Tag Archives: trust

31 August, Saturday – Am I Afraid?

31 Aug 2019

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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.

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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.”’

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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. 

31 March, Sunday – As and When What Is Needed

31 March 2019

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Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you.’
The Israelites pitched their camp at Gilgal and kept the Passover there on the fourteenth day of the month, at evening in the plain of Jericho. On the morrow of the Passover they tasted the produce of that country, unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn, that same day. From that time, from their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling. And having manna no longer, the Israelites fed from that year onwards on what the land of Canaan yielded.

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2 Corinthians 5:17-21

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.

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Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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From their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling

When I was young, I remember learning to ride a bicycle and starting off riding it with training wheels. These are the two smaller wheels placed on each side of the back wheel to allow the rider to continue riding even if they couldn’t balance. Soon, I remember that one of those training wheels was removed, and I had to learn to balance on one. Eventually, the other training wheel was removed as well, and I could then bike on my own.

In our lives, God promised us the graces we need, and God also allows us to have the thorns in our sides as we need – all for our journey towards him. When we no longer need those, God then replaces those with what we will need for the next phase of our lives.

In my life, I have experienced being friends with someone who I needed right at that point of my life. One night, I was so convinced I needed to quit my job, I chanced upon a friend waiting for the same bus I was supposed to take. She wisely advised me to look at my troubles from a different viewpoint, and lift them up in prayer. I am still in the job that I was supposed to quit. But we never got closer. I think it’s because God needed her mainly to counsel me.

There was also a time when I was deeply troubled by my broken family. I know that God is now taking me through a journey of learning to trust Him, learning to make peace with my past. I used to be very impatient with God not instantly changing me for the better until I understood that time is needed for me to grow. I know, one day, maybe not soon, but when I am prepared, I will be able to embrace even my troubled past.

The graces and the thorns God gives us are to prepare us for the next stage in our lives. And when we reach where we are supposed to be at that moment, when we have grown as how we should have, God allows these graces and thorns to be replaced by what we will need at that moment. Some of us, however, cling on to what was familiar.

We should learn to let go and move forward with God, even though we go through the pain of losing our manna. After all, when Jesus sent his disciples, he commanded them to bring nothing — they were to depend on God’s providence.

I am reminded of a quote which was an answer to the riddle on what one can say that will make a sad man happy, and a happy man sad. The response was, ‘This, too, will pass.’

This, too, will pass. And God will give us what we need for that particular time.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear God, help me to let go and to let you. Help me allow you to lead me, and always give me the grace to trust you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving me just what I need for this particular point of my life. 

15 December, Saturday – Entering into Relationship

15 December

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Ecclesiasticus 48:1-4, 9-12

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
  his word flaring like a torch.
It was he who brought famine on the people,
  and who decimated them in his zeal.
By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens,
  he also, three times, brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah!
  Has anyone reason to boast as you have?
Taken up in the whirlwind of fire,
  in a chariot with fiery horses;
designated in the prophecies of doom
  to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
  and to restore the tribes of Jacob,
Happy shall they be who see you,
  and those who have fallen asleep in love.

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Matthew 17:10-13

As they came down from the mountain the disciples put this question to Jesus, ‘Why do the scribes say then that Elijah has to come first?’ ‘True;’ he replied ‘Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.’ The disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.

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They did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.

In less than two weeks, it will be Christmas. The night of the Christmas Vigil Mass, we will then see the figure of baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the crib of the manger. This is the scene we would be none the wiser to recognise, if we were one of the wise men that fateful desert night. And that was part of God’s elaborate, intricate plan.

It is precisely this detail of our powerful God choosing to enter our world as a vulnerable and needing baby that reveals to us where His heart truly lies. He chose to appear in the flesh of the defenseless and uncelebrated. He deliberately chose vulnerability every time, as a baby and as the crucified Christ. Each time, the hearts of only a few were open to receiving Him, the eyes of only some could witness His surrendered glory.

The wise men had to strip off all presumptions of majesty in order to see the Christ-child. The young girl who first bowed her head with humble Fiat embraced vulnerability to be the holy vessel of the Immaculate Conception. She had to abandon worldly caution, social customs, and human logic. Joseph would defy his strict Jewish faith to obey the illogical command of this Mystery.

This ability to surrender and follow requires of us the willingness to enter into relationship with the Beloved. It is not possible to trust someone you do not know well – much less when the impossible is asked of your trust! To choose “Yes”, one needs to have faith that there is good ultimately in the end, no matter what evidences and reality is presented. Mary and Joseph, who brought to birth Christ to the world, were in deep communion with God, to the extent that their logical selves must have screamed, “You crazy!” in some of these moments, especially at the Annunciation. “Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love.” (Ecc. 48:12). In other translations, love is read as “friendship”.

Entering into earthly relationships is so tough. Whether they be romantic or friendships. We have to shed defences, and reveal vulnerabilities, in order to unlock the door towards new levels of intimacy, trust, and fellowship. It’s risky, terrifying, and it’s like giving someone the chance to disappoint you or break your heart. But at the same time, it is liberating to be able to choose trust. The freedom that came with spiritual surrender to God’s plan, enabled Mary and Joseph to keep saying “Yes” to how God used them, and where He led them.

I can imagine that it was only in the first “Yes”, that their intimacy and reliance on God deepened, and their relationship with Him continued to be strengthened and purified. It may have appeared ridiculous from the outside, but the interior room of their hearts was unlocked for Christ’s entrance. God was still actively moulding their journey of faith. They were actively remaining pliable and open to the Potter’s hands.

Recalling the prophet Elijah, who was considered a raving lunatic and an outcast amongst the people of Israel who had turned to worship Baal, Jesus uses the Old Testament prophecies to bring the disciples’ attention to the way John the Baptist’s ascetic life was being mocked in his time. For this same reason, the Memorial of St John of the Cross was chosen for this day’s readings. None of them could have continued on their paths and mission if not for their deep relationship with God and their abiding trust in His love and purpose. With that, they were able to choose present foolishness and ridicule, lay open their vulnerabilities, and push to birth God’s plan – an elaborate plan that could only be appreciated in retrospect.

His veiled power emanates from these hidden moments. A babe in swaddling cloths would overpower human sense. A cloth-less man in his prime hung on condemned cross would be the Saviour of the world. This divine plan of God had been set in motion since the beginning of time (John 1:1-5). It’s time we entered into this scene with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:  I thank you God for the models of faith in Mary and Joseph, who inspire us to enter into a deep relationship with You.

Thanksgiving:  I pray for the courage to be vulnerable, to remain open to Your love and purposes, starting with baby steps.

19 November, Sunday – You Entrusted Me

19 November 2017

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Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

A perfect wife – who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearls.

Her husband’s heart has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit.

Advantage and not hurt she brings him all the days of her life.

She is always busy with wool and with flax, she does her work with eager hands.

She sets her hands to the distaff, her fingers grasp the spindle.

She holds out her hand to the poor, she opens her arms to the needy.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty; the woman who is wise is the one to praise.

Give her a share in what her hands have worked for, and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.

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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.”’

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“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Although I was baptised only in my late teens, I am well acquainted with the Parable of the Talents, having being educated in Catholic institutions for almost all my life.

For many years, I have equated the ‘talents’ with the gifts of ability that God has given us, and it was only much later that I realised that the ‘talents’ was also a measure of currency. As such, I have always believed that we should make full use of the abilities that God has gifted us; that we should not bury these abilities.

However, reading the same passage also helped me realised something from among the 3 servants, through the words that they use. The first two, as faithful stewards, focused on the master and went about their tasks, working hard to make the best of what is given to them. We can see that in the words that they use, both talking about the talents that “you (the master) entrusted…”. However, when we listen to what the 3rd servant had to say, his focus was on himself, about how he was afraid of what could happen to him because his master was a “hard master”.

Similarly, when we look at the gifts that our God has given us, we should always look at Him and use our abilities to please Him. We should never be motivated by fear, by what would happen to us if we fail to use these abilities.

The parable does not say what would happen if any of the servants had worked hard to invest the talents, but lost part or all of these in the process. What would happen if we failed when we try to use our own talents?

I believe our God is an eternally faithful and just God. I believe He looks into our hearts and understands what drives us; whether it’s self preservation or love. I believe our Master loves us, and regardless of the outcome, would call us “good and faithful servants” if we do everything with love and with our eyes cast on Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to always cast our eyes upon You and to be motivated. Let us never be driven by fear.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for being our ‘faithful Master’. Thank You for trusting us and entrusting the many talents for us to manage.

5 July, Wednesday – Priest, Prophet and King

5 July – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest

St. Anthony (1502-1539) studied medicine at Padua, receiving his doctorate at age 22. Working among the poor in Cremona, he felt called to the religious life. He was ordained at age 26; legend says that angels were seen around the altar at his first Mass. St. Anthony established two congregations that helped reform the morals of the faithful, encouraged laymen to work together with the apostolate, and frequent reception of Communion.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 21:5, 8-20

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham gave a great banquet on the day Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah watched the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. ‘Drive away that slave-girl and her son,’ she said to Abraham; ‘this slave-girl’s son is not to share the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ This greatly distressed Abraham because of his son, but God said to him, ‘Do not distress yourself on account of the boy and your slave-girl. Grant Sarah all she asks of you, for it is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. But the slave-girl’s son I will also make into a nation, for he is your child too.’ Rising early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and, giving them to Hagar, he put the child on her shoulder and sent her away.

She wandered off into the wilderness of Beersheba. When the skin of water was finished she abandoned the child under a bush. Then she went and sat down at a distance, about a bowshot away, saying to herself, ‘I cannot see the child die.’ So she sat at a distance; and the child wailed and wept.

But God heard the boy wailing, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven. ‘What is wrong, Hagar?’ he asked. ‘Do not be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s cry where he lies. Come, pick up the boy and hold him safe, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well, so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy. He grew up and made his home in the wilderness, and he became a bowman.

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Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus reached the country of the Gadarenes on the other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs – creatures so fierce that no one could pass that way. They stood there shouting, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the time?’ Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ And he said to them, ‘Go then’, and they came out and made for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off and made for the town, where they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs. At this the whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave the neighbourhood.

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I will make of him a great nation

“I will make a great nation of him also, since he too is your offspring.” How wonderful and comforting it is to hear God’s promises to us. As I read today’s first reading, I thought to myself, how much ‘easier’ it was for Abraham. If God spoke to me square in the face so directly, I too would have the courage to move ahead with His calling. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tough situation for Abraham to be placed in, hard decisions had to be made. After all, Ishmael too was his son and now he is called upon to send away Hagar and his own flesh and blood. How torn and distressed he must have felt. However, to be able to hear God’s voice tell you “Do not be distressed” made it so much more comforting for Abraham.

I wish God would speak to me so directly and clearly too when I am called to make important life decisions. For most times, God is silent. And when I think I do hear Him, something else happens and I wonder if I heard correctly.

Recently, I was serving in an outreach retreat. While riding in our bus, I got to speaking to a fellow ministry member. We never really knew each other prior to this trip. We were in different ministries in our community and never really crossed paths. We were chatting along the way and he shared with me his story. Naturally, our conversation started with what he does for a living. Jeremy shared that he stopped work since 2012 at the height of his career. Everything had been going swimmingly well for him then and he was travelling quite a bit, setting up regional offices for his organisation. Then something went wrong and, feeling empty, he left that job. He had plenty of other opportunities, given his experience. However, after attending the Conversation Experience Retreat, he was prompted to give it all up and follow Jesus. Jeremy sold his home, the home that he and his family had lived in for many years and moved in with his father. He felt that he was called to live and look after his dad in his twilight years. His wife, too, left her job after her own retreat.

Not long after, Jeremy joined a ministry in our community. However, after a few years, he felt that he wanted to leave that ministry. However, he was prompted in prayer to stay on. So despite his own jaded feelings, he stayed on. Fast forward to today, Jeremy is helping out in our music ministry as we were in need of musicians. I asked him if he had left his own ministry and he replied ‘No, I am still part of it.’ The Lord has used him and his talents to help where he is needed. I needed to ask him that one very human question “So how are you and your family coping with no income?” His frank answer — “The Lord has provided.” They live a simpler lifestyle and continue to trust in where God leads them. Jeremy is truly a gift to our music ministry (though borrowed) and he continues to be an active member in his own ministry.

I half joked (and was also serious) when I told him, “Be careful when you surrender everything to the Lord.” He will use us and take us places where we don’t necessarily want to go. But trust that He will make great nations of us.

I left a corporate job 3 years ago. It started off as a sabbatical of no more than 2 years. Where the Lord has led me is beyond my wildest imagination. Not necessarily a plan I would have made for myself if left to my own devices. With time on my hands, I created and started Tabby’s Tail some 2 years ago. It started off as nothing more than helping a few priest friends make liturgical apparel. This is my passion and it fuels the creative side of me. I didn’t think it would get very far. But through word of mouth, it has since grown and we are now embarking on bigger and more creative projects. I do wrestle with God now and again. But I know He has got other plans for Tabby’s Tail. I may not fully understand it right now, but He has shown me throughout this year that if I place my plans with Him and trust in God, He will lead me on a journey. A vocation is never static. It is a journey. He will use the gifts and talents He has given us for greater good. And yes, He will take care of the rest.

So my brothers and sisters, trust that the Lord is indeed speaking to us. We just need to peel our ears a little more and quieten that noisy head and heart of ours. And He will indeed make great nations of each and every one of us!

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

 Prayer: Lord, we pray for docility to follow where you lead. For courage to take the very first steps and for fortitude to continue on this journey when things appear hard. For ultimately, the blueprint of our lives has already been drafted by you. And you know best how to use us to glorify Our Father.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for making each one of us special and in your likeness. Despite our weakness and sinfulness, you have deemed us worthy of being called Priests, Prophets and Kings.

4 July, Tuesday – Who is that man?

4 July – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

– Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 19:15-29

The angels urged Lot, ‘Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town.’ And as he hesitated, the men took him by the hand, and his wife and his two daughters, because of the pity the Lord felt for him. They led him out and left him outside the town.

As they were leading him out he said, ‘Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed.’ ‘No, I beg you, my lord,’ Lot said to them ‘your servant has won your favour and you have shown great kindness to me in saving my life. But I could not reach the hills before this calamity overtook me, and death with it. The town over there is near enough to flee to, and is a little one. Let me make for that – is it not little? – and my life will be saved.’ He answered, ‘I grant you this favour too, and will not destroy the town you speak of. Hurry, escape to it, for I can do nothing until you reach it.’ That is why the town is named Zoar.

As the sun rose over the land and Lot entered Zoar, the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord. He overthrew these towns and the whole plain, with all the inhabitants of the towns, and everything that grew there. But the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Rising early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and across all the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Thus it was that when God destroyed the towns of the plain, he kept Abraham in mind and rescued Lot out of disaster when he overwhelmed the towns where Lot lived.

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Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus got into the boat followed by his disciples. Without warning a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?’ And with that he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him.’

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… but he was asleep

Don Moen songs say that ‘He never sleeps’, which is quite contrary to today’s gospel. But he was asleep when the boat was swamped by the waves. Today are we disappointed with God? Do we think that He can do much more for us?

One of the great things about love and friendship is to trust that the other person will come through for you. In several occasions I have trusted my friends, like how we used to hang out late into the night, I know that they would do anything to protect me if danger stricks. Even with my colleagues, I know that I can come to work without my wallet and not go hungry, because I know that they would not want to see me hungry and they to trust that I would pay them back the next day. Relationships are based on trust.

Our experience in life may have made it difficult for us to trust others. I once knew 2 loving sisters who would do anything for their friends but they found it hard to trust others and not choosing to trust brought a lot of stress to their relationships.

If today, we have a problem with trust in general, it is quite likely that we are disconnected and not in touch with the essence of what it means to be human.

Jesus is not asleep but really, I wonder what He is doing right now? Is He thinking about me and smilling at me? Is He waiting for me at the Eucharist? Is He holding the hands of the people I have failed? I am only human, I could never guess. But as a Catholic, I know that He loves me and His is my lover and my loving Lord; He adores me and Has great plans for me. Do I need to know more? I trust Him enough to know that He will feed me more than my colleagues can, trust me more than my friends do, accepts me even when I am disappointed with myself and when that is not enough for my restless heart, I will run hastily towards His bosom and even when I cannot go to Him, He will never let me go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the people of America as they celebrate their independence day. May they (and we too) continue to trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Lord I run to you, all my hope and trust is in you. Jesu Ufam Tobie.

5 December, Monday – Faith

5 December 2016

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;

for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

The lairs where the jackals used to live
become thickets of reed and papyrus…

And through it will run a highway undefiled
which shall be called the Sacred Way;
the unclean may not travel by it,
nor fools stray along it.

No lion will be there
nor any fierce beast roam about it,
but the redeemed will walk there,
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

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Luke 5:17-26

Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem. And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing. Then some men appeared, carrying on a bed a paralysed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. But as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in, they went up on to the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith he said, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ The scribes and the Pharisees began to think this over. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralysed man – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’ And immediately before their very eyes he got up, picked up what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

They were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

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“Your sins are forgiven you.”

In today’s Gospel, we see the great faith towards the power of Christ, where it almost seems like no obstacle is too hard for the men to overcome, as long as they are able to bring the paralysed man to Christ. Did those men actually consider, what if the paralysed man couldn’t be healed? What if Jesus decided not to heal? What if, after everything, nothing could actually be done?

I’m sure these questions could have possibly been in the minds of those men, and many times in ours too. What if life after death isn’t as what we expect? What if we don’t make it to heaven? What if we’ve invested all our time and money in this faith but there are no returns? Are all these worth it?

Christ being aware, asks us, “Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say “Get up and walk”? What are we actually living for? What actually matters?

The men had faith not because of what Jesus was going to do, but because of what He has done. We should not live our lives today, in order that God will love us more or for us to go to heaven, but that all our Father has, is already ours. Are we overly focused on the pleasures of the world that we want our share of the property because we feel we know we can do better with our lives, or are we able to trust in our Father’s plan?

As in the first reading and the psalms, “he is coming to save you”, “Look, our God is coming to save us”. God has already made a gift of Himself to us through Jesus Christ but still empowers us with the Holy Spirit and assures us of His second coming, where we will all be one and united in Him. The only thing separating us from God is not our disabilities, weaknesses, lack of financial, intellectual, emotional or pastoral capacity but it is sin. Sin is hence the opposite of faith, where we doubt and question.

Let us prepare ourselves for His coming by removing sin from our lives, in order that we may fully encounter God in a deeper way. To not focus solely on the gifts/miracles but on the giver, our saviour. Amen

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that our faith will continue to grow stronger day by day, in that we will be able to overcome the challenges and struggles that life throws at us. To focus on what is truly important — love, peace, joy and hope — not just for ourselves, but to share with all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your mercy, kindness and compassion.

28 September, Wednesday – Trust

28 September – Memorial for St. Wenceslaus, Martyr; Memorial for St. Laurence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Wenceslaus (907-929) was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief, who was baptised on her wedding day but apparently never seriously took to the faith. He was the grandson and student of St. Ludmilla.

When his father was killed during a pagan backlash against Christianity, Wenceslaus ascended to power as the Duke of Bohemia and fought the pagans with prayer and patience. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaus at the door of a church. Though he was killed for political reasons, he is normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith. Miracles have been reported at his tomb, and he is the subject of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.

Laurence Ruiz (1600–1637) had a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both of whom were Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He was a professional calligrapher and documents transcriptionist. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was a married layman, and the father of two sons and a daughter.

For unknown reasons, Laurence was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board ship with three Dominican priests, St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Mguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St. Vincente Showozuka de la Cruz, and a layman St. Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.

Laurence could have gone to Formosa (modern Taiwan), but fearer the Spaniards there would hang him, and so stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured in several ways for days. Laurence and the Japanese priest broke at one point, and were ready to renounce their faith in exchange for release, but after their moment of crisis, they reclaimed their faith and defied their tormentors. He was the first canonised Filipino martyr.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 9:1-13,14-16

Job spoke to his friends:

Indeed, I know it is as you say:
how can man be in the right against God?
If any were so rash as to challenge him for reasons,
one in a thousand would be more than they could answer.
His heart is wise, and his strength is great:
who then can successfully defy him?
He moves the mountains, though they do not know it;
he throws them down when he is angry.
He shakes the earth, and moves it from its place,
making all its pillars tremble.
The sun, at his command, forbears to rise,
and on the stars he sets a seal.
He and no other stretched out the skies,
and trampled the Sea’s tall waves.
The Bear, Orion too, are of his making,
the Pleiades and the Mansions of the South.
His works are great, beyond all reckoning,
his marvels, past all counting.
Were he to pass me, I should not see him,
nor detect his stealthy movement.
Were he to snatch a prize, who could prevent him,
or dare to say, ‘What are you doing?’
God never goes back on his anger,
Rahab’s minions still lie at his feet.

How dare I plead my cause, then,
or choose arguments against him?
Suppose I am in the right, what use is my defence?
For he whom I must sue is judge as well.
If he deigned to answer my citation,
could I be sure that he would listen to my voice?

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Luke 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples 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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“Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In yesterday’s reflection, we saw how God is our hope. But we can acknowledge Him as our hope but do we trust Him? In the Gospel today, we see how the different people replied Jesus, “Let me go and bury my father first” and “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”

We all know that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We know that only He can give us eternal life. But for many times on earth, it seems so hard to choose God over the world, mainly because we are unable to see Him in our lives, how He is loving us day to day. Because of the lack of conviction and trust in Him, we tend to still be unable rely on God. We say we follow Him but technically, only when our life is in order. There is always the pre requisite of ensuring that our careers are stable, that we are sufficient financially, our relationships are well, excel in our studies, a loving family, before we start our donating, before we start serving, before we start praying, before we start making God the centre of our lives.

If this is so, then who is this God we are following? And why are we following Him?

The readings are timely for me personally where my job is unstable, I’ve decided to drop out of my course in University. I know that God will provide, that He will show me the way, that He will open the best door for me. It is always in such uncertainty that God is the only one that’s certain. But do I trust in Him fully? How do I know where He is leading me?

The response for the responsorial psalm for both days “Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord” shows us the importance of prayer. And I’ve realised that I haven’t been making time for prayer to see where He’s leading me.

Many times, we see ourselves as unworthy, maybe because we haven’t met those pre requisites or we know we will still fall into sin, hence we choose not to acknowledge God till we are ready to give our lives fully. But the truth is, unless we trust in God and make Him the centre of our lives, we will find it hard to live our lives to the full, for there are many things that we will fail to understand.

Let us turn to Christ, to His Word, to prayer and in searching for Him, help us to trust, to live out our faith every single day of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for courage, courage to face the many temptations that tries to separate us from you and the love you have always showered upon us. Help us not to take for granted. Help us to be grateful. Help us to trust you. Help us to love all. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your patience with us. It must be frustrating to see your loved ones rejecting you or only turning to you as a last resort. We thank you for putting us first even when we haven’t done the same for you. Thank you Lord for your love.

27 August, Saturday – On Being Productive

27 August – Memorial for St. Monica, Married woman

Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted a heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan, where she became a leader of the devout women there.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything. The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

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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.”’

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You wicked and lazy servant!

I do have my share of unproductive days.  There were times that I have been too lazy to go to work. And accompanying these instances is the thought that I wish I did not have to work in order for me to eat and sustain my daily needs.

The Gospel reading talks about the three servants. One received five talents, the other received two talents, and the third one received one talent. In the Gospel reading, one talent is equivalent to a very large amount of money.  It mentioned each in proportion to his ability. Meaning, the master compensated his servants in accordance to their ability. It can be concluded that the one who received the largest was the one who work the hardest. While the one who received the smallest was the one who work the least. The two servants who received five and two talents worked hard and were able to double what they have given. And the master was pleased with their performance and gave them rewards. On the other hand, the servant who received one talent did not do anything productive. He digs a hole and puts the talent in the ground. That talent did not prosper. The master was mad at this servant for being lazy and took the talent and gave it to the servant who had five talents.

Our God is an awesome God. He is just and fair. If you work hard, you will get your reward. Even at work, if the boss likes your performance, you are given bonuses and other perks. However, if you are a liability, the boss cannot trust you. He does not even want to give you any tasks.

When we feel exhausted in working, it is alright to take some rest. Resting does not mean being lazy. We are, after all, humans; therefore, we also get tired. We need to recharge ourselves. Even our digital gadgets become drained and need recharging. After we regain our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength, we come back to life. Do some work or do anything. Let’s not just be idle and do nothing.

There is this saying that we must do our best, and God will do the rest. Our life is a gift from God. It does not cost us anything. How we live our life is something we give back to God. Are we going to be like that servant who hid and buried the talent in the ground? Are we going to sit, wait, be still, and do nothing with our life? Or are we going to do something to make ourselves productive servants of God?  As we try to look back, have we lived our lives worthy to present it to our Lord?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Lord God, please guide us in making our life productive for You and for others.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God for all the resources that we have to sustain our daily life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

23 August, Tuesday – Deepening our Faith

23 August – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, Virgin

A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.

“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-17

To turn, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared. Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

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Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. You blind guides! Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.’

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Never let anyone deceive you in this way

Deception is something which some may find repulsive. This is due to the fact that there is an aspect of our lives which we desire all people to be honest to us. We expect this in our human relationships with others, but we also need to uphold the same disdain for all who spread false information about our Faith. The readings of today remind us that sometimes, this can be spread through our own actions.

The deposit of Faith which we have must be preserved in its entirety with no alteration; but sometimes, we may be unaware of what the Church teachings are. Firstly, we can improve our knowledge of what our Church teaches through attending courses which allow us to deepen our faith. This helps us to appreciate the richness of our faith. The other thing which we must do is to pray for Holy Spirit to grant us the spirit of wisdom, to know when and how to say the truth without fear and in charity.

Our faith journey is an on-going stage of formation and sharing of our lives. We can draw strength from the Holy Spirit to guide us in our decisions and to let us be living testimonies of his love. We must do our part and be open to deepening our knowledge of our faith in God in whichever way we can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us discover what we do not know and to be open to us learning from you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who teach the Sacred Sciences.