Tag Archives: stephanie

5 March, Thursday – Emptiness

5 March

____________

Esther 4:17

Queen Esther took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:

‘My Lord, our King, the only one,
come to my help, for I am alone
and have no helper but you
and am about to take my life in my hands.

‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family,
that you, Lord, chose
Israel out of all the nations
and our ancestors out of all the people of old times
to be your heritage for ever;
and that you have treated them as you promised.

‘Remember, Lord; reveal yourself
in the time of our distress.

‘As for me, give me courage,
King of gods and master of all power.
Put persuasive words into my mouth
when I face the lion;
change his feeling into hatred for our enemy,
that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.

‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand,
and come to my help, for I am alone
and have no one but you, Lord.’

__________________

Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’

________________

Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find

In today’s readings, Jesus invites us to lift our prayers to God, and to pray with faith and persistence.  Queen Esther (herself a Jewish woman) prayed fervently for divine providence before she embarked on her quest to persuade her husband to reverse a decree to exterminate the Jews in the Persian Empire.  Her request was granted but the crux is that she acknowledged her unworthiness and depended completely on God’s will to fulfil her mission.

The Word has given us many examples of God’s saving grace and triumph amidst impossible circumstances.  Yet the notion of petitionary prayer is a problematic paradox. When we lift our petitions up to God, do we treat God merely as a genie to grant our wishes or do we trust that He will do whatever is best for us and for others?

For many of us who look to the weekly Eucharist for spiritual sustenance, this Lent may feel like a period of wandering in the desert. With the suspension of all public masses in Singapore, I have no doubt that many Catholics have expressed their unhappiness about the decision. Many must have prayed for the decision to be rescinded, citing that the suspension is unprecedented and an overreaction to the COVID-19 situation in Singapore. Nonetheless, the emergence of confirmed cases linked to church clusters locally and overseas has proven the wisdom of the Archbishop’s decision.

Business continuity plans have been put into action at workplaces in recent weeks. Some of us may even be involved in rolling out the heightened precautionary measures. Colleagues are involved in contact tracing and situation updates. Being in the public healthcare sector, it sometimes feels surreal and I find myself asking God when the turning point would be. In this Lenten season, let us pray with complete trust and embrace the emptiness. May we, through this experience, live out the true meaning of sacrifice and mortification, and grow to better appreciate the Eucharist which we have taken for granted.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, we pray for frontline healthcare workers as they toil to bring your healing and mercy to those in need.  May the Holy Spirit grant them the grace and resilience to bring respite to the afflicted and reduce the anxiety of those who have been in contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being present and with us amidst the trials and challenges. 

6 February, Thursday – Fathers and Sons

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing Te Deum as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visit Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.

________________________

1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12

As David’s life drew to its close he laid this charge on his son Solomon, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong and show yourself a man. Observe the injunctions of the Lord your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his customs and his decrees, as it stands written in the Law of Moses, that so you may be successful in all you do and undertake, so that the Lord may fulfil the promise he made me, “If your sons are careful how they behave, and walk loyally before me with all their heart and soul, you shall never lack for a man on the throne of Israel.”’
So David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the Citadel of David. David’s reign over Israel lasted forty years: he reigned in Hebron for seven years, and in Jerusalem for thirty-three.
Solomon was seated upon the throne of David, and his sovereignty was securely established.
_______________________
Mark 6:7-13
Jesus made a tour round the villages, teaching. Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
_________________________

Be strong and show yourself a man.

These days, it’s difficult to be a man. I’m not talking about a high achieving, career successful man. I am talking about a man of integrity, a man who upholds values, a man who is secure in God and himself that he is able to become the cornerstone of a family, a man who will bravely rise up to the responsibilities of heading a family as God envisioned a Catholic family to be.

Today’s reading shares with us the conversation between David and Solomon as David instructs Solomon how to go about his responsibilities as the next king. I would imagine that Solomon received a lifetime of instruction from David to prepare him for his new role. He would have received lessons, and would have learned, not just from talking with his father, but with seeing how a leader is like. This is how a man learns. He learns by observing other men.

Unfortunately, with the breakdown of marriage, or with many failed marriages, many men have grown up without a father figure. We now have grown men who have the sense of responsibility and commitment of teens, or even younger. Our cultural set-up also leads to emasculating men. The ‘feminist’ movements have undermined gentlemanliness by scoffing at men who offer seats or who open doors for the ladies. Helicopter parenting doesn’t allow them to learn to face unpleasant situations and rise up and be better. They are denied of the challenges they need to develop and strengthen their character.

And it’s a scary place to be. After all, the key tasks of men in our society are to lead and to protect, and these also map onto our spiritual lives. Without well-formed men, we can’t have well-formed fathers. Without well-formed fathers, it makes it difficult for us to understand our Father’s love for us. We end up struggling to understand how we can depend on God, how God is our provider, how God is our protector.

So what can we do? I think, firstly, we have to pray for God’s guidance, and we have to pray for the men in our lives. We also have to pray for wisdom so that our actions, words, and thoughts help build up men. We also have to be discerning when we enter marriage and include in our decision how the husband will be like as a father. For the gentlemen, may they be role models all their lives even if the interaction is only in the corporate setting – men catch things. For women to step back and let the men grow up, to hold our standards so men can be challenged to rise up.

We need to stop and reflect on how we are helping our gentlemen become the men God wanted them to be. We need to pray and act, because from these men, God will raise priests and fathers.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, help us recognize the beauty of masculinity and help us, as a society, raise up men who are ready to become who you want them to be. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of manhood for it reflects your protective and providing nature. It allows us to feel secure.