Tag Archives: rest in God

8 February, Saturday – The discipline of rest

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick, and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started, and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

  • Patron Saint Index

Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 3:4-13

King Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the greatest of the high places – Solomon offered a thousand holocausts on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon during the night. God said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘You showed great kindness to your servant David, my father, when he lived his life before you in faithfulness and justice and integrity of heart; you have continued this great kindness to him by allowing a son of his to sit on his throne today. Now, 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. What you have not asked I shall give you too: such riches and glory as no other king ever had.’

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Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

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‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.’ For there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.

In Asia, the concept of 24/7 is very pervasive. We want 24/7 customer support, we want stores from where we can buy anything round the clock. When I went to Europe, the siestas frustrated me. When I went to America and Australia, the stores closing at 6pm (6pm!) drove me nuts. When I went to some place in Japan, not being able to call a cab at 10pm was a culture shock for me. So the busyness in Singapore has really pervaded my life. I honestly experience withdrawal symptoms if I suddenly have nothing to do.

And because of this, I have forgotten that I need rest. I feel guilty if I am not doing anything. Eventually, I realized that I had applied the same attitude to my ministry and my spiritual life. And even my ‘rest’ days have become days where I busy myself with other things (like touring, watching a movie). The things that I do have become a list of to-do’s.

I think there are many reasons why we choose to busy ourselves instead of taking time to rest. For me, I feel that if I were to rest, nothing would happen. I forget that after I have planted a seed and watered it for the day, I should just rest and leave it be. Or if I were to rest, I am wasting the talent that God has given to me when I could be accomplishing more for God.

For some people, they don’t truly rest because they are not comfortable being alone with themselves and God. I remember a fellow catechist who asked our youths if they were afraid to rest in God because God will reveal to them who they really are.

We should remember that it was Jesus who asked his disciples to rest after their mission. There’s work and there’s rest. Both have to be enjoyed. I was also told that it is our duty to rest.

One of my favorite saints, St Josemaria Escriva writes about rest — “I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job.” (The Furrow, 514)

Imagine how busy the apostles must be to have missed their meals at the time when there were no e-mails, handphones, etc. They deserved the rest Christ was inviting them to.

Perhaps, we should look at our schedule. Are we really too busy to rest?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, you taught us that there is a time for everything, even for rest. Teach us how to really rest.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for showing us that rest is as important as work.   

17 March, Sunday – New Romance

17 March 2019

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Genesis 15:5-12,17-18

Taking Abram outside, the Lord said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can.’ ‘Such will be your descendants,’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

  ‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.

  When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,

from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River.’

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Philippians 3:17-4:1

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

  So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.

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Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

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… do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. 

How often do we assume that we already know someone very well just because we have known them for long? As the saying goes, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Abraham was already 99 years old when God promised him a child and descendants so many that they would outnumber the stars in the sky. As faithful a man of God that Abraham was, I believe he experienced seasons of doubt, moments of questions. Even curiosity, at the far-out promises God was fond of making. I suppose that is why he could not help but ask, “‘My Lord, how am I to know that I shall inherit [this land]?’

God was not offended. Instead, he generously offered Abram a visible sign of his covenant in spectacularly consuming his burnt offerings. Likewise in the gospel passage today, God presented Peter, John, and James with the Transfiguration of Jesus in order that they might commit this spectacular event to long-term memory, that Jesus was the Messiah and that they should obey him. We often label these as ‘mountain-top experiences’ precisely because God plucks us out from the banality of our daily business and reveals a magnificent and eternal truth to us – that His promises are true and His Word is life.

From my personal experiences, I can tell you that even these ‘mountain-top experiences’ can become old. We can be desensitised to such an amazing ‘spiritual display’ if we presume to know that God would speak to us in the same way every time.

I made a 3-day personal silent retreat recently. Although I had a routine of making this a yearly affair, I had not done one in past the two years. However, I had clear memories of how past retreats had been for me, and subconsciously expected to experience a similarly intimate, connected, and restful time. I had expected God to re-create my spiritual encounters with inspiring visions and impart messages to enlighten me on my next steps in life. Reality turned out far from history.

While I spent many hours praying and resting at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament, I received little in the way of inspiring visions and images which used to energise me. I was frustrated and disappointed. I thought: Wow, it sure looks like the early days of courtship with God is over, and we’ve moved on to the boring ‘married life’ stage of ‘no surprises’ and ‘no anniversary celebrations’. Haha!

It was only at my final morning before leaving the retreat house, that I realised a better truth. God did speak to me – He was present with me throughout my retreat in a completely different way. It was I who was out of sync with my new normal of spiritual and mental state. So much had changed in my life over the past few years! I got married, I became a mother, and I am now also a caregiver to my husband. God knew what I needed! He gave me REST – lots and lots of it. I didn’t get powerful visions because I didn’t need those. But I sure slept and napped with abandon like a wee newborn – no chores, child, or caregiving that demanded my energy and attention. I was able to SIT, GAZE, SING at the feet of Jesus. Just me and my Lord in the chapel.

God was showing me that ‘boring’ can also be beautiful. And this time, I experienced God romancing me in a completely new way. He says: I am right there in the eye of your storm; I am right there cradling you in your ‘Snooze’ button; I am always with you. Stay with me and I will show you.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray for all who feel tepid in their relationship with our Heavenly Father. Trust that He is wooing you, trust that He is the one waiting for your unrequited love. Let your guard down, let Him in.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for always romancing me in new ways, for winning me back to yourself, for never letting me go. 

9 February, Saturday – Resting for a while

9 February 2019

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Hebrews 13:15-17,20-21

Through Christ, let us offer God an unending sacrifice of praise, a verbal sacrifice that is offered every time we acknowledge his name. Keep doing good works and sharing your resources, for these are sacrifices that please God.

Obey your leaders and do as they tell you, because they must give an account of the way they look after your souls; make this a joy for them to do, and not a grief – you yourselves would be the losers. I pray that the God of peace, who brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead to become the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant, may make you ready to do his will in any kind of good action; and turn us all into whatever is acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.

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Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

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You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.

Every year, I look forward to a retreat with the Lord, with a minimum of three days. Spending time only with God makes me more aware of His presence in my life.

Life can be tiring — our work, our ministry, our families, our hobbies, our friends and even acquaintances. They all demand something from us. Interactions with them call for self-giving, some just a little, some really a lot. If we continue without rest, we will eventually find ourselves empty, with nothing else left to give.

God fills us up. From Him we can draw an endless supply of graces that we need. However, we need to be still to really be filled.

Let us imagine ourselves as pitchers of water. We move around giving out from ourselves and if we keep on doing that without resting, then we could not be filled. When you fill a pitcher, the pitcher has to be placed on a table, and it has to be unmovable, and then it can be filled. I think it’s the same for us. We need to stop for a while to allow God to top us up.

The longer we stay still, the more water could be poured in our pitchers.

Let us not look at retreats as optional. Retreats are needed for our spiritual rest and growth. Let us invest not just time but also our resources to ensure we have a good retreat. I have personally benefitted a lot from the retreats I attended.

To end this reflection, I would like to share about God’s generosity. Just this January, I had to attend a retreat because everyone in the ministry had to go. I was hesitant at first but since God wanted me to go, I told him I’d go. The only thing I gave God was that little bit of desire to follow Him in this retreat. God has rewarded me with so much in that retreat. I truly felt what everyone has been saying — God is never outdone in generosity.

My prayer for all of us is to be able to have that rest with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear God, please help me find a retreat where you can fill me up. Please help me be aware of my spirituality and send me the right invitations to go to a retreat.

Thanksgiving: Lord God, thank you for both work and rest that you want me to do.