Tag Archives: debbie loo

1 September, Friday – Oil in the Lamp

1 Sept 2017

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1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

What God wants is for you all to be holy. He wants you to keep away from fornication, and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honourable, not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God. He wants nobody at all ever to sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters; the Lord always punishes sins of that sort, as we told you before and assured you. We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral; in other words, anyone who objects is not objecting to a human authority, but to God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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You do not know either the day or the hour

Whenever I read these passages about being prepared for Jesus’ second coming, I would sometimes wonder about why it is so challenging to do so. If people can save up money to support their children in college, or buy a car, or an apartment, then why not work on the spiritual life? Is it because the entry into heaven is often seen as something in the distant and unforeseeable future that also has to do with a refusal to face up to one’s mortality, versus more concrete events that are within our control? Is it something that, to put it bluntly, can be “postponed” to old age, assuming we get there?

I think I can safely say that almost everyone I know is caught up in a rat race. The situation is very pronounced in a country like Singapore, where the young study endlessly and the older ones work relentlessly. It is easy to lose direction while trying to keep up with expectations and responsibilities. This in turn encourages the prioritisation of work above other things. Often, God, the gentle voice, is either not heard or ignored in the loudness of the demands of everyday life.

In the film Hacksaw Ridge, we see a dramatic real-life example of a rather unusual person who placed his faith in God above all else. I say unusual, as he refused to bear arms in a war where everyone else fought to kill the enemy. Without any weapon to defend himself, the staunchly religious medic single-handedly saved 50 to 100 lives of his fellow soldiers in battle, each time praying to God to help him save one more. Although not all of us are called to such acts of valour, his courage and conviction to hold firm to his beliefs even in the face of extreme opposition is greatly inspiring.

Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh

Prayer: We pray that we can each find our own way of putting God first in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for daily reminders of God’s grace.

19 August, Saturday – A House United

19 Aug

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Joshua 24:14-29

Joshua said to all the people, ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’

  The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

  Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.’ The people answered Joshua, ‘No; it is the Lord we wish to serve.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we will obey.’

  That day, Joshua made a covenant for the people; he laid down a statute and ordinance for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’ Then Joshua sent the people away, and each returned to his own inheritance.

  After these things Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died; he was a hundred and ten years old.

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Matthew 19:13-15

People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.

Serving God with all of my body, mind, and spirit, can be quite a challenge sometimes. This is especially so when I consider how my body, mind, and spirit, are sometimes not functioning in unity. In other words, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak – or otherwise.

In today’s scripture readings, we read of the how Joshua challenged the Israelites about their conviction and commitment to serving and honoring the Lord completely. He charged them with the evidence of their old ways of idol worship and asked them to choose only one – the Lord God, or the variety of alien gods they had. Joshua proclaims, ‘As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’ This is a bold announcement, because he was making such a statement with the witness of many households.

It struck me today that the words ‘my House’ and ‘household’ is used. This ties in with the gospel passage where Jesus tells his disciples not to withhold the little children from approaching him for blessings. A household is made up of more than one person. It is a unity and community of persons. Although the father or the patriarch may be the head of the household, he too needs to lead with a heart of service to his members. And in the proper order of things, he is ultimately leading them in service to the greater agenda of loving and honoring either one God, or a chaotic disarray of alien gods and idols.

I suppose this charges the adults and older members in any household to be accountable to their community, as Joshua firmly states: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ All of the members within one’s household take their point of reference on reverence from the leaders or heads. Simply put, children look up to their parents and learn from their actions and choices, about their values and priorities in life. If mum and dad practice differently from what they preach, the children will ultimately be confused and easily see through the discrepancies.

In this way, it is as Jesus warns us not to do: Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Sometimes, it is not so much by our actions that we set up obstacles to the faith for our little ones – it is by our lack of commitment and integrity that might discourage them and affect their experience and understanding of what it means to lead a faithful Christian life. May we pause a little while today to consider where have we led double lives in our daily choices, and who are the everyday witnesses to our willful or accidental missteps.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for eyes to see the truth about our own failures and hypocrisy. God grant us the grace to begin again responsibly and humbly.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for putting accountability partners in my life to challenge me and witness to my growth.

18 August, Friday – Unteachable We

18 Aug

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Joshua 24:1-13

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people:

  ‘The Lord, the God of Israel says this, “In ancient days your ancestors lived beyond the River – such was Terah the father of Abraham and of Nahor – and they served other gods. Then I brought your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan. I increased his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountain country of Seir as his possession. Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt with the wonders that I worked there. So I brought you out of it. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and you came to the Sea; the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen as far as the Sea of Reeds. There they called to the Lord, and he spread a thick fog between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea go back on them and cover them. You saw with your own eyes the things I did in Egypt. Then for a long time you lived in the wilderness, until I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan; they made war on you and I gave them into your hands; you took possession of their country because I destroyed them before you. Next, Balak son of Zippor the king of Moab arose to make war on Israel, and sent for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; instead, he had to bless you, and I saved you from his hand.

  ‘“When you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, those who held Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites and Perizzites, the Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I put them all into your power. I sent out hornets in front of you, which drove the two Amorite kings before you; this was not the work of your sword or your bow. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive-groves you never planted.”’

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

  They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

  The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted.

The human race has been unteachable since the dawn of time. Ancient civilisations have been unteachable even as they developed in wisdom and technology – hence their extinction. The modern and post-modern society is just as unteachable today, as much as the agrarian and feudal and monastic societies were. Let’s break it down further: to this very day, we can be as stubbornly unteachable as our parents, grandparents, forefathers. The readings today remind us about how much mercy and redemption we are really in need of.

It is indeed a ‘hard teaching’ of the sin of divorce and adultery that the Pharisees confronted Jesus with in the gospel passage of Matthew today. They were trying to snare Jesus on the technicalities (of the Jewish Law) and see if his so-called teachings of justice and mercy were contradictory on this particular issue. We can see it so painfully true in our world today.

Jesus does not budge or become apologetic about the fundamental nature of man. He especially calls out the Pharisees on this sin of unteachability first and foremost as the basis on which Moses commanded a writ of dismissal be given in cases of divorce. It still is not right for a marriage to be dissolved and for a man to divorce his wife. For marriage is a covenant, a binding promise, representative of the covenant that God made with His Creation that He would always be with us. If God, despite our repeated betrayals and travesties against Him, can be unrelenting in His love, mercy, and desire to still be wedded and faithful in his promise of salvation to us, who are we to ungratefully demand to dispense with Him?

Only an unteachable and ungrateful generation would repeatedly deny receiving God’s goodness and mercy.

Yet, we know of other sins that came along when divorce remained illegal in the past. The sin of adultery and murder became the route which men and women took as the means to their desired ends. Wasn’t this what King David himself did? Indeed, as the disciples foolishly responded, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ This refrain is so heartlessly and callously repeated even today. Many people point to others’ failing, struggling, or difficult marriages, in blame: “This is the reason why I will not get married.” This is also why many children who grew up watching their parents fumble through their own marriages lose hope and vision of how a real Christ-like marriage could be.

Not even the Christian life is to be expected to be easy. What more a Christian marriage? But even more elemental than that, all relationships are messy, difficult, and trying endeavours! Whoever has never argued and been challenged to accountability by a really close friend before? If you had ever ditched a friendship because it is tough or deemed it unworthy because of pride and stubbornness, then humbly, we need to acknowledge that a marriage that binds two imperfect and wounded persons could be exponentially difficult.

The baseline for living in peace and harmony in community, family, and marriage, is to pray for a heart of humility and teachability. From this point, we can hope to transform and transfigure our worldview, modus operandi, and expectations towards our relationships and the holy and worthy task of loving someone and learning to be loved. Yes, Jesus does teach that there is mercy regardless for those who have endured the painful process of divorce. All of us intuitively and ultimately deeply seek a covenantal promise of love that will never be broken. It has been written in our DNA. The question is, how teachable are we in the practice of loving another person? The next question is, how teachable are we in the follow-up to making mistakes and failing to live up to our promises? May we remember: We love because He first loved us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: A wedding is for a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime on earth, and can be our passport to eternity. May we pray to God for a heart of teachability in this journey of learning to love another person, and to remain in love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your unending mercy to me. For giving me countless second chances. Help me never to take it for granted and spurn your love.

16 August, Wednesday – Being Known by God

16 Aug

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Leaving the plains of Moab, Moses went up Mount Nebo, the peak of Pisgah opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land; Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the stretch of the Valley of Jericho, city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross into it.’ There in the land of Moab, Moses the servant of the Lord died as the Lord decreed; he buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but to this day no one has ever found his grave. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye undimmed, his vigour unimpaired. The sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. The days of weeping for the mourning rites of Moses came to an end. Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. It was he that the sons of Israel obeyed, carrying out the order that the Lord had given to Moses.
  Since then, never has there been such a prophet in Israel as Moses, the man the Lord knew face to face. What signs and wonders the Lord caused him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and his whole land! How mighty the hand and great the fear that Moses wielded in the sight of all Israel!
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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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For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.

It is said in our first reading that Moses was known as ‘the man the Lord knew face to face’. Have you ever wondered how awesome yet terrifying it must have been to come so close to God? Yet, do you sometimes feel so far from Him even when you try your very best to draw closer?

Lately, attending Mass has been quite an alienating routine for me. It recently became trying for me due to the extreme lethargy I experience in pregnancy. Some days my energy or concentration levels simply dip such that it is hard to focus for more than five minutes. This new ‘attitude’ of mine towards Mass caused me to feel privately guilty for not being present with God

One recent Saturday evening, after being completely sapped of energy from our house-moving, I suggested to my equally exhausted husband that maybe we could skip Mass on Sunday to recuperate. God would understand that my spirit is willing but my flesh is spent, I reasoned. Sunday morning brought along a migraine. But we decided to go anyway. As I made my way to church, I said a persistent prayer asking God to grant me enough energy to make it through Mass meaningfully. I had a long day ahead with household appliance deliveries, but I just needed enough ‘battery’ for the present moment.

We arrived to a full-house church with the possibility of only standing space. My heart sank. I ventured forward towards a section of pews anyway, hoping just a little for a seat. To our surprise, a lady happened to turn around in my direction and smiled warmly, signaling for us to sit beside her. At that moment, I felt like God had reserved those seats for us, as no one seemed to have spotted the empty space!

As I settled in to Mass, I felt my spirits lift and I pondered the way God had chosen to make Himself known to me, to pull me in closer despite how distracted my mind and body were. It was not a mountain-top, face-to-face encounter that Moses probably had abundant experience of. But in this small gesture of a kind stranger, I felt comforted that He knew my needs and my heart’s inmost desire more intimately than I could express.

Where in your life have you felt far from God? Are you waiting on Him for an answer over a problem that seems too huge to be resolved? Maybe, like me, you long to return to a season of spiritual relationship with Him that you once shared, but seem to have lost…

My experience that Sunday reminded me that God is truly present in my life, even when I am too tired to recall the many consolations and assurances He has given me before. God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled (2 Cor 5:19). Keep praying, even if you think your words sound like clanging cymbals with little heart or direction. The Holy Spirit, our Advocate, always intercedes for us.

You search out my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. (Psalm 139:3-5)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: O Lord, grant me the graces and strength to keep on trying and going on in this life of Christian faith and discipleship.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the angels God sends our way through the kindness of the people we meet.

14 August, Monday – Strangers Passing Through this World

14 Aug – Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest, Martyr (1894 – 1941)

He was born on 8 January 1894 in occupied Poland: he joined the Franciscans in Lwów in 1910, and was ordained eight years later, as his country became free and independent for the first time in over 120 years.

  He believed that the world was passing through a time of intense spiritual crisis, and that Christians must fight for the world’s salvation with all the means of modern communication. He founded a newspaper, and a sodality called the Knights of Mary Immaculate, which spread widely both in Poland and abroad.

  In 1927 he founded a community, a “city of Mary,” at Teresin: centred round the Franciscan friary, it attracted many lay people, and became self-supporting, publishing many periodicals and running its own radio station.

  In 1930 he went to Japan, studied Buddhism and Shintoism, and through the Japanese edition of his newspaper spread the Christian message in a way that was in harmony with Japanese culture. In Nagasaki, he set up a “Garden of the Immaculate,” which survived the atomic bomb.

  He also travelled to Malabar and to Moscow, but was recalled to Poland in 1936 for reasons of health.

  When the Germans invaded in 1939, the community at Teresin sheltered thousands of refugees, most of them Jews.

  In 1941 he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he helped and succoured the inmates. In August of that year a prisoner escaped, and in reprisal the authorities were choosing ten people to die by starvation. One of the men had a family, and Maximilian Kolbe offered to take his place. The offer was accepted, and he spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners.

  The man he saved was present at his canonization.

Maximilian Kolbe’s martyrdom is the least important thing about him. We are none of us likely to find ourselves in a position to emulate his sacrifice, and speculation as to the heroic way in which we would have behaved in his place is a pernicious waste of time. What is important is that he acted the way he did because of who he was – or, rather, because of who he had become. It is because of who he had become that we revere him as a saint: he would have been a saint (though perhaps not canonized) even if he had not been martyred. And that process of becoming is something we can all emulate. We can all become people for whom doing the right thing is obvious, natural, and easy. It requires no heroism, no special gifts: just perseverance, and prayer.

Source: Universalis

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Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Moses said to the people:

  ‘Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? Only this: to fear the Lord your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and laws of the Lord that for your good I lay down for you today.

  ‘To the Lord your God belong indeed heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all it contains; yet it was on your fathers that the Lord set his heart for love of them, and after them of all the nations chose their descendants, you yourselves, up to the present day. Circumcise your heart then and be obstinate no longer; for the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, triumphant and terrible, never partial, never to be bribed. It is he who sees justice done for the orphan and the widow, who loves the stranger and gives him food and clothing. Love the stranger then, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. It is the Lord your God you must fear and serve; you must cling to him; in his name take your oaths. He it is you must praise, he is your God: for you he has done these great and terrible things you have seen with your own eyes; and though your fathers numbered only seventy when they went down to Egypt, the Lord your God has made you as many as the stars of heaven.’

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Matthew 17:22-27

One day when they were together in Galilee, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men; they will put him to death, and on the third day he will be raised to life again.’ And a great sadness came over them.

  When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel came to Peter and said, ‘Does your master not pay the half-shekel?’ ‘Oh yes’ he replied, and went into the house. But before he could speak, Jesus said, ‘Simon, what is your opinion? From whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from foreigners?’ And when he replied, ‘From foreigners’, Jesus said, ‘Well then, the sons are exempt. However, so as not to offend these people, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that bites, open its mouth and there you will find a shekel; take it and give it to them for me and for you.’

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Love the stranger then, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Are you a foreigner where you live? Maybe you have studied or worked abroad at some point in your life, or even now. Maybe you have just returned from living overseas for a period of time. How did you feel when you first arrived? Can you recall those tentative, uncertain, shy, and anxious moments of wondering if you would fit in? Were you terrified of sorely sticking out and being targeted or stared at?

I have just returned from living in the USA for the past year. It has been just two weeks since my return to Singapore. While this has not been a long arrangement, coming home entailed much adjustment. Why? My husband and I relocated for his work right after we were married. We spent a couple of months finding our footing in a foreign land, setting up a brand new (short term) first home in a strange neighbourhood, finding a church community, etc. After we had struggled and established a wonderful routine there, we had to start making plans to leave, pack up, and return home. All in a span of 12 months! Upon our return home, we have been without a place to call our home until we found a rental apartment. We moved temporarily back into our respective parental homes and adjusted to living apart until we could find a place. Essentially, we were pilgrims or wanderers. I truly felt like a stranger passing through all manners of foreign lands, living with this season of feeling up-rooted and un-rooted.

I am acutely aware of the scripture readings today, which speak of the transient nature of our earthly sojourn. So often we take for granted our privilege of living in our own country, or having a home of one’s own. This is especially true when one lives in a place of general prosperity and stability. Yet as Christians, who may live in all parts of the world with such diverse circumstances and experiences, we are reminded constantly of the Israelites and their endless desert wandering. Though they are God’s chosen people, He never gave them the cushy life of permanence and stability. This is the reality of life we must acknowledge. It unnerves, yet matures us.

I believe that more than a mere literal reading, us modern Christians are also given a heritage example of what our earthly time really means. We are all strangers in this foreign land of the world. Our true eternal address, if we so desire, is heaven-bound with God our Father. This cannot be a contrite statement of tokenism. None of us will live on this earth forever! In fact, this should hit us squarely between the eyes that we are stewards of our homelands, families, and our environment. Likewise, our fellow commuter on the bus or train, who may clearly be of a different nationality, is no lesser than us in the eyes of God who has so graciously ordained the very soil on which you and I happened to be born in.

How then have we chosen to treat the man on the street; the one who is also our brother and sister in Christ? As I write this, I am reflecting on the terrible wars, civil unrest, and terrorist sieges happening over the world. Though we condemn these actions, some of us are so far removed (physically) from the events that we think it is something the ‘others’ have failed at. But what have we personally chosen to do in our own department of lives? Where have we been sounding like clanging cymbals and gongs about ‘Love’ but have not acted ‘IN Love’?

I have been challenged indubitably for the past few days in my own microcosm of life. We must not reduce the racism, violence, or terrorism that is happening on this large scale to ‘loving thy neighbour/stranger’ in tokenism. But instead, to think specifically of that ‘neighbour/stranger’ you are tempted to distance or hate, or the one who seems to deserve your wrath for a transgression. Is it possible to try and love that one whom, for some reason, you just cannot find mercy for in your heart? Try that. Then try to radiate that same sensibility outwards. It’s easier to condemn others for larger faults, than to admit to one’s own cosy hypocrisy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray for peace in the world. I pray that I will choose to be at peace with the people I live with and the many others who cross my path.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for my lot in life. I continue to be grateful for my daily portion, even if a part of it may taste sour or bitter.

13 August, Sunday – The Lord is in the Breeze

13 Aug

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1 Kings 19:9,11-13

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

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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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Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

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‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’

Our God is all-powerful and Lord over all Creation. This is an aspect of our faith that most of us are undoubtedly aware of. But how often do we consciously consider how small and meek and softly God chooses to come to us, and tune our hearts in to this humbling mystery? I, for one, conveniently forget this – unless I somehow find myself in a poetic and nature-filled setting.

In other words, when I am caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day chaos (work, peak-hour traffic, bothersome interactions), my core of trust and peace is disrupted. I am less disposed to listening, feeling, or seeing the abundance of God-moments around me with eyes of humility and wonder.

Elijah’s experiences on Mount Horeb reveal his trust and sensitivity to God’s presence. He was given the command ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord’ – and experienced the terror of nature’s wind, earthquake, and fire. But we are told the Lord was in neither of these occurrences. Instead, he sensed that the sound of the gentle breeze heralded the presence of God, and with this assurance, he stepped out to the entrance of the cave to ‘meet’ God there.

“God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other human being.” – Henri Nouwen. This quote comes to my mind and gives me pause.

When the storms and disturbances of life come – am I more inclined to fear that I have somehow lost God’s favour or protection? To worry that this time, I am going to be ‘going at it on my own’, and I had better gird myself with worldly wiles and strategies in order to survive or get ahead? It is only natural that I am tempted to take on this attitude, if I believe I have much to lose, and if I lose sight of the reality that all I have has in fact been a gift from God – my skills, talents, intellect, status, wealth, and even repute. The ego has a way of speaking lies and threats to our insecurities.

I have realized this counstant struggle occurs throughout my growth as a person who desires to increase in spiritual maturity. The ‘elements of life’ that come my way have challenged me immensely to hold fast to the Lord and trust that He is more likely found in the smallest details of my life, than I would choose to stay still enough to notice.

Rather than complain that I have to tussle another minute or hour with a difficult family member; rather than lament that the difficulties I face have outlasted another 24 hours; rather than wonder “why me” or “why this road”; rather than flounder like Peter in the midst of the lake even as I walk towards Jesus – is it possible that I give thanks for the buoyancy of this mysterious water that supports me beyond my reason? Is it possible that I give praise to God for the mere fact that I am given the supernatural patience to outlast my problems or difficult interactions?

My greatest comfort is in knowing that Jesus never tires of me crying out to him for the umpteenth time ‘Lord! Save me!’ His mercy and faithfulness never ceases, and His goodness surrounds me no matter how impatient and desensitised I may grow. May we never tire of crying or calling to our Lord who will always save us and uphold us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Jesus, help me to remember that you are ever near me. I pray for the gift of stillness to sense you in all the storms or winds in my life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the inconveniences and challenges that humble me and make me ever aware that I am in need of growing greater in generosity.

2 Aug, Wednesday – This Valley Of Tears

Aug 2 – Memorial for St. Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop; St Peter Julian Eymard, bishop

Eusebius (283-371) was a priest and lector in Rome, Italy. He was consecrated bishop of Vercelli, Italy in 340, but was exiled to Palestine and Cappadocia due to his struggle against Arianism. He was a friend of St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He was a prolific writer according to his contemporaries, but none of his works have survived. He was the first bishop to live with and follow the same rule as his priests. He may be been martyred by Arians, but reports vary. Many consider him a martyr as he may have died as a result of his sufferings in exile.

– Patron Saint Index

 Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) had a strong Marian devotion, and travelled to the assorted Marian shrines and apparition sites in France. He organised lay societies under the direction of the Marists, preached and taught, and worked for Eucharistic devotion. He felt a call to found a new religious society, and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and the lay Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His work encountered a series of setbacks, including have to close his nascent houses and move twice, and the houses not being able to support themselves financially. However, his vision of priests, deacons, sisters, and lay people dedicated to the spiritual values celebrated in the Mass and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament anticipated many of the renewals brought about by Vatican Councils I and II.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 34:29-35
When Moses came down from the mountain of Sinai – as he came down from the mountain, Moses had the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands – he did not know that the skin on his face was radiant after speaking with the Lord. And when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, the skin on his face shone so much that they would not venture near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron with all the leaders of the community came back to him; and he spoke to them. Then all the sons of Israel came closer, and he passed on to them all the orders that the Lord had given him on the mountain of Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever he went into the Lord’s presence to speak with him, Moses would remove the veil until he came out again. And when he came out, he would tell the sons of Israel what he had been ordered to pass on to them, and the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord.

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Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’

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The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found

Since Sunday, we have read the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah in our first readings… day after day, Jeremiah seems to be ceaseless in his cries out to God.

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.’ He wails in this valley of tears.

I am reminded of Job. I am reminded of the many times I have complained against the hand that I feel God has dealt me. Many of us have endured episodes, seasons and circumstances, leaving us utterly helpless and distressed. Where are you, Lord? Compared to others around us who seem to be in greater sorrow, we can sometimes feel lame and weak for our whines. We may not even dare to express our exasperation publicly. But privately, we do – we feel dragged through this valley of tears. So much like Jeremiah, we sometimes find life meaningless because we cannot grasp the purpose for our suffering.

But we also find the repeated mention of Jesus’ parables of the treasure hidden in the fields, the rich man and his pearl of great price spread over these past few days. The consecutive alignment of these liturgical texts by our Church is no unnecessary detail. It is a keen reminder, a salient wake-up call, to us that the woes and weariness of this world is like the field that Jesus describes. Carved into the valley of sorrows is our daily battlefield. Beneath this battlefield that we live in, lies buried the greatest treasure we could ever hope to find – Jesus Christ our Saviour.

God has planted Christ in His plan for humanity’s salvation since the beginning of time. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ (John 1:1) Long before there was sin and suffering, there was this Treasure God had bequeathed us. That is why all religions and spiritualities of the world talk of a Quest, a Search for Meaning.

The bright lights and distractions of this world have buried our greatest Treasure. Christ is this pearl of great price that we have found. Are we ready to embrace this Truth of our hidden Treasure right now like the happy man, turn around and relinquish our attachment to the materiality of our life, to claim Christ as our reason for joyful living?

The Scripture readings today challenge me to cling very tightly to this reality of my relationship with Christ – that even if I face trials and unfairness like Jeremiah, I have a Treasure beyond all measure. It is hidden with Christ and hidden in Eternity. I may not be able to ‘spend’ it now in today’s currency, but I know where my treasures lie – ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Luke 12:34) Today, I am reminded to water the soil of my heart and nurture my love for Christ. I can only be a truly happy man when I recognise that my joy is not dependent on the seasons of the earth but rooted in God’s infinite love and mercy for me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, I desire a deeper relationship with you, to build my house on your foundations that will never change.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being the Treasure that keeps on giving to us in your Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

26 May, Friday – Wisdom in Silence

26 May 2017

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Acts 18:9-18

At Corinth one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you. I have so many people on my side in this city that no one will even attempt to hurt you.’ So Paul stayed there preaching the word of God among them for eighteen months.

But, while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a concerted attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. ‘We accuse this man’ they said ‘of persuading people to worship God in a way that breaks the Law.’ Before Paul could open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘Listen, you Jews. If this were a misdemeanour or a crime, I would not hesitate to attend to you; but if it is only quibbles about words and names, and about your own Law, then you must deal with it yourselves-I have no intention of making legal decisions about things like that.’ Then he sent them out of the court, and at once they all turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue president, and beat him in front of the court house. Gallio refused to take any notice at all.

After staying on for some time, Paul took leave of the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut off, because of a vow he had made.

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John 16:20-23

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you will be weeping and wailing
while the world will rejoice;
you will be sorrowful,
but your sorrow will turn to joy.
A woman in childbirth suffers,
because her time has come;
but when she has given birth to the child she forgets the suffering
in her joy that a man has been born into the world.
So it is with you: you are sad now,
but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy,
and that joy no one shall take from you.
When that day comes,
you will not ask me any questions.’

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Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you.

So often we look up to great orators, charismatic leaders and speakers, and admire them for their gift of inspiring and persuading with commanding speeches. Rarely do we celebrate the ones who know when silence is instead the greatest gift needed for the moment. I know I do.

In the first reading today, the Lord tells Paul, one of our greatest evangelists and one whom we know for his wonderful letters, to not be afraid to allow himself to be silenced. When I first read that, I misunderstood that God had asked him to not allow himself to be silenced. It is so much easier to think that must be the case when it comes to defending one’s faith and evangelizing God.
Instead, we see Paul completely quiet in this episode of accusation by the Jews who plotted to bring him down in front of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. Paul had no chance to retort, as before he could open his mouth to defend or explain himself, Gallio silenced not only him, but also the Jews who accused him.

Sometimes silence is wiser than speaking, listening more healing than words, quietness more empowering than ideas. This can happen in all sorts of settings – from official and professional situations, to private and personal moments.

Henri Nouwen once wrote, ‘somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.’ I have lost count of the many times when my silence and humble observation has saved me, and when my brashness or confidence has cost me belated anxiety and anguish.

At the same time, we would do well to seek the gift of wise silence from God, and to exercise more silence in our spiritual journey. I noticed that when I am out of sorts and not at peace with myself, my prayers become anxious chatters bouncing off the inner walls of my head. I may think that I have spent time in prayer, but actually I had been gratifying my inner voice and justifications, instead of being truly present to the Lord.

Again, Nouwen cautions us, “the real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing – that demands real effort.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We seek the gift of silence, and the gift of wisdom, to know when to practice this powerful instrument of peace.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for listening to my chattering noise, and revealing to me that your gentle silence is often the greatest gift I need in my prayer.

22 May, Monday – Faith – Relationship – Love – Charity

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.

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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.

‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’

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… will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They have never known either the Father or myself.

How will we know if we truly believe in God and in Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son? It is not only by faith that we will hear, see, and believe. It is more enduringly known through the cultivation of relationships. The scriptures today reveal to us that faith in God, to claim to know God, is to therefore conduct myself in a particular way.

It is the way of love and charity.

In the first reading of Acts 16: 11-15, we read of Lydia, a devout woman, who was open to listening and hearing about the Lord through the sharings of Paul. While the account summarises her conversion, as the work of the Lord who ‘opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying’, we know that it was not merely that of speeding down a one-way street. In her reception of the gift of faith, we witness that she responded in two ways. First, she and her household requested to be baptized. That was the first step in choosing to be a follower of Christ.

However, she goes on to send an invitation to Paul and Peter and the other disciples, extending her generous hospitality to them to visit and stay with her household – knowing that they were all pilgrims and simply living from hand-to-mouth and traveling on from place to place.

This openness to love and participate in loving is one very important aspect of being and becoming truly Christian. We may be Christians by birth or by choice (later in life), but to ‘become’ true Christians is a humbling, ongoing process that requires intention, child-like trust, and a constant effort to be charitable.

Not all of us have grown up witnessing examples of hospitality, generosity, or effusive acts of warmth and love within our families. So it should come as no surprise, that becoming all of these qualities does not come naturally for some. But we can learn to be, and desire to become. This is a grace freely given by God, and which we should always seek the Holy Spirit for the courage and inspiration to be so.

In this same vein, Jesus tells his disciples that they will encounter people of all kinds who may claim to believe in God, yet commit sins or behave in ways that completely oppose the love and charity and sacrifice that Christ came to demonstrate. Jesus says that these people do exist, and will walk amongst us, but it will be possible to see through their works and actions that “they have never known either the Father or Christ”.

How do we reconcile these encounters with our own choice to remain Christ-like? Well, Jesus reminds us that we have His example and His Holy Spirit has been sent to us to be our Advocate and Paraclete. The Holy Spirit is the friend we can call upon for help and wisdom in these times.

When we struggle with being loving and charitable, when we tussle with the desire to just retaliate at the ones who do us wrong or commit grave sins, may we remember that Jesus has provided us with the Holy Spirit to impart us wisdom and truth to know how to respond in a way that all men may know we are truly Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray to the Holy Spirit for help in all times of need, for divine wisdom and courage in our daily affairs.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the people around me who have demonstrated to me the conviction of being Christian through their generosity and charity, even in the face of difficulties.

24 March, Friday – To listen is to love

24 March 2017

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Hosea 14:2-10
The Lord says this:
Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.
Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.
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Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.
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I will heal their disloyalty, I will love them with all my heart… it is I who hear his prayer and care for him.

There seems to be a common thread in the readings all week – that of listening to God. It got me wondering why we are constantly being reminded to listen, and why this call is so relevant even today.

What are we listening out for?

When we are told to listen or pay attention, does our reflex guide us into a defensive stance, anticipating a scolding or rebuke? This can happen in many relationships (between couples, parent-child, work) where familiarity has sadly bred contempt. Some may even experience this reaction towards the commands of God. Perhaps this is set up by previous experiences of hurt and disappointment, maybe we have grown up hearing more often the wrathful stories of a punishing God, that it is hard to imagine hearing anything sweet and soothing when told to pay attention and listen.

In the first reading of Hosea today, God is speaking tenderly to his people who have turned from him in disloyalty. We get a glimpse of our image of God when we read these words and recognize our interior reactions. Does it feel hard to visualize a loving God? Do you read with some distance and a little disbelief? Are you moved and comforted deeply by the assurances of God who says: I will love you with all my heart? To truly listen without judgment and defense, is to genuinely allow our hearts to connect with the one who speaks.

What are you listening out for when God is trying to speak His love to you? Will you let Him have the space and time to tell you how much He cares for you?

To listen is to heal

Sometimes we don’t really listen. We just hear what we think is being spoken. So if a wife tells her husband, “I wish you wouldn’t spend so much time watching TV/on your mobile phone/out with friends,” he may hear “she’s nitpicking on me and telling me how to spend my precious leisure time,” instead of “I wish you would spend more time connecting with me.”

When we read God’s words in scripture: Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations (Eze 14:6, 1 Jn 5:12, etc), we may think we hear His booming and fearsome voice commanding us to give up everything and turn to Him. The responsibility to listen intentionally and openly lies with the listener. Sometimes it is easier to hear the literal words when it coincides with our presumptions about someone or the nature of the relationship. But to listen humbly is to heal relationships, and to heal the false impressions we might have of the other.

Do I listen carefully to God’s merciful and deep love for me that is layered beneath all of His commandments and laws? Do I give God the space to be Himself in our relationship, instead of imposing my own ideas and defenses upon His words?

Only when we listen, can we speak wisely.

In yesterday’s gospel reading (Lk 11:14-23), we witnessed the crowds testing and challenging Jesus’ authority and words. They asked questions to cast doubt, with no intention of listening to the Living Word. However, the scribe today listened intently to Jesus’ answer that the greatest commandment to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength… and to love your neighbour as yourself.’ He was therefore able to respond wisely that to follow this commandment, was ‘far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ The scribe understood the deeper meaning of the law of love, which underpinned all the Laws. It is only when we listen, that we can speak wisely and with love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me the patience to listen with humility and love. Grant me the restraint to withhold judgment and self-defenses.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the gift of those who have spent time truly listening to me and getting to know me for who I am.