7 October, Monday – Going Beyond the Law

Oct 7 – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

Wikipedia

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Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11

The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah son of Amittai:

‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and inform them that their wickedness has become known to me.’ Jonah decided to run away from the Lord, and to go to Tarshish. He went down to Joppa and found a ship bound for Tarshish; he paid his fare and went aboard, to go with them to Tarshish, to get away from the Lord. But the Lord unleashed a violent wind on the sea, and there was such a great storm at sea that the ship threatened to break up. The sailors took fright, and each of them called on his own god, and to lighten the ship they threw the cargo overboard. Jonah, however, had gone below and lain down in the hold and fallen fast asleep. The boatswain came upon him and said, ‘What do you mean by sleeping? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps he will spare us a thought, and not leave us to die.’ Then they said to each other, ‘Come on, let us draw lots to find out who is responsible for bringing this evil on us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell to Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us, what is your business? Where do you come from? What is your country? What is your nationality?’ He replied, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ The sailors were seized with terror at this and said, ‘What have you done?’ They knew that he was trying to escape from the Lord, because he had told them so. They then said, ‘What are we to do with you, to make the sea grow calm for us?’ For the sea was growing rougher and rougher. He replied, ‘Take me and throw me into the sea, and then it will grow calm for you. For I can see it is my fault this violent storm has happened to you.’ The sailors rowed hard in an effort to reach the shore, but in vain, since the sea grew still rougher for them. They then called on the Lord and said, ‘O the Lord, do not let us perish for taking this man’s life; do not hold us guilty of innocent blood; for you, the Lord, have acted as you have thought right.’ And taking hold of Jonah they threw him into the sea; and the sea grew calm again. At this the men were seized with dread of the Lord; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

The Lord had arranged that a great fish should be there to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. The Lord spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah on to the shore.

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Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

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“And who is my neighbour?”

Every time I read or listen to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I have always focused on the Good Samaritan, who goes all out to help the traveller, whom the others strove hard to avoid. What struck me, however, was that the injured traveller was actually a priest, or a Levite.

In other passages of the New Testament, it is shown clearly that the Samaritans know of the Israelites’ aversion to them (take for example, the Samaritan woman by the well, whom Jesus encounters). In this case, the differences between the Good Samaritan are even more pronounced given that the fallen traveller was a Levite. Despite knowing the possible negative implications (that the Levite is likely to dislike, or hate him), the Samaritan still goes out of his way to aid him.

What a powerful message!

Something else that is interesting in this passage is not just how the lawyer asks Jesus about how to inherit eternal life, but rather what is written in the law.

For many years, I had wondered how to accumulate enough brownie points to enable myself to enter heaven. I had imagined that on the day I die, I would meet St Peter at the Pearly Gates and he would have a checklist against which he would measure my performance here on earth.

Apparently, this lawyer had a similar mindset! What I have learned, and realised is that no matter what I do here, it would never earn me a place in heaven; it is a gift from God! Because of this gift of Grace from God, I cannot help but love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind and all our soul, and I must love my neighbours as I love myself.

I simply must.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray Father, that we may always see everyone around us as our neighbours, and that we may never see anyone as undeserving of our love.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, for Your love and mercy for us, no matter how sinful we are! Thank You for Your gift of grace!

6 October, Sunday – God-centredness

6 October 2019

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Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

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2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14

I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.
Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

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Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.
‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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“We are merely servants; we have done no more than our duty”

I was having a chat with some friends, talking about our work. One of them had shared how he had been working extremely late hours on an important project in order to meet a deadline.  When I stressed that it was important for him to get enough rest, he told me he would, after he did what he needed to do.

This conversation came on the back on another one I had with a different person. I had found out, to my chagrin and deep sadness, that a business associate turned friend had recently passed. My mind turned to my last coffee session with him a few months ago. He had shared with me how tired he was, and was working really hard. He was looking forward to doing the things he really enjoyed doing.

This got me thinking. I am the same. I will stay up all night in order to complete a piece of work. In my spiritual life, however, it’s usually a matter of making God wait. I think of something I need to do, and all of a sudden, I remember how many things I have to do, and I find myself putting it off. Very often, these never take off.

Yet, ironically, our lives on earth are short, and our tenure with our employers, shorter. It hit home that with God, I have been acting as the master, when we should remember our place as servants. While reflecting and writing this reflection, I had been asked to play guitar for two days for a parish retreat. Immediately, my mind went to how much I would have to give up during that weekend when the topic of reflection came to mind. Again, the servant thinks he’s the master.

The same goes for our prayers and petitions. Again, I find myself stretching my hand out, asking God for gifts and things, or for things to go my way. Translating this to the work environment, I cannot imagine an employee going into his Chief Executive’s office and demanding privileges and benefits; he’d probably get fired on the spot!

Our Father God loves us, and loves us to the ends of the earth. Let us not take this love for granted, and remember that we should live our lives with servant hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we always maintain our servant hearts. Help us to always keep our eyes on You!

Thanksgiving: We thank You for loving us and giving us all that we need. Thank you Lord Jesus, for teaching us what is really important in our lives and not let the trivial things take over our attention.

5 October, Saturday – Be his face and hands!

5 Oct 2019

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Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29

Take courage, my people, constant reminder of Israel. You were sold to the nations, but not for extermination. You provoked God; and so were delivered to your enemies, since you had angered your creator by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.

You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you. You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you, for when she saw the anger fall on you from God, she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion: God has sent me great sorrow. I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal. I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away. Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God. Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he 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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As he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy

Why do bad things happen to good people? And when bad things happen, why doesn’t God save us?

Many years ago, my uncle passed away from cancer. His passing brought a lot of grief to his wife and only daughter. I once wondered why God did not save my uncle from his illness, as he was relatively young then. Taking away his life meant that he would not be able to be present for many more milestones in his daughter’s life. He was a good person, despite not being a Catholic.

Sometimes, it may seem that God brings trouble in our lives, but we should not think that God does so because we are bad. We should remember that these problems may be merely natural and inevitable consequences of our actions and choices that we make in life. That should not define us forever as ‘bad’ in God’s eyes. Instead, we should have faith that God will rescue us from our problems one day, if and only if we have the faith in Him that He will do so. God loves us unconditionally as His children. Even if God does not rescue us, we should still trust Him that He will bring us to a better place and continue to stay close to Him.

When we see or hear news of other people’s suffering, we may be tempted to accuse God of being indifferent to their pain and not saving them. However, we should remember that when God sees His children suffer, He is also in pain. And likewise, we are blessed to have the capacity to feel the pain that God feels for them. Instead of just waiting for God to rescue them, we can unite and be the face of God by helping them out ourselves instead. In this way, we would not only be helping our brothers and sisters, but also, we would bring glory to God. He is therefore saving the suffering people through our hands, time and actions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us in the difficulties that we are facing in life, whether they be caused by our own actions and choices that we have made. Please also help us to take initiative and respond to the cries and suffering of Your people through our actions and time. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for saving us from the troubles that we have faced in life. We are grateful to You for the grace that You have blessed us with. Thank you for allowing us to be Your face and hands in rescuing our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering today. Amen.

4 October, Friday – Use smartphones and laptops for His glory!

Oct 4 – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Baruch 1:15-22

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us. From the day when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice. And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today. Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but, each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

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Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

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We have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice

When I read this line, the first thing that struck me was this thought — although we, the younger generation, are so used to spending a huge amount of time daily on our smartphones and laptops, how can we say that we are disobedient to God, and that we have been disloyal to Him? We still attend Mass on Sunday, and some of us visit the sacraments regularly. It is impossible for us to let go of our technological devices just so that we show our loyalty to God! Our family and friends will certainly laugh at us!

Then, I realized that it is not wrong for us to use our smartphones and laptops, if we want to communicate with our friends and family, if we have to use these devices for study. However, it would be wrong for us to idolize these devices, by spending time on our technological devices when we are supposed to spend time with God during Mass, or even by using our phones to the point of addiction. It would also be wrong if we use these devices to do sinful things, like cyber-bullying our classmates, watching pornography or downloading illegal content.

It is not our smartphones or laptops that cause us to stop listening to God. These technological devices are simply tools; it is our free will and choice to decide what we want to do with these devices. Do we use them to glorify God, for instance, by telling our friends to not bully a weaker classmate? Or perhaps by posting Catholic-related content on our social media platforms as a way to encourage fellow Catholics in their faith and invite non-Catholics to learn more about our faith? That’s certainly a great way of evangelization! Do we leverage these platforms as ways to reach out to the lost sheep in our community and treat our brothers and sisters with Christ-like love?

So, let’s start afresh today. Let us show loyalty to God and listen to His voice by using our smartphones and laptops to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ and glorify Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to use our technological devices for Your glory, and to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are in need. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us to use technological devices to reach out to more of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and to glorify You in ways which we could not possibly have done without technology. Amen.

3 October, Thursday – God is calling you! Yes, you!

3 October 2019

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Nehemiah 8:1-12

When the seventh month came, all the people gathered as one man on the square before the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had prescribed for Israel. Accordingly Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose; beside him stood, on his right, Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; on his left, Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. (Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabab, Hanan, Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the Law to the people while the people remained standing.) And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then (Nehemiah – His Excellency – and) Ezra, priest and scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’ And the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be at ease; this is a sacred day. Do not be sad.’ And all the people went off to eat and drink and give shares away and begin to enjoy themselves since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.

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Luke 10:1-12

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

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“The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few”.

I have always admired the clergy and religious for who they are and what they do. They pray for the church everyday and do God’s work without complaint. I often feel a sense of joy, peace and holiness when I am with them, and I enjoy being in their presence. Sometimes, I feel attracted to join the religious vocation, but I am still in the very early stages of discerning what God’s will is for me.

The religious population in our Catholic society is ageing, and many Catholic organisations and seminaries are reaching out to the younger generations to increase the number of vocations. Perhaps, there are many young people out there who hear God’s call to join the religious but are not sure whether to take heed of His call. There may be several obstacles that they are currently facing, for instance, that they are already committed in a relationship with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Or perhaps these people are still in the midst of pursuing their professional careers and need money to support their parents. Or perhaps young people may be acutely aware of the sacrifices they would need to make if they join the religious and are too afraid of making these sacrifices.

However, what we should always remember is that our lives are ultimately our own relationship with God. How we choose to respond to His call reflects the depth of our relationship with Him. We should definitely encourage those who hear God’s call to be open to what He has planned for our lives, for He will certainly provide for us and decides things in our best interests. We should strive to be put right with God, even if this sets us apart from the rest and requires us to make significant changes to our lifestyle and life decisions.

For those who do not hear His call, we should not be discouraged. God has a mission for each and every one of us, and it does not matter whether we are religious, lay associate or just an ordinary weekly churchgoer. We should remain open to His mission for us, and strive to bring Him glory in our thoughts, words and actions. We should always be working for God in this harvest, no matter who we are or what occupation we are currently in.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please encourage those who hear Your call to take up the cross and follow You by joining the religious vocations. As for those who have not yet heard Your call, please open their heart and mind to the mission that You have for them. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for encouraging our young people to join You in serving the religious vocations. Thank you for allowing us to partake in Your mission that You have for each and every one of us. Amen.

2 October, Wednesday – Childlike, not childish faith

Oct 2 – Memorial for The Guardian Angels

The term ‘guardian angels’ refers to the belief that each soul has an angel who is available to shepherd the soul through life, and help bring them to God.

Belief in the reality of angels, their mission as messengers of God, and Man’s interaction with them, goes back to the earliest times. Cherubim kept Adam and Eve from slipping back into Eden; angels saved Lot and helped destroy the cities of the plains; in Exodus, Moses follows an angel, and at one point an angel is appointed leader of Israel. Michael is mentioned at several points, Raphael figures large in the story of Tobit, and Gabriel delivered the Annunciation of the coming of Christ.

The concept of each soul having a personal guardian angel, is also an ancient one, and long accepted by the Church:

“See that you despise not one of these little ones [children]: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus, Matthew 18:10

“How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” – St. Jerome in his commentary on Matthew

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

The feast, celebrating the angels who helped bring us to God, began in many local calendars centuries ago, and was widely known by the 16th century. Pope Paul V placed a feast venerating the angels on the general calendar on 27 September 1608. Ferdinand of Austria requested that it be extended to all areas in the Holy Roman Empire.

Initially placed after the feast of Michael the Archangel, it was seen as a kind of supplement to that date. Pope Clement X elevated the feast, celebrated on 2 October, to an obligatory double for the whole Church. On 5 April 1883, Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to the rank of a double major.

  • Patron Saint Index

“O angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom whose love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to rule and guard, to light and guide. Amen.” – Prayer to our guardian angel

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Nehemiah 2:1-8

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, the wine being my concern, I took up the wine and offered it to the king. Now I had never been downcast before. So the king said, ‘Why is your face so sad? You are not sick, surely? This must be a sadness of the heart.’ A great fear came over me and I said to the king, ‘May the king live for ever! How could my face be other than sad when the city where the tombs of my ancestors are lies in ruins, and its gates have been burnt down?’ ‘What’ the king asked ‘is your request?’ I called on the God of heaven and made this reply to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if you are satisfied with your servant, give me leave to go to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ tombs, and rebuild it.’ The king, with the queen sitting there beside him, said, ‘How long will your journey take, and when will you return?’ So I named a date that seemed acceptable to the king and he gave me leave to go. I spoke to the king once more, ‘If it please the king, could letters be given me for the governors of Transeuphrates to allow me to pass through to Judah? And also a letter for Asaph, keeper of the king’s park, to supply me with timber for the gates of the citadel of the Temple, for the city walls and for the house I am to occupy?’ This the king granted me, for the kindly favour of my God was with me.

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Matthew 18:1-5,10

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

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

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Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me

Just stare into the eyes of a baby or a young child. Those eyes are full of innocence, purity and love. And perhaps cuteness.

I always feel that when I see a young child or a baby, I am looking into the face of God. We are aware that babies and young children are not going to hurt us; even if they do, it’s certainly not intentional nor spiteful. They are full of pure, unadulterated joy and love.

Jesus said that when we welcome a little child, we are in fact welcoming Him. But, what about for us adults? Does this mean that we are not welcoming Jesus when we welcome adults? I don’t think Jesus intended his phrase to be taken in its literal sense. I believe that we also welcome Jesus when we welcome adults who possess childlike, and not childish, faith in our Lord and God.

I recall one online article which described the differences between childlikeness and childishness. You can read it at http://www.catholic365.com/article/2618/are-we-childlike-or-childish.html, but I will attempt to summarise the key differences here and add my own as well. Childlikeness is when we have full trust in God, who is our Father and loves us unconditionally. It is when we delight over the small delights of God’s creation in this world, like the joy of seeing flowers bloom, as well as when we appreciate every single blessing which God has given us. It is also when we are excited to know what God has in store for us tomorrow, whether good or bad, because we know that He will always have our best interests in His heart. It is also when we look beyond people’s flaws and imperfections, see them for who they are as children of God, and love them as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, childishness is when we become immature and self-centred. It is when we become angry and frustrated with God for not doing things the way we want them to happen. It is when we lose faith in Him and place our trust wrongly in worldly desires and things instead of our heavenly Father. It is when we stop treating others as children of God, belittling them and exploiting their weaknesses. That is not exactly how our Father would want us to behave, would He?

So, let us strive for childlikeness, and discard our childish behaviour, as we unite ourselves as loving children of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to discard our childish behaviour and learn to be childlike in our faith and relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for being our Father, whom we can place our entire trust in You, as we know that You will never let us down and You always have our best interests in Your heart. Amen.

1 October, Tuesday – Don’t Give The Enemy A Seat At Your Table

Oct 1 – Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux

  • Patron Saint Index

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Zechariah 8:20-23

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘There will be other peoples yet, and citizens of great cities. And the inhabitants of one city will go to the next and say, “Come, let us go and entreat the favour of the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts; I am going myself.” And many peoples and great nations will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord.’

The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you.”’

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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We want to go with you

 I have been pondering lately over the question of succession – both at work and within my ministry. In each instance, I am at different ends of the scale. At work, I am struggling to find someone who is capable of delivering to a level that I am accustomed to, only because the person I had planned to groom left a month back. So I am back to my sometimes non-existent, not-as-highly visible deputy who, while capable, is not assertive enough.

In ministry, while I have had the opportunity to step up on a few occasions, I feel that while I am doing well at fixing some operational and logistics issues that have lingered for a while, I am yet to level up in terms of my worship leading. So while I am taking vocal classes to improve my technique, I fall short when it comes to the spiritual aspects.

I have tried to look at both situations from various perspectives and can only surmise that these two trials that I am going through will lead to a larger realisation of where He is taking me on my leadership journeys. Interestingly, I have also been approached by an old friend to consider a move to something more ‘exciting’, in an environment which I am more accustomed to – where everyone brings their ‘A-game’ each and every day.

I told him that his timing was rather uncanny. I have been growing increasingly frustrated with some of my colleagues and I shared that among my team of 14, I would only bring 2 along should I ever make the move. I am pretty sure that even if the others asked me to take them, I would say ‘No’. What then does that say of me as a leader? Am I prepared to walk away from a team who have stuck with me through thick and thin since 2012?

And if I were to be thrust into a leadership role in ministry, I wonder how many will confidently say, “We’ll stand by you”? After all, I am merely a newbie, undergoing some training and trying to impart my knowledge and skills to others. And while there are those who encourage and affirm, I know there are others who doubt and question. To be fair, I would too, if I were in their shoes.

Brothers and sisters, some of us are called to lead and, in many instances, we find ourselves questioning our abilities. Remember that Jesus never called priests, nor those who were learned. He gathered fishermen and turned them into fishers of men. Let us not allow the devil to plant seeds of doubt in our minds and resolutely follow our shining star and guiding light – Jesus Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us faithful and focussed on the road ahead through our daily prayers and help us to see your guiding hand in all that we do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always guiding us gently along in our spiritual journey.

30 September, Monday – For or Against?

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

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

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Zechariah 8:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is the Lord of Hosts who speaks.

‘The Lord of Hosts says this.

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

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

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Luke 9:46-50

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

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

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Anyone who is not against you is for you

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

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

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

29 September, Sunday – Proof of Life

29 September 2019

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Amos 6:1,4-7

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

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

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

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

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Luke 16:19-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

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

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

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

28 Sep 2019

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Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15

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

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

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

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Luke 9:43-45

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

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

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

Today’s readings remind me of this hymn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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

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