Tag Archives: stephanie villa

23 October, Wednesday – Freedom for…

Oct 23 – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 6:12-18

You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.

Does the fact that we are living by grace and not by law mean that we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

___________________

Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

____________________

You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

A few years back, I attended a Bible Study on the book of Exodus delivered by Msgr Ambrose Vaz. One of the key phrases that struck me was that the Israelites were freed from Egypt and made free for something.

What am I made free for?

St Pope John Paul II said that “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” In our lives, there are many things that enslave us – our vices, our negative tendencies, our emotions, the activities that fill our days, ministry, past trauma, hurts, pains, relationships, dreams, etc. Sometimes, even prayer, when it’s preventing us from doing what we ought to, enslaves people. And the list goes on.

One of the tips for breaking free from a bad habit is to replace that habit with a good one. Our minds are like a vacuum — if you remove something, it will either fill up with another thing, or cling on to what it was freed from. The same is true with our lives. If we do not do what we were made free for, we will definitely revert back to our old ways. Sometimes, being made free for something causes us anxiety since we may be facing something unfamiliar. It’s all too easy to crave for what we feel is familiar.

One of the things I recently gave up was being active in the ministry. Let me emphasize that I am not asking any of you to leave the ministry but I would encourage you all to discern. You see, I have been active in the ministry for a good 10 years but recently, I have been feeling like I have not been receiving any formation. I was feeling empty. So I left and now, I’m not part of any ministry.

And immediately afterwards, I planned what ministry I should do. I was thinking of creating more Catholic YouTube videos, or writing more in my blog. Then, I realized that I was just filling up my time which God is calling me to dedicate to Him, under His terms. I really feel that this is the time God wants to use to fill me up, and as with all decisions, we’ll know if it’s right if you start seeing fruits. I have never felt truly loved and appreciated until I quit the ministry to work on myself with God. Now that I am no longer contributing to anyone, I could feel how much the people in my Church care about me. I think this is it — God freed me from what I was doing, so I could be free to see and receive the love people are giving me.

When God is freeing us from something, I think we should have that conversation with God as to what He wants us to do. And sometimes, the answer is just to be free to wait on Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Father, help me trust you when you are freeing me from something.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving me the freedom to do what you made me for.

 

22 October, Tuesday – Always Prepared

22 Oct 2019

____________________

Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned; but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. When law came, it was to multiply the opportunities of failing, but however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater; and so, just as sin reigned wherever there was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

____________________

Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

________________________

See that you are always dressed for action and have your lamps lit

In martial arts, one has to practice a certain move over and over again until one is able to execute it perfectly. Eventually, the movement is committed to what we call ‘muscle memory’. When we need to execute those movements, we execute them instinctively and almost unconsciously.

I’d like to think that we have something similar in our spiritual life. There are actions we can do to prepare ourselves for battle, for our daily struggles – something that when we do over and over again, we could execute them fully with minimal or almost no effort when the time comes. So when God sends us, or when God sends someone to us, we are ready.

How do we dress for action? Firstly, we have to practice saying ‘yes’ to what God wants of us in every moment of our lives. How many times in our day do we get the chance to obey the Ten Commandments? When we do, do we consciously obey them? For example, how many times during the day do we get the chance to stop the spread of gossip once it reaches us? Do we indulge or do we stop? How many chances are we given to tell the truth and what did we do?

Secondly, how often do we spend the time to get to know God’s word? Being dressed for action means knowing what to wear so we are ready to do what we ought to do. If you’re called to be a nurse, you dress as a nurse. If you are called to be a soldier, you dress as a soldier. Knowing God’s words allows us to choose the right dress for the action we are called to do. We do have a ‘generic’ dress (Colosians 3:12) which all of us have to wear.

The second part of the verse talks about having our lamps lit. This is the light of Christ which we use to illuminate our ways in the world. To carry it, we need to have the fuel. This fuel is our regular getting-to-know the heart of God sessions. Reading the bible, reflecting on God’s words, attending formation sessions. This allows us to see things as how God will see things.

And of course, our prayers prepare us for life.

My spiritual director told me that I should have a plan of life. This plan of life is a schedule of my spiritual activities that will allow me to connect with God more. This includes daily prayer, 10-minute reading, and others. Brothers and sisters, perhaps you can try to commit to doing something for God to prepare yourself for the future God wants to bring you to.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, give me the discipline to prepare for what you will call me to.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving me all the means to be prepared.

21 October, Monday – Faith in God’s Promise

21 Oct 2019

____________________

Romans 4:20-25

Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’ Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.

____________________

Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

_______________________

Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised

Trusting in God’s promise has been one of my struggles ever since I became more serious in my journey of faith. Today, I’ll share with you three of my struggles: maybe they would resonate with you, maybe you have other struggles, too. I hope that in sharing, it will help you see that trusting God can be both easy and difficult at the same time; and just because it is difficult, it doesn’t mean we are not trying to trust God. Perhaps, one of the lessons we need to learn in trusting God is not to be too hard on ourselves.

  • My desire for control of everything – Trusting God means surrendering our control over our lives. This is definitely not that easy. Quoting from the poem Invictus, ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ We have this desire to be in control of all the aspects of our lives.

If we are to trust God, that means there will be times when we don’t do anything, or when we don’t know what to do. If we are to trust God, that we need to believe that the seed that was planted is growing, and taking root, even if we don’t see it. And during these times, we can’t control anything. And this is scary.

  • My fear of not doing what I ought to do – This is the flipside of my desire for control. Even in fulfilling His promise, God desires our participation. We participate in things God allows us to participate in. However, once I surrender the control to God, I tend to go ‘all or nothing’. It’s almost like telling God, ‘You do everything.’ But I know deep down in my heart that this is not what God wants. This is the balance we need to have, and this is the balance I am learning. I need to do my part, and I need to surrender to God His part.
  • My self-doubt if I really heard God correctly – This is related to the first two. I tend to always ask God if I heard Him correctly. Did He really say what I thought He said? Was it just me or my desire? Did I really discern well? Which part is God’s part and which part is mine? Was I in a state of grace to hear God clearly? Am I missing anything?

It’s not always easy trusting in God’s promise, especially if you have been promised something you desire so much. I would always ask myself if it’s God speaking or my desire dictating. I don’t have any answers nor any suggestions now.

The reason why I shared those three points is to invite you all to have a look at your own circumstances and your own struggles with trusting in God. To understand where you are is the first step to being able to do something about it and to allow God to do something about it.

Let’s continue to work on our faith in God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Father, help us know how to have faith in you.    

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Father, for being patient with our struggles in faith.

20 October, Sunday – With the community

20 October 2019

_________________

Exodus 17:8-13

The Amalekites came and attacked Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Pick out men for yourself, and tomorrow morning march out to engage Amalek. I, meanwhile, will stand on the hilltop, the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him and marched out to engage Amalek, while Moses and Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. As long as Moses kept his arms raised, Israel had the advantage; when he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amalek. But Moses’ arms grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and on this he sat, Aaron and Hur supporting his arms, one on one side, one on the other; and his arms remained firm till sunset. With the edge of the sword Joshua cut down Amalek and his people.

______________________

2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures – from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy. This is how the man who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching.

________________________

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

_________________________

But Moses’ arms grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and on this he sat, Aaron and Hur supporting his arms

In our parish, we have recently started the Neighborhood Christian Communities. There are house visits and gatherings in different households. I’ve never been the ‘community-type’ so I’ve honestly never been to one, but our priest added me to the Whatsapp group so I’ll think I’ll attend the next session.

When asked about what programme is best for Catechism, our parish priest replied that all programmes out there are good, and he wants to focus on building a community between the youths. And during the recent Confirmation Mass, Archbishop William Goh emphasized the need for a community in order to remain in faith (not just grow in faith). He said that if the children leave the faith, that’s because they were not given the community to support the faith.

In today’s reading, God gave Moses the power to ensure the Israelites’ victory – he merely had to raise his arms. Soon, Moses grew tired, and it was through the help of his community members that he was able to fulfill the role he needed to. Without Aaron and Hur, Moses would not have been able to raise his hands until the battle was over.

It is the same in our lives. We need a community in order to do what God has asked us to do. It’s amazing how even though it is our own mission, we need to do it with others. If we reflect about it, we shouldn’t be surprised – God is a trinity, a community, after all.

When we get to heaven, I think we will see all the people who were part of our faith community – those who spent their time with us, those we spent time with, those who inspired us, and those we inspired. We are not going to heaven alone because God wants us to get their with our communities.

Who are the members of your community? Who are your companions in this journey of faith? Let’s ask God to bring us to a community, to make us grow in this community, and to allow us to share our lives in our community.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please bless the community of believers you have provided me in my life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for not allowing me to be alone in this faith journey.

31 August, Saturday – Am I Afraid?

31 Aug 2019

________________

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

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

________________

Matthew 25:14-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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

30 August, Friday – “Delayed”

30 Aug 2019

________________________

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

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

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

________________________

Matthew 25:1-13

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

________________________

The bridegroom was late

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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

29 August, Thursday – The Gift of Constraints

Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

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

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

________________________

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

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

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

________________________

Mark 6:17-29

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

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

________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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

10 July, Wednesday – When Waiting is Something You Do

10 July 2019

______________

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

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

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

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

___________________

Matthew 10:1-7

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

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

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

_________________

Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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

9 July, Tuesday – The Labourers and the Harvest

9 July 2019

___________________

Genesis 32:23-33

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

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

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

_______________________

Matthew 9:32-37

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

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

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

_______________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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

8 July, Monday – God of the Impossible

8 July 2019

_______________

Genesis 28:10-22

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

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

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

_________________

Matthew 9:18-26

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

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

_____________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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