Tag Archives: trials

28 October, Saturday – Me too

Oct 28 – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean, or Zealot, because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

___________________

Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

____________________

When day came, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose Twelve, whom He also named Apostles.

Today’s Gospel reading talks about Jesus choosing his apostles. The Twelve would function as his champions, his supporters and believers, who would uphold his teachings and ways. Yes, they are helpers in a way, but the definition of ‘apostle’ does not mention ‘help’ anywhere. The Apostles were Jesus’ support system.

Very recently, a whole host of actresses, interns, models and former employees of Harvey Weinstein stepped out to speak of their personal experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr. Weinstein himself. In what I am sure has been a PR nightmare, the Weinstein company sacked Mr. Weinstein. But the nightmare isn’t just confined to the company. In fact, the company will probably be acquired, undergo a name change, have a reshuffle in the board and with some luck, it will continue to exist as though all of this never happened. As for the women… the nightmare has only just begun, or will worsen, and they will live in constant fear of always being judged, gossiped, and scrutinised.

My heart breaks to read of reports of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed and, in what clearly would be a case where they are the victims, the fingers are now pointed at them, the spotlight shining brightly on their ‘so-called’ values, casting shadows on their integrity. And this goes beyond just sexual harassment. This goes beyond gender. Anyone who has ever felt marginalised, bullied, taken advantage of, anyone who has felt depressed, or suicidal – this is for you too.

Why are we, as victims, so afraid to speak up and speak out? I’ll tell you why. Because we are afraid. Afraid that no one will believe us. Afraid that people will look at us and say “we had it coming” or that we’re “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Afraid that people will scrutinise our character and think so much less of us. We are already thinking less of ourselves, undignified and blemished. We have been made to believe, by our self-talk and by others’ talk, that we are somehow crazy, ugly, weak, worthless or ‘damaged goods’. And so we retreat. We build a wall of silence around ourselves, scared to speak, hoping that if we can keep the judgments from coming in, we can keep the problem out.

The Weinstein scandal however, has started a movement on media, a “Me too” movement. Women from everywhere are coming out to speak up about their own experiences. Women are now speaking up to show solidarity — that we aren’t alone, that we don’t have to build walls around us, and we don’t have to be ashamed for we have not done anything wrong. We may be victims, but we don’t have to feel victimised because we are strong. We are not crazy or worthless; we are strong and unique, and we should live our uniqueness. Sometimes though, we have retreated so far into ourselves that we need help to get back out, but we just don’t know how.

We’re not alone. We have to acknowledge that we need help, and we need a support system. We need to be around people who will cheer us on and raise us up. People who will believe in us all the way. And instead of building a wall, we will build a network of supporters who will look out for us, even in the darkest days.

The first reading today says that we are “no longer strangers or sojourners”. We are in this together! More importantly is that with Jesus as our capstone, “the whole structure is held together”. Jesus will send us the help that we need, He is in this together with us too. And He knows the turmoil in our hearts. He will never let our spirit fail, and never let us fall. He will provide us with the support system that we need, and He will be a part of it.

Jesus too needed his own support system. Knowing what he would face, it was imperative that he had his own squad of believers. He turned to God, and prayed the night to Him, and in the morning, he came down the mountain and picked out the Twelve out of all his disciples.

Let us trust God to help us find our support system, by lifting our petition to God. Let us acknowledge that no trial, no matter how big or small it may be, needs to be faced alone. We’re not crazy or weak, we are God’s children, and He will never let us fall.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in our times of trials where it is hard to even believe ourselves, surround us with people who will love and support us. Help us to believe in ourselves, and keep us secure in the knowledge that Your protective arms are all we need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for our strength, for our families, loved ones and friends, who love us unconditionally, who are here to help us fight another day.

27 September, Tuesday – Hope

27 September – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

– Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23

Job broke the silence and cursed the day of his birth. This is what he said:

May the day perish when I was born,
and the night that told of a boy conceived.
Why did I not die new-born,
not perish as I left the womb?
Why were there two knees to receive me,
two breasts for me to suck?
Had there not been, I should now be lying in peace,
wrapped in a restful slumber,
with the kings and high viziers of earth
who build themselves vast vaults,
or with princes who have gold and to spare
and houses crammed with silver.
Or put away like a still-born child that never came to be,
like unborn babes that never see the light.
Down there, bad men bustle no more,
there the weary rest.

Why give light to a man of grief?
Why give life to those bitter of heart,
who long for a death that never comes,
and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?
They would be glad to see the grave-mound
and shout with joy if they reached the tomb.
Why make this gift of light to a man who does not see his way,
whom God baulks on every side?

_____________________

Luke 9:51-56

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.

_____________________

“Why give light to a man of grief? Why give life to those bitter of heart, who long for a death that never comes, and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?”

The readings today challenge us as brings us to the question of what is morally right in the eyes of the church. If ultimately our goal is to be united with Christ in heaven, then why can’t we put someone who is suffering to death in order that he may be united with Christ, where there will not be any more suffering?

There are times where after having invested all our time, effort and money into projects/relationships/careers/exams only to see us fail, we want to give up, everything we have worked for, down the drain. We begin to ask ourselves, what’s the meaning of life? Where’s God? And we say that there is no God and life is no more worth living. However, our questioning and our answer has never been based on God but ourselves, OUR hard work, OUR effort, OUR money and MY life. Because the reality is that even after we’ve failed, we realise that we are still alive, even though we may not be as before, we still have a shot at life. We have HOPE.

The readings direct us to the message that indeed God is our HOPE. It is only He who gives life and takes away. And because of this, we ought to be pro-life, to be givers of hope to all, especially those who are suffering.

The problem with us as seen in the Gospel, is that, like the disciples, we tend to judge, “but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem…. ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’”. Often, we find ourselves saying “he/she deserves it.” But our God is one who despite the many times that we have chosen sin over Him, patiently waits for us and continues to be a provider of this hope that we will truly be united with Him because we treasure this life that He has given us.

There will always be sufferings but we are called to also be hope for others in those times of suffering. In that way, we can see the glory of God, to recognise that we are blessed even in our sufferings for it is in the HOPE that God is present, it is in Him that we live. Let us strive to be hope for the hopeless and light for all those in darkness.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

_______________________

Prayer: Dear Lord, our struggles are real, our load is heavy, our flesh is weak. Be our strength and our courage Lord. Help us to see with your eyes, to see the hope in this world, to be the hope in the world. To know that you are present, have always been and will always be. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for reaching out to us today. Many times we really feel like giving up. The workload isn’t lessening and it seems that we are trapped in a never ending cycle. Thank you for your questions and help us to reflect on, what is the meaning of life? And, where’s God? Amen.

21 June, Tuesday – Choose the Hard Road

21 June – Memorial for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

St. Aloysius (1568-1591) was an Italian noble who grew up in a castle as the son of a compulsive gambler. He suffered from kidney disease, but considered it a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. At age 18 he signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother, and became a Jesuit novice. He tended to plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591, and died of the plague himself with the desire to see God.

– Patron Saint Index

_____________________

2 Kings 19:9-11,14-21,31-36

Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, sent messengers to Hezekiah saying, ‘Tell this to Hezekiah king of Judah, “Do not let your God on whom you are relying deceive you, when he says: Jerusalem shall not fall into the power of the king of Assyria. You have learnt by now what the kings of Assyria have done to every country, putting them all under the ban. Are you likely to be spared?’

Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messenger and read it; he then went up to the Temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah said this prayer in the presence of the Lord, ‘O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, enthroned on the cherubs, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth, you have made heaven and earth.

‘Give ear, Lord, and listen.
Open your eyes, Lord, and see.
Hear the words of Sennacherib
who has sent to insult the living God.

‘It is true, O Lord, that the kings of Assyria have exterminated all the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire, for these were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, and hence they have destroyed them. But now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, I pray you, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that you alone are God, the Lord.’

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah. ‘The Lord, the God of Israel,’ he said, ‘says this, “I have heard the prayer you have addressed to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria.” Here is the oracle that the Lord has pronounced against him:

‘“She despises you, she scorns you,
the virgin, daughter of Zion;
she tosses her head behind you,
the daughter of Jerusalem.”
‘This, then, is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:
‘“He will not enter this city,
he will let fly no arrow against it,
confront it with no shield,
throw up no earthwork against it.
By the road that he came on he will return;
he shall not enter this city. It is the Lord who speaks.
I will protect this city and save it
for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”’

That same night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib struck camp and left; he returned home and stayed in Nineveh.

_____________________

Matthew 7:6,12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.
‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.
‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

_____________________

“The road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious”

In the previous day’s gospel, Jesus gives us a framework for fraternal correction. While we do our best in reconciling with our brother or sister, today’s gospel tells us that what is holy must not be cast before dogs and that one should not cast pearls before swine.

Jesus also talks about the taking the narrow gate which leads to heaven, versus the wider gate which leads to perdition, or a state of eternal damnation.

In our daily lives, it is always easier to take the path of least resistance. Such a path is easier as one would not be required to stand up for one’s values. The moral question of whether one is right (or wrong) does not come into play… for choosing the wide gate means choosing something that is easy and politically expedient.

I have found myself in previous work environments where colleagues (and myself) had found ourselves agreeing with the bosses even though we felt the decisions were either wrong or morally questionable. Rather than defending what is right, we find that it is easier simply to agree. This happens also in our social relationships. Situations where we need to take the narrow gate may tend to be compromised because it is simply more difficult and challenging.

Let us pray to our God for moral courage and strength to do the right thing.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father, let us to be strong to make the right choice; to walk the path that is more difficult and to enter heaven through the narrow gate. Help us to understand what is required and to act in Your Will.

Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for showing us the path to Your eternal kingdom. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, who speaks to us in our spirit, guiding our choices and conscience along the way.

Wednesday, 21 May – My Father, the Vinedresser

21 May – Memorial of Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in the state of Jalisco in Mexico in 1869. He was ordained priest at the age of 30 and became parish priest of his home town of Totatiche. He took a special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and founded a mission for them. When government persecution of the Catholic Church began and the seminaries were closed, he opened a small local “auxiliary seminary.” He wrote and preached against armed rebellion but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero rebellion. He was arrested on 21 May 1927 while on the way to celebrate Mass at a farm. He was executed without a trial, but not before giving his remaining possessions to his executioners and giving them absolution.

__________________

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.

___________________

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.’

_____________________

It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.

There, Jesus has said it. We should bear much fruit. Only then we will be called disciples. It is no coincidence that since Sunday, many of the scripture readings follow in the vein of discipleship – from the royal Priesthood to the accounts of the first Apostles’ missionary adventures. We are awaiting Pentecost, but before that, we must be worked on, and put to work in the fields.

What work? Jesus uses the analogy of vines on the people he preaches to in today’s Gospel passage. He says the vinedresser is the Father. A quick check on the etymology of ‘vinedresser’ shows up a masculine noun: a labourer in a vineyard, one who cultivates, prunes, or cares for grapevines, or gardener. It is derived from the Greek – ampelourgos – which has its roots in ergos, which means: work, labor, action, deed. It is backbreaking and intensive work to cultivate and prune grapevines – and our Heavenly Father is constantly at this with us. This is what Jesus tells us – and he calls himself ‘the true vine’.

God prunes us all. And since Jesus is the true vine, it means he too was being pruned, in order that he might bear more branches. How did God prune His Son? The forty days spent in the wilderness after his baptism by John (Mt 4:1-11); the numerous occasions he was almost stoned by the mob but slipped away (Jn 8:59); unbelief from the crowd, and even his followers (Jn 6:51-53); the sweating of blood in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:44); the kiss from Judas (Mk 14:44-46); the merciless sentencing by the crowd before Pilate (Mt 27:15-22); the humiliation and torture of the cross (Jn 19:21-23). This does not contradict Jesus’ fully divine nature but affirms it – he had no need of pruning but took it upon himself for our sakes – and compels us to reflect on something else he had said, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him’ (John 13:16; John 15:20). These were the prophetic words he spoke as he taught his disciples to expect persecution, to expect humble service, and to love God and our neighbour as He first loved us. If the Son suffered for us, so then we too can expect suffering in following him. This all sounds so unpalatable. Who would want this?

What comforts me most is this: that even if I am the branch that does bear fruit, I am pruned more, so that I am made to bear even more fruit. It is tough when I search for the reasons why it is so that when faith grows stronger and roots are plunged deeper, the vinedresser still keeps working on me. Often it feels that He does so with more persistent resolve, such that I can’t help screaming, “Please stop!” in my head. Still I am salved by the image that even if there is pain, His are the loving hands that hold me, guide me, and bend me to become the branch which remains resolutely a part of the One true living vine.

Since I have chosen to make my home in Christ, he has made home in me. And it is by my bearing of fruit in plenty that I bear witness as his disciple. There is no true faith without ergo, in other words, faith can turn into a withered branch without the fruit of deeds.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
_______________________

Thanksgiving: I thank you Father for never giving up on me, no matter where I am at.

Prayer: I pray to never let go of Jesus, the true vine, the source on whom my life draws from.