Monthly Archives: May 2015

Sunday, 31 May – Love Beyond All Comprehension

31 May – Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity

The God of Love and Peace

Our celebration today is a song of praise to God who has taken us up to share in the very life of the Trinity. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with us all.

-The Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you forever.’

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Romans 8:14-17

Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.

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Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

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Everyone moved by the Spirit is a Son of God

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is one which consists of Love between all 3 persons in the Holy Trinity. This is something which we need to grasp by faith and not reason. The beauty of the Christian religion is that it is not an abstract religion but one which is concrete and grounded in action or, in short, love made manifest through action.

Jesus came down to the world to save us from the death which Original Sin brought and this is something which we need to realise is an act of Love. This supreme act of love is supported by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives to continue to guide us in the decisions which we are making. Indeed, it is the spirit of God’s love which animates our actions in the people whom we encounter and meet in our lives.

Hence today’s feast is not something which we should ignore. Instead, we must celebrate with great joy because it shows to us the wonderful plan which God has rolled out for each one of us. The plan He has showed us is that all our actions should be guided by love. Let us take time now to share this great joy with all the people around us in a way which we know can touch their hearts.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the opportunity to show your love to the people around us

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who provide a listening ear.

Saturday, 30 May – The Truth Shall Set Free

30 May

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Sirach 51:12-20

I will thank you and praise you,
and bless the name of the Lord.
When I was still a youth, before I went travelling,
in my prayers I asked outright for wisdom.
Outside the sanctuary I would pray for her,
and to the last I will continue to seek her.
From her blossoming to the ripening of her grape
my heart has taken its delight in her.
My foot has pursued a straight path,
I have been following her steps ever since my youth.
By bowing my ear a little I have received her,
and have found much instruction.
Thanks to her I have advanced;
the glory be to him who has given me wisdom!
For I am determined to put her into practice,
I have earnestly pursued what is good, I will not be put to shame.
My soul has fought to possess her,
I have been scrupulous in keeping the Law;
I have stretched out my hands to heaven
and bewailed my ignorance of her;
I have directed my soul towards her,
and in purity have found her.

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Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? Or who gave you authority to do these things?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you a question, only one; answer me and I will tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: did it come from heaven, or from man? Answer me that.’ And they argued it out this way among themselves: ‘If we say from heaven, he will say, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?” But dare we say from man?’ – they had the people to fear, for everyone held that John was a real prophet. So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’

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“Who gave you authority to do these things?”

When I was about 8, I remember having an art class and I was doing my own thing. I can’t quite recall what it was I was doing but it clearly wasn’t what the teacher expected. She huffed up to me and asked me pointedly, “Who gave you permission to do that?” That really caught me off-guard and while I can’t remember what my response was, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had been too scared to give one!

In today’s reading, Jesus was challenged by the chief priests in the Temple, or his ‘Father’s house’ as he referred to it. He had been performing miracles all this time — casting out demons, curing the sick and the lame, healing the blind — all in God’s name. John the Baptist had gone before him, paving the way and baptizing people, asking them to repent their ways, for the Messiah would come.

The chief priests did not believe Jesus because they were defiant and stubborn in their thinking. They did not believe that the Messiah was the son of a carpenter, and they were afraid of the influence that Jesus yielded. They were afraid of the truth, even though the truth was in the flesh right before their very eyes.

We are a bit like that sometimes. We tend to be in denial over certain things whatever they may be. We ask for signs, some proof, source of information or conclusive study, otherwise we refuse to believe. We question the legitimacy of the issue before us. What would it be like if we were the ones who knew the truth, and tried to persuade others to see it, but were challenged as Jesus was? Wouldn’t it be frustrating? But Jesus kept his cool. He knew the truth and if the chief priests refused to see it, then they eventually would because deep down they would know that Jesus was indeed of God. If we too feel challenged, let us pray that God will help us and let the truth be revealed. For sometimes, trying to change hardened hearts and minds can be too much of an uphill climb. But as long as we are on the side of truth, we are on the side of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who have been unjustly persecuted. We pray that justice will prevail and that the truth will set them free.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for showing me that You are the Way and the Truth, and with that comes Life.

Friday, 29 May – Attitude of Prayer

29 May

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Sirach 44:1,9-13

Let us praise illustrious men,
our ancestors in their successive generations.
Some have left no memory,
and disappeared as though they had not existed,
they are now as though they had never been,
and so too, their children after them.
But here is a list of generous men
whose good works have not been forgotten.
In their descendants there remains
a rich inheritance born of them.
Their descendants stand by the covenants
and, thanks to them, so do their children’s children.
Their offspring will last for ever,
their glory will not fade.

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Mark 11:11-26

After he had been acclaimed by the crowds, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked all round him, but as it was now late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.

So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling pigeons. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, ‘Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples? But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city.

Next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered to the roots. Peter remembered. ‘Look, Rabbi,’ he said to Jesus, ‘the fig tree you cursed has withered away.’ Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you solemnly, if anyone says to this mountain, “Get up and throw yourself into the sea,” with no hesitation in his heart but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.’ But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.’

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“Everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours”

I’m not very good at prayer. Sometimes I don’t know what to say and I wonder how some people can be so eloquent at it. I sometimes hesitate to ask God and tell Him what I need help with, probably because I am too embarrassed to ask or maybe it’s because I think ‘oh it’s such a small thing to bother God with’. Sometimes I think that I haven’t tried hard enough to fix the problem on my own yet, so I shouldn’t bother God with it.

I’ve realized over time that my attitude to prayer is all wrong. I go with the mindset that the battle is already half-lost, like I am a lost cause and hope that God, in His mercy, will have pity on me. God likes a cheerful giver and this too I believe applies to prayer. Who wants to hang out with someone always in the doldrums when they can experience smiles instead?

First and foremost, God is a merciful Father and all things are possible with Him. He only wants to give us what is good and best for us, being His children (Luke 11:11-13). Secondly, we have to be persistent in prayer and in our petitions. Jesus taught his disciples that they should be persistent, and your prayers will eventually be answered: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

God also examines our hearts when we pray. We should approach our prayer with humility, for we are all sinners in some way. The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18) underscores this. Do we seek God with a humble and contrite heart, or are we like the Pharisee who wants to trumpet his own righteousness? 

Finally, in reference to today’s reading, we should have faith in our prayers. Believe that you have it already when you pray, says Mark 11:24. It will happen in God’s time, not our time; the important thing is that it will happen. God will get us there, no matter the journey. At the end of the day, if our eloquence fails us and if, like me, you have no words to pray, then let us say the Lord’s Prayer in confidence that God does hear us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: God, sometimes I don’t know what to pray, but I know that by praying, it is like having a conversation with you. On that note, I pray that we will have more conversations together where I can be a more cheerful conversationalist, than one who is a lost cause.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for hearing my prayers. Thank you for granting my prayers even though I doubt at times. I pray for a more steadfast attitude in future.

 

Thursday, 28 May – Helping the Blind to See

28 May

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Sirach 42:15-26

I will remind you of the works of the Lord,
and tell of what I have seen.
By the words of the Lord his works come into being
and all creation obeys his will.
As the sun in shining looks on all things,
so the work of the Lord is full of his glory.
The Lord has not granted to the holy ones
to tell of all his marvels
which the Almighty Lord has solidly constructed
for the universe to stand firm in his glory.
He has fathomed the deep and the heart,
and seen into their devious ways;
for the Most High knows all the knowledge there is,
and has observed the signs of the times.
He declares what is past and what will be,
and uncovers the traces of hidden things.
Not a thought escapes him,
not a single word is hidden from him.
He has imposed an order on the magnificent works of his wisdom,
he is from everlasting to everlasting,
nothing can be added to him, nothing taken away,
he needs no one’s advice.
How desirable are all his works,
how dazzling to the eye!
They all live and last for ever,
whatever the circumstances all obey him.
All things go in pairs, by opposites,
and he has made nothing defective;
the one consolidates the excellence of the other,
who could ever be sated with gazing at his glory? 

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Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

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“Master, let me see again.”

For a world that is truly global, where the Internet and satellite communications give us instant access to the world and people all over, I wonder if it has made us more aware. Yes, perhaps we are more aware intellectually — we know more about history, geography, science, politics, culture, news… more than our grandparents did in their time. But in knowing all this, have we become more compassionate and more understanding?

I have faith that we are a more compassionate society, yet in our hustle and bustle, do we also block out the things that should require our attention when we zoom from one appointment to another? Do we notice the pregnant woman who needs a seat, the crippled man trying to get around, the old woman climbing the stairs with her heavy basket? Ignorance can be bliss. Sadly, we are surrounded by people who believe that “if I don’t know it, it’s not my problem”. In Singapore, the popular Hokkien phrase is “boh wah eh tai ji” (none of my business).

But it is a problem, and it is our problem! Are our hearts so hardened that we cannot perceive the plight of others? Do we suffer from blindness of our heart?  

In the gospels, Jesus heals the blind in at least four or five separate incidents, and the blind see again and proclaim the wonders of God. They proclaim because they have all had faith, and experienced God’s mercy first-hand. What about those who have their sight? Jesus explains that those who do not know God would not be able to understand, even if they had all their faculties. He explained that the prophecy of Isaiah rang true in that “much as you hear, you do not understand; much as you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see.” (Matthew 13:14-16)

But if we would allow our hearts to be open, if we ask it of God, He would heal our hearts of their blindness, and open our minds to perceive His word. This healing would be our first-hand experience with God, and we would be like the blind men whom Jesus has healed. We would proclaim God’s greatness and, like Bartimaeus, pick ourselves up and follow Him.

The blindness that we see around us is not just the blindness of sight, but the blindness of the heart, the blindness caused by ignorance. Let us pray then for God to heal our hearts and those of the people in the world today.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, for the times when our hearts have been ignorant to those around us, we ask for your forgiveness. Harden not our hearts, but fill them with love and compassion, so that those who perceive us will perceive instead the wonders of your love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you God for opening our minds and our hearts to Your Word and Your love. We give You thanks and praise forevermore!

Wenesday, 27 May – Fear

27 May – St Augustine of Canterbury

Christianity in Britain started early, but was largely submerged by the pagan Anglo-Saxon invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries. It remained alive only in the far west, which remained British because it was too remote and inaccessible for the invaders to attack.

It is said that Pope Gregory the Great saw some fair-haired Anglo-Saxon slaves exposed for sale in a market in Rome. He asked where they were from, and when he was told, replied non Angli, sed angeli – “not Angles, but angels,” and determined to secure their evangelization.

Whatever the truth of that story, it is certain that Gregory did organise a party of thirty monks to travel to south-eastern England and spread the Gospel there, and chose as their leader Augustine, prior of the monastery of St Andrew in Rome. They landed in 597, and were welcomed by the king of Kent, Ethelbert, who became a Christian along with many of his subjects. A second wave of missionaries arrived in 601. Augustine went to Arles, in France, where he was consecrated archbishop of the English, and then returned to Canterbury to set up his see. The mission prospered, and he founded two more sees, at London and at Rochester in Kent.

The evangelization of the country was planned in close agreement with Pope Gregory, and took care to respect existing traditions. Pagan temples and holy places were not to be destroyed, but to be converted to Christian use; and pagan feasts were to be superseded by Christian ones. This is consistent with the pattern of evangelization throughout the first millennium, which saw Christianity as a fulfilment of what went before, rather than a contradiction of it. Even in Rome itself, temples of Juno had a tendency to become churches dedicated to Our Lady. (It is only with the Spanish colonial evangelizations of the mid-second millennium that the policy of making a clean break with the past began: a policy that works faster but whose effects are not always permanent).

In the far west of Britain, where British bishops had survived the pagan invasions – or where they had fled to escape them – Augustine was less successful in establishing his authority. The traditions of the Celtic church were different from the Roman ones, and bishops who had guided their people for generations were not about to submit to a jumped-up missionary from overseas. It took several generations for the whole of Great Britain to become Christian and for the English and British liturgical traditions to be reconciled.

Augustine died at Canterbury on 26 May 604 or 605.

– Universalis

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Sirach 36:1, 4-5A, 10-17

Have mercy on us, Master, Lord of all, and look on us,
cast the fear of yourself over every nation.
Let them acknowledge you, just as we have acknowledged
that there is no God but you, Lord.
Send new portents, do fresh wonders,
win glory for your hand and your right arm.
Gather together all the tribes of Jacob,
restore them their inheritance as in the beginning.
Have mercy, Lord, on the people who have invoked your name,
on Israel whom you have treated as a first-born.
Show compassion on your holy city,
on Jerusalem the place of your rest.
Fill Zion with songs of your praise,
and your sanctuary with your glory.
Bear witness to those you created in the beginning,
and bring about what has been prophesied in your name.
Give those who wait for you their reward,
and let your prophets be proved worthy of belief.
Grant, Lord, the prayer of your servants,
in accordance with Aaron’s blessing on your people,
so that all the earth’s inhabitants may acknowledge
that you are the Lord, the everlasting God.

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Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him: ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans, who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.’

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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“Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive.”

The background to today’s reading is the journey that Jesus makes to Jerusalem. By this time, Jesus had already predicted his death twice to his disciples, but they had always been confused about what he was referring to in the past. Now as they make their way to Jerusalem, the awful realization begins to dawn on them that this wasn’t a victory march, it was more like a lamb going to its slaughter. They become afraid, yet Jesus walks ahead of them, back straight, ready to meet what he has long foretold, what he has long known.

Fear can be totally paralyzing when we know what lies ahead. Be it fear of pain, public speaking, or punishment… we do not know if we can handle the dreaded episode that is to come. Our nerves get the better of us and make us lose sight of the goal. Knowing all this, Jesus still forges ahead, being a model of courage for his disciples. Imagine if he had faltered now, his sheep would have scattered. And here Jesus stoically declares the third prediction of His own death.

Would we not be amazed, if we had been there with the disciples at this point, that a man who is certain of his impending death was so unfazed by it, to the point where he was making haste to the place of his persecution? How could he separate his mind from the fear? Probably because Jesus understood the higher purpose of his sacrifice i.e. the salvation of mankind whom He loves. His eye is fixed on his goal. Secondly, Jesus is strengthened in knowing that God is with him every step of the way. Isaiah says in 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you… I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

We should take inspiration from Jesus in facing our own personal trials. We cannot erase the fear, for even Jesus sweated blood in his agony at the Mount of Olives, near the hour of his time. But God has promised help in our weakness to strengthen us. Let us lift up our trials to God, so that He can take our fear away.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, my fear overwhelms me most of the time in the face of my trials. I pray for the strength to help me to overcome it. Help me stay focused on the path that lies ahead of me.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for being my strength and my courage. You are my salvation indeed, and you lift me up to lighten my burden. Thank you Lord, for always being there with me.

Tuesday, 26 May – Leap of Faith

26 May – St Philip Neri

He was born in Florence in 1515. At the age of eighteen he went to Rome, and earned his living as a tutor. He undertook much-needed charitable work among the young men of the city, and started a brotherhood to help the sick poor and pilgrims.

He was advised that he could do more good as a priest, and was ordained in 1551. He built an oratory over the church of San Girolamo, where he invented services, consisting of spiritual readings and hymns, which were the origin of the oratorio (tradition is a good thing; but innovation also has its place). He continued to serve the young men of Rome, rich and poor alike, with religious discussions and by organising charitable enterprises. He had a particular care for the young students at the English College in Rome, studying for a missionary life and probable martyrdom in England.

He inspired other clergy to emulate him, and formed them into the Congregation of the Oratory. Oratorian foundations still flourish in many countries today. He died in Rome in 1595.

St Philip Neri was an enemy of solemnity and conventionality. When some of his more pompous penitents made their confession to him (he was famous as a confessor) he imposed salutary and deflating penances on them, such as walking through the streets of Rome carrying his cat (he was very fond of cats). When a novice showed signs of excessive seriousness, Philip stood on his head in front of him, to make him laugh. When people looked up to him too much, he did something ridiculous so that they should not respect someone who was no wiser – and no less sinful – than they were. In every case there was an excellent point to his pranks: to combat pride, or melancholy, or hero-worship.

Laughter is not much heard in churches: perhaps that is to be expected… but outside church, Christians should laugh more than anyone else – laugh from sheer joy, that God bothered to make us, and that he continues to love us despite the idiots we are. Everyone is a sinner, but Christians are sinners redeemed – an undeserved rescue that we make even less deserved by everything we do. It is too serious a matter to be serious about: all we can reasonably do is rejoice.

Very many of the saints, not just St Philip, have an abiding terror of being looked up to. For they know their imperfections better than anyone else, and being revered by other people is doubly bad. It is bad for the others, who should be revering God instead, and for themselves, because they might be tempted to believe their own image and believe themselves to be worthy.

We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.

– Universalis

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Sirach 35:1-12

A man multiplies offerings by keeping the Law;
he offers communion sacrifices by following the commandments.
By showing gratitude he makes an offering of fine flour,
by giving alms he offers a sacrifice of praise.
Withdraw from wickedness and the Lord will be pleased,
withdraw from injustice and you make atonement.
Do not appear empty-handed in the Lord’s presence;
for all these things are due under the commandment.
A virtuous man’s offering graces the altar,
and its savour rises before the Most High.
A virtuous man’s sacrifice is acceptable,
its memorial will not be forgotten.
Honour the Lord with generosity,
do not stint the first-fruits you bring.
Add a smiling face to all your gifts,
and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously as your means can afford;
for the Lord is a good rewarder,
he will reward you seven times over.
Offer him no bribe, he will not accept it,
do not put your faith in an unvirtuous sacrifice;
since the Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

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Mark 10:28-31

‘What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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“We have left everything and followed you.”

Two women were once talking about marriage. One of them said that she had never been anywhere outside her parents’ home and leaving her family and the only home she knew to be with her husband seemed almost alien. It took her a full week to get used to her new living circumstances, during which she cried because she was homesick.

The world we know is the one that we have grown up in. Our surroundings, our creature comforts, the people we meet daily, sights and smells. When I was going to university, my parents worried that I would suffer from culture shock being away from home all alone. Thankfully I had a sense of adventure then, and all the “newness” was almost exciting. For some, leaving the environment you are used to can be a very daunting prospect. We fear the unknown. The longer we stay in one situation, the harder it is for us to let go. To put it in perspective, some people who have been in their jobs for more than 10 years will find it less of an adventure to seek greener pastures than a younger person who has been in his job for a year. Such a move would almost be like a leap of faith.

This is what Jesus is calling on us to do today: to take the leap of faith with him and trust in the path that he is showing us. In order to do that, we need to leave behind our dependence on material possessions and more so, our old ways of thinking and living. Embracing God is like putting on new glasses — once our eyes are opened, we see a completely different world.

Are we ready to see a whole new world with Jesus today? Let us pray for the courage to take that leap of faith with him. As Christopher Columbus once said, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to shed our fears and give us the courage to take our leap of faith with you.

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for being by our side, encouraging us on our journey with you, every step of the way. 

Monday, 25 May – U-Turns

25 May – Pope St Gregory VII

He was born in Tuscany and given the name Hildebrand. He became a monk, and assisted several successive Popes in reforming and purifying the Church. He was elected pope in 1073 and took the name of Gregory VII. He fought single-mindedly to free the Church from harmful influences and dependence on the state. This brought him into conflict with the Emperor Henry IV, who was excommunicated by Gregory, then submitted to him, then changed his mind and besieged and captured Rome. Gregory was “rescued” by the Norman Robert Guiscard, who captured Rome amid scenes of appalling violence, and Gregory had to flee to Salerno, where he died.

– Universalis

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Sirach 17:20-28

To those who repent, God permits return,
and he encourages those who were losing hope.
Return to the Lord and leave sin behind,
plead before his face and lessen your offence.
Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
and hold in abhorrence all that is foul.
Who will praise the Most High in Sheol,
if the living do not do so by giving glory to him?
To the dead, as to those who do not exist, praise is unknown,
only those with life and health can praise the Lord.
How great is the mercy of the Lord,
his pardon on all those who turn towards him!

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Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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“To those who repent, God permits return.”

I’m sure that most of us have played the board game Monopoly. You spin your rounds, accumulate property, collect rent, build houses and hotels… and every now and then, you pick a Chance card. I remember getting the “Go to Jail” card, on which is written something like “Go straight to jail, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200”, thereby ending my turn until I can get out of “jail” somehow and rejoin the game.

The way we live our lives can sometimes “imprison” us. Our addictions — to alcohol, cigarettes, to our phone and ipad — dictate our lives; our sins take hold of us. Sometimes we feel trapped. We can achieve so much more in our lives with our God-given gifts, but we don’t because our sins weigh us down. Sometimes the gravity of our wrong-doings gnaw at our conscience and we are ashamed of ourselves. We are ashamed to pray or go to church, thinking that God knows our sins and thus we cannot face up to Him. We hide, just like Adam and Eve did before us; or we deny the sin, or blame others for it. Either way, nothing can ever erase that spot, nothing except for God’s forgiveness.

The fact that we are ashamed shows that we have a moral concept of good and evil. Our shame shows that we are aware of our wrong-doing, and we regret our actions. In today’s reading, God promises U-turns for those who repent. He is a merciful and loving God, and would welcome back into the fold any of His children who were lost, and have now returned. Like the prodigal son who deemed himself unworthy to be called his father’s son, we can and shall be redeemed in God’s presence.

God forgives us all, and wants to save us, despite our sins, numerous as they may be. “Who can be saved?” ask the apostles in the Gospel reading. And Jesus answers, “For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we come to you bearing the burden of our sins. We lift them up to you and pray for forgiveness and for your mercy, and for the strength to never sin again.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for freeing us from our individual prisons of sin, and taking us back into your arms again. We thank you for the liberating feeling of your forgiveness.

 

Sunday, 24 May – Fruits of the Spirit

24 May – Pentecost Sunday

The Day of Pentecost
Today we celebrate the great day of Pentecost when Christ filled the Church with the power of his Spirit and sent it out into the world to bring his peace, joy and forgiveness to all mankind.

 – The Sunday Missal

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

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Galatians 5:16-25

If you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

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John 15:26-27,16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.
‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

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“What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness…”

I remember when I attended my first Life in the Spirit weekend. This was shortly before I was baptized. I remember it being a very powerful weekend; it was all very strange and new to me, but very powerful. We were prayed upon and many of us experienced “resting in the Spirit”. I have to admit that I was initially afraid, and I resisted. But when I finally let go, I rested in the Spirit. I cannot explain how it felt like. It completely filled me and it was a very warm feeling that overwhelmed me. Had I continued to resist and be afraid, I would not have experienced what I did that day.

I don’t profess to understand enough about the Holy Spirit to be able to talk about it, except that I know it comes from God. We are all baptized into one body of Christ. We are all parts that make up one body, and because we are of Christ, then we are all also in one Spirit. Our gifts that we receive are from the Holy Spirit, and we are all given unique gifts. We may not know what these gifts are yet, but if we pray about it the Holy Spirit will guide us and show us. The way we use our gifts is entirely up to us but we have to remember that they were given to us to be used for the benefit of others.

I used to wonder about what my gift was. The only gift I knew then was the gift of tongues, and I thought that because I could not speak in tongues maybe that meant I was not “worthy”. But I realize that the Holy Spirit dispenses gifts as it sees fit. Maybe I do not have the gift of tongues or the gift of prophecy, but as today’s reading says, what the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are fruits of the Holy Spirit, and are a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

We each probably know of times when we were kind or patient with someone, or brought joy to our parents, or loved our children, times when we were gentle with the meek… These are times when we should be convinced that the Holy Spirit works in us. I don’t doubt anymore; rather I pray and hope that the Holy Spirit continues to work in me and helps me to be more like Christ, for I know I am not perfect. I pray always for the presence of the Spirit in my life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to always fill our hearts and souls that we may live lives worthy of Christ. We pray that we won’t resist the fruits of the Spirit, rather help us to magnify them so that we will always walk in the Spirit.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for giving us the help that we need when we call on you. Thank you for the gifts that the Spirit brings.

Saturday, 23 May – Companions on a Journey

23 May 

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Acts 28:16-20,30-31

On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.

After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. That is why I have asked to see you and talk to you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’

Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

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John 21:20-25

Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them – the one who had leaned on his breast at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’ Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’

This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.

There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.

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The upright will see His face.

Today’s readings mark the end of the wonderful season of Easter which we have celebrated for the past 7 weeks. In this period of time, what we have discovered is the simple yet profound truth that God loves us, and will allow us to discover what he wants from us through prayer and interaction with the people whom we meet and encounter in our lives.

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles sums up the journey of St Paul and shares with us an important lesson; that we must remain resolute in our effort to teach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the people around us. This resolution comes from an encounter with the Lord and is something which we must continually renew. Encountering the Lord is not just a one-time experience but one which we can continually experience in prayer and our daily lives.

This encounter is done firstly through our own personal contact with God and to discover what plans He has for us. This is then followed by the participation in common celebrations of the Liturgy which manifests the unity of the Church amongst the people of God. The people make up the people of God in our lives. We therefore need to realise that our Christian journey with the people around us is not a competition per se, but one which allows us to encourage each other along the journey, to support each other in our strengths, especially when we fail.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us stay close to our friends who show us the path towards your love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have walked with us in the journey of faith.

Friday, 22 May – Total Obedience

22 May – St Rita

She was born near Cascia, in Umbria in Italy. She was married at the age of 12 despite her frequently repeated wish to become a nun. Her husband was rich, quick-tempered and immoral and had many enemies. She endured his insults, abuse and infidelities for 18 years and bore him two sons, who grew to be like him.

Towards the end of his life she helped to convert her husband to a more pious way of life, but he was stabbed to death by his enemies not long afterwards. He repented before he died and was reconciled to the Church.

Her sons planned to avenge their father’s death. When Rita’s pleas were unavailing, she prayed that God should take their lives if that was the only way to preserve them from the sin of murder. They died of natural causes a year later.

Rita asked to join the convent of St Mary Magdalen at Cascia. She was rejected for being a widow, since the convent was for virgins only, and later given the impossible task of reconciling her family with her husband’s murderers. She carried out the task and was allowed to enter the convent at the age of 36. She remained there until her death at the age of 70.

She is widely honoured as a patron saint of impossible or lost causes.

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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Follow me

I have always admired the way a child follows the directions and instructions of their parents. Some may say it amounts to blind obedience but I believe that there lies within the child, a total trust in the parent to care and protect him/her from the interferences of the world. Sometimes, I believe that this is the type of faith we need to have in Jesus as we learn in today’s readings.

St Peter must have been going through a difficult time in this Reconciliation with Jesus. Indeed, there is a possibility that he may have felt total embarrassment that Jesus had to ask Him the same question three times. The number of times, in my opinion, was not an accident but to allow St Peter to make peace with Jesus for the three times He denied Jesus. St Peter had to restore the trust in God which he denied during the time of the Passion. Is this something which is worth being upset about as indicated in the Gospel?

I believe that making our peace with God is always something difficult because we need to come to terms with our own failings while asking God to heal us. This is definitely a painful experience in our faith journey because we have to acknowledge our own failings. However, such an acknowledgement will make us better believers and followers, because we can truly understand the struggles which the people around us go through. In doing so, they can realise our own failings and use us as examples on their Christian journey towards remaining faithful to God and to receiving our eternal reward.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us acknowledge our failings and allow us to remain faithful to your Word.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who heal us from our past hurts.