26 September, Wednesday – Rags and Riches

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 30:5-9

Every word of God is unalloyed,
he is the shield of those who take refuge in him.
To his words make no addition,
lest he reprove you and know you for a fraud.

Two things I beg of you,
do not grudge me them before I die:
keep falsehood and lies far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away
and say, ‘the Lord – who is the Lord?’
or else, in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.

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Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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“Provide me only with the food I need”

As I write this, the book “Billion Dollar Whale” has just been released. It is a book written by two Wall Street Journal reporters detailing the life of excess and scandal surrounding businessman Jho Low. A prominent Malaysian politician shared an excerpt of the book recently, about a circus-themed birthday party that Jho Low threw for himself. The extravagance of the party led it to be dubbed the most expensive private party ever held in Las Vegas.

Over the past few years, details of the scandal surrounding Jho Low and the 1MDB saga have emerged, and the life of excess of certain parties involved using public money have angered the Malaysian people. If the details of the various reports are accurate, this would be the most mind-boggling scandal the world would have ever seen.

Today’s reading encourages a life of balance. When is enough, enough? The following line in the reading caught me: “Lest being full, I deny you… or being in want, I steal and profane the name of my God”. The scandal above has shown both sides of the coin – the alleged parties wanted more and so they stole, and being full, they still lived a life that was against all that God abhors. Like Parkinson’s Law, that states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, so too does money – our lives expand to fill the money available at hand. Where and how do we draw the line? At what point do we reach sufficiency, and what is our definition of sufficiency? Will we be happy when we reach sufficiency, or when we give to others out of our sufficiency? Jesus advised his disciples not to take anything for the journey, trusting instead in God to provide for them for their necessities. In that trust, the Twelve set off.

And so too shall we set off, in our own approach to life, believing that God will see us through. If He waters the trees and clothes the flowers so beautifully, then what more shall He do for us? Perhaps the thing that we should ask ourselves is not how much we have, but out of what we have, how shall we give to others? Perhaps in sharing, we may experience for ourselves a taste of the riches of the Kingdom of God, and therein shall our treasure lie, therein shall our desire be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the wisdom of discernment, to know where to draw the line between wanting more and needing more. Help us to live our lives in balance, knowing that you will provide for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the roofs over our heads, the food in our stomachs, the jobs that we have and the ability to sleep soundly at night. We pray for those who are in need, that we may find a way to help them.

25 September, Tuesday – True Intent

25 September

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Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,
who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,
the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice
is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,
lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;
too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,
such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,
he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,
when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:
he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry
shall himself plead and not be heard.

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Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

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A man’s conduct may strike him as upright, the Lord, however, weighs the heart…

If I am honest with myself, there are plenty of times when I am pleasant with others or perform a good deed for them, but my motives are not entirely altruistic. That is not to say that there is a Machiavellian element to my behavior nor am I scheming to harm someone, but I reflect on the pureness of my words and actions.

What do I mean? Well, do my actions and words aim to gain recognition and favor with others, to win in the arena of public opinion, or do they truly manifest the teachings of Christ selflessly? Like the many selfies posted on the internet, do they truly reflect the reality or are they doctored to present an intended image?

We may be judging ourselves and others based on actions and words, and in our eyes, they are just and pure. However, the Lord, who is infinitely wiser, looks at our hearts and intentions. If our intention is to deceive and misguide, then our ‘good’ deeds lack the meaning they deserve. However, if our intention is to live according to what Jesus taught us, even the smallest good deed will carry much more meaning and is so much more pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

When I reflect on what was in my heart in the past, I would say that reputation was a big concern.  Secondly, I was afraid of God’s retribution if I misbehaved. However, as I learn a little more about Catholicism, I come to realize that fear is not the emotion, nor should it be the motivation to do what is right. We want to do what is right and pleasing to God because we love Him above all else. We do not want to hurt anyone we love; at least, not intentionally. When the Lord looks into our hearts, He doesn’t want to see fear but love – love of God and love of neighbors.

We should continue to do good and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to both God and man; but let’s put God first and be more concern about Jesus’ judgement than man’s. After all, what is earthly, is transient, but what is heavenly, is eternal.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: We pray that our hearts be filled with love of God and neighbors, so that our actions and words follow the full intent of this love.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the unconditional and undying love of the Lord.  For second chances and the opportunity to do the right thing.

24 September, Monday – Loving Selflessly

24 September

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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Do not refuse a kindness to anyone… 

In this technologically-advanced world where the internet has shortened distances in terms of communication and instant gratification has become the norm, patience and tolerance are definitely on the decline. In spite of all the technological advancements that are supposed to help us manage the balance between work and family life, we are far busier than before. We try to fit more into a day and so focussed are we on our own agendas, that we often get irate at the slightest interruption and lose sight of what is truly important – the human connection.

Living in this wired/wireless world, we have come to expect a life of interruptions. When working on a computer, we are so quick to close and dismiss all those pop-up ads that show up on our screen. As a Christian, we need to be concerned about others; sometimes at great inconvenience to ourselves. When I am concentrating on a task at hand, and my children are requesting my attention, I have found myself getting impatient and resentful. Often, I am dismissive with their needs, as I would with the pop-up ads, especially when the task at hand requires a continuum of thought.

Today’s first reading reminds us that we need to tend to our neighbors’ request for help post haste. Our neighbors could be our family member, our spouse, our children, friends or strangers that we meet. If it is within our power to do, we should not delay in lending a helping hand. This seems hard to do, doesn’t it?  But that is what Christ wants us to do. That is the calling of all Christians from all walks of life.

The priest at my previous parish is usually busy and there are endless demands on his attention. Even when he is in a meeting in his office, his phone doesn’t stop ringing and there are constant knocks on his door. Instead of ignoring the calls or getting annoyed, he closes his eyes, breathes deeply (perhaps to say a quick prayer) and answers his door or phone. He is never rude and simply asks the other party politely if it is an emergency and if it could wait until after his current appointment. This is a true example of Christian love. A love that is not only present when convenient for us, but is present even when it causes us discomfort. When I reflect on his reaction to life’s interruptions (in his case, constant disruptions), I am reminded how important it is to treat people in our lives the way that Jesus wants us to – with love and respect. Perhaps when we get interrupted in our busy schedule next time, we can practice reacting with patience and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the ability to love others as you have loved us.  We pray that we may harbor Christian love towards our neighbors, even when we are under stress and do not feel we are able to give.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the light of Christ, as reflected in the many saints, showing us how to treat others with love and respect.

23 September, Sunday – Wisdom from above, Peace from within

23 September 2018

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Wisdom 2:12,17-20

The godless say to themselves:

‘Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.

‘Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

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James 3:16-4:3

Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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This wisdom that comes from above makes for peace 

Today’s second reading reminds me of the two homilies at my parish. One homily was about jealousy and envy. One was about praying, in particular, praying for what we want in the right way.

Most people use envy as a synonym for jealousy. However, as explained by Msgr. Charles Pope, in traditional theology, envy is different from jealousy. When I am jealous of you, there is something good about you or something good that you have, and I want to have it for myself. Jealously is sinful when one desires something exceedingly and irrationally.

Envy runs deeper and darker. There is often a sadness and anger at the goodness and excellence of another because it feels like we are reduced by their distinction. The main difference with envy, is that I not only want to possess the good or excellence of yours, but I want to destroy it.

There are different ways that envy can manifest itself. It can blatant or subtle. We can actively seek to destroy the good or excellence in others by ostracizing and ridiculing them. Or the more common and subtle form of envy is gossip and slander, which is just as sinful as the blatant form. I, shamefully, admit to the sin of jealousy and envy – not of other’s possessions of goods, but of their talents and opportunities. Although I do not actively seek to destroy, I harbor ill feelings and secretly revel in their failures. This kind of thinking does not bring me any joy. It brings more anger, sorrow, and discontent. The only way to combat the sin of envy is with the virtue of joy and zeal. What is that, you may ask. The virtue of joy and zeal is the ability to recognize the good in others and celebrate it genuinely, with wholeheartedness, and without hesitation. Easier said than done? Of course it is – for us humans. But not for God. When we suspect that the green-eyed monster is rearing its ugly head, it is then that we need to pray for wisdom, peace with others and within ourselves. Then we must make the conscious decision of listening to the voice and wisdom from above. We must practice rejoicing in the goodness and excellence of others and to see their blessings as blessings to all of us from on high.

This brings me to the other point of prayer and prayer intentions. Our prayers and prayer intentions can be divided into two broad categories. One of which aligns with God’s plan for us and our desire to become more Christ-like. There should be no hesitation in asking the Father for such gifts. The other is simply our wishes and desires, not necessarily bad, but more of this world. It is when we are praying for these intentions, we should pray in such a way that God’s will be done, not ours. When we truly understand and believe that our Heavenly Father has our best interests at heart and will not lead us astray, we learn to trust and then, only then, do we gain the wisdom and the peace that we all seek.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the wisdom that comes from above, to guide us in our thoughts, words, actions and prayers.  Grant us the virtues of joy and zeal so that we do not fall to the sin of envy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, our Heavenly Father, for granting us wisdom and peace.

22 September, Saturday – A Conversion, Claiming Our Identity

22 September

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1 Corinthians 15:35-37.42-49

Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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“what is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable; what is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; what is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful; what is sown is a natural body and what is raised is a spiritual body.”

Throughout the week, we have been hearing what we can do to claim this identity, but knowing all these is not good enough until we allow Christ to transform us, to accept and to receive this grace, this mercy — that we are all sinners and unworthy but very much perfectly loved by this God.

Many times, we serve or pray, trying to atone or to make up for past sins and trying to be holy in order to be worthy. Yet, we simply can’t, and we find ourselves struggling even more because our strength, motivations, intentions in themselves aren’t perfect to begin with.

In the first reading today, we read about a raising. This raising that can only be done by God — raising the dead to life. Once again, we are called to this dying of self. However, we don’t just ‘die’. As in the Gospel, we need to allow the seed — the Word of God — to take root in our life, to really experience this conversion, to experience God and His love, to internalise, to allow Him to be in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Together with the support of the greater community and our family in Christ, we need to claim our identity and believe in the eternal resurrection — that one day, all that we do here on earth would be to glorify God and His people; because we love God and His people, because we love His creation — His people. That it is no more I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

This is the main goal of our lives, the hardest to reach and sustain. And it is precisely now that we allow God to work, to trust and hope in Him, that as long as we give our very best, He will not be outdone in generosity.

“As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may there be a conversion in our hearts, in our lives. Help us to realise, see and understand what is important in our lives, what we are living for. Help us not to just focus on what you can do but to focus on you in everything we do. Help us to, one day, say with conviction and love that you are our Father and that we are yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your word and this beautiful image of how you will raise us up into your kingdom. That we have the hope of being with you, in unity for eternity.

21 September, Friday – United in Faith & Love

21 September – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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“Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”

It’s always beautiful reading about how we are all called to this oneness, this one family in Christ. So much inclusivity that is welcoming, so much love. Working in church as a Youth Coordinator, I can understand the difficulty and struggle just to have the same vision and mission, to move in the same direction or even to agree on a small issue.

We are so diverse — different backgrounds, upbringing, values, perspectives and experiences in life shape the way we think, feel and behave towards a particular issue. Who is right or wrong can’t be said for sure sometimes, but one thing is that we fail to work together. We see in parishes that sometimes, there are many ministries but many of those have overlaps with each other, they are more or less the same, just with different leadership.

There is nothing wrong with division but even in our division, we should all look to the goal of unity, as a church, as God’s people. We all have different gifts and talents, it’s not about who’s better than who, but how can we use our gifts and talents, to help make this world and our community a better place. Not fighting for resources but a sharing of resources, not to judge if the leader is worthy but to support and help to bring out the best in the leader.

“There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all.”

The biggest struggle, which I’m also struggling with, is to be in unity with those characters and personalities that you disagree with. It’s just so painful. How can these people think or behave in this way? Where is their common sense, respect and love for others?

We see in the Gospel how Jesus eats with sinners and tax collectors. It really takes much love to do so. That is the oneness we are called to. To bring Christ to all, to see Christ in all. A God who gives Himself freely, a God who doesn’t judge but loves, a God who doesn’t expect but gives and waits. If we say and claim that this is our faith, then this is exactly the God we worship, a God that desires for all of us to be one, through Him, with Him and in Him. May we learn to put aside our differences but focus on this one uniqueness that we all have, that is, in spite of who we are and everything that we have done, we are all loved equally by Him, part of His family, part of this church, this faith, His kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage to persevere even when things are incomprehensible, when we do not understand. Help us not to judge but to love. Help us all to be one, just as you are one with the Father and with all of us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for leading by your example. Thank you for showing us your love for all mankind. That it is not success or perfection that you seek, but you seek us, who we are, as we are. Thank you Jesus. We love you.

20 September, Thursday – Proclamation by Action

20 September – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (Martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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Luke 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

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“ I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of the sinful woman being forgiven by Christ. A tendency we would usually have is to focus on the imperfections, mistakes, unworthiness and weaknesses of another. We judge many for their lack of virtues, based on our own perceptions.

Today, we have an insight of how Christ’s sees. Not with the same judgment, but truly, with love. Jesus doesn’t just see and take offense in the many sins the woman has committed, but focuses on her contrite and repentant heart. Mistakes we will always made, but it’s truly in the realising, the awareness and in the seeking reconciliation that we can then move forward.

It is this proclamation that the readings speak of. It is more than a proclamation by mouth, but really, through action. An act with love, to love. We see in the Gospel of the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with ointment, kissing and weeping over them. And also in the first reading, where it speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection and His appearances. These are actions that proclaim love.

St Paul, in the first reading, also writes of a special gift — Grace. “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” Because of original sin, there was really nothing we could do, that could ‘qualify’ us for the kingdom. It is this grace, this salvation, this victory that Christ has won for us through His death, that has given us the opportunity to be reunited with Him and the Father.

There is nothing we can do that can earn our place, nothing we can do to ‘repay’ our Father. And it is precisely this that we are not called to focus on ‘giving back’ but really just giving, just loving for eternity is already ours, and we are called to live this kingdom life here on earth. My friends, eternity is now, this life, this faith is real; His love and forgiveness is real. Let us not wait till we are ready, but let’s make an effort to be ready now, let us proclaim this faith by action, by our life. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to see as you see. That we can focus on the actions of the present and not the past. That we see the heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us the way. For your wisdom, for teaching us through your life as an example. Thank you for this grace that all of us are so undeserving of, thank you for this gift. Thank you for your love. Amen.

19 September, Wednesday – The Gift of Love

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

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Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people: ‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,
and you wouldn’t dance;
we sang dirges,
and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

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“…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

The word that comes to mind after reading the readings for the day is — ‘Transactional’. In a world that inducts one from birth into a reward system, it sees us distorting the meaning and definition of love. Such that our faith today seems more like one that can be exploited and abused to fulfil our immediate desires such as financial needs, political power; basically everything else that we can’t obtain from the ‘outside world’.

One makes use of the hospitality, compassion and sometimes even scripture to get what they want. To take advantage of one’s ‘loving’ nature to satisfy one’s selfish desires and pleasures.

Indeed, our faith without love is truly nothing. We see that among the many who attend daily masses, those who are active in various ministries and especially those who hold leadership positions in the church; many fail to be a witness and an example that would lead others to Christ. And, in the whole spirit of welcoming and accepting one as he/she is, we allow them to continue their ways at the expense of so many other lives and souls.

This is the church. So broken and imperfect. I’m not sure if I led a decent life outside, I would still be actively involved. Sometimes, politics is more evident than in the corporate workplaces; what’s worse is that everyone else is a volunteer. Yes, this is our church, this is my church. For it is even in this ‘pathetic’ state that Christ still chooses us and adopts us as His children, to guarantee us a place in His kingdom, even as we continue to choose sin over love. He still gives Himself to us through the sacraments and the Eucharist week after week, in spite of how unworthy and unprepared or even, when we simply just make it a routine.

My friends, this is love. This is the gift of love. The definition of love. A gift of oneself completely for the good of the other. A love that is unconditional, definitely not transactional for it can’t be measured, can only be given.

Many times we also look to take, look to receive. May we always fix our gaze on you, for what you took is the weight of our sin on the cross, the crucifixion and death, and still you wait to receive us with open arms. Help us learn to make a gift of ourselves, a gift of love. Let our love be a testimony of our faith and our faith in You translate to loving all we meet. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a renewal, a revival, a re-evangelising of hearts. That in a world filled with distractions, we are able to see you and your working in our lives. That our faith is more than a knowing, it is a call to love. Not to love as the world loves but to love as You love. I love you Lord.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love and your life. Thank you for showing us what it means to make a gift of one’s self. Thank you for the church, for still making the church Your bride.

18 September, Tuesday – Life in Sorrow

18 September

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1 Corinthians 12:12-14.27-31

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them? Be ambitious for the higher gifts.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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‘Do not cry’ 

Have you ever felt as if you were carrying the weight of the whole world? I guess everyone has experienced some sort of trials in life. Challenging experiences that felt as if we have been crushed to the ground. For those who have, I admire you for getting through them. For those who have not, I pray that you will never experience such trauma.

The Gospel for today is about a widow who lost her only son. Imagine the grief she experienced. The thought of being along in life can really be sorrowful. I may describe the woman as an ‘unfortunate one’ just as if she carries with her all the major misfortunes in life. I can imagine how that woman has little desire to live.

When Jesus saw her, He said, “Do not cry.” And then he touched the coffin and told the son to get up.  The man rose and Jesus gave him to his mother. Imagine the joy of a mother who sees her son alive.  This miracle clearly states that nothing is impossible to God — not even death. Not only that, the Gospel today shows the mercy of Jesus as well as His love and honour to mothers.

Jesus’ compassion is so overwhelming that nothing compares to it. We should imitate Jesus and be compassionate to others as well. A small act of saying “How are you?” to someone we know who is having a hard time can make a big difference. Not only that, Jesus gives us a concrete example on how to treat mothers. They deserve our respect. Each of us has our own mothers, and we should know how to make them happy.

Life is never easy in itself. But God gives us challenges that we can bear. Some can be harder than the others. As I reflect on my past difficulties, I discern that I was able to overcome those trials through Jesus Christ. Yes, we have free will to make decisions. But through prayer, the Holy Spirit is upon us. To guide and enlighten us on what to do. Some problems are small, while others are big. But we must remember that God is always bigger than our problems.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear God, may we always remember that you will never leave us. Grant us the strength to endure and surpass all the hardships that we will face.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for being always with us. We thank you for the faith to help us carry on with our life.

17 September, Monday – Faith Like No Other

17 September – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26.33

On the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that do you more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted. The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk. Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in? Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, So to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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I am not worthy to have you under my roof 

During the part of the mass that is the ‘Invitation to Communion’, we respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Do we recite it because we have been so used to it? Or are we really saying it prayerfully? Do we really feel unworthy to partake of the Body of Christ?

The Gospel today tells us about a centurion, an important Roman army official. He had many servants who obeyed all his commands. It just so happened that this centurion had a favourite servant. This servant was very ill and on the verge of death. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some Jewish elders to ask Him to come and heal his servant. This demonstrated that the centurion believed that his servant could be healed through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was near the house, the centurion sent his friends to tell Jesus, “‘Sir, do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured…”  These statements showed the humility of the centurion as he entrusted the healing of his servant to Jesus. And indeed that servant became well.

We pray to God for a lot of things — wealth, health, relationships, and many more. How do we feel whenever we ask God for those things? Do we feel deserving to be granted by our Lord? What happens if we received what we have been praying for? I assume that we are indeed happy and very much grateful to our Lord. But what if we do not receive what we want? What happens to our faith? Some may falter.  But I think the ‘No’ answer should strengthen our faith. For me, it is like God saying to me, “Why would I give it to you when you do not even believe in me in the first place?”

If we are in need of something, pray for it, and believe that God will grant it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant us the grace of humility and faith similar to the centurion. And may we always accept and fulfil Your will.

Thanksgiving: Father God, unworthy as we are, we thank You for Your love and mercy.