Tag Archives: humility

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

6 November

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Philippians 2:5-11

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

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

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Luke 14:15-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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

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

31 October, Wednesday – Stepping On Each Others’ Toes

31 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

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

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

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Luke 13:22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness.

22 October, Monday – True Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

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Luke 12:13-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

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

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

5 October, Friday – Turning Away From Sin

5 October

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

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

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

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

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Luke 10:13-16

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

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

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Alas for you, Chorazin

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

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

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of forgiveness.

1 October, Monday – Humility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 1:6-22

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

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

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

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

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

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Luke 9:46-50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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

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

17 September, Monday – Faith Like No Other

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

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

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

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26.33

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

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

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Luke 7:1-10

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

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I am not worthy to have you under my roof 

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

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

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

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

13 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

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

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

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Philippians 2:6-11

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

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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

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

5 September, Wednesday – Spiritual Worth

5 September

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1 Corinthians 3:1-9

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

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

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Luke 4:38-44

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

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

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

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Each will duly be paid

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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

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

1 September, Saturday – Called to Greatness

1 September

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

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

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Matthew 25:14-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

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

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

31 August, Friday – God’s foolishness and weakness

31 August

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1 Corinthians 1:17-25

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

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Matthew 25:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Lorraine Wong)

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

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