Tag Archives: spiritual direction

13 August, Saturday – Free Will

13 August – Memorial for St. Pontian, Pope, Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyr

Pontian was among the first victims of an anti-Christian new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labour mines. While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ. Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 18:1-10,13,30-32

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows:

‘Why do you keep repeating this proverb in the land of Israel: “The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

‘As I live – it is the Lord who speaks – there will no longer be any reason to repeat this proverb in Israel. See now: all life belongs to me; the father’s life and the son’s life, both alike belong to me. The man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.

‘The upright man is law-abiding and honest; he does not eat on the mountains or raise his eyes to the idols of the House of Israel, does not seduce his neighbour’s wife or sleep with a woman during her periods. He oppresses no one, returns pledges, never steals, gives his own bread to the hungry, his clothes to the naked. He never charges usury on loans, takes no interest, abstains from evil, gives honest judgement between man and man, keeps my laws and sincerely respects my observances–such a man is truly upright. It is the Lord who speaks.

‘But if anyone has a son prone to violence and bloodshed, then this son shall certainly not live; having committed all these appalling crimes he will have to die, and his blood be on his own head.

House of Israel, in future I mean to judge each of you by what he does–it is the Lord who speaks. Repent, renounce all your sins, avoid all occasions of sin! Shake off all the sins you have committed against me, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why are you so anxious to die, House of Israel? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone–it is the Lord who speaks. Repent and live!’

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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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I take no pleasure in the death of anyone – it is the Lord who speaks.

In my line of work, there comes a time where we need to decide if a student who obtained less than desirable grades and exhibited behaviour which does not meet expectations, is a result of us, as teachers, failing the student; or is it because the student chose his own path. Indeed, this is something which we see in the readings of today where God reminds the Prophet Ezekiel of the importance of choosing the straight and narrow.

Doing what is needed to fulfil one’s Christian’s duties is certainly not something which we find easy to do. The ways of the world do make us falter but I believe that Jesus has shown us the way in which we need to stay close to Him. This is to adopt a child-like attitude towards things. A child-like attitude requires us to trust in God and to work our way towards achieving what God desires of us in our lives. In practical terms, this means we need to identify the strengths and talents we have in our lives and then decide how best we can use it to glorify God. However, is this something which we are open to?

As we continue with our lives, we need to accept our frailties and weaknesses. However, what makes us a better Christian is how we recover from it. God reminds us in the first reading that He wants us to live and not die. Just like the teacher in the first paragraph, we need to accept the fact that students choose their own behaviour. We can counsel, lecture, pray and even ignore but ultimately, the decision lies with the individual on his choice of behaviour. Let us ask God for the wisdom to guide us in deciding what is the decision we should make.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the wisdom to choose the path which leads to life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all who offer Spiritual Direction.

2 August, Tuesday – Getting out of the boat

2 August – Memorial for St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop; St Peter Julian Eymard, Bishop

Eusebius (283-371) was a priest and lector in Rome, Italy. He was consecrated bishop of Vercelli, Italy in 340, but was exiled to Palestine and Cappadocia due to his struggle against Arianism. He was a friend of St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He was a prolific writer according to his contemporaries, but none of his works have survived. He was the first bishop to live with and follow the same rule as his priests. He may be been martyred by Arians, but reports vary. Many consider him a martyr as he may have died as a result of his sufferings in exile.

– Patron Saint Index

Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) had a strong Marian devotion, and travelled to the assorted Marian shrines and apparition sites in France. He organised lay societies under the direction of the Marists, preached and taught, and worked for Eucharistic devotion. He felt a call to found a new religious society, and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and the lay Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His work encountered a series of setbacks, including have to close his nascent houses and move twice, and the houses not being able to support themselves financially. However, his vision of priests, deacons, sisters, and lay people dedicated to the spiritual values celebrated in the Mass and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament anticipated many of the renewals brought about by Vatican Councils I and II.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 30:1-2,12-15,18-22

The word addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord: the Lord, the God of Israel says this: Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book.

Yes, the Lord says this:
Your wound is incurable,
your injury past healing.
There is no one to care for your sore,
no medicine to make you well again.
All your lovers have forgotten you,
they look for you no more.
Yes, I have struck you as an enemy strikes,
with harsh punishment
so great is your guilt, so many your sins.
Why bother to complain about your wound?
Your pain is incurable.
So great is your guilt, so many your sins,
that I have done all this to you.

The Lord says this:
Now I will restore the tents of Jacob,
and take pity on his dwellings:
the city shall be rebuilt on its ruins,
the citadel restored on its site.
From them will come thanksgiving
and shouts of joy.
I will make them increase, and not diminish them,
make them honoured, and not disdained.
Their sons shall be as once they were,
their community fixed firm in my presence,
and I will punish all their oppressors.
Their prince will be one of their own,
their ruler come from their own people.
I will let him come freely into my presence and he can come close to me;
who else, indeed, would risk his life
by coming close to me? – it is the Lord who speaks.
And you shall be my people and I will be your God.

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Matthew 14:22-36

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death, he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were completely cured.

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Come, why did you doubt?

In June, a group of us went to Majodi for a retreat. When I signed up, I had no idea what it was about. The title intrigued me. I was at a point in my spiritual journey when I just about gave up trying to understand Jesus. This faith journey was just too hard. I felt complete and utter emptiness. I just coasted along and hoped for the best.

I had no expectations of the retreat. Only that God, in His infinite love and mercy, might steer me towards a direction. The retreat was short, not intense. Days leading up to the retreat, Jesus was already preparing me. He blessed me with several small incidents and events that showed me that He was right there with me. Just that I didn’t see Him.

Something had been festering in my heart for months and I just didn’t know how to deal with it. A thorn in my side which I hoped would just go away. It didn’t. But 3 days before the retreat, Jesus gave me the opportunity to ‘make good’ with the person I was upset with. I resisted and made all sorts of excuses not to come face to face with this person. But Jesus, in all his wisdom, kind of just shoved me along. And so things were restored. I could now go freely to this retreat with no baggage.

The theme of the retreat was ‘Get Out Of The Boat’. The scripture Father used for reflection is today’s gospel reading. On Day One, we were asked to take stock of our lives. Where were we in relation to: family, church, ministry, neighbourhood, health, recreation, work, vocation and relationships? And in these areas of our lives, we were to picture what type of boat it was – sampan, speed boat, luxury liner?

All this while I have been so afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I remained in the boat despite how bumpy the ride was. Didn’t matter what sort of boat it was. However, as I journaled and started to share with my friend, I came to realisation that I was no longer in the boat.

“Come! Why did you doubt?”

Jesus had all along been slowly cajoling me, like a little child, to step out of the boat with a little lolly in his hand.  I am so unteachable He had to ‘trick’ me like how a parent would coax a child. ‘Come!’

Looking at my life, and all the events leading up to where I am today. I am indeed out of the boat and did not even realise it. It was a revelation of sorts for me. And Jesus also revealed that I am now actually living out my vocation. Not in the way I had pictured it would be. But I am living it!

A few of us were laughing about our own states. Someone told me that she too was out of the boat, only she was desperately clinging to the sides of her boat trying to climb back in! Funny how we humans are.

Peter got out of the boat. His eyes were fixed on Jesus and he actually walked across the water! But the moment he doubted, he started to sink. Our spiritual walk is a leap of faith. Yup, we don’t know what’s ahead. But if we keep our eye on Jesus, we will not sink.

Oh yes. Jesus had another revelation for me. Actually, I am now back in the boat. Like what?? Yup. I am now back in the boat. And Jesus is the Seamaster.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, despite how deaf and blind we can be, continue to lead us to live the live you had intended for us. Help us to have the courage and faith to step out into the unknown, knowing that you have your eyes on us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for our lives. For what you have done for us, so much more than we imagined or prayed for. You are the source of our strength. You comfort us, fill us and provide for us. For this we are every so grateful.

14 July, Thursday – Praise, Surrender, Accept

14 July – Memorial for St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest

St. Camillus (1550-1614) used to be a gambling addict. He lost so much he had to take a job working construction on a building belonging to the Capuchins; they converted him. Because of a persistent injury, he moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator.

Lacking education, he began to study with children when he was 32 years old. St. Camillus founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick (the Camellians) who care for the sick both in hospital and home. He honoured the sick as living images of Christ, and hoped that the service he gave them did penance for his wayward youth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:7-9,12,16-19

The path of the upright man is straight,
you smooth the way of the upright.
Following the path of your judgements,
we hoped in you, O Lord,
your name, your memory are all my soul desires.

At night my soul longs for you
and my spirit in me seeks for you;
when your judgements appear on earth
the inhabitants of the world learn the meaning of integrity.

O Lord, you are giving us peace,
since you treat us
as our deeds deserve.

Distressed, we search for you, O Lord;
the misery of oppression was your punishment for us.

As a woman with child near her time
writhes and cries out in her pangs,
so are we, O Lord, in your presence:
we have conceived, we writhe
as if we were giving birth;
we have not given the spirit of salvation to the earth,
no more inhabitants of the world are born.

Your dead will come to life,
their corpses will rise;
awake, exult,
all you who lie in the dust,
for your dew is a radiant dew
and the land of ghosts will give birth.

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Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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Distressed, we search for you O Lord.

Reflecting on today’s reading over and over again, I try to put myself in the shoes of Isaiah, one who praises and gives thanks, to actually know what our Lord has done for him and sings praises with so much love and admiration. Not that I do not genuinely praise our Lord or give thanks from deep within my heart every week as I worship Him. Today’s readings brought me back to the times where I would attend at least one ‘Praise and Worship’ session from a community every year, where leaders would help us focus on God within our hearts, and to give shouts of praise to the Lord without much reservation and lifting our arms to surrender to Him. There are moments where you can jump and shout your love for God, for everything that He has done for us.

The Gospel today assures us that our relationship with God isn’t only about feeling the high during worship, where we have so much love to be thankful for, but it is about pouring out all our difficulties and distressed moments. We praise, we surrender and we accept. The Father sent Jesus to lighten the burden of sin, the burden of anguish, the burden of fear but raises all of us through eternal hope.

Let us try to bring back the close moments we had with our Lord in the next few months. As we are back in the liturgy and season of Ordinary Time, do not make it an ordinary season of prayer and worship, but to increase our faith more, or spend more time with the Lord or ministry. In this way, we are keeping the Lord close to our lives everyday, going through happy moments with our family and friends, as well as disappointing times. Always remember to shoulder the yoke of our Lord God, because we are never alone.

(Today’s OXYGEN by  Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who have lost direction in their lives and finding difficulty in meeting the basics of living, may they get through this period and holding onto the hope presented to us from God.

Thanksgiving: I want to give thanks for all the mentors and educators, in enriching the lives of others in the form of education and guidance, so that the other becomes a more responsible person in society.