Monthly Archives: November 2013

Saturday, 30 Nov – Knowing God Through Jesus Via The Catholic Church

30 Nov – Feast of St Andrew, Apostle

Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team

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The brother of St. Peter, born in Bethsaida, disciple of John the Baptist until, with Peter, he answered the call of Christ. He is mentioned several times in the gospels: he brought the Gentiles to Jesus, and pointed out the boy with the loaves and the fishes. He is thought to have preached in Scythia, and to have been martyred at Patras in Achaia.

– The Weekday Missal

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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 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, Jesus 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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Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear?

It’s been almost 3 years since I stopped believing in the Catholic Church as I knew it, but my relationship with God through the Catholic Church is a strange one. I knew Jesus through the Catholic Church and through Jesus I came to know God. That is something for which I am always grateful. However, as I got more involved in church, I got mixed up with the wrong company – people who marketed themselves as Catholics but were not really Christian. I became one of them too.

In today’s first reading, St. Paul talks about the need to preach to the world that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead to save us from sin. This is the crux of the Christian message, but is this the same Christian message today that is preached by the Catholic Church? Many people hear of the Catholic Church – it’s the one that prays to Mary. It’s the one whose members eat what they believe is the real body of their savior. It’s the one that advocates against abortion, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and contraception. As Catholics, we know this is only partially true, but that’s how the non-Catholic world sees the Catholic Church. That’s how it has marketed itself especially in the more developed countries.

In the gospel reading, Jesus calls his first apostles, fishermen, and on hearing his call, they leave their nets behind to follow him. Our nets can signify various things to us. In the modern Catholic Church, our nets could be our obsession with the purity of sex. It could be the obsessions with the various ideologies mentioned above. Since he was elected, Pope Francis has spoken very little about these, and he said somewhere that he has been reprimanded for not speaking about them. It was intentional, he said, because he wants to refocus the Catholic Church’s core message as a Christian Church; he wants Catholics to preach about Jesus, his love, his mission. He wants a missionary Church.

So today, as we reflect on the scripture readings, let us ask ourselves: Jesus is calling us through the pope to follow him, to preach his good news to the world. Are we ready to drop our nets, our obsessions, our favourite topics about being Catholic, and become true Christians, focusing on the core message of Christianity to go preach the gospel to the world?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)

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Prayer: We pray for a renewal in the Catholic Church, that it may go back to its roots as the original Christian Church, and preach the gospel to a world that no longer recognizes its Christianity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for the Catholic Church which introduced us to God through Jesus Christ.

Friday, 29 Nov – “Make Love” This Christmas

29 Nov

Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team
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Daniel 7:2-14

I, Daniel, have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea; four great beasts emerged from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings; and as I looked its wings were torn off, and it was lifted from the ground and set standing on its feet like a man; and it was given a human heart. The second beast I saw was different, like a bear, raised up on one of its sides, with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth. “Up!” came the command “Eat quantities of flesh!” After this I looked, and saw another beast, like a leopard, and with four bird’s wings on its flanks; it had four heads, and power was given to it. Next I saw another vision in the visions of the night: I saw a fourth beast, fearful, terrifying, very strong; it had great iron teeth, and it ate, crushed and trampled underfoot what remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns.

While I was looking at these horns, I saw another horn sprouting among them, a little one; three of the original horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for it; and in this horn I saw eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that was full of boasts. As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.

The great things the horn was saying were still ringing in my ears, and as I watched, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and committed to the flames. The other beasts were deprived of their power, but received a lease of life for a season and a time.

I gazed into the visions of the night.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.
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Luke 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Think of the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you know that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’
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And men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants

During my usual Facebook “surfing” in the morning, I chanced upon an interesting post. It was about the commercial brand GAP. As part of their holiday campaign, they had released a series of advertisements featuring a diverse variety of models who were making a difference in the world. One of their featured models was Sikh actor and jewellery designer Waris Ahluwalia. Sadly, one of the subway advertisements featuring him was defaced and the caption “Make Love” was changed to “Make Bombs”. Indignant at this act, Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor at The Islamic Monthly and founder of TheMuslimGuy.com posted the picture on his Twitter and Facebook account to highlight how “brown people” were being seen by Americans today. This caused a stir among many in the Sikh and Muslim communities. Amazingly, GAP reacted almost immediately. They tracked down the location of the defaced advertisement and changed the background of their Twitter account to that of Mr Waris Ahluwalia’s advertisement, demonstrating their support for Mr Waris and a strong stand against racism in modern day America.

Reading the story, I was greatly moved by how this huge commercial entity had reacted. Many of us would agree that Christmas has become increasingly commercialised over the years. The focus seems to be more on consumerism rather than on the infant found in a dirty manger and born in a dilapidated stable. We seem to forget what Christmas truly means. It is heartening therefore (and even mindblowing), to read about a profit-making company making a stand and reminding people about what the holiday spirit truly is – one of sharing love.

In today’s first reading, we see one like a son of man coming before the one of great age (i.e. God). That is Jesus – and upon him is conferred all power, sovereignty, glory and kingship. And men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants. It is easy sometimes, to forget this truth. Living in a world where there is a diversity of people of various beliefs, it is difficult to envision such a scene at the moment. However, we are the people of God, and we bear his light to the people around us. It is heartwarming to know that regardless of our beliefs or religion, love is a principle that binds us all. To know love is to know God – because God is love. This Christmas, let us keep our eyes peeled and our ears open to share love with people in need of it and to affirm those who readily give it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that this Christmas let us be fundamental instruments in spreading your love and the Christmas cheer.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for those who warm hearts with their very acts of love and kindness. May they continue to be an inspiration to all and motivate us in the spirit of Christmas.

Thursday, 28 Nov – The Plan Behind the Plan

28 Nov

Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team
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Daniel 6:12-28

The presidents and satraps came along in a body and found Daniel praying and pleading with God. They then came to the king and said, ‘Have you not just signed an edict forbidding any man for the next thirty days to pray to anyone, god or man, other than to yourself O king, on pain of being thrown into the lions’ den?’ ‘The decision stands,’ the king replied ‘as befits the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ Then they said to the king, ‘O king, this man Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, disregards both you and the edict which you have signed: he is at his prayers three times each day.’ When the king heard these words he was deeply distressed, and determined to save Daniel; he racked his brains until sunset to find some way out. But the men came back in a body to the king and said, ‘O king, remember that in conformity with the law of the Medes and the Persians, no edict or decree can be altered when once issued by the king.’

The king then ordered Daniel to be fetched and thrown into the lion pit. The king said to Daniel, ‘Your God himself, whom you have served so faithfully, will have to save you.’ A stone was then brought and laid over the mouth of the pit; and the king sealed it with his own signet and with that of his noblemen, so that there could be no going back on the original decision about Daniel. The king returned to his palace, spent the night in fasting and refused to receive any of his concubines. Sleep eluded him, and at the first sign of dawn he was up, and hurried off to the lion pit. As he approached the pit he shouted in anguished tones, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God! Has your God, whom you serve so faithfully, been able to save you from the lions?’ Daniel replied, ‘O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel who sealed the lions’ jaws, they did me no harm, since in his sight I am blameless, and I have never done you any wrong either, O king.’ The king was overjoyed, and ordered Daniel to be released from the pit. Daniel was released from the pit, and found to be quite unhurt, because he had trusted in his God. The king sent for the men who had accused Daniel and had them thrown into the lion pit, they, their wives and their children: and they had not reached the floor of the pit before the lions had seized them and crushed their bones to pieces.

King Darius then wrote to men of all nations, peoples and languages throughout the world, ‘May peace be always with you! I decree: in every kingdom of my empire let all tremble with fear before the God of Daniel:

‘He is the living God, he endures for ever,
his sovereignty will never be destroyed
and his kingship never end.
He saves, sets free, and works signs and wonders
in the heavens and on earth;
he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.’
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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.

‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’
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Those inside the city must leave it

Today’s Gospel speaks to me of strongholds – and the challenge we face of leaving them. My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for about two years now. In fact, today marks our 2nd year of being together. The greatest challenge we face is having to decide for ourselves which country we want to be in, together. Of course, the thought itself brings many uncertainties and insecurities. It involves us stepping out of our comfort zones (including our present careers), away from our families and into a land that is foreign to one or both of us. The battle is constantly between hope and the fear of the unknown.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that there will come a time when they have to abandon Jerusalem – a city that is deemed as the stronghold and dwelling place of God. He even asks them not to take refuge in it. This challenges the notions of the Jews and their ideas of what Jerusalem is. In fact, he tells them that Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the pagans and he crushes their ideas of finding security from the city. He does this in order to open their minds to a new vision, and reminds them instead that the true victory of God lies not in manmade ideas of Jerusalem, but in Christ himself.

I am reminded by today’s Gospel, that I cannot try and find security in my own plans. While plans are good as guidelines in terms of motivating us towards the future, they cannot become our shackles in determining ultimately where our security in the future will lie. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The human heart may plan a course, but it is Yahweh who makes the steps secure.” Another version says “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” In other words, we can always make our plans, but at the end of the day, it is God who ultimately determines our steps. I am reminded not to try and take control of everything, or worry about how things are not going as planned. Instead, I am reminded to trust in God instead, and to realise that maybe – just maybe – He has something better planned.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Dear Father, help us to recognise you in the midst of our plans and to surrender our plans to you.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for blessing us and for working all things for our good.

Wednesday, 27 Nov – Unconventional Wisdom

27 Nov

Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team
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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 attended, and he drank wine in company with this thousand. As he sipped his wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women could drink out of them. The gold and silver vessels looted from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women drank out of them. They drank their wine and praised their gods 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 lamp-stand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote. The king turned pale with alarm: his thigh-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 God Most Holy lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom. As I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, 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 third in rank in 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 will read the writing to the king without them, 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 your singing women have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which cannot either see, hear or understand; but you have given no glory to the God who holds your breath and all your fortunes in his hands. That is why he has sent the hand which, by itself, has written these words. The writing reads: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin. The meaning of the words is this: Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it; Tekel: you have been weighed in 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

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are 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 by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’
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You are not to prepare your defence

The words in today’s Gospel struck me. As a lawyer, it is my job to ensure that I am well-prepared before I enter any courtroom to argue my case and cover all grounds as best as I can. Even if it is just a straightforward and simple matter, I spend the time I have while waiting to enter the Judge’s Chambers running through my case again and pre-empting whatever questions (or curveballs) the Judge may possibly have. It helps to know that I’ve got it covered even before the battle begins and I’m able to defend myself from any sudden attacks.

It’s the same with life I realised. I bring my “professionalism” back home. And it’s the arguments at home that I tend to want to win even more. Especially when the person I’m talking to happens to be my Mum. There are times when I feel that certain things she says are unwarranted. I know that it’s just her way of venting her concern or anxieties. Objectively, I would have advised anyone in my position to hold back, control and not engage, rather than stoking the fire. But something within me always feels that I must say something in my defence. It is my pride that sometimes propels me.

In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus instructing his disciples that if they were handed over to a synagogue and imprisoned, and brought before kings and governers, they are not to prepare their defence. To any one listening, that would have been considered as very foolish advice. However, Jesus goes on to explain why. He says that “I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict”. That eloquence and wisdom comes from the Spirit of God. We see this, in the first reading, in the person of Daniel whom the King recognizes as the man whom “the spirit of God Most Holy lives in”. And because the spirit of God lives in him, he has “perception, intelligence and marvelous wisdom” and is able to “interpret and unravel difficult problems”.

The good news today is this – thanks to Jesus and his redeeming sacrifice on the cross, we who are adopted as children of God now have his Spirit dwelling within us. This means that we have full access to the “perception, intelligence and marvelous wisdom” of God, and we have the Holy Spirit as our Advocate and Paraclete. An advocate is someone who defends us in Court and speaks on our behalf. God is asking us today not to base our defences on our own limited wisdom or ego, but to rely instead on his. How do we access this Wisdom? Through the power of prayer and awareness of God’s Spirit; by first acknowledging the limitations of our own wisdom and desiring instead for his; and being able to make the first call to God for help.

I pray for wisdom when it comes to dealing with my work and especially in handling my family members. May I learn to handle both with God’s love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Dear Father, we pray for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom to interpret and unravel the difficult problems we encounter in life.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for blessing us with your Holy Spirit as our personal counsellor and advocate.

Tuesday, 26 Nov – The Question That Remains

26 Nov

Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team
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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 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 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 earlier kingdoms. The feet you saw, part earthenware, part iron, are a kingdom which will be 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 shall 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 were 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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In the time of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed

During lunch time today, a colleague of mine was relating to me a case he had encountered recently. It was a dispute between two brothers. One had taken out a suit against the other. And in the course of the dispute, the other brother suddenly passed away, from a stroke. He was just gone, the next day. Leaving his brother and a litigation suit behind. It left a mark on us, and we wondered how either must have felt as one brother’s life came to an end.

Reflecting on today’s readings the above verse struck me. It is so easy sometimes to become consumed by the hatred or resentment we may have of another person in our lives. We fight battles daily and we become consumed by our irreconcilable differences and become unrelenting in our behaviour. We find it unacceptable of the other and we find it difficult within us to just let matters go. Sometimes, we battle politics, not just at the workplace, but also at home, especially within our families. We focus on the issues in the past that affect us even till the present. We’re consumed by the problems and fire we have to fight everyday.

Yet, the most important question remains – is this how we want our lives to be left as when it finally comes to an end? Are these the things we want to remember when we gasp for our final breath?

Today’s Gospel reminds me that at the end of it all, there is a kingdom to which we belong. There is a life (beyond this one) that will go on. And the question is, when this life suddenly comes to an end, are we ready to join God in heaven, when we look at how our lives presently stand? Indeed, no one can enter heaven based on our own merit. Only Christ’s love and mercy can see us there. But are we willing to examine our lives presently and ask ourselves, when God does suddenly call us home, is this how we want our life here on earth to end?

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that you may grant us the grace and wisdom to cherish each day as if it was our last.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for the gift of life itself.

Monday, 25 Nov – Tiny Acts of Kindness

25 Nov – Memorial of Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Apocryphal. Born to the nobility. Learned in science and oratory. Converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. When she was 18 years old, during the persecution of Maximinus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximinus had her scourged and imprisoned. The empress and the leader of the army of Maximinus were amazed by the stories, went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximinus ordered her broken on the wheel, but she touched it and the wheel was destroyed. She was beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.

Immensely popular during the Middle Ages, there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout western Europe, and she was reported as one of the divine advisors to Saint Joan of Arc. Her reputation for learning and wisdom led to her patronage of libaries, librarians, teachers, archivists, and anyone associated with wisdom or teaching. Her debating skill and persuasive language has led to her patronage of lawyers. And her torture on the wheel led to those who work with them asking for her intercession. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there may well have been a noble, educated, virginal lady who swayed pagans with her rhetoric during the persecutions, the accretion of legend, romance and poetry has long since buried the real Catherine.

– The Patron Saint Index

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Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team
_____________________

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 noble 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 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 Daniel 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.’
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But she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on

Early this morning, a friend of mine called from the U.S. to share about a troubling experience he had recently. He had gotten a phone call last night from his mother (they’re both living in different states), and to his surprise, she suddenly broke down crying. He felt so lost all of sudden. His mother had always been the strong one in the family and it shocked him to see her so vulnerable all of a sudden. It pained him to see her helpless, and it was one of those situations that there was nothing he could do to help it. All he could do was to listen.

Looking back on today’s verse, it made me think about the conversation that I had with my friend. And it made me think about how often we encounter situations in life, when we feel helpless, especially when we see our loved ones suffer. People whose pain we can’t alleviate, no matter how hard we try. It makes us feel angry and frustrated at times, because of the situation they are in and our inability to make it any better. We wish we can help them alleviate the pain but we know that there’s nothing we can do to make it better because it’s something that’s ultimately beyond our control. And all we can do is to stand at the side, and offer them our ears, our words of comfort, our time or even our finances.

Today’s Gospel however reminds me of an important message. That maybe at the end of day, it’s our hearts which we’re called to give. We may not have the ultimate solution to making things better, but what we’re called to do is to give whatever little we have, with all our hearts, to our loved ones and surrender the rest to God, even if we think it’s small, e.g. a listening ear, a gentle word, a kind gesture, a simple meal or even just our affection.
After all, the woman gave all that she had, even though it was just two coins, and it made a difference to God. Let us persevere and continue in works of kindness and goodness, even when we think that they’re small.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)

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Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that you may bless those who are feeling helpess and alone in their suffering. Grant them your peace and your light through this time of darkness.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for blessing us with your love through the tiny acts of goodness and kindess from others, especially those who we may have taken for granted.

Sunday, 24 Nov – Leader of Example

24 Nov – Feast of Christ the King

Dear readers,

Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

God bless,
The OXYGEN team

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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
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2 Samuel 5:1-3

All the tribes of Israel then 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.

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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,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.
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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 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.’
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Indeed I promise you today you will be with me in paradise

People often think of kings as monarchs who are of royal blood and who are responsible for the lives of many people. The same image was expected of Jesus which resulted in him being mocked at the Cross as they were expecting a king like David in the first reading. However, if we reflect into the first reading, it is not what it seems.

The tribes of Israel acknowledged the kingship of David because God had appointed Him. They were clearly aware of the anointing David had received from Samuel and this was borne in the many military exploits which David had won. It was not the military exploits that legitimized David as a rule but the fact that he had been anointed by God. Jesus did not need any anointing because He was already the anointed one; in fact Christ is Greek for “anointed”. Jesus had received the anointing from God the Father himself.

When we make the decision to be a Christian, we choose to accept Jesus as the Head of our lives. This means we have to acknowledge His teachings and direction in our lives. Whilst it may seem futile for us at the moment, we need to remember that not all of us can have the same fortune as the repentant thief to acknowledge our sins to Jesus. Jesus is not a military commander who will dictate and force us to behave in a particular manner. Instead, He gently leads us towards Him and reminds us of the great love He has shown us by dying on the Cross for us. That act is the ultimate act a King can do i.e. to lay down his life for his friends. Let us take time to acknowledge Jesus as our King who leads us by example and not by command.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for obedience to listen to you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who struggle to live a good Christian life.

Saturday, 23 Nov – To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine

23 Nov – Memorial of Saint Clement I, Pope

Convert, brought to Christianity either by Saint Peter or by Saint Paul. One of the Seventy Apostles. Consecrated as a bishop by Saint Peter the Apostle. Mentioned in Philippians 4:3. Fourth Pope. Apostolic Father. The Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome, Italy, one of the earliest parish churches in the city, is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. Author of the Epistle to the Corinthians. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Origen and Saint Jerome identify him as working with Saint Paul the Apostle. Martyred in the persecutions of Trajan.

– The Patron Saint Index

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1 Maccabees 6:1-13

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.’

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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 in 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.
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And they no longer dared to ask him anything

I hate being wrong. A perfect example was about a week ago when my wife asked me whether I had brought the groceries home after our weekly shopping to which I quickly answered to the affirmative. Realizing a few minutes later that the items were nowhere to be seen and probably still in our car, she went to get them. When she got back with groceries in hand, I was left speechless… pondering the question – “how’d the groceries get there?” Ok – I’ll admit it. I forgot to bring them in *but* it was because I had to shuffle our kids out of the car, while she went off to run other errands. I was overwhelmed and didn’t have enough hands to manage it all. Eventually – I apologized to my wife, to which she quickly forgave me.

When we examine the gospel reading from today – we see how the Sadducees try to trap Jesus with a convoluted question about marriage in the afterlife. Jesus addresses the question in two parts. Firstly, He states that those who are deemed worthy to share in the kingdom of Heaven will enjoy eternal life and so there will no longer be a need for procreation and hence marriage. It’s not as if you live life all over again, but rather you would have new life and would enjoy God’s eternity. Secondly – Jesus refers back to Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). Jesus points out that God’s words were “I am” rather than “I was” – emphasizing that these important figures (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in Moses’ ancestral lineage still remain in a relationship with God. They didn’t die and just vanish like what the Sadducees would have believed, rather they are still a part of God’s kingdom. Jesus answers their question with clear insight and authority, leaving the Sadducees speechless. He had struck at the core of their beliefs and so – the Sadducees needed to decide whether they were to amend their ways or find excuses to continue believing and acting the same.

It’s a difficult thing to accept when we’re wrong. Oftentimes, it’s a humbling feeling to be corrected. Yet, it’s through our mistakes that we can learn and grow from. God gave us the gift of free will and so we have the ability to choose right from wrong. Accept or reject. Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian author who famously wrote “The Alchemist” is quoted in one of his earlier books “Brida” – “You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.”

Rather than be defensive and hostile (or stricken with grief and guilt like King Antiochus) when confronted with a mistake, we should consider it an opportunity for growth. We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn from them that really matters.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

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Thanksgiving – Almighty Father – we give thanks for the grace You’ve given us for the many mistakes and sins that we’ve committed and yet to commit. Help us to continue to heed Your words and show us Your way.

Prayer – Father – we pray for the people in our daily lives who we might offend through our thoughtless words or actions. We pray that you grant them open hearts to forgive so that they too can be more divine like You.

Friday, 22 Nov – Living On a Prayer

22 Nov – Memorial of Saint Cecilia

Cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. Cecilia told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification, and was baptised; returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favor; the new convert asked that his brother be baptised.

The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at her villa on the Apprian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods; when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.

The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.

– The Patron Saint Index

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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.

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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.
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My house shall be a house of prayer

In one of my fellowship groups, we’ve been working through a series called “Prayer – Does It Make Any Difference?” authored by Philip Yancey. The series is structured around several DVD sessions with short discussions thereafter and is designed to help us examine and find ways to improve our prayer life. One of the more striking things I’ve taken away from one of the sessions is just how deep, passionate and emotional some of the prayers from the Old Testaments are. An example being:

When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. (Ezra 9:3-6)

With introspection, my prayers are nowhere nearly as powerfully humbling. My current prayer practices tend to be formulaic with not enough praise, repentance and thanksgiving to our Lord and too much emphasis on making requests of Him. Maybe I’m just not mature enough as a Christian to be able to connect with God in such a way yet? Or possibly, my ego and pride are preventing me from truly humbling myself to accept His will? Worse yet – could I be like the seed that was planted on rocks, thus lacking the good soil to grow roots? (Luke 8: 4-21)

Oftentimes when we enter into a new situation we feel this refreshing excitement of something novel. There’s this honeymoon period where a world of potential is just waiting to open up. Yet – as time wears on, that initial euphoria dissipates and that newness turns to ordinary. Further down the road, the ordinary turns to monotonous. Monotonous becomes annoying. And eventually, annoying turns to contempt.

What started off as a faithful and obedient relationship from the days of Abraham, the Hebrews over time took God’s covenant with Moses for granted. They added their own traditions and interpretations with no place showing more spiritual decay than what was happening at the Temple of Jerusalem during first century A.D. Rather than being a place of solemn worship to God, the temple became a marketplace – where salvation could be traded for a price and where “religious leaders” were willing to commit the ultimate sin (murder) in order to preserve their hierarchy and traditions. These religious leaders showed outright contempt for God by allowing all this to happen, made possible by their false image of Him that fit neatly in with their secular desires. When we think about a “house of worship” to a “den of thieves” – there is really a stark contrast between the two but as today’s gospel warns us – there is also a very fine line that can easily be crossed.

Let us remember that our greed, pride and worldly ambitions can very easily take us away from what we should be doing more of: prayer, Bible study and fellowship. But know full well that the only one who can drive out these thieves from our hearts (the temples of God) is Jesus.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

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Thanksgiving – Jesus, please hold on to us. You’re all we’ve got. Because it does make a difference if we make it or not.

Prayer – Father God, we pray that our prayer lives continue to improve. We sometimes don’t know what to say, or how to say it – but fill us up with the Holy Spirit to teach us how to better our relationship with You.

Thursday, 21 Nov – Tears in Heaven

21 Nov – Memorial of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Commemorates the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated.

The feast originated in the Orient probably about the 7th century and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but re-established by Pope Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis.

Among the many masters who have represented this subject are: Alberti, Fra Bartolommeo, Biagio, Agostino, Carracci, Cima da Conegliano, Cossa, Holbein the Elder, Palma, Piombo, Tintoretto and Titian.

– The Patron Saint Index

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1 Maccabees 2:15-29

The commissioners of King Antiochus who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them sacrifice. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. The king’s commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, ‘You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king’s decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons shall be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.’ Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, ‘Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances. As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left.’ As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein as the royal edict required. When Mattathias saw this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s commissioner who was there to enforce the sacrifice, and tore down the altar. In his zeal for the Law he acted as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu. Then Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Let everyone who has a fervour for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me.’ Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town.

At this, many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there.

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Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’
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He saw the city and wept over it

I could still remember the look in my dad’s eyes. The yelling was easily silenced by the intensity of his loud stare. I was 17 years old at the time and my goal in life was to not have one or at least defer making a decision what that goal should be for as long as possible. Applications for college admissions were due in a few weeks and I wasn’t feeling compelled to finish them. My dad was onto me and confronted me one late evening.

He looked tired and his eyes showed it. He had just gotten home from a typical day at the modest restaurant where he put in the twelve hour days. Six days out of seven. My dad never received a formal education. When he was growing up in China at the time, those opportunities just were not available. So throughout all of his working life, my dad had to toil physically to earn a living.

He was angry. The red in his eyes glared at me. He also was only 17 years old (same age as me at the time of this incident) when he had to leave his family and immigrate abroad. Being the eldest son, it was his “duty” to venture out to provide for his family. Seldom did he talk about the loneliness he must have felt while being away from home. He never complained about the many sacrifices he made to provide the comfortable lifestyle for me and my siblings. But this time, I felt his anger and his frustration directed at me.

He was disappointed. The tears in his eyes gave it away.

I subsequently completed my applications and was accepted to university. Years later, I met an acquaintance of my father who spoke very fondly of him, although they might have only met once. He said – “Your dad is a great man. He’s done so much for his family. If it weren’t for him, your grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins would be leading much more difficult lives. He sponsored them all to the US. When they got there, he put them up and helped them find places to live, jobs to work and schools for their kids.” And so through the voice of a person very far removed from the hardships and struggles endured by my father – this person showed me what my parents had always been teaching. Family always comes first.

When Jesus approaches Jerusalem, knowingly heading towards death by crucifixion, He weeps. His sorrow is not out of His own suffering to come, but rather from the deep sympathy He has for His people and their suffering to come. Their attachments to their worldly ways and sinful practices have prevented them from seeing the salvation He offered. Jesus hoped that each person would be like the Prodigal Son who repents for his misdeeds and returns to his father who welcomes him back with great, overwhelming joy. (Luke 15: 11-32) For as Jesus says – “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15: 7)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

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Thanksgiving – Heavenly Father, we give thanks for our fathers on Earth who have sacrificed so much and taught us how to make the right choices in this life.

Prayer – Lord, we pray for wisdom so that we can teach our own children how to make the right choices in their lives.