Tag Archives: josephine dionisappu

7 November, Tuesday – We Are One With The Lowly

7 November 2017

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Romans 12:5-16

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

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

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

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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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…make people come in that my home may be filled

As Catholics, we are One in Christ, through His body. How wonderful is that really – that He has made me, the lowly, One with Him.

A year ago, I had started spending more time at my hometown. It is a suburban town and people seem rather different to what I had become accustomed to in the city. Initially, I found it hard to accept their social mannerisms. Thankfully, this label unpeeled itself to reveal to me the sincerity and simplicity of these people. Truth be told, they have the values of Christ just as my community in the city parish.

It was a battle for me to see beyond my human eyes and mind. And just like that, I feel the ‘lowly’ are people we continue to dismiss because they do not live up to our expectations. Expecting others to meet our expectations is not sincere love; rather, it is self-seeking and bluntly put, pathetic. None of us want to be pathetic but that is what we are when we are insincere.

Recently, one of my friends was defending insincerity; she said that “they were just being clever”. That statement made me a little anxious and I continued to pray about it. A few days ago, that same friend mentioned that she had to entertain colleagues who were insincere and she was rather anxious of having to do that alone. It is possible that since our initial conversation, she sees sincerity as being crucial.

In today’s reading we are told to love another and not to grow wary in our zeal, to rejoice in hope and to pray unceasingly. When things are going downhill, it is not hard to remain sincere and loving, if we continue to do as the readings suggest. Our flesh is not too weak that God cannot strengthen it.

Rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping – simply put, we need to celebrate the success of others, because it can eliminate any traces of envy and we should comfort those who are suffering. One of the best things of being human is that we can ‘feel for each other.’ Even animals are good at that. When one of our dogs Caro, died, I cried together with my other dog who though not human, was a sincere friend to me and to Caro.

Are we not better than dogs? Surely that is up to us, in how we see our sisters and brothers, the way we embrace being One, even with the lowly ones and striving towards our faithfulness to attend mass every Sunday. Our essence of oneness is encapsulated in the body of Christ and we should constantly partake in these gifts of love and sincerity.

If we do all this and continue to be one with the lowly, you and I will be like a weaned child who has survived our infancy, ready to consume the solids (which is our lives on earth) in anticipation of arriving at our eternal home. Brothers and sisters, I cannot think of greater joy than that.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for missing our Sunday masses and that of the days set aside for worship. We had failed to accept your invitation to your banquet and though we are not worthy, we plead you to purify us and make us love like You did, so that we can become One with you and all those whom you have invited.

Thanksgiving: O Author of Love and Friend of the Lovely, thank you for calling us to your banquet.

6 November, Monday – Irrecoverable Investment

6 November 2017

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Romans 11:29-36

God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything?

All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

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Luke 14:12-14

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

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…blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous

Under my media relations portfolio at work, I get to advise which stories are newsworthy. The best stories get into all channels and, in deciding the newsworthiness of a story pertaining to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), one of the barometers is the amount raised through a particular initiative.

For one of the initiatives, I was convinced that a campaign was not big enough for the newsmakers. The person who ran this campaign is an ardent supporter of a particular home, and to my knowledge, she was fully committed towards helping this group of poor people; yet, her story was ‘small’. However, I trust that this colleague will receive her reward at the time of resurrection. It was a classic example of the unsung heroes who are faithful disciples and today’s gospel reassures of the greatest returns – righteousness. It is far better than any form of popularity or news coverage.

About a year ago, there was a trend in KL among youths to support a street-feeding initiative carried by well known soup kitchen. I had done it a few times myself with the youths in our parish, in preparation for World Youth Day. I always wondered about the commitment and intentions of people who participated in these efforts as I suspected that it seen more as a cool place to be noticed. And though we will never know the intentions of others, it was certainly not right of me to judge them.

My parents are also actively involved in our parish soup kitchen, which I am unfortunately not able join as it takes place during working hours. Sometimes, they are so busy and occupied, it took me a while to fully accept how necessary their ministry was in their role to feed the hungry.

A few weeks ago, I remembered an ex classmate, Amuthavalli. I got to find out then that she drank black coffee for lunch because they could not afford a meal. I spent sometime that year asking her (and another poor classmate Kunasuntari) about it because even as a child, I could not believe the extent of their poverty. Honestly in this day and age, it is more than just sad to see hunger among our own community as it should not be allowed.

We all know of an Amuthavalli, no matter how luxurious our lives are. She is the homeless person we choose to see, the migrant workers we encounter and the families who are struggling to make ends meet. Surely there is something we can do in addition to praying for the hungry. We can donate money, volunteer at a soup kitchen, run campaigns and spend our precious time with them. Let us ask for the grace and wisdom to know where and how Jesus is calling us to feed His own.

Personally I have never made a commitment towards feeding the poor. But when I see food leftovers and, if the host allows it, I bring home a few packs with me to distribute to the guards at my condo or the cleaners at my office. One day, I saw an elderly man rummaging through the trash can at my neighbours, and though it broke my heart, I was hesitant to approach him. So I did the only thing that I know which always works, I prayed and drove next to him so that I could pass him some money. Recently, I have been been prompted to bring a meal to the construction workers near my office. I ask that you pray for my willingness to do so very soon, and also to be committed towards the eradication of hunger and poverty.

Let us also remember to serve those who are poor in spirit – Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: We pray for all those unsung heroes among us who work in service of the poor. Help us Lord to act immediately to serve those who are poor, materially and spiritual. Lord, please feed the hungry through each of us.

Thanksgiving: Father in Heaven, thank you for generous acts as there are no acts of mercy which are too small in your eyes.

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.

5 September, Tuesday – See Good Things in the Land of the Living

5 Sept – St Teresa of Kolkata

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910 – 1997)

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on 26 August 1910 at Skopje in Macedonia. She left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, where she received the name Sister Mary Teresa, after St Thérèse of Lisieux. In 1931 she was assigned to the order’s Calcutta house and taught at their school there. where she eventually became headmistress.

She received a new vocation to help the poor and destitute, and in 1948, obeying this call, she left the convent and took up a new life caring for them wherever they might be: lying sick in the street or even dying in dustbins. Some of her former pupils joined her, one by one, and the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was established in the Diocese of Calcutta in 1950, spreading across India and eventually onto every continent, even behind the Iron Curtain. Many related orders followed, involving men and women, clergy and laity, and both the active and the contemplative life. Mother Teresa died on 5 September 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 19 October 2003 and canonized by Pope Francis on 4 September 2016.

Mother Teresa’s widespread appeal comes from the directness of her inspiration, and her direct response to it. She went out and did things where they were needed. When we think of big problems we inevitably think that they can only be solved by a big campaign. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not; but while the campaign is getting going, why not go out and help one person in the name of Mother Teresa? If there are 1,000 hungry people in your city, why not make it 999? If each of us did that – well, in most countries where this is being read, there are more Catholics than there are people in need.

As Monsignor Ronald Knox has said:
“I am not advocating world-movements or public meetings… my appeal is rather to the individual conscience than to the public ear; my hope is rather to see the emergence of a Saint, than that of an organization…

“There is no harm in besieging heaven for the canonization of such and such holy persons now dead. But should we not do well to vary these petitions of ours by asking for more Saints to canonize?”

(From Universalis)

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober. God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, alive or dead, we should still live united to him. So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

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Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the devil, throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all. Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching! He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’ And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

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Dwell in the house of the Lord ….
In the past, I frequently found myself indulging in the self-talk that I will have a breakthrough in my life; that all my problems will be no more once I have reached my Father’s house, our eternal home. I thought that I had to endure life and all the pains it brings upon me, while I am still alive. But in today’s Psalms, we are reassured that we will see the great work of the Lord in the land of the living. It certainly takes a lot more faith to expect great things to happen in our lives while we are here on earth as mortal beings, living a life we already know. Today, we need to learn to confront and diminish anything that keeps us from claiming this promise that we will be blessed in the here and now.
Today’s readings remind us that we need to be alert and sober, stout-hearted even while others we know might be asleep and aloof. Clearly, we are called not to just set a standard; we are also called to lead and encourage others to live a life that prepares us to meet our Maker. We are called to bring others along, to follow the good deeds, to adhere to the call of His kingdom.
It is in those moments when we are tempted to do it on our own, when we really need to call our colleagues, friends and family members so as to share in His kingdom. He never meant for anyone one of us to perish and we are His instruments wherever we are planted, without any exceptions whatsoever.
In my dealings in church ministry, I have felt countless times the Lord urging me to reach out to others; to be patient with them, to believe in them. In some cases, He has even prompted me to slow down with certain brothers and sisters, knowing full well that everyone is at a different stage in their faith journey. It should never be about achieving targets and completing tasks for we Catholics are formed amidst people. While we realise and wholly accept this, let us not refrain from the temptation of judging others, dismissing others and even making assumptions that we are more spiritually superior that the others.
We need to walk with each other, stopping, pausing, reflecting, coaxing and challenging each other as Christ did with a heart full of love and wisdom, choosing the right approach for each person and situation. In a recent homily, a priest exhorted that Jesus loves the greatest sinner the most, so who are we to not accept His most beloved on our quest for holiness for His kingdom? If, in the past, we have done this, let us make a new start today, knowing that our Father wills us to walk together with our brothers and sisters, and not as lone individals towards Him.
Today, let us think of all the times we have failed to encourage others in our midst. Let us also receive with a contrite heart, the encouragement of others when we have failed to live as we have been called to. No finger pointing, no favourites, no judgments. We are all His and He loves us all.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give the right dose of boldness and patience to lead people towards your Kingdom. We ask you to make a way for us to reach others.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for your great love that though we ‘sleep’ sometimes, you have sent your most precious Son to suffer and die for us sinners so that we may be yours forever.

4 September, Monday – Bringing Good Tidings to the Poor

4 September

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

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Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town

Jesus walked upon this earth and came to live like you and me. Yet there were some quarters who never believed in Him. Over 2000 years later, there are still people who do not believe in Him.

I can imagine like me, you believe that He is the Son of God and He is the Almighty. This is really great and so what are we to do, we have found God and we have identified that it is Him we long for in our hearts. Today’s gospel is a reminder of our call to be active Christians, to reach out to the downtrodden and marginalised, and to be a witness where we are today in our lives.

How faithful are we towards this call? Are random acts of kindness and charity sufficient? I would think not, simply because our benchmark is always to do as Christ would have done. I sometimes cannot believe that He would want me to love that person who constantly ridicules my faith; that I should be merciful to the person in my ministry who never shows up on time nor does any work; the colleague who backstabs; the reckless driver on the road; the person who hurts my loved ones; the migrant workers I see daily at work and at my apartment. Let us reflect today on our choice of words and deeds in order to bring sight to the blind and to make the captives free.

While we focus on all the good deeds so as to be more like Him, let us not lose sight of Him. Let us not act like someone who is in love, but who has completely lost sight of the lover. It becomes easier to give Him his rightful place if we continue to be faithful in our primary relationships as children, spouses, parents, employees, employers, students and teachers, parishioners, leaders and citizens. It is when we have been faithful to our loved ones and when we have performed our responsibilities do we realise that, none of this satisfies but Jesus alone. That way, we can go on to worship Him wholeheartedly, knowing that our relationships and our loved ones, our wealth, our status, our popularity and our beauty can never complete us. It is Jesus that we have desired all along and we belong, first and foremost, to Him. If we have move away today from our family and responsibilities or our Lord, let us come right back to it immediately.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, you are the ruler of the world and the prince of our hearts. We ask you to bless us and bless our nation, Malaysia which celebrated its Independence Day recently.

Thanksgiving: He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy. He is our Lord, yesterday, today and forever.

4 July, Tuesday – Who is that man?

4 July – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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… but he was asleep

Don Moen songs say that ‘He never sleeps’, which is quite contrary to today’s gospel. But he was asleep when the boat was swamped by the waves. Today are we disappointed with God? Do we think that He can do much more for us?

One of the great things about love and friendship is to trust that the other person will come through for you. In several occasions I have trusted my friends, like how we used to hang out late into the night, I know that they would do anything to protect me if danger stricks. Even with my colleagues, I know that I can come to work without my wallet and not go hungry, because I know that they would not want to see me hungry and they to trust that I would pay them back the next day. Relationships are based on trust.

Our experience in life may have made it difficult for us to trust others. I once knew 2 loving sisters who would do anything for their friends but they found it hard to trust others and not choosing to trust brought a lot of stress to their relationships.

If today, we have a problem with trust in general, it is quite likely that we are disconnected and not in touch with the essence of what it means to be human.

Jesus is not asleep but really, I wonder what He is doing right now? Is He thinking about me and smilling at me? Is He waiting for me at the Eucharist? Is He holding the hands of the people I have failed? I am only human, I could never guess. But as a Catholic, I know that He loves me and His is my lover and my loving Lord; He adores me and Has great plans for me. Do I need to know more? I trust Him enough to know that He will feed me more than my colleagues can, trust me more than my friends do, accepts me even when I am disappointed with myself and when that is not enough for my restless heart, I will run hastily towards His bosom and even when I cannot go to Him, He will never let me go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the people of America as they celebrate their independence day. May they (and we too) continue to trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Lord I run to you, all my hope and trust is in you. Jesu Ufam Tobie.

3 July, Monday – Believe yet not seen

3 July – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way.

He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.

His symbol is the builder’s square. There are several stories that explain it:

  • – he built a palace for King Guduphara in India
  • – he built the first church in India with his own hands
  • – it is representative of building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)
  • – he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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You believe because you can see me

It is interesting that we continue to have faith in the operators of theme parks, sellers of miracle skin care ranges and diet supplements, and even each other. But when it comes to believing God, we can sometimes be sceptical.

While writing this piece, I was trying to find out if the Apostle Thomas ever came to Malaysia, since he was in India. After spending some time researching I wondered why was it so important to me, that one of the apostles of Jesus walked on the same land as I do today. Would I have doubted Jesus’ resurrection like Thomas did?

We are all sinners and yet our perfect God continues to believe in us. We have failed, not kept to His word or ours and yet it is He who chooses to continue believing in us. Why would the Lord of all the earth, whose credibility is spotless and accountability unquestionable, be the object of our doubts? Sometimes it is because we simply lack faith; but sometimes, I think we feel that we are close enough to Jesus that we could ask Him as Thomas did. After journeying with Jesus, Thomas must have really loved Jesus and just as we would sometimes think of our departed loves, Thomas yearned to see His Lord again just once more. In his grief, he could have been disappointed that the others had seen Jesus, but not himself.

If I were in his shoes, I could imagine the pain he would have felt. That the Saviour appears to all his friends except him and the feelings that arose may not be of jealously and envy, but simply because of the deep yearning to see the One he loves. Look at his response, “My Lord and My God.” He did not question Him when they met face to face.

This could be a familiar feeling to some of us when a loved one who lives abroad comes home on a visit. One of my close friends lived abroad for 20 years. We kept in touch, writing letters, phone calls, emails, Skype sessions and sending each other cards for birthdays, Christmas and sometimes just for no occasion at all.  On most of her visits, we got to meet each other at the airport as she stayed at my place. On her more recent visits, it was challenging for us to meet. In her conversations, she would sometimes mention that she met one of our mutual friends and if on her trip home, we had yet to meet, I would yearn just to see her and be in her presence. In anticipation of our face to face meeting we both yearned just to see each other, which is not uncommon among good friends.

In Thomas’ case, he was not just friends with Jesus. He knew that Jesus Christ was his Lord. In that same sense, when we move away from Christ because of our lifestyles or because we stop praying and receiving Holy Communion, there is such a deep longing within us for Him that we feel lost and sometimes we even ache inside.

Today, let us continue to foster this friendship with our Father. Let us ask Him to come and show Himself to us. And when He does (because He surely will) let us embrace His words, His ways and His truth. Let us boldly place our hands in His wounds to address the suffering faced by others around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Heal our unbelief in You. Lead us to a friendship and total sonship with You that in every situation we would believe, though we have not seen. St Thomas, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: O My Lord and My God, we long for You. Our souls are restless until they rest in You.

2 July, Sunday – Love Unveiling

2 July 2017

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2 Kings 4:8-11, 13-16

One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way. She said to her husband, ‘Look, I am sure the man wno is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.’ One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call our Shunammitess. Tell her this: “Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?”’ But she replied, ‘I live with my own people about me.’ ‘What can be done for her then?’ he asked. Gehazi answered, ‘Well, she has no son and her husband is old.’ Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ The servant called her and she stood at the door. This time next year,’ he said ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’

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Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

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Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

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Can something be done for her

In today’s reading, we hear of the woman without a child. In the times of Elisha and even in modern day Malaysia, women are expected to be life-giving by having their own offsprings. Society is rather unforgiving of this and some may utter hurtful words to ladies who do not have children.

God’s favour comes upon the lady in today’s gospel in the form of a son. But that need not be the only way God chooses to bless us – through children. Are we rooted enough to see all His works in our life? Are we able to look beyond the murmuring of people and trust in our Lord?

In the gospel, He clearly says that we are not worthy of Him if we love our children or parents more. This is a tough one for me as I simply adore my parents. Yet I know that God is my primary Father and He is my all in all. In matters of giving him a first class place in my heart, I have to rely on Him; there is no other way.

Recently, there was a brutal murder of a young man in Malaysia. He was 19 and was tortured for hours by his peers. There had been other such cases recently — young people being bullied to death by people they knew. As the investigations unfolded, it was revealed that these children had been bullied before by the same assilants and even other adults knew about it. Why did the other adults not speak up? This could have saved lives. Sadly, many people I spoke with on this admitted that they would not do anything if they saw a child being bullied, simply because the child was not their own.

Children are a gift from God. As adults, we have a duty of care towards any child, even strangers. If people loved God more than they loved their own children, they would have done or said something. Because they would have seen God in the child that was being bullied. The Beautitudes state – “blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth.”

My dear sisters and brothers, let us learn to talk when it matters and when it really counts, knowing that, that will not make us empty vessels but rather ones that love God more than we love anyone else. This world desperately needs to see the love of Christ through our words and deeds.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the victims and assailants in the recent bullying cases, also those who have chosen not to act. Be our voice and protector of all danger. St Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us a longing so deep so that we cannot ignore you, the Love or all Loves, you who are Love.

2 May, Tuesday – Jezu Ufam Tobie – Jesus I trust in You

May 2 – Memorial for St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor

Athanasius (c. 295) studied the classics and theology in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a deacon, secretary, and student of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 325, where he fought for the defeat of Arianism and the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus. He formulated the doctrine of homo-ousianism, which says that Christ is the same substance as the Father; Arianism taught that Christ was different and a creation of the Father, a creature and not part of God.

He became Bishop of Alexandria c. 328; he served for 46 years. When the dispute over Arianism spilled over from theology to politics, Athanasius got exiled five times, spending more than a third of his episcopate in exile.

He was the biographer of St. Anthony the Abbot. Confessor of the faith and Doctor of the Church, he fought for the acceptance of the Nicene Creed.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 7:51-8:1

Stephen said to the people, the elders and the scribes: ‘You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. You who had the Law brought to you by angels are the very ones who have not kept it.’

They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.

But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing.

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John 6:30-35

The people said to Jesus, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’

Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven,
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven,
the true bread;
for the bread of God
is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.’

‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:

‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry;
he who believes in me will never thirst.’

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I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Sometimes, we try to intellectualise things overly, by totally ignoring the voices in our heart. We think that it is not humanly possible to withstand hunger and thirst or, taking it further, to think that it is impossible to always trust in God. If you are in that place in your lives or you see that you are approaching it, run back to God. I say run because it has to be immediate and prompt so that any unbelief that you have does not grow. It is our little act of running to Him that can snap out any roots of unbelief.

In today’s reading we read of Saul who consented to the death of St Stephen. Can we trust God that He restores the situations of death which we have consented to?

Trust has become a rare virtue and could be difficult to some of us. But the Lord promises us in today’s gospel that those who believe in Him will never thirst. It is possible that some of us can relate to the time in our lives when we never stopping believing in God, and how that gave us peace and joy despite our hardship. Could we revisit that place of belief and trust in our hearts?

In my life, I am blessed to have been in that place of trusting God, despite my personal suffering. But I could not have done it without reading the scriptures, attending mass and praying fervently. I am not implying that trusting God takes a lot of effort. But rather I have experienced that if I wanted to continue to ensure that I never distrust Him and doubt Him, I have to seek Him fervently in prayers, and have others carry my prayers to the Lord. I know that even to trust Him is a blessing from Him.

When I do not trust Him, I am in shambles, I am lost, broken and troubled. I feel like my life wire has been unplugged. To go on in peace and in joy, I have to ensure that I am connected to Him. Maybe some of you can relate to this? Maybe you cannot. But either way, you and I need to trust in the Lord all the time.

He is not a magician nor a medium but He is the all in all, our everything. Without Him, there is no you and me. Our hunger and thirst for Him can be fulfilled if we continue to walk with Him and at times, race to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Jesus, my precious Lord, I trust in you. Help me while I run, I walk and I crawl to you, also when I turn my back on you. Free me from living a life without You.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I thank you for the bread from heaven. I thank you for teaching me each time that you are worthy of trust.

1 May, Monday – Beautiful are those who follow His law

May 1 – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Joseph (d. 1st century) was a descendant of the House of David. He was a layman, a builder by trade; traditionally a carpenter, but may have been a stone worker. He was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels. He was noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God had told him to do. He died of natural causes, prior to the Passion of Christ.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 6:8-15

Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said.

So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’

The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.

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John 6:22-29

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’

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“Rabbi! When did you get here?

Today’s reading illustrates the splendour of a man filled with the Holy Spirit. I am always in awe when I read about these fervent saints; and that includes St Stephen. And after praying various novenas seeking their intercession, I sometimes feel a little inclined to want to be like these saints. Though very quickly, I feel like running in the other direction to avoid ‘having to live the life of a saint.’ This is, in some sense, like the apostles who seek Jesus but only for their own gain. Why do we seek Jesus today?

Can we seek Him so that we become like Him? Are we ready to be like Him only during the resurrection? Have we forgotten that there is no resurrection without the crucifixion?

The Lord knows that we pick and choose, that sometimes we are half-hearted. Are we ready to turn our hearts to Him, just as it is right now? There are things that He is ready to do for us that only He can do.

How beautiful are the ones who obey his laws and yearn for His will. Brothers and sisters, let us be such as these today.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, heal my heart and ways that are self-seeking. Bless me with the grace to receive your body and blood every Sunday. Ignite me with your love and teach me your ways.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I believe in the one who was sent for me.