Tag Archives: love of neighbours

5 September, Monday – Stretch Out Your Hand

5 September

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1 Corinthians 5:1-8

I have been told as an undoubted fact that one of you is living with his father’s wife. This is a case of sexual immorality among you that must be unparalleled even among pagans. How can you be so proud of yourselves? You should be in mourning. A man who does a thing like that ought to have been expelled from the community. Though I am far away in body, I am with you in spirit, and have already condemned the man who did this thing as if I were actually present. When you are assembled together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and I am spiritually present with you, then with the power of our Lord Jesus he is to be handed over to Satan so that his sensual body may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The pride that you take in yourselves is hardly to your credit. You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

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Luke 6:6-11

On the sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up! Come out into the middle.’ And he came out and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’ Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was better. But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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Stretch out your hand.

Like any given Monday, many of us find ourselves returning to work, coming back to the hustle and bustle of a new week ahead. At the same time, many of us will find ourselves bogged down with the work that we need to do in the coming week. But so often, we forget that the week does not really start on Monday. Many of us would have encountered calendars that begin the week with a Sunday.

We also know that Sunday is the sabbath day. It is the day of rest, the seventh day on which even God himself took a break. But in the readings today, we see Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the day of Sabbath. This was what enraged the Pharisees — that Jesus worked on the Sabbath day. But Jesus did all this knowing that this would be the response He would elicit.

Indeed, Jesus is telling us that as Christians, there is no demarcation of when and where we are to do God’s work. Similarly, there should be no demarcation between our rest times, daily work, and time with God. Furthermore, Jesus’s act of healing re-emphasizes his two ‘new’ laws: (1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; (2) Love your neighbour as yourself.

Like healing the man with the withered hand, love has no rest days. No matter the circumstance, we are called to reflect God’s love to others. And we need to receive God’s love from others. So often, we think about giving but forget about receiving. When we receive love (whether a kind act, a compliment, or simply a prayer), we allow others to exercise the holiness that God has implanted in them.

Whether giving or receiving, we are called to stretch out our hands. To reach out to fellow men and women, especially those who are in need. So as we go through our day, let us remember to continue doing God’s work by loving and caring for each other, even if we are bogged down with our daily work. Let us remember that our Saviour loved despite the circumstances; and so, we must do the same.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for those who are lonely, scared or intimidated by the circumstance and situations that they have been born into, placed in, or simply find themselves in. Lead them back to your love.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for his unceasing love and unfailing help. May we never lose the eyes of faith that allow us to see Him in everything we do.

19 August, Friday – True Neighbourly Love

19 August – Memorial for St. John Eudes, Priest, Religious founder

John Eudes (1601-1680) established seminaries, and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary Eudists to promote virtuous secular parochial clergy not bound by vows, but dedicated to improving the clergy through seminaries and missions. He also founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity who worked for the welfare of penitent women. He was the author of the liturgical devotion of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord was laid on me, and he carried me away by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley, a valley full of bones. He made me walk up and down among them. There were vast quantities of these bones on the ground the whole length of the valley; and they were quite dried up. He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘You know, Lord.’ He said, ‘Prophesy over these bones. Say, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord says this to these bones: I am now going to make the breath enter you, and you will live. I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; and you will learn that I am the Lord.”’ I prophesied as I had been ordered. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a sound of clattering; and the bones joined together. I looked, and saw that they were covered with sinews; flesh was growing on them and skin was covering them, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, “The Lord says this: Come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead; let them live!”’ I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life again and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They keep saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone; we are as good as dead.” So prophesy. Say to them, “The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“You must love your neighbor as yourself”

I remember that as a 12-year-old, I had an opportunity to make some extra pocket money by taking on a project to paint my aunt’s private apartment, located in the Grange Road area. One day, after completing work for the day, I was waiting for my aunt to return home. It was late, and I was hungry. In the end, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and went to the neighbour, rang the doorbell and left the keys to the apartment with them and went home.

My aunt was not impressed when I subsequently called her to tell her how retrieve her keys (and that’s putting it mildly!)

Growing up in a 3-room flat in Tanglin Halt, a relatively poor area, the door to our home was always open, except for when we went to bed. I remember the hustle and bustle, neighbours walking in freely to “hang out” and have chats. I lost count of the numerous times the aunty next door came in with extra food they had cooked just so they could check, or the times I actually ate at the neighbours. In fact, I spent so much time there as a child I even learnt how to speak Hainanese (a dialect), an ability which I sadly lost. I remember the love that I experienced. I remember how Mr Foo, the photographer, took so many photos of me, taking the time and effort to give us copies of the prints, or how another aunty took on the effort to iron ALL of our clothes just so my grandaunt would not have to work so hard. I saw how the neighbours went out of their way to help each other, even if it meant making sacrifices and inconveniencing themselves. It was such an amazing environment for me to grow up in.

Coming back to the story of my aunt. On a subsequent visit, she sat me down and explained why it was dangerous for me to have done what I did. What would happen if the neighbour was dishonest and had chosen to duplicate the keys? What if she got robbed? Suffice to say that all described scenarios were dire.

I realised, when I was older, how ironic the situation was. When one ‘progressed’ up the socio-economic ladder, one became more closed, effectively becoming more self-centred, while being materially poorer meant that there was a bigger community to depend on. Truly, while I wasn’t a Christian in the early days, I experienced God through this community.

By loving our neighbours, we become ‘other’-focused. We learn to see the good in others, learn to help others. The more we help and love, we more we learn to help and love. We learn that we are not the centre of the universe.

Fast forward some 40 years and most of us live in relative seclusion. Engagements with our neighbours are perhaps limited to polite smiles while waiting for the elevator, if we are lucky. In all likelihood, many of us would be staring into our mobile devices, or engaged in the latest games. This has resulted in many of us living our lives in isolation, or acrimonious situations when neighbours disagree. Living in isolation leads us to be self centred.

The Lord, in today’s gospel, teaches us to see God in others, which is why loving others as much as we love ourselves as a commandment is second only to loving God with all our hearts, soul and mind.

Let us all go and open our doors to our neighbours! Let us reach out to those around us; at home, at work and in the community at large. Doing so will help us to achieve the greatest commandment, and will empower us to love our God even more.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will learn to keep our eyes open to be kind and to be able to reach out to our neighbours; at our homes, our workplaces, in our community-at-large. Teach us, Father, to be sensitive to Your promptings and also help us to grow in Your love by loving those around us not superficially, but sincerely, and deeply.

Thanksgiving: We thank you, Father, for showing us Your love for us through those around us. Thank you Jesus, for teaching us that the importance of not just loving our Father personally, but to love Him through loving our neighbours.

11 July, Monday – I Friend God

11 July – Memorial for St. Benedict, Abbot, Religious founder

Born to Roman nobility, Benedict (c. 480–547) was the twin brother of St. Scholastica. He studied in Rome, Italy, but was dismayed at the lack of discipline and lackadasical attitude of his fellow students. He fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years. He was reported to have been fed by a raven.

The virtues that St. Benedict (480-547) demonstrated as a hermit prompted an abbey to request that he lead them. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried to poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He destroyed pagan statues and altars, and drove demons from groves sacred to pagans.

At one point there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule that he wrote, which can be summed up as “Pray and work”.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 1:10-17

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.

‘What are your endless sacrifices to me?
says the Lord.
I am sick of holocausts of rams
and the fat of calves.
The blood of bulls and of goats revolts me.
When you come to present yourselves before me,
who asked you to trample over my courts?
Bring me your worthless offerings no more,
the smoke of them fills me with disgust.
New Moons, sabbaths, assemblies–
I cannot endure festival and solemnity.
Your New Moons and your pilgrimages
I hate with all my soul.
They lie heavy on me,
I am tired of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands
I turn my eyes away.
You may multiply your prayers,
I shall not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood,
wash, make yourselves clean.

‘Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.’

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Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

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

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

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

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

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A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

I came across my friend’s kid who came back from school and was sharing with his mum about his day at school. He had just started primary school and was beginning to make new friends and forming tight bonds; he most likely already knew whom his best friend in school would be. He began by sharing about the subjects he learnt, about his teacher scolding a classmate, what he ate for lunch, and then began to sulk about how his good friend (I’m guessing he actually meant his best buddy) went off to another activity without him knowing. Kids, being kids, can be sensitive at times and he told his mum that he may not like to have him at his birthday party. However, that best friend of his was invited and attended his birthday party recently.

I think each of us is sure to have been a little sensitive and jealous at some point, whether it was towards someone we love or we were just plain selfish ourselves. In today’s Gospel, our loving Father is truly selfish about wanting our individual selves to belong to Him. On the surface, it seems rather contradictory for the Word to tell us to love our family and here we are told that our enemies are within our household. My reflection on this is that God wants us to realise that it is alright to discover the true peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ. To make peace is an action and gift that our God encourages and is born out of the love of Jesus. Then, we are reminded to put God on top of all priorities. Our creator asks for the attention that is to be given Him, and then to the others. He will give and provide all things beautiful to us and with that peace and joy, we will turn away from the wrongdoings and do good for our family, for our neighbours, for strangers.

When we begin to read of inspirational stories and beautiful heartwarming encounters, it truly requires no form of monetary richness. It is all from the heart and goodness of each one of us. It is about the peace and kindness and understanding and love that is absolutely free. In winning hearts, none of these needs to be bought with extreme luxury.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that through the works of the Church, people will see that the true beauty lies in the wonders of our Lord and not secular richness, that we are jealous over the right issues.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the necessities provided to us, the ability for us to earn the basics and that our excess can be shared to all those who are in need.