Tag Archives: compassion

16 November, Saturday – The view from the other side of the Cross

Nov 16 – 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

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Wisdom 18:14-16,19:6-9

When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,
he stood, and filled the universe with death;
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.

For, to keep your children from all harm,
The whole creation, obedient to your commands,
was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.
Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud,
where water had been, dry land was seen to rise,
the Red Sea became an unimpeded way,
the tempestuous flood a green plain;
sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across,
gazing at these amazing miracles.
They were like horses at pasture,
they skipped like lambs,
singing your praises, Lord, their deliverer.

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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?’

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“ But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”

I cannot recall when I first heard this phrase, but I do know that it has left a deep impression on me and I have cited it often in various circumstances of faith sharing. It goes like this, “Conversion happens from an experience of the mercy of God and not from the judgement of God”. Today’s parable is an interesting one and has various facets to it. From one angle, it alludes to the need for persistent faith. From another perspective (perhaps a slightly confusing one), it suggests our God to be one who finds us pretty much a nuisance which he can’t wait to get off His back.

The perspective I would like to offer in this sharing is for us to see the judge mentioned to be indeed that of an unjust judge which “neither feared God not cared what people thought” – a judge that is self-interested, self-serving, ungodly and indifferent and the only reason for attending to the cause of the widow is nothing more than simply to be rid of her persistent nuisance. However, let us then juxtapose this judge with our God – loving, self-sacrificial, whose justice over us is subjugated under His mercy and compassion for us. A God who sent His Son to die for us, to salvage a relationship that He treasures above all else. This is not a God that finds us to be a nuisance, but a God who can’t get enough of us in spite of all the nuisance we bring before Him … our incessant demands, our arrogance when our prayers are not answered or not answered in our way and in our timing, our unfailing infidelity to Him through sin, our blatant ingratitude and forgetfulness for all the times our prayers have been answered, our selfishness even to those dearest and closest to us, or total selfishness and difference to all others so much further away from our daily consciousness. Incomprehensible – this God of ours and how much He treasures us.

Sometimes when at prayer, especially when I am in front of the shrine of our Blessed Mother carrying baby Jesus, my eyes shift inadvertently to those who come up to pray to her and Jesus. And I wonder to myself, what goes through the mind and the heart of Mother Mary and Jesus when we pray before them. And always without fail, I get moved when I think that their response to us is always that of compassion, understanding, forgiveness, consolation – never judgement. Always accepting us for who we are, always understanding the sins we commit, the hurts we cause to others, our infidelity and ingratitude because of the woundedness within us that makes us hurt others, the bondage within us that leads to our helplessness against sin and addiction, the way the evil one has used the values of this world to keep us so helpless in our greed, our selfishness, our pride, our vanity, our lusts, our indifference to those around us who are hurting and dying and killing. No matter how hard we try, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how many times we keep falling, we need to keep coming before the Cross and before Your Mother.. That is the persistent prayer of the widow.

Compassion, forgiveness and love – that is what it looks like from the other side of the Cross. This is the lens by which Jesus and our Mother look upon us with. And that is why, despite ourselves, God still loves us, Mother Mary still embraces us, the Holy Spirit still fights for us, our Saviour still hangs on the Cross for us. This is the persistent grace of God. The persistent love of God. I am not sure how much faith He will find when the Son of Man comes to earth again; but I do know that when He comes, He will come, as He always has, with compassion, forgiveness and love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. You know what it is like to come to a place of discouragement so deep that it’s hard to pray any longer, hard to hold out hope. Some of our brothers and sisters are there right now and you are speaking to their hearts. Lift them, today, I pray. Turn their eyes to you afresh. Strengthen their faith, freshen their hope, enliven their prayers — until you come. Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For the compassion, forgiveness and love which you keep showing to us, our loved ones and this world. Thank you for your insane, incomprehensible love and unbelievable fidelity to us. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for only loving us.

25 June, Tuesday – Selfless Living

25 June 2019

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

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Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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So always treat others as you would like them to treat you

I remember some time ago, seeing a video on YouTube showing someone teaching teenagers how to deal with bullying. In the first part, the instructor squared off against his bully, choosing to respond to each of his insults with an equally forceful retaliation. Needless to say, the exchange escalated quickly.

In the second part, the instructor again stood up against his bully. This time, however, instead of reacting angrily to his taunts, the instructor simply smiled and agreed with the comments. Despite the bully’s best efforts to sustain his attacks, he did not know how to keep up the aggression.

This is the type of relationship and interaction I imagine when I read the Gospel of today. If we were to treat each other as we want to be treated, the world within our control would be a substantially better world. We see this clearly in the first reading, in the interactions between Lot and Abram. By choosing not to quibble over who is entitled to what, Abram soothed over what could have been a potentially explosive encounter.

As a Christian, I pray that I may always be able to keep this in mind and learn to put my self-interest and ego aside. May we always be filled with love and compassion for one another!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us keep in mind that everything we have comes from You and that everything we do, should always be to serve only You.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father, for everything that You have gifted us.

20 June, Thursday – Shared Humanity

20 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

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

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

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Matthew 6:7-15

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

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

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Give us today our daily bread

In today’s reading, Jesus teaches his apostles how to pray. Most of us are familiar with the Lord’s prayer, having recited it more times than we can remember. However, have we really taken the time to reflect on the words in the prayer or their nuances? Specifically, Jesus refers to God as “Our Father” rather than “My Father” as a reminder that God is the Father of all humanity.

‘Encounter’, the theme of CHARIS’ Humanitarian Forum and Fair, is based on Pope Francis’ message that every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ. I was deeply moved by the speakers’ honest sharing of their personal journeys.

The founder of Tana River Life Foundation gave up a promising career as a tax accountant more than twenty years ago, to do good in Kenya. However, reality was vastly different from what he had imagined.  He recounted how he initially struggled to find his place in the Kenyan community. He shared, to laughter from the audience, that rather than adding value, he was in fact a burden to his host family. They had to boil water for his personal use as his urban-dwelling immune system was, at that point, unable to stomach unboiled water! In less than a year, his world of good intentions, philanthropy and personal sacrifice revealed itself as nothing. Yet, it was in the midst of this spiritual desolation that God came through. It was in casting aside all expectations and allowing himself to be humbled and broken, that God used him for a greater divine purpose.

Other speakers who work with refugees and migrants remind us how easily we could become displaced from our home countries. If we put ourselves in the shoes of refugees, who are left with no other choice than to flee from persecution and violence, would we perceive and treat them differently? As children of God, we belong to one human family where each person is our fellow brother and sister. Thus, to pray the ‘Our Father’ means opening our hearts to love our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need of their daily bread. This need is not limited to physical hunger or a lack of basic living necessities.   There are many people in our midst who lead lonely lives and are hungry for their daily bread of love and friendship. Do we pass them by without a second look or encounter them in shared humanity and compassion?

As we pray the beautiful prayer to Our Father, let us remind ourselves not to babble mindlessly like the pagans did. As one Holy Catholic Church, let us pray from our hearts and live out the prayer in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.    

Thanksgiving: Father God, we thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ. By receiving Your precious Body and Blood, may we remember that we are one human family and encounter one another in love and compassion.  

14 November, Wednesday – Christian Behaviour

14 November

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Titus 3:1-7

Remind your people that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people. Remember, there was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries; we lived then in wickedness and ill-will, hating each other and hateful ourselves.

But when the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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It was purely by his own compassion that God saved us.

From ancient times through to modern day, there has always been a vestige of ‘an eye for an eye’ at the back of our minds. Although we do not take this literally, we often practice this principle in our daily lives.

How often are we more pleasant to someone who smiles at us? How many times have we become defensive when we encounter someone who is rude to us and we answer in kind? I can’t recall the last time I did not react or retort angrily if I felt that I have been unjustly treated.

Reflecting on this, it is an extremely wonderful thing that our Heavenly Father is not miserly like us. He is merciful and loving despite all our inequities and our lack of compassion towards others. Can you imagine if Jesus only saved the people who were nice to Him? The whole world would fall, and none would be saved.

Our God is full of compassion and mercy; otherwise, He would not have sent His only son to die a horrible death to atone for our sins. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can not hope to merit, earn or buy our way to Heaven. We cannot bargain or bribe our way. It is thru the mercy, compassion and love of our Lord that we may gain such reward.

Let us not squander the opportunity given to us so very graciously. Let us repay the Lord in kind by being compassionate, forgiving, loving, and caring to our neighbors. From something simple as smiling at a stranger, to refraining from gossiping about others. We can all do our part in little ways to be more Christ-like, to show our Heavenly Father that we love Him by our actions. Let’s make Him proud to call us His children and show the world that we are followers of Christ by our words and actions.

“In this life, we cannot do great things.  We can do little things with great love.”  – Mother Teresa

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we can be more compassionate and loving in our day to day interactions with family, friends and strangers alike.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.

8 October, Monday – To Give Or Not To Give?

8 October

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Galatians 1:6-12

I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned. I am only repeating what we told you before: if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one you have already heard, he is to be condemned. So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ.

The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

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Luke 10:25-37

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

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

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“Go, and do the same yourself.”

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of those ones where I find myself wondering, “What would I do if I had come across the man lying on the road?” In this day and age, I am sure there are many of us who know of friends, or even family, who are in some form of trouble. Have we stepped forward to offer help or have we been too ‘shy’ to even assume that these people who are in distress would need our help?

I have been journeying with an old friend off an on for the past two years and it has indeed been a tough road. Because any offer of help or piece of advice seems to be met with either a counter solution (which the person feels will lead nowhere). It is almost as if this person just wants to continue to be engulfed in this downward spiral. It got to a point where I started to avoid responding to the text messages.

So when Jesus tells us to “Go, and do the same yourself”, I find myself questioning how far I should go in order to help my friend. Another ministry friend advised me to make sure I kept my distance and not get too involved in order to protect myself from any harm. And while I comprehend the logic of that approach, I find myself asking if I am truly being Christ-like if I become so ‘calculative’ in reaching out to help. Surely, when we take pity on someone else, we should go all out to ensure that our efforts result in a positive and fruitful outcome.

Then I look at my ministry head. I have remarked more than once to my other half that we are blessed to have someone who has a huge heart. Someone who will go the extra mile and spend hours chatting with ministry members who are having issues with others or who some of us find ‘difficult’ to accept. All this, while juggling four teenage children and a high-flying corporate job. Whenever I see the way she gives of herself, I ask myself if I could ever have half of her generous heart. And whether that is what Christ means when he asks of us to go and do the same as the Samaritan — basically to give without counting the cost.

For Jesus, there is no zero sum game when it comes to reaching out and giving to others. He gave in spite of our sinfulness and He paid the price of his life in order to save us. Many of us give what we can, but how many of us are willing to give our all? In giving to others, are we truly giving from our heart? Or are we doing it in order to ‘earn’ some credits?

Brothers and sisters, God knows our heart and our every motive/agenda in our interactions with our family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Should we be looking for the approval of men or should we seek peace and joy from God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear God, help us to look deep within our hearts and to weed out all ulterior motives we may have in our giving to others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for being our ever-generous and giving Father.

30 September, Sunday – Exclusion

30 September 2018

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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!’

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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.

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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.’

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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.

18 September, Tuesday – Life in Sorrow

18 September

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1 Corinthians 12:12-14.27-31

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them? Be ambitious for the higher gifts.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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‘Do not cry’ 

Have you ever felt as if you were carrying the weight of the whole world? I guess everyone has experienced some sort of trials in life. Challenging experiences that felt as if we have been crushed to the ground. For those who have, I admire you for getting through them. For those who have not, I pray that you will never experience such trauma.

The Gospel for today is about a widow who lost her only son. Imagine the grief she experienced. The thought of being along in life can really be sorrowful. I may describe the woman as an ‘unfortunate one’ just as if she carries with her all the major misfortunes in life. I can imagine how that woman has little desire to live.

When Jesus saw her, He said, “Do not cry.” And then he touched the coffin and told the son to get up.  The man rose and Jesus gave him to his mother. Imagine the joy of a mother who sees her son alive.  This miracle clearly states that nothing is impossible to God — not even death. Not only that, the Gospel today shows the mercy of Jesus as well as His love and honour to mothers.

Jesus’ compassion is so overwhelming that nothing compares to it. We should imitate Jesus and be compassionate to others as well. A small act of saying “How are you?” to someone we know who is having a hard time can make a big difference. Not only that, Jesus gives us a concrete example on how to treat mothers. They deserve our respect. Each of us has our own mothers, and we should know how to make them happy.

Life is never easy in itself. But God gives us challenges that we can bear. Some can be harder than the others. As I reflect on my past difficulties, I discern that I was able to overcome those trials through Jesus Christ. Yes, we have free will to make decisions. But through prayer, the Holy Spirit is upon us. To guide and enlighten us on what to do. Some problems are small, while others are big. But we must remember that God is always bigger than our problems.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear God, may we always remember that you will never leave us. Grant us the strength to endure and surpass all the hardships that we will face.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for being always with us. We thank you for the faith to help us carry on with our life.

3 November, Friday – Immense Love

Nov 3 – Memorial for St. Martin de Porres, religious

Martin (1579-1639) was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Juan, and a young freed black slave, Anna Velasquez. He grew up in poverty and spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber from whom he learned some medicine and care of the sick.

At the age of 11, he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima, Peru. He was promoted to almoner and begged more than $2,000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick in Lima. He was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary, and was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.

He established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. He lived in self-imposed austerity, never eating meat, fasting continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He was a friend of St. John de Massias.

He was venerated from the day of his death. May miraculous cures, including raising the dead, have been attributed to Brother Martin, the first black saint from the Americas.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 9:1-5

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

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Luke 14:1-6

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. ‘There in front of him was a man with dropsy, and Jesus addressed the lawyers and Pharisees. ‘Is it against the law’ he asked ‘to cure a man on the sabbath, or not?’ But they remained silent, so he took the man and cured him and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘Which of you here, if his son falls into a well, or his ox, will not pull him out on a sabbath day without hesitation?’ And to this they could find no answer.

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I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood.
Which of us would not do anything in our power to pull our loved ones out of a difficult situation no matter what it takes? Which parent would not gladly trade their lives for that of a terminally ill child? I know I would.
In today’s first reading, we see the anguish and grief Saint Paul felt for the Jews because of their stubborn persistence, and rejection as a nation, and the many miseries which he foresaw to be coming upon them. Yet his affection was so great for his brothers and sisters that he was willing to be condemned, disgraced and be in the deepest distress and cut off from Christ. All this he would suffer, if it meant he could rescue them from destruction that was about to befall them because of their unbelief.
Recently, I came across a story which moved me so much that it stuck in my mind. This is about what a child would go through, not only for herself, but for her parent. I felt a mixture of sadness and anger at our affluent society.
This is the story of a young 17 year old girl. Her parents divorced and their lives turned upside down. Both mother and daughter were left without a home. They had no financial means to rent one and no one could offer them a place to stay. Mother and daughter had to separate – a relative took the mother in, while the daughter stayed for short periods with whomever could offer her a place to sleep for the night. At times, when there was no place she could go, she would stay up at void decks or at the beach.
At the time, she was also on scholarship at a local arts academy. Her monthly allowance could not cover her mother’s medical bills and other expenses; not to mention her school materials. With the pressing issues at hand, she found herself skipping classes. She simply did not have resources to go to school. The school threatened to expel her. The local education ministry was going to pull the scholarship and wanted her to pay back what they had invested in her. She begged the school and the ministry to give her a second chance, determined to finish school.
She worked several jobs to make ends meet. The money she made enabled her to be reunited with her mother again – she was able to rent a room for them. It did not matter that it was a modest space, what was important was – they were together. To cut short the story, she eventually graduated with help and encouragement from her teachers and friends. Today she has a roof over her head together with her mother and is an art teacher.
This is a story of determination, courage and immense love for loved ones. She could have gone the other way. She could have given up and fallen in with unsavoury company. She could have fended for herself and not cared for her mother. Despite what our society threw at her, no help, no empathy, no support but pain and humiliation – she remained steadfast, determined and committed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks ‘Which of you here, if his son falls into a well, or his ox, will not pull him out on a Sabbath day?’ The Pharisees were so caught up in rules and legalism that they failed to see God’s intention for the Sabbath — which is to do good and to heal!
What have we, as part of this Singaporean family done to help her? Are we so caught up in legalism that we have lost all sense of compassion?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, may our lives be testimony of the love and affection You have for us. Increase our faith, hope and charity. Fill us with Your love, that we may never hold back our love and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters.
Thanksgiving: God of all blessings, thank You for the love of family and friends without which there would be no life. Thank you for this very day, one more day to love, one more person to love and by whom be loved. For these, and all blessings, we give you thanks, eternal, loving God, through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.