Tag Archives: winnie kung

5 November, Tuesday – Self Satisfaction

5 November 2019

____________________

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.

___________________

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.”’

____________________

Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied

If I must be completely honest with myself, and with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ; I am guilty of self-satisfaction. Let me explain. On the surface, I go to church every Sunday, try to say my prayers every day, try to adhere to the Ten Commandments and don’t break any laws (maybe I use swear words now and then), but overall, I thought I was a fairly decent person. In my mind’s eye, I am a sinner, but not that bad of a sinner; definitely better than the myriad of sinners out there.

Then I read today’s First Reading plus the homily of our parish priest. I realize that I am far, far from where I ought to be. Jesus commanded us to love God above all else and love our neighbours as ourselves. Well, turns out I am not doing that well in either category.

In the today’s first reading, it says “Do not let your love be a pretence….Bless those who persecute you, never curse them, bless them…” Easy to say, but very hard to do. During this morning’s rush hour, at an intersection, a man who was at a ‘stop’ sign on a side street and was trying to turn left onto the main street on which I was traveling ‘flipped the bird’ or saluted me with his middle finger. I had previously let two other cars turn in front me and started moving forward. I felt his behavior was unjust and abhorrent.  After all, what God-given right did he have to assume I should let him in? Before I could think, my hand raised a similar salute. Almost immediately, I felt a voice inside of me saying, “Ahem, that is not the appropriate response if you claim to love me”. Sheepishly, I lowered my hand and reflected on my behavior. I do desire and profess to love our Lord with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength. If that is the case, how can I not even accept the seemingly injustice I encountered? Compared that to the injustices that Christ encountered on our behalf, my little interlude is so insignificant. The better choice would be for me to let it go and say a prayer and offer it to God.  This would for sure be pleasing to God and reflecting His mercy and love.

Now that I am aware of my fallibility and imperfections, I will watch out for it more and try even harder to become what Christ wanted us to be. Our Lord is perfect and He wants us to strive to become perfect too. I will try, I will stumble, I will fall, but I will not be self-satisfied when I focus on God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, teach us to be humble and recognize that there is always room for improvement. Help us to rely on Your grace and mercy to finally become more like the person You wish us to be.

Thanksgiving: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus and all the saints, to show us how we should behave.

4 November, Monday – Revoking Gifts

Nov 4 – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan, and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy, on Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, and helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 11:29-36

God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything?

All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

___________________

Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

____________________

God never takes back his gifts

“God never takes back His gifts or revokes His choice.” This should bring great comfort to you; it certainly does for me.

I must admit that I have an unreasonable fear of losing possessions, be it something of little importance like a sweater, or something of more importance like a credit card. The anxiety is proportionate to the value I place on the object, whether it be monetary or sentimental. This extends to the very essence of my being. Everything I have, everything I am, are all gifts from God. I fear greatly that God may rescind His generosity and take His gifts back. We all know the saying “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh”. That saying has caused me great anxiety. In my juvenile thinking, I had thought that if I tried to be good and pray with fervour, God will not take away all that He has given. How silly am I?

This anxiety has turned into fear and limits the joy and happiness that God offers me. I was too caught up in the worldly comforts, possessions and other transient obsessions. Leaving little room to truly appreciate the greatest gift He has given us – Jesus, His only Son. God offers His love and mercy to all freely and without reserve. Often, it is us who refuses to accept His gift. He never takes His gift back. In fact, it is still being offered today, every day.

Sure, God has given us our family, our friends, our home, our jobs, our possessions, etc and these people and things are all gifts from God too. Yes, they may be come and go or change through time. But that doesn’t mean that God has taken His gifts away. It simply means that He has better options for us. We may not understand or even like what He offers, but we simply must trust that our Heavenly Father has our best interest at heart. Much like a parent who offers a child some candy, but if the child gorges himself or herself on the candy without sharing, the parent will replace the candy with healthier snacks.

I am still struggling with attachments to worldly goods. I also trust that God, through His infinite mercy, will help me to break those bad habits and re-align my attachment to His true gift – Jesus. The only gift I need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help us to break our attachments to worldly goods and re-align ourselves to heavenly goals. Jesus, we trust in you.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for the greatest gift – Jesus. He is all that we need, and all that we want.

3 November, Sunday – Made Worthy

3 Nov 2019 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

_________________

Wisdom 11:22-12:2

In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales,
like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.
Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things
and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.
Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence,
for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it.
And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist,
how be conserved if not called forth by you?
You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life,
you whose imperishable spirit is in all.
Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend,
you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned,
so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.
 

______________________

2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2

We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To turn now, 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.

________________________

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

_________________________

Our God will make you worthy of His call

It has always been a bit of a struggle for me to believe that God would want me to answer His call and be of service. Maybe a part of it is pride. Modern culture has taught us in many ways, to want to be served and not to serve. However, I think a large part of it is that I don’t think I am worthy. No, I don’t suffer from low self esteem, I have insecurities just like most people I know. If anything, I may suffer from too much pride at times. What I find hard to believe or to take in is that I can bring anything to the table. A banquet table set for a King, prepared by many talented, dedicated and faithful people.

In the faith study group I am participating in, we were talking about evangelization. This word always made me slightly uncomfortable. ‘Good manners’ has always taught us not to discuss politics or religion amongst other things, especially to strangers, acquaintances or friends, especially at the dinner table. I would have no qualms in discussing the Catholic faith with other Catholics, but would hesitate to engage in any meaningful conversation about my faith with non believers and other Christians. I have pondered about why I feel uncomfortable about sharing my faith when it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. There are two reasons that I can come up with. First, I feel that I haven’t learned enough about Catholicism, even though I have been a Catholic all my life. My faith is like the tides at a shoreline, it ebbs and flows throughout the years; and my focus has often been on more earthly matters. In other words, I feel that I am not knowledgeable enough to answer questions or defend any biased or unfair criticism of the Catholic faith. This leads directly and indirectly to the second reason. Fear. I am afraid. I am fearful of falling short of God’s expectations, and do more harm than good if I couldn’t answer others’ queries.  But deep down, I am fearful of being ridiculed, of not being cool or hip or whatever is the current term for awesomeness. In other words, fear of looking like a fool, stemming from pride.

I don’t have an immediate answer to solve the sin of pride. But after pondering over the faith study and today’s reading, it dawned on me that I am being really silly. Of course, I am not equipped nor qualified to do God’s work. I would run into walls if I tried it on my own. The key is to let Jesus take the wheel.  No, this is not a ‘cop out’. Think about it.  Left to our own devices, we surely would stumble due to our fallen human nature. Everything we have, everything we are, are all mercy and grace from our loving God. If we rely on Him, with continuous prayers and a sincere heart, He will hear us and make us worthy of His call. Then He can grant us the courage, the grace, the will to serve Him, and serve Him well. What we can’t overcome, our shyness, our fears or our reluctance, He can overcome if we truly humble ourselves and ask for His help. After all, He can make the impossible possible. He can make us worthy of Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, we truly love you and wish to do your will.  Please grant us the grace and faith to desire goodness and to heed your call.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for deeming us worthy and loving us, even when we feel that we are not worthy.

10 September, Tuesday – Ultimate Guidance

10 Sept 2019

____________________

Colossians 2:6-15

You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received – Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some second-hand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.

In his body lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fulfilment, in the one who is the head of every Sovereignty and Power.

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh. This is circumcision according to Christ. You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead. You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross; and so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession.

________________

Luke 6:12-19

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.
He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

________________

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Can you imagine that? The last person I expected to find praying fervently would be Jesus! After all, He is the Son of God, and He has a close relationship with the mighty God, who He calls “Abba” or Father.  It is through Jesus’ relationship with God that we can call Him our Heavenly Father as well.

So why on earth would Jesus need to pray? Throughout the Bible, it is often mentioned that Jesus prayed, frequently going off somewhere seeking solitude. He prayed intensely, lengthily and completely. He prayed for guidance, prayed for reassurance and prayed for help. But in all His prayers, He remained obedient and wanting to do God’s will.

It dawned on me that if Jesus, the Son of God, found it important to pray, how much more so for you and me? I for one, admit that I need all the guidance, reassurance, help and support that God is offering.  Then why wouldn’t we want to pray every day, every moment and every chance we have?

Now, it is difficult, if not impossible for most people to pray endlessly or for long periods in a day; after all, we all have busy lives and schedules and endless commitments. It would be unrealistic to ask someone to pray for hours on end; but it is completely doable and realistic for one to pray 5 to 15 minutes a day…for a start. Trust me, once you start praying regularly, you’ll never get enough.

I never used to pray every day, but only on Sundays in church. I didn’t know how much I was missing until I could not find any guidance from family or friends that brought me peace. It was then that I turned to God. Peace only came about when I prayed repeatedly. Sometimes reciting prayers, sometimes simply talking and unloading the issues at hand, and sometimes sitting quietly alone in the church. I started with 5 minutes a day, once a week, then it became twice a week and for longer periods.  Then it became more frequent and lengthier.  It has become so much a part of me that if I miss my daily ‘talk’ or prayers, I feel a part of me is missing, like my morning coffee. I am not holier because I pray, it is recognizing that I am incomplete until I pray that makes me want to pray more.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, teach us the importance of prayers, the importance of maintaining a relationship with you and God our Father through prayers.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for listening to our prayers and providing guidance and answers, even though they are not what we want or expect; but what is best for us.

9 September, Monday – Unpopular and Infuriating

Sep 9 – Memorial for St. Peter Claver, Priest

He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later, he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole, the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals as well, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life, he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

– Universalis

_________________

Colossians 1:24-2:3

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ. It is for this I struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving me irresistibly.

Yes, I want you to know that I do have to struggle hard for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for so many others who have never seen me face to face. It is all to bind you together in love and to stir your minds, so that your understanding may come to full development, until you really know God’s secret in which all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

__________________

Luke 6:6-11

On the sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up! Come out into the middle.’ And he came out and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’ Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was better. But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

____________________

“Stand up!  Come out into the middle.”

Strangely, I feel that these words spoken by Jesus to the man with a withered hand, can be addressed to all of us; especially in today’s climate of political correctness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for good manners and politeness. However, I do believe that political correctness has gone awry. Instead of the general freedom that we seek, we are now more limited in voicing any opinions and beliefs. We often remain silent or even deny our personal beliefs, just to ‘keep the peace’.  But is it really peace, or our pride of wanting to be ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ that we want to keep?

Let’s be honest, Jesus’ teachings were not, are not and will not be popular on this good earth. In fact, they are downright unpopular and infuriating at times. But as true followers of Christ, we need to stand up for our beliefs. We need to come into the middle and stand firm in defending our faith, even if we cause unwanted attention and ridicule from others. I am not promoting fights or heated arguments with others; Jesus was peaceful and so must we, be peaceful. But on the occasion when we are in the midst of opposition and against the tide of sentiments regarding our God, we have a duty to stand up and defend Jesus and His teachings – peacefully and respectfully. Political correctness does not mean we have to agree or avoid the issues, simply avoid offending the others. Hence, peacefully and respectfully disagreeing would not, and should not, offend anyone who is reasonable.

We are called to stand up, in big ways or small. Why wouldn’t we stand up if we can be like the man healed from a withered hand?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the courage to stand up for Your teachings in the face of opposition.  Grant us the grace to live according to Your teachings.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus as our teacher and guide.  His strength amongst opposition shall be our aim and example.

8 September, Sunday – Confusion vs Wisdom

8 Sep 2019

______________

Wisdom 9:13-18

What man indeed can know the intentions of God?
Who can divine the will of the Lord?
The reasonings of mortals are unsure
and our intentions unstable;
for a perishable body presses down the soul,
and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind.
It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth,
laborious to know what lies within our reach;
who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?
As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from above?
Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened
and men been taught what pleases you,
and saved, by Wisdom.

______________

Philemon 9-10,12-17

This is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me.

______________

Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

_______________

Who can divine the will of God

Have you ever had the feeling that nothing ever makes sense? If our God is a loving god, why do we have to go through some of the challenges, headaches and heartaches that we do? Why is there so much suffering in this world amidst so much beauty?

The first reading today helps to shed some light onto these ever perplexing questions. First of all, we must understand that God’s wisdom and will are not easily knowable by humans. Our minds cannot conceive the intricacies and complexities of God’s grand schemes. How does one start to understand a God that is deeper than the vast oceans, taller than the highest mountains and more infinite than the universe? Because of our fallen human nature and perishable bodies, we cannot comprehend the wisdom of God and His ways unless they are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. In order for us to hear the Holy Spirit, we must be in tune, in communion with our God by striving to be holy (going to confessions, prayerful, trusting in God and wanting to do His will).

It is a societal belief that in order to be in control and/or self sufficient, we need to acquire knowledge.  However, God is divine and we cannot know Him completely in our time on earth. We cannot even acquire and master half the knowledge within this world. Why would we think that we can understand our God without His divine help? Why wouldn’t we trust in His plans instead?

We teach our children and tell ourselves that we have to be independent and self reliant —  “Heaven helps those who help themselves.” We take pride in all our achievements and successes. Of course, we should celebrate those accomplishments, but we must never forget that the credit does not belong to us alone.  Everything we have, every good that we do, every accomplishment we achieve are all graces from God. As Bishop Barron said, (paraphrasing here) our accomplishment came from collaborating with God.  Therefore, we can’t take credit for everything. In fact, we would be wise to rely on the Grace of God and trust in His plans. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to do our part; it just means that we rely on His guidance and wisdom and trust that He knows what is best for us. Sometimes, it may be a short stroll and sometimes it may be a long walk; whatever the case, you can rely on our Lord to be walking beside us all the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help us to realize all that we are, all that we have are Graces given to us. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for guiding us and for always being by our side.

20 July, Saturday – Humility at Heart

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).

On his way out of the city, he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

  • Wikipedia

_________________

Exodus 12:37-42

The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand on the march – all men – not counting their families. People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves. They baked cakes with the dough which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey. The time that the sons of Israel had spent in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And on the very day the four hundred and thirty years ended, all the array of the Lord left the land of Egypt. The night, when the Lord kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, must be kept as a vigil in honour of the Lord for all their generations.

______________________

Matthew 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and began to plot against Jesus, discussing how to destroy him.

Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved, the favourite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit,
and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed,
nor put out the smouldering wick
till he has led the truth to victory:
in his name the nations will put their hope.

_____________________

“Here is my servant who I have chosen,…I will endow him with my spirit, and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.”

As a ‘cradle Catholics’ (not ready for the grave yet), we know that our Lord gave us two commandments. One is to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength; and love others as we love ourselves. Within that love, we are to share the treasure that God offers, and we are called to introduce, if not to bring, our fellow travelers to Jesus, our Lord, in this journey called Life. Yes, we are all called to evangelize.

I struggle with wanting to serve but fearing that I do not have anything to offer. Not knowing if I possess any talents, whatever that might be, and how to use them to serve. Feeling frustrated and ineffective, I cannot believe that God would choose me to serve in ministry as there are so many more talented, more eloquent, more knowledgeable people; why would he choose a sinner like me?

Then I came upon a reading in the Divine Mercy reflections with Saint Faustina. We are all called to serve. Some have a ‘bigger’ or more public role, some have a less public role, but we all have a part to play in God’s grand scheme. The role He entrusts to us is not given to anyone else, individually, we are to fulfill the task assigned. But we are NEVER alone.

All that we have, all that we are, is the result of graces given by the Lord. The faith that we have, the achievements that we attain, the good that we do, are all gifts from our God — who is holy and all good.  Of course, it is a choice we make in collaborating with God to do good. But it would be dangerous for us to claim that we alone, achieved the good. Left to our own devices, our fallen human nature would lead us to the wrong path.  It is only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to head in the right direction.

So do not be disheartened if you are like me, undecided as to what talents we possess to serve the Lord.  God has a job and a plan for us. All we need is to love and trust in the Lord. We need to pray and be attentive to His call. We must have a heart that desires His will over ours, and then we need to be patient. Because it is not when we want or how we want to serve. Rather, it is according to God’s will of when, where and how.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to serve, but we don’t have to worry about the ways or methods. God has already figured that out for us and all we need is to let Him take the wheel.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the grace to desire Your will over our own, and the grace of patience in waiting. Help us to be attentive to Your call and recognize Your voice above all else.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for deeming us worthy of Your work and providing us with the tools to serve Your will.

25 May, Saturday – Persecution and Detachment

May 25 – Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

  • Patron Saint Index

Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

  • Patron Saint Index

__________________

Acts 16:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

____________

John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

__________________

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you.”

Recently, secularism and relativism have been constantly on my mind. In silent observation, I see their effects on Christians and non-Christians alike. Let’s be clear what secularism and relativism mean.  Secularism is the indifference and rejection of religion. It’s a desire to exclude religion from social activities and civic affairs. Relativism is the idea that there are no universal, objective truths, only points of view; and each opinion or judgment is valid only for the person or group holding them.

At first glance, these attitudes seem to be innocuous. Separating church from state and to be open to different opinions, they seem like good ideas. Tolerance of one and all, this is the making of a perfect world. However, you and I know that this is not the case. Current secularism deems religion, particularly Christianity as outdated, unnecessary and ‘mumbo jumbo’ for people who need emotional crutches. To the people who drank from the secular fountain, God is but an imaginary being and should be relegated to the realm of fairy tales and has no place in society and its discussions. Religion, particularly Christianity, has been shunned. You don’t need to look very far for signs of this. Companies like Starbucks, Google, Facebook and many others have succumbed to the demands of secularists and have done away with the words Christmas and Easter in all their promotion materials. Even to the point that the design of the disposable Christmas coffee cup has become a great debate (at least in North America). What are these people so afraid of? A God that loves them so much that He was willing to die for us? That, truly is a threat. Because admitting that would make us see ourselves in a different light and we may not like what we see.

The idea of relativism hides behind the guise of freedom. The freedom of choice, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. Yes, freedom is important, but within the freedom, there are safeguards that do not allow us to hurt others. Like in the case of freedom of the press, we cannot propagate hateful and discriminatory thoughts, speeches or actions against another. Likewise within freedom of will, there are boundaries to protect ourselves and others. Relativism has done away with the safeguards because it does not admit that there are truths that cannot be denied, such as God and His teachings, and that there are boundaries that cannot be crossed (such killing of the unborn child or terminally ill – abortion and euthanasia, which are legal in parts of North America).

Christians, let us persevere in our faith and not fall victims to the pressures of the world. Let’s fashion ourselves like the unbeatable ‘bobo dolls’ that bounce back again and again in the face of adversity and hostility. A daughter of a friend of mine wanted to bring a nativity set for show and tell to school, and was told by the teacher that it is not permitted to bring religious artifacts to school.  However, another child was able to bring a menorah, perhaps the teacher deemed it to be cultural and not religious.

Whatever the case, with the increasing sentiment of secularism and relativism, with the persecution of Christians on the rise, let us stand firm in our believes. May our faith be strengthened like the immovable rock against the tide. If we feel ostracized and criticized, let us remember that the people also rejected our Lord Jesus. But in the end, our Lord triumphed over death and sin. We can share in that glory if we remain faithful and unwavering in our love of God and His Word.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

24 May, Friday – Expressions of Love

24 May 2019

______________

Acts 15:22-31

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

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

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

______________________

John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

___________________

What I command you is to love one another

Some time ago, if someone were to ask me, “What is love?” I would simply say it is an emotion, a feeling, and a need. Whenever I heard the commandment from Jesus, “to love one another as we love ourselves”, I secretly thought that it was an impossible task. At the best of times, we are selfish creatures and at other times, we don’t even love ourselves to the best of our abilities. If so, where would bad habits come from?  (I have plenty of them).

It was not until I started to listen to the Catholic podcasts, Word on Fire, that it slowly dawned on me, what Jesus meant. The love that Jesus speaks of is not the emotion and feeling that I thought. For those are transient and often not something that we can choose or control. The love that Jesus speaks of is a choice. A choice of willing the good of others. Think about it for a minute. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this so quickly. Love is a choice that we make, willing the good of the other.

It is not a casual hug and kiss and “I love you”. It is not wanting to spend all your time and attention on the other person. Although these are forms of expressions of love, the love that our Lord talks about is deeper. If you love someone, wouldn’t you want the best for them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the best, for them to achieve the best? Wouldn’t you guide them if they were heading down a wrong path? Wouldn’t you sit with them and share their sorrows and their joys?

If we truly love someone, not only would we want the best for the other, we would pray fervently for them, for their salvation. What is the best thing in this world that is free yet priceless? That is the love of our Lord, the peace and joy that only He can provide. Willing this for others, and expressing this in our hearts, in our words and actions is the true meaning of love. An important note is that we choose to love. Love is not given because the other is deserving or because they are family or related. But because we choose to love as the Lord has loved us.

How do we love others, if not in an emotional way? Simply by not engaging in gossip, not being envious or jealous of the other, and only correcting them justly; these are some of the ways we can love the others. The correcting of another is a tricky one. Beware of the feeling self-righteousness. In correcting others, intentions must come from a place of love and truly wanting the good of the other. It should never come from a place of pride and thinking we are better, smarter and therefore can point out the errors of another. These are but a few suggestions, I am sure you are able to find more ways to love others as you love yourself.

Love, as I understand it now, is not an uncontrollable emotion, but a choice that I make. Even if the other has wronged us or the love is not reciprocated, we can still choose to will the good of the other by praying for them earnestly, by leading them to Christ in everything we do and say. In other words, if Christ truly lives in us, love for others comes naturally.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other. Let us remember this as we sing “Christians love one another, as we share the true living bread. Jesus is our God and our brother; with His flesh and blood we are fed. Everyone who loves is born of God. Jesus is our life, God is love.”

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

23 May, Thursday – Saved Through Grace

23 May 2019

________________

Acts 15:7-21

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

____________________

I shall return and rebuild the fallen House of David; I shall rebuild it from its ruins and restore it

It is Easter Sunday that I am writing this. A day of extreme joy at the resurrection of our Lord, that was dampened by the suffering imposed on our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka by the evil that exists in this world. It was on Easter Sunday that terrorists attacked three churches (two of which are Catholic) and three hotels. In total, more than two hundred were killed and even more injured. Many of them were attending Sunday Mass, much like we were.

It has been an observation of mine that the current societal climate is growing in intolerance. We are indeed paying more attention to the marginalized people, which in a really good thing, but in our haste to appear just, we actually become more discriminatory. In advocating for the rights to abortion and homosexuality while disclaiming the rights of the unborn and a meaningful family unit, in advocating the personal choice and relativism (in truth, religion and all else), yet disclaiming the truth that our God has revealed and dismissing it as emotional and fantasy jargon; have we really reduced the amount of marginalized people or have we simply switch groups of people to marginalize?

Catholics and Christians have been taught to promote peace. That is our Lord’s commandment. Therefore, while we weep with our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and pray for their recovery and mend their sorrowful hearts, we will pray for forgiveness for the perpetrators. It is NOT saying what they have done is ok, but to say to them that we acknowledge the evil that they have committed. We are not letting the effect of their sins affect us, their penance will be given by God, who alone has the right to judge. In the meantime, we will stand stronger and firmer in our resolve, in our faith, in our love, by the grace of God. We will not be shaken by the evil in this world, by the marginalization and persecution of our faith, we stand firm and in unity, waiting for our Lord to come and rebuild the fallen house of David. After all, Jesus has conquered death and sin, nothing is impossible for Him.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; and we pray that all unity will one day be restored.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God in our land.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

All praise to the Father, from who all things come;

And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son.

And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to stand firm in our faith in all the adversity. May we grow stronger and ever more faithful. Our prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka and those affected by the terrorist attacks, may You watch over your children and help rebuild Your holy church.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your abundant Grace, and Your undying love, in our joy and our sorrow.