Tag Archives: Faith in God

13 February, Wednesday – Am I a Pharisee?

13 February 2019

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Genesis 2:4-9,15-17

At the time when the Lord God made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, nor was there any man to till the soil. However, a flood was rising from the earth and watering all the surface of the soil. The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Then the Lord God gave the man this admonition, ‘You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden. Nevertheless of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die.’

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Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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It is from within, from the human heart……and they defile a person.

Recently, there was some media attention on a HIV data leak in Singapore. The accused is a foreigner who came to Singapore to start a new life with his partner. Only that this person is HIV positive and therefore presents several issues – one of which was being unable to obtain an employment pass. So, through a series of lies and deception, the love story progressed and turned horribly wrong.

As the story unravelled, there are people who could be affected by this data leak – it is traumatic for them. Coming out and letting loved ones know of their condition is hard enough – let alone having this information available for public consumption. They are worried and afraid of what people will think if they knew their conditions. Would they be ostracized? Would they lose their love ones, dignity and their livelihood?

We fear people with HIV because we equate this to AIDS. The fact is that the majority of people living with HIV will never develop AIDS, with treatment. We are educated that people contract HIV through sexual behaviour and needle or syringe use. Only certain bodily fluids — blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk — from a person who has HIV, can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream for transmission to occur.

Today’s HIV person is like a modern-day leper. It’s what was from the ‘outside’ that made him ‘tainted’.

In Jesus’ time, people were so scrupulous about rituals and foods being unclean. Today’s gospel tells us that what renders us impure is not what enters us from outside but what’s in the heart.  What matters is the state of our hearts. He warns us not to be so legalistic like the Pharisees – performing acts just to keep up appearances, so that people will see us as holy and righteous because we go by the book. But what really counts is the inner motivation, not the act in itself.

Where in my life have I been a Pharisee? Have I served in my ministry with the purest of intentions? Have I served with a heart of love and compassion but felt irritated and impatient with a fellow ministry member? Have I let these external irritations fester in my heart?

How has someone who has been so ‘holy’ and ‘prayerful’ turn around and cheat and betray someone else?

How can an act of love become selfish and self-serving?

In the story that I began my reflection with today, it may not be the disease that will cause the man’s fatality, but the lies and deceit that will cripple his heart, and cause him to lose what’s precious to him.

Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for the healing of this gentleman and his partner – in body, mind and spirit. And pray that whatever we do and say – may it come from a place of love, forgiveness, and compassion.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, may we not be defiled, separated from God, by the sins of the heart, evil intentions and sinful actions. Lord, by your grace protect our hearts and help us to be loving and compassionate.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, that your grace transforms us from within. Thank you Father for forming us in your image and likeness. May we be worthy of you.

11 February, Monday – Do you want to be healed?

11 Feb –Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick

Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.

It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.

On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fradulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.

Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 1:1-19

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

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Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

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All who touched it were healed

Dementia and depression among elderly folks are real and on the rise; these are common conditions in older people, and they frequently occur together. In Singapore and our aging population, the numbers are alarming:

  • The Department of Statistics estimates that 83,000 elderly persons will be living alone by 2030, compared with the 47,000 seniors aged 65 and above in 2016.
  • 1 in 5 elder people shows signs of depression
  • 129 elderly committed suicide in 2017 — a record high since 1991

My parents passed on several years ago and I am thankful that my brother and I did not have to deal with elderly parents with dementia and depression (though we had other challenges). However, the God of surprises led me to come face to face with this recently.

I have an elderly couple as neighbours – probably in their late 70s and mid-80s. The husband passed away in November last year, leaving his wife. She now lives alone, apart from her remaining child. This lady, as I am beginning to discover, suffers from depression and early on-set dementia. I have always felt that her family was being uncaring and irresponsible for leaving her alone, especially in grief and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. However, I am sure that there are reasons for her condition and why her family is behaving this way. Everyone has a story.

Our interactions have been generally neighbourly in nature – we look out for her in case anything happens at home, we share our food with her just so she has meals. Oh, she can well afford things, it’s just her medical and emotional condition prevent her from looking after herself.

Recently, these interactions have become a call for help and a way of seeking attention. One day, she called me, announcing she was going to commit suicide. Having no knowledge of how to deal with such matters, we attended to her by inviting her over as a means of distraction and hopefully, some form of comfort. Long story short, that episode was one of her ways of seeking attention – attention she was not getting from her family and loved ones. However, these have turned a bit uncomfortable for me. One day, she called me 7 times and even stalked me at home. She became passive-aggressive and accused my poor helper of something which was completely misconstrued by this lady. The next day, she apologized. But I knew it was time for me to take steps to draw healthy boundaries. We are now limiting our interactions with her and not taking the daily calls.

However, I struggle. How do I balance what is loving and charitable, while protecting my own sanity? Demented people make up stories in their heads and are often paranoid. What happens if one day she makes up a story that we poisoned her meals? How did an act of charity turn so wrong? Can a person so desperately in need of help, help herself?

This brings to mind the story of the healing at the pool; the man who lay helplessly by the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:1-14). “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” Of course we all want to be healed of our sickness, but really don’t know how; or are too afraid to let go. We hold on to our emotional wounds, our scars, our grudges, bitterness, unforgiveness, hurts, anger; we use these to build an emotional wall to prevent additional forms of pain and suffering from penetrating. It becomes like a security blanket, a badge of honour. We stalk about getting rid of that blanket, how it’s awful, and stinks, and we’re so desperate to be free of it. But when anyone tries to tug it away, we hold on tight.

Do you want to be healed?

We need to participate in our healing. Healing can be even more painful than the original wound. Broken bones have to be set. And that setting can first mean re-breaking.

We pray and ask God to heal us, to strengthen us, to remove this issue in our life, to free us of our infirmities. But are we truly willing to be healed? Are we ready to let go of the security blanket and give Jesus access to those scabbed, wounded places? If so, it means we have to get up and walk. It means using sedentary muscles not used to exercise. It means allowing blood to flow into places long paralyzed. It could hurt. And it would probably hurt a lot — at first.

But it’s the difference between living your life pool-side, and swimming freely in the abundant life God has for you as His child.

Do we have faith enough to believe that Jesus can heal us? Today, I pray that my neighbour and her family be healed physically, emotionally and mentally, that broken relationships be healed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, we lift up all those who are suffering – mentally, emotionally and physically. That they will be willing to let go of the walls of suffering built over the years and let you come into their pain and heal them.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for recognizing our desires to be healed. Thank you for healing our bodies, and awakening our hearts. Thank you for giving us back a sense of purpose, freeing us from the bonds of self-pity, pride, fear, discouragement, hopelessness and resignation.

28 January, Monday – The War Within

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 9:15,24-28

Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand”

Following on from the theme of new year and new beginnings, we know that a new year brings new resolutions, usually for the improvement of ourselves and our lives. And it comes to no surprise that before the year is up, most of these resolutions have fizzled out faster than a fuse in rainfall. Why is that?

I believe that the clue lies, to some extent, in today’s reading. We are all creatures of habit, both good and bad. Bad habits are the most obvious ones that we want to break or change come the new year. But bad habits are also the hardest ones to break. According to studies, it takes approximately 66 days to turn a habit into automated practice, i.e. if we want to get fit by say, exercise, it would take us 66 days of constantly integrating exercise into our daily routine before our brains accept it as part of our habitual practice. What does this mean? It means that all those early mornings where we fight our alarm clocks and inner longings to snuggle back under the covers, it becomes easier if we keep at it persistently and consistently. After a while, it becomes second nature for us to jump out of bed and into our exercise gear.

But even that might sound like a long time. It takes a lot of discipline and mental strength. It is so very easy to cave in and slip back into the old (and probably bad) routine that we are familiar with; but, guess what, familiarity breeds contempt. In a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, we go back to the old habit, feel bad about ourselves, then feed that sorry self of ours, and feel worse than we did before! We tell ourselves, “Nah, no point doing it”, or “I tried! But it didn’t work”, or “all those diets/books are a whole lot of quack!” We believe what others say about us, that we were crazy to begin with, that we would never stick to it, or that we are destined to remain in a certain way because we are lazy, our genes say so, or because “that’s just life”. The tragedy then is that we will never become the person that God has made us out to be, never live nor reach that potential that He has blessed us with.

God gives each of us a gift, and He gives us life. It is up to us to use that gift in this duration of our life to the best of our ability – that is our responsibility. So how is all this connected to today’s reading? We are divided within ourselves whenever we want to make a change. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Change is never easy, but it gets wonderful at the end. The Devil will never want us to change for the better, it wants to thwart our dreams and efforts. But God always wants us to progress, to be happy, to live a happy and fulfilled life. God wants what is good for us. And so our respective selves are at war with each other, internally. We are torn between doing what is right for us, and easing back into the ‘comfort’ of our lives, no matter how rotten that may be. I guess that explains why some people never leave jobs that they hate, or stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or remain in a social media frenzy. The addiction to what we know as safe is too great to venture out into the unknown, the difficult. All our lives, we have been telling ourselves certain things, that after a while, that self-talk translates into beliefs, regardless how bad they are for us. But my friend, there really IS a better life and career out there, there really is someone out there who will love and respect you for who you are, there are real friendships out there to be made, real experiences to be truly lived, and not via Instagram or the number of ‘likes’ our posts generate. Let the willing spirit guide us there, and our belief that God truly made us special for a reason, and gave us a life to be lived fully, not just to exist. If we are at war within ourselves, we cannot win, we cannot stand, and we most definitely cannot live.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in my quest to be a better person, to live a better life, I know that I will be faced with my greatest challenge — myself. Help me to quieten that part of me, and help me to listen instead to the love, the guidance, and the wisdom that You have set forth for me.

Thanksgiving: I give you thanks Lord, for the gift of life, a life to be truly lived. I pray that with Your help, I can truly live a fulfilled life, one filled with love and service to others.

21 January, Monday – A Changed Attitude

21 January 2019

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Hebrews 5:1-10

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him: You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever. During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation and was acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek.

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Mark 2:18-22

One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting. But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast.

No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’

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New wine, fresh skins.

Purchasing a new computer often brings with it changes which are difficult for us to accept. The physical hardware has changed in terms of appearance and size but the software within the computer has also changed. Some of the software is pre-loaded and it is often the latest edition. This causes much grief to a user who is familiar with the shortcuts associated with the old software.

I believe the same can be said of our faith. There are times when we realise that our beliefs is incompatible with Faith of God. This often results in a disagreement which is resolved by an individual adopting a ‘buffet’ approach where we choose to believe whatever suits us and ignores the rest. Perhaps it is time for us to re-examine what these incompatible beliefs are and how they are preventing us from becoming closer to God.

This type of reflection will often bring forth a spring of emotions which we may have spent time repressing and hence we should continue to pray in our lives and ask God to touch us in these areas and let his love heal us in these areas.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Dear God, we pray for courage to accept our weaknesses.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for the forgiveness you have shown us.