Tag Archives: humility

3 March, Sunday – Working on Ourselves

3 March 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 27:5-8

In a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind,
so too the defects of a man appear in his talk.
The kiln tests the work of the potter,
the test of a man is in his conversation.
The orchard where a tree grows is judged on the quality of its fruit,
similarly a man’s words betray what he feels.
Do not praise a man before he has spoken,
since this is the test of men.

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1 Corinthians 15:54

When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Never give in then, my dear brothers, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.

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Luke 6:39-45

Jesus told a parable to his disciples: ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.’

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The defects of a man appear in his talk.

I have been working on attaining a professional qualification and, for the past few months, have been attending nightly classes to master the material. I have met many amazing folks from various walks of life, all wanting to improve themselves.

As happens in life, we might come across people who may, for one reason or another, through no fault of theirs, rub us the wrong way. I found myself getting increasingly angry and agitated by two of these people, and without realising it, spent a significant amount of time getting angry and upset with them. In my mind, I kept thinking about how they should behave with others.

On a particular day, I was irritated when one of my classmates kept yawning loudly. Again, I whipped myself into a state of irritation. It was only later in the day when someone in the group mentioned that this classmate had stayed up the previous night because of a family issue.

I have never felt more ashamed of myself.

In the Gospel of today, our Lord Jesus talks about the planks within our own eyes. Too often, we spend time judging others, without realising that we could be carrying even more significant faults. The Lord teaches us that because we are all cut from the same cloth, we inherently are no better than each other. Rather than focusing on the faults of others, we need to work on removing our flaws. It is only by this work can we improve ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, this process of change, however, is not based on our strengths. Instead, we need to depend on our Lord Jesus, as through Him, we do not labour in vain.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that You may grant us the humility, and strength to face our own ‘planks’ and to remove them.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, O Heavenly Father, for showing us the right path; to work on ourselves instead of focusing on the flaws of others.

14 December, Friday – Being Like Children

14 December – Memorial for St. John of the Cross, Priest, Religious, Doctor of the Church

John (1675–1726) was born in poverty. He cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina. He became a lay Carmelite brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived stricter than their Rule. He studied at Salamanca. He was ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25.

He was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced (or barefoot) reform within the Carmelite Order, and took on the name John of the Cross. He was a master of novices, and spiritual director and confessor at St. Teresa’s convent. His reforms did not sit well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina. He refused and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, and escaped after nine months.

He was vicar-general of Andalusia. His reforms revitalized the Order. He was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. On Aug 24, 1926, he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 48:17-19

Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you,
I lead you in the way that you must go.
If only you had been alert to my commandments,
your happiness would have been like a river,
your integrity like the waves of the sea.
Your children would have been numbered like the sand,
your descendants as many as its grains.
Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.

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Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place:

“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t be mourners.”

‘For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’

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Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.

Being childlike is not the same as being childish or guilible. As I grew older, I wanted to shed more of what made me appear youthful and naïve. At one point, I put on the grown-up cloak of skepticism and cynicism. This, I suppose is why, many young adults in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties are found to have lost the faith of their childhood during this season of their lives. This tends to happen as one encounters the glamour and distractions of the ‘real world’.

It is an interesting correlation that Jesus uses in the Gospel passage: the children shouting to each other in the market place for people to dance to the tune of pipes, or mourn to the music of dirges, are likened to the people speculating from the appearances of John’s neither eating nor drinking as being possessed, to Jesus’ eating and drinking to being a drunkard and glutton (Matthew 11:16-19).

Yet elsewhere, Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3-4). At first I was confused in these two analogies to children.

Perhaps the difference lies in their perception of things. Jesus is referring to the childlike simplicity and trust in the Father’s will and commandments which leads us into God’s kingdom, as the First Reading shows us, ‘I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go’ (Isaiah 48:17). On the other hand in the reading today, he points out to his listeners that the children who were distracted by the heady activity and bustle of the market place, like the attractive toys and gimmicks of the world, began to lose the clarity and perceptiveness of childlike faith to discern what is real from appearances.

How can we then know and separate the reality of God from the reality of the world? First, we have to adopt a mental littleness and lowliness, being trusting and vulnerable to the Lord – allowing Him to change our hearts and give us brand new sight. Second, by this new perception of the affairs of the world, we can begin to see beyond the popular phraseologies and fruits of secularism and relativism – to notice that ‘wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’

And again Jesus says this, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them’ (Matthew 7:15-20).

May we not dwell and remain on the surface of assumed reality, but arm ourselves with the knowledge that the Evil One is a liar, slanderer, who deals in deceit and lures us by our pride. Let us put on the garment of humility, simplicity and virtue, to trust and surrender to our Heavenly Father.

In the wise words of Fulton Sheen, ‘There is a close relation between physical littleness, which is childhood, and mental littleness, which is humility. We cannot always be children, which is another way of saying we can be humble. And so in the spiritual order the law remains ever the same: if human beings are ever to discover anything big, they must always be making themselves little; if they magnify their ego to the infinite, they will discover nothing, for there is nothing bigger than the infinite; but if they reduce their ego to zero, then they will discover everything big for there is nothing smaller than the self. How, then, shall we find the reason behind the joy? Just as it is only by being little that we discover anything big, so it is only by being humble that we will find an Infinite God in the form of a little child.” (Eternal Galilean)

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:  Help me Lord to love the humble way in which you choose to come into the world. Help me to become more like you, Jesus.

Thanksgiving:  Let us ponder on these words as we approach Christ’s birth. ‘Gratitude is characteristic only of the humble. The egotistic are so impressed by their own importance that they take everything given them as if it were their due. They have no room in their hearts for recollection of the underserved favors they received.’ (Fulton Sheen, On Being Human)

8 December, Saturday – Yes

8 December – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this and the following eight days, the Church celebrates, with particular solemnity, the immaculate conception of the ever-blessed Virgin Mary who, from all eternity, was chosen to be the daughter of the heavenly Father, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of the Divine Redeemer, and, by consequence, the queen of angels and of men.

The consideration of these prerogatives convinced the most enlightened fathers and teachers of the Catholic Church that she was conceived immaculate, that is, without original sin. It is very remarkable that among the shining hosts of saints who have, in every century, adorned the Church, no one wrote against this belief, while we find it confirmed by the decisions of the holy fathers from the earliest times.

Pope Piux IX forced, as it were, by the faith and devotion of the faithful throughout the world, finally on 8 December 1854, sanctioned, as a dogma of faith falling within the infallible rule of Catholic traditions, this admirable prerogative of the Blessed Virgin.

It is, therefore, now no longer, as formerly, a pious belief, but an article of the faith that Mary, like the purest morning light which precedes the rising of the most brilliant sun, was, from the first instant of her conception, free from original sin.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 3:9-15,20

After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.

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Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

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Luke 1:26-38 

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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“let what you have said be done to me.”

Last weekend, I was blessed to have attended a cosy, intimate concert in a small church at the invitation of my vocal coach. He had helped put together an 11-piece choir to celebrate the 1st Sunday of Advent and their concert was themed ‘Ordinary Baby’. While there were a few familiar favourites sung, 2 new songs resonated deeply with me – ‘Ordinary Baby’ and ‘My Heart, Your Bethlehem’.

I couldn’t help but be amazed at how a ‘Yes’ at the beginning of this year led me on a journey of discovering my voice (I had taken my vocal exams the day before) and also to this wonderful moment where I witnessed God’s hand at work through the energy and sincerity of the small Christian community. The message that resonated deep within me was whether or not our hearts were prepared to welcome Jesus this Christmas and to let Him be born within us.

Too often, we let allow sin to harden our hearts. We get so used to habitual transgressions that our hearts develop calluses and a hard exterior. And when we don’t go for regular confession, that wall gets thicker and thicker, so much so that God’s word cannot penetrate into our hearts. Consequently, we lose all connection to God and our ‘wifi signal’ (as our spiritual director likes to put it) becomes weak. How then are we going to be able to provide rest and a soft place to sleep for the newborn infant Jesus on Christmas Eve?

Many of us are more than willing to say ‘Yes’ whenever there is a call for volunteers to serve in church or to give of our time for a particular church project. But many of us put conditions on our ‘Yes’. We ask question after question, or place restrictions on our time and how much we are willing to give. Sure, we all have our crosses to bear and families to take care of. However, remember Mother Mary’s fiat when she said ‘Yes’ to the Lord. It was spoken out of true love for God and fully from her heart. There were no ‘buts’ nor ‘what ifs’. Her ‘Yes’ was the ultimate sign of humility and obedience.

Brothers and sisters, when we say our own fiat with our words and our deeds, that is when a conversion of heart takes place. And that is when we begin to reconnect with our heavenly Father. How many of us are willing to open our hearts and say to God that He can do what he wills to us so that His ultimate plans for each and every one of us can be fulfilled?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, give us the courage and the strength to say ‘Yes’ unconditionally to you each and every day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for all that you have done for us, O heavenly Father, and for all that you are going to do for us despite our fears and our doubts.

3 December, Monday – Let’s go to God’s House

3 December – Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Presbyter, Religious, Missionary (Principal Patron of Foreign Missions)

Francis (1506-1552) was a nobleman from the Basque region. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He was one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.

In Goa, India, while waiting to take the ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He was said to have converted the entire city.

He scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”

He was a tremendously successful missionary for the ten years he was in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, teaching catechism to Indian children, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold. Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He traveled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, and was a miracle worker. He raised people from the dead, calmed storms. He was a prophet and a healer.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 2:1-5

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come
the mountain of the Temple of the Lord
shall tower above the mountains
and be lifted higher than the hills.
All the nations will stream to it,
peoples without number will come to it; and they will say:

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the Temple of the God of Jacob
that he may teach us his ways
so that we may walk in his paths;
since the Law will go out from Zion,
and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.’

He will wield authority over the nations
and adjudicate between many peoples;
these will hammer their swords into ploughshares,
their spears into sickles.
Nation will not lift sword against nation,
there will be no more training for war.

O House of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.

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Matthew 8:5-11

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.’

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Only say the word 

“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Imagine this Psalm, that the word of our Lord is sweeter than honey and in today’s gospel we are reminded that His words healed and blessed the centurion who believed that.

We hold onto the words of so many people but we lose sight, hearing and do not taste the words of our Lord. This is really sad. It is as if we have a beloved whose words bring nothing but good for us, yet we either ignore or disbelieve them.

In a recent sermon, Fr Xavier reminded us that God is with us always and He loves us so much, but we decide to ignore His presence. It makes no sense that we do it, but I am also guilty as charged.

But just realising that God’s word is powerful and sweet is not enough. This is much like us being convinced that a certain diet will help us attain our ideal weight, yet simply resting in that knowledge without taking the necessary action.

The questions remain, what should we do? Here are some suggestions so that we can stay attuned and be blessed by His words.

  1. Read the bible daily

This is a habit that I have been practising for the past 20 years and sometimes I wonder if it really bears fruit. Surely it does. Reading the word of God in the morning helps to allow God to direct our days. I have read of many busy people, especially young mums who confess that the first few minutes of their day spent in prayer sustains them over the long and tiring day. If you cannot read the bible in the morning, I am sure God words can still speak to you at any other time of the day, just open the bible and read daily!

  1. Reflect on the word

Allow His word to take root in your heart. For me, I write short, daily reflections that help me to relate to the word best, by spending 5 minutes in silence with the Lord and allowing Him to speak to my heart and soul. This is much like eating a nutritious meal, but way better.

  1. Allow the word to come alive in your life

Our days can be busy and overwhelming, but I have to admit that in the past few years, I have never forgotten my meals. Just like how that came with practice, on some days I recall certain verses to be the light in my words and actions. If I did it all the time, imagine the results. This can also allow us to be a testimony of Christ to others. After all, no one is interested in our preaching but they will see our actions and hear our words.

Though these are 3 simple steps, I often fail to keep up and in those moments, I know that it is God who sustains me and leads me back. After all it was never about me, it is Him all along. It is He who makes all things beautiful and sweet and makes us the best version of ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to read, reflect and live your word. When we go astray, lead us back to you O Lord. We yearn to be healed and caressed by your word, give us this grace O Lord. St Francis Xavier, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Only say a word O Lord, and my servant and my soul shall be healed. Spill your wisdom on me so that I may live to taste your words as it was as sweet honey.

1 December, Satursday – Putting in Effort

1 December

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Apocalypse 22:1-7

The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.

The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, ‘All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who gives the spirit to the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place. Very soon now, I shall be with you again.’ Happy are those who treasure the prophetic message of this book.

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Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with dabauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.

Some of us don’t really enjoy having a nagging mother, or mother-in-law. Well, many of us basically just don’t want to be nagged, or maybe even reminded of what we should do. I realize that really, many of us need someone to nag at us.

Think about it. Very few of us can draw a straight line without the use of a ruler. And even if some of us could, I doubt many could draw a long straight line. It seems as if it is in our nature to swerve, or to veer away from what is straight. I really believe that nagging is our mother’s way of making sure that we always keep to the straight line. Because if we don’t watch out, or if somebody doesn’t watch out for us, very soon we will be off the right path.

Unfortunately, this need for someone to constantly remind us does not go away even in our adulthood. True, we may have better control of ourselves and there are many things we would do right even if there is no one reminding us, but there are still some things we need to be reminded of. And if there is no one to remind us, we need to ask God to give us the grace to watch ourselves.

I’ve heard of how in some religious groups, they cover some unsightly images in newspapers just to protect chastity. This is what they would call not putting themselves in situations where they can be tempted. Because it’s really better to be safe than sorry.

I pray that we all have the humility to accept the fact that no matter how close we are to God, or how faithful we are with our prayers, we are always susceptible to committing sins. Let us continue to ask God, and our guardian angels to nag at us, to remind us to follow a straight line. Even the Saints knew how much of a sinner they were, and how much they were in need of God’s grace not to give in to temptation. So they watched out for themselves, because they knew they could fall any time.

Let’s put in as much effort as we can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace to flee from occasions of sin. Please feel free to always nag at us, even if we sometimes don’t like it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for making sure we are surrounded with opportunities to refresh ourselves in our battle against sin and to be always reminded of the good we must do.

6 November, Tuesday – Pre-Holiday Stress And How To Manage It

6 November

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Philippians 2:5-11

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:

His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Luke 14:15-24

One of those gathered round the table said to him, ‘Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!’ But he said to him, ‘There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come along: everything is ready now.” But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.” Yet another said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”

‘The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir” said the servant “your orders have been carried out and there is still room.” Then the master said to his servant, “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”’

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“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus”

Yesterday, we talked about the freeloaders in our families, and what Scripture says about that kind of nefarious behaviour. It’s funny how the holiday season, supposed to be a time of ‘joy and goodwill’, can fill so many of us with dread and foreboding. Will what we do be enough? Will we have enough to do what is deemed enough? What do we do if it’s not? When did it all become this race?! Is it the crowd I run in? Should I re-think the company I keep?

I long for the kind of Christmas depicted in the Nativity scene, one that is more simple, spiritual and meaningful. One that is about how people treat each other, instead of what treats they should be getting from who. Our culture of competitive consumerism is draining – financially, emotionally and spiritually. I feel so tired just thinking about it, and it’s only the beginning of November!

Perhaps the key to surviving the holidays and going back to a more simple practice of it, lies in the verse from today – “have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus” – a change in attitude. Christ’s way was to humble himself, to “do nothing through rivalry or vain conceit. On the contrary to let each … gently consider the others as more important than yourselves. Do not seek your own interest, but rather that of others. Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ” (Phil 2: 3-5). This is made possible only by the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Left to our own devices, we would collapse from denying our selfish agendas because that’s just how we are – frail, feeble and lacking in fortitude. If we offer our weak selves up to Christ though, Paul assures us that all our angst will go away.

I ought to try it, and I mean really put rubber to the road and put it in practice. What else have I got to lose? We already know the other way doesn’t work. My sanity and my bank account will be a great deal healthier if the holiday season reverted back to a simpler way of being. I might actually learn to enjoy and appreciate the season again. At risk of sounding like the Grinch, perhaps this is the year we take back Christmas?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the clarity and self-awareness to revert back to a simpler way of doing things. We pray for the wisdom to focus on the people, instead of being caught up in the potlucks and the presents.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Holy Spirit, who lifts us up and inspires us to be better, kinder, more loving versions of ourselves.

31 October, Wednesday – Stepping On Each Others’ Toes

31 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

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

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

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Luke 13:22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness.

22 October, Monday – True Service

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II, Pope

Karol Wojtyla (1920 – 2005) was born on 18 May 1920 at Wadowice, Poland.  For many years Karol believed God was calling him to the priesthood, and after surviving two nearly fatal accidents, he responded to the call. He studied secretly during the German occupation of Poland, and was ordained on 1 November 1946. In these years he came to know and practice the teachings of Saint Louis Marie Montfort and Saint John of the Cross. He earned his Doctorate in theology in 1948 at the Angelicum in Rome, Italy.

He was the parish priest in Krakow diocese from 1948 to 1951. He studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University at Krakow. He taught social ethics at the Krakow Seminary from 1952 to 1958. In 1956 he became a professor at the University of Lublin. Venerable Pope Pius XII appointed Wojtyla an auxiliary bishop in Krakow on 4 July 1958. Servant of God, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Krakow on 30 December 1963.

Wojtyla proved himself a noble and trustworthy pastor in the face of Communist persecution. A member of the prepatory commission, he attended all four sessions of Vatican II.  He is said to have written Gaudium et spes, the document on the Church in the Modern World. He also played a prominent role in the formulation of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. Following the Council, Pope Paul VI, appointed Karol Wojtyla cardinal on 26 June 1967.

In 1960 he published Love and Responsibility. Pope Paul VI, delighted with its apologetical defense of the traditional Catholic teaching of marriage, relied extensively on Archbishop Wojytla’s counsel in writing Humanae Vitae. In 1976 he was invited by Pope Paul VI to preach the lenten sermons to the members of the Papal Household.

In 1978, Archbishop Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI. He took the name of his predecessors (John, Paul, John Paul) to emphasize his desire to continue the reforms of Vatican II.

John Paul II is the most traveled pope in history, having visited nearly every country in the world which would receive him. As the Vicar of Christ he has consecrated each place that he has visited to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On 13 May 1983 he went to Fatima to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He later repeated the consecration of the world to Mary in union with all the Bishops of the Catholic Church, in fulfillment of Our Lady‘s promises at Fatima.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II began a lengthy catechisis on the Blessed Virgin Mary during his weekly Angelus addresses, culminating with his instruction on Our Lady’s active participation in the Sacrifice of Calvary. This active participation of Our Lady at Calvary is called the co-redemption. Already in 1982 and 1985 he had used the term “corredemptrix” in reference to Our Lady in public addresses. This is significant, for he is the first Pope to do so since Pope Benedict XV at whose prayer Our Lady came to Fatima to reveal Her Immaculate Heart. Since the time of Pope Benedict XV, this terminology was under review by the Holy See. The present Pope’s usage is a confirmation of this traditional view of Mary’s role in salvation history.

In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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“…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns…”

I entered banking close to 20 years ago and one of the things I remembered was how many of those around me were focused on the brands of clothes, bags or shoes they were using. I noticed my colleagues with new branded items every month. Someone I knew even changed to newer models of luxury cars every six months. I was not immune to this either; mine was new phones. Many of us were so caught up with making money and how best to spend it.

In today’s Gospel,Jesus warns us against precisely this; that we would be so focused on the unimportant that we forget on what really is. Actually, it is not just about branded items.  For example, there are companies out there which make a big deal about how they are “unbranded”. The irony is that it is this “unbranded-ness” that give these companies their “branded-ness”.

In working to serve God, many start out in full commited service. Over time, however, the success of their service, and perhaps due to our fallen nature, these successes become the main reason why they continue to serve, displacing God in the process. This is perhaps what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6:1-4; the acknowledgement and satisfaction we get from service becomes the reward in itself.

The best way we can ensure that Godis the one whom we continue to serve and the reason why we do anything, is to continue to connect with Him. This could be in the form of prayer, going for mass, and being in close touch with our faith community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always keep our eyes on our Father and our God.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, we are grateful to You for teaching and reminding us that it is easy to be caught up with the ways and things of this world. Thank You for showing us what is the right way.

5 October, Friday – Turning Away From Sin

5 October

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Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5

From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer. He said:

Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning
or sent the dawn to its post,
telling it to grasp the earth by its edges
and shake the wicked out of it,
when it changes the earth to sealing clay
and dyes it as a man dyes clothes;
stealing the light from wicked men
and breaking the arm raised to strike?
Have you journeyed all the way to the sources of the sea,
or walked where the Abyss is deepest?
Have you been shown the gates of Death
or met the janitors of Shadowland?
Have you an inkling of the extent of the earth?
Tell me all about it if you have!
Which is the way to the home of the light,
and where does darkness live?
You could then show them the way to their proper places,
or put them on the path to where they live!
If you know all this, you must have been born with them,
you must be very old by now!
Job replied to the Lord:

My words have been frivolous: what can I reply?
I had better lay my finger on my lips.
I have spoken once… I will not speak again;
more than once… I will add nothing.

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Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

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Alas for you, Chorazin

Over the past months or so, I have been following a Chinese drama series airing on Mediacorp Channel 8. The main characters of the show are a family of four who end up reliving the same day, 29th February, over and over. The only way for them to escape the endless repetition of events is to confess their deepest and darkest sin to the person they had caused harm to, and obtain the person’s forgiveness. Three of the family members managed to overcome their shame and guilt to seek reconciliation with others, but the mother hesitated and did not confess her sin, choosing to stay in that dimension.

In Episode 10 of Bishop Barron’s Catholicism, we see that hell is ultimately our choice – do we choose God or do we choose self-absorption? I don’t see this as a choice that we make only on our deathbeds, but something that we live with every single day of our lives. Those who choose to live in a state of sin will automatically be disconnected from God as they have turned their backs on Him.

The writing of this reflection is serving as a reminder to myself to partake of the sacrament of reconciliation on a more regular basis. As much as I do not like to admit it, my pride and ego seem to be growing with age, and I am finding it more difficult to truly humble myself and be sorry for my sins. I may not be actively choosing to stay in a state of sin, but by resisting reconciliation with God, I am not truly freeing myself from my sins.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the courage and commitment to repent daily of our sins.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of forgiveness.

1 October, Monday – Humility

1 October – Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
– Saint Therese of Lisieux

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 1:6-22

One day the Sons of God came to attend on the Lord, and among them was Satan. So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Round the earth,’ he answered ‘roaming about.’ So the Lord asked him, ‘Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Yes,’ Satan said ‘but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he? Have you not put a wall round him and his house and all his domain? You have blessed all he undertakes, and his flocks throng the countryside. But stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his possessions: I warrant you, he will curse you to your face.’ ‘Very well,’ the Lord said to Satan ‘all he has is in your power. But keep your hands off his person.’ So Satan left the presence of the Lord.

On the day when Job’s sons and daughters were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job. ‘Your oxen’ he said ‘were at the plough, with the donkeys grazing at their side, when the Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The fire of God’ he said ‘has fallen from the heavens and burnt up all your sheep, and your shepherds too: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The Chaldaeans,’ he said ‘three bands of them, have raided your camels and made off with them. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘Your sons and daughters’ he said ‘were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, when suddenly from the wilderness a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone escaped to tell you.’

Job rose and tore his gown and shaved his head. Then falling to the ground he worshipped and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!’

In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.

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Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Two beautiful readings that bring out what really life is about. It’s never about what we have on earth but who we have as our eternal Father. The understanding of our identity, the purpose of our lives, the only one aim we all should have is to return to unity with God, our Father, with the world in love.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of Job, sometimes our lives are so smooth that we simply cannot comprehend why God would want us to suffer after everything we’ve done for Him. But truly there are indeed many times that we need to be reminded of who gave us this life and our possessions. If all these can save us from eternal damnation, maybe it’s good that we all continuously suffer on earth.

Or we can look at it from the point of view of the Gospel where it says, “For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.” Maybe our “sufferings” have much wisdom for us to digest, to see the world in a new light, to appreciate the things/people that we have taken for granted of, to treasure life and to show love. For when we are at our lowest, not only is the way only up, but that’s exactly where we find Christ because that’s where He lives, not in the limelight and the material distractions that we have, but in the simple, in the ordinary, in our hearts, where we can truly be ourselves.

For is it then that we can also see who is with us and who is merely using us. For “anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

Let us invite Christ in our lives in order that we may invite all, to see the Christ in others as well as to be Christ to others. We will be the greatest when we recognise that we have the greatest gift of all, who is Christ Himself, when He gave His life for us. Let us now live for Him, to glorify Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, many times we are so caught up with doing and finishing what we have to do, we occupy ourselves with so many things till we leave you out. Help us to drop those in order that we may see you clearer and depend on you, in order that we will lead all to glorify you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your example, that you are not a king that is associated with wealth, fame or power. Thank you Lord for your humility, for understanding, for listening and for your love.