Tag Archives: stephanie villa

18 August, Saturday – Being Humbled

18 Aug

________________

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!’

________________

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.

________________ 

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

________________

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.”’

________________ 

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.’

________________

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

________________

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.’

________________ 

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.

________________

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

________________

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.’

________________ 

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.

________________

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.

________________

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

_____________________

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.

_____________________

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.’

_____________________

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

_____________________

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.’

_____________________

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.’

_____________________

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

_____________________

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.

_____________________

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.’

_____________________

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.

13 June, Wednesday – Are You Really Catholic?

Jun 13 – Memorial for St. Anthony of Padua, priest, religious, doctor

St. Anthony’s (1195-1231) wealthy family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but for the sake of Christ, he became a poor Franciscan. When the remains of St. Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs, were brought to be buried in his church, Anthony was moved to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor, and go to Morocco to evangelize.

Shipwrecked at Sicily, he joined some other brothers who were going to Portiuncula. One day when a scheduled speaker failed to appear, the brothers pressed him into speaking. He impressed them so much that he was thereafter constantly travelling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France.

A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues. Legend says that even the fish loved to listen. He was a wonder worker. As one of the most beloved saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

  • Patron Saint Index

_____________________

1 Kings 18:20-39

Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ But the people never said a word. Elijah then said to them, ‘I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given us; let them choose one for themselves, dismember it and lay it on the wood, but not set fire to it. I in my turn will prepare the other bull, but not set fire to it. You must call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of mine; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.’ The people all answered, ‘Agreed!’ Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull and begin, for there are more of you. Call on the name of your god but light no fire.’ They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.’ So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no attention given to them.

Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’, and all the people came closer to him. He repaired the altar of the Lord which had been broken down. Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, ‘Israel shall be your name’, and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Round the altar he dug a trench of a size to hold two measures of seed. He then arranged the wood, dismembered the bull, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the holocaust and on the wood’; this they did. He said, ‘Do it a second time’; they did it a second time. He said, ‘Do it a third time’; they did it a third time. The water flowed round the altar and the trench itself was full of water. At the time when the offering is presented, Elijah the prophet stepped forward. ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,’ he said ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, the Lord, are God and are winning back their hearts.’

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’

_____________________

Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

_____________________

I have not come to abolish but to complete them.

Every Sunday Mass, we recite the Creed to remind us of what we profess to adhere to as Catholics. The Creed is the summary of everything the Catholic Church was entrusted to teach. I wish I could say that I always reflect on it whenever I say it during Mass but there were times when I would say it mechanically.

Having grown up in a Catholic household, I used to hear the elders talk about how they disagree with the Catholic Church, and I have seen them live their lives in accordance to what would ‘make them happy’, even though their choices are not aligned with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I know how difficult it is to accept and live by every thing the Catholic Church teaches. Honestly, when I found out that weddings could be so expensive, I really thought cohabiting was more practical.

Jesus’s words today remind me that God is constant and never-changing. He did not come to abolish the law, he came to help us understand the law in its fullness. He didn’t come to remove the yoke, but to show us that we can carry our crosses too. We can’t take just part of the law and choose to live against the rest that do not suit us. We can’t take just part of the cross because it will no longer be a cross.

I honestly think that it is difficult to ‘agree’ on everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I hope we can pray for obedience. Even if we don’t understand, even if it hurts to follow the law to completion, and even though it will cost us a lot, let us still obey and be faithful.

Many things happening around the world, such as Ireland voting to decriminalize abortion and many countries allowing same-sex marriage, had Catholics voting for these changes. I think that we, the Church, are partly to blame, for we have not been able to witness and Catechize well. Even so, I pray that many of us Catholics would first obey our Church’s teachings, and then ask God to help us understand his teachings and his laws. It took me about seven years of struggling with the Church’s doctrines and I can say that I am thankful that I was given the grace to hold on and obey.

Let us be Catholics because we obey what God has entrusted to the Catholic Church for us. And if we disagree with some of these teachings, let not our actions show and let us continue to seek to understand the heart of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are many conflicting messages around the world and sometimes, I emphatize and agree with those who feel that the Church’s teachings are outdated. Help me, Lord, to be firm in following you, trusting that you know what you are doing.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for allowing me to know your laws, even if I don’t understand all of them yet. I know they are for my own good.

24 March, Saturday – Understanding Comes Later

24 March

___________________

Ezekiel 37:21-28

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

___________________

John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

  The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

________________________

He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy.

I recently read a book by Jacques Philippe entitled ‘In the School of the Holy Spirit’. It was an excellent book and it shared how the movements of the Holy Spirit happens. It shared how sometimes, we feel a tugging in our hearts to do something and even if we don’t know it, we do it out of obedience. Sometimes, we will not know if it made a difference, but sometimes, God will give us consolation and let us know that our obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit bore fruit.

I remember when I used to feel suspicious whenever a friend said with conviction that he felt in his heart that the Holy Spirit instructed him to do something. I thought that he might just be overspiritualizing things. After all, I’m not one for doing something when I don’t understand things. I liked to experiment, but I didn’t want to experiment with my life. Also, I would rationalize that I need to be certain that it was indeed the Holy Spirit who was moving me. I would agonize if I was really being moved by the Holy Spirit or if it was just my own will that was moving me.

There are also instances where events happen in our lives and we cannot make sense of why they have to happen. There was this school I was aiming for when I was in the Philippines. It was the top high school and it provided a scholarship with a living allowance; the other high schools did not provide living allowances. I didn’t get it and, two and a half years later, I understood that it was for the best. You see, two and a half years later, I had the opportunity to get a scholarship to Singapore. Had I been enrolled in that top high school, I would have been bonded and I would have had to pay huge sum just to be able to come here.

What I’m trying to say is that even if we don’t fully understand what the Holy Spirit is moving us to do, or the things that are happening in our present lives, we should still move forward if we really feel called to. The understanding will come later. I bet Caiaphas thought he understood what he was saying, but he really didn’t.

If we still have doubts, we should consult with a spiritual director. He will help us see things from a different perspective.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, how difficult it is to move forward when I don’t understand what you want me to do, or when I can’t make out what is happening in my life right now. Please give me the grace to move forward and to trust that everything happens for a reason.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for putting all these reminders and inspirations in my heart. Even if I can’t understand them, they direct me towards your purpose in my life.

23 March, Friday – Sharing Jesus

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

________________________

Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.

But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

_________________

John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

___________________________

John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and he told me that he would only convert to Catholicism if he could see a great sign. I thought that I’m just me, a mere mortal, and miracles are out of my capability. I asked myself if it was really the dead-end, if there was no chance of me being able to invite him to see what the Catholic Church had to offer.

Just the other day, another friend was telling me that she knew of a family who converted to Catholicism after a miraculous healing of their child. I knew it was a good story and I also knew that while every conversion is a miracle, not every conversion is made up of a spectacular miracle.

In today’s Gospel, John gave no signs. Instead, he did something very well – that is sharing about the Truth of Jesus so much so that when the people who heard him talk about Jesus saw Jesus, they knew he was the one John was talking about. So while I cannot perform a miracle, I know that my sharing of who Jesus really is will help people in their conversion.

Pope Francis wrote about the Joy of the Gospel. Some of us, at some points in our lives, live like the Gospel is a chain that binds us and makes Catholics unhappy. The reality is, the Gospel can really be demanding and we are not always happy to obey. This paints a very different reality because instead of a chain, the Gospel is a bitter pill that helps us live well. Our lack of joy in our lives does not make us good witnesses to the Gospel. It does not really tell the Truth of who Jesus is. I know that if I want to tell the Truth about Jesus, I should do it with a smile.

Let me end this reflection by sharing something another friend told me. She shared that one of her office colleagues wanted to join the RCIA. She was surprised because it seemed to come out of the blue. When she asked her colleague why she decided to do so, the colleague replied that she noticed that all the Catholics in their office seemed to be exuding joy and peace. They didn’t even do any preaching. They just smiled and stayed happy despite the office stress.

What does your life say about Jesus? What does it say about our Catholic Faith? When people around us finally find Jesus, will they say that we said what is true about him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I do not always know how to introduce you to other people except through how I live my life. Someone said that my life might be the only bible other people will read. Help me live my life in a way that introduces you to them well.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, for the many things in my life that make me smile. I know that while this joy is also for me, it is also to witness the love you have for everyone.