Monthly Archives: January 2008

Sunday, January 27 – How To Be A Better Christian

27 Jan – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus, The Light Of The World

The Good News we have heard is like a beacon light which draws men irresistibly to Christ. We must not be content with lesser lights.

– the Sunday Missal
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The Heir’s Portrait

A very wealthy man was heartbroken when his wife died leaving behind their young son. Fortunately, he could depend on a very affable housekeeper who took care of the child as her own. When the lad was barely twenty, however, he met with a tragic death. His father was so grief-stricken that his health began to dwindle, and he too died a few months later, in the loving arms of the housekeeper. He had, no doubt, made adequate provision for her.

The millionaire left no will, and since no living heir to his enormous estate could be trace, the whole property was taken over by the state. Eventually, an auction was arranged to dispose of the personal effects of the mansion.

The old housekeeper was present at the auction, not so much to bid for anything as to have a last glance at the things she had been familiar with for years. Among the several objects on display, there was one that attracted her attention; it was the photograph of the boy in his late teens. It was practically the only item that had no takers, so the woman paid the amount the auctioneer demanded and bought it for keepsakes.

When she dusted the frame at home, some papers fell out the back. They looked important, so she showed them to a lawyer-friend. The lawyer could not believe what he saw. He looked at the woman and said cheerfully: “You’ve hit the jackpot, dear. Your old master has left all his property and savings to the person who loved his son enough to buy the picture.”

– 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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Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3

In days past the Lord humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in days to come he will confer glory on the Way of the Sea on the far side of Jordan, province of the nations.

The people that walked in darkness
has been a great light,
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the bar across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.

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1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: “I am for Paul”, “I am for Apollo”, “I am for Cephas”, “I am for Christ”. Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.
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Matthew 4:12-23

Hearing that John had been arrested Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land of shadow of death
a light has dawned.

From that moment Jesus began preaching with the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”

As he 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.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.
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Many of us have heard the terms “Liberation Theology” and “Prosperity Gospel” before. Do we know what these terms mean, and why some parts of them are not compatible with the Good News?

Liberation Theology essentially focuses on Jesus as a political saviour, as someone who saves an oppressed people from their oppressor. The good of the people is valued above the good of the individual person, and personal sin becomes neglected. In other words, “It doesn’t matter whether I am a sinful person, so long as I am doing working to free my people from the oppressor.” Perhaps what is most important in the context of today’s reflection, is that Jesus is not seen in his full light, but only as someone who frees a people from their oppressors.

Prosperity Gospel teaches that prosperity, particularly financial prosperity and success in business or person life is external providence of God’s favour. Consequently, the richer you are, the more blessed by God you are. I am not entirely familiar with it, but from what I understand, it reduces Christianity to a form of materialism.

These two forms of Christian doctrine are what would be described by the introduction of today’s theme as “lesser lights”. While there is some truth in these two doctrines, there is also much that is mistaken, primarily that of focusing Christianity into one or two points, and missing out the rest. In today’s context, we are very much surrounded by these lesser lights. From everywhere around us, we are being bombarded by lesser lights that tries to get us to focus on one or two particular aspects of Christianity while the rest of the message is hidden in darkness.

As Christians, it is our duty to learn as much as we can about all aspects of our faith. We cannot, for example, focus on only one aspect of our faith, say liturgy, and forget about everything else. Nor can we focus on, say, sexuality, and neglect everything else about our faith. This is the trap that many of us, including myself, tend to fall into. And this is what brings about conflict in the Church. This is something that is not new to the history of the Church as we see from the second reading. Conflicts within the Church arise because people are too focused on the area that they specialize in, and they neglect to see the bigger picture.

This invitation in today’s reflection is therefore an invitation to see the big picture. Just as Jesus invited his first disciples to follow him, the light, we too are invited to drop whatever we are familiar with, and follow the light of Christ into the world and see the big picture of God’s plan for humanity. Here’s a secret that the Lord has revealed to us already: The big picture of God’s plan for humanity is Jesus. As for what this secret means, well, we have to step out of our comfort zone and follow Jesus to find out.

This week, let us make the effort to try our hand at something in our faith that we are not familiar with, even if we might look stupid or feel uncomfortable, for it is only when we are out of our comfort zone that we can grow and develop into better persons.
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, we ask you to show us the bigger picture of your plan as we offer this week to you, and do our best to explore unfamiliar territory. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Opportunities to grow.

Upcoming Readings:
Mon, 28 Jan – 2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10; Mark 3:22-30; Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest, religious, doctor
Tue, 29 Jan – 2 Samuel 6:12b-15, 17-19; Mark 3:31-35
Wed, 30 Jan – 2 Samuel 7:4-17; Mark 4:1-20
Thu, 31 Jan – 2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29; Mark 4:21-25; Memorial for St. John Bosco, priest, religious founder
Fri, 01 Feb – 2 Samuel 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17; Mark 4:26-34
Sat, 02 Feb – Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40; Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Sun, 03 Feb – Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12a; Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Saturday, January 26 – Peace & Happiness

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy’s father was a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death in 97 for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.
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Titus 1:1-5

From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie and so, at the appointed time, he revealed his decision, and, by the command of God our saviour, I have been commissioned to proclaim it. To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share, wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our saviour.

The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to get everything organised there and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you.
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Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you”.
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I have always admired my Muslim friends for their greeting of peace to fellow Muslims. It is a gesture that extends the peace of God to fellow brethren and reminds me of the sign of Peace that we exchange just before Holy Communion. Indeed, the fragmented and broken world that we live in is in need of peace.

St. Paul, in today’s first reading, extends to Bishop Titus a greeting of “grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Saviour.” Titus and Timothy were St. Paul’s close and faithful companions and became bishops over the faithful in Crete and Ephesus respectively. As bishops and shepherds of the flock of God, they were men of peace and unity amongst the troubles that faced the early Christian church. They put into practice what Christ commanded his apostles in today’s Gospel to be “lambs among wolves”.

We live in a world today that is marked by much persecution from a “culture of death”. Yet it is precisely in such an environment that we need to be examples of peace to those living in the world. Only by living out the value of peace can we genuinely proclaim with all our hearts the message that “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nick Chia)
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We pray that the Holy Spirit enter into our hearts and give us a peace that nothing in the world can give.

We give thanks to the Lord for our Archbishop Nicholas Chia who works tirelessly for the unity of the Archdiocese of Singapore.

Upcoming Readings:
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Friday, January 25 – The Courageous Disciple

25 Jan – Feast of the Conversion of Paul, apostle

St. Paul (3-65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptised, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. He died a martyr for his faith.

Prayer to St. Paul
O Glorious Saint Paul, after persecuting the Church you became by God’s grace its most zealous Apostle. To carry the knowledge of Jesus, our divine Saviour, to the uttermost parts of the earth you joyfully endured prison, scourgings, stonings, and shipwreck, as well as all manner of persecutions culminating in the shedding of the last drop of your blood for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Obtain for us the grace to labour strenuously to being the faith to others and to accept any trials and tribulations that may come our way. Help us to be inspired by your Epistles and to partake of your indomitable love for Jesus, so that after we have finished our course we may join you in praising him in heaven for all eternity. Amen.

– Patron Saint Index
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Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22

Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He had gone to the high priests and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find.

Suddenly, while he was travelling to Damascus and just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” he asked, and the voice answered him, “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.” The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand. For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink.

A disciple called Ananias who lived in Damascus had a vision in which he heard the Lord say to him, “Ananias!” When he replied, “Here I am, Lord”, the Lord said, “You must go to Straight Street and ask at the house of Judas for someone named Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying, having had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.”

When he heard that, Ananias said, “Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to the saints in Jerusalem. He has only come here because he holds a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.” The Lord replied, “You must go all the same, because this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and at once laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way here so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately it was as though scales fell away from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. So he was baptised there and then, and after taking some food he regained strength.

After he spent only a few days with the disciples in Damascus, he began preaching in the synagogues, “Jesus is the Son of God.” All his hearers were amazed. “Surely,” they said, “this is the man who organised the attack in Jerusalem against the people who invoke this name, and who came here for the sole purpose of arresting them to have them tried by the chief priests?” Saul’s power increased steadily, and he was able to throw the Jewish colony into complete confusion by the way he demonstrated that Jesus was the Christ.
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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”
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We have just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began on Jan 18 and ends today. We had two prayer services for Christian Unity, the first held at Barker Road Methodist Church, which drew about 150 people, mostly Catholics, and the second held at Church of the Risen Christ, which drew a large crowd, but again mostly Catholics. Aside from the religious leaders of the various faith traditions, where were all the other Christians? Did the Catholics who attended not try to bring their non-Catholic Christian friends to attend these prayer services? Why not?

Perhaps we are afraid. I know I can be quite intimidated when I meet non-Catholic Christians – which probably explains why I no longer have any! It can be intimidating because they can really put me on the spot when they ask me certain questions about the Catholic faith, especially those that require long explanations that I am usually not prepared to give on the spot!

It is well-known that our Christian brothers and sisters have far more evangelical zeal that we Catholics do… maybe that’s why they call themselves evangelical Christians. There are, at times, Christians who carry their evangelical zeal too far and turn into zealots or fanatics. Just yesterday, a priest related the story of how a Taoist lady was so distressed when her recently converted Christian relative took advantage of her absence in the house to dismantle the family altar and throw away all the parts.

Indeed it is not very uncommon to hear some Christians claim unashamedly that their unbaptized mother is going to be condemned to hell because she has not accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Surely this is not what Jesus meant when he said what he said to the Eleven in the gospel reading today!

What then are we Catholics to do? Well, firstly, we need to recognise and acknowledge that we have a fear of speaking to non-Catholic Christians. As I shared on Wednesday, fear is only a feeling. Each of us is called to act on our faith, in spite of our fear, just like Ananias did when he approached Paul to give him his sight. And what happened after Saul received his sight? He spent some time with the disciples of the Lord, and immediately went to preach and convert other people.

When we pray for Christian Unity, we often say that we focus on what we have in similar, and ignore the differences between our faith traditions. But that is not true ecumenism, for to ignore the differences is to ignore the reasons why the faith traditions were separated in the first place. Rather, true ecumenism acknowledges the differences and requires Catholics to share our faith tradition with other Christians just as we respectfully listen to theirs.

The majority of non-Catholic Christians are not Catholics not because they choose to be, but because they have never been evangelized by Catholics. This happens when we ignore the differences between our faith traditions. Some of the most famous Catholic apologists, like Scott Hahn and Cardinal John Henry Newman were converts to the Catholic faith from other Christian faith traditions. Like St. Paul, the ‘scales’ fell from their eyes and after their conversion, they retained their religious zeal and channelled it towards spreading the Catholic faith to all who have not yet heard of it.

My friends, as we close the week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us remember St. Paul’s own conversion, and the courage of Ananias who stepped up, in spite of his fear, to follow the Lord’s command and bring healing and sight to the blind. Let us continue to share our Catholic faith bravely, even to our Christian brothers and sisters, for some may not have heard of it or have heard a distorted version of it and, through no fault of their own, continue to persecute the Lord Jesus.
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, grant us the courage to speak openly, loudly, and publicly about our Catholic faith, especially to our Christian brethren who have not had the opportunity to hear the truth. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The people who have been instrumental in healing the spiritual blindness of others.

Upcoming Readings:
Sat, 26 Jan – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Timothy 1:1-5; Luke 10:1-9; Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Thursday, January 24 – Voices

24 Jan – Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor of the Church

Salvation is shown to faith, it is prepared for hope, but it is given only to charity. Faith points out the way to the land of promise as a pillar of fire hope feeds us with its manna of sweetness, but charity actually introduces us into the Promised Land.
– Saint Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was born in a castle to a well-placed family. His parents intended him to become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, Clermont College in Paris, and law at the University of Padua. He became a Doctor of Law, returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate.

It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me”. He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

He became a priest, and a provost in the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. He was a preacher, writer and spiritual director in the distrcit of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church.

He was ordained Bishop of Geneva at the age of 35. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was a friend of St. Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric. He helped found the Order of the Visitation with St. Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent. He was declared a Doctor of the Church.

Prayer of St. Francis de Sales
Lord, I am yours,
and I must belong to no one but you.
My soul is yours,
and must live only by you.
My will is yours,
and must love only for you.
I must love you as my first cause,
since I am from you.
I must love you as my end and rest,
since I am for you.
I must love you more than my own being,
since my being subsists by you.
I must love you more than myself,
since I am all yours and all in you.
AMEN.

– Patron Saint Index
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1 Samuel 18:6-19:1-7

On their way back, as David was returning after killing the Philistine, the women came out to meet King Saul from all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing to the sound of tambourine and lyre and cries of joy; and as they danced the women sang:

‘Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.’

Saul was very angry; the incident was not to his liking. ‘They have given David the tens of thousands,’ he said, ‘but me only the thousands; he has all but the kingship now.’ And Saul turned a jealous eye on David from that day forward.

Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants of his intention to kill David. Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, held David in great affection; and so Jonathan warned David; ‘My father Saul is looking for a way to kill you,’ he said, ‘so be on your guard tomorrow morning; hide away in some secret place. Then I will go and keep my father company in the fields where you are hiding, and will talk to my father about you; I will find out what the situation is and let you know.’

So Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father; he said, ‘Let not the king sin against his servant David, for he has not sinned against you, and what he has done has been greatly to your advantage. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it yourself and rejoiced; why then sin against innocent blood in killing David without cause?’ Saul was impressed by Jonathan’s words and took and oath, ‘As the Lord lives, I will not kill him.’ Jonathan called David and told him all these things. Then Jonathan brought him to Saul, and David attended on him as before.
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Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he warned them strongly not to make him known.
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Speech is a gift unique to the human species. Some might argue the cases of dolphins and chimpanzees as well but those are still a very grey area. Spoken words allow us to express our thoughts and feelings in a clear and concise that others can understand. Well, that is the theoretical ideal anyway. Things are often not the case.

My brothers and sisters, how many times a day do our sentences carry subtleties and nuances that run contrary to the actual message. Sarcasm is an example of that. Going further, how many times have we spoken well to a person in front of them and ill about him or her when we are with others? Worse still, how many times do we ‘bless’ someone openly but ‘curse’ them in our hearts?

I have done all of that, more often than I would like to admit. We have to ask ourselves if this is how we use our gift of speech. We see in the first reading just how effective speech can be if used for good and to express true things. Jonathan’s words saved David’s life. He had good cause to side with his father since David was a threat to his own inheritance of the throne. Instead of this however, he sang David’s well deserved praises and won him favor with Saul.

To sincerely profess good things about someone; to chastise tactfully when necessary is to bear witness to truth and to act as the voice of God. Even the unclean spirits cast out by Christ were compelled to proclaim the glory of Christ with their words. My sisters and brothers, should we do no less than these?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Aloysius Ting)
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, help us to speak with Your words to those we meet each day. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Tongues

Upcoming Readings:
Fri, 25 Jan – Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Mark 16:15-18; Feast of the Conversion of Paul, apostle
Sat, 26 Jan – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Timothy 1:1-5; Luke 10:1-9; Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Wednesday, January 23 – Fear is only a feeling

24 Jan

The Cockroach

There is a tragic story entitled Metamorphosis, by the celebrated Czechoslovakian writer Franz Kafka. It is about an unmarried man, Gregor, who lives with his parents and sister. Gregor works as a clerk in a store. As a good salesman, he tries to project a pleasant image to his customers, but he is a deeply unhappy man. He suffers much from an overpowering boss and an unsympathetic family – both treating him like an insect.

Eventually he begins to have nightmares about his insect-like life. One morning he wakes up to discover that his nightmares have become a reality: he has been transformed into an insect – a giant cockroach!

Just as fairy tales go, Gregor can become human again only if he is loved and nurtured by humans, particularly members of his family. However, since his appearance is revolting, this does not happen.

Gregor makes several pathetic efforts to express himself to his family, to appeal to them to show some affection, all in vain.

Ultimately, he simply gives up and dies, remaining a cockroach until the end.

– 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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1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on his account; your servant will go and fight this Philistine.” But Saul answered, “You cannot go and fight the Philistine; you are only a boy and he has been a warrior from his youth.” The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear,” David said, “will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.” Then Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

He took his staff on his hand, picked five smooth stones from the river bed, put them in his shepherd’s bag, in his pouch, and with his sling in his hand he went to meet the Philistine. The Philistine, his shield-bearer in front of him, came nearer and nearer to David; and the Philistine looked at David, and what he saw filled him with scorn, because David was only a youth, a boy of fresh complexion and pleasant bearing. The Philistine said to him, “Am I a dog for you to come against me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come over hear and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.” But David answered the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the god of the armies of Israel that you have dared to insult. Today the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I shall kill you; I will cut off your head, and this very day I will give your dead body and the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord gives the victory, for he is lord of the battle and he will deliver you into our power.”

No sooner had the Philistine started forward to confront David than David left the line of battle and ran to meet the Philistine. Putting his hand in his bag, he took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; the stone penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone and struck the Philistine down and killed him. David had no sword in his hand. Then David ran and, standing over the Philistine, seized his sword and drew it from the scabbard, and with this he killed him, cutting off his head. The Philistines saw that their champion was dead and took to flight.
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Mark 3:1-6

Jesus went into a synagogue, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they were watching him to see if he would cure him on the sabbath day, hoping for something to use against him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Stand up out in the middle!” Then he said to them, “Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?” But they said nothing. Then, grieved to find them so obstinate, he looked angrily round at them, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was better. The Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.
_____________________

What gave David the confidence to go up against Goliath? Are we to assume that David was simply a brave fool who would go out in front of a warrior trained from his youth? After all, the only experience David has had in fighting battles was against wild beasts when he was a shepherd. Are we to call David courageous or a fool? Do you think David was afraid when he went up against Goliath?

I believe so. I believe David certainly was afraid, but certainly not a fool. To fear when facing a being larger than ourselves is a normal reaction. But David recognised that fear was but a feeling. Wise people recognise this and act in spite of the feeling; fools let fear prevent them from acting. And act, David did.

However, David acted in faith despite the fear. What was his faith based on? An abstract idea of God? A loose definition of God, since David himself never studied philosophy or theology? No. David’s faith was based on experience. He had personally experienced the saving power of God in his life before, and that is why he knew that God would continue to protect him in the face of Goliath. David acted on faith in the Lord, and he came up triumphant over Goliath who acted on faith in his own strength.

In contrast to this battle between David and Goliath, we see in the gospel reading another battle taking place. Jesus invited the Pharisees to respond to his question, but the Pharisees, being fearful of Jesus – possibly afraid of being humiliated in public – did not act. They let their fear, for whatever reason, prevent them from acting there and then. We know that the Pharisees certainly did fear Jesus, which is why they plotted to eliminate him.

Let us remember, my friends, that fear is only a feeling and that if we have past experience on which our faith is based, let us act on that faith, in spite of the fear, to stand up and receive the challenge that God is calling us to today.
____________________

Prayer:
Dear Lord, we pray for the courage to act on faith in You where there is need of justice, and not let fear prevent us from acting. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who act for what is right and just, in spite of their fear.

Upcoming Readings:
Thu, 24 Jan – 1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12; Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor of the Church
Fri, 25 Jan – Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Mark 16:15-18; Feast of the Conversion of Paul, apostle
Sat, 26 Jan – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Timothy 1:1-5; Luke 10:1-9; Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Tuesday, January 22 – Sunday Obligation

22 Jan – Memorial for St. Vincent, deacon, martyr

There seems to be many St. Vincents that have today as their day of memorial. I think the one that we are supposed to remember in the liturgical calendar is St. Vincent of Saragossa (d. 304). He was a friend of St. Valerius of Saragossa in Spain, and served as his deacon. He was imprisoned and tortured in Valencia, some of it by burning on a gridiron, for his faith. He converted the jailer and was finally offered release if he would give up the sacred texts to the fire, but he refused. He was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian.

– Patron Saint Index

“To you has been granted in Christ’s behalf not only that you should believe in him but also that you should suffer for him. Vincent had received both these gifts and held them as his own. For how could he have them if he had not received them? And he displayed his faith in what he said, his endurance in what he suffered.

No one ought to be confident in his own strength when he undergoes temptation. For whenever we endure evils courageously, our long-suffering comes from him Christ. He once said to his disciples: “In this world you will suffer persecution,” and then, to allay their fears, he added, “but rest assured, I have conquered the world.”

There is no need to wonder then, my dearly beloved brothers, that Vincent conquered in him who conquered the world. It offers temptation to lead us astray; it strikes terror into us to break our spirit. Hence if our personal pleasures do not hold us captive, and if we are not frightened by brutality, then the world is overcome. At both of these approaches Christ rushes to our aid, and the Christian is not conquered.”

– from a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo
__________________

1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you go on mourning over Saul when I have rejected him as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.” Samuel replied, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me.” Then the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and then I myself will tell you what you must do; you must anoint to me the one I point out to you.”

Samuel did what the Lord ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, “Seer, have you come with good intentions towards us?” “Yes,” he replied, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He purified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice

When they arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed one stands there before him”, but the Lord said to Samuel, “Take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” Jesse then called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel, who said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” He then asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” He answered, “There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.” Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, “Come, anoint him, for this is the one.” At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on. As for Samuel, he rose and went to Ramah.
____________________

Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath day Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?” And he replied, “Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?”

And he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, so the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.”
____________________

A couple of months ago, I went facing a problem in one of my ministries. I was finding great difficulty working with a person in the ministry as there was a lot of internal conflict taking place because of this person. I did not know what to do. One day, I happened to be at the Carmelite monastery, and I asked the Carmelite Sisters there to pray for me and my ministry. Sister Linda, who received my petition for prayer, reassured me, “Don’t worry. We will pray for you, and you will see changes taking place in your ministry.”

Soon after, through circumstances that were far beyond my control (but not beyond the Lord’s), this person resigned from the ministry. I’m now convinced that the prayers of the Carmelite Sisters really work!

In today’s first reading, we see Samuel facing a similar problem. He had not too long ago anointed Saul as king of Israel, and now Saul had been rejected by the Lord. What could he do? As seer, he had no power to remove the king because even though he had been rejected by the Lord, Saul was still an anointed one. But the Lord had other plans. When one door closes, another window opens, and the Lord revealed to Samuel the solution to his dilemma.

What is perhaps most striking about both my experience and Samuel’s experience is that the Lord did not call down lightning from heaven and strike dead the guy that was in the way. What is striking is that “God communicates himself to us respecting our human nature and its vital rhythms”, as Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae at the start of the Year of the Rosary from October 2002 to October 2003.

We see this very clearly in the gospel reading, where Jesus tells the Pharisees that the sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath. It is part of our human nature and its vital rhythms that we work for six days and rest for one day. No human can go on working indefinitely without burning out. Rest is important, but more important than rest is that the sabbath is to be kept holy. That means we rest from work not for the sake of resting alone, but to spend this time away from work with God, reconnecting ourselves with Him, for without God, we are nothing.

For us Catholics, we have this ‘obligation’ to attend Sunday Mass. We have been told since young that if we do miss Sunday Mass, it is a sin. Consequently, we have a bunch of Catholics who don’t really want to attend Mass, but do so for fear of committing a sin. This is no different from the Pharisees who believed that they should not do an ounce of work on the sabbath.

Perhaps this teaching is okay for children and those who are young in the faith, but for those who have reached the age of reason, we should at least come to realise the reason for this Sunday ‘obligation’. The reason is simply that it is our human nature and its vital rhythms that require us to take a break from work every week, and spend that time reconnecting ourselves with God. To renew our connection with Him, and to draw strength from Him again. Sunday Mass is made for us, not us for Sunday Mass.

In this busy society that we live in, it might seem like Sunday Mass is a waste of time and we might be better off doing something else more worthwhile with our time. However, remember that when one door closes, another window opens. With the right frame of mind and attitude in attending Mass, we might come to realise that what we gain from attending Mass is far greater than what we can gain from doing something else with the time we save, for man is ultimately made for God.
____________________

Prayer:
Dear Lord, help us to appreciate the wisdom of the Church for inviting us to Mass every Sunday. Help us to share this joy with others. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Holy Sundays.

Upcoming Readings:
Wed, 23 Jan – 1 Samuel 17:32-33; Mark 3:1-6
Thu, 24 Jan – 1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12; Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor of the Church
Fri, 25 Jan – Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Mark 16:15-18; Feast of the Conversion of Paul, apostle
Sat, 26 Jan – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Timothy 1:1-5; Luke 10:1-9; Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Monday, January 21 – Lessons from the SAF

21 Jan – Memorial for St. Agnes, martyr

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve.

There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.

In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.

You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned. His right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and religion; Agnes preserved her virginity and gained a martyr’s crown.

– from an essay On Virgins by Saint Ambrose of Milan

+++

At the age of 12 or 13, Agnes was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She was taken to a Roman temple to Minerva (Athena), and when led to the altar, she made the Sign of the Cross. She was threatened, then tortured when she refused to turn against God. Several young men presented themselves, offering to marry her, whether from lust or pity is not known.

She said that to do so would be an insult to her heavenly Spouse, that she would keep her consecrated virginity intact, accept death, and see Christ. She was martyred for her faith.

St. Agnes is mentioned in the first Eucharistic prayer. On her feast day two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome, and then their wool is woven into the palliumns (bands of white wool) which the pope confers on archbishops as symbol of their jurisdiction.

– Patron Saint Index
____________________

1 Samuel 15:16-23

Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” Saul said, “Tell me.” Samuel continued, “Small as you may be in your own eyes, are you not head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord has anointed you king of Israel. The Lord sent you on a mission and said to you, ‘Go, put these sinners, the Amalekites, under the ban and make war on them until they are exterminated.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you fall on the booty and do what is displeasing to the Lord?” Saul replied to Samuel, “But I did obey the voice of the Lord. I went on the mission which the Lord gave me; I brought back Agag king of the Amakelites; I put the Amakelites under his band. From the booty the people took the best sheep and oxen of what was under the ban to sacrifice them to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” But Samuel replied:

“Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices
or in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice,
submissiveness better than the fat of rams.
Rebellion is a sin of sorcery,
presumption a crime of teraphim.

“Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
____________________

Mark 2:18-22

One day when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came and said to Jesus, “Why is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?” Jesus replied, “Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting. But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!”
____________________

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve read in the papers of 21-year-old Marcus Ng, best known for playing the rebellious teen in the television sitcom Phua Chu Kang, about how he was found guilty of insubordination by a court martial and sentence to a period in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Detention Barracks.

Now anyone who has served in the SAF knows that DB is reserved for those who have committed very serious offenses. In many cases, a lighter punishment such as extra duties or confinements are usually given to minor offenders. I don’t want to guess what Marcus did to get such a punishment, but from what I’ve read in the newspapers, it would seem that he was unhappy with the sentence and lodged an appeal, getting his mother to spend $80,000 on legal fees to appeal against the ruling.

In other words, Marcus would not accept the punishment which his superiors deemed fit to give him, and chose to fight back and justify himself. That, in itself, is already insubordination, and that is exactly what Saul did with Samuel. When Samuel reprimanded him for doing something against the Lord, rather than stop and listen, he chose to justify himself and his actions. Insisting that we have not done anything wrong when our superior tells us that we have is rebellion, because it defies our superior’s authority over us.

Anyone who has served in the SAF will definitely have come across people like this, and we will also have seen that when a person is in the company of an officer higher in rank than our immediate superior, they can do anything they want so long as the higher-ranking officer allows it, and the immediate superior cannot do anything about it. But come the time when the higher-ranking officer is not present or has been posted out, and then the person will be under the authority of his immediate superior again. And that is when, as Jesus says, they will fast!

We know from our experience that if we want to change the way things are done, and our immediate superior refuses to change, it is necessary to appeal to a higher-ranking officer, one that can see the flaws in the way things are currently done, and one who has the power to change the way things are done. Is this rebellion? Not necessarily, because we still obey our immediate superior, and we accept whatever punishment we are given by virtue of the fact that he is our superior and has authority over us. At the same time, we work to improve the system by appealing to someone not in the system. New wine, fresh skins!

Can the same work in our Catholic Church? You bet! If all else fails, appeal to the Authority in charge of the Church, but at the same time, remember to be obedient to those who have been given authority over you. Otherwise, history has proven repeatedly that those who get their way through rebellion eventually become tyrants.
___________________

Prayer:
Dear Lord, we pray that those sincerely seeking change in the Church might do so with obedience to those who have been given authority over them. We also offer a special prayer for the Jesuits that they may be faithful to their vow of special obedience to the pope. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who are obedient.

Upcoming Readings:
Tue, 22 Jan – 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 2:23-28; Memorial for St. Vincent, deacon, martyr
Wed, 23 Jan – 1 Samuel 17:32-33; Mark 3:1-6
Thu, 24 Jan – 1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12; Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor of the Church
Fri, 25 Jan – Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Mark 16:15-18; Feast of the Conversion of Paul, apostle
Sat, 26 Jan – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Timothy 1:1-5; Luke 10:1-9; Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Sunday, January 20 – Who Is Your Neighbour?

20 Jan – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lamb Of God

We celebrate the Servant of God who came to do the Father’s will in perfect obedience. Yet he was more than a servant. John the Baptist calls him the Lamb, the chosen one of God.

– the Sunday Missal
____________________

The Lonely Lady

Mrs Rosenstein lived in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment in a crowded city in California. In the summer of 1978, she sat down at a small table and painfully put he thoughts on paper. “I’m so lonely I could die. Did you ever feel sure the world ended? I’m the only one on Earth. How else can I feel? All alone. See no one. Hear no one talk. Oh, dear God, help me. I don’t know what to do.”

She put the letter in an oversized yellow envelope, stuffed in a one-dollar bill and six stamps and mailed it to the “Los Angeles Times”. “Will someone call me?” she pleaded. The dollar was to pay for the phone bill. The stamps were to be used if anyone would write her.

A reporter phoned her, and she broke into tears. Her husband was dead many years. Her only son, an army veteran, died in 1962. “If you are alone, you die every day,” she said. “I just eat and sleep and read the newspaper, and watch television. Sometimes I just dread to see myself wake up in the morning. Isn’t anyone else lonely like me?”

– 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
____________________

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6

The Lord said to me, “You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I shall be glorified”;
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.
And now the Lord has spoen,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

“It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

____________________

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.
____________________

John 1:29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.” John also declared, “I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.”
____________________

In the few days just before Christmas last year, my mother had an idea. “Why not,” she said to me, “this year, we try to spread the message of Christmas a little bit, by buying six legs of ham and giving them as Christmas gifts to our six immediate neighbours?” So the weekend before Christmas, the two of us made our way to Carrefour to purchase her six legs of ham, brought them home and wrapped them nicely with a ribbon, and delivered them to the families of six neighbours.

The theme for this Sunday’s readings is “Lamb of God”. This term, which is used by John the Baptist to describe Jesus refers to the paschal lamb. This is a lamb which the Israelites were commanded to eat as part of the Passover celebration. In Exodus 3, it is recorded on the that the Israelites were commanded to take a lamb without blemish, male, of one year, and sacrifice it. The blood of the lamb must be sprinkled on the doorposts of the houses in which the paschal meal is eaten.

What was striking to me is that the the Lord commanded that if the family is too small to eat a whole lamb, they had to share it with their neighbours. This, the priest said during his homily at Mass today, was to make them aware that they had neighbours, instead of each Israelite minding their own business.

When I reflected on this and connected it to what my mother did for Christmas last year, I realised how true it was that we might be neighbours and see our neighbours from time to time, but how many of us even know the names of our neighbours? When my mother went about giving away the hams, she was surprised to learn that one neighbour had a child that we never knew about, and that the person that we always thought was his mistress, turned out to be his daughter!

When we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, are we aware of our neighbours in the pews? Do we know, at the very least, their names? It is a good practice – that my mother has now taken up – to go to Mass early, and take some time to get to know her neighbours on the same pew as her. It is a good practice because it reminds us that we are all neighbours.

Is it important for us to remember the names of the people we get to know? It is hard for us to remember the names of all the people we meet, but familiar faces are more important than familiar names. It might take us a while to remember the names of the people we meet, but at least when we see a familiar face, we can offer them a smile and a greeting… and then ask their name again.

Let each of us begin the practice of getting to know our neighbours at the very least at Mass, and each time we see them, greet them with a smile and a nice word. Let us remember that our Lord is no less God of our neighbours as He is for us. As Christians, we are called to be light of the nations. It is therefore our responsibility to make the first move of sharing this light of Christ with others, and perhaps we might one day see this same light reflected back to us.

As a final note, we received a box of chocolates from one of our neighbours as part of the Chinese custom of exchanging gifts for Lunar New Year. Remember, it only takes a spark to get the fire going.
____________________

Prayer:
Dear Lord, we ask for Your blessing to spread the light of Christ to all our neighbours, all the people that we see frequently, and we ask for the courage to go up to them and introduce ourselves, and get to know them a bit better. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Providing us neighbours to remind us that You died for all of us.

Upcoming Readings:
Mon, 21 Jan – 1 Samuel 15:16-23; Mark 2:18-22; Memorial for St. Agnes, martyr
Tue, 22 Jan – 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 2:23-28; Memorial for St. Vincent, deacon, martyr
Wed, 23 Jan – 1 Samuel 17:32-33; Mark 3:1-6
Thu, 24 Jan – 1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12; Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor of the Church
Fri, 25 Jan – Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Mark 16:15-18; Feast of the Conversion of Paul, apostle
Sat, 26 Jan – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Timothy 1:1-5; Luke 10:1-9; Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops
Sun, 27 Jan – Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Saturday, January 20 – The Divine Oil

20 Jan

The Dented Car

A young and very successful executive, was travelling down a city’s notorious street at quite some speed, in his sleek, black, Esteem. The car was only two months old. He kept a sharp eye for kids darting out from between parked vehicles and slowed down when he spied legs between two cars. As his car passed the opening where the legs were, a brick sailed and smashed into the Esteem’s shiny side door.

He jammed the brakes, put the gears into reverse, and madly spin the Esteem back to the spot from where the missile was flung. He sighted the offender, a little boy, rushed out, grabbed him and pushed him up against a parked car. Then, tightening his grip on the boy’s collar, the man shouted at him in a threatening voice: “Are you crazy? You have ruined my new car. I’ll have to pay lots of money to repair it.” Then shaking the lad ferociously, he said, “Why did you throw that brick?”

“Sorry, sorry,” said the boy in total shock. “I didn’t know what else to do. I waved out but nobody cared to stop. So I thought the next best thing would be to throw a stone.”

Tears flowed down the boy’s cheeks. He pointed around the parked car, and said, “My brother has fallen out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up; he’s too heavy. Will you help me?”

The executive’s anger suddenly evaporated into thin air. He set the wheelchair upright, then lifted the handicapped youngster into it.

He look long, slow strides back to his Esteem, then drove off. He decided not to repair the dent. He kept it there to remind him that modern life is so hectic that one has to throw bricks to call someone’s attention.

– 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
____________________

1 Samuel 9:1-10:1

Among the men of Benjamin there was a man named Kish son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah; a Benjaminite and a man of rank. He had a son named Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Of all the Israelites there was no one more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people. Now some of the she-donkeys of Saul’s father Kish had strayed, so Kish said to Saul, ‘My son, take one of the servants with you and be off; go and look for the she-donkeys’. They passed through the highlands of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but did not find them; they passed through the land of Shaalim, they were not there; they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, ‘That is the man of whom I told you; he shall rule my people’. Saul accosted Samuel in the gateway and said, ‘Tell me, please, where the seer’s house is?’ Samuel replied to Saul, ‘I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place. You are to eat with me today. In the morning I shall take leave of you and tell you all that is in your heart.

Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head; then he kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you prince over his people Israel? You are the man who must rule the Lord’s people, and who must save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them.
___________________

Mark 2:13-17

Jesus went out again to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them. As he was walking on he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me’. And he got up and followed him.

When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’
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All Christians are called to be witnesses of Christ to the world be it within our own Christian community or in the secular world. To be able to fulfil that obligation requires us to be suitably disposed to handle the challenges and problems that come with this task.

God has given us his Holy Spirit and sealed in our soul the sevenfold gifts that we should use to spread his love. The anointing of Saul by Samuel signifies that the former has been chosen by God to fulfil the duty of being king to Israel. We experience this in the Sacrament of Confirmation where the bishop or priest anoints our head with sacred Chrism to fortify us with the strength of the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel message.

The sacred Chrism is like a dressing on our soul to strengthen and heal it just as the doctor applies medication on our wounds. We have been healed by the Divine Healer and now are ready to spread the love of God to all the people around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nick Chia)
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Prayer:
Lord we pray that we use the gifts that you have given us in the Sacrament of Confirmation to glorify your name.

We give thanks for the love of God.

Upcoming Readings:
Sun, 20 Jan – Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34; Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Friday, January 18 – This Little Light Of Mine

18 Jan

The Brave Student

Wally Lamb, author of the bestsellers “She’s Come Undone” and “This Much Is True”, writes that the most significant thing he ever learned in school happened not when he was a student but a high school teacher, about 20 years ago.

Between classes one day in the outdoor smoking area at the high school where Lamb was teaching, some students started an ugly game. They circled a retarded boy and pitched their spare change at him, taunting him and calling him all kinds of ugly names. Unaware that he was the object of his peers’ scorn and ridicule, the boy happily picked up and pocketed the coins as they ricocheted off him and landed at his feet. The former high school teacher recalls:

“By the time I happened on the scene, the circle was five or six students deep and the coins were being fired at hurtful, hateful velocities. The crowds cheered each stinging contact made… I attempted to break through and stop this sickening spectacle,” Lamb recalls, “but a 15-year-old girl beat me to it.” Entering the circle, the girl threw her arm around the victim and led him out of the firing line, despite the coins, taunts and four-letter words now being hurled at her.

Concluded Lamb: “Cathy James, wherever you are, whoever you’ve become, you remain one of my heroes.”

– 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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1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. “Look,” they said to him, “you are old, and your sons do not follow your ways. So give us a king to rule over us, like the other nations.” It displeased Samuel that they should say, “Let us have a king to rule us”, so he prayed to the Lord. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for it is not you they have rejected; they have rejected me from ruling over them.”

All that the Lord had said Samuel repeated to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the rights of the king who is to reign over you. He will take your sons and assign them to his chariotry and calvary, and they will run in front of his chariot. He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his ploughland and harvest his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots. He will also take your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, of your vineyards and olive groves and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his eunuchs and his officials. He will take the best of your manservants and maidservants, of your cattle and your donkeys, and make them work for him. He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out on account of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day God will not answer you.”

The people refused to listen to the words of Samuel. They said, “No! We want a king, so that we in our turn can be like the other nations; our king shall rule us and be our leader and fight our battles.” Samuel listened to all that the people had to saw and repeated it in the ears of the Lord. The Lord then said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and give them a king.”
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Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected there that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was, and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, “How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?” Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, “Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’? But to prove that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic – “I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.” An the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, sot hat they were all astounded and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
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The people of Israel wanted a king, and even though Samuel had given them plenty of reason to let God, rather than a king, rule over them, the Israelites refused to listen, because they were so envious of other nations that they wanted to be like other nations, to have a king of their own. We are like that at times too.

It is not unusual for us to compare ourselves with others. Just a couple of hours ago, I was having a conversation with my father about my peers, some of whom are driving their own cars and earning twice what I am earning. “You could have been like them too,” he said to me. But I am not envious of my peers, most of the time anyway, because I knew the consequences of making the choices that I made in life when I made them.

My friends, to be Christians, to be children of God, is to be set apart from the world. In her book “A Return To Love”, author Marianne Williamson puts it this way:

“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

To play like the rest of the world does is to play small, because it means shrinking to fit the mold of the world. As Christians, we are all called to be larger than life, and that often involves being out of place in the world. Take a look at the gospel reading for today, and see the four men who did things differently from the rest of the people who were crowding around the house. They chose to rise above the others by climbing onto the roof of the house, so that with a little ingenuity and the faith of those who truly seek Jesus, they were able to meet him up close and have him cure their friend.

My friends, let us pause for a few minutes and consider how God is asking us to be larger than life today in just one little way in which we conform to the world. Let us let our light shine out from within us today in this way, so that little by little, we can make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, reveal to us the ways in which we have shrunk ourselves to fit the mold of the world. Help us to break out of this mold and to live in the way which you have called us to truly live. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who have given me permission to let my light shine by their example.

Upcoming Readings:
Sat, 19 Jan – 1 Samuel 9:1-4, 17-19; Mark 2:13-17
Sun, 20 Jan – Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34; Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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