Tag Archives: change

7 July, Saturday – The Season Of New Wine

7 July

___________________

Amos 9:11-15

It is the Lord who speaks:

‘That day I will re-erect the tottering hut of David,
make good the gaps in it, restore its ruins
and rebuild it as it was in the days of old,
so that they can conquer the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that belonged to me.’

It is the Lord who speaks, and he will carry this out.

‘The days are coming now – it is the Lord who speaks –
when harvest will follow directly after ploughing,
the treading of grapes soon after sowing,
when the mountains will run with new wine
and the hills all flow with it.
I mean to restore the fortunes of my people Israel;
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them,
plant vineyards and drink their wine,
dig gardens and eat their produce.
I will plant them in their own country,
never to be rooted up again
out of the land I have given them,
says the Lord, your God.’

__________________

Matthew 9:14-17

John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.’

___________________

The harvest will follow directly

I shared a few days back that I am in a season of change. This season hasn’t been easy on me. One filled with anxiety, pain and grief. During this season, the Lord also led me to a new spiritual director (SD) who has been journeying with me over the past 2 months.

Recently, I was so blessed to go on a retreat with my new SD. The retreat centre was far from the city, set in over 500 acres of land and completely tranquil, the weather was cool and sunny. Perfect for my tired soul. One day in a session, I lamented that I could not feel God’s presence or see past my darkness. I could not pray, journal or meditate on scripture. I wondered if Jesus was present with me at all, or was I too consumed in my own doubt, despair and anguish to even notice he was right there with me.

Today’s first reading were words of hope and restoration. It appears that the dark clouds would soon lift for Israel. Up till this point, it appeared that it was all doom for Israel – the people were deserving of judgment because they had taken the material wealth and blessings given by God to turn their hearts away from loving and serving him. As I read and re-read the reading – my heart was filled with hope and excitement.

The Lord is indeed making changes in my life, He has been laying the foundation and setting the stage for a new dawn. But I have been too afraid of the unknown that I kept clinging to the present – a present that is familiar, though agonizing and unpleasant. But at the retreat, there were also many grace filled moments – moments of consolation, peace and child-like fun. Yes, I felt those moments. Just as my desolation is real – there is also another reality. That Jesus was indeed present with me at the retreat, just waiting for me. Like a parent trying to get the attention of a cranky distracted child – Jesus has been there with me in some pretty spectacular moments.

So I liken my life now to new wine. ‘A new era is here! This is the season of new wine. You are about to encounter Me as you never have before.’ In the new wine season, the Spirit is wooing me ‘I am calling you to intimacy with Me. And in that place, I will be your greatest delight’. So just as new wine cannot be put into old wine skins, I can’t force what God is making of me, back into my old ways – comfortable as the thought maybe. The outcome will be a horrible mess.

So today, I bask and marvel at my ‘new wine’ status – new wine is from grapes that have been through a recent process of crushing. Yes, being crushed is painful. But the trials are soon giving way to joy! I just have to endure the process and trust in the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Let us never lose sight of you. Let us be strong, knowing that whatever challenges, difficulties and loss we are feeling, that You Lord are near. That you are in the process of creating new wine in all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the promise of a new dawn. Thank you for restoring us back to lives rich in harvest. Thank you for calling us into such an intimate relationship with you.

15 March, Thursday – Building On A Legacy

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

15 March 2017

__________________

Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

___________________________

John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

__________________________

…of you, however, I will make a great nation.

Having recently stepped up to take on a leadership role in my ministry, I have found that the approach to the kind of ‘work’ we, as leaders, are supposed to do is a bit different from the corporate world. The legacies of immediate past leaders cannot be so easily dismissed and to do so would be extremely foolish, especially if they have contributed significantly for more than a decade (or even two).

Today, at a capability development workshop, one of the members of my senior management gave an interesting answer when asked about what sort of legacy he wanted to leave behind when he retired. He said, “When I step down, I would like to continue providing advice to whoever succeeds me but only if he wants me to be around. I certainly am not going to hang around and be some sort of emeritus professor because I hope that whoever succeeds me will be even better than me.”

In terms of ministry renewal however, I have begun to appreciate that we cannot simply sweep aside the previous leadership nor let them ‘fade into the sunset’. Despite our best efforts at succession planning, these ‘elders’ have amassed so much wisdom over the years that to not tap into it would be foolhardy. Yet, how are the new leaders supposed to function and lead in the shadows (some can be very long) of those who have paved the way?

Brothers and sisters, God did not create us to merely be followers. Each and every one of us has a ‘leader’ inside of us that makes all kinds of choices on a daily basis. And God, in His desire for us to rise up, has promised that He would make a great nation of us. I take great comfort in this verse as I navigate much more choppy waters of late; both at work, and in ministry. In both cases, there has been some collateral damage and while it has caused me some distress, I have not let it weigh me down too much.

Why? Simply because I believe that He has called upon me to be a conduit of change – to help turn a stagnant, desolate situation into something more vibrant, alive and filled with hope. For that is what the Lord called Moses to be as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Today, let us look at those around us who are weakened and in need of help. Can each of us be that ‘change agent’ and turn someone’s desolation into consolation?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you created us for a purpose. Show us the way and be our strength and guide as we navigate our way through life here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for calling each of us to lead by example.

10 December, Sunday – Moving House

10 Dec – 2nd Sunday of Advent

____________________

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

‘Console my people, console them’ says your God. ‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low. Let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain, joyful messenger to Zion. Shout with a loud voice, joyful messenger to Jerusalem. Shout without fear, say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power, his arm subduing all things to him. The prize of his victory is with him, his trophies all go before him. He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

________________________

2 Peter 3:8-14

There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.

Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.

____________________

Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way. A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

And so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

________________________

“That with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”

We’re in the midst of moving homes at the moment. The disruption to our daily lives has been going on for a month now, yet there is still much to do. Each day seems to present new problems that have to be dealt with. I read somewhere that moving homes is one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life. I can believe that. I’ve thrown up my hands in exasperation more than once now and pleaded to God to just help me survive the day. My husband tells me that this is short term pain, that I should not lose sight of why we are moving.

All change is difficult and painful. The easier path is often to just do nothing. Change takes courage and a certain amount of faith that this new path you’re on is the right one. Scripture shows us that the fruits of change are not always evident within one lifetime. In today’s Gospel, the people chose change by stepping up to be baptized by John the Baptist. In the context of their time, it took courage to openly declare their faith. The Christians were not an established political and social power yet. They lacked support. They were being persecuted by the Romans and the Pharisees. But as Peter puts it, “with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day”. The problems we encounter today will fade in time. What will endure is how we treated those we encountered in the process. Were we selfish? Were we rude? Did we rise to the occasion gracefully or did we lose our composure? Did we pray or did we try to impose our will on the situation?

I hope my house woes normalize at some point. Or that I learn to deal with them with more patience. Peter reminds us that we are to aim to be “found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.” This peaceful disposition is something that I’m working towards. May God guide me to make good decisions and take the reins from me when I’m too tired to continue.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: All things are possible through Him who gives me strength! I pray for God to sustain us, to help us to survive moving week.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for people that God puts around us, to help get us through difficult situations. May we always remember to be grateful for their presence.  

9 September, Saturday – Seeing beyond ourselves and our motivations

Sep 9 – Memorial for St. Peter Claver, Priest

He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later, he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’; labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes, but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole, the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work. As his superior said, “unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult”. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life, he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years, he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

– Universalis

_________________

Colossians 1:21-23

Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies, in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body. Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless – as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News, which you have heard, which has been preached to the whole human race, and of which I, Paul, have become the servant.

____________________

Luke 6:1-5

One sabbath Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them. Some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?’ Jesus answered them, ‘So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry how he went into the house of God, took the loaves of offering and ate them and gave them to his followers, loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

______________________

Why are you doing something that is forbidden?

We’ve had some changes at our parish lately. We have a new parish priest and with new ‘management’, things are bound to change. For the first month or so since the new parish priest took over, he made quite a few changes to the church and the way things are done. Not everyone was happy with the changes. This has led to some drastic reactions by some ministry members. As a result, people in ministries have dropped out. And we seem to see a migration of sorts among the parishioners. Some of the usual faces have since disappeared and there are some new faces too.

The ‘plight’ my parish faces today is nothing new – in our workplace, our communities, or even in our very own homes. We become so comfortable with the way things are done. ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ attitude leads us to resist change.

I feel that some change is good. It keeps us on our toes and leads us out of our comfort zones.  I myself am a creature of habit but in this case, some of these changes were a long time coming.

Have we become a community so used to ‘the way things are done’ that we resist new ways even if it’s for our own good or for the good of the community?

In today’s gospel reading, the Pharisees were quick to point out to Jesus “Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the Sabbath day?” They were so caught up in the strict observance of the traditional and written laws, of what is right. They were so legalistic that it became oppressive to the community at large. But Jesus was quick to point out what King David did when his followers were hungry – they took loaves from the house of God and ate them, loaves meant only for the priests. Here, Jesus demonstrates that he has power and authority over all things that hold people back and trip people up.

I am not saying that our new parish priest is ‘changing the laws’ in our parish. But sometimes, what used to work in the past may not be right for today, and so we must be ready to embrace change that is good. Change that deepens our faith, makes our church more vibrant, change that allows everyone in our community a fair chance to make a difference.

Brothers and sisters, are we too caught up today in sticking to what we deem is ‘right’? Can we not go beyond ‘the laws’, beyond ourselves and our motivations to allow God to work in our lives for our good and the good of our Church?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: “For am I now seeking the favour of men, or of God?” Galatians 1:10. Jesus, if we have become legalistic in our faith, forgive us. Teach us to see beyond ourselves and what is comfortable for us and see the greater good that You are doing for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for teaching us your ways. For opening our hearts and minds to receive You.