Tag Archives: discernment

6 September, Thursday – In Faith and Trust

6 September

________________

1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

________________

Luke 5:1-11

Now Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

________________

They left everything and followed him.

Over the past few years, the Lord has led various people into my life, who have been exemplary as Jesus’ disciples. As I hear the stories about their conversion, how convicted they were in their calling and doing the Lord’s work, living the life of Jesus — I am in awe. In their hearts, they heard the call, and kind of left everything or at least, what the world expected of them, and followed Him.

I have a very deep affection for our priests; giving up on freedom, financial security, their own hopes and dreams, attachment to family and friends, to give fully of themselves for the love of Christ, to be shepherds to us. Just recently, we were blessed to celebrate the Diaconate Ordination of a wonderful young brother. His thanksgiving speech was both funny and heartfelt. The most moving part was his tribute and thanks to his mother. I am sure that every calling and ‘yes’ answer is not easy. The sacrifice is not just theirs alone, but involves their loved ones as well.

Recently, a few of us got together for tea and one of my friends shared that she had plans to review her life and finances – both to finance her children’s university education and also to be able to devote her time to a vocation she feels she’s being led to. Being the primary breadwinner for the family, this was indeed not an easy decision. Yes, her first and primary vocation now is to be a good wife and mother, but she also knows that the Lord has greater plans for her. And hence her plan to be free of the things that would tie her down, preventing her from being free to be led by God.

Another friend shared that he is now truly financially free – for he owned nothing. He had left the secular world behind (despite having a good, well-paying job) to heed the call to a religious life. Fast forward to today, he felt his calling was to be a lay person doing God’s work, and till today, he still owns nothing, but continues to give of himself; using the gifts and talents God has equipped him with, to help and journey with others. And truly, he does a wonderful and amazing job. He gets but a small stipend for what he does. But the Lord has been so graceful and generous by providing for his needs, including a scholarship for his studies in the area that he is in currently.

In today’s gospel, Simon was asked by Jesus to go out into the deep water and start fishing. Now Simon was an old hand in fishing. So perhaps in a condescending manner, he acceded to Jesus’ request but thinking to himself, “We know that there aren’t any fish there, but just to make you happy, we’ll just let our nets down.” We know how this story ends. The miraculous haul of fish and this call of the disciples to be fishers of men.

The Lord calls all of us to be his disciples. As Christians and Catholics, we have a duty to answer that call, but not all of us do. Perhaps we didn’t hear Him, His call was too soft? Perhaps we heard but chose to put the call on mute. Or some of us may think we heard wrongly. ‘No…. I can’t possibly be called to religious life? I am simply not holy enough.’ These are some of the more common excuses I’ve heard used. But, my brothers and sisters, we are called according to His plan, His job description for us and His time. It also does not mean that we are all to be priests and cloistered nuns. Every one of us has different roles to play in this mission. Religious and lay people – we have our own calling to live the life of Jesus and be Jesus to others.

As I reflect on today’s gospel, even in the past, I often felt like a loser, disobedient and stubborn. Why? Because I did not immediately leave everything and followed Him. In fact it took a good 19 years before I stopped being just a regular Sunday pew warmer to being active in a community. This journey continues. As I reflected on this further, I know our God is patient and not forceful. But if we just say ‘yes’, He will show us our mission and vocation.

Brothers and sisters, when you receive the call, are we willing to leave our boats and nets; the security on which our lives and our families depend on, throw in our lot totally with Jesus wherever He leads? The disciples left them and everything else. Yes, some of us take a little longer but this is faith, this is trust. Without it, the mission cannot succeed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you have a plan and greater purpose for our lives. To live beyond ourselves but for others. Give us deeper faith and trust in you. The courage to follow you. Knowing that in our collective mission as priests and lay people, we will find peace and joy.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your patience with us. Especially for times when we did not immediately heed your call.  

24 August, Friday – The Fig Tree

24 August – Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

__________________

Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

___________________

John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

___________________

I saw you under the fig tree.

The fig tree is one of the few trees mentioned specifically in the bible several times. It is symbolic and a sign of peace and prosperity. With its large leaves, the fig tree provides pleasant shade and shelter. I am making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September, and might have a chance of visiting one of these fig trees.

God knows us before we know ourselves. How easy or difficult is it to trust in Him and in His plans for us? How do we even know what is His will for us? How do we discern His voice over others?

I’ve been struggling with faith of late. Thoughts have crossed my mind that perhaps it is easier to just follow the ways of the world and indulge in its hedonistic pleasures, rather than try and be Christian and follow the Word of God. After all, the rest of the world doesn’t think it to be wrong, right?

Struggling with relationships, with work, with life in general, I’m reminded that I can only draw strength from the Eucharist. But I am also reminded that I have to be in a state of grace in order to receive Jesus. In other words, most hedonistic pleasures would be considered sinful. Hence, the confliction.

But there is also God’s timing, or coincidence perhaps — struggling to write this reflection piece but still forcing it out anyway; wanting to take a back seat with my church community but having been asked by two different persons to serve in other roles in the ministry; is saying ‘no’ akin to saying ‘no’ to God? Is this God’s providence to give me a safe harbour should I be tempted to stray again?

So many questions, so how do I know what the answer is? How do I have the conviction like Nathanael to say “Yes, you are the Son of God.”? Is this what faith means?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to grow in faith. Teach us to draw strength from you always, to run to you first. Guide us to trust in you and your will, especially when it is difficult.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for sending guardian angels to watch over us. May we recognise the good in all things big and small. Amen.

19 January, Thursday – What Would You Write In a Blank Cheque?

19 January

________________

1 Samuel 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel and went in search of David and his men east of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds along the route where there was a cave, and went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave; David’s men said to him, Today is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.”’ David stood up and, unobserved, cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.

Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David bowed to the ground and did homage. Then David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”? Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you. “I will not raise my hand against my lord,” I said “for he is the anointed of the Lord.” O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand. Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind. I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life. May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you. (As the old proverb says: Wickedness goes out from the wicked, and my hand will not be laid on you.) On whose trail has the king of Israel set out? On whose trail are you in hot pursuit? On the trail of a dead dog! On the trail of a single flea! May the Lord be the judge and decide between me and you; may he take up my cause and defend it and give judgement for me, freeing me from your power.’

When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ And Saul wept aloud. ‘You are a more upright man than I,’ he said to David ‘for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil. Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested? May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today. Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.’

________________

Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.

________________

I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.

Whenever the topic of discernment pops up, the most common question I would hear is ‘How would you know what God wants you to do?’ For me, this is the agonizing part of discernment – to find out exactly what God wanted me to do. It used to make me feel very uneasy and agitated, so I read many books on discernment and attended many talks on discernment.

What I learned is that discernment is needed when you are presented with a choice involving morally good options. If something is morally bad, it’s clear that we are not supposed to do it. If it’s a choice between a morally neutral or a morally good option, then we should ask God to give us the courage to choose the morally good option.

Well, what if it’s a choice between two morally neutral options, or two morally good options? What do we do? That’s why we need discernment. We need to pray for wisdom to choose the best. Remember Solomon? God basically gave him a blank cheque so he could write what he would like to wish for. Obviously, he should not have chosen bad options but you see, riches are not bad if they are used for the welfare of his kingdom. Good health for the king is not bad because he could rule longer and provide security for his country. Solomon made a wise choice and chose wisdom. The Bible made it look like an easy choice but I would like to think that he prayed over his choice for some time.

In today’s reading, I think David was given a similar situation. I would like to think that killing Saul would not have been an act of murder but an act of self-defense. And to defend ourselves is not wrong. So in a way, it sounded to me like God had given David a blank cheque.

I know that God will give us many blank cheques in our lives. I understand how this could sometimes drive faithful Catholics crazy — we would rather have a to-do list than a blank cheque. Whenever God puts a blank cheque in front of me, I would have, after praying for wisdom and courage and as part of my discernment, tell him a disclaimer — I would do what my heart feels is right, trusting that he will tell me if there is a better option. And if God wanted me to make a u-turn, I would gladly do it because it is better to make a u-turn so I could do the better option than to stay in the second-best road. And with that, I proceed to write my choice in the blank cheque.

Did God just give you a blank cheque? I hope you don’t agonize over it. Just pray over it faithfully and trust God with your choice. He will definitely tell you when you have to make a u-turn.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, why do you make choices so ‘complicated’? It would have been easier if you just told me how to do things, step-by-step. I trust that in your wisdom and love, you know that it’s not the best for me, so I’ll trust you more and take a step. I know you’ll lead me — either forward or back.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live my life to the fullest by giving me options. And I thank you greatly for the wisdom and guidance you give me, and for my Guardian Angel who always guides me as well.

4 November, Friday – Finding Art in Anything

4 November – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy. On Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Philippians 3:17-4:1

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.

_____________________

Luke 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’

_____________________

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.’

When I was younger, I learned that it is not good to lie or to cheat. Though I know it is wrong, there are instances where I have cheated to get the job done. I could argue that it was a ‘white lie.’ Still, it is a lie.

Our Gospel today teaches us to apply ingenuity in life. It talks about a master who found out that his servant was wasteful of his property. He called that servant and asked for the account of his management because he was going to be dismissed. That servant had been thinking hard about what he would do next.  He was not strong enough to dig and too ashamed to go begging. Then he thought of something so that people will welcome him in their homes. When he collected the notes from the people who owed his master, he reduced the amount unknown to his master.  It may be right to say that he just slashed off his commission. The indicated amount was the actual sum owed by the debtors. By his actions, the servant and the debtors would have a good relationship.

The master applauded his servant. This is not to condone the dishonesty of the steward. Rather, his being resourceful. He was able to think of what to do to save him.

The Gospel reminds us that our resourcefulness quickly surfaces in times of need. Being creative and resourceful is truly a great quality. They are tools that can lift us in any situation. But it is suggested that the use of our resourcefulness and creativity is not for our own good only. We should extend our capabilities to others who need our help.

Another thing to remember is our responsibilities. As a servant, there is a master. We must remember our status and be obedient to our master. We must always instil in our hearts the faithfulness and trustworthiness, not just as a follower but as a person.  We may face a lot of trials tempting us to shatter our values. But when we completely surrender ourselves to God, we can continue to be faithful and trustworthy servants of the Lord.

Coincidentally, today is the memorial for St. Charles Borromeo. He is an example of a creative person.  His artistic sense contributed to the reformation of the Catholic Church. He initiated the steps for people to have a conversion to a better life. He set an example by living a life with humility and charity. He did a wonderful job as a pastor while entrusting everything to God.

Let us be like St. Charles Borromeo to live a life in conformity to the Divine will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

_______________________

Prayer: Father God, I ask for the grace that my heart always seeks to do Your will. Please guide us as when we encounter our struggles and choices in life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for the gift of wisdom and for the gift of strength, which enables us to face our trials.

19 October, Wednesday – Knowing God

19 October – Memorial for Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, martyrs; Memorial for St. Paul of the Cross, Priest

John de Brebeuf (1593–1649) was a French Jesuit. He wanted to enter the priesthood since young, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. His posting as a missionary to frontier Canada at the age of 32 was a literal godsend. He spent the rest of his life there, and the harsh and hearty climate so agreed with him that the Natives, surprised at his endurance, called him “Echon”, which means “load bearer”. His massive size made them think twice about sharing a canoe with him for fear of sinking.

John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.” However, he eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French-Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries.

According to the histories of the game, it was John who named the present-day version of the Indian game “lacrosse” because the stick used reminded him of a bishop’s crosier (la crosse).

He was martyred in 1649, tortured to death by the Iroquois. By 1650, the Huron nation was exterminated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. But it proved to be “one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church’s history”. These martyrdoms created a wave of vocations and missionary fervour in France, and it gave new heart to the missionaries in New France.

– Patron Saint Index

Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) joined the Jesuits at Rouen, France in 1624. He was ordained a priest and taught literature. He became a missionary to New France (Canada) in 1636, starting in Quebec and working among the Hurons and Petuns in the area of the Great Lakes. This was a rough assignment – not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the “Blackrobes” for any disease, ill luck, or other problems that occurred where they were.

He was captured on 3 August 1642 by the Mohawks, enslaved, tortured and mutilated for 13 months, but he taught the Faith to any who would listen. With the help of local Dutch settlers he finally escaped and was sent back to France to recover.

In 1644, he returned to Canada to continue his work with the natives and negotiate peace with the Iroquois. He was martyred with fellow Jesuit priest John de Brebeuf and several lay missionaries when the natives blamed Christian sorcery for an epidemic and crop failure. He is one of the North America Martyrs.

– Patron Saint Index

Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) was the son of a merchant and a pious youth. After receiving a vision and while still a layman, he founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionists) in 1721 to preach about Jesus Crucified. He was a preacher of such power that hardened soldiers and bandits were seen to weep.

The community lived a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. He was ordained in 1727 along with his brother John Baptist by Pope Benedict XIII. After ordination, they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were insufficient priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.

However, the austere life of the Passionists did not encourage large numbers and at one point all the brothers in the Order deserted him. But Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. In 1741 his Rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and the community began to grow again.

During his lifetime, Paul of the Cross was best known as a popular preacher and a spiritual director. More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved. By the time of his death, the congregation had 80 fathers and brothers. He is considered among the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

_____________________

Ephesians 3:2-12

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery, as I have just described it very shortly. If you read my word you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ. This that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel. I have been made the servant of that gospel by a gift of grace from God who gave it to me by his own power. I, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him.

_____________________

Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

_____________________

‘…because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

A question that I find myself asking often is “Do I really know the Lord?” Do I really know His love and mercy?

One popular hymn I remember singing when I was a young boy is ‘The Greatest Thing’. The gist of the song is about how the greatest thing in one’s life is knowing you (God), followed by loving God, and then serving God. It is in that particular order for a reason, as I have learnt, because before we can talk about serving God, we need to love Him. And before we can love Him, we need to come to know Him.

So the next question that comes to mind is, “Do I know the full measure of His love and mercy?” St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us that the mystery of God and His grace has been made known through scripture so that we now “share the same inheritance…”, and “parts of the same body”. In that respect, do I spend time to read the Word (scripture) in order to know God and His grace?

We know that cultivating a relationship requires spending time with each other before it blossoms. The same goes for knowing God and developing a relationship with Him. It requires spending time and effort in reading the Word and, where possible, spending time before God who is ever-present in the Blessed Sacrament. Developing such a relationship allows us to be ever-mindful of the Lord’s presence and keeping ourselves in check, and ultimately living in holiness.

Today’s gospel is exactly that. Living in holiness and being mindful of God’s presence, and preparing for the coming of the Son of Man at an hour which we least expect it. May we continue to live in holiness and wait in anticipation for the coming of our Lord. The hour known to Him only.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)

_______________________

Prayer: Father, help me to stand ready at all times. Ready to know You, ready to love You and ready to serve You. May I always be mindful of Your loving presence in my life.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for calling me Your child and giving me the grace to know, love and serve You.

20 September, Tuesday – Crossroads…again

19 September – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (Martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,
who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,
the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice
is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,
lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;
too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,
such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,
he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,
when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:
he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry
shall himself plead and not be heard.

_____________________

Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

_____________________

Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases him, he directs it.

I’ve written before about being at crossroads of my life, wondering which way to go. Almost always, my crossroads have required of me to take a leap of faith, they run in two extremes with no middle ground. As a result it takes me a long while of deliberation, accompanied by prayer to figure out what is best for me.

I am once again at these very same crossroads, albeit at a different stage of my life. Again, it is all or nothing, like going down Robert Frost’s roads in the woods: that if I travelled down one, I know I would likely not return again to try the other and see where it would lead. On the one hand, do you stay on the path which seems the most “secure”, or do you relish a little adventure and leave it to faith to see where the other path finds you? I’m not suggesting that we all become adrenaline junkies and go down the path that gives us an adventure “high”. Not at all. I speak of decisions in life which we know could make a difference, and trusting God enough to guide us where He would want us to go.

I have prayed about it and I feel that God is guiding me gently to this road that I have not taken, and while I cannot tell what lies ahead or what will happen in the next 5 or 10 years, I feel like I can trust that God will lead me safely to the shore. I do feel nervous to say the least; my heart is in my hand, but it is also in God’s hand. And I will take this leap of faith because I trust that God has my back.

Are you too about to embark on a new path in your life, maybe a new chapter or career, or move to a different country? Fearing the unknown can be a numbing feeling, paralyzing us from making any decisions. But our lives here on earth are meant to be lived, and God has given us this one life to make that difference. When Gabriel’s trump sounds, and we stand before our Maker to account for ourselves, what do we hope to say to God?

If today you feel that He is calling you to make a change, take the leap of faith. Pray for discernment and wisdom, knowing that whatever the path that God wants you to take and make, He has your back too.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

_______________________

Thanksgiving: Lord, I won’t lie. I am nervous and scared of making this new journey, but only You know what that path will be for me. I pray that You will reveal it to me as we journey together, and I pray for strength and unwavering faith, even as I can’t yet see the what lies ahead.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for always having my back. Thank you always for guiding my steps and holding on to my hand, one step at a time.

31 August, Wednesday – Let us be like children at Your feet Lord

31 August

_____________________

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit: I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual. Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wrangling that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people? What could be more unspiritual than your slogans, ‘I am for Paul’ and ‘I am for Apollos’?

After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul? They are servants who brought the faith to you. Even the different ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord. I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow. Neither the planter nor the waterer matters: only God, who makes things grow. It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work. We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building.

_____________________

Luke 4:38-44

Leaving the synagogue Jesus went to Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. Leaning over her he rebuked the fever and it left her. And she immediately got up and began to wait on them.

At sunset all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them. Devils too came out of many people, howling, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place. The crowds went to look for him, and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered, ‘I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.’ And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.

_____________________

“You are God’s farm, God’s building”

Being a father of 2, I had the wonderful journey of watching them grow up to be the children they are today. During these years, what was interesting was watching their faith journey. I have been blessed to witness their faith in God and have learned a lot from them.

Watching my children brought to mind the following passage:

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:2-4

In my younger years, I remember spending a lot of time theorizing about my faith. I thought about the ‘rules’ of being in God’s kingdom; would we go to heaven if we did this or that, would God condemn me if I did this, or didn’t do that? In fact, I thought about it so much that it began to get me feeling stressed.

One day, I came across the passage above and realized that I was being foolish. No matter how much time and effort I spend trying to ‘figure it out’, I would NEVER know. NEVER. In that particular moment of clarity, I felt admonished to be like a little child.

But what did it mean to be like a little child? Over the years, I have figured that ‘all’ I had to do was to trust in the Bible and the Church. It certainly is difficult to do.

In the past few months, I took a couple of courses — one to handle one’s business God’s way, and another to learn how to manage our finances God’s way. I had my mind blown during the courses, and learned so many biblical principles which seemed to contradict conventional wisdom. After my initial resistance, I reflected on the principles and began taking baby steps down this path. I have met people who have done so, and I can tell you that these people experience much more joy and peace than many others.

Today’s gospel reminds us that no matter what, we really need Jesus. In a lifetime that lasts forever, our 70-90 years of us do not make us wise. Our God knows better. Let us learn to trust Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will not get fooled by our own perceived “wisdom”. Help us Father to always turn to You for true wisdom.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for being there to show us the correct way. Thank You Spirit, for always guiding our own spirit to do the right thing. We praise You and thank You for never giving up on us.

26 July, Tuesday – The Lord is Near

26 July – Sts. Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Virgin Mary

By tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.

_____________________

Jeremiah 14:17-22

The Lord said to me:

Say this word to the people:
‘Tears flood my eyes
night and day, unceasingly,
since a crushing blow falls on the daughter of my people,
a most grievous injury.
If I go into the countryside,
there lie men killed by the sword;
if I go into the city,
I see people sick with hunger;
even prophets and priests
plough the land: they are at their wit’s end.’

‘Have you rejected Judah altogether?
Does your very soul revolt at Zion?
Why have you struck us down without hope of cure?
We were hoping for peace – no good came of it!
For the moment of cure – nothing but terror!
the Lord, we do confess our wickedness
and our fathers’ guilt:
we have indeed sinned against you.
For your name’s sake do not reject us,
do not dishonour the throne of your glory.
Remember us; do not break your covenant with us.
Can any of the pagan Nothings make it rain?
Can the heavens produce showers?
No, it is you, the Lord.
O our God, you are our hope,
since it is you who do all this.’

_____________________

Matthew 13:36-43

Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

_____________________

You alone have done all these things.

The world has been undergoing tremendous turmoil of late. We read of terror attacks in France, Turkey, India and even closer to home, in Malaysia. Financial markets are fluctuating with no sign of stability in sight and the mass migration of refugees is a real concern, especially in Europe. Amidst all this, one wonders whether or not our God is indeed present and why He allows all these atrocities to happen.

At mass this weekend, our parish priest gave us a mantra to take home. He quoted from Philippians 4:5 and said that all we needed were four words, “The Lord is near.” He repeated it many times and made us all repeat it with him so that the phrase would sink into our minds. Indeed, brothers and sisters, the Lord is near at hand. In face, it is in these troubled times that we must learn to lean on Him even more. Yet, we tend to forget and even shun mass, opting for a much more enjoyable brunch or long lunch, then feeling tired at the end of a work week and telling ourselves that we need to rest at home rather than to ‘fight’ with parking at church or the wardens who seem to have no sense of direction in directing traffic flow.

But wait, surely Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us and gave up his life for all of us deserves much more than a cursory hour every weekend. All He asks of us is some quiet time with Him so that we can learn to discern and start to understand why He sacrificed himself for each and every one of us. And why at times when we are down and the situation seems hopeless, somehow, a small miracle presents itself or a door opens to an opportunity.

We spend too much time and effort worrying about the wrong things. Easy for some of us to say perhaps; yet, when you look back at your life and reflect on all those times when you have been rescued, bailed out or had a tough situation suddenly resolve itself, who do you think has been there for you? Who is the one who prompted a family member, colleague, or even a kind stranger to lend a helping hand? To reach out to you and say, “Let me help you”?

The Lord is indeed near.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we want to experience your saving touch and feel your presence each and every day of our lives. Show us how to discern your presence and reveal to us your hand in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You for the many times we witness Your works through friends, family and others.

14 May, Saturday – Chosen Ones

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

_____________________

John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

_____________________

I chose you.

About three months ago, my parish priest approached us to help chair the church annex building fundraising committee. I was a bit surprised as we have never been active in our parish (we serve at the Catholic Spirituality Centre instead); yet, saying ‘Yes’ came naturally and we got down to work immediately. After a few meetings, the seeds of a few initiatives have been sown and we are now gathering people to help us execute our ideas.

Being a ‘newbie’ to parish work, it has been interesting to sit in on meetings and observe how the priests go about their ‘work’, which would not be possible without the help of many lay persons and office staff who give so generously of their time without any expectation of anything in return. I have been truly humbled by this opportunity, yet at the same time, wary of the dynamics that go on between the different ministry leaders and volunteers.

Thankfully, the Lord has been gentle and kind enough to send different people our way. And just when I think that we ourselves would have to shoulder the burden of organising an event/dinner, a name or two pops up in our Inbox or we get a call from someone who has heard that we need volunteers. The Lord truly provides when we are engaged in his work and it has been extremely heartening to see the many labourers come forward to offer their talents and time to help us achieve our target.

We at Oxygen were worried towards the end of last year, when our stable of writers dwindled to a mere handful. Today, the Lord has multiplied the talent within our ministry and provided in abundance. I know that He has chosen us all, in spite of our shortcomings and anxieties, simply because He knows that we have a desire to share His word with anyone who yearns for it.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians, ours is life that is pre-ordained by our Maker. It is a life that He chooses for us and it is up to us to discern His will and to follow Him. And while we do have a multitude of choices to make in our lives, we must make them in the knowledge that God himself has chosen us to live out His plan on this earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Heavenly father, we thank you for choosing us to be your sons and daughters. Help us grow in your love as we encounter the obstacles and overcome setbacks while carrying the crosses that you so lovingly place on our shoulders, knowing full well that You will always have each of us in your loving heart. For we all are your chosen ones.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for sending us your Holy Spirit and for empowering us with your graces.

5 May, Thursday – Passing on the Baton

5 May – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

_____________________

Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

  Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

  As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

_____________________

Ephesians 1:17-23

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

_____________________

Luke 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

  ‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

  Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

_____________________

You are witnesses to this

In the Ascension of the Lord, we might conjure up images of Jesus floating upward into the sky. In fact, fundamentally, heaven is not a locale at all but our definitive relationship with God, just as hell is the eternal severing of our ties with God. Heaven is where God is, and to be with God is to be in Heaven. And so what Ascension celebrates is that Jesus is fully, totally and forever reunited with the Father. It is the final prize that we all look forward to, since Jesus has paved a way for us.

Father Joachim Chang, the priest who has been tasked with building the new Church of the Transfiguration that will serve the community in Punggol, wrote recently on FaceBook – “When one cannot understand why he is born, he will find it hard to understand why he will die.” Indeed, just as the Ascension is about Jesus’ reunion with God the Father, it is also about Him passing on the baton to his apostles. For He said, “you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed the ends of the earth.” And I do believe that in the same way, He has breathed life into each living person with a purpose and a meaning for each of us. It is our responsibility and our urgent need to live out that purpose.

If we were to distill it down to our terms, this might mean a journey of discernment about marriage or religious life, or the type of work to go into. Personally I am trying to discern the type of work I should commit my life to – accounting, or social work, or early childhood care, or theology? As I ponder on personal questions more deeply, I realize that even the journey of discernment has a God-purpose. Our journeys, rather than our destinations, are our purpose. And if we are authentic and genuine in our desires to follow the Lord’s ways, these journeys can become a testament to his greatness and ignite conversion experiences for others close to us, who observe us on our journey. For evangelization is the duty of each and every Catholic who has found the treasure that is God.

(Today’s OXYEGEN by Serene Frances Wong)

Prayer – Dear Jesus, help us discover our purposes in You, that we may live lives glorifying Your name. Amen.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for the gift of time on this Earth, that we may enjoy the adventure before our time is up to return to the Lord.