Tag Archives: letting go

18 Jul, Wednesday – On Letting Go

18 July

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Isaiah 10:5-7,13-16

The Lord of hosts says this:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger,
the club brandished by me in my fury!
I sent him against a godless nation;
I gave him commission against a people that provokes me,
to pillage and to plunder freely
and to stamp down like the mud in the streets.
But he did not intend this,
his heart did not plan it so.
No, in his heart was to destroy,
to go on cutting nations to pieces without limit.

For he has said:

‘By the strength of my own arm I have done this
and by my own intelligence, for understanding is mine;
I have pushed back the frontiers of peoples
and plundered their treasures.
I have brought their inhabitants down to the dust.
As if they were a bird’s nest, my hand has seized
the riches of the peoples.
As people pick up deserted eggs
I have picked up the whole earth,
with not a wing fluttering,
not a beak opening, not a chirp.’

Does the axe claim more credit than the man who wields it,
or the saw more strength than the man who handles it?
It would be like the cudgel controlling the man who raises it,
or the club moving what is not made of wood!
And so the Lord of Hosts is going to send
a wasting sickness on his stout warriors;
beneath his plenty, a burning will burn
like a consuming fire.
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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘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 the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
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“… for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike”

Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that whatever you do, you’re just spinning the wheels for other people, that all your toil is for nothing? Lately, I can’t help but get the sense that all the hard work I’ve poured into things has been for nought. When you give your best effort for people who are at best, ungrateful, at worst callous, rude and entitled, at some point you’re going to reach burnout. You’re going to ask yourself “Why?”. “Why should I take the high road when all I get is complaining, comparison and criticism?” “Why do I try so hard when all they do is find fault, when they constantly remind me of how miserable they are?” At some point, you’re going to draw the line. You’ll revolt. If you persevere and continue to put up with it, your body will do the revolting for you and you’ll fall ill. Either which way, something is going to happen to take you out of the game. It could be at work, at home, with extended family, with your own family. Imbalance finds a way to unwind itself, usually with painful consequences.

It’s a little ironic that the Gospel reading today comes right before Christ’s famous verse from Matthew, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Because the message of today’s gospel is about the gift of revelation, and Christ’s burden was anything but light. He carried the burden of all our sin on his shoulders, and as he marched onward to his death, he saw us for the weak, flawed, disappointing individuals that we were. God reveals wisdom to the few, and typically while they’re in the throes of great injustice and impossible circumstances. He’ll give you searing insights when you’re at your lowest point. You’ll have tremendous clarity of thought about yourself and the people around you. Like an out-of- body experience, you’ll find out who your real friends are, the ones you can count on, not the ones who wring their hands in helplessness or worse, the ones who berate you for not thinking of them or their feelings. “…For although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike”. God tells us that if our faith is childlike, as Christ was childlike on the way to his crucifixion, all will be revealed to us. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest… For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Maybe this is the essence of that ‘enlightenment’ which Jesus speaks of, that lightness of being that comes amidst great pain and suffering. You hurt, you suffer, your eyes are opened, you see, you gain knowing, you understand… and then you let it go.

I’m at that point right now with a lot of things – physically drained, emotionally exhausted, at the end of my rope. I’ve started to have searing insights into the people around me; some of it good, most of it not so much. So this is what Christ must have felt – that deep sorrow for his circumstances, the disappointment in the people he loved, whom he thought loved him back. I hurt, I suffer, my eyes are opened, I see, I know, I understand… now to let it go?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next (source : The Serenity Prayer)

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for Christ, who tasted the bitterness of disappointment and despair, so we would have someone to hold on to when we ourselves were faced with it.

30 May, Wednesday – Ransom Paid In Blood

30 May

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1 Peter 1:18-25

Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.

You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart – your new birth was not from any mortal seed but from the everlasting word of the living and eternal God. All flesh is grass and its glory like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.

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Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him: ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans, who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.’

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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..so that you would have faith and hope in God.

Dealing with loss can be rather traumatic. The death of a loved one, or having to let go of a beloved pet; losing a large business deal or losing one’s job; even having to let go of something that means a lot due to circumstances beyond one’s control. It has been an emotional few weeks for me as we deal with loss and the consequences of it. Never have I felt so helpless, so powerless to do anything except to just be present. Even then, I fear that I am too weak to be of any use or support. If only I had something to give, then everything will be alright. But in spite of our prayers, He has been quiet. At least from our perspective.

Today’s first reading reminds us that ‘the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ’ At times like this I truly wonder if His sacrifice, which was meant to save us from this earthly ‘prison’, was in vain. Surely Christ gave up His life for us so that we could enjoy (note the operative word here) a life that He meant for us to have? We didn’t work so hard for so long in order to have to give up the fruits of our labour.

What gives us hope is revealed later on as Peter writes, ‘The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.’ So all that we know (the material life) will eventually wither and die, leaving us what Christ has delivered in the form of the Good News. And we cling on to the word of God, by going to daily mass and receiving communion; by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and unburdening ourselves to Him; by recognising that He continues to pour out His graces into our lives and our hearts, in spite of our shortcomings or how we treat Him.

I don’t know for how long we will struggle but at some point, I know that He will take over completely. For now, we plod on in our mortal form, dealing with the gamut of negative emotions that come with loss. Perhaps this is a lesson for us to truly appreciate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, a ransom paid in blood. I am reminded of a line in a song that always brings tears to my eyes – ‘…that a man would give his life for a friend’. Who else can proudly proclaim to another that his God sacrificed himself on a cross in order to save the world?

Brothers and sisters, we have just celebrated Pentecost and acknowledged the coming of the Holy Spirit. Whatever is going on in our lives right now, let us recognise that we are a chosen people, specially anointed to reflect His love and graces to others around us. In spite of all that we go through.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, to learn how to die to ourselves and our desires so that you will be able to use us to build your kingdom. Help us to glorify you in all we say and do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your being the constant help in our lives.

15 August, Monday – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

15 August – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mass during the day)

Dear Readers,

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are the readings for the day of the feast itself – Monday.

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Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI

– http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050815_assunzione-maria_en.html

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Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste”

The first verse in today’s gospel comes immediately after the angel’s annunciation to Mary. So why would Mary, a young and newly pregnant mother, make that arduous trip from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, a journey that from all accounts, was about 100 miles long? Why do we ever do anything that is impulsive or illogical? Because in our hearts, we feel moved by faith – we just ‘know’ it’s the right thing to do.

Ecclesiastes says, “There is a given time for everything and a time for every happening under heaven” (Ecc 3:1). Mary knew instinctively that it was time and that she was going to be the agent of change through which salvation would be manifest into the world. She knew, and trusted that it would be alright, even if she did not have all the facts just yet. These moments of grace are truly special. Touched by God, we are blessed with a sense of ‘knowing’, a certainty to act outside of ourselves without seeing the whole picture – a job turned down, a proposal not consummated, a road untravelled. In that moment, we have an inkling that we have received grace, even if full realization comes with the passage of time.

I experienced being touched by His grace last Sunday. I have been angry for a long time, frustrated by politics in the ministry, dejected and disillusioned by the glacial pace at which things are achieved within the bureaucracy of the church. And I confess to allowing these dark thoughts to take a hold of my heart. But when I least expected it, certainly when I least deserved it, God granted me a grace whose significance I can only guess at. I’m humbled by the experience. When it happened, it was like a bolt of lightning. I was overcome with an awareness that He does see, that He is in control and that He hears my deepest thoughts. It was as if He wanted to remind me that I am not as alone as I thought myself to be. And that I should know, things will happen but in His time, not mine. Being ‘caught out’ in my thoughts like that is both terrifying and uplifting. He knows! He hears! And He’s gently reminded me that I should take Mary’s lead; I ought to know too.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We ask for His forgiveness, when we give up too easily, and lose faith in His ability to effect change.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His unending love and mercy, that even when we least deserve it, He offers us a measure of grace to save us from ourselves.

18 July, Monday – The Sign

18 July

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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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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.

Many of us find ourselves asking, “What is the Lord’s will for me?” We desire to do God’s will but God doesn’t seem to be giving us a sign or showing us the way.

Today’s readings focus on this point, where in the first reading, God clearly explains to us, what He asks of us: “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.” Something so simple, but yet so difficult to live out. Many times we find ourselves complicating matters in our lives, continuously asking God for a sign when the sign already has been given as mentioned in the Gospel.

As with Jonah and the Queen of the South, what they needed wasn’t a sign; what they needed was faith. Not just faith in themselves but faith in God. We are in our positions today because God has a plan with our lives. It is not about what we can do but about we allowing Him to work in our lives. However, most of us find ourselves in the person of Jonah, where we see such a task of following Christ and being His disciple is one that is not suited for us; a task in which we are bound to fail. We run away from our problems, avoid conflicts, we fail to respond and eventually we find ourselves inadequate, unworthy, insufficient. Or we can be like the Queen of the South where seeing is believing, where we are consumed by what one has rather than who one is. We chase fame and glory in the material world and we will go to the ends of the Earth to attain it.

Have we then been like Jonah where we are running away from the sign that has already been given? Or have we been like the Queen of the South, spending time, effort and money on a journey that ultimately leads us away from God?

Instead of asking, let us maybe focus on what we have been given and who we are now. For not only is the sign there but we are also called to be signs to others, witnesses of the truth and examples of love. Let us not just ask for a sign but let us respond to the sign that God has already given us. Amen.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that you may continue to strengthen our faith, especially when it comes to doing something out of our comfort zone. That we may continue to find you already in our lives as well as to be you to all around us. We also pray for a greater awareness and surrender for those who have not encountered you yet. That they may not just keep asking but to also be still and to listen. To not just believe but to live it out every day in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the many signs you have given us, through the people you have sent in our lives. Help us to treasure and cherish those who help lead us to you.

24 May, Tuesday – Free Your Mind

24 May

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1 Peter 1:10-16

It was this salvation that the prophets were looking and searching so hard for; their prophecies were about the grace which was to come to you. The Spirit of Christ which was in them foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them, and they tried to find out at what time and in what circumstances all this was to be expected. It was revealed to them that the news they brought of all the things which have now been announced to you, by those who preached to you the Good News through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, was for you and not for themselves. Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.

Free your minds, then, of encumbrances; control them, and put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Do not behave in the way that you liked to before you learnt the truth; make a habit of obedience: be holy in all you do, since it is the Holy One who has called you, and scripture says: Be holy, for I am holy.

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Mark 10:28-31

What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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Free your minds… of encumbrances; control them…put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you

Sometimes I put people and situations in boxes. I put parts of myself in neat boxes too. It is my way of taming things I do not fully comprehend. It is my way of control. I have a crippling habit of over-analysing conversations and happenings that destabilise me. I need to get a hand on stuff, and the best way I know how is to label them – whether rightly or wrongly. On one hand it helps me troubleshoot and fix things. On the other, it can be an obstacle to freely receive and understand things from another perspective.

The scriptures seem to point out that in order to be a channel for the grace of Christ’s Spirit, one must free the mind of encumbrances. Saint Peter was giving the early church an account of their Jewish prophet forefathers. He spoke of their wisdom which allowed them to prophesy about Christs’ coming sufferings and glories. But he gave credit to the Holy Spirit at work within them, which they generously transmitted to latter generations.

To experience this freedom of mind and spirit, our minds need to be controlled. Not to control things, events, people. But to control our inward frenetic thoughts, incessant distractions, and self-centred schemes. How much of our time spent over-strategising and plotting to tackle ‘worst case scenarios’ is also time spent stressing out ourselves and the people around us with things truly beyond our control? God did give us our mental faculties to calculate and make effective plans. But often, our strong suit can also be an Archilles’ heel. Have we ever experienced the breakdown of communication and plans, simply because we sought to control and tame every aspect of relationships and situations? This is when both our hearts and minds are enclosed and not free to receive and respect others.

We hear the first disciples remind Jesus of all the relationships they have given up to follow him, after they witnessed the poor rich man going away sadly. They say: Look at how much we have given up already! It is not easy. Jesus does not make light of our sacrifices – he replies solemnly but firmly that our ‘repayment’ is not in equal value and terms, but “a hundred times over – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29). Indeed it is impossible to predict the rewards of a life following Christ. It truly overflows.

If our hearts and minds are free from the encumbrances of always ensuring a fail-safe plan, strategising to come in first, and getting the better end of all deals, we are more likely to take the risks that Jesus beckons us to in order to join him in eternity. Because this does not come easy, Jesus teaches us to make a habit of obedience to follow him. Obedience in small mundane things leads to obedience in big plans, and therefore even grander works. But step by step. What are the acts of obedience the Lord is calling you to today? Is there a situation of control which you find hard to give up on and put your trust in nothing but the grace of God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to relinquish unhealthy control on the way people around me behave or on the way my plans turn out. I trust that you are the Lord of my life and you are the one holding the world and my life together.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for always giving me better gifts than the ones I try to pick out for myself.