Tag Archives: stephanie villa

17 December, Saturday – Family Heritage

17 December 2016

_______________

Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

____________________________

Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

_______________________________

The sum of genearations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

During my recent visit to my grandmother, I cheekily asked her about her love story with my grandfather who, sad to say, I never met. I was hoping to hear a romantic courtship story, because the dating that we know now was not the norm then. Before, the courtshp included serenades from outside the maiden’s house and longing to be alone together since unmarried couples had to have a chaperone when they went out. She shared a story that I had not imagined but was much better. She shared that it was her brothers who arranged for them to get married but she was blessed with a good husband who was a doting father. He was also very patient as he was able to put up with a strong-willed and strong-minded woman like my grandmother. Though they did not go through a long courtship stage, my grandmother was showered with affection.

I know today’s Gospel must be one of those we tend to skip to the last line but having that conversation with my grandmother made me look through all these names. I know we learned a lot from Jesus, but I’m pretty sure there is something to learn from all those names in Jesus’s genealogy. Even though some of them have done horrible actions, they still mattered in Jesus’s family tree. They still had a part to play. I may not have met my grandfather but he was instrumental to forming my mother’s, uncle’s and aunt’s characters. Also, I had a clear and personal example how love may not be present at first sight, but it can flourish. So even though I have not met him, he has already given me a lesson.

All of us have family members we can’t stand, but they still matter. Perhaps God is calling us for a deeper appreciation of our family members today, be they alive or not. Maybe we can ask our parents about our grandparents, we can learn a thing or two. Or maybe we are just asked to stay still for a moment and be aware of how connected we are to many people. We are not alone. Our family heritage speaks of our community. We belong to God’s community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes I may forget and under-appreciate the gift of family. Help me become an instrument of your love to my family.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for my family heritage, for every single one before me. Without any of them, I’m not sure what I would be.

16 December, Friday – The Testimony of our Habits

16 December 2016

____________________

Isaiah 56:1-3,6-8

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.
Blessed is the man who does this and the son of man who clings to it: observing the sabbath, not profaning it, and keeping his hand from every evil deed.

Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree.’

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

It is the Lord who speaks, who gathers the outcasts of Israel: there are others will gather besides those already gathered.

__________________________

John 5:33-36

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.’

_____________________________

These same works of mine testify that the Father has sent me. 

Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes. It is from Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World)

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

I always keep this phrase in mind when I prepare and deliver my Catechism classes since I know that my witnessing will carry more weight. Jesus did not limit his testimony to words, it was accompanied with prayer and with works. It is through our actions that we give truth to our words. I know that when we are intentional about our actions, we can easily witness to the truth. When we are in Church, we tend to act more patient and with more decorum. When we are in front of children, we regulate the words we use. When we are mindful of where we are, we can choose what we can witness for.

However, let’s think of those times when we are not mindful, when we act on instinct, or when we act on habit. These habits of ours also carry testimonies, sometimes, these little habits carry a greater testimony than others that we do. Think for example, of a time when you heard someone swear. Now I know it’s common nowadays, some treat it just as an expression. I’m not sure about others but whenever I hear someone swear, I feel a tinge of uneasiness. If I can describe it, it’s like a pea that was put under many layers of mattresses and it makes me feel that something is not that right (Check out the story ‘The Princess and the Pea’ if you want to know what I’m refering to). It’s a small action, but it is witnessing to something.

For today, I’m not going to ask that we reflect on our ‘big’ actions but for us to reflect on our habits. Is there a habit that doesn’t communicate or witness to the love of God? Maybe we leave our shoes haphazardly for others to clear, and we communicate a lack of consideration. Maybe we use too many disposables and this action communicates a lack of care for our environment, which God has created.

What do your habits witness to? It takes a long time to break out of a habit so let’s start now.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I have been so used to doing many things in a certain way I may not even know what kind of message I give others when I act in that manner. So I pray that you reveal to me a habit you want me to change, so I can be a better witness to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for all those people who were mindful of even how the small things they do could affect others.

15 December, Thursday – Do we hang our Christmas Socks?

15 December 2016

______________________

Isaiah 54:1-10

Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children!
Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!
For the sons of the forsaken one are more in number
than the sons of the wedded wife, says the Lord.

Widen the space of your tent,
stretch out your hangings freely,
lengthen your ropes, make your pegs firm;
for you will burst out to right and to left.
Your race will take possession of the nations,
and people the abandoned cities.

Do not be afraid, you will not be put to shame,
do not be dismayed, you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth
and no longer remember the curse of your widowhood.
For now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;

for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.

______________________

Luke 7:24-30

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to talk to the people about John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Oh no, those who go in for fine clothes and live luxuriously are to be found at court! Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

See, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare the way before you.

‘I tell you, of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is. All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God’s plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them.’

_____________________

Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!

When I was young, I would hang up socks on the eve of Christmas Day, hoping for Santa Claus to fill them up. The following morning, I would wake up to find local currency bills in my socks. I’m sure I was curious why a North Pole dweller had local currencies but I swept the thought aside as I thought of what to buy with my gift. The first two lines of the first reading struck me because the ladies were preparing themselves to receive blessings by breaking into ‘cries of joy and gladness’ even before the gift was received. They already prepared their praises! Their faith reminded me of how I would prepare to receive Santa’s gifts by hanging my socks even if I was not sure what gift I would receive, but I know that the gift will be good. If I did not hang my socks, where would Santa put my gifts?

I have always heard about the need to prepare because God will come like ‘a thief in the night.’ However, the reading reminded me that I should not just prepare myself for judgement; I should also prepare myself to receive God’s blessings. This thought really made me happy. I’m not looking at it from a prosperity gospel point of view but sometimes but we forget that God desires to give us gifts of joy and peace. So it’s not a thief sneaking in but Santa Claus. Sadly, sometimes we are not ready to receive them, because we have not hung our socks. How does this look in our life? Perhaps, we have not really forgiven a friend who has hurt us, and God can’t give us peace. Or maybe we were so scared to try something new, to learn a new skill, and God could not really send us to the vocation he had in mind for us. Sometimes, God’s dreams are different from our own that we overlook the preparations God is sending along our way.

We may not know why certain things are happening now, or why we have to do certain things to unbearable repetitions, but if we could look at it as a preparation time for something, then we should do it with our best effort. Let’s think of it as putting our socks out, ready to be filled with God’s blessings.

If you knew when the thief was coming, you would have stayed up. If you knew when Santa was coming, I bet you would also stay up. So let’s be prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me have that child-like faith to hang my socks everyday so I can receive your love.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the witnesses of hope of children who are always confident that they will be showered with blessings, even in what I think are simple thingshope

8 October, Saturday – Prepared by the Law

8 October

_____________________

Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

_____________________

Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

_____________________

The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came.

Whenever an athlete prepares for a competition, the athlete has to follow an exercise regimen faithfully. He has to eat according to his needs, train according to his training plan, and rest according to schedule. This training period restricts an athlete’s activities in preparation for the big day. These restrictions are necessary for an athlete’s preparation.

The Law that was given by God was to prepare us to accept what Christ had planned to teach us. When we were young, our parents stopped us from harming ourselves by saying ‘no.’ ‘No, you can’t eat mud.’ ‘No, you can’t put your fingers in the electric socket.’ ‘No, you can’t jump from that height.’ These are just pure laws, without explanations. When we were younger, even if our parents explained the rationale behind these laws, we probably would not have understood.

Jesus came to explain that Law, which was intended for our good. The Law trained us to do charitable acts, and Jesus Christ taught us that beyond doing charitable acts, we have to be charitable. Being charitable does not only mean doing charitable acts, it’s doing these acts with charity – with love. It might have been difficult for us to understand Christ’s teachings on what charity really is if we ourselves have not been performing acts of charity.

The Law was our guardian, because it helped us do what was right even when we didn’t want to, even when we didn’t feel like it. Be kind to those who hurt you. This is something I am struggling with right now; and I must admit that I am merely following the law when I don’t go out there and be nasty to the people who have hurt me. Right now, I am only doing it because it is the right thing to do. But I’m hoping that once I am able to let Christ into this part of my heart, I will be kind not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the loving thing to do.

I still can’t live without the Law in many parts of my life. And until I can welcome Christ in my heart, I will keep on training, like an athlete, in this ‘rigorous’ law. Because without the Law, I will never be prepared to have Christ enter in that aspect of my life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

_______________________

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live my life in Christ, to learn to appreciate the laws, and to submit myself in humility to the laws You have made while I grow in my understanding of my faith.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving us a guide in our lives. And even if we sometimes resent it, we know that it is for our good.

7 October, Friday – Only Two Options

7 October – Memorial for Our Lady of the Rosary

This day was originally observed as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Its date was chosen to commemorate the European victory at the third naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This battle marked the high point of Turkish (Muslim) advance on European soil with the Balkans and the regions west and north of the Black Sea returning to Western (Christian) hands in the succeeding centuries. This victory, after two earlier defeats at the same location, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary as special processions were made on that same day in Rome for the sake of this crucial victory.

Pope Pius V ordered that a commemoration of the rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the rosary. In 1671, the observance of this festival was extended by Pope Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Pope Clement XI, after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August 1716 at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church.

– Wikipedia

_____________________

Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

_____________________

Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

_____________________

He who is not with me is against me.

A myriad of options is what we are so used to seeing every day. And in this capitalistic world, businesses are encouraged to identify their niche areas, to cater to the need of the select few, so that they can enjoy options.

With God, we really only have two options. We are either for him, or against him. We cannot abstain from this decision, because if we do, we end up being against him. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Whenever we are passive, we unintentionally become a counterwitness to our faith. If someone bullies another person in front of you, and you do nothing, you are helping the wrong act succeed. Worse, our silence gives our concurrence to what has been happening. In this case, ‘Silence means yes.’

It is very difficult for me to write this reflection because I didn’t want to turn people off. But the Gospel reading itself is also very strong. He who is not with me is against me. If we don’t do evil, but we don’t do good, we are already committing the sin of omission. Sometimes, I myself feel that it is unfair. How can I be held liable for something I didn’t do anything about?

Well, God’s command was for us to love, to be charitable, to do loving acts. It was not a command to be passive. So I guess I really just have to be mindful to do things for God, and not be passive.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

_______________________

Prayer: Dear Lord, whenever I pray with everyone during the penitential rite in Mass, help me to internalize that I am equally liable for the wrong things I have done as well as for the right things that I have failed to do. Help me have the wisdom to know when I am failing to do something you want me to do, so that I can put an effort to it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the people you have placed in my life who keep on reminding me to do something good.

6 October, Thursday – Ask

6 October – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

Bruno (1030–1101) was educated in Paris and Rheims, France. He was ordained in 1055. He taught theology, and one of his students later became Blessed Pope Urban II. He presided over the cathedral school at Rheims from 1057 to 1075. He criticised the worldliness he saw in his fellow clergy. He opposed Manasses, Archbishop of Rheims, because of his laxity and mismanagement. He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny in 1084 and with the help of St. Hugh of Grenoble, he founded what became the first house of the Carthusian Order. He and his brothers supported themselves as manuscript copyists.

He became assistant to Pope Urban in 1090, and supported his efforts at reform. Retiring from public life, he and his companions built a hermitage at Torre where the monastery of Saint Stephen was built in 1095. Bruno combined in the religious life living as a hermit and living in a community; his learning is apparent from his scriptural commentaries.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Galatians 3:1-5

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?

_____________________

Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

_____________________

For the one who asks always receives.

‘Just ask.’ This two-word sentence from one of my managers previously had a great impact in my life. In the corporate setting, he encouraged us to ask for favors, to ask for what we need, to ask for what we do not know and to ask for anything. There was no guarantee that we would receive what we asked for, but he guaranteed that by simply asking, we were creating an opportunity to get what we wanted.

Not everyone finds it easy to ask. Before I got comfortable asking, I was always afraid of rejection. What if the person I asked says, ‘No’? This fear of being refused has closed many doors in my life. Sometimes, I also wouldn’t bother asking if I thought I knew what the answer to my request would be. If my boss had said ‘yes’ to a similar proposal three months back, what would make me think he would say ‘yes’ now? I went on to assume what his response would be.

I think in our lives, we sometimes take the same approach to asking God. We do not ask God because we are afraid to be rejected. We don’t ask God because we assume what His answer would be. Let us keep in mind that God never rejects us. He rejects our wishes that could be harmful to us. Sometimes, we also do not know the will of God. That’s why we need to ask. We need to ask whether it’s a ‘yes’, a ‘no’ or a ‘wait awhile.’

And yes, whenever we ask God something, we always receive something. And that’s guaranteed.

We always receive His love. We receive His love when He answers ‘yes’ to our request because it is good for us. We receive His love when He says ‘no’ to our request because that is good for us. We receive His love when He says ‘wait awhile’ to our request because that is good for us.

There is no reason to be afraid or to hesitate to ask God. We can’t assume what God’s answer will be, but we can be certain that we’ll never be rejected. For whatever we ask for, we will always receive God’s love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

 

_______________________

Prayer: Dear Lord, let me not be afraid to come and ask you for all the things in my life – for the big things happening in my life, and even for the ‘trivial’ things happening in my life.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for always giving the best answer to all my questions. And for always loving me, and welcoming me, and never getting tired of hearing what I ask.

30 July, Saturday – Your Glory or God’s Glory

30 July – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24

The priests and prophets addressed the officials and all the people, ‘This man deserves to die, since he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.’ Jeremiah, however, replied to the people as follows:

‘The Lord himself sent me to say all the things you have heard against this Temple and this city. So now amend your behaviour and actions, listen to the voice of the Lord your God: if you do, he will relent and not bring down on you the disaster he has pronounced against you. For myself, I am as you see in your hands. Do whatever you please or think right with me. But be sure of this, that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves, on this city and on its citizens, since the Lord has truly sent me to you to say all these words in your hearing.’

The officials and all the people then said to the priests and prophets, ‘This man does not deserve to die: he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’

Jeremiah had a protector in Ahikam son of Shaphan, so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

_____________________

Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus, and said to his court, ‘This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had told him, ‘It is against the Law for you to have her.’ He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet. Then, during the celebrations for Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and so delighted Herod that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother she said, ‘Give me John the Baptist’s head, here, on a dish.’ The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.

_____________________

The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her, and sent and had John beheaded in the prison.

How far would you go in order to keep your word? If you are running a business, being able to keep your word is a an expensive, intangible asset. Break your word, and you will lose people’s trust and your reputation. As Warren Buffett said, ‘If you lose money for the firm I will be understanding. If you lose reputation I will be ruthless.’ That’s how much one’s word means.

We see the same thing with the king in today’s Gospel reading. He had given a blank cheque and even when the price proved too great, he chose to honor the his commitment in order not to be labeled as untrustworthy; he had John the Baptist beheaded. He went so far to do something he does not believe must be done in order to preserve his reputation. The moral of the story? Don’t give a blank cheque.

I would like to propose that there is another moral of the story. That is when choosing between saving our faces and obeying God, let us choose the latter. It’s a tough call. That’s why to remind us that it is possible to accept humiliation in order to glorify God, we have the Crucifix. The Crucifixion is the most humiliating punishment during Jesus’ time, yet he allowed himself to be humiliated, so God could be glorified.

According to stories, soon-to-be-saint Blessed Mother Theresa was spat on by a baker when she was begging for bread for a child. She accepted it and persevered asking for bread. My personal struggle would pale in comparison to hers, I merely struggled to pray before meals in public, give an appropriate bow as I pass by the Blessed Sacrament, or even to stick to my fasting. At those times, I didn’t want to ruin my reputation of being modern. Most of us will not have to choose between life and death; but our little actions or struggles to glorify God, by doing what is embarrassing by the world’s standards, will make God smile.

Let us make God smile today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Lord, help me live my life to praise you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to receive human honor, because you have provided us with something we can offer you for your glory.

29 July, Friday – Stealing Another’s ‘Peace’

29 July – Memorial for St. Martha

Jesus liked to stay at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany, when he was in Judaea. One of these visits has ever remained dear to Christian memory. On that occasion Martha, busily serving the Master, asked Him to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained to her that certain souls, called by God, should choose a better part still — the primary duty of listening to Him and contemplating Him.

After His Ascension, she was seized by the Jews, together with many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles. Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the Marseilles people by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew with several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence.

http://www.catholicculture.org/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2006-07-29

_____________________

Jeremiah 26:1-9

At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘The Lord says this: Stand in the court of the Temple of the Lord. To all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the Temple of the Lord you must speak all the words I have commanded you to tell them; do not omit one syllable. Perhaps they will listen and each turn from his evil way: if so, I shall relent and not bring the disaster on them which I intended for their misdeeds. Say to them, “The Lord says this: If you will not listen to me by following my Law which I put before you, by paying attention to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send so persistently to you, without your ever listening to them, I will treat this Temple as I treated Shiloh, and make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.”’

The priests and prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah say these words in the Temple of the Lord. When Jeremiah had finished saying everything that the Lord had ordered him to say to all the people, the priests and prophets seized hold of him and said, ‘You shall die! Why have you made this prophecy in the name of the Lord, “This Temple will be like Shiloh, and this city will be desolate, and uninhabited”?’ And the people were all crowding round Jeremiah in the Temple of the Lord.

_____________________

John 11:19-27

Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

_____________________

How can I restore what I have never stolen?

I am deeply saddened that I cannot share my faith about many sensitive issues now without being labeled a bigot. The world seems to have evolved into a place where to disagree with a lifestyle means to disagree with the person. And by speaking up against the lifestyle, you become a thief who has stolen someone’s peace of mind by trumpeting the truth. How can you restore their peace if you were not the one who stole it in the first place?

For prophesying as God commanded, Jeremiah was nearly killed. During the legalization of LGBT marriages, I put up a comment on Facebook that while I respect the rights to life of LGBT community, I cannot agree with same-sex unions for a variety of reasons. In return, I got hate comments on my wall. It still bothers me that rainbow profiles abounded that time, yet I did not have the courage to continue professing the truth – I felt like a thief.

As I write this reflection, I was hoping to end with a phrase that triumphs over this tribulation but I will not be doing that. The first reading ended with the crowd rounding Jeremiah. I would like to invite you, my brothers and sisters, to look at this ending as a challenge to us. Standing up for the truth might cause us despair, we will be accused of being thiefs, non-conformists, and backward. Our safety might even be compromised but we need to continue to struggle to become messengers of God – no matter how much the world is against us.

Let us continue asking God for help, and let us continue prophesying. Let us prophesy always, sometimes, let’s not hesitate to use kind words.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Lord, it is you and me against the world. Give us to courage to persevere through what we have been baptized for – to be prophets for you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to see and accept the truth of life.

28 July, Thursday – Going Roundabout

28 July

_____________________

Jeremiah 18:1-6

The word that was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘Get up and make your way down to the potter’s house; there I shall let you hear what I have to say.’ So I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. And whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as happens with the clay handled by potters, he would start afresh and work it into another vessel, as potters do. Then this word of the Lord was addressed to me, ‘House of Israel, can not I do to you what this potter does? – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel.’

_____________________

Matthew 13:47-53

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

_____________________

‘Get up and make your way down to the potter’s house; there I shall let you hear what I have to say.’

Have you ever asked a person a question, hoping to get a quick answer, yet he/she goes on and on with a story and you are straining to understand how the answer addresses your question? Reading Jeremiah today, God’s commandment to Jeremiah to go down the potter’s house before God tells him what to do feels a bit unnecessary for me. If you want something, why not just say it straight? Yet, it seems that God wants to give us long answers, in a roundabout way. The Israelites had to wander for 40 years before knowing where the Promised Land was.

Why does God not just answer our questions when we ask it? Why does he ask us to do something in order to find the answer? I must admit that I sometimes feel frustrated with this way of God.

Before I left my previous job, I had to talk to God about it for more than two years. My journal is filled with questions asking for a yes-no answer. I had to go through feelings of uncertainty (I hope you can empathize with me that living with uncertainty is not enjoyable at all). I was not getting straight answers. I had to learn to talk to God as his plan unfolded. It’s like he was inviting me to come down to the potter’s house and understand the events unfolding into my life. I had to talk frequently with God. Looking back, it deepened my prayer life.

I learned to sit still and search for God. I learned to pray from the heart, I learned to open my heart to God. I learned to be patient. I learned to trust. Often, we look just at the end-point that we forget that forming us into better Christians is the intent of our whole life experience. Perhaps God’s indirect way of answering is really meant for us to grow in faith and in virtue.

A baby needs nine months in the womb before being born, and that is only to form its physical body. I’m sure our spirit might need more than that. It will be difficult to live if we are premature in spiritual experience. That’s why God patiently goes the roundabout way with us.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Lord, please help me enjoy the roundabout you are taking me on.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your patience in explaining things to me step-by-step, and sharing only what I need when I need it.

21 May, Saturday – When Did You Become an Adult?

21 May – 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

_____________________

James 5:13-20

If any one of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm. If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully. Elijah was a human being like ourselves – he prayed hard for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three-and-a-half years; then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops.

My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.

_____________________

Mark 10:13-16

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

_____________________

Anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

In one of my recent Catechism sessions, one of the students asked me why I was doing Catechism. I thought, “Hmmm, why would I spend time and effort for work where I don’t get monetary compensation?” I shared with him that I get more from Catechism than what I give because by interacting with kids and teenagers, I am reminded how it is to be childlike in front of God.

One particularly humbling experience was when I was teaching non-baptized teenagers about abortion and test tube babies. I had difficulty figuring out how to make them understand why the Church is against these as I thought the reasons would be too high-brow. I was truly humbled when one of them just said how sad it was, that these babies were not wanted even before they were unborn. It hit me hard because I realized that it doesn’t need a lot of explanation to understand love. And love is the essence of our Faith.

The curse in forgetting one’s childlike-ness is the fact that we adults sometimes go around rationalizing too much, seeking explanations, even for something such as love. Love is a decision, but we are so caught up with looking at the pros and cons. Children just love. And God just loved. He loved us while we were still sinners. He loved us just because we are who we are. It was a decision He stood by even when we have rejected Him several times.

I can’t remember when I became an adult. Perhaps it was when I decided that I will not allow myself to be hurt by anyone. When I made that decision, I decided to evaluate all opportunities for love – whether it would cause me pain or not, whether I would be putting myself in a vulnerable position. I couldn’t just love, and that’s when I lost my childlike-ness.

I know it’s a tough call – to love like how a child loves. We have been through our own share of suffering and sorrows, we have experienced betrayal, we have had to harden our hearts to survive. We have our pride, our image, our careers, our dreams to think of. How can we become childlike again? The journey might be different for each one of us but I’d like to believe that there is a child in every person that we have kept hidden. So I invite you, brothers and sisters, to ask God to help us find that child in our hearts so we can talk to him, and learn to be more childlike once again.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa )

Prayer: Dearest God, help us find that child in our hearts which we have hidden away. Please reveal to us the reasons why we have kept him/her locked out, and help us have the courage to embrace him/her and be one with him/her again.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for giving us the gift of our youth, the little ones, for we have a lot to learn from them.