Tag Archives: generosity

31 October, Monday – God’s way of love

31 October

_____________________

Philippians 2:1-4

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.

_____________________

Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

_____________________

There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everyone is to be self-effacing.

There is a song which has a verse which goes “Anything you can do, I can do better”. I think this is the driving force for most people whom I meet. Everyone wants to be better than the other party, be it in academic results, appearance, salary, job title and even the type of property they live in. The Gospel of today is inviting us to be radically different; to put aside this approach and instead ask God to be an integral part of our lives. This means putting aside all other worldly pursuits and be united with the Holy Spirit.

The desire to be better than our neighbour stems from a need to be validated. However, God accepts us for who we are, just as we are. With our flaws and weaknesses, this may seem difficult. In fact, some people engage in competition to hide away their imperfections. God the Holy Spirit wants to enter into our lives to heal us from all the pains which we suffer from. All these external pursuits must be oriented towards a purpose — to glorify the name of Jesus in this world, so as to bring people to know and love him.

Jesus shows us how to pursue this interest by instructing the Pharisee to invite the people who cannot pay him back. This is something which is radical. We live in a world guided by the principle of ‘I scratch your back if you scratch mine’. So to move towards an approach where we are expected to help those who have no possibility of repaying back is something which is counter-cultural. Yet, this is what God desires of each one of us today – to be His witness to the world and to show the goodness of His love through our actions.

We should start small. Let us look at one thing in our lives where we can change, which allows us to glorify God’s name. It could be the resolution to say a kind word to the pantry lady, offering a listening ear to the people around us and finally, to perhaps share why we remain so driven to help others – the need to let our actions glorify the name of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

_______________________

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to be your witness to the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to spread the Word of God in this world.

17 October, Monday – You are handmade with love

17 October – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

_____________________

Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

_____________________

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is a gift, so no one may boast.

I like to make greetings cards, and behind it I sign off as ‘handmade with love by Josephine Dionisappu, especially for you’ . My boss, who likes to make soaps, has the same label ‘handmade with love’ stuck on her handmade soaps. Both she and I have an unspoken understanding that when something is handmade, it is indeed made out of love, especially since it takes much of our time. In Genesis, we learn that men (we), were created on the 6th day by God and “He breathed His breath on us and that we are made in His image”. We were surely made by love by God and we should never doubt that our being and existence is founded by love. You and I are handmade with love and so are the people who love us and the ones who hate us too.

In today’s readings we are reminded of grace that we have received, grace that has saved us and yet does not come from us, something we cannot take credit for. Why does God give us grace? Grace, just like the gift of our lives, is unmerited. God gives us grace for our sanctification so that we can share a home with Him forever. And while earth is our home, we are able to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of Him.

A gift of grace can be seen in the person of our priests and religious. They have taken vows of obedience, poverty and chastity so that they can serve God’s people as a priority. I have been in conversation where people challenge these vows and the need for it. An agnostic colleague once told me why should we pay the priests, we did not ask for them to serve us. Our tithes are not our gifts; it’s our offering, not a repayment of sorts. It is hard for us to fully comprehend why we receive something when we have not expressed an interest in it and valuing it is a bigger challenge.

On a simpler note, let’s look at home-cooked meals. Many people I know will not expect to have meals cooked for them daily, but many of them have hot meals waiting for them each evening. We are aware that we can buy take-away for our dinner instead, or just skip our meal as an option. The home-cooked meal we receive is something like grace — we cannot expect it and it does not come from us, but it is prepared out of love by our mothers and/or spouses.

Are we thankful for the gift of grace? How can we show are gratitude? How can we live out this grace daily? How have we cherished those who have shown us grace?

Are we sharing our inheritance and blessings or are we hoarding and storing?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

_______________________

Prayer: Lord give us a heart of generosity so to that we share what we have for we cannot take credit for anything that we own for all good things come from you.

Thanksgiving: Lord you handmade us with love, we belong to you.

7 October, Friday – Only Two Options

7 October – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

– Wikipedia

_____________________

Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

_____________________

Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

_____________________

He who is not with me is against me.

A myriad of options is what we are so used to seeing every day. And in this capitalistic world, businesses are encouraged to identify their niche areas, to cater to the need of the select few, so that they can enjoy options.

With God, we really only have two options. We are either for him, or against him. We cannot abstain from this decision, because if we do, we end up being against him. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Whenever we are passive, we unintentionally become a counterwitness to our faith. If someone bullies another person in front of you, and you do nothing, you are helping the wrong act succeed. Worse, our silence gives our concurrence to what has been happening. In this case, ‘Silence means yes.’

It is very difficult for me to write this reflection because I didn’t want to turn people off. But the Gospel reading itself is also very strong. He who is not with me is against me. If we don’t do evil, but we don’t do good, we are already committing the sin of omission. Sometimes, I myself feel that it is unfair. How can I be held liable for something I didn’t do anything about?

Well, God’s command was for us to love, to be charitable, to do loving acts. It was not a command to be passive. So I guess I really just have to be mindful to do things for God, and not be passive.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

_______________________

Prayer: Dear Lord, whenever I pray with everyone during the penitential rite in Mass, help me to internalize that I am equally liable for the wrong things I have done as well as for the right things that I have failed to do. Help me have the wisdom to know when I am failing to do something you want me to do, so that I can put an effort to it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the people you have placed in my life who keep on reminding me to do something good.

3 October, Monday – Giving without receiving

3 October

_____________________

Galatians 1:6-12

I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned. I am only repeating what we told you before: if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one you have already heard, he is to be condemned. So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ.

The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

_____________________

Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

_____________________

‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

Easier said than done, isn’t it? To give when no one has asked you for anything, but just out of the goodness of your heart, with no expectation at all of any reward nor repayment. However, when you encounter Christ in person, that is what happens; you simply give. Of yourself, whatever you possess, and a lot more. And here’s the interesting bit — the more you give, the more you will receive.

In today’s dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all world, it is easy to understand why society is confronted with so many ills. I recently learnt about a niece living in another part of the world, who is going through clinical depression and her younger teenage sister, who is ‘becoming a handful’ as she battles drug and alcohol problems. And despite their parents trying their level best, the girls have both left the comforts of a loving home environment. I just wonder how they will cope out there on their own and whether a ‘good Samaritan’ will eventually take care of them when they fall.

When you’re out on the streets braving the elements or down on your luck with no one to turn to, there can be only one source of comfort – Jesus Christ. I experienced this every day as I walked the Camino. Over terrain that varied between dirt trails, rocky mountain passes, asphalt, cobbled city streets and muddy farm tracks, it was Christ that sustained me each step of the way towards Santiago. And while the encounters came in various forms, there was no mistaking His presence – sometimes by my side, at times just walking quietly behind me.

I have never experienced a period when my heart was as light and as carefree as those weeks on the road. And towards the end, I did feel the change in me. As I look back and reflect, there were so many situations that occurred where I would normally get angry, irritated or lose my patience. But I realise that I simply dismissed them with a laugh or shrug. And He did prompt me to give on many occasions. What I received in return was something intangible yet invaluable – an overwhelming love that could only come from God.

Brothers and sisters, when He asks of us to give, it may not necessarily be in a spectacular manner. It could just be a subtle prompting that comes from within your heart. And while it may require quietening your heart in order to discern it, you will know when it happens because it is rather impossible to ignore the call. So I encourage you to be sensitive to His promptings by learning how to quieten your heart once in a while. You may surprise yourself.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

_______________________

Prayer: Father, we pray for the opportunity to be with ourselves more regularly so that we can be more attentive to your promptings. Help us to quieten our hearts each day and to discern your call clearly.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for being such a giving Father and for showering us with all your gifts each and every day.

25 September, Sunday – Mercy & Grace

25 September

_____________________

Amos 6:1,4-7

The almighty Lord says this:
Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

_____________________

1 Timothy 6:11-16

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

_____________________

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

_____________________

“If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

As we begin the new week, we begin with an uncomfortable realisation. What is our faith about? How is our relationship with God? What are we living for? How are we living our lives?

The readings today remind us of the many things we have taken for granted of. Not to say that we must live in poverty, in suffering, pain or shame, but are we aware of the people around us, the people in our lives? Do we live as people of the light, people of love, proclaimers of the Gospel, defenders of the truth?

As in the Gospel today, are we like the rich man that is consumed by his wealth or do we count our blessings?

Many of us fear what’s to come after death, we go for daily mass, say daily prayers, offer much donation in order that we will not suffer eternally. However, our actions usually show otherwise, where we fail to see the “poor” standing right in front of us, whether it’s the “poor” intellectually, physically, emotionally or financially. We criticise, judge, condemn, make fun and abuse them rather than bless them with what God has blessed us with.

It eventually comes down to where we choose to stand, on the side of love and truth or that of selfishness and pride. We see the life of God’s only begotten Son and the side He chose, not just for Himself but also for all of us. It meant, the pain, suffering and death that He had to go through but it also meant the life and the glory that He brought to all of us and to His Father.

What is it we want? What is it we really need? For when the rich man knew that there was no way he could save himself, he finally asked if his brothers could be warned. Do we need to wait till we are in that position for us to realise?

It is this mercy and grace that we need for what God has given, He too can also take away. Our calling is that understanding that we are called also to be givers of this love, mercy and grace to the people around us in order that all may have a share in God’s kingdom here on earth and especially when we all return to Him, as one, for eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

_______________________

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for this mercy and grace that we so often overlook, as we ourselves are consumed by the things of this world. Help us to focus on you, on love, in order that we may live as one and return to our home with you when the day comes.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your love, your Word and the Truth. Thank you for this freedom.

19 September, Monday – Silver Linings

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

_____________________

Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

_____________________

To anyone who has, more will be given

There is a saying that happiness shared is doubled, but sorrow shared is halved.

When God touches our lives, a light is switched on inside each and every one of us. That light serves as God’s way of spreading the Word – through our daily thoughts, actions, and words – intimating those that we meet with God’s love and mercy. We are like little lamps to light the way for others.

Of course not all of us are called to be like Moses, guiding thousands of people to the Promised Land. We may even question what kind of abilities we have that can serve God’s purpose. We see ourselves only as “small fry” – not fit for a higher purpose. And so we hide, and we shy away, little lit lamps set under a bed, concealing ourselves with a vessel.

God gives each of us a gift to use for His higher purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Our gifts are all different, “according to the grace given to each of us” according to Romans 12:6. In fact, our gift could be as simple as giving, or showing mercy, or even just simple encouragement (Romans 12: 7:8).

I don’t profess to have many talents, but of late, if I feel that I could make someone’s day by giving a smile, then why not. Our lives here on earth are too short to be lived in such a harried manner. We have no time for each other, even eschewing manners and general consideration for others and what their lives must be. In the scramble of our daily lives, empathy has taken a backseat. Violence and fear face us in the headlines of daily news that we become enveloped by it, gripping us in paranoia and suspicion. These things are the work of the Devil around us, creating vessels to block out the light that God has switched on in us.

Today’s Gospel says “to anyone who has, more will be given”. If we use our abilities for the glory of God, no matter how small our action is, God will not forget us. God will use this as a conduit to start a chain reaction, multiplying our seed of an effort to cause a wave of change. God only asks that we start that reaction, by coming out from under the bed and lighting the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

_______________________

Thanksgiving: Lord God, I am small and sometimes weak, allowing fear and paranoia to engulf me at times. Rescue me from my abyss that I may break the clouds of doubt, even with just my tiniest effort. I pray that all that I do will be positive, and in turn create positivity for all whom I meet.

Prayer: I thank you God, for blessing me with the ability to make a difference. Let me not doubt anymore what I can do, but embrace the fact that I can indeed make a difference.

26 August, Friday – Higher Priority

26 August

_____________________

1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed. The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

_____________________

Matthew 25:1-13

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

_____________________

There may not be enough for us and for you...

Many times I have been accused of being stingy. I am not used to sharing what I have with other people. My co-workers hate it when I am eating something and do not offer it to them even just out of politeness. In the same way, I feel uneasy when somebody offers me food. At first, I do not think too much about it. But after working for some time, I began asking myself if there was something wrong with me. I have a sibling but we have an age gap of several years. Being born in different generations, we each have different needs and likes. I grew up not having to share anything. We eat together as a family but we do not share our personal things such as clothes, books, shampoo, soap and other things. Sharing was taught in our school. But my classmates had better possessions so I did not share anything with them.

Today’s Gospel reading teaches us about responsibility. Our responsibility to be prepared for the tasks assigned to us. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The sensible were wise enough to have a back-up plan. They brought flasks of oil with them. It may be an added weight to their baggage but they were blessed enough to know that they had to bring those. And indeed their extra efforts paid off. They needed the oil when they met the bridegroom.

It can be said that there are foolish and sensible people in this world. Sometimes we can be the foolish ones, sometimes we can be the sensible ones. We are sensible enough to realize our needs and to do something about it. But we have our fair share of foolishness. Even repeated foolishness over the same things.

When the sensible people said, “you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves…”, it may seem that they were being selfish. They could have shared a little oil with the foolish ones but they didn’t. As I reflect on it more, I realize that I can never give something that I do not have. Those who were sensible brought oil just enough for them to use and knew that if they shared it, none of their lamps would be able to provide any light. It teaches to help ourselves first in order to help others. Even in airplanes, there is this reminder to help yourself first before assisting others. It is like when you have your last penny in your pocket, you need to go to work, and there was a beggar asking for a penny. Well, if you are able to walk to work, you are able to give that penny to the beggar. But if that penny is your only fare to get to work, use it for your transportation. It is not being selfish nor greedy. You need to work in order for you to earn. And your earnings are something worth sharing.

Let us continue to pray to God, to enlighten us, to be like those sensible bridesmaids, to be spiritually prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please help us to use our wisdom in accordance to your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for providing for our needs.

17 June, Friday – Jewel of the Heart

17 June

_____________________

2 Kings 11:1-4,9-18,20

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah learned that her son was dead, she promptly did away with all those of royal stock. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly took away Jehoash, her brother’s son, from among the sons of the king who were being murdered, and put him with his nurse in the sleeping quarters; in this way she hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. He stayed with her for six years, hidden in the Temple of the Lord, while Athaliah governed the country.

In the seventh year, Jehoiada sent for the commanders of hundreds of the Carians and of the guards, and had them brought to him in the Temple of the Lord. He made a pact with them and, putting them under oath, showed them the king’s son.

The commanders of hundreds did everything as Jehoiada the priest had ordered. They brought their men, those coming off duty on the sabbath together with those mounting guard on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. The priest equipped the commanders of hundreds with King David’s spears and shields which were in the Temple of the Lord. The guards formed up, each man with his weapon in his hand, from the south corner to the north corner of the Temple, surrounding the altar and the Temple.’ Then Jehoiada brought out the king’s son, put the crown and armlets on him, and he anointed him king. They clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’

Athaliah, on hearing the shouts of the people made for the Temple of the Lord where the people were. When she saw the king standing there beside the pillar, as the custom was, with the captains and trumpeters at the king’s side, and all the country people rejoicing and sounding trumpets, Athaliah tore her garments and shouted, ‘Treason, treason!’ Then Jehoiada the priest gave the order to the army officers: ‘Take her outside the precincts and put to death anyone who follows her.’ ‘For’ the priest had reasoned, ‘she must not be put to death in the Temple of the Lord.’ They seized her, and when she had reached the palace through the Entry of the Horses, she was put to death there.

Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and king and people, by which the latter undertook to be the people of the Lord; and also between king and people. All the country people then went to the temple of Baal and demolished it; they smashed his altars and his images and killed Mattan, priest of Baal, in front of the altars.

The priest posted sentries to guard the Temple of the Lord. All the country people were delighted, and the city made no move. And they put Athaliah to death in the royal palace.

_____________________

Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!’

_____________________

If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!

Storing.  According to google search, it is to “keep or accumulate (something) for future use.”  In common situation, we store things inside and not outside.  We store leftover food inside the fridge to prolong its shelf life.  This is an act of preserving that food for later consumption.  We store things to be used at a later time.  It is actually good to save up for our future.  However, if the storage is not big enough anymore, some will become waste.  It can be food, clothes, shoes, or gadgets.  We cannot use all of our things simultaneously if there are too many.

Jesus said in the Gospel, “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal.”  It can be understood that Jesus is pertaining to the material things on Earth.  One may reason that we have temporal needs to sustain.  Yes, I agree that we also need earthly things to survive in life.  But we cannot only prepare for our life on earth.  We also have this afterlife that we need to prepare for.  And this is implied in our Gospel. “But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal.”  Jesus is telling us to prepare ourselves in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  How can we do that?  There are many things that cannot be lost.  The non-tangible things.  There is love, faith, forgiveness, and other more.  It is not only keeping the love, faith, and forgiveness.  We invest and share these with others.  And these are only a few treasures that cannot be destroyed nor stolen from us.  What we keep in ourselves will manifest eventually whether we are aware or not.  So if we keep only the good things, then good things will come out from us.  Others will see.

We cannot bring our riches with us after we die.  All our material wealth will be left here.  Similar to what the Gospel is telling us, this is the reality.  The reality that whatever things that we have, it will be gone and is not permanent in this world.  The money that we have is not forever.

Our life is short.  Therefore, we must strive to live it for ourselves, for others, and for God.   Our life is a great treasure from God.  How we live it is a treasure that we can bring in heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant that we may live a life for You.  May our daily life be filled sharing with others Your goodness and Your love.

Thanksgiving:  Father God, thank you for the graces in our daily life.  Thank you for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the money we earn, and the life we have.

Wednesday, 4 Mar – Generosity and Genuineness

4 Mar- Memorial for St. Casimir

______________

Casimir (1458-1484) was a 15th century Polish prince who became Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1471. He was third in line for the throne.

Hungarian nobles had prevailed upon Casimir’s father to send his 15-year-old son to be their king. Casimir obeyed, taking the crown, but refusing to exercise power. His army was outnumbered, and his troops deserted because they were not paid. Casimir returned home, and was a conscientious objector from that time on.

He returned to prayer and study, maintained his decision to remain celibate even under pressure to marry the emperor’s daughter. He reigned briefly as king during his father’s absence.

He lived a highly disciplined, even severe life, sleeping on the ground, spending a great part of the night in prayer, and dedicating himself to lifelong celibacy. He had a great devotion to Mary, supported the poor, and lived a virtuous life amid the dissolute court.

– Patron Saint Index

_______________

Jeremiah 18:18-20

‘Come on,’ they said, ‘let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah; the priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word. Come on, let us hit at him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says.’
Listen to me, O Lord,
hear what my adversaries are saying.
Should evil be returned for good?
For they are digging a pit for me.
Remember how I stood in your presence
to plead on their behalf,
to turn your wrath away from them.

_______________

Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’
When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

_______________

Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant

This Lenten season has so far been a stripping away of assumption and entitlement for me. I have been posed a very hard question by our Lord. As always, He alone knows our inmost intentions. It is the question of generosity and genuineness. How often do I do something for someone, or sacrifice my desires, but make a big deal about it? Perhaps there are some who will identify with me in this constant need of affirmation and praise.

There is a fine line between desiring to be appreciated, and the kind of asphyxiating need for recognition and praise. And very often this is a blurry territory that can cause much strain in relationships. In a recent family situation, I had chosen to go out of my way to help with an errand for my sibling which I had strongly felt was not my responsibility. I only did it because I felt the need to step up for the entire family and that would put my parents at ease. My sibling, on the other hand, was nonchalant that I had taken on the duty and nary a word of thanks was uttered. Of course, if my story stops here, you may have thought I had done a good thing. However, my indignation began to eat away at my good intentions. I grew sour about my unappreciated efforts and felt recognition was due me. This was truly a ‘Screwtape’ moment — I was aware that the Evil One was sucking me into a spiral of self-righteousness and self-centredness. I struggled with my negativity in this spiritual fix! It was not until I settled my heart down in a period of prayer and reflection, that I realised the source of my actions were grounded in scarcity and fear — that even God did not know or care about how I felt. I was wrong, of course.

Jesus tells James and John’s mother, who requested that her two sons be given seats at his right and left — that she does not know what she is asking for. He reminds her that greatness is not sought but given. This echoes the Gospel yesterday where Jesus tells his disciples that the priests were doing a performance of their faith by parading their good works through the town, wanting to be acknowledged as “Rabbi”. While we do grow in the practice of our faith, we must not grow heady with the goodness and faithfulness we may appear to project. These are all just the outward appearances of religiosity; not rooted in true love, charity and service. While doing good can be the outcome of our repentance, we can also unconsciously get mired in self-promotion and vainglory. The taunts of Satan are ever so insidious. We must hold fast to the knowledge that God is concerned with the pureness of our hearts — the seat of all our motivations.

On each side of the coin of our faith there are two faces — engraved with “Generosity” and “Genuineness”. We are challenged by our Lord to embody these two values in equal parts in the living out of our faith in Christ. Generosity and service that desires honour and recognition is hollow.

From this episode, I learnt an important lesson: while it is important that we show appreciation for others, we cannot demand to be appreciated; appreciation is given as a gift and not wrested as a right. And generosity is as much about giving as it is about receiving others with a big-heart — even if they sometimes fall short of what we hope for. In each of our hearts, it is evermore necessary that we examine our conscience often, through silence and prayer to God, to ask Him for the grace to withstand temptations and protection from all evil. Littleness keeps us grounded and close to our Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

_______________

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I am sorry for all the times I have succumbed to self-righteousness in my thoughts and deeds.

Thanksgiving: Abba Father, thank You for knowing me and searching me so deeply and tenderly; please draw me back to Your source of love and mercy.