Tag Archives: geraldine nah

31 October, Wednesday – Stepping On Each Others’ Toes

31 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty. The commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honour your father and mother, and the promise is: and you will prosper and have a long life in the land. And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does.

Slaves, be obedient to the men who are called your masters in this world, with deep respect and sincere loyalty, as you are obedient to Christ: not only when you are under their eye, as if you had only to please men, but because you are slaves of Christ and wholeheartedly do the will of God. Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men. You can be sure that everyone, whether a slave or a free man, will be properly rewarded by the Lord for whatever work he has done well. And those of you who are employers, treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Doing the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not men.

For some time now, I felt that it might be time to move on from the ministry I serve in. I felt that I wasn’t growing anymore after close to 7 years in the ministry. Despite an opportunity earlier this year for a bigger role, as the months went by, I felt like I didn’t make a difference. The ‘machinery’ was simply too heavy and too entrenched to change. We were tasked as a team for change management but 7 months on, nothing had changed. People were working far slower than I am used to. I became restless and impatient. I found myself getting more disillusioned and less patient with some of my fellow ministry members.

I began to entertain the thought that perhaps I could be better utilised in another capacity, and not necessarily within the same ministry or the same community. Coincidentally, for a few months now, I have been called to help out in other capacities within the community and it is refreshing.

One day, I happened to come across one of Archbishop’s daily podcasts – and on that particular day, he preached about leaving things to God. He questioned if we work in an organization or serve in a ministry and feel frustrated. Or when we feel that we add no value or are not making any difference, do we quit? His answer to us was a resounding ‘No!’ We do not simply give up but give it to God. God is the master of our lives; the President/CEO of the organisation/community we serve in.

Serving in a Christian community is not easy. With any community we are in, we encounter all sorts of people – some we get on with, others not so much. Inevitably, we will step on each other’s toes. We are all wounded individuals. And the downside for some of us with corporate backgrounds is that we expect things to work like a corporate organization – based on KPIs and performance, often heartless. But not everyone is wired to work the same way. It’s not as if we can go out there and hire ‘the best talent’ for the job. Most of us are volunteers.

While there are some good practices we can adopt for large corporations, working in a church environment is completely different. Especially when it comes to dealing with human resources – better managed with love, compassion and understanding; stepping into the other person’s shoes. Who are we to judge the other? It is God who chose each one of us, not because we are qualified. But because He will equip us. Look at how He chose his disciples!

So as I serve today, I keep reminding myself to lean not on my own understanding and efforts. To keep pride at bay. To keep my eyes on Him. To serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.

I will end today’s reflection with a story about porcupines.

It was a particularly harrowing time in Porcupine Land. The winter was severe, and the porcupines were finding it difficult to survive, and freezing to death. That’s when the porcupines decided to meet and agree on a course of action.

As they got together to discuss their survival strategy, they discovered that just by being close to each other, their bodies generated heat; so they found they could survive the cold by just staying together.

But there was a problem. As they huddled together, their quills would poke and hurt the other. Soon some porcupines decided to avoid the pain and moved away. But as they went out, the cold got to them and they died.

Soon, better sense prevailed and the porcupines realised it was better to stay together and survive rather than go out on their own and die. Getting poked by the quills seemed like a small price to pay for survival.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, give us hearts of love, compassion and understanding. Help us to love our fellow brothers and sisters as you love us. Teach us to be humble at heart, to serve you in obedience.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness.

30 October, Tuesday – Do you become discouraged?

30 October

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Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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A mustard seed

I often get frustrated with myself when I don’t see results in what I do. Why am I not learning quickly enough? Why can’t I cook or bake like this other person? Why am I not a better artist? Why am I not growing spiritually? Someone recently shared with me this pearl of wisdom – don’t be a second-rate version of someone else, but be the best version of yourself.

As I ponder over this, the truth of the fact is – I really am hard on myself. My better half always says I should give myself more credit. As I thought about this even more, if I can indulge myself just a bit, I have grown in so many way over the last few years. I am a better cook today than I ever was while I was still part of the rat race. I can bake a rather mean honeycomb cake. I draw better today than I did 6 months ago, and yes, I have grown spiritually. I may not be better than the next person, but I am growing each day to be a better version of myself.

Have I done this on my own? Not really. Everything that has happened was just a leap of faith on my part. A very small leap. All I had was the tiny faith of a mustard seed. Everything else was God’s work. He placed within me a seed of transformation and it grew.

Brothers and sisters, review today the routine tasks of your life.  Does it rise up to challenge you? Do you become discouraged when you do not see results? Something as small as a mustard seed or as little as a measure of yeast can, given the proper conditions, produce great growth and transformation. We often measure ourselves against the biggest and the best things, that we easily overlook the things that are small and more humble. Perhaps we can look at prayers we said, hopes we have for ourselves and our loved one. It may not have turned out the way we envisioned, but can we recognise how the seeds have grown?

Can I see the ‘yeast’ of a vision, a desire, a dream and see how it has inspired me and others? Yes, I certainly can!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, teach me to recognise the seeds of transformation which you have placed within me. Help me to understand that the kingdom is growing now in me, and that you are making your presence known to me in small as well as big ways.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for planting the seeds within me and how you have nurtured me and helped me grow.

29 October, Monday – Live in Love

29 October

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes-all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity-which is worshipping a false god-can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…and live in love.

Today’s first reading tells us to practice human virtues of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. We are to imitate God, as his beloved children and to live in love. Sounds so ‘zen’, yes? The way I feel sometimes, I think I might have to be high on drugs to be this loving person. Being a Christian and following Christ is not easy. It is ‘cheap words’ when we go around spouting “Peace be with you” when our hearts are far from peaceful.

Recently, at our ‘Revival Friday’ session at the Catholic Spirituality Centre, the priest said something that had me nodding – when someone is hurting and struggling with a life situation, the last thing you should say is “I’ll pray for you!” I can resonate with that, because every time someone says that to me, I will dutifully reply “Thank you.” When in my heart, I am really saying “What a cop out thing to say!” Actions speak louder than words. Instead of saying “I’ll pray for you.” It’s far better to say “I’ll pray with you.” When someone is not feeling so great and down, sometimes the best thing to do is just to be there for them, listen to them, and not utter a single word.

I have been pondering over a perplexing situation between a friend and I. For some reason, this friend became hostile and cold towards me. It really surprised me and for the life of me, I cannot quite figure out what I might have done to upset this person. So being the good Christian, I decided to reach out to her and apologized for whatever I may have done. She responded very casually, as if there was absolutely nothing wrong. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to confront me. Perhaps she is herself confronting a difficult life situation and I shouldn’t take this personally. Now may not be the time to reach out. But in my mind, I keep wondering what I’ve done, and waver between being upset and understanding.

But as today’s readings remind me – I will still love my sister, strive to be tender-hearted, understanding and compassionate. And when the time is right, perhaps I could reach out to her again. I may not be like Jesus, healing with a touch of my hands. But perhaps, I could pave the way for healing — just be being there. Just by praying with her and for her.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Jesus, give us hearts after yours – hearts of forgiveness, compassion and kindness. Teach us to walk in love. Especially to show love to people who hurt us, people who are hurting and people whom we find difficult to love.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for loving us. Especially when we are so unlovable. That you for healing our broken hearts and broken lives.

28 October, Sunday – Seasons of Change

28 October 2018

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Jeremiah 31:7-9

The Lord says this:

Shout with joy for Jacob!
Hail the chief of nations!
Proclaim! Praise! Shout:
‘The Lord has saved his people,
the remnant of Israel!’

See, I will bring them back
from the land of the North
and gather them from the far ends of earth;
all of them: the blind and the lame,
women with child, women in labour:
a great company returning here.

They had left in tears,
I will comfort them as I lead them back;
I will guide them to streams of water,
by a smooth path where they will not stumble.
For I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my first-born son.

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Hebrews 5:1-6

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him: You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

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Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

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With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back

Today’s first reading brings much consolation to my heart. In life, each of us goes through seasons of change. My season now is best described as autumn – what used to be green has turned to shades of mustard, yellow, purple, black, blue and brown. I feel like a chapter of life is dying and I feel extremely melancholic. When acquaintances chirpily ask me “So how’s the going?” I would simply reply, “OK.” Who wants to speak to a ‘downer’ right? Not everyone wants to hear my story. For a while, I have kept my emotions buried so deep that I almost forgot about them. In my busy-ness over the past few months, I was actually quite upbeat. I thought I was finally on the way to healing.

Then one day, a couple of weeks back, I had a tête-à-tête with a dear friend. We laughed and were thankful that with each other, we could be ourselves; not have to wear masks and build up walls. We spoke about what irritated us, what made us sad, and what worried us. What a relief it was to be able to share freely. However after that chat, I felt that my wounds opened again, they were still raw with a numb, aching pain. In the days that followed, I didn’t know quite how to handle these feelings. That weekend, I sat in a crowded café with my sugar brioche and latte and to my surprise, my tears started to stream.

I reflected on this further – I learnt that we are not meant to try to handle our problems alone. A priest said during a weekend homily that if we carried our crosses alone, we’d probably be crushed under that weight. But if we carried it with Jesus, we will eventually find joy and peace — hard to comprehend when we are buried deep in the pain of our wounds. However, I realise that I wasn’t alone in that crowded café. Yes, a lot of other people and my unsuspecting coffee partner was there. But Jesus was right there with me. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back. This may be a season of autumn, and soon it will be winter. But in winter, there is always Christmas and then it will be spring again.

Brothers and sisters, whatever season we are in, we have to just acknowledge that season of life. We cannot bypass these seasons of change, we are not meant to. Do not ignore it, nor bury it. But let us sit with it. Invite Jesus in, just like how Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. And let Jesus restore us and heal us. And soon, it will be summer again!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, we often try to do things on our own strength and fail miserably. Let us cling onto you and call out to you in faith, knowing that you are ever loving and just waiting for us to invite you in.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the marvels you have worked in our lives. For being with us in the different seasons of our lives, for carrying our crosses with us.

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.