Tag Archives: love

15 December, Saturday – Entering into Relationship

15 December

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4, 9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
  his word flaring like a torch.
It was he who brought famine on the people,
  and who decimated them in his zeal.
By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens,
  he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
  Has anyone reason to boast as you have?
Taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
  in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
  to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
  and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they be who see you,
  and those who have fallen asleep in love.

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Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.

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They did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.

In less than two weeks, it will be Christmas. The night of the Christmas Vigil Mass, we will then see the figure of baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the crib of the manger. This is the scene we would be none the wiser to recognise, if we were one of the wise men that fateful desert night. And that was part of God’s elaborate, intricate plan.

It is precisely this detail of our powerful God choosing to enter our world as a vulnerable and needing baby that reveals to us where His heart truly lies. He chose to appear in the flesh of the defenseless and uncelebrated. He deliberately chose vulnerability every time, as a baby and as the crucified Christ. Each time, the hearts of only a few were open to receiving Him, the eyes of only some could witness His surrendered glory.

The wise men had to strip off all presumptions of majesty in order to see the Christ-child. The young girl who first bowed her head with humble Fiat embraced vulnerability to be the holy vessel of the Immaculate Conception. She had to abandon worldly caution, social customs, and human logic. Joseph would defy his strict Jewish faith to obey the illogical command of this Mystery.

This ability to surrender and follow requires of us the willingness to enter into relationship with the Beloved. It is not possible to trust someone you do not know well – much less when the impossible is asked of your trust! To choose “Yes”, one needs to have faith that there is good ultimately in the end, no matter what evidences and reality is presented. Mary and Joseph, who brought to birth Christ to the world, were in deep communion with God, to the extent that their logical selves must have screamed, “You crazy!” in some of these moments, especially at the Annunciation. “Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.” (Ecc. 48:12). In other translations, love is read as “friendship”.

Entering into earthly relationships is so tough. Whether they be romantic or friendships. We have to shed defences, and reveal vulnerabilities, in order to unlock the door towards new levels of intimacy, trust, and fellowship. It’s risky, terrifying, and it’s like giving someone the chance to disappoint you or break your heart. But at the same time, it is liberating to be able to choose trust. The freedom that came with spiritual surrender to God’s plan, enabled Mary and Joseph to keep saying “Yes” to how God used them, and where He led them.

I can imagine that it was only in the first “Yes”, that their intimacy and reliance on God deepened, and their relationship with Him continued to be strengthened and purified. It may have appeared ridiculous from the outside, but the interior room of their hearts was unlocked for Christ’s entrance. God was still actively moulding their journey of faith. They were actively remaining pliable and open to the Potter’s hands.

Recalling the prophet Elijah, who was considered a raving lunatic and an outcast amongst the people of Israel who had turned to worship Baal, Jesus uses the Old Testament prophecies to bring the disciples’ attention to the way John the Baptist’s ascetic life was being mocked in his time. For this same reason, the Memorial of St John of the Cross was chosen for this day’s readings. None of them could have continued on their paths and mission if not for their deep relationship with God and their abiding trust in His love and purpose. With that, they were able to choose present foolishness and ridicule, lay open their vulnerabilities, and push to birth God’s plan – an elaborate plan that could only be appreciated in retrospect.

His veiled power emanates from these hidden moments. A babe in swaddling cloths would overpower human sense. A cloth-less man in his prime hung on condemned cross would be the Saviour of the world. This divine plan of God had been set in motion since the beginning of time (John 1:1-5). It’s time we entered into this scene with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:  I thank you God for the models of faith in Mary and Joseph, who inspire us to enter into a deep relationship with You.

Thanksgiving:  I pray for the courage to be vulnerable, to remain open to Your love and purposes, starting with baby steps.

5 December, Wednesday – Saved

5 December

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Isaiah 25:6-10

On this mountain,
the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,
of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice
that he has saved us;
for the hand of the Lord
rests on this mountain.

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Matthew 15:29-37

Jesus reached the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and he went up into the hills. He sat there, and large crowds came to him bringing the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others; these they put down at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were astonished to see the dumb speaking, the cripples whole again, the lame walking and the blind with their sight, and they praised the God of Israel.

But Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them off hungry, they might collapse on the way.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this deserted place to feed such a crowd?’ Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said ‘and a few small fish.’ Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves and the fish, and he gave thanks and broke them and handed them to the disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected what was left of the scraps, seven baskets full.

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We exult and we rejoice that He has saved us.

When was the last time someone ‘saved’ you, either from a potential accident or an embarrassing situation? Can you recall the relief that you felt as you thanked the person? Or did you even bother to thank the one who ‘rescued’ you? In today’s first reading, we see how God has lavished us with a banquet fit for a king, and how he has destroyed death and all that hinders us from fulfilling our true mission. What more can we ask for?

So how are we, mere mortals, ever going to repay a single ounce of what God has given to us? Our God is a benevolent and kind God; one who merely asks for us to strive to love each other as He has loved us. I, for one, would never be able to fathom the love a parent has for his child but for God to give up his only son in order to save humanity is something that can never be repaid no matter how much of the riches of this earth one can muster.

And so we are faced with a dilemma – can we ever do anything to return God’s love, even as a gesture of thanks? I know many who strive each day to spend time with Him in adoration or at daily mass. Those who give of themselves to others via charitable works. Volunteers who spend time with the elderly, the needy and the disadvantaged. These people have received in order to give and I believe they have acknowledged God’s presence in their lives – which means they know that they are saved.

Brothers and sisters, an act of kindness usually elicits a simple ‘Thank you’. But when our God has sacrificed his only Son in order to save us and prepare for us a place in heaven, then perhaps we should truly look deep within ourselves to see if we are doing what we can to thank our heavenly Father for rescuing us. And while we can never, ever repay God in this lifetime, perhaps we should stop using that as an excuse for not even trying. Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, let us always appreciate that there are others around us who do need saving – through a simple act of kindness requiring a small sacrifice on our part.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Abba Father, give us the wisdom and strength to acknowledge the sacrifices that others have made for us so that we, in turn, can give as much.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your ultimate sacrifice of love that saved us all.

28 November, Wednesday – Justice — Because We Deserve Something Better

28 November

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Apocalypse 15:1-4

What I, John, saw in heaven was a great and wonderful sign: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to see a glass lake suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

‘How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are all your ways,
King of nations.
Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
You alone are holy,
and all the pagans will come and adore you
for the many acts of justice you have shown.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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All the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.

I grew up in a family where many of my relatives are in adulterous or out of wedlock relationships. One of the phrases I usually heard from adults is how God ‘will understand’ why they had to be in such situations. That was their excuse for their choices. And I have wondered for a long time if God really understood as they have claimed.

When my brother, who was then legally married, got another woman pregnant, my grandmother laughed it off much to my disgust. I wished with all my heart that they would have stood up and told him that what he did was wrong. At that time, I wished someone stood up for what was right, rather than telling us that it was ‘ok’. I could not explain why I felt repulsed. Reading today’s first reading helped me understand a bit more.

One priest shared during one of his talks that because God is first just, that’s why he is merciful. You cannot separate the two. We need to understand how just God is first, before we can understand his mercy.

I feel that mercy is God’s way of meeting us where we are. Yes, he understands that we are weak creatures and that we fall short of what is expected of us. I think mercy is God’s way of telling us that he loves us where we are right now, where we were yesterday, and where we will be tomorrow.

Justice is God’s way of reminding us that we could be greater, that we were made for so much more, and that God has so much more he wanted to give us, if only we would do what we were meant to do. Justice is God’s way of making us feel how far we are from the goodness we’re meant to enjoy, and an invitation for us to walk towards that goodness and never settle.

Some of us might think that justice is punishment when it is really a display of tough love. Maybe it is God’s way of making the situation so uncomfortable that we are forced to journey towards the real comfort.

I have recently seen articles which encouraged the Catholic Church to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, despite the cultural pressure. A lot of converts said that because the Church stood firm, they were attracted to convert and join the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was the proclammation of God’s justice that attracted people.

Let us learn to love God’s justice as much as we love his mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes, we hate it when we are corrected and when we receive your justice. Help us see it as an invitation for us to become better versions of ourselves. And give us the strength and courage we need to move forward.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving your tough love. It’s probably tough for you to do so, too.

14 November, Wednesday – Christian Behaviour

14 November

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Titus 3:1-7

Remind your people that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people. Remember, there was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries; we lived then in wickedness and ill-will, hating each other and hateful ourselves.

But when the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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It was purely by his own compassion that God saved us.

From ancient times through to modern day, there has always been a vestige of ‘an eye for an eye’ at the back of our minds. Although we do not take this literally, we often practice this principle in our daily lives.

How often are we more pleasant to someone who smiles at us? How many times have we become defensive when we encounter someone who is rude to us and we answer in kind? I can’t recall the last time I did not react or retort angrily if I felt that I have been unjustly treated.

Reflecting on this, it is an extremely wonderful thing that our Heavenly Father is not miserly like us. He is merciful and loving despite all our inequities and our lack of compassion towards others. Can you imagine if Jesus only saved the people who were nice to Him? The whole world would fall, and none would be saved.

Our God is full of compassion and mercy; otherwise, He would not have sent His only son to die a horrible death to atone for our sins. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can not hope to merit, earn or buy our way to Heaven. We cannot bargain or bribe our way. It is thru the mercy, compassion and love of our Lord that we may gain such reward.

Let us not squander the opportunity given to us so very graciously. Let us repay the Lord in kind by being compassionate, forgiving, loving, and caring to our neighbors. From something simple as smiling at a stranger, to refraining from gossiping about others. We can all do our part in little ways to be more Christ-like, to show our Heavenly Father that we love Him by our actions. Let’s make Him proud to call us His children and show the world that we are followers of Christ by our words and actions.

“In this life, we cannot do great things.  We can do little things with great love.”  – Mother Teresa

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we can be more compassionate and loving in our day to day interactions with family, friends and strangers alike.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for granting us your grace to help us battle the temptations of this world.

29 October, Monday – Live in Love

29 October

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes-all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity-which is worshipping a false god-can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…and live in love.

Today’s first reading tells us to practice human virtues of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. We are to imitate God, as his beloved children and to live in love. Sounds so ‘zen’, yes? The way I feel sometimes, I think I might have to be high on drugs to be this loving person. Being a Christian and following Christ is not easy. It is ‘cheap words’ when we go around spouting “Peace be with you” when our hearts are far from peaceful.

Recently, at our ‘Revival Friday’ session at the Catholic Spirituality Centre, the priest said something that had me nodding – when someone is hurting and struggling with a life situation, the last thing you should say is “I’ll pray for you!” I can resonate with that, because every time someone says that to me, I will dutifully reply “Thank you.” When in my heart, I am really saying “What a cop out thing to say!” Actions speak louder than words. Instead of saying “I’ll pray for you.” It’s far better to say “I’ll pray with you.” When someone is not feeling so great and down, sometimes the best thing to do is just to be there for them, listen to them, and not utter a single word.

I have been pondering over a perplexing situation between a friend and I. For some reason, this friend became hostile and cold towards me. It really surprised me and for the life of me, I cannot quite figure out what I might have done to upset this person. So being the good Christian, I decided to reach out to her and apologized for whatever I may have done. She responded very casually, as if there was absolutely nothing wrong. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to confront me. Perhaps she is herself confronting a difficult life situation and I shouldn’t take this personally. Now may not be the time to reach out. But in my mind, I keep wondering what I’ve done, and waver between being upset and understanding.

But as today’s readings remind me – I will still love my sister, strive to be tender-hearted, understanding and compassionate. And when the time is right, perhaps I could reach out to her again. I may not be like Jesus, healing with a touch of my hands. But perhaps, I could pave the way for healing — just be being there. Just by praying with her and for her.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

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Prayer: Jesus, give us hearts after yours – hearts of forgiveness, compassion and kindness. Teach us to walk in love. Especially to show love to people who hurt us, people who are hurting and people whom we find difficult to love.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for loving us. Especially when we are so unlovable. That you for healing our broken hearts and broken lives.

21 October, Sunday – Being models of Christ

21 October 2018 – Mission Sunday

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Isaiah 53:10-11

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over,
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

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Hebrews 4:14-16

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

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Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘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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“The cup I must drink you shall drink”

I started my Christian life when I was 12 by attending a protestant church near my home. I was there at the invitation of my then-neighbour David. I remember that fateful day, when there was a call to approach the front of the church to be prayed over. I looked around and saw people, many emotional, deep in prayer.

For many years after that, I never felt a complete connection with our Lord. Despite the many prayers I prayed, and the songs I had sung, I yearned for the closeness that I saw other people had with Him. For me, Jesus was disconnected; someone far away, just observing me.

I only realised that Jesus was much closer to me than I had known much later. During the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) that I attended, we prayed the Stations of the Cross. Then, and only then, did it hit me that not only did my Lord know what it meant to be human, but that He suffered more for me than I ever would. He was there all along.

In Matthew 28, our Lord Jesus sent us on a great mission, to make disciples of all nations and to baptise them.

How are we to go about this? In our encounters with our fellow humans, do we take on a position of pointing out the weaknesses of other people, highlighting areas of their lives where they think they could and should change?

Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-39, tells us that the greatest commandment is to love “the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” and that the second greatest is to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Surely, in the way He lived, our Lord Jesus showed us, as an example, of how we should live.

Let us be a reflection of the same, as we go about working to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by our Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray Father that we may put on the eyes of love as we continue to do what our Lord has commissioned us to do.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank You for showing us how to live our lives as Your children. Thank You for continuing to strengthen us and being with us as we journey.

14 October, Sunday – The Look of Love

14 October 2018

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Wisdom 7:7-11

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.

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Hebrews 4:12-13

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

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Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘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.’

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Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him

The young man of the gospel today is often a sharp reminder for me of my state in life, wherever I may be. As I reflected on the scriptures today, I contemplated the image of Jesus and me, encapsulated in a moment of true encounter. How does it feel to have Jesus’ eyes look steadily at me and love me? There is such a beautiful and tender feeling in that picture I hold in my mind. Right now, I am aware of the distance I feel from Jesus’ heart.

Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God, the logos (in Greek), the Infinite Wisdom. The Old Testament scriptures today point to the prophecy of encounter that the young man would experience when face to face with the person of Christ. ‘The word of God is something alive and active… it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit’ (Heb 4:12); and it is this spirit of Wisdom that cut so finely through the secret emotions and thoughts of the young man to unveil such great sorrow within him.

When Jesus looked, it was an active, penetrating, and radiant look of perfect love. And the young man’s desires came undone when Jesus told him, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (Mk 10:21) In the gospel account, we are not told that the young man beheld the loving gaze of Jesus, instead his face fell and he went away.

There are times when I have looked away from Jesus’ loving gaze, feeling either ashamed, unworthy, or angry and hardened with some kind of bitterness. I realise I have not allowed Jesus to love me, for his love to soften and change my heart. Because honestly, it can be scary – wondering what I will be called to do. Worrying over what I must next give up, whether my ‘riches’ be an assignment, a coveted project, a friendship, a burden. Anything that could stand between my life being united with Christ even more. I fear change and material poverty.

Some of us are not the young man but the apostles. We may have given up much already, yet we are now ‘counting our losses’ and mentally chalking up ‘spiritual credit’. With divine wisdom, Jesus slices through this self-righteous mentality too, and tells us, ‘For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’ (Mk 10:27)

What else is Jesus calling you to relinquish today? Will you let his loving gaze meet yours?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Loving Father, we seek Your wisdom to enlighten our minds and change our hearts, so that we may understand the truths you reveal in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for loving me despite my imperfections and unreadiness to receive your love.

12 October, Friday – Jesus Loves

12 October

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Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people 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.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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“Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law…”

As a child, I was exposed to the song “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” and as a child, I could not comprehend how Jesus could love someone like me. Cognitively, I knew that Jesus loves me and he died for me, because it was stated in the Bible, but I could not accept it in my heart. I always felt that Jesus loves everyone but me, and for a long time, I believed that Jesus’ love had exceptions. The circumstances of my childhood shaped my perceptions about Jesus and it took me a long time to finally accept Jesus’ love for me.

It has been 2 months since I started working with children, and I noticed that a number of these children believe that they are unlovable and no one could love them for who they are. Every morning when I go to work, I will remind myself to try and love the children with the love Jesus has for me. It can be very trying with some children, but each time I find myself hitting a roadblock with them, I would silently make a short prayer to God to grant me the grace to not react towards them, and to show them more of Jesus’ love. Sometimes when I am unable to pray as I am attending to the child, I would hold the crucifix pendant that I am wearing, and it would help me to calm down and to remember to love as Jesus loves. I realized that when I give the children the space to explore and to share their feelings without judgment, and to treat them with love regardless of what they have shared, it helps them to be more accepting of themselves. Working with children has allowed me to be constantly reminded of how Jesus sacrificed His life for me because He loves me for who I am, despite my shortcomings.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to emulate Jesus’ love for our fellow brethren and to accept that in order to love, it sometimes requires sacrifice.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, continue to grace us with the opportunity to know Jesus at a deeper level, and to continue to entrust our lives to you on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving: Dearest loving Father, thank you for your gift of Jesus to us, and thank you for showing us what unconditional love is.

25 September, Tuesday – True Intent

25 September

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Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,
who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,
the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice
is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,
lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;
too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,
such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,
he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,
when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:
he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry
shall himself plead and not be heard.

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Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

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A man’s conduct may strike him as upright, the Lord, however, weighs the heart…

If I am honest with myself, there are plenty of times when I am pleasant with others or perform a good deed for them, but my motives are not entirely altruistic. That is not to say that there is a Machiavellian element to my behavior nor am I scheming to harm someone, but I reflect on the pureness of my words and actions.

What do I mean? Well, do my actions and words aim to gain recognition and favor with others, to win in the arena of public opinion, or do they truly manifest the teachings of Christ selflessly? Like the many selfies posted on the internet, do they truly reflect the reality or are they doctored to present an intended image?

We may be judging ourselves and others based on actions and words, and in our eyes, they are just and pure. However, the Lord, who is infinitely wiser, looks at our hearts and intentions. If our intention is to deceive and misguide, then our ‘good’ deeds lack the meaning they deserve. However, if our intention is to live according to what Jesus taught us, even the smallest good deed will carry much more meaning and is so much more pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

When I reflect on what was in my heart in the past, I would say that reputation was a big concern.  Secondly, I was afraid of God’s retribution if I misbehaved. However, as I learn a little more about Catholicism, I come to realize that fear is not the emotion, nor should it be the motivation to do what is right. We want to do what is right and pleasing to God because we love Him above all else. We do not want to hurt anyone we love; at least, not intentionally. When the Lord looks into our hearts, He doesn’t want to see fear but love – love of God and love of neighbors.

We should continue to do good and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to both God and man; but let’s put God first and be more concern about Jesus’ judgement than man’s. After all, what is earthly, is transient, but what is heavenly, is eternal.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: We pray that our hearts be filled with love of God and neighbors, so that our actions and words follow the full intent of this love.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the unconditional and undying love of the Lord.  For second chances and the opportunity to do the right thing.

24 September, Monday – Loving Selflessly

24 September

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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Do not refuse a kindness to anyone… 

In this technologically-advanced world where the internet has shortened distances in terms of communication and instant gratification has become the norm, patience and tolerance are definitely on the decline. In spite of all the technological advancements that are supposed to help us manage the balance between work and family life, we are far busier than before. We try to fit more into a day and so focussed are we on our own agendas, that we often get irate at the slightest interruption and lose sight of what is truly important – the human connection.

Living in this wired/wireless world, we have come to expect a life of interruptions. When working on a computer, we are so quick to close and dismiss all those pop-up ads that show up on our screen. As a Christian, we need to be concerned about others; sometimes at great inconvenience to ourselves. When I am concentrating on a task at hand, and my children are requesting my attention, I have found myself getting impatient and resentful. Often, I am dismissive with their needs, as I would with the pop-up ads, especially when the task at hand requires a continuum of thought.

Today’s first reading reminds us that we need to tend to our neighbors’ request for help post haste. Our neighbors could be our family member, our spouse, our children, friends or strangers that we meet. If it is within our power to do, we should not delay in lending a helping hand. This seems hard to do, doesn’t it?  But that is what Christ wants us to do. That is the calling of all Christians from all walks of life.

The priest at my previous parish is usually busy and there are endless demands on his attention. Even when he is in a meeting in his office, his phone doesn’t stop ringing and there are constant knocks on his door. Instead of ignoring the calls or getting annoyed, he closes his eyes, breathes deeply (perhaps to say a quick prayer) and answers his door or phone. He is never rude and simply asks the other party politely if it is an emergency and if it could wait until after his current appointment. This is a true example of Christian love. A love that is not only present when convenient for us, but is present even when it causes us discomfort. When I reflect on his reaction to life’s interruptions (in his case, constant disruptions), I am reminded how important it is to treat people in our lives the way that Jesus wants us to – with love and respect. Perhaps when we get interrupted in our busy schedule next time, we can practice reacting with patience and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the ability to love others as you have loved us.  We pray that we may harbor Christian love towards our neighbors, even when we are under stress and do not feel we are able to give.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the light of Christ, as reflected in the many saints, showing us how to treat others with love and respect.