Tag Archives: humility

17 September, Monday – Faith Like No Other

17 September – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26.33

On the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that do you more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted. The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk. Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in? Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, So to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant 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 these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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I am not worthy to have you under my roof 

During the part of the mass that is the ‘Invitation to Communion’, we respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Do we recite it because we have been so used to it? Or are we really saying it prayerfully? Do we really feel unworthy to partake of the Body of Christ?

The Gospel today tells us about a centurion, an important Roman army official. He had many servants who obeyed all his commands. It just so happened that this centurion had a favourite servant. This servant was very ill and on the verge of death. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some Jewish elders to ask Him to come and heal his servant. This demonstrated that the centurion believed that his servant could be healed through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was near the house, the centurion sent his friends to tell Jesus, “‘Sir, do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured…”  These statements showed the humility of the centurion as he entrusted the healing of his servant to Jesus. And indeed that servant became well.

We pray to God for a lot of things — wealth, health, relationships, and many more. How do we feel whenever we ask God for those things? Do we feel deserving to be granted by our Lord? What happens if we received what we have been praying for? I assume that we are indeed happy and very much grateful to our Lord. But what if we do not receive what we want? What happens to our faith? Some may falter.  But I think the ‘No’ answer should strengthen our faith. For me, it is like God saying to me, “Why would I give it to you when you do not even believe in me in the first place?”

If we are in need of something, pray for it, and believe that God will grant it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant us the grace of humility and faith similar to the centurion. And may we always accept and fulfil Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, unworthy as we are, we thank You for Your love and mercy.

14 September, Friday – Feast Of The Exaltation Of The Holy Cross

13 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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Philippians 2:6-11

Jesus Christ’s 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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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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“So must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” 

My 2.5yr old nephew believes he can see Jesus Christ. He describes with some detail, the figure of Christ, surrounded by a holy fire, and wonders why we can’t see him. He says he can see his deceased grandfather too, surrounded by the same holy fire. He says all this matter-of-factly, as if it’s the most natural thing. Is this what Christ means when he says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 19:14)? We don’t quite know what to make of all this, so we have just let him be, instead of trying to talk him down from it. Faith is a beautiful thing, and that he has learnt it at such a young age is a blessing.

Child-like faith does not get caught up with the difficult questions of adulthood. It does not fret about the small details or question the boundaries of reality and imagination. Child-like faith accepts the risen state of Christ without tripping up on the mystery of the Eucharist. Believe and it will be! This was essentially what Moses asked the Hebrews to do – believe and you will be saved! You will be cured! You will be liberated! As an adult, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to being confirmed a Catholic is the Eucharist. To submit to the mystery of the cross goes against our fact-based instincts. We may, at one time, have had the child-like faith of my 2.5yr old nephew but, we grew up, life got in the way, and now we suffer from that adult affliction – scepticism. Can we reclaim that innocence? Yes, if we believe that Christ died for our sins, “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” If we embrace him into our lives, He can heal us from our cynicism, he can restore us. But to do that requires humility and the willingness to accept, like a child does, that some things are simply a mystery. The risen Christ is a mystery – and that’s ok. We don’t have to have all the answers. It is ok not to know.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those struggling with their faith. In these chaotic times, hold on tight to one another in prayer and meditate on the Word of God. May the Holy Spirit guide you to the conclusion you are seeking.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who labour in God’s name. They are an inspiration to those of us who are seeking purposeful vocations.

5 September, Wednesday – Spiritual Worth

5 September

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1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit: I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual. Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wrangling that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people? What could be more unspiritual than your slogans, ‘I am for Paul’ and ‘I am for Apollos’?

After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul? They are servants who brought the faith to you. Even the different ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord. I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow. Neither the planter nor the waterer matters: only God, who makes things grow. It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work. We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building.

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Luke 4:38-44

Leaving the synagogue Jesus went to Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. Leaning over her he rebuked the fever and it left her. And she immediately got up and began to wait on them.

At sunset all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them. Devils too came out of many people, howling, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place. The crowds went to look for him, and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered, ‘I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.’ And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.

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Each will duly be paid

Few years ago, a fun application on Facebook kept popping up from my friends’ updates. It was about how much you are worth and should be paid every month by your employer. I did not try the application myself but it was fun to see that most of them (if not all) were worth much more than their monthly paycheque. It will either be really depressing that you are under paid or you just laugh it off for the fun. So how much are we really worth? We are probably not going to talk much about material worth because you can just check the salaries guide wherever you are at, and most would feel that you are being overworked and underpaid. What is our spiritual worth?

Each and every one of us has different skills and interest. We may have taken the same exam papers during our studies but the work environment and work skills developed over the years will change our perspectives and behaviours. As mentioned in today’s reading, we have been planted with textbook knowledge, our teachers and parents have nurtured us to become leaders, then who makes us grow as a person, one who is able to judge right and wrong, what is valuable and what is not? The spirit in us sometimes seems so abstract even for us to believe that it is He who is working in us. We lost track of who watches over us. We so often think that successes came from our good decisions making, and negative effects are tests from our Father.

The reminder we are given today is, we are nothing without God. The world and man have no idea our worth. The attractiveness of someone is not his car or her diamonds, but the heart in us. The spiritual beauty of purity and humility, and exemplifies the love of Christ through us. We can find comfort that God pays us what we are worth, not a penny less, not a penny more. We do not submit to the big bosses behind the head office desks, but give reverence to the Eucharist at the tabernacle. What is truly in us gives us so much more power than what is being presented out there in the visible world. We have to trust in God to rid the devils in us, and yet we continue to make the mistake of taking what is visible to us out in the world as the ‘Gospel Truth and Worth’. Yes, our jobs can overwhelm us and problems in the family can make us weary, but perhaps take every Sunday Eucharistic celebration to another level and dig deep into ourselves. Be comforted with the Body of Christ and begin each week recharged and renewed, we are priceless in the eyes of our Father.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Little do we know the worth of ourselves, may the Holy Spirit reveals itself in its mysterious ways and bring us back to the path of everlasting life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you O Lord for the great friendship among my brothers and sisters in Christ, surrounded with Your love, all in the same mind in attaining a strong spiritual worth.

1 September, Saturday – Called to Greatness

1 September

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

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

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Matthew 25:14-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything

I must admit, for the longest time, I struggled with today’s Gospel text. I never understood why the last servant was punished for being prudent. I guess, being a risk averse person, I totally identified with the servant that hid his 1 talent to safeguard what little he has — afraid to, or perhaps not willing to work towards multiplying the talents given by God.

However, in my journey out of corporate life and walking towards the path God has paved for me, I began to appreciate what Jesus is teaching in this parable. My talents are not mine to keep and bury. By limiting myself and not showing up as who I really am or could be — sharing with the world the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with — I am doing God a huge disservice. You can even say I have sinned by refusing to partake in His plan for me!

Yet, many times I struggle. I lack the faith and courage to step into the possibilities that God has given me and shrink into my old way of being. How could I, this imperfect being, be called to greatness? Surely not? And yet, He reminds us that “those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”

I still have a long way to go with this. I am humbled by this calling and yet, in my humanness, I walk with trepidation towards the ultimate purpose God has planned for me. I must constantly remind myself that it is only through His grace and His alone, that I do what I do. I need Jesus in my life to nourish and guide me, “God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness and our freedom”. I need His wisdom and strength, to shine for the world. Writing today’s reflection reminded me of a beautiful gift I received from a friend when I started on my journey:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”. —- Marianne Williamson

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Jesus, you are my wisdom, my virtue, my holiness and freedom. Teach me dear Lord, to lean on you and seek your counsel so that I not only embrace the talents given by my Heavenly Father, but be a beacon of light to others and in turn, encourage others to shine for God.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you my Heavenly Father, for your grace and mercy; for choosing me to be a little light in the world.

31 August, Friday – God’s foolishness and weakness

31 August

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed. The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today? Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach. And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Having worked in the corporate world for more than 25 years, there was a time I recall feeling so invincible and untouchable, life was good and all the material wealth we possessed made me feel even more indestructible. But deep down, there was an unexplainable vacuum of emptiness. The constant desire for significance took me further from it.

Truly, how could I have been so proud as to think I have the wisdom and strength to conquer it all in the world by myself? Our wisdom is nothing compared to God’s foolishness. So why would anyone go to such great length of suffering and even dying on the cross for others? To the eyes of the world, this is craziness, unfathomable! But Jesus has shown me that in vulnerability and total weakness, He has conquered the world! He has saved many, and many have turned to follow Him!

I am very grateful that God showed me a different path, because coming home to my vulnerability gave me strength; strength and power to do His will. The feeling of invincibility comes not from material possessions, status or fame, but from a place of deep knowing — that I am loved by Him. It’s ironic that through embracing my weaknesses and acknowledging that I am nothing without Him, there is this tremendous driving force that propels me forward and this feeling of truly being untouchable.

Stepping into the world now with this new-found understanding means a strong purpose and commitment, but it also means I need to constantly draw upon God’s wisdom and power. It reminds me that I cannot do this on my own, nor need I. The Gospel reading reminds us once again to stay alert and be prepared; to me, it means I need to cling on to Jesus, my redeemer and friend so I can draw from the source of life in my journey of life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer:  Oh God my Father, you are our source of wisdom and power. Help us to always turn to you and not rely on our human foolishness in this journey of life; to seek wisdom and understanding through your eyes which are perfect and emit love. For only through your eyes, will we be able to see the goodness around us and be your instrument of love.

Thanksgiving:  Our Father in Heaven, you are our amazing Abba Father, who in your greatness never fails to meet us where we are in our faith journey, forever patient and kind. Thank you for seeing me, this small little creation of yours! For believing in my possibility as part of your great plan of salvation, and for never giving up on me, foolish though I may be.

27 August, Monday – Understanding True Worth

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married Woman

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Thessalonians 1:1-5,11-12

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers; quite rightly, because your faith is growing so wonderfully and the love that you have for one another never stops increasing; and among the churches of God we can take special pride in you for your constancy and faith under all the persecutions and troubles you have to bear. It all shows that God’s judgement is just, and the purpose of it is that you may be found worthy of the kingdom of God; it is for the sake of this that you are suffering now.

Knowing this, we pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Matthew 23:13-22

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’

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“You make him twice as fit for hell as you are”

When my children were very young, I used to be quite the authoritarian with them. I remember barking orders about what they could or could not do. This went on without much incident until the day my son asked me: ”But Dad, you asked me to do it, why do you not do it?”

Indeed, this was precisely the thing that my wife had been telling me; that my children were watching me all the time. That, in their minds, they would be matching what they see against what I was saying.

Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel talked about this, chastising the scribes and Pharisees, for such a thing, requiring the converts to follow faith standards higher than even what these teachers were required to do. Many times, I have found myself doing the same thing. On many occasions, I find myself unconsciously judging others for their actions. Yet, upon further reflection, I often find that I am unable to behave better than those I am critical of.

I have long mulled over the deeper meaning behind the second part of today’s Gospel. For the longest time, I figured that we should not be so taken with the superficial aspects our lives, and should instead focus on the deeper, more spiritual aspects. However, it was when I was preparing for today’s reflection when another meaning struck me.

I realised that it goes beyond the difference between superficiality and deepness. Instead, it was that all the good and everything in our lives comes from God. We spend too much time attributing this success to ourselves; what schools we went to, who we know or whether we are at the right place at the right time. What should happen instead, however, is that we should look at the “gold behind the temple”; that whatever we have comes from our God.

When we do good, it comes from God. When we have an idea for a way to do good in the world, it comes from God. When we invent something, it comes from God.

Simply put, ALL good comes from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer:  We pray that no matter what, we will continue to recognize the true value of everything in our lives. Help us Father, to have wisdom.

Thanksgiving:  We thank You Father, for giving us the gift of discernment. Thank You for reminding us not to be arrogant but to always rely on Him.

19 February, Monday – Separating Sheep From Goats

19 February 

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Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18

The Lord spoke to Moses. He said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning. You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.

‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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“I am the Lord”

Today’s scripture readings indicate to us how God will judge us on the final day. In the gospel, we are told that He will place the virtuous on His right and the others on his left. There is no one in the middle, no room for negotiation. Because ultimately, where we end up will be a reflection of how we have lived our life on earth and whether we have indeed heeded His commandments and acknowledged Him as Lord.

When God speaks to Moses, He gives a list of ‘things not to do’ before ending with the one thing that means everything, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” This edict is further expounded in Matthew’s gospel, where the Lord welcomes those who have provided for him when he was in need. Yesterday, I encouraged each of us to look deep within our hearts and discern what we want to offer up this Lenten season. Today, let us offer to God our pride.

Brothers and sisters, wherever we are in our lives, there are others who are much more in need than ourselves. And sometimes, those people are closer to us than we think – a cousin, an in-law, the colleague in the next cubicle, and yes, perhaps even our own parents or siblings. For many of us, it is not in our nature to reach out or offer help because ‘they don’t need my help’, or we are afraid of being rejected. Perhaps these people are simply waiting for us to make the first move, to offer a helping hand or a kind word.

When God made his covenant with man, He was taking a huge risk because He knew full well what we would put Him through. And yet, because He loved us so much, He offered Jesus to us – no less than His only son.

This Lenten season, let us learn to be like sheep and give up our pride so that we can truly obey His call for each and every one of us. Let us all learn to appreciate what it truly means to be a son or daughter of the living God, a God who loves us unconditionally, is ever-merciful and never quick to judge. A God who walks with us and grieves with us, who celebrates our achievements and lifts us up when we open up our hearts to him. A God who is waiting patiently for us to run to Him and to acknowledge him as Lord, Father and Saviour.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, you have given us so much in order to show how much you love us. Give us the humility and courage to give of ourselves to those around us so that we can manifest your love through our actions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you’ve done for us.

17 February, Saturday – Humble enough to let Him lead

17 Feb – Memorial for Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites

The Order of the Servants of Mary (Servites) was named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V. It was founded in 1233 by Sts. Alexis Falconieri, Bartholomew degli Amidei, Benedict dell’Antella, Buonfiglio Monaldi, Gherardino Sostegni, Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and John Buonagiunta Monetti.

They were beatified on 1 December 1717, and canonized on 1887 as The Seven Holy Founders. On the Feast of the Assumption in 1240, the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading “Servants of Mary”. Mary told them:

“You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of St. Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”

From their first establishment at La Camarzia, near Florence, they moved to the more secluded Monte Senario where the Blessed Virgin herself conferred on them their habit, instructing them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to admit associates. The official approval for the order was obtained in 1249, confirmed in 1256, suppressed in 1276, definitely approved in 1304, and again by Brief in 1928. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285, there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century, it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India.

The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870.

The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the “Seven Dolours of Our Lady”. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. An affiliation, professing exclusively the contemplative life is that of the “Hermits of Monte Senario”. It was reinstated in France in 1922.

Cloistered nuns, forming a Second Order, have been affiliated with the Servites since 1619 when Blessed Benedicta di Rossi called the nuns of her community “Servite Hermitesses”. They have been established in England, Spain, Italy, the Tyrol, and Germany.

A Third Order, the Mantellate, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri under St. Philip Benizi (c. 1284) has houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, Canada, and the United States. Secular tertiaries and a confraternity of the Seven Dolours are other branches.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 58:9-14

The Lord says this:

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
The Lord will always guide you,
giving you relief in desert places.

He will give strength to your bones
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never run dry.

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
build up on the old foundations.
You will be called ‘Breach-mender’,
‘Restorer of ruined houses.’

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
and doing business on the holy day,
if you call the Sabbath ‘Delightful’,
and the day sacred to the Lord ‘Honourable’,
if you honour it by abstaining from travel,
from doing business and from gossip,
then shall you find your happiness in the Lord
and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land.
I will feed you on the heritage of Jacob your father.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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Luke 5:27-32

Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.
In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’

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Follow me and leaving everything, he got up and followed him.

At the beginning of 2017, I had just concluded my tenure as Co-Chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee with the culmination of an event called ’10,000 Reasons’. It was an evening of music and testimonies – a thanksgiving for our parish, our shepherds and the community. We were so blessed with people who came forward to give of their time and talent. They were producers, creative directors, musicians and yet, when we asked them to be involved in our ‘little’ production, they said a resounding yes! The months of work culminated with a wondering evening — a huge production, it was almost like a concert. The singing and the people who shared their life stories are testimonies of God’s gift to us. It was a fitting event to mark the end of my tenure.

When my other half and I started on this journey, we were wet behind the ears and had no idea where we should start. Actually we were ‘tricked’ by our then parish priest into the role. He kind of said “Follow me.” And we blindly did. At the start, when we planned the events, we were in the driving seat. We felt we needed to take on the responsibility that was given to us, to ‘lead’ the way.

However, ’10,000 Reasons’ taught me a lesson in humility by humbly ‘following’ people who were better positioned to put this evening together. I will admit I was uncomfortable at first. The whole event took on a life of its own and I was not part of the ‘steering team’, I was not in control. But I finally learnt that I had to let go and let the professionals do the work. I had to admit that I had no clue how to even begin putting this whole event together. And because I followed their lead, the results spoke for itself. It was simply awesome. My biggest contribution for the evening was to ring the bell to signal the start of the evening!

The Sunday that followed after the event, the Lord continued to teach me what it means to follow him. Again, He spoke to me at mass, in a way that I could understand – the unteachable, stubborn person that I am. The example He showed me was ’10,000 Reasons’. Just as I had to let go and let the professionals take over, He showed me that I too need to let go the steering wheel of my life and He (the professional and the writer of my life’s script) can finally do the work. And then shall you find happiness in the Lord and I will lead you triumphant over the heights of the land. 

It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. No I am not physically sick, but my heart is weak and my head keeps trying to take over – complete disaster. It’s indeed time to let go and follow.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you are all-knowing and an awesome God. You know everything about us, what we think, what we feel, our hopes, dreams, fears and anxiety. Teach us to give it all to you, to surrender our lives to You. Teach us to know what it really means to follow you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being so ever present to us. For being our Friend, Comforter, Cheerleader and Captain of our lives.

8 February, Thursday – Crumbs Of Life

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

– Patron Saint Index

Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885 and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 11:4-13

When Solomon grew old his wives swayed his heart to other gods; and his heart was not wholly with the Lord his God as his father David’s had been. Solomon became a follower of Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and of Milcom, the Ammonite abomination. He did what was displeasing to the Lord, and was not a wholehearted follower of the Lord, as his father David had been. Then it was that Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the god of Moab on the mountain to the east of Jerusalem, and to Milcom the god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrifice to their gods.

The Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart had turned from the Lord the God of Israel who had twice appeared to him and who had then forbidden him to follow other gods; but he did not carry out the Lord’s order. The Lord therefore said to Solomon, ‘Since you behave like this and do not keep my covenant or the laws I laid down for you, I will most surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. For your father David’s sake, however, I will not do this during your lifetime, but will tear it out of your son’s hands. Even so, I will not tear the whole kingdom from him. For the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen, I will leave your son one tribe.’

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Mark 7:24-30

Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.

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…it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs…

I came across a Jewish prayer on being grateful to God that they are not Gentiles, not women, nor slaves. During the time of Jesus, there was no equality among genders. Women were considered as inferior and lower than men. Also, the Jews referred to Gentiles as ‘dogs’ because they considered them unclean and could not understand.

In today’s gospel, Jesus went to Gentile territory. He wanted to be anonymous, but there was a woman who found out about him. This woman was born a pagan and she had a young daughter with an unclean spirit. She went to Jesus and fell down at his feet. She begged Jesus to remove the devil from her daughter. Jesus tested this woman. Jesus said, “The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.” The woman understood that Jesus was actually asking her why He should help her; especially so since she was a Gentile and Jesus should only be associating with the Jews.

The answer that the woman gave is really humbling. “But the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.” She humbly and openly accepts anything. Even it is only left over as long as it is from Jesus.

The gospel teaches us that our faith is not only for a certain group of people. It is for everyone. Anyone can receive salvation as long as he or she believes in our one and only God. There are times that we think God never hears our prayers; and then later on, our faith deteriorates when we face hardships. We also sometimes forget about God when we receive successes. We think that it is from our own strength and capability that we were able to overcome whatever hindrances that we face. We must always be humble and remember that we are where we are because of the grace of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Please grant us the grace of humility to accept who we are and to not think that we are better than others. Help us to realize that we cannot do anything alone. Help us remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can live our life. That we may be like the Gentile woman who has strong faith especially during trials.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for our faith, Father God. Thank you for being born as we are. Thank you for your continuous mercy Lord, God.

Wednesday, 31 January – Faith Comes With Humility

31 Jan – Memorial for St. John Bosco, priest

St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was the son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. His father died when he was just two years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs, and carnivals, practise the tricks he saw the magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.

He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. He was ordained in 1841. He was a teacher, and he worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray. He taught catechism to orphans and apprentices, and was chaplain in a hospice for girls.

He wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. He was a friend of St. Joseph Cafasson, whose biography he wrote. He was confessor to Blessed Joseph Allamano. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, a community of priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and St. Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 24:2,8-17

King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, ‘Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.’ Having covered the whole country, they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.

But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. ‘I have committed a grave sin’ David said to the Lord. ‘But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.’ But when David got up next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and say to David, “the Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.”’

So Gad went to David and told him. ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country’ he said ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’ David said to Gad, This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So David chose pestilence.

It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Now withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. “When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. ‘It was I who sinned;’ he said ‘I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.’

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Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there…

Imagine a coworker who joined the company the same time as you, in the exact same team with the exact same responsibilities. You become friends and learn about each other, discovering in the process that you both come from similar backgrounds. So similar in fact, that you both might as well have grown up in the same house and done the same course at the same university.

Now, imagine that same coworker suddenly showing up at work one day, giving suggestions and instructions on how to solve a particular problem. No, he wasn’t promoted overnight but he knows a little bit more about this particular issue (because he learnt about it) than you do and thought he would help you.

Instead of accepting his solution, you choose to shut him down and question, “How could he possibly know more than me?” Both of you come from the same background, with the same education. How could he possibly know more than you?

In today’s gospel, this is the situation Jesus found himself in. The people in his hometown could not believe that he knew enough to teach about God and the Scriptures. After all, wasn’t he just a carpenter’s son? What right did he have to tell them how to live their life?

Their pride had clouded their judgment of Jesus. Instead of seeing him as the Messiah, they saw someone who had no authority on anything else besides carpentry and repair work. They were unnerved with the amount of authority Jesus spoke with. How dare he speak with such conviction?

Word would definitely have travelled far and wide of the miracles he performed but his very own people refused to accept the stories, insisting that it just wasn’t possible. Pride took over the people in the gospel and pride clouded their perception to the point their faith was stifled. Their lack of faith was what led to Jesus only being able to perform very few miracles among his people. What they failed to realize is that Jesus is a repairman. Both in his job and spiritually. He was sent to repair our faith and souls.

Most of the time, God talks to us through other people and pride has to be put aside in order to hear what He has to say. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to shut down your ego but we need to do it because we can’t serve both God and our ego. Humble yourself to God and see how your faith will grow and miracles happen in your life.

Let Jesus into your hearts so that he can repair your soul.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer: Lord, help us let go of our pride so that we can let You into our lives, and forgive us for the weak moments when we unintentionally let our ego take over.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks, dear God, for the little miracles you perform in our lives and the wonderful people who act as your messengers for us.