Tag Archives: stephanie villa

1 December, Satursday – Putting in Effort

1 December

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Apocalypse 22:1-7

The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.

The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, ‘All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who gives the spirit to the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place. Very soon now, I shall be with you again.’ Happy are those who treasure the prophetic message of this book.

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Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with dabauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.

Some of us don’t really enjoy having a nagging mother, or mother-in-law. Well, many of us basically just don’t want to be nagged, or maybe even reminded of what we should do. I realize that really, many of us need someone to nag at us.

Think about it. Very few of us can draw a straight line without the use of a ruler. And even if some of us could, I doubt many could draw a long straight line. It seems as if it is in our nature to swerve, or to veer away from what is straight. I really believe that nagging is our mother’s way of making sure that we always keep to the straight line. Because if we don’t watch out, or if somebody doesn’t watch out for us, very soon we will be off the right path.

Unfortunately, this need for someone to constantly remind us does not go away even in our adulthood. True, we may have better control of ourselves and there are many things we would do right even if there is no one reminding us, but there are still some things we need to be reminded of. And if there is no one to remind us, we need to ask God to give us the grace to watch ourselves.

I’ve heard of how in some religious groups, they cover some unsightly images in newspapers just to protect chastity. This is what they would call not putting themselves in situations where they can be tempted. Because it’s really better to be safe than sorry.

I pray that we all have the humility to accept the fact that no matter how close we are to God, or how faithful we are with our prayers, we are always susceptible to committing sins. Let us continue to ask God, and our guardian angels to nag at us, to remind us to follow a straight line. Even the Saints knew how much of a sinner they were, and how much they were in need of God’s grace not to give in to temptation. So they watched out for themselves, because they knew they could fall any time.

Let’s put in as much effort as we can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace to flee from occasions of sin. Please feel free to always nag at us, even if we sometimes don’t like it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for making sure we are surrounded with opportunities to refresh ourselves in our battle against sin and to be always reminded of the good we must do.

29 November, Thursday – Faithful Always

29 November

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Apocalypse 18:1-2,21-23,19:1-3,9

I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth was lit up with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, ‘Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, ‘That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.

Never again in you, Babylon,
will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels,
the music of flute and trumpet;
never again will craftsmen of every skill be found
or the sound of the mill be heard;
never again will shine the light of the lamp,
never again will be heard
the voices of bridegroom and bride.
Your traders were the princes of the earth,
all the nations were under your spell.

After this I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, ‘Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed.’ They sang again, ‘Alleluia! The smoke of her will go up for ever and ever.’ The angel said, ‘Write this: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb’, and he added, ‘All the things you have written are true messages from God.’

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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.

‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

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He is faithful from age to age.

This is one of the verses that gives me so much comfort during my morning prayer. With one phrase, I am reminded of how God has been so good and loving to me ever since I was young.

Around July this year, I started going for counselling in the hope of unloading myself of the baggages I had since I was a child. You see, I didn’t realize how affected I was after my parents separated when I was seven. The counsellor told me that I was traumatized and I didn’t even know it. During those times, all I could see was how sad it had been for me.

I was blessed that my counsellor was also a Catholic. God was always included in our discussions. She helped me rediscover how God has been so faithful to me even through the brokenness of my childhood. I shared with her how one day, while I was on my bed staring at the ceiling, a beautiful thought crossed my mind. Though many people will abandon me, God will always stay by my side. I think I was 10 then. That one thought really helped me through the many emotional moments in my life.

Recently, I have been fighting a lot with God, too. I guess it’s because I am not getting everything I want, so I just allowed myself to be like a kid and throw tantrums to God. Anyway, at the end of the conversations I have with God, I always felt myself telling God that no matter how frustrated I am with His timing and plans, ‘…where else can I go? You have the message of eternal life.’

I have this confidence in God that he can take my anger and frustration, and I can vent as much as I want to him, because he is always faithful. He will always be beside me, and if I go away, he will always be the father waiting for his prodigal daughter to come back.

We are all in different stages of our lives, but let us always remember that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us less, to make God less faithful to us.

“We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self.”

– 2 Timothy 2:13

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace we need to be always faithful to you, to always run to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your love and patience. And for always being there for us.

28 November, Wednesday – Justice — Because We Deserve Something Better

28 November

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Apocalypse 15:1-4

What I, John, saw in heaven was a great and wonderful sign: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to see a glass lake suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

‘How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are all your ways,
King of nations.
Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
You alone are holy,
and all the pagans will come and adore you
for the many acts of justice you have shown.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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All the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.

I grew up in a family where many of my relatives are in adulterous or out of wedlock relationships. One of the phrases I usually heard from adults is how God ‘will understand’ why they had to be in such situations. That was their excuse for their choices. And I have wondered for a long time if God really understood as they have claimed.

When my brother, who was then legally married, got another woman pregnant, my grandmother laughed it off much to my disgust. I wished with all my heart that they would have stood up and told him that what he did was wrong. At that time, I wished someone stood up for what was right, rather than telling us that it was ‘ok’. I could not explain why I felt repulsed. Reading today’s first reading helped me understand a bit more.

One priest shared during one of his talks that because God is first just, that’s why he is merciful. You cannot separate the two. We need to understand how just God is first, before we can understand his mercy.

I feel that mercy is God’s way of meeting us where we are. Yes, he understands that we are weak creatures and that we fall short of what is expected of us. I think mercy is God’s way of telling us that he loves us where we are right now, where we were yesterday, and where we will be tomorrow.

Justice is God’s way of reminding us that we could be greater, that we were made for so much more, and that God has so much more he wanted to give us, if only we would do what we were meant to do. Justice is God’s way of making us feel how far we are from the goodness we’re meant to enjoy, and an invitation for us to walk towards that goodness and never settle.

Some of us might think that justice is punishment when it is really a display of tough love. Maybe it is God’s way of making the situation so uncomfortable that we are forced to journey towards the real comfort.

I have recently seen articles which encouraged the Catholic Church to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, despite the cultural pressure. A lot of converts said that because the Church stood firm, they were attracted to convert and join the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was the proclammation of God’s justice that attracted people.

Let us learn to love God’s justice as much as we love his mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes, we hate it when we are corrected and when we receive your justice. Help us see it as an invitation for us to become better versions of ourselves. And give us the strength and courage we need to move forward.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving your tough love. It’s probably tough for you to do so, too.

18 August, Saturday – Being Humbled

18 Aug

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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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A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

I once read that God will allow us to struggle with other sins so that we don’t fall into pride. I also recently read that sometimes we do not clearly know what God wants in our lives because if we always did, we would be in danger of falling into spiritual pride. I guess pride is really a huge thing.

Pride makes us think that what happens to us is the fruit of our own efforts. As embarrassing as it may sound, whenever I manage to refrain from committing habitual sins for a long time, I tend to give myself a pat on the back, forgetting that it was through God’s grace that I was able to resist temptation. Pride makes us forget that all we own within our successes is exercising our free will to persevere to do the will of God – and even with this, we need God’s grace.

Why does the Kingdom of God belong to the little children? It’s because children’s hearts are filled with humility. They know that they are unable to do many things without help. Naturally, they would know how to rely on God better than adults do. Have you ever heard a child pray? It’s so humbling to hear the amount of trust they have whenever they utter prayers.

They also do not let pride get in the way of restoring relationships. One DJ commented that it’s so easy for children to make up because they still do not let pride or ego get in the way of relationships. If we think about our relationship with God, were there instances when we have let pride or ego get in the way? Were there instances where we were slow to seek reconciliation because we had justified our actions, thinking that we must have been right?

Pride is really destructive, isn’t it? That’s why sometimes, I fear success of any kind; because then, I have to check if I am falling into false humility. False humility is also pride. Which makes it really difficult to know where we should stand. This is a beautiful place to be in because we know that only by God’s grace can we really have a humble heart. We can’t do it on our own.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, it’s really humbling to know that every good thing I do is still a fruit of grace that comes from you. Let not pride make me feel bad about it but help me feel joyful and grateful that you are always making sure that you have my back.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for saving me from pride even if that means falling into temptation.  

17 August, Friday – The Right Time

17 August

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Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her filthy crimes. Say, “The Lord says this: By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins. No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you. You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.

‘“I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields. You developed, you grew, you reached marriageable age. Your breasts and your hair both grew, but you were quite naked. Then I saw you as I was passing. Your time had come, the time for love. I spread part of my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I bound myself by oath, I made a covenant with you – it is the Lord who speaks – and you became mine. I bathed you in water, I washed the blood off you, I anointed you with oil. I gave you embroidered dresses, fine leather shoes, a linen headband and a cloak of silk. I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat. I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem on your head. You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroidered silks. Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil. You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen. The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour – it is the Lord who speaks.

‘“You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers. But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last for ever. And so remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, 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.’

They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’

The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

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Your time had come, the time for love.

Waiting on the fulfilment of God’s promise can sometimes be very agonizing. During waiting, one may experience squabbling with God, fighting with him during prayer, refusing to talk to him because talking to him hurts, and being frustrated because at the end of the day, you know that there is nowhere to go but to stay where God is. As St Peter said, ‘Lord, who shall we go to?’

The first reading gives us a glimpse at how loving and doting our God is when the right time comes. “The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendor.”

I sometimes forget that God desires our good much more than we desire them. God desires our dreams to be fulfilled much more than we crave for them. God is more anxious to fulfill his promises to us much more than our impatience to have them happen to us right now. When the period of waiting becomes unbearable, we are willing to settle. But God stands firm. He wants it perfect.

Looking back, every single life event that happened in my life happened at the right time. Every single event happened when I had the right disposition and maturity to handle it. Coming from a broken family, I grew up thinking that I had it all in control. It’s only now after God has formed me spiritually that I am invited to look through the wounds that I didn’t know were there. If God had asked me to look at them earlier, it may have hurt me more.

So what do we do when waiting becomes excruciatingly painful?

  1. Have patience and embrace the pain with God.
  2. Continue walking with God – we have nowhere else to go.
  3. Offer up our pains and sufferings for an intention.
  4. Believe that one day, God will clothe us with splendor.

Brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that we allow ourselves time to grow while waiting for God’s time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, where else can we go? Help us stay with you in trying times.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for being firm and unyielding with your timing. Thank you for not allowing us to settle but for encouraging us to wait for you to clothe us with your own splendor.  

16 August, Thursday – What Does It Really Mean To Forgive?

16 August

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Ezekiel 12:1-12

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, you are living with that set of rebels who have eyes and never see, ears and never hear, for they are a set of rebels. You, son of man, pack an exile’s bundle and emigrate by daylight when they can see you, emigrate from where you are to somewhere else while they watch. Perhaps they will admit then that they are a set of rebels. You will pack your baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight, for them to see, and leave like an exile in the evening, making sure that they are looking. As they watch, make a hole in the wall, and go out through it. As they watch, you will shoulder your pack and go out into the dark; you will cover your face so that you cannot see the country, since I have made you a symbol for the House of Israel.’

I did as I had been told. I packed my baggage like an exile’s bundle, by daylight; and in the evening I made a hole through the wall with my hand. I went out into the dark and shouldered my pack as they watched.

The next morning the word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, did not the House of Israel, did not that set of rebels, ask you what you were doing? Say, “The Lord says this: This oracle is directed against Jerusalem and the whole House of Israel wherever they are living.” Say, “I am a symbol for you; the thing I have done will be done to them; they will go into exile, into banishment.” Their ruler will shoulder his pack in the dark and go out through the wall; a hole will be made to let him out; he will cover his face rather than see the country.’

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Matthew 18:21-19:1

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the part of Judaea which is on the far side of the Jordan.

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He let him go and cancelled the debt.

For a long time, I have struggled to forgive others who have hurt me, offended me, or those whose actions put me in a very disadvantageous position. I knew that things would never be the same as when before the offense had been committed. I could no longer be friends or be as affectionate to them as how I used to be, and I thought because I could not be as I was with them, I was unable to forgive.

The call to forgive has been viewed by some hurting Christians as a difficult yoke to carry. It also makes us feel guilty when we think we have not forgiven others. After all, many of us desire to make Jesus happy. I was in this situation until I came across Fr Mike Schmitz’s video on forgiveness. I realized that what was making my cross heavy was not that I was unable to forgive; it was because I didn’t know what forgiveness really meant. If we have to forgive seventy-seven times, shouldn’t we know what forgiveness really means?

When you forgive, does that mean you no longer feel hurt? Does it mean you can go back to the way you were as if nothing happened? Does it mean you don’t think the other person was wrong? The answer is no. Paraphrasing what Fr. Mike has said, to forgive means to cancel the debt. It means that you will not hold the person responsible for the pain, the disappointments, or the unfavorable circumstances you are experiencing as a result of the person’s action.

Forgiving someone is a decision, it’s an action and not just a feeling. We could still feel hurt, angry and disappointed, and we can choose to forgive at the same time. For me, it means being at peace and not requiring the person to make-up for what has been done to you; some of them are not in the disposition to do so.

Forgiving doesn’t mean that things have to go back to the way things are. In fact, it may be even be better to move away from that relationship to allow for healing and growth to take place. This is very difficult especially when the relationship is with your immediate family member like parents, siblings, etc. That’s why understanding that forgiving is all about cancelling debts helps one move forward.

I would imagine the king feeling disappointed and betrayed by the servant when he could not pay him back. I would think that the king felt this even though he felt pity towards the servant. Yet, his forgiving nature prevailed. I will not be surprised if he still felt hurt from the incident even after he had cancelled the servant’s debts.

When we forgive someone, we exercise patience over their shortcomings toward us. At the same time, let us exercise patience towards ourselves and allow ourselves to feel the pain and sorrow as we decide to cancel other’s debts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are people who have hurt me and disappointed me. At times, your invitation to forgive is very difficult. Help me understand and know how to truly forgive so that the yoke I carry will not be heavier than it should.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for trials and the tribulations as they help me grow in love and faith. And thank you, Lord, because I know that good will come out of this.  

15 August, Wednesday – The Wonder Of A Woman

15 August – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The commemoration of the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Dormition, or falling asleep, as it was known in the East) is known as the Assumption because of the tradition that her body did not decay but that she was raised up, body and soul, into heaven. This tradition was already present in the sixth century; by the beginning of the twentieth century it was widespread; and after consulting the views of bishops all over the world, the Pope formally and infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption to be part of the authentic and ancient doctrine of the universal Church.

– Universalis

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Revelations 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.

Today’s reading challenged me to write about the beauty of womanhood. You see, in today’s world, there is a loud message implying that a woman’s success is measured by how high up she can climb the corporate ladder while balancing her family life. I strongly believe that women can be as capable as men in some aspects – corporate world included – and that women also have unique qualities that make us different from men. Precisely because of our differences that a woman’s ‘success measure’ should not be the same as a man’s.

As I read the first reading, I imagined how dazzlingly beautiful Mother Mary would have looked. It was this reflection on her beauty that kept me in awe and led me to reflect on her strength, her faith, and her sacrifices she endured as she fulfilled her vocation. Our success in life is when we are able to live out the vocation God has called us to. For a woman, that should include the option of seeking to be a homemaker without being judged as less successful in society.

I have some friends who chose to be full-time homemakers. Some of them could feel that others think that they were wasting their talents, skills, and years of education by simply staying at home. But are they really? Motherhood, whether biological or spiritual, is God’s gift to women. Mother Mary lived out the fullness of her womanhood by being the Mother of Jesus, and our mother. I know that she was also a great wife to St Joseph.

My brothers in Christ, I hope that you will help us, women, to feel safe and appreciated when we choose to live out our vocation at work, at home and in ministry. Some of us may have forgotten how truly wonderful it is to be created a woman. Please continue to support us and journey with us as we live out our calling. Please be as St Joseph was to Mother Mary to us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, being a woman today is not easy. Please give grace to every woman for them to be able to live out their specific call, as you have given to Mother Mary.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for blessing this world with the beauty of women – for all our mothers, sisters, and friends.

16 June, Saturday – Commitment

Jun 16 – Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love for her son Jesus, and her compassionate love for all people.[1]

The Eastern Catholic Churches occasionally utilize the image, devotion, and theology associated with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. However, this is a cause of some controversy, some seeing it as a form of liturgical latinisation. The Roman Catholic view is based on Mariology, as exemplified by Pope John Paul II‘s Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.[2]

Traditionally, the heart is depicted pierced with seven wounds or swords, in homage to the seven dolors of Mary. Also, roses or another type of flower may be wrapped around the heart.

  • Wikipedia

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1 Kings 19:19-21

Leaving Mount Horeb, Elijah came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you’ he said. Elijah answered, ‘Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?’ Elisha turned away, took the pair of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the plough for cooking the oxen, then gave to his men, who ate. He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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All you need to say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no…

“Yes” and “No” are committal words many of us hesitate to use. While they appear to be on opposite sides, I feel that they actually do the same thing. Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else. Saying “no” to something is indirectly saying “yes” to something else. I guess that’s why we sometimes do not make a decision; perhaps it’s because we fear what we may lose.

Saying “yes” to a wedding proposal means saying “yes” to companionship and at the same time, some people see it as saying “no” to certain types of freedom. Saying “no” to a wedding proposal makes it possible for one to continue enjoying the ‘freedom’ one is enjoying at the moment while it says no to the companionship being offered. At the end of the day, I feel that the actual question is really which one is most important for you?

What, who or which one is most important for you? I think that is the essence of commitment. It’s choosing to prioritize someone or something over other things, and choosing the same when it gets tough. Unfortunately, our world now makes us believe that we can have it all. We can’t. We must choose and we must be committed to what we have chosen.

God said we can’t serve two masters. I feel that it’s the same as saying “yes” to one and “no” to another. There is just no compromise. It’s a commitment. It’s never half-way.

I know it’s really difficult to decide. Choosing God might cost us our jobs, our friends, our ‘happiness’, our family, our reputation and many more. Saying “yes” to God is prioritizing him over and above all these and doing it all the time. It’s a tough call and this is what adds value to our ‘yes’es. If our ‘yes’ to God is always easy, will it have any significance at all?

What is God asking you to commit to right now? Pray over it and, when the time to decide arrives, let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, commitment is such a heavy word and yet, you are asking this of me every single time. Help me to make those commitments and especially help me to live up to those commitments.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for making commitment difficult, because only our choice to struggle through the difficulty is what we can offer to you as gifts.

15 June, Friday – Standing In Wait Amidst Storms & Earthquakes

15 June

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1 Kings 19:9,11-16

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then a voice came to him, which said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord of Hosts, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’

‘Go,’ the Lord said, ‘go back by the same way to the wilderness of Damascus. You are to go and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’

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Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’

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There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks…

Often when this reading is read, the fact that the voice of God came in a whisper is highlighted. This time, during my reflection, I was drawn to reflect on the strong winds and the earthquake before the tiny voice. You see, I realized that the Bible stories are sometimes too sanitized. Most of these events were written in a very factual manner, without sharing much about the emotional or psychological challenges the characters when through.

I imagine Elijah standing, waiting for the Lord, because he was told that the Lord would pass by. Instead of meeting the Lord, he was made to face the storms. The Bible account did not say anything, but I would imagine him shivering in the cold and perhaps, he was wondering if he was at the right place. He would probably have been crying out to Lord and asking him where the Lord was. To make matters worse, after the storms came the earthquake. He must have been really shaken!

For me, this is a story I would remember when facing difficulties in life, and I feel deep in my heart, that the Lord is asking me to stand firm and wait. Sometimes, the storms and the earthquakes would pass by before we hear God. We are not the only ones who had to stand in wait and shiver in the cold. Even the prophets did.

I don’t really fully understand why God works in this way, but maybe it is partially to strengthen our faith, partially to help us be more appreciative of His love, and other reasons known only to him. I try to be satisfied, knowing that God will always be there for me, and he will come and meet me when the time is right. Even this is not easy for me.

Elijah stood firm in front of the storm and the earthquake waiting for the Lord. The Lord will surely come.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, the storms and the earthquakes can be scary. Help me stand firm in waiting for you to fulfill your promise.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the grace you are giving me to stand firm in wait for you and, most importantly, thank you for being our constant God who keeps his promise.    

14 June, Thursday – Enjoying In The Midst Of Drought

14 June

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1 Kings 18:41-46

Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.’ While Ahab went back to eat and drink, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees. ‘Now go up,’ he told his servant ‘and look out to the sea.’ He went up and looked. ‘There is nothing at all’ he said. ‘Go back seven times’ Elijah said. The seventh time, the servant said, ‘Now there is a cloud, small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea.’ Elijah said, ‘Go and say to Ahab, “Harness the chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”’ And with that the sky grew dark with cloud and storm, and rain fell in torrents. Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel. The hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and tucking up his cloak he ran in front of Ahab as far as the outskirts of Jezreel.

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.

If you were Ahab, would you be able to follow Elijah’s suggestion to eat and drink while your country is suffering from drought? I guess not. I would imagine that Ahab would probably have a spread in front of him, and yet he could not eat. How could he, when he didn’t know when the drought would end?

In the midst of our problems, we should be able to hear God telling us to relax, eat and drink, and he will sort it out once we’ve done what we need to do. Instead of enjoying ourselves as God wanted us to do, and leaving him to do what he planned, we would worry about how God would get things done. And if he did, would it be according to our liking?

I would like to share this quote by St John of the Cross. Hopefully, it will help us eat and drink even in the midst of a seemingly unsolvable problem.

“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness, because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

Brothers and sisters, let us pass the baton to God, and let us take rest and eat and drink.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, it is so hard to let you take control and for us to enjoy ourselves. Help us trust that you are working on it. Help us to enjoy our lives because we know we are living in your plan.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for wanting me to enjoy my life, no matter how difficult and challenging it is. Thank you for taking care of things.