Tag Archives: death

29 Dec, Sunday – Pilgrims Searching for Love and Home

29 Dec 2019 – Feast of the Holy Family

[Let us adore Christ, the Son of God, who made himself obedient to Mary and to Joseph.]

The feast of the Holy Family offers the opportunity to reflect on the mystery of family life. Every family and community share the perplexing, frustrating, demanding challenge Luke described. Put most simply, Mary and Joseph faced the difficult discovery that Jesus was not going along with them every step of the way. It is a real story of a family conflict and is symbolic of all kinds of relationships.

We know what it is like when family members do not go along with us on the journey. When Mary and Joseph confronted Jesus in the Temple, they confronted the fact that he would have to discover his own path in life. No matter what they might hope for him, he did not belong to them.

The story reminds us that love is rooted in profound reverence for the mystery of the other. Such reverence cultivates profound respect for the other’s mysterious freedom. In that, we learn to desire that the other will become who they are meant to be rather than what we would have them be.

Excerpt taken from: Feast of the Holy Family: The Mystery of Love (https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/scripture-life/feast-holy-family-mystery-love) 

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Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6,12-14

He who fears the Lord respects his parents

The Lord honours the father in his children,
  and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
  he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
  he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
  he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
  do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
  do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
  but will serve as reparation for your sins.

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Colossians 3:12-21 

Family life in the Lord 

You are God’s chosen race his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful. 

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Wives give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

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Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

The Flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth

After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:

 I called my son out of Egypt.
After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he left for the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:

 

‘He will be called a Nazarene.’

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May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts… Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.

I was prepared to write my reflection on this Feast day more than a week ago but I could not put words to my thoughts as I was facing struggles of my own in my family. I was dumbfounded to be assigned this specific day, and while I knew intellectually, that God had a message for me in here, it took some wresting within for me to finally sit down to listen to Him.

We are Pilgrims

In three days, my family would be collecting a new set of keys to our rental apartment. We had been praying to find a new home in Singapore after moving back from Hong Kong. By the new year, this would be the fifth house that I will setting up home in, notwithstanding the many interim roofs we have temporarily rested our heavy-laden bodies to rest in. All these moves were made within the span of three years, over three countries. Some of them are moves related to jobs, while some were a result of grave illnesses within our families that required us to either ‘stay-put’ or ‘return-home’.

Whenever I behold the idea of packing up house again, I am seized with anxiety first, and then sadness for the home my family will soon be leaving behind. All the memories and efforts to dream up and personalise a blank space…must be let go. As my two-year old son is old enough to remember our various homes, I have been met with puzzling questions of “where is mummy-daddy house?” or “is this mummy-daddy house?” or “let’s go home!” even if ‘home’ is just a room for one week. I have held up hopes of stability as well as shed many tears for each of these homes. God knows that my heart aches for a place to sink roots in.

In the face of so much impermanence and instability, it is my faith that holds my fragile emotions together – however imperfectly. I humbly and wistfully recognise that my little family of three walks a shared path with the Holy Family. This is a realisation that struck me after I spent two successive Christmases accompanying a loved one in hospital over a cancer diagnosis – one with my husband and one with my mother. Surely Mary and Joseph must have struggled with the question of “not again, God?” when each time an angel forewarned them to “hasten and pack up, for you must leave this place.” Even if they had great faith, each blow of news and the logistics of being on the move must have been daunting – with a donkey or not.

How do we understand these difficult times? In my experience, I realise my efforts at understanding always fall short. The greater the effort I make, the more my heart and mind are fixated on the framework I have, and my framework is always too human, too limited, and too impatient. I perceive the things that have to be done and the answers I am seeking to be resolved in hours and days… but God is not limited by my perception of time. God’s plan exists in the dimension of eternity.

This is why the words of the prophets are never accepted in the present and can only be understood looking backwards: “He will be called a Nazarene.” This is why Herod and his son would fail to locate the Holy Family. God’s plan would still be carried out because God is above and beyond our human manipulations and frantic calculations.

I am learning to accept my family’s pilgrim state, as well as to embrace this sojourn of often being ‘homeless’ and always seeking a resting place, because I recognise this as an invitation from God to be very, very close to His chosen family – Jesus, Mary, Joseph. The privilege of too much earthly stability and permanence can turn out to be a grave distraction from seeking and desiring Eternal truths. Truths that will save our souls.

In Search for Love and Home

What are we really seeking in our lives? In the face of diagnoses of inexplicable illnesses, our fragile mortality, the sudden loss of a young life, the loss of a home, we realise how helpless and incapable we really are to make anything of true value happen without God’s grace. Evidently, we are human and not God. This is the ultimate truth that will strike at the heart of even the most stubbornly atheistic amidst us. Why does God permit this to happen to those whom He loves? Is this the kind of God whom I should place my hopes and trust in?

Our answers to this question will depend very much of what we understand about love, and ultimately the nature of God. For God is Love in its most perfect sense – more perfect, more profound, and vastly more giving than our minds can conceive. As St Thomas Aquinas said, “To love is to will the good of another.” Just as a parent would discipline a young child for the child’s own good, even if it involves certain pain or deprivation, so it is even more evident that God our loving Heavenly Father would desire the same for each of us in relation to our souls. We have a Father who suffers with us.

We need only look to the suffering person of Christ to understand the extent of God’s sacrificial love for us mankind. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). A God who would give the gift of His own self, to be born as flesh in the infant Jesus, and Himself choose to take on the sins of others and die on the cross for this purpose, in order to bring us into eternal communion with Him in heaven… who could this God be?

In the face of all earthly suffering and our perplexing unanswered questions, let us look to these images: the vagrant and obedient Holy Family, Christ the pilgrim boy and mocked messiah, and Christ the suffering saviour, who, with his wounds, points us to His Father – who is also our most loving Father. How beautiful it is to truly and intimately know this God who suffers alongside me, and who loves me so.

In Him all of our journeys end. With Him lies our final, eternal, most perfect Home.

(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Pray with me please, dear friends, as I journey with the ones I love on the difficult paths of pain and healing. Pray for the grace to see our lives as God sees, for consolation that will be tangible, for hope that will carry us beyond the physical senses. Pray for hope and an increase in faith. As we pray, I believe that many among us who need these words shall also be healed.

Thanksgiving: Let us give thanks and delight in joyful praise for each and every day we are given. To live, to love, to forgive and seek forgiveness, to mend and heal, to laugh and breathe deeply. The best and only life we have is right now. Let us give thanks with a grateful heart.

5 October, Saturday – Be his face and hands!

5 Oct 2019

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Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29

Take courage, my people, constant reminder of Israel. You were sold to the nations, but not for extermination. You provoked God; and so were delivered to your enemies, since you had angered your creator by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.

You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you. You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you, for when she saw the anger fall on you from God, she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion: God has sent me great sorrow. I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal. I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away. Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God. Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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As he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy

Why do bad things happen to good people? And when bad things happen, why doesn’t God save us?

Many years ago, my uncle passed away from cancer. His passing brought a lot of grief to his wife and only daughter. I once wondered why God did not save my uncle from his illness, as he was relatively young then. Taking away his life meant that he would not be able to be present for many more milestones in his daughter’s life. He was a good person, despite not being a Catholic.

Sometimes, it may seem that God brings trouble in our lives, but we should not think that God does so because we are bad. We should remember that these problems may be merely natural and inevitable consequences of our actions and choices that we make in life. That should not define us forever as ‘bad’ in God’s eyes. Instead, we should have faith that God will rescue us from our problems one day, if and only if we have the faith in Him that He will do so. God loves us unconditionally as His children. Even if God does not rescue us, we should still trust Him that He will bring us to a better place and continue to stay close to Him.

When we see or hear news of other people’s suffering, we may be tempted to accuse God of being indifferent to their pain and not saving them. However, we should remember that when God sees His children suffer, He is also in pain. And likewise, we are blessed to have the capacity to feel the pain that God feels for them. Instead of just waiting for God to rescue them, we can unite and be the face of God by helping them out ourselves instead. In this way, we would not only be helping our brothers and sisters, but also, we would bring glory to God. He is therefore saving the suffering people through our hands, time and actions.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us in the difficulties that we are facing in life, whether they be caused by our own actions and choices that we have made. Please also help us to take initiative and respond to the cries and suffering of Your people through our actions and time. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for saving us from the troubles that we have faced in life. We are grateful to You for the grace that You have blessed us with. Thank you for allowing us to be Your face and hands in rescuing our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering today. Amen.

2 March, Saturday – Rosie

2 March 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 17:1-13

The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
  to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days’ determined time,
  he gave them authority over everything on earth.
He clothed them with strength like his own,
  and made them in his own image.
He filled all living things with dread of man,
  making him master over beasts and birds.
He shaped for them a mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
  and gave them a heart to think with.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
  and revealed to them good and evil.
He put his own light in their hearts
  to show them the magnificence of his works.
They will praise his holy name,
  as they tell of his magnificent works.
He set knowledge before them,
  he endowed them with the law of life.
Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
  and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
He said to them, ‘Beware of all wrong-doing’;
  he gave each a commandment concerning his neighbour.
Their ways are always under his eye,
  they cannot be hidden from his sight.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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He gave them so many days’ determined time, he gave them authority over everything on earth.

We had a death in the family just before Christmas. Our niece, Rosie, passed away in her sleep. One day she was a hopeful 26-yr-old planning a new life with her fiancé, the next she had slipped away. It’s been a surreal few months. I have not reconciled myself to the fact that she is gone. It doesn’t seem real. When God decides to take a young person back to Himself, it is as if the natural order of things has been broken. Though my head understands it is His prerogative, that I cannot know the when and why of His ways, my heart is having a hard time with it. And along with denial is a terrible sense of regret – regret over words spoken and unspoken, over intentions good and bad, over things I should have done and things I wished I had not.

One of the inevitabilities of grief is an awareness of time. This isn’t new territory for me, but I had allowed myself to let my guard down. Our time with someone is finite and it can get taken away from us. Quite brutally too. My father passed away 3 years ago after a long battle with cancer. With him, I had a long time to say goodbye, to bank as many beautiful memories as I could. And still, I was careless and our last words were angry ones. After he died, I told myself that I would henceforth be more watchful over my tongue and my thoughts. Yet my last thoughts of Rosie were, if not angry, then certainly frustrated ones. And oh, how deeply I regret that.

The gospel in Mark talks about how only childlike faith will grant us citizenship in the kingdom of God. I know this to be true because it is only with childlike faith and wonder that one is able to rise above the cynicism, scepticism and jadedness of adulthood. I had lost that wonder, not just with Rosie, but with a lot of other people in my life. Just before she died, I was going through what I can only describe as a very angry period. Now she is gone, I wish that I had tempered myself more. I wish that I had prayed more. I wish that I had overlooked more things. But it’s a little late for all that now. Regret doesn’t bring back the dead, it only fills the living with grief and remorse. I am glad that Rosie is back with God. At least she no longer has to deal with the likes of me.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: I pray for the self-awareness to be more restrained in both my thoughts and my words.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the time that I did have with my father and Rosie. I give thanks for all the memories, both the good and the bad.