Tag Archives: geraldine nah

7 June, Friday – Live with Love

7 June 2019

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and after they had eaten he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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Do you love me?

Imagine this for a moment – you did something so unforgivable and uncharitable to a very close friend of yours. Be it in a moment of weakness or a very calculated act on your part. How would your friend feel about your betrayal? Hurt, anger or sorrow? Could this friend forgive you? And can you ever forgive yourself for what you have done? Would you shy away from your friend in shame, unable to face him? Or would you push it aside, hoping that time would heal this wound you inflicted? Or are you so convinced that your act was justified.

Now imagine your friend, sometime later, in your most lost, despondent state, preparing breakfast for you. He asked how you are doing in the most loving gentle way. At first you are unable to recognise him, but by that one simple loving act, you recognised him – because this was the most recognisable characteristic of your friend – one who is ever ready to love and forgive you. You’d feel awful right?

This is the story of Peter. The last time they encountered each other was a sad occasion – Peter, betrayed Jesus 3 times. Yet after his death, the resurrected Jesus showed himself to his friends 3 times. And specifically to the one who betrayed him, Jesus forgave and loved him. Jesus takes Peter aside from the others and gives him the opportunity to affirm a threefold pledge of his love. The one, supreme condition for Christ to renew Peter’s commission to tend his sheep is Peter’s love for Jesus.

Recently, I found myself too in the position of Jesus. I had been hurt by an act of an individual. The breach of trust was so painful, so sorrowful, so shocking. To cope, I vowed never to come face to face with this person again. It was a pain I nursed for a few years. Over these years, I showed the classic symptoms of grief – irritable, numbness, bitterness, detachment, preoccupation of the loss, and the inability to show or experience joy. Try as I might to be Christ-like, I could not bring myself to forgive this person. Then one day, out of the blue, this person came to me and apologized so profusely. I was caught off-guard and didn’t know how to react. Days later, I was still holding onto the hurt and felt guilty for being un-Christ like.

It is so much easier to hold on to anger and resentment. But to love someone who has betrayed you – is simply too hard. God, in his mercy and grace, had pushed me to this comfortable space. I am learning that it’s only with God’s grace, that we can do what is deemed impossible.

Jesus too experienced betrayal. Yet He forgave and loved so much. He set an example for us. That is no doubt a tough act to follow. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3-4). However, to follow Jesus is to love. Love is the one, supreme condition for each of us who aspires to be an apostle. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man – (Proverbs 3:3-4). Our risen Lord gives us the opportunity again and again to love. If we have drifted away, due to whatever circumstance in life – be it hurt, betrayal or simply lack of interest. Jesus is asking us too today ‘Do you love me?’ Do you hear this invitation? Can we not live in the past, but live in the here and now? Live with love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for being an example of love. Having received your mercy, teach us Lord to be compassionate and forgiving to others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your mercy, in showing compassion and love to us for the many times we betrayed you.

29 May, Wednesday – Something has to die for something to live

29 May 2019

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1

Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.

So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:
‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.

‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:

“We are all his children.”

‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’

At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’

After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

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I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now

I have often pondered on this. If I had the gift of precognition – how would I have led my life?

We cannot control many events in our lives – for example we don’t get to choose our parents, our siblings, our relatives. However, there are certain events that were fully up to our own choices, like the path we took after graduation, our choice of life partners, whether one chooses a life of debauchery and merrymaking, or one of responsibility.

When I reflect on my own life – 2 events stood out for me.

  1. Marriage – I got married at 25. A year later, the marriage fell apart and we divorced civilly some 5 years later. I was living abroad at the time.
  2. Business – I had a real passion for church vestments and paraments. What started out as passion and love for liturgical vestments lead to a small business, which eventually led to a fallout and breakdown of a relationship.

If I had known the outcome of these life choices, would I have gone down each path? The quick answer will have be ‘no’. Who would want to endure the hurt and pain of betrayal, and the inconvenience of the legal implications of ending relationships? However, now that quite a few years have passed and as I look back, each of these incidences have brought about some rather beautiful outcomes. Something has to die for something to live. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

There is only so much humans can learn at one time — Jesus, so merciful and loving knows this. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples his farewell speech, knowing that His time draws near when He has to leave them. Jesus declares that He does not have enough time to say all that He would like to his followers. Moreover, they would not have the ability to hear it. Jesus, however, promises them the Advocate, who will reveal to them all things which is to come, at the right time.

It is impossible to understand and take in, over a short period of time, all that Jesus has to teach us. As our journey through life continues, the Holy Spirit gradually unfolds God’s message so that it speaks to us at appropriate times in our lives. Our capacity to take in what God has to reveal to us is expandable — when we become more open, the Spirit of Truth will reveal more, and guide us into all the truth. Jesus wants to draw us into the life of God. He knows how anxious we can be, both to let go of the past and to trust what the future will bring. Can we speak to him about our anxieties?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, you are truly magnificent. For by the gift of the Advocate, you have never left us. We pray for open hearts and minds to let the Holy Spirit lead us to the truth about God, about You, and our own lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for understanding how weak and vulnerable we are. Thank you Lord, for sending us the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us as we muddle our way through this life.

28 May, Tuesday – Judge Not

28 May 2019

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Acts 16:22-34

The crowd joined in and showed their hostility to Paul and Silas, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’ The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

They told him, ‘Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.’ Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his family. Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.

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John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Now I am going to the one who sent me.
Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?”
Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.
Still, I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.
And when he comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin,
and about who was in the right,
and about judgement:
about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me;
about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more;
about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.’

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When the Advocate, the Holy Spirit comes, he will show the world how wrong it was.

Recently, at my uncle’s wake, I met an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in ages. We barely know each other, safe for the fact that she is my aunt’s husband’s niece and she was once the mistress of a married man. That’s all I knew of her. She is 4 years younger than me, was a very pretty girl, always well-dressed and immaculately turned out the few times I met her. My perception of her was of this privileged princess, the only child in the family, doted on by her parents and uncle. She would have been very comfortable materially when her parents and uncle eventually passed on. Only a pity that she chose to be someone’s mistress.

Fast forward to present day and she looked nothing like I remembered of her. I was actually really shocked at how she looked. I commented to my cousin that ‘she didn’t age well.’ She is completely devoid of any make up, dressed simply in a white blouse and beige pants, hair tied up in a simple pony tail. My brother asked me, “Did you hear her story?” I was completely floored, humbled and ashamed of myself. Rita (not her real name), converted to Catholicism as recently as a year (or two) back. Surprising, coming from a family of very staunch Buddhists. In fact, her own mother also converted. She felt a calling to give of her life to our Lord. She sold all her possessions and moved into a one-room HDB flat. At present she is discerning to be a nun.

And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. Indeed I was taught a lesson again never to judge people. Human judgement can be so off target. Ultimately, the ways of our Lord surpass our own understanding and predictions. He is able to use us and our situations to bring things to a happy outcome. Even out of the most threatening situations, good can emerge – as in today’s first reading. Despite being stripped of their clothing, beaten and jailed, Paul and Barnabas, by their courage and faith, were able to win new converts in the Philippi jail.

We need to ask God to show us His perspective. It is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who gives us God’s perspective — to see as God sees, to know as God knows, to be wise as God is wise. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to keep filling the hearts of the faithful.

Today, I offer up my prayers for my sister Rita. That God of wisdom and of counsel, sees in her heart a desire to please Him, to grant her the will and desire to give herself entirely to God’s holy will, in the choice of her state in life and to embrace it lovingly and humbly.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today we offer our prayers for those discerning their vocations, for our priests, religious, lay consecrated and those being called by You to lay down their lives for others. We pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us to see with God’s eyes, to be wise as God is wise and to never judge others, as He is the ultimate judge and story writer of each of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for using each seemingly unfortunately circumstance in our lives and bringing these things to a happy outcome.

27 May, Monday – Graces

May 27 – Memorial for St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop

Augustine (d. 605) was a monk and abbot of St. Andrew’s abbey in Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great with 40 brother monks, including St. Lawrence of Canterbury, to evangelize the British Isles in 597. Before he reached the islands, terrifying tales of the Celts sent him back to Rome in fear, but Gregory told him he had no choice, so he went. He established and spread the faith throughout England; one of his earliest converts was King AEthelberht who brought 10,000 of his people into the Church.

He was ordained a bishop in Gaul (modern France) by the Archbishop of Arles. He became Bishop of Canterbury, and was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. He helped re-establish contact between the Celtic and Latin churches, though he could not establish his desired uniformity of liturgy and practices between them. He worked with St. Justus of Canterbury. The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury are still referred to as occupying the Chair of Augustine.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.

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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,

because you have been with me from the outset.

‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’

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Come and stay at my home.

I have been told that one of my charisms is hospitality, and that I am quite generous. I never think of it as anything noble. I just share what I have, nothing so extraordinary. Recently though, I feel that this ‘gift’ can be a double-edged sword – it can be fulfilling or can suck the life out of a person. When we are spiritually aligned with God’s will – things we do for others can be so life giving. However, when we are not in a great place, little things people ask can be energy sapping. Which was how I was feeling since January. Being in full swing with ministry work and using my ‘professional expertise’ to help in some projects, I became a bit sapped by the time Lent came around. Holy Week this year saw me crashing into new lows. Not because I was doing too much, but simply because I had no capacity to give any more.

I observed 3 things during this time:

  1. When we allow God to work through us, there is nothing we cannot do. But on our own strength, things can get pretty messy.
  2. God never, ever leaves us. He is strong when we are weak.
  3. He sends people to help and journey with us.

In today’s first reading, Lydia from the city of Thyatira touched me. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly. She was open to what the Lord was doing for her and it touched her immensely. God used her to bless those around her. Lydia offered kindly hospitality to Paul and his companions, having received the gift of the gospel and the grace of God. Lydia didn’t just open her heart, she also opened her home. She was not only the first European convert to Christianity, she also created the first church in her own home.

We have all been graced in various ways by the Lord. Having received from the Lord, we give from what we have received. As I look back on my own ministry, I recall the time when I was most joyful, no matter how tired and lacking in sleep, I felt much joy bursting from my heart. But what has happened to me recently? Perhaps I let ‘life’ happen, the burdens and pains of this world took over, and I had forgotten to lean on Him, to derive spiritual sustenance from God, so readily available to me. As I held onto this rope, desperately clinging on to my faith, my mind wondered if the rope was anchored to anything. Then the Lord spoke to me “It’s not you who is holding onto me. But I am holding onto to you.” Wow!!!! Indeed in weakness, He is strong.

Brothers and sisters, have you lost the joy in serving the Lord? Have you been sapped of energy? Perhaps it’s time to go back to basics. Receive the graces so readily available from the Lord. Perhaps Jesus is calling you today. Come and stay at my home.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, we have received so abundantly from you. Please show us concretely how we can give from what we have received. May You use us each day, to re-establish your church.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your fatherly love. Thank you for giving us so abundantly and unreservedly.

26 May, Sunday – Au Revoir

26 May 2019
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Acts 15:1-2,22-29

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

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Apocalypse 21:10-14,22-23

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

I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.

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John 14:23-29

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.
Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.’

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I am going away

Goodbyes are complicated. The English language doesn’t do justice to this word. There are several kinds of goodbyes – those everyday types, when you know you will see the person soon. Or the more final separations when you know you are unlikely to see the person again. French and Italian are more precise. For everyday brief separations, Italians say ‘ciao’, ‘buongiorno/buonasera’, ‘Alla prossima’. The French say ‘Au revoir’. For more final departures, Italians say ‘Addio’ and the French say ‘Adieu’.

I hate goodbyes. In recent years, I’ve had to say goodbye to several situations and people – from dysfunctional family relationships, to friendships, to a business I built and also to people who mean a lot to me.  These were not simply ‘au revoirs’ but ‘adieus’. They take a lot out of a person and sometimes I wonder if we ever heal from them. When we invest time and energy in relationships, goodbyes are ever more difficult; it is as if a piece of you died with them.

Jesus, in his ministry, prepared his disciples and friends for his eventual departure from them. While they didn’t know what it meant at the time, when the time came, the disciples were completely lost, discouraged and of course very sad. The text in today’s gospel reading are our Lord’s words at the ‘Last Supper’, uttered in view of His imminent departure. He knew His time had come and he wanted to spend that last evening with his most intimate friends. It was a meal filled with emotions. It would be a meal to remember, not only because this event forms the basis of the Lord’s Supper, but also because Jesus predicts a betrayal, defines true leadership, promises authority to the Eleven, predicts Peter’s failure and warns of coming rejection. Even as he faces death, Jesus serves by preparing others for their tasks. We can only imagine how he felt knowing what was ahead of Him. This time together is clearly bittersweet for Jesus. His destiny requires separation from those he loves. However, Jesus has promised not to leave his disciples orphaned. He has promised to send another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them and continue the work that he has begun.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. These words have been such a source of comfort for me when my world comes crashing down; When I don’t understand what’s going on in my life. People may come into your life and leave — God brought them to us for a reason, for a season. We may be attached to some things in our lives, only to lose them later. Know that God has something better planned for us, but not as the world sees it. We may be stripped of everything that defines us, but Jesus has never ever left us. Because Jesus is present with us through the Holy Spirit, we need not be anxious.  ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ When the kingdom comes, we shall resume celebration.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, so many times we do not understand your ways or see how certain events can be any good in our lives. Help us to persevere in faith, and in prayer. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we begin to see how You might be working for good, even in the midst of terrible and confusing events.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. May we be guided by the Advocate as we navigate through this earthly life.

6 April, Saturday – A moment of grace, not disgrace

6 April 2019

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned. O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughter-house, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’

But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence,
who probe the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.

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John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’

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Pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing

I write today’s reflection with heaviness and sadness in my heart. Recently, it was in the press that a former administrative director of our community had been jailed for embezzlement. This matter was brought to light some 4 years ago. At the time, many were shocked, hurt, angry, betrayed and sad. All sorts of emotions must have surged through those who knew him better or even worked with him. It pained those who had to take the decision to make an official report. He is one of our brothers and he has fallen. Yes he was trusted by all and yet he fell. I wonder if I were to be put in his position, given the opportunity, would I too fall into temptation.

The months that ensued must have been so painful to all involved. I imagine the numbers of trips to be made to the relevant authorities, the questions asked, the probing. The agony of waiting for the trial and verdict. I am not sure why the case took so long before it went to court and sentencing. Maybe other cases more pressing and more serious in nature came before. I didn’t know him too well but the question keeps coming to my mind – why did he do it? Why would he risk his reputation, his family, his life for such a small sum of money? Was he in need or in debt?

Days after the sentencing, my heart was so heavy and sad. It was a huge mistake on his part, maybe a moment of folly and there was a price to pay. Was it worth it? I’m sure we all say a resounding ‘No.’ I imagine the pain he must be experiencing, the pain his family felt, the shame it brought to his family. But you know what was so beautiful, so loving and forgiving? Our Spiritual Director had asked us all to pray a novena for him, and his family. I could see that he was also in pain, our dear Father. That we should pray for the presiding judge to have compassion and a soft heart. “This is nothing to rejoice about, to feel alarmed or to gossip about. Our brother has fallen and we must be compassionate.”

Such is the family of God. I believe that over the years, the emotions may have faded but as we neared the sentencing date, old wounds may have been brought up again. But it was heartening to see everyone pray as a community for our dear brother. Temper justice with mercy. Justice should always be tempered by compassion. We see this incident as a moment of grace and not disgrace. These were the words that were released to the press. And I know that these words are real and come from the hearts of our priest and community.

When sentence was passed. He apparently looked resigned. But he did take a moment despite his impending incarceration, the years he will spend paying for his mistake to send a message to say “I’m sorry.”

Today’s entrance antiphon: The waves of death rose about me; the pain of the netherworld surround me. In my anguish I called to the Lord, and from his holy temple he heard my voice.

God has forgiven him. Who are we to judge? Today I say a prayer for him. For God’s grace, kindness and love to envelope him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, today we offer up our prayers to those who have wronged us, hurt us and betray us. Fill us with compassion and love. May your mercy direct our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your grace Lord. For your kind mercy and compassion. With your help, may we not sin again.

5 April, Friday – Who am I?

5 Apr – Memorial for St. Vincent Ferrer, priest

Vincent (1350–1419) was the fourth child of the Anglo-Scottish nobleman William Stewart Ferrer and his Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel. His father is reported to have had a dream in which he was told that Vincent would be a world-famous Dominican friar.

The boy joined the Dominicans in 1367. He received his doctorate of theology from the University of Lleida. He was a priest and a missionary. He taught theology, and was adviser to the King of Aragon. During a severe fever in 1398, Vincent had a vision of Christ, St. Dominic de Guzman, and St. Francis of Assisi. It was a life-changing experience.

Vincent received supernatural gifts and believed that he was a messenger of penance, an “angel of the apocalypse” sent to prepare humankind for the Judgement of Christ.

He was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada. He was counsellor to Pope Benedict XIII. He travelled through Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, working to end the Western Schism.

He slept on the floor, had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish, but all listeners understood him), lived an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker. He was reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it.

He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.

– Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.

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John 7:1-2,10,25-30

Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.

As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.’

Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:

‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’

They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.

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The very sight of him weighs our spirit down; his way of life is not like other men’s

Today’s first reading profiles who is good and who is wicked. I suppose it also stems from which side you are on. There are always two sides to a story, from different viewpoints.

Our life is short and full of sorrow, and when its end comes, there is no escape. No one has ever been known to come back from the world of the dead. ….. Come on, then, let’s enjoy the good things of life, and live in this world the way we did when we were young and free of care!

How many times have our friends good naturedly told us whenever we lament about something or what someone did or did not do for us. “Life is short, don’t take things to heart and just enjoy yourself.” Isn’t that exactly what the verses in Wisdom are depicting? Are our friends wrong then? Well, everything needs to be taken into context. If we continue to read the entire chapter in Wisdom 2, we see that the ‘wicked person’ simply throws caution to the wind, enjoys life in debauchery and torments those who are not in line with their views (the just ones).

I had to read today’s first reading a couple of times before I really understood it. At first, I saw myself as the ‘just one, the good person because I am a child of God. As I read the verses again, I see traces of the wicked one in myself. I think about the many times I feel uncomfortable or irritated with a person because she is simply weird, attention-seeking or someone who seemingly is doing ‘good’ but really feeding their own agendas.

Recently, a member of our community decided to step away and pursue a different journey. This person had some grievances with our community – how the ministry is being run, how certain people within the community conducted themselves, and some other issues which were very subjective (in my opinion). Whatever the reasons, God had a new plan for my fellow sister. My last interaction with her was somewhat confrontational. I am not sure to this day what the cause was. I have searched my mind over this but cannot find an answer. I decided to just let it go. When she sent a message to all to say her goodbyes to our community, I replied with a private message to wish her well and asked for her forgiveness if I had hurt her in any way. She never responded.

So perhaps to her, the very sight of me or the mention of my name may weigh her down; irritates her. Today’s first reading might be the very words she uses to describe me. From my perspective she is the ‘godless one’. However, if I am being authentic for a moment, my first reaction to her non response and the way she has reacted to me the last few times we met – I felt that she was simply a very angry and hurt person. I also felt that her stepping away from community was a result of her anger and discontentment – from the community and God who gave her a new life. I decided to let it go and not let this rob me of my peace. But today on reading the first reading again, I realised that I too am the wicked one. Who am I to say that the way she chooses to lead her life now is not what God wants of her. They do not know the hidden things of God. God uses our pain and suffering and turns it into something good. This journey in life is what it is — a journey. Some paths come to an end and we make a turn and start on a new path. So while my fellow (or now ex) community member’s gifts and talents are clearly in music , she has chosen to heed the Lord’s prompting to exercise other gifts, and to use her to minister to others in a new way.

May the Lord always hold this sister in His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, I pray you stay close to us who are broken-hearted. Help us in our weakness. Free us from the chains of anger, unforgiveness, and sadness from disappointments. Help us see others with your eyes of love. Help us to love you more.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for suffering for us. How painful it is for you to be condemned to such a death for us – especially for those of us who choose to stay away from you and not believe in you. Thank you for such unconditional love.

4 April, Thursday – Know where the source comes from

4 Apr – Memorial for St. Isidore, bishop & doctor

Isidore (560-636) was the son of Severianus and Theodora, people known for their piety. He was the brother of Sts. Fulgentius, Florentina, and Leander of Seville, who raised him after their father’s death. Initially, he was a poor student, but after giving the problem over to God, he became one of the most learned men of his time. After he was ordained a priest, he helped his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoth Arians. He was a hermit.

He became Archbishop of Seville in 601, succeeding his brother to the position. He was a teacher and was called ‘Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages’. He was a founder and a reformer. He required seminaries in every diocese, and wrote a rule for religious orders. He was a prolific writer whose works include a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. He presided at the Second Council of Seville, and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He introduced the works of Aristotle to Spain.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722, and became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

 

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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Yet you refuse to come to me to have life

I read ‘news’ with a degree of scepticism nowadays with the proliferation of fake news. Recently, I forwarded a WhatsApp message from a friend, who got it from her friend. This message was seeking kind-hearted people who would adopt 2 dogs as she was no longer able to keep them because she was moving to a flat.

The dogs looked so cute. I shared the message on a chat group and one of my friends called the number listed to find out more about the adoption. Turns out that this was all a hoax played on this poor lady, purportedly the person giving up the dogs. She doesn’t even have dogs.

It’s important to know where the source of your news comes from.

In today’s gospel reading, we read about Jesus’ credentials. It pains me to put myself in Jesus’ situation. Why is it that he has to ‘sell’ himself, and convince people of his credentials? After all he is the Son of God. All he wanted was to carry out the will of his Father, to do good, to save us, all in the name of love. And all that at his own expense of pain, persecution and death. Although Jesus clearly comes in the name of his Father, he is not accepted nor believed. People stood in amazement, shock and some were indignant. It must have been so exasperating for Jesus – when individuals come in his own name and people accept him. And people will keep looking at their own traditions and ways, rather than look to one who comes from God.

It’s like parents who deal with their teenagers. They try to advice and navigate their tweens and teens amidst the minefields of growing up, having experienced it themselves. We want the very best for our kids and some of us try to even prevent them from experiencing the pitfalls of growing up. But kids will be kids, they never take advice from their parents. However, if the advice comes from outsiders, friends and peers – they sit up and take notice.

And how much of this applies to us? Where do we put our faith? How often do we fall into despair when things we pray for don’t go our way — when the perfect job we have in mind goes to someone else, when that promotion doesn’t happen, when we don’t have the car or house we dream about. Or when betrayal happens, broken relationships, and when someone we love dies.

We cry out in anguish, “Jesus where are you? Why have you not heard my prayer? Why have you allowed this to happen?” I cry out all the time in frustration, believe me. But all I need to do is silence my heart and mind, look towards scripture and reflect on my own life. How often when things seem to hit the brick wall and I am convinced that that’s the end – Jesus has been there all the time and turned the situation around. The situation may not have turned out the way I wanted it to be, but I am alive and well. ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 365 times in the bible. I know it’s there and it gives me great comfort when I read it. Yet looking back, knowing in my head but not in my heart have I continued to be overcome by fear over many things. And now years later, when I reflect on those situations, were those days and sleepless nights of worry helpful? Did Jesus not prevail in the end?

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, help us to be able to differentiate the truth vs lies. Help us to know that your love prevails and to stand strong in our faith and belief that you are Jesus Christ – our God and Saviour.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the love you have for your people.

12 February, Tuesday – Good Fruit

12 February 2019

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Genesis 1:20-2:4

God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’

God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.

Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he had rested after all his work of creating.

Such were the origins of heaven and earth when they were created.

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Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’

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Be fruitful and multiply.

When I was younger in my faith journey, I thought that when God said ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, it meant procreation. In my youth, I had it all planned – I would be married and have children. That’s how I would be fruitful. I looked up the definitions of the words. ‘Be fruitful’ means to be producing good results or being productive, the word ‘multiply’ means to increase or cause to increase greatly in number or quantity. Fast forward to today – I am not married, nor do I have children. Does that mean that this line in today’s first reading has little to do with me? Or am I not being fruitful because I have not produced any offspring?

Jesus was 33 years old, did not have any wife nor kids; does that deem him also unfruitful and unproductive? As I pondered on this deeper, I know that we are all called to be fruitful. Whether married or single. We don’t have to ‘produce fruit’ in order to be fruitful. We could have a fruitful trip to the store if we bought all we wanted at good discounts. Or if we made a trip to the market and came home with the freshest produce. For me it would be finding good quality chorizo at the weekend market.

As Christians, we are called to be fruitful with our vocations, our time and gifts that God has given to us. Fruitful in our behaviour, attitude, words, and thoughts. To be fruitful means to follow Christ. To love what He loves. To do what He commands from a loving motive and with a joyful spirit. This obedience is both predestined by and empowered by God Himself which removes any grounds for boasting in how fruitful our lives or ministries become. It is by God’s grace and our abiding in Christ that we produce good fruit.

So what are some ways we can be fruitful and multiply?

In the workplace, we have to be responsible, diligent and do our part in the organization. Getting away with the bare minimum, getting our colleagues to do the heavy lifting, gossiping, back stabbing and being a ‘tai chi master’ is not fruitful.

As caregivers or parents, when we care for, love and look after the needs of our children, parents or aged relatives.

As children, when we are responsible for our actions, when we do the very best at our studies, when we volunteer to help a friend who is struggling with a subject, when we take out the trash after dinner or clean out our room.

As a single, when we can give of our time to help a charitable organisation, look out for the elderly in our neighbourhood, be a listening ear to someone struggling with depression, cook for someone who doesn’t have regular meals, or when we use our talents and resources to benefit others.

So as long as we are living lives that pleasing to God, when our lives are a reflection of Jesus in our hearts and we bring Him glory (whether we have children or not) – we are fruitful and multiplying. Indeed, we can be spiritually fruitful and multiply the citizens of the Kingdom of God when we obey Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

So go forth my brothers and sisters, with Jesus in living in us, let us be fruitful and multiply.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, and help us to live fully and faithfully to our covenant. May our lives be spiritually fruitful and pleasing to You. May our hearts burst with love and a great desire to bring joy to others because you, Jesus, first loved us. 

Thanksgiving: God, thank you making us in your image and your likeness. Thank you for looking at us and saying ‘indeed it was very good.’ Now may we live our lives worthy of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 1:1-19

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark 6:53-56

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

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All who touched it were healed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to be healed?

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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