Tag Archives: humility

5 November, Sunday – Holiness is Humility

5 November 2017

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Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10

I am a great king, says the Lord of Hosts, and my name is feared throughout the nations. And now, priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, if you do not find it in your heart to glorify my name, says the Lord of Hosts, I will send the curse on you and curse your very blessing. But you, you have strayed from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your teaching. You have destroyed the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of Hosts. And so I in my turn have made you contemptible and vile in the eyes of the whole people in repayment for the way you have not kept to my paths but have shown partiality in your administration.

Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why, then, do we break faith with one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?

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1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13

Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well. Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

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Matthew 23:1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

I am not a very humble person, and in the past years I have seen that this is exactly what the Lord wants of me — to let go of my ego, pride, self righteousness and be a servant like Him. He is Almighty and He wants the best of me and for me, and the same holds true for all His children. In my journey towards the destination of HUMILITY, I realise the fruits it brings — peace, joy and freedom — especially to me but also to those around me.

Sadly, I have destroyed many opportunities and friendships around me because of my lack of humility. I am getting better at this, but in the past I tried to prove myself and drew unnecessary attention to myself. Sadly, this had some damaging effects to people around me. But today, I know that only God can restore those who have been wounded by my words and actions, because even my best attempts will not result in anything.

In 2014, I become a member of the core team of the youth ministry at my parish. On that night of commissioning, as I was about to leave church, I checked my phone and my bible app opened with this verse, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted”. God knows I needed to see it. It was His gentle reminder to prepare me for what was ahead and throughout those 2 years in the team, I drew on those verses when I felt the need to stay aligned. One of the youths, bluntly asked me why I was ‘chosen’ and I was able to share this verse, explaining to her that my role was to be a servant of youths in this parish. That verse soothed her cares as her tone changed immediately. What a powerful verse it is!

In the workplace and in relationships, humility at the onset may be construed as a weakness and sometimes attributed to a lack of self confidence. I don’t know how we can get so evil to even believe that. Most good leaders in the workplace are humble as I have worked with a few, both in church and at work, and to me, they were good role models. They never slacked on their responsibilities neither were they afraid to stay their ground; yet they mastered the art of putting their employees before them. I had noticed that during staff lunches, the bosses are the last one to eat because conversations and selfies with staff usually stood between them and the food.

As I begin to recognise the fruits of humility, I realise that I am calmer, I laugh and smile more and the actions and words of others don’t bother me as much. It is my dear Lord that reminds me that my identity is not defined by my grades, salary, the size of car and house, the clothes I wear, my physical appearance nor even my humility (or the lack of it). My true identity is that I am His and His alone.

I thank God for the failures in my life and for not always nodding to my whims and fancies. It is also the “No” and “Not yet” that has drawn me closer to Him, my family and friends, my community and towards His home of holiness through humility.

As I journey towards humility, I continue to fall down but my Father and Mother continue to reassure me that I can do this with their help.

If today, you think that you are better than others or that others have failed you, I urge you to embrace humility very tightly so that the pain you carry is lifted up. My path towards humility was unlocked through prayer, the humility to rise again, to face those who know my weaknesses, never to run away but always, always to run to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: We pray Lord, that you will lead us to holiness, help us to always put others before ourselves, even when we think they don’t deserve it. Father and Mother, please hold our hands and lead us.

Thanksgiving: Daddy Jesus, we thank you for the failures in our lives that have made us better. Thank you for showing that true heroes die for their villains, just as you had.

4 November, Saturday – Conducting Our Affairs With Humility

Nov 4 – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan, and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy, on Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, and helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 11:1-2, 11-12, 25-29
Let me put a further question: is it possible that God has rejected his people? Of course not. I, an Israelite, descended from Abraham through the tribe of Benjamin, could never agree that God had rejected his people, the people he chose specially long ago. Do you remember what scripture says of Elijah – how he complained to God about Israel’s behaviour? Let me put another question then: have the Jews fallen for ever, or have they just stumbled? Obviously they have not fallen for ever: their fall, though, has saved the pagans in a way the Jews may now well emulate. Think of the extent to which the world, the pagan world, has benefited from their fall and defection – then think how much more it will benefit from the conversion of them all. There is a hidden reason for all this, brothers, of which I do not want you to be ignorant, in case you think you know more than you do. One section of Israel has become blind, but this will last only until the whole pagan world has entered, and then after this the rest of Israel will be saved as well. As scripture says: The liberator will come from Zion, he will banish godlessness from Jacob. And this is the covenant I will make with them when I take their sins away.
The Jews are enemies of God only with regard to the Good News, and enemies only for your sake; but as the chosen people, they are still loved by God, loved for the sake of their ancestors. God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

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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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I do not want you to be ignorant, in case you think you know more than you do.
Most of my friends will call me a no-nonsense kind of a person; take no prisoners. I simply cannot stand it when someone is constantly late for appointments or meetings. When something needs to get done, I see through a person’s excuse for not putting in their fair share of work.      I hate it that people worm their way out of things. I used to give my colleagues and friends the killer look or a sarcastic one-liner. They would know when I am annoyed.
But there is another side of me not many people see – I am a real softie at heart. I hate seeing the wee old man selling tissue packs (though I know that it’s a syndicate fleecing us), or the little old lady painstakingly collecting cardboard boxes and peering into trash bins looking for cans. My heart aches just a little when I hear personal stories about how they give up ‘normal lives’ that you and I take for granted, for far more noble vocations.
I have been a benefactor of sorts for a particular individual for some time. Simply because this person has given up much. It gives me immense joy to be able to do something for this person and I really do not expect anything in return. Or so I thought. Recently, I felt a little taken for granted. And I started to resent what I was doing. I started to resent the person as well. Why was I doing so much without getting a single ‘Thank you. That was nice of you!’ In fact, to this person, I am hardly visible. So for a long while, I simply stopped. I harboured hurt, indignation and disappointment.
Today’s gospel reading tells us that the person who deems himself distinguished, may well have to take a hit in his own self-importance.  But the humble will be exalted. In both scenarios, I am far from humble.
In Scenario 1, I was judging people by my own ridiculously high standards, refusing to see or acknowledge that there might be a really good reason for people being late, or not doing something they were meant to do. Even if they were really just lazy or disrespectful of other people’s time, who am I to judge?
As for Scenario 2, I was brought down to earth! One afternoon, I was reflecting on Luke 16: 19-31 (The story of the rich man & Lazarus). “Who would have gladly eaten his fill of scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” At this time, I was still in ‘resentment’ mode. These words sprung to my mind….Be humble and not haughty. You think you are generous?  For it is easy to be generous with those we love. Are you doing this for them or yourself? It appeared I was being reprimanded by our Lord. As I thought about it more, was I really doing this for the love of a brethren? Or was I doing this to feel good about myself?
“My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a lavish giver. The greater you are, the more humbly you should behave, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great is the power of God, by the humble he is glorified” Sirach 4:17-19.
In today’s first reading, Saint Paul told the Romans ‘I do not want you to be ignorant, in case you think you know more than you do.’ Do I know everything and the circumstances about the person who has hurt me? Am I being too quick to jump to conclusions and thus end up judging someone indiscriminately?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Father, teach us to not be so judgmental and self-important that we don’t take the time to walk in the other person’s shoes. Forgive us for our wilful and stubborn ways. May we not get so caught up in getting things done in the busy-ness of life that we hurt and trample upon others with our callous words. Teach us Lord, humility, in every aspect of our lives.
Thanksgiving: Thank You Lord, for caring for each and every one of us as individuals. Though You are perfect, You are God; You never expected us to be perfect. Flawed as we are, You still love us so much. Thank You, Lord.

24 October, Tuesday – Living God’s Call

Oct 24 – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned; but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. When law came, it was to multiply the opportunities of failing, but however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater; and so, just as sin reigned wherever there was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

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…grace will reign to bring eternal life

Just as Adam brought sin into the world and hence, as humans, we bear in us ‘original sin’ – which is the sin of origin – Jesus came to give us life eternal. He is the second Adam. Who then is the second Eve? For without Eve in the Old Testament, Adam would not have taken a bite from the forbidden fruit.

Mary, having conceived Jesus in her womb, is the second Eve. But unlike Eve, Mary stands firmly with God and conquers the serpent (the Devil) and remains humble and steadfast, in spite of the many trials that come her way. And in giving birth to Jesus, she gives birth to the church. We were recently asked to ponder the question of Jesus’ formation before he began his public ministry. Everyone is aware of how Christ spent 3 years preaching and healing; but what of his first thirty years here on earth? Who took on the responsibility of teaching him, forming him and imparting values to him? It was his earthly parents – Mary and Joseph.

In Mother Mary, we have a living example of how God’s graces can flow through someone who is willing to give up his or her life in faith, truly dedicated to God’s mission. And in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay awake because we never know when God will call us. So how are we to ensure that we will always be ready? Simply by living the life that God has called us to live. Because by living the life God called Mary to live, she helped to mould and prepare Jesus for his ministry on earth. So, just as God called Mary, He too calls us each and every day so that we can slowly shape and mould ourselves more and more to live Christ-centred lives. Thanks to Mary and Jesus, we now have the Sacraments as well as the rosary to help us get through each day as we struggle.

The recent visit of the statue of Fatima to Singapore opened the door for me to better appreciate Mother Mary’s role in our church and also to listen to the preaching of Fr Francis Tiquia, a truly anointed son of God. He exhorted that as Catholics, we needed to practice CARE in our lives. To go for weekly Confession, daily Adoration, say the Rosary (4 to 5 times a day) and to go for daily Eucharist.

Brothers and sisters, we have been saved by Mary and Jesus through their sacrifices in humble obedience to God the Father. Let us honour them by living a life of sacrifice and humility so that others may see through us the living example of what it means to be a child of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of humility as you call us to mission.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord for your patience and everlasting love.

30 August, Wednesday – God’s Message or Human Thinking?

30 Aug

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair. You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom. Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

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Matthew 23:27-32

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.” So! Your own evidence tells against you! You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets! Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.’

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You accepted it for what it really is

Are you happy? If you are not, is there something wrong? Should happiness be the main purpose of our lives? Popular thinking in contemporary times emphasises a lot on happiness and seeking it. People are consulting philosophy, psychology, science, religion and even pop culture to find the ingredients to not have to drag themselves along their lives in misery.

So how is Christianity different from the human thinking that so pervades our highly connected world now? What does Christianity offer? The answer is obvious and simple – Jesus. Our lives do not start and end with ourselves or the decisions we make. During this time abroad for my studies, I have faced several challenges. For example, having to deal with my own grades and assignments after a decade of being a teacher and not a student, having to overcome my laziness about domestic chores, trying to adapt to an unfamiliar culture and people. Very quickly, I realised that one really needs an anchor to navigate the choppy waters of life. This anchor cannot be a philosophy or some psychological finding limited by the extent of human thinking and ‘logic’. It has to be something beyond, something much greater.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11: 28-30) These words are probably among some of the most widely quoted verses of the bible, about what Jesus can give us if only we turn to Him. I am quite sure He is not offering happiness as such, but He is going all the way into the depths of our souls. It is not simply a matter of dumping all our sorrows and pain onto Him, but also accepting His yoke and learning His ways.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the humility to always seek guidance from the Lord, especially in our current climate of moral fluidity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His life-giving grace.

22 August, Tuesday – Our Unconditional ‘Yes’

Aug 22 – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Judges 6:11-24

The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah which belonged to Joash of Abiezer. Gideon his son was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with you, valiant warrior!’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all this is happening to us now? And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, “Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.’

At this the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’ the Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.’ Gideon said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your sight, give me a sign that it is you who speak to me. I beg you, do not go away until I come back. I will bring you my offering and set it down before you.’ And he answered, ‘I will stay until you return.’

Gideon went away and prepared a young goat and made unleavened cakes with an ephah of flour. He put the meat into a basket and the broth into a pot, then brought it all to him under the terebinth. As he came near, the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Take the meat and unleavened cakes, put them on this rock and pour the broth over them.’ Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff in his hand and touched the meat and unleavened cakes. Fire sprang from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord vanished before his eyes. Then Gideon knew this was the angel of the Lord, and he said, ‘Alas, my Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’ the Lord answered him, ‘Peace be with you; have no fear; you will not die.’ Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it The-Lord-is-Peace.

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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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…for God everything is possible

Over at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), we are preparing to welcome the International Centennial Pilgrim Image of our Lady of Fatima in September. As part of the preparation, we have begun a devotion – 33 Days to Morning Glory – which will culminate in a celebration on 15 September. Last Friday, Fr Erbin, our Spiritual Director, prayed the Rosary with us as we reflected on the life of St Maximilian Kolbe, one of the saints who is known for his devotion to our Mother.

As Fr Erbin led us through the joyful mysteries, he exhorted for us to surrender our lives to Mother Mary and encouraged us to lift up all our worries, fers and anxieties to her. Never had I experienced (nor heard) such a fervent call during the Rosary, I fell to my knees as he asked those of us in the congregation who were willing to give up their lives in service to kneel. It was truly an anointed moment as we fervently sang ‘Ave Maria Gratia Plena’ in one voice.

Brothers and sisters, it is not easy at all to surrender in humility to the Lord, especially when he calls us. That is why Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. Simply because our pride, whatever degree of it we harbour, prevents us from submitting fully to Him. Unlike Mary, our mother, who gave herself totally and unconditionally when the angel Gabriel visited her and proclaimed her vocation – that she would bear Jesus.

Unlike Gideon, who asked for a sign from the angel, Mary simply said ‘Yes’ and endured everything that was ordained; right up to the Passion and remaining at the foot of the Cross. Such devotion and trust in the Lord’s plan is unfathomable these days, for how many times have we wavered and faltered when called up on to serve the Lord, whether at work, at home or in ministry? How many times do we grumble and gripe when we are asked to attend meetings, practices or to a ‘problem’?

Do we give our ‘Yes’ to the Lord with certain conditions attached? Or do we gladly give Him an unconditional ‘Yes’, fully prepared to sacrifice all our pride, ego and self-importance?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the our of our death. Amen.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for calling us by name and choosing us to serve.

24 June, Saturday – Humility

Jun 24 – Solemnity of the Birthday of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.

John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.

Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 49:1-6

Islands, listen to me,

pay attention, remotest peoples.

The Lord called me before I was born,

from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

He made my mouth a sharp sword,

and hid me in the shadow of his hand.

He made me into a sharpened arrow,

and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)

in whom I shall be glorified’;

while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,

I have exhausted myself for nothing’;

and all the while my cause was with the Lord,

my reward with my God.

I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,

my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,

he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,

to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;

I will make you the light of the nations

so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

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Acts 13:22-26

Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’

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Luke 1:57-66, 80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

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“And his spirit matured.

It is easy to be blindsided by ourselves in this day and age, when so much is made of what we can do, how much effort we put in and what we deserve. It is true that as humans, we are the pinnacle of creation, we can learn like no other creature and look how far we’ve come with the intellect and will to outdo all those that were before us. I shudder to think how full of myself I would be if I had been given the task that John the Baptist had. I might have said, “Well, if I hadn’t brought so many to repentance, Jesus’ time wouldn’t have come”.

But the 2nd reading tells us that John’s career ending words were, “I am not fit to undo his sandals”. I am immediately reminded of the history of the ‘Down in Adoration’. Two great men were commissioned to write the hymn for Corpus Christi, but St John of the Cross (another John), upon hearing what St Thomas Aquinas wrote, tore his version up. He didn’t say, “Maybe we can keep it and recycle the hymns, like how we have a liturgical cycle, or so that a future Pope might prefer his version.” No, he just conceded that Thomas’ was better and that was that.

So maybe the church is telling us that we should name our boys John if we want humble kids, St John Paul the Great was incredibly humble too. Ok, I’m sure it is more than just a name. In reflecting on humility, how many times have we been humble in dealing with an equal? So even someone that society says is below us, like the pantry lady, the estate cleaners, bus drivers and the list goes on. It can be easier for some of us to give all the glory to God for all good things come from him, but I feel like there are many times I have failed to give credit to the other people in my life who have helped me to get where I am, because there is no way I made it here on my own.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: That others may be loved more than I ,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, that, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I set aside, that others may be praised and I unnoticed, that others may be preferred to me in everything, that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. (Part of the litany of humility)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the people who have helped me in my life. I take some time to pray for some people I have never prayed for before.

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.