Category Archives: Memorials

7 December, Friday – Acting In Faith

7 December – Memorial for St. Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

Ambrose (c.340–397) was born to the Roman nobility. He was the brother of St. Marcellina and St. Satyrus. He was educated in the classics, Greek, and philosophy at Rome, Italy. He was a poet and a noted orator. He was a convert to Christianity, and governor of Milan, Italy.

When the Bishop of Milan died, a dispute over his replacement led to violence. Ambrose intervened to calm both sides; he impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but he assented to prevent further violence. On Dec 7, 374, he was baptized, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock.

He was a noted preacher and teacher, a Bible student of renown, and writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arianism. His preaching helped convert St. Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins.

During his time as bishop, he also called and chaired several theological councils, many devoted to fighting heresy. He welcomed St. Ursus and St. Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany. He was proclaimed a great Doctor of the Latin Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298.

The title “Honey Tongued Doctor” was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers, chandlers, wax refiners, etc.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 29:17-24

The Lord says this:

In a short time, a very short time,
shall not Lebanon become fertile land
and fertile land turn into forest?
The deaf, that day,
will hear the words of a book
and, after shadow and darkness,
the eyes of the blind will see.

But the lowly will rejoice in the Lord even more
and the poorest exult in the Holy One of Israel;
for tyrants shall be no more, and scoffers vanish,
and all be destroyed who are disposed to do evil:
those who gossip to incriminate others,
those who try at the gate to trip the arbitrator
and get the upright man’s case dismissed for groundless reasons.

Therefore the Lord speaks,
the God of the House of Jacob,
Abraham’s redeemer:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale,
for he shall see what my hands have done in his midst,
he shall hold my name holy.
They will hallow the Holy One of Jacob,
stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Erring spirits will learn wisdom
and murmurers accept instruction.

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Matthew 9:27-31

As Jesus went on his way two blind men followed him shouting, ‘Take pity on us, Son of David.’ And when Jesus reached the house the blind men came up with him and he said to them, ‘Do you believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Sir, we do.’ Then he touched their eyes saying, ‘Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.’ And their sight returned. Then Jesus sternly warned them, ‘Take care that no one learns about this.’ But when they had gone, they talked about him all over the countryside.

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“Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.”

When was the last time you took a leap of faith, fully trusting that nothing would happen to you? Over the years, I have plunged headlong into one adventure after another, trusting that the Lord would sustain me throughout my journeys; some of which I completed (my Camino in 2016), some of which are still going on (playing the violin for P&W, vocal lessons). Truly, when we lift any situation up to God in faith, He will take over and anoint us – as long as we do not waver in our faith.

We’re going through some tough times in our ministry and for some of us, the changes that we are trying to implement are taking a tad too long. In fact, some of the initial members who stepped up to take on leadership roles have decided to step down. In the aftermath of the recent Prayer Experience Retreat (PER), I am also considering focusing my energies on serving only in PER as I feel that the testimonies and encounters resonate deeper with me.

Yet, I recognize the struggle faced by our leaders as they too come to terms with being a little tired and jaded, some after serving for more than 20 years. Looking around, I too sense their concern that there are not enough ‘next generation’ leaders stepping up to take over some of the critical duties (though that is starting to happen slowly, thanks to technology). I appreciate how daunting it can be, to try to step into the shoes of others, yet have their shadows looming over you each time you assume a role previously handled by someone ‘senior’. Perhaps that’s where all of us need to act in faith, and to trust fully that God will take over; instead of trying to get things done the ‘tried and tested’ way.

Over the past few months, I have certainly learnt to trust more in the Lord and to ‘let go and let God’. I recall the words of one of my mentors, who said that there will be a point in any worship session where the spirit will take over. That is when I have to not try and wrest control back because He is the main worship leader

Brothers and sisters, how often do we actually step back and let God take over in our lives? How often do we think that He does not know what we are going through or that we know better because we face the same situation each and every day? Yes, it is not easy to let go, specially if some of us are the ‘alpha’ characters at work. But what have we got to lose by trusting in God’s providence and letting Him make the critical decisions we face? Of course, that is predicated on the fact that we keep in communion with him through regular prayer. So here’s the real question – are we speaking with Him each day so that our every action and thought is centred around Him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray that you give us the will and the heart to commune with you in prayer each and every day of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there for us.

6 December, Thursday – Foundation

6 December – Memorial for St. Nicholas, bishop

Nicholas (d. 346) was a priest and abbot, and the bishop of Myra, Lycia (modern Turkey). He was generous to the poor, and a special protector of the innocent and wrong. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming Santa Claus.

One story is that upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags, gold generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop.

Another story is that he raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general, and of barrel-makers besides.

Another St. Nicholas story is that he induced some thieves to return their plunder, which led to his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them – he is not helping them to steal, but to repent and change. In the past, thieves have been known as Saint Nicholas’ clerks or Knights of St. Nicholas.

A fourth story is that during a voyage to the Holy Lands, a fierce storm blew up, threatening the ship. He prayed about it, and the storm calmed – hence the patronage of sailors and those like dockworkers who work on the sea.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:1-6

That day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
to guard us he has set
wall and rampart about us.
Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in,
she, the faithful one
whose mind is steadfast, who keeps the peace,
because she trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord is the everlasting Rock;
he has brought low those who lived high up
in the steep citadel;
he brings it down, brings it down to the ground,
flings it down in the dust:
the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor
trample on it.

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Matthew 7:21,24-27

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. ‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

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…for the Lord is the everlasting Rock.

It is performance appraisal season at work and the oft-dreaded one-on-one conversations are going to come up soon. That is when I have to exercise a lot of patience and self-control, especially towards my staff, who may not have performed as strongly as I would have liked them to over the course of the year.

I have been fortunate to have staff who have been with me for more than 3 years and it is no easy task telling someone that he/she does not deserve to be given a certain rating, especially when it impacts on their performance bonuses. So the one thing I always fall back on is whether or not they have continued to build up a strong foundation that will enable them to weather any sort of organizational changes. Many people in communications tend to want the ‘sexy’ assignments or more ‘high value’ PR projects that will garner media attention. However, I always caution them that fame is fleeting and if they only focus on the superficial stuff that goes out into the news, they may be doing themselves a disservice by forgetting that by focusing on the substance, the stories will naturally emerge.

I believe it is the same when it comes to our faith. We can do all the ‘good’ things like going for Sunday mass, fasting, giving to causes and even giving our time to serve in various ministries. But if our foundation is not strong, if our faith is not built on solid ground, we will fall by the wayside at the first sign of trouble or when temptation rears its ugly head. This begs the oft-asked question – why are we serving Him? What are our motives? Are we trying to earn our way to heaven? Or are we trying to establish our own personal kingdoms within our parishes?

Sadly, where two or three are gathered in His name, that is also where the devil lurks. Pride, envy, greed, those are three predominant sins that tend to surface whenever there are opportunities for our own brethren to shine. Brothers and sisters, we must always remember that as we toil in His vineyard, we must not lose sight of the one goal – serving our God who has redeemed us with an ultimate sacrifice. If we can anchor ourselves on our faith in His love and mercy, that He is always present in our lives and that we are serving him in true humility and as a community united in faith and love, then we have nothing to fear.

Christ made St Peter the rock on which he built the church. A church that has certainly withstood the test of time and countless scandals over the centuries. Indeed, the ultimate master builder, the architect of our very faith made it extremely clear from the outset that our foundation needed to be strong. In going through our daily struggles, are we wavering all the time? If so, then perhaps a good look at our own foundation may be in order.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us the strength to persevere and to stand firm in the face of all our daily struggles.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your gift of fortitude in our lives.

4 December, Tuesday – Blessed to see

4 December – Memorial for St. John Damascene, priest, doctor of the Church

John was born in Damascus about 675. After holding public office for a time, he withdrew to the monastery of Sabas near Jerusalem. He wrote The Fount of Wisdom, in which he presented a comprehensive teaching on Christian doctrine, which had great influence on later theology. He died about 750.

– the Weekday Missal

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Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.

Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse
shall stand as a signal to the peoples.
It will be sought out by the nations
and its home will be glorious.

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Luke 10:21-24

Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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No one knows the Father except the Son and… who the Son chooses

In the course of life, we may not have always been chosen to belong to certain groups, although we may have had a strong desire to have wanted to belong. For instance, we did not win the race, were looked over for a promotion or salary increment, went unnoticed by someone we fancied, we did not make the dean’s list and not even the guest list of the wedding of someone we hold dear. Rejection really hurts, and not getting something we truly desire is a hard pill to swallow. Though it gets better with time, it’s acceptable for us to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge our feelings.

In a recent conversation with my nine year old godson, he had asked me not to join a party which includes his Sunday school friends and their parents. I was invited by his dad, who is my brother. And anyone who regularly interacts with children that age will know, that it is more important for us to dialogue on his selection (and omission) of guests rather than to go into a meltdown. I do get the feeling that if everyone was taught well, they would not be such ‘pickers and choosers’ and to be oblivious of the hurt they cause people who they wish to exclude. To me, this situation presented an opportunity for me to explain to my godson that excluding someone could be hurtful to that person, and it may not be what God would have wanted. Would we bother explaining this with love to someone under our care? If not, what is stopping us? How can we say that we have seen Him when we do not reflect His ways?

Look at what God offers us today as stated in the gospel – that His Son will choose people who ‘sees’ the Father. Clearly, as baptised Catholics, we hold this great privilege to be able to know and be known, love and to be loved by our Father God. But sometimes, we lose sight of the Father and the Son because we are too preoccupied on being chosen by mere men in materialistic matters. Unfortunately, we become that shallow because we simply fail to see the Father who has been made known to us. And for this, we seek His face and grace, so that we continue to strive to see Him, to recognise Him and honour Him with our lives and in the way we treat one another.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to see you through the sun and the storm. Thank you for being our constant and our stronghold. Help us to shade off superficial approval and acceptance and to remain fulfilled in you alone.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I am loved and chosen by you. You are all that I adore.

24 November, Saturday – Sacred Silence

24 November – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs of Vietnam

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically-inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, nuns, or religious brothers. Some were lay people, some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.

Andrew Dung Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest. He was canonized on 19 June 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 11:4-12

I, John, heard a voice saying: ‘These, my two witnesses, are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the world. Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like. When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them. Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified. Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.’

After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.

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Luke 20:27-40

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.

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“…and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God.”

I am learning to play a new song on the violin for an upcoming Prayer Experience Retreat and cannot help but recall how nervous I was when I first picked up the violin again more than 3 years ago. Since then, I have jumped at the various opportunities to play in my ministry whenever called upon and each time I lay the bow on the steel strings, memories of my father come welling through.

He would have been 77 today and as I write this, his smile continues to remind me of how much he loved our family. And particularly, his children. He never stinged on us and always strove to give his very best, only wanting the very best for us. Now, whenever I play any song, I cannot help but give thanks to him for his generosity in recognizing my talent and giving me the gift of music. At times, especially with more contemplative tunes, I close my eyes and see him sitting back with his eyes closed, enjoying the music. That spurs me on even more to play better and give more of myself.

I had always thought that my talent was forced upon me. But since I discovered the love of playing this amazing instrument and singing (I will be taking my classical vocal exams next week), I have begun to appreciate those with similar gifts and remain in awe of the young toddlers who have a natural inclination towards expressing their God-given talents.

The words that follow the haunting violin intro to ‘Sacred Silence’ are – ‘Sacred silence, Holy ocean, Gentle waters, washing over me. Help me listen, Holy Spirit, Come and speak to me.’ Isn’t it wonderful how our God is so approachable and so filled with love for us that we can call upon Him in our wretched, sinful state and plead for His grace and mercies to cleanse us?

Three years ago, while on his deathbed, God’s grace was indeed overflowing as two shepherds visited to bless him and confirm him as a son of God. While some may say he got an ‘express ticket’ without having to go through all the trials and tribulations that we all go through as Catholics, I would like to think that in his own way, dad bore his crosses and gave of himself as any other good Catholic father would have. So today, as I play my violin, I am proud to acknowledge him as a true son of God in every sense.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you continue to carry us on your shoulders, especially when we struggle to find meaning and are deaf to your words of love. We pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your steadfast love and for your faith in each and every one of us.

23 November, Friday – Words of Truth

23 November – Memorial for St. Clement I, Pope, Martyr; Memorial for St. Columban, Abbot

Clement (d. 101) was the fourth pope, and an apostolic Father. The Basilica of St. Clement in Rome is one of the earliest parish churches in the city, and is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. He is the author of the ‘Epistle to the Corinthians’. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Origen and St. Jerome identify him as working with St. Paul the Apostle.

– Patron Saint Index

Columban (543–615) was well-born, handsome, and educated. He was torn between a desire for God and easy access to the pleasures of the world. Acting on advice of a holy anchoress, he decided to withdraw from the world. His family opposed the choice, his mother going so far as to block the door. He became a monk at Lough Erne. He studied Scripture extensively, and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He became a monk at Bangor under abbot St. Comgall.

At middle age, Columban felt a calling to missionary life. With 12 companions, he travelled to Scotland, England, and then to France in 585. The area, though nominally Christian, had fallen far from the faith, but were ready for missionaries, and they had some success. They were warmly greeted at the court of Gontram, and the king of Burgundy invited the band to stay. They chose the half-ruined Roman fortress of Annegray in the Vosges Mountains for their new home with Columban as their abbot.

The simple lives and obvious holiness of the group drew disciples to join them, and the sick to be healed by their prayers. Columban, to find solitude for prayer, often lived for long periods in a cave seven miles from the monastery, using a messenger to stay in touch with his brothers. When the number of new monks overcrowded the old fortress, King Gontram gave them the old castle of Luxeuil to found a new house in 590. Soon after, a third house was founded at Fontaines. Columban served as master of them all, and wrote a Rule for them; it incorporated many Celtic practices, and was approved by the Council of Macon in 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine.

Problems arose early in the 7th century. Many Frankish bishops objected to a foreign missionary with so much influence, to the Celtic practices he brought, especially those related to Easter, and his independence from them. In 602, he was summoned to appear before them for judgment; instead of appearing, he sent a letter advising them to hold more synods, and to concern themselves with more important things than which rite he used to celebrate Easter. The dispute over Easter continued for years, with Columban appealing to multiple popes for help, but was only settled when Columban abandoned the Celtic calendar when he moved to Italy.

In addition to his problems with the bishops, Columban spoke out against vice and corruption in the royal household and court, which was in the midst of a series of complex power grabs. Brunehault stirred up the bishops and nobility against the abbot; Thierry ordered him to conform to the local ways, and shut up. Columban refused, and was briefly imprisoned at Besancon, but he escaped and returned to Luxeuil. Thierry and Brunehault sent an armed force to force him and his foreign monks back to Ireland. As soon as his ship set sail, a storm drove them back to shore; the captain took it as a sign, and set the monks free.

They made their way to King Clothaire at Soissons, Neustria and then the court of King Theodebert of Austrasia in 611. He travelled to Metz, France, then Mainz, Germany, Suevi, Alamanni, and finally Lake Zurich. Their evangelisation work there was unsuccessful, and the group passed on to Arbon, then Bregenz, and then Lake Constance. St. Gall, who knew the local language best, took the lead in this region; many were converted to the faith, and the group founded a new monastery as their home and base.

However, a year later, political upheaval caused Columban to cross the Alps into Italy, arriving in Milan in 612. The Christian royal family treated him well, and he preached and wrote against Arianism and Nestorianism. In gratitude, the Lombard king gave him a tract of land call Bobbio between Milan and Genoa in Italy. There, he rebuilt a half-ruined church of St. Peter, and around it he founded an abbey that was to be the source for evangelisation throughout northern Italy for centuries to come.

Columban always enjoyed being in the forests and caves, and as he walked through the woods, birds and squirrels would ride on his shoulders. Toward the end of his life came word that his old enemies were dead, and his brothers wanted him to come back north, but he declined. Knowing that his time was almost done, he retired to a cave for solitude, and died as he had predicted. His influence continued for centuries as those he converted handed on the faith, the brothers he taught evangelised untold numbers more, and his brother monks founded over one hundred monasteries to protect learning and spread the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 10:8-11

I, John, heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go,’ it said ‘and take that open scroll out of the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’ I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’ So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and swallowed it; it was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time about many different nations and countries and languages and emperors.’

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Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.

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“…the people as a whole hung on his words.”

Yesterday, I wrote about how I was recently on a pilgrimage that spanned France, Spain and Portugal. We were truly blessed to have had a tour leader who knew so much about each shrine we visited as well as the stories of the various saints we venerated. Each day, as we were making our way along the road towards our destination, he would regale us with all sorts of stories about where we were going and help us to focus our attention on that particular town or saint.

Truly, if one has a compelling story to tell and speaks from the heart, the audience is certain to be spellbound and will listen to every word that is uttered. Jesus, during his ministry, is certainly the prime example of what ‘speaking from the heart’ means. After all, He was divinely connected with God the Father and the Holy Spirit; what more could one ask for!

During our pilgrimage, we had private masses each day celebrated by our spiritual director. And while his homilies were centred around each day’s readings, I appreciated how he was mindful of the purpose of our pilgrimage and kept reminding us about how God called each of us on this journey. Looking back, I am grateful for the words that were spoken to us each day (there was even a mass before sunrise) and also recall other pilgrims who joined us on two occasions when we were doing our Stations of the Cross. An Irish couple even approached me the next day and asked for the printed text, which I gladly tore out from my book.

Brothers and sisters, when we are ministered to with words spoken from the heart, it is inevitable that they will resonate deep within our own hearts. I am constantly amazed at some of our priests, who can speak so passionately for an hour or more (especially when they come to CSC) without any notes in hand. It is on such occasions that I notice the congregation literally hanging on their every word, unlike at Sunday mass when there just seem to be distractions aplenty. Maybe ‘the people’ are not as engaged or are just there for the sake of fulfilling an obligation.Or perhaps some priests have ‘the gift of the gab’ more than others.

Nevertheless, our anointed brethren face countless challenges each day of their ministry. So let us all keep our brother priests in our prayers.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you always watch over our brother priests and continue to inflame their hearts with your Word.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the gift of our shepherds.

22 November, Thursday – Discerning His Call

22 November – Memorial for St. Cecilia, Virgin, Martyr

Cecilia (d. 117) was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. She told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized. Returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favour; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.

The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at their villa on the Apprian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods, and when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.

She was suffocated for a while and when that didn’t kill her, she was beheaded. Her grave was discovered in 817, and her body removed to the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. The tomb was opened in 1599 and her body was found to be incorrupt.

The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 5:1-10

I, John, saw that in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne there was a scroll that had writing on back and front and was sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a powerful angel who called with a loud voice, ‘Is there anyone worthy to open the scroll and break the seals of it?’ But there was no one, in heaven or on the earth or under the earth, who was able to open the scroll and read it. I wept bitterly because there was nobody fit to open the scroll and read it, but one of the elders said to me, ‘There is no need to cry: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and he will open the scroll and the seven seals of it.’

Then I saw, standing between the throne with its four animals and the circle of the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been sacrificed; it had seven horns, and it had seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits God has sent out all over the world. The Lamb came forward to take the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, and when he took it, the four animals prostrated themselves before him and with them the twenty-four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense made of the prayers of the saints. They sang a new hymn:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll
and break the seals of it,
because you were sacrificed, and with your blood
you bought men for God
of every race, language, people and nation
and made them a line of kings and priests,
to serve our God and to rule the world.’

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Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’

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“…you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it.”

I had originally planned to do another Camino this year before my other half suggested we join a pilgrimage led by one of our parish priests as well as a tour leader whom she had traveled with before. When I asked about the itinerary, I immediately said ‘Yes’ once I heard that Santiago was going to be one of the towns we would be stopping in.

To be honest, being on a bus with 39 other pilgrims is not exactly my idea of a great holiday. However, we had planned to go into Paris earlier and meet up with the group, then extend our stay in Lisbon for another few days. After all, we were already there so we might as well take advantage of the opportunity and take in the sights.

And what a glorious 3 weeks it was. Even for me, the 13 days spent on the road visiting various Marian shrines and paying tribute to a few saints with incorrupt bodies was probably as close as I could get to discovering more about Marian spirituality. And by the time we reached Santarem, the last stop on the pilgrimage where we were honoured to venerate the miraculous bleeding host after mass, I was filled with joy and awe as He welcomed me quietly with three words, “Welcome, my son.” My heart was bursting with joy as we left the group at Lisbon airport and made our way into the city.

Brothers and sisters, more often than not, we try and plan to the very last detail how our holidays should be like. And while my pilgrimage was indeed planned, I learnt to surrender and stop trying too hard to control everything. I believe that the many opportunities I had to get close to our blessed Mother – in Lourdes and, even more so, in Fatima – proved to me that in order to get closer to God, one needs to be docile and be prepared to say ‘Yes’ at any opportunity without any second thought.

Because if we keep trying to second-guess and ask too much, we will end up missing the chance to truly discern what He wants for us. The various encounters I had even after the pilgrimage was over served to remind me that it is our heavenly Father who always wants the best for us; so that we get to bask in His everlasting glory. Indeed, life has a tendency to hurry us on instead of allowing us to sit and soak. Which is why we should always look forward to mass and Holy Hour, for that is when God truly reveals His glory to us gathered around Him. How often do we keep reciting our rosaries or saying our prayers that we lose out on hearing what He truly wants to say to us?

Let us not allow what others deem important to drown out His call to us. Instead, let us always set aside time and the disposition to listen out for Him; so that we do not lose our connection to Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always keeping us close to your heart.

21 November, Wednesday – Talents And Time

21 November – Memorial for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we commemorate the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the seventh century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but reestablished by Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable).

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 4:1-11

In my vision, I, John, saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Come up here: I will show you what is to come in the future.’ With that, the Spirit possessed me and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the Person sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald. Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them I saw twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God. Between the throne and myself was a sea that seemed to be made of glass, like crystal. In the centre, grouped round the throne itself, were four animals with many eyes, in front and behind. The first animal was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third animal had a human face, and the fourth animal was like a flying eagle. Each of the four animals had six wings and had eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:

‘Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
he was, he is and he is to come.’

Every time the animals glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying, ‘You are our Lord and our God, you are worthy of glory and honour and power, because you made all the universe and it was only by your will that everything was made and exists.’

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Luke 19:11-28

While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”

Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities..” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds . . .” “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’

When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more, but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away

When I was in the university, I joined the varsity publication team for a while. The only article I wrote was about procrastination. I can’t recall the details of the article, but I do have the impression that I probably described procrastination as something that I was rather resigned to. It was a habit that I felt I could not, and also did not, want to break. It didn’t seem very cool to be always so prompt and efficient.

In Jesus’ time, a talent referred to a huge sum of money. It is not easy to quantify it relative to what we are familiar with today, but the idea is that the master entrusted the servants with quite a hefty sum. Two of them worked to make some profit out of what they already have, but one of them was lazy and did not do anything with the money. The rewards that the master gave to the servants are a symbol of the riches that await the worthy followers of Christ in heaven. The penalty for failing to make use of the talents would be an eternity away from God.

Do we recognise the amount of resources that God has placed at our disposal? It ranges from the physical, in terms of our health, energy and time, to the spiritual – our ability to love, show compassion, comfort and heal. The list is endless.

Everyone would have wondered at some point about the purpose of life. There is no clear answer, only what we decide to do with our lives. Regardless of whether one has a religion, many would realise the importance of leading meaningful lives. Why waste our time on earth? As we near the end of the liturgical year, the Mass readings focus on the end times and the hope of eternal life. Although some might say that it is morbid, reflecting on the end of earthly life will help remind us of what we should be doing before it ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord, grant us the discipline and the faith to live every moment of our lives as a testimony to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to glorify You with our lives.

17 November, Saturday – Staying the Course

17 November – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Married woman, Religious

Elizabeth (1207-1231) was a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. At the age of 13, she married Prince Louis of Thuringia. She built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood, and tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teachings, not theirs.

Once, when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon Louis’ death, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine-stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields.

– Patron Saint Index

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3 John 1:5-8

My friend, you have done faithful work in looking after these brothers, even though they were complete strangers to you. They are a proof to the whole Church of your charity and it would be a very good thing if you could help them on their journey in a way that God would approve. It was entirely for the sake of the name that they set out, without depending on the pagans for anything; it is our duty to welcome men of this sort and contribute our share to their work for the truth.

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Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

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“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

We are a living generation of ‘instants’ — instant gratification, instant food, instant connection, instant convenience, Instagram, instant results. In a very sobering thought, God ‘unfortunately’ does not operate in an Insta-world. As we are familiar, everything operates in God’s time.

I remember praying for a transfer once and I had been looking forward to it. I prayed really hard for it, and it took three months to come through. Every day I waited for a ‘ding’ on my phone to go off, signaling an incoming email and I would immediately check it to see if it was the approval, and got dejected when it wasn’t. It’s an awful way to pass the day I can tell you!

I sometimes laugh to myself that if God saw me then, He might have been highly amused by my antics, and I imagine that the more I became a ‘slave’ to my phone beeps, the longer He would prolong the wait, just to let me learn about patience and praying without giving up hope. That’s just my satirical take on things. We are, of course, wise enough to know that not only do things happen in God’s time, but also when God thinks we are ready for it.

But what happens if the outcome isn’t quite as we expect it to be? What if, for example, it was a job that we were praying for but when we got it, it wasn’t quite the terms that we wanted? No doubt that we would feel disappointed, but do we then discard what has been given to us? To me, that seems a little childish, like a child who wished for a Hot Wheels car, but in the end received a car from an unheard of brand without all the bells and whistles. If you were the giver, you would feel rejected and disappointed nonetheless. What does this say about our trust in God to provide us with what He thinks is best for us? What does it show about us “letting go, and letting God”? There is an almost foolish, unappreciative, ‘smarty-pants’ attitude about it, almost as though we know what is best for us. As it is said in today’s gospel, when Jesus comes will He find faith on earth? If we do not get what we want, what we are praying for, will we think that God doesn’t care and isn’t fair, and stop praying altogether? Or will we keep praying, and say “well God, this isn’t quite what I hoped for, but I will leave it with you, you know what you are doing” and ask God unwaveringly, reverently to show us the way with what we have been given?

Jesus said we have to pray without getting weary. But the prayer needs to go hand in hand with faith. For as today’s reading puts it, if a dishonest judge can finally give in to the widow’s persistence, what more with God Almighty when we press our petitions to Him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I present my prayers and petitions and humbly ask for patience and perseverance, that even if they do not turn out the way I expected, I am secure in the joy that You nonetheless heard my every word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for hearing and answering my prayers, though I am a sinner and am small in the greater scheme of things.

16 November, Friday – Loving in Distress

16 November – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, Virgin

Margaret (1045–1093) was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

– Patron Saint Index

Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her. From then on she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 John 1:4-9

It has given me great joy to find that your children have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father. I am writing now, dear lady, not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another.

To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.

There are many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves. If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.

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Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

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“Let us love one another… This is the commandment in which you should walk”

When I was in my teens, a fellow classmate bullied me and ostracized me from all my friends, warning them that if they ever spoke to me, she would ensure they suffered the same fate. I don’t quite understand what I ever did to deserve that, but I suffered her for the remaining years until I left school.

When I was in my twenties, I fell into a relationship with someone who treated me very poorly and unfairly. I was bitterly upset, and my mood swung from anger to revenge to sadness to self-loathing (for my stupidity). I vowed I would have my day of justice, I vowed he would have his comeuppance. I don’t know if he ever did, but in the end I swallowed that bitter pill and said nothing.

When I was in my thirties, I worked hard to forge a career only to have certain colleagues pull the rug from under my feet and throw me under the bus; something I could have avoided if I had relented and played my political cards right. The inequitable treatment seethed within me, and I left.

Any of this sound familiar? They are all our own stories, stories where someone, somewhere, at some point in our lives wronged us to the point of revenge. We all carry a little ‘badge’ within us, something that marks an incident that wounded us so profoundly, it shaped us and changed us. Let us not judge the badge-wearer, or their stories, for we only know the gist of it. We should instead salute their courage for walking away from the bitterness and anger, instead of letting it consume their being. “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8-9). Or how about the quote from Star Wars’ Yoda: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Not so much the suffering of others, but suffering of ourselves.

It is indeed such a struggle to walk away from the all-consuming anger. Even if and when you have sought justice and redress for yourself, the relief can only be temporary; the hurt remains like a scar that can never heal, and giving in to anger is like the satisfaction of scratching an itch. But the struggle can get better, if we allow ourselves to love.

Even that is difficult to explain, but in the darkest, most empty times in my life, I opened up my heart to God’s love, telling myself to move away from the self-blame and self-loathing and to use all my might to turn that negativity around. In my own darkness, I was able to empathize with those in a similar place, and I have learned to open up my heart and pray for them, and yes, pray even for those who have hurt me. They who have wronged us have no concept of the hurt they have caused so our tears will not move them. Pity them instead, for they do not know love as we do, and pray for them.

I wish I could say that this applies to everything, every difficult situation in our lives like tragedy and death, and I wish I had the words. But I send love, with the hope that every drop of love that one receives will turn into a mighty outpouring of love that will one day heal that pain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, the hardest love is to love when one is in distress. But in loving, we forgive those who hurt us, and we forgive ourselves. Free us from our shackles of anger we pray, that we may claim for ourselves wholly the promises of God with a heart unbound.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for those who love us, who have healed our wounds with their prayers, thoughts, kind words and deeds. We pray that we too can heal those that need healing.

15 November, Thursday – Walking the Road

15 November – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Religious, Doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

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Philemon 1:7-20

I am so delighted, and comforted, to know of your love; they tell me, brother, how you have put new heart into the saints.

Now, although in Christ I can have no diffidence about telling you to do whatever is your duty, I am appealing to your love instead, reminding you that this is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. He was of no use to you before, but he will be useful to you now, as he has been to me. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me; but if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, then let me pay for it. I am writing this in my own handwriting: I, Paul, shall pay it back – I will not add any mention of your own debt to me, which is yourself. Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; put new heart into me, in Christ.

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Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

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“I have received much joy and encouragement from your love”

The path that we are each called on by God to take is never an easy one. It is one thing to say “follow your passion”, but another to follow your passion with perseverance. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If it were easy, we would find no satisfaction in our toil, we would not rejoice after sweating it out, nor understand what rest would mean after a hard day’s work. If only it were easy… but it never is.

I would like to think that when we surrender ourselves to God, asking Him to show us the way, He does not answer so directly or so suddenly, like a jolt of awakening. I think He gently but persistently introduces the path to us, knowing that if it was otherwise, we would pursue it headlong without a plan. God wants us to be aware, and be comfortable – yes, comfortable – with the idea of it, and also with the discomfort that will most inevitably come with it.

That is not to say that we should be careful what we wish for, or that we do not ask God for a revelation of His path for us. Rather in our doubt and fear, we go forth anyway in faith, for that in itself is part of the journey, our journey, wherein the experiences gleaned are unique to us.

Again, that is also not to say that we will be alone. Yes God is with us all the way, but He will send us the encouragement and support that we need through others. He will send us the help that we need at the right time, when we least expect it. We fear to take the step perhaps because we know not what waits in the wings or if anyone will be there to help us along. What if doors don’t open? What if things don’t work out? What if…? And perhaps, also in our fear, that on our journey there may be no path, no guide, no encouragement, we also forget to be the encouragement to others that God wants us to be.

There is a saying that we should be kind to others because you never know what battles others are fighting. Be kind yes, and also encouraging, because we are each walking our own roads, and though our destinations may be different, the journey is nonetheless daunting. But if we spur each other on, the road is a little easier to walk, and the joy of reaching the destination is sweeter for the sharing.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, as I take my first tentative steps on this road you have laid out before me, don’t let me go, I pray, but hold my hand steadfastly lest I should fall.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I prayed for a path and you revealed it to me; I prayed for strength and you walked it with me. Thank you.