Tag Archives: geraldine nah

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

__________________

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.

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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.’

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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.

9 May, Wednesday – What If?

9 May

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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:

‘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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When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

I was recently invited to join a couple of folks on a retreat in a town about 80km from Sydney. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was both excited and anxious. Excited because I knew I needed the time of silence, but anxious because I was worried that I would not get the full ‘bang for the buck’ from this retreat. My mind has been so busy and active of late, filled with worries and plans of how to circumvent the obstacles I am facing. The questions that clouded my mind were — What if I don’t hear you? What if I can’t reflect? What is there is nothing to write in my journal?

Just like the Athenians in today’s first reading, I had built my own objects of worship –- in the form of plans and strategies on how I should move forward in my future. I felt that I had to make the effort and do all the work before God would show me the way ahead. ‘God helps those who helps themselves’ was what I subscribed to, unconsciously. But I am reminded of a homily given some years back that the line isn’t even in the bible! Nonetheless, even as I entered into the retreat, I was filled with the ‘what if’ questions. Then one afternoon, feeling dejected and frustrated with myself, I went into a small chapel and simply prayed. I reflected on Psalm 139. I had reflected on this Psalm before but that day, it brought new meaning and I broke down into uncontrollable loud sobs. What the Lord told me in that little chapel was ‘Why child are you trying so hard? Why are you trying to formulate all these plans? Why are you so controlling? Do you not think I already know?’

‘The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.’

That afternoon in that little chapel, I was given permission by God to stop overanalysing, stop overthinking; that I didn’t need to work so hard to earn His love. I finally felt free to simply take the vacation with Him and allow Him to speak to me in the silence of my heart and mind.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit who will guide us to all truth. When we reject his guidance, we abuse our freedom. However, when we allow ourselves to be guided by him, we are truly free. I was finally free to take walks with Him, sing to Him and draw with Him. And in those moments, He led me to a new vision of what the future could be. No, I still don’t have all the answers, but He put a fresh new exciting desire in my heart. One step at a time.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’ For now, I don’t have to know the destination of his greater plan. But I will simply just walk with Him on this journey.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, help us to surrender all to you. In your goodness and love, lead us. You have many things to say to us. But you know that in our human-ness, we may not comprehend everything now. So Lord, give us enough light for the step we are on. Give us the faith to follow you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your love. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in guiding us to the truth. In your time, not ours.

13 March, Tuesday – Drink Up

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

13 March

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Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross. He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move; One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.

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It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.

I never appreciated rain until I lived in the Middle East, where the weather is dry and land is rather barren. Summer is oppressively hot, you could fry an egg on the bonnet of your car – temperatures soar to almost 50 °C (though it’s rarely reported). You can hardly walk from the car to the office without a mini meltdown. It’s so hot you can hardly breathe. So on the odd chance that it rains, I am always very happy. Never mind that the roads start to flood but rain provides a welcome respite. A time of refreshing coolness, washing the dust and dirt away.

The common theme in today’s first reading and gospel is water. In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel is given a glimpse of what Israel will be like when the Lord returns and establishes his kingdom. What starts out as a gentle stream from under the temple, flowing through the temple, to the outer gate, and finally a raging river as it flowed to the Dead Sea. In a barren and parched land like the Middle East, water is a symbol of great blessing; ever flowing life giving and refreshing. And everything that is by this river bed is teeming with abundance and life. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.

In today’s gospel, water is represented as a pool. People who were sick sought healing when they dipped into the water when it is stirred. The paralyzed man had been waiting for 38 years for someone to put him in the pool. Are we like that man, just waiting and waiting to be healed of our paralysis, our deafness, our hurts, anger, sorrow and unforgiveness? But isn’t living water always available to us – though our baptism, His Word? Did Jesus not promise us living water that flows from within us to those who believe in him? Jesus is the source of living water that we can draw from. “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” and “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb”. Wherever the water goes, it brings life. Jesus tells us whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. – John 4:14

So today, will we draw from the living waters that Jesus so freely gives us? Do you want to get well? All we need to do is drink up my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: In the dryness of our lives, during the days of heat and thirst; when regrets and life choices leave us empty, when we doubt your love – give us your life giving water, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, that through you we experience physical and spiritual wholeness. Let us not forsake the living waters that you so freely give us, bringing us to life, unblemished, clean and new. We thank you and praise you, O God, that however we may thirst, whatever we may need to satisfy our souls, you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ.

12 March, Monday – We will be reborn, renewed, and very much alive.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for your steadfast following of Oxygen.

As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of the Church, we invite our readers who want to help contribute a reflection to come forward.

The following readings are available for reflection:

Holy Saturday

 

7th Reading + Responsorial Psalm

Epistle + Responsorial Psalm

Gospel

This is a good time for you to share with our readers the joys you have had in reading Oxygen. Do drop an email to descksoon@yahoo.com who will be in touch with you on how to proceed.

God bless

Oxygen Core Team

 

12 March

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Isaiah 65:17-21

Thus says the Lord: Now I create new heavens and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered, and will come no more to men’s minds. Be glad and rejoice for ever and ever for what I am creating, because I now create Jerusalem ‘Joy’ and her people ‘Gladness.’ I shall rejoice over Jerusalem and exult in my people. No more will the sound of weeping or the sound of cries be heard in her; in her, no more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young; not to live to be a hundred will be the sign of a curse. They will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

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John 4:43-54

Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. He himself had declared that there is no respect for a prophet in his own country, but on his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.

He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a court official there whose son was ill at Capernaum and, hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son as he was at the point of death. Jesus said, ‘So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!’ ‘Sir,’ answered the official ‘come down before my child dies.’ ‘Go home,’ said Jesus ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus had said and started on his way; and while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover. ‘The fever left him yesterday’ they said ‘at the seventh hour.’ The father realised that this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’; and he and all his household believed.

This was the second sign given by Jesus, on his return from Judaea to Galilee.

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Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating

We all think that we know best, but God constantly reminds me that ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’ – Proverbs 16:9.

I have been going through a period of drought in ministry life and was praying if it was time for me to move on. I questioned what my contributions were, how I was adding any value and, if my ‘gifts’ were of better use in some other ways. I was complaining no end as to why things were so ‘lacklustre’, so cold and empty and kept asking – so what is the leadership doing about this? I was angry and disappointed with people within the ministry for refusing to do their part. How proud that sounds but that was how I felt.

Our spirituality centre and also many of our ministries are going through a dry period. Early this year, our ministry leaders called for a meeting among some of us, to plan the way forward. Long story short, I find myself now a part of the leadership team – a team that will steer the ministry forward. How funny God is. It’s His way of saying ‘Quit complaining, do something!’ So now I am not in a position to ask what ‘the leadership’ is doing. Today’s first reading tells us that ‘I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.’ In a chat with a friend, she told me that perhaps we need to just let things naturally happen – that it is from ashes that the phoenix can rise.

Life throws us curve balls. And very often, in trying to make sense of it, we long for the turmoil to be over. We muster up all we have to pick ourselves up and move forward, we make plans to gain control of the situation. We are so busy making things happen that we actually overlook what is happening in the present. We let ourselves get into a frenzy. We pray that God will help us and change the situation. Nothing. Then we get discouraged and wonder if God actually heard us. But God knows everything and hears our prayers. I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. Sometimes, we need to simply let go and stop controlling; allow ourselves to go through the process of frustration, impatience, admit that there is so much we didn’t know and let go of trying to figure things out.

Just like what my ministry is going through, perhaps in our own lives, we need to let God take over and execute His plan. Even if it means letting everything burn to the ground (and that’s very scary I know), and like the phoenix rising from the ashes – we will be reborn, renewed, and very much alive. Remember my brothers and sisters, God says ‘I am about to create new heavens and a new earth’ Can we take courage and know that whatever situation or circumstance we are going through will pass?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we keep asking for signs & wonders. We pray for deeper faith, and courage to take a closer walk with you. Help us Lord, to trust in your greater plan.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for healing the broken and wounded parts of our lives. Thank you for your promise of new heavens and new earth. That the old ways shall pass and we can look forward to fresh new starts every single day as long as we stay close to you. Come Lord Jesus, come.