Monthly Archives: July 2016

22 July, Friday – Out with the old, in with the new

22 July – Memorial for St. Mary Magdalen

There is actually very little solid information about her, and both scholars and traditions differ on the interpretation of what we do know.

She was a friend and follower of Jesus. Filled with sorrow over her sin, she anointed Christ, washed his feet with her hair. He exorcised seven demons from her. She was the first to have been visited by the Risen Christ. While there are several arguments about her life after the Crucifixion, the Greek Church maintains that she retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived there the rest of her life.

Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife or mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 5:14-17

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

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John 20:1-2,11-18

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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The old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

In the early days of my advertising career, I was like a sponge, soaking up whatever I could in terms of technical know-how because I was a novice in terms of what went on in the studio. Then, as I began to establish myself, a certain level of pride began to set in. I told myself that I was developing my own style and that others had to learn to understand where I was coming from. In a competitive environment where teams are pitted against each other in order to have their ideas presented to clients, my ego began to take over.

Naturally, I was brought crashing down to earth more than a few times and the phrase ‘the higher they climb, the harder they fall’ became a reality. Eventually, when I started my own small business, I learnt that in order to do well, I had to learn to be more humble and less obstinate. For me, it was a balancing act between fighting for my ideas and winning a piece of business or even the client’s trust. What I learnt as well was to learn to trust my feelings a lot more when it came to interactions with others. That stood me in good stead for when I moved to Dubai and had to deal with a variety of very ‘emotional’ people.

Even then, I had not yet encountered Jesus and was basing my judgment of people purely on whether I liked them or not and whether they could do something for me, at work or outside of work. It was very much transactional and a ‘zero sum game’ – you do something for me, I do something or you. At the same time, I developed very close friendships with a few others who were genuinely nice people. I also opened myself up to betrayal from colleagues, subordinates and even a close friend.

As I look back on the past few years, a new me has emerged. And after my encounters with Jesus at various retreats, I can happily reveal that it has been a 180-degree change in terms of my priorities in life. I know that this would not have been humanly possible as the old ‘me’ would probably have carried on living a meaningless, empty life based on what I owned and who I was seen with. In fact, he would look at me now and likely not bother to give me the time of day.

Brothers and sisters, like Mary in today’s gospel, we sometimes need an encounter with Jesus in order to wake up and realise what is truly important in our lives. I pray that each of us arises each day with an open heart, ready to encounter Christ when he calls us by name. Because only then will we be able to start living as new creations in His likeness. And to run to others telling them about who our Lord and Saviour truly is.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the gift of an open heart each day so that we may receive you at the door when you come knocking.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for making us new each day.

21 July, Thursday – The Reality

21 July – Memorial for St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest, Religious, Doctor

St. Lawrence (1559-1619) joined the Capuchin Friars in 1575. He studied theology, the Bible, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was an effective and forceful preacher in any of his several languages, founded convents and wrote catechisms.

As the chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire in 1601, he led the army into battle against the Turks carrying only a crucifix, and defeated them. Later, he carried out important and successful diplomatic peace missions. He was the spiritual director of the Bavarian army. St Lawrence was proclaimed Apostolic Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying, ‘Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem:

‘“The Lord says this:
I remember the affection of your youth,
the love of your bridal days:
you followed me through the wilderness,
through a land unsown.
Israel was sacred to the Lord,
the first-fruits of his harvest;
anyone who ate of this had to pay for it,
misfortune came to them –
it is the Lord who speaks.”

‘I brought you to a fertile country
to enjoy its produce and good things;
but no sooner had you entered than you defiled my land,
and made my heritage detestable.
The priests have never asked, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me.
The shepherds have rebelled against me;
the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal,
following things with no power in them.

‘You heavens, stand aghast at this,
stand stupefied, stand utterly appalled
– it is the Lord who speaks.
Since my people have committed a double crime:
they have abandoned me,
the fountain of living water,
only to dig cisterns for themselves,
leaky cisterns
that hold no water.’

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Matthew 13:10-17

The disciples went up to Jesus and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive.

In today’s readings, I see a lot of myself, where I neglect how God ‘brought me out of slavery’ to a ‘fertile country to enjoy its produce and good things’. It is such that pride enters into my life and tells me that it is by my hard work and my will that has led me to where I am today, and I deserve all the ‘rewards’ I’m reaping now. Because of this, I seldom turn to God for help and continue to search in all the wrong places for all the wrong things. Instead of searching for ‘the fountain of living water’, I only dig leaky cisterns that hold no water. Basically losing track of what is actually important, what I am living for and what is it that I truly desire.

And indeed, as the psalmist says, ‘In you, Lord, is the source of life’. It is not just about how we need you, but more so to know that we are from you, created by you. There is absolutely no reason for God to destroy us after having created us. Most of the time, we usually end up destroying ourselves.

The Gospel then reiterates the point where many times, we just seem to know, but we do not internalise and live out what we know, we do not practice what we preach. We end up stereotyping, assuming rather than understanding, listening. Before we even try, we give up because we see the kind of life we are called to live and know that we can never be up to that standard, so why bother trying?

Our faith isn’t just a personal faith, but a communal one as well. And not just with our fellow brothers and sisters but also with Christ Himself, for He is the reason we believe. He is the answer to our struggles, He is The Way, The Truth, The Life. God will not give us nor ask of us something that we can’t handle, neither does He expect us to handle our struggles alone. He sends Himself through people that we meet every day.

Do we want Jesus in our lives? Have we allowed Him to be there for us? Have we also been there for Him? Let us live in the way you have called us to for “In you, Lord, is the source of life”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for wisdom to see beyond the pleasures of this world. Help us to overcome the desires of the flesh and be focused on the food that nurtures our soul. Help us to see not just with our humanly eyes but with the eyes of faith, to answer your call, to be your disciples. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for being present with us. Thank you for sending people in our lives to support and encourage us. Thank you for the gift of our lives. Thank you for making us yours.

20 July, Wednesday – Perseverance

20 July – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).
On his way out of the city, he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

– Wikipedia

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Jeremiah 1:1,4-10

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of a priestly family living at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying,

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.’

I said, ‘Ah, Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am a child!’

But the Lord replied,
‘Do not say, “I am a child.”
Go now to those to whom I send you
and, say whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to protect you –
it is the Lord who speaks!’

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me:

‘There! I am putting my words into your mouth.
Look, today I am setting you
over nations and over kingdoms,
to tear up and to knock down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’

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Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

In today’s readings, God once again affirms us of His presence and that it is He who saves, not us. As we read in the first reading, ‘Ah, Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am a child!’. Many times we find ourselves giving such reasons as well — that we are not ready, not qualified, that there are others who are better out there, or that come to me only if there’s really no one else. We find it so hard to take charge of our faith and to trust in God. That He doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies those He calls. It is also the very fact that as we live our lives, it is not to see how good we are and for us to shine, but rather to show others how great God is and to glorify Him by our lives.

Being aware and speaking is easy, but when it comes to the action, the Lord reminds us in the Gospel that the ‘seeds’ – our efforts, can fall on many different types of ‘grounds’ – people/ears. Some may listen and internalise, some may listen but merely listen and their lives do not change, others may not bother listening and there are those who go against whatever is being said.

Eventually, the key word is perseverance, to once again know that it is God who saves. But our calling and purpose is to be that witness, to be God’s mouth, hands and ears, to spread the Good News. He also promises us that there will be fruits of our labour because we are doing His will.

Let us be open to God’s will in our lives, it doesn’t mean there will be instant results, but what that really means is to persevere, to be patient, but yet to be aware, to listen and to love. We surrender our lives to you for it is you who have given us our lives. Let your kingdom come and your will be done in our lives today.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the many people who have yet to come to know you. We pray that they will be open to your presence in their lives and not just in church. We ask that you may continue to speak to them and touch them in your own special way. We also would like to pray for ourselves, for the times when we have failed to listen, the times when we have taken things into our own hands and for the times when we have given excuses for not living out our faith. Give us the grace that we may not run away but run towards you and cling on to you in our daily lives.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for your continuous reminder that it is not the world who judges us but you. We are not determined or qualified based on what we have but who you have created us to be. Created in your image and perfect in your sight, we thank you for all the gifts and talents you have bestowed upon us and your never failing love for us. We thank you Lord for our lives. Amen.

19 July, Tuesday – The Family

19 July

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Micah 7:14-15, 18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.
What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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Matthew 12:46-50

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

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Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.

In the first reading, we read of a desire for God to lead His people to pasture, and we ask for His pity and mercy. And that is probably most of our desires as well. Most of the time, we reduce our faith, we reduce God to merely providing our wants when we are unable to provide for ourselves or when we become desperate. But when everything is going smoothly, we neglect Him, we leave Him aside.

He reminds us of our identity, the identity that we are all brothers and sisters in Him, His adopted children, that we are one family. And it is the word ‘family’ that gives us an insight of how God desires our relationships with each other to be like, and that is of love. It’s the love between mother and children, children with their siblings, this love that results in forgiveness, understanding, sacrifice. But more than that — to acknowledge our Father — not just our earthly father but also our Father in heaven. To understand, experience and be aware of His love for us, how He brought us into this world and who He moulds us to be by His gifts and talents given to us.

If we have encountered His love, we will want to also do His will. For those of us who are fathers, ultimately I’m sure it is to ensure our children do not make the same mistakes as us. That they should have better lives, should be more aware, should be tough, should have discipline and be obedient. As our Father in heaven, He too desires for us to be like Him, to share His love with all. And when we do so, we realise that everyone is a brother, sister and mother in Him.

Let us today not just ask for the gifts of the signs but to ask for the giver, that Christ may live in us, in order that we acknowledge our identity as one church, one body, one family united in Christ.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that you will be merciful to us for the times we have neglected you. For the times when we have chosen the material world over family, over you, we seek your forgiveness. Help us to be patient and continue to lead each other on this journey as we strive towards holiness as your disciples.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of family, thank you for giving us a place called home. Thank you for making a home in us too.

18 July, Monday – The Sign

18 July

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Micah 6:1-4,6-8

Listen to what the Lord is saying:

Stand up and let the case begin in the hearing of the mountains
and let the hills hear what you say.
Listen, you mountains, to the Lord’s accusation,
give ear, you foundations of the earth,
for the Lord is accusing his people,
pleading against Israel:
My people, what have I done to you,
how have I been a burden to you? Answer me.
I brought you out of the land of Egypt,
I rescued you from the house of slavery;
I sent Moses to lead you,
with Aaron and Miriam.

– ‘With what gift shall I come into the Lord’s presence
and bow down before God on high?
Shall I come with holocausts,
with calves one year old?
Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand,
with libations of oil in torrents?
Must I give my first-born for what I have done wrong,
the fruit of my body for my own sin?’

– What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what the Lord asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.

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Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’

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What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.

Many of us find ourselves asking, “What is the Lord’s will for me?” We desire to do God’s will but God doesn’t seem to be giving us a sign or showing us the way.

Today’s readings focus on this point, where in the first reading, God clearly explains to us, what He asks of us: “What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” Something so simple, but yet so difficult to live out. Many times we find ourselves complicating matters in our lives, continuously asking God for a sign when the sign already has been given as mentioned in the Gospel.

As with Jonah and the Queen of the South, what they needed wasn’t a sign; what they needed was faith. Not just faith in themselves but faith in God. We are in our positions today because God has a plan with our lives. It is not about what we can do but about we allowing Him to work in our lives. However, most of us find ourselves in the person of Jonah, where we see such a task of following Christ and being His disciple is one that is not suited for us; a task in which we are bound to fail. We run away from our problems, avoid conflicts, we fail to respond and eventually we find ourselves inadequate, unworthy, insufficient. Or we can be like the Queen of the South where seeing is believing, where we are consumed by what one has rather than who one is. We chase fame and glory in the material world and we will go to the ends of the Earth to attain it.

Have we then been like Jonah where we are running away from the sign that has already been given? Or have we been like the Queen of the South, spending time, effort and money on a journey that ultimately leads us away from God?

Instead of asking, let us maybe focus on what we have been given and who we are now. For not only is the sign there but we are also called to be signs to others, witnesses of the truth and examples of love. Let us not just ask for a sign but let us respond to the sign that God has already given us. Amen.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that you may continue to strengthen our faith, especially when it comes to doing something out of our comfort zone. That we may continue to find you already in our lives as well as to be you to all around us. We also pray for a greater awareness and surrender for those who have not encountered you yet. That they may not just keep asking but to also be still and to listen. To not just believe but to live it out every day in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the many signs you have given us, through the people you have sent in our lives. Help us to treasure and cherish those who help lead us to you.

17 July, Sunday – The Answer

17 July

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Genesis 18:1-10

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by. A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’ They replied, ‘Do as you say.’

Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah.’ ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.

‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘She is in the tent’ he replied. Then his guest said, ‘I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son.’

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Colossians 1:24-28

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ.

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Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

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The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ.

Today’s readings can be very much found in most of our lives.

We all have a desire to know who is Christ, we seek Him in more ways than one and we are prepared to give our all if He ever appears in front of us. This encounter we all yearn for, to know that everything we believe in, everything we do on a daily basis, our faith, is real because Christ is real. But it seems that our faith has left us with more questions than answers.

We see this in the first reading where Abraham, knowing that it is the Lord, did everything he could. He gave his best to the Lord in the hope that his prayers may be answered. We too make sacrifices and pray because a part of us does believe that God is real.

But our faith starts to decline and eventually, we falter as our prayers may not necessarily be answered or we don’t seem to find Christ present in our daily lives. Why must there be suffering, pain, death? The very question most of us ask is the exact same thing Christ went through, and the very worse, in His life on earth. What is crucial today, is not about whether there are people suffering or dying, but rather, the reason why. Our sufferings can be because of love, deaths in order that more may be saved. A mystery indeed but one where the second reading explains that Christ is indeed amongst us.

Why do we then fail to see Him, if He is amongst us? The Gospel touches on this point in the familiar story of Martha and Mary. We live our whole lives in search of Christ, but we get caught up in doing that we fail realise that He is right in front of us. Like Martha, we may be so concerned of the setting up, of the preparations, that we fail to be Christ to others, fail to see Christ in others. We get impatient, frustrated, our pride takes over; we seek our own glory, recognition, and we end up placing Christ aside.

The mystery is Christ among you and the answer to our questions is Christ Himself. Mary has chosen the better part. Have you too?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a greater awareness in our lives, for it isn’t just obeying your teachings but really living them out, in order that we may recognise you in others, as well as to be You to others. Love and bless us Lord in order that we may love and bless others too!

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for keeping your promise, that you will be with us till the end of time.

16 July, Saturday – Plotting Goodness

16 July – Memorial for Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Church celebrates on this day the feast of the Scapular of Mount Carmel. The scapular, which derives its name from the Latin word scapulæ, meaning shoulders, is a dress which covers the shoulders. It is best known among as the name of two little pieces of cloth worn out of devotion to the Blessed Virgin over the shoulders, under the ordinary garb, and connected by strings.

The devotion of the scapular began with the Carmelites. During the 13th century the Carmelite Order suffered great persecution, and on 16 July 1251, while Saint Simon Stock, then general of the Order, was at prayer, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, holding in her hand a scapular. Giving it to the saint, she said,

“Receive, my dear son, this scapular of thy Order, as the distinctive sign of my confraternity, and the mark of the privilege which I have obtained for thee and the children of Carmel. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in danger, and a special pledge of peace and protection till the end of time. Whosoever dies wearing this shall be preserved from eternal flames.”

It is much to be wished that people should everywhere join this confraternity, for the honour of Mary and for the salvation of souls, by a life fitted to that end. In order to have a share in the merits of the sodality, every member must:

1. Shun sin and, according to his state of life, live chastely.
2. Say everyday, if possible, seven times the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
3. Strive to serve God by venerating Mary, and imitating her virtues.

Though not binding under penalty of sin, the breach of these rules deprives us of all merit.

– Patron Saint Index

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Micah 2:1-5

Woe to those who plot evil,
who lie in bed planning mischief!
No sooner is it dawn than they do it
– their hands have the strength for it.

Seizing the fields that they covet,
they take over houses as well,
owner and house they confiscate together,
taking both man and inheritance.

So the Lord says this:

Now it is I who plot
such mischief against this breed
as your necks will not escape;
nor will you be able to walk proudly,
so evil will the time be.

On that day they will make a satire on you,
sing a dirge and say,
‘We are stripped of everything;
my people’s portion is measured out and shared,
no one will give it back to them,
our fields are awarded to our despoiler.’

Therefore you will have no one
to measure out a share
in the community of the Lord.

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Matthew 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and began to plot against him, discussing how to destroy him.

Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved, the favourite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit,
and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed,
nor put out the smouldering wick
till he has led the truth to victory:
in his name the nations will put their hope.

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Woe to those who plot evil.

When one tries to plot evil, he must be a really busy person. He would likely have to think of how to execute the action, then make sure it causes some kind of inconvenience to others that fulfils his motives before planning the exit strategy. Does this sound like I am used to strategising evil plans all the time? I am guilty of plotting actions that have been selfish and with a motive specifically for personal gain. I believe my intentions were quite harmless, but it would have caused someone some grief and major disappointment.

In today’s gospel, we learn that God does not plot evil and how He has plans that were being spoken about in the Old Testament. We know that our Father is loving and organised in the affairs of this world, His plans are all about preparing us for eternal life back with Him. He probably has a thick file on exit strategies, and follow up plans to make each of our lives better. Jesus constantly proves himself during his short mission, performing miracles to the lowliest of people, forgiving those who are repentant, loving everyone around Him like children. His humility and kind heartedness is more than for us to admire; rather, it is to show ourselves that being a beautiful person is all possible in the teachings of our God.

As we come to the end of another work week of being ordinary, let us take some time off away from work to build a plan of goodness. Perhaps to include tasks that unite the family and children, a plan to make an unfortunate neighbour more comfortable or a plan to increase our faith in Christ. Let us plot goodness, not for recognition, but to be unseen and to hold on to the humility in the likeness of Jesus and Mary.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who have suffered as a result of evil doers, that their heart will be big and forgiving despite the difficult emotions that they have to go through.

Thanksgiving: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for He is kind, for He works miracles.

15 July, Friday – The Power Gifted To Us

15 July – Memorial for St. Bonaventure, Bishop, Religious, Doctor

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) entered the Franciscan Order when he was 22. At the age of 35 he was chosen General of his Order and restored a perfect calm where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order and composed The Life of St. Francis. He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua.

– http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=169

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Isaiah 38:1-6,21-22,7-8

Hezekiah fell ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, ‘The Lord says this, “Put your affairs in order, for you are going to die, you will not live.”’ Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and addressed this prayer to the Lord, ‘Ah, Lord, remember, I beg you, how I have behaved faithfully and with sincerity of heart in your presence and done what is right in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah shed many tears.

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, “The Lord, the God of David your ancestor, says this: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will cure you: in three days’ time you shall go up to the Temple of the Lord.” I will add fifteen years to your life. I will save you from the hands of the king of Assyria, I will protect this city.”’

‘Bring a fig poultice,’ Isaiah said, ‘apply it to the ulcer and he will recover.’ Hezekiah said, ‘What is the sign to tell me that I shall be going up to the Temple of the Lord?’ ‘Here’ Isaiah replied’’ ‘is the sign from the Lord that he will do what he has said. Look, I shall make the shadow cast by the declining sun go back ten steps on the steps of Ahaz.’ And the sun went back the ten steps by which it had declined.

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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I will cure you.

We are surrounded by authorities who set rules and guidelines as to what we can or cannot do. We experience life with authority as a baby, when our parents watch over us because we are just helpless beings. In civil society, there are various authorities, led by people who are a little more powerful than ourselves. For some of us, we are in positions that require us to set rules and guidelines for others to follow. As much as we would like the parties affected to adhere to them, we eventually realise that some of the decisions we make will affect the lives of others.

In today’s reading and Gospel, we witness the power of our Lord God, the power to cure a dying man. Even in today’s context, for a very sick person to be suddenly well again, can be a miracle according to the professional doctors, because our body begins to heal itself — a very powerful sign of our God who cures from the inside. Our Father is a very simple God. He does not see your richness, nor your looks, neither does He judge the status of whom He loves. He loves everyone and, most importantly, He listens to your prayers and deep faith in Jesus. It is a simple message in today’s passages, we are strongly reminded of God’s power and the authority He has when He is among us. Nothing is able to topple his intentions for us, and what He has planned in our mission to spread His love, for Him and love of Him.

Allow ourselves to get organised in our very comfortable and perhaps fulfilled life, to be able to arrange our priorities that the Lord God is taking charge of us. By placing God in the centre of our lives, we do not have to feel afraid or get led astray by evil temptations. We are surrounded by the right guidance in living a faithful and fulfilling life, bound by the commandments of our one true God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Today, we pray for our faith, that in times of disappointments and or hopelessness, we do not turn to anger or any other form of non-genuine help, but only to be assured that the Father who love us is already by our side to embrace us, keeping us safe. Increase our faith O Lord.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for giving my life each morning when I wake up.

14 July, Thursday – Praise, Surrender, Accept

14 July – Memorial for St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest

St. Camillus (1550-1614) used to be a gambling addict. He lost so much he had to take a job working construction on a building belonging to the Capuchins; they converted him. Because of a persistent injury, he moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator.

Lacking education, he began to study with children when he was 32 years old. St. Camillus founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick (the Camellians) who care for the sick both in hospital and home. He honoured the sick as living images of Christ, and hoped that the service he gave them did penance for his wayward youth.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 26:7-9,12,16-19

The path of the upright man is straight,
you smooth the way of the upright.
Following the path of your judgements,
we hoped in you, O Lord,
your name, your memory are all my soul desires.

At night my soul longs for you
and my spirit in me seeks for you;
when your judgements appear on earth
the inhabitants of the world learn the meaning of integrity.

O Lord, you are giving us peace,
since you treat us
as our deeds deserve.

Distressed, we search for you, O Lord;
the misery of oppression was your punishment for us.

As a woman with child near her time
writhes and cries out in her pangs,
so are we, O Lord, in your presence:
we have conceived, we writhe
as if we were giving birth;
we have not given the spirit of salvation to the earth,
no more inhabitants of the world are born.

Your dead will come to life,
their corpses will rise;
awake, exult,
all you who lie in the dust,
for your dew is a radiant dew
and the land of ghosts will give birth.

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Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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Distressed, we search for you O Lord.

Reflecting on today’s reading over and over again, I try to put myself in the shoes of Isaiah, one who praises and gives thanks, to actually know what our Lord has done for him and sings praises with so much love and admiration. Not that I do not genuinely praise our Lord or give thanks from deep within my heart every week as I worship Him. Today’s readings brought me back to the times where I would attend at least one ‘Praise and Worship’ session from a community every year, where leaders would help us focus on God within our hearts, and to give shouts of praise to the Lord without much reservation and lifting our arms to surrender to Him. There are moments where you can jump and shout your love for God, for everything that He has done for us.

The Gospel today assures us that our relationship with God isn’t only about feeling the high during worship, where we have so much love to be thankful for, but it is about pouring out all our difficulties and distressed moments. We praise, we surrender and we accept. The Father sent Jesus to lighten the burden of sin, the burden of anguish, the burden of fear but raises all of us through eternal hope.

Let us try to bring back the close moments we had with our Lord in the next few months. As we are back in the liturgy and season of Ordinary Time, do not make it an ordinary season of prayer and worship, but to increase our faith more, or spend more time with the Lord or ministry. In this way, we are keeping the Lord close to our lives everyday, going through happy moments with our family and friends, as well as disappointing times. Always remember to shoulder the yoke of our Lord God, because we are never alone.

(Today’s OXYGEN by  Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for those who have lost direction in their lives and finding difficulty in meeting the basics of living, may they get through this period and holding onto the hope presented to us from God.

Thanksgiving: I want to give thanks for all the mentors and educators, in enriching the lives of others in the form of education and guidance, so that the other becomes a more responsible person in society.

13 July, Wednesday – Do As You Please?

13 July – Memorial for St. Henry II

Henry II (972–1024) was the son of Gisella of Burgundy and Henry II the Quarrelsome, Duke of Bavaria. He was educated at the cathedral school in Hildesheim by Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg. He became Duke of Bavaria himself in 995 upon his father’s death, which ended Henry’s thoughts of becoming a priest. He ascended to the throne of Germany in 1002, and was crowned King of Pavia, Italy on 15 May 1004. He married St. Cunegunda, but was never a father. Some sources claim the two lived celibately, but there is no evidence either way.

Henry’s brother rebelled against his power, and Henry was forced to defeat him on the battlefield, but later forgave him, and the two reconciled. Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1014 by Pope Benedict VIII; he was the last of the Saxon dynasty of emperors. He founded schools, quelled rebellions, protected the frontiers, worked to establish a stable peace in Europe, and to reform the Church while respecting its independence.

He fostered missions, and established Bamberg, Germany as a centre for missions to Slavic countries. He started the construction of the cathedral at Basel, Switzerland; it took nearly 400 years to complete. Both Henry and St. Cunegunda were prayerful people, and generous to the poor.

At one point he was cured of an unnamed illness by the touch of St. Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino. He became somewhat lame in his later years. Following Cunegunda’s death, he considered becoming a monk, but the abbot of Saint-Vanne at Verdun, France refused his application, and told him to keep his place in the world where he could do much good for people and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

– Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 10:5-7,13-16

The Lord of hosts says this:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger,
the club brandished by me in my fury!
I sent him against a godless nation;
I gave him commission against a people that provokes me,
to pillage and to plunder freely
and to stamp down like the mud in the streets.
But he did not intend this,
his heart did not plan it so.
No, in his heart was to destroy,
to go on cutting nations to pieces without limit.

For he has said:

‘By the strength of my own arm I have done this
and by my own intelligence, for understanding is mine;
I have pushed back the frontiers of peoples
and plundered their treasures.
I have brought their inhabitants down to the dust.
As if they were a bird’s nest, my hand has seized
the riches of the peoples.
As people pick up deserted eggs
I have picked up the whole earth,
with not a wing fluttering,
not a beak opening, not a chirp.’

Does the axe claim more credit than the man who wields it,
or the saw more strength than the man who handles it?
It would be like the cudgel controlling the man who raises it,
or the club moving what is not made of wood!
And so the Lord of Hosts is going to send
a wasting sickness on his stout warriors;
beneath his plenty, a burning will burn
like a consuming fire.

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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

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That is what it pleased you to do.

Have you ever worked with a stubborn person before? Or perhaps one who pretends to listen to your instructions but does otherwise instead, only to realise that it is all too late, thereby causing a mess for you to clean up? I certainly have and very often, in fact, when we hire casuals who do not have a sense of ownership or attachment to the company that they have been assigned to. They just do however they please when you turn your back away from them.

In today’s gospel, however, the one who does whatever he pleases is God the Father. In some way, He is a stubborn yet loving God whom we should not fear. God always has a plan for us, from the beginning of time and the future ahead. As for us, we are probably the ones who mess things up for ourselves and feel helpless not knowing what to do. Just look at the troubles and unrest in those cities written about in the Old Testament, about how disobedient the people were and how our Father came to save all of us. Many of us think we are adult enough to please God, and to be a faithful follower of Christ. On the other side, being rather successful in our jobs and careers make us complacent and, sometimes arrogant, at how we treat others. God reveals himself to those who show kindness to others, and have humility in ourselves, even when we can be as innocent as a child.

Let us watch our actions towards others, to be able to know how to control our emotions that could hurt someone else unintentionally. Try to put yourself in another person’s shoes, as that enables us to feel and think how the other will feel. Let our actions and words be a great testament of Christ in our lives. We need not be too clever for our own good, which could work against us at end of the day. Perhaps begin to take in instructions which our Father has laid out, so that we live a very fulfilling life each day.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We think it is a matter of balance between living faithfully and chasing the dreams of this world, no it is not. O Lord, guide us and grace us with the love to live just as You want us to.

Thanksgiving: There is so much to be grateful for, and I thank you for being a peaceful day today.