Tag Archives: service

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.

10 October, Tuesday – How Superheroines Handle Stress

10 October 2017

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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“Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?”

Today’s gospel reading is very special to me. St Martha is my confirmation saint. Her story has always resonated with me because of the two sisters, Martha is the one that’s more relatable. She’s the woman of action, the superheroine go-getter who has the gumption to invite Jesus for dinner in the first place (Luke 10:38). You can identify with her because her traits are so human. You’ve probably been in her position yourself – overworked, under-resourced and overwhelmed. That’s the predicament of the majority of people who work in service. It’s no wonder she’s our patron saint!

Though Scripture focuses on how Mary made better choices, it is Martha who inspires us with her courage and chutzpah. In John 11:21-22, a grieving Martha goes out to meet Jesus and scolds him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know thar whatever you ask from God, God will give you”, as if to demand of Jesus, “You had better fix this. He’s dead because you were late!”. Her tone is implied to be more forceful than Mary’s, because Mary ‘fell at his feet’ (John 11:32). In the same forthright manner, she matter-of-factly informs Jesus that she believes him to be Christ, the Messiah and Son of God. Her proclamation is similar to Peter’s in Matt 16:16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Martha’s story is not without a happy ending, despite how Scripture paints her. In John 12 we are told that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where he had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for him and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus” (John 12:1-2). It’s a simple verse, yet we can infer that Martha has made peace with herself and her vocation to be of service to Christ and his disciples. There’s no demanding, no scolding and no foot-stamping. She’s happy to simply wait on them.

There is a famous verse in the Book of Matthew for the overburdened and the fatigued – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I’d like to believe that in the midst of her domestic chaos, Martha would have whispered this prayer herself — and that God, in His infinite grace, heard her cry and gave her the resources she needed to complete her tasks. What an inspiration that is to all of us who labor in service!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who labor with limited resources, that they find what they need, just when they need it.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the reserves of strength that God sends us when we come to the end of our rope!

19 August, Saturday – A House United

19 Aug

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Joshua 24:14-29

Joshua said to all the people, ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’

  The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those peoples out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

  Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.’ The people answered Joshua, ‘No; it is the Lord we wish to serve.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we will obey.’

  That day, Joshua made a covenant for the people; he laid down a statute and ordinance for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’ Then Joshua sent the people away, and each returned to his own inheritance.

  After these things Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died; he was a hundred and ten years old.

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Matthew 19:13-15

People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.

Serving God with all of my body, mind, and spirit, can be quite a challenge sometimes. This is especially so when I consider how my body, mind, and spirit, are sometimes not functioning in unity. In other words, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak – or otherwise.

In today’s scripture readings, we read of the how Joshua challenged the Israelites about their conviction and commitment to serving and honoring the Lord completely. He charged them with the evidence of their old ways of idol worship and asked them to choose only one – the Lord God, or the variety of alien gods they had. Joshua proclaims, ‘As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.’ This is a bold announcement, because he was making such a statement with the witness of many households.

It struck me today that the words ‘my House’ and ‘household’ is used. This ties in with the gospel passage where Jesus tells his disciples not to withhold the little children from approaching him for blessings. A household is made up of more than one person. It is a unity and community of persons. Although the father or the patriarch may be the head of the household, he too needs to lead with a heart of service to his members. And in the proper order of things, he is ultimately leading them in service to the greater agenda of loving and honoring either one God, or a chaotic disarray of alien gods and idols.

I suppose this charges the adults and older members in any household to be accountable to their community, as Joshua firmly states: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ All of the members within one’s household take their point of reference on reverence from the leaders or heads. Simply put, children look up to their parents and learn from their actions and choices, about their values and priorities in life. If mum and dad practice differently from what they preach, the children will ultimately be confused and easily see through the discrepancies.

In this way, it is as Jesus warns us not to do: Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Sometimes, it is not so much by our actions that we set up obstacles to the faith for our little ones – it is by our lack of commitment and integrity that might discourage them and affect their experience and understanding of what it means to lead a faithful Christian life. May we pause a little while today to consider where have we led double lives in our daily choices, and who are the everyday witnesses to our willful or accidental missteps.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for eyes to see the truth about our own failures and hypocrisy. God grant us the grace to begin again responsibly and humbly.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for putting accountability partners in my life to challenge me and witness to my growth.

30 June, Thursday – Have Faith for the Forgiveness of Others

30 June 

Dear Readers, we apologise for the late despatch of today’s readings and reflections due to oversight to publish the post on my part. We wish you a blessed Thursday and weekend ahead. 

God bless,
Debbie

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

These holy men and women are also called the ‘Protomartyrs of Rome’. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.

Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=3385

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Amos 7:10-17

Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel as follows. ‘Amos is plotting against you in the heart of the House of Israel; the country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying. For this is what he says, “Jeroboam is going to die by the sword, and Israel go into exile far from its country.”’ To Amos, Amaziah said, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” So listen to the word of the Lord.

‘You say:
‘“Do not prophesy against Israel,
utter no oracles against the House of Isaac.”
‘Very well, this is what the Lord says,

‘“Your wife will be forced to go on the streets,
your sons and daughters will fall by the sword,
your land be parcelled out by measuring line,
and you yourself die on unclean soil
and Israel will go into exile far distant from its own land.”’

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Matthew 9:1-8

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

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Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.”

It is easy to pray for ourselves. Truth be told, I do it all the time. Almost every prayer of mine is dotted with, or centred around, what I want. Rarely, and I say this shamefully, do I remember to include what others have asked me to pray for. It is not done deliberately but out of forgetfulness. And it does make me feel bad. Especially if the other person is going through a very tough time and is seeking the power of communal prayer to help ease their burden or pain.

In today’s passage, Matthew says that Jesus sees the faith of the paralytic’s friends and bestows healing just because his friends believed in Jesus’ healing powers. Think about it, they travelled so far, carrying their poor friend on a stretcher and probably had to push and beg their way through an enormous crowd just to get to Jesus. Sure, the one who was healed would also have believed in Jesus; but, he wouldn’t have been able to get to Him if it hadn’t been for his friends.

This is also what praying together as a community can do for others. It makes our prayers more powerful, almost magnified, yet not being magnified in the sense that it gets louder and becomes practically like shouting in God’s ears. Instead, it is the fact that more than one person is asking for a certain miracle. It reflects our call to servitude. It is us asking God to free someone else of their troubles so that they can also experience the joys that come from living as one of God’s miracles.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Rebecca Grace)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for those who have asked us to pray for them. Let us not forget that we are all part of the Body of Christ and interconnected with each other.

Thanksgiving – We give thanks for your merciful love and forgiveness. For the very fact that just having faith in You is enough to heal us from any affliction. Amen.

15 June, Wednesday – Love Shown Through Action

15 June

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2 Kings 2:1,6-14

This is what happened when the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind: Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal, Elijah said, ‘Elisha, please stay here, the Lord is only sending me to the Jordan.’ But he replied, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!’ And they went on together.

Fifty of the brotherhood of prophets followed them, halting some distance away as the two of them stood beside the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water; and the water divided to left and right, and the two of them crossed over dry-shod. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Make your request. What can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ Elisha answered, ‘Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ ‘Your request is a difficult one’ Elijah said. ‘If you see me while I am being taken from you, it shall be as you ask; if not, it will not be so.’ Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire, coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha saw it, and shouted, ‘My father! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!’ Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his clothes he tore them in half. He picked up the cloak of Elijah which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took the cloak of Elijah and struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he cried. He struck the water, and it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward

There is this Malay word “wayang” which translates to a traditional performance in the Malay language. It is a colloquial term and commonly used amongst my friends as a term to illustrate how somebody seeks to engage in outward behaviour to impress others e.g. one’s peers or superiors. Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that such action is not necessary and could in fact be counter-productive if we want to receive our eternal reward.

The Pharisees wanted to show to the people that they were a very holy bunch of people and this meant that they had to show it through their external behaviour. Yet Jesus judges us on our hearts and the motivations of why we do so. In our lives, we are often motivated by various emotions to drive our actions. Sometimes it is for want of recognition.  Maybe it could be due to pride or perhaps it could be a belief that we can definitely do better than others in our behaviours. The Gospel reminds us today of the need to identify what is the way to find the right motivation; through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

These three actions have been traditionally given by the church as a means for us to modify ourselves and to give meaning to the mortification. This meaning is to unite with Jesus’s passion and the mystery of suffering. Amidst our busy schedule, I ask that we take time every day to pray to God for the clarity of mind to continue to serve Him in the way He wants us to.  Without us worrying about putting on a show for others.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let all our actions be grounded in the Truth of your Word.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to work for the cause of justice.

14 May, Saturday – Chosen Ones

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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I chose you.

About three months ago, my parish priest approached us to help chair the church annex building fundraising committee. I was a bit surprised as we have never been active in our parish (we serve at the Catholic Spirituality Centre instead); yet, saying ‘Yes’ came naturally and we got down to work immediately. After a few meetings, the seeds of a few initiatives have been sown and we are now gathering people to help us execute our ideas.

Being a ‘newbie’ to parish work, it has been interesting to sit in on meetings and observe how the priests go about their ‘work’, which would not be possible without the help of many lay persons and office staff who give so generously of their time without any expectation of anything in return. I have been truly humbled by this opportunity, yet at the same time, wary of the dynamics that go on between the different ministry leaders and volunteers.

Thankfully, the Lord has been gentle and kind enough to send different people our way. And just when I think that we ourselves would have to shoulder the burden of organising an event/dinner, a name or two pops up in our Inbox or we get a call from someone who has heard that we need volunteers. The Lord truly provides when we are engaged in his work and it has been extremely heartening to see the many labourers come forward to offer their talents and time to help us achieve our target.

We at Oxygen were worried towards the end of last year, when our stable of writers dwindled to a mere handful. Today, the Lord has multiplied the talent within our ministry and provided in abundance. I know that He has chosen us all, in spite of our shortcomings and anxieties, simply because He knows that we have a desire to share His word with anyone who yearns for it.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians, ours is life that is pre-ordained by our Maker. It is a life that He chooses for us and it is up to us to discern His will and to follow Him. And while we do have a multitude of choices to make in our lives, we must make them in the knowledge that God himself has chosen us to live out His plan on this earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Heavenly father, we thank you for choosing us to be your sons and daughters. Help us grow in your love as we encounter the obstacles and overcome setbacks while carrying the crosses that you so lovingly place on our shoulders, knowing full well that You will always have each of us in your loving heart. For we all are your chosen ones.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for sending us your Holy Spirit and for empowering us with your graces.