the branch and call the community together, you and your brother Aaron. Then, in full view of them, order this rock to give water. You will make water flow for them out of the rock, and provide drink for the community and their cattle.’
Moses took up the branch from before the Lord, as he had directed him. Then Moses and Aaron called the assembly together in front of the rock and addressed them, ‘Listen now, you rebels. Shall we make water gush from this rock for you?’ And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the branch; water gushed in abundance, and the community drank and their cattle too.
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe that I could proclaim my holiness in the eyes of the sons of Israel, you shall not lead this assembly into the land I am giving them.’
These are the waters of Meribah, where the sons of Israel challenged the Lord and he proclaimed his holiness.

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Matthew 16:13-23

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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“Now Moses himself was by far, the meekest man on the face of the earth”

Popular culture would have us believe that the heroes of Scripture were these larger than life beings who did God’s work astride blazing chariots, while commanding the elements of nature. The reality of it is that they lived very much like us, battling doubt, exhaustion, uncertainty, frustration, false confidence and the stress of constant problem-solving.

Moses was an Egyptian prince who, in a moment of morally-driven impulsiveness, gave up his cushy life at court to become a fugitive (Exodus 2:11-15). He didn’t choose to leave, he fled for his life. At the burning bush, the work of God was thrust upon him, despite his protests that God find someone else (Exodus 3:1-4:17). And while leading the Hebrews through that vast and arid desert, he experienced constant frustration (Exodus 17:4, the water at Meribah), anger (Exodus 32:19-20, the molten calf) and despair (Exodus 14:5, rebellion at Kadesh) at their stubbornness. Peter was a simple fisherman by trade. Though he was chosen by Christ to be “the rock upon which I will build my church”, Peter was prone to fear and faithlessness (Matt 14:28-31, walking and falling into the water), spiritual denseness (Matt 15:16, not comprehending the true meaning of being unclean) and false grandiosity (Matt 26:33-34, “Even though all doubt you and fall, I will never fall”).

These were very human individuals, with the same failings we all share; ordinary people, who went on to achieve extraordinary things, despite their flaws. God did not choose the great leaders and kings of their time to carry out his work. He anointed the humble, the lowly, the least amongst people, the outcasts, the minorities. Before they went on to achieve greatness for Him, they faced themselves, acknowledged their own demons and then let God mould them to His needs. The enormity of our responsibilities can sometimes overwhelm us; the road ahead is littered with unpaid bills, insurmountable challenges and impossible demands on our time and energy. We know we’re coming up short and everyone around us is being short-changed. But are we too hard on ourselves? A humble fisherman who denied Christ three times became the foundation upon which God’s church has flourished. An orphan and a fugitive led a great people across uncrossable terrain, into a land of milk and honey. What would God achieve with us if we only gave Him – and ourselves – the chance to try?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for His guidance to make good decisions for ourselves and our families. It is only through Him that we are able to realize the full range of our possibilities.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s mercy and formgiveness, for all the times we have fallen short and denied Him.