Tag Archives: healing

30 June, Sunday – Raise A Hallelujah (RAH)

30 June 2019

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1 Kings 19:16,19-21

The Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go, you are to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’

Leaving there, Elijah came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you’ he said. Elijah answered, ‘Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?’ Elisha turned away, took the pair of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the plough for cooking the oxen, then gave to his men, who ate. He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.

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Galatians 5:1,13-18

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you.

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Luke 9:51-62

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’
Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free.

As I write this, I have just about recovered from a small bout of flu (runny nose and a bit of a cough) and am doing physio on my shoulder, which I injured 3 weeks ago at a prep camp for the Youth Conversion Experience Retreat, which I was privileged and blessed to serve as a facilitator in last week. What a life-giving experience it was as 130-odd young adults (between 18 and 29 yrs of age) encountered Christ and were liberated from their spiritual chains.

At the last P&W session, I was literally running between the retreatants as everyone was lifting their hands to God and thanking Him for freeing them from their bondages. Over the 4 days of ministering, I had learnt a lot about bonding as a ministry, and being part of a community who truly cared for, and shared in, each others’ wounds. During one of the paraliturgies, I was led by the Holy Spirit to come to a greater understanding about my ‘father wounds’ and I believe it enabled the spirit to speak through me to the retreatants who approached me during the session.

I was also blessed to have witnessed first-hand, the zeal, passion, honesty and raw emotion present in the magnificent army we have at CSC. The young adults who, despite being at various life stages (some are just starting families, some are in university, some have just started their first jobs), gave everything they had emotionally, spiritually and physically to the cause. We adults truly have much to learn from this bunch of committed ministry members. Sure, there were hiccups along the way (and a few ‘meltdowns’) but as I watched them sing during a healing session, I was moved to tears. There must have been 30 or more of us signing from our vantage point in the hall and I had never, in all my 8 years in ministry, seen this kind of fervour. Indeed, we were turning a melody into weapons for God – swords and flaming arrows against all manner of sin, oppression and against the evil one. Due to privacy restrictions, I could not capture the moment, but I for one would not want to face up against that moving mass of faith and fervour.

I still have the song in my head and it continues to move me – Raise A Hallelujah. There is a youtube video about the genesis of that song and I urge you to search it out so that you can appreciate how a song, when sung from the heart, can truly become a weapon (I am resisting some elaboration here as I don’t want to spoil the moment for you) against unbelief and tear down walls of fear.

Brothers and sisters, the retreat was another heart-wrenching, eye-opening, life-giving experience for me as I was reminded that we, as sons and daughters of God, should NOT be slaves to fear; to anything negative, nor to others. We have been created in His image and surely, He would make us into His most beloved people, free to do whatever we wish, free to enjoy His favour and grace. Free to sing with songs from deep within our hearts, or express our joy and gratitude through the talents He has given us. Because WE ARE GOOD. And that is a sentiment I shared with my brothers and sisters from the St Francis of Assisi group.

So thank you Aaron, AmO to Am4, Ashwin, BE (you know who you are), Ben (what nice feet you have), Brittany, Bryan, Charmaine, Chelsea, Chen Chen, Cheryl ‘llama’, Christa, Daniel, DDP (and your growing tribe!!!), DKong, Dom, Eunice, Fionn, Gabe, ‘GabLong’, Grace (YNWA), Gus, Janice, Jerm, Jerome, JJ, JLA, Joanne, Jolene, John, Jonathan, the 2 Joshes, Jules, Kat, Kelly, Kieran, Marie, Mark, Melly, Melvin (and your beautiful precious daughter), Moira, the 3 Nats, the Nicks, Ollie, Pius (the gentle giant), Rachel, Randall, Ruth, Sam, Sharrrr, Stefan, ‘Stelle’ (who had the courage to ask us in the first place), T(h)eresa, Val, Vic (U2 should engage you for their sound team). Thank you for opening up more possibilities in my spiritual journey and for freeing me to dance among the liberated that Sunday afternoon.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Father, we thank you for making us good. And for counting us worthy to be your sons and daughters.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your tremendous outpouring of graces during the recent YCER. May you always hold the retreatants and us, your humble servants, in your loving arms.

7 April, Sunday – Don’t Look Back

7 April 2019

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Isaiah 43:16-21

Thus says the Lord,
who made a way through the sea,
a path in the great waters;
who put chariots and horse in the field
and a powerful army
which lay there never to rise again,
snuffed out, put out like a wick:

No need to recall the past,
no need to think about what was done before.
See, I am doing a new deed,
even now it comes to light; can you not see it?
Yes, I am making a road in the wilderness,
paths in the wilds.

The wild beasts will honour me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I am putting water in the wilderness
(rivers in the wild)
to give my chosen people drink.
The people I have formed for myself
will sing my praises.

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Philippians 3:8-14

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.

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John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

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No need to recall the past.  No need to think about what was done before

I was oddly touched by today’s readings. The parable of the adulteress is well known and often told. But it is the first and second readings that have struck a chord deep within my heart.

Upon reflecting on my life thus far, there are moments that I felt I was strong, have done the right thing and patted myself on the back. But more often than not, there were moments which I am none too proud of. There were things that I have done or said that are truly hurtful and I fully regret them. They have become a wound, not only to the people I have hurt or offended, but also to myself.

Not recognizing the wound for what it is, it festered until it infected all aspects of life. Like pneumonia, it takes over the whole body, and it will only clear with a heavy dose of antibiotics. The condition of my spiritual health was in a similar state. It wasn’t until I acknowledged the hurt, the wounds, the guilt, the sins, and asked for forgiveness from our loving God, did I begin to heal.

Still, it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t move on, believing that I was unworthy of the love of God, and couldn’t understand that I can be forgiven so easily. Sometimes, our human psyche hinders us, deters us from believing what is good.

But the readings today are so encouraging. God is actually telling us that when we confess our sins, He has forgiven. We need to move on, we don’t need to look back. Because that is not where we are. We need to look forward and focus on what is ahead, keep our gaze in the direction of our Lord because that’s where we are heading and that’s where we want to be. This isn’t to say we are free to do more wrong or commit more sins. Although, we probably will do wrong despite our best efforts (due to the failings of our human nature), but the key is to try with our best effort to avoid sinning for the love of our God, who is ever loving and merciful. The intention of doing the right thing and striving for good, that is the key.

The journey isn’t over. We may take detours now and then, but the race isn’t finished yet and we mustn’t give up.  With God by our side, what do we have to fear?  Jesus is my strength and my all. When I stumble and fall, He is there by my side, encouraging me and helping me to continue on.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us not to look back but look ahead in Your direction. Help us to focus our hearts, our minds and our soul on You as we journey. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for loving us even though we are unworthy and for never giving up on us.

3 April, Wednesday – Favourable Time

3 April 2019

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Isaiah 49:8-15

Thus says the Lord:
At the favourable time I will answer you,
on the day of salvation I will help you.
(I have formed you and have appointed you
as covenant of the people.)
I will restore the land
and assign you the estates that lie waste.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out’,
to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’

On every roadway they will graze,
and each bare height shall be their pasture.
They will never hunger or thirst,
scorching wind and sun shall never plague them;
for he who pities them will lead them
and guide them to springs of water.
I will make a highway of all the mountains,
and the high roads shall be banked up.

Some are on their way from afar,
others from the north and the west,
others from the land of Sinim.
Shout for joy, you heavens; exult, you earth!
You mountains, break into happy cries!
For the Lord consoles his people
and takes pity on those who are afflicted.

For Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.

 

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John 5:17-30

Jesus said to the Jews, ‘My Father goes on working, and so do I.’ But that only made them even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.

To this accusation Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees the Father doing:
and whatever the Father does the Son does too.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything he does himself,
and he will show him even greater things than these,
works that will astonish you.
Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,
so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses;
for the Father judges no one;
he has entrusted all judgement to the Son,
so that all may honour the Son
as they honour the Father.
Whoever refuses honour to the Son
refuses honour to the Father who sent him.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever listens to my words,
and believes in the one who sent me,
has eternal life;
without being brought to judgement
he has passed from death to life.
I tell you most solemnly,
the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and all who hear it will live.
For the Father, who is the source of life,
has made the Son the source of life;
and, because he is the Son of Man,
has appointed him supreme judge.
Do not be surprised at this,
for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves
at the sound of his voice:
those who did good will rise again to life;
and those who did evil, to condemnation.
I can do nothing by myself;
I can only judge as I am told to judge,
and my judging is just,
because my aim is to do not my own will,
but the will of him who sent me.’

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At the favourable time I will answer you

When I was a younger, I remember being told that there are situations that I would not be able to understand because I was still young. As children, there are some concepts in the adult world that they didn’t have the capacity to understand (Although I find this debatable because children see things in black and white, and sometimes, adults just complicate things).

The point I would like to make is that God is preparing us to hear His answers to our questions/petitions, etc., because He knows that we may not be ready to do what needs to be done once He gives us the answers to our questions. Perhaps, at that point in time, we would not have been able to understand, or accept His Will.

I could attest to this. My counselor told me that I was traumatized by the events that happened in my childhood. You see, my parents separated when I was seven. I thought I grew up OK. Until recently, I realized that I probably had an avoidant attachment style. I used to think that emotions and connections are not important to me. I was too self-reliant as well. It took more than 23 years from my parents’ separation for me to know about this. Why did God wait 23 years for me to see this?

When I went for counselling, that’s when I realized that to be able to address this, I would need to revisit the wounds from my childhood. And doing it hurt. If God had allowed me to revisit it earlier, I may not have had the emotional strength to survive the ordeal. I was simply incapable of embarking on the journey to healing that God would have wanted me to undertake.

When I look back at all those 23 years, I could see how God prepared me for this moment of revisiting and healing. It helped that I kept a journal, so I encourage you to. There were smaller instances in my life where I had to face my past, and the success in those small things helped me become stronger. God was also building me up spiritually. After all, I needed to be prepared to receive God’s healing love.

At the favourable time, God will answer us. The best thing to do now is to allow God to make us grow, to allow God to prepare us for that moment, and to be patient because only God knows the favourable time.

Recently, I was looking at all my journals from when I was 10. And I felt God telling me, ‘When you look back, everything will make sense.’ I think God is telling each and everyone of us this message.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, I know you know when is the right time for me to get my answers. For now, please prepare me for the day you have anointed.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for making sure that I am ready to receive your answers, for caring so much about me that you are willing to wait for me to grow in order to understand you more. 

8 November, Thursday – On Coming Home

8 November

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Philippians 3:3-8

We are the real people of the circumcision, we who worship in accordance with the Spirit of God; we have our own glory from Christ Jesus without having to rely on a physical operation. If it came to relying on physical evidence, I should be fully qualified myself. Take any man who thinks he can rely on what is physical: I am even better qualified. I was born of the race of Israel and of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, and I was circumcised when I was eight days old. As for the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for working for religion, I was a persecutor of the Church; as far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless. But because of Christ, I have come to consider all these advantages that I had as disadvantages. Not only that, but I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

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Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

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“… Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep”

Those of you reading this blog regularly will know that I stopped going to church briefly when the news of our Catholic Church’s scandals came to light. I have since found my way back to mass, albeit a little warily. The distrust that I feel for the ruling priestly elite hasn’t gone away. You can say that I have taken to heart Paul’s advice to “not put confidence in the flesh”. I am a committed Catholic. I identify myself as Catholic. I’m not afraid to speak of my faith, even now with all the scandal surrounding our Church. Outwardly, I tell everyone that this is surmountable, that we will emerge from this a stronger body of believers. But privately, I feel lost, like the proverbial sheep. The trust between myself and the political institution that is the Catholic Church has been broken. So, going to Mass has become challenging. Like the wife who has been cheated on, or the child whose innocence is lost, I am there physically — but things are not the same.

I have been re-reading the Bible a lot, grasping for a sign, for something. It’s ironic how familiar verses speak new meaning to us when our circumstances are different. I yearn for the homecoming that is described in today’s gospel, that great rejoicing when the shepherd finds his lost sheep. But to what exactly am I coming home to? God’s Church has been defiled. If this is our threshing moment, when wheat is separated from chaff, what will God’s Church look like when it is all over? And with all this anger, frustration and disillusionment in my heart, will there still be a place for me with Him?

As if to throw me a lifeline, God has led me to a small community of women that has formed within my own parish. We seem to all have this in common, this feeling of being scattered like sheep. We spend one morning a week, praying, poring over the Bible, processing our feelings of confusion about this whole thing – who knew what when, and what did they do about it. This must be what a support group feels like. Wow, am I thankful for it!! I’ve also taken to reading up on the history of the Catholic Church. We seem to go through cycles of renewal and purification; perhaps we are in the throes of one now. I wonder how it ends.

Christ’s words from the Book of Matthew have never been more significant to me than right now – “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves… a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7: 15-20). If this is to be a threshing moment for all believers, I hope that at the end of it, I will not be found wanting. I pray that God will help me to process these feelings I hold in my heart, so that going to Mass becomes less of a struggle. Because I want that homecoming, to be that lost sheep that is found. I want to reclaim that trust that was lost. Don’t we all?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are working towards healing the Church and restoring its credibility with believers.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people that God puts in our lives to get us through difficult moments.

4 November, Sunday – About A Quiche

4 November 2018

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Deuteronomy 6:2-6

Moses said to the people: ‘If you fear the Lord your God all the days of your life and if you keep all his laws and commandments which I lay on you, you will have a long life, you and your son and your grandson. Listen then, Israel, keep and observe what will make you prosper and give you great increase, as the Lord the God of your fathers has promised you, giving you a land where milk and honey flow.

‘Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart.’

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Hebrews 7:23-28

There used to be a great number of priests under the former covenant, because death put an end to each one of them; but this one, because he remains for ever, can never lose his priesthood. It follows, then, that his power to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.

To suit us, the ideal high priest would have to be holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners, and raised up above the heavens; one who would not need to offer sacrifices every day, as the other high priests do for their own sins and then for those of the people, because he has done this once and for all by offering himself. The Law appoints high priests who are men subject to weakness; but the promise on oath, which came after the Law, appointed the Son who is made perfect for ever.

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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“… to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength”

I went back to church recently after having been absent for some weeks. A leek and onion quiche made me do it. My church hosts a weekend-long parish fair every October and I’ve baked a quiche for it each year for as long as I’ve been here. A quiche is not the easiest thing to do. It’s an exercise in courage, commitment, patience and faith. A ‘quiche in progress’ is not a pretty thing. It’s unstable, it can leak and its unattractive demeanour can spook the novice baker into giving up the fight too soon. Not a bad analogy for a faith journey, when you think about it.

The quiche stand at the fair is run by a warm-hearted, soft-spoken woman called Anne. Anne has a way of getting you to say ‘yes’ to her, even when you mean to say no. When Anne called this year to ask me to bake something, I was in the middle of being angry at the bishops and priests who have scandalized our Church. Still, I said yes to Anne because, well, it seemed unfair that Anne be short-changed just because I can’t process my own anger and frustration. I’m convinced now that Anne was sent by God to break me out of my shell. As I delivered my quivering mass of custard and leeks to her, I felt moved to go for mass. At mass, I met an old friend who asked me to join her at a prayer group for people who, like me, were trying to process our angst and frustration. God knew what I needed – a support group to help me work through my angst in a loving manner. And that’s what I’ve found… all because of a leek and onion quiche.

The scripture verse from today’s gospel implores us to love God with all our heart, all our understanding and all our strength – even when we do that, it is still not enough because we’re flawed and can be swayed by our emotions to break faith with God; God never breaks faith with us. In my stubbornness and anger, I had refused to attend mass. But His love was so great, He found a way to reach me despite myself. And at my least deserving, He found a way for me to heal my anger. How great is the love that remains faithful even when we have lost faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the laity of the church who are trying to work through their feelings of betrayal, frustration, anger and despair. Hold on to God, as He has held on to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks over and over for God’s mercies; they never come to an end and are renewed every morning.

29 October, Monday – Live in Love

29 October

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

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

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

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Luke 13:10-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

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

4 October, Thursday – Faith in Crisis

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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Job 19:21-27

Job said:

Pity me, pity me, you, my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me.
Why do you hound me down like God,
will you never have enough of my flesh?

Ah, would that these words of mine were written down,
inscribed on some monument
with iron chisel and engraving tool,
cut into the rock for ever.
This I know: that my Avenger lives,
and he, the Last, will take his stand on earth.
After my awaking, he will set me close to him,
and from my flesh I shall look on God.
He whom I shall see will take my part:
these eyes will gaze on him and find him not aloof.

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Luke 10:1-12

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

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I am sending you out like lambs

“I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” The existing and potential members of the harvest expect the labourers of the harvest to be like lambs, but how should they react when these trusted labourers turn out to be like wolves instead? As the church in America reels from the sex abuse scandals, possibly the most serious in its history, the rest of the faithful in other parts of the world are also grappling with the shockwaves from this crisis that is rocking the church.

It is natural to expect religious leaders, as shepherds of the flock, to hold themselves accountable to high moral standards. Alas, although chosen, they too are not perfect, and many have succumbed to temptations of the flesh. While there are those outside and within the church who will use the scandals to condemn the institution, this is a good time for the faithful to ask ourselves who it is that we are following, and why we are following Him.

Being over two millennia in age, the church has weathered many storms and crises. A recent article by the Catholic News Agency suggests that the faithful seek guidance from Saint Catherine of Siena in these troubled times. St Catherine lived in a time of great division and corruption in the church. The pope was estranged from Rome and living in France. She was a simple laywoman, but her love for Christ and His body was so strong that she took action in writing to the pope to convince him to return to Rome.

The church is not here to serve us; rather, we are here to serve the body of Christ. There is not much that most of us can do in this context, except to hold firm in the faith and remain unified in prayer for the victims and the church.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the victims of abuse, that they find healing and forgiveness through the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of faith, especially in times of crisis.

2 September, Sunday – God Save Our Church

2 September 2018

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Deuteronomy 4:1-2.6-8

Moses said to the people: ‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you. You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God just as I lay them down for you. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?’

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James 1:17-18.21-22.27

It is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change. By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created. So do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you – accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.

Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

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Mark 7:1-8.14-15.21-23

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.’ He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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You must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.

These are extremely tough times for our Catholic Church today. More specifically, I am speaking about the recent sex scandal news that broke within the American Catholic diocese, this August 2018. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a Grand Jury report on one of the broadest-ever investigations into Catholic clerical sex abuse of minors in the United States. More than 300 priests have been credibly accused of child sex abuse by more than 1,000 victims, with cases known to stretch all the way back to 1947. Worldwide, Catholics have been shaking in sorrow, outrage, disbelief, and also, indignation.

With a quick web search, one can find numerous reports, commentaries and discussions arising on this news. One of the appalling ways this has divided the church is a very aggressive blame-game from various “camps”, investigative exposé on the alarming ecclesial infighting within Vatican, and many calls for pinning the proverbial tail on the donkey Pope(s) and their Secretaries of State and closest aides. Many are seeking justice for these crimes of covering up the sex abuses cases, for the playing of musical chairs of sullied priests to different Archdioceses in the US.

Yet, to all these commentaries, camps and voices, I ask this:

Where are the ears to listen gently to the victims’ stories – many of which have been smothered for decades? Where is the bleeding heart to ache with compassion for the trauma and wounds suffered by the wounded and their loved ones? The wounds inflicted by the sex predator, are subsequently further burdened by persons in power who have told them to remain silent, who would cover-up and feign peace. Now, these wounds are repeatedly being ripped apart because the scandal is actually not entirely about the ‘cover-up’ – but that they happened at all in the first place. Instead, the wounds of the wounded are not being given the proportionate space for their pain and reality.

For years, many young children, young adults, men and women, were being sexually tormented and abused by the men of God who were ordained to shepherd and guide them. Theirs are no theoretical abuse. Theirs are real human lives ripped apart by the sins of others. They are now older and aged. They and their stories deserve to be given the dignity of care. To allow the more salacious Vatican’s political scandals to overshadow this, is to further drive into obscurity the true painful stories of Mike McDonnell, Robert, Carolyn… By our priority of concerns, we may actually hinder the wounded and vulnerable from finding healing and communion with God and our community.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14).

Are we inadvertently flooding the forum with chaotic debates about the state of the Church’s politics and drowning out the cries for mercy and compassion from the wounded? Should Jesus be standing in the temple courtyard today, I imagine that he would overturn the tables and say the same: “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:16) Some of us have been too heatedly distracted by the debates in our public fora – filling our minds with the latest news, trading opinions and commentaries. These can hinder us as a Church from truly grieving and repenting for the wounded.

Perhaps some of us are still reeling from shock and shame that our beloved Church has hidden so much filth and sin. But it is now time for us to act in spirit and with action. Let us sit with these wounded and listen to their stories; not make a spectacle of their pain. Shall we pray for and with them? We need to remember the victims and hold their pain gently in our prayers and intercessions. As the larger laity and clergy, we must seek to understand and how and where we have disabled the disenfranchised and vulnerable from speaking up. How have we casually brushed aside some curious or suspicious account by someone who was too afraid to speak bravely? If we were not able to discern well before, let us not waste time in discerning now with sincere wisdom. To ask: how can I, from here on, be part of a movement to prevent future abuses of power and the vulnerable within our community?

“Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” (James: 1:27)

The Church must remain Christ-like through this ordeal. Us, the church laity, are Christ’s hands and feet. Only we can go places and touch lives that, at this point, are hurting and alienated from the very institution that is expected to serve and protect its flock. While we mobilise ourselves to petition for accountability and justice within the Church, we must mobilise more fervently to pray for healing and to reach out to heal each other.

I know my reflection today treads on divisive ground. But hear me out, for today’s Scripture readings speak to the heart of this great sin and debacle that is corroding our Church. Jesus speaks in no uncertain terms:

Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’ (Mark 7:15, 21-23)

“Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.” (James 1:21-22)

Let us be rightly moved and outraged to compassionate action. If you have an hour this week, please join me in either one of these dedications: To devote a Mass for the healing and restoration of all the victims (known and unreported); to pray the Rosary to our Holy Mother to gather her children and to bind up the wounds of God’s people and the Church; to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration to sit with our Lord and to sit with our brothers and sisters as we remember the tragedy that is innocence lost, lives and relationships broken, dreams shattered. I believe that it is in thoughtfully sitting with this immense grief of our larger family, that we as Church can move forward into healing and reparation.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray to our Lord and Saviour Jesus, to touch our hearts in compassion for the real wounded faces and lives among us. We seek His wisdom and His heart of justice and mercy as we navigate our understanding of righteousness and grief in this troubled history of our Church.

Thanksgiving: I thank you God for humbling me and challenging me to look into the pain and reality of those who have been wounded. I know there can be nothing greater than bringing your love and healing to them, in any way I can.

1 July, Saturday – Stories

1 July 

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Genesis 18:1-15

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’ They replied, ‘Do as you say.’

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah.’ ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.

‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘She is in the tent’ he replied. Then his guest said, ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.’ Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have her monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!’ But the Lord asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son.’ ‘I did not laugh’ Sarah said, lying because she was afraid. But he replied, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’

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Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’ And the servant was cured at that moment.

And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.

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You have believed, so let this be done for you.

The stories from today’s readings are all examples of faith in action. Faith lets us see through different eyes, as if the scales of skepticism are removed and we perceive with a more trusting and open heart. Last night I was at a faith meeting. I am usually a little apprehensive about going to these things. Most of the time, I try to put it off because I don’t like the feeling of vulnerability that comes from opening up to a roomful of strangers. The fault lies with me completely. So I sit in a corner, arms folded across my chest and just listen, attempting all the while to suspend my wordly skepticism. I want to be supportive of my faith sisters, and I am hoping my disbelief isn’t obvious. Very often I struggle with the right response. So I simply listen and hope the Holy Spirit will pry the scales from my eyes so I can ‘see’.

We are all made for stories, that is how the human race communicates truths – through sharing stories. To listen to someone’s story and to allow that truth into our hearts requires us to give ourselves over to wonder. Very often, we will not be able to identify with their circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to apply the truth that God is trying to teach us. Who will really know if Sarah had a baby in her nineties? The truth of her story though is not so much that she was blessed with motherhood, but that she, like us, did the very human thing of faltering and finding her way again. She vacillated, as we would have done, between faith and disbelief. And through the long years of waiting, she did the very human thing of trying to sort it out for herself. Though her efforts were met with mixed results — eventually she grew cynical and resigned herself to her childlessness — the truth in Sarah’s story is that God did not give up on her, even though she might have felt that He had.

I’m waiting for God to answer a prayer at the moment. I have to admit, my attempts at prayer have been somewhat half-hearted, as if I am afraid to even ask this of Him. It’s such a ‘practical life issue’, but isnt’t that when God truly surprises us? By showing us resolutions to practical life issues? Last night, He compelled me to go to a faith meeting; something I rarely do. There I was reminded of how His hand works in the lives of others, how the concept of ‘Time’ for God is both a lot slower and a lot quicker than what we think. And though this morning, a cloud of anxiety still hangs over me, I am comforted by that it is normal to have this human condition of faltering. He still ‘sees’ me – even if I struggle to ‘see’ Him. And He will help me hold on to Hope while I wait, just as He has with so many others before me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray that God will help us to hold on to Hope, that we not grow discouraged from the waiting.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are courageous enough to share their faith stories, that we too may share in the truths that God has shown them.

5 December, Monday – Faith

5 December 2016

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;

for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

The lairs where the jackals used to live
become thickets of reed and papyrus…

And through it will run a highway undefiled
which shall be called the Sacred Way;
the unclean may not travel by it,
nor fools stray along it.

No lion will be there
nor any fierce beast roam about it,
but the redeemed will walk there,
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

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Luke 5:17-26

Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem. And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing. Then some men appeared, carrying on a bed a paralysed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. But as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in, they went up on to the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralysed man – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’ And immediately before their very eyes he got up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

They were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

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“Your sins are forgiven you.”

In today’s Gospel, we see the great faith towards the power of Christ, where it almost seems like no obstacle is too hard for the men to overcome, as long as they are able to bring the paralysed man to Christ. Did those men actually consider, what if the paralysed man couldn’t be healed? What if Jesus decided not to heal? What if, after everything, nothing could actually be done?

I’m sure these questions could have possibly been in the minds of those men, and many times in ours too. What if life after death isn’t as what we expect? What if we don’t make it to heaven? What if we’ve invested all our time and money in this faith but there are no returns? Are all these worth it?

Christ being aware, asks us, “Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say “Get up and walk”? What are we actually living for? What actually matters?

The men had faith not because of what Jesus was going to do, but because of what He has done. We should not live our lives today, in order that God will love us more or for us to go to heaven, but that all our Father has, is already ours. Are we overly focused on the pleasures of the world that we want our share of the property because we feel we know we can do better with our lives, or are we able to trust in our Father’s plan?

As in the first reading and the psalms, “he is coming to save you”, “Look, our God is coming to save us”. God has already made a gift of Himself to us through Jesus Christ but still empowers us with the Holy Spirit and assures us of His second coming, where we will all be one and united in Him. The only thing separating us from God is not our disabilities, weaknesses, lack of financial, intellectual, emotional or pastoral capacity but it is sin. Sin is hence the opposite of faith, where we doubt and question.

Let us prepare ourselves for His coming by removing sin from our lives, in order that we may fully encounter God in a deeper way. To not focus solely on the gifts/miracles but on the giver, our saviour. Amen

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that our faith will continue to grow stronger day by day, in that we will be able to overcome the challenges and struggles that life throws at us. To focus on what is truly important — love, peace, joy and hope — not just for ourselves, but to share with all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your mercy, kindness and compassion.