Tag Archives: steven su

26 June, Sunday – Having No Regrets

26 June 

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1 Kings 19:16,19-21

The Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go, you are to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’

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

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Galatians 5:1,13-18

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you.

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Luke 9:51-62

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God

Regret can be quite a debilitating emotion. Most people suffer from bouts of regret from time to time.  Whether feeling like some decision or action could have been taken differently, which would have made a change to a particular situation. Or whether things could have been handled differently or said more gently. These ‘what-if’ scenarios play over and over in our minds… potentially to the point that it questions our sense of purpose, ability or sincerity. As a result, we can become paralyzed in these thoughts and actions.

Yet, regret can also give us a great opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. We just need to realize that when we’re looking back, we are considering the past with all the added benefits of experiences of the present. So, rather than beating ourselves up today for something we might have done yesterday, we should use these experiences to figure out what we can do better at tomorrow.

God wants us to live a life without regret, shame and guilt. That is why He gave us the Bible that contains His life restoring Word. That is why He promised us eternal salvation. That is why He sent his one and only son Jesus to die for our sins. As Paul (who wouldn’t have been able to do Christ’s works if he remained paralyzed by guilt for his prior persecution of the early Christians) writes – “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Phil 3:13-15)

(Today’s Oxygen by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we ask that You examine our hearts and help us to get rid of any guilt or doubts that might linger. Help us to look back at our decision to follow You as the most important decision in our lives.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks to You for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That only through Him, can we look forward to Your promise of eternal salvation.

30 April, Saturday – Building Conflicts

30 April – Memorial for Saint Pius V, Pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

-Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number

The church that I attend has been undergoing a redevelopment plan that has been ongoing for as far back as decades. As I have been told, this project has been deemed rather ‘controversial’ over the course of its long history. As one could imagine, there are many stakeholders in a major redevelopment plan such as including the church leadership, the pastoral staff, the administrative and support teams, the deacons, the congregation, adjacent neighbors and government building commissions; all of whom have their own views and opinions, myself included. Having only attended this church since I started seeking and, eventually accepting Christ, I personally feel that I have a vested interest in its outcome. Yet the most important stakeholder that we need to focus on is God and whether this plan is in line with His plans!

Conflict can, and often does, arise within the church setting. The early Christians faced disagreements such as whether to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (as we read about on Thursday’s reflection). In time, they resolved their differences through obediently following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in guiding them to the answer God wanted. They allowed His Word to show them the truth.

Whenever there is conflict in a church, it is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve these tensions. First and foremost, the parties need to have the right focus – which is on God and not on themselves. They also need to consider their own role in the conflict and be willing to work with the other individual(s) to address the problem in a loving manner. The point is not to win an argument, but rather to improve the ministry when His people handle it in a Christ-like manner.

Brothers and sisters, the church is more than just a building where people gather. It is a collection of God’s people, that serve as the body of Christ, doing His work in a world that desperately needs its Prince of Peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for Your will to be done in our church communities. May the power of Your Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to glorify You in all that we build.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks for our church families who encourage us throughout our time on this world.

29 April, Friday – Picked

29 April – Memorial for Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor

Catherine (1347-1380) She was born in Siena and was the youngest child in a large family. At the age of six, she had a vision in which Jesus appeared and blessed her. Her parents wanted her to marry, but she became a Dominican tertiary. Seeking perfection, she entered the Third Order of the Dominicans when she was still in her teens. She was a mystic and stigmatist. She received a vision in which she was in mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring.

In 1370 she was commanded by a vision to leave her secluded life and enter the public life of the world. She wrote letters to many major public figures and carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, urging him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States. She burned with the love of God and her neighbour. As an ambassador she brought peace and harmony between cities. She fought hard to defend the liberty and rights of the Popes and did much for the renewal of religious life. She also dictated books full of sound doctrine and spiritual inspiration. She died on 29 April 1380.

She was counsellor to Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.

-Universalis and Patron Saint Index

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

  ‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

  The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’

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It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.

T was quite a troublemaker in high school. He had a tendency to get hauled into the principal’s office for a variety of infractions. It got to the point where he was eventually expelled from the school which we both attended and sent off to boarding school. Although we were casual acquaintances at that time, it wasn’t until when we entered college (after he got things back in order) that we became close friends. In fact, we didn’t even go to the same university. It just happened that one day he called me during a term break and we decided to get together to catch up. I didn’t choose T to be my friend. In actual fact, I was initially hesitant to meet up with him, but I’m glad I did. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reconnected and I wouldn’t have developed such a strong friendship that endures even till this day.

In many ways, my Christian walk has been a similar experience in that I never proactively initiated a relationship with God before becoming a believer. Yet there were numerous times that I had been introduced to Him in my youth, but was just too proud and self-centered to accept Him. I had this view in my mind that being a Christian meant something completely different than what I realize it to be now. Yet He never stopped seeking me out. For that, I am eternally grateful.

As C.S Lewis writes – “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another… the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”, can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another”. The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for our friends who are non-believers. We pray that you use us as your instruments to reveal to them Your truth – that Your one and only son, Jesus, died on the cross for their sins. And so there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Thanksgiving – Father, we give thanks to you for the friends in our lives that have stood by us through times of joy, happiness, pain, sorrow and growth. May these relationships endure this world and into eternity.

28 April, Thursday – Us and Them

28 April – Memorial of Saint Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr

Saint Peter Chanel (1803 – 1841). He was born in France, at Cuet (near Belley), in 1803. He had been a priest for three years when he was accepted by the Marists, a missionary order. He was sent out to evangelize the island of Futuna in the Pacific, where cannibalism had only recently been banned by the local ruler, Niuliki. At first all went well, and Father Chanel and his lay assistants made many converts; but as he learned the local language and gained the confidence of the people, Niuliki became jealous and fearful; and the baptism of his son and his son’s friends was the last straw. While Father Chanel’s companions were away, Niuliki sent men who set upon him and clubbed him to death. His mission had lasted only three years: he is the first martyr of the South Seas.

-Universalis

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.

  ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’

  This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

  When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’

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John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’

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He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.

The neighborhood where I grew up in New York was considered to be one of the most diverse places in all of the United States. Within a few square miles, there is a wide range of ethnic groups including Asians (Chinese, Korean, Indian), Latin Americans, African Americans, Caucasians, Jews, etc. The neighborhood had this clustering effect, where one group would live, work and play in one part of town, while the other groups would do the same just adjacent to each other. Easily – you could walk from one end of the neighborhood to the other and feel like you’ve traveled to different continents around the world.

What made for great diversity also, at times, made for harsh stereotyping and social exclusion. Those same neighborhood groupings manifested themselves amongst the different social groups at school. It was easy to befriend the kids who looked and dressed like you because of the similarities in language, cultural experiences and ‘values’. What was harder was finding commonality with the other kids who were different to you. Many times, there was an ‘us or them’ feeling that permeated in the school halls.

In the first reading from today, we are told of the debate that the early Christians had on whether Gentiles were to be considered eligible to receive the Gospel. The Gentiles didn’t follow the Mosaic laws. They weren’t circumcised and ate ‘unclean’ foods. They were considered heathen to the Jews at the time. Yet the Apostle Peter made the case that God saw no distinction between the Gentiles and the Jews. Paul and Barnabas backed him up by detailing signs that God showed them. James referenced scripture. For by faith He had purified their hearts and baptized them with the Holy Spirit. So in effect, there is no ‘us and them’. There simply is just us.

Today, let us celebrate the differences of the people around us. For all of those differences, we are all the same – broken people who are wonderfully loved by our Almighty Creator and have been given the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Lord, we pray for the people and the places in this world that are suffering from conflict and division. May You help them heal their differences and find commonality through You. 

Thanksgiving – We give thanks to the peacemakers in our homes, schools, churches, workplace and communities.

27 April, Wednesday – Declaring Our Dependence

27 April

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Acts 15:1-6

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

  All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.

  But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

As a father, I really like it when my kids come to me to ask for help. It makes me feel like I’m needed in their lives. It’s good to know that my kids place their trust in me to help them through the problems that they otherwise couldn’t (yet) solve on their own. However, as a son, I find it quite difficult to turn to my own parents for help. The last thing I want them to think is that I’m incapable of figuring out problems for myself. The dilemma we all face is our constant desire for independence, while still remaining in a loving situation with the ones closest to us.

In the Gospel reading from today, Jesus is trying to teach His disciples about the importance of remaining connected to Him through the Word. Even Jesus declared that He was only doing what His Father had commanded Him “so that the world may learn that I (Jesus) love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” Whoever loves Christ should lean on Him for strength, ask Him for wisdom and obey His commands.

That is quite a contrast to how most of us are conditioned to live by our society. We are told that as individuals, we need to be independent and to love ourselves first; that our primary goal is for our own self-fulfillment. That we are entitled to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is there anything wrong with that?

Nothing. Except that it fails to see that the road to eternal happiness is the road paved by the Lord. And as we travel that road, we either opt to follow the world or be led by Jesus Christ. Even as undeserving, sinful people, we are blessed with the goodness and mercy of a God who has promised us eternal salvation when we remain in Him. As the United States Declaration of Independence states – “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Brothers and sisters, let us be reminded that the Lord has granted us numerous blessings, especially the freedom of choice. Do we choose to worship the fleeting things of this world or be slaves to Christ?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Lord, we ask that You soften our stubborn hearts and help us to constantly seek You out in our daily lives.

Thanksgiving – Father, we thank you for being an eternal God that has blessed us more than we can possibly understand. May the truth of Your sacrifice be self-evident to all men and women of this world.