Tag Archives: humility

29 October, Saturday – Self Awareness vs Self Promotion

29 October

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Philippians 1:18-26

Christ is proclaimed; and that makes me happy; and I shall continue being happy, because I know this will help to save me, thanks to your prayers and to the help which will be given to me by the Spirit of Jesus. My one hope and trust is that I shall never have to admit defeat, but that now as always I shall have the courage for Christ to be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results – I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake. This weighs with me so much that I feel sure I shall survive and stay with you all, and help you to progress in the faith and even increase your joy in it; and so you will have another reason to give praise to Christ Jesus on my account when I am with you again.

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Luke 14:1,7-11

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.’

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“… that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”

I really hate social media. There are some days when I just want to disconnect my Instagram account. Social media has made vanity into a virtue. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking to you, the #blessed crowd, the #partyafterparty people whose sole purpose is to post the perfect selfie, and shame the rest of us for our mundanity. Whatever happened to quiet servant leadership? I thought that was a great concept, and was certain it would take off. Instead, we seem to be bombarded by #redcarpet posts.

Self-promotion is as old as Scripture it seems. The gospel today actually tells us, in no uncertain terms, to be self-aware when attending dinner parties. Even back then, it was considered a complete social faux pas to presume greatness for one self. With position comes a higher profile. People know about you, or want to know about you. And the greater your profile, the more your actions and words are scrutinized. With position comes responsibility. And for those who have not cultivated the art of self-awareness, it is a long descent downwards. People are more than happy to tear someone down. Paul’s letter to the Philippians shows his self-awareness, this complete understanding of his purpose in life, to be of service to them and the furtherance of their faith. Often when we are tired or feel taken for granted, we start to whine and focus on ourselves. We become insular and complain, “What about me? I just want what’s due to me.” At times like these, a healthy dose of self-awareness goes a long way. We are here to serve at the leisure of God, and where He places us is where we are to strive to make a difference. If that happens to be back in the kitchen, wrist-deep in dish water instead of sitting at the banquet table, well then that’s His lot for us. There has to be a reason for it, we are just supposed to trust Him. Not for us, the glamorous life of being a loud and lauded leader, that’s not what He wants for us.

I’m ashamed to say that often, I too feel frustrated by a lack of acknowledgement, or worse yet, when someone takes what you do for granted and then criticizes and complains about your efforts. In times like that, I feel like taking to Facebook and airing my ills. But what is the point in that? Servant leadership at its core means trusting Him to acknowledge your work at the end after your race is done. If we receive our laurels now, what will we have to show at the gates of reckoning? Food for thought.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for patience with the complainers in our life, and for the self-awareness to know our place in all situations.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, that great comforter of hearts and restorer of hopes.

8 October, Saturday – Prepared by the Law

8 October

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Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came.

Whenever an athlete prepares for a competition, the athlete has to follow an exercise regimen faithfully. He has to eat according to his needs, train according to his training plan, and rest according to schedule. This training period restricts an athlete’s activities in preparation for the big day. These restrictions are necessary for an athlete’s preparation.

The Law that was given by God was to prepare us to accept what Christ had planned to teach us. When we were young, our parents stopped us from harming ourselves by saying ‘no.’ ‘No, you can’t eat mud.’ ‘No, you can’t put your fingers in the electric socket.’ ‘No, you can’t jump from that height.’ These are just pure laws, without explanations. When we were younger, even if our parents explained the rationale behind these laws, we probably would not have understood.

Jesus came to explain that Law, which was intended for our good. The Law trained us to do charitable acts, and Jesus Christ taught us that beyond doing charitable acts, we have to be charitable. Being charitable does not only mean doing charitable acts, it’s doing these acts with charity – with love. It might have been difficult for us to understand Christ’s teachings on what charity really is if we ourselves have not been performing acts of charity.

The Law was our guardian, because it helped us do what was right even when we didn’t want to, even when we didn’t feel like it. Be kind to those who hurt you. This is something I am struggling with right now; and I must admit that I am merely following the law when I don’t go out there and be nasty to the people who have hurt me. Right now, I am only doing it because it is the right thing to do. But I’m hoping that once I am able to let Christ into this part of my heart, I will be kind not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the loving thing to do.

I still can’t live without the Law in many parts of my life. And until I can welcome Christ in my heart, I will keep on training, like an athlete, in this ‘rigorous’ law. Because without the Law, I will never be prepared to have Christ enter in that aspect of my life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live my life in Christ, to learn to appreciate the laws, and to submit myself in humility to the laws You have made while I grow in my understanding of my faith.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving us a guide in our lives. And even if we sometimes resent it, we know that it is for our good.

26 September, Monday – Humility

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 1:6-22

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

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

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

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

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

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Luke 9:46-50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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

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

19 September, Monday – Silver Linings

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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To anyone who has, more will be given

There is a saying that happiness shared is doubled, but sorrow shared is halved.

When God touches our lives, a light is switched on inside each and every one of us. That light serves as God’s way of spreading the Word – through our daily thoughts, actions, and words – intimating those that we meet with God’s love and mercy. We are like little lamps to light the way for others.

Of course not all of us are called to be like Moses, guiding thousands of people to the Promised Land. We may even question what kind of abilities we have that can serve God’s purpose. We see ourselves only as “small fry” – not fit for a higher purpose. And so we hide, and we shy away, little lit lamps set under a bed, concealing ourselves with a vessel.

God gives each of us a gift to use for His higher purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Our gifts are all different, “according to the grace given to each of us” according to Romans 12:6. In fact, our gift could be as simple as giving, or showing mercy, or even just simple encouragement (Romans 12: 7:8).

I don’t profess to have many talents, but of late, if I feel that I could make someone’s day by giving a smile, then why not. Our lives here on earth are too short to be lived in such a harried manner. We have no time for each other, even eschewing manners and general consideration for others and what their lives must be. In the scramble of our daily lives, empathy has taken a backseat. Violence and fear face us in the headlines of daily news that we become enveloped by it, gripping us in paranoia and suspicion. These things are the work of the Devil around us, creating vessels to block out the light that God has switched on in us.

Today’s Gospel says “to anyone who has, more will be given”. If we use our abilities for the glory of God, no matter how small our action is, God will not forget us. God will use this as a conduit to start a chain reaction, multiplying our seed of an effort to cause a wave of change. God only asks that we start that reaction, by coming out from under the bed and lighting the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord God, I am small and sometimes weak, allowing fear and paranoia to engulf me at times. Rescue me from my abyss that I may break the clouds of doubt, even with just my tiniest effort. I pray that all that I do will be positive, and in turn create positivity for all whom I meet.

Prayer: I thank you God, for blessing me with the ability to make a difference. Let me not doubt anymore what I can do, but embrace the fact that I can indeed make a difference.

15 September, Thursday – You Are Not Unworthy

15 September – Memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows

Different sorrows of Mary have been honoured in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have come to be regarded as the seven ‘dolors’ (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days
4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb

By commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the sufferings that Mary endured as part of her vocation as the Mother of the Redeemer. No one is closer to Christ than Mary, consequently no one has participated more intimately in the redemptive suffering of Christ than His Mother Mary.

– http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/sorrows.html

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

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I am the least of the apostles

Every Sunday, after the recessional hymn, I would walk to our Mother Mary, say a short prayer and touch her feet before leaving the church. Someone once asked me, why do you touch her feet? Well, I could have touch her hands, and show love, respect and reverence in another manner. The feet is closest to the ground and and perhaps the body part that has the most contact to uncleaned places when we walk about getting to our destination. By giving reverence at the feet, it shows humility and respect for the other, where the dirt and places that the other has been to does not matter to you because you accept and clean them up as they are.

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul finds himself unworthy of being an apostle as he compared himself to be of least importance, yet Jesus appeared to him. This led to me reflecting again on how important prayers can be. When we face a crossroad in life decisions, or met up with a challenge, we are always told to go with the gut feeling, pray about it, do what God tells you to do. It is just not so straight forward after all, is it? We are always given the freedom to choose, we pray not for an answer in the dreams, but we pray for the peace in our heart that the challenge is right for me, or I will do the alternative that cold be walking away from it. Regardless, Jesus is always there for us. Saint Paul felt the graces of God upon him to achieve his mission for the Lord. Likewise, we are to pray for the courage when taking up a challenge in life, at work, for the family or for the better of society. It is never going to be easy but the constant encouragement and graces we receive from heaven will see us through it.

The most ordinary and lowest of people with great faith will be given more. Therefore, when we do realise the blessings and peace that we have in our lives, we must maintain and continue to deepen our faith and the works of the Lord, so that He sees that and grant us with eternal life. Show great love and your debts will be forgiven.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray that Jesus’ love be felt and experienced in this world and conflicts across all borders be at peace soon so that all will live a faithful and happy life.

Thanksgiving: Thank You O Lord for seeing me through countless of challenges no matter how little they may be.

6 September, Tuesday – The Myth of Sinlessness

6 September

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1 Corinthians 6:1-11

How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the law courts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers? It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another: oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated? But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God. These are the sort of people some of you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.

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Luke 6:12-19

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Today, like most days, I found myself struggling with my (relatively new-found) faith. It is no secret that the bible offers hard lessons for all of us. As an introvert, I have spent many parties looking (with great envy) at the way that everyone seems able to socialise so easily. For the young man that I was then, I was particularly struck by how easily other guys could win the affection and attention of young women.

As an older man, I find it easy to look at the shenanigans of today’s youth, judging them as debauchery and hedonism. Yet we have been taught over and over again that we should not judge, that we should ‘let he who is sinless cast the first stone’. Yes, none of us is free from sin. Indeed, the more that we believe in our alleged sinlessness, the more we have already sinned. Not having sinned in appearance does not guarantee any sort of interior moral purity.

That is a lesson that I have learned the hard way. As a socially awkward yet precocious youth, I have often found myself judging far too easily. Such tendencies do not go away, even after one has outgrown adolescence. As a consequence, I have found myself constantly stepping on others’ toes. Worse yet, I find myself becoming bitter. The first reading says: do not be deceived.

The deception lies in the belief that we are ‘okay’, that those idolators, adulterers and thieves found in the bible must be referring to somebody else. But it is with the less-than-friendly admonition of a friend or even the loss of one that the truth becomes painfully true — that we have sinned without realising it ourselves. But the second reading also shows Jesus going out to heal everyone. Yes, everyone.

Regardless of whether you have sinned or not, or how serious those sins are, Jesus wants to heal all of us. And as the first reading also reminds us, we are now washed clean and sanctified, despite being sinners before. But this healing cannot come to us, if we do not humble ourselves and ask for it.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we continue to pray for your forgiveness and love. For all the times we have sinned knowingly or unknowingly, we pray for your spiritual healing.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the daily reminders and signs of our own weaknesses.

3 September, Saturday – Our gifts are not our own

3 September – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor

St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. He was elected by unanimous acclamation for pope. Incidentally, he was also the first monk to be pope. Before his papacy, he turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. He became a missionary to England upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 4:6-15

Take Apollos and myself as an example and remember the maxim: ‘Keep to what is written.’ It is not for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another. In any case, brother, has anybody given you some special right? What do you have that was not given to you? And if it was given, how can you boast as though it were not? Is it that you have everything you want – that you are rich already, in possession of your kingdom, with us left outside? Indeed I wish you were really kings, and we could be kings with you! But instead, it seems to me, God has put us apostles at the end of his parade, with the men sentenced to death; it is true – we have been put on show in front of the whole universe, angels as well as men. Here we are, fools for the sake of Christ, while you are the learned men in Christ; we have no power, but you are influential; you are celebrities, we are nobodies. To this day, we go without food and drink and clothes; we are beaten and have no homes; we work for our living with our own hands. When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we put up with it; we are insulted and we answer politely. We are treated as the offal of the world, still to this day, the scum of the earth.

I am saying all this not just to make you ashamed but to bring you, as my dearest children, to your senses. You might have thousands of guardians in Christ, but not more than one father and it was I who begot you in Christ Jesus by preaching the Good News.

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Luke 6:1-5

One sabbath Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them. Some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?’ Jesus answered them, ‘So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry how he went into the house of God, took the loaves of offering and ate them and gave them to his followers, loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What do you have that was not given to you?”

When I was working in the banking sector, I came across many accounts which had a ‘Power of Attorney’ privileges accorded to representatives of the account holders. These representatives had the authority to operate these accounts similar to that of the actual owners.

These powers, however, are not permanent, and can be revoked by the account holders. Similarly, the authority would disappear upon the death of the account holder.

Peter alludes to the authority and power given by God to men. He reminds us that we are nothing without that that is given to us, and that we should not be proud and arrogant. What we have does not come from us. As such, we should not take this power and lord it over others.

Yet, many of us forget that.

I used to manage teams of employees within the banks I worked with. With the responsibilities came the ability to affect the lives of others. With the roles came the perks, business meetings where senior management meet and junior staff deferred to us. I was wined and dined and attended countless meetings where people sought to impress.

When I left banking some 2 years ago, all this disappeared overnight. Nobody from amongst my previous business contacts called, wanting to spend time over a meal and the hustle and bustle I had previously ‘enjoyed’ evaporated into thin air.

I was blessed with this experience and was reminded that whatever we have on this Earth is temporal. I was reminded that what was important was for me to learn God’s ways and to serve Him as His child.

What about you? Have you been swept up by all the gifts, talents and power that God alone has given us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, may we always be mindful of Your gifts for us. Help us to be good stewards of all the resources that You have given us to honour You!

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for everything You have given us. Thank You for your constant reminders in Your Holy Word to not be arrogant, but instead to do our best for You.

1 September, Thursday – Humility and Faith

1 September

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1 Corinthians 3:18-23

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

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Luke 5:1-11

Now Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

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“The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are”

I run a mortgage brokerage firm and as part of my work, I meet with clients who are looking to either take new housing loans or to refinance their existing loans. Prior to this, I had been in the mortgage business for about 12 years. Because of the nature of my work, I am very well-acquainted with the regulations and lending guidelines of the various banks.

Over my time in this business, I have met numerous clients who have their own ideas about the affordability of their loans and the associated rules. Under those circumstances, I have had to (very patiently) explain the intricacies to them, sometimes unsuccessfully.

Such was the situation in the gospel of today.

Simon and the other fishermen had spent the whole night fishing without a single catch. Along comes Jesus, a carpenter, who asked them to go out to deeper water and cast their nets. Imagine that! A carpenter teaching a fisherman how to fish!

Rather than arguing with Jesus, Simon obeyed him and did as He said. What faith!

As we journey along in our faith, we need to connect with God, through regular prayer, reflection, bible reading and spiritual talks. In doing so, the Spirit speaks to us, prompting us. Like Peter, we need to be open to these promptings.

Coming back to the mortgage business, I have had situations where the clients had raised pertinent questions and interesting ideas have actually come out of these discussions. It was then I realized that because of my ‘experience’, I had become arrogant, thinking that I was the ‘expert’.

Similarly, we need to remember not to be arrogant; we need to be humble in order to be led by the Spirit.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, help us to be humble and to be open to Your promptings. Help us not to think that we are wiser than You and give us the strength to do what is right in Your eyes.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father for giving us situations to teach us humility. We praise You for always sending Your Spirit to prompt us in the right direction to go.

28 August, Sunday – Others, before ourselves

28 August

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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“…the man who humbles himself will be exalted”

I was scared stiff when I first learned that I had to sell mortgages as a relatively new joinee to the banking industry. You can imagine how high this fear escalated to when I learned I was scheduled to speak with potential buyers at the property show flat soon after I graduated from training!

I remember pacing nervously at the show flat, wondering what to do, when an idea came to me. I approached one of my colleagues, a seasoned mortgage banker, and made him an offer; I would refer all my prospects to him, provided he allowed me to sit in to listen to how he spoke with them.

I learned a lot that day. While I remember him speaking confidently with the prospects, what struck me even more was that in order to sell the loans, my colleague actually misrepresented certain features of the housing loan product. When asked subsequently about it, the man said, with a smile, that he would have long left the bank by the time the clients came back to the bank to complain.

I was appalled.

While my colleague showed great competence in dealing with clients, which was a way for me to learn and model my presentations after, his lack of integrity clearly negated this.

In today’s gospel, Jesus points out what is done in society and suggests an alternative approach. Until then, people learned from watching each other, often taking their cue from the ‘higher-ups’ in society. The model was turned on its head; instead of focusing on ourselves, the parables Jesus taught showed us the right way was to focus on others.

Jesus is our ultimate role model. Jesus came, not only to die for us, but to be our ultimate role model. He shows us how we are to live!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to always turn to You and Your Son Jesus, to show us how to live our lives in the way that You would want us to live. Speak to us, Father, in our prayers and in Your Word.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for showing us an alternative way to live, dear Lord. For showing us that our focus should not be on ourselves, but on others in our desire to be closer to You.

16 August, Tuesday – Stewardship

16 August – Memorial for St. Stephen of Hungary

When he succeeded his father as chief of a group of people, Stephen adopted a policy of Christianisation in Hungary for both political and religious reasons. He suppressed a series of revolts by pagan nobles and welded the Magyars into a strong national group. As king, Stephen established a system of tithes to support churches and pastors and to relieve the poor. Out of every 10 towns, one had to build a church and support a priest. He abolished pagan customs with a certain amount of violence, and commanded all to marry, except clergy and religious. He was easily accessible to all, especially the poor.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 28:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, tell the ruler of Tyre, “The Lord says this:

Being swollen with pride,
you have said: I am a god;
I am sitting on the throne of God,
surrounded by the seas.
Though you are a man and not a god,
you consider yourself the equal of God.
You are wiser now than Danel;
there is no sage as wise as you.
By your wisdom and your intelligence
you have amassed great wealth;
you have piles of gold and silver
inside your treasure-houses.
Such is your skill in trading,
your wealth has continued to increase,
and with this your heart has grown more arrogant.
And so, the Lord says this:
Since you consider yourself the equal of God,
very well, I am going to bring foreigners against you,
the most barbarous of the nations.
They will draw sword against your fine wisdom,
they will defile your glory;
they will throw you down into the pit
and you will die a violent death
surrounded by the seas.
Are you still going to say: I am a god,
when your murderers confront you?
No, you are a man and not a god
in the clutches of your murderers!
You will die like the uncircumcised
at the hand of foreigners.
For I have spoken–it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ When the disciples heard this they were astonished. ‘Who can be saved, then?’ they said. Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he told them ‘this is impossible; for God everything is possible.’

Then Peter spoke. ‘What about us?’ he said to him ‘We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, when all is made new and the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, you will yourselves sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.’

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“Amen I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Is wealth in, and of itself, a bad thing? The gospel tells us “it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23). But what if one is born into it? Then what happens? The life of Saint Charles Borromeo offers insight into our gospel readings. Born into Italian nobility, the young Charles was groomed in business and politics by his uncle Pope Pius IV and his parents, the Count of Arona and Countess Margherita de’ Medici. Charles understood early on, that the immense Medici family wealth was not for personal pleasure. Fortune and influence required responsible stewardship.

In his twenties, he dedicated much of his time to helping Pope Pius IV organize the Council of Trent and the Tridentine Catechism. He did all while continuing to oversee the Borromeo family’s interests in Arona. Later as Archbishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo took on the task of reforming the archdiocese, cleaning up years of abuse, indulgence and corrupt practices. This made him very unpopular with his peers, but he remained steadfast despite the opposition. His was a life dedicated to work and God’s service. It wasn’t that he eschewed his family’s influence. Borromeo simply found a way of using the providence of his birth for His good. We know he exercised the Medici pedigree when he needed to get things done, it’s the end that justified his means. Material gain in, and of itself, is not a sin. Pride and not applying good stewardship to one’s providence is. We need to look no farther than the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel of Matthew. The servants were all given an equal measure of their master’s wealth to invest; they didn’t start from nothing; i.e., they did not necessarily begin in poverty. But the one who is finally ushered into his master’s house is the one who showed initiative, daring, responsibility and accountability.

Very often, those who are wealthy feel uneasy about their gain, as if wealth alone is reason enough to be locked out of heaven. Yes, it is hard for the rich to enter His great kingdom. But our circumstances alone do not determine our final home. God doesn’t discriminate against us because of our circumstances. We’re denied entry into the Kingdom of Heaven because we abuse the providence of His gifts, instead of using them to give glory to Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the humility and self-awareness to be good stewards of the gifts He bestows upon us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our parents and their dedication to giving us a good upbringing.