Monthly Archives: January 2014

Friday, 31 Jan – Chaos Theory

31 Jan – Memorial of Saint John Bosco

Son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. John’s father died when the boy was two years old; and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, John did so to helps support his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals, practice the tricks that he saw magicians perform, and then put on one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier that day in church.

He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and seminary. Ordained in 1841. A teacher, he worked constantly with young people, finding places where they could meet, play and pray, teaching catechism to orphans and apprentices. Chaplain in a hospice for girls. Wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. Friend of Saint Joseph Cafasso, whose biography he wrote, and confessor to Blessed Joseph Allamano. Founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Chistians, and Saint Francis de Sales. Founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians in 1872, and Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.

– The Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 11:1-4,5-10,13-17

At the turn of the year, the time when kings go campaigning, David sent Joab and with him his own guards and the whole of Israel. They massacred the Ammonites and laid siege to Rabbah. David, however, remained in Jerusalem.

It happened towards evening when David had risen from his couch and was strolling on the palace roof, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David made inquiries about this.woman and was told, ‘Why, that is Bathsheba, Eliam’s daughter, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers and had her brought. She came to him, and he slept with her. She then went home again. The woman conceived and sent word to David; ‘I am with child.’

Then David sent Joab a message, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite’, whereupon Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came into his presence, David asked after Joab and the army and how the war was going. David then said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and enjoy yourself. Uriah left the palace, and was followed by a present from the king’s table. Uriah however slept by the palace door with his master’s bodyguard and did not go down to his house.

This was reported to David; ‘Uriah’ they said ‘did not go down to his house.’ The next day David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk. In the evening Uriah went out and lay on his couch with his master’s bodyguard, but he did not go down to his house.

Next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Station Uriah in the thick of the fight and then fall back behind him so that he may be struck down and die.’ Joab, then besieging the town, posted Uriah in a place where he knew there were fierce fighters. The men of the town sallied out and engaged Joab; the army suffered casualties, including some of David’s bodyguard; and Uriah the Hittite was killed too.

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Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade

This week I saw firsthand, the tremendous power of the Holy Spirit as a force for good. Atlanta has been hit by one of the worst snowstorms on record. Roads are gridlocked, with freeways being reduced to parking lots. Schools have been closed with some children trapped, unable to return home. A state of emergency has been declared across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina. There are stories all across the news of how people have spent the night in motionless cars and buses, shivering as Snowstorm Leon’s arctic blast blankets the South.

They say chaos brings out the worst in us and there are all sorts of examples of this, including today’s first reading from 2 Samuel. But I’d like to think that chaos also brings out the very best in us. Amidst the chaos, Michelle Sollicito, a woman in Marietta, Georgia reached out through Facebook to enable her friends to find help and shelter from the cold.

Sollicito’s Facebook page, ‘SnowedOutAtlanta, https://www.facebook.com/groups/397839673695382/ offered maps and chats so people who were stranded could connect with random strangers close to them and wait out the cold. Strangers started liking her page and latched on, offering up traffic updates play by play, so other people in the area could stay updated. Sollicito said she started the page as a way to help a friend’s husband link up to a friend of hers who happened to be near where his car had stalled. After that, the page just grew and grew. So far, ‘SnowedOutAtlanta’ has already clocked 49,245 followers and it’s still growing.
Through “SnowedOutAtlanta”, an elderly woman with cancer was able to receive help, a pregnant mother and her child found shelter, a man with a heart condition was able to get to the hospital and countless others who would otherwise have been left out in the cold have been connected with homes where they have found food and a roof over their heads. All it took was a single act of kindness to spark this wave of goodwill. If there is any doubt that there is good in the world, there’s no better proof than this.

Last Sunday, we saw Jesus proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt 4:17) and we wondered, what if the kingdom of heaven is already here, in the form of people reaching out in love and generosity. Michelle Sollicito sowed a small seed of kindness and it grew into a mighty Facebook tree, offering hope to the lost, the cold and the hungry. Her page has become a community of people whose only agenda is to offer whatever assistance they can. We often think the kindness we can do is so small it isn’t likely to make a difference. But it makes a difference if even one person is touched by it. Stories like these renew our faith in the community of believers. Stories like these remind us of the power of purpose. Stories like these affirm that “…if on earth two of you are united in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered in my Name, I am there among them” (Matt 18:19-20). Let us give thanks today for the Michelle Solicittos of this world and the community of believers to which we belong. Chaos really can bring out the best in us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all those who have been hit by Snowstorm Leon. We pray they find shelter, food, water, warmth and love as they tough out the cold.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the all those who have so generously offered their energy and their time to the people of the South.

Thursday, 30 Jan – The Parable of the Lamp

29 Jan 

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2 Samuel 7:18-19,24-29

After Nathan had spoken to him, King David went in and, seated before the Lord, said: ‘Who am I, O Lord, and what is my House, that you have led me as far as this? Yet in your sight, O Lord, this is still not far enough, and you make your promises extend to the House of your servant for a far-distant future. You have constituted your people Israel to be your own people for ever; and you, Lord, have become their God.

‘Now, O Lord, always keep the promise you have made your servant and his House, and do as you have said. Your name will be exalted for ever and men will say, “The Lord of Hosts is God over Israel.” The House of your servant David will be made secure in your presence, since you yourself, Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, “I will build you a House”; hence your servant has ventured to offer this prayer to you. Yes, Lord, you are God indeed, your words are true and you have made this fair promise to your servant. Be pleased, then, to bless the House of your servant, that it may continue for ever in your presence; for you, Lord, have spoken; and with your blessing the House of your servant will be for ever blessed.’

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Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

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Take notice of what you are hearing. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given

It’s very easy to become complacent when reading the parables of Jesus. We look at something like today’s ‘Parable of the Lamp’ and think, ‘Yeah, I got this’, and miss the depth of the Lord’s message. Just like reading a book in our twenties is different than reading the same book when we’re in our thirties and our forties, so too is it with the Scriptures. The verses take on a deeper meaning as we grow older and our relationship with Him deepens. In our twenties, our whole life stretches with promise before us. We feel almost immortal, like we have a long time to make good on ‘yielding fruit’. In our thirties, the urgency to kick-start our effort at being a ‘productive Christian’ begins to niggle at us; we become more results driven. By the time our forties rolls around, we’re starting to feel the sting of the Lord’s challenge to “…pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive…” We begin to wonder where all our time went, and whether we have done enough. We begin to wonder at what kind of Christian we have become. Is there still time to change? To repent and make amends?

“Pay attention to what you hear”, said the Lord. Jesus himself never expected us to fully understand the parables, hence the use of simple stories to drive home simple spiritual truths. Many Christians never grasp the real meaning of the words of Jesus. “The more they see, they don’t perceive; the more they hear, they don’t understand” (Mark 4:12). They come to the gospels with preconceived notions, then find the Scripture verses to justify their view of things. The Jewish teachers of Jesus’ time were like that, more interested in proving a point than seeking the Lord’ vision of the world. And I’m sure we each know someone who is the self-professed ‘know it all’ in our church group. These people confuse length of service and scripture knowledge with devotion. Pedigree does not mean proximity to God. If we simply preach the gospel, but don’t live it, even what we have will be taken from us.

In my twenties, the Parable of the Lamp was about being brave enough to proclaim my faith, to say to the world, ‘I believe, I have been baptized, I am a Christian!’ I was born into a Buddhist family, so my conversion was a very special event for me. In my thirties, the Parable of the Lamp became about how I was living as a Christian. I was then aggressively chasing after a career and all those distractions meant I was not really doing my best to live my faith. As I approach my forties, ‘time’ has suddenly become a very expensive commodity, and I’m beginning to wonder about the quality of my witness. If I was asked to give a reckoning of it, would I be able to do so satisfactorily? Is there still time to change, to make amends? I’m sure that when I start to close in on my fifties, the conversation would again be different. Time would no longer be a resource that I would have. A good chunk of my life would have passed me by. What will I ask myself then?

“Pay attention to how you behave. Do not live as the unwise do, but as responsible persons. Try to make good use of the present time… do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5: 15-17).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness to repent and return to the Lord, while we still have time.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Lord’s mercies, they are everlasting, they never come to an end.

Wednesday, 29 Jan – On Rocky Ground

29 Jan 

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2 Samuel 7:4-17

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus the Lord speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I have never stayed in a house from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today, but have always led a wanderer’s life in a tent. In all my journeying with the whole people of Israel, did I say to any one of the judges of Israel, whom I had appointed as shepherds of Israel my people: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” This is what you must say to my servant David, “the Lord of Hosts says this: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel; I have been with you on all your expeditions; I have cut off all your enemies before you. I will give you fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel; I will plant them there and they shall dwell in that place and never be disturbed again; nor shall the wicked continue to oppress them as they did, in the days when I appointed judges over my people Israel; I will give them rest from all their enemies. The Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a House. And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. (It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Yet I will not withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from your predecessor. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

Nathan related all these words to David and this whole revelation.

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Mark 4:1-20

Jesus began to teach by the lakeside, but such a huge crowd gathered round him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there. The people were all along the shore, at the water’s edge. He taught them many things in parables, and in the course of his teaching he said to them, ‘Listen!, Imagine a sower going out to sow. Now it happened that, as he sowed, some of the seed fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground where it found little soil and sprang up straightaway, because there was no depth of earth; and when the sun came up it was scorched and, not having any roots, it withered away. Some seed fell into thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it produced no crop. And some seeds fell into rich soil and, growing tall and strong, produced crop; and yielded thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

When he was alone, the Twelve, together with the others who formed his company, asked what the parables meant. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God is given to you, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may see and see again, but not perceive; may hear and hear again, but not understand; otherwise they might be converted and be forgiven.’

He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those on the edge of the path where the word is sown are people who have no sooner heard it than Satan comes and carries away the word that was sown in them. Similarly, those who receive the seed on patches of rock are people who, when first they hear the word, welcome it at once with joy. But they have no root in them, they do not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, they fall away at once. Then there are others who receive the seed in thorns. These have heard the word, but the worries of this world, the lure of riches and all the other passions come in to choke the word, and so it produces nothing. And there are those who have received the seed in rich soil: they hear the word and accept it and yield a harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’

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some seed fell on rocky ground where it found little soil and sprang up straightaway, because there was no depth of earth; and when the sun cane up it was scorched and, not having any roots, it withered away

In our backyard is a raggedy little lemon tree. I planted it when I first arrived here in California, as a way of marking a new beginning. My little lemon tree thrived for a while and I patted myself on the back when it bore its first fruit. Good results are such a motivator! I diligently cleared the spiders away, pruned my tree and watered it. And then, my botanist neighbor informed me that the soil conditions and the layout of our backyard were not ideal for growing citrus, and that she was surprised my lemon tree had thrived at all. Though I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, my lemon tree started to falter right after that. The ground grew harder. The weather turned colder. Even sunshine became erratic. And then, the Christmas holidays descended and with family in town, I became too distracted to tend it. So the little lemon tree that had started out with so much promise, deteriorated into an unpruned mess of leaves and thorns. Even the spiders returned, bringing new troops afresh!

Looking back, I went into it too hastily, without having done all of the homework, and so floundered at the first piece of negative feedback I received. It was nothing that couldn’t have been fixed with a little research and common sense, but I got discouraged and couldn’t stick with it. My little lemon tree’s symbolism isn’t lost on me. Commitment, or the lack thereof, has always been my biggest stumbling block. I am easily shaken, especially in the face of criticism or setbacks. Like the seed that falls on rocky ground, my roots don’t seem to run very deep. It’s worrying because lately, I’ve been struggling with my faith. Not only does it seem like I have stopped growing in Him, there are days where I’m convinced I’m moving backwards. If this related to any other matter, I would probably have stopped trying by now. But this is my faith we’re talking about!

I’ve seen this coming for some time now. It’s become increasingly difficult to stay motivated about the work I do in His ministry. I find that I’m easily irritated and it takes all my willpower to hold my tongue when things annoy me. I keep telling myself that this is a phase that everyone goes through and it will pass, but it hasn’t passed. It’s persisted, and even gotten worse. Like the seed that has fallen on rocky ground, I feel the Word has stalled, or even gone backwards with me. Inspiration, which used to run like a spring of water, now seems to have dried up. There are days when I feel like barren soil.

I don’t know if this will get better anytime soon. Everything in His time, Scripture says. But why would He want me to wallow in this purgatory I’m in? I’ve trawled His Word and the sermons on the Web to find a way out of this spiritual rut, with mixed results. I feel God is waiting for me to ‘get it’, but I really don’t know if I am going to be able to figure it out or what it is I am supposed to ‘get’. I just know that every day, I wake up with the sinking feeling Luke must have had when he penned the lines, “Now take care, how well you listen, for whoever produces will be given more, but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them” (Luke 8:18). Please pray for me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: I pray that I will be able to break out of this period of dryness that I’m in. I pray that He will show me the way back to Him because right now, I feel so lost.

Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the wealth of sermons and reflections on the internet. I give thanks for all the people who have given their time and energy so generously, to make this amazing resource available to people like me.

Tuesday, 28 Jan – Rethinking Rejection

28 Jan – Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Son of the Count of Aquino, born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. Educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight, and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France from 1245 to 1248 under Saint Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. Ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. Taught theology at University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught in several Italian cities. Recalled by king and university to Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273 he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

– The Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 6:12-15,17-19

David went and brought the ark of God up from Obed-edom’s house to the Citadel of David with great rejoicing. When the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fat sheep. And David danced whirling round before the Lord with all his might, wearing a linen loincloth round him. Thus David and all the House of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with acclaim and the sound of the horn. They brought the ark of the Lord in and put it in position inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered holocausts before the Lord, and communion sacrifices. And when David had finished offering holocausts and communion sacrifices, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Hosts. He then distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israelites, men and women, a roll of bread to each, a portion of dates, and a raisin cake. Then they all went away, each to his own house.

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Mark 3:31-35

The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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Who are my mother and my brothers?

Why does rejection hurt so much more when it comes from those closest to us? ‘No’, is not just ‘No’, when it is uttered by a loved one. It’s the phone call that isn’t returned, the disappointment of a parent on graduation day, a spouse’s constant reminders of how we have fallen short of their expectations. It’s the wife who no longer greets her husband, the mother who is never happy, the child who compares you to her best friend’s wealthy father. Rejection just hurts more when it is meted out by those dearest to us.

When we see David in today’s reading, he’s rejoicing with giddy fervor. The man can barely contain himself as he escorts the Ark of the Lord into the City of David; “David whirled round dancing with all his heart before Yahweh…” (2 Samuel 6:14). What is omitted from the text is the crux of the message – “As the ark of Yahweh entered the city of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter (and David’s wife), looked out of the window; and when she saw King David leaping and whirling round before Yahweh, she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16). She doesn’t even disguise her contempt when the king comes to bless his household, and instead chastises him, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, exposing himself before his servants’ maids as uncouth men do” (2 Samuel 6:20). Ouch! What a downer for poor David! Here he is victorious, and his wife gives him the cold shoulder.

Our need for affirmation from our loved ones – husbands, wives, siblings, children, parents, in-laws – transcends time, race, culture and religion. When it is not forthcoming, the pain of rejection is unbearable. Even Jesus was not impervious to this – “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives and in their own family… Jesus himself was astounded by their unbelief” (Mark 6:4-5). The whole human experience of Christ is one of rejection. People let him down constantly. His family lets him down. His relatives let him down. His disciples let him down. The elders of the law, with whom he had such great rapport as a child, let him down. And on the cross, in what becomes the ultimate rejection, His Father lets him down.

However deep we think is the hurt from our personal feelings of rejection, we have in Christ someone who empathizes with us because he’s been there. Christ’ humanity lets us relate to him. Like us, he was sometimes irritated, sometimes impatient, even angry. He suffered from bouts of fatigue and depression. And he was alone, very much alone at the end, as those closest to him had deserted him. Whatever pain we are going through will not measure up to that which Christ had endured. Strung up brutally on a cross, our dying Christ cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34), only to be greeted by a stony silence. Before he was raised up, he was brought down. He endured the ultimate rejection so that we could live free. So let’s not waste his sacrifice. We are not as bowed down as we perceive ourselves to be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all those who are suffering from loneliness and depression. May they find comfort in Christ and draw strength from his suffering.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who volunteer in outreach programs to help those who suffer from depression and loneliness. Ours is a less lonely world because of your tireless work

Monday, 27 Jan – Caught Up In The Moment

27 Jan – Memorial of Saint Angela Merici

Franciscan tertiary at age 15. She received a vision telling her she would inspire devout women in their vocation.

In Crete, during a pilgrimage to Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

In 1535 she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the Institute of Saint Ursula (Ursuline Sisters), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics; her first schools were in the Italian cities of Desenazno and Brescia.

– The Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 5:1-7,10

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.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years. He reigned in Hebron over Judah for seven years and six months; then he reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

David and his men marched on Jerusalem against the Jebusites living there. These said to David, ‘You will not get in here. The blind and the lame will hold you off. (That is to say: David will never get in here.) But David captured the fortress of Zion, that is, the Citadel of David.

David grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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But let anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness

Football is the purest expression of gladiatorial sport in our age. Brute force is pit against battle wits to move a football down to the opponent’s end zone. It is violent. It is unforgiving. Injury is common. Men weighing more than 200lbs, towering more than 6ft defend their ground viciously. Despite the violence, football is a beautiful sport that rewards hard work, athleticism, intelligence, dedication, determination and the will to prevail. All the human drama that makes for inspired stories can be found on a football field; the good, the bad, the valiant, the fearful, the selfish, the selfless. Last week we got to witness two terrific championship games, between the Broncos-Patriots, and the Seahawks-49ers. Yet you wouldn’t know it because all America has been talking about this week is Seahawk Richard Sherman and what happened in their last play against the 49ers.

Gifted athletes are passionate individuals. It comes with the territory. But Richard Sherman is no thug. He’s not even the trash-talking villain the media has painted him out to be. He’s just an incredibly talented athlete who got caught up in the moment, said some things he probably didn’t mean and can’t back down from this place he’s talked himself up to. Now he feels he has something to defend. The hype, the heat and the media’s histrionics have made this no longer a conversation about football, but one of pride and race. Our beautiful sport has suddenly taken a less than beautiful turn.

Strong opinions are dangerous. Strong opinions expressed too strongly push us to a place we find impossible to back down from. Caught up in the moment, we stake more and more on being right – our reputations are suddenly up for debate. In today’s Scripture reading, the Jewish scribes viciously ‘defend their end zone’ with the collective weight of their knowledge and their position as religious elders of their time. Much is at stake here. Their whole self-worth is tied up in being right. In the heat of an argument, with tempers flaring, it is entirely possible that perhaps they weren’t thinking straight and like the Richard Shermans of this world, let their pride do the talking for them. They talked themselves to a place they couldn’t back down from, a place where they undermined themselves and inadvertently, blasphemed against the work of the Holy Spirit. Did they knowingly do it? Maybe, but that’s what happens when reason takes flight to pride and passion. We get careless and say things we regret.

I’ve often wondered about the Unforgivable Sin. What if I’ve committed it out of carelessness? We’ve all been in heated arguments before. “The tongue… is in itself a whole world of evil. It infects the whole being and sets fire to our world with the very fire of hell… nobody can control the tongue. It is an untiring whip, full of deadly poison. We use it to bless God, our Father, and also to curse those made in God’s likeness.” (James 3: 6-9). Have I, like the Jewish scribes, undermined the Spirit’s work unwittingly, when in a moment of anger and carelessness, I criticized a brother in Christ? For we all carry the Holy Spirit within us, the Spirit which inspires us to do His deeds. When I judge someone, am I also judging the Holy Spirit and in so doing, committing the Unpardonable Sin? Food for thought as we go about this week.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the strength to restrain ourselves, when tempers flare and arguments become too heated, lest we say something we regret.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who guides each of our actions. We pray for the wisdom to always be able to listen and practise restraint, despite the noise of our own passions.

Sunday, 26 Jan – Glass Half Full, Glass Half Empty

26 Jan – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus, The Light Of The World

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

– The Sunday Missal

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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 seen 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 Apollos’, ‘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 and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’

From that moment Jesus began his 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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There be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose

A glass is either half full or half empty, isn’t it? Our dog, a 10-week old “Labradoodle” called Tommy, celebrated its one month anniversary of living with us last week. Our house, which we had kept pristine till it arrived, now looks as if a whirlwind had torn through it. Running after our dog and cleaning up its mess is a daily routine, since it is still struggling to comprehend the words ‘No’, ‘Leave’, ‘Down’ and ‘Outside’. At 10 weeks, it has started to develop ‘aggressive’ tendencies. For instance, it will bite viciously if you take its chew toys away.

When we decided on getting a dog, the breeder assured us that our dog was the ‘mellowest of the litter’. I assure you, Tommy is a lot of things but ‘mellow’ is not one of them. We never expected the dog would be such a handful, or that our freedom would be so curtailed by its arrival. This is a strange and somewhat frustrating new “normal” that we are forced to deal with – a normal where there is dirt, dried leaves and bark all over the house, where mud needs to be constantly cleaned from the walls, where our carpets have to be rolled away because our dog has bladder control issues, and where we can’t have a night out because it will bark the house down from separation anxiety. It’s very tempting for me to see only the ‘half empty glass’ – the mess, the noise, the endless housework – and ask, “Lord, what have I gotten myself into?!”

But as much trouble as it is, our little Labradoodle has brought my partner and I much closer together by giving us a shared purpose. We split the cleaning, feeding and parenting duties. The long walks we take, in an attempt to exhaust the dog, is quality time we’ve been able to spend together without the distractions of the TV and our devices. Indeed, our dog has been a handful and yes, we have both at some point, thrown our hands up in frustration. But we have also found new ways to be supportive of each other. The experience has been rewarding because looking after the dog has given me a new appreciation for my partner, and him of me. If I can overlook the dirt in our previously pristine house, I would say that the cup of our happiness ‘hath runneth over’.

The word ‘repent’ means a ‘change of heart’, a conversion, or as Isaiah so lyrically describes it, ‘the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light’. With John the Baptist, conversion meant turning from your sins, once you were baptized. With Jesus, conversion was a more fundamental renewal of life – a change that would come from within and flip over our whole perspective. A glass once viewed as half empty, is now half full. That which was once considered a curse, is now looked upon as a blessing. A change of heart comes from the work of the Spirit who reframes our perspective on things – “When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into the whole truth… the Spirit will take what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:13-15).

When we change our perspective and see things not through our eyes, but through the lens of Christ, the whole world looks very different. The psalmist alludes to it in today’s reading when he says, ‘…I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living’ (Psalm 27:13). When we just focus on that half empty glass, that dirty house and all the things which we are lacking, we miss the bounty of the Lord that exists in our lives. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17), said Jesus. The kingdom of heaven might very well be right next to us, in the form of the loved ones whom we share our lives with. If we focus only on their faults and their flaws, we’re going to let the goodness of our Lord pass us by.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for open eyes and open hearts, that we may see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the love, support and patience of our partners. Things would be infinitely more difficult if our partners were not such good team players.

Saturday, 25 Jan – Suffering With a Purpose

25 Jan – Feast of Conversion of St Paul

The great Apostle Paul, named Saul at his circumcision, was born at Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, and was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the empire. He was early instructed in the strict observance of the Mosaic law, and lived up to it in the most scrupulous manner. In his zeal for the Jewish law, which he thought the cause of God, he became a violent persecutor of the Christians. He was one of those who combined to murder Saint Stephen, and in the violent persecution of the faithful, which followed the martyrdom of the holy deacon, Saul signalized himself above others. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them with chains and thrust them into prison. In the fury of his zeal he applied for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, that they might serve as examples for the others. But God was pleased to show forth in him His patience and mercy. While on his way to Damascus, he and his party were surrounded by a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, and suddenly struck to the ground. And then a voice was heard saying, “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” And Saul answered, “Who art thou, Lord?” and the voice replied, “I am Jesus whom thou dost persecute.” This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, cured Saul’s pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Our Lord ordered him to arise and to proceed on his way to the city, where he should be informed of what was expected from him. Saul, arising from the ground, found that though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. He was led by hand into Damascus, where he was lodged in the house of a Jew named Judas. To this house came by divine appointment a holy man named Ananias, who, laying his hands on Saul, said, ” Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy journey, hath sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he recovered his eyesight. Then he arose, and was baptized; he stayed some few days with the disciples at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen as one of God’s principal instruments in the conversion of the world.

Reflection – Listen to the words of the “Imitation of Christ,” and let them sink into your heart: “He who would keep the grace of God, let him be grateful for grace when it is given, and patient when it is taken away. Let him pray that it may be given back to him, and be careful and humble, lest he lose it.”

– The Patron Saint Index

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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘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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I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name

Christians have often been told that we need to accept the cross given to us lovingly and that the life of a Christian is not a bed of roses but instead one which allows us to commit to suffering with the Lord. Today’s feast day shows us that the Christian journey is indeed one marked by immense suffering and joy.

St Paul surely did not know that he had to go through tremendous pain and torture to preach the Good News. The Acts of the Apostles shares with us the grief which he had to go through to proclaim the message. However, St Paul never lost the fiery spirit to do the right thing. He channeled all his energy to proclaim the Good News of the Lord once He discovered what the true meaning of the message He was out to proclaim.

Some of us have been to retreats and conversion experiences where we leave the place more fired up to proclaim the message of Christ to all around us. However, this fire slowly dims down due to the constant attacks from the world. I encourage each one of us to continue to have this fire within us but for it to be nurtured by constant prayer and intercession to God. We must allow God to work within us to share the message of His love to all around us. The suffering we go through and persecutions we endure must be constantly sanctified to God and surrendered to Him. This can only be done if we remain faithful to our prayer and dedicated to the same message which God demanded St Paul and all of us to proclaim: Jesus is the Son of God who became flesh to save us from our sins.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: St Paul, please imbibe in us the fire of unceasing love which you had for the Gospel

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all missionaries working in the Lord’s vineyard.

Friday, 24 Jan – God’s Mercy on Us

24 Jan – Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales

Born in the castle of Château de Thorens to a well-placed Savoyard family, the eldest of twelve children born to François de Boisy and Françoise de Sionnz. His parents intended that Francis become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche and Annecy in France, taught by Jesuits. Attended the Collège de Clermont in Paris, France at age 12. In his early teens, Francis began to believe in pre-destination, and was so afraid that he was pre-emptorily condemned to Hell that he became ill and eventually was confined to bed. However, in January 1587 at the Church of Saint Stephen, he overcame the crisis, decided that whatever God had in store for him was for the best, and dedicated his life to God.

Studied law and theology at the University of Padua, Italy, and earned a doctorate in both fields. He 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, especially when he refused a marriage that had been arranged for him. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

Priest. In 1593 he was appointed provost of the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. Preacher, writer and spiritual director in the district of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church. He even used sign language in order to bring the message to the deaf, leading to his patronage of deaf people.

Bishop of Geneva in 1602. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. Friend of Saint Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric to continue working where God had placed him. With Saint Jeanne de Chantal he helped found the Order of the Visitation . A prolific correspondent, many of his letters have survived.

The value of his writings led to his being declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1877, and a patron of writers and journalists by Pope Pius XI in 1923. The Salesians of Don Bosco, the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales, and the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales are named in his honour as is the Saint François Atoll in the Seychelles Islands.

– The Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel and went in search of David and his men east of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds along the route where there was a cave, and went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave; David’s men said to him, Today is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.”’ David stood up and, unobserved, cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.

Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David bowed to the ground and did homage. Then David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”? Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you. “I will not raise my hand against my lord,” I said “for he is the anointed of the Lord.” O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand. Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind. I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life. May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you. (As the old proverb says: Wickedness goes out from the wicked, and my hand will not be laid on you.) On whose trail has the king of Israel set out? On whose trail are you in hot pursuit? On the trail of a dead dog! On the trail of a single flea! May the Lord be the judge and decide between me and you; may he take up my cause and defend it and give judgement for me, freeing me from your power.’

When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ And Saul wept aloud. ‘You are a more upright man than I,’ he said to David ‘for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil. Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested? May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today. Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.’
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Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.

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Have mercy on me, God, have mercy

The idea of showing mercy to the people in our office is indeed an oddity today. There is instead a desire to exercise one’s might and strength to the people around us, and it is might which can demonstrate our ability to the people around us. However, today’s Gospel shows us that Jesus’s choice of apostles revolved around a criteria which we will find strange in today’s world.

Saul’s persecution of David was driven by hatred. He tried to stop the inevitable fact that his kingdom would be taken over by David. I believe that we need to devote our energies away from such endeavours. Instead, we need to dedicate our lives towards a merciful life. A merciful life is one in which we can show charity to all around us despite the failings we know of the person.

Indeed, it is important for us to know how to demonstrate mercy to others as we ourselves may need to be shown mercy at some point in our lives. The decision which we have to make is to learn how to show this mercy. For this, we can learn how God has shown us mercy in our lives. As we gather in prayer and ask for God’s mercy, let us never forget that we need to show mercy to those around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for your Divine Mercy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who pray for God’s mercy.

Thursday, 23 Jan – Childlike trust

23 Jan 

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1 Samuel 18:6-9,19:1-7

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 out 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 an 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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In God I trust; I shall not fear

There are many situations in our lives where we feel that God has abandoned us and we do not have any more strength and energy to deal with the matter. The readings of today remind us that it is not our strength which we should rely on but upon the love of God that we need to depend upon.

David’s life was in danger of being killed by Saul but Jonathan took it upon himself to protect David from his father’s knife. This is indeed the way we are called to follow: We need to dedicate our lives to the way of right, even though it may cause our lives to be endangered. We need to be close to God in order to discover the wisdom to make the decision which is required to help the people around us. Our relationship with God can be deepened through prayer and in our prayer, we need to encounter Jesus.

This encounter with Jesus is the acknowledgement that we can safely rely on Him for help, and we need to surrender to Him all our weaknesses and sins. Only then can we make a decision which is totally based on God and which will give us a sense of peace. The peace of mind and heart is the surest assurance we can have from God that our decision is in line with what God wants for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for us to put our trust in you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who continue to show God’s love to all around us.

Wednesday, 22 Jan – Surrendering Our Will

22 Jan – Memorial of Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr

Friend of Saint Valerius of Saragossa in Spain, and served as his deacon. Imprisoned and tortured in Valencia, Spain for his faith during the persecutions of Diocletian; part of his time was spent being burned on a gridiron. While in prison, he converted his jailer. Was finally offered release if he would give up the scripture texts for burning, but he refused. Martyr. Acts written by the poet Prudentius.

– The Patron Saint Index

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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 the Philistine.’ But Saul answered David, ‘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 in 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 here 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 the Lord 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 again 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.

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But they said nothing. Then, grieved to find them so obstinate…

Sometimes we do not realise how stubborn we can be in sticking to a certain course of behaviour. The problem is that the individual cannot see that he is facing difficulties in himself because there is no one to correct him. We can take heart from today’s readings and discover how we can go about in changing ourselves.

Jesus had to show to the Pharisees that it is important for a child of God to be healed from a physical infirmity but they probably were blinded to the situation and instead felt that not adhering to the law was a major issue in itself. I find that this is not the main issue at hand.

The main issue is the clear obstinacy within the individual to not want to yield to the love of God. There are occasions where we take pride in our intelligence and trust that it is far more superior compared to the wisdom of God manifested in the teachings of the Church. In such matters, perhaps it will do us good to not question the institution and the teachings of the Church but instead question ourselves on why we are reacting in such a manner. Could it be because we were personally hurt by a particular church precept in the course of our life and this prevented us from achieving one of our life’s aims?

Let us take time to ponder on what is hindering us from knowing what God wants of us and make an effort to correct our behaviour.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for all who seek you with a sincere heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who show love to you through their actions and words.