20 November, Monday – No Need To Be Afraid

20 November 2017

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1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64

There grew a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks. It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us reach an understanding with the pagans surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.’ This proposal proved acceptable, and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the pagan observances. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the pagans have, disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to the heathen rule as willing slaves of impiety.

Then the king issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs. All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the sabbath. The king erected the abomination of desolation above the altar; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets. Any books of the Law that came to light were torn up and burned. Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practising the Law, the king’s decree sentenced him to death.

Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed. It was a dreadful wrath that visited Israel.

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Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.

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“They chose death rather than contamination”

I grew up being afraid.

As a young baby, my grandaunt accepted me into her home and brought me up as her own. She loved me, and I loved her. But children model what they see, and I modelled fear.

My grandaunt was someone who felt afraid all the time. She believed that her life was tough (and it was) and that came across as a fear of her circumstances. Whenever something bad happened, she accepted it, but quietly grumbled. Without realising it, I took this fear into myself, even into my early adulthood. All too often, like my grandaunt, I choose to avoid speaking up, even in circumstances where I felt a wrong had been committed.

One day, I was reflecting on my life and what I could do better when I became aware of the ‘fear’. I soon found myself looking at the mirror; here I was, a grown man, capable of defending myself, and yet afraid. The realisation hit that I was loved and saved by my God, and for that reason, I had nothing to be afraid of. While this is an ongoing process, that was the precise point when most of my fear left me.

In today’s first reading, we are shown how the Israelites are willing to give up their lives in order to stand up for their faith. They refuse, in the face of death, to stop practising the Law and to consume unclean foods. My faith has not been tested to that extent, and yet they have far shown me how I should also stand up for what the Bible and the Catholic Church has taught me.

Standing up for our faith does not apply only to standing up against oppression. Like the blind man in the gospel, we should also not allow how others see us to stop us from continuing to reach out to our God. Despite people telling him to stop, the man continued (and even took it a notch louder!) to reach out to our Lord.

Let us take the Israelites and the blind man as our role models; to learn to stand up for our faith.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to stand up for our faith and to never allow fear to stop us from doing what is right.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for sending us the Bible, the Catholic Church and the community to guide us in our daily lives.

19 November, Sunday – You Entrusted Me

19 November 2017

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Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

A perfect wife – who can find her? She is far beyond the price of pearls.

Her husband’s heart has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit.

Advantage and not hurt she brings him all the days of her life.

She is always busy with wool and with flax, she does her work with eager hands.

She sets her hands to the distaff, her fingers grasp the spindle.

She holds out her hand to the poor, she opens her arms to the needy.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty; the woman who is wise is the one to praise.

Give her a share in what her hands have worked for, and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Although I was baptised only in my late teens, I am well acquainted with the Parable of the Talents, having being educated in Catholic institutions for almost all my life.

For many years, I have equated the ‘talents’ with the gifts of ability that God has given us, and it was only much later that I realised that the ‘talents’ was also a measure of currency. As such, I have always believed that we should make full use of the abilities that God has gifted us; that we should not bury these abilities.

However, reading the same passage also helped me realised something from among the 3 servants, through the words that they use. The first two, as faithful stewards, focused on the master and went about their tasks, working hard to make the best of what is given to them. We can see that in the words that they use, both talking about the talents that “you (the master) entrusted…”. However, when we listen to what the 3rd servant had to say, his focus was on himself, about how he was afraid of what could happen to him because his master was a “hard master”.

Similarly, when we look at the gifts that our God has given us, we should always look at Him and use our abilities to please Him. We should never be motivated by fear, by what would happen to us if we fail to use these abilities.

The parable does not say what would happen if any of the servants had worked hard to invest the talents, but lost part or all of these in the process. What would happen if we failed when we try to use our own talents?

I believe our God is an eternally faithful and just God. I believe He looks into our hearts and understands what drives us; whether it’s self preservation or love. I believe our Master loves us, and regardless of the outcome, would call us “good and faithful servants” if we do everything with love and with our eyes cast on Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to always cast our eyes upon You and to be motivated. Let us never be driven by fear.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for being our ‘faithful Master’. Thank You for trusting us and entrusting the many talents for us to manage.

18 November, Saturday – Expectations of a Christian

Nov 18 – Memorial for the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Basilica of St. Peter is located within the Vatican City. It occupies a unique position as one of the holiest sites and as the greatest of all churches of Christendom. It is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and, according to tradition, was the first Bishop of Antioch and later the first Bishop of Rome, and therefore the first in the line of the papal succession.

Catholic tradition holds that St. Peter’s tomb is below the altar of the basilica, which is why many popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. There has been a church on this site since the fourth century. Construction on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on Apr 18, 1506, and was completed in 1626.

While St. Peter’s is the most famous of Rome’s many churches, it is not the first in rank, an honour held by the Pope’s cathedral church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Contrary to popular misconception, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a basilica.

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside The Walls is one of four churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome. This basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Paul where it was said that after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial over his grave.

In 386 Emperor Theodosius I began the erection of a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept. The work including the mosaics was not completed till the pontificate of Leo I. Under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the basilica was again extensively modified. As it lay outside the Aurelian walls, this basilica was damaged during the Saracen invasions in the ninth century. Consequently, Pope John VIII fortified it, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry forming the town of Joannispolis which existed until 1348 when an earthquake totally destroyed it.

On 15 Jul 1823, the negligence of a workman repairing the roof resulted in a fire which almost totally destroyed the basilica. Alone of all the churches in Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, and the Emperor of Russia sent the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian government, which declared the church a national monument.

The basilica was reopened in 1840 but was reconsecrated only 15 years later at the presence of Pope Pius IX with 50 cardinals. On 31 May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the basilica to come under the control of an archpriest. On the same day, he named Archbishop Andrew Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as its first archpriest.

  • Wikipedia

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Wisdom 18:14-16,19:6-9

When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,
he stood, and filled the universe with death;
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.

For, to keep your children from all harm,
The whole creation, obedient to your commands,
was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.
Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud,
where water had been, dry land was seen to rise,
the Red Sea became an unimpeded way,
the tempestuous flood a green plain;
sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across,
gazing at these amazing miracles.
They were like horses at pasture,
they skipped like lambs,
singing your praises, Lord, their deliverer.

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Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

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But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?

Expectations are created when people make promises and disappointments occur because expectations are not met. Perhaps some of us have experienced deep disappointments in our lives and this could be due to unfulfilled expectations. In the readings of today, Jesus reminds us of the need to remember what our expectations as Christians are so that we can be ready to receive our eternal reward.

We live in a world filled with much sin and discord. The role of the Christian is then to spread God’s love to the people in this world. Perhaps it may not be as easy to do so because of certain limitations on our part but we can certainly in our own little way find a method to reach out to the people around us in the world. This can occur through a kind word which we can say or a small action which we must do so that we can bring the joy of Christ to those around us.

Jesus has a certain expectation of us as Christians and we should be ready to meet it. The actions and words which we must do to achieve this expectation is spelt out clearly in the Gospel – to love God and love our neighbour. Let us now take time to reflect on what we need to do to achieve this outcome.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may carry out what you have called us to do with loving obedience.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have forgiven us.

17 November, Thursday – The Creator

Nov 17 Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Hungary, married woman, religious

Elizabeth (1207-1231) was a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. At the age of 13, she married Prince Louis of Thuringia. She built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood, and tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teachings, not theirs.

Once, when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon Louis death, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine-stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields.

Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 13:1-9

Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is, or, by studying the works, have failed to recognise the Artificer.

Fire however, or wind, or the swift air,
the sphere of the stars, impetuous water, heaven’s lamps, are what they have held to be the gods who govern the world.

If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken things for gods, let them know how much the Lord of these excels them, since the very Author of beauty has created them.
And if they have been impressed by their power and energy, let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them, since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

Small blame, however, attaches to these men,
for perhaps they only go astray in their search for God and their eagerness to find him; living among his works, they strive to comprehend them and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty.
Even so, they are not to be excused:
if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?

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Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:
‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.
‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather’

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Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe

The pieces of expensive artwork which often hang in the museums often depict the talent of the artist who could have conceptualised such an idea. Yet sometimes the people remember the artwork and not the artist. Indeed, the readings of today remind us that it is easy to forget God because we like created things.

The things of the earth remind us of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. This is something we must remember because through creation, God wants us to be drawn closer to him. The problem is that we focus too much on the created object and forget that God exists. This is something which we must never forget. God wants us to worship him and the purpose of our whole being is to love him.

The things of this world is temporary but God is eternal and will love us for who we are. When the time comes for us to account to God for all our actions, let us be ready to face him readily and not be like Lot’s wife. We must keep our eyes on the promise of eternal union with God and not turn back to our former way of life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us always remember the reason for why you created us – which is for us to love and serve you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all parents.

16 November, Thursday – God is in our midst

Nov 16 – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, virgin

Margaret (1045–1093) was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still spent much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her. From then on she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Wisdom 7:22-8:1

Within Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God’s active power,
image of his goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.
She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.

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Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

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For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

The depth of the prayer life within a Christian community can be seen in the way in which they demonstrate their love to one another in word and action. To an outsider, the manner in which each member speaks to another person is an indicator of the spiritual life of each member. In such a way, the kingdom of God can be seen within this community on earth.

Some people perceive the kingdom of God to be a very grand place. I have always thought of it as a place where the members are kind to one another with no malice in their heart. This may seem difficult for some to appreciate but we live in a world where there are many attacks from the evil one. Christian communities which have warmth and love demonstrate to others how heaven is on earth.

The Christian community is a visible representation of the love which God has shown to us. This is a love of sacrifice and care; one in which individuals discover that to love is to give and to give up. This means we need to give to each other continually the charity of love and to give up on things which hinder us from becoming closer to God.

This can only be accomplished through inner reflection and constant prayer with God. We will need to discover what are the issues holding us back from being a loving person and then ask God to give us the strength to face these issues head-on.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, let us discover what it means to love you deeply

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors

15 November, Wednesday – Source of all Power

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, bishop, religious, doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

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Wisdom 6:1-11

Listen, kings, and understand;
rulers of remotest lands, take warning;
hear this, you who have thousands under your rule,
who boast of your hordes of subjects.
For power is a gift to you from the Lord,
sovereignty is from the Most High;
he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions.

If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly
nor observed the law,
nor behaved as God would have you behave,
he will fall on you swiftly and terribly.
Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty;
the lowly will be compassionately pardoned,
the mighty will be mightily punished.
For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage,
he does not stand in awe of greatness,
since he himself has made small and great
and provides for all alike;
but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.

Yes, despots, my words are for you,
that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress;
for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy,
and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them.
Look forward, therefore, to my words;
yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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For power is a gift to you from the Lord

Power and authority seems to be the craving of some people. We see this often in the workplace where everybody strives to receive a promotion to the next rung. Perhaps we accept it for what it is because it is the work place. However, what saddens me is that this pursuit of power also occurs in the parish ministries.

Parish ministries are a means by which God’s love is being shown. Through acts of service, people are able to see God in the actions of others. Yet there are some volunteers who yearn to be in a position of power. Sometimes they themselves are not aware of this failing of theirs. When they are informed of this pursuit of power, they are not willing to accept this shortcoming of theirs. What then, would allow an individual to carry out parish ministry with the right intention?

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of today that it is faith which would allow us to be healed of our own shortcomings. Perhaps it is true that we may not have the strongest faith but the desire to deepen our faith is probably what allows us to keep on going on in our faith journey. This awareness of a lack of faith on our part will ensure we maintain a spirit of humility and always willing to learn from others.

As we continue to use the talents we have, may we deepen our faith through prayer and reflection. We ask God the Holy Spirit to grant us the spirit of discernment to use the power we have to help the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to acknowledge our weakness and to serve you in love and joy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us despite our shortcomings.

14 November, Tuesday – Call of Duty

14 November 2017

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Wisdom 2:23-3:9
God made man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.
But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.

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Luke 17:7-10
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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…we have done no more than our duty.
At events involving my President or members of my senior management, I always make sure that I am around to receive, greet and attend to them until they leave. And while they always tell me it is not necessary to see them off, I feel it is my duty to ensure that they leave an event or official function with a proper sendoff. For me, it is neither a chore nor a way of gaining ‘brownie points’; it is my duty.
Some of my peers have remarked that I am always busy running around and, in some cases, have sympathised with me on the sacrifice of time that I have to make. Sometimes, there is a hint of pity in their tone but I always say that I am just doing my job. And while I have heard of counterparts in other organisations who do not even receive a word of thanks or acknowledgement from their bosses, I am lucky that mine always gives me a ‘Thank you’ or a squeeze on the arm to acknowledge my efforts.
And so, my brothers and sisters, just as we are each called to perform our daily duties, we must also bear in mind our duty to ourselves. Many of us go about our work mechanically, never once asking ourselves if indeed we are happy doing it. Because apart from our remuneration, we also crave a word of thanks or a gesture from our bosses. And when that is lacking, we feel taken for granted, wallowing in self-pity.
Today, Jesus is reminding us that whatever we do, be it at home, in the office or in ministry, we are servants called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. We must approach our work without any sense of entitlement or inflated expectations. For ‘it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world’ (Wis 2:24A) and we should obey the Lord and be attentive to His commands; for He is putting us to the test and our reward will not be of this earth but in His kingdom, where we will ‘shine out’ and ‘live with him in love’.
Brothers and sisters, as the Lord puts us through the furnace here on earth and moulds us daily into His image, let us not seek the glory and recognition of others. Instead, let us be content and to trust in Him so that when the time comes, we will receive the grace and mercy that He has already given us in abundance…and more.  
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Lord God, help us to go through each day answering your call in humble obedience, not craving the praise and recognition of others. 
Thanksgiving: Heavenly father, we give thanks and praise to you for your abundant blessings, graces and mercy.

13 November, Monday – Forgiveness

13 November 2017

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Wisdom 1:1-7

Love virtue, you who are judges on earth,
let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord,
seek him in simplicity of heart;
since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test,
he shows himself to those who do not distrust him.
But selfish intentions divorce from God;
and Omnipotence, put to the test, confounds the foolish.
No, Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul
nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin;
the holy spirit of instruction shuns deceit,
it stands aloof from reckless purposes,
is taken aback when iniquity appears.

Wisdom is a spirit, a friend to man,
though she will not pardon the words of a blasphemer,
since God sees into the innermost parts of him,
truly observes his heart,
and listens to his tongue.
The spirit of the Lord, indeed, fills the whole world,
and that which holds all things together knows every word that is said.

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Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

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And if he wrongs you seven times in one day, and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I’m sorry’, you should forgive him

Forgiveness can take you by surprise – especially if you’re the one who is being forgiven. Some years ago, my partner and I took a hiatus from each other. During this time, I started seeing someone who, on paper, looked like he was the perfect match. Let’s call him K. We were both Malaysians. We had gone to school together. We had both lived abroad extensively. We came from a similar background, with a similar middle class upbringing. K was offered the opportunity to come out to Asia, to take on a role in China, which made him geographically available. It was all too good to be true. My partner and I discussed it and our view was that I should explore it, seeing as K would fulfill what I would never be able to have with him if I stayed – a chance to have children and a shared cultural background. So I wasted the better part of a year, trying to convince myself that this was the right thing because on paper, K and I looked so good together.

I know now that what ‘looks good on paper’ doesn’t necessarily translate to real life. K as it turned out, was someone who believed in being economical with the truth. In addition, he had a fairly casual understanding of the concept of fidelity. We did not last, unsurprisingly. The last I heard of K, he was living the ‘young, upwardly mobile, single man’s dream’ – except that K is now, no longer a single man and is technically married to the Chinese woman he cheated on me with. Nowhere ‘on paper’ did it ever say that K was the cheat that he turned out to be. My partner took me back after I ended things with K. There were few questions asked. When I finally did broach the subject, he simply said, “I could never have given you that, but you needed to see if it was right for you. It was not. Now we move on”.

Forgiveness can take you by surprise, especially if the transgression is something that you would yourself, struggle to forgive. I will never fully comprehend how much I hurt my partner as he’s a man of few words. I am deeply appreciative of the love and generosity he has for me, and am humbled because I’m not sure if I would have done the same in his place. Despite my flaws and all the mistakes I’ve made, God still blessed me with him. I sometimes think he came into my life to remind me daily to be a better person, to try to be the ‘good woman’ to his ‘good man’.

No one understands forgiveness like the repentant sinner. God sends us husbands and wives, as tangible evidence of the Redeemer’s tremendous love and sacrifice for us, while we were sinners. When we look into the eyes of our beloved, the tenderness we see is His reflection gazing back, affirming to us that we are loved despite ourselves. I give thanks daily for the wonderful man that God has blessed me with, someone to remind me that while I was a sinner, He blessed me with His forgiveness, His love and His understanding. It is not lost on me, how lucky and undeserving I am.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all couples going through relationship strife. Whatever the quarrel, may they find the forgiveness within themselves to say ‘I love you, it’s ok, let’s move on’.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for my partner who opened my eyes to the power of forgiveness. I give thanks that God has blessed me with someone to remind me daily to be a better person.

12 November, Sunday – How Committed Are We?

12 November 2017

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Wisdom 6:12-16

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall

I remember one of the priests in my parish describing a little anecdote about social responsibility. He would always pick up the rubbish he sees on the church grounds, but would always find himself being stopped by parishioners when he is in the midst of doing so. The concerned parishioners would tell him that he does not need to dirty his hands as the cleaner would pick up the trash. Their remarks did not make much sense to the priest.

In the gospel reading, the ten bridesmaids had all committed themselves to the wedding, and part of that commitment involves ensuring that they had sufficient oil in their lamps to last the night. The five foolish bridesmaids did nothing to honour that commitment, and even hoped to cut corners by getting the oil from the five wise ones. At the end, they found themselves completely shut out from the wedding, left out in the dark.

All our life, we have to deal with commitments. A lot of times we find ourselves making them, and sometimes, we break them. As illustrated by the gospel, making a commitment is not passive lip service – it requires continued, sustained action to keep fulfilling that promise. It means making that extra effort, going that additional mile, and occasionally getting our hands dirty (with reference to the litter example in my first paragraph).

We can identify the many roles that we play in our lives – a son or daughter, a parent, a friend, a neighbor. Ultimately, we are living out our commitment as Christians, followers of Christ. So we have to keep active in the faith, for “She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her and graciously shows herself to them as they go, in every thought of theirs coming to meet them” (Wisdom 6:16).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to meet Christ everyday in our words, thoughts and actions.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who have shown their commitment to us in our lives.

11 November, Saturday – Heart Matters

Nov 11 – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, bishop

Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains – but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).

In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing asthe old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.

When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.

He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once, when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel woke the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.

Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the Basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562 when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty; alcoholism; hotel-keepers; quartermasters; soldiers, among others.

Prayer to Continue to Fight for God

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop

  • Patron Saint Index

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Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked death to save my life: I am not the only one to owe them a debt of gratitude, all the churches among the pagans do as well. My greetings also to the church that meets at their house.

Greetings to my friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia’s gifts to Christ; greetings to Mary who worked so hard for you; to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me; to Ampliatus, my friend in the Lord; to Urban, my fellow worker in Christ; to my friend Stachys; Greet each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

I, Tertius, who wrote out this letter, greet you in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who is entertaining me and from the whole church that meets in his house. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends his greetings; so does our brother Quartus.

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

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“You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Recently, we had fellowship tea after a community meeting. Each of us contributed an item of food to share with the group. One of our ministry members brought 3 curry puffs (of which he downed one) to share amongst some 20 of us. We all joked that that’s how rich people get richer. I could not help but be a little disgusted with him. He has got to be one of the more well of people in the group and yet he was less than generous.

A year ago, I was the co-chairperson of our parish’s fund raising committee, raising money needed for the renovation of our new church annex building. I was very nervous and unsure if we could raise the amount needed because of donor fatigue – there were many other churches also raising money, and we were tapping on the same Catholics to contribute. However, I was humbled by the generosity of our parishioners and friends of the parish. They contributed so generously that we met our target amount and more. Yes, we have some well-to-do donors who were very generous. But what touched me most were the contributions from the everyday, working class parishoners who pitched in so wholeheartedly. Many donated anonymously, and they contributed generously according to their means.

I am reminded of the story of the widow’s mite – the humble gift of a poor widow. Jesus said she had contributed more than anyone else that day. But how could it be when the rich people had contributed large sums? The difference is one of proportion. The rich were giving large sums, but they still retained their fortunes; the widow put in everything, all she had to live on. Hers was a true sacrifice; the rich had not begun to give to the level of her sacrifice.

Why do I share these 3 stories? The theme of good stewardship continues from my sharing of yesterday’s readings. Whatever we possess today, belongs to God – our wealth, our health, our jobs, our homes… everything. We are called to be generous in the way we use these gifts. It’s not about how much we give to others but it’s the intent and what’s in our hearts that matter to God. Are we fair and just as employers in how we remunerate our staff? Are we giving monies to the school fund so that we can ‘buy’ a place in that school for our kids? Why do we choose certain charities to contribute to? Because it is a good cause or for the tax incentives? Are we only good and kind to people because we genuinely love them or is it because they are ‘important’ and of use to us? When we see a brother or sister struggling, do we render our help?

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners and we certainly fall short of His glory. But as we mature in our faith and grow closer to Him, God shows us our sins and ugliness and purifies our heart. Will we shut our eyes to what He is showing us, or allow Him to work in our lives? Our God is an omniscient God. He knows and sees everything. There is nowhere we can hide. I am not perfect and, in many areas, I know I fail miserably. But today I choose God. He leads and guides me. It’s not always where I want to go, but He knows best.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, you know and see everything, past and future. You see the condition of our hearts. Though we hide behind masks of love and charity, you see the ugliness and the selfishness. Help us to be more giving and loving. Teach us to be faithful and honest in the small things today. Prepare us for the true riches of heaven.

Thanksgiving: For everything that we have today, we thank you. Thank you for giving us a discerning heart, to know what’s right and what’s wrong. And with this knowledge, may we always do what’s right, just and life giving.