Tag Archives: detachment

26 November, Tuesday – Nothing can destroy or hurt us if we remain true to You

26 November

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Daniel 2:31-45

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, ‘You have had a vision, O king; this is what you saw: a statue, a great statue of extreme brightness, stood before you, terrible to see. The head of this statue was of fine gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron, part earthenware. While you were gazing, a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and earthenware and shattered them. And then, iron and earthenware, bronze, silver, gold all broke into small pieces as fine as chaff on the threshing-floor in summer. The wind blew them away, leaving not a trace behind. And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will explain to the king what it means.

‘You, O king, king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given sovereignty, power, strength and glory – the sons of men, the beasts of the field, the birds of heaven, wherever they live, he has entrusted to your rule, making you king of them all – you are the golden head. And after you another kingdom will rise, not so great as you, and then a third, of bronze, which will rule the whole world. There will be a fourth kingdom, hard as iron, as iron that shatters and crushes all. Like iron that breaks everything to pieces, it will crush and break all the earlier kingdoms. The feet you saw, part earthenware, part iron, are a kingdom which will be split in two, but which will retain something of the strength of iron, just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together. The feet were part iron, part earthenware: the kingdom will be partly strong and partly weak. And just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together, so the two will be mixed together in the seed of man; but they will not hold together any more than iron will blend with earthenware. In the time of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever – just as you saw the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold. The great God has shown the king what is to take place. The dream is true, the interpretation exact.’

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Luke 21:5-11

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

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“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

 As we look at what’s happening in the world today, we realise that many of the happenings spoken by Jesus in today’s gospel have been taking place over the centuries, such as horrific wars and natural catastrophes. In the northern hemisphere, November is autumn. The daylight starts growing shorter. Here it Singapore, we experience the much needed rainy season. At this dark time of year, the readings focus on the darker side of human experience. They speak of destruction, loss, conflict and deception.

We look at endings sometimes with joyful welcome, sometimes with trepidation and fear. Now that we are coming to the end of the Liturgical Year (Advent begins next Sunday) our gospels will be focusing on the end times. Jesus begins by foretelling the end of the temple in Jerusalem (destroyed in 70 A.D.) The beautiful structures took 50 years to build. They were much loved and awed by everyone. No one would have imagined that these could be destroyed. Even the finest buildings only last so long.

We too should not be too attached to structures or situations in our lives that do not last.

As I reflect on today’s readings, on a personal level, I am reminded of the passing of things in my life over the past 5 years. These were painful endings. But today’s readings remind us that we should not hold onto these painful events and let them destroy us. Seasons come and seasons go. And a new one arrives. We cannot bypass the natural progression of seasons, “ …for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”  Situations in life or things have to die before God can bring forth something new in our lives.

As I ponder more, I realise that God was there for me through these crises. Even when I didn’t feel His presence. There were also endings that God saw me through that brought me freedom and opened up new opportunities in life.

Instead, we are to rely on Jesus, who is greater than the Temple. When all else disappears, he endures, and with him, we too will live on in him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, help us to remember that the future lies in your hands and nothing can destroy or hurt us if we remain true to you as Lord of our lives.

Thanksgiving:  The readings from today until Advent are full of warnings about the end times. But we are not to be terrified, because God’s providence will see us through whatever evils may beset our world. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

7 July, Sunday – Detachment

7 July 2019 – 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Isaiah 66:10-14

Rejoice, Jerusalem,
be glad for her, all you who love her!
Rejoice, rejoice for her,

all you who mourned her!

That you may be suckled, filled,
from her consoling breast,
that you may savour with delight

her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:
Now towards her I send flowing
peace, like a river,
and like a stream in spate

the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried
and fondled in her lap.
Like a son comforted by his mother
will I comfort you.

And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice,
and your bones flourish like the grass.
To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

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Galatians 6:14-18

The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God.

I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, my brothers. Amen.

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Luke 10:1-12,17-20

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.

‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.

‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

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We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.

I must admit that I have been struggling with the concept of detachment for a very long time. It’s the idea that you have to immerse yourself fully in love, dedicate your whole self to the cause God is calling you to, but then at the same time, be ready to give it all up to God when He asks you to. Indeed, our Faith is a paradox!

In the book Mary of Nazareth, the author shared that Mother Mary had to learn to live in Egypt but also have a spirit of detachment – that is, she should be ready to leave should God ask her to. I could only imagine how it would feel trying to make friends with your neighbours, building a house, looking for playmates for Jesus, and all the while, knowing in her heart that they would be leaving the place. Would it have been agonizing?

By nature, we know that we work well when things are certain; that’s why we recognize individuals who are able to operate well in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. Borrowing from the corporate strategies, individuals who are able to function well in this VUCA world are those who do not need 100% certainty in everything – they study what they know, and then they make the best decision possible. After making the decision, they no longer agonize whether they made a mistake initially, they let the results confirm their decision. So what happens if the decision proves wrong? The best VUCA decision-makers I’ve seen seem to display a spirit of detachment. They are comfortable having made the decision knowing that it was the best decision one could do at that point in time. To them, deciding was better than not moving.

There are times that I feel that God gives us a VUCA situation, but there is a difference. God provides certainty. This certainty is that everything that will happen will eventually be for the good. God allows things to happen so that a greater good can come about. Remember? ‘Oh happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam.’ It’s a lot easier to write this than to really live it out.

Perhaps, for us, in this ‘VUCA’ life God is calling us, He just asks us to live well, to follow Him, to love Him. This would be our best decision. And then whatever happens, let our hearts not be troubled. There should be no dust in on our feet, nor in our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, detachment may be difficult, so give us the grace to trust you and to trust in your good plans for us.   

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing things we do not like in order to bring about greater good.

7 September, Friday – Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

7 September

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1 Corinthians 4:1-5

People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust. Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. I will not even pass judgement on myself. True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted: the Lord alone is my judge. There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God.

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Luke 5:33-39

The Pharisees and scribes said to Jesus, ‘John’s disciples are always fasting and saying prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking.’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely you cannot make the bridegroom’s attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come, the time for the bridegroom to be taken away from them; that will be the time when they will fast.’

He also told them this parable, ‘No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

‘And nobody puts new wine into old skins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost. No; new wine must be put into fresh skins. And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. “The old is good” he says.’

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Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes

Prompted by my Spiritual Director a few months back, I started to take art lessons. I took art as a subject back in school and since then, never drew again until that one afternoon at the retreat centre. Unable to reflect or journal anymore, I found myself in the art room of the centre and started doodling an image of The Good Shepherd, it being Good Shepherd Sunday. That drawing turned out pretty alright, I felt. So my art journey started again. I have been painting now for 4 months.

Out of the many art studios here, I was led to this particular studio. It is run by a lovely Christian lady. From Day One, I felt that this was the hand of God. The owner of the studio shared her story of how her studio came about — for someone who really need not work (she obviously is well to do), and for someone who had no formal art training. It started with a desire in her heart. She wanted to provide a little pocket money for a family who was struggling. Sure, she could have asked her husband for the money but she really wanted to do this on her own. So she prayed about it – and that’s how her studio started. Today, she continues to provide for this family and, through her studio, she has been able to do so much more for the kingdom of God. What an inspiration that has been for me, for I too have been praying and searching for a mission, and how I can use the gifts that God has blessed me for His Kingdom.

At this time in my life, I am also going through some pretty drastic life changes. It’s a time of detachments to my ideals of what my life should be. Painful and uncomfortable as it is, I know that this is where the Lord is leading me and I have to be open. But even as I ponder upon it, I thought about my teacher. Sure it’s easy for these rich people to do more, right? They have the resources to do so. I built this image of her in my mind – where she lived, and the people she’s exposed to – easy for her to live out her mission. We all judge others – like in today’s first reading. As God’s servant, Paul must not be judged by human standards.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that she casually mentioned that she and her husband live in the public housing flats nearby. I was completely floored! All this while I thought she lived in a swanky house in some swanky district. She had. Until at some point, they felt that they were going to be more pragmatic. Not that they were unable to afford it. Something she said struck a chord with me, ‘Do not live according to the ideals of others but live for yourself.’ Her rich friends and her husband’s banking fraternity all thought that they must have run into financial difficulties to make the switch to public housing. But she shared that this change has given her so much more freedom and joy. She is blessed to be doing something she is passionate about, make a little money but more importantly bless others.

When we pray and ask God to show us our life’s mission; when we say ‘We surrender!’ are we ready to allow Him to pull the rug from under you? Can we allow God to work through us and use us in His mission field, and ignore how our secular society rates and judges us? I am slowly letting go and learning not to let others’ ideals of what my life and work should be rule me – as long as it pleases my God. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: God, as we pray today, we ask you to show us our vocations and life missions, give us the courage and steadfastness to move forward, according to your will. Help us to live not just for ourselves, or by others’ standards. May our lives be pleasing to you, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your love and your providence. For counting us worthy to serve in your vineyard.  

21 August, Tuesday – Spirit of Detachment

21 August

Pope St Pius X (1835 – 1914)

He was born in the village of Riese, near Venice, one of ten children of a very poor family. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 23. He was successively bishop of Mantua and of Venice, and was elected Pope, against his wishes, in 1903. In his time as Pope, he sought to “restore all things in Christ.” He insisted on the separation of Church and State, and banned the formation of political associations that claimed exclusive religious sanction for their political programme, whether of the Left or of the Right. He revised the code of Canon Law, founded an institute for scriptural studies, and initiated the revision of the Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) and the reform of the liturgy.

He lived in great poverty even when he was Pope, and preached sermons every Sunday in the courtyards of the Vatican, to any who would listen. In his simplicity and goodness of heart, he performed miracles even when he was alive, and the clamour for his canonization started immediately after his death, on 20th August 1914, broken-hearted at the outbreak of the First World War.

(From Universalis.com)

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Ezekiel 28:1-10
Against the arrogance of the king of Tyre

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, tell the ruler of Tyre, “The Lord says this:

Being swollen with pride,
you have said: I am a god;
I am sitting on the throne of God,
surrounded by the seas.
Though you are a man and not a god,
you consider yourself the equal of God.
You are wiser now than Danel;
there is no sage as wise as you.
By your wisdom and your intelligence
you have amassed great wealth;
you have piles of gold and silver
inside your treasure-houses.
Such is your skill in trading,
your wealth has continued to increase,
and with this your heart has grown more arrogant.

And so, the Lord says this:
Since you consider yourself the equal of God,
very well, I am going to bring foreigners against you,
the most barbarous of the nations.
They will draw sword against your fine wisdom,
they will defile your glory;
they will throw you down into the pit
and you will die a violent death
surrounded by the seas.
Are you still going to say: I am a god,
when your murderers confront you?
No, you are a man and not a god
in the clutches of your murderers!
You will die like the uncircumcised
at the hand of foreigners.
For I have spoken – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 19:23-30
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ When the disciples heard this they were astonished. ‘Who can be saved, then?’ they said. Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he told them ‘this is impossible; for God everything is possible.’

Then Peter spoke. ‘What about us?’ he said to him ‘We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, when all is made new and the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, you will yourselves sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.’

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‘We have left everything and followed you.’

To trust in the Providence of God is indeed a challenge for most people. Some believe in the security which material possessions may give but the readings of today remind us of the importance of trusting in the love which God has given us.

Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that it is important for us to remember that God is the centre of our life. Today’s Gospel is a continuation from yesterday where the rich young man left away disappointed at the sacrifice he had to make to follow Jesus. The cost of discipleship is indeed great sacrifice. It requires us to put aside our differences and learn that God is indeed the maker and controller of our lives.

The first reading reminds us of the punishment which was inflicted on the king of Tyre for growing too proud. His pride caused God to strip him of the material possessions he had. God is ultimately the owner of all the talents we have in our life.

Today’s feast of St Pius X is a good example for us to follow. St Pius wanted to ensure that the Catholic Faith remained true to its origins. This is something which we can follow. In our lives today, we may make compromises which cause others to be affected by our decisions. These compromises may go contrary to our Catholic Faith and it is in these type of situations that we can have the example of St Pius X as a guide. He chose to remain faithful to God’s word despite the challenges of the world. Let us make an effort now to continue to spread the Word of God in our lives despite the troubles we face.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for a spirit of detachment in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have taken the vow of poverty

10 April, Monday – To Praise, Love and Serve Him

10 April 2017

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Isaiah 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
he who created the heavens and spread them out,
who gave shape to the earth and what comes from it,
who gave breath to its people
and life to the creatures that move in it:

‘I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,

‘to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’

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John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment.

Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

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You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Being Catholic, I am often asked some rather uncomfortable questions about the alleged opulence of our churches (adorned as they are with gold ornaments and ornate sculptures). Indeed, it is almost logical to wonder — wouldn’t it be better to sell all this gold and art pieces, and give the money to the poor? On a recent trip to Rome, the same thought crossed my mind, as I was praying in the beautiful and ornate Church of the Gesu. In catechism, we are often taught that gold is used because we want to give our best to God.

But again, this answer may not always be theologically appealing. After all, doesn’t feeding the poor constitute giving our best to God? No, the answer to this niggling doubt lies not in the physical realm. Rather, it has something to do with our desire to detach ourselves from material objects and desire. In using gold to adorn our churches, we have not only chosen to give our best and most precious (material) possession to God, but we show that we treat such possessions with a healthy sense of detachment.

Indeed, it is a fundamental precept of Ignatian spirtuality that we should hold our possessions lightly and use them in service of God, for nothing we own (or indeed, nothing we do) would mean anything if they are not used in the service of God. As St Ignatus puts it: “The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul. All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created” (The First Principle and Foundation, St Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises).

In washing our Lord’s feet with perfumed oil, Mary is using what is materially precious to serve a greater and more spiritual purpose — worship of our Lord. In contrast, Judas cannot see beyond the material value of the oil, and hence is unable to serve the Lord with all his heart and soul. Like Mary, we too should make use of all our possessions and talents in the praise and service of our Lord. In doing so, we are, as St Ignatius teaches us, simply doing the purpose that God has designed and made us for — to praise, reverence (or love), and serve Him.

This is even more crucial at the beginning of this Holy Week, as we accompany Jesus towards His Passion. For without our Lord’s sacrificial love for us, our talents and possessions will be of little use, for none of these could ever save our souls.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, grant us the wisdom to look beyond the veil of our material world, so that we can see your spiritual presence in all its splendour, and in doing so, hope to praise, reverence and serve You in all the days of our lives.

Thanksgiving: We are thankful for all the gifts, little and big, that the Lord has showered upon us, and for the chance to use these gifts in service of Him.