Tag Archives: humility

5 November, Tuesday – Self Satisfaction

5 November 2019

____________________

Romans 12:5-16

All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.

___________________

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.”’

____________________

Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied

If I must be completely honest with myself, and with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ; I am guilty of self-satisfaction. Let me explain. On the surface, I go to church every Sunday, try to say my prayers every day, try to adhere to the Ten Commandments and don’t break any laws (maybe I use swear words now and then), but overall, I thought I was a fairly decent person. In my mind’s eye, I am a sinner, but not that bad of a sinner; definitely better than the myriad of sinners out there.

Then I read today’s First Reading plus the homily of our parish priest. I realize that I am far, far from where I ought to be. Jesus commanded us to love God above all else and love our neighbours as ourselves. Well, turns out I am not doing that well in either category.

In the today’s first reading, it says “Do not let your love be a pretence….Bless those who persecute you, never curse them, bless them…” Easy to say, but very hard to do. During this morning’s rush hour, at an intersection, a man who was at a ‘stop’ sign on a side street and was trying to turn left onto the main street on which I was traveling ‘flipped the bird’ or saluted me with his middle finger. I had previously let two other cars turn in front me and started moving forward. I felt his behavior was unjust and abhorrent.  After all, what God-given right did he have to assume I should let him in? Before I could think, my hand raised a similar salute. Almost immediately, I felt a voice inside of me saying, “Ahem, that is not the appropriate response if you claim to love me”. Sheepishly, I lowered my hand and reflected on my behavior. I do desire and profess to love our Lord with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength. If that is the case, how can I not even accept the seemingly injustice I encountered? Compared that to the injustices that Christ encountered on our behalf, my little interlude is so insignificant. The better choice would be for me to let it go and say a prayer and offer it to God.  This would for sure be pleasing to God and reflecting His mercy and love.

Now that I am aware of my fallibility and imperfections, I will watch out for it more and try even harder to become what Christ wanted us to be. Our Lord is perfect and He wants us to strive to become perfect too. I will try, I will stumble, I will fall, but I will not be self-satisfied when I focus on God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, teach us to be humble and recognize that there is always room for improvement. Help us to rely on Your grace and mercy to finally become more like the person You wish us to be.

Thanksgiving: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus and all the saints, to show us how we should behave.

1 September, Sunday – Humility

1 Sep 2019

______________

Ecclesiasticus 3:19-21,30-31

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business,
  and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.
The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly,
  and then you will find favour with the Lord;
for great though the power of the Lord is,
  he accepts the homage of the humble.
There is no cure for the proud man’s malady,
  since an evil growth has taken root in him.
The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables,
  an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.

______________

Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them. But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant and a blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s.

______________

Luke 14:1,7-14

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

_______________

Humble yourself more, the greater you are, and you will find favour with God

I thought a lot about whether to share this story today, and perhaps it might turn out to be something that may resonate with someone out there. This is a true story of a person I know who rose up the career ladder at a meteoric pace. I will give him the credit of his hard work and perseverance that got him there. As such, his efforts were recognized and he was duly given positions of importance and seniority. Through the years, his success doubled but sadly, I felt that his character changed. The thought that he could do anything seemed to get to his head. He was less patient, less courteous. I don’t know why, but I tried to reason with myself that perhaps people with important decisions to make don’t have time to be as patient as we would like them to be. Why I tried to justify his behavior is beyond me. The day I realized his position went over his head was when he told me that I tried to “leverage on his power”. I was utterly gobsmacked. I remember replying that I was in no way the kind of person to do so, and I reiterated my position during our conversation. We parted ways eventually – amicably enough – though for my part I felt that I had been truly wronged. I could have stewed about it for days if I had chosen to, but with sheer force and lots of prayer, I redirected my energy to move forward instead. I took it as a sign from God that it was time to move on, and I lifted my woes to Him instead and decided to leave it to God to defend me against the injustice that was meted out against me.

Recently, I learnt that this person had lost his position of power and had since been relegated to a lesser position. Wow…I was gobsmacked again. I couldn’t believe it. Was it karma? Was it a case of him having to eat his words? I still hadn’t forgotten what he had said and done to me and wondered if God had a hand in this. I didn’t realise it then, but when his name came up in conversation, my words were still laced with bitterness even though I thought I had been mature enough to put it behind me. I stopped short of rejoicing in his downfall, although I think I was still too stunned at what happened to contemplate it. But I was still hurting and dare I say, bitter.

So what does this have to do with today’s reading? I suppose the most apparent answer is that it resonates with Sirach 3:18: “Humble yourself more, the greater you are”, in that being in a position of power exposes you to the risk of being drunk on power. Perhaps it really was God’s doing. But no, the point that I would like to make is the one of myself — God had vindicated me, yet I was still bitter. It took a friend of mine to remind me that as long as I still criticized him, I would only be hurting myself. I would never be free from the chains of resentment. I would not be doing God any justice by giving in to the power of resentment when He had so graciously given me the strength and perseverance to move forward. If He would say something to my oft-deaf ear, it would probably be “Why are you holding yourself back? Are you waiting for these people to fall? Don’t you trust that everything is as it should be?” My friend also reminded me that negative energy begets negative energy. The resentment I have will just undo all the good work that I have done. And it made me realise that the message of humility is not for this person – that is his own personal business with God. The humility lesson is for me: to be humble in the presence of all that God has done for me. To be humble enough to give thanks to God for deliverance, yet be compassionate enough to pray for the people who have wronged me. To realise that the bigger the grace that God has given me, the more humble I must be. Humility in my prayers, humility in my thanksgiving. And I had been lacking that. Yes, I had put my faith in God and trusted Him to lead me on the right path, but I know now that that is not enough. I had to pray for this person, for those who had done me wrong, because they are hurting now.

There is no happiness in this kind of hurt, no ‘winners’ in this kind of war. But even we can turn this around and be humble in the face of vindication. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, the celebration by his followers and disciples was not a case of shoving it and showing it to those who had wronged him, rather it was a celebration of Jesus who lives. Let our humility be a sign to others that Jesus is truly alive in us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for all those who have wronged us, those who have oppressed us and lied against us. We pray for those who did not stand up for us but put us down instead. We pray for forgiveness for them, and forgiveness for our bitterness. We pray that they may turn around and find their way back to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the strength and perseverance that you have given me to move forward instead of allowing myself to be swallowed up in despair. Thank you for the grace You have given me, even though I realise I am not worthy of it. Thank you for counting me worthy to be saved.

 

13 Aug, Tuesday – Like Empty Vessels

Aug 13 – Memorial for St. Pontian, pope, martyr, and St. Hippolytus, priest, martyr

Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.

  • Patron Saint Index

________________________

Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Moses proceeded to address these words to the whole of Israel, ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old now, and can no longer come and go as I will. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the Lord your God who will cross it at your head to destroy these nations facing you and dispossess them; and Joshua too shall cross at your head, as the Lord has said. The Lord will treat them as he treated Sihon and Og the Amorite kings and their land, destroying them. The Lord will hand them over to you, and you will deal with them in exact accordance with the commandments I have enjoined on you. Be strong, stand firm, have no fear of them, no terror, for the Lord your God is going with you; he will not fail you or desert you.’
Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, ‘Be strong, stand firm; you are going with this people into the land the Lord swore to their fathers he would give them; you are to give it into their possession. The Lord himself will lead you; he will be with you; he will not fail you or desert you. Have no fear, do not be disheartened by anything.’

________________

Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14

The disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

‘See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

_____________________

the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven

When I was in my late teens, about 18 or 19, I had a group of friends who enjoyed debating and thinking about the faith, especially the ‘debating’ part. We would talk about faith issues, and extend these arguments about how they would apply to social justice. We talked about the things that should be done. In my mind, these were the ways we should take in order to change the world.

One day, I was reading the Gospel of today and it hit me that perhaps my approach had been wrong.

As I was reading, I put myself in the shoes of a little child before our Lord… and waited. I looked within myself, at what I would do then. How would I behave? What would I think?

What came out surprised me. Firstly, I was curious. I sat there, expectantly looking at our Lord; waiting for Him to show me so I would know what to do. Secondly, I could hear… silence. Rather than opinions coming from me, I was waiting for instructions. Thirdly, I could sense no ego coming from myself. I was just me. There was nothing to prove, nothing to show off, nothing to impress anyone with.

This realisation changed the way I looked at my faith. Rather than bringing a full glass, I now (do my best) to empty this glass, and empty it continually. I sit at the foot of my Lord, and simply wait.

Another thing I realised is that children change their world by directly influencing what is within their immediate sphere of control. When they play and engage their peers, they are immediately able to change their world. Rather than holding lofty ideals and “doing big things”, children change their immediate environments. How I want to be like one again.

Let us pray that we may always remind ourselves to be like little children at the feet of our God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we will always be able to surrender our ego and be like little children again. Help us Father to just ‘be’, and not be focused on the ‘doing’.

Thanksgiving: We bless You and thank You for reminding us, Lord Jesus. Thank You for showing how we should be living our lives and for showing how to be like You.

27 July, Saturday – Adversity Is Proportional To Your Destiny

27 July 2019

_________________

Exodus 24:3-8

Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’ Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, ‘We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’

___________________

Matthew 13:24-30

Jesus put another parable before the crowds: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

____________________

We will obey 

How does one obey when all around them, things are falling apart – a marriage, a sudden death, a business venture gone bust – how does someone who is desperate, ignore the temptations of a quick-fix solution such as ill-gotten cash, or redemption at the expense of innocent people? Many of us have been there before and wherever you are now, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, how do you think you made it through the turbulent times?

For me, it was a case of adversity being proportionate to my destiny. Because during one of the most turbulent times in my life, this writing ministry became my stabilising force. And because I chose to obey the call of the Holy Spirit (which I wasn’t even aware of back then), I am where I am today in my life. This, I believe, has always been God’s plan for me – to use my talents and gifts to help proclaim His word to as many as possible.

At the recent Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Pastor John Gray preached these words, that we can never run away from adversity in our lives. We just need to trust that God has a divine plan for us and that He will reveal what that plan is as long as we trust in Him and let His spirit work within us. Pastor Carl Lentz also exhorted that because we have chosen to be Christians, it is inevitable that the Spirit lives within us. We just need to wake up and work with Him in order to fulfil our promise.

Brothers and sisters, how many of us can truly and actually say that we live in full obedience of His commandments and as true disciples of our Creator? Yup, I thought so. Most of us are ‘shy’ to admit it but the key is not to be afraid to own up to our weaknesses and openly raise our hands in surrender. Because it is in the humbling of ourselves that He can come and fill us. In order for Him to increase in our lives, we must decrease. We must shed our pride, declutter our material wants/needs/pleasures, reach out to our neighbours in need and offer a loving hand, or just simply give way – on the road, in the mall, at the park, in the elevator, or in the coffee queue.

Try it in your church compound tomorrow and see how it feels. There is no shame in giving way, because Jesus stooped low to wash the feet of his disciples. Jesus, in His ultimate expression of love for us, allowed himself he indignity of death on the cross for you and me.

What can you and I ‘give up’ today as a sign of His presence in our hearts?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Abba Father, you care for us as your sons and daughters because you love us so much. Be with us in our times of need and fill us with your presence when we are weak.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being our Saviour and Redeemer.

16 July, Tuesday – Every Turning Point Happens ‘Now’

16 July 2019

_______________

Exodus 2:1-15

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

__________________

Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

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 in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

____________________________

Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains 

Saying “Sorry” is not an easy thing to do. Saying “Sorry” and meaning it from a deeply contrite heart is an even tougher task. I am someone who needs a ‘cooling off period’ before I can apologise and mean it. I know it sounds strange to admit this, but I’d like to think that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

We apologise for various reasons. Sometimes the word “I’m sorry” rolls off our tongues because we are trying hard to diffuse tense situations. Or sometimes it is merely an approximation for “I am afraid so”, or to express embarrassment, or regret for causing others an inconvenience. Obviously, I am not referring to those situations. Even so, some may already have trouble with that.

I am talking about the gut-wrenching, jaw-gritting, eye-rolling, sideways-glancing kind of apologies. Yep. Those sickening moments where ego is like parasitic worm winding its way in the tummy and Contrition and Justification are like the warring states of your heart and mind.

Jesus warns us of this in the Gospel passage today. He is chastising the towns of Chorazin. Bethsaida, and Capernaum for their stubborn unrepentance. In his wrath, he warns them that even those states that appear most evil (Tyre and Sidon) would sooner repent and be spared on Judgement Day than them! Interestingly, the First Reading today of Exodus relates the story of Moses’ birth and adoption into his Egyptian family. It draws the brief arc of Moses’ life until the point of his grievous sin of killing another Egyptian and burying the dead fella’ in the sand. Yes, Moses’ one of God’s chosen prophets was a murderer. But the reading stops us short with Moses deciding to flee and go into hiding after fearing his crime had been known. We know that Moses repented in the end.

But Moses himself did not know that he would eventually repent and believe in God’s redemption enough to turn around and serve Him.

The truth is, all of us are often at this turning point that Moses was in. This ‘inflexion point’ of our choice to turn away from sin and turn towards our Saviour. This is the purpose of the free will we are given. We are given the space to choose – and choose, we must. God does not accept fence-sitters into His kingdom.

In the daily tussle between Contrition and Justification for the sins and wrongs we have chosen to do in our lives, we need to be aware that in order to turn towards God, we need to turn away from sin and temptation. It can be something so simple (yet gut-twisting) as choosing to turn away from reacting with anger by spouting vicious words at the person triggering us.

Let us seek God in every moment, while we are still poor in spirit and struggling with our imperfections, so that we may draw on His strength to restore our weary and sinful hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray for the grace and resolve to turn away from my human ego in order that I can turn towards your redeeming love and to seek reconciliation.

Thanksgiving: We appreciate all the people who have taught us to withhold from sinning by their humility in conflict.

30 March, Saturday – Humility as a Leadership Characteristic

30 March 2019

_______________________

Hosea 5:15-6:6

The Lord says this:

They will search for me in their misery.
‘Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds;
after a day or two he will bring us back to life,
on the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence.
Let us set ourselves to know the Lord;
that he will come is as certain as the dawn
his judgement will rise like the light,
he will come to us as showers come,
like spring rains watering the earth.’

What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
What am I to do with you, Judah?
This love of yours is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that quickly disappears.
This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets,
why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth,
since what I want is love, not sacrifice;
knowledge of God, not holocausts.

 

_______________________

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

______________________

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted

In the past month, I have heard four outstanding women deliver speeches. They were all leaders and two of them stressed on the importance of humility as a vital leadership attribute, while another mentioned it as a 21st century skill. The fourth lady resonated with me the most because though she did not mention the word “humility”, she was charismatic yet humble in her approach.

She hosted a very successful conference and on the day of the conference she greeted people, making everyone feel welcome and despite a very long day, she presented the closing speech on behalf of her superior, while she continued to smile and remain gracious.

It is possible that all these four ladies were humble, yet much like the tax collector in the gospel today, she was the only one whose actions, spoke louder than words.

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we are second guessed by others for being supportive of others through our humble submission. As I am a keen supporter and cheerleader of people’s achievements and efforts, someone commented that the activities I attend are targeted at those in the lower ranks. I was taken aback, but I was reminded by the echoing voices of the women leaders who singled out humility as a leadership characterise. If we are to be one with the ‘lowly’, there, right there, is an opportunity to stir in some humility in our daily cups.

Being humble is not easy but it is not impossible. Let us make an effort to be humble but not lowly and defeated. Let us learn how to listen and see the world through someone else’s eyes for a change. Let us allow ourselves to grow out of insecurities and fear that hinder humility in us. Whatever it is that stands in the way of humility, let us give it to the Lord.

Because once we are humble, the dear Lord promises to exalt us as stated in today’s gospel.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: O Jesus! When You were a Pilgrim on earth, You said: “Learn of Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” O Mighty Monarch of Heaven, yes, my soul finds rest in seeing You, clothed in the form and nature of a slave, humbling Yourself to wash the feet of Your apostles. I recall Your words that teach me how to practice humility: “I have given you an example so that you may do what I have done. The disciple is not greater than the Master … If you understand this, happy are you if you put them into practice.” Lord, I do understand these words that came from Your gentle and humble heart and I want to practice them with the help of Your grace.

I beg You, my Divine Jesus, to send me a humiliation whenever I try to set myself above others. I know, O my God, that You humble the proud soul but to the one who humbles oneself, You give an eternity of glory. So I want to put myself in the last rank and to share Your humiliations so as “to have a share with You” in the kingdom of Heaven. But, You know my weakness, Lord. Every morning I make a resolution to practice humility and in the evening I recognise that I have committed again many faults of pride. At this I am tempted to become discouraged but I know that discouragement is also pride. Therefore, O my God, I want to base my hope in You alone. Since You can do everything, deign to bring to birth in my soul the virtue I desire. To obtain this grace of Your infinite mercy I will very often repeat: “O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours!” – St Theresa of Avila

Thanksgiving: Heal me and bind my wounds, O Lord.

25 March, Monday – True Obedience

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on Mar 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

_______________________

Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then he said:
Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’

_______________________

Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin,and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

______________________

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.

______________________

Let what you have said be done to me

How many times have we said ‘Yes’ to our parents or to our superiors and then acted against their orders, thinking either that we know better or that those who have instructed us have lost touch with reality? Many of us face that dilemma at work, especially those of us in middle management who have teams reporting to us or groups of colleagues working on a particular project, which we just want to complete without too much ‘interference’ from our superiors.

I cannot imagine the turmoil within Mother Mary when she first heard the words of the archangel Gabriel. And while she posed a fair question, I for one would have been thinking to myself, “Alright, how can I get out of this? There is no way I will be able to do this no matter what this strange figure with wings says. What are my exit strategies going to be?” Unlike Mary, we lack absolute faith in God and the humility to trust in His hand within our lives.

So how can we reconcile this tension within us to live a life that is dedicated to God yet having to deal with the various challenges that seem to surface just when we think we’ve struck a balance? It is something that I have not been able to put my finger on until a recent testimony given by a retreatant who attended CER61. He testified that after not stepping into a church since he was 12 years old, he now found solace in reciting the rosary after his conversion. He said that he had always been skeptical about having to repeatedly say the prayers but now, he found comfort in saying the rosary each day. He began to understand humility required in order to bow down and accede to God’s call each day, and as a result, he is a much calmer, more loving individual who now cares for his family.

Brothers and sisters, let us embrace the humble rosary and make a pledge to say it every day. Because it is the one thing the devil fears – this devotion to our heavenly Mother. When our hearts are focused on Mother Mary, the Lord will mould us to become humble of heart and teach us true obedience to Him so that we can live the lives that He intended for each and every one of us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for giving us Mary as our loving Mother.

3 March, Sunday – Working on Ourselves

3 March 2019

_______________

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.

_______________________

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.

______________________

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.’

______________________

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

____________________

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.

__________________

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.’

____________________

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

_____________________

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.

_____________________

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.

_____________________

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.

_____________________

“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.