Tag Archives: service

17 December, Monday – God Is Enough For Me

17 December

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Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

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Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

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“…until he come to whom it belongs, to whom he peoples shall render obedience”

My wife and I were recently involved in the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held for the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS). Specifically, I was asked to play in the music ministry, which was formed out of a group of ex-CER retreatants.

When I received the WhatsApp messages from a brother and his wife (both long-time and close friends), I did not answer immediately.  Instead, I took about two weeks to think about it.

One of the biggest concerns was that I had not played guitar for about a year and felt I was not good enough to play in such a ministry. This feeling of inadequacy was made worse after I attended the first practice session where I realised ALL the musicians were so well-trained that they actually did not need music song sheets to play along!

Over time, despite the disparity in the level of musical talent between my band members and I, we played together and had a level of understanding and communication that was surprising to me. Somehow, only God could know how well we would play and understand each other.

I was caught up in the trap of thinking I needed to be perfect in order to serve God. Instead, I should have trusted that God would take who I was and make me perfect enough.

The readings today reinforces this.

In Jesus’ geneology, we see Judah (who had slept with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, who had been dressed as a prostitute at the time), Ruth (from the tribe of Moab, a tribe begotten when Lot was held and raped by his two daughters) and finally David (who had committed adultery with Bathsheba).

In spite of such imperfection, God had chosen this particular lineage for Jesus to be born into. If perfection was totally important in God’s redemptive work, He could easily have chosen another ‘more perfect’ family.

How powerful! God truly is enough!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may have faith in You Father, that You will make us enough. Enough to serve You and enough to serve all around us.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful, Father God, for loving us. For telling us that we, and our faith in You, is enough.

26 November, Monday – Real Generosity

26 November

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Apocalypse 14:1-5

In my vision I, John, saw Mount Zion, and standing on it a Lamb who had with him a hundred and forty-four thousand people, all with his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound coming out of the sky like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it seemed to be the sound of harpists playing their harps. There in front of the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four animals and the elders, a hymn that could only be learnt by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been redeemed from amongst men to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them.

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Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’

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She has put in all she has

Some time back, a TV programme featured the life of an old man in Singapore who spends his days doing charitable work. There might not be anything very remarkable about that, but in this particular case, the man had given all his savings to charity, and leads an unusually frugal life. His daily routine includes visiting the nearby coffeeshop at night, where he collects buckets of water gathered from ice used to chill beer bottles. That amount serves as his water supply for the day as he does not turn on any tap at home. The money saved from utility bills goes into charity.

The gospel today has Jesus observing a poor woman giving away all that she has, and contrasting her action with that of the rich people. Like the old man in the previous paragraph, the monetary value of her action is small, but the generosity associated with it is large. For the rich who maintain their affluent status, giving away ‘excess’ money is hardly something that can be considered generous.

There are many ways that one can give of oneself to others. I find that the giving of time and effort is often more reflective of sincerity than the gift itself. As the season of Christmas approaches, we could perhaps give more thought to the preparation of gifts for loved ones or for strangers in need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that as the season of Advent approaches, we may prepare by opening our hearts to the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the kindness we have received from others.

12 November, Monday – Working Wisely

12 November – Memorial for St. Josaphat, Bishop, Religious, Martyr

John (1580-1623) had a father who was a municipal counsellor, and a mother who was known for her piety. He was raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 Nov 1595, in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. He was trained as a merchant’s apprentice in Vilna, and was offered partnership in the business and marriage to his partner’s daughter.

Feeling the call to religious life, he declined both and became a monk in the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil in Vilna at the age of 20 in 1604, taking the name Brother Josaphat. He was ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.

His superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given to those who brought about and accepted the union of the churches. Learning of Samuel’s work and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.

He was a famous preacher, worked to bring unity among the faithful and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. He became Bishop of Vitebsk. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church and, by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example, Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat’s Orthodox actions. He became Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.

While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group supported by Cossacks set up anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had “gone Latin” and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and placed an usurper on the archbishop’s chair. Despite warnings, Josaphat went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.

Late in 1623, an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to ensure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling-off period to both sides of the conflict.

“You people of Vitebsk want to put me to death. You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, and in the marketplace. I am here among you as a shepherd, and you ought to know that I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of Saint Peter, and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff.” – St. Josaphat

– Patron Saint Index

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Titus 1:1-9

From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie and so, at the appointed time, he revealed his decision, and, by the command of God our saviour, I have been commissioned to proclaim it. To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share, wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our saviour.

The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to get everything organised there and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you: that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character; he must not have been married more than once, and his children must be believers and not uncontrollable or liable to be charged with disorderly conduct. Since, as president, he will be God’s representative, he must be irreproachable: never an arrogant or hot-tempered man, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor out to make money; but a man who is hospitable and a friend of all that is good; sensible, moral, devout and self-controlled; and he must have a firm grasp of the unchanging message of the tradition, so that he can be counted on for both expounding the sound doctrine and refuting those who argue against it.

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Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

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Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

“Am I working for God, or doing God’s work?”, was the phrase I caught from the stream of consciousness a friend was expressing during a retreat. The difference is subtle, yet paramount. Working for God implies an individual slant towards doing what we think God wants us to do; we perform seemingly useful acts, serve in ministries of our choosing, and help people whom we deem appropriate. Doing God’s work, however, calls us to actively and constantly discern God’s assignments for us at workplaces, in situations, and with people that we may not be inclined to entertain.

What is the downfall of merely working for God? After all, progress is made, tasks get completed, and assistance is rendered; not an ignoble outcome at all, surely? Yet, there is wisdom in using the right tools for any given purpose. We wouldn’t use a sports car for our grocery runs, although we would get the week’s shopping home eventually after a couple of trips. Much unnecessary effort results from unoptimized attempts.

Doing God’s work, however, places us squarely in the ‘zone’. A flow-like state when our hearts, bodies, and minds are perfectly synchronized. This assurance motivates us to do great things (or many small things in great ways), regardless of the odds and the risk of failure. I can’t help but smile knowing that our God pioneered Design Thinking.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Heavenly God, shine a lamp on our paths showing us the ways that we can best serve you.

Thanksgiving: With gratitude, we rejoice in the gifts you have implanted in our cores. May we appreciate the uniqueness of our design, and the unity of our purpose.

31 October, Wednesday – Stepping On Each Others’ Toes

31 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty. The commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honour your father and mother, and the promise is: and you will prosper and have a long life in the land. And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does.

Slaves, be obedient to the men who are called your masters in this world, with deep respect and sincere loyalty, as you are obedient to Christ: not only when you are under their eye, as if you had only to please men, but because you are slaves of Christ and wholeheartedly do the will of God. Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men. You can be sure that everyone, whether a slave or a free man, will be properly rewarded by the Lord for whatever work he has done well. And those of you who are employers, treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Doing the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not men.

For some time now, I felt that it might be time to move on from the ministry I serve in. I felt that I wasn’t growing anymore after close to 7 years in the ministry. Despite an opportunity earlier this year for a bigger role, as the months went by, I felt like I didn’t make a difference. The ‘machinery’ was simply too heavy and too entrenched to change. We were tasked as a team for change management but 7 months on, nothing had changed. People were working far slower than I am used to. I became restless and impatient. I found myself getting more disillusioned and less patient with some of my fellow ministry members.

I began to entertain the thought that perhaps I could be better utilised in another capacity, and not necessarily within the same ministry or the same community. Coincidentally, for a few months now, I have been called to help out in other capacities within the community and it is refreshing.

One day, I happened to come across one of Archbishop’s daily podcasts – and on that particular day, he preached about leaving things to God. He questioned if we work in an organization or serve in a ministry and feel frustrated. Or when we feel that we add no value or are not making any difference, do we quit? His answer to us was a resounding ‘No!’ We do not simply give up but give it to God. God is the master of our lives; the President/CEO of the organisation/community we serve in.

Serving in a Christian community is not easy. With any community we are in, we encounter all sorts of people – some we get on with, others not so much. Inevitably, we will step on each other’s toes. We are all wounded individuals. And the downside for some of us with corporate backgrounds is that we expect things to work like a corporate organization – based on KPIs and performance, often heartless. But not everyone is wired to work the same way. It’s not as if we can go out there and hire ‘the best talent’ for the job. Most of us are volunteers.

While there are some good practices we can adopt for large corporations, working in a church environment is completely different. Especially when it comes to dealing with human resources – better managed with love, compassion and understanding; stepping into the other person’s shoes. Who are we to judge the other? It is God who chose each one of us, not because we are qualified. But because He will equip us. Look at how He chose his disciples!

So as I serve today, I keep reminding myself to lean not on my own understanding and efforts. To keep pride at bay. To keep my eyes on Him. To serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.

I will end today’s reflection with a story about porcupines.

It was a particularly harrowing time in Porcupine Land. The winter was severe, and the porcupines were finding it difficult to survive, and freezing to death. That’s when the porcupines decided to meet and agree on a course of action.

As they got together to discuss their survival strategy, they discovered that just by being close to each other, their bodies generated heat; so they found they could survive the cold by just staying together.

But there was a problem. As they huddled together, their quills would poke and hurt the other. Soon some porcupines decided to avoid the pain and moved away. But as they went out, the cold got to them and they died.

Soon, better sense prevailed and the porcupines realised it was better to stay together and survive rather than go out on their own and die. Getting poked by the quills seemed like a small price to pay for survival.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, give us hearts of love, compassion and understanding. Help us to love our fellow brothers and sisters as you love us. Teach us to be humble at heart, to serve you in obedience.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness.

22 October, Monday – True Service

22 October – Memorial for St. John Paul II, Pope

Karol Wojtyla (1920 – 2005) was born on 18 May 1920 at Wadowice, Poland.  For many years Karol believed God was calling him to the priesthood, and after surviving two nearly fatal accidents, he responded to the call. He studied secretly during the German occupation of Poland, and was ordained on 1 November 1946. In these years he came to know and practice the teachings of Saint Louis Marie Montfort and Saint John of the Cross. He earned his Doctorate in theology in 1948 at the Angelicum in Rome, Italy.

He was the parish priest in Krakow diocese from 1948 to 1951. He studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University at Krakow. He taught social ethics at the Krakow Seminary from 1952 to 1958. In 1956 he became a professor at the University of Lublin. Venerable Pope Pius XII appointed Wojtyla an auxiliary bishop in Krakow on 4 July 1958. Servant of God, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Krakow on 30 December 1963.

Wojtyla proved himself a noble and trustworthy pastor in the face of Communist persecution. A member of the prepatory commission, he attended all four sessions of Vatican II.  He is said to have written Gaudium et spes, the document on the Church in the Modern World. He also played a prominent role in the formulation of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. Following the Council, Pope Paul VI, appointed Karol Wojtyla cardinal on 26 June 1967.

In 1960 he published Love and Responsibility. Pope Paul VI, delighted with its apologetical defense of the traditional Catholic teaching of marriage, relied extensively on Archbishop Wojytla’s counsel in writing Humanae Vitae. In 1976 he was invited by Pope Paul VI to preach the lenten sermons to the members of the Papal Household.

In 1978, Archbishop Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI. He took the name of his predecessors (John, Paul, John Paul) to emphasize his desire to continue the reforms of Vatican II.

John Paul II is the most traveled pope in history, having visited nearly every country in the world which would receive him. As the Vicar of Christ he has consecrated each place that he has visited to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On 13 May 1983 he went to Fatima to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He later repeated the consecration of the world to Mary in union with all the Bishops of the Catholic Church, in fulfillment of Our Lady‘s promises at Fatima.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II began a lengthy catechisis on the Blessed Virgin Mary during his weekly Angelus addresses, culminating with his instruction on Our Lady’s active participation in the Sacrifice of Calvary. This active participation of Our Lady at Calvary is called the co-redemption. Already in 1982 and 1985 he had used the term “corredemptrix” in reference to Our Lady in public addresses. This is significant, for he is the first Pope to do so since Pope Benedict XV at whose prayer Our Lady came to Fatima to reveal Her Immaculate Heart. Since the time of Pope Benedict XV, this terminology was under review by the Holy See. The present Pope’s usage is a confirmation of this traditional view of Mary’s role in salvation history.

In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord. He was canonized by Pope Francis on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter 2014.

– Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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“…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns…”

I entered banking close to 20 years ago and one of the things I remembered was how many of those around me were focused on the brands of clothes, bags or shoes they were using. I noticed my colleagues with new branded items every month. Someone I knew even changed to newer models of luxury cars every six months. I was not immune to this either; mine was new phones. Many of us were so caught up with making money and how best to spend it.

In today’s Gospel,Jesus warns us against precisely this; that we would be so focused on the unimportant that we forget on what really is. Actually, it is not just about branded items.  For example, there are companies out there which make a big deal about how they are “unbranded”. The irony is that it is this “unbranded-ness” that give these companies their “branded-ness”.

In working to serve God, many start out in full commited service. Over time, however, the success of their service, and perhaps due to our fallen nature, these successes become the main reason why they continue to serve, displacing God in the process. This is perhaps what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6:1-4; the acknowledgement and satisfaction we get from service becomes the reward in itself.

The best way we can ensure that Godis the one whom we continue to serve and the reason why we do anything, is to continue to connect with Him. This could be in the form of prayer, going for mass, and being in close touch with our faith community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always keep our eyes on our Father and our God.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, we are grateful to You for teaching and reminding us that it is easy to be caught up with the ways and things of this world. Thank You for showing us what is the right way.

8 October, Monday – To Give Or Not To Give?

8 October

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Galatians 1:6-12

I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned. I am only repeating what we told you before: if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one you have already heard, he is to be condemned. So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ.

The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

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Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

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“Go, and do the same yourself.”

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of those ones where I find myself wondering, “What would I do if I had come across the man lying on the road?” In this day and age, I am sure there are many of us who know of friends, or even family, who are in some form of trouble. Have we stepped forward to offer help or have we been too ‘shy’ to even assume that these people who are in distress would need our help?

I have been journeying with an old friend off an on for the past two years and it has indeed been a tough road. Because any offer of help or piece of advice seems to be met with either a counter solution (which the person feels will lead nowhere). It is almost as if this person just wants to continue to be engulfed in this downward spiral. It got to a point where I started to avoid responding to the text messages.

So when Jesus tells us to “Go, and do the same yourself”, I find myself questioning how far I should go in order to help my friend. Another ministry friend advised me to make sure I kept my distance and not get too involved in order to protect myself from any harm. And while I comprehend the logic of that approach, I find myself asking if I am truly being Christ-like if I become so ‘calculative’ in reaching out to help. Surely, when we take pity on someone else, we should go all out to ensure that our efforts result in a positive and fruitful outcome.

Then I look at my ministry head. I have remarked more than once to my other half that we are blessed to have someone who has a huge heart. Someone who will go the extra mile and spend hours chatting with ministry members who are having issues with others or who some of us find ‘difficult’ to accept. All this, while juggling four teenage children and a high-flying corporate job. Whenever I see the way she gives of herself, I ask myself if I could ever have half of her generous heart. And whether that is what Christ means when he asks of us to go and do the same as the Samaritan — basically to give without counting the cost.

For Jesus, there is no zero sum game when it comes to reaching out and giving to others. He gave in spite of our sinfulness and He paid the price of his life in order to save us. Many of us give what we can, but how many of us are willing to give our all? In giving to others, are we truly giving from our heart? Or are we doing it in order to ‘earn’ some credits?

Brothers and sisters, God knows our heart and our every motive/agenda in our interactions with our family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Should we be looking for the approval of men or should we seek peace and joy from God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear God, help us to look deep within our hearts and to weed out all ulterior motives we may have in our giving to others.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for being our ever-generous and giving Father.

24 September, Monday – Loving Selflessly

24 September

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Proverbs 3:27-34

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

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Luke 8:16-18

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

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Do not refuse a kindness to anyone… 

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

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

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

21 September, Friday – United in Faith & Love

21 September – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”

It’s always beautiful reading about how we are all called to this oneness, this one family in Christ. So much inclusivity that is welcoming, so much love. Working in church as a Youth Coordinator, I can understand the difficulty and struggle just to have the same vision and mission, to move in the same direction or even to agree on a small issue.

We are so diverse — different backgrounds, upbringing, values, perspectives and experiences in life shape the way we think, feel and behave towards a particular issue. Who is right or wrong can’t be said for sure sometimes, but one thing is that we fail to work together. We see in parishes that sometimes, there are many ministries but many of those have overlaps with each other, they are more or less the same, just with different leadership.

There is nothing wrong with division but even in our division, we should all look to the goal of unity, as a church, as God’s people. We all have different gifts and talents, it’s not about who’s better than who, but how can we use our gifts and talents, to help make this world and our community a better place. Not fighting for resources but a sharing of resources, not to judge if the leader is worthy but to support and help to bring out the best in the leader.

“There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all.”

The biggest struggle, which I’m also struggling with, is to be in unity with those characters and personalities that you disagree with. It’s just so painful. How can these people think or behave in this way? Where is their common sense, respect and love for others?

We see in the Gospel how Jesus eats with sinners and tax collectors. It really takes much love to do so. That is the oneness we are called to. To bring Christ to all, to see Christ in all. A God who gives Himself freely, a God who doesn’t judge but loves, a God who doesn’t expect but gives and waits. If we say and claim that this is our faith, then this is exactly the God we worship, a God that desires for all of us to be one, through Him, with Him and in Him. May we learn to put aside our differences but focus on this one uniqueness that we all have, that is, in spite of who we are and everything that we have done, we are all loved equally by Him, part of His family, part of this church, this faith, His kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage to persevere even when things are incomprehensible, when we do not understand. Help us not to judge but to love. Help us all to be one, just as you are one with the Father and with all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for leading by your example. Thank you for showing us your love for all mankind. That it is not success or perfection that you seek, but you seek us, who we are, as we are. Thank you Jesus. We love you.

8 September, Saturday – A Vocation Is A School Of Charity

8 September – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary announced joy and the approaching salvation of a lost world. Mary was brought into the world not like other children of Adam, infected with the contagion of sin, but pure, holy, beautiful, and glorious, adorned with all the most precious graces fitting for the one predestined to be the Mother of the Saviour. Never did she have the slightest inclination towards anything other than the absolute and immediate Will of God.

She appeared indeed in the weak condition of all mortals, but in the eyes of Heaven she already transcended the highest seraphim in purity, humility, charity, and the richest ornaments of grace. God had created her in the original grace, as in the beginning Adam and Eve had enjoyed that ineffable privilege; after original sin, it was lost for all Adam’s posterity, until the time of the Redemption dawned in Mary. (Cf. I Cor. 15:21-23)

The nations celebrate, often too noisily, the birthdays of the great ones of this earth… How then ought we, Christians, to rejoice in that of the Virgin Mary, Mother of our Salvation, and to present publicly to God the homage of our best praises and thanksgiving for the great mercies He has shown in her, imploring her mediation with her Divine Son!

Jesus of Nazareth will not reject the supplications of His most holy Mother, through whom He chose to descend from Heaven; she, the Spouse of the Canticle, is all beautiful and is the one He was pleased to obey while on earth. Her love, care, and tenderness for Him, the title and qualities which she bears, the charity and graces with which she is adorned, and the crown of glory with which she is honoured, incline Him readily to receive her recommendations and petitions.

– http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/09-08.htm

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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 1:1-16,18-23

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.

After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’

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We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.

Just as Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of our Lord, we too are chosen to be his people, his disciples. You and I are chosen, even before we were born. Our DNAs were already coded, and we are called to live our lives according to his purpose. How awesome is that!

Not too long ago, some friends and I were discussing how we are all hard coded with a vocation and gifts that the Lord gives us. “Before you were conceived in your mother’s womb, I set you aside.” This is God telling us is that he had something in mind for us when he gave us the gift of life, even from before he gave us the gift. Something he wants us to be, and something he wants us to do. This is God’s plan.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my vocation is. And along the way, I get so frustrated with myself because I don’t seem to be able to figure it out or succeed in my ‘called’ vocation. If God had a blueprint for me, and if I prayed about it hard enough, He would surely reveal it to me and I can stop making a mess of this life. If I found my vocation in life, then things would just fall into place and make sense. Don’t we all think that our true calling, when we find it, will bring a kind of total solidarity and purpose to our fragmented, broken, and perhaps aimless lives?

Then something clicked in me – rightly or wrongly I don’t know. But I figured this — a vocation is not about one self, our preferences and what makes us comfortable. Mary’s calling is to be the Mother of God, Jesus is called to be Our Lord and Saviour, the Son of Man – neither vocations were for themselves but for others. And it sure wasn’t without pain and suffering. We expect a vocation to solve all of our problems, answer all of our questions, and satisfy all of our desires. But these are not the purposes of a vocation. The real purpose of any vocation is for service of God – some directly like religious vocations and some indirectly like most of yours and mine.

I read in an article “A vocation – any vocation – is a school of charity and a means of crucifixion. Your vocation is the means by which your self-serving ego will die in order to be resurrected as the servant and lover of God. This is all that we can expect; but this is everything – the meaning of life, all there really is.”

And each of us has a personal vocation. God created all of us uniquely. God gives each of us a unique, unrepeatable set of gifts, abilities and circumstances. And He has a plan for our lives — a custom-tailored unique plan to those gifts, abilities and circumstances. And this personal vocation is about what God wants us to do with our lives — not in the one-time “this is how I give myself way”, but in every moment of every day, living out His plan.

So the lightbulb moment came for me just a few weeks back. My personal vocation for most of my adult life was to be a daughter. To care and provide for my family. As a young adult, I had resented it and wondered why, unlike some of my friends, I had this very heavy responsibility.

Why couldn’t I just go on and live a carefree life? Over time, I learnt to let go of my questions, carry the cross of my problems, and be mysteriously fulfilled even when I was not happy. God’s plan was for me to simply be a daughter; and He provided every grace and means for me to live out that personal vocation.

My parents have since passed away. So in this new season of life, what is my next vocation? Only time will tell, but why do I think that I might be living it already? I do know that vocation is living beyond myself but for others. I will just continue and pray for another lightbulb moment.

Our vocation never changes – but the means by which we live it might, and it will change as our seasons of life change, and when we grow in our spirituality. Your vocation, in the end, is simply the means by which you will allow it to occur. Your vocation is not the answer to the question of your being; it is only a part of God’s pledge that the answer will be given in the end. Something to ponder about, my brothers and sisters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, you made us perfect in your likeness. Give us Your guidance. Show us what You want us to do. Open our hearts to hear you. Open the doors You want us to walk through. May our lives be a gift to You.   

Thanksgiving: Lord God, thank you for the gifts and charisms given to each of us so specially. May we use these gifts entrusted to us for the greater good of Your Kingdom.

24 August, Friday – The Fig Tree

24 August – Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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I saw you under the fig tree.

The fig tree is one of the few trees mentioned specifically in the bible several times. It is symbolic and a sign of peace and prosperity. With its large leaves, the fig tree provides pleasant shade and shelter. I am making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September, and might have a chance of visiting one of these fig trees.

God knows us before we know ourselves. How easy or difficult is it to trust in Him and in His plans for us? How do we even know what is His will for us? How do we discern His voice over others?

I’ve been struggling with faith of late. Thoughts have crossed my mind that perhaps it is easier to just follow the ways of the world and indulge in its hedonistic pleasures, rather than try and be Christian and follow the Word of God. After all, the rest of the world doesn’t think it to be wrong, right?

Struggling with relationships, with work, with life in general, I’m reminded that I can only draw strength from the Eucharist. But I am also reminded that I have to be in a state of grace in order to receive Jesus. In other words, most hedonistic pleasures would be considered sinful. Hence, the confliction.

But there is also God’s timing, or coincidence perhaps — struggling to write this reflection piece but still forcing it out anyway; wanting to take a back seat with my church community but having been asked by two different persons to serve in other roles in the ministry; is saying ‘no’ akin to saying ‘no’ to God? Is this God’s providence to give me a safe harbour should I be tempted to stray again?

So many questions, so how do I know what the answer is? How do I have the conviction like Nathanael to say “Yes, you are the Son of God.”? Is this what faith means?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to grow in faith. Teach us to draw strength from you always, to run to you first. Guide us to trust in you and your will, especially when it is difficult.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for sending guardian angels to watch over us. May we recognise the good in all things big and small. Amen.