Tag Archives: growth

3 September, Monday – The Frivolity of Being Favoured

3 September – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor   

St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. He was elected by unanimous acclamation for pope. Incidentally, he was also the first monk to be pope. Before his papacy, he turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. He became a missionary to England upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum.

-Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

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Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’

And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

 When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God. 

I always wondered about the people around me who seemed to have it all put together. They have good jobs, they have happy families, they kept friendships from years before and have little trouble making new ones. All of those things seem to come easy for them. Most striking of all, they never seemed to have had a faith crisis. These friends seemed to also be unwavering in commitment to their faith. I admired this all.

For one, I used to feel like an emotional hurricane. I would go through seasons of feeling close to and then far from God. When things and relationships went south, I would read my life situation as a consequence of some bad thing I had done, that I had fallen from God’s favour. There would be a cycle of sorrow, guilt, fear, and then grit – to get back on track and ‘do the right things’. Truth be told, being a Christian sometimes felt like more of a burden than a salvation. I was always playing catch-up with my idea of being favoured by God.

As I read today’s Scripture, a few points came to my mind about living a life that is close to Christ.

  1. We will never be liked all the time. Friends and acquaintances will have different reasons for their attitude and perception of me. How well I am favoured this week or this season is no measure of my worth or likeability. Likewise, I am not perfect and I will likely sometimes piss someone off. But hey! That’s normal in human relationships.

 

  1. No prophet is ever accepted in his own country. Sometimes, our families function just the way they are. Other times, there is a whole lot of dysfunction. And every one hides more than a little bit of weirdness and lack and inadequacy about their families. We just never see it in their smiles. Families are imperfect – don’t try to change your parents, your siblings, and your ancestry. Some of us (and our desire for growth, change, and salvation) will just never sit well with the people we live with – and that is okay. We choose growth, we still try to love them, and we will move on.

 

  1. Your job, your intellect, your skills and talents – these are not the only gifts that God has given you. If these don’t work out, you may begin to see cracks in your self-image. Then you will realise that you have too many unhealthy associations of your self-worth with your social and financial standing. Celebrate your life! You are the only you in this world, and you are God’s greatest gift to your self. No one can take this away from you. Hence, ‘your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.’

 

  1. Everyone needs a personal faith crisis. Everyone will eventually experience one. This is not a consolation for those who feel like they always had the short end of stick. This is the only way you or I will ever experience the immense grace, mercy, and justice of God. We can only experience wholeness after confronting our deep brokenness. And we have the consolation of God that Christ is with us in every state of great need and tribulation. This is God’s mercy. This is also God’s love.

 

Many of these thoughts are both practical and spiritual. Our love for God and faith in Him is an iterative journey that will often see us going through cycles of doubts, comparisons with others, intimacy, enlightenment, guilt for our sins, sorrow for straying, but also a deep longing to return. May we continue to forge on this path and fix our gaze on Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Help me Lord to remain steadfast in faith no matter how the winds of human favour and the world’s attractions may blow.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for all my trials and tribulations through life and all its stations. They keep me real, they keep me humble, and they help me experience empathy for others.

22 June, Wednesday – Bearing Good Fruit

22 June  – Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

– Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 22:8-13,23:1-3

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord.’’’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him as follows, ‘Your servants’ he said ‘have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book’; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king’s presence.

On hearing the contents of the Book of the Law, the king tore his garments, and gave the following order to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s minister: ‘Go and consult the Lord, on behalf of me and the people, about the contents of this book that has been found. Great indeed must be the anger of the Lord blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says by practising everything written in it.’

The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him, and the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and all the people, of high or low degree. In their hearing he read out everything that was said in the book of the covenant found in the Temple of the Lord. The king stood beside the pillar, and in the presence of the Lord he made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.

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Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

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“Open my eyes, O Lord”

In my life, I have been called brash, emotional, funny and wear my heart firmly on my sleeve. My emotions show up in all facets of my life; my work, family life and most of all, when I’m driving.

Many times, I am overcome with brief flashes of anger. When these occasions strike me, I tended to lash out with unkind words. I remember the times when my wife gently telling me that the children were in the car and were watching, and learning from how I was behaving.

This was one of the realizations that I had when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat early this year. I realized that because I was feeling angry and at times, felt worried and anxious, and these feelings were manifesting themselves negatively.

Jesus reminds us today that a sound tree must produce good fruit. Thus, how we think, act and behave, our fruits, reflects how we attuned we are to God and how well we are walking in His path. These provide a very important feedback mechanism and personally, a daily examination of our conscience helps us evaluate where we are and where we need to be.

In our daily lives as Christians, let us continue to turn to God for the strength and wisdom to continue learning how to develop “good fruit”, so that we will have the temperance and fortitude as we go through the growth process.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, may we continue to be open to Your corrections as we learn to become good fruit. Help us Lord to recognize instances when we may not be the best that we can be.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for blessing us with a conscience and giving us loving people in our lives who will correct us in our efforts to become better children of Yours.

12 May, Thursday – Courage

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

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Acts 22:30,23:6-11

Since the tribune wanted to know what precise charge the Jews were bringing, he freed Paul and gave orders for a meeting of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin; then he brought Paul down and stood him in front of them. Now Paul was well aware that one section was made up of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, so he called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ As soon as he said this a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was split between the two parties. For the Sadducees say there is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, while the Pharisees accept all three. The shouting grew louder, and some of the scribes from the Pharisees’ party stood up and protested strongly, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?’ Feeling was running high, and the tribune, afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered his troops to go down and haul him out and bring him into the fortress.

Next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.’

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

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…courage

What really struck me today, is that one word, “courage”. Oftentimes we fear the unknown, the future and its many uncertainties. We can plan all our lives and believe we are prepared for all outcomes, yet still be unsure when the time comes.  Sometimes we fail to confront or address the issues that are preventing us from moving on. We fail to accept our mistakes and continue to live in the past. Bury our regrets.  But what really happens when we bury our sins, regrets and hurts, is that they will always remain in us.  They will continue to affect us.  We end up living in the shadow of our past.

Seeing the word “courage”, made me want to encourage all who are suffering in silence. Because the truth is, it’s never about the past but whether we have learned and how we are going to improve. For mistakes are many and we will always continue to make them. But hopefully we also have the courage to admit our faults and failings and be more aware of our actions in the future.

Many of us also struggle with finding the courage to trust, to love and to forgive. We build walls around ourselves.  Wear many masks.  But eventually, we lose our identity and we lose ourselves.

Today let us embrace this word. Not just to be bold, but to take that leap of faith.  To believe in God. To believe in ourselves.  To believe that we can afford to lower our walls because God is our strength.  Lower our masks, because when others see us, it’s Christ they see. Embrace our failings and weaknesses, because they have brought us to where we are now. To move on, because we simply deserve better.

Let us not judge ourselves.  Let us give ourselves another chance and know we are all created good and in the image of Christ Himself. Let us find courage through Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that You be our courage in times when it seems that we are doing something that isn’t us or allowing something that isn’t right to happen. Lord, we need the courage because many times we simply prefer to choose the simpler way out. Dear Lord, give us wisdom to know how to act when it calls for us to be courageous.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for speaking to us today. We may not know what the future entails but we thank you for all the years we’ve managed to live. Thank you for Your courage at your passion and death.  May we continue to look to you in times of need.

22 April, Friday – Being Faithful

22 April

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Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you. What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every sabbath. Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.

‘We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the second psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.’

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John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled”

I often joke with people that I had done a full tour of the education system. In my life, I had gone through primary and secondary schools, polytechnic and university. I have even gone through night classes for a professional diploma (although I never did qualify for the diploma!)

Having been brought up by a relative, I found my early life very challenging. I was worried about finances throughout the course of my education and had to work hard to earn enough. I would often wonder why I had such a difficult life when my classmates seemed to coast through.

As the late Steve Jobs once said, you can only connect the dots with hindsight. My experiences showed me my resilience and more importantly, where God was, in the darkest moments of my early life. It was only after the fact that I realised that I was gifted with many friends and loving relatives to help me on the journey. These experiences made me the person I am today and I would not trade them for anything in the world!

Our Lord, in the gospel today, assures us by telling us not to be troubled. He had come to prepare the way, and to show us the way. God is with us all the time and our responsibility is to fully trust in Him.

When Jesus went through the Passion and was crucified for all to see, the situation was at its bleakest. To all, it appeared that He had failed and yet this was His greatest victory!

Let us all keep our eyes on our Lord and our God. We just need to keep the faith!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, we pray that our faith will continue endure and be stronger! Help us to always keep close to You in prayer and remember that You love and sustain us! Always!

Thanksgiving – We thank you God for sending us your Son, Jesus, to show us the way. Thank you for Your promise of eternal faithfulness and for not abandoning us in spite of our sinful nature. We praise and thank You for the grace that you have given us.