Tag Archives: sharon soo

19 April, Good Friday – All of our Crosses

19 April 2019

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

See, my servant will prosper,
he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

As the crowds were appalled on seeing him
– so disfigured did he look
that he seemed no longer human –
so will the crowds be astonished at him,
and kings stand speechless before him;
for they shall see something never told
and witness something never heard before:
‘Who could believe what we have heard,
and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

Like a sapling he grew up in front of us,
like a root in arid ground.
Without beauty, without majesty we saw him,
no looks to attract our eyes;
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,
a man to make people screen their faces;
he was despised and we took no account of him.

And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we, we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings us peace,
and through his wounds we are healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,
each taking his own way,
and the Lord burdened him
with the sins of all of us.
Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly,
he never opened his mouth,
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers
never opening its mouth.

By force and by law he was taken;
would anyone plead his cause?
Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living;
for our faults struck down in death.
They gave him a grave with the wicked,
a tomb with the rich,
though he had done no wrong
and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute,
he shall divide the spoil with the mighty,
for surrendering himself to death
and letting himself be taken for a sinner,
while he was bearing the faults of many
and praying all the time for sinners.

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Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

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John 18:1-19:42
 
Key: N. Narrator. ? Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

  N. Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kedron valley. There was a garden there, and he went into it with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was going to happen to him, Jesus then came forward and said,
  ? Who are you looking for?
  N. They answered,
  C. Jesus the Nazarene.
  N. He said,
  ? I am he.
  N. Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said, ‘I am he’, they moved back and fell to the ground. He asked them a second time,
  ? Who are you looking for?
  N. They said,
  C. Jesus the Nazarene.
  N. Jesus replied,
  ? I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.
  N. This was to fulfil the words he had spoken, ‘Not one of those you gave me have I lost.’
  Simon Peter, who carried a sword, drew it and wounded the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter,
  ? Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?
  N. The cohort and its captain and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had suggested to the Jews, ‘It is better for one man to die for the people.’
  Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who was keeping the door and brought Peter in. The maid on duty at the door said to Peter,
  O. Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?
  N. He answered,
  O. I am not.
  N. Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others.
  The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered,
  ? I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together: I have said nothing in secret. But why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught: they know what I said.
  N. At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying,
  O. Is that the way to answer the high priest?
  N. Jesus replied,
  ? If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offence in it, why do you strike me?
  N. Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
  As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him,
  O. Aren’t you another of his disciples?
  N. He denied it, saying,
  O. I am not.
  N. One of the high priest’s servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
  O. Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?
  N. Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crew.
  They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat the passover. So Pilate came outside to them and said,
  O. What charge do you bring against this man?
  N. They replied,
  C. If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you.
  N. Pilate said,
  O. Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.
  N. The Jews answered,
  C. We are not allowed to put a man to death.
  N. This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.
  So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, and asked,
  O. Are you the king of the Jews?
  N. Jesus replied,
  ? Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?
  N. Pilate answered,
  O. Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?
  N. Jesus replied,
  ? Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.
  N. Pilate said,
  O. So you are a king, then?
  N. Jesus answered,
  ? It is you who say it. Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.
  N. Pilate said,
  O. Truth? What is that?
  N. and with that he went out again to the Jews and said,
  O. I find no case against him. But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of the Jews?
  N. At this they shouted:
  C. Not this man, but Barabbas.
  N. Barabbas was a brigand.
  Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying,
  C. Hail, king of the Jews!
  N. and they slapped him in the face.
  Pilate came outside again and said to them,
  O. Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case.
  N. Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said,
  O. Here is the man.
  N. When they saw him the chief priests and the guards shouted,
  C. Crucify him! Crucify him!
  N. Pilate said,
  O. Take him yourselves and crucify him: I can find no case against him.
  N. The Jews replied,
  C. We have a Law, and according to that Law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the Son of God.
  N. When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus
  O. Where do you come from?
  N. But Jesus made no answer. Pilate then said to him,
  O. Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?
  N. Jesus replied,
  ? You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.
  N. From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted,
  C. If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.
  N. Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated himself on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. It was Passover Preparation Day, about the sixth hour. Pilate said to the Jews,
  O. Here is your king.
  N. They said,
  C. Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!
  N. Pilate said,
  O. Do you want me to crucify your king?
  N. The chief priests answered,
  C. We have no king except Caesar.
  N. So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
  They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull or, as it was called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate,
  C. You should not write ‘King of the Jews,’ but ‘This man said: “I am King of the Jews.”’
  N. Pilate answered,
  O. What I have written, I have written.
  N. When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another,
  C. Instead of tearing it, let’s throw dice to decide who is to have it.
  N. In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled:
  They shared out my clothing among them.
  They cast lots for my clothes.
This is exactly what the soldiers did.
  Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother,
  ? Woman, this is your son.
  N. Then to the disciple he said,
  ? This is your mother.
  N. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.
  After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said:
  ? I am thirsty.
  N. A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said,
  ? It is accomplished;
  N. and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.
  Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
  It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:
  Not one bone of his will be broken;
and again, in another place scripture says:
  They will look on the one whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus – though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews – asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. Nicodemus came as well – the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time – and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.

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Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala

For a lot of us, tonight is traditionally the night that the Passion of Christ is staged at church by the younger members of our parish. Those of us who have young children in our families will typically jostle for good seats. We crane our necks, stick our mobile recording devices in people’s faces, all to get a good shot of our kids in Easter costume. The pageantry of the Passion almost supersedes its sombre message. This familiar story takes on new meaning when staged by our young. Our hearts are filled with love as we watch them bring it to life.

But what must John, Jesus’ mother Mary, his aunt Salome, Mary of Clopas and Mary of Magdala have felt watching it in real time at the foot of Jesus’ cross? Love, heartbreak, horror, hopelessness, despair, confusion…? How could this be the fulfilment of God’s plan? Where was the happy ending? Surely it couldn’t be this?

The Passion story has meant different things to me as I’ve grown older. The layers have begun to peel back and I’ve found myself looking with fresh eyes at the other characters that make up the Easter story. And now that I am an aunt and have watched my sister blossom into a loving mother, I’ve begun to wonder about the women who stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross. Is this what family love is about? How strong must be their devotion to Jesus and to each other, that they would stay till the very end. This is what steadfast love looks like – holding on to each other through the gut-wrenching, bone-crushing gruesomeness. Holding on, despite their own fear, despite the whip of the Roman lash, the wild screaming of the mob, the heat, the stench of the dirt and blood. Yet they prevailed. This is what carrying your cross looks like.

Though Jesus is the one overtly carrying a cross in this story, everyone else is in some way, carrying one too. At that moment, Mary’s cross was her motherhood, that she was the mother of Christ. John, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdala’s cross was that of devoted discipleship. Pilate’s cross was self-preservation – he let Jesus die to appease the mob and save his own skin. Joseph of Arimathea’s cross was redemption from his wealth – he used his vast resources and stature in the community to give Jesus a dignified burial. Peter’s cross was Christ’s forgiveness despite Peter’s denial of him. Everyone is carrying a cross in this story. And if we look and listen very closely, we’ll be able to see ourselves in each of their stories. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for steadfastness and tenacity, as we pick up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Christ. 

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s love and mercy, in that when we were sinners, He deemed us enough and sent his beloved Son to redeem us. 

18 April, Thursday (Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper) – Participation not Perfection

18 April 2019

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Exodus 12:1-8,11-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”’

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.

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 John 13:1-15
 

It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’

When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’

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Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet

Over the Christmas season last year, I hosted my husband’s family at our house for a week. Because I ran myself to the ground the year before trying to take care of every small detail, my husband suggested that this time, I learn to be more ‘collaborative’, to allow others to ‘share in the joy of making Christmas a success’ (his words, not mine!). I argued that it was a pointless exercise, that no one would be able to do things as efficiently as I would, that they would mess it up and I would have to spend even more time fixing it. He argued that while it might be the case, everyone would feel like they had contributed, even if the end result wasn’t perfect. He argued that it was less important for things to be perfect, it was a nobler ideal that people felt they had participated, that they had played a part in making Christmas a success.

So we tried it his way. I let his family ‘collaborate’ even as I ‘helicopter-hovered’ as discreetly as I could. And I have to say… my husband was right!! The feeling of love, goodwill, joy and family warmth that emanated over the week was worth the less than perfect end result. Everyone had a great time, despite all my hovering!

How is this relevant to the gospel today? As much as we refuse to admit it, most of us are control freaks. We think that we’re the bee’s knees, that no one can do a better job of something than us. We shun help, disdain it, decline it condescendingly or worse, feel offended by it – “Why, do YOU think that I can’t figure it out for myself? Are YOU trying to tell ME how to do things?” A lot of this is rooted in self-pride – pride in our abilities, pride in our efficiency, pride in our perceived martyrdom. It’s a form of affirmation, this delusion that no one can do it better than we can. But in our hastiness to seize the spotlight for ourselves, we rob others of the chance to serve. Like Peter, we proclaim, “You will never wash my feet”. You will never serve me! I won’t allow it! But really, who are we to decide who gets to serve? Who are we to decide what is good enough? Don’t we also deny ourselves the chance to be loved, to be taken care of, when we are disdainful of a helping hand? Might joy and love not be multiplied if we all collaborated?

As we attend this evening’s mass and look upon the symbolism of the washing of feet, let us call to mind all the times we turned down a helping hand because we didn’t think someone was good enough, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness for our pride, our selfish vanity and foolishness. It is not the end result that matters, what’s more important is how we all got there together. Perfection is not nearly as noble an ideal as participation.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the patience, the humility and the awareness to involve others in our lives and in the work of God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times we have been helped, for all the times we have stood on the shoulders of others, and for all the opportunities that God has given us to be that shoulder for someone to stand on. 

18 April, Thursday (Chrism mass) – Own The Moment

18 April 2019

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Isaiah 61:1-3,6,8-9

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;

to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord,
a day of vengeance for our God,

to comfort all those who mourn and to give them
for ashes a garland;
for mourning robe the oil of gladness,
for despondency, praise.

But you, you will be named ‘priests of the Lord’,
they will call you ‘ministers of our God.’
I reward them faithfully
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their race will be famous throughout the nations,
their descendants throughout the peoples.
All who see them will admit
that they are a race whom the Lord has blessed.

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him. This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

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Luke 4:16-21
Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

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You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called

How do we discern what God’s plan is for us? Does that plan change as we move through our life’s cycle? Some people are dutiful daughters, loving wives and doting grandmothers, but what if we are in one of those non-traditional families and don’t have children of our own? What roles do we play then? I’ve found myself mulling this over a lot as we approach the home stretch of Holy Week. I feel an urgency to figure this out because if I don’t, then it would be as if I had squandered yet another Lent. It would be as if I had learned nothing. I still don’t know what God wants for me. That failure to bear fruit is causing me a lot of anxiety.

The confidence with which Jesus embraces his purpose in today’s gospel reading is truly humbling. It takes courage to recognize and embrace your cause, courage which I clearly haven’t found. In his shoes, I would never have been so bold. I would have been intimidated by the expensive trappings of the temple, the rustle of the high priests’ robes as they walked, the scale of the place and all it symbolized in Jewish culture. I would have been overwhelmed by the weight of all that history, the expectations of generations of Jewish prophecy. I would have fretted over whether I was good enough, whether I would ever be good enough. I would have been too afraid to own the moment, as Jesus did.

And maybe that’s my problem. Fear. I am afraid to own my moment. I’m afraid to embrace my cause. I’m afraid to disappoint all the people who expect things from me, that I will upset their well-laid plans, if I stand up for myself. I don’t want to rock the boat with anyone. I tell myself that I’m trying to keep the peace but fear of confrontation is not the same as peacekeeping. No one succeeds in trying to please everyone. There is no happiness in pandering to everybody’s expectations of us. And perhaps that’s why I still haven’t figured it out — because I’ve lost sight of the only opinion that matters. God’s.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom and fortitude to see the long view and discern God’s purpose for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s mercy and the expansiveness of His love, that despite our unworthiness, He deemed us enough for Him.

2 March, Saturday – Rosie

2 March 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 17:1-13

The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
  to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days’ determined time,
  he gave them authority over everything on earth.
He clothed them with strength like his own,
  and made them in his own image.
He filled all living things with dread of man,
  making him master over beasts and birds.
He shaped for them a mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
  and gave them a heart to think with.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
  and revealed to them good and evil.
He put his own light in their hearts
  to show them the magnificence of his works.
They will praise his holy name,
  as they tell of his magnificent works.
He set knowledge before them,
  he endowed them with the law of life.
Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
  and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
He said to them, ‘Beware of all wrong-doing’;
  he gave each a commandment concerning his neighbour.
Their ways are always under his eye,
  they cannot be hidden from his sight.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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He gave them so many days’ determined time, he gave them authority over everything on earth.

We had a death in the family just before Christmas. Our niece, Rosie, passed away in her sleep. One day she was a hopeful 26-yr-old planning a new life with her fiancé, the next she had slipped away. It’s been a surreal few months. I have not reconciled myself to the fact that she is gone. It doesn’t seem real. When God decides to take a young person back to Himself, it is as if the natural order of things has been broken. Though my head understands it is His prerogative, that I cannot know the when and why of His ways, my heart is having a hard time with it. And along with denial is a terrible sense of regret – regret over words spoken and unspoken, over intentions good and bad, over things I should have done and things I wished I had not.

One of the inevitabilities of grief is an awareness of time. This isn’t new territory for me, but I had allowed myself to let my guard down. Our time with someone is finite and it can get taken away from us. Quite brutally too. My father passed away 3 years ago after a long battle with cancer. With him, I had a long time to say goodbye, to bank as many beautiful memories as I could. And still, I was careless and our last words were angry ones. After he died, I told myself that I would henceforth be more watchful over my tongue and my thoughts. Yet my last thoughts of Rosie were, if not angry, then certainly frustrated ones. And oh, how deeply I regret that.

The gospel in Mark talks about how only childlike faith will grant us citizenship in the kingdom of God. I know this to be true because it is only with childlike faith and wonder that one is able to rise above the cynicism, scepticism and jadedness of adulthood. I had lost that wonder, not just with Rosie, but with a lot of other people in my life. Just before she died, I was going through what I can only describe as a very angry period. Now she is gone, I wish that I had tempered myself more. I wish that I had prayed more. I wish that I had overlooked more things. But it’s a little late for all that now. Regret doesn’t bring back the dead, it only fills the living with grief and remorse. I am glad that Rosie is back with God. At least she no longer has to deal with the likes of me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: I pray for the self-awareness to be more restrained in both my thoughts and my words.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the time that I did have with my father and Rosie. I give thanks for all the memories, both the good and the bad.

1 March, Friday – Husbands And Wives

1 March 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17
A kindly turn of speech multiplies a man’s friends,
  and a courteous way of speaking invites many a friendly reply.
Let your acquaintances be many,
  but your advisers one in a thousand.
If you want to make a friend, take him on trial,
  and be in no hurry to trust him;
for one kind of friend is only so when it suits him
  but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
Another kind of friend will fall out with you
  and to your dismay make the quarrel public,
and a third kind of friend will share your table,
  but not stand by you in your day of trouble:
when you are doing well he will be your second self,
  ordering your servants about;
but if ever you are brought low he will turn against you
  and will hide himself from you.
Keep well clear of your enemies,
  and be wary of your friends.
A faithful friend is a sure shelter,
  whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.
A faithful friend is something beyond price,
  there is no measuring his worth.
A faithful friend is the elixir of life,
  and those who fear the Lord will find one.
Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends,
  for as a man is, so is his friend.

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Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

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So they are no longer two but one flesh.

One of my favourite things to do when I’m on my own, is to sit and watch old married couples interact with each other. Whether at airports, in cafes, at the grocery store or in crowded restaurants, the miracle of an enduring marriage is something I think about a lot. What lives must they have led, to get to this point where they’re at peace with themselves and content just to be in each other’s company? What struggles and arguments must they have endured to know and love each other so much now? You can always tell the ones who are uneasily yoked – someone is usually rolling their eyes or making some backhanded remark. Granted, it is not easy to live with the same person for so many years. Why then, do some marriages grow strong with age, while others wither and die out?

It takes divine grace to go the distance, to build something that endures. Our first reading talks about how one is to discern one’s friends. Those same qualities apply to our life partner as well. Are they compassionate and trustworthy? Do they have our backs? Can they be found when we’re laid low? These are not the things that we consider in the first blush of romance. Rather, more weight is given to whether they ‘make us happy’, as if happiness were something to be traded and acquired.

I was very nearly married once, before I met my current husband. We were so young. He was someone who ticked all the ‘right boxes’, someone who on paper fulfilled the ‘requirements’ I thought would make for a happy life – the right pedigree, the right education, the right career path. No thought was given to whether or not we might be good companions for the long haul. We never made it to the altar. He and I faltered at the first hurdle, planning the wedding, and were exposed for the frauds that we were. You’re not ready to be married until you’re ready to sacrifice. And neither he nor I were prepared to yield even one inch for the other.

The enduring marriage is a miracle of God. It is a triumph of patience and sacrifice, a testament to love that puts the other ahead of itself. “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”– no longer the wants of their individual selves, but rather the shared hopes and dreams of both together. At the heart of it, the enduring marriage is a three-pronged relationship – husband, wife and God, all bound together by those beautiful wedding vows. “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate”. God bless all of our long-suffering husbands and wives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all who are about to take their marriage vows. We pray that God helps them to discern carefully, to understand the gravity of the decision they are about to make.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our husbands and our wives; for their patience, their humour, their love and the sacrifice they make daily, when they put us before themselves. We give thanks that we met them. We give thanks for the brightness that they bring to our lives.

28 February, Thursday – On Cucumbers

28 February 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 5:1-10

Do not give your heart to your money,
  or say, ‘With this I am self-sufficient.’
Do not be led by your appetites and energy
  to follow the passions of your heart.
And do not say, ‘Who has authority over me?’
  for the Lord will certainly be avenged on you.
Do not say, ‘I sinned, and what happened to me?’
  for the Lord’s forbearance is long.
Do not be so sure of forgiveness
  that you add sin to sin.
And do not say, ‘His compassion is great,
  he will forgive me my many sins’;
for with him are both mercy and wrath,
  and his rage bears heavy on sinners.
Do not delay your return to the Lord,
  do not put it off day after day;
for suddenly the Lord’s wrath will blaze out,
  and at the time of vengeance you will be utterly destroyed.
Do not set your heart on ill-gotten gains,
  they will be of no use to you on the day of disaster.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples:
  ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.
  ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.

Not many people know this but Saint Martha – patron saint of all who toil in the kitchen – was my confirmation saint. There is a lot to learn about God in the culinary arts. For instance — pickled cucumbers. Most of us take them for granted. Why bother with making them when Vlasic retails them for $3.99/jar? But if you did that, you would miss out on one of the great joys of eating. I learned how to salt and pickle fresh cucumbers from my mother. She would cut out the soft, delicate hearts, treat the firm outer flesh to an exfoliating salt scrub, then leave the cucumbers to ‘leak’ their excess moisture, before storing them in a bath of salt, vinegar and sugar. Pickled cucumbers were a mainstay in our house, adorning pan-fried pork cutlets, garnishing minced beef noodles, elevating fatty hunks of roast. I snacked on them by the handfuls. But it is only as an adult, through the filter of Scripture, that I have come to appreciate the lowly, pickled cucumber as more than instant gastronomic gratification.

In the Old Testament, the ‘Covenant of Salt’ (Num 18:19) was the covenant that God made with the tribe of Moses’ brother, Aaron, when He set them apart as priests of the Holy Sanctuary. The Hebrews at the time were an unenlightened, ungrateful people, incapable of approaching the Holy Sanctuary without being struck down by death and pestilence. Aaron’s family was the go-between, a line of priests set apart for serving God. Salt was used to consecrate all of the offerings in the Sanctuary. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he did away with all that and allowed us believers to return to God, to be His consecrated people. By God’s grace, we have been ‘salted’ and granted citizenship in His new kingdom. For our part, we are told to ‘keep salt in yourselves’ (Mark 9:50), to maintain a leanness of spirit, to not clutter ourselves with the distractions of wealth, power and fruitless desires (Sir 5:1-8). God wants us to remember why we have been consecrated.

There is much Scriptural wisdom in the culinary arts. Fresh off its vine, the cucumber might look glorious for a few days, but would end up rotting worthlessly at the bottom of our refrigerator drawer, if we did not bother to salt and pickle it. By losing some of its unwanted water weight, the pickled cucumber is transformed into something purer, leaner, crisper – and a great deal more enduring. The same can be said for us. We could all benefit from a little spiritual ‘salting’, an exfoliation of all the unnecessary distractions that drag us down. That which emerges is very likely to be leaner, purer and more spiritually pleasing to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for God’s grace when we endure the struggles that serve to ‘salt’ our souls, so that we might be pleasing in His eyes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His infinite grace and mercy, that while we were unenlightened, ungrateful sinners, God sent His Son to die for our sins and grant us citizenship in His everlasting kingdom.

4 February, Monday – Evelyn

4 February 2019

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Hebrews 11:32-40

Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets – these were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what is right and earned the promises. They could keep a lion’s mouth shut, put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle. They were weak people who were given strength, to be brave in war and drive back foreign invaders.

Some came back to their wives from the dead, by resurrection; and others submitted to torture, refusing release so that they would rise again to a better life. Some had to bear being pilloried and flogged, or even chained up in prison. They were stoned, or sawn in half, or beheaded; they were homeless, and dressed in the skins of sheep and goats; they were penniless and were given nothing but ill-treatment.

They were too good for the world and they went out to live in deserts and mountains and in caves and ravines. These are all heroes of faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had made provision for us to have something better, and they were not to reach perfection except with us.

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Mark 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples reached the country of the Gerasenes on the other side of the lake, and no sooner had Jesus left the boat than a man with an unclean spirit came out from the tombs towards him. The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him any more, even with a chain; because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? Swear by God you will not torture me!’ – For Jesus had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit.’ ‘What is your name?’ Jesus asked. ‘My name is legion,’ he answered ‘for there are many of us.’ And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the district.

Now there was there on the mountainside a great herd of pigs feeding, and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us to the pigs, let us go into them.’ So he gave them leave. With that, the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs, and the herd of about two thousand pigs charged down the cliff into the lake, and there they were drowned. The swineherds ran off and told their story in the town and in the country round about; and the people came to see what had really happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his full senses – the very man who had had the legion in him before – and they were afraid. And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs. Then they began to implore Jesus to leave the neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him. Jesus would not let him but said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.’ So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And everyone was amazed.

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“Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you”

My cousin, Evelyn, had serious bouts of epilepsy when she was a child. It was so bad that it hampered her development. So Evelyn, in her old age, still behaves as she did when she was 6. In those days, not a lot was understood about her condition. The family whispered amongst themselves, shaking their heads, wringing their hands. How could this have happened? People searched for ways to explain it. My grandmother blamed it on my aunt. Not everyone was kind.

Despite all this, Evelyn grew to know Christ and embraced Him as her saviour. Evelyn went to church. She understood happiness and sorrow. She had a deep sense of moral justice. And she was filled with joy, always laughing or smiling. She also prayed a lot. She told me once that she asked God something and He responded to her and it made me think, “…God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong…” (1 Cor 1:27-28). Evelyn likely had a closer relationship with God than any of us. She may even have tried to communicate that, but we dismissed her because we all thought she was ‘slow’.

I wonder what kind of resistance the man in today’s gospel faced from his family. Would they have dismissed his testimony as the chatter of an unsound mind? Or would their faith have allowed them to see that he had been touched by God? How we view life speaks to what we hold in our hearts. Are we cynical? We will view everything with skepticism. Are we resentful? We will try to compete with everyone. Are we proud? We will look down our noses at everything. Evelyn’s simpler life saved her from the illnesses of the ‘sound mind’ like pride, selfishness, greed, prejudice. Evelyn was wholly open to God because what else was she going to do? Seek affirmation from her mean-girl cousins? Those who love us are the ones most capable of hurting us. Evelyn might have seemed unaware but I think she knew what we were saying all those times we were sharp to her. And she would have been hurting even if she was smiling. In our suffering, we can all think of Christ on the cross – singular in his focus, hopeful in the worst of circumstances, faithful till the end. Perhaps that was the source of Evelyn’s joy – Christ – and he was enough to make her forget how hard life was. I sometimes wonder why she never said anything. But perhaps it is I that never really heard her in the first place.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the ability to discern Christ even in the most unlikely of individuals.


Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His grace and mercy, that despite our past wrongdoings, He is merciful in His forgiveness.

8 November, Thursday – On Coming Home

8 November

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Philippians 3:3-8

We are the real people of the circumcision, we who worship in accordance with the Spirit of God; we have our own glory from Christ Jesus without having to rely on a physical operation. If it came to relying on physical evidence, I should be fully qualified myself. Take any man who thinks he can rely on what is physical: I am even better qualified. I was born of the race of Israel and of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, and I was circumcised when I was eight days old. As for the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for working for religion, I was a persecutor of the Church; as far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless. But because of Christ, I have come to consider all these advantages that I had as disadvantages. Not only that, but I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

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Luke 15:1-10

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

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“… Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep”

Those of you reading this blog regularly will know that I stopped going to church briefly when the news of our Catholic Church’s scandals came to light. I have since found my way back to mass, albeit a little warily. The distrust that I feel for the ruling priestly elite hasn’t gone away. You can say that I have taken to heart Paul’s advice to “not put confidence in the flesh”. I am a committed Catholic. I identify myself as Catholic. I’m not afraid to speak of my faith, even now with all the scandal surrounding our Church. Outwardly, I tell everyone that this is surmountable, that we will emerge from this a stronger body of believers. But privately, I feel lost, like the proverbial sheep. The trust between myself and the political institution that is the Catholic Church has been broken. So, going to Mass has become challenging. Like the wife who has been cheated on, or the child whose innocence is lost, I am there physically — but things are not the same.

I have been re-reading the Bible a lot, grasping for a sign, for something. It’s ironic how familiar verses speak new meaning to us when our circumstances are different. I yearn for the homecoming that is described in today’s gospel, that great rejoicing when the shepherd finds his lost sheep. But to what exactly am I coming home to? God’s Church has been defiled. If this is our threshing moment, when wheat is separated from chaff, what will God’s Church look like when it is all over? And with all this anger, frustration and disillusionment in my heart, will there still be a place for me with Him?

As if to throw me a lifeline, God has led me to a small community of women that has formed within my own parish. We seem to all have this in common, this feeling of being scattered like sheep. We spend one morning a week, praying, poring over the Bible, processing our feelings of confusion about this whole thing – who knew what when, and what did they do about it. This must be what a support group feels like. Wow, am I thankful for it!! I’ve also taken to reading up on the history of the Catholic Church. We seem to go through cycles of renewal and purification; perhaps we are in the throes of one now. I wonder how it ends.

Christ’s words from the Book of Matthew have never been more significant to me than right now – “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves… a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7: 15-20). If this is to be a threshing moment for all believers, I hope that at the end of it, I will not be found wanting. I pray that God will help me to process these feelings I hold in my heart, so that going to Mass becomes less of a struggle. Because I want that homecoming, to be that lost sheep that is found. I want to reclaim that trust that was lost. Don’t we all?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are working towards healing the Church and restoring its credibility with believers.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people that God puts in our lives to get us through difficult moments.

7 November, Wednesday – On Carrying Our Crosses

7 November

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Philippians 2:12-18

My dear friends, continue to do as I tell you, as you always have; not only as you did when I was there with you, but even more now that I am no longer there; and work for your salvation ‘in fear and trembling.’ It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life. This would give me something to be proud of for the Day of Christ, and would mean that I had not run in the race and exhausted myself for nothing. And then, if my blood has to be shed as part of your own sacrifice and offering-which is your faith I shall still be happy and rejoice with all of you, and you must be just as happy and rejoice with me.

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Luke 14:25-33

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

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

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“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”

Before we were Catholics, my family and I were Buddhists. I remember the first time I embraced Christianity.  At the time, I was a fresh-eyed fifteen year old. What did I know about what it would mean to embrace Christ?  Instead of encouragement and support, I was yelled at by my father for fraternizing with ‘those Christian fanatics’ (he had a real flair for hyperbole in his younger days!). Any talk of Christ at home was considered an act of rebellion. I remember countless dinner table conversations spiralling into shouting matches when I tried to witness to him. So I staged a revolt in my own way. I held my faith in my heart and continued praying and witnessing to him. When he dragged us for worship at the Buddhist temple, I would sit outside in the hot sun and resolutely refuse to enter. I wouldn’t pick up his joss sticks or pray at the ancestral altar in my grandmother’s house. Typical teenage behaviour, and then some! In the end, Dad relented and even found his own way to Christ. It took him 20 years, but that’s just a blink of an eye in God’s time. Dad is back with God now, and I know he is well and at peace.

Looking back, that act of rebellion as a willful 15yr old was my first taste of ‘carrying my cross’. I was completely out of my depth. What did I know about what I was doing? I didn’t know where to look for help. There was no internet, no Universalis or USCCB or Word On Fire homilies to give me hope. I didn’t have guidance. My father banned me from Christian Bible study groups and from going to mass, so I didn’t have a steady support network. I only had the Holy Bible, and a King James’ at that, not the easiest of versions to grasp. And I had prayer. So I turned to both.

Connecting the dots backwards, I can see that every trial back then was preparation for my faith journey today. With necessity and the Holy Spirit as my teachers, I reached for His Word because it was the only source of comfort that I had. It’s a common complaint these days that it’s hard to read the Bible, that the verses are difficult to decipher.  Yes, the Word can be hard to grasp, so I will always be thankful for the start that I got because of my circumstances.

God helped me to carry my cross as a 15yr old; He’s still helping me to carry my cross as an adult. The challenges are a little more complex now (family, marriage, children) and the path ahead, more obscured than before.  But His Word, the Holy Spirit and prayer are the same, reassuring constants I hold on to. God’s faithfulness to us truly never ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the courage, patience and fortitude to carry our crosses daily.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His Word, for the Holy Spirit’s inspiring power and for the people God puts in our lives to give us help, hope, encouragement and sustenance.

6 November, Tuesday – Pre-Holiday Stress And How To Manage It

6 November

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Philippians 2:5-11

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:

His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Luke 14:15-24

One of those gathered round the table said to him, ‘Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!’ But he said to him, ‘There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come along: everything is ready now.” But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.” Yet another said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”

‘The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir” said the servant “your orders have been carried out and there is still room.” Then the master said to his servant, “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”’

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“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus”

Yesterday, we talked about the freeloaders in our families, and what Scripture says about that kind of nefarious behaviour. It’s funny how the holiday season, supposed to be a time of ‘joy and goodwill’, can fill so many of us with dread and foreboding. Will what we do be enough? Will we have enough to do what is deemed enough? What do we do if it’s not? When did it all become this race?! Is it the crowd I run in? Should I re-think the company I keep?

I long for the kind of Christmas depicted in the Nativity scene, one that is more simple, spiritual and meaningful. One that is about how people treat each other, instead of what treats they should be getting from who. Our culture of competitive consumerism is draining – financially, emotionally and spiritually. I feel so tired just thinking about it, and it’s only the beginning of November!

Perhaps the key to surviving the holidays and going back to a more simple practice of it, lies in the verse from today – “have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus” – a change in attitude. Christ’s way was to humble himself, to “do nothing through rivalry or vain conceit. On the contrary to let each … gently consider the others as more important than yourselves. Do not seek your own interest, but rather that of others. Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ” (Phil 2: 3-5). This is made possible only by the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Left to our own devices, we would collapse from denying our selfish agendas because that’s just how we are – frail, feeble and lacking in fortitude. If we offer our weak selves up to Christ though, Paul assures us that all our angst will go away.

I ought to try it, and I mean really put rubber to the road and put it in practice. What else have I got to lose? We already know the other way doesn’t work. My sanity and my bank account will be a great deal healthier if the holiday season reverted back to a simpler way of being. I might actually learn to enjoy and appreciate the season again. At risk of sounding like the Grinch, perhaps this is the year we take back Christmas?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the clarity and self-awareness to revert back to a simpler way of doing things. We pray for the wisdom to focus on the people, instead of being caught up in the potlucks and the presents.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Holy Spirit, who lifts us up and inspires us to be better, kinder, more loving versions of ourselves.