Tag Archives: cynthia

5 February, Wednesday – Who is Jesus to you?

5 Feb – Memorial for St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

We have little reliable information about this martyr who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha (d.250) lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers.

After rejecting Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that St. Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake struck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted erupts of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

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2 Samuel 24:2,8-17

King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, ‘Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.’ Having covered the whole country, they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.

But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. ‘I have committed a grave sin’ David said to the Lord. ‘But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.’ But when David got up next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and say to David, “The Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.”’

So Gad went to David and told him. ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country’ he said ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’ David said to Gad, ‘This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So David chose pestilence.

It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Now withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. ‘It was I who sinned;’ he said ‘I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.’

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Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

Who do you say Jesus is? It shouldn’t matter what names people give to Jesus. But it is so easy to judge people based on their appearance, demeanour, profession, name and title, even who they associate with. Jesus gets it all the time. He is judged the moment he sits down to eat and drink with tax collectors, befriends the prostitutes and lepers, and whenever he performs miraculous healings on the Sabbath day. Perhaps he was too radical for people of his time to understand.

I’ve always been a bit of a rebel myself, so I can totally see where Jesus is going with this. I admire his guts and his ability to not be perturbed by what people think or say. In fact, he has so much wit he can surely outsmart even the shrewdest man; but he chooses not to. One thing about being a rebel is to have courage and confidence. When I was a teenager, I was up to a lot of mischief. I went out a lot, met boys a lot, had several BGR (along with both headaches and heartaches), partied and wore a lot of black despite my parents’ disapproval (black was deemed a colour that signifies mourning) – all in the name of fun. That rebel inside me had always wanted to break out and to be different. So I made plans of my own; I pursued an education overseas, studied something that my dad didn’t quite understand and thought it pointless since I would one day be married. I continued to be rebellious right up to my adulthood, doing things I knew my family would not approve of – including getting a tattoo and converting to Catholicism (which by far was the best decision I’ve made).

Now that I’m much older and (hopefully) wiser, I continue to be radical and the most radical of all is doing the things I do for God. Thanks to my Conversion Experience Retreat in 2015, I’ve received the holy courage to stand up for my faith, to dare to be different; such as to go up and give my testimony before the church congregation and to sign up as a catechist despite my fear of public speaking (I used to break out in a rash every time), to make the sign of the cross before meals no matter where I am or who I’m with (yes, even at media luncheons), and to finally make the decision to write my personal scripture reflections and share my daily faith testimonies via Facebook. This reminds me a little of what Francis de Sales did when he slipped little pamphlets explaining the Catholic doctrine under doors and perhaps this is why he is the patron saint of writers. My intent is to share with my non-believer friends what Christianity is about. I know the potential risk of losing some friends and I know that what I post on social media is not going to garner many ‘Likes’ but I have since stopped worrying about what others think. I am just going to use social media to my (and God’s) advantage and leave the rest to The Lord for however he wants to use my gift. All that matters is that I keep on writing and sowing the seeds. What’s also important is that whatever I do, I stay true to myself, as well as be authentic to my faith and my love for Jesus.

Whatever label people may have given to Jesus, whether carpenter, son of Mary, saviour, counsellor, healer, or rebel, he is above all, a God I can also call friend.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, show us how to be as radical as you, especially when it comes to showing others who you really are. Help us to be more like you, to not be afraid to stand up for our faith, especially when we are put to the test.   

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for agreeing to be born a man, to live in the humblest circumstances, to suffer all the persecutions and to die for us on the cross just so that we have a chance to be reunited with you in the kingdom of heaven.   

4 February, Tuesday – Never let me go

4 February

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2 Samuel 18:9-10,14,24-25,30-19:3

Absalom happened to run into some of David’s followers. Absalom was riding a mule and the mule passed under the thick branches of a great oak. Absalom’s head caught fast in the oak and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule he was riding went on. Someone saw this and told Joab. ‘I have just seen Absalom’ he said ‘hanging from an oak.’ Joab took three lances in his hand and thrust them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive there in the oak tree.
David was sitting between the two gates. The lookout had gone up to the roof of the gate, on the ramparts; he looked up and saw a man running all by himself. The watch called out to the king and told him. The king said, ‘If he is by himself, he has good news to tell.’ The king told the man, ‘Move aside and stand there.’ He moved aside and stood waiting.

Then the Cushite arrived. ‘Good news for my lord the king!’ cried the Cushite. ‘The Lord has vindicated your cause today by ridding you of all who rebelled against you.’ ‘Is all well with young Absalom?’ the king asked the Cushite. ‘May the enemies of my lord the king’ the Cushite answered ‘and all who rebelled against you to your hurt, share the lot of that young man.’

The king shuddered. He went up to the room over the gate and burst into tears, and weeping said, ‘My son Absalom! My son! My son Absalom! Would I had died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!’ Word was brought to Joab, ‘The king is now weeping and mourning for Absalom.’ And the day’s victory was turned to mourning for all the troops, because they learned that the king was grieving for his son. And the troops returned stealthily that day to the town, as troops creep back ashamed when routed in battle.

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Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

Are we getting Jesus’ attention enough to make him turn around and ask, “Who touched me”? Often, we wait for a sign from God as proof that he is listening to our prayers. But how about taking the proactive approach of trying to reach out to Jesus instead? So how can we touch even his sleeve?

This brings to mind one of my fondest experiences and encounters with our Lord Jesus Christ. During my Prayer Experience Retreat in 2016 held at the Catholic Spirituality Centre, during a meditative session of Lectio Divina contemplation, I was taken to the scene of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46) where I discovered I was a bystander, sitting by the roadside just like the blind man, waiting expectantly for Jesus to walk by. When he finally did, there was a throng, so I quickly followed the crowd and tried desperately to squeeze my way in, trying as best as I could to get near Jesus. I felt a bit like a star struck teenager hoping to get up close and personal with her superstar idol. When I finally came up close to him, I was breathless, and I boldly held his hand. Ladies, if you can still remember that moment when you first held your boyfriend’s hand, you’ll know how it felt – it’s like zing! I was ecstatic and I didn’t want to let go of his hand ever. Now when I think about it, I’m so glad Jesus didn’t turn around and ask “Who touched me” or “Who is holding my hand?” And this is the story of how I met Jesus face to face and how I fell madly in love with him ever since. Just like Bartimaeus, I had ditched my cloak of spiritual blindness behind me, upon meeting Jesus.

Following that in the next scene, I found myself hanging off a rocky cliff but Jesus was holding on to me with an outstretched hand. I remember asking him not to let go of me especially because I have a great fear of heights. He reassured me saying, “I will never let go of you.”

Brothers and sisters, how apt it is for Jesus to put us in the most vulnerable position so that we can cling on to him and for him to tell us that he will never ditch us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)

Prayer: O my Jesus, may you allow us to touch the fringe of your frock so that we can believe. Please remove any spiritual blindness that may be preventing us from seeing how you are healing and comforting us, what you are doing in our lives.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for all the things you’ve done and are about to do for us, even for the things we don’t yet know or understand. 

3 February, Monday – Let’s come clean

3 Feb – Memorial for St. Blaise, bishop and martyr; Memorial for St. Ansgar, bishop

Blaise (d. 316) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste, Armenia. He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was a healer of men and animals. According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help, but would never disturb him in prayer.

Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebaste to persecute Christians. His huntsmen went into the forests of Argeus to find wild animals for the arena games and found many waiting outside Blaise’s cave. Discovered in prayer, Blaise was arrested, and Agricola tried to get him to recant his faith. While in prison, Blaise ministered to, and healed his fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats on Blaise’s feast day.

Thrown into a lake to drown, Blaise stood on the surface and invited his persecutors to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned. When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn out with wool combs (which led to his association with and patronage of those involved in the wool trade), and then beheaded.

Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches. In 1222, the Council of Oxford prohibited servile labour in England on his feast. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

Ansgar (801-865) was born to the French nobility. He was a Benedictine monk at Old Corbie Abbey in Picardy, and New Corbie in Westphalia. He studied under St. Adelard and St. Paschasius Radbert. He accompanied the converted King Harold to Denmark when the exiled king returned home.

He was a missionary to Denmark and Sweden. He founded the first Christian church in Sweden in c.832. He was abbot of New Corbie c.834. He was ordained Archbishop of Hamburg by Pope Gregry IV. He was a papal legate to the Scandanavian countries. He established the first Christian school in Denmark, but was run out by pagans, and the school was burned to the ground. He campaigned against slavery.

He was Archbishop of Bremen. He converted Erik, King of Jutland. He was a great preacher, a miracle worker, and greatly devoted to the poor and sick. Sadly, after his death, most of his gains for the Church were lost to resurgent paganism.

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2 Samuel 15:13-14,30,16:5-13

A messenger came to tell David, ‘The hearts of the men of Israel are now with Absalom.’ So David said to all his officers who were with him in Jerusalem, ‘Let us be off, let us fly, or we shall never escape from Absalom. Leave as quickly as you can in case he mounts a surprise attack and worsts us and puts the city to the sword.’

David then made his way up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, his head covered and his feet bare. And all the people with him had their heads covered and made their way up, weeping as they went.
As David was reaching Bahurim, out came a man of the same clan as Saul’s family. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and as he came he uttered curse after curse and threw stones at David and at all King David’s officers, though the whole army and all the champions flanked the king right and left. The words of his curse were these, ‘Be off, be off, man of blood, scoundrel! the Lord has brought on you all the blood of the House of Saul whose sovereignty you have usurped; and the Lord has transferred that same sovereignty to Absalom your son. Now your doom has overtaken you, man of blood that you are.’ Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, ‘Is this dead dog to curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut his head off.’ But the king replied, ‘What business is it of mine and yours, sons of Zeruiah? Let him curse. If the Lord said to him, “Curse David,” what right has anyone to say, “Why have you done this?”’ David said to Abishai and all his officers, ‘Why, my own son, sprung from my body, is now seeking my life; so now how much the more this Benjaminite? Let him curse on if the Lord has told him to. Perhaps the Lord will look on my misery and repay me with good for his curse today.’ So David and his men went on their way.

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Mark 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples reached the country of the Gerasenes on the other side of the lake, and no sooner had Jesus left the boat than a man with an unclean spirit came out from the tombs towards him. The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him any more, even with a chain; because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? Swear by God you will not torture me!’ – for Jesus had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit.’ ‘What is your name?’ Jesus asked. ‘My name is legion,’ he answered ‘for there are many of us.’ And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the district.

Now there was there on the mountainside a great herd of pigs feeding, and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us to the pigs, let us go into them.’ So he gave them leave. With that, the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs, and the herd of about two thousand pigs charged down the cliff into the lake, and there they were drowned. The swineherds ran off and told their story in the town and in the country round about; and the people came to see what had really happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his full senses – the very man who had had the legion in him before – and they were afraid. And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs. Then they began to implore Jesus to leave the neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him. Jesus would not let him but said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.’ So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And everyone was amazed.

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Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.

We all have demons in our closet and occasionally, we allow them to manifest.

As I meditated on today’s gospel, I realised it was the making of a horror scene where a demonic person would suddenly dash out from out of the grave. But thankfully with Jesus by my side, I feel quite invincible and very safe, for surely he will not allow the demoniac to touch me. Notice how Jesus asked the unclean spirit “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9) after casting the demon out of the man. I am sure Jesus already knew his name, but then, why ask? He wants us to name our ‘demons’ just like how we should not be ashamed to name and acknowledge our sins during the sacrament of reconciliation. Confess our sins right to the point like “I am sorry for stealing/cheating/being a glutton…” rather than beat round the bush explaining or, worse yet, justifying the sins we had committed.

We are also told that the unclean spirits numbered about ‘2000’. Indeed, there are a great number of evil spirits out there, dwelling in our midst – some known and many more unnamed. The number of evil spirits out there is ‘legion’. Yet, after Jesus had cleaned up the mess, people from that neighbourhood were unable to accept what he’d done, rejecting him and they “began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood” (Mark 5:17). This goes to show, people still prefer living with ‘unclean spirits’ in them or remain addicted to their sins, rather than allow Jesus to come and cleanse them.

Finally, the demoniac was back to his old self. Then he asked to follow Jesus (I would totally do that too) but Jesus had better plans for him. He asked him to “Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.” This is exactly what he is asking of some of us, to help him spread the good news and what he has done for us. After CER, and all the retreats, I will not go back to my former life or ‘demons’. I simply refuse. How can I, after all that He has done for me? He has completely changed my life for good. You may wonder what’s he done for me that’s so good. He has shown me the greatest love, a kind of love that gives me a new meaning to life, that frees me from feeling afraid of any trials and sufferings, and that which leads to joy and inner peace that no one else can ever give me. And with all this goodness bursting forth, I hope to be a living testimony of how much the Lord has done for me.

It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Samuel 16:12)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, pour your love on us so that it is all we need, that it is enough to fill our closets so full, there’s no room for anything else in our lives. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for all the things you’ve done and are about to do for us, even for the things we don’t yet know or understand.