Tag Archives: generosity

11 November, Sunday – Giving with Generosity and Humility

11 November 2018

_____________________

1 Kings 17:10-16

Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

_____________________

Hebrews 9:24-28

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.

_____________________

Mark 12:38-44

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

_____________________

We are but custodians

Recently, I have been listening to the podcasts of Bishop Robert Barron’s sermons – ‘Word on Fire’.  It is very enlightening and helpful in my faith studies. He provides background information to help explain the readings from the bible, ranging from the Old Testament, New Testament and the Gospels.

It has certainly shed some light on questions that I have had but didn’t know who or how to ask. It has enriched my faith journey immensely. It seems the more I ponder about our Catholic faith, the more there is to learn and understand.

Throughout the podcasts, there is one theme that stands out for me. In this secular and colourful world where we are easily distracted by the lights, sounds and other objects that stimulate our senses, we lose sight of the truth. We are so caught up in the rat race of earning more, having more, becoming more in the eyes of man; we attribute any ‘successes’ that we experience to our abilities and hard work; we forget that all that we have, all that we are, comes from God. We are but custodians of the ‘talents’ that He has entrusted to us for the time being.

We cannot know God’s plans. But He has one for everyone of us. He blessed some with great talents, some with great wealth, some with great wisdom; the point is that He blesses every one of us differently but loves us all equally. With the blessings that He has given, we should be generous in sharing and giving, whether it is our time, our talents or our treasures. We are but custodians and have temporary stewardship. Besides the act of giving, we also need to keep in mind the spirit in which we give. We should give with an attitude of servitude and not one aimed to win us favours and recognition from others in the communities around us. As Mother Teresa said: “In the end, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for the spirit of humility and recognize that all that we are, all that we have, comes from You. May the Holy Spirit guide us to utilize our talents to give generously and with a mindset of servitude.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, our Heavenly Father, for blessing and loving us, and for the people who share and give abundantly of themselves, their time, their talents and their treasures.

5 November, Monday – #Freeloaders

5 November

_____________________

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.’

_____________________

“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you”

How do you know if the charity that you do goes towards a truly worthwhile cause, or if it is enabling freeloading behaviour? I’ve had reason to ask myself this over the last year. It’s particularly difficult to address when that freeloading behaviour comes from members of one’s own family. Do you risk fraying family ties by calling it out? Do you put up with it in the interest of maintaining household harmony? How can encouraging bad behaviour be a sustainable solution for the long term? Someone or something has to give at some point.

That old yarn about how ‘charity begins at home’ doesn’t tell us what to do when those who inhabit our ‘home’ are serial scroungers. These are the relatives who seem to have an endless supply of sob stories, who guilt us into giving up our time, effort and money yet think nothing of posting pictures on social media of how they’re living up #thisblessedlife. They’ll never have enough money to see to repairs at home or meet their credit card payments yet seem to always find the funds for #awesome vacations. How does the math add up?

Scripture tells us this about giving – “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind… because of their inability to repay you”. It also makes it abundantly clear that we are not to enable freeloading behaviour, “…keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us … if anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat” (Thess 3: 6-10). The strong work ethic that was once the backbone of our great country now seems to have been replaced by an insidious kind of ‘victim complex’ entitlement. Didn’t work for it? Don’t worry you’re entitled to it because of your circumstances, connections and your ability to work the system. Whatever happened to pride in an honest day’s work?

The holiday season will be upon us soon; ‘high noon’ for those of us who grapple with the scroungers in our lives. Maybe this year, I will develop a backbone and call this behaviour out for what it is. All our treasure ultimately comes from God. As stewards of His capital, it is our job to figure out the best use for it. Funding someone’s show-off social media hashtags doesn’t seem to be the answer. And I become part of the problem if I enable this behaviour by saying and doing nothing.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the strength and fortitude our cross, and to make the difficult to carry and often unpopular decisions that come with it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the prayers and support of those that God sends to help us with carrying our cross.

8 October, Monday – To Give Or Not To Give?

8 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.”

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of those ones where I find myself wondering, “What would I do if I had come across the man lying on the road?” In this day and age, I am sure there are many of us who know of friends, or even family, who are in some form of trouble. Have we stepped forward to offer help or have we been too ‘shy’ to even assume that these people who are in distress would need our help?

I have been journeying with an old friend off an on for the past two years and it has indeed been a tough road. Because any offer of help or piece of advice seems to be met with either a counter solution (which the person feels will lead nowhere). It is almost as if this person just wants to continue to be engulfed in this downward spiral. It got to a point where I started to avoid responding to the text messages.

So when Jesus tells us to “Go, and do the same yourself”, I find myself questioning how far I should go in order to help my friend. Another ministry friend advised me to make sure I kept my distance and not get too involved in order to protect myself from any harm. And while I comprehend the logic of that approach, I find myself asking if I am truly being Christ-like if I become so ‘calculative’ in reaching out to help. Surely, when we take pity on someone else, we should go all out to ensure that our efforts result in a positive and fruitful outcome.

Then I look at my ministry head. I have remarked more than once to my other half that we are blessed to have someone who has a huge heart. Someone who will go the extra mile and spend hours chatting with ministry members who are having issues with others or who some of us find ‘difficult’ to accept. All this, while juggling four teenage children and a high-flying corporate job. Whenever I see the way she gives of herself, I ask myself if I could ever have half of her generous heart. And whether that is what Christ means when he asks of us to go and do the same as the Samaritan — basically to give without counting the cost.

For Jesus, there is no zero sum game when it comes to reaching out and giving to others. He gave in spite of our sinfulness and He paid the price of his life in order to save us. Many of us give what we can, but how many of us are willing to give our all? In giving to others, are we truly giving from our heart? Or are we doing it in order to ‘earn’ some credits?

Brothers and sisters, God knows our heart and our every motive/agenda in our interactions with our family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Should we be looking for the approval of men or should we seek peace and joy from God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear God, help us to look deep within our hearts and to weed out all ulterior motives we may have in our giving to others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for being our ever-generous and giving Father.

26 September, Wednesday – Rags and Riches

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Proverbs 30:5-9

Every word of God is unalloyed,
he is the shield of those who take refuge in him.
To his words make no addition,
lest he reprove you and know you for a fraud.

Two things I beg of you,
do not grudge me them before I die:
keep falsehood and lies far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away
and say, ‘the Lord – who is the Lord?’
or else, in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.

_____________________

Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

_____________________

“Provide me only with the food I need”

As I write this, the book “Billion Dollar Whale” has just been released. It is a book written by two Wall Street Journal reporters detailing the life of excess and scandal surrounding businessman Jho Low. A prominent Malaysian politician shared an excerpt of the book recently, about a circus-themed birthday party that Jho Low threw for himself. The extravagance of the party led it to be dubbed the most expensive private party ever held in Las Vegas.

Over the past few years, details of the scandal surrounding Jho Low and the 1MDB saga have emerged, and the life of excess of certain parties involved using public money have angered the Malaysian people. If the details of the various reports are accurate, this would be the most mind-boggling scandal the world would have ever seen.

Today’s reading encourages a life of balance. When is enough, enough? The following line in the reading caught me: “Lest being full, I deny you… or being in want, I steal and profane the name of my God”. The scandal above has shown both sides of the coin – the alleged parties wanted more and so they stole, and being full, they still lived a life that was against all that God abhors. Like Parkinson’s Law, that states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, so too does money – our lives expand to fill the money available at hand. Where and how do we draw the line? At what point do we reach sufficiency, and what is our definition of sufficiency? Will we be happy when we reach sufficiency, or when we give to others out of our sufficiency? Jesus advised his disciples not to take anything for the journey, trusting instead in God to provide for them for their necessities. In that trust, the Twelve set off.

And so too shall we set off, in our own approach to life, believing that God will see us through. If He waters the trees and clothes the flowers so beautifully, then what more shall He do for us? Perhaps the thing that we should ask ourselves is not how much we have, but out of what we have, how shall we give to others? Perhaps in sharing, we may experience for ourselves a taste of the riches of the Kingdom of God, and therein shall our treasure lie, therein shall our desire be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the wisdom of discernment, to know where to draw the line between wanting more and needing more. Help us to live our lives in balance, knowing that you will provide for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the roofs over our heads, the food in our stomachs, the jobs that we have and the ability to sleep soundly at night. We pray for those who are in need, that we may find a way to help them.

11 November, Saturday – Heart Matters

Nov 11 – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, bishop

Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains – but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).

In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing asthe old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.

When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.

He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once, when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel woke the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.

Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the Basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562 when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty; alcoholism; hotel-keepers; quartermasters; soldiers, among others.

Prayer to Continue to Fight for God

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop

  • Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life: I am not the only one to owe them a debt of gratitude, all the churches among the pagans do as well. My greetings also to the church that meets at their house.

Greetings to my friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia’s gifts to Christ; greetings to Mary who worked so hard for you; to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me; to Ampliatus, my friend in the Lord; to Urban, my fellow worker in Christ; to my friend Stachys; Greet each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

I, Tertius, who wrote out this letter, greet you in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who is entertaining me and from the whole church that meets in his house. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends his greetings; so does our brother Quartus.

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

___________________

Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

____________________

“You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Recently, we had fellowship tea after a community meeting. Each of us contributed an item of food to share with the group. One of our ministry members brought 3 curry puffs (of which he downed one) to share amongst some 20 of us. We all joked that that’s how rich people get richer. I could not help but be a little disgusted with him. He has got to be one of the more well of people in the group and yet he was less than generous.

A year ago, I was the co-chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee, raising money needed for the renovation of our new church annex building. I was very nervous and unsure if we could raise the amount needed because of donor fatigue – there were many other churches also raising money, and we were tapping on the same Catholics to contribute. However, I was humbled by the generosity of our parishioners and friends of the parish. They contributed so generously that we met our target amount and more. Yes, we have some well-to-do donors who were very generous. But what touched me most were the contributions from the everyday, working class parishoners who pitched in so wholeheartedly. Many donated anonymously, and they contributed generously according to their means.

I am reminded of the story of the widow’s mite – the humble gift of a poor widow. Jesus said she had contributed more than anyone else that day. But how could it be when the rich people had contributed large sums? The difference is one of proportion. The rich were giving large sums, but they still retained their fortunes; the widow put in everything, all she had to live on. Hers was a true sacrifice; the rich had not begun to give to the level of her sacrifice.

Why do I share these 3 stories? The theme of good stewardship continues from my sharing of yesterday’s readings. Whatever we possess today, belongs to God – our wealth, our health, our jobs, our homes… everything. We are called to be generous in the way we use these gifts. It’s not about how much we give to others but it’s the intent and what’s in our hearts that matter to God. Are we fair and just as employers in how we remunerate our staff? Are we giving monies to the school fund so that we can ‘buy’ a place in that school for our kids? Why do we choose certain charities to contribute to? Because it is a good cause or for the tax incentives? Are we only good and kind to people because we genuinely love them or is it because they are ‘important’ and of use to us? When we see a brother or sister struggling, do we render our help?

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners and we certainly fall short of His glory. But as we mature in our faith and grow closer to Him, God shows us our sins and ugliness and purifies our heart. Will we shut our eyes to what He is showing us, or allow Him to work in our lives? Our God is an omniscient God. He knows and sees everything. There is nowhere we can hide. I am not perfect and, in many areas, I know I fail miserably. But today I choose God. He leads and guides me. It’s not always where I want to go, but He knows best.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, you know and see everything, past and future. You see the condition of our hearts. Though we hide behind masks of love and charity, you see the ugliness and the selfishness. Help us to be more giving and loving. Teach us to be faithful and honest in the small things today. Prepare us for the true riches of heaven.

Thanksgiving: For everything that we have today, we thank you. Thank you for giving us a discerning heart, to know what’s right and what’s wrong. And with this knowledge, may we always do what’s right, just and life giving.

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.