Tag Archives: charity

5 November, Monday – #Freeloaders

5 November

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Philippians 2:1-4

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.

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Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

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“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you”

How do you know if the charity that you do goes towards a truly worthwhile cause, or if it is enabling freeloading behaviour? I’ve had reason to ask myself this over the last year. It’s particularly difficult to address when that freeloading behaviour comes from members of one’s own family. Do you risk fraying family ties by calling it out? Do you put up with it in the interest of maintaining household harmony? How can encouraging bad behaviour be a sustainable solution for the long term? Someone or something has to give at some point.

That old yarn about how ‘charity begins at home’ doesn’t tell us what to do when those who inhabit our ‘home’ are serial scroungers. These are the relatives who seem to have an endless supply of sob stories, who guilt us into giving up our time, effort and money yet think nothing of posting pictures on social media of how they’re living up #thisblessedlife. They’ll never have enough money to see to repairs at home or meet their credit card payments yet seem to always find the funds for #awesome vacations. How does the math add up?

Scripture tells us this about giving – “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind… because of their inability to repay you”. It also makes it abundantly clear that we are not to enable freeloading behaviour, “…keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us … if anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat” (Thess 3: 6-10). The strong work ethic that was once the backbone of our great country now seems to have been replaced by an insidious kind of ‘victim complex’ entitlement. Didn’t work for it? Don’t worry you’re entitled to it because of your circumstances, connections and your ability to work the system. Whatever happened to pride in an honest day’s work?

The holiday season will be upon us soon; ‘high noon’ for those of us who grapple with the scroungers in our lives. Maybe this year, I will develop a backbone and call this behaviour out for what it is. All our treasure ultimately comes from God. As stewards of His capital, it is our job to figure out the best use for it. Funding someone’s show-off social media hashtags doesn’t seem to be the answer. And I become part of the problem if I enable this behaviour by saying and doing nothing.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the strength and fortitude our cross, and to make the difficult to carry and often unpopular decisions that come with it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the prayers and support of those that God sends to help us with carrying our cross.

10 September, Sunday – Debt of Mutual Love

10 September 2017

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Ezekiel 33:7-9

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name. If I say to a wicked man: Wicked wretch, you are to die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man to renounce his ways and repent, and he does not repent, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life.’

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Romans 13:8-10

Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

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Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

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Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour

St Martin de Porres, a Dominican lay brother, was responsible for the infirmary in the Convent of the Holy Rosary in Peru. Once, during an epidemic, he continued to care for the sick despite orders from his superior not to do so for fear of spreading the disease to the rest of the community.

St Martin’s reply to the superior disciplining him is an example for all of us to follow:

“Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity”

The readings of today remind us of the need to demonstrate universal love to all those around us. St Paul in the second reading instructs the Romans to love our neighbour as ourselves. In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel is given an important duty to instruct the sinful to return to God.

God is a merciful God who does not want us to be eternally separated from Him after our time on Earth. He gives us many opportunities to return to Him and be faithful to Him so that we can one day be together with Him in the heavenly kingdom. What matters then is an understanding of the rules and precepts of the Church. Sometimes we can view them in a legalistic manner but as St Martin demonstrates to us, we need to be charitable in all our actions and words.

Obedience to the letter of the law goes counter to what the Christian Faith is about – which is that of love. Love is the thread which binds all its children together and to whom the principles and basis are all built upon. As we continue with our daily lives, let us look at a situation in our workplace not from laws and principles but from a spirit of charity and how we can help the other party in kindness and patience.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us always discover what it means to practise a spirit of humility in our lives

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Missionaries of Charities who demonstrate God’s love to the poorest of the poor.

11 October, Tuesday – Faith IS Love IS Works

11 October

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Galatians 5:1-6

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. It is I, Paul, who tell you this: if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all. With all solemnity I repeat my warning: Everyone who accepts circumcision is obliged to keep the whole Law. But if you do look to the Law to make you justified, then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace. Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for those rewards that righteousness hopes for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

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Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

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… what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

 A good friend messaged me recently to understand the contention between the Reformation ‘sola fide’ (justification by faith alone) and the Catholic notion of justification (or salvation) ‘by faith and good works.’ I have always found this debate intriguing. I know that in many places, the Bible clearly said that we do not ‘earn’ our salvation – that we are saved by grace through faith in God through Christ alone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast… (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Indeed, I would agree. But to complete the picture puzzle, I would like to point to the book of James.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:14-17, 24)

Indeed, no one but God alone shall be the judge of it all.

Yet certainly it is no coincidence, that I am presented with the scripture readings today. It is true that when we pray for wisdom in the words to speak, we will never be left tongue-tied.

St Paul tells the Galatian people that Christ died for them to save them, and His death alone freed them once and for all. But he warns, that should they look to the Law to justify themselves (through circumcision – which marked the Jews), ‘then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace… what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.’ (Galatians 5:4-6).

Okay… Imagine the Galatians scratching their heads!

However, in this complementary gospel text, Jesus solves the puzzle with his warning to the Pharisees who were judging him for not first washing himself before the meal. “Atrocious! Just like the Gentiles!” they must have thought. Instead, Jesus points out that geniune faith is not a mere performance of ablutions and prostrations. So what if you clean the outside of the cup and plate, yet inside, your intentions are muddied?

The Christian faith is not about a club membership nor a racial or cultural association. But the only way one can be sure he/she is within the covenant of love is that their faith makes its power felt and visible by the love that flows forth as loving actions or good works. After all, the Latin for Christian love (of humankind) is caritas – and caritas is charity. ‘Instead give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you’ said the Lord. (Luke 11:41)

Perhaps when considered this way, we could cease debate, to find truth and harmony — that our faith in God is made visible in our love for our fellow men, which is manifest in humble and sincere charity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: May we meditate on the words Jesus prayed to the Father for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [my] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for calling us out of darkness into your light and truth. May we ever strive for Christian unity and charity as our work of thanksgiving and praise to you.

13 June, Monday – Preaching with Love

13 June – Memorial for St. Anthony of Padua, priest, religious, doctor

St. Anthony’s (1195-1231) wealthy family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but for the sake of Christ he became a poor Franciscan. When the remains of St. Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs, were brought to be buried in his church, Anthony was moved to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor, and go to Morocco to evangelize.

Shipwrecked at Sicily, he joined some other brothers who were going to Portiuncula. One day when a scheduled speaker failed to appear, the brothers pressed him into speaking. He impressed them so that he was thereafter constantly travelling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France.

A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues. Legend says that even the fish loved to listen. He was a wonder worker. As one of the most beloved saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 21:1-16

Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard close by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria, and Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it adjoins my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will give you its worth in money.’ But Naboth answered Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors!’

Ahab went home gloomy and out of temper at the words of Naboth of Jezreel, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ He lay down on his bed and turned his face away and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came to him. ‘Why are you so dispirited’ she said ‘that you will not eat?’ He said, ‘I have been speaking to Naboth of Jezreel; I said: Give me your vineyard either for money or, if you prefer, for another vineyard in exchange. But he said, “I will not give you my vineyard.”’ Then his wife Jezebel said, ‘You make a fine king of Israel, and no mistake! Get up and eat; cheer up, and you will feel better; I will get you the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel myself.’

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, sending them to the elders and nobles who lived where Naboth lived. In the letters she wrote, ‘Proclaim a fast, and put Naboth in the forefront of the people. Confront him with a couple of scoundrels who will accuse him like this, “You have cursed God and the king” Then take him outside and stone him to death.’

The men of Naboth’s town, the elders and nobles who lived in his town, did what Jezebel ordered, what was written in the letters she had sent them. They proclaimed a fast and put Naboth in the forefront of the people. Then the two scoundrels came and stood in front of him and made their accusation, ‘Naboth has cursed God and the king.’ They led him outside the town and stoned him to death. They then sent word to Jezebel, ‘Naboth has been stoned to death.’ When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up! Take possession of the vineyard which Naboth of Jezreel would not give you for money, for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead.’ When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel and take possession of it.

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Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said, ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’

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The kingdom of God is very near you

St Anthony of Padua is a saint well-loved by the most Catholics. Be it because he helps us find lost items or maybe we like the way he preaches, St Anthony has an important message for all of us – the kingdom of God is near us and we should be ready to share that joy with others regardless of the persecution and incorrect messages being preached.

St Anthony was known to be the “Hammer of Heretics” and Catholics at that time were surprised at how despite his fierce public rebuttals of the proponents of the Albigensian heresy, he was gentle with sinners and practiced much self-mortification and penance for the sins of the people. One lesson we can draw from St Anthony would be the need to be clear on the need to share our faith firmly but with charity. This requires two things from us: knowing what our faith teaches and a deep prayer life to allow God the Holy Spirit to guide us in all our actions. There needs to be a sense of humility within us to let God the Holy Spirit work in us.

The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah shares with us the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we can use to spread the word of God to all around us. St Anthony had used these gifts totally in the service of God and ensured that God’s message was shared to all who were willing to hear. In this year of mercy, let us pray to St Anthony to show us what it means to love with compassion and let our actions guide our preaching

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the wisdom to follow St Anthony in sharing your message to the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who share God’s word despite being persecuted.

13 May, Friday – Do You Love Me?

13 May

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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…do you love me more than these others do?

Today’s Gospel is a familiar one, where we read of Jesus asking Simon Peter three times, if he loved Him. One can possibly interpret this passage in a couple of ways, but today I feel this is the message I am called to share.  Every time Peter replies to Jesus, it isn’t just the reply but that there is an action/mission that needs to be taken. And that to me is an important part of loving the other. Loving is a choice.  A choice to do something for the other and not for oneself.

Even in the life of Peter, “In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God.” If we truly love Christ, we will be living for Christ.  To give Him glory. But the irony is that Christ lives for all. And so in living for Christ, we are also called to live for the people around us and that is usually our struggle.

When Christ says “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Mt 25:41-45)

Our faith isn’t just based on prayers alone. Whether or not we love God, it isn’t just by words but really by action.  By our examples of how we live our lives by keeping His commandments and teachings. What we need to realise is the commandments and His teachings are not for us to please Him when we obey them, but it is more to help us love one another. To help us forgive the other. To help us be more aware.  To help us be Christ to others.

With this, let us answer the question above with the way we lead our lives. To lead others to love Christ and not just love us.  For our love is imperfect, but His is made perfect through Jesus. I love you Lord. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to learn by your example for when you said you love us, you died for us when You obeyed the will of your Father. Help us to die to ourselves, our pride, in order that we may not just love ourselves but love ourselves in order to love others. Love others not for them just to love us, but to love all, because they see you in us. Continue to protect us and guide us when society attacks us from every angle. But also give us the courage to allow you to shine in our lives and by our example. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for the gift of your love and life to us even though we are unworthy and undeserving. Thank you for all the love you have shown me through those you place in my life.

Wednesday, 4 Mar – Generosity and Genuineness

4 Mar- Memorial for St. Casimir

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Casimir (1458-1484) was a 15th century Polish prince who became Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1471. He was third in line for the throne.

Hungarian nobles had prevailed upon Casimir’s father to send his 15-year-old son to be their king. Casimir obeyed, taking the crown, but refusing to exercise power. His army was outnumbered, and his troops deserted because they were not paid. Casimir returned home, and was a conscientious objector from that time on.

He returned to prayer and study, maintained his decision to remain celibate even under pressure to marry the emperor’s daughter. He reigned briefly as king during his father’s absence.

He lived a highly disciplined, even severe life, sleeping on the ground, spending a great part of the night in prayer, and dedicating himself to lifelong celibacy. He had a great devotion to Mary, supported the poor, and lived a virtuous life amid the dissolute court.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 18:18-20

‘Come on,’ they said, ‘let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah; the priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word. Come on, let us hit at him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says.’
Listen to me, O Lord,
hear what my adversaries are saying.
Should evil be returned for good?
For they are digging a pit for me.
Remember how I stood in your presence
to plead on their behalf,
to turn your wrath away from them.

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Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’
When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant

This Lenten season has so far been a stripping away of assumption and entitlement for me. I have been posed a very hard question by our Lord. As always, He alone knows our inmost intentions. It is the question of generosity and genuineness. How often do I do something for someone, or sacrifice my desires, but make a big deal about it? Perhaps there are some who will identify with me in this constant need of affirmation and praise.

There is a fine line between desiring to be appreciated, and the kind of asphyxiating need for recognition and praise. And very often this is a blurry territory that can cause much strain in relationships. In a recent family situation, I had chosen to go out of my way to help with an errand for my sibling which I had strongly felt was not my responsibility. I only did it because I felt the need to step up for the entire family and that would put my parents at ease. My sibling, on the other hand, was nonchalant that I had taken on the duty and nary a word of thanks was uttered. Of course, if my story stops here, you may have thought I had done a good thing. However, my indignation began to eat away at my good intentions. I grew sour about my unappreciated efforts and felt recognition was due me. This was truly a ‘Screwtape’ moment — I was aware that the Evil One was sucking me into a spiral of self-righteousness and self-centredness. I struggled with my negativity in this spiritual fix! It was not until I settled my heart down in a period of prayer and reflection, that I realised the source of my actions were grounded in scarcity and fear — that even God did not know or care about how I felt. I was wrong, of course.

Jesus tells James and John’s mother, who requested that her two sons be given seats at his right and left — that she does not know what she is asking for. He reminds her that greatness is not sought but given. This echoes the Gospel yesterday where Jesus tells his disciples that the priests were doing a performance of their faith by parading their good works through the town, wanting to be acknowledged as “Rabbi”. While we do grow in the practice of our faith, we must not grow heady with the goodness and faithfulness we may appear to project. These are all just the outward appearances of religiosity; not rooted in true love, charity and service. While doing good can be the outcome of our repentance, we can also unconsciously get mired in self-promotion and vainglory. The taunts of Satan are ever so insidious. We must hold fast to the knowledge that God is concerned with the pureness of our hearts — the seat of all our motivations.

On each side of the coin of our faith there are two faces — engraved with “Generosity” and “Genuineness”. We are challenged by our Lord to embody these two values in equal parts in the living out of our faith in Christ. Generosity and service that desires honour and recognition is hollow.

From this episode, I learnt an important lesson: while it is important that we show appreciation for others, we cannot demand to be appreciated; appreciation is given as a gift and not wrested as a right. And generosity is as much about giving as it is about receiving others with a big-heart — even if they sometimes fall short of what we hope for. In each of our hearts, it is evermore necessary that we examine our conscience often, through silence and prayer to God, to ask Him for the grace to withstand temptations and protection from all evil. Littleness keeps us grounded and close to our Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I am sorry for all the times I have succumbed to self-righteousness in my thoughts and deeds.

Thanksgiving: Abba Father, thank You for knowing me and searching me so deeply and tenderly; please draw me back to Your source of love and mercy.