Tag Archives: annette soo

23 March, Saturday – Not Forgotten

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

_______________________

Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt

grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

_______________________

Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

 ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

______________________

My son, you are here with me always. Everything I have is yours

I remember my baptism, and the preparation leading up to it. I had been on the RCIA program and I remember thinking at the time if I would be able to get through the year-long program. But the year sped by quite quickly and before you knew it, we were at Lent, getting ready for our baptism at the Easter vigil. It was almost like getting ready for a wedding: a lot of preparation beforehand, our placements, the rituals, the vows, the clothes that we would wear. And on the day of baptism, there we were, the ‘co-stars’ of the night, standing in front of the whole congregation in our new white garments, beaming proudly. Then shortly after the period of Mystagogy, it was back to life as usual.

It has been many years since my baptism, and probably for most of us too, as you read this. As we watch the next batch of Elect go through their sacraments of initiation, we watch their smiles, and we reflect on our own big day years ago. Maybe we wish that we could feel the overflowing of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, as we once did. Maybe we long for that closeness or assuredness in our relationship with God, as the Elect now have. Maybe many things have transpired since our baptism, that have dried up our spiritual well, and called us to question God’s presence in our lives. Perhaps we stopped seeking, perhaps life got in the way, we got distracted. Yes, life does go on but so does God; God continues to be present in our lives, even when we have stopped being the star of the day. When all the lights have faded and the sparkle wanes, God still remains.

Before we were each called by God, we were all lost in our own ways. When we opened our hearts to Him, we were like the prodigal son returned to the Father: “I once was lost, but now am found.” And when we accepted God into our hearts, He promised us salvation, a new and everlasting life in Christ Jesus, cleansed of our sins. He promised to be with us always: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He promised us security (Isaiah 43:2), strength (Isaiah 41:10), wisdom (James 1:5), unfailing love (Isaiah 54:10), forgiveness (1 John 1:9). He gave us all He had, His only Son Christ Jesus, so that we may live (John 3:16).

Our lives might be ‘as usual’, but remember David, the shepherd boy, overlooked by his brothers, but anointed as king. It would be many more years after his anointing before David finally assumed his place as king, and in the meantime, he went back to ‘life as usual’ – as a shepherd boy. But he had to, in order to learn about life to be a better king, to be in a better position to serve God and his people when the time came. Maybe if we take a different viewpoint, we may find that perhaps the preparation doesn’t end at baptism. After baptism, the real preparation begins: preparation to hear and heed God’s calling, to do His will and to be guided by Him. Our baptism may be over, but God does not forget us. He has plans for us, and if we allow it, He will reveal those plans to us. In the meantime, let us be comforted in the knowledge that whatever our life situation is, whether we are content or troubled, we are in the season of preparation for bigger things that God has in store for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in this season of Lent, help us to bring more consciousness in our preparation for Easter. We also pray for our Elect, as they prepare for their baptism on Easter.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for calling us to you when you did, for taking us in even when we were sinners, for finding us when we were lost. Even now, you are still with us, your gentle encouragement comforting us, guiding us through our daily lives.

22 March, Friday – Rejection and Revival

22 March 2019

_______________________

Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28

Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.

His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’

But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.

Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.’ His brothers agreed.

Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph up out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.

_______________________

Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.

______________________

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes

Today’s first reading about Joseph being sold as a slave by his own brothers is a particularly hard one to swallow. To be rejected and ill-treated is already soul-crushing in itself, but rejection to the point of being cut-off by your kin, killed or obliviated from the face of this earth… There are no words for that. We have all faced rejection in varying degrees at some point in our lives and we well know the pain and heartache. To wake up each morning and feel as though the pain is suffocating you, that each heavy step forward is like lead on our feet, and in our suffering and despair to be unable to fathom that there is even a light at the end of it – how indeed will it ever get better?

If you think that God does not hear or understand, think again. God so loved us that He gave us His only Son that we may not die, but have everlasting life. Jesus was rejected by his own people, spat at, scourged, and crucified on the cross. He bled for us, wept for us, and suffered for us, even though we turned our backs on him. Jesus was rejected, so that we may be accepted. God turned that rejection into something marvelous, something life-saving, even though it took a while to manifest, and even when it escaped all our understanding as to how such a tragedy could be turned into something miraculous. Our current suffering may seem terribly bleak at the moment that it is hard to comprehend what kind of miracle can be wrought from it, but do remember… that a diamond only looks like a rock until it undergoes years of pressure, hewn from the rock face and polished to its brilliance.

I can understand why some people are driven to suicide, and we, as a people, must not judge them. We need to ask if we have done enough to help them. Rejection is a lonely, desolate place, and in the midst of the barrenness, one cannot ask for help, for one cannot see where the help is. We, from the outside looking in, have to extend that help. But taking your life is not the answer, even though at the time there seems no other way. Our lives do not belong to us, our lives are a gift from God, and bought for us at a heavy, heavy price, by someone who understands the meaning of sacrifice, the meaning of rejection and despair. Salvation followed the crucifixion. Life comes after loss. Hope comes after despair.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who are troubled in their hearts, whose burdens are heavy and whose roads seem blocked. Help them see that there IS light. There IS love. There IS hope. And may we, as a people, be there to help them, and not turn our countenance away from those who need help the most.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for the price that was paid for us, for our lives, so that we may live and be accepted. We give thanks for the sacrifice that was made out of the greatest love of all.

21 March, Thursday – Self-examination

21 March 2019

_______________________

Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:
‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.
‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

_______________________

Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger, and Jesus addressed them:

‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

______________________

I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart

Medical examinations are quite helpful in determining the state of health that you are in. With such advancements in medical science, technology and research, understanding your own body and fixing it has never been easier or more accessible to the masses. I find though that the older we get, the more we tend to shy away from getting a health examination. We fear what the results might uncover, so we would rather not know. And what if we do know? Then the cost of fixing the problem could be a great inconvenience. Therefore, ignorance is bliss!

But while there is a ‘black & white’ process for physical examinations, what about the examination of our own hearts? Not the physical well-being of it, but the emotional and spiritual well-being. The Lenten period is a good time for self-examination of our emotional and spiritual state, and of our relationship with God. True, there is no straightforward answer of how we are doing (unlike a medical examination), and we mostly lie in a sort of gray area where we’re not quite sure where we stand. How do we justify our actions, and should we? If we lay bare our hearts before God, what would our results show? Perhaps we would rather not know and remain in a state of denial – all is good with us, all is good with God.

But God has given each of us a conscience, and that serves as our heart health barometer, our moral compass. The closer we are to God, the stronger the conscience, and even if you didn’t feel that you had that strong bond with God, we nevertheless know if we have done something right or wrong. Does it nag at you, do you lie awake at night mulling over what you did or didn’t do? Do you regret saying things that you did or didn’t? Could you have done something better that you would be proud of? Did you show congruence between what you say you are and what you do? If these are questions that keep you up, perhaps that is God’s way of probing our minds and hearts. He has given us free will, and with that comes accountability for our actions. Because we have free will, we will undoubtedly encounter many occasions where our hearts will indeed be tested, to determine what route we will take. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing that we can ever do.

Lent isn’t just about abstinence from pleasurable activities. Lent is also about self-examination. Lent is about what we are going to do, once we uncover something from that examination. Lent is about preparing ourselves, fixing ourselves and facing the truth that maybe something within us could be better. Lent is about having a purpose in our fasting and abstinence, not so much to meet a 40-day goal, but that in that 40 days, we change what our conscience tells us needs changing, and in doing so, we come just that little closer to God. Lent isn’t just about God coming to us, but that we – as sinners – are going back to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, harden not our hearts that we remain in a state of denial, but awaken in each of us sinners, a renewed sense of longing to change for the better, to change for You.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for the strength during this Lenten period, and for courage to face our demons, be they bad habits that we need to banish or negative thoughts that we need to lay to rest. May they never return to haunt us.

21 February, Thursday – Promise to God

21 February 2019

_______________

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.’

_______________

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.’

_______________

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.

17 November, Saturday – Staying the Course

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

3 John 1:5-8

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

_____________________

Luke 18:1-8

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

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

_____________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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

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

16 November, Friday – Loving in Distress

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

2 John 1:4-9

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

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

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

_____________________

Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

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

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

_____________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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

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

15 November, Thursday – Walking the Road

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

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

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

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

_____________________

Philemon 1:7-20

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

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

_____________________

Luke 17:20-25

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

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

_____________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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

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

10 November, Saturday – Lean On Me

10 November – Memorial for St. Leo the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church

Leo (c.400 – 461) was born of Italian nobility. He was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. As a priest, he was an eloquent writer and homilist.

He was pope from 440-461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to St. Peter, it is generally believed that the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo’s sanctity and eloquence saved the city again.

Pope Leo called the Council of Chalcedon to condemn the heresies of the day, which were Nestorianism (Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son), Monophysitism (Christ’s human nature ceases to exist when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it), Manichaeism (Gnostic system resting on a dualistic concept of the world’s structure), and Pelaianism (no supernatural grace is needed for one to choose good).

He built churches and wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching the flock, many of which survive today. It is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574.

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – Pope St. Leo the Great

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Philippians 4:10-19

It is a great joy to me, in the Lord, that at last you have shown some concern for me again; though of course you were concerned before, and only lacked an opportunity. I am not talking about shortage of money: I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed. It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account. Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.

_____________________

Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

_____________________

There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me”. The Lord knows how many times I have repeated this to myself. Through deadlines, exams, meetings, breakups – I’ve clung on to these words like a mantra, trying to reassure myself that I can indeed do all things through Christ.

I’ve prayed this in times of trials and tribulations, when I sometimes feel as though I can’t face another day, or don’t see a solution to my problems. It gives me reassurance, no matter how defeated or fatigued I am, that Jesus is with me, helping me to put one foot in front of the other till I get to the finish line. It is Jesus telling me, “We’re going to do this, we’re in this together, you and I.” And it gives me peace – peace in knowing that whatever the outcome, He will not abandon me as He promised.

And what happens if the outcome is not what we expected? Does this mean that God did not give us enough strength to achieve our goal? In our disappointment, we need to look beyond that and even then, God will give us the strength to get over our disappointment. God’s plan for us is not for our understanding, nor does His plan mirror our own plans for ourselves. When St. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he was in captivity, which is hardly an ideal situation, but he saw beyond this. He saw his captivity and persecution as a a chance to proclaim the word of God: “… what has happened to me has served to advance the Gospel” (Phil 1:12). St. Paul did not know then what his fate would be, whether he would live or die, but he did know for certain that whatever the situation, Christ would be exalted, and with that he felt reconciled with himself that his trials would not be in vain.

Again, how do we manage if the outcome is not to our desire? We worry about the outcomes: if I don’t get this job, how will I know if I can meet my loan repayments? If I don’t pass these exams, how will I get into a good university? If this agreement doesn’t get signed, will I get fired? The answer to these questions lie in St Paul’s letter further on: “God himself will provide you with everything you need, according to his riches, and show you his generosity in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

The prayer from St. Patrick’s Breastplate says it all about the magnitude of God’s strength, and I would like to share an excerpt here with you, with the hopes that it will carry you through your challenges, as it has for me:

“I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that our worries do not overwhelm us, that we learn instead to rely on Your unending strength to see us through to the finish line.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always walking with us, every step of the way. Thank you for bearing us up even when we are down, and for never losing faith in us even when we have lost faith in ourselves.

20 October, Saturday – Truth

20 October

_____________________

Ephesians 1:15-23

I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you. May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

_____________________

Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.

‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.’

_____________________

When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say

History has given us many examples of people who have spoken up for the truth, and paid the price for it with their lives. All of them stood by their deep-set beliefs fighting for justice, and were never afraid to do so. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln – these are some famous examples. Yet for every famous person that has spoken up for the side of truth, there are many, many more who suffer for speaking the truth, and submitted into silence. Torture, threats against their lives, and the lives of their loved ones have put fear into these people’s hearts. They are not less courageous though.

If presented with the same situation, how many of us would actually speak up? We need not even have to put ourselves in situations of fighting for political or social injustice, just looking into our daily lives is sufficient. Most people adopt a “don’t get involved” policy. You could even be viewed as someone who has nothing else better to do than to cause trouble by speaking up. People would rather go their own way and live their lives. If we knew something was wrong, say at work, where a boss was sexually harassing a colleague, would we speak up? Or would we “mind our own business”, knowing that the victim may not be in a position to speak up for herself? Do we turn a blind eye?

If we feel that it is the right thing to do, but lack the courage to speak up, let us take comfort knowing that some of the bravest people too were scared to speak up. Ghandi who was trained as a barrister, was too shy to speak up in court, and as a result was unsuccessful at his attempts in setting up a law practice in Bombay (now Mumbai). This was a man, who was trained to represent the law, who later became a leader in non-violent movements to oppose the social injustice and British rule in India. His turning point came after experiencing first-hand the prejudices against coloured people in South Africa. If Ghandi could do it, what more us? I’m not saying that we all have to become statesmen and women, but I believe that each of us should have a little “Ghandi” in us: that in each of us, there is a little seed of courage that is not afraid to step out.

Jesus represented the truth, and spoke out against the religious leaders of his day. He admonished them on several scores, incurring their wrath. Yet knowing the fate that lay before him, Jesus continued with his sermons. Though he is the Son of God, but he was made Man, and knew fear. And he feared what was to come, and prayed that God would take that cup from him. Yet he also prayed, “Your will, not mine be done”. (Luke 22:42) He was in so much agony, that he sweated blood. God heard his fervent prayers and sent an angel to strengthen him.

What does this mean for us? To speak the truth takes a measure of courage. Sometimes we fear the consequences, but we should pray about it. God hears our prayers, and He will strengthen us as He did Jesus. He will put the words in our mouths, and direct our thoughts. But we have to keep up our prayers, as Jesus did, and submit wholeheartedly to God’s will. It is okay to be afraid, and if we stand by the side of truth, we will never be alone, for God will always be with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, fill us with the spirit of discernment so that we can tell right from wrong, and when there is wrong, fill us with the Holy Spirit to right that wrong. Where we lack courage, strengthen us, yet let your will, not ours be done.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for those before us who have stood up for the basic rights that we take for granted today. May we never forget the sacrifices that they have made.

30 September, Sunday – Exclusion

30 September 2018

_____________________

Numbers 11:25-29

The Lord came down in the Cloud. He spoke with Moses, but took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit came on them they prophesied, but not again.

Two men had stayed back in the camp; one was called Eldad and the other Medad. The spirit came down on them; though they had not gone to the Tent, their names were enrolled among the rest. These began to prophesy in the camp. The young man ran to tell this to Moses, ‘Look,’ he said ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Then said Joshua the son of Nun, who had served Moses from his youth, ‘My Lord Moses, stop them!’ Moses answered him, ‘Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!’

_____________________

James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

_____________________

Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

_____________________

Anyone who is not against us is for us.

In today’s readings, we have similar situations: in the first, the two elders who had not been gathered at the tent, started prophesying after the spirit of God also descended upon them. In the Gospel reading, Jesus was informed of a man who was casting out devils in his name. In both situations, someone had tried to stop these men from doing what they were doing. But Moses and Jesus respectively, vetoed the decision.

Do we sometimes feel that we have been excluded from certain groups, or perhaps we are the ones who have at some point in our lives excluded other people from joining our group? If we were excluded, then we might have been made to feel that we didn’t belong. We might have questioned what our shortcomings were, or what qualities that others had that we didn’t.

While this might happen in our “human” lives – it being a “human” trait – we can take comfort that this spirit of exclusion is not something that Jesus believes in. With Jesus, we are all considered children of God. He impressed upon us that everyone is welcome into the House of God; as long as we turned to Him for forgiveness and salvation, God’s love is available to everyone – saint, sinner, man, woman, child, rich or poor. Jesus set this example by dining with the tax collectors, speaking with the Samaritans, healing the lepers, forgiving the sinners. Jesus said “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

And so, when we are all united in a common interest, and that is doing God’s work in God’s name, there is no difference between what we are doing compared to what our neighbor is doing, compared to what our friend is doing. God does not rank our work, He sees only our hearts. If our hearts beat for God, then are we not moving together in one unit? Is there a need for exclusion of anyone who is for the same cause as us? That is Jesus’ message to us today.

If we have ever felt excluded, or felt that people should be excluded from something, let us keep in mind that God excludes no one, and no one is left behind. As Pope Francis said in a Penitential Liturgy in Saint Peter’s Basilica in March of year 2015, “No one can be excluded from the mercy of God”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for an open heart that will accept all. Help us to understand in our hearts when you say that anyone who is not against God is for God.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for accepting us for who we are, saint or sinner, and assuring us that the mercy and love of God is not excluded from us. We thank you for counting us as God’s children.