Tag Archives: geraldine nah

8 September, Saturday – A Vocation Is A School Of Charity

8 September – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary announced joy and the approaching salvation of a lost world. Mary was brought into the world not like other children of Adam, infected with the contagion of sin, but pure, holy, beautiful, and glorious, adorned with all the most precious graces fitting for the one predestined to be the Mother of the Saviour. Never did she have the slightest inclination towards anything other than the absolute and immediate Will of God.

She appeared indeed in the weak condition of all mortals, but in the eyes of Heaven she already transcended the highest seraphim in purity, humility, charity, and the richest ornaments of grace. God had created her in the original grace, as in the beginning Adam and Eve had enjoyed that ineffable privilege; after original sin, it was lost for all Adam’s posterity, until the time of the Redemption dawned in Mary. (Cf. I Cor. 15:21-23)

The nations celebrate, often too noisily, the birthdays of the great ones of this earth… How then ought we, Christians, to rejoice in that of the Virgin Mary, Mother of our Salvation, and to present publicly to God the homage of our best praises and thanksgiving for the great mercies He has shown in her, imploring her mediation with her Divine Son!

Jesus of Nazareth will not reject the supplications of His most holy Mother, through whom He chose to descend from Heaven; she, the Spouse of the Canticle, is all beautiful and is the one He was pleased to obey while on earth. Her love, care, and tenderness for Him, the title and qualities which she bears, the charity and graces with which she is adorned, and the crown of glory with which she is honoured, incline Him readily to receive her recommendations and petitions.

– http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/09-08.htm

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Romans 8:28-30

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Matthew 1:1-16,18-23

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.

After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’

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We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.

Just as Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of our Lord, we too are chosen to be his people, his disciples. You and I are chosen, even before we were born. Our DNAs were already coded, and we are called to live our lives according to his purpose. How awesome is that!

Not too long ago, some friends and I were discussing how we are all hard coded with a vocation and gifts that the Lord gives us. “Before you were conceived in your mother’s womb, I set you aside.” This is God telling us is that he had something in mind for us when he gave us the gift of life, even from before he gave us the gift. Something he wants us to be, and something he wants us to do. This is God’s plan.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my vocation is. And along the way, I get so frustrated with myself because I don’t seem to be able to figure it out or succeed in my ‘called’ vocation. If God had a blueprint for me, and if I prayed about it hard enough, He would surely reveal it to me and I can stop making a mess of this life. If I found my vocation in life, then things would just fall into place and make sense. Don’t we all think that our true calling, when we find it, will bring a kind of total solidarity and purpose to our fragmented, broken, and perhaps aimless lives?

Then something clicked in me – rightly or wrongly I don’t know. But I figured this — a vocation is not about one self, our preferences and what makes us comfortable. Mary’s calling is to be the Mother of God, Jesus is called to be Our Lord and Saviour, the Son of Man – neither vocations were for themselves but for others. And it sure wasn’t without pain and suffering. We expect a vocation to solve all of our problems, answer all of our questions, and satisfy all of our desires. But these are not the purposes of a vocation. The real purpose of any vocation is for service of God – some directly like religious vocations and some indirectly like most of yours and mine.

I read in an article “A vocation – any vocation – is a school of charity and a means of crucifixion. Your vocation is the means by which your self-serving ego will die in order to be resurrected as the servant and lover of God. This is all that we can expect; but this is everything – the meaning of life, all there really is.”

And each of us has a personal vocation. God created all of us uniquely. God gives each of us a unique, unrepeatable set of gifts, abilities and circumstances. And He has a plan for our lives — a custom-tailored unique plan to those gifts, abilities and circumstances. And this personal vocation is about what God wants us to do with our lives — not in the one-time “this is how I give myself way”, but in every moment of every day, living out His plan.

So the lightbulb moment came for me just a few weeks back. My personal vocation for most of my adult life was to be a daughter. To care and provide for my family. As a young adult, I had resented it and wondered why, unlike some of my friends, I had this very heavy responsibility.

Why couldn’t I just go on and live a carefree life? Over time, I learnt to let go of my questions, carry the cross of my problems, and be mysteriously fulfilled even when I was not happy. God’s plan was for me to simply be a daughter; and He provided every grace and means for me to live out that personal vocation.

My parents have since passed away. So in this new season of life, what is my next vocation? Only time will tell, but why do I think that I might be living it already? I do know that vocation is living beyond myself but for others. I will just continue and pray for another lightbulb moment.

Our vocation never changes – but the means by which we live it might, and it will change as our seasons of life change, and when we grow in our spirituality. Your vocation, in the end, is simply the means by which you will allow it to occur. Your vocation is not the answer to the question of your being; it is only a part of God’s pledge that the answer will be given in the end. Something to ponder about, my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you made us perfect in your likeness. Give us Your guidance. Show us what You want us to do. Open our hearts to hear you. Open the doors You want us to walk through. May our lives be a gift to You.   

Thanksgiving: Lord God, thank you for the gifts and charisms given to each of us so specially. May we use these gifts entrusted to us for the greater good of Your Kingdom.

7 September, Friday – Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

7 September

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1 Corinthians 4:1-5

People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust. Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. I will not even pass judgement on myself. True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted: the Lord alone is my judge. There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God.

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Luke 5:33-39

The Pharisees and scribes said to Jesus, ‘John’s disciples are always fasting and saying prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking.’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely you cannot make the bridegroom’s attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come, the time for the bridegroom to be taken away from them; that will be the time when they will fast.’

He also told them this parable, ‘No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

‘And nobody puts new wine into old skins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost. No; new wine must be put into fresh skins. And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. “The old is good” he says.’

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Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes

Prompted by my Spiritual Director a few months back, I started to take art lessons. I took art as a subject back in school and since then, never drew again until that one afternoon at the retreat centre. Unable to reflect or journal anymore, I found myself in the art room of the centre and started doodling an image of The Good Shepherd, it being Good Shepherd Sunday. That drawing turned out pretty alright, I felt. So my art journey started again. I have been painting now for 4 months.

Out of the many art studios here, I was led to this particular studio. It is run by a lovely Christian lady. From Day One, I felt that this was the hand of God. The owner of the studio shared her story of how her studio came about — for someone who really need not work (she obviously is well to do), and for someone who had no formal art training. It started with a desire in her heart. She wanted to provide a little pocket money for a family who was struggling. Sure, she could have asked her husband for the money but she really wanted to do this on her own. So she prayed about it – and that’s how her studio started. Today, she continues to provide for this family and, through her studio, she has been able to do so much more for the kingdom of God. What an inspiration that has been for me, for I too have been praying and searching for a mission, and how I can use the gifts that God has blessed me for His Kingdom.

At this time in my life, I am also going through some pretty drastic life changes. It’s a time of detachments to my ideals of what my life should be. Painful and uncomfortable as it is, I know that this is where the Lord is leading me and I have to be open. But even as I ponder upon it, I thought about my teacher. Sure it’s easy for these rich people to do more, right? They have the resources to do so. I built this image of her in my mind – where she lived, and the people she’s exposed to – easy for her to live out her mission. We all judge others – like in today’s first reading. As God’s servant, Paul must not be judged by human standards.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that she casually mentioned that she and her husband live in the public housing flats nearby. I was completely floored! All this while I thought she lived in a swanky house in some swanky district. She had. Until at some point, they felt that they were going to be more pragmatic. Not that they were unable to afford it. Something she said struck a chord with me, ‘Do not live according to the ideals of others but live for yourself.’ Her rich friends and her husband’s banking fraternity all thought that they must have run into financial difficulties to make the switch to public housing. But she shared that this change has given her so much more freedom and joy. She is blessed to be doing something she is passionate about, make a little money but more importantly bless others.

When we pray and ask God to show us our life’s mission; when we say ‘We surrender!’ are we ready to allow Him to pull the rug from under you? Can we allow God to work through us and use us in His mission field, and ignore how our secular society rates and judges us? I am slowly letting go and learning not to let others’ ideals of what my life and work should be rule me – as long as it pleases my God. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: God, as we pray today, we ask you to show us our vocations and life missions, give us the courage and steadfastness to move forward, according to your will. Help us to live not just for ourselves, or by others’ standards. May our lives be pleasing to you, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your love and your providence. For counting us worthy to serve in your vineyard.  

6 September, Thursday – In Faith and Trust

6 September

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1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

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Luke 5:1-11

Now Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

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They left everything and followed him.

Over the past few years, the Lord has led various people into my life, who have been exemplary as Jesus’ disciples. As I hear the stories about their conversion, how convicted they were in their calling and doing the Lord’s work, living the life of Jesus — I am in awe. In their hearts, they heard the call, and kind of left everything or at least, what the world expected of them, and followed Him.

I have a very deep affection for our priests; giving up on freedom, financial security, their own hopes and dreams, attachment to family and friends, to give fully of themselves for the love of Christ, to be shepherds to us. Just recently, we were blessed to celebrate the Diaconate Ordination of a wonderful young brother. His thanksgiving speech was both funny and heartfelt. The most moving part was his tribute and thanks to his mother. I am sure that every calling and ‘yes’ answer is not easy. The sacrifice is not just theirs alone, but involves their loved ones as well.

Recently, a few of us got together for tea and one of my friends shared that she had plans to review her life and finances – both to finance her children’s university education and also to be able to devote her time to a vocation she feels she’s being led to. Being the primary breadwinner for the family, this was indeed not an easy decision. Yes, her first and primary vocation now is to be a good wife and mother, but she also knows that the Lord has greater plans for her. And hence her plan to be free of the things that would tie her down, preventing her from being free to be led by God.

Another friend shared that he is now truly financially free – for he owned nothing. He had left the secular world behind (despite having a good, well-paying job) to heed the call to a religious life. Fast forward to today, he felt his calling was to be a lay person doing God’s work, and till today, he still owns nothing, but continues to give of himself; using the gifts and talents God has equipped him with, to help and journey with others. And truly, he does a wonderful and amazing job. He gets but a small stipend for what he does. But the Lord has been so graceful and generous by providing for his needs, including a scholarship for his studies in the area that he is in currently.

In today’s gospel, Simon was asked by Jesus to go out into the deep water and start fishing. Now Simon was an old hand in fishing. So perhaps in a condescending manner, he acceded to Jesus’ request but thinking to himself, “We know that there aren’t any fish there, but just to make you happy, we’ll just let our nets down.” We know how this story ends. The miraculous haul of fish and this call of the disciples to be fishers of men.

The Lord calls all of us to be his disciples. As Christians and Catholics, we have a duty to answer that call, but not all of us do. Perhaps we didn’t hear Him, His call was too soft? Perhaps we heard but chose to put the call on mute. Or some of us may think we heard wrongly. ‘No…. I can’t possibly be called to religious life? I am simply not holy enough.’ These are some of the more common excuses I’ve heard used. But, my brothers and sisters, we are called according to His plan, His job description for us and His time. It also does not mean that we are all to be priests and cloistered nuns. Every one of us has different roles to play in this mission. Religious and lay people – we have our own calling to live the life of Jesus and be Jesus to others.

As I reflect on today’s gospel, even in the past, I often felt like a loser, disobedient and stubborn. Why? Because I did not immediately leave everything and followed Him. In fact it took a good 19 years before I stopped being just a regular Sunday pew warmer to being active in a community. This journey continues. As I reflected on this further, I know our God is patient and not forceful. But if we just say ‘yes’, He will show us our mission and vocation.

Brothers and sisters, when you receive the call, are we willing to leave our boats and nets; the security on which our lives and our families depend on, throw in our lot totally with Jesus wherever He leads? The disciples left them and everything else. Yes, some of us take a little longer but this is faith, this is trust. Without it, the mission cannot succeed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you have a plan and greater purpose for our lives. To live beyond ourselves but for others. Give us deeper faith and trust in you. The courage to follow you. Knowing that in our collective mission as priests and lay people, we will find peace and joy.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your patience with us. Especially for times when we did not immediately heed your call.  

7 July, Saturday – The Season Of New Wine

7 July

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Amos 9:11-15

It is the Lord who speaks:

‘That day I will re-erect the tottering hut of David,
make good the gaps in it, restore its ruins
and rebuild it as it was in the days of old,
so that they can conquer the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that belonged to me.’

It is the Lord who speaks, and he will carry this out.

‘The days are coming now – it is the Lord who speaks –
when harvest will follow directly after ploughing,
the treading of grapes soon after sowing,
when the mountains will run with new wine
and the hills all flow with it.
I mean to restore the fortunes of my people Israel;
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them,
plant vineyards and drink their wine,
dig gardens and eat their produce.
I will plant them in their own country,
never to be rooted up again
out of the land I have given them,
says the Lord, your God.’

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Matthew 9:14-17

John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.’

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The harvest will follow directly

I shared a few days back that I am in a season of change. This season hasn’t been easy on me. One filled with anxiety, pain and grief. During this season, the Lord also led me to a new spiritual director (SD) who has been journeying with me over the past 2 months.

Recently, I was so blessed to go on a retreat with my new SD. The retreat centre was far from the city, set in over 500 acres of land and completely tranquil, the weather was cool and sunny. Perfect for my tired soul. One day in a session, I lamented that I could not feel God’s presence or see past my darkness. I could not pray, journal or meditate on scripture. I wondered if Jesus was present with me at all, or was I too consumed in my own doubt, despair and anguish to even notice he was right there with me.

Today’s first reading were words of hope and restoration. It appears that the dark clouds would soon lift for Israel. Up till this point, it appeared that it was all doom for Israel – the people were deserving of judgment because they had taken the material wealth and blessings given by God to turn their hearts away from loving and serving him. As I read and re-read the reading – my heart was filled with hope and excitement.

The Lord is indeed making changes in my life, He has been laying the foundation and setting the stage for a new dawn. But I have been too afraid of the unknown that I kept clinging to the present – a present that is familiar, though agonizing and unpleasant. But at the retreat, there were also many grace filled moments – moments of consolation, peace and child-like fun. Yes, I felt those moments. Just as my desolation is real – there is also another reality. That Jesus was indeed present with me at the retreat, just waiting for me. Like a parent trying to get the attention of a cranky distracted child – Jesus has been there with me in some pretty spectacular moments.

So I liken my life now to new wine. ‘A new era is here! This is the season of new wine. You are about to encounter Me as you never have before.’ In the new wine season, the Spirit is wooing me ‘I am calling you to intimacy with Me. And in that place, I will be your greatest delight’. So just as new wine cannot be put into old wine skins, I can’t force what God is making of me, back into my old ways – comfortable as the thought maybe. The outcome will be a horrible mess.

So today, I bask and marvel at my ‘new wine’ status – new wine is from grapes that have been through a recent process of crushing. Yes, being crushed is painful. But the trials are soon giving way to joy! I just have to endure the process and trust in the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Let us never lose sight of you. Let us be strong, knowing that whatever challenges, difficulties and loss we are feeling, that You Lord are near. That you are in the process of creating new wine in all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the promise of a new dawn. Thank you for restoring us back to lives rich in harvest. Thank you for calling us into such an intimate relationship with you.

6 July, Friday – By God’s Mercy And Grace

Jul 6 – Memorial for St. Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr

Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was a beautiful and pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.

In 1902, at the age of 12, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her 14 times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God’s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. She is counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he later testified at her cause for beatification.

– Patron Saint Index

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Amos 8:4-6,9-12

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
That day – it is the Lord who speaks –
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I am going to turn your feasts into funerals,
all your singing into lamentation;
I will have your loins all in sackcloth,
your heads all shaved.
I will make it a mourning like the mourning for an only son,
as long as it lasts it will be like a day of bitterness.
See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
days when I will bring famine on the country,
a famine not of bread, a drought not of water,
but of hearing the word of the Lord.
They will stagger from sea to sea,
wander from north to east,
seeking the word of the Lord
and failing to find it.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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Follow me

Israel rejected the word of the Lord, as prophesied by Amos in today’s first reading. Amos was expelled by Amaziah from the sanctuary and demanded he return to his native land of Judah. They simply refused to hear what God had to say and continued to rain injustice over the land. They were cheats, unrighteous and oppressive of the Roman people. They were unrepentant and the Lord was sure angry!

In comparison, Matthew encountered Jesus and was asked to “Follow me.” Profitable as his business was, obviously happy with his lot in life, still Matthew dropped everything and obediently followed Christ. As a tax collector, Matthew would seem the most unlikely candidate to be chosen as a disciple. He would be exactly like the sinners that Amos described in the first reading. But our Lord knows better. It’s not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.

Many of us in Singapore are very privileged and some are living a pretty good life. When Jesus calls us – how many of us would say “Yes!” immediately? Or would we say “Yes, but not right now.” Or will be deem ourselves unworthy, not holy enough?

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. We will never be holy enough nor ready enough. In my own faith journey, it hasn’t been easy. Each time Jesus called, I gave a half-hearted ‘Yes’. Yet He has been so loving and patient with me. All He needs from us is our ‘Yes’. And be prepared, that one ‘Yes’ will lead to many other ‘Yes’-s and the journey will not be easy. But it will be far more rewarding, more profitable, more peaceful than the life we live for ourselves today. When God visits us, we should not reject the word of God, but welcome it every day in prayer, the scriptures and the Eucharist, in serving others, in giving of our lives. We shouldn’t judge others until we have walked in their shoes, until we have acknowledged our own weakness and pride. Let us be like Matthew, after encountering the call of Jesus and leaving everything behind, trusting that God has a better plan for us. Let us follow Jesus and gather our friends and family, non-believers, sinners to the table of God, so that they too can encounter the mercy of Christ!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength when we are weak, give us courage to say ‘Yes’ when you call. Help us to open our heart and ears to your soft promptings.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your forgiveness and mercy.

5 July, Thursday – Jesus Sees Our Faith

Jul 5 – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest

St. Anthony (1502-1539) studied medicine at Padua, receiving his doctorate at age 22. Working among the poor in Cremona, he felt called to the religious life. He was ordained at age 26; legend says that angels were seen around the altar at his first Mass. St. Anthony established two congregations that helped reform the morals of the faithful, encouraged laymen to work together with the apostolate, and frequent reception of Communion.

– Patron Saint Index

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Amos 5:14-15,21-24

Seek good and not evil
so that you may live,
and that the Lord, God of Hosts, may really be with you
as you claim he is.

Hate evil, love good,
maintain justice at the city gate,
and it may be that the Lord, God of Hosts, will take pity
on the remnant of Joseph.

I hate and despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals.
When you offer me holocausts,
I reject your oblations,
and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle.

Let me have no more of the din of your chanting,
no more of your strumming on harps.
But let justice flow like water,
and integrity like an unfailing stream.

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Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.

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Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.

A couple of months ago, my friend returned back home to spend time with her 12-year-old nephew, who was in his last stages of cancer. The family were struggling to come to terms with his illness. From shock, to hope, to despair, to pain and suffering. It is never easy to watch a loved one suffer. Especially for parents. How many of us have whispered the prayer “Lord, let me take my child’s suffering.” He had undergone an operation to relieve the pressure the tumour was causing within his skull. The day after the operation, the poor child was screaming in pain. My friend told me it was the most gut wrenching, painful and haunting screams she had ever heard. The doctors told them the prognosis was not good. That they had to prepare for the worst. The mother of this child never left her son’s side.

During this time, my friend wanted the very best for her nephew. She wanted him to receive Jesus before his time was up. The child’s mother is a Catholic, but a lukewarm one. The child’s father is a non-Catholic, an agnostic and was against Christianity. As such, the boy was never baptised and never knew Jesus. Being the good Catholic aunt, my friend had over the years spoken to the boy about Christ and taught him to pray. His grandmother also desired to have her grandson baptised. And so, with the consent of the mother, they called for a priest or priests, as the story goes. Somehow, each time a priest went, the child never got baptized. The child did not give his consent. He did not understand why God (if He was good) would allow him to suffer this disease.

The child died a week later. Overcome with grief, my friend asked where her nephew would go to. Would God welcome him into heaven? Or was he doomed to hell? All I could muster up was to tell her that we trust in God’s love and mercy, that there is a way of salvation for her nephew and he would eventually meet Jesus in heaven.

Just as we read in today’s gospel, the paralytic was brought to Jesus by ‘some people’. We can only deduce that these people were friends of this man, or at least, loving and compassionate people who longed for the man to be healed. They believed and trusted that Jesus could heal this man. And so, it turns out, that by their faith, their friend was healed. My friend’s nephew may have not known Jesus. But it was really through no fault of his. I believe that with all the prayers of the family, friends and people of our community, together with the faith of my friend, the grandmother and the rest of us– this child of God will be in heaven. Yes, Jesus sees our faith, no matter how small. Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, give us the passion and courage to never stop ministering to others about your compassion, love and forgiveness, not only in words but in our actions and the way we live our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for forgiving us no matter how many times we sin, falter and run away from you. Thank you for your mercy, love and compassion. And thank you for sending angels our way each day, reminding us of your comforting presence in the midst of storms.

4 July, Wednesday – Fighting Demons

Jul 4 – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Amos 5:14-15,21-24

Seek good and not evil
so that you may live,
and that the Lord, God of Hosts, may really be with you
as you claim he is.

Hate evil, love good,
maintain justice at the city gate,
and it may be that the Lord, God of Hosts, will take pity
on the remnant of Joseph.

I hate and despise your feasts,
I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals.
When you offer me holocausts,
I reject your oblations,
and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle.

Let me have no more of the din of your chanting,
no more of your strumming on harps.
But let justice flow like water,
and integrity like an unfailing stream.

___________________

Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.

_____________________

Seek good and not evil, that you may live.

I read today’s gospel reading about the two demoniacs, and how Jesus permitted the Legion of demons to enter the pigs. Poor pigs. What did they do to deserve this?

Today I reflect on the demons within us. Yes, they exist and are very real. Maybe not in the way of dramatic demonic possession as in today’s gospel, but in the form of the allurements of the world and the appeal of the flesh. Satan, the leader of all demons, is certainly a crafty character. His attacks are not open nor obvious. He works in the most subtle of ways. His techniques include discouragement, fear, loss of confidence, depression and despondency in our lives.

He attacks us when we are at the lowest points of our lives, when we are dealing with life changes, emotional pain or loss. He will strike where our deep rooted sins reside – pride, envy, anger, greed, lust, and sloth. At some point along life’s pathway, the devil does his best to implant in our minds the thought that we are failing.

At present, I am confronting my own demons. This is a season of change for me. I am trying to come to terms with detachments. I am learning to detach from things that mean a lot to me, learning to die to my old self as God moulds this clay to something new, learning to be less possessive of relationships or my expectations of what these relationships should be, being truthful that my sorrow actually stems from pride. Yup, there’s a lot going on and I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed. I am angry, tired and resigned all at the same time. I find myself fighting with God and against him. One night in prayer, I was so angry, I questioned if He was real, why would He hurt me this much? In my prayer petitions, I didn’t feel that I was asking for a lot. In fact I felt that I had gone with His ebb and flow. But as I grow in my faith journey, I wasn’t quite ready to face so much pain. I was ready to walk away from this faith. See how Satan has his way?

However, I know that Christian growth involves change. Our new growth brings about a change of relationship from ‘the ways of the world’ to serving Jesus Christ. Growth also involves challenges. Growth doesn’t mean that life gets easier; the challenges just get bigger. Growth may also involve some pain. Just as athletes go through significant pain before they get better and stronger, it is the same with spiritual growth. No pain, no gain as the saying goes. And finally, the grand prize. Growth involves joy! There is joy in a growing faith that walks in the truth of God!

So, today as I continue to fight the demons, I cling onto Jesus and offer up my prayers – no matter how lousy they are. Because Jesus is the centre of my life, I continue to seek his grace to liberate me from any evil influences or addictions which enslave me and prevent me from being the kind of person he wants me to be. The Christian life is one of persistence — sticking to our tasks, and not giving up.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: May we ever be ready to receive the help and comfort which our gracious Lord has provided in His precious and holy word. Let us grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for fighting for us, despite the times when we have given up on you.

12 May, Saturday – Ask Your Father

12 May – Memorial for Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs; Memorial for St. Pancras, Martyr

Nereus and Achilleus (d. 98) were soldiers in the imperial Roman army, and members of the Praetorian Guard. They were converts to Christianity and baptized by St. Peter the Apostle. They were exiled for their faith, suffered with St. Flavia Domitilla, and were martyred together by beheading.

– Patron Saint Index

Pancras (c. 290) was a 14-year-old orphan brought to Rome by his uncle St. Dionysius. He was a convert to Christianity, and was martyred with St. Nereus, St. Achilleus, and St. Domitilla for publicly proclaiming his faith.

Pope St. Vitalian sent his relics from the cemetery of Calepodius in Rome to the British Isles as part of the evangelization of England, so they would have the relics of the Church at large, and to install in altars in new churches. St. Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the first church in England to St. Pancras, and subsequent churches throughout England are similarly named after him.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 18:23-28

Paul came down to Antioch, where he spent a short time before continuing his journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, encouraging all the followers.

An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.

When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

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John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
I have been telling you all this in metaphors,
the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;
but tell you about the Father in plain words.
When that day comes you will ask in my name;
and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,
because the Father himself loves you for loving me
and believing that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world
and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

_____________________

If you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

When I was a child, I was told that if I wanted something badly enough, I had to work for it myself. Trying to manoeuvre from a teenager to emerging adulthood was hard enough, but having to figure things on my own was harder. Those years were not particularly easy. But somehow, I managed and became the person I am today. I didn’t turn out too badly I thought. From this, I learnt to be independent.

People closest to me tell me that I am too proud and stubborn to accept help from anyone. Well, was I to blame? I had been ‘hard-wired’ to think that I had to do it all myself. I wasn’t born with people around who mollycoddled me. So I learnt never to ask for help; so that I would never be disappointed. For most of my life, I relied on my own strength and ability that, sometimes, became just too overwhelming. I remember several times when I had meltdowns – angry and resentful of my family. Especially my father.

But God that Father never said we had to do everything ourselves. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. I have often come across this line in the scriptures and I knew it in my head, but not from the heart. I didn’t believe that God the Father would do anything for me if I didn’t do something for Him first. I found it so hard to accept His unconditional love. In fact many times, I think that God is punishing me for being an imperfect person. I measure myself by a different yardstick; the bar is set so high, I am just never good enough.

Recently I shared that I had gone for a retreat. During the retreat, I was told by God that I was trying too hard. I was told that, unlike my earthly father, God the Father did not need me to do anything to earn his love. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Asking God for something in Jesus’ name is different from asking it in our own name. We are to include him in our decision making, and try to see things the way He does. Me? I am always pre-empting God and running ahead of Him. He doesn’t want that of us, brothers and sisters. He wants us to give ii to Him, ask Him. When we do this, we transcend ourselves and are open to the will of God. God may not give us exactly what we ask but will never fail to give us what we need. Pray and ask for what you need today, in Jesus’ most mighty name!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: God our Father, for all our needs, we present them to you today. In your most mighty glorious name.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for receiving our gifts – broken hearts, broken lives, tears…. no matter how unworthy they are. Thank you for answering our prayers.

11 May, Friday – Pain Today, Is The Prelude To The Joy Of New Life

11 May

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Acts 18:9-18

At Corinth one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you. I have so many people on my side in this city that no one will even attempt to hurt you.’ So Paul stayed there preaching the word of God among them for eighteen months.

But, while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a concerted attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. ‘We accuse this man’ they said ‘of persuading people to worship God in a way that breaks the Law.’ Before Paul could open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘Listen, you Jews. If this were a misdemeanour or a crime, I would not hesitate to attend to you; but if it is only quibbles about words and names, and about your own Law, then you must deal with it yourselves-I have no intention of making legal decisions about things like that.’ Then he sent them out of the court, and at once they all turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue president, and beat him in front of the court house. Gallio refused to take any notice at all.

After staying on for some time, Paul took leave of the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut off, because of a vow he had made.

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John 16:20-23

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you will be weeping and wailing
while the world will rejoice;
you will be sorrowful,
but your sorrow will turn to joy.
A woman in childbirth suffers,
because her time has come;
but when she has given birth to the child she forgets the suffering
in her joy that a man has been born into the world.
So it is with you: you are sad now,
but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy,
and that joy no one shall take from you.
When that day comes,
you will not ask me any questions.’

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You are sad now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and that joy no one shall take from you.

I do not have many friends. As I grew older, I culled down my list of friends. Simply because I have less time to socialize and therefore want time spent with people to be special and meaningful. The few friendships I have today are deeper and more significant. Friends who walk with me in faith and the journey of life. Relationships mean a lot to me. As the saying goes ‘If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.’ So when a relationship ends or when I have to say ‘goodbye’, I take it badly. And if that person meant a lot to me, I’d quietly (but painfully) ‘wait’ for their return. And if or when they do come back, oh my heart bursts with joy!

If I had lived in the time when Jesus told the disciples the impact his death would have on them, I would have just died of a broken heart. “I tell you most solemnly, you will be weeping and wailing… you will be sorrowful.” Jesus knew his disciples would experience great sorrow when he was taken away from them in death. However, he assures them that the sorrow will be but for a while. These feelings will not be forever. He assures them that his death and rising will spring forth a new life, sorrows and pain will turn into joy.

As I was reading the verses for today’s reflection, a line caught my attention in today’s Magnificat. In order to reach our destination in Christ, we inevitably pass through dark moments. But our sadness is transformed if we look towards the Risen Christ. I am slowly learning that my journey to holiness isn’t a rose garden. God’s pruning of me involves loss, sorrow and pain. I still struggle and fight with Jesus on this but am slowly finding the courage to let the process take its course. Because I know that these dark moments, however looming they seem now, will be so far away when the time comes – when I am transformed. My heart will be filled with joy again. Just as the pain of a pregnant woman is the prelude to the joy of new life. Brothers and sisters, be courageous, take heart and know that this too shall pass.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, we give you our sorrow, tears and pain in exchange for your comfort. Fill us with hope and joy as we look towards the Risen Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the goodness and blessings in our lives. We hold and cherish in our hearts your gifts of life, breath, love and friendships.

10 May, Thursday – Only In His Time

10 May – Solemnity of The Ascension of The Lord

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Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

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Ephesians 1:17-23

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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With the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what the hope to which he has called you is.

I have an active mind. I try to plan ahead and have a Plan B, C, in case Plan A fails me. It must be a job hazard. Sometimes, I work myself into a frenzy thinking about what could go wrong. This may be a good thing on the work front. The secular world can be so unforgiving if things don’t ‘work to plan’. However, in spite of our most careful planning, the Road of Life is unpredictable. Our best-laid plans in life can be upended by unexpected changes. These could be either disappointing or exhilarating. Personal or other setbacks, the loss of loved ones, illnesses or accidents, broken hearts or betrayals, are not uncommon occurrences in our lives. On the other hand, fate can provide unanticipated good fortune or heartening experiences.

In our Christian faith, we are asked to surrender it all to God. I find that so hard to do with my overactive, rational mind. Recently, I experienced a period of desolation. I was overcome by darkness so overwhelming that it choked me. Everything seemed so bleak and stifling. I wished I could somehow find an avenue to let go of all that was welling up inside me. If I could cry or scream or hit something – but no. Years of conditioning myself to put forth a hard exterior, burying pain and disappointments was now working against me. I have a prayer list so long it is so onerous. ‘Why why? How and when?’ were questions I asked God. I tried all ways to restructure my prayers but still nothing. Zilch. God just wasn’t speaking to me. Just like the disciples in today’s first reading, I wanted God’s answers to my life issues right there and then.

I shared yesterday that I went on my much-needed retreat, to seek peace and yes – answers! Like the disciples in today’s first reading, I did not see the need to wait. They ask if “now” is the time to restore the kingdom to Israel. But for such things, we must wait and trust in God’s promise. God works to his own timing and also for our own good. “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

We try to avoid emotional or physical pain which distresses and saddens us; we bury them and hope to move on. For me, the message was loud and clear. The Lord needed me to first acknowledge what’s going on in my life. In the season of change, I needed to just acknowledge that certain events and people attached to them had to die. It’s in the dying that new shoots of change can spring forth and grow. With this enlightenment, I found the permission to grieve, to hurt, to feel sadness and anger. And with openness to what God is doing in my life, pruning and shaping, a new spring will come into my life. Today, as we celebrate the solemnity of The Ascension of the Lord, let us experience the joy and love that no one can take away from us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: For the times when we closed our ears to the Holy Spirit, for the times we demanded immediate answers, forgive us. Come Lord and take away everything that is not of you; the need to control our lives without You. Give us patience and the knowing that You, in your time will reveal all the glory that’s in store for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the hope you promise us.