Tag Archives: josephine dionisappu

30 March, Saturday – Humility as a Leadership Characteristic

30 March 2019

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Hosea 5:15-6:6

The Lord says this:

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

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

 

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Luke 18:9-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

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

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

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

29 March, Friday – The Straight Road

29 March 2019

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Hosea 14:2-10

The Lord says this:

Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.

Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.

 

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walks       

Which one of us would dare to consider ourselves just, especially when we are aware of our shortcomings? It is therefore a good time to ponder, “Who will be walking in this straight path?”

In my walk with the Lord, there is a constant need for assurance that I am on the right path. So I constantly ask Him, “…is that what you want of me? Is this for me? Is there where you would have me?”

Recently, I found out about a singles event organised by one of the minority groups in Malaysia. Though at the outset I qualified to attend, I was a bit uneasy that it was open to people of all faiths and those who were divorced. No, I was not casting a stone at anyone. Yet I was uncomfortable with the thought of mingling with men who had wives somewhere. This did not sit right in my heart. Secondly, I was not fully opened to mingling with men who were not Catholics. Again, I have nothing personal against people of other beliefs, but this was my attempt to walk in the path my Lord has chosen for me.

One day before the event, I received a reminder to sign up and that was the morning I woke up anxious about God’s intervention in this area of my life. So as I consulted Him, it was clear to me that He had greater plans for me.

Sometimes, things are never that clear but the Lord who made and owns our hearts knows what we need the most in any given situation. He knows that this heart of ours needs to love Him with all that we’ve got, no holds barred. He knows that loving His people will bring us a love and joy so unique, if we only allow ourselves to try a little harder.

No doubt, some people may seem challenging, impossible even. But I am very sure we will feel very different about them after attending Good Friday mass. Because on that day, He shows us what it is like to love and how to love – to lay down our lives, our pride, our agendas so that others may receive.

Today, let’s us pray for those who are yet to receive our love, and to follow through with another act of love towards Him by loving them with His love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, help us to love like you and walk in your path in all we do.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for making my heart in the image of thine heart, I allow you to mould me to love you and my neighbour.

28 March, Thursday -Excuses or Excused

28 March 2019

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Jeremiah 7:23-28

These were my orders: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper. But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me. From the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, day after day I have persistently sent you all my servants the prophets.

But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors. You may say all these words to them: they will not listen to you; you may call them: they will not answer. So tell them this, “Here is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.”

 

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Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed. But some of them said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.’

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Those who do not gather, scatters   

At this point in my life, I feel like I am not gathering anyone and bringing them to the Lord.

I must say that I am sometimes torn between my two realities as a result of my choices. I have a full time job, which takes a minimum of 50 hours in a week. I am also pursuing a master’s degree on a part-time basis, which takes about the equal number of hours in a week.

My one world reality assures me that this is my investment time.

After I complete my studies, I will return to teaching at Sunday school and make teaching my full time vocation, so children can enjoy their education, which they spend a large part of their lives doing.

My second reality is that I am in a sense not bearing fruit, right now. So when I hear verses of ‘service’, ‘bearing fruit’, I feel like I am left behind. And for this, I ask the Lord regularly that he directs my thoughts and path. Because sometimes I see moments of His joy in me which I can share to classmates, colleagues, other students and others I meet. Sometimes, I feel the hand of the Spirit upon me, reminding me when I am dealing with others, as I hear a voice asking, “How am I am witness in this situation?” Yet at times, I feel a sense of our Lord’s confidence urging me to speak up, act and feel confident, yet keeping His love at the centre.

These are the moments that I know it is not my efforts, but His that truly urges me to His will.

Brothers and sisters, if you are in active ministry, that’s really great. I urge you to ‘gather’ the members when the urge might be stronger to stay divided and be drowned out by the tasks.

If you are not serving in ministry, I urge that you take an honest look at yourself, so that you can see it through the eyes of Christ. Other duties may be empowering, like parenting, care giving, studying, etc. Just remember to bring God where you are at right now, because without Him, we cannot do anything.

God bless you as you continue to gather, not scatter.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, lead us in your light.

Thanksgiving: Yes I thank you Lord for reminding that I am fully and completely yours.

4 December, Tuesday – Blessed to see

4 December – Memorial for St. John Damascene, priest, doctor of the Church

John was born in Damascus about 675. After holding public office for a time, he withdrew to the monastery of Sabas near Jerusalem. He wrote The Fount of Wisdom, in which he presented a comprehensive teaching on Christian doctrine, which had great influence on later theology. He died about 750.

– the Weekday Missal

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Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.

Integrity is the loincloth round his waist,
faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse
shall stand as a signal to the peoples.
It will be sought out by the nations
and its home will be glorious.

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Luke 10:21-24

Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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No one knows the Father except the Son and… who the Son chooses

In the course of life, we may not have always been chosen to belong to certain groups, although we may have had a strong desire to have wanted to belong. For instance, we did not win the race, were looked over for a promotion or salary increment, went unnoticed by someone we fancied, we did not make the dean’s list and not even the guest list of the wedding of someone we hold dear. Rejection really hurts, and not getting something we truly desire is a hard pill to swallow. Though it gets better with time, it’s acceptable for us to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge our feelings.

In a recent conversation with my nine year old godson, he had asked me not to join a party which includes his Sunday school friends and their parents. I was invited by his dad, who is my brother. And anyone who regularly interacts with children that age will know, that it is more important for us to dialogue on his selection (and omission) of guests rather than to go into a meltdown. I do get the feeling that if everyone was taught well, they would not be such ‘pickers and choosers’ and to be oblivious of the hurt they cause people who they wish to exclude. To me, this situation presented an opportunity for me to explain to my godson that excluding someone could be hurtful to that person, and it may not be what God would have wanted. Would we bother explaining this with love to someone under our care? If not, what is stopping us? How can we say that we have seen Him when we do not reflect His ways?

Look at what God offers us today as stated in the gospel – that His Son will choose people who ‘sees’ the Father. Clearly, as baptised Catholics, we hold this great privilege to be able to know and be known, love and to be loved by our Father God. But sometimes, we lose sight of the Father and the Son because we are too preoccupied on being chosen by mere men in materialistic matters. Unfortunately, we become that shallow because we simply fail to see the Father who has been made known to us. And for this, we seek His face and grace, so that we continue to strive to see Him, to recognise Him and honour Him with our lives and in the way we treat one another.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to see you through the sun and the storm. Thank you for being our constant and our stronghold. Help us to shade off superficial approval and acceptance and to remain fulfilled in you alone.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I am loved and chosen by you. You are all that I adore.

3 December, Monday – Let’s go to God’s House

3 December – Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Presbyter, Religious, Missionary (Principal Patron of Foreign Missions)

Francis (1506-1552) was a nobleman from the Basque region. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He was one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.

In Goa, India, while waiting to take the ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He was said to have converted the entire city.

He scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”

He was a tremendously successful missionary for the ten years he was in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, teaching catechism to Indian children, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold. Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He traveled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, and was a miracle worker. He raised people from the dead, calmed storms. He was a prophet and a healer.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 2:1-5

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come
the mountain of the Temple of the Lord
shall tower above the mountains
and be lifted higher than the hills.
All the nations will stream to it,
peoples without number will come to it; and they will say:

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the Temple of the God of Jacob
that he may teach us his ways
so that we may walk in his paths;
since the Law will go out from Zion,
and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.’

He will wield authority over the nations
and adjudicate between many peoples;
these will hammer their swords into ploughshares,
their spears into sickles.
Nation will not lift sword against nation,
there will be no more training for war.

O House of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.

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Matthew 8:5-11

When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will 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 this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.’

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Only say the word 

“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Imagine this Psalm, that the word of our Lord is sweeter than honey and in today’s gospel we are reminded that His words healed and blessed the centurion who believed that.

We hold onto the words of so many people but we lose sight, hearing and do not taste the words of our Lord. This is really sad. It is as if we have a beloved whose words bring nothing but good for us, yet we either ignore or disbelieve them.

In a recent sermon, Fr Xavier reminded us that God is with us always and He loves us so much, but we decide to ignore His presence. It makes no sense that we do it, but I am also guilty as charged.

But just realising that God’s word is powerful and sweet is not enough. This is much like us being convinced that a certain diet will help us attain our ideal weight, yet simply resting in that knowledge without taking the necessary action.

The questions remain, what should we do? Here are some suggestions so that we can stay attuned and be blessed by His words.

  1. Read the bible daily

This is a habit that I have been practising for the past 20 years and sometimes I wonder if it really bears fruit. Surely it does. Reading the word of God in the morning helps to allow God to direct our days. I have read of many busy people, especially young mums who confess that the first few minutes of their day spent in prayer sustains them over the long and tiring day. If you cannot read the bible in the morning, I am sure God words can still speak to you at any other time of the day, just open the bible and read daily!

  1. Reflect on the word

Allow His word to take root in your heart. For me, I write short, daily reflections that help me to relate to the word best, by spending 5 minutes in silence with the Lord and allowing Him to speak to my heart and soul. This is much like eating a nutritious meal, but way better.

  1. Allow the word to come alive in your life

Our days can be busy and overwhelming, but I have to admit that in the past few years, I have never forgotten my meals. Just like how that came with practice, on some days I recall certain verses to be the light in my words and actions. If I did it all the time, imagine the results. This can also allow us to be a testimony of Christ to others. After all, no one is interested in our preaching but they will see our actions and hear our words.

Though these are 3 simple steps, I often fail to keep up and in those moments, I know that it is God who sustains me and leads me back. After all it was never about me, it is Him all along. It is He who makes all things beautiful and sweet and makes us the best version of ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to read, reflect and live your word. When we go astray, lead us back to you O Lord. We yearn to be healed and caressed by your word, give us this grace O Lord. St Francis Xavier, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: Only say a word O Lord, and my servant and my soul shall be healed. Spill your wisdom on me so that I may live to taste your words as it was as sweet honey.

2 December, Sunday – To You O Lord I lift up my soul

2 December 2018

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:
‘In those days and at that time,

I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

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1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

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Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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Beware that your heart does not get drowsy 

If you and I lift our souls to the Lord and allow Him to direct our paths (Psalm 25:4-5) our hearts will never get drowsy and we will never be consumed by the cares of our life. Most of us intend to be warriors of Christ but, despite our best intentions, we sometimes fall and become worriers. This happened to me recently, as I kept getting drunk by the words and actions of others who are close to me. It is as if I walk through the sea of life and every wave that I had expected would lift me up hurled me to the corners of a dry beach where I lay parched and defeated. It is by grace that I fully realised that I needed to hold on to God and not others, not because others were not important, but rather it is only God’s approval that is truly needed.

Somehow, I have been unknowingly seeking the approval and acceptance of others. Since, just like me, my friends and family are also striving to be better versions of themselves, their expectations and words and actions are not always life giving. And though it is human to get hurt, today’s gospel reminds us that we are not to allow our hearts to be drowsy and that our antidote is to pray and be vigilant always, without any exceptions.

Life can hurl you around in unexpected ways, but if we know how to trust the Lord with all that He has, we will not grow weary nor be defeated.

I hope to pray the following from Psalm 25 to strengthen myself for the days ahead

“Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.

Dear sisters and brothers, as we enter this season of waiting, may we prepare our hearts to be blameless before the Lord by going for confessions and also making an extra effort to attend mass more frequently. It is the Lord, who heals and restores our spirit, soul and body, no one can do it for us. Let us allow Him to be God of our lives and master of our hearts and the pilot of our journey.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us as we begin another liturgical year that we continue to strive to be children that would make you a proud parent. May we never lose sight of our hope and trust in you. Mary, help me to never lose sight of my God and His gentle guidance.

Thanksgiving: To you O Lord we lift up our souls. Direct our paths and instruct our ways, our ever loving God.

2 November, Friday – From the Foundation of the World

2 November – All Souls Day

Today we celebrate a feast in commemoration of the faithful departed in purgatory, that is, the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. After Abbot Odilo of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his congregation in 998, other religious orders took up the observance, and it was adopted by various dioceses and gradually by the whole Church. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father, one for the priest’s.

– Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 3:1-9

The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

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Romans 5:5-11

Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger? When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.

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Mark 15:33-39,16:1-6

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying; ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’

When the sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.

They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ But when they looked they could see that the stone – which was very big – had already been rolled back. On entering the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right-hand side, and they were struck with amazement. But he said to them, ‘There is no need for alarm. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him.’

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The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want

Most of us city dwellers have never seen a sheep nor a shepherd. I have seen a few while I was growing up in the suburbs and sometimes, in the fields near the campus I work at. There are still cow herds and shepherds in Malaysia. For most of the people I know, the term shepherd is made in reference to Jesus predominantly. 2000 years later as Catholics, we are used to referring to Jesus, our bishops and priests as our shepherds.

In a self-seeking  and driven world it can be quite a challenge to accept bible verses such as “the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” and “His grace is sufficient for me”. It takes a lot of dependence, trust and surrender – things that the world will sum up as weaknesses. Logically, can this be true? That all we need is our shepherd and His grace? We all know that He is our mighty teacher and one who never lies to us nor deceives us, and that alone is a clear indication that He is all we need.

Personally, I recite Psalm 23 when I am walking down a secluded alley in the dark, alone. On one particular night in 2008, when I was in Venice, I went out on my own to watch a jazz performance. After wandering about, I realised that I had alighted at the wrong water taxi stop. Feeling rather adventurous, I thought I could walk through the canals and reach my hostel that night. However, after walking alone for some time and with no one in sight, I started whispering to myself, “When I walk through the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear.” It is a very powerful prayer and I have prayed this many times, especially while travelling alone.

However, I realise that trying to fully embrace ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want’ takes me out of my own human nature. I constantly have many wants — I want to travel, I want to cook all the cute dishes, I want to spend more time with my loved ones, I want to be able to pay all my bills seamlessly and I want to have beautiful babies. So wanting to submit to my Lord, though He is worthy, can be somewhat of a tall order. I love to be in control of the situation and its outcomes. Lately however, I realised how my controlling nature is detrimental to submitting to God and trusting Him totally. At that point, I also had a strong desire to want to honour my parents, especially my father, without seeing the connection. By the grace of God, I came to know that I had to let my father lead me, love me and nurture me in his own terms and that required trust and maturity on my part. The more I began to release the ‘controlling ways’ in our relationship, the more I began to see what a wonderful man (and father) he really is. Therefore, submitting to him is truly worthy and warranted of me. I find myself reflecting on how I can truly depend on him and trust him and love him. I acknowledge that honouring my father has helped so much in this process; after all, we are still talking of the Father’s Love. As a woman, I foresee this trait will be crucial in my relationship with my future spouse as well.

Today, if you are a single woman, are you submitting to your father? And, as a married woman, are there areas in your life that may be holding you back from submitting to your husband? Men, are you honouring your wife the way Christ honours sinners like us, in order for us to be one with Him? As single men, are you honouring your mothers who love you more than she loves herself? As children of God, are we prepared to honour the One true God as our shepherd, allowing Him to father us, mould us and lead us and to live as if He is all we will ever need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Daddy God, you are worthy of local trust and submission. Help us Lord to be faithful to you and to trust you in every season of our lives. Forgive us for the times we have failed to let you be God. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and for the hope that you have given us through the Holy Spirit. We thank you, dear God, for keeping all our loved ones who have gone before us safe in your loving embrace.

24 Jul, Tuesday – Brother And Sister

Jul 24 – Memorial for St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest

St. Charbel was a Lebanese monk, born in a small mountain village and ordained in 1858. Devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he spent the last twenty three years of his life as a hermit. Despite temptations to wealth and comfort, St. Charbel taught the value of poverty, self-sacrifice and prayer by the way he lived his life.

http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/082002.shtml

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Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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John 20:1-2,11-18

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Are you and I living the will of the Father? To answer that question, we must first understand what is the will of the Father in our lives? I tend to think that His will in my life is personalised, He does not have the same will for your life. So how do we go about finding this perfect will, these plans that will make us prosper? Here are some suggestions:

Walk with Him daily

How do wives know what their husbands prefer to eat daily? For example, do they prefer taste over healthier options? If they are in tune with each other, surely this cannot be hard to know. Also you can simply ask and clarify, even get feedback. The same principle can be applied if we spend time with God; quiet time in prayers and reading the Gospel daily gets us in tune with God. We need to be in tune and the way to do it is to plug in to the right networks, through prayers and the intercession of Saints.

Be open to the prompting of the Spirit

God had promised us an advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere symbol, but is God Himself. As baptised Catholics, we receive the Holy Spirit during baptism. We are the bearer of this sweet spirit, who guides us and protects us. The Holy Spirit though within us, will not act if we do not cooperate. Let us be open, just as we are when we meet a new love interest. We give it time and we let ‘things’ bloom and unfold without having too many preconceived notions.

Spiritual Direction

Everyone should have a spiritual director, someone who journeys with them in their walk of faith. I used to have one some two years ago. It is a misconception that we have it all figured out? Is that even possible, regardless of our age and life experience?

In my walk with my spiritual director, a Jesuit priest, I had someone to confide in and share and learn from. It was a safe space to confide in and to grow and explore my thoughts and hopes, even express my fears. It was also a chance for me to bounce my ideas, to ensure that I was truly listening to the voice of God and not being led by other voices.

Stay close to Mama

The intercession of our Mother Mary has never failed me. She has been holding me close enough so that I will never lose my God. Some 20 years ago, when I felt my world tumbling down, I started praying the rosary daily, and it was She who kept me faithful to my Lord. She will do the same for anyone of Her children.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, please make us your children by showing us your will. Mama, pray for us, and help us your children to never lose our God.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for calling us your brother and your sister, your child and your lover.

23 Jul, Monday – Is This A Sign?

Jul 23 – Memorial for St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious

Coming from a noble yet religious background, St. Bridget (1302-1373) was friend and counsellor to many priests and theologians of her day. As chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur, she counselled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. She was harassed by others at the court for pursuing a religious life.

She eventually renounced her title of princess and became the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines), chastening and counselling kings and Popes Clement VI, Urban VI, and Gregory XI. St. Bridget encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

– Patron Saint Index

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Micah 6:1-4,6-8

Listen to what the Lord is saying:

Stand up and let the case begin in the hearing of the mountains
and let the hills hear what you say.
Listen, you mountains, to the Lord’s accusation,
give ear, you foundations of the earth,
for the Lord is accusing his people,
pleading against Israel:
My people, what have I done to you,
how have I been a burden to you? Answer me.
I brought you out of the land of Egypt,
I rescued you from the house of slavery;
I sent Moses to lead you,
with Aaron and Miriam.

– ‘With what gift shall I come into the Lord’s presence
and bow down before God on high?
Shall I come with holocausts,
with calves one year old?
Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand,
with libations of oil in torrents?
Must I give my first-born for what I have done wrong,
the fruit of my body for my own sin?’

– What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what the Lord asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.

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Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’

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The Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth

It was a religious nun who pointed out to me that the question “Is this is a sign?”, is superstitious in itself. It was during a time in my life that I demanded signs, to affirm my choices and direct my paths. Looking back, I realise that it was so shallow of me to leave important decisions to these so-called signs instead of through proper discernment and guidance.

People continue to live their lives relying on signs; perhaps because they are not open to listening to the voice of God. Though sometimes demanding, the voice of God and the ways of the Lord, are always the right way.

God sent His only Son to earth, to suffer and die for our salvation. On the onset, none of it makes sense. It’s because none of us would allow our children, let alone our only son, to be sacrificed for the sake of others. Sadly, we are sometimes better at seeking the good of only ourselves and our families. Surely we have a responsibility to provide for and protect our families. However as a Christian, it is important that we realise that our family also consists of the poor, needy, the oppressed and the lonely. Have we done our part to serve our family?

When was the last time we encouraged our children and advised them so that they would consider vocations of religious life and mission? Many parishioners advise me to take on roles in ministry and though I never ask them, I always wonder where their children were (some are not even seen at Sunday masses).

Isn’t it beautiful to be the giver? Our Lord and master is a giver, surely as His disciples we can do the same. Can we nurture our children to have the heart that listens to the voice of God and gives glory to His name?

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to have a heart that listens to you and is able to love like you. Divine Master, make us more like you. Help us to have a personal relationship with you till the end of time. Help us to help our families.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we hear your voice in every beat of our hearts. No signs are needed at all.

22 July, Sunday – I Have It All

22 July 

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Jeremiah 23:1-6

‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.

Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds – it is the Lord who speaks! But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!

‘See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practising honesty and integrity in the land.

In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence.

And this is the name he will be called: The-Lord-our-integrity.’

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Ephesians 2:13-18

In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility. Later he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand. Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.

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Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

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Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while

Reflecting on this gospel today, I am reminded that I should schedule a retreat at some stage, as I had never been for one this year. Last June, I attended the Power Conference in Potta, Kerala around this time of the year and it raised questions among some Catholics on my motivation to do so. Well here goes the answer in the gospel of Mark today. My Dad asked that I do this, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

A retreat, is a honeymoon with Jesus. It is common that married couples take a break every now and then, to cherish and hang out with each other. When couples decide their holidays, it does not mean they do not have other responsibilities and constraints, yet they choose to focus on the need to ‘steal’ some time away to be with each other.

Jesus is a spouse to each of us, and time with Him only helps us know Him in a way that we are convicted that we do actually have it all in Him. He is our Shepherd and there is nothing we shall want, as we have Him.

During my retreat at Potta, it was also summer graduation week at the university where I work, making it a really a tough choice to pack up and go. I chose to stay for proceedings with prominent people and left the next morning, members from our retreat group who flew on that morning had to fly back after reaching Kerala as the situation warranted. When I reached there the next morning, I found out that we had no rooms because the ladies who arrived earlier decided, upon arrival, to share a room with their families instead, leaving us with the only option of a room with 2 other men in it. I went to this retreat alone and as I was trying to sort our rooming, I realised that an elderly lady also did not have a room; so we ended up as roommates.

At the retreat, I received physical healing from my swelling feet and my allergy to lentils, a common ingredient in the food we consume at home. I received a lot of inner healing and spiritual graces too. There were two main groups at the Power Conference and, as a single person who has never married, I qualified to be with the youths. I heard many testimonies of young people who had witnessed the grace and mercy of God in their lives when they were faced with failure in their exams and in their careers. This wisdom really helped me when, a few weeks after the retreat, I failed an exam. Who would have thought that I would be in the same situation as others one day, and that their testimony could strengthen me?

During the week-long retreat, I was able to re-immerse myself with the wonders and beauty of a Lord who is love, mercy and grace – all of this in abundance.

Is it time for us to schedule some time with the Lord? If you really cannot get away, an hour by the Blessed Sacrament is an option, a commitment to daily personal prayers and a commitment towards looking for short day/weekend retreat are options too. I sometimes have this conversation with myself when I cannot find the time to attend a retreat, leaning on the fact that I cannot give ‘time’ to the One who gave me everything, including ‘time’ itself.

Where is the Lord calling you and me today? He is calling us to peaceful restful waters, a place where we can be His sheep, fully trusting God and knowing that He is all we need.

What is the distance between where we are right now to the destination of a place in our lives and hearts where we can truly say and believe: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”

The Lord loves us even if we don’t acknowledge Him, yet it is our choice if we want to continue to live in the shadow of our own preoccupations, doubt, fear, sin, shame and stubbornness. Now is the best time to return to a Shepherd who knows your heart, let us allow Him to own it too.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, make a way in our lives so that we can ‘steal away’ to your restful waters daily. Guide us to a retreat that you would want us to attend. Open a door in our lives so that we can be witnesses by sharing your goodness all the days of your life.

Thanksgiving: Lord, you are my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. I know you and I am found in you, my Lord and God.