Tag Archives: fidelity

30 Jul, Tuesday – The Motherly Love of God

Jul 30 – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

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Exodus 33:7-11, 34:5-9, 28

Moses used to take the Tent and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. He called it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who had to consult the Lord would go out to the Tent of Meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise. Every man would stand at the door of his tent and watch Moses until he reached the Tent; the pillar of cloud would come down and station itself at the entrance to the Tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When they saw the pillar of cloud stationed at the entrance to the Tent, all the people would rise and bow low, each at the door of his tent. The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would turn back to the camp, but the young man who was his servant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the Tent.

And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands he maintains his kindness, forgives faults, transgression, sin; yet he lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father’s fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the third and fourth generation.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, eating and drinking nothing. He inscribed on the tablets the words of the Covenant – the Ten Words.

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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!’

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as one speaks to a friend

Consider for a moment the first reading. Did you notice the presence of God? It is ‘unmissable’ (pardon my blatant disregard for good grammar) – the pillar of cloud. It is mind-boggling that day in and day out, the people of Israel had God literally living in a tent in their midst, visible for all to see. And on top of that, God spoke as one would speak to a friend.

Fast forward a few millennia. Most, if not all of us, have struggled to sense God’s presence at one point in our lives — how we yearn to hear Him when we are in desperate need of direction, of hope, of faith. How we long to see him when our world suddenly turns upside down with pain, insecurity, betrayal, hopelessness, terror. Where then is the pillar of cloud, the presence of God in our lives? Has it dissipated into thin air? Has our faith dissipated into thin air? Was it ever really there in the first place?

Allow me to point to the fidelity of God in our lives, through the person of His mother – the first and only perfect disciple of the Holy Trinity.

I spend a fair bit of time sitting in prayer and refection, at the open-air courtyard at Nativity Church, in front of the life-sized statue of our Lady of Grace. And as I sit there, many of her children come by each day to pray to her. Two have left a deep impression on me, on how real God and our Blessed Mother’s love has been for them. I make a caveat though — these are entirely what I see and the judgments I make on my part about them — not necessarily grounded in truth, but I believe in my heart, from my observations and reflections about them, that they are deeply grounded in faith and filled with grace from God.

The first is that of a young father with his son. The father looks like a typical ‘Ah Beng’ (local slang for gangster) – with a full body tattoo from head to toe. He struck me as one who perhaps lived a dangerous life, a reckless life. Beside him was his young son. They were kneeling in front of our Blessed Mother – the father patiently and lovingly teaching his son to pray the Rosary. It was really an odd picture – something unexpected but powerful, in the sense of surprise it gave me. It made me reflect deeply. And as I reflected, I asked myself – did something happen to help him turn over a new leaf? How was his life touched by God and our Mother which has led him to now want to build strong roots of faith in his son? Was he saved from tragedy? Or from a life which would have been perilous to his family?

The second is that of a grandmother wheeling a boy on a wheelchair to the feet of Mother Mary. The boy appeared to be suffering from severe muscular dystrophy and his body was severely contorted and deformed, his head twisted to almost right angles to his shoulder. He also appeared mentally retarded and was not able to relate normally to the grandmother’s words. The grandmother however, was the picture of perfect love, fidelity, patience, support and compassion for the boy. She was joyful, smiling and showered the boy with immense love. Her love for her grandson was self-sacrificial – his life, dignity, comfort, self-worth and well-being was all that mattered. It was a cross she knew she would need to carry for the rest of her life. But she was able to embrace that cross. With amazing joy, with amazing love.

Stares did not bother them, tragedy did not lead them to despair, darkness did not overwhelm the flicker of faith in their eyes, which were not fixed on what the world thought of them, nor their condition, nor those they loved. No,– their eyes were fixed on the saving love of their God and the unfailing love of the Mother of their God. Through the painful curve balls thrown at them by life, the learnt that they had a God whose love, care and fidelity is constant, unchanging and unchangeable. These were blessed, not by the circumstances of their lives which was fraught with suffering, but in knowing that they could no longer help themselves. They were blessed with faith which helped them know, with great certainty, that their God was very present, very real, very faithful.  A God which spoke to them in their lives, as one spoke to a friend. For these blessed ones, the pillar of cloud, which is their Almighty God, continues to be their protector, their provider, their refuge, their salvation.

In both instances, I asked myself what exactly did they have to go through in life that allows their spirit to remain so strong, their faith and fidelity and hope in God and our Blessed Mother to remain so steadfast and unwavering? What grace was it that gives them such victory despite such heavy defeats in life? My only conclusion — the only one that could make any sense whatsoever to me — Amazing Grace, Amazing Love, Amazing God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. When our lives are so filled with pain, with fear, with angst and you seem silent and very far away, we lose our way and our courage and our hope. Bring us back, by your saving love and amazing grace to that place where you remind us that you have never left us and for us to then know we will always have a Father who is also a friend, who walks every step of life with us.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for all the times you stayed by our side when we had long abandoned you. For never giving up on us. For remaining true to us and being our friend, no matter what. Thank you for Our Mother, through whose loving arms and tender heart, you let us know the gentleness and depth with which you embrace us.

4 June, Tuesday – True discipleship does not come cheap

4 Jun 2019

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Acts 20:17-27

From Miletus Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. When they arrived he addressed these words to them: ‘You know what my way of life has been ever since the first day I set foot among you in Asia, how I have served the Lord in all humility, with all the sorrows and trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you; I have preached to you, and instructed you both in public and in your homes, urging both Jews and Greeks to turn to God and to believe in our Lord Jesus. ‘And now you see me a prisoner already in spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem, but have no idea what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in town after town, has made it clear enough that imprisonment and persecution await me. But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace. ‘I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will ever see my face again. And so here and now I swear that my conscience is clear as far as all of you are concerned, for I have without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose.’

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John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come:
glorify your Son
so that your Son may glorify you;
and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him,
let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.
And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I have glorified you on earth
and finished the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me
with that glory I had with you
before ever the world was.
I have made your name known
to the men you took from the world to give me.
They were yours and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now at last they know
that all you have given me comes indeed from you;
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me,
and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you,
and have believed that it was you who sent me.
I pray for them;
I am not praying for the world
but for those you have given me,
because they belong to you:
all I have is yours
and all you have is mine,
and in them I am glorified.
I am not in the world any longer,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.’
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For I did not shrink from declaring to you, the whole purpose of God

When Christ hung on the cross at Calvary, He seemed a broken man. He was. Not a glorious victorious God of all creation but simply a broken man, forsaken by practically all his ‘followers’. Except for John, none of the other disciples were anywhere to be found. Not even Peter, who already gone through one round of betrayal of Jesus by his earlier denial, for which he clearly repented. Yet, again, at the foot of the cross, he was still very much the coward. Only a handful of weeping women (considered nobodies in traditional Jewish society) and one pathetic disciple, who at least had the guts to show up. The Devil, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin and Pilate…they had a lot to celebrate that day. It was utter and total victory – their plan came to perfection. For a short while anyway.

3 days later, all that changed. And with Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus truly came into existence. God was ready to get His work done and kingdom-building could finally start in earnest. It took nothing less than the full power of the Holy Spirit to literally transform a bunch of inept, dispirited and broken cowards into the spiritual powerhouse that would rock the pagan world of the time and give birth to the true splendour, power and glory of the Christian God.

And yet, the foundation of the Catholic Church did not come easy. It literally took the blood and tears of the founding apostles and 300 years of courage, sacrifice and blood of martyrs to lay its foundations. The founding fathers of our faith paid a heavy price. Discipleship did not come cheap back then. It still does not come cheap today.

Amongst the apostles, Paul, above all others, best exemplified what true discipleship was all about. Paul was not only focused on his mission – he was practically fixated and totally single-minded. Pain, abuse, imprisonment, sleeplessness, starvation, slavery, floggings, whippings, stoning, cold, heat, fatigue, poverty, deprivation…the list goes on. All in a day’s work for him. Standard price of a ticket on the bus of true discipleship. And he was to pay that price over and over and over again. He had served the Lord faithfully with tears and trials. He had given testimony and witness to Jews and Gentiles. Paul showed that being a follower of Jesus involves both total commitment in trust to God and a re-ordering of one’s life in accordance with the Gospel. Despite the pleas of his followers not to go to Jerusalem as it meant signing his own death warrant, he described himself as being a “prisoner of the spirit” – the Spirit drove and compelled him forward. He knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. But it didn’t matter. The mission was the only thing that mattered. His life was not important to him. What was important was “that I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, namely, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace”.  As he tells the Philippians, compared to the sharing of the Gospel with others, life and death are secondary.

And although Paul was a great exemplar of such amazing discipleship, he was not unique. All the apostles, bar none, were on fire with the Holy Spirit. And the ancient world was set on fire by the spirit of Jesus Christ through these apostles. We owe our faith today to men such as these. And to countless others who paid dearly the price of true discipleship. Men and women who persevered in fidelity not just to God, but to the purpose and mission entrusted to them by Him. Men and women who understood that the price of discipleship did not come cheap but who were blessed to have discovered through divine revelation, that their God came with only one price tag – Priceless.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. We fail to see the treasure we have in you and in the precious faith you have given us. We fail to recognize that the mission you entrust to us is for us alone to fulfill and that you are counting on us to do it. So often, we count the price of our discipleship to you and so often, our discipleship of you costs little. Our discipleship comes cheap. More often than not, it is practically worthless.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gift of the apostles who laid the foundations upon which our faith and our Church stands strong. Despite all the huge challenges it faces, we cling to the promise that it continues and will always continue to prevail. For it is a faith paid for dearly by the sacrifice of your most beloved Son and the priceless fidelity of your true disciples.

20 April, Wednesday – Walking the Talk

20 April

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Acts 12:24-13:5

The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers. Barnabas and Saul completed their task and came back from Jerusalem, bringing John Mark with them.

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So these two, sent on their mission by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. They landed at Salamis and proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; John acted as their assistant.

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John 12:44-50

Jesus declared publicly:

‘Whoever believes in me
believes not in me
but in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me,
sees the one who sent me.
I, the light, have come into the world,
so that whoever believes in me
need not stay in the dark any more.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully,
it is not I who shall condemn him,
since I have come not to condemn the world,
but to save the world.
He who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already:
the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
For what I have spoken does not come from myself;
no, what I was to say,
what I had to speak,
was commanded by the Father who sent me,
and I know that his commands mean eternal life.
And therefore what the Father has told me
is what I speak.’

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“…what I have spoken does not come from myself”

When I first started working some 25 years ago, there were the “5Cs” that was used to describe the list of material items “desired” by many, including: Cash, Credit Card, Condominium, Car and Country Club. I would like to focus on the last item – the Country Club.

The Country Club was seen as a status symbol, namely because membership is expensive and is exclusive. Being part of a club allowed one to use its facilities such as the restaurants, pools, gyms, tennis courts, etc. Members are simply entitled to use these for a club fee!

In today’s gospel, Jesus does warn us against having a “country-club” mentality. One does not automatically earn the right to enter heaven just because one professed to believe in Jesus. Instead, in addition to hearing His words, one had to “keep them faithfully”. One had to live the life of a Christian and not just be heard to speak like one.

We are also reminded of the intimacy between God the Father and Jesus; that the only way to the Father was through His son Jesus. In a fallen world (through Adam), we are reminded that our relationship with the Father can be made perfect through His Son, Jesus. We gain eternal life through Jesus!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father God, we pray that we will remember that we should not just “talk the talk”, but instead “walk the talk”. We pray that we will grow in intimacy with You as we walk daily towards You.

Thanksgiving – We are grateful that You have sent Your Son Jesus to bring us back to You. We thank you for loving us despite our sinful nature. Thanks you for all that You teach us through your Jesus and for showing us how to rebuild our broken relationship with You Father.