Tag Archives: josephine dionisappu

25 August, Sunday – Stand Corrected

25 Aug 2019

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Isaiah 66:18-21

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations. As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries, from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord, like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord. And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.

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Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.

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Luke 13:22-30

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

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

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

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Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons

I would like to base this reflection on a teaching by a priest on growth, which best captures that learning is part of suffering.

Growth encompasses four aspects – Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given. Growth is essential for all Christians and this also brings about blessings. And these blessings come about when you accept all these components.

Taken

As in the parable of the rich young man who was asked to give away his wealth, God will take away the very things that we hold on to. It can mean different things to each of us. God will take our time, demand our effort, even our money. He will remove from us the very thing that stops us from growing.

Blessed

We all crave to be blessed by God but are usually not ready to accept purification and sanctification. And honestly, I am no different, though I know that He wants to sanctify me, as His daughter sometimes, I question His choices in this process of sanctification.

Recently I had a fall out with someone and I was very surprised how God was leading me and this person towards a blessing. Indeed God surprises me when He demands that I be the bigger person despite being very hurt. But I also realised that God cannot choose to bless one of His children at the expense of the other. And that is also when I am embraced — that both me and my trespasser are called by Him — as His own as stated in Isaiah 43:1 – You are mine.

It is no coincidence, that from the very start of my interactions with this person, I would seek counsel through scriptures and found this verse as a reminder that despite this person’s shortcomings, the Lord of all the earth had summoned him as His own. You and I are no exception.

Broken

This is rather self-explanatory, though it is necessary for it to be said so that we all have clarity. Christ will break you, so that you can be holy. He needs us whole so that we can live a complete and fulfilled life, like any good father would want for us. He wants us to live our best lives and for that to happen, He will break us from the whole being that we have created for ourselves, so that we are more of Him and less of ourselves and of the world.

Given

He will make us a holy sacrifice so that we become acceptable to Him. For scripture states: “Be holy as I am holy” – 1 Peter 1:16.

There is really no greater joy that to be a child of this Father who wants to remove all that hurts us and hinders us from the love and life He has created for us.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, help us to remain holy by having holiness as a goal. Let us wholly accept and embrace holiness as our lifestyle, so that we meet others we truly reflect your image. And when we meet you face to face, we are truly like you.

Thanksgiving: Father thank you for your sanctifying grace. Though it sometimes irritates me, I feel privileged that you are working in and through me so that I am fully feel and know that I am yours.

6 July, Saturday – Mixed Identities

6 July 2019 – Memorial for St. Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr

Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was a beautiful and pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.

In 1902, at the age of 12, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her 14 times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God’s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. She is counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he latter testified at her cause for beatification.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29

Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see. He summoned his elder son Esau, ‘My son!’ he said to him, and the latter answered, ‘I am here.’ Then he said, ‘See, I am old and do not know when I may die. Now take your weapons, your quiver and bow; go out into the country and hunt me some game. Make me the kind of savoury I like and bring it to me, so that I may eat, and give you my blessing before I die.’

Rebekah happened to be listening while Isaac was talking to his son Esau. So when Esau went into the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah took her elder son Esau’s best clothes, which she had in the house, and dressed her younger son Jacob in them, covering his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skins of the kids. Then she handed the savoury and the bread she had made to her son Jacob.

He presented himself before his father and said, ‘Father.’ ‘I am here;’ was the reply ‘who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Please get up and take your place and eat the game I have brought and then give me your blessing.’ Isaac said to his son, ‘How quickly you found it, my son!’ ‘It was the Lord your God’ he answered ‘who put it in my path.’ Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come here, then, and let me touch you, my son, to know if you are my son Esau or not.’ Jacob came close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice but the arms are the arms of Esau!’ He did not recognise him, for his arms were hairy like his brother Esau’s, and so he blessed him. He said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ And he replied, ‘I am.’ Isaac said, ‘Bring it here that I may eat the game my son has brought, and so may give you my blessing.’ He brought it to him and he ate; he offered him wine, and he drank. His father Isaac said to him, ‘Come closer, and kiss me, my son.’ He went closer and kissed his father, who smelled the smell of his clothes.

He blessed him, saying:

‘Yes, the smell of my son

is like the smell of a fertile field blessed by the Lord.

May God give you dew from heaven,

and the richness of the earth,

abundance of grain and wine!

May nations serve you and peoples bow down before you!

Be master of your brothers; may the sons of your mother bow down before you!

Cursed be he who curses you;

blessed be he who blesses you!’

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Matthew 9:14-17

John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on to an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.’

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And they will fast

In yesterday’s reading, we saw Rebekah as someone attuned to God’s will but in today’s reading, she was deceitful in her ways and changed the course of God’s plans. Are we able to recognise the ‘Rebekah’ in us? We sometimes are so carried away about our godly deeds and then we fall right into sin with our faces flat on the ground. This is what makes us human, and therefore we must be watchful over ourselves, and understand ourselves better.

Rebekah suffered the wrath of the Lord because she changed God’s plans; don’t we sometimes do that too? We know what is right and we hear a gentle voice telling us to stay faithful, but we ignore it and go against it. We are called to ‘sin-proof’ our lives but also to be so much more and shine His light. Avoiding the occurrence of sin alone will not allow us to shine His light, but it has to be coupled with us praising and adoring the Lord.

We need Jesus in the Eucharist and the sacraments, read the bible and follow the teaching of the Church.

Recently, I was healed from gastritis and anemia. When I was diagnosed, I stopped fasting on Fridays. And today in a conversation with a friend, I realised that I have not resumed fasting. Do we have set dates for fasting?

How does our prayer life look like? Do we have daily prayer time? Do we attend mass on Sundays? What about spending some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament?

Are we able to distinguish the old wineskin from the new? Do we allow ourselves to be nourished by the wisdom and knowledge of our Catholic tradition, so that we are able to live our best lives yet?

For the grace that we need, let us pray diligently today and remain steadfast for the rest of our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, help us to remain holy by having holiness as a goal. We know that you made us for so much more and that you don’t want us only to defuse sins but to eat and drink at your table as your children.

Thanksgiving: Praise you God, who has chosen me as your own possession. My God and saviour.

5 July, Friday – Doctor Love

5 July 2019 – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest

St. Anthony (1502-1539) studied medicine at Padua, receiving his doctorate at age 22. Working among the poor in Cremona, he felt called to the religious life. He was ordained at age 26; legend says that angels were seen around the altar at his first Mass. St. Anthony established two congregations that helped reform the morals of the faithful, encouraged laymen to work together with the apostolate, and frequent reception of Communion.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 23:1-4, 19, 24:1-8, 62-67

The length of Sarah’s life was a hundred and twenty-seven years. She died at Kiriath-arba, or Hebron, in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn and grieve for her.

Then leaving his dead, Abraham spoke to the sons of Heth: ‘I am a stranger and a settler among you,’ he said. ‘Let me own a burial-plot among you, so that I may take my dead wife and bury her.’

After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah opposite Mamre, in the country of Canaan.

By now Abraham was an old man well on in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. Abraham said to the eldest servant of his household, the steward of all his property, ‘Place your hand under my thigh, I would have you swear by the Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live. Instead, go to my own land and my own kinsfolk to choose a wife for my son Isaac.’ The servant asked him, ‘What if the woman does not want to come with me to this country? Must I take your son back to the country from which you came?’ Abraham answered, ‘On no account take my son back there. The Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, took me from my father’s home, and from the land of my kinsfolk, and he swore to me that he would give this country to my descendants. He will now send his angel ahead of you, so that you may choose a wife for my son there. And if the woman does not want to come with you, you will be free from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.’

Isaac, who lived in the Negeb, had meanwhile come into the wilderness of the well of Lahai Roi. Now Isaac went walking in the fields as evening fell, and looking up saw camels approaching. And Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac. She jumped down from her camel, and asked the servant, ‘Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?’ The servant replied, ‘That is my master’; then she took her veil and hid her face. The servant told Isaac the whole story, and Isaac led Rebekah into his tent and made her his wife; and he loved her. And so Isaac was consoled for the loss of his mother.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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I desire mercy, not sacrifice

God is the God of love and mercy, He spells out in today’s gospel who it is that needs Him the most – the sinners. We should not take it at face value and assume that we don’t need Him because we are not sinners. Let’s us remember that only God and Mother Mary are sinless and since we are neither of them, we are sinners and therefore we need Him.

In a recent youth rally which I attended, one of the groups mentioned that they are fifty-fifty in their response to the question “is God within you?’ One of the priests who was with us reminded us that the breath which we breathe, is the breath of God and therefore God is within us. How is it then that sometimes we feel lost, alone and easily fall into sin by succumbing to temptation?

Today’s first reading depicts four people who are in tune with God – Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah and Abraham’s servant. They were not without sin, yet they knew God’s plans and were faithful to it. They gave sufficient importance and upheld the sanctity of marriage. Are we anything like that? Do we need the mercy of God in the areas where we are not faithful to the foundation of a Catholic marriage, by indulging in fornication, extramarital and premarital affairs, abortion, using contraception and live in a way that threatens marriages, both of others and of our own? If yes, how can we seek His mercy and grace? Is it time we returned to the Heart of Mercy through confession?

From the characters in today’s gospels, who can we best identify ourselves with? Is it Matthew, who readily followed Jesus, or a prophet like Jesus who is inviting and encouraging friends to come home to Jesus, or the Pharisee who pulls out the ‘holier than thou’ card on others? Either way, He abounds in grace and mercy and He is waiting for us to be more like Him. And if we have fallen in these areas and others, there is still hope in the Lord.

Therefore, let us not be discouraged that we have failed but to continue striving daily to be more like Him. He sees all of our efforts, even our intentions and nothing, just nothing goes unnoticed with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, tune us as your instruments of love and mercy. Help us to be merciful and loving like you. Teach us to be more like you and help us to act as if we never forgot that our hearts are connected to yours.

Thanksgiving: Lord we thank you for your mercy and love. Because you are so good and you will fight for us, till the day each of us are like You.

4 July, Thursday – Loving the Lord above all

4 July 2019 – 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 22:1-19

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son. Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

Abraham went back to his servants, and together they set out for Beersheba, and he settled in Beersheba.

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Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.

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Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home

I have always resonated with Abraham, firstly because he was a man of great obedience and faith and second, because the Lord blessed Him with children at an old age, making a testimony of God’s providence.

I sometime catch myself wanting to be like him, to obey the Lord and let go of even the ‘son of my old age.’ We all have this ‘son’ whom we hold on to — people or things that we are seemingly obsessed with.

To me, my ‘son’ was the yearning of wanting to belong to another. I would think about it, dream about it and yet hold on to that yearning to a point that I realised that it was an idol and it was also holding me back from receiving the love which God had promised me.

It does not have to be this way, we are after all not the sum of our yearnings or of our dreams, and we are in every way — the Father’s love, itself. And just like Father Abraham, we are able to let go of what we are holding on to – whether it is our wealth, our jobs, material possessions or sins.

What made Abraham the father of faith, let us also strive to be one in our modern times. Let us not be focussed on things that will fade away but let us bring the Father back to the centre of our lives to make Him the One who holds our lives, our hearts, our desires and wants. .     

Sisters and brothers, I pray that you and I will love the Lord and make Him the Lord of our lives, to remove impure thoughts and evil, doing so that we are able to rise for His glory, for the rest of our lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, we want to be your children and we offer up our lives and our whole being to you. Please remove everything from our lives which are robbing us from the grace of receiving you. Lord we want to live anew for you. On this day, bless the people of America that they will follow your ways and shield them from every evil.

Thanksgiving: To your name O Lord, we give glory because of your kindness and because of your truth. You, O Lord, are the centre of our lives.

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.