Tag Archives: love

8 November, Wednesday – Love Is A Two-way Street

8 November 2017

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Romans 13:8-10

Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

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Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

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Love is the answer to every one of the commandments.

Ahhh love…… It’d so easy to love those who are lovable, likeable, those who reciprocate your love. However, when faced with challenging situations and difficult people, it is another thing altogether. We’ve all heard homilies preached by our priests to: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, ‘Love and pray for those who persecute you’ and ‘Love those difficult people’.

I know I have been in those pews, rolled my eyes in my mind and said ‘Right, easier said than done.’ But Jesus tells us that love is the greatest commandment!

Of all the commandants, this one must be the hardest for me to follow. Even priests find it hard to keep that commandment, so we are in good company. Love has been described as a ‘two way street’. Many friendships and relationships end in disaster when one party forgets, and assumes that it has become a one-way expressway.

Recently, I was faced with a situation that put my faith to the test. I have had a business relationship with a very close relative of mine for the past 3 years. Though we are relatives, we are both like chalk and cheese — in personality, in the way we approach life and also how we approach business. Over time, I think we learnt to adjust to each other’s working style. However, because of issues which festered, she chose to sever our working relationship; and on my birthday to boot!

I believe that the way our little venture started is God’s gift to us. And working together would be beneficial to us and our clients. However, it is what it is and I have to honour the decision made and to move on. If the decision made was simply a difference in personality and ways we dealt with things, it would be easy for me to accept. However, the split was because of ‘personal motivations’. Even that I could accept. What hurts me most is the betrayal and the person I thought I’d known and loved all my life, turn into someone I barely know. What hurts me most is we are both Christians who continue to hurt each other.

With any cessation of a relationship, we have to deal with the difficult topic of ‘the split’. This has been an incredibly difficult process, you’d imagine. I liken it to a divorce. It brings out the monster in us. I have been praying about this and asking God what I should do. ‘Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.’(Rom. 12:9). I know that I have to be fair and Christ-like in handling this and I am trying really hard. Every hour of the day, I need his grace to carry me through. If it were my old self, I would fight tooth and nail and drive a really hard bargain. But as a Catholic, I keep asking myself “What would Jesus do?” But each time I receive a downright rude and war-declaring WhatsApp message, I feel like someone punched me again and I just want to throw this ‘Love your neighbour’ thing out the window and punch right back.

Remember the phrase, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’ I read in some article that whether you’ve been betrayed or not, don’t resort to betraying another. Following Christ is indeed not easy. It requires us to hate our father, mother, wife, children, brother, sisters, yes our own life too.

Don’t take it too literally, what Jesus is telling us is to put Him first above all other relationships and things. It asks that I give up my own ways of doing things and lean on Him to lead me. It continues to be an uphill climb today. But I know that I cannot deal with it on my own. For now, ironically, love is a one-way street. This makes no sense in the outside world. But with God, it’s the way. I have to forgive, let go and move on. Forgiving does not mean accepting the wrong behaviour of others; it means detaching from the pain, frustration, and bitterness buried within.

I continue to pray for her daily.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, in our humanness, we struggle each day to love, especially those who hurt and persecute us. But only if we walk with you, can love be possible. We pray for your grace to carry us through, especially through seemingly impossible situations. We pray to be more like you – when Peter betrayed you and yet you continued to love him.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the trials that come our way. In these times, you show us you are closer to us than ever. And also in these times, you teach us how to love and forgive as you do.

29 October, Sunday – The Greatest Commandment

29 October 2017

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Exodus 22:20-26

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the sons of Israel this:

‘“You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.

‘“If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.

‘“If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”’

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1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

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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 the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As with the Gospel from the previous week, we read again how Jesus was once again being put to the test. We see how there’s a special connotation when we use the word ‘test’. Sometimes, we simply just want to push our boundaries and make life difficult for others even when the result or outcome may not even be applicable or affect us. Sometimes, we just want to prove people wrong and try to make our lives/rules or, in this context, the commandments, easier to follow.

Sometimes we even make ‘bets’ with God, “If you help me to get through this, I will do something for you”, or “If I’m able to witness a miracle, I’ll convert”, or “If you are real God, ….” and much more.

For me, how I ‘test’ God is, even though I am aware of the sin I’ll be committing, I still choose to willingly commit it, thinking that God will still forgive me after I’ve gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But at the end of the day, Jesus makes it clear that it isn’t about keeping every one of the commandments. For even more than that, for the commandments to be kept, we must first “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself”. We see how, in the New Testament, Jesus helps us to summarise the 10 Commandments into these two simple commandments. The key word being LOVE.

Why is there so much emphasis then on LOVE? To do things with great love, to love our enemies, to look out for the last, the lost and the least. And I guess, deep down, it is because we all want and desire to be loved, not for what we can offer or how we look, but because of who we are.

Should this be what we desire, then this is what we should also give/share with all. God has given us His greatest love in the form of Jesus — where He gave Himself to us, in order that we may all be saved. And in that LOVE, FREEDOM as well, to sometimes choose to go against Him.

We give because we have already been given, we love because we are first loved by Him. Let us treasure this FREEDOM that we are given, not to ‘test’ God, but to allow His face and His glory to shine through all of us, onto everyone around us as we too make a gift of ourselves, so that all may experience His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to love. To love without condition. To love as you love. To do your will and build your kingdom here on earth, in our homes and in our hearts. Let all that we do be done in love, with love, to love and for love. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love. For giving us this freedom. For being patient and understanding in our journey towards holiness. Thank you for the many graces and blessings that you have already bestowed upon us.

30 September, Saturday – God’s Full Measure of Mercy

Sep 30 – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

  • Patron Saints Index

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Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15

Raising my eyes, I saw a vision. It was this: there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out her breadth and her length.’ And then, while the angel who was talking to me stood still, another angel came forward to meet him. He said to him, ‘Run, and tell that young man this, “Jerusalem is to remain unwalled, because of the great number of men and cattle there will be in her. But I – it is the Lord who speaks – I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”’

Sing, rejoice,
daughter of Zion;
for I am coming
to dwell in the middle of you
– it is the Lord who speaks.

Many nations will join the Lord,
on that day;
they will become his people.

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Luke 9:43-45

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.”’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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Many nations will join the Lord, on that day; they will become his people. 

Imagine the last days when we are all gathered outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. Yet, as today’s first readings prophesy, it is an unwalled city (Zechariah 2:4-5) and the Lord Himself is dwelling gloriously in the midst of it, casting a mighty ‘wall of fire’ around her where fortress walls should stand. Who will we discover being admitted through the wall of fire around her?

Today’s readings remind me of this hymn:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.
 

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

The man with the measuring line in the first reading today seems to be conducting a vain and futile endeavor – to measure Jerusalem’s breadth and length. I cannot help but think of the best intentions of even the most righteous and self-righteous people I have met, who believe they know just how God will measure us up for the deeds of our lives.

Fraternal correction must be conducted with charity, justice, and mercy. But within this desire to call out a brother or sister to their failings or sins, is ultimately a mirror of reflection for the one who brings this charge against the sinner – how have you truly loved your neighbour in the midst of professing your judgment and correction? How pure is your heart? How humble have you been in acknowledging to God for your own times of failure?

This is not to say that no one is ever righteous enough to correct another with love. But indeed, we should not claim to think we know better whether this present momentary sin of others would be the death knell for the sinner and presume his or her condemnation outside the walls of Jerusalem. One’s present state of life does not convict them to an eternal state of life – but we must commit them to prayer with great love.

We are told that Jerusalem is unwalled. It is only God’s glorious wall of fire – a fire of justice and mercy – that will be the true measurement for the eternal length and breadth of his Heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of wisdom and greater love when we exercise our Christian duty of fraternal correction.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the love of my fellow Christians who courageously challenge me to accountability for my actions – even at the expense of risking misunderstandings.

18 August, Friday – Unteachable We

18 Aug

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Joshua 24:1-13

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem; then he called the elders, leaders, judges and scribes of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua said to all the people:

  ‘The Lord, the God of Israel says this, “In ancient days your ancestors lived beyond the River – such was Terah the father of Abraham and of Nahor – and they served other gods. Then I brought your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan. I increased his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountain country of Seir as his possession. Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt with the wonders that I worked there. So I brought you out of it. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and you came to the Sea; the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen as far as the Sea of Reeds. There they called to the Lord, and he spread a thick fog between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea go back on them and cover them. You saw with your own eyes the things I did in Egypt. Then for a long time you lived in the wilderness, until I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan; they made war on you and I gave them into your hands; you took possession of their country because I destroyed them before you. Next, Balak son of Zippor the king of Moab arose to make war on Israel, and sent for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; instead, he had to bless you, and I saved you from his hand.

  ‘“When you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, those who held Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites and Perizzites, the Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I put them all into your power. I sent out hornets in front of you, which drove the two Amorite kings before you; this was not the work of your sword or your bow. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olive-groves you never planted.”’

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

  They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

  The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted.

The human race has been unteachable since the dawn of time. Ancient civilisations have been unteachable even as they developed in wisdom and technology – hence their extinction. The modern and post-modern society is just as unteachable today, as much as the agrarian and feudal and monastic societies were. Let’s break it down further: to this very day, we can be as stubbornly unteachable as our parents, grandparents, forefathers. The readings today remind us about how much mercy and redemption we are really in need of.

It is indeed a ‘hard teaching’ of the sin of divorce and adultery that the Pharisees confronted Jesus with in the gospel passage of Matthew today. They were trying to snare Jesus on the technicalities (of the Jewish Law) and see if his so-called teachings of justice and mercy were contradictory on this particular issue. We can see it so painfully true in our world today.

Jesus does not budge or become apologetic about the fundamental nature of man. He especially calls out the Pharisees on this sin of unteachability first and foremost as the basis on which Moses commanded a writ of dismissal be given in cases of divorce. It still is not right for a marriage to be dissolved and for a man to divorce his wife. For marriage is a covenant, a binding promise, representative of the covenant that God made with His Creation that He would always be with us. If God, despite our repeated betrayals and travesties against Him, can be unrelenting in His love, mercy, and desire to still be wedded and faithful in his promise of salvation to us, who are we to ungratefully demand to dispense with Him?

Only an unteachable and ungrateful generation would repeatedly deny receiving God’s goodness and mercy.

Yet, we know of other sins that came along when divorce remained illegal in the past. The sin of adultery and murder became the route which men and women took as the means to their desired ends. Wasn’t this what King David himself did? Indeed, as the disciples foolishly responded, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ This refrain is so heartlessly and callously repeated even today. Many people point to others’ failing, struggling, or difficult marriages, in blame: “This is the reason why I will not get married.” This is also why many children who grew up watching their parents fumble through their own marriages lose hope and vision of how a real Christ-like marriage could be.

Not even the Christian life is to be expected to be easy. What more a Christian marriage? But even more elemental than that, all relationships are messy, difficult, and trying endeavours! Whoever has never argued and been challenged to accountability by a really close friend before? If you had ever ditched a friendship because it is tough or deemed it unworthy because of pride and stubbornness, then humbly, we need to acknowledge that a marriage that binds two imperfect and wounded persons could be exponentially difficult.

The baseline for living in peace and harmony in community, family, and marriage, is to pray for a heart of humility and teachability. From this point, we can hope to transform and transfigure our worldview, modus operandi, and expectations towards our relationships and the holy and worthy task of loving someone and learning to be loved. Yes, Jesus does teach that there is mercy regardless for those who have endured the painful process of divorce. All of us intuitively and ultimately deeply seek a covenantal promise of love that will never be broken. It has been written in our DNA. The question is, how teachable are we in the practice of loving another person? The next question is, how teachable are we in the follow-up to making mistakes and failing to live up to our promises? May we remember: We love because He first loved us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: A wedding is for a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime on earth, and can be our passport to eternity. May we pray to God for a heart of teachability in this journey of learning to love another person, and to remain in love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your unending mercy to me. For giving me countless second chances. Help me never to take it for granted and spurn your love.

21 July, Friday – Going Beyond the Superficial

Jul 21 – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest, religious, doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

‘Substance over form’ was a mantra I first learned about in my basic law course in the polytechnic. Interestingly, this saying came up repeatedly over the 30 odd years of my working life, beginning in audit, investment research and finally, in banking.

In my first job as an auditor, I focused on both financial and internal audits. Many times, I would find transactions in companies structured one way or another to meet the requirements of some law or to avoid some legal constraints. In essence, however, these transactions still achieved the same goals although appearing to be different on the surface.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said: “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.” Too often we look at following the ‘rules’, without thinking about the implications or equity if we were to follow this rules.

As Christians, we must always prioritise people above the rules; to be merciful as asked by our Lord. Rather than purely administering the regulations, we need to look at the issues through lenses of love.

I recently read about how a retail store worker in the United States was fired because he had worked with the police to prevent a kidnapping. The reason? All because in doing so, he had gone against company policy. It may sound incredible, but true!

We need to always look at people and situations through lenses of love and mercy, for it is only through this that we can be true Christians and followers of God’s Word.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, thank You for showing us what it means to be a true Christian. Help us to go beyond what is on the surface and go into the ‘substance’ and give us the courage to do so.

Thanksgiving Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us a compass in our lives. We thank You also for providing a faith community to support us to do so.

17 July, Monday – God as Number One

17 July

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Exodus 1:8-14, 22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’ Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.

Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

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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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“Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

One of the stories I heard growing up was of three old men sitting outside a house. When invited into the house by the owner, the men introduced themselves as ‘Success, Wealth and Love’, and said that only one of them could enter the house. In short, the owner had to choose.

The gospel passage today had troubled me when I first read it. Was I really to put everyone else as a lower priority to God? Wasn’t my responsibility to my family, my grandaunty and those whom I loved dearly?

As I matured as a Christian, however, I began to understand from the stories in the Bible. I read about how Daniel chose to worship God rather than bow down before the king. I read about how God was faithful to Abraham, and stopped him from sacrificing his son Isaac, providing instead, a white ram for the sacrifice.

Since then, I have seen many examples of God’s love and faithfulness to me, and to those around me. I have found that in times when I have chosen the (much more difficult) path that God desires us to follow, things have often turned out much better than if I had taken the alternative routes. Very often, these final outcomes were unexpected!

Still, despite our faith in our God, it remains extremely difficult to put Him as Number One in our lives. It is this that Jesus reminds us to do constantly. May we continue to turn to Him to bless us with wisdom to continue to do so.

Oh, returning to the original story, the owner chose ‘Love’, and with that choice, all three men entered the house. ANY other choice would have resulted in only one man entering the house.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Lord Jesus, may we learn from you how to place Father God above all else in our lives; above other people, possessions, desires and thoughts.

Thanksgiving We thank You, Father God, for Your faithfulness and for always providing all that we need. We are grateful for Your love.

6 July, Thursday – Love till it hurts

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 22:1-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew 9:1-8

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

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Your sins are forgiven

I recently attended a weekday mass where the priest preached about love. Love your neighbour as you would love yourself. That’s a hard one to follow in our Christian faith. It’s so easy to love those who are likable, but for those who are less likable, obeying that commandment is tough. The priest went on to challenge us – to love till it hurts.

I have been struggling to love a friend of mine. I do love this friend to the point that I would do almost anything for her. Until she did something that hurt me tremendously. My love moved from anger, to sadness to immense pain. I felt very sad and disappointed and asked God, why should I love this person when she continues to hurt me so? Why can’t I simply forget her, move on and never think of her again? Truth is, I still do love her but the pain is still so real. And she has never been out of my mind, no matter how hard I push the thoughts away. Love till it hurts.

As I read today’s first reading, my heart goes out to poor Abraham. As if giving up and sending away Hagar and Ishmael wasn’t enough. Today, God is asking him to make a burnt sacrifice of his son, Isaac whom he loved. And Abraham, in obedience and with much pain did as God asked of him. He loved God so much that he would give up the very person he loved. Can you and I do this? Tough.

Today’s gospel reading shows Jesus and his ability to be a living form of God’s immense love for us. Seeing their faith, Jesus said ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ The paralytics’ friends (or were they merely acquaintances) loved the man enough to bring him to Jesus, so that he could be healed. Jesus, saw that beyond just the physical healing, the man needed to be forgiven for his sins too. His immense love for us gives us complete healing both spiritually, emotionally and physically so that we can live our lives in true peace and freedom.

Today, let us ask for God’s grace to fill our hearts with His love, so that we can love and forgive those who have hurt us. Can we lift them up in prayer and ask God to bless them and heal us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, we pray for the grace to follow your commandment. To love others as we love ourselves. We empty ourselves of anger, unforgiveness, jealousy and pride. Fill us with your love overflowing. So that we may truly be like you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for healing our hurts and forgiving our sins. Many times we fall short and are so underserving of your love. Yet you said “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.” Thank you, Jesus.

2 July, Sunday – Love Unveiling

2 July 2017

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2 Kings 4:8-11, 13-16

One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way. She said to her husband, ‘Look, I am sure the man wno is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.’ One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call our Shunammitess. Tell her this: “Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?”’ But she replied, ‘I live with my own people about me.’ ‘What can be done for her then?’ he asked. Gehazi answered, ‘Well, she has no son and her husband is old.’ Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ The servant called her and she stood at the door. This time next year,’ he said ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’

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Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

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Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘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.’

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Can something be done for her

In today’s reading, we hear of the woman without a child. In the times of Elisha and even in modern day Malaysia, women are expected to be life-giving by having their own offsprings. Society is rather unforgiving of this and some may utter hurtful words to ladies who do not have children.

God’s favour comes upon the lady in today’s gospel in the form of a son. But that need not be the only way God chooses to bless us – through children. Are we rooted enough to see all His works in our life? Are we able to look beyond the murmuring of people and trust in our Lord?

In the gospel, He clearly says that we are not worthy of Him if we love our children or parents more. This is a tough one for me as I simply adore my parents. Yet I know that God is my primary Father and He is my all in all. In matters of giving him a first class place in my heart, I have to rely on Him; there is no other way.

Recently, there was a brutal murder of a young man in Malaysia. He was 19 and was tortured for hours by his peers. There had been other such cases recently — young people being bullied to death by people they knew. As the investigations unfolded, it was revealed that these children had been bullied before by the same assilants and even other adults knew about it. Why did the other adults not speak up? This could have saved lives. Sadly, many people I spoke with on this admitted that they would not do anything if they saw a child being bullied, simply because the child was not their own.

Children are a gift from God. As adults, we have a duty of care towards any child, even strangers. If people loved God more than they loved their own children, they would have done or said something. Because they would have seen God in the child that was being bullied. The Beautitudes state – “blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth.”

My dear sisters and brothers, let us learn to talk when it matters and when it really counts, knowing that, that will not make us empty vessels but rather ones that love God more than we love anyone else. This world desperately needs to see the love of Christ through our words and deeds.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the victims and assailants in the recent bullying cases, also those who have chosen not to act. Be our voice and protector of all danger. St Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us a longing so deep so that we cannot ignore you, the Love or all Loves, you who are Love.

27 June, Tuesday – Love

Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

  • – Patron Saint Index

27 June 2017

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

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Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“So always treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

I believe that all of us, in some way, want to be accepted, to feel belonged, to be loved. But how many of us accept and love others back?

Indeed, where it says, “enter by the narrow gate; since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many of us prefer the easy way out, choosing not to rock the boat and yet we wonder why we are still struggling with problems that are not going away; surrounded by people who don’t change, even wondering why God isn’t hearing our prayers. But I guess, sometimes, God places us in such situations where we are called to effect change.

However, many times, we resort to using either experience, authority or even qualifications as a means to effect change rather than love. How do we hope for others to speak to us? How do we hope for others to treat us? And hence in our Gospel today, we read “so always treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

This is the narrow road we are encouraged to take, for we will always question, why is it we need to love first, forgive first? And sometimes, how many more times do we need to do so for others to realise, for them to finally change. The beauty of our faith is that there is no answer to those questions except to continue to love. Love isn’t about allowing oneself to be used or taken advantage of; love is speaking and living the truth.

For we live our lives not based on what others say about us but what God says. Created with love, from love, we are also called to love. Not as how we know it but as how God has loved us by His example. Let us challenge ourselves to continue to persevere in love not to receive love in return but because we have already received through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us be Christ to others, to all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for our own conversion, for the many times we have been selfish. We pray also for perseverance as we continue to do your will and build your kingdom, a kingdom of love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for understanding us, for helping us to see beyond ourselves, to help us see what really matters, what is really important, what is it we actually live for and what gives us life.

23 June, Friday – Love

23 June 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Moses said to the people: ‘You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.

‘If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments, but who punishes in their own persons those that hate him. He is not slow to destroy the man who hates him; he makes him work out his punishment in person. You are therefore to keep and observe the commandments and statutes and ordinances that I lay down for you today.’

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1 John 4:7-16

My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love. God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit. We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God. We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

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Matthew 11:25-30

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.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

I find it a real struggle to talk about the most sacred heart of Jesus, a heart that is so big and bursting with love that my own heart cannot comprehend it. Blessed are those who can.

The devotion of the most sacred heart of Jesus speaks of Jesus’ unending and long-suffering love for humanity, and humanity’s indifference to his love in return. God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son that he might die so that we can live. God loved us first and redeemed us for Himself. We know this, we have learnt and read about this, yet how much of it do we understand?

We think our hearts are broken beyond repair when someone we love walks out on us or betrays us or cheats on us. Oh, our hearts seems so trivial in comparison to the betrayal that Jesus faced when we broke his heart! I have had my fair share of heartbreak in life but I cannot fathom and am not worthy to put myself in Jesus’ position to say that I understand, I empathise.

All I can say is God is love; to know love is to know God. To love one another, and not just in a romantic sense, is to love God. God’s love is perfected in us when we love one another. Remember the line in the musical Les Miserables: to love another person is to see the face of God? For this one moment, we are offered a glimpse of what God’s love for us feels like. I imagine that to fully embrace the extent of His love for us would be akin to that little glimpse multiplied by the blazing of a thousand suns.

When there is tragedy, there is an outpouring of grief, there is a collective concern, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to reach out and help. There is a unified effort to stand for a purpose. This is love. Of course, we do not need something as terrible as a tragedy to show love. Love is manifested in many ways. The point is that we are all born with an innate sense to love one another. We are all capable to give and receive love. This is why we find babies so adorable, because they are all love. As we experience different things, our perception of love changes, which sadly is why some are driven to the ‘dark side’. But how we let others change our ability to love is within our control. If we know our worth — and we are worth A LOT to God — then with God’s grace, we can withstand the attempts of these things to corrupt us. God loved us first, and we have to remember always what His love is worth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer – Father, You redeemed us through Your Son, Jesus. What a price to pay! May our hearts burn for You with the same love that You have for us.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Lord, for loving us, even when we turned away from You. Yours is an unconditional and everlasting love, even though we are not worthy.