Tag Archives: winnie

1 April, Wednesday – There is Freedom

1 April 2020

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Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28

King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

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John 8:31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:

‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’

They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’

They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:

‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’

‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:

‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’

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So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed …

Whenever it is the First of April, there are lots of pranks and jokes everywhere. Today, we can still see jokes around on the internet. Many people are making jokes about how they are near to insanity because of the compulsory home quarantine. Here in Manila, we are obliged to follow the 24/7 home quarantine and only one person is allowed to go out to buy essential things at a specific time. We are under home quarantine until the 14th of April. Many people overreact, thinking their current situation is a deprivation of their freedom. Maybe they are right. They are slaves of their own desire to go out, meet people, and spend their money anyway they want.

Our Gospel for today depicts a deeper meaning of slavery. If you are told by Christ, “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free”, what would be your response?  We may be like the Jews who answered, “We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free?”  We are probably not slaves physically. But the reality is, it is not about our status in life. Rather, it is the state of our soul. If we really want to experience freedom, we have to stay away from sins. It is one of the challenges in life. We have to stop tolerating the cliché, “We are all sinners, and there is nothing we can do about it.” We can do something about it. If we go through our Penitential Rite, there is this part: “that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”  We sin by our actions. We sin by the words that come out of our mouths. We sin by just thinking ill thoughts. We sin by just doing nothing.

Recall your activities these past couple of days. Have you done anything to hurt others? Have you thought of hurting others? Or, could you have done something to help others?

In this time of pandemic, our actions are very limited. We must use this opportunity for us to not commit sin. By simply obeying the rules of our community, we can commit less sin. Our government is not perfect and there is not much we can do. Instead of giving off negative vibes online, let us join various dioceses in celebrating mass online and other community prayers. This is also the time when people do panic buying. When we buy things, let us reflect if we are buying for the quarantine period or for the whole year. Remember, there are other people who also need to buy things. If you are in a community where there is a relief-giving program, re-evaluate yourself and think if you belong to those who are in dire need. There might be others who might need it more. With the simple act of kindness that we do, we walk away from sin.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we are deeply sorry for all our sins. May we continuously have faith that through our Lord, Jesus Christ, we will surpass our current situation. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly God, thank You for our leaders, medical workers, security personnel, and other people who are brave to be front-liners in handling COVID-19. Amen.

10 March, Tuesday – Hypocrisy

10 March

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Isaiah 1:10,16-20

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.

‘Wash, make yourselves clean.
Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.

‘Come now, let us talk this over,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

‘If you are willing to obey,
you shall eat the good things of the earth.
But if you persist in rebellion,
the sword shall eat you instead.’

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Matthew 23:1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“You must therefore do what they (scribes and Pharisees) tell you and listen to what they say, but do not be guided by what they do; since they do not practice what they preach.”

Sound familiar? If we are honest with ourselves, we are all hypocrites like the Pharisees at one point or another. It is so much easier to find faults in others than to recognize our own issues. We notice the rudeness of someone, yet we don’t notice it when we become rude to others. We notice the selfishness of others while we fail to notice our own greediness. We congratulate ourselves, secretly of course, that we are not like those others. You get the idea. This kind of thinking is so subtle and insidious, we are often unaware of this attitude until it has taken form in our minds. I am guilty of this.

Fellow sinners, as the Gospel today says, “we have only one Teacher, the Christ.”. Our Lord teaches us time and time again to be humble in heart, pure in spirit and simple in mind. What do these all mean? Sounds humanly impossible. By our own powers, it is impossible to attain. But with God, everything is possible. We don’t have to go from 0 to 100 or from sinner to saint overnight. We start with a little at a time, entrusting ourselves to His care and follow His example. We start with daily prayers, and you will notice your attitude changing day by day. Pray for a humble heart and pure intentions. Start with a simple act of kindness or refrain from thinking ill of another, you will notice that you will develop more compassion and empathy. Next time when you are tempted to think ill of another, take a step back to look at their actions, and then look at your own. It may surprise you that there are often similarities. Perhaps then, when we recognize the plank in our own eye and upon removing it, then can we help our brethren with the splinter in theirs.

We know that Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees harshly at times, out of love and not spite. They fail to listen to Him and His teachings. They eventually played a hand in killing our Lord, who died to save us. My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not be like the Pharisees. Let us heed Christ’s warnings and teachings. Let us practice what we proclaim and, in doing so, truly become followers of Christ.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to recognize our own faults before others.  Help us to be humble and pure, and not to be hypocritical.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and sending Your Son to atone for our sins.  Thank you for correctly us when we are wrong and always forgiving us. 

9 March, Monday – Compassion

9 March

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Daniel 9:4-10

O Lord, God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments: we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you. To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.

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Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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“Grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

Not usually a fan of superhero movies, I watched “Joker” recently. At first, I thought this would be a forgettable movie about some childhood make-believe hero. It turned out to be more about the human condition. For one thing, there is no Batman in this movie. It is only about the Joker and how he became what he became.

Without spoiling it for those who may want to watch this movie; it left me pondering about the fact that we are so quick to judge others based on their looks, works, and actions. We pretty much decide our opinion of a person within seconds of first contact, without truly knowing the person and the story or experience behind the character. Don’t get me wrong, I am not excusing bad behavior basehd on anyone’s past or experiences. There are no excuses for behaving poorly no matter what. We should not tolerate bad behaviour, but we need to be compassionate to those who behave badly. Paradoxical?  Maybe. How can we be kind when they have offended or hurt others, even worse, when they hurt us?

First of all, bad behaviour has consequences, but it is often not in our place to deliver the punishment.  That’s something we should leave to higher powers. Secondly, we want to be compassionate and empathetic to the individual, not their actions. In any case, we can be upset with the sin but not with the person. Humanly impossible? Perhaps. But not for our Lord. On the cross, He asks for God’s forgiveness for His tormentors and accusers. At last, we are not God, you may say. True. But He gives His Grace freely and nothing is impossible for Him, so we can always ask for His help to become more compassionate.

Brothers and sisters, if we truly want to be pardoned, we need to pardon others. That’s more than fair, considering what Jesus suffered for us.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to become more like You, in love and in charity. May we become more compassionate towards others and quick to pardon any wrongs that have hurt us. Keep our focus on You, who can make the impossible possible.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your compassion and mercy, even though we may not deserve Your pardon.

8 March, Sunday – Self-reliance

8 March

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Genesis 12:1-4

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you:
I will curse those who slight you.
All the tribes of the earth
shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him.

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2 Timothy 1:8-10

With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.

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Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

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“…relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy…”

In this present societal climate, we celebrate independence and self-reliance. We teach our kids, toddler to adolescent, to be independent and do things for him/herself. This is an admirable trait for sure. We cannot rely on other people to do everything for us. We do need to work and better ourselves, in school, in work, and in life.

That said, there are so many things in Catholicism, indeed Christianity, that defies the common and human views. It is this idea of reliance I had a hard time wrapping my head around. Taught to always do things for myself, I have a hard time asking and accepting help from others. I feel that I would owe them if I accept their help and I don’t like owing anyone anything. Of course, no one is an island and we all need others, be they family, friends, or strangers — I am no exception. Sometimes, it is easier for me to ask strangers for help rather than close relations.

When I read that God has saved us and called us to be holy, and we need to rely on His powers; I must admit, part of me was aghast. Should we not try to be holy and work towards being deserving to be in the presence of God? How could we approach the perfect God with ‘dirty’ hands and feet like a child who has been playing in the mud? I understand that Jesus saved us, but in my mind, I thought we need to do our part too. I didn’t quite understand and couldn’t reconcile the two. At least, not until I went through the Faith Studies program at my local parish. Like I mentioned, being a cradle Catholic, I remember a lot of the readings and parables etc, but I truly didn’t understand the messages. Faith Studies helped clarify some things for me, although I still have a lot to learn.

Contrary to the current societal belief, we are not able “to do everything if we put our minds to it”.  Especially when it comes to the spiritual growth and betterment of our soul. Our fallen human nature prevents us from achieving perfection (not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense). We need the guidance of God, the grace of God, the enlightenment of God, to truly do the will of God. There’s an old adage, “Our minds may be willing, but our bodies are weak”; it probably is more appropriate to say when it comes to being holy, “our minds and bodies are weak and we need the grace of God”.  Before you get angry or upset with me for saying that we are incapable of good; let me say that you are, we all are, capable persons in terms of family, work, etc. What I am saying is that we are not able to be holy without God’s help. We need to rely on Him for the grace to become the kind of person He wants us to be. That is not to say we don’t have to do anything. At the very least, we need to desire to be holy, we need to want to be better, with divine help. There is no shame in that, in having to rely on God. In fact, we should be so thankful that He loves us so much that He sends His only son to redeem us and to guide us to become holy. I have my hand raised as a signal that I need help, I am relying on God to become a better version of myself, to become truly His child.

(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.  Let us to turn to You for help without fear. 

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy, for granting us Your Graces when we actively pursue them.

19 July, Friday – Master of the Sabbath

19 July 2019

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

It has come to my realisation that I had a lot of misunderstanding about the Catholic faith and that I needed to learn and study more for better understanding. Take for instance, the matter of sacrifice. It has been ingrained in us that we fast during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain every Friday during Lent. Those are the ‘sacrifices’ that we make in order to prepare us for Easter. There are other instances of ‘sacrifices’ that Catholics do, as a ritual, as a preparation, as a practice. For example, abstaining from food at least one hour before receiving the Holy Eucharist.

I never truly understood why some of these rituals existed. In my mind, God is not so petty to care about whether I ate before receiving Him. Why should I let man’s rules override God’s rules? For surely, it is Jesus himself who gave us the Eucharist, His body for us to eat. He never said to only receive Him one hour after a meal. I struggled with these seemingly innocuous questions.

Upon further reading and speaking with fellow Christians, it dawned on me that it is not so much the ritual that our Lord is after. It is what is in our hearts and minds that truly matters. If I fasted all the while complaining about it, then the fasting is for naught because my heart is not in the right place. I would not be truly reverent about receiving our Lord. For if I did revere Him and worship Him, I would make sure that I was well-prepared to receive Him. I would make sure that I am clean and presentable to be in the presence of a King. Fasting before a meal is a token of that preparedness. But more importantly, is my willingness and intentions of doing so. My intentions should be pure and whatever needs to be done is to be done with joy instead of complaints.

Brothers and sisters, this seems so simple yet, when we are tired, stressed and demoralized, it is so easy to fall into the fray and become disgruntled at the most straightforward task. In my daily life, when I am tight on time and others place additional and unexpected demands on me, I become disgruntled and silently seethe inside, all the while performing the task unwillingly. This is not what our Lord wants. He wants us to be joyful, to be excited and eager to receive Him. When we prepare to receive Him in the Eucharist, we should prepare ourselves as if for a wedding banquet, a most solemn but joyous event. Surely we wouldn’t attend the wedding of a friend ill-prepared and inappropriately dressed; so why would we attend the banquet of a King without being prepared?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to prepare our hearts, our minds and our souls to receive You in the Eucharist. Grant us the grace to be humble, simple and pure in our thoughts, words, and intentions, so that we may be prepared to receive our King.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the Bread of Life, at every Mass.

16 February, Saturday – Real ‘soul’ food

16 February 2019

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Genesis 3:9-24

The Lord God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

To the woman he said:

‘I will multiply your pains in childbearing,
you shall give birth to your children in pain.
Your yearning shall be for your husband,
yet he will lord it over you.’

To the man he said, ‘Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

‘Accursed be the soil because of you.
With suffering shall you get your food from it
every day of your life.
It shall yield you brambles and thistles,
and you shall eat wild plants.
With sweat on your brow
shall you eat your bread,
until you return to the soil,
as you were taken from it.
For dust you are
and to dust you shall return.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live. The Lord God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the tree of life also, and eat some and live for ever.’ So the Lord God expelled him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Mark 8:1-10

A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said. Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.

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“I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat”

When I was young (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was) and read the Gospel about the multiplication of loaves of bread and the few small fishes that fed thousands, I simply marveled at the miracle itself and nothing more.

Years later, when I read this passage again, I discovered how much I actually missed. The nuances within this Gospel reading deserve deeper reflection.

Our Lord Jesus is supremely intelligent, compassionate and merciful. He never says anything meaningless; and often, His words have deeper meaning than first thought. The bible itself is like a treasure trove, just when you think that you have discovered all, you find that there are more to it than meets the eye.

Jesus is loving and merciful. He was concerned that the people who were with Him for three days, had nothing to eat. He was not merely concerned about their physical being, but their spiritual well being as well. After all, at that time, they did not partake in the bread of life yet – the Holy Eucharist.

Coincidentally, the three days the crowd had been with Jesus is a foreshadowing of the three days before the resurrection; and the seven loaves and seven baskets of scraps are significant as well. Do they not remind you of the seven sacraments that nourish our souls?

Most, if not all of us, are hungrily searching for something — some meaning, some purpose to our lives.  We often get distracted by the glitter, the lights and sounds of the secular world. Often, we indulge ourselves and gorge on the ‘junk food’ that is out there. Sure, they may taste wonderful at first, but if we only knew what they contain, how they are made, and the health risks involved, we would probably stay away from them. What more when it comes to our spiritual health? Would we willingly partake in things that could harm us or jeopardize our soul? Would we willingly risk losing eternal life in heaven for a few brief moments of pleasure on earth? Would we willingly follow the false prophets or the wolves in sheep’s clothing that would lead us into the harm’s way; rather than follow the one true shepherd that can guide us out of danger and into safety? Jesus is offering us real food that truly satisfies the hunger and for the good of our souls.  It is up to us to decide if we want to partake.

I know what I would like to choose. True, I may stumble and make some bad choices now and then, but the Lord is always calling me, waiting for me so He can heal me. Like the sheep that listens for the shepherd’s voice, I want to listen for Jesus’ voice, to make the right choices and not fall into the traps and distractions that are devoid of sustenance for our souls.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to heed Your voice and Yours only. You are the true Shepherd that has our best interests and helps us to make the right choices.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the bread of Life, true food for our soul.

15 February, Friday – Looking beyond the surface

15 February 2019

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Genesis 3:1-8

The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

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Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

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“He has done all things well…he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Admittedly, I am a germaphobe. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me wherever I go. I don’t even like holding onto the hand rails of escalators or public staircases. Imagine my reaction when reading the passage where Jesus healed the deaf man with speech impediments by putting His fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle!

If I simply focus on the chosen method of healing, I would have missed the whole picture. The important point is the Jesus healed the man. He “makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak”. Our Lord is capable of the impossible, if only we believe and trust in Him.

The method chosen may not be what we expect or want, but it doesn’t diminish the act of healing in the slightest bit. In fact, we should glorify God that He is able to turn something that seems unpleasant into a beautiful thing! How wonderful is our God and how wondrous are His ways!

For the foodies out there, there is a Chinese delicacy called ‘stinky tofu’. For those who are unfamiliar with this delicacy, as the name suggests, it is very pungent. In the fermenting and cooking process, the smell is very strong and repugnant (to some). However, the end product is flavourful beyond imagination and simply delicious!

Similarly, we need to focus on the outcome, even when the process may not be what we desire or expect.  Whether we are in need of healing in our lives or in need of spiritual growth, our Lord will often surprise us with His chosen method. His way may include some discomfort and growing pains, but we need to trust in the Lord and have faith that our Heavenly Father has a plan and He knows best our needs. In the end, our Lord will provide!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Please grant us the grace to believe and trust even when we don’t understand Your plans for us. Jesus, we trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, You know us best, even more than we do ourselves. We thank you for giving us what we need and not what we want.

14 February, Thursday – Humility at Heart

14 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop

Cyril (827-869) was the brother of St. Methodius. Born of Greek nobility, his family was connected to the senate of Thessalonica, and his mother Maria may have been Slavic. He studied at the University of Constantinople and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and when he became a monk, he took the name Cyril. He was sent with Methodius by the emperor in 961 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia, a mission that was successful, and which allowed him to learn the Khazar’s language.

In 863, he was sent with Methodius to convert Moravians in their native tongue. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today. After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Cyril may have been bishop, but he may have died before the consecration ceremony.

Methodius (826-885) was the brother of St. Cyril. He studied at the University of Constantinople, and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and sent with Cyril by the emperor in 861 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They helped develop an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today.

After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Methodius was ordained a bishop. He evangelized in Moravia, Bohemia, Pannonia, and Poland. He baptized St. Ludmilla and Duke Boriwoi.

He was Archbishop of Velehred, Czechoslovakia, but was deposed and imprisoned in 870 due to the opposition of German clergy with his work. He was often in trouble over his use of Slavonic in liturgy, with some claiming he preached heresy. However, Methodius was repeatedly cleared of charges. He translated the Bible into the Slavonic languages, and pioneered the use of local and vernacular languages in liturgical settings.

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Gen 2: 18-25

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed:

‘This at last is bone from my bones,
and flesh from my flesh!
This is to be called woman,
for this was taken from man.’
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.
Now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame in front of each other.
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Mk 7: 24-30
Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.
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“The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.”

Ouch! Such harsh words! Could they really have been spoken by our loving and merciful Lord?

I must admit that today’s Gospel confused me for the longest time. I simply couldn’t comprehend how Jesus, who is holy and all good, could possibly say such things that sound so rude.

Until one day, when I came upon a Catholic Devotional resource that shed some light and meaning on today’s Gospel reading, I began to see it in another light. There are three things that are of great importance and it helps to be reminded of them.

First of all, Jesus is incapable of being mean or cruel. Our Lord never does things without a purpose nor does He say things frivolously. Therefore, He must have had a good reason for saying what he said. Let us never forget that Jesus is part of the Trinity, true God and true man; and as such, we cannot fully comprehend the full design of God’s plans with our limited human intellect. That is, compared to the infinite wisdom of God, the human intellect can be found lacking. As God is the master painter, and we as onlookers, may not see the whole painting, but only the one stroke that seems like a mistake. Little do we know, the one stroke that seems out of place, could be the start of a beautiful masterpiece.

Secondly, the Syrophoenician woman represents a wonderful reminder. We are unworthy of God’s grace and mercy. There is nothing that we can do or say to earn His grace and mercy. They are a gift. We may think that we deserve His grace, and take His love and mercy for granted, much like we take our loved ones for granted. But we must remember and remind ourselves that we do not deserve, and cannot lay claim to, God’s love except thru the divine mercy of Jesus. Picture a friend who contacts you only when they need your help, but fully expects to be invited to all your family celebrations. Let us not fashion ourselves with such insolence and ungracious attitude.

Lastly, the response of the Syrophoenician woman should shake us out of complacency. We should have unwavering trust in our Lord and His mercy. This is not the same as believing that we deserve His grace but acknowledging our unworthiness and praying for mercy while maintaining confidence in deliverance.  When God seems silent or distant, it is often that He wants us to be stronger and grow spiritually. During these times, we should cling to our Lord, and practice unwavering faith. Instead of a faith based on emotions, we should move to a faith of pure trust in Divine Mercy.

A very important note is that we should not be saddened by our unworthiness, but rejoice in the love and mercy of God, who loves us despite all our faults and iniquities; we should rejoice in His most holy and unconditional love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we will not take Your love and mercy for granted, and that we have unwavering faith in Your Divine Mercy.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy and for calling us your children though we be unworthy.