Tag Archives: unity

7 November, Tuesday – We Are One With The Lowly

7 November 2017

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Romans 12:5-16

All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.

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Luke 14:15-24

One of those gathered round the table said to him, ‘Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!’ But he said to him, ‘There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come along: everything is ready now.” But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.” Yet another said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”

‘The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir” said the servant “your orders have been carried out and there is still room.” Then the master said to his servant, “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”’

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…make people come in that my home may be filled

As Catholics, we are One in Christ, through His body. How wonderful is that really – that He has made me, the lowly, One with Him.

A year ago, I had started spending more time at my hometown. It is a suburban town and people seem rather different to what I had become accustomed to in the city. Initially, I found it hard to accept their social mannerisms. Thankfully, this label unpeeled itself to reveal to me the sincerity and simplicity of these people. Truth be told, they have the values of Christ just as my community in the city parish.

It was a battle for me to see beyond my human eyes and mind. And just like that, I feel the ‘lowly’ are people we continue to dismiss because they do not live up to our expectations. Expecting others to meet our expectations is not sincere love; rather, it is self-seeking and bluntly put, pathetic. None of us want to be pathetic but that is what we are when we are insincere.

Recently, one of my friends was defending insincerity; she said that “they were just being clever”. That statement made me a little anxious and I continued to pray about it. A few days ago, that same friend mentioned that she had to entertain colleagues who were insincere and she was rather anxious of having to do that alone. It is possible that since our initial conversation, she sees sincerity as being crucial.

In today’s reading we are told to love another and not to grow wary in our zeal, to rejoice in hope and to pray unceasingly. When things are going downhill, it is not hard to remain sincere and loving, if we continue to do as the readings suggest. Our flesh is not too weak that God cannot strengthen it.

Rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping – simply put, we need to celebrate the success of others, because it can eliminate any traces of envy and we should comfort those who are suffering. One of the best things of being human is that we can ‘feel for each other.’ Even animals are good at that. When one of our dogs Caro, died, I cried together with my other dog who though not human, was a sincere friend to me and to Caro.

Are we not better than dogs? Surely that is up to us, in how we see our sisters and brothers, the way we embrace being One, even with the lowly ones and striving towards our faithfulness to attend mass every Sunday. Our essence of oneness is encapsulated in the body of Christ and we should constantly partake in these gifts of love and sincerity.

If we do all this and continue to be one with the lowly, you and I will be like a weaned child who has survived our infancy, ready to consume the solids (which is our lives on earth) in anticipation of arriving at our eternal home. Brothers and sisters, I cannot think of greater joy than that.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for missing our Sunday masses and that of the days set aside for worship. We had failed to accept your invitation to your banquet and though we are not worthy, we plead you to purify us and make us love like You did, so that we can become One with you and all those whom you have invited.

Thanksgiving: O Author of Love and Friend of the Lovely, thank you for calling us to your banquet.

25 July, Monday – Leading by becoming a servant

25 July – Feast of St. James, Apostle

St. James (died 44) was the first Apostle to be martyred. He preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish.

Like all men of renown, many stories grew up around St. James. In one, he brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy’s father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away.

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 20:20-28

The mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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…whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.

I have been meeting regularly with my 3 unit heads of late, in preparation for my three-week absence in September, when I embark on my Camino. Truly, it has been a trying time at work, with disunity and discord reigning. The vibes have been obvious over the past few weeks and I have had to carefully manage the dynamics of the new team since three new hires came on board from last year. I always predicted that this day would come, when those who have been with me longer would feel a certain way towards those who have just come on board and have yet to ‘prove their worth’.

More and more, I have come to realise why I have been put in this role and what He has in store for me. I tell my staff members that I am there to guide them and to help them become better leaders and better communicators. How I do it truly depends on who I am dealing with. But I encourage every one of them to treat each project/task/day as a learning journey. Not just with me but with all those around them, especially those who have been around for more than two years. I emphasise that none of us is smarter, more knowledgeable or better than the other. Our strength comes from our collective wisdom and the unity that we all need to have.

Hence I open myself to criticism, comments and the opinions of those around me. It is quite a vulnerable position to find myself in sometimes but I believe that it is the only way I can be Christ-like in my approach to leading a motley crew of professionals who each have their own unique stories. No longer am I in charge of a group of young, single, bright-eyed upstarts. I have staff who themselves are parents with responsibilities at home, who have to care for aging parents and who have other personal issues to deal with. At the same time, I am bringing in new staff to help cope with the increasing responsibilities placed upon my team.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus himself taught us that in order to lead, one must be compassionate and merciful in order to win the hearts of those who follow. Indeed, that is what I have been reflecting on as I begin to contemplate who will take on my burden for the three weeks in September that I am gone. I truly am hoping that my 3 colleagues will unite as one in order to take on the challenges ahead. I ask for your prayers, that they may be enlightened and learn what it means to be a servant leader.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for an outpouring of your graces upon all those who are in leadership roles at work, at home and in ministry. Give them a heart filled with mercy, compassion and love so that they may lead from the heart.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You for all the times you have guided us through the rough waters at work, at home and in our parishes.

8 June, Wednesday – Divided

8 June

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1 Kings 18:20-39

Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ But the people never said a word. Elijah then said to them, ‘I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given us; let them choose one for themselves, dismember it and lay it on the wood, but not set fire to it. I in my turn will prepare the other bull, but not set fire to it. You must call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of mine; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.’ The people all answered, ‘Agreed!’ Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull and begin, for there are more of you. Call on the name of your god but light no fire.’ They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.’ So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no attention given to them.

Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’, and all the people came closer to him. He repaired the altar of the Lord which had been broken down. Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, ‘Israel shall be your name’, and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Round the altar he dug a trench of a size to hold two measures of seed. He then arranged the wood, dismembered the bull, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the holocaust and on the wood’; this they did. He said, ‘Do it a second time’; they did it a second time. He said, ‘Do it a third time’; they did it a third time. The water flowed round the altar and the trench itself was full of water. At the time when the offering is presented, Elijah the prophet stepped forward. ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,’ he said ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, the Lord, are God and are winning back their hearts.’

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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How long will you straddle this issue

What chaos on Mount Carmel – the hawing bulls, the screams, the blood, the self-flagellation. The anger and fury of the masses, recorded in such graphic detail, is a reflection of the turmoil we face when we don’t have God in our lives. The reading in 1 Kings occurs at the tail-end of a natural disaster. No rain has fallen for three years now. The drought and the ensuing famine have pushed the people to mad desperation. And desperate people make bad choices. In that context, godlessness isn’t such an incomprehensible concept. When we are pushed against the wall, how would we ourselves choose, if we don’t have His word in our hearts?

Cultivating God in our hearts is a long process. In times of abundance and plenty, we seek pleasure, physical beauty and self-fulfillment before we seek God. Just open any Instagram feed and there you have it! Jesus summarized it as “… whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven”. Too often we hear the words ‘empower yourself’ bandied around like a mantra. We’re constantly bombarded with messages that are supposed to be ‘uplifting’, how we are to ‘commit to yourself’ or ‘respect yourself’ or how we are to ‘have faith in your strength’. Physical perfection is celebrated and spiritualized, self-fulfillment is applauded, celebrity is fetishized as if these were the paths to a more enlightened existence. But they’re not. When push really comes to shove, it all crumbles because these are nothing but the ‘false gods’ of our time.

We are not really that far removed from the chaos on Mount Carmel. We descend into vitriolic on social media. We hiss and cuss at each other, we scream angry pronouncements. So how different are we than the confused mob at the altar of Baal? Our hearts are just as divided, our thoughts equally confused. The times might have change, but the issues remain the same. “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images” – Hosea 10:2

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern the ‘false gods’ in our lives and to tread warily.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, the force that centers us around His will and His word.