Tag Archives: stephanie villa

31 August, Saturday – Am I Afraid?

31 Aug 2019

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1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact this is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia. However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to your own business and earning your living, just as we told you to.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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So I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground

I used to pay very little attention to the servant who hid the talent in the ground. In my mind, I saw him as a disappointment. I would even say that I had little or no sympathy towards him. Until recent events in my life allowed me to look at the third servant with more compassion.

He said that he was afraid, that’s why he didn’t do anything. Sometimes, people choose not to do something because they are afraid that if they fail, they would end up disappointing the other person. The pain of doing something, not measuring up, and being rejected could be so much. It might even be unbearable that one finds it better not to do anything and be rejected, rather than put an effort and end up being rejected as well. There may be people around us who we were quick to judge as simply being lazy when in fact, they had deeper issues than laziness.

The next point of reflection is that if the servant was afraid of the master, could it be because he did not know the master enough? Sometimes, I feel that I have to put my best foot forward for God. In fact, I only realized that subconsciously, I was trying to be the perfect daughter for God. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be perfect for God, since we have been told to ‘be perfect just as (our) heavenly Father’ is. What was wrong was that in my quest for perfection, I forgot that God has also chosen to love my failures and shortcomings because they are part of me. Perhaps, I do not really know God enough yet to not be afraid.

My last point of reflection was, if the third servant ever asked the first two servants for tips on how to grow his talents. Maybe he did, but I feel that most likely he didn’t. If his first reaction was to bury his talent, I would also think that he would be so afraid to have asked for help. In our journey towards God, we certainly need the help of other people so we can become better.

God has put people around us so we can learn from them as to how we can give greater glory to God, how we can serve him better. Sometimes, we just don’t bother asking for help or guidance. Is it our pride? Or is it because we just can’t be bothered to try? Or is it because we are afraid?

Let us cease to be afraid. Let us seek to get to know God more, to get to know our selves more, let us be brave enough to ask for help.

Let us have faith in God and his love for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help me acknowledge the third servant in me and help me grow to do what will bring you happiness. And let that happiness be my happiness, too.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for including the third servant in the story for me to learn more about myself. 

30 August, Friday – “Delayed”

30 Aug 2019

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1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

What God wants is for you all to be holy. He wants you to keep away from fornication, and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honourable, not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God. He wants nobody at all ever to sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters; the Lord always punishes sins of that sort, as we told you before and assured you. We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral; in other words, anyone who objects is not objecting to a human authority, but to God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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The bridegroom was late

In another version of this reading, it was written that the bridegroom was ‘long delayed.’ I personally like this version better (and yes, I have Bibles with both the UK and US versions – all Catholic :)). When you say someone is late, one’s first thought is that the person did not come one time. However, when you say one is delayed, one would first think that something happened for the person’s arrival to happen later. There is a reason for being delayed.

In a Jewish marriage, after the betrothal, the bridegroom prepares the house for the bride before fetching her to live with him. With this in mind, I would think that the bridegroom was delayed because he was trying to put things in order for his bride and something important in that process had to be attended to and completed. If that were the case, I wouldn’t exactly call him late.

As I am writing this reflection, I had to reflect on how many times I would think that God is late in making things happen in my life. To think that God is late means I’m expecting him to complete something at an agreed time. And I realized that God never promised us anything based on an exact time – he didn’t even put a calendar date on His 2nd coming! His promise is based on quality – that we will have eternal life with him, that we will be happy with him, that our joy and redemption will surely come if we wait on him.

It’s so easy to feel frustrated whenever we feel that something is already late. As a bridegroom, God wants what is best for us, not only because that will give Him greater glory, but also because that will make us the best version of ourselves. God’s delay shows us how patient He is, because He is willing to wait to make it the best possible thing to happen. The Israelites had to wander in the desert when there was a shortcut, remember?

So what do we do during this period of delay? We make sure we are ready. We are in the current states of our lives so we can be ready when God calls us to the next phase of our lives. I think it is ok to anticipate and be excited for the future, but we should not let this anticipation and excitement rob us of the disposition of enjoying the present. Unfortunately, some of us live our lives simply not being able to wait for the next phase — we can’t wait to grow up, we can’t wait to settle down, we can’t wait to have kids, we can’t wait for the kids to be out of the house, we can’t wait until we retire.

When God is ‘delayed’, there is a reason for it. Let’s wait patiently and enjoy this season.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, I would really like you to give me what you want me to have soon, but I would rather ask for the grace to wait on you and your promises until the fullness of time.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, the gift of this season. Please help me learn all the lessons and enjoy everything I could enjoy in this season.

29 August, Thursday – The Gift of Constraints

Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

Brothers, your faith has been a great comfort to us in the middle of our own troubles and sorrows; now we can breathe again, as you are still holding firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account? We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.

May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you. May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart

I love watching anime. Besides being entertaining, the genre also tackles deep, philosophical issues. One of the key issues that is discussed is about immortality, or having the capacity to live a long life here on earth. Most of us would dream of long lives, but in the story, these characters are lonely people who would do anything to die.

Without the possibility of death, they have seen many people die. They have lost many loved ones they did not want to love again. Without any possibility of death, they could always postpone a certain experience like travelling or exploring to another day, since they could have any day in the future to do that. As they will not die, they do not need to take care of their health. Many things lose their meaning, their significance, because it will always be available to them in the future.

Some of us are frustrated by the constraints that we experience in life. Of course, we would want to be able to do more. But precisely because there are constraints, that’s why we are able to appreciate what we have. As the saying goes, ‘You never know what you have until you lose it. You never know what you’re missing until you find it.’

The shortness of our lives gives us wisdom of heart. We learn to value every moment as a gift. We learn to appreciate the small miracles of every day. We learn to appreciate people whom God puts in our lives only for a while. We make an effort to be kind every time we have the chance, because the chance may never come again. The shortness of our lives may bring us sadness. And precisely because of this sadness that’s why we are able obtain happiness.

The shortness of our lives also gives us wisdom on who to prioritize. Some of us choose what to prioritize, forgetting that we find the meaning of our lives based on who we prioritize. When we think we have all the time, we forget that it is the relationship with God and with people that makes us most human. Think of the rich man who prioritized making a barn for his bountiful harvest. We are never told if he had people whom he loved, but we were certainly told that he was a fool as he would soon be called to the afterlife.

If today is our last day on earth, who would really matter to me? How will I spend my last day on earth?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help us be aware that every day is a gift and that we may never take the day for granted. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the shortness of our lives which allows us to be happier in this world.

10 July, Wednesday – When Waiting is Something You Do

10 July 2019

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Genesis 41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24

When the whole country of Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’ There was famine all over the world. Then Joseph opened all the granaries and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in the land of Egypt. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.

Israel’s sons with others making the same journey went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan. It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who sold the grain to all comers. So Joseph’s brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. Then he kept them all in custody for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall keep your lives, for I am a man who fears God. If you are honest men let one of your brothers be kept in the place of your detention; as for you, go and take grain to relieve the famine of your families. You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true, and you will not have to die!’ This they did. They said to one another, ‘Truly we are being called to account for our brother. We saw his misery of soul when he begged our mercy, but we did not listen to him and now this misery has come home to us.’ Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you did not listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, because there was an interpreter between them. He left them and wept.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.

When I read today’s reading, this line struck me as something very similar to what our Lady told the servants during the wedding at Cana. She instructed them to do whatever Jesus told them to do. When this happens, you wait for instructions. This waiting can sometimes be agonizing.

In today’s age, we are not trained to wait. We have instant noodles, instant messaging, we even have hydroponics, which grows plants faster. To us, a few minutes of waiting is like an eternity. Most of us have been wired to be constantly doing something, otherwise, we feel that nothing is happening. I’ve heard of one project leader being offered all the possible resources in order to expedite a project. He had to tell people that nine ladies cannot give birth to one baby in one month. They just had to wait.

Early this January, God showed me that I was waiting in exasperation. I had this ‘I-can’t-do-anything-anymore-so-I’ll-just-wait’ attitude. I really had no other choice but to wait. The reality is I really had no other choice anyway but I realized that that was not the type of waiting God wanted me to do. God wanted me to choose to wait because He told me to wait. He told me that that was what I should be doing.

Waiting is a verb. It is an action word. Just because we don’t ‘see’ any actions doesn’t mean that we are not doing any thing. To wait is also a decision. After all, God has given us a free will and we have the freedom to go off and not wait. Most importantly, to choose to wait is to choose to trust God.

Let’s put ourselves in Joseph’s brothers’ position. They walked to Joseph asking to buy grain. They have probably brought all their riches and were willing to pay a premium price for food. But giving these riches amounts to nothing if it is not what Joseph would have asked them to give, in exchange for the food. So there will be a point in time where they would have to wait, not knowing what Joseph would say.

I think this is similar to how we approach God. We bring a lot of things in his presence to talk to him about our future. And then God tells us to wait on him. I think the difference would be if we could trust that God has the best intentions for us. So even if we wait, we know that it is for the best.

When God tells us to wait, let us choose to wait. The roots grow even if we don’t see them.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please give us the grace to do what you ask us to do, especially if you are asking us to wait.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your patience in not rushing things in our lives. Your timing is really perfect!

9 July, Tuesday – The Labourers and the Harvest

9 July 2019

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Genesis 32:23-33

Jacob rose, and taking his two wives and his two slave-girls and his eleven children he crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream and sent all his possessions over too. And Jacob was left alone.

And there was one that wrestled with him until daybreak who, seeing that he could not master him, struck him in the socket of his hip, and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with him. He said, ‘Let me go, for day is breaking.’ But Jacob answered, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ He then asked, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob’, he replied. He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have been strong against God, you shall prevail against men.’ Jacob then made this request, ‘I beg you, tell me your name’, but he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there.

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘Because I have seen God face to face,’ he said ‘and I have survived.’ The sun rose as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. That is the reason why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the socket of the hip; because he had struck Jacob in the socket of the hip on the sciatic nerve.

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Matthew 9:32-37

A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said. But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

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The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.

If I am going to be really honest about what I pray for, I always pray for what I need and want, for my family members and friends, and for anyone else who specifically asked me to pray for them. I don’t really conscientiously pray for labourers to be sent to the harvest field; which is a bit ironic, because being involved in church ministry, I have experienced first-hand what it’s like not to have enough people helping out. This phrase just reminded me of what I should be praying for.

Besides praying for labourers, maybe we should ask God how he wants us to be labourers for him. Even a small bit of help counts. When we had our Confirmation Retreat for the youths, we had parents helping out with cooking meals. It was a big help. Each one of us has been gifted with talents and time which we can use build the church. More importantly, we are all given hearts to love one another – something I feel is more needed for a labourer.

My final point for this reflection is that God asked us to pray for labourers and not for someone to send money. Of course, funds are needed. But then, it just occurred to me to reflect on why God asked us to pray for labourers, and not for more funds. Well, God said that the harvest is rich. We are God’s treasures. We are the precious ones God wants to be gathered. And just imagine how much more can be done if God’s treasures have been gathered!

You pray for labourers to gather the harvest which produces more labourers who are able to gather more harvest and it goes on and on and on. It’s exponential growth!

So let’s pray for labourers. Just a short prayer can do miracles!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please remind me to always pray that there will be labourers to gather the harvest. And I pray for myself, too, so that I can be a happy labourer in your field!

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the labourers you sent to harvest me. They were so awesome in bringing me to you!

8 July, Monday – God of the Impossible

8 July 2019

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Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he had reached a certain place he passed the night there, since the sun had set. Taking one of the stones to be found at that place, he made it his pillow and lay down where he was. He had a dream: a ladder was there, standing on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and there were angels of God going up it and coming down. And the Lord was there, standing over him, saying, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants shall be like the specks of dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south, and all the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.

Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you.’ Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Truly, the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than a house of God; this is the gate of heaven!’ Rising early in the morning, Jacob took the stone he had used for his pillow, and set it up as a monument, pouring oil over the top of it. He named the place Bethel, but before that the town was called Luz.

Jacob made this vow, ‘If God goes with me and keeps me safe on this journey I am making, if he gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return home safely to my father, then the Lord shall be my God. This stone I have set up as a monument shall be a house of God.’

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Matthew 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.

When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.

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My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend and I was complaining that I feel that God is making me go through an Abraham moment – that is, being finally given something that shows the fulfilment of God’s promise to him, and then being asked to offer up it up. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of all nations and that it would happen through his own son, with his lawful wife. Then Isaac came. But then, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If I were Abraham, I would be doubting God and his intention. Why would he want me to sacrifice the son who was supposed to be the fulfilment of his promise to me?

My friend then told me that Abraham believed that God could raise people from the dead. Abraham believed that nothing is impossible with God, so he was able to offer Isaac.

Of course, my situation is not a matter of life and death, but having my friend tell me that made me reflect on how gripped with fear I was that the light of my faith is being covered with the darkness of my fears.

Today’s reading reminded me once again that God can raise people from the dead. God can do what I would deem impossible. God can reverse any situation, God can heal whatever is broken, God can restore relationships, God can do anything. And if God is not doing it, it is because He is doing something greater than we can imagine.

I’m not sure when it was no longer instinctive of me to feel that nothing is impossible with God. And I am deeply humbled when people chastise me for complaining more than I am praying. Perhaps, it is because I’ve forgotten that anything is possible with our God, so long as it is for the best thing that could ever happen to us.

Miracles happen. And I pray all of us will have that child-like instinct to strust God, and His love for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please write it in my heart that you are a God of miracles. That nothing is impossible with you. And that you love me beyond all measure and that everything that happens is for my good, even if I do not know it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for daily miracles, even if I don’t notice them.

7 July, Sunday – Detachment

7 July 2019 – 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Isaiah 66:10-14

Rejoice, Jerusalem,
be glad for her, all you who love her!
Rejoice, rejoice for her,

all you who mourned her!

That you may be suckled, filled,
from her consoling breast,
that you may savour with delight

her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:
Now towards her I send flowing
peace, like a river,
and like a stream in spate

the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried
and fondled in her lap.
Like a son comforted by his mother
will I comfort you.

And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice,
and your bones flourish like the grass.
To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

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Galatians 6:14-18

The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God.

I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, my brothers. Amen.

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Luke 10:1-12,17-20

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.

‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.

‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

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We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.

I must admit that I have been struggling with the concept of detachment for a very long time. It’s the idea that you have to immerse yourself fully in love, dedicate your whole self to the cause God is calling you to, but then at the same time, be ready to give it all up to God when He asks you to. Indeed, our Faith is a paradox!

In the book Mary of Nazareth, the author shared that Mother Mary had to learn to live in Egypt but also have a spirit of detachment – that is, she should be ready to leave should God ask her to. I could only imagine how it would feel trying to make friends with your neighbours, building a house, looking for playmates for Jesus, and all the while, knowing in her heart that they would be leaving the place. Would it have been agonizing?

By nature, we know that we work well when things are certain; that’s why we recognize individuals who are able to operate well in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. Borrowing from the corporate strategies, individuals who are able to function well in this VUCA world are those who do not need 100% certainty in everything – they study what they know, and then they make the best decision possible. After making the decision, they no longer agonize whether they made a mistake initially, they let the results confirm their decision. So what happens if the decision proves wrong? The best VUCA decision-makers I’ve seen seem to display a spirit of detachment. They are comfortable having made the decision knowing that it was the best decision one could do at that point in time. To them, deciding was better than not moving.

There are times that I feel that God gives us a VUCA situation, but there is a difference. God provides certainty. This certainty is that everything that will happen will eventually be for the good. God allows things to happen so that a greater good can come about. Remember? ‘Oh happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam.’ It’s a lot easier to write this than to really live it out.

Perhaps, for us, in this ‘VUCA’ life God is calling us, He just asks us to live well, to follow Him, to love Him. This would be our best decision. And then whatever happens, let our hearts not be troubled. There should be no dust in on our feet, nor in our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, detachment may be difficult, so give us the grace to trust you and to trust in your good plans for us.   

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing things we do not like in order to bring about greater good.

22 May, Wednesday – Home

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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Make your home in me, as I make mine in you

Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of what a ‘home’ really is. I have been in Singapore for almost two decades but I still wish I could go back to the Philippines as my family is there. However, there are some differences between me and my family that makes it difficult for me to consider going back ‘home’. It makes me feel like my home was not there.

So I asked God where my home would be. I was so restless and agitated because I wanted to have a place I could call home. A home is where we know we can find love. A home is where we know we can be safe. A home is somewhere we run to whenever we get tired. A home is somewhere we can find acceptance for who we really are. This is why everyone of us wants to find our home, and that’s why I have been restless.

Then God answered, ‘Your home is not a place but with a person.’

Back then, I thought that it would be with the person God has selected to be my husband. You see, I was reflecting on Ephesians 5 where a wife is called to submit to her husband, and the husband is called to give up his life for his wife. To submit means to submit to the mission the husband is given, so back then, I thought that it was a call for me to make my home in my future husband.

While I was reflecting on this, I realized that my home being with a person is not just with any other person. True, when I get married, my home will be with my husband. But I will have another home. My home will ultimately be with the person of Jesus Christ.

How will that happen? I need to make a decision to want to make a home in Christ. The beautiful thing about our Faith is that God always proposes, he never imposes. He invites us to make our homes in him, but he never forces us to. And whenever he invites us, he also shares what we will receive when we say ‘Yes’ to him. When we decide to make our homes in Christ, he will make a home in us. However, we need to make a decision because God meets us half way.

I know it’s not always easy to make a decision, especially when God is concerned, but I have faith that we could trust God that the home he will provide will be filled with love, security, rest and acceptance.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please give us the grace to decide to make our homes in you. It may take a while to build those homes, so please be patient with us.   

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your promise of a home.     

21 May, Tuesday – How Do You Explain God’s Peace

May 21 – Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in the state of Jalisco in Mexico in 1869. He was ordained priest at the age of 30, and became parish priest of his home town of Totatiche. He took a special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and founded a mission for them. When government persecution of the Catholic Church began and the seminaries were closed, he opened a small local ‘auxiliary seminary’. He wrote and preached against armed rebellion, but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero rebellion. He was arrested on 21 May 1927 while on the way to celebrate Mass at a farm. He was executed without a trial, but not before giving his remaining possessions to his executioners and giving them absolution.

With him are celebrated 24 other Mexican martyrs of the early 20th century.

-Universalis

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Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.

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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’

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A peace the world cannot give

One of the answers that frustrates me even until now, is whenever I ask questions about God, I get the answer synonymous to ‘You just know.’ In fact just yesterday, someone just told me, ‘God is often quite simple. He speaks to us at where we are at and in a way that we will know.’ I felt it didn’t help that much.

But after having been a Catechist for so many years, I find myself answering questions in a similar manner. You just know. You just know because there is peace.

How do you go about explaining peace? To someone who has not had a God experience, maybe they will term it as gut feeling that something good is about to happen. However, when peace is mixed with sadness and grief, how would you explain it? I learned that you can only fully understand it once you experience it. And God was gracious enough to give me several of these peace-in-the-midst-of-sadness experiences.

When I was 16, I was offered the chance to come to Singapore to study. I was literally crying my heart out because I would be leaving my high school friends. Even though I was crying, I felt peace that I needed to come here in Singapore. And indeed, it was such a blessing! While Singapore is a wonderful country, God’s greatest gift to me here was that I got to know him here more deeply. I etched that feeling of peace in the midst of turmoil in my mind.

Now, whenever I am troubled, I go back to those feelings I have, and search for peace amidst the turmoil in my life. It has become a yardstick for me on how God uniquely communicates to me and how God shows me this peace that the world cannot give.

So how do you explain God’s peace? It’s the inner peace you feel despite the turmoil. The same peace you will feel when you are happy. And this is when you are doing God’s will. You’ll just know it. That’s it.

But to fully understand peace, one must have an actual experience of it. So let’s pray to learn to identify and have an experience of this peace in our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, the peace that you promise is the peace the world cannot give. We will not be able to see it unless you reveal it to us. Help us be perceptive to this peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, giving us something beyond this world – the peace of heaven.

20 May, Monday – Always There

May 20 – Memorial for St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest

Bernadine (1381-1444) was a Friar Minor, a priest, an itinerant preacher, and a theological writer. His preaching skills were so great, and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, public relations, etc.

Bernadine’s charismatic preaching filled the piazze of Italian cities. Thousands of listeners flocked to hear him and to participate in dramatic rituals, which included collective weeping, bonfires of vanities, and exorcisms. He was a renowned peacemaker, in the Franciscan tradition, who tried to calm feuding clans and factions in the turbulent political world of the Renaissance. His preaching visits would often culminate in mass reconciliations, as listeners were persuaded to exchange the bacio di pace, or kiss of peace.

Bernadine was sensitive to the demands of secular life, and tried to negotiate between Christian ethics and a conflicting code of honour that stressed retaining face in a public world. He argued that the catalyst of civil discord in the urban setting was malicious gossip, which led to insults, and, too often, vendetta by aggressive males. His surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:5-18

Eventually with the connivance of the authorities a move was made by pagans as well as Jews to make attacks on the apostles and to stone them. When the apostles came to hear of this, they went off for safety to Lycaonia where, in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.

A man sat there who had never walked in his life, because his feet were crippled from birth; and as he listened to Paul preaching, he managed to catch his eye. Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Get to your feet – stand up’, and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the language of Lycaonia, ‘These people are gods who have come down to us disguised as men.’ They addressed Barnabas as Zeus, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him Hermes. The priests of Zeus-outside-the-Gate, proposing that all the people should offer sacrifice with them, brought garlanded oxen to the gates. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening they tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past he allowed each nation to go its own way; but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you: he sends you rain from heaven, he makes your crops grow when they should, he gives you food and makes you happy.’ Even this speech, however, was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.

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John 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

Judas – this was not Judas Iscariot – said to him, ‘Lord, what is all this about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.’

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Even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how God reveals our vocation to us – his unique call for each one of us, which is the easiest way to sainthood. One of the points that I’ve read is that the call keeps coming back. The call is something that is consistent. That call, however, is not always loud and clear – but its presence is undeniable. It is like air, barely noticeable but it’s there.

This is very assuring. God doesn’t leave us to ourselves even though we are not always with him. I was fortunate enough to have a vivid experience of this during my birthday this year. And it left me crying tears of joy!

During my birthday, God took me on a journey from the day I was born. I have always known that God was always present in my life but I have always pictured him somewhere at a short distance from me, like a parent watching a kid play in the playground. However, he showed me that we was not just watching over me, he was really beside me as I went through the ups and downs of my life. God made sure that I saw him present in the different stages of my life. I would like to share with you God’s account of my birth because I think this is similar to all of us. I would like to invite you all, if I may, to close your eyes and imagine the day you were born and as you are growing up. Imagine God saying this:

I was there when you were born. I waited nine months for this day. I was so happy to hear you cry. I told your guardian angel to take very good care of you. I told her you are so beautiful.

When I saw your first smile, it melted my heart. Your giggles were adorable.

When you first made the sign of the cross, I was so happy. Finally, you were calling me.

When you took your first steps, I was waiting at the end. I hoped you will always walk towards me.

I was there when you were praying. I was there during your first confession.

I was there when you were feeling so sad. I whispered to you, ‘I will never leave you.’ I’m glad you heard me.

Throughout this day, I would like to invite you all to reflect on where God is in your life. I hope you see him literally beside you, and not just someone watching over you. I hope you see him feeling your joys, and pain. I hope you see how happy he is whenever you give him a bit of your attention.

He has given you signs and proof that he is just there for you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help me always feel your presence in my life. Do not let me forget that you are beside me, with my guardian angel. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for staying with me, and for being happy that I exist.