19 July, Friday – Master of the Sabbath

19 July 2019

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

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

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

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

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Matthew 12:1-8

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

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

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

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

18 July, Thursday – Burden – Heavy or Light

18 July 2019

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Exodus 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of God coming from the middle of the bush, said to him, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”

This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.

‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and he has said to me: I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you. And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.” They will listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us. Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.” For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go.

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Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Today’s Gospel reading contains probably one of the most well-known verses amongst Christians. I confess I have heard it many times before and yet have not really pondered over its meaning. Often, I take things at face value, be it Bible verses, people or situations. With this superficial understanding, it is a wonder that I have not made more blunders than I already have.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

When I first read the passage, I naturally interpreted that if I were to follow Jesus, then it will be smooth sailing from then on. He would remove all obstacles from my path, and everything will be easy-peasy. This, I admit, is very naïve, very shallow and very misguided.

Upon learning more about Jesus, His teachings and the Catholic faith, I began to truly understand what the passage means. I still don’t get it perfectly, but I do have a better understanding than before.

It is true that Jesus offers rest for weary souls who are heavily burdened in whichever way — whether we are burdened by the daily amount of work, worries and troubles, we are able to find rest within our Lord. While He offered us rest for our wearied souls, He did not offer to take away our burdens. Instead, He tells us to shed our burden but take upon our shoulders His ‘yoke’. You may ask, why would we want to take on His burden since He is God and His burden would crush us? This is the mystery and wonderment of our Lord. If we all but follow Him and take up His burden, not only is His burden light compared to ours, but we will find rest and peace. For the Lord isn’t leaving His burden upon our shoulders without equipping us. He is doing the heavy lifting and walking beside us every step of the way. His burden is light to us because He is carrying us, supporting us throughout our hardships, our sorrows and our confusions. If we trust in Him, we will find rest and peace for not only our minds, but our souls and our hearts.

Not long ago, there was an occasion where I felt heavily burdened, confused and could not figure out what to do next. Emotionally drained and spiritually tired, I turned to the Lord in desperation and prayed.  I left all my issues at His feet and trusted that He, who is able to achieve the impossible, will be able to guide me through the muddle of confusion. The Lord did not disappoint. Soon after, He granted me the grace and peace to move beyond the obstacle. He did what I could not have done on my own. All I had to do was to believe and trust in Him to obtain the rest for my heart, mind and soul. He gave me a peace that I could not find anywhere else. That is the power of our Lord. If we trust in Him, no matter how insurmountable our burden seems; to Him, it is only a small bump in the road that can easily be overcome. Jesus, I trust in you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the courage and faith to let go of our worldly burdens and take Your yoke upon us. Grant us the rest and peace that this world cannot provide. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy and for never abandoning us, always ready to pick up the pieces and help us to journey on.

17 July, Wednesday –

17 July 2019

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Exodus 3:1-6,9-12

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’

Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’
Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you… After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

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(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:

Thanksgiving:

16 July, Tuesday – Every Turning Point Happens ‘Now’

16 July 2019

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Exodus 2:1-15

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

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Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

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Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains 

Saying “Sorry” is not an easy thing to do. Saying “Sorry” and meaning it from a deeply contrite heart is an even tougher task. I am someone who needs a ‘cooling off period’ before I can apologise and mean it. I know it sounds strange to admit this, but I’d like to think that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

We apologise for various reasons. Sometimes the word “I’m sorry” rolls off our tongues because we are trying hard to diffuse tense situations. Or sometimes it is merely an approximation for “I am afraid so”, or to express embarrassment, or regret for causing others an inconvenience. Obviously, I am not referring to those situations. Even so, some may already have trouble with that.

I am talking about the gut-wrenching, jaw-gritting, eye-rolling, sideways-glancing kind of apologies. Yep. Those sickening moments where ego is like parasitic worm winding its way in the tummy and Contrition and Justification are like the warring states of your heart and mind.

Jesus warns us of this in the Gospel passage today. He is chastising the towns of Chorazin. Bethsaida, and Capernaum for their stubborn unrepentance. In his wrath, he warns them that even those states that appear most evil (Tyre and Sidon) would sooner repent and be spared on Judgement Day than them! Interestingly, the First Reading today of Exodus relates the story of Moses’ birth and adoption into his Egyptian family. It draws the brief arc of Moses’ life until the point of his grievous sin of killing another Egyptian and burying the dead fella’ in the sand. Yes, Moses’ one of God’s chosen prophets was a murderer. But the reading stops us short with Moses deciding to flee and go into hiding after fearing his crime had been known. We know that Moses repented in the end.

But Moses himself did not know that he would eventually repent and believe in God’s redemption enough to turn around and serve Him.

The truth is, all of us are often at this turning point that Moses was in. This ‘inflexion point’ of our choice to turn away from sin and turn towards our Saviour. This is the purpose of the free will we are given. We are given the space to choose – and choose, we must. God does not accept fence-sitters into His kingdom.

In the daily tussle between Contrition and Justification for the sins and wrongs we have chosen to do in our lives, we need to be aware that in order to turn towards God, we need to turn away from sin and temptation. It can be something so simple (yet gut-twisting) as choosing to turn away from reacting with anger by spouting vicious words at the person triggering us.

Let us seek God in every moment, while we are still poor in spirit and struggling with our imperfections, so that we may draw on His strength to restore our weary and sinful hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray for the grace and resolve to turn away from my human ego in order that I can turn towards your redeeming love and to seek reconciliation.

Thanksgiving: We appreciate all the people who have taught us to withhold from sinning by their humility in conflict.

15 July, Monday – Divisions in the Family

15 July – Memorial for St. Bonaventure, bishop, religious, doctor

St. Bonavenure (1221-1274) entered the Franciscan Order when he was 22. At the age of 35, he was chosen General of his Order and restored a perfect calm where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order and composed The Life of St. Francis. He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=169

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Exodus 1:8-14,22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’

Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.
Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

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Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.

Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

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Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword 

This is a hard verse to read if we do not understand the context in which Christ spoke this to his disciples. I believe that many of us may have the experience of divisions happening within the family. The nature of human relationships is already fraught with differences and mundane annoyances, so why would Jesus mention the obvious that He has “come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…”? Isn’t Jesus’ other name the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6 and John 14:27)? If so, how could he advocate violence and discord?

Firstly, the mention of ‘a sword’ refers to a spiritual sword, in the spiritual sense. Jesus is aware of the resistance and conflict that will come up against those who choose to follow him. He is speaking to his disciples who have already left home, family, and town, to take this winding journey with him across the plains and deserts to preach the Gospel and ministers to all who came to listen to him. By now, they would not only have experienced rejection from new communities, but they would have already been judged by their families for their insanity or disloyalty to their tribes. In this address, Jesus is acknowledging their sacrifice and also reminding them of the cross they would have to constantly pick up.

As I reflect on the misunderstandings I have encountered within my family and friendships of how and why I have chosen to follow God, to be a Christian, I feel that these words of Christ are balm to my soul. I do not see him advocating violence with a physical sword, but I see that He is affirming what I have already known – that the peace He brings to me, is a peace between myself and God. And that choosing Him would entail henceforth a division between the lens I view the world, and the way my ‘tribe’ views it. I have chosen this path to follow Him. And I can only choose for myself – this is absolutely clear.

For those who reject God, and the only way of salvation through Jesus (John 14:6), they will find themselves perpetually at war with God. Jesus acknowledges the earthly implications of such a divergence in spiritual ‘routes’ that we take from our families and loved ones. As the first reading of Exodus relates to us the persecutions the Israelites faced from the Jews, in our time today we may see arguments, aggravations, or abuse and torture, from people who reject all those who choose to follow Christ. It may even devolve to making life very hard for believers to practise their faith, to pray, to worship, etc. I have heard stories of children and typically wives, who face the wrath of their fathers or husbands if they want to attend church services or be baptised. Some even do so in secret to avoid ‘getting in trouble’ – “A  man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

However, those who come to Him in repentance will find themselves at peace with God. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are restored to a relationship of peace with God (Romans 5:1).

Some may reject Christ because they do not yet understand. Ignorance may be their temporary reason. However, we know that some ultimately choose blindness over enlightenment, stubbornness over obedience. These are the ones we, as Christians, ought to pray doubly hard for.

We do not know the hour or the day when they may meet their Maker. Neither do we know the hour or the day when they would believe. I have seen miracles happen in the lives and families of friends, and from anecdotal accounts – I pray the same for the ones in my family who are still wrestling immensely hard with letting God into their lives.

Whom among your family are you called to pray for today?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Jesus our Lord and Saviour, I pray for my earthly family who do not yet know you and the promise of Eternal life and love and restoration and peace that you offer. I seek the mercy from your Sacred Heart to touch them and move them to open their hearts a crack so that your Holy Spirit may enter.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for all the promising and uplifting conversion stories I hear. They shine a light unto my path when I am tempted to lose patience and fervour in your promises.

14 July, Sunday – A Good Deed

14 July 2019

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Deuteronomy 30:10-14

Moses said to the people: ‘Obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping those commandments and laws of his that are written in the Book of this Law, and you shall return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.

‘For this Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven, so that you need to wonder, “Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it down to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to wonder, “Who will cross the seas for us and bring it back to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.’

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Colossians 1:15-20

Christ Jesus is the image of the unseen God
and the first-born of all creation,
for in him were created
all things in heaven and on earth:
everything visible and everything invisible,
Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers –
all things were created through him and for him.
Before anything was created, he existed,
and he holds all things in unity.
Now the Church is his body,
he is its head.
As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead,
so that he should be first in every way;
because God wanted all perfection
to be found in him
and all things to be reconciled through him and for him,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.

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Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

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For this Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond you.

It was raining rather heavily one Sunday morning and I had my trusty umbrella sheltering me from the car to the church. A lady was also sheltering her elderly father with an umbrella. Then a car pulled up closer to the walkway and an elderly lady took her time to step out of the car. Because her elderly husband was at the wheel, I think she was betting on getting to the church in the rain with her walking stick. Fortunately, the lady with her father notices their friend and offered to shelter her as well. I was already walking ahead, thinking of the readings I had to lector, I just happened to look back as the elderly lady took up the offer. Three of them crowding under one umbrella was not going to work out very well, and without much hesitation, quite naturally, I walked back to shelter the elderly lady. I believe anyone in good spirit would have done the same, and that is not the point I am even trying to share today. As we were walking to the church’s entrance, she said to me, “Thank you, young man, you have done your good deed for the day.” My reply to her was, “Oh! This isn’t much, nothing at all, you are welcome.” To which she replied, “Oh no, no. It is important to do something good everyday, and you have done yours already.”

When our Father in heaven laid down His laws for us, it was not to be applied to life after death and it was not something impossible for us to achieve. As the first reading reminds us, it certainly is not something beyond us to reach for. He has planned all to be done here in this life on Earth, as He had sent Jesus to die for us here on Earth. As my fellow parishioner had put it, do one good deed a day. It is not measured by how much it is worth in dollars, it is not measured by how many likes you get on Facebook and it is definitely not measured by how much the other person will love you back. It is much about making the other person’s life a little better, perhaps just for the moment, or just for today only. For the Samaritan in the Gospel, he has surely done his good deed for the day.

We probably do not have to look too far to lend a hand every day. Like myself, I may not have noticed the good that I had done because I am narrow-minded and had given little credit to my own actions. That is why it is written that it is never beyond us. Continue to love our neighbours, and when we are ready to take the next step, to be able to even reach out to a complete stranger in need. I do know if my next challenge is to approach a homeless and listen to his needs.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Let us pray for those who are seeking help and feel lost, may they find someone who is able to make their life less of a struggle each day and that they live happily in Jesus’ name.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for those who have reached out to help us in one way or another and those who have inspired us each day.

13 July, Saturday – I Will Provide For You and For Your Children

13 July 2019

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Genesis 49:29-33, 50:15-26

Jacob gave his sons these instructions, ‘I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me near my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, opposite Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial-plot. There Abraham was buried and his wife Sarah. There Isaac was buried and his wife Rebekah. There I buried Leah. I mean the field and the cave in it that were bought from the sons of Heth.’

When Jacob had finished giving his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, and breathing his last was gathered to his people.

Seeing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph intends to treat us as enemies and repay us in full for all the wrong we did him?’ So they sent this message to Joseph: ‘Before your father died he gave us this order: “You must say to Joseph: Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.” Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.’ Joseph wept at the message they sent to him.

His brothers came themselves and fell down before him. ‘We present ourselves before you’ they said ‘as your slaves.’ But Joseph answered them, ‘Do not be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design been turned to good, that he might bring about, as indeed he has, the deliverance of a numerous people. So you need not be afraid; I myself will provide for you and your dependants.’ In this way he reassured them with words that touched their hearts.

So Joseph stayed in Egypt with his father’s family; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children, as also the children of Machir, Manasseh’s son, who were born on Joseph’s lap. At length Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will be sure to remember you kindly and take you back from this country to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ And Joseph made Israel’s sons swear an oath, ‘When God remembers you with kindness be sure to take my bones from here.’

Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten; they embalmed him and laid him in his coffin in Egypt.

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Matthew 10:24-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master. It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?

‘Do not be afraid of them therefore. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

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Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul
Today’s gospel teaches me a few things about life. The first lesson is to respect our teachers and to give them due honor. As Jesus said, “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.” In the office for instance, I should not envy those above me, but instead strive to be like them – accomplished and responsible. When I have reached my objective (e.g. a promotion), I should honor those who have helped me get there and not just believe that it is through my own effort. I should remain humble and continue to strive to be like my teachers, whoever they may be at each stage of my career and of my life.

Jesus also said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Sometimes bad things happen to us in our daily lives on earth. For instance, there may be a bad rumor that is spread about us. Or we may have been harmed by other so that we lose our jobs, or relationships with others. Look to God. He has answers. As Joseph said to his brothers, “Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. There have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.”

Finally Jesus assures us that He loves us, knows us, and will protect us from harm. “Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” We should always acknowledge Christ Jesus in our blessings, for it is He who makes us right with God. In doing so, He too will acknowledge in front of God, at the time of our entrance towards heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Serene Goh)
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Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for my job, and for the people who help and support me at work.

Prayer: I pray that each person may find the work you mean for their lives, and be happy and fulfilled while working.

12 July, Friday – Loving God through our lives

12 July 2019

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Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel left Canaan with his possessions, and reached Beersheba. There he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in a vision at night, ‘Jacob, Jacob’, he said. ‘I am here’, he replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father’, he continued. ‘Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I myself will go down to Egypt with you. I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ Then Jacob left Beersheba. Israel’s sons conveyed their father Jacob, their little children and their wives in the waggons Pharaoh had sent to fetch him.

Taking their livestock and all that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, they went to Egypt, Jacob and all his family with him: his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his grand-daughters, in a word, all his children he took with him to Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that the latter might present himself to him in Goshen. When they arrived in the land of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as he appeared he threw his arms round his neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I can die, now that I have seen you again, and seen you still alive.’

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Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

‘Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. I tell you solemnly, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’

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The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you
Fear of public speaking is certainly an issue which many people grapple with. I believe that for us as Catholic Christians, it is perhaps the fear of publicly proclaiming the Word of God to the people around us. The readings today share with us that such a fear is unfounded and that we have Jesus with us who will guide us in what to do.
Jesus has shown us the importance of trusting in Him. Unfortunately, not all of us can remember this point well. Sometimes we go about our own actions and think that this is probably what God wants us to do, resulting in us engaging in behaviours which may not be the most prudent, nor the wisest to engage in. It is prudent for us to pause and ask ourselves if what we are doing is grounded in a solid foundation of love for God and love for our neighbour. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it will allow us to bear with the pain and suffering of persecution which is mentioned in the Gospel. Deepening our prayer life will allow us to trust in God and this will help guide our actions in our daily life.
The love of God must animate all our actions. We need not always speak out loud to the people around us, of how God has worked wonders within us; although, that is certainly one way. The way we treat our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers is perhaps the most visible way we can share the Gospel message to the people around us. Let us ask God to help us with this wonderful task.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the love to share your Word to all around us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries.

11 July, Thursday – Freely, Freely

11 July 2019 – Memorial for St. Benedict, abbot, religious founder

Born to Roman nobility, Benedict (c. 480–547) was the twin brother of St. Scholastica. He studied in Rome, Italy, but was dismayed at the lack of discipline and lackadasical attitude of his fellow students. He fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years. He was reported to have been fed by a raven.

The virtues that St. Benedict (480-547) demonstrated as a hermit prompted an abbey to request that he lead them. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried to poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He destroyed pagan statues and altars, and drove demons from groves sacred to pagans.

At one point there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule that he wrote, which can be summed up as “Pray and work”.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29, 45:1-5

Judah went up to Joseph and said, ‘May it please my lord, let your servant have a word privately with my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord questioned his servants, “Have you father or brother?” And we said to my lord, “We have an old father, and a younger brother born of his old age. His brother is dead, so he is the only one left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him.” But you said to your servants, “If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you will not be admitted to my presence again.” When we went back to your servant my father, we repeated to him what my lord had said. So when our father said, “Go back and buy us a little food,” we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, we will go down, for we cannot be admitted to the man’s presence unless our youngest brother is with us.” So your servant our father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two children. When one left me, I said that he must have been torn to pieces. And I have not seen him to this day. If you take this one from me too and any harm comes to him, you will send me down to Sheol with my white head bowed in misery.” If I go to your servant my father now, and we have not the boy with us, he will die as soon as he sees the boy is not with us, for his heart is bound up with him. Then your servants will have sent your servant our father down to Sheol with his white head bowed in grief.’

Then Joseph could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, ‘Let everyone leave me.’ No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers, but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.

Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?’ His brothers could not answer him, they were so dismayed at the sight of him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ When they had come closer to him he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.’

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Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.

‘Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.’

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You received without charge, give without charge.
The talents we have received in our lives may all appear to be of our own doing. Be it the wondrous intelligence we have, the great culinary skills or even that of a good voice, we often believe that these traits are our own gifts and sometimes forget that it is God who has granted us the use of these gifts.
One may then wonder why God has put at our disposal these gifts? These gifts are given to us to glorify the name of God to the people around us. Through our intellect, we can share with others the reasons for believing in God and the use of culinary skills could be the starting point for a discussion over a meal on how God has worked within our lives. The voice we possess could be the way in which others hear the Gospel through the joyful proclamation of the mercies and grace which God has granted to us.
We need to realise that the talents we have are meant to be the leaven of God’s word in a world thirsty and hungry for the Good News. Jesus offers to each one of us a wonderful opportunity to enter into a journey of love and communion with Him. This journey will then become for each one of us the source of which we can continue to spread the Word of God to those around us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Dear Lord, let us discern on how to use the gifts we have to spread your Word.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

10 July, Wednesday – When Waiting is Something You Do

10 July 2019

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Genesis 41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24

When the whole country of Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’ There was famine all over the world. Then Joseph opened all the granaries and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in the land of Egypt. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.

Israel’s sons with others making the same journey went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan. It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who sold the grain to all comers. So Joseph’s brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. Then he kept them all in custody for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall keep your lives, for I am a man who fears God. If you are honest men let one of your brothers be kept in the place of your detention; as for you, go and take grain to relieve the famine of your families. You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true, and you will not have to die!’ This they did. They said to one another, ‘Truly we are being called to account for our brother. We saw his misery of soul when he begged our mercy, but we did not listen to him and now this misery has come home to us.’ Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you did not listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, because there was an interpreter between them. He left them and wept.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.

When I read today’s reading, this line struck me as something very similar to what our Lady told the servants during the wedding at Cana. She instructed them to do whatever Jesus told them to do. When this happens, you wait for instructions. This waiting can sometimes be agonizing.

In today’s age, we are not trained to wait. We have instant noodles, instant messaging, we even have hydroponics, which grows plants faster. To us, a few minutes of waiting is like an eternity. Most of us have been wired to be constantly doing something, otherwise, we feel that nothing is happening. I’ve heard of one project leader being offered all the possible resources in order to expedite a project. He had to tell people that nine ladies cannot give birth to one baby in one month. They just had to wait.

Early this January, God showed me that I was waiting in exasperation. I had this ‘I-can’t-do-anything-anymore-so-I’ll-just-wait’ attitude. I really had no other choice but to wait. The reality is I really had no other choice anyway but I realized that that was not the type of waiting God wanted me to do. God wanted me to choose to wait because He told me to wait. He told me that that was what I should be doing.

Waiting is a verb. It is an action word. Just because we don’t ‘see’ any actions doesn’t mean that we are not doing any thing. To wait is also a decision. After all, God has given us a free will and we have the freedom to go off and not wait. Most importantly, to choose to wait is to choose to trust God.

Let’s put ourselves in Joseph’s brothers’ position. They walked to Joseph asking to buy grain. They have probably brought all their riches and were willing to pay a premium price for food. But giving these riches amounts to nothing if it is not what Joseph would have asked them to give, in exchange for the food. So there will be a point in time where they would have to wait, not knowing what Joseph would say.

I think this is similar to how we approach God. We bring a lot of things in his presence to talk to him about our future. And then God tells us to wait on him. I think the difference would be if we could trust that God has the best intentions for us. So even if we wait, we know that it is for the best.

When God tells us to wait, let us choose to wait. The roots grow even if we don’t see them.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please give us the grace to do what you ask us to do, especially if you are asking us to wait.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your patience in not rushing things in our lives. Your timing is really perfect!