Tag Archives: pride

30 July, Saturday – Your Glory or God’s Glory

30 July – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24

The priests and prophets addressed the officials and all the people, ‘This man deserves to die, since he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’ Jeremiah, however, replied to the people as follows:

‘The Lord himself sent me to say all the things you have heard against this Temple and this city. So now amend your behaviour and actions, listen to the voice of the Lord your God: if you do, he will relent and not bring down on you the disaster he has pronounced against you. For myself, I am as you see in your hands. Do whatever you please or think right with me. But be sure of this, that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves, on this city and on its citizens, since the Lord has truly sent me to you to say all these words in your hearing.’

The officials and all the people then said to the priests and prophets, ‘This man does not deserve to die: he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah had a protector in Ahikam son of Shaphan, so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

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Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus, and said to his court, ‘This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had told him, ‘It is against the Law for you to have her.’ He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, ‘Give me John the Baptist’s head, here, on a dish.’ The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.

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The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison.

How far would you go in order to keep your word? If you are running a business, being able to keep your word is a an expensive, intangible asset. Break your word, and you will lose people’s trust and your reputation. As Warren Buffett said, ‘If you lose money for the firm I will be understanding. If you lose reputation I will be ruthless.’ That’s how much one’s word means.

We see the same thing with the king in today’s Gospel reading. He had given a blank cheque and even when the price proved too great, he chose to honor the his commitment in order not to be labeled as untrustworthy; he had John the Baptist beheaded. He went so far to do something he does not believe must be done in order to preserve his reputation. The moral of the story? Don’t give a blank cheque.

I would like to propose that there is another moral of the story. That is when choosing between saving our faces and obeying God, let us choose the latter. It’s a tough call. That’s why to remind us that it is possible to accept humiliation in order to glorify God, we have the Crucifix. The Crucifixion is the most humiliating punishment during Jesus’ time, yet he allowed himself to be humiliated, so God could be glorified.

According to stories, soon-to-be-saint Blessed Mother Theresa was spat on by a baker when she was begging for bread for a child. She accepted it and persevered asking for bread. My personal struggle would pale in comparison to hers, I merely struggled to pray before meals in public, give an appropriate bow as I pass by the Blessed Sacrament, or even to stick to my fasting. At those times, I didn’t want to ruin my reputation of being modern. Most of us will not have to choose between life and death; but our little actions or struggles to glorify God, by doing what is embarrassing by the world’s standards, will make God smile.

Let us make God smile today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Lord, help me live my life to praise you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to receive human honor, because you have provided us with something we can offer you for your glory.

17 May, Tuesday – Ambition

17 May

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James 4:1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

I was brought up in an environment that was more comfortable than many others. Growing up, we never lacked for anything which we wanted and, as the eldest among three children, I would receive a little bit more attention with which also came expectation. So when it came to the milestones in life, I always felt the need to live up to my parents’ expectations. It didn’t help to have a younger sister who was the perennial over-achiever from a scholastic standpoint.

When I finally graduated from university and secured a job with one of the top advertising agencies (an MNC), I was over the moon. Fired up with ambition, I worked hard (rather uncharacteristically) to make sure that I succeeded on my own terms. No job was too small nor too difficult. Through many twists and turns, as well as one or two ‘mid-life crises’, I found myself eating humble pie more than once when I was ‘let go’ by my employers in China and Dubai.

Admittedly, I sought refuge each time in the comfort of my family and loved ones. It was only after going for various retreats and learning to discern and ‘listen to His voice’ did I realise that God was speaking to me and carrying me on his shoulders all those times I fell down. Through those trials, He was actually strengthening me and preparing me for the work that He truly wanted me to do. Over the past few months, I have been reflecting on the journey I have been taking and slowly but surely, He is revealing the road ahead through other people around me.

Brothers and sisters, I would never have been able to come to this new realization, nor to look at the plight and sufferings of those around me with different coloured lenses, unless I had been made aware of the pride that was in me all those years ago. That last major blow certainly took the wind out of my sails for quite a while and showed me how being prideful was leading me down the wrong path. Today, I walk with my head held high for a different reason. For I know that God, my father, is holding me up and carrying me on His shoulders. And that Jesus walks with me, each and every day.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Abba Father, as you work in us, place in us a new heart and a yearning for you to fill it with humility, compassion and love for one another. Make us your instruments of love and unity.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for filling us with the Holy Spirit and for bestowing upon us the talents and gifts that we should be proud of and to glorify your name.

30 April, Saturday – Building Conflicts

30 April – Memorial for Saint Pius V, Pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

-Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number

The church that I attend has been undergoing a redevelopment plan that has been ongoing for as far back as decades. As I have been told, this project has been deemed rather ‘controversial’ over the course of its long history. As one could imagine, there are many stakeholders in a major redevelopment plan such as including the church leadership, the pastoral staff, the administrative and support teams, the deacons, the congregation, adjacent neighbors and government building commissions; all of whom have their own views and opinions, myself included. Having only attended this church since I started seeking and, eventually accepting Christ, I personally feel that I have a vested interest in its outcome. Yet the most important stakeholder that we need to focus on is God and whether this plan is in line with His plans!

Conflict can, and often does, arise within the church setting. The early Christians faced disagreements such as whether to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (as we read about on Thursday’s reflection). In time, they resolved their differences through obediently following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in guiding them to the answer God wanted. They allowed His Word to show them the truth.

Whenever there is conflict in a church, it is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve these tensions. First and foremost, the parties need to have the right focus – which is on God and not on themselves. They also need to consider their own role in the conflict and be willing to work with the other individual(s) to address the problem in a loving manner. The point is not to win an argument, but rather to improve the ministry when His people handle it in a Christ-like manner.

Brothers and sisters, the church is more than just a building where people gather. It is a collection of God’s people, that serve as the body of Christ, doing His work in a world that desperately needs its Prince of Peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for Your will to be done in our church communities. May the power of Your Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to glorify You in all that we build.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks for our church families who encourage us throughout our time on this world.

Thursday, 31 Jul – A New Vessel

31 Jul – Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Born to the Spanish nobility. Youngest of twelve children. Page in the Spanish court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Military education. Soldier, entering the army in 1517, and serving in several campaigns. Wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of biographies of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim‘s robes. He lived in a cave from 1522 to 1523, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. Pilgrim to Rome and the Holy Land in 1523, where he worked to convert Muslims. In 1528 he began studying theology in Barcelona and Alcala in Spain, and Paris, France receiving his degree on 14 March 1534. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus on 15 August 1534; it received papal approval in 1541. Friend of James Lainez, Alonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla, Simón Rodriguez, Blessed Peter Faber, and Saint Francis Xavier, the group that formed the core of the new Society. He never used the term Jesuit, which was coined as an insult by his opponents; the Society today uses the term with pride. He travelled Europe and the Holy Lands, then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits. His health suffered in later years, and he was nearly blind at death.

The Jesuits today have over 500 universities and colleges, 30,000 members, and teach over 200,000 students each year.

– The Patron Saint

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Jeremiah 18:1-6

The word that was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘Get up and make your way down to the potter’s house; there I shall let you hear what I have to say.’ So I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. And whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as happens with the clay handled by potters, he would start afresh and work it into another vessel, as potters do. Then this word of the Lord was addressed to me, ‘House of Israel, can not I do to you what this potter does? – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel.’

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Matthew 13:47-53

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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He would start afresh and work it into another vessel, as potters do.

I can be an annoying perfectionist. I used to be worse I remember. If you identify too, perhaps you may find your quirks and ticks insufferable. You can’t let go once you spot a little flaw, no matter how tiny, so you might re-do a whole section of work. Sometimes you don’t mind starting from scratch. Or you get stuck for a really long time, because you’re hung up over a detail, which you can’t presently solve – even if it isn’t critical or crucial, or you know for fact does not affect the bigger picture. You know that even if nobody spots the error, you cannot live it down just knowing it is there. There is such great, accumulated fatigue in being someone persistently like this. I will attest.

It not only tired me out. It can even make relationships tiresome. I once wondered if God was a perfectionist – in the sense that I find myself to be. When I think this way, I realise, He definitely would not be one. Perfectionists derive a lot of their pride when their work is flawless. There is a certain distinct sense of achievement and infallibility when their endeavours prove so meticulous that it hints at their awesome talent/skill/intellect. Perfection is what we seek, and pride is what this illusion feeds. Most of the time, we feel this way because we tie our value as a person, our entire worth and identity to the work we create, in so much as, we embed our personas and sense of being to the work we produce. Hence, perfectionists are a hard people to be around – exacting, demanding, and often unforgiving and impatient.

If God were truly a perfectionist, I suppose He would really ‘wipe the slate clean’ and start over His Creation and all of humanity again. Why would he continue loving and nurturing each and every imperfect one of us? In the first reading, the God reveals to Jeremiah how He embraces each person – just as we are – like the Potter handles the clay. The analogy of ‘starting afresh’ is not what we usually think – as a kind of tabula rasa, or clean slate. The Potter works with the same clay, he adds to it; subtracts from it; wets it; molds and fashions it, all the while allowing the wheel to continue spinning. He sees an abundant creative potential in us – mere wet clay – in every single moment. In other words, He embraces the process and He understands our nature perfectly.

Christ reveals the tender and patient nature of our Heavenly Father to his disciples in the gospel reading today – at the end of time, the angels will separate the wicked from the just and throw them into the blazing furnace. At first sight – what horrible and cruel imagery. But here is the catch, ‘at the end of time’. This begets the age-old questions: if God is truly loving, why would He permit suffering in our world; why would He not exact just punishment on all evil-doers right away? This free will is a tricky gift we have. It is both power and plight.

‘House of Israel, can I not do to you what this potter does? – It is the Lord who speaks. Yes, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel.’ (Jer 18:6) God is telling Israel, as He is telling us today – keep steady in My hands, Your life is in My hands, trust Me; be patient and pliable, be meek and gentle as only the moldable clay that surrenders to the Potter’s hands can be turned into a new vessel of any good use.

This process of individual molding will continue until the end of our lives. God waits with all of mankind as we groan outwardly in our suffering within this world – until the end of time. I am grateful for just one more day, when I awake, that He desires to still patiently work on my rough edges, softening my nature when I grow hardened with pride and discontent. This is why I’m glad God is not the kind of perfectionist that I am.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace to remain soft and meek to Your Word and Your Will in my life as St. Ignatius of Loyola was.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I give You thanks for one more day.

Sunday, 27 Jul – Lost and Found Treasure

27 Jul – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

The Treasure We Have Found

Solomon prayed for the wisdom to discern the true value of things. We scarcely need the wisdom of Solomon to realise that in finding the love of God and the kingdom of God we have found a treasure beyond price. It is in the joy of this realisation that we hold our celebration today.

– The Sunday Missal

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1 Kings 3:5,7-12

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’

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Romans 8:28-30

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose.

Where is your treasure? Rather, what amongst all you presently own in this life, do you count as your prized possession, your paramount treasure? The readings today posed a very difficult question to me. I was confronted and put in an awkward corner. My treasure is my intellectual achievements and reputation. By naming these two things, I don’t mean that I am incredibly intelligent or that I am of stellar social status. What I am actually saying is, these things are the treasured pearls I hope to find, much like the merchant.

Because I pride these as the most valuable things to own in my life, a good repute and intellectual accolades, that I am willing to barter or surrender almost all that I have in exchange for these material tokens. I probably have more in my checklist of “to-have’s” that I’ve yet to unpack, but I’m afraid to peer into this sack of hang-ups any longer.

King Solomon in our first reading today asked for only one thing ‘Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil’ (1 Kings 3:9). I found this prayer request a little uncannily like the desire that Adam and Eve had in the Garden – grasping at the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:17). If their desire was bad, why did God praise and honour Solomon’s prayer for the ability to discern between good and evil – and so blessed him with ‘a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you’ (1 Kings 3:12)? The clue is the intention and motivation behind the desire – which clearly, God knew. Solomon wanted this wisdom to discern how to rule and govern ‘this people of Yours that is so great’. Whereas Adam and Eve desired this wisdom to serve their own power and need for control – they saw it as a way they could be like God.

We are challenged today to consider what we count as our true treasure. If we only see this life as all we have, and Eternal life as a kind of ‘bonus level’ which we can get to, but not necessarily of paramount importance, then our approach to life on earth would quite easily be, “I just want to get the highest score in this level” – which might translate to the intellectual accolades, the wildest material possessions, and top-notch experiences one can get out of one’s time here.

However, as true Christians we will find that as we cleave closer to our Heavenly Father who knows us through and through, the way of purification will have us gradually finding less satisfaction and less ‘kick’ out of accruing whatever this world has to offer. We will begin to evaluate our choices and life decisions differently. Old ways of measures seem to no longer hold up, or previous acquisitions seem to now leave a smarting taste where once we’d be savouring power and status. The latest car model, the shiny jewel, the job promotion so that I can take that Alaska cruise next year, etc… These things in and of themselves are not bad – but if we think that this is all for us to ring in purely to level up in our own circles, then we would have cast our eyes and hearts only in the soil of the world. Not in the Kingdom of Heaven. Solomon’s one true desire was to harness his power and authority to better serve God’s people, for God’s glory and honour.

I have been consistently challenged to exchange my old ways of measuring for God’s Kingdom values. Yes, it is truly hard to strive for unseen eternal goals when clearly, we are people of the flesh. We need tangible comforts to feel that we are on the right track. A priest shared a profound anecdote with me today, “You can only buy the heart of God with your last coin.” The irony is we could still falsely think we can buy our way into heaven. This proverb reminds me of the widow who offered her last coin in the temple, and the parables Jesus shared with the disciples in today’s Gospel reading – the happy man is the one who sells everything because of the true treasure he has found.

What am I hoarding right now that I am reluctant to offer up to God, still bargaining with Him to let me have both my possessions and His treasure? Lord, I must admit that I haven’t found you fully enough.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord Heavenly Father, help me to spend more time in silent adoration with you, to listen to your heartbeat – lest I grow dull and lose sight that you are my one true treasure.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the generosity and selflessness of those everywhere who are united with Christ in poverty and meekness. May they be our teachers.