Category Archives: Feastdays

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

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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

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.’

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“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.

6 August, Monday – Waiting

Aug 6 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Today we celebrate the occasion on which Christ revealed Himself in shining splendour to Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were present, and are taken to signify that the Law and the Prophets. They testify to Jesus as the promised Messiah. God the Father also proclaimed him as such, saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him.” For a moment the veil is drawn aside, and men still on earth are permitted a glimpse of the heavenly reality, the glory of the Eternal Triune God.

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Tranfiguration.htm

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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2 Peter 1:16-19

It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen his majesty for ourselves. He was honoured and glorified by God the Father, when the Sublime Glory itself spoke to him and said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour.’ We heard this ourselves, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

  So we have confirmation of what was said in prophecies; and you will be right to depend on prophecy and take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds.

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Mark 9:2-10

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

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His clothing became brilliant as lightning

In the past two years or so since I left my full-time job, I have had to go through a great deal of waiting. There was the months-long wait for approval to commence my Masters research project, for approval of visa documents to study in Australia, and for news of my job interviews (unsuccessful). The longest wait took place this year, for the outcome of my application to do a full-time PhD (successful). Even now, at this time of writing, I am awaiting news of my application for a room on campus. All these periods of fretting and repeated refreshing of my inbox were fraught with more worry than faith and hope. Although I knew that theoretically, I could place my hope in the Lord, there is always a tendency for the mind to dwell on the uncertainties of what is to come, and to be gripped by what feels more accessible and real — fear.

Today’s readings all proclaim the glory of our Lord and the eternity of God’s kingdom. In Bishop Barron’s Catholicism, he spoke about our hope that when our bodies are resurrected, we too will become transfigured like Christ. Even as witnesses of the transfiguration, Peter, James and John did not quite understand what it meant when it happened, only that it was such a wonderful encounter that Peter suggested making tents so as to prolong the experience. However, it ended unexpectedly, and they would have to endure multiple trials and tribulations before they could come close to this eternal glory again.

In a sense, our time on earth is like a long period of waiting to meet the Lord, during which we make preparations according to Jesus’ instructions. The period of waiting is punctuated with times of both uplifting grace and debilitating suffering. May His grace sustain us through the difficult times during this pilgrimage.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can find that peaceful centre in our hearts during times of stress and frustration with people and/or events.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Jesus reaching out to catch us whenever we cry out to Him for help.

25 Jul, Wednesday – Life As A Ransom

Jul 25 – Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of Saint John the Apostle, and may have been Jesus’ cousin. He is called “the Greater” simply because he became an Apostle before Saint James the Lesser. Apparent disciple of Saint John the Baptist. Fisherman. He left everything when Christ called him to be a fisher of men. Was present during most of the recorded miracles of Christ. Preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. First Apostle to be martyred.

The pilgrimage to his relics in Compostela became such a popular devotion that the symbols of pilgrims have become his emblems, and he became patron of pilgrims. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish; for centuries, the Spanish army rode to battle with the cry “Santiago!” (“Saint James!”)

Like all men of renown, many stories grew up around James. In one, he brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy‘s father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away.

– The Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 20:20-28

The mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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“… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many;”

Personal protection services. In the past I used to wonder if I actually had the mettle to put my body on the line for someone. I often watch it on TV and think to myself, “Yes, that is the absolutely right thing to do, I would have done it myself!”. But a few days later, I wonder if that is really true, after the cinematography effects have worn out. I wonder what fear goes through the mind of a bodyguard in that situation even with all that training which makes them instinctively use their body as a shield.

What about something a little closer to home which could actually happen, for example, standing in front of someone experiencing a knife attack? If you ask me, it actually sounds more scary than taking a bullet. Maybe we might, for someone we love, to prevent their suffering. But Jesus says if we love those who love us, what good is that.

Post-reversion me thinks of this same scenario in a slightly different context, although I don’t think it’s different at all. Would I put my life on the line to prevent desecration to the Body of Christ? (Think immediate martyrdom) Again, I wouldn’t know how crippled by fear I might be. But I suppose if we do know Jesus well enough, it would be an action worth taking and I can think of many saints who would have done it.

So if we truly believe in the true presence of Our Lord and Saviour in the Eucharist, then it would be an act of infinite merit. What was it to Jesus that he should sacrifice His life for ours? Didn’t He give us our life to begin with? I don’t recall ever actually being required to give anything to God, it is my free response that would please him with adding anything to His glory. There was nothing in it for Him to ransom His own life for us and yet He did. And some of those He did it for still turn away from Him today.

So how do we then, willingly and freely, be a slave to others and in doing so reflect the person of Jesus to those we meet? I think we can every single day if we start with the less scary things and not think about giving up our lives just yet.

Can we sacrifice our own opinions and ideas for the greater good of our communities, ministries, organizations, and even families?

Can we give way to the guy trying to cut into the filter lane at the last moment because he was too impatient to get in line?

Can we choose to stand up and defend the person who is being backstabbed in the office while on MC?

Can we lay aside our pride and admit to our spouse that we were in fact wrong and ask for forgiveness?

Can we wash the dishes after dinner, even if it was us who bought or cooked dinner?

The news is very often depressing. How about we show a little bit of Christ and try to put ourselves on the line sometimes and just maybe, when the chance comes to really take one for Jesus, it won’t seem so foreign; because then, we would know so much more, how He feels.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I choose your way, starting from the simplest things so that when the bigger test comes, I will be ready. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving me these chances and choices every single day that I may practice to be more like you.

23 Jul, Monday – Is This A Sign?

Jul 23 – Memorial for St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious

Coming from a noble yet religious background, St. Bridget (1302-1373) was friend and counsellor to many priests and theologians of her day. As chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur, she counselled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. She was harassed by others at the court for pursuing a religious life.

She eventually renounced her title of princess and became the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines), chastening and counselling kings and Popes Clement VI, Urban VI, and Gregory XI. St. Bridget encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

– Patron Saint Index

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Micah 6:1-4,6-8

Listen to what the Lord is saying:

Stand up and let the case begin in the hearing of the mountains
and let the hills hear what you say.
Listen, you mountains, to the Lord’s accusation,
give ear, you foundations of the earth,
for the Lord is accusing his people,
pleading against Israel:
My people, what have I done to you,
how have I been a burden to you? Answer me.
I brought you out of the land of Egypt,
I rescued you from the house of slavery;
I sent Moses to lead you,
with Aaron and Miriam.

– ‘With what gift shall I come into the Lord’s presence
and bow down before God on high?
Shall I come with holocausts,
with calves one year old?
Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand,
with libations of oil in torrents?
Must I give my first-born for what I have done wrong,
the fruit of my body for my own sin?’

– What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what the Lord asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.

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Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’

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The Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth

It was a religious nun who pointed out to me that the question “Is this is a sign?”, is superstitious in itself. It was during a time in my life that I demanded signs, to affirm my choices and direct my paths. Looking back, I realise that it was so shallow of me to leave important decisions to these so-called signs instead of through proper discernment and guidance.

People continue to live their lives relying on signs; perhaps because they are not open to listening to the voice of God. Though sometimes demanding, the voice of God and the ways of the Lord, are always the right way.

God sent His only Son to earth, to suffer and die for our salvation. On the onset, none of it makes sense. It’s because none of us would allow our children, let alone our only son, to be sacrificed for the sake of others. Sadly, we are sometimes better at seeking the good of only ourselves and our families. Surely we have a responsibility to provide for and protect our families. However as a Christian, it is important that we realise that our family also consists of the poor, needy, the oppressed and the lonely. Have we done our part to serve our family?

When was the last time we encouraged our children and advised them so that they would consider vocations of religious life and mission? Many parishioners advise me to take on roles in ministry and though I never ask them, I always wonder where their children were (some are not even seen at Sunday masses).

Isn’t it beautiful to be the giver? Our Lord and master is a giver, surely as His disciples we can do the same. Can we nurture our children to have the heart that listens to the voice of God and gives glory to His name?

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to have a heart that listens to you and is able to love like you. Divine Master, make us more like you. Help us to have a personal relationship with you till the end of time. Help us to help our families.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we hear your voice in every beat of our hearts. No signs are needed at all.

21 Jul, Saturday – Holy Lowliness

Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix, and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

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Micah 2:1-5

Woe to those who plot evil,
who lie in bed planning mischief!
No sooner is it dawn than they do it
– their hands have the strength for it.
Seizing the fields that they covet,
they take over houses as well,
owner and house they confiscate together,
taking both man and inheritance.
So the Lord says this:
Now it is I who plot
such mischief against this breed
as your necks will not escape;
nor will you be able to walk proudly,
so evil will the time be.
On that day they will make a satire on you,
sing a dirge and say,
‘We are stripped of everything;
my people’s portion is measured out and shared,
no one will give it back to them,
our fields are awarded to our despoiler.’

Therefore you will have no one
to measure out a share
in the community of the Lord.

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Matthew 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and began to plot against him, discussing how to destroy him.
Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved, the favourite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit,
and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed,
nor put out the smouldering wick
till he has led the truth to victory:
in his name the nations will put their hope.

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Housework really is a thankless task – and the worst part is, it never ends! This has come as a bit of a shock to me in my new vocation. By moving here to the US to share in my partner’s parenting duties, I have exchanged financial spreadsheets and conference calls for laundry and dish washing liquid. It’s a drastic turn of events. Giving up your job is a scary undertaking already, but simultaneously embarking on a life that is diametrically different? Well, it has been more of a struggle than I had anticipated. On the bad days, when the dog is soiling the carpet, the children are grumpy and the dishwasher broken, I do wonder if I have made the right decision. On the bad days, I will ruminate on the pleasures I left behind. And while I am not exactly ‘planning iniquity’, my ‘coveting’ shows that I am ungrateful.

By God’s grace, those bleak moments are few and don’t last very long. When I get that way, I believe that He sends someone or something to help me dig myself out of my black hole of self pity and wallowing. Sometimes it’s a friend who prays with me, sometimes it’s a verse from Scripture, sometimes it is even a billboard I might glimpse while on the highway. He sends us reminders as if to say, no task is too menial or too much of a drudgery to do well. I find it helps not to focus on what’s due to me as well. By fixing my gaze outside of myself, I don’t feed the swells of frustration when they rise up. Resentment has selfishness at it’s root – the person who is unhappiest is the one who is always asking, “What about me?’. My life has been ransomed by Him, so I should surrender myself to serve at His leisure now, so never mind “me”.

Jesus shows us how to handle our calling as servant leaders – “He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, as mouldering wick he will not quench” – in short no moaning, complaining or lamenting! That’s hard in the context of today when we are all about making our thoughts felt and opinions heard on social media. As hard as it is though, we owe it to ourselves to at least try. We owe it to Him to try. Christ Our Redeemer gave his life for us; in silence he suffered, quietly strong till the end. For Him, we ought to do better. We need to do better. We need to be better. And it starts with one menial task at a time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer : We pray for the ability to look beyond the drudgery of our daily chores, to Our God who sees no task as too menial, no job as being too insignificant. All are holy in the eyes of The Lord

Thanksgiving : We give thanks for our families, our friends our sisters and brothers in Christ who help lift us up when we are feeling low and frustrated.

20 Jul, Friday – On Annulment

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source),

On his way out of the city he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

– Wikipedia

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Isaiah 38:1-6,21-22,7-8

Hezekiah fell ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, ‘The Lord says this, “Put your affairs in order, for you are going to die, you will not live.”’ Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and addressed this prayer to the Lord, ‘Ah, Lord, remember, I beg you, how I have behaved faithfully and with sincerity of heart in your presence and done what is right in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah shed many tears.

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, “The Lord, the God of David your ancestor, says this: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will cure you: in three days’ time you shall go up to the Temple of the Lord.” I will add fifteen years to your life. I will save you from the hands of the king of Assyria, I will protect this city.”’

‘Bring a fig poultice,’ Isaiah said, ‘apply it to the ulcer and he will recover.’ Hezekiah said, ‘What is the sign to tell me that I shall be going up to the Temple of the Lord?’ ‘Here’ Isaiah replied’’ ‘is the sign from the Lord that he will do what he has said. Look, I shall make the shadow cast by the declining sun go back ten steps on the steps of Ahaz.’ And the sun went back the ten steps by which it had declined.

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“… how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering”

My husband and I celebrated our ‘first anniversary’ last week. We have been legally married for four years now, but it was only a year ago that we took our vows in God’s house. I didn’t wear a white dress, he didn’t wear a suit. There was no maid of honour, no ring-bearer boy, no audience of parents and loved ones. It was just us two, my RCIA directors, our parish priest … and God. This was the culmination of 3 years’ work, petitioning the Catholic Church for an annulment of his previous marriage. Divorce is a controversial issue, despite the Catholic Church’s efforts to be more inclusive. As part of the annulment process, my husband faced multiple rounds of scrutiny. Our friends and family had to vouch for his character. He was made to see a Church-approved psychiatrist so a third party could attest to his state of mind. It’s heart-breaking enough to go through a divorce, but the Church makes you rehash all the reasons why your marriage did not work out. And you’re asked to justify yourself to a panel of complete strangers. Something like this will test your bond as husband and wife. It will make you think hard about the covenant you’re asking to enter into a second time. Why should the Church grant you its blessing if you couldn’t make it work the first time? Those are the hard questions that you’ll get asked, questions with no easy answers, questions that will make you doubt yourself.

I was deeply moved by how much my husband loved me and his devotion to his faith and God. No one can accuse him of not being ‘Christian enough’; it is no small feat to take on the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church and to keep at it for quite so long. He soldiered on for 3 years despite all their pushback, until we got an answer he was satisfied with. I thought he was valiant, tenacious, inspiring, faith-led. The experience opened my eyes to the depth of his commitment to us and his faith in God.

There’s much debate about whether the Catholic Church should be more merciful to those who have been divorced. Is it Christian compassion to turn away those who yearn to draw near to God? Christ was not afraid to draw close to sinners, why should the Church not try to do the same? If ours is a God of second chances, why should that grace not be extended to divorced believers? But I am not here to judge or complain about the Church. On the contrary, I am thankful to have been confirmed a Catholic. We will all have doubts at some point in our faith journey. To never question and never falter is to not fully engage your faith. The struggle of the annulment process strengthened us as husband and wife. It was one of the most revealing experiences of my faith journey. It gave me a new appreciation for the gravity of marriage as a covenant. James 2:17 says that faith without deeds is dead; I firmly believe that to be the case. You’ll never fully live your faith if you coddle yourself from confrontation, or hide from life’s hard knocks. Yes, there were times when I grew disillusioned with the harshness of the Catholic Church’s responses, but I was also reminded that within God’s house are people who believe in mercy, who are truly selfless, who practice compassion even if the ‘rulebook’ states otherwise, who model Christ’s forgiving heart. I am humbled by all those who helped us along the way. I feel I owe them a great debt for opening my eyes. Yes, the annulment process is a contentious one. If you’re thinking about it, know that your resolve and your relationship will be tested at every step. But take courage and hold on to God… and hold on to each other. It can be a process of great revelation. You will discover things about yourself, your marriage and your faith that you would never have the opportunity to know otherwise. In its own way, it is a blessing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all who are dealing with divorce, who are struggling to move forward, who feel as if they are not worthy to be in Church. Christ came to heal the sick and the sinners. He redeemed us though we were unworthy. Christ has not given up on you, you don’t give up on Christ’s capacity to grant you a new life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who are led first by Christ’s love and compassion, who model His forgiving heart, whose gentleness speaks to great strength. We give thanks for all those that God sends to us, to help us when we are mired in the dark periods of our lives.

3 July, Tuesday – In Place Of Human Sensation

Jul 3 – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way.

He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.

His symbol is the builder’s square. There are several stories that explain it:

– he built a palace for King Guduphara in India

– he built the first church in India with his own hands

– it is representative of building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)

– he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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You are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household.

 What does it mean to be a part of God’s household? It means that we share in equal sonship and inheritance to God’s love. God gave His promise to the newly-baptised that, through Christ, all are one. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:17-18)

This reality is important for all of us believers, no matter the length of time of confessing faith in Christ. Some Christians may boast of greater experience in biblical knowledge, or fellowship with a larger church, or denomination as evidence of being premium citizens in God’s house. However, the truth is clearly far from that. If anything, such pride has no place in God’s kingdom, and those who are now first may later find themselves the least and the last.

St Thomas was one of the first disciples, the inner circle of twelve who followed Christ closely and was party to his life in ministry. Despite this, we see that Thomas himself was not immune to moments of despair and unbelief in his beloved Master, when his faith was challenged, and sorrow obscured his vision.

You and I are probably not too far off too, when we find ourselves troubled in our life journey and relationships. How is it that we can fall from such great conversion experiences into the throes of doubt and questions? Perhaps this image is dramatic. Even so, for the most of us, the mildest of our unbelief can indeed manifest in cynicism and indifference. This may take the form of a blasé routinized life of weekly Mass and mindless mumbling of the Penitential Act and the Lord’s Prayer, etc… Ya-ya-ya… Yes, sometimes, that would be me. And sometimes, I would be jolted to sheepish attention by the deadest of such voices coming from the person next to or behind me in the pews.

The hope that springs from today’s biblical passages is that we are not all that different in our unbelief. Even though what causes us to drift and backslide from God may be uniquely difficult or painful, we certainly share in the ‘inheritance’ of doubt with the first apostles whom we now call saints!

Nevertheless, we can and will be able to re-encounter Christ if we desire to seek Him – to even own up to our doubt and say, “Unless I see this, so show me Lord.”

If God had not loved us so, he would not have sent us Jesus. He would have left us to the hellish perils of unbelief and despair – and that is a lonely geography.

Jesus reappearing to Thomas with the evidence he asked for is not for God’s vindication. It is most simply to save us from our flawed human nature that thrives on the senses. Touch me. Feel me. Hear me. See my works and miracles. Not for My sake, but yours.

God accepts our human nature, and therefore gifts us His Spirit to lift us out of our spiritual poverty. This grace and mercy is humbling and beautiful. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15-16)

No matter our previous states of unbelief, we can now be a part of God’s household just like St Thomas.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, help me not to rely on my senses in order to trust and believe in You. Help me in my moments of doubt and weakness.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Jesus for sustaining me with your grace and hope.

11 June, Monday – Peacemakers

Jun 11 – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death, he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

When I was younger, I used to attend Sunday school and we were tasked to memorize verses as part of our homework. I used to take pride in being able to memorize the Beatitudes, but I never took the time to really meditate and understand what the Beatitudes were about. I knew that the Latin noun of the word Beatitude was used to describe a state of blessedness, but I never understood these eight Beatitudes using my heart. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and she mentioned that she had a t-shirt with a very cool-looking dog decked in a pair of sunglasses with the phrase “Be attitude”. At that moment, I started to realize that the Beatitudes were more than just blessings spoken by Jesus, but they are the attitudes that He wanted us to have, and although these attitudes are not easy to embrace, through God’s grace, it is possible.

The past month has been extremely rough for me emotionally, because I have decided to leave my first job after close to 7 years; not because I became bored of the nature of the work, but because I started to succumb to the negativity of the office environment. I loved my job, and I still do, which was why the decision to resign was a struggle for me; but for my own mental and emotional well-being, I decided that it was best that I resign. My boss called me silly for leaving right before the bonus month, but my happiness was more important and I knew I could no longer feel happy working in this job. A few days after my resignation, I chanced upon the Beatitudes and the particular Beatitude – Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God – struck a chord in me. I decided to embark on a personal project to connect with people who I was avoiding at work, and to make peace with them before my last day. I guess God knew it was not an easy task for me, and he has been creating opportunities for me to ‘bump’ into these people, and through a brief conversation, make peace with them.

Brothers and sisters, as today is the memorial of Saint Barnabas, the patron saint of peacemakers, let us also take this chance to make peace with someone in our lives who God has been trying to lead us to. We, together with our brethren, are God’s beloved children, and He would want nothing but the best for us. Let us be the peacemakers in the lives of those around us, and with great faith, make an impact in this chaotic and conflicting world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to reflect upon these eight Beatitudes and to give us the grace to emulate them through our daily living.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank you for giving us the opportunity and humility to be peacemakers in the lives of those around us. Thank you for reminding us that despite all that we have done, we are Your children, and as Your children, we need to continually love one another.

9 June, Saturday – A Life Of Surrender

June 9 – Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary began as early as the twelfth century. During the seventeenth century in France, St John Eudes popularised this devotion along with that to the Sacred Heart. St Luke’s Gospel twice mentions that Mary ‘kept all these things in her heart’, pondering the word of God. Mary shows us how to listen to the words the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and how to respond in faith.

Source: Universalis

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The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon’s prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favourite formulae and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; “she cooperated through charity”, as St. Augustine says, “in the work of our redemption”.

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior’s Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-06-04

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2 Timothy 4:1-8

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching. The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.

As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

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Luke 2:41-51

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart.

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Why were you looking for me?

A common struggle of faith is one of letting go and trusting in God. There are many things in life that we want to hang on to, and as described by Bishop Robert Barron, they can be grouped into these four categories – power, wealth, honour and pleasure. Each of us has our ‘favourite’ addictions from one or more of these categories that appeal to our self-indulgent nature, and they are constant barriers in our relationship with God.

In today’s gospel passage, we come across a familiar account, that of the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple. Instead of following his family and relatives on their trip home, Jesus had stayed behind to converse with the religious teachers. Mary, in particular, would likely be feeling extreme anxiety about not being able to locate her son. Imagine her relief when she sees him in the temple, and naturally, there is a tone of reproach in her voice as she speaks to Jesus. His unexpected response would perhaps have caused her to feel taken aback and confused. We do not know if Jesus had made mention of his mission in the years before he turned twelve, but this is likely the first instance since the immaculate conception that Mary is told about her son’s purpose in the world. As before, even though she may not fully understand what is in store, she accepts and trusts in God’s plans for her and her son.

The Old and New Testament is replete with examples of people who made great personal sacrifices in their commitment to a life serving the Lord. They seem to be the exception to the norm, but really, each one of Christ’s followers is called to surrender their lives to the Lord. He must always come first. We struggle, as there is always a tendency to cave in to self-serving desires instead of being obedient to God. As we stumble, fall, and pick ourselves up again in our daily battles with sin, may we draw inspiration from our Blessed Mother in the complete dedication of her life to the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that Mary continue to intercede for us, and that our weakness may become a source of divine grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when the Lord shows us His reassuring love when we surrender our lives to Him.

20 May, Sunday – On Gifts

20 May – Pentecost

The Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the 50th day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:15), commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Some Christians believe this event represents the birth of the Catholic Church.

In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Passover through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the “Pentecostarion”. Since its date depends on the date of the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost is a moveable feast.

The holy day is also called “White Sunday” or “Whitsunday”, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (now fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). In Germany Pentecost is called “Pfingsten”, and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations. The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European nations.

– Wikipedia

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

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John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this, He breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different workings but the same God”

When I was a teenager, I used to envy all the ‘cool kids’ in my Christian youth group who could speak in tongues. Sadly, I was never blessed with the gift. When you’re an awkward teenager, trying to fit in is something that fills you with much angst. I remember I was inconsolable! What more proof did I need?! Even God didn’t think I belonged! Imagine what that does to a 15-yr old’s self-esteem? I felt so cast out!

I’ve since come to understand that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts”. Like the proverbial image of the body of Christ having many parts, each of us has a role to play, and He gives us gifts to help us to succeed – “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit”. It’s taken some time for me to figure this out, but I think that mine might be the gift of nurturing. How can I be certain? Well, I can’t be for sure, but a deacon once told me to just ‘look at the fruit and see if it is good’. At the time, he was making a reference to a person’s authenticity. But the same filter can be applied to see if one’s pursuit is worthy of God. What is the fruit of our endeavour? Does it fulfil the conditions of what we know to be the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

I’m glad I can’t speak in tongues. I would have been too self-conscious to do anything meaningful with it; it would have been wasted on me. I’m glad that instead, He gave me the gift of baking, of making wonderful dinners and organizing big family reunions. I’m glad God gave me the gift of patience, for when I have to deal with people who don’t always think of others first. I’m glad God gave me the gift of encouragement, for when people sit around my kitchen table spilling their tears with their wine. I’m glad God gave me the gift of meticulous organization, for those times when I have to multi-task and still stay on top of everything. I’m glad God gave me the time, the means and the inclination to be that person who is there to listen and offer a slice of cake, a mug of hot chocolate and a loving hug just when someone needs it most. Because the joy of being that person – of doing what He meant for me to do – has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve experienced ever, and I am so thankful for it!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in discerning the roles we are meant to play. Not everyone discovers it the first time around, but we pray that we all eventually find our way there.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts He has bestowed on us, that help us to become who we were truly meant to be.