Tag Archives: Faith in God

7 March, Saturday – Perfect Timing and Faith

7 March

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Deuteronomy 26:16-19

Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

‘You have today made this declaration about the Lord: that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you: that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he promised.’

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

As I reflected on this account of the saints today, I was reminded of the toils the persecuted church had to endure. Today we are faced with a new form of persecution — indifference. Having a Christian badge has its own share of expectations from the public who claim to be guided by their conscience. This can be interpreted in many variants which confuses rather than directs

I recall a dialogue with a staunch Atheist professor some years ago. He saw I was passionate about my faith in God and asked one day after class if my God — being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent — could create something so heavy he could not lift. I was perplexed and posed the question to some religious and friends. They helped me realise it was a rhetorical question which should not warrant any of my time entertaining in the first place. Jesus advocates in the Gospels moral righteousness higher than the old covenant, and just as Israel was to imitate God in being holy, so we are called to imitate God’s perfect compassion (Lk 6:36).

I had a close relative who attended daily Mass, taught in a catholic school and volunteered with the Cadet Corp during World War II. He stood up against the Japanese invaders as long as they could but obeyed orders to surrender when his commanders told him so. He witnessed many atrocities and saw many of his fellow soldiers die from abuse and torture, especially when they were sent to build the bridge over River Kwai. He contracted malaria but miraculously recovered and stayed on as a medic in the field hospital. His strong faith in God’s providence helped him to survive the war. He was eventually honored by the Queen, which proved the passage in today’s first reading; “you shall be a consecrated people set high above all nations.” Now I just focus on sharing real life accounts of faith to encourage and help those who doubt.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Christian Eber )

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that through the intercession of Sts Perpetua and Felicity, we may be faithful witnesses to Your word, trusting that our love for others will overcome any hatred or scepticism and bring healing to all we come into contact with.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the martyrs and their faithful examples. Keep us ever closer to You that we may grow in humility, sincerity and courage to keep on sharing Your love.

6 March, Friday – True Repentance – Tears

6 March

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Ezekiel 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord:
‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?
‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live.”

During my National Service, a fellow recruit overslept one morning, missing our camp exercise. For his offence, the commanding officer punished the entire platoon, making us stay back over the weekend for guard duty. This upset us and grew with deep resentment for him making his life a living hell that weekend. Later, we realised it wasn’t his fault for oversleeping as he had difficulty getting to bed due to the increase in stress from his family’s financial turmoil.

The lack of understanding was the root cause and it helped us learn the invaluable lesson about being united and the importance of covering each other’s back. We accepted our punishment and watched out for each other during the remainder of the in-camp training. We passed out as ‘brothers’ and, from our first reading, I am reminded that being in God’s army means helping others who struggle in the journey of life; and that I will also be judged for refusing to assist the needy in my path.

The gospel readings helped me address the bad paymasters in my previous job. I learnt to go an extra mile to identify their needs first and this was more beneficial as I pleaded for each outstanding payment even with tears. Due to good communications, we were able to reach an amicable settlement after the negations, and this helped us move forward with the work without bitterness towards each other and prevented costly lawsuits. I am now mindful about the unskilled use of the tongue which can fracture communities and I repent for all the times I have called anyone an ‘empty head’ or ‘numbskull’ for the frightful reality of damnation awaits me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Christian Eber )

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I seek to be a peacemaker and lead others to do likewise, may we pray for clarity and be quick to forgive, to grow in repentance.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the hope that we have in Christ’s forgiveness and His Divine Mercy and righteousness.   

28 February, Friday – Outward sign of an inward shift

28 February

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Isaiah 58:1-9

Thus says the Lord:

Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob.

They seek me day after day,
they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
and not ignore the law of its God.

They ask me for laws that are just,
they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
why do penance if you never notice?’

Look, you do business on your fast-days,
you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
and strike the poor man with your fist.

Fasting like yours today
will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
a truly penitential day for men?

Hanging your head like a reed,
lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
 – it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,

to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

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Matthew 9:14-15

John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’

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“The sort of fast that pleases me.”

Growing up as a little girl, I recall there was a constant drive to seek affirmation from my parents, especially my mother. As I reflect deeper, even up to the point when I became a mother myself, I still yearn for her approval. Of course, as an earthly mother, she is not without her struggles and issues, so this imperfect measuring up to her caused me much turmoil and pain, which manifested in the need to appear good, proper, and competent to other authorities in my life as well. It took me much soul searching during CER and after, to finally be at peace with who I am, and to realize truly who it is I ought to please.

Galatians 1:10 gave me wisdom and set me on the right path “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” With this realization came peace and ease, no longer do I need to put up appearances, constantly shifting and adjusting myself to please others; the course became clearer. The only question I need to ask myself from now on is, “What will please my Lord?”

As we perform penance during this season of Lent, what is our purpose? Fasting needs to lead to repentance and a true conversion of the spirit, for without which, it is just vain and hypocritical. We all need to pray earnestly for God’s assistance in examining ourselves; in purifying our intentions and motivations. Ultimately, whatever we choose to do as a sacrifice, is with the aim of having a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.

As in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us not to fast as the Pharisees do, without clear intention and purpose, just for the sake of following the laws. Purpose driven actions are imperative, and as Christians, our purpose must be Christ-centered and focussed on our Heavenly Father.

Conversely, be mindful of falling into the trap of thinking we can do without any outward signs. In our egocentricity, convincing ourselves that we do not need any acts of penance and charity, because we are saved and have attained conversion. Pride stands in our way, for if we truly love God and are sorry for our transgressions, then this conversion of the spirit will manifest into works of charity and sacrifice.

For me, a simple way of looking at it is ‘Outward Sign of An Inward Shift’. Conversion of heart, mind and spirit translates into outward signs of right actions and deeds.

In this season of Lent, let us walk closer to God with Jesus by our side, with purification of our heart every step of the way, so that we shall be light of world and salt of the earth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to purify our hearts, to examine our intentions and motivations, for we love you and want to draw closer to you during this season of Lent. We yearn for a deepening of our faith and to come face to face with our Father. In you we draw strength and power. Help us O, Lord.

Thanksgiving: Our Father, we are so grateful for your faithfulness and love. For never abandoning us despite our iniquities, we thank you Father. 

17 November, Sunday – On Dogs

17 November

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Malachi 3:19-20

The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

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2 Thessalonians 3:7-12

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone’s table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you. This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you: do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.

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Luke 21:5-19

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

‘But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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“All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down”

I started fostering a couple of dogs in the last 2 months. One of them is a retired service dog, an 8-yr old Golden Retriever with melancholic eyes. His handler passed away last Christmas. People say dogs get over things quickly. I find that to be untrue – the golden is still grieving, as far as I can tell. The other is a 12-yr old Cocker Spaniel, who, despite her small stature, has figured out the secret to aging with joy and grace. She has more spunk than I do on a good day. Running after the both of them, and my own hyperactive Labradoodle has taken up the lion’s share of my time.

When I first agreed to this, I probably didn’t think it through. I figured I was doing someone a favour, that I would have more help and that things would work themselves out. I assumed (wrongly!) that they would be like my own Labradoodle – biddable, responsive and open to bribes. I’ve since learned that dogs, like people, have their own personalities and, like people, will do as they please. What applies to one breed does not work for another. I’ve also discovered things about myself in the process. I am a stickler for the invisible, unspoken math behind the perceived rights and wrongs done to me. I went into this thinking I was doing someone a favour, but when that favour became burdensome (as any form of caregiving often does), I found myself doing intricate mental calculations around what I was being owed, who owed me and how I was going to be justified. I can tell you now that as clever as they are, dogs can’t do math. And obsessing over this kind of sorry mental arithmetic anyway, is a misery-inducing exercise. Yes, the reading from Thessalonians assures us that “those who are unwilling to work, neither should that one eat”. But seriously, who is going to enforce this in a time frame that is satisfactory to me?

On good days, when the dogs are being cooperative, I’ve found myself wondering at the road that has led me here and how much my heart has expanded. I didn’t even like dogs 6 years ago. I was terrified of them. I thought they smelled. How’d I end up with three? On bad days, when they’ve trashed the lawn, messed up the house and trekked mud onto the upholstery, I’ve found myself asking God what the bigger picture is. What’s the point to all this? And every now and again, if I am not so preoccupied with feeling sorry for myself, God’s quiet voice reminds me that “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down”. Nothing lasts forever – one day this will pass, and what will I feel then? Emptiness? Sorrow? Will I miss their capacity for joy and their unconditional devotion? Might it not be a better idea to embrace it all now, to drink my fill of their spontaneity, their joy and their ability to find happiness in chaos? Dogs and God have one thing in common – they only do Love. It is people that do math.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: I pray for the patience, love and fortitude to be a good steward to the dogs that have been placed in my care. May God and the good St Francis help me to be a good caregiver to them.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the angels that God sends to help me climb out of my sorry pit of despair. I give thanks for His faithfulness, even when I am being faithless, self-pitying and weak.

13 February, Wednesday – Am I a Pharisee?

13 February 2019

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Genesis 2:4-9,15-17

At the time when the Lord God made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, nor was there any man to till the soil. However, a flood was rising from the earth and watering all the surface of the soil. The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Then the Lord God gave the man this admonition, ‘You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden. Nevertheless of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die.’

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Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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It is from within, from the human heart……and they defile a person.

Recently, there was some media attention on a HIV data leak in Singapore. The accused is a foreigner who came to Singapore to start a new life with his partner. Only that this person is HIV positive and therefore presents several issues – one of which was being unable to obtain an employment pass. So, through a series of lies and deception, the love story progressed and turned horribly wrong.

As the story unravelled, there are people who could be affected by this data leak – it is traumatic for them. Coming out and letting loved ones know of their condition is hard enough – let alone having this information available for public consumption. They are worried and afraid of what people will think if they knew their conditions. Would they be ostracized? Would they lose their love ones, dignity and their livelihood?

We fear people with HIV because we equate this to AIDS. The fact is that the majority of people living with HIV will never develop AIDS, with treatment. We are educated that people contract HIV through sexual behaviour and needle or syringe use. Only certain bodily fluids — blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk — from a person who has HIV, can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream for transmission to occur.

Today’s HIV person is like a modern-day leper. It’s what was from the ‘outside’ that made him ‘tainted’.

In Jesus’ time, people were so scrupulous about rituals and foods being unclean. Today’s gospel tells us that what renders us impure is not what enters us from outside but what’s in the heart.  What matters is the state of our hearts. He warns us not to be so legalistic like the Pharisees – performing acts just to keep up appearances, so that people will see us as holy and righteous because we go by the book. But what really counts is the inner motivation, not the act in itself.

Where in my life have I been a Pharisee? Have I served in my ministry with the purest of intentions? Have I served with a heart of love and compassion but felt irritated and impatient with a fellow ministry member? Have I let these external irritations fester in my heart?

How has someone who has been so ‘holy’ and ‘prayerful’ turn around and cheat and betray someone else?

How can an act of love become selfish and self-serving?

In the story that I began my reflection with today, it may not be the disease that will cause the man’s fatality, but the lies and deceit that will cripple his heart, and cause him to lose what’s precious to him.

Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for the healing of this gentleman and his partner – in body, mind and spirit. And pray that whatever we do and say – may it come from a place of love, forgiveness, and compassion.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, may we not be defiled, separated from God, by the sins of the heart, evil intentions and sinful actions. Lord, by your grace protect our hearts and help us to be loving and compassionate.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, that your grace transforms us from within. Thank you Father for forming us in your image and likeness. May we be worthy of you.

11 February, Monday – Do you want to be healed?

11 Feb –Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick

Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.

It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.

On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fradulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.

Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 1:1-19

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

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Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

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All who touched it were healed

Dementia and depression among elderly folks are real and on the rise; these are common conditions in older people, and they frequently occur together. In Singapore and our aging population, the numbers are alarming:

  • The Department of Statistics estimates that 83,000 elderly persons will be living alone by 2030, compared with the 47,000 seniors aged 65 and above in 2016.
  • 1 in 5 elder people shows signs of depression
  • 129 elderly committed suicide in 2017 — a record high since 1991

My parents passed on several years ago and I am thankful that my brother and I did not have to deal with elderly parents with dementia and depression (though we had other challenges). However, the God of surprises led me to come face to face with this recently.

I have an elderly couple as neighbours – probably in their late 70s and mid-80s. The husband passed away in November last year, leaving his wife. She now lives alone, apart from her remaining child. This lady, as I am beginning to discover, suffers from depression and early on-set dementia. I have always felt that her family was being uncaring and irresponsible for leaving her alone, especially in grief and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. However, I am sure that there are reasons for her condition and why her family is behaving this way. Everyone has a story.

Our interactions have been generally neighbourly in nature – we look out for her in case anything happens at home, we share our food with her just so she has meals. Oh, she can well afford things, it’s just her medical and emotional condition prevent her from looking after herself.

Recently, these interactions have become a call for help and a way of seeking attention. One day, she called me, announcing she was going to commit suicide. Having no knowledge of how to deal with such matters, we attended to her by inviting her over as a means of distraction and hopefully, some form of comfort. Long story short, that episode was one of her ways of seeking attention – attention she was not getting from her family and loved ones. However, these have turned a bit uncomfortable for me. One day, she called me 7 times and even stalked me at home. She became passive-aggressive and accused my poor helper of something which was completely misconstrued by this lady. The next day, she apologized. But I knew it was time for me to take steps to draw healthy boundaries. We are now limiting our interactions with her and not taking the daily calls.

However, I struggle. How do I balance what is loving and charitable, while protecting my own sanity? Demented people make up stories in their heads and are often paranoid. What happens if one day she makes up a story that we poisoned her meals? How did an act of charity turn so wrong? Can a person so desperately in need of help, help herself?

This brings to mind the story of the healing at the pool; the man who lay helplessly by the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:1-14). “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” Of course we all want to be healed of our sickness, but really don’t know how; or are too afraid to let go. We hold on to our emotional wounds, our scars, our grudges, bitterness, unforgiveness, hurts, anger; we use these to build an emotional wall to prevent additional forms of pain and suffering from penetrating. It becomes like a security blanket, a badge of honour. We stalk about getting rid of that blanket, how it’s awful, and stinks, and we’re so desperate to be free of it. But when anyone tries to tug it away, we hold on tight.

Do you want to be healed?

We need to participate in our healing. Healing can be even more painful than the original wound. Broken bones have to be set. And that setting can first mean re-breaking.

We pray and ask God to heal us, to strengthen us, to remove this issue in our life, to free us of our infirmities. But are we truly willing to be healed? Are we ready to let go of the security blanket and give Jesus access to those scabbed, wounded places? If so, it means we have to get up and walk. It means using sedentary muscles not used to exercise. It means allowing blood to flow into places long paralyzed. It could hurt. And it would probably hurt a lot — at first.

But it’s the difference between living your life pool-side, and swimming freely in the abundant life God has for you as His child.

Do we have faith enough to believe that Jesus can heal us? Today, I pray that my neighbour and her family be healed physically, emotionally and mentally, that broken relationships be healed.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, we lift up all those who are suffering – mentally, emotionally and physically. That they will be willing to let go of the walls of suffering built over the years and let you come into their pain and heal them.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for recognizing our desires to be healed. Thank you for healing our bodies, and awakening our hearts. Thank you for giving us back a sense of purpose, freeing us from the bonds of self-pity, pride, fear, discouragement, hopelessness and resignation.

28 January, Monday – The War Within

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

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Hebrews 9:15,24-28

Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand”

Following on from the theme of new year and new beginnings, we know that a new year brings new resolutions, usually for the improvement of ourselves and our lives. And it comes to no surprise that before the year is up, most of these resolutions have fizzled out faster than a fuse in rainfall. Why is that?

I believe that the clue lies, to some extent, in today’s reading. We are all creatures of habit, both good and bad. Bad habits are the most obvious ones that we want to break or change come the new year. But bad habits are also the hardest ones to break. According to studies, it takes approximately 66 days to turn a habit into automated practice, i.e. if we want to get fit by say, exercise, it would take us 66 days of constantly integrating exercise into our daily routine before our brains accept it as part of our habitual practice. What does this mean? It means that all those early mornings where we fight our alarm clocks and inner longings to snuggle back under the covers, it becomes easier if we keep at it persistently and consistently. After a while, it becomes second nature for us to jump out of bed and into our exercise gear.

But even that might sound like a long time. It takes a lot of discipline and mental strength. It is so very easy to cave in and slip back into the old (and probably bad) routine that we are familiar with; but, guess what, familiarity breeds contempt. In a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, we go back to the old habit, feel bad about ourselves, then feed that sorry self of ours, and feel worse than we did before! We tell ourselves, “Nah, no point doing it”, or “I tried! But it didn’t work”, or “all those diets/books are a whole lot of quack!” We believe what others say about us, that we were crazy to begin with, that we would never stick to it, or that we are destined to remain in a certain way because we are lazy, our genes say so, or because “that’s just life”. The tragedy then is that we will never become the person that God has made us out to be, never live nor reach that potential that He has blessed us with.

God gives each of us a gift, and He gives us life. It is up to us to use that gift in this duration of our life to the best of our ability – that is our responsibility. So how is all this connected to today’s reading? We are divided within ourselves whenever we want to make a change. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Change is never easy, but it gets wonderful at the end. The Devil will never want us to change for the better, it wants to thwart our dreams and efforts. But God always wants us to progress, to be happy, to live a happy and fulfilled life. God wants what is good for us. And so our respective selves are at war with each other, internally. We are torn between doing what is right for us, and easing back into the ‘comfort’ of our lives, no matter how rotten that may be. I guess that explains why some people never leave jobs that they hate, or stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or remain in a social media frenzy. The addiction to what we know as safe is too great to venture out into the unknown, the difficult. All our lives, we have been telling ourselves certain things, that after a while, that self-talk translates into beliefs, regardless how bad they are for us. But my friend, there really IS a better life and career out there, there really is someone out there who will love and respect you for who you are, there are real friendships out there to be made, real experiences to be truly lived, and not via Instagram or the number of ‘likes’ our posts generate. Let the willing spirit guide us there, and our belief that God truly made us special for a reason, and gave us a life to be lived fully, not just to exist. If we are at war within ourselves, we cannot win, we cannot stand, and we most definitely cannot live.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in my quest to be a better person, to live a better life, I know that I will be faced with my greatest challenge — myself. Help me to quieten that part of me, and help me to listen instead to the love, the guidance, and the wisdom that You have set forth for me.

Thanksgiving: I give you thanks Lord, for the gift of life, a life to be truly lived. I pray that with Your help, I can truly live a fulfilled life, one filled with love and service to others.

21 January, Monday – A Changed Attitude

21 January 2019

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Hebrews 5:1-10

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him: You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever. During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation and was acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek.

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Mark 2:18-22

One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting. But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast.

No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’

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New wine, fresh skins.

Purchasing a new computer often brings with it changes which are difficult for us to accept. The physical hardware has changed in terms of appearance and size but the software within the computer has also changed. Some of the software is pre-loaded and it is often the latest edition. This causes much grief to a user who is familiar with the shortcuts associated with the old software.

I believe the same can be said of our faith. There are times when we realise that our beliefs is incompatible with Faith of God. This often results in a disagreement which is resolved by an individual adopting a ‘buffet’ approach where we choose to believe whatever suits us and ignores the rest. Perhaps it is time for us to re-examine what these incompatible beliefs are and how they are preventing us from becoming closer to God.

This type of reflection will often bring forth a spring of emotions which we may have spent time repressing and hence we should continue to pray in our lives and ask God to touch us in these areas and let his love heal us in these areas.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer Dear God, we pray for courage to accept our weaknesses.

ThanksgivingWe give thanks for the forgiveness you have shown us.