Monthly Archives: November 2007

Friday, November 30 – Why get baptised?

30 Nov – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

Andrew was the first apostle. A fisherman and the brother of St. Peter, and a follower of St. John the Baptist. He went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He became a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.

– Patron Saint Index
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Romans 10:9-18

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough however many ask for his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ.

Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.
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Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.
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Last night, I came across a query by a catechumen on a discussion forum asking about the sacrament of Baptism. This catechumen read or heard that there are those who die without being baptised, but because they died for and with Christ, they received the baptism of blood, which bears about the fruits of baptism without being a sacrament. He also read that for catechumens who die before their baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament (CCC 1258, 1259).

And then he asks: does this mean we do not need to go through baptism and can still be assured of salvation?

It is an interesting question, is it not? And certainly a good number of us do believe that people can be assured of salvation without baptism… otherwise we would most definitely have stepped up our efforts to bring more non-Christians to the faith, the way our Protestant brothers and sisters have been doing. However, our Protestant brothers and sisters’ fervour is definitely something that we Catholics are lacking. For as much as we believe in interfaith dialogue, we can’t say that for sure that our non-Christian brothers and sisters, who have not been baptised, are assured of salvation, can we?

This is because “the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptised are “reborn of water and spirit” (CCC 1257)

This is something that we, as Catholics, should start remembering – that we don’t know of any other way that a person is assured salvation, unless he or she is baptised. I am sure that you want to see, at the very least, your loved ones with you in heaven. Given the readings of the past week, of the necessity of us bearing witness when we see the writing on the wall, and our ability to understand and interpret it, it then falls onto our shoulders as Christians, to bring this good news to our non-Christian family members and friends, and work towards their eternal salvation by providing them the motivation to get baptised and be “reborn of water and spirit”.

We know that no one can get into heaven unless they receive help from Jesus, and our non-Christian family members and friends won’t ask Jesus’ help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him… and they will not hear of him unless we preach the good news of salvation to them. Who better than us, who already know them, who they already trust, and who have so much contact with them?

Each Christian is expected to be a disciple of Christ, one who imitates his teacher. Our Teacher spent his life saving people from eternal damnation, we too are expected to do the same, to be “fishers of men”. Let us start where we are. Think of one non-Christian that you are close to, and work towards seeing him or her getting baptised.

This coming Advent and preparation for Christmas is an excellent opportunity to introduce a non-Christian family member or friend to the meaning of Christmas – the Incarnation of God as man. Start from here, and imitate our Teacher in the work of saving souls.
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, grant us the courage to share the Good News with our non-Catholic family member / friend [insert name]. We pray that your Holy Spirit will go before us and open the heart and mind of [insert name] that s/he may receive the Word that we share joyfully. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The season of sharing Christ with others.

Upcoming Readings:
Sat, 01 Dec – Daniel 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36
Sun, 02 Dec – Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44; First Sunday of Advent

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Thursday, November 29 – Taxi! Taxi!

29 Nov

Mishandled Gifts

The daily newspapers are filled with cases of the way people mishandle their fellow-beings. Most people trample on others for selfish gain or pleasure, often indifferent to the long-lasting harm they cause. Parents, teachers, and bosses who are not person-centred, tend to stuff those under them with negativisms, low self-esteem. The hapless victims of such attitudes are children who developed warped self-images as a consequence.

Persons big and small need careful handling. They are precious gifts, which if mishandled, can be damaged beyond repair.

– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
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Daniel 6:12-28

Some men rushed into the upper chamber of Daniel’s home
and found him praying and pleading before his God.
Then they went to remind the king about the prohibition:
“Did you not decree, O king,
that no one is to address a petition to god or man
for thirty days, except to you, O king;
otherwise he shall be cast into a den of lions?”
The king answered them, “The decree is absolute,
irrevocable under the Mede and Persian law.”
To this they replied, “Daniel, the Jewish exile,
has paid no attention to you, O king,
or to the decree you issued;
three times a day he offers his prayer.”
The king was deeply grieved at this news
and he made up his mind to save Daniel;
he worked till sunset to rescue him.
But these men insisted.
They said, “Keep in mind, O king,
that under the Mede and Persian law
every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.”
So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den.
To Daniel he said,
“May your God, whom you serve so constantly, save you.”
To forestall any tampering,
the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords
the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den.

Then the king returned to his palace for the night;
he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers.
Since sleep was impossible for him,
the king rose very early the next morning
and hastened to the lions’ den.
As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully,
“O Daniel, servant of the living God,
has the God whom you serve so constantly
been able to save you from the lions?”
Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever!
My God has sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths
so that they have not hurt me.
For I have been found innocent before him;
neither to you have I done any harm, O king!”
This gave the king great joy.
At his order Daniel was removed from the den,
unhurt because he trusted in his God.
The king then ordered the men who had accused Daniel,
along with their children and their wives,
to be cast into the lions’ den.

Before they reached the bottom of the den,
the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language,
wherever they dwell on the earth: “All peace to you!
I decree that throughout my royal domain
the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared:

“For he is the living God, enduring forever;
his Kingdom shall not be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be without end.
He is a deliverer and saviour,
working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth,
and he delivered Daniel from the lions’ power.”

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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand.
Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
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We flag a cab, we get in, we travel to our destinations. What do we do when we’re in the cab? If we’re alone, most of us often whip out a mobile phone to make a call; a book to read; an MP3 player to listen to; a portable gaming console to play. If we’re with someone else, well, lots more can happen; couples have (sometimes very unrestricted) displays of affection; people argue; confidential business and plans are discussed. And how many of us sit in front with the cabbie when we’re alone? The taxi driver is now someone we’ve become used to not seeing though without him/her the car would not move. Our conversations with them are mainly short ones regarding direction and payment.

Yet they’re there and sometimes they talk to us, sometimes about stuff that is nonsensical, but sometimes also about matters which are interesting if not relevant. I’ve lost count of the number of times the latter has happened to me. Such small talk like how their kids also doing the same major I did can really brighten a dreary moment. There’re also those little nuggets like where to get good food or bargains too. And of course, there’s meeting a Catholic cabbie on the way to church. All these are subtle pleasantries that can make a difference to a day.

The settings of today’s readings share a common ground which is that the people of God have become cauterized to the presence of the Lord. He remains there and He works still for salvation. The majority however were focused on what holds their immediate attention. They did not notice signs and portents. The consequence was that they faltered from being ill prepared or worse antagonistic. As for those like Daniel who maintained an awareness of God, well you have the miracle right there in the first reading.

What happened to the king’s men and what Jesus warns us against are matters which we are susceptible to as well. The fact is that God is in our lives, always. He accompanies us on each and every day. He carries us on His shoulders when we are too tired to walk on. Yes it is easy to relegate Him to the role of a simple taxi driver who ferries us at our convenience. He’d love us regardless. What would we do though when He tries to strike up conversation with us as we travel together?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Aloysius Ting)
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Prayer:
Lord, may we always treasure Your presence here with us.

Give thanks to the Lord for: The expected cool weather we have now.

Upcoming Readings:
Fri, 30 Nov – Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22; Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
Sat, 01 Dec – Daniel 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36
Sun, 02 Dec – Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44; First Sunday of Advent

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Wednesday, November 28 – About Strange Statements

28 Nov

The Millionaires’ Memorial

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a threadbare suit, stepped off a train in Boston and walked timidly into the outer office of the President of Harvard University. The secretary knew immediately that such country hicks had no business at Harvard. She frowned.

“We want to see the president,” the man said softly.

“He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary replied.

But the couple decided to wait. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping they would finally get discouraged and go away. They didn’t. And the secretary finally decided to disturb the president. “Maybe if they see you for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she told him.

He sighed in exasperation and nodded. He detested the thought of gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering his outer office. So the president, stern and dignified, waved the couple in.

The lady told him, “Our son attended Harvard for one year. He really loved it and was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him on campus.”

The president wasn’t touched, he was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly, “We can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”

“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.”

The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, and exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs?” We have over $7.5 million in the physical plant at Harvard.”

For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now. But then the lady turned to her husband and said, “Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own?”

Her husband nodded. The president gaped in confusion. And Mr and Mrs Leland Stanford walked away, travelling to Palo Alto, California, where they established the university that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
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Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen, a thousand of them, and, in the presence of this thousand, he drank his wine. Having tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and the women who sang for him could drink out of them. The gold and silver vessels taken from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and the women who sang for him drank out of them. They drank their wine and praised their idols of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began to write on the plaster of the palace wall, directly behind the lampstand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote. The king turned pale with alarm: his hip-joints went slack and his knees began to knock.

Daniel was brought into the king’s presence; the king said to Daniel, ‘Are you the Daniel who was one of the Judaean exiles brought by my father the king from Judah? I am told that the spirit of the gods lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom.

‘I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, so if you can read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be dressed in purple, and have a chain of gold put round your neck, and be one of the three men who govern the kingdom.’

Then Daniel spoke up in the presence of the king. ‘Keep your gifts for yourself,’ he said, ‘and give your rewards to others! I can certainly read the writing to the king and tell him what it means.

‘You have defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and the women singing for you have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which can neither see, hear nor understand; but you have given no glory to the God in whose hands are your breath itself and all your fortunes. That is why he has sent the hand which has written these words. The writing reads: mene, mene, teqel and parsin. The meaning of the words is this: mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put the balance and found wanting; parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’
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Luke 21:12-19

‘But before all this happens, you will be seized and persecuted; you will be handed over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and brought before kings and governors for the sake of my name—and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. make up your minds not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated universally on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your perseverance will win you your lives.’
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There are times when I find it difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words that I can say. When I get the words, they stick with me until I burst telling somebody.

For a long time, the phrase “God is my priority” has somehow surfaced in my mind. But I have never mentioned it to anyone, because I don’t think people will take it very well. What if they don’t understand? What if they change their attitudes towards me when I say something like that? I like my friends feeling comfortable around me. I don’t want to appear too… godly.

Perhaps it was not a coincidence that two strangers approached me yesterday, one after another. When asked about my priority, I told one of them that it was family. After reflecting on the incident, I realised that it wasn’t really my answer. It didn’t feel like my answer. I simply chose family because it was a safe and common answer.

When I look at today’s readings, I see encouragement to make God more visible than how people see Him, whether or not they are Christian. Jesus has promised that He will give us the eloquence and the help when we need to say things like “God is my priority!” Statements like that will raise eyebrows and you might feel like dying after you say them but it is one way we can let God work through us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Regina Xie)
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Prayer:
Lord, help us give encouragement, comfort, affirmation through our lips, hands and feet today. They need an eloquence only You can give.

Give thanks to the Lord for: His promise to help us spread the Good News.

Upcoming Readings:
Thu, 29 Nov – Daniel 6:12-28; Luke 21:20-28
Fri, 30 Nov – Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22; Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
Sat, 01 Dec – Daniel 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36
Sun, 02 Dec – Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44; First Sunday of Advent

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Tuesday, November 27 – The Eternal Kingdom

27 Nov

The Wrapper

All gifts come wrapped; some attractively, others ordinarily. People-gifts come decked up in a variety of guises and disguises. On the one hand, “Clothes make the man”; on the other, “Appearances are deceptive”. It is next to impossible to judge or bale people exclusively by their “wrappers”. People do not come in water-tight categories as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, except in the movies. Each person is a rainbow of characteristics, never all sunshine or all cloud.

We must be very careful, and sensitive, about the way we interpret people. We must constantly check for hang-ups and prejudices we may have collected regarding certain types of behaviour or body-wear. We must not let mere externals put us off or get in the way of our relationships. Physical beauty is only skin-deep. We must learn to look beyond it, below it. We must appreciate the gift, not the wrappings! We must reach out to the person, irrespective of his or her appearance.

– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
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Daniel 2:31-45

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “You have had a vision, O king; this is what you saw: a statue, a great statue of extreme brightness, stood before you, terrible to see. The head of this statue was made of fine gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron, part earthenware. While you were gazing, a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and earthenware and shattered them. And then, iron and earthenware, bronze, silver, gold all broke into small pieces as fine as chaff on the threshing-floor in the summer. The wind blew them away, leaving not a trace behind. And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will explain to the king what it means. You, O king, king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given sovereignty, power, strength and glory – the sons of men, the beasts of the field, the birds of heaven, wherever they live, he has entrusted to your rule, making you king of them all – you are the golden head. And after you another kingdom will rise, not so great as you, and then a third, of bronze, which will rule the whole world. There will be a fourth kingdom, hard as iron, as iron that shatters and crushes all. Like iron that breaks everything to pieces, it will crush and break all the other kingdoms. The feet you saw, part earthenware, part iron, are a kingdom which will split in two, but which will retain something of the strength of iron, just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together. The feet were part iron, part earthenware; the kingdom will be partly strong and partly weak. And just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together, so the two will be mixed together in the seed of man; but they will not hold together any more than iron will blend with earthenware. In the time of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever – just as you saw the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold. The great God has shown the king what is to take place. The dream is true, the interpretation exact.”
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Luke 21:5-11

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

“Take care not to be deceived,” he said, “because many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am he’ and, ‘The time is near at hand.’ Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.” Then he said to them, “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.”
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Today’s readings seem to predict the future. The future is mysterious and unknown to man… that must be why knowledge of the future is so interesting to us. We always want to know the future, that is why astrology, geomancy, palm reading, tarot cards, divination, etc, are so interesting and will never die out. Why do we want to know the future? Usually we want to know what bad things are going to happen, and how we can avoid them. Funny thing is… if we can successfully avoid these bad things, then doesn’t it mean that these predictions were wrong in the first place?

Would you want to know the future even if there is nothing you can do to change it? Would knowing the future be as interesting if the future contained only peace and harmony? This is the future that the prophet Daniel is predicting. Yes, there’s a lot of conquering by one kingdom after another, but Daniel also predicts the coming of a kingdom that shatters and absorbs all the previous kingdoms. The eternal kingdom is what Daniel predicts and tells Nebuchadnezzar – the eternal kingdom of God, where God rules the hearts of men.

In such an eternal kingdom, peace can reign and men can live in harmony. This is the kingdom that has already been set up and is real. When people live and work together in peace and harmony for the love of God and fellowmen, this kingdom made real and present in the world. Sometimes we wonder: the kingdom doesn’t really seem to exist except for small pockets here and there.

The kingdom of God must grow, must expand, until it shatters and absorbs all the other kingdoms. It has to absorb the other kingdoms because the people that makes this kingdom grow must obviously come from the previous kingdoms. The kingdom of God expands when men from other ways of life are won over to the Christian way of life. They are won not by war and conquest, but by surrender to the almighty God. And the kingdom of God can grow only with your help.

Every Christian is expected to be a disciple of Christ, imitating Christ in proclaiming the kingdom of God that is alive and here in the world. We are the face of Christ in the world.

What are you doing to expand the kingdom of God?
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, help me to expand your territory, so that all men and women may surrender to your rule. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Ruling our hearts.

Upcoming Readings:
Wed, 28 Nov – Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28; Luke 21:12-19
Thu, 29 Nov – Daniel 6:12-28; Luke 21:20-28
Fri, 30 Nov – Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22; Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
Sat, 01 Dec – Daniel 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36
Sun, 02 Dec – Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44; First Sunday of Advent

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Monday, November 26 – What Can You Give To God Today?

26 Nov

Persons are gifts which the Father sends to me… wrapped.
Some are wrapped very beautifully; they are attractive
when I first see them.
Some come in very ordinary wrapping paper.

Others have been mishandled in the post.
Once in a while there is a special delivery.

Some persons are gifts which come very loosely wrapped…
But the wrapping is not the gift.
It is so easy to make this mistake…

Sometimes the gift is very easy to open up.
Sometimes I need others to help…

I am a person, therefore I am a gift, too…

Every meeting of others is an exchange of gifts, … gifts received and gifts given…”

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
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Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands, with some of the furnishings of the Temple of God. He took them away to the land of Shinar, and stored the sacred vessels in the treasury of his own gods.

The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to select from the Israelites a certain number of boys of either royal or bole descent; they had to be without any physical defect, of good appearance, trained in every kind of wisdom, well-informed, quick at learning, suitable for service in the palace of the king. Ashpenaz himself was to teach them the language and literature of the Chaldaeans. The king assigned them a daily allowance of food and wine from his own royal table. They were to receive an education lasting for three years, after which they were expected to be fit for the king’s society. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were Judaeans. Daniel, who was most anxious not to defile himself with the food and wine from the royal table, begged the chief eunuch to spare him from this defilement; and by the grace of God Daniel met goodwill and sympathy on the part of the chief eunuch. But he warned Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king: he has assigned you food and drink, and if he sees you looking thinner in the face than the other boys of your age, my head will be in danger with the king because of you.” At this Daniel turned to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He said, “Please allow your servants a ten days’ trial, during which we are given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our looks with those of the boys who eat the king’s food; go by what you see, and treat your servants accordingly.” The man agreed to do what they asked and put them on ten days’ trial. When the ten days were over they looked and were in better health than any of the boys who had eaten their allowance from the royal table; so the guard withdrew their allowance of food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. And God favoured these four boys with knowledge and intelligence in everything connected with literature, and in wisdom; while David had the gift of interpreting every kind of vision and dream. When the period stipulated by the king for the boys’ training was over, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king conversed with them, and among all the boys found none to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they became members of the king’s court, and on whatever point of wisdom or information he might question them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
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Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.”
_____________________

All Christians are expected to be disciples of Christ. A disciple is one who listens to the instruction of his Master. A disciple is one who follows his teacher. Jesus asks for total surrender and trust in him, and it is in this area of discipleship that the poor has an advantage over the rich; the poor have less to give up.

Consider the first reading. The four boys ate only vegetables, while the rest of the boys ate the food and wine from the king’s table. If one day they had to fast, who do you think has it easier? Similarly for us, when it comes to Lent, or any day that we are to fast, do you think those who ate more daily would have it easier or those who ate less?

When it comes to holiness and sin, who do you think will find it easier to be holy – the one who sins a lot or the one who sins little?

The Church teaches us that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God, but every sin, even venial ones, “entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1472). Hence purification is necessary, either here on earth, or in after death in the state of Purgatory. These two punishments should not be seen as a punishment from God, but comes from the very nature of sin itself.

The CCC also tells us that “a conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain”, and that the Christian “should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man’.”

What Jesus is talking about in the gospel reading is not so much how much we give to God, but is speaking of attachments to creatures, in this case, money. The more we have of it, the more likely we are attached to it. And the way to becoming a better disciple of Christ is through works of mercy and charity, as well as prayer and the various practices of penance.

Pause a few moments and reflect on what attachments you would like to surrender to God today, and give them to Him.
____________________

Prayer:
Dear Lord, help us to become better disciples, imitating you and loving others as you have loved us. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Opportunities to grow in discipleship.

Upcoming Readings:
Tue, 27 Nov – Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-11
Wed, 28 Nov – Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28; Luke 21:12-19
Thu, 29 Nov – Daniel 6:12-28; Luke 21:20-28
Fri, 30 Nov – Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22; Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
Sat, 01 Dec – Daniel 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36
Sun, 02 Dec – Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44; First Sunday of Advent

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Sunday, November 25 – A Kingdom Not Of This World

25 Nov – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King

Christ The King

We celebrate Christ our anointed King who overcame suffering and death and so brought us out of darkness into his kingdom of light.

– the Sunday Missal
_____________________

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and grey,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way ;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide –
Why build a bridge at the eventide?”
The builder lifted his old grey head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

– Will Allen Dromgoole

– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
_____________________

Samuel 5:1-3

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron. “Look,” they said, “we are your own flesh and blood. In days past when Saul was our king, it was you who led Israel in all their exploits; and the Lord said to you, ‘You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.'” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.
____________________

Colossians 1:12-20

We give thanks to the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.

Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

He 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,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.

____________________

Luke 23:35-43

The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer him vinegar, they said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription: “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. “Are you not the Christ?” he said. “Save yourself and us as well.” But the other spoke up and rebuked him. “Have you no fear of God at all?” he said. “You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,” he said, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Indeed, I promise you,” he replied, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
____________________

The feast of Christ the King marks the end of the liturgical year and it serves as a reminder to us to treat Christ as the King of our life. Yet there is a lingering question that bothers me every time on this day,” What is God’s kingship based on?”

The good thief in today’s Gospel who was probably the only person that Jesus canonised on this world seems to have realised this point which has eluded me throughout a good part of my life. It was his realisation that God had to be the centre of his life. To do that required him to rid himself of all forms of sin and unworthiness that was preventing him from getting close to God. Sin is an obstacle towards us perfecting our relationship with God. But the choice is ours to make, we have to want to decide to let God take his rightful role.

The Israelites in the first reading asked David to be their king because they realised that he was the most powerful person during that period. It could have been fear that led them to approach David to be their king and indeed sometimes we remain in the faith because we fear the pangs of hellfire.

Whilst that is a possible motivation, I prefer to subscribe to the second reading, where St Paul tells us that God’s perfect love for us meant that He was willing to sacrifice his Son to die for his creatures so that they might enjoy his perfect love. All that lies for us now is to acknowledge that God is our King. This is increasingly difficult especially when we worship the idols of money, power and wealth instead of God’s abundant love. The former bring immediate comfort but the latter bring eternal happiness.

That is why Christ did not come down the cross when the Jewish leaders jeered and challenged him to come down the cross. His love for us was so great that He was willing to remain on the cross to suffer for all the sins of mankind; past, present and future.

Our decision is now to decide to whether we want to accept Him as our King. He has shown us that temporary pain in this world is required for us to enjoy the eternal joy of heaven by dying on the cross. Our sufferings are light compared to his; let us today offer up our burdens to Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nick Chia)
___________________

We pray for those whom have nobody to turn to, that they may remember Christ in their distress

We give thanks for those who have demonstrated the act that Simon of Cyrene need for our Lord.

Upcoming Readings:
Mon, 26 Nov – Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20; Luke 21:1-4
Tue, 27 Nov – Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-11
Wed, 28 Nov – Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28; Luke 21:12-19
Thu, 29 Nov – Daniel 6:12-28; Luke 21:20-28
Fri, 30 Nov – Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22; Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
Sat, 01 Dec – Daniel 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36
Sun, 02 Dec – Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44; First Sunday of Advent

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Saturday, November 24 – All that glitters is not gold

24 Nov – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and companions, martyrs

Andrew Dung-Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, and is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam. He was beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest.

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, some nuns or brothers, some lay people; some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.

– Source: Patron Saint Index
_____________________

1 Maccabees 6:1-13

Meanwhile King Antiochus was making his way across the upper provinces; he had heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, renowned for its riches, its silver and gold, and its very wealthy temple containing golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by Alexander son of Philip, the king of Macedon, the first to reign over the Greeks. He therefore went and attempted to take the city and pillage it, but without success, since the citizens learnt of his intention, and offered him a stiff resistance, whereupon he turned about and retreated, disconsolate, in the direction of Babylon. But while he was still in Persia news reached him that the armies that had invaded the land of Judah had been defeated, and that Lysias in particular had advanced in massive strength, only to be forced to turn and flee before the Jews; these had been strengthened by the acquisition of arms, supplies and abundant spoils from the armies they had cut to pieces; they had overthrown the abomination he had erected over the altar in Jerusalem, and had encircled the sanctuary with high walls as in the past, and had fortified Bethzur, one of his cities. When the king heard this news he was amazed and profoundly shaken; he threw himself on his bed and fell into a lethargy from acute disappointment, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. And there he remained for many days, subject to deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until he understood that he was dying. Then summoning all his Friends, he said to them, ‘Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed by anxiety. I have been asking myself how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as that which now engulfs me – I who was so generous and well-loved in my heyday. But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem when I seized all the vessels of silver and gold there, and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at all. This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.’
____________________

Luke 20:27-40

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and if’ the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.
____________________

The way of the world distracts us from the way of God. What we perceive to be God’s signs to us are sometimes actually distractions from the main focus in our life; to love God with all our strength. Today’s Gospel tells us that God is a God of the living and not of the dead. We must love him as if he was living. This might seem difficult to understand until we realise that He is present in the people that we come into contact with.

We need to treasure people rather than God and values above possessions. This is clearly borne out in the first reading where we see King Antiochus suffering from a deep regret for his cruel persecution of the Jews and their religion. By imposing his pagan views on the deeply religious Jews and plundering neighbouring countries to finance his evil ways, God made him suffer from a deep melancholy. He realised his mistake and was regretful for it only when he realised that it was time for him to die.

If we do not behave in a manner that treasures life, we will behave like dead men; unable to feel the movement of God’s spirit in our hearts. Let us ask the Lord to come into our hearts and cleanse us of our sinfulness so that we live as children of the living God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nick Chia)
____________________

Prayer:
Lord we pray for the sensibility to know what is hindering us in our relationship with you and ask that we offer these troubles to you.

We give thanks for your abundant love and patience.

Upcoming Readings:
Sun, 25 Nov – 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43; Solemnity of Christ The King

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Friday, November 23 – Obligatory Celebrations

23 Nov – Memorial for St. Clement I, pope, martyr; Memorial for St. Columba, abbot

Charity unites us to God. There is nothing mean in charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity all the elect of God have been made perfect.

– Pope St. Clement I

Clement (d. 101) was the fourth pope, elected in the year 88, and an Apostolic Father. The Basilica of St. Clement in Rome, one of the earliest parish churches in the city, is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Both Origen and St. Jerome identify him as working with St. Paul the Apostle.

Columban (543-615) was well-born, handsome and educated. He was torn between a desire for God and easy access to the pleasures of the world. Acting on the advice of a holy anchoress, he decided to withdraw from the world. His family opposed the choice, his mother going so far as to block the door. He became a monk and Lough Erne (Northern Ireland), where he studied Scripture extensively, and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He was a monk at Bangor under the abbot St. Corngall.

In his middle age, he felt a call to missionary life. With 12 companions, he travelled to Scotland, England, and then to France in 585. The area, though nominally Christian, had fallen far from the faith, but were ready for missionaries, and they had some success. Their simple lives and obvious holiness drew disciples to join them, and the sick to be healed by their prayers. Columban, to find solitude for prayer, often lived for long periods in a cave seven miles from their monastery, using a messenger to stay in touch with his brothers. The group grew too large for their monastery, and Columban founded a second, then a third house. He served as master of them all, and wrote a Rule for them, which incorporated many Celtic practices. This was approved by the Council of Macon in 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine.

Problems arose early in the 7th century. Many Frankish bishops objected to a foreign missionary with so much influence, to the Celtic practices he brought, especially those related to Easter, and his independence from them. In 602, he was summoned to appear before them for judgement. Instead of appearing, he sent a letter advising them to hold more synods, and to concern themselves with more important things that the rite he used to celebrate Easter. the dispute over Easter continued to years, with Columban appealing to multiple popes for help, but was only settled when Columban abandoned the Celtic calendar when he moved to Italy.

In addition to his problems with the bishops, Columban spoke out against vice and corruption in the royal household and court, which was in the midst of a series of complex power grabs. With bishops and nobility stirred up against him, he was ordered to conform to the local ways. He refused, and was briefly imprisoned, before escaping and returning to France. An armed force was sent to force him and his foreign monks back to Ireland. As soon as his ship set sail, a storm drove them back to shore. The captain took it as a sign, and set the monks free.

They made their way to Neustria (formerly in the Western part of the French kingdom), but their evangelization work there was unsuccessful. The group went on to Italy when political upheaval caused Columban and his group to cross the Alps in 612. There, the Christian royal family treated him well, and he preached and wrote against Arianism and Nestorianism. In gratitude, the Lombard king gave him a tract of land between Milan and Genoa. There he rebuilt a half-ruined church of St. Peter, and around it he founded an abbey that was to be the source of evangelization throughout northern Italy for centuries to come.

Columban always enjoyed being in the forests and caves, and as he walked through the woods, birds and squirrels would ride on his shoulders. Towards the end of his life came word that his old enemies were dead, and his brothers wanted him to come back north, but he declined. Knowing that his time was almost done, he retired to a cave for solitude, and died as he had predicted. His influence continued for centuries as those he converted handed on the faith, the brothers he taught evangelized untold numbers more, and his brother monks founded over one hundred monasteries to protect learning and spread the faith. Many miracles were ascribed to St. Columban.

– Source: Patron Saint Index
_____________________

1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59

Judas and his brothers said, “Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.” So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings. They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors. There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them. Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.
____________________

Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. “According to scripture,” he said, “my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.”

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.
____________________

In the first reading today, we see that the Jews praised God for eight days. Wow! Imagine praising God for eight days today. Can we do it? Can we praise God joyfully for eight days without it becoming a bore? I think it’s quite hard for us to do so. We see that Judas, and his brothers, and the whole assembly then made it into a law that for eight days on this particular time of the year, there was to be rejoicing and gladness. Fast forward several hundred years. Do you think that the Jews were still rejoicing so voluntarily, or had those eight days of praise become more like an obligation to them?

We look at our own practice of going for Mass on Sundays. Early in the church’s history, the Christians came together voluntarily to worship and praise God on Sundays. No one had to make them go to the house of prayer to worship. They all went voluntarily and with gladness to praise God and to remember the day of his resurrection. Fast forward several hundred years to today. Do you think that Catholics are still rejoicing so voluntarily on Sundays, going to Mass willingly and joyfully to remember the day of our Lord’s resurrection?

I am sure that for all of us, myself included, there are Sundays when we dread having to go for Mass… especially if it’s raining and we are feeling sleepy. And sometimes we feel guilty about not going for Mass when we’re supposed to. The Catechism tells us, however, that “the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life”. In other words, if we are finding difficulty going to church on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist, it probably means that our church life is somewhat lacking.

Some of us might think, “I can pray at home, why do I need to go to church to pray?” Back in the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom was already telling Christians: “You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests.” I guess what he’s saying is that the reason why we can’t pray at home as we can in church is because everyone else is in church, and being a Christian means being there for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Catechism tells us: Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God’s holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In essence, our desire to participate in the Sunday Eucharistic celebrate is directly linked to our desire to participate in the Church. If we see no need to participate in the Church, then naturally we see little need of going for Mass on Sundays. If you are wondering why going for Mass on Sundays suddenly becomes a chore (as it is for me sometimes), take some time to reflect on what it means to be a Catholic, and what it means to be a member of the Church, the Body of Christ.
_____________________

Prayer:
Dear Lord, open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to how you are revealing to us the mystery of being a Catholic and a member of Your Body. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The Sunday Eucharist, and the community we celebrate it with.

Upcoming Readings:
Sat, 24 Nov – 1 Maccabees 6:1-13; Luke 20:27-40; Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and his companions, martyrs
Sun, 25 Nov – 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43; Solemnity of Christ The King

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Wednesday, November 21 – Doing God’s Will

21 Nov – Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This celebration commemorates the presentation of the child Mary, in the Temple at Jerusalem, when she was three. This feast was first kept in the eighth century. It symbolises the consecration of her life to the Lord.

– from the Weekday Missal
__________________

The Spiritual Aspirant

A young man decided to renounce the world and become a monk. It was great news for the village, and every one turned out to bid him farewell. Some had tears in their eyes because he was much loved for his cheerfulness and service. He was going to be sorely missed, and in all probability he would never return home.

The village band was in full swing, and they played gaily as they accompanied the lad, with the young and the old, slowly making their way to the river that served as the boundary of the village. On the banks of the river there were more floral tributes and a string of speeches by the elders and the prominent people of the place. Finally the youth got into the boat, and rowed over the water, as the band continued to play and the people shouted with joy. When he reached the other shore, he got off the boat, waved once more to the sobbing villagers and then began his long trek across the fields and up the mountain.

He was made to wait at the gates of the monastery, till the Master, who was informed of his arrival, came personally to welcome him.

“I’m glad you are here,” said the Master. “However, in this monastery, you can only come in alone.”

The young man looked around him in astonishment. “But I am alone,” he said, confused.

The Master looked kindly at him and said softly, “I didn’t look around you. I looked inside you. I see a crowd there – your family, friends, relatives, and the people of the village; I hear the village band, the showers of adulation, and shouts of revelry. Only when you leave them, leave everything, outside, can you enter. I do not deal with crowds or noise; I deal with individuals in the silence of their hearts.”

The young man closed his eyes in reverence, and let the words of the Master sink in. But he found his mind clouded with the faces and voices… and he understood. he bowed deeply, and walked slowly to where the pilgrims left their footwear. He squatted in a corner with his head bent down. That’s where the Master left him.

The aspirant spent most of the day dusting the shoes and sandals left there by pilgrims who visited the monastery. The rest of the time he spent by himself, in meditation. He eventually forgot his village, his family, his farewell.

One day the Master came by and finding him alone, offered him a hand and took him into the inner chambers of the monastery, to a new family, and with the freedom to commune with the Other!

– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
_____________________

Zechariah 2:14-17

Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion,
for now I am coming to live among you
— Yahweh declares!

And on that day many nations
will be converted to Yahweh.
Yes, they will become his people,
and they will live among you.
Then you will know that Yahweh Sabaoth has sent me to you!
Yahweh will take possession of Judah,
his portion in the Holy Land,
and again make Jerusalem his choice.
Let all people be silent before Yahweh,
now that he is stirring from his holy Dwelling!

____________________

Matthew 12:46-50

He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly his mother and his brothers were standing outside and were anxious to have a word with him. But to the man who told him this Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’
____________________

Why does doing the will of God make us Jesus’ brothers, sisters and mothers? It is because it is when we do His will that we are close to Him.

But how does one know the will of God? We have to listen to Him. When we let all external and internal noise die out, we will be able to hear what He has to say, and we will be surprised! It might not be as dramatic as what the prophets proclaimed like in the first reading. But He has things out of this world to say to us. When God speaks, He speaks love. Within this love is His will for us.

Are you feeling anxious? Have you been like Jesus’ mother and brothers, who were “anxious to have a word with Him”? Yet when we go to Him, we find a surprise. He doesn’t want us to be worried over the things that happen to us.

He wants us to make things happen.

Today, let us be disciples, as the first disciples were. Let us listen to His Word and be with Him in the adoration room. If you have a question that’s bugging you, why not talk to a friend (or spiritual director) about it? This is not part of the national stress-handling campaign, but turning to our community of believers. You will then be able to hear God clearer, little by little, to carry out His will.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Regina Xie)
____________________

Prayer: Lord, help us to do Your will.

Give thanks to the Lord for: quiet moments with Him.

Upcoming Readings:
Thu, 22 Nov – 1 Maccabees 2:15-29; Luke 19:41-44; Memorial for St. Cecilia, virgin, martyr
Fri, 23 Nov – 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59; Luke 19:45-48; Memorial for St. Clement I, pope, martyr; Memorial for St. Columba, abbot
Sat, 24 Nov – 1 Maccabees 6:1-13; Luke 20:27-40; Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and his companions, martyrs
Sun, 25 Nov – 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43; Solemnity of Christ The King

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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.

Tuesday, November 20 – Making Visible What Is Invisible

20 Nov

The Harmonious Couple

Once while driving through a small town a man suddenly realised that he was lost. Seeing no one in sight, he drove up to a farmhouse nearby to ask for directions. He saw an elderly woman sitting at the entrance. Then he heard someone whistling and turning around he saw an elderly man working in the yard. As he paused a while it struck him that the man was whistling loud and clear, but completely out of tune; if fact, the whistling seemed to have no purpose at all.

The stranger approached the man, and half out of curiosity and half out of the need to make conversation, starting with, “You seem to be very fond of whistling.”

“Oh,” said the older man with a shrug of his shoulder, “it has become second nature to me now.”

Then he pointed to the woman sitting at the entrance of the house and began his explanation. The woman was his wife. When they had been happily married for forty-two years, his wife lost her sight. At that age, the blindness became a terrifying experience for her and she began to feel extremely insecure. “So you see,” concluded the man, “I figured if I just keep whistling, she will know I am around and that will give her the assurance she so badly needs.”

– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?

– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
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2 Maccabees 6:18-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig’s flesh. But he, resolving to die with honour rather than to live disgraced, went to the block of his own accord, spitting the stuff out, the plain duty of anyone with the courage to reject what is not lawful to taste, even from a natural tenderness for his own life. Those in charge of the impious banquet, because of their long-standing friendship with him, took him aside and privately urged him to have meat brought of a kind he could properly use, prepared by himself, and only pretend to eat the portions of sacrificial meat as prescribed by the king; this action would enable him to escape death, by availing himself of an act of kindness prompted by their long friendship. But having taken a noble decision worthy of his years and the dignity of his great age and the well earned distinction of his grey hairs, worthy too of his impeccable conduct from boyhood, and above all of the holy legislation established by God himself, he publicly stated his convictions, telling them to send him at once to Hades. “Such pretence,” he said, “does not square with our time of life; many young people would supposed that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners’ way of life, and because I had played this part for the sake of a paltry brief spell of life might themselves be led astray on my account; I should only bring defilement and disgrace on my old age. Even though for the moment I avoid execution by man, I can never, living or dead, elude the grasp of the Almighty. Therefore if I am man enough to quit this life here and now I shall prove myself worthy of my old age, and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for hte venerable and holy laws.”

With these words he went straight to the block. His escorts, so recently well disposed towards him, turned against him after this declaration, which they regarded as sheer madness. Just before he died under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, “The Lord whose knowledge is holy sees clearly that, though I might have escaped death, whatever agonies of body I now endure under this bludgeoning, in my soul I am glad to suffer, because of the awe which he inspires in me.”

This is how he died, leaving his death as an example of nobility and a record of virtue not only for the young but for the majority of the nation.
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Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zaccaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. he was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.” And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,” they said. But Zaccheaus stood his ground and said to the Lord, “Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”
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Today’s readings teach us something very important about our faith – it is not for our salvation alone. Some Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic, have the idea that so long as I am okay with God, I will go to heaven. But today’s readings, especially the first reading, tells us that our faith requires that we bear witness to it in front of others.

If it is true that “so long as I am okay with God, I will go to heaven”, Eleazar would not have given his life to live according to his faith. One of the purposes of having our faith is so that we can ear witness to it in front of others. Even if we are privately okay with God and keep his rules in private, it is no use because other people who see us trespassing God’s laws will believe that we are not being Christian. We set a bad example for them, and we lead them astray.

For the most part, we do this because we seek the approval of men. We want people to be okay with us, to accept us, and basically not to hate us. Eleazar, however, teaches us to seek the approval of God, and to be an example to others, especially those who look up to us. We never know who may look up to us, so we should always assume that there are people who look to us for guidance and as an example.

In the same way, Zacchaeus too was a public sinner. When he accepted Jesus into his household, we might think that he did not have to give his money to the poor. But we notice that it is only after he made this decision did Jesus say that salvation has come to him and his house. Simply accepting Jesus or even welcoming him to our home and our lives does not grant us salvation. What grants us salvation is our faith, which drives us to do good works.

In the above story, the old man’s whistling made known his presence to his wife who could not see. The purpose of his whistling which originally seemed to have no purpose was to reassure his wife that he was there. Similarly, the purpose of our good works is to bear witness to our faith which no one can see. The works make visible the invisible faith that we have, and leads other people to God.
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Prayer:
We pray that our invisible faith may be made visible for the salvation of souls other than our own. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who inspire us and give us an example of faith to emulate.

Upcoming Readings:
Wed, 21 Nov – Zechariah 2:14-17; Matthew 12:46-50; The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Thu, 22 Nov – 1 Maccabees 2:15-29; Luke 19:41-44; Memorial for St. Cecilia, virgin, martyr
Fri, 23 Nov – 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59; Luke 19:45-48; Memorial for St. Clement I, pope, martyr; Memorial for St. Columba, abbot
Sat, 24 Nov – 1 Maccabees 6:1-13; Luke 20:27-40; Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and his companions, martyrs
Sun, 25 Nov – 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43; Solemnity of Christ The King

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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.