Tag Archives: hardwork

12 October, Wednesday – Fruit of the earth, work of human hands

12 October

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Galatians 5:18-25

If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

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Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said to the Pharisees:

‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!

A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’

‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’

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What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control

There was a vacant pot of soil in my family’s apartment corridor garden. Once, after eating a delightfully sweet blood orange, I decided to lay two seeds in the soil. Then, I buried a random assortment of other seeds into this pot. This was a strange magpie instinct in me to hoard the seeds in my ‘pot of treasures,’ curiously waiting for what might erupt from the soil. When my dad found out, he laughed and called me ‘kooky’ for not even labeling them in separate pots. Who knew which would grow? What if the different seedlings strangle each other as they vied for root space?

It is a mysterious thing: how life forms, how nature pushes forth from the deep darkness of seeming nothingness but a single seed. Lo and behold, one sturdy stalk sprung forth and just kept on growing. It was anyone’s guess which plant it was. But we committed to water and watch it. Its leaves grew larger, its ring of branches began to exhibit a pattern of growth. So, from pot to bigger pot, dad then moved it to the common ground below my window. It was only two feet tall then. Left outside to grow, we learnt to surrender our tending and tilling to the aid of the elements. Stood the assault of wind and rain it did. Once, bending almost halfway down.

And so it goes, that the work of our hands is really both about the graces given by God in opportunities and talents, as well as the intention and effort we pour into our work. In today’s Galatians verse, it is no coincidence that each fruit of the Spirit is both a noun and a verb. It may be a given quality, but it too needs to be cultivated by action. This is what virtue is: in unequal parts nature and nurture, by God’s design.

So as the priest prays these words over the bread and wine on the Altar before they are consecrated to God and become transubstantiated as the Body and Blood of Christ:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

We recognise the mystery of our co-operation in God’s grace. As we have received the earth and seeds as gifts through God’s goodness, these wheat and grapes have grown from the earth by God’s blessing by the movements of Nature. At the same time, the bread and wine are indeed the work of human hands – through our tilling, cultivation, harvesting, threshing, milling, ingenuity and baking. It is the same when grapes are amazingly transformed into wine. Hence we offer to Him the fruit of our labours through our participation in His design, yet recognising that the very origin of these produce comes alone from His goodness.

Finally, in our offering on the Altar, we surrender to Him what we have worked on and created unto His Will. We return the true and divine Authorship of mystery unto the Lord, just as we cannot see nor comprehend how the first seeds of all manner of life first came to be, God shall transform this bread of life and spiritual drink yet again – mystically – into the real Body and Blood of Christ (John 6:53-56; Matthew 16:5-12).

We are collaborators with God in His work of creation. True spiritual fruits require both divine grace and human effort to become abiding virtues that stand the test of time.

Over the past months, the plant has grown taller than me. Its once small leaves now larger than my palm. Its green stalk browns now as it turns to a wider trunk. We don’t quite know which of the seeds this is. But certainly its flowers and fruits will tell.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Let us see the work of our hands as a means of worship and praise to the Lord. May our work be suffused with true virtue and charity. No work is too menial when offered for God’s delight.

Thanksgiving: We bless the Lord for giving us hope that the fruit of our work, when offered to God, is eternally significant.

9 October, Sunday – I am with you, always

9 October

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2 Kings 5:14-17

Naaman the leper went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and stood before him. ‘Now I know’ he said ‘that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Now, please, accept a present from your servant.’ But Elisha replied, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing.’ Naaman pressed him to accept, but he refused. Then Naaman said, ‘Since your answer is “No,” allow your servant to be given as much earth as two mules may carry, because your servant will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.’

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2 Timothy 2:8-13

Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.

Here is a saying that you can rely on:

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful

The readings today point to the need for faithfulness and gratitude. Both Naaman the leper and the Samaritan were considered outcasts and marginalised by society. Though both were unbelievers at the beginning of the story, they equally received the healing that they needed so badly. Out of humility and gratefulness, they turned their faces towards God and gave thanks. For Naaman, even though Elisha turned down his offering, he insisted that his heart was no longer set on making offerings to lesser gods but only the Lord; while the Samaritan ran to embrace Jesus’ feet and gave thanks to God. This turnabout of heart seems to be a recurrent exercise in my faith life.

During the past two months, I experienced a great tension in my life. There was a conflict of attending to various life projects, of feeling torn in different directions and geographical locations. I could not settle. This anxiety crawled on my skin and irritated me to the point of constant restlessness. I had spent a short few weeks in Boston setting up a home for my coming marriage. Then I had to fly back to Singapore, and in less than a week, off again to Brisbane for a week of work. Meanwhile, I knew that I was sorely in need of a quiet retreat with the Lord to tend to my drying spiritual garden. With various needs of my life calling out like a siren, I grew dissatisfied no matter where I was. It seemed I was always neglecting something else.

On the plane to Brisbane, I was sad, wishing that I had not planned for the trip. At the same time, a little voice nudged at me to trust that maybe God had a plan in all this. Maybe, just maybe, this trip could be the ‘retreat’ I needed to recover from my anxiety attacks…

It took me a couple of days to settle into the rhythm of (yet another) new timezone, culture, environment. As the waves of restlessness slowly ebbed away from my skin over the first few days, I learnt not to put boxes over various aspects of my life. God does not belong in a box; and neither do I. Even the kind of ‘quiet place’ that God can lead me away to, may take on different forms. It did not need to resemble a retreat house or a secluded space – even the midst of a bustling city centre can be a place of repose. Can I be open to behold this? Ah, the scales over my eyes were still being lovingly pried away…

To my delight, I found that my hotel was smack on the same street as the St Stephen Cathedral (Brisbane’s Archdiocese seat), and I was able to attend daily Mass and receive our Lord in both bread and wine! In between work commitments, I had the chance to meander along the riverfront, form new friendships in my travelmates, and appreciate the private quietude of exploring a new city on foot. Yet in the midst of work and repose, I still could not help experiencing the habitual pangs of worry. Deep down, I yearned to be rid of this recent affliction. God still had a surprise in store.

My healing moment was a beautiful Sunday when I ventured out for a run in the Botanic Gardens. I stumbled on a weekend farmer’s market full of music, craft, and food. I jogged along the waterfront, explored the garden hills, sprinted across a foot bridge with spectacular views, and watched sunkissed lovers and children soaking in the nascent spring warmth. A food truck vendor gave me an extra portobello mushroom with my breakfast order. I cradled in my hands, a fresh cup of coffee.

And there it was – a tiny flutter of a heart in awe. A gasp of gratitude for this undeserved grace and blessing, encased in a moment of private reverie with Jesus. As I sat still, taking in all of this serendipitous beauty, certain of his presence and companionship, I felt these simple words – “I am with you, always.”

I was humbled to recognise the mystery and redemption in this apparent ‘displacement’ God had put me through. On hindsight, in the mere appearance of being reluctantly jostled and displaced, there was a deeper message of God’s unchanging faithfulness to me in all of life’s stations. Even if I should thrash about, He waits patiently for my heart to still, for my ears to hear, and for my eyes to gaze long enough to see Him loving me all the while.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Help me Lord to believe that there are grace-filled moments in everyday life, to trust in your companionship as I go through each day.

Thanksgiving: That we may ever hold onto steadfast hope in the redemptive power of your love and plan for our good.

4 October, Tuesday – Decluttering from the every day

4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.

He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.

He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.

While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.

In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 1:13-24

You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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…and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

Many of us tend to be more like Martha – always planning ahead, worrying and fretting about this and that. Over the past few months, while preparing for my long holiday in Spain, I tried to accomplish as much as possible at work so that my team would be able to function as best as possible while I was away. Indeed, at my last debrief with my unit heads, I told them that I would not be checking emails each day (as I usually do when on holiday) as I would be on the road walking most of the time.

The time away proved absolutely refreshing and essential for my spiritual renewal. To my own surprise, I quickly dismissed all thoughts about work and other commitments the moment I got to the airport. I even checked myself out of quite a few group chats, saying that I would rejoin when I got back home. It was rather uncharacteristic of me but I knew that all my physical preparation for my journey would come to naught if I was going to worry about what was happening back home all the time.

And while on my walk, stripped of many of the creature comforts of home, I fould myself enjoying each day as we headed towards our destination. I began to enjoy ‘living in the present’ and being more attuned to the sights, sounds and smells that the Spanish countryside and villages had to offer. Even after we had arrived in Santiago and spent a few days in Madrid, I hardly (I can’t say ‘never’) checked on emails from the office. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t planning ahead and fussing about what we were going to have for dinner while eating breakfast. I left everything in His hands and trusted fully that He would deliver each and every day.

Brothers and sisters, it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ‘doing’ of things at work, running errands, completing chores, attending meetings, fulfilling appointments and just generally living the hectic lives that WE choose for ourselves. But in the end, what’s more important is that we must learn and develop the habit of being still in order to listen effectively to Christ speaking to us – in the faces that we meet, the helping hand that we shake, the greeting from an office cleaner first thing in the morning, the ‘free cuppa’ from the pantry – the list goes on. It is difficult to keep calm and carry on while all around us, things are turning topsy-turvy or becoming chaotic. But are they? Or are we simply fretting about things just so that we can keep our minds occupied?

Taking it one step further — are we really that busy at work, at home, even in church, that we can’t spare 15 minutes (at the very least) being ‘busy’ with God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

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Prayer: Dear God, bless us with patience and humility so that we learn to me more attuned to you and to your constant presence in our hustle-and-bustle lives. Teach us to enjoy the present rather than to constantly fret about the future.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for the being so patient with us and for always being there for us in spite of our inattentiveness.

22 September, Thursday – Vanity Of Vanities

22 September

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.

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Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

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For all his toil, what does Man gain by it?

What a question! These existentialist questions have long been written about by philosophers who posited that Man’s very true essence is his individuality, his independent actions and his conscious ‘being’ in the world, through which he creates his own values and determines a meaning to his life. There is a kind of hapless desperation to such a worldly definition of man’s existence. It creates a need in one to ‘make good of life’, or else there is nothing worthy to be talked of about one’s existence at the end of life!

By the world’s standards, we count our gain from the successes of our toils. What is my worth? For some, “I am my paycheck; I am my job description; I am the praises or insults that others accord me; I am the success of my career; I am the beautiful house and property I own.” This we count as our legacy.

“Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go […] What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.” This we are told in today’s first reading. Let us not feel sorry for ourselves that our lives are but the river waters that flow into the same sea, or that our lives and accomplishments are in reality nothing new under the sun. Let us rejoice in this amazing truth that we are all made for eternity – that, our lives having been redeemed by Christ is worth far more than the dollars and cents that we count, scrimp, and save, in this world. We live this life not by taking or keeping, but by giving and sharing.

How does this transform your understanding of your existence today? You are part of God’s great plan of humanity; your search for meaning in this life, in your daily toils is shared by the people who trudge alongside you in this seeming daily drudgery. Your quenchless thirst for significance beyond your economic contribution to this country, your loved ones, is deeply felt by Jesus who came down to earth and lived a life like yours. Do not feel alone. Do not feel helpless. Do not despair. Come to the Father who will give you a true meaning and purpose in life.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

P.S. This reflection is pulled from our Archives of 2012.

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Prayer: Jesus, I ask you to show me the way to eternity. Show me the little simple ways in which I can grow in faith in You and discover my life’s meaning.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord Jesus for walking beside me as I search for the meaning of my life, as I try to grapple with your purpose for me as I am here in this family, this workplace, this world.

18 September, Sunday – Be Still and Know that I am God

18 September

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Amos 8:4-7

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.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

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1 Timothy 2:1-8

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

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Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

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I urge that entreaties and prayers… be made on behalf of all men… that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

My life is a constant buzz right now. From dawn to dusk, I am constantly on the move. My sleep is not one of peacefulness nor full rest, and most of the time I wake up feeling tired, not energized. The reason for my whirlwind of activity is my role as a new mother; had I been single say ten years ago, I would have said that my job was the reason. Or my social life. Now in the dim glow of my night light while I attend to my infant son, I sometimes call out to God in desperation. And in the quiet of the night, sometimes God answers.

Nothing could have quite prepared me for motherhood. You can read all the books ever written on the subject, but until your child arrives on the scene, you never quite know the extent that your life can be turned around. I used to be a stickler for house chores and having my home in right order and cleanliness. Now I would be lucky if I can get ahead of my ever-piling laundry. In the past, I would dream and cook up elaborate meals; I would be satisfied now to have something that I could whip up or reheat instantly. I tried to do it all. I still try to do it all, the cooking, cleaning, caring of baby. Between work and home and being a mother, I have not even had the time to look for hired help. I confess for an OCD person like me, it was hard to get used to this “new way of life”. Sometimes I feel like a tightly wound up toy let loose, and I can’t stop.

And so something gave in me during that time, and unfortunately it was my time with God. I stopped seeking Him as much as I used to, seeking Him only in my sleep-deprived state of mind, which was when the busy-ness of my life got out of control. My need to be on top of my hectic life not only pushed God out, it also pushed other people out, relationships that matter to me.

Have we ever felt that way before, when we are so busy with life – our work, social commitments, extra -curricular activities, even church activities – that we forget who the Lord of our work is? He made all this possible for us, giving us the responsibilities because He knew we could be trusted with our roles. At the same time, He also hoped that in challenging us to strive to be our best, we would also call out to Him to help us. Or perhaps sit a while with Him to thank Him for the blessings or just to talk about how our day has been, chaotic or otherwise.

It is funny that I am realizing this whilst writing this reflection, that my life has just been so busy that I have not reached out to ask God for the one thing that I crave the most at this point: a quiet and tranquil moment, where I can sit for a while and reflect. I know it is not too late, for God is everywhere. We only have to seek Him, and He will be there.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, it has taken me this long to reach out to You for help. I thought I could do it all, but I know I can’t. Help me to take a step back, quieten down, and reflect. Help me to appreciate the small but wonderful moments in life that You have blessed me with. Help me to realize that in peace, shall I find sanity, serenity, and You.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for helping me to realize that I should slow down before I self-destructed. Let me remember always, to “be still and know” that You are God.

7 September, Wednesday – Our Eternal Reward

7 September

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1 Corinthians 7:25-31

About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.

Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.

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Luke 6:20-26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:

‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’

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Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. 

Relocating to a new city is never easy. Aside from the usual logistics of establishing a new household, there is also the very pertinent question of money. Those of us who have set out to live on your own will remember how financially taxing it was the very first time. Everything needed to be bought, from a new pot to a can of beans. As you watch your bank balances decline, it is all too easy to despair. It is also far too easy to throw yourself further into work, hoping to earn those extra dollars.

What is difficult to do is that familiar reminder — God will provide. Whether it is material or spiritual needs, God will give us what we need. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it is often easy to forget that. However, today’s readings present us with an even more pressing and very stark reminder: the world in its present form is passing away. For those of us who are beset with bills and expenses, it may well be a relief to hear that (maybe all our bills will pass away with this ‘present’ world!).

Jokes aside, today’s readings are reminding us to focus on the kingdom of God. As Jesus said: blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Jesus is teaching us that if we focus on His Kingdom, we will find our rewards there, and all the suffering and hardships that we have to endure in our earthly life will all be worth it. While these heavenly treasures are not tangible (we cannot touch them nor see them right now), we know for sure that they are eternal.

Surely, things that are eternal are far worthier of our pining than our material desires and possessions? So (and with much great difficulty) I continue to lift up my worries to God each day, having faith (despite not knowing completely) that God will provide. No matter what the situation, God will help me find a way. All we need to do is to have faith, and to pray.

Jon Bon Jovi (perhaps unintentionally) says it best in his classic hit (and a staple of my teenhood): We’re halfway there. Livin’ on a prayer.

We’re halfway there. No longer condemned due to our faith in Christ, but not quite saints yet. When all else fails and we find ourselves with nothing left and nobody to turn to, that is when we really need to pray. To pray as if our lives depend on it; to live on every prayer that escapes our lips.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, while the lives we live are not always easy, we continue to place our faith and trust in You, praying and believing with full confidence that You will lift us up on our final days and shower us with Your love.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the people in our lives who have offered us a helping hand in difficult times.

27 August, Saturday – On Being Productive

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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You wicked and lazy servant!

I do have my share of unproductive days.  There were times that I have been too lazy to go to work. And accompanying these instances is the thought that I wish I did not have to work in order for me to eat and sustain my daily needs.

The Gospel reading talks about the three servants. One received five talents, the other received two talents, and the third one received one talent. In the Gospel reading, one talent is equivalent to a very large amount of money.  It mentioned each in proportion to his ability. Meaning, the master compensated his servants in accordance to their ability. It can be concluded that the one who received the largest was the one who work the hardest. While the one who received the smallest was the one who work the least. The two servants who received five and two talents worked hard and were able to double what they have given. And the master was pleased with their performance and gave them rewards. On the other hand, the servant who received one talent did not do anything productive. He digs a hole and puts the talent in the ground. That talent did not prosper. The master was mad at this servant for being lazy and took the talent and gave it to the servant who had five talents.

Our God is an awesome God. He is just and fair. If you work hard, you will get your reward. Even at work, if the boss likes your performance, you are given bonuses and other perks. However, if you are a liability, the boss cannot trust you. He does not even want to give you any tasks.

When we feel exhausted in working, it is alright to take some rest. Resting does not mean being lazy. We are, after all, humans; therefore, we also get tired. We need to recharge ourselves. Even our digital gadgets become drained and need recharging. After we regain our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength, we come back to life. Do some work or do anything. Let’s not just be idle and do nothing.

There is this saying that we must do our best, and God will do the rest. Our life is a gift from God. It does not cost us anything. How we live our life is something we give back to God. Are we going to be like that servant who hid and buried the talent in the ground? Are we going to sit, wait, be still, and do nothing with our life? Or are we going to do something to make ourselves productive servants of God?  As we try to look back, have we lived our lives worthy to present it to our Lord?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please guide us in making our life productive for You and for others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for all the resources that we have to sustain our daily life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

13 July, Wednesday – Do As You Please?

13 July – Memorial for St. Henry II

Henry II (972–1024) was the son of Gisella of Burgundy and Henry II the Quarrelsome, Duke of Bavaria. He was educated at the cathedral school in Hildesheim by Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg. He became Duke of Bavaria himself in 995 upon his father’s death, which ended Henry’s thoughts of becoming a priest. He ascended to the throne of Germany in 1002, and was crowned King of Pavia, Italy on 15 May 1004. He married St. Cunegunda, but was never a father. Some sources claim the two lived celibately, but there is no evidence either way.

Henry’s brother rebelled against his power, and Henry was forced to defeat him on the battlefield, but later forgave him, and the two reconciled. Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1014 by Pope Benedict VIII; he was the last of the Saxon dynasty of emperors. He founded schools, quelled rebellions, protected the frontiers, worked to establish a stable peace in Europe, and to reform the Church while respecting its independence.

He fostered missions, and established Bamberg, Germany as a centre for missions to Slavic countries. He started the construction of the cathedral at Basel, Switzerland; it took nearly 400 years to complete. Both Henry and St. Cunegunda were prayerful people, and generous to the poor.

At one point he was cured of an unnamed illness by the touch of St. Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino. He became somewhat lame in his later years. Following Cunegunda’s death, he considered becoming a monk, but the abbot of Saint-Vanne at Verdun, France refused his application, and told him to keep his place in the world where he could do much good for people and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 10:5-7,13-16

The Lord of hosts says this:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger,
the club brandished by me in my fury!
I sent him against a godless nation;
I gave him commission against a people that provokes me,
to pillage and to plunder freely
and to stamp down like the mud in the streets.
But he did not intend this,
his heart did not plan it so.
No, in his heart was to destroy,
to go on cutting nations to pieces without limit.

For he has said:

‘By the strength of my own arm I have done this
and by my own intelligence, for understanding is mine;
I have pushed back the frontiers of peoples
and plundered their treasures.
I have brought their inhabitants down to the dust.
As if they were a bird’s nest, my hand has seized
the riches of the peoples.
As people pick up deserted eggs
I have picked up the whole earth,
with not a wing fluttering,
not a beak opening, not a chirp.’

Does the axe claim more credit than the man who wields it,
or the saw more strength than the man who handles it?
It would be like the cudgel controlling the man who raises it,
or the club moving what is not made of wood!
And so the Lord of Hosts is going to send
a wasting sickness on his stout warriors;
beneath his plenty, a burning will burn
like a consuming fire.

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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

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That is what it pleased you to do.

Have you ever worked with a stubborn person before? Or perhaps one who pretends to listen to your instructions but does otherwise instead, only to realise that it is all too late, thereby causing a mess for you to clean up? I certainly have and very often, in fact, when we hire casuals who do not have a sense of ownership or attachment to the company that they have been assigned to. They just do however they please when you turn your back away from them.

In today’s gospel, however, the one who does whatever he pleases is God the Father. In some way, He is a stubborn yet loving God whom we should not fear. God always has a plan for us, from the beginning of time and the future ahead. As for us, we are probably the ones who mess things up for ourselves and feel helpless not knowing what to do. Just look at the troubles and unrest in those cities written about in the Old Testament, about how disobedient the people were and how our Father came to save all of us. Many of us think we are adult enough to please God, and to be a faithful follower of Christ. On the other side, being rather successful in our jobs and careers make us complacent and, sometimes arrogant, at how we treat others. God reveals himself to those who show kindness to others, and have humility in ourselves, even when we can be as innocent as a child.

Let us watch our actions towards others, to be able to know how to control our emotions that could hurt someone else unintentionally. Try to put yourself in another person’s shoes, as that enables us to feel and think how the other will feel. Let our actions and words be a great testament of Christ in our lives. We need not be too clever for our own good, which could work against us at end of the day. Perhaps begin to take in instructions which our Father has laid out, so that we live a very fulfilling life each day.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We think it is a matter of balance between living faithfully and chasing the dreams of this world, no it is not. O Lord, guide us and grace us with the love to live just as You want us to.

Thanksgiving: There is so much to be grateful for, and I thank you for being a peaceful day today.