Daily Archives: September 16, 2006

Sunday, Sep 17 – A Matter of Life and Death

17 Sep – Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Christ, The Son Of Man

We worship the man Christ, who accepted every weakness of our human condition, renouncing himself and taking up the cross.

– the Sunday Missal

One of our readers suggested that instead of merely an invitation to prayer, that I write out a proper prayer to include with each day’s OXYGEN. So let’s try it out.

Catholic Writer

Isaiah 50:5-9

The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard,
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is hear at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help,
who dare condemn me?

James 2:14-18

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, “I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty” without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: “You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.”

Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist,” they said, “others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked, “who do you say I am?” Peter spoke up and said to him, “You are the Christ.” And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way, but man’s.”

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

How do you wish to die? Some people would say that they would prefer to die suddenly in their sleep, to be spared from the agony of dying while conscious. Others will say that they prefer to die painlessly, but have been forewarned of their impending death, so that they will have time to set their earthly affairs in order. Still others would say that they do not wish to talk about this now, because death is still a very long time away for them.

The truth is, we do not know when we are going to die, or how. It could be later today, it could be next week, it could be a few years time, or it could be decades later. We don’t know, and we have little control over it. What many people try to do is to not only prolong their life, but also to prolong their youth.

Some clear indications of this is by looking at the advancement of medical sciences and cosmetics, to see how much of it is geared towards helping people to achieve a longer life, and to achieve a youthful life. But at what cost?

It is true, that life is a gift from God. But with life comes death, naturally. Our life on earth is valuable only because we are going to die one day; death is what gives value to life. It’s going to happen to us, one day or another. So why not start preparing for it today? I’ve always believed that a person who is not prepared to die, is not prepared to live. This is because life’s true purpose shows itself only when we view life from death’s viewpoint. To lie on my death bed and look at my life, to see what are the things that really matter in life, and what did not.

This reflection on life and death does not have to take place on our death bed. It can take place at any point of time in our lives, even right now. For me, it took place when a loved one was near death, and I pictured myself lying in that bed and looking at my own life. And I saw what was important in life, and what was of no significance at all. And I resolved to work towards placing those important things foremost in my life.

What are these things? For me, they are relationships – with the people around me, and with God. Because Jesus came into the world to show us that death is not the end of existence. Death transforms our existence from one plane of life into another plane. And if there is one thing that we can take with us from this life to the next, it is our relationship with God, and with the people we love. At the point of death, nothing else really matters.

How does one transform that understanding and apply it to one’s life? For starters, it is good to keep in mind what we have learnt from our own reflection on our life and death. Keeping it in mind all the time, we weigh all our options and choices in life, our day to day work and play, we weigh them all against what are our true purposes in life. If it affects that purpose, then these choices require more of our time and effort to prioritize. If they are of no significance at all to our lives in the view of eternal life, then it can wait. Chances are, it will probably sort itself out without us having to do anything about it.

Dear Jesus, you came down from heaven to become one of us, to show us the way to the Father. Throughout your life, you kept in mind your purpose for being made man, and you brought that purpose throughout your years in ministry, and to the cross on Calvary. We pray that we might be able to imitate you in realising our purpose in life, and always keeping it in mind, so that we may be more like you. In your name, Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The gift of life and death.

Upcoming Readings:
Mon, 18 Sep – 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33; Luke 7:1-10
Tue, 19 Sep – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31a; Luke 7:11-17; Memorial for St. Januarius, bishop, martyr
Wed, 20 Sep – 1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13; Luke 7:31-35; Memorial for Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon & comapnions, Paul Chong Hasang, martyrs
Thu, 21 Sep – Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 9:9-13; Feast of St. Matthew, apostle, evangelist
Fri, 22 Sep – 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 8:1-3
Sat, 23 Sep – 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49; Luke 8:4-15; Memorial for St. Pio of Pietrelcina, priest
Sun, 24 Sep – Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16 – 4:3; Mark 9:30-37; Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Disclaimer: The reflections expressed in this e-mail are the writer’s own. They may not necessarily reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless we should all be able to learn something from it.

Saturday, Sep 16 – Firm Foundation

16 Sep – Memorial for St. Cornelius, pope, & Cyprian, bishop, martyrs

You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother…. God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body…. If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace.

– Saint Cyprian, from The Unity of the Catholic Church

Pope Cornelius (d. 253) was the 21st pope, elected after a year and a half period during which the persecutions were so bad that papal ascension was a quick death sentence. His predecessor Pope Fabian had been assassinated during the persecution.

He worked to maintain unity in a time of schism and apostasy, fought Novatianism and called a synod of bishops to confirm him as rightful pontiff, as opposed to the anti-pope Novatian. Novatian was a priest who opposed Pope Cornelius because of his lax treatment of those who had apostatized (gave up the faith) under persecution. He felt that lapsed Christians, who had not maintained their confession of faith under persecution, may not be received again into communion with the church.

However, Pope Cornelius had the support of Sts Cyprian and Dionysius. He welcomed back those who had apostatized during the persecutions of Emperor Decius (around 250). The documents that settled this matter proved the final authority of the Pope. Cornelius was exiled by Roman authorities to punish Christians in general, who were said to have provoked the gods to send plague against Rome.

Cornelius was eventually martyred for his faith. A document from Cornelius shows the size of the Church in Rome during his papacy – 46 priests, 7 deacons, 7 sub-deacons, and approximately 50,000 Christians.

Cyprian of Carthage (190-258) was born to wealthy pagan parents. He taught rhetoric and literature, was an adult convert in the year 246, and was ordained in 247. He was appointed bishop of Carthage (an ancient city in North Africa) in 249. During the persecution of Decius, beginning in 250, Cyprian lived in hiding, covertly ministering to his flock. For this, his enemies condemned him for being a coward and for not standing up for his faith.

Cyprian was a writer second only in importance to Tertullian as a Latin Father of the Church. He was also a friend of St. Pontius. He was involved in the great argument over whether apostates should be readmitted to the Church (see above). Cyprian believed they should, but under stringent conditions. He support Pope St. Cornelius against the anti-pope Novatian.

In the persecutions of Emperor Valerian I, he was exiled to Curubis in 257, then brought back to Carthage where he was martyred in 258. His name is in the Communicantes in the Canon of the Mass.

“Whatever a man prefers to God, that he makes a god to himself.” – Saint Cyprian

– Sources: Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

My dear brothers, you must keep clear of idolatry. I say to you as sensible people: judge for yourselves what I am saying. The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all share in this one loaf. Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar. Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real? Not at all. It simply means that the sacrifices that they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God. I have no desire to see you in communion with demons. You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons. Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples: “There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?

“Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations: as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!”

There are many Christians today whose faith have weak foundations. They may go to church regularly, but when trouble happens either in their lives or in the Church – they see that the Church has a poor image – they leave the Church and find some other god to worship. Their faith is like a house of cards. Poke it a little and it all collapses. Then they bring their cards elsewhere and set up house again. The cycle repeats itself. After all, there is an old Chinese saying: There will always be another mountain that’s taller, meaning a stronger god will always displace a weaker god.

But there are some Christians who realise that a house of cards will never stand properly for long, and they dig deeper into their faith, trying to find out more about what they believe in, strengthening the roots of their faith. This doesn’t mean that they have never lost faith. It probably means that they have built their faith many times, and every time some problem occurs which their faith cannot address, they dig deeper.

Eventually, after digging deeply, they find the rock of salvation; they find the one on whom their faith is based, the tallest mountain of all. There, they set up their foundation, and no matter what troubles beset them or the Church, they remain steadfast because they know their faith is built on firm, unshakeable ground.

In the face of opposition, they continue to do what they do. But these are people who do not neglect those in need. When trouble besets them and those around them, they will offer shelter to those whose faith have been washed away, and encourage them to try again. They do it probably because others have done it for them in the past.

Recent happenings in the Church in Singapore have led some to question the Church that they belong to. Maybe you are one such person. It is time to dig deeper. In any case, these recent happenings make us, and those around us, question once again the possibility of the existence of demons.

Our secular life has no place for spirits, be they God, angels, or demons. But the Word of God tells us that these are real and they continue to live among us today. Dig deeper into the wealth of knowledge the Church has, and you will not only find answers to those questions, but you will also find firm foundation.

Prayer: We pray for those whose faith has been shaken for one reason or another, may they find comfort and encouragement in other Christians around them.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who stood by us when our own faith was shaken.

Upcoming Readings:
Sun, 17 Sep – Isaiah 50:5-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35; Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Disclaimer: The reflections expressed in this e-mail are the writer’s own. They may not necessarily reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless we should all be able to learn something from it.