Tag Archives: annette soo

23 June, Friday – Love

23 June 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Moses said to the people: ‘You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.

‘If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments, but who punishes in their own persons those that hate him. He is not slow to destroy the man who hates him; he makes him work out his punishment in person. You are therefore to keep and observe the commandments and statutes and ordinances that I lay down for you today.’

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1 John 4:7-16

My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love. God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit. We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

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Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘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 the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

I find it a real struggle to talk about the most sacred heart of Jesus, a heart that is so big and bursting with love that my own heart cannot comprehend it. Blessed are those who can.

The devotion of the most sacred heart of Jesus speaks of Jesus’ unending and long-suffering love for humanity, and humanity’s indifference to his love in return. God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son that he might die so that we can live. God loved us first and redeemed us for Himself. We know this, we have learnt and read about this, yet how much of it do we understand?

We think our hearts are broken beyond repair when someone we love walks out on us or betrays us or cheats on us. Oh, our hearts seems so trivial in comparison to the betrayal that Jesus faced when we broke his heart! I have had my fair share of heartbreak in life but I cannot fathom and am not worthy to put myself in Jesus’ position to say that I understand, I empathise.

All I can say is God is love; to know love is to know God. To love one another, and not just in a romantic sense, is to love God. God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another. Remember the line in the musical Les Miserables: to love another person is to see the face of God? For this one moment, we are offered a glimpse of what God’s love for us feels like. I imagine that to fully embrace the extent of His love for us would be akin to that little glimpse multiplied by the blazing of a thousand suns.

When there is tragedy, there is an outpouring of grief, there is a collective concern, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to reach out and help. There is a unified effort to stand for a purpose. This is love. Of course, we do not need something as terrible as a tragedy to show love. Love is manifested in many ways. The point is that we are all born with an innate sense to love one another. We are all capable to give and receive love. This is why we find babies so adorable, because they are all love. As we experience different things, our perception of love changes, which sadly is why some are driven to the ‘dark side’. But how we let others change our ability to love is within our control. If we know our worth — and we are worth A LOT to God — then with God’s grace, we can withstand the attempts of these things to corrupt us. God loved us first, and we have to remember always what His love is worth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Father, You redeemed us through Your Son, Jesus. What a price to pay! May our hearts burn for You with the same love that You have for us.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for loving us, even when we turned away from You. Yours is an unconditional and everlasting love, even though we are not worthy.

 

22 June, Thursday – Dialogue With God

Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

  • – Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

  • – Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

  • – Patron Saint Index

22 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do.

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him

When I first received the Good News, I didn’t know how I should pray. Funny as it may sound, before my acceptance of Christ, I never thought about starting off with acknowledging the presence of a Power that is above all i.e. God, followed by thanksgiving and forgiveness. I am guilty of jumping in head-first and presenting all my petitions from passing exams to world peace. I remember as a child – though my intentions were good – I would pray, and thinking that the Almighty Power wouldn’t know who I was and where I lived, I would even state my name, address, and even my date of birth!

After embracing Christ, I remember coming across today’s Gospel reading and thinking to myself, “That’s it? Are you sure God knows who I am? You sure He will hear?” I was so uncertain. With a mix of apprehension and faith, I decided that if I didn’t know how to pray yet, I would start with the Lord’s Prayer, and trust that God would find me. And so I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the first time.

As today’s Gospel rightly puts it, God doesn’t want us to go on this loud and long babble. As the saying goes, less is more – He already knows our hearts and our needs. He created us! As Jeremiah 1:5 puts it, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all”. So, why do we pray then?

We pray because we need to understand and acknowledge that we depend on God for our needs. We pray to have a connection with Him, it is our daily conversation with God. When we tell God our troubles, we are lifting them up to God and telling Him, “I can’t find a way, I’m stuck, I need help.” We acknowledge that we are limited, but through God who delivers us, we are limitless. Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and give Him credit and thanks for it. We learn patience, obedience and faith, that though our requests be many, we understand that God will determine what is best for us in His own time. Through prayer, we understand gratitude, gratitude for God’s help and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others: God is saying “I want to give you so much more blessings than you think you deserve, but only if you make room for me by letting go of your own resentments”. By forgiving, only then can we receive forgiveness.

Prayer is a two-way process. It is a dialogue even though we may think it is a monologue, wondering if God hears us when we seem to be the only ones ‘talking’. He is listening. All of the above shows us that it is a process of giving and receiving, acknowledging while asking for our needs to be acknowledged. Let us go down on our knees today then, wherever we are, and have our dialogue with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.      

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for showing us how to pray. Even though we may not know how to, You have given us a way.

21 April, Friday – Fighting for the Truth

21 Apr – Memorial for St. Anselm, bishop & doctor

Anselm (1033-1109) was born of Italian nobility. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, he wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk at Bec, Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot, before later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a theological writer and counsellor to Pope Gregory VII, Pope Urban II, and William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’ encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independences of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at the Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was again exiled in 1106.

He was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.

No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.”

  • Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112
  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 4:1-12

While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and scribes had a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, ‘By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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John 21:1-14

Jesus stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

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But many of those who heard the word came to believe

Nobel-prize winner Malala Yousafzai is a staunch advocate for education, especially for girls. What started off as a movement in her native home in the Swat district in Pakistan is now an international campaign, with supporters like Angelina Jolie and the Obamas. Malala took the brave road laden with trials and obstacles to have her voice heard — she was threatened and finally shot at in an assassination attempt by the Taliban, and all this before she was 16 years old. She lived and recovered, and her message is now heard all over the world.

Sometimes when we defend the truth, we will find opposition from naysayers. Critics attempt to question our credibility by tainting our image. People start to isolate us. Who will hear us?

Peter and John faced similar adversity when they spoke of Jesus’ resurrection. The priests and Sadducees arrested them and threw them into prison in an attempt to silence them. But this only fuelled the spread of the resurrection news, and the number of believers grew and grew.

The point is this – sometimes, it is hard to defend the truth and what we believe in. We will face challenges from all fronts — people will laugh at us, family may criticise us, friends may ostracise us. Lies and rumours about us will spread. Even people who have no association with us will claim familiarity and spread all kinds of falsehoods. It will be the loneliest place on earth to be, fighting in our corner. But that is the thing, God is truth. And while it is lonely for us on earth, if we are on the side of truth, then God is on our side, in heaven. He will have a way of making things happen; we need not understand how, but have faith that it will happen, according to His will, His way, in His time.

It is hard to fight for the truth alone. But Peter and John had full faith in God because they believed strongly in what they had witnessed, and believed that to be the truth. God promised that he would never leave us alone nor forsake us, and He did not abandon Peter and John. In fact, He turned the situation on its head and multiplied the number of believers. Eventually Peter and John were released.

I realise that such situations may not yield similar results. Sadly, not every story has a happy ending. But it is my hope that we will be encouraged by God’s promise that He will be our help, which will lead us to hold on steadfastly to what we believe in. Maybe one day we will be called to testify, I don’t know. If I were in Malala’s shoes, I don’t know if I would have half her courage. But she stood for what she believed in, and in the end, truth prevailed. There is hope yet my friends, to stand by the truth, and it is my hope that truth will prevail.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the courage to stand by the truth though the odds may be against us, firm in the belief that You will deliver us and let the truth prevail.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being there with us, walking the journey though we may be alone.

20 April, Thursday – Life Stories

20 April 2017

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Acts 3:11-26

Everyone came running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to Peter and John. When Peter saw the people he addressed them, ‘Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness? You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.

‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets. Moses, for example, said: The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.

‘You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.’

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Luke 24:35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’

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The author of life you put to death

For writers, the story that you tell gives a voice to the cause or message that you want to put through. For example, if your story is about pre-school pedagogies, you could be advocating early learning for children. If you are talking about paleo diets, you could be raising health awareness, so on and so forth. Whatever story that a writer tells though, is always entwined with the writer. Any raw emotion or experiences, the writer’s thoughts… some part of it will end up being sprinkled into the writer’s piece. The story also ends with the writer. If a writer stops writing, the story ends there. If a writer dies, the story dies with the writer, and no one knows how the story would have been intended to end.

When the people crucified Jesus, they thought that that was the end of the story. The Pharisees and high priests were probably relieved, the disciples and followers of Jesus, very depressed. Christ was no more…

But God works in His own way. The author of life, they may have put to death, but it was through his death that the story lives! The story could only be written with Christ’s death on the cross, as it was through death that He then resurrected on the third day. So much was said about Christ in his lifetime, and so much more was even said after his resurrection. His resurrection made witnesses of many people, and his resurrection opened up the eyes and ears of many others who finally understood the scriptures, and now more than ever, believed in the power of God!

Jesus said to the disciples, “everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”

Indeed, other people before Jesus had written these ‘stories’, but only Jesus could have provided life to them. Only through Jesus could these ‘stories’ finally have meaning, only by Jesus’ death on the cross could the message of the prophets finally come to pass. The ordinary people may have put the author of life to death, but they could not put an end to the story. The story did not, and does not die. God brought life back to us through the resurrection through Christ Jesus.

Every day, God’s story is written through us. His power and glory are manifested through our lives. Every day is a new chapter for God to write our story with us. Let us allow Him to do so, so that His message comes through via how we live our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

PrayerLord, I have been trying to write my life story on my own, but I pray now with Your guidance, I will write my story with You.

ThanksgivingThank you Lord, for giving us life through Your death and resurrection. It is because of You that we live.

17 February, Friday – Dream Big

17 Feb – Memorial for Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites

The Order of the Servants of Mary (Servites) was named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V. It was founded in 1233 by Sts. Alexis Falconieri, Bartholomew degli Amidei, Benedict dell’Antella, Buonfiglio Monaldi, Gherardino Sostegni, Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and John Buonagiunta Monetti.

They were beatified on 1 December 1717, and canonized on 1887 as The Seven Holy Founders. On the Feast of the Assumption in 1240, the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading “Servants of Mary”. Mary told them:

“You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of St. Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”

From their first establishment at La Camarzia, near Florence, they moved to the more secluded Monte Senario where the Blessed Virgin herself conferred on them their habit, instructing them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to admit associates. The official approval for the order was obtained in 1249, confirmed in 1256, suppressed in 1276, definitely approved in 1304, and again by Brief in 1928. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285, there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century, it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India.

The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870.

The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the “Seven Dolours of Our Lady”. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. An affiliation, professing exclusively the contemplative life is that of the “Hermits of Monte Senario”. It was reinstated in France in 1922.

Cloistered nuns, forming a Second Order, have been affiliated with the Servites since 1619 when Blessed Benedicta di Rossi called the nuns of her community “Servite Hermitesses”. They have been established in England, Spain, Italy, the Tyrol, and Germany.

A Third Order, the Mantellate, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri under St. Philip Benizi (c. 1284) has houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, Canada, and the United States. Secular tertiaries and a confraternity of the Seven Dolours are other branches.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 11:1-9

Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary. Now as they moved eastwards they found a plain in the land of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire.’ (For stone they used bricks, and for mortar they used bitumen). ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth.’

Now the Lord came down to see the town and the tower that the sons of man had built. ‘So they are all a single people with a single language!’ said the Lord. ‘This is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come, let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.’

The Lord scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth, and they stopped building the town. It was named Babel therefore, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth. It was from there that the Lord scattered them over the whole face of the earth.

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Mark 8:34-9:1

Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’

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What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

This post is for the dreamers amongst us who want to chase their dreams and make it a reality.

We all have dreams, be it big or small. We may feel frightened to chase our dreams, because maybe we’re afraid that people will think it is silly, or we are afraid of failure, or that it won’t provide a proper living. Maybe we don’t know how to begin. So the dream remains just a dream, like a seed in a store cupboard, unplanted and therefore will never get a chance to grow.

No dream is insignificant. God has given us each a dream to pursue, and has equipped us with the necessary talents to help us fulfill those dreams. We cannot compare ourselves to the next person; God has chosen for each of us a dream that fits us, tailor-made to our personality, so that each of us is unique in our dreams. Even the trials that come to test us will be unique to build our character and perseverance. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” How wonderful is this — that God already has in mind a dream for us to be a baker, artist, dancer, scientist, astronaut, mountaineer, fighter pilot, novelist, and He sets alight the passion in our hearts that we might fulfill it, giving us the right tools for it.

Yet sometimes the fear still overtakes us. Perhaps we think that the timing is not right. I ask myself that same question all the time, “when is the right time”? When we have saved enough for a fallback plan for 5 years? When the kids have all grown up and gone to school? We may end up pursuing something else for security reasons, and like a cat trying to think it is a dog, we force ourselves to believe we were made for something else. We become good at it, but we don’t realize that maybe we could have been better at what God intended, because we already had the right skills for it.

As we can see from today’s first reading, if we try to do something that God has not intended for us, our plans will be frustrated. We might just end up being in a confused state of mind. And what about if we forced our hand to do something else and really did become good at it? Perhaps some amongst us have felt as though our lives were empty, like we haven’t fulfilled our potential, or our dreams. When we reach our 30s or 40s, we have what is fondly known as ‘midlife crisis’, but that could just be us questioning what we have done in the past 30 years or so since we finished studying. What have we to show after all those years? Maybe we are a CEO or director of a big company. If we are happy about it and if this is what we believe is our dream, then congratulations! Yet I suspect many of us are going around feeling ‘unfulfilled’, which is probably why Steve Jobs’ speech on doing what you love is such a popular speech — most of us aren’t doing what we love, we’re just going around blindly day after day, because we have to make ends meet. How will we account for this though when we are too old, or when we meet our Maker? God might say, “Hey, I gave you all these gifts and put a dream in your heart, but you went and did something else. Why didn’t you use what I gave you?”

Pursuing dreams is a big leap of faith, but I sincerely believe in them, and I pray you will receive direction from God for your dreams. “May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your counsel!” (Psalm 20:4)

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray for wisdom and guidance to see the path You have set forth for me, courage to pursue the dreams that you have put in my heart, and faith to hold on to that dream especially when the chips are down.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving each of us a dream and the talents to fulfill it. We believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!

16 February, Thursday – The Promise

16 February 2017

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Genesis 9:1-13

God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Be the terror and the dread of all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven, of everything that crawls on the ground and all the fish of the sea; they are handed over to you. Every living and crawling thing shall provide food for you, no less than the foliage of plants. I give you everything, with this exception: you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say blood, in it. I will demand an account of your life-blood. I will demand an account from every beast and from man. I will demand an account of every man’s life from his fellow men.

‘He who sheds man’s blood
shall have his blood shed by man,
for in the image of God
man was made.

‘As for you, be fruitful, multiply, teem over the earth and be lord of it.’
God spoke to Noah and his sons, ‘See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds, cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood. There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.’

God said, ‘Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth.’

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Mark 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

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I will establish my covenant with you

When I was in my early teens, I made a promise to God. I was down with a high fever which refused to break, and while she never told me so, I could see the worry etched on my mother’s face. I remember feeling really feverish, standing in the middle of the bathroom with cool, damp towels swathed around me, trying to get the temperature down. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t afraid.

But it was in this feverish state that I first spoke to God. I remember saying to God, “God if You are really there, please help reduce this fever, and I will believe in You and convert” (I was non-Christian at the time). God did actually hear me. After that encounter, I lay down to sleep and my fever broke in the middle of the night.

It took me several years though before I fulfilled my promise to God. I remembered it always though, but I was afraid and maybe I was making excuses to delay fulfilling it.

Imagine if God was human like us, in terms of keeping promises. But He isn’t. He is God Almighty, and He is true to His word. In today’s first reading, God reminds us that He takes the arrangement seriously — reference to the covenant between God and man is repeated at least four times in the reading between verses 8-15, and if you read on, it appears another two more times in verses 16-17. It is as though God is saying, you’re not entering into an agreement with any old Joe, this is me, your God and Father! God is not saying this to remind Himself. He is saying this to ingrain into us that He has made a covenant with us, and it is to last a lifetime. When we get married, for example, we are only required to repeat our vows once during the ceremony, and not six times. After a few years of marriage, we probably would have forgotten what those vows might be, even though they are meant to last us till the day we die. But our Father reminds us of the contents of His promise to us, and in case we, in our human ways, were to forget this promise, He even sends us a beautiful reminder in the form of a rainbow.

Yes, of course, we can argue in scientific terms about the formation of a rainbow, but science cannot extinguish the essence behind the rainbow, or the spiritual message that it contains. Our hearts light up a little each time we behold a rainbow; perhaps we can light up a little more as well knowing that God is also saying “I remember My word with you”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Lord, help us to take our vows and promises seriously, especially those that we make with You. It is only in keeping our word that we will build our integrity. 

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father, for the blessing of the rainbow as a sign of Your everlasting covenant with us.

15 February, Wednesday – Delayed Gratification

15 February 2017

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Genesis 8:6-13,20-22

At the end of forty days Noah opened the porthole he had made in the ark and he sent out the raven. This went off, and flew back and forth until the waters dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove, to see whether the waters were receding from the surface of the earth. The dove, finding nowhere to perch, returned to him in the ark, for there was water over the whole surface of the earth; putting out his hand he took hold of it and brought it back into the ark with him. After waiting seven more days, again he sent out the dove from the ark. In the evening, the dove came back to him and there it was with a new olive-branch in its beak. So Noah realised that the waters were receding from the earth. After waiting seven more days he sent out the dove, and now it returned to him no more.

It was in the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life, in the first month and on the first of the month, that the water dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the hatch of the ark and looked out. The surface of the ground was dry!

Noah built an altar for the Lord, and choosing from all the clean animals and all the clean birds he offered burnt offerings on the altar. The Lord smelt the appeasing fragrance and said to himself, ‘Never again will I curse the earth because of man, because his heart contrives evil from his infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done.

‘As long as earth lasts,
sowing and reaping,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
shall cease no more.’

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Mark 8:22-26

Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, and some people brought to him a blind man whom they begged him to touch. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.

Then putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly. And Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’

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He waited seven days more and again sent the dove from the ark

We live in a really fast-paced world where everything is instant. With a click or a touch, we can do banking, take instant photos, buy our groceries, book a flight… there are no more barriers that stop us from getting where we are to where we want to go. We want our lives to be like a McDonald’s outlet: cheap, fast, and good. By cheap, I don’t mean that we are opting for cheaper alternatives in life, I mean that we want our things at the barest minimum inconvenience to ourselves.

Are we like that in our prayer life?

I remember when I was first introduced to the Catholic faith, my friend was telling me about the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer, and that it was a fairly long prayer. I asked him how long and he replied: “20 minutes, if you do it breezily”. I’d like to think that God understands when we are busy. It can be hard to devote time to prayer as you would like to if unprecedented things occur. Yet, prayer is our own personal and private conversation with God, and we can speak it in our hearts and minds. Therefore we could be anywhere, and still have a meaningful conversation with him. God knows our heart’s desires and private anguish even before we do, and He hears us. What matters is the quality of the conversation that we are having with Him. Are we asking for things hoping that God will deliver ASAP? Are we placing conditions with God? Is our prayer life on our terms or God’s terms?

God is our loving Father, but He knows how to parent us better than we know ourselves. He isn’t going to submit to our requests (or demands!) if we keep whining and throwing a tantrum. Sounds familiar? We do see parents who, in an effort to keep their children quiet, give in to them. I, too, have been guilty of that. What God wants though is persevered prayer and patience. Through faith and understanding that all will be done in God’s time, we learn patience. Through faith in believing that God will come through for us, we learn perseverance. And through perseverance and patience, we form a meaningful conversation with God i.e. prayer.

Consider if you went in to your local store to buy bread — you pick your loaf, pay at the counter, and maybe barely looking up from your phone, you take your bread and leave. The alternative scenario is that we pick our loaf, bring it to the counter and smile at the store owner, say “how’s it going”, talk about the weekend or the weather, say thank you cheerily, and leave. We need not even have had a long conversation, but in that time when we shared a smile and stopped for a chat, we would have enriched our own lives, and the other person’s.

God probably doesn’t want to answer our prayers immediately, as there would be no bonding nor enrichment, no quality, appreciation, nor believing. He might as well be a vending machine of prayers. He wants us to slow down… take time… breathe…, and reflect.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in the busy-ness of our lives, we pray that our prayers and conversations with you don’t reflect that. Help us to slow down for a while and stop to have a chat with you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for hearing our prayers no matter what form they come in, and for continuously believing in us that we will change one day and stop to take time to speak with you.

3 December, Saturday – Labour’s Lost

Dec 3 – Feast of St. Francis Xavier, presbyter, religious, missionary (Principal Patron of Foreign Missions)

Francis (1506-1552) was a nobleman from the Basque region. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He was one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.

In Goa, India, while waiting to take the ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He was said to have converted the entire city.

He scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”

He was a tremendously successful missionary for the ten years he was in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, teaching catechism to Indian children, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold. Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He travelled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, and was a miracle worker. He raised people from the dead, calmed storms. He was a prophet and a healer.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 30:19-21,23-26

Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

People of Zion, you will live in Jerusalem and weep no more. He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, follow it.’ He will send rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground provides will be rich and nourishing. Your cattle will graze, that day, in wide pastures. Oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat a salted fodder, winnowed with shovel and fork. On every lofty mountain, on every high hill there will be streams and watercourses, on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds fall. Then moonlight will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter – like the light of seven days in one – on the day the Lord dresses the wound of his people and heals the bruises his blows have left.

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Matthew 9:35-10:1,5,6-8

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’

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The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few

Hundreds of years ago, Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, preaching and healing as he did. He was a lone foreign missionary, carrying out God’s work. He recognized that the people were hungry for God as they had been in spiritual need for so long, and to fulfil the need to minister to as many of the lost and abandoned as possible, he sent out the twelve apostles to far-flung places to do God’s work. Thus you could say, began the foreign missions.

St Francis Xavier was one such missionary. His work carried him from present day Spain where he was born, to Goa, India, Malacca, Japan, and China, to name a few. There, his mission work was often met with resistance, cultural and language differences, lack of funds and support, and opposition. But he, like Jesus, recognized that the people were like lost sheep, and needed spiritual guidance. In most places, he was the first Jesuit, and therefore he had to carve out a road where no road had been before. There was much work to be done, and many a time he would get side-tracked and remain longer at a place than he had intended. Where there had been some in-roads before his arrival, those efforts had been previously focused on the nobility and officers; St Francis Xavier instead reached out to the ordinary folk in lower classes, and concentrated on teaching the children especially. He believed that there was an abundance of ‘lost sheep’ in China and had set his sights on missionary work there, but sadly he died before he could fulfil his purpose there.

Things have not changed much since. Few hundred years spanned between the time of Jesus and that of St Francis, and few hundred years have now passed between the time of St Francis and the present day. Yet one thing remains — that there are still many of us searching and yearning for Jesus. Our loneliness makes us feel abandoned, and the emptiness in our hearts makes us wish we were wanted and loved. We seek solace and comfort in other ways, sometimes in not so positive ways. As a result, we turn to habits that destroy us rather than help us, but thinking that these are resolutions to our emotional needs, we continue doing them until we realize too late that it has not helped us. We are now stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to break the habit, and nowhere near emotional fulfilment.

God is around us, and He could be our next door neighbor, or the soccer mum you see on the school run, or your colleague. God sends His labourers out to do His work and He hears our cry. He knows our hearts. Maybe it feels like He is distant or does not hear us. Sometimes we even question whether He is there. However, turn away from these thoughts and remember that God searches for His lost sheep, and He rejoices for every lost sheep that is found (Luke 15: 4-7). Every now and then, God sends out his labourers to find and gather His sheep; take heart that we too will be found.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Lord, I pray for your comfort for our loneliness, love for our empty hearts, and direction for our wandering souls. Hear our hearts as they cry out for you, and fill us with the Holy Spirit that we may rejoice with hearts overflowing at being found.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for the labourers that you send out to do your work. We pray for wisdom to recognize them, strength to emulate them, and courage to do your will.

2 December, Friday – Strength in Weakness

2 December 2016

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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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Do you believe that I can do this?

In today’s Gospel reading, we encounter two blind men who cry out to Jesus, asking him to heal them. We see that Jesus doesn’t immediately stop. In fact, Jesus first meets them as he passes by. The two men follow him, crying out as they do, until he enters the house. Only then does Jesus show any sign that he has noticed them. Still, he does not heal them immediately. Rather, he asks them first and foremost if they believe he could heal them, to which they affirm their belief in him. Only then are the two blind men healed.

More often than not, when we ask the question, “Do you believe that I can do this?” it is set in a tone of self-doubt. Well, at least in my case. There have been so many circumstances in my life where I have asked that question of myself, but none more so than when I delivered my son.

When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing that came to my mind was that the pain of childbirth would be too traumatizing for me to bear, and I contemplated having a Caesarian section instead. I wasn’t aware that there were other ways of delivering, and more importantly, I had to re-wire my thinking to believe that my body was designed by God to deliver my baby naturally. I did have a natural birth eventually, after a long labour, but there were many times where I had questioned if I could do this. I found strength in myself that I never knew I had, and through prayers of family and friends, and the support of my husband and the birthing team, I was able to see through my pregnancy till the end.

I don’t quite know where that strength came from, but after having had time to reflect, I am convinced that it was through God’s grace that this was possible. God’s grace was sufficient enough for me (2 Corinthians 12:9). When I was drained from the many hours of labour, God gave me rest and strength to continue. When I doubted, God’s grace manifested in the relentless support of my wonderful doula. When my legs quivered from the contractions, and I couldn’t support myself, God gave me grace through the strong arms of my husband who held me up. At every turn, my faith was put to the test, as though in questioning myself, God was actually questioning my faith.

When Jesus asked the two blind men, “Do you believe I can do it?” he already knew that he could. But for him to work his miracle, he needed the right vessel to make it happen, and this would be a willing and faithful heart. Why did he wait to heal the men? I would like to believe that it was all in good time; that by waiting a little longer, their hearts would be better prepared and more open to receive God’s gift, and in so doing, the miracle of their healing and God’s strength would be made all the more pronounced.

2 Corinthians 12:10 goes on to say: “When I am weak, then I am strong”. I find that overwhelmingly comforting for during my difficult times, not just at birth, God used my difficulties to manifest Himself by giving me enough grace to see me through my trials, so that upon surmounting those trials, I would be able to give God thanks and praise.

As I write this, my little son lies sleeping next to me. God has rewarded and blessed me with the most amazing gift of all, and it was only through His grace that all this was made possible.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer – Lord, through my many trials and tribulations, I have questioned my ability to see things through the end. I pray for the strength, patience and remembrance always that Your grace is sufficient, and it is Your grace that will lead me home.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for making me strong in your grace when I am weak.

1 December, Thursday – Not always about connections

1 December 2016

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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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“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven

Have you ever noticed when things are going well and you are prospering, you may find yourself surrounded by multitudes of friends. But when the chips are down, you wonder where everyone is? Everyone wants to be in your camp when you’re popular, no one wants to be left out. The danger lies in who you can trust, and weeding out who is genuine and who is a hanger-on. People will use their closely-guarded connections and name-drop or claim association, like gaining access to the VIP lounge in the hottest night club of the moment. In our world of doing business, it is deemed important to ‘get a leg up’ on other people, therefore it is about who you know that can get you there.

Not with Jesus though; Jesus doesn’t care about who you know, or if you claim association with Him. He is only interested in the condition of your heart, and what lies within: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jer 17:9-10). Jesus recognizes the “bad fruits” by their deeds and words. Their lips may have called upon his name, but their hearts may not be in sync with God. As such, in today’s readings we see that he disassociates himself from these people by calling them out, questioning their motives and actions.

In whatever that we do then under the standard of the church, be it in attending mass or volunteering in ministries, perhaps today’s reading is a call to us to re-examine our motives for doing so. Sometimes, the devil comes in to distract us so that we lose sight of the reasons why we joined a ministry, for example. When we lose our focus, it is easy to get caught up in the other things that we encounter in our work for God, from the simplest things like getting frustrated with the car park situation at the church, or annoyance at one of the members of the ministry for being ‘bossy’. We are human, and it is normal for us to feel negative feelings, but let us pray for patience and focus to prevent such things from distracting us from the reason at the end of the day — God. 

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Lord, we seek forgiveness for the times when we have let our actions become “bigger” than you. Help us to re-focus and remember that ultimately, all that we do is for God and with God.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks for the opportunity to carry out works in God’s name. We pray that we will glorify His name in all that we do.