Tag Archives: geraldine nah

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

6 April 2019

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Jeremiah 11:18-20

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

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

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John 7:40-52

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

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

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Pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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

5 April, Friday – Who am I?

5 Apr – Memorial for St. Vincent Ferrer, priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 2:1,12-22

The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Lord always hold this sister in His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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

4 April, Thursday – Know where the source comes from

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

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 32:7-14

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

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

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

 

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

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

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

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Yet you refuse to come to me to have life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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

12 February, Tuesday – Good Fruit

12 February 2019

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Genesis 1:20-2:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark 7:1-13

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

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

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

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Be fruitful and multiply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 1:1-19

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark 6:53-56

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

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All who touched it were healed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to be healed?

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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

10 February, Sunday – The love of God shown to the unlovely

10 February 2019

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Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord of Hosts seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings.
And they cried out to one another in this way,

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
His glory fills the whole earth.’

The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said:

‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of Hosts.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said:

‘See now, this has touched your lips,
your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’

I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.
Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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Luke 5:1-11

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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The grace of God which is with me

Recently at Friday Growth, our spiritual director Fr. Andrew asked us to share with the person sitting next to us, what graces we received recently. “It’s important to acknowledge what God has done for us, no matter how small,” he extolled.

My sharing partner said that it was by the grace of God that she was able to find a contractor (by chance) to renovate her home, a major ‘add and alter’ job. He did it within budget, on time and beautifully. That, to her, was God’s grace.

Another person shared that she had been estranged from her son for close to 9 months – a fight and exchange of harsh words last year caused her son to leave home and cut all communication with her. For a mother, that is heartbreak and extremely painful. Grace for her happened just before Christmas. Her son re-established contact with her and they are slowly mending that relationship.

For me, I simply shared that it was by God’s grace that the day was uneventful. And I meant it. Since January started, I feel like I am being pulled in all directions. Not having a conventional job, people tend to think that I have a lot of time on my hands. Perhaps I avail myself too easily – especially to people or situations who need my help. From helping a neighbour in grief, to ministry work – everything started with the best of intentions. But lately, I started to feel resentful. Maybe because I have been trying to deal with some issues myself, but having to spend copious amounts of time on others’ issues and their demands on my time, I am feeling exhausted and used.

What is Grace? Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favour of God.

We see God’s grace permeating in all the reading’s today – we see God’s goodness and man’s unworthiness in Isaiah’s response in the first reading. In the second reading, Paul perceived himself as so unworthy and unfit to be called to apostleship because he “persecuted the church of God.” And finally in the gospel, despite Simon’s disbelief, God showed his grace by giving them more fish than their nets could hold.

Brothers and sisters, do we count ourselves as so unworthy and so unfit to receive God’s grace today? Are we so caught up in our own sufferings or perceptions of how things ought to be, that we fail to see God’s grace in our lives? Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

For me, although I am feeling exhausted and used, God’s grace is giving me the time, intellect and resources to be able to do His work. I just need to draw strength from Him and believe that everything works for a greater good.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, help us to be good stewards of the graces given to us. Set us free to serve others with the gift you have given us, for the glory of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thanksgiving: Every good and perfect gift comes from you, Lord. Thank you for your graces showered upon us, even when we are unworthy and unfit.

24 December, Monday – I will prepare a place for you, a home within my heart.

24 December

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2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16

Once David had settled into his house and the Lord had given him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.’

But that very night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Luke 1:67-79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue
and he has raised up for us a power for salvation
in the House of his servant David,
even as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,
thus he remembers his holy covenant
the oath he swore
to our father Abraham
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and virtue
in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare the way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins;
this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’

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‘The Lord will make you a house’

 December is a busy month for most of us. On the work front, most of us are busy wrapping up the year. Before the year ends, it’s already ended! We are already into 2019 strategies, plans and executions.

On the home front, we would have been busy preparing our homes for Christmas. Putting up the tree, buying gifts and preparing the ingredients for the festive meal. Busy getting ready for the festivities and to welcome family and friends to our home.

December has traditionally been very stressful for me. My heart and mind are in 2 different places. When advent comes around and we are meant to prepare our hearts for Christmas, we are often pulled apart by busyness to even settle down. I struggle to calm down and silence my heart interiorly during advent. And sharing this with my friends, they feel the same too.

Recently, I heard a new song. It’s a beautiful song and really puts into perspective what this time is for, while we await the coming of Christmas. A line in the lyrics of the song goes… I will prepare a place for you, a home within my heart. I will make my heart your Bethlehem, where you oh Lord can enter in.

 Today’s first reading sees the Lord asking King David, ‘Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in?’. The Lord has been so generous to David. He has been there for David throughout his expeditions, protected him for his enemies. ‘I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth….. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a house.’ As we look back on the year, can we take stock of the times that the Lord has been there for us, through our ups and downs, through victories and even losses? Through the happy moments and painful ones? Are we today sitting right here in our homes, in our offices, on a bus or train, are we breathing, did we wake up this morning? The Lord has been with us all along. He too promises to make us a house. And our house will stand secure before Him. Just like David’s.

How are we preparing a place for Him? Will our Lord Jesus have a place to lay his head on this holy night of his birth? Are we ready to welcome Jesus into our homes, to celebrate His birthday? Can we spend these last few hours before Christmas preparing a home for Jesus – a place within our hearts? Have a blessed, holy Christmas my brothers and sisters.  May Jesus dwell in the home of your heart.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, may our hearts be your Bethlehem.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the best gift a Father could ever give His children. Thank you for giving us your Son, Jesus Christ. As we await His birth, may we prepare a manger for Him in our hearts. May this ‘home’ be warm and welcoming.

23 December, Sunday – Thy will be done.

23 December 2018

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Micah 5:1-4  

The Lord says this:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

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Hebrews 10:5-10

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:39-44

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

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“Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”

 We pray the Lord’s Prayer each time we go for mass and even daily. But some of us have been so conditioned to recite this prayer without giving it a second thought. ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. But are we truly willing to give all we have and own to the Lord? Do we allow our Father to direct our lives? Or do we only ‘allow’ Him to lead when it is comfortable for us or fits into our plan? ‘Thy will be done’. Personally, I am always filled with trepidation whenever I pray that line. Because I know that My Father’s plan for me isn’t always my plan. His plan takes me into uncomfortable and unknown territory and that’s scary.

Recently, I prayed for the Lord to give me the courage to really submit to His will. I am not sure if that was a good idea, but shortly after, an avalanche of ‘invitations’ were extended to me.

As a result, I feel overwhelmed and yes, I feel extremely uncomfortable.

Days leading up to a retreat I was serving and also during the retreat proper, I have been asked to help out in our community’s forward strategic planning and communications. ‘Step up’, they say. In my own mind, I think to myself that I was asked because few people would want to do this on a volunteer basis. I do this professionally and this would be a good way of giving back; but I am hesitant and have not said ‘Yes!’

A more recent incident occurred when I was asked to do something, and this time, really against my will. I was asked to cantor the Responsorial Psalm in front of a large, unfamiliar crowd of people who are very used to extremely good cantors. Every fibre of my being was screaming ‘NO!’  I have been a part of this choir now for almost 8 years; very comfortable as part of the general choir and doing other work necessary to support the team in retreats. I do not have a great nor strong voice and so this request freaked me out. I had planned an ‘exit strategy’. A very viable and workable one. However, a very competitive part of me also challenged myself to just do it – to prove to others and myself that I would not chicken out. So when the time came, God allowed me exactly 45 seconds of calmness. I got through the Psalms. But as I sat down waiting my turn to do the gospel acclamation, my mind went blank and I simply forgot the tune. Too late and I whispered a quick prayer for the Holy Spirit to take over. Long story short – I survived the entire experience and I know the Holy Spirit took over. Will I do this again? Probably yes, not by my will, but by my Father’s.

I share this experience with you, my brothers and sisters, not to direct any attention to myself. The examples are share with you today are miniscule compared to other’s who have their lives turned upside down when they submit to Our Father.

Look at Mary in today’s gospel. Her trust and obedience to God led her to say ‘Yes’ although by any human standards, it seemed a really bad idea. Her ‘fiat’ led to many other ‘yes-s’. Her ‘yes’ led to a lot of pain, suffering and humiliation. Her ‘yes’ also gave her joy and happiness. Her ‘yes’ gave us her son, our Father’s Son – Our Lord and Saviour, whose birth we commemorate and will celebrate very soon.

Are we willing and truly open to really say ‘Thy will be done?’ knowing that Our Father’s will leads to a greater good than just our own?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Father, the next time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, let us pray this with our heart.  To truly and courageously say ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’. Give us the obedience to act and live according to Your Will and may our lives be living testimonies of putting you in the centre of everything. May we bring love, peace and hope to others this Christmas time.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and patience in teaching and moulding us. We thank you for showing us that when we obediently allow ourselves to be led by You, you show us all the wonderful possibilities and, more importantly, how our gifts and talents can be used to evangelise and bring others closer to you.

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.