Monthly Archives: September 2016

1 October, Saturday – Rejoice

1 October – Memorial for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Saint Louis Martin and Saint Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-17

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:

I know that you are all-powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I am the man who obscured your designs
with my empty-headed words.
I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand,
on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.
I knew you then only by hearsay;
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract all I have said,
and in dust and ashes I repent.

The Lord blessed Job’s new fortune even more than his first one. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she-donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters; his first daughter he called ‘Turtledove’, the second ‘Cassia’ and the third ‘Mascara.’ Throughout the land there were no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance rights like their brothers.

After his trials, Job lived on until he was a hundred and forty years old, and saw his children and his children’s children up to the fourth generation. Then Job died, an old man and full of days.

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Luke 10:17-24

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘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 who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private, ‘Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

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“Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

As we conclude the week, we read in the first reading of God blessing Job with new fortune, even more than his first one. Indeed, our lives, our faith, it isn’t one about continuous sufferings or struggles but God has something far much greater that He wants to share with us, hence sometimes He tries to lead us away from the small temporary distractions that seem to attract us.

As in the 2 readings, most of the time, we need to see in order to believe and the Lord acknowledges that. But what is important is not the miracles we see daily or whether or not we are bestowed with gifts of healing and so on. What is truly important as emphasised in the Gospel, “yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

Let us not be distracted by our ultimate goal which is eternal life with our Father in heaven. Even though we may not be able to see or hear God’s voice, we know deep down within us, we are called to love, to care, to forgive, not just because the Bible says so, but it is very much who each and every one of us are, who we are all called to be.

We are given “power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you” but we will not know who the enemy is till we know who our master is. Let us not focus on the “power” but on the giver for the “power” may be temporary but the giver, eternal.

As the psalmist says, “let your face shine on your servant, O Lord”. Help us to live a life in order that when many see us, they see you too. Help us to love the way you love. Let us rejoice for you have blessed us abundantly and will only continue to bless us more. Let us rejoice for our lives, our faith is in your safe hands. Let us rejoice for we are yours. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for a continuous awareness of the distractions that turn our focus away from you. Help us to be reminded of your love and mercy. Help us to be your light and your love to all. Help us to trust in you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the blessings you have bestowed on us. Thank you for your Word and your assurance that you are with us always.

30 September, Friday – Repentance

30 September – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 38:1,12-21,40:3-5

From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer. He said:

Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning
or sent the dawn to its post,
telling it to grasp the earth by its edges
and shake the wicked out of it,
when it changes the earth to sealing clay
and dyes it as a man dyes clothes;
stealing the light from wicked men
and breaking the arm raised to strike?
Have you journeyed all the way to the sources of the sea,
or walked where the Abyss is deepest?
Have you been shown the gates of Death
or met the janitors of Shadowland?
Have you an inkling of the extent of the earth?
Tell me all about it if you have!
Which is the way to the home of the light,
and where does darkness live?
You could then show them the way to their proper places,
or put them on the path to where they live!
If you know all this, you must have been born with them,
you must be very old by now!

Job replied to the Lord:

My words have been frivolous: what can I reply?
I had better lay my finger on my lips.
I have spoken once… I will not speak again;
more than once… I will add nothing.

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Luke 10:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.

‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’

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“Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.”

Many times in our lives, we unknowingly play God, even in times of prayer. We pray as and when we need Him and we expect Him to answer our prayers if not He doesn’t love us.

As in the first reading, do we really know how much God loves us? Are we aware of the things He has done in our lives? Are we aware of the things He is doing?

Sometimes we ask God for a sign or to show us the right path, but it is in our stubbornness that after it all, we still want to do it OUR way. We reject the path that He is showing us because it seems to inconvenient or uncomfortable even before we walk it. The Lord shares with Job in the first reading and Job realises his imperfections and weaknesses. There’s no way we will be able to fully understand the magnitude of God’s love for us or who He truly is. But we are called to believe and trust for there definitely has been signs, people, events in our lives that He has been present. The many small miracles that happen every day, are we grateful or we simply take for granted?

We see in the Gospel where indeed there will be judgment when the time comes. Do we want to wait till it’s too late before we repent?

For the times when we have used God, for the times where we weren’t aware and failed to recognise His presence. For the times where we took Him for granted and for the times we rejected Him. Let us repent. Like Job, let us offer our lives to the Lord and believe that He didn’t create us in order that we may suffer and that it’s not the things of the world that we should be living for, to clear our distractions and focus on the one destination which is to be with God in all eternity.

As the psalmist says, “Lead me, O Lord, in the path of life eternal” Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for your forgiveness and patience as we continuously reject you and get caught up with our society and worldly matters that we lose the sense of why we are living. Help us before it’s too late, give us the wisdom and awareness to see beyond the things we do, to see the love, joy, to seek forgiveness as well as to forgive others. Lead us Lord to you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your never failing love. Thank you Lord for continuing to bless us with your love even when we may not see it or understand. Thank you for this reminder. Amen.

29 September, Thursday – The Holy Archangels

29 September – Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages…. So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

– from a homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great

Michael was the leader of the army of God during the Lucifer uprising. Devotion to him is common to Muslims, Christians and Jews with writings about him in all three cultures. He is considered as the guardian angel of Israel, and the guardian and protector of the Church.

Raphael is one of the seven angels that stand before God’s throne. He is the lead character in the book of Tobit in which he travelled with (and guarded) Tobiah, and cured a man’s blindness; hence his connection with travellers, young people, blindness, healing and healers.

– Patron Saints Index

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

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

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

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John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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“In all truth I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man.”

Do we all have guardian angels?

As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Archangels (Michael, Gabriel and Raphael), I’ve always desired and believed for St Michael to be my guardian angel.

We read in the Gospel that Jesus knew Nathanael was under the fig tree, but more than that, Nathanael knew that Jesus knew so much more. There was this connection and relationship, of understanding, of love. Between creator and created, between God and Man. Nathanael acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God.

In our lives, I can personally say that God has been ever present and sometimes sending His angels to watch over me, to protect me, to guide me, in the form of my parents, teachers, friends and the many people I meet every day. Those brief moments where there is a connection that seems beyond our understanding, where we enjoy a moment of embrace or a witness of love, not just the love of man but the love from God from a stranger that we meet.

The readings call us to recognise the angels in our lives, who live for love, for life and for God. For the good of the world, to be the light in our darkness today. Let us also embody this desire to be saints and angels, in order that we may ascend and descend over the Son of man, to protect, guide and love the people He has sent us to. May we be guardian angels too.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Let us pray the prayer to St Michael. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defence against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for always watching over us. Thank you for your protection. Thank you for your love. Amen.

28 September, Wednesday – Trust

28 September – Memorial for St. Wenceslaus, Martyr; Memorial for St. Laurence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Wenceslaus (907-929) was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief, who was baptised on her wedding day but apparently never seriously took to the faith. He was the grandson and student of St. Ludmilla.

When his father was killed during a pagan backlash against Christianity, Wenceslaus ascended to power as the Duke of Bohemia and fought the pagans with prayer and patience. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaus at the door of a church. Though he was killed for political reasons, he is normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith. Miracles have been reported at his tomb, and he is the subject of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.

Laurence Ruiz (1600–1637) had a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both of whom were Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He was a professional calligrapher and documents transcriptionist. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was a married layman, and the father of two sons and a daughter.

For unknown reasons, Laurence was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board ship with three Dominican priests, St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Mguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St. Vincente Showozuka de la Cruz, and a layman St. Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.

Laurence could have gone to Formosa (modern Taiwan), but fearer the Spaniards there would hang him, and so stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured in several ways for days. Laurence and the Japanese priest broke at one point, and were ready to renounce their faith in exchange for release, but after their moment of crisis, they reclaimed their faith and defied their tormentors. He was the first canonised Filipino martyr.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 9:1-13,14-16

Job spoke to his friends:

Indeed, I know it is as you say:
how can man be in the right against God?
If any were so rash as to challenge him for reasons,
one in a thousand would be more than they could answer.
His heart is wise, and his strength is great:
who then can successfully defy him?
He moves the mountains, though they do not know it;
he throws them down when he is angry.
He shakes the earth, and moves it from its place,
making all its pillars tremble.
The sun, at his command, forbears to rise,
and on the stars he sets a seal.
He and no other stretched out the skies,
and trampled the Sea’s tall waves.
The Bear, Orion too, are of his making,
the Pleiades and the Mansions of the South.
His works are great, beyond all reckoning,
his marvels, past all counting.
Were he to pass me, I should not see him,
nor detect his stealthy movement.
Were he to snatch a prize, who could prevent him,
or dare to say, ‘What are you doing?’
God never goes back on his anger,
Rahab’s minions still lie at his feet.

How dare I plead my cause, then,
or choose arguments against him?
Suppose I am in the right, what use is my defence?
For he whom I must sue is judge as well.
If he deigned to answer my citation,
could I be sure that he would listen to my voice?

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Luke 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

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“Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In yesterday’s reflection, we saw how God is our hope. But we can acknowledge Him as our hope but do we trust Him? In the Gospel today, we see how the different people replied Jesus, “Let me go and bury my father first” and “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”

We all know that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We know that only He can give us eternal life. But for many times on earth, it seems so hard to choose God over the world, mainly because we are unable to see Him in our lives, how He is loving us day to day. Because of the lack of conviction and trust in Him, we tend to still be unable rely on God. We say we follow Him but technically, only when our life is in order. There is always the pre requisite of ensuring that our careers are stable, that we are sufficient financially, our relationships are well, excel in our studies, a loving family, before we start our donating, before we start serving, before we start praying, before we start making God the centre of our lives.

If this is so, then who is this God we are following? And why are we following Him?

The readings are timely for me personally where my job is unstable, I’ve decided to drop out of my course in University. I know that God will provide, that He will show me the way, that He will open the best door for me. It is always in such uncertainty that God is the only one that’s certain. But do I trust in Him fully? How do I know where He is leading me?

The response for the responsorial psalm for both days “Let my prayer come into your presence, O Lord” shows us the importance of prayer. And I’ve realised that I haven’t been making time for prayer to see where He’s leading me.

Many times, we see ourselves as unworthy, maybe because we haven’t met those pre requisites or we know we will still fall into sin, hence we choose not to acknowledge God till we are ready to give our lives fully. But the truth is, unless we trust in God and make Him the centre of our lives, we will find it hard to live our lives to the full, for there are many things that we will fail to understand.

Let us turn to Christ, to His Word, to prayer and in searching for Him, help us to trust, to live out our faith every single day of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask for courage, courage to face the many temptations that tries to separate us from you and the love you have always showered upon us. Help us not to take for granted. Help us to be grateful. Help us to trust you. Help us to love all. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your patience with us. It must be frustrating to see your loved ones rejecting you or only turning to you as a last resort. We thank you for putting us first even when we haven’t done the same for you. Thank you Lord for your love.

27 September, Tuesday – Hope

27 September – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23

Job broke the silence and cursed the day of his birth. This is what he said:

May the day perish when I was born,
and the night that told of a boy conceived.
Why did I not die new-born,
not perish as I left the womb?
Why were there two knees to receive me,
two breasts for me to suck?
Had there not been, I should now be lying in peace,
wrapped in a restful slumber,
with the kings and high viziers of earth
who build themselves vast vaults,
or with princes who have gold and to spare
and houses crammed with silver.
Or put away like a still-born child that never came to be,
like unborn babes that never see the light.
Down there, bad men bustle no more,
there the weary rest.

Why give light to a man of grief?
Why give life to those bitter of heart,
who long for a death that never comes,
and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?
They would be glad to see the grave-mound
and shout with joy if they reached the tomb.
Why make this gift of light to a man who does not see his way,
whom God baulks on every side?

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Luke 9:51-56

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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“Why give light to a man of grief? Why give life to those bitter of heart, who long for a death that never comes, and hunt for it more than for a buried treasure?”

The readings today challenge us as brings us to the question of what is morally right in the eyes of the church. If ultimately our goal is to be united with Christ in heaven, then why can’t we put someone who is suffering to death in order that he may be united with Christ, where there will not be any more suffering?

There are times where after having invested all our time, effort and money into projects/relationships/careers/exams only to see us fail, we want to give up, everything we have worked for, down the drain. We begin to ask ourselves, what’s the meaning of life? Where’s God? And we say that there is no God and life is no more worth living. However, our questioning and our answer has never been based on God but ourselves, OUR hard work, OUR effort, OUR money and MY life. Because the reality is that even after we’ve failed, we realise that we are still alive, even though we may not be as before, we still have a shot at life. We have HOPE.

The readings direct us to the message that indeed God is our HOPE. It is only He who gives life and takes away. And because of this, we ought to be pro-life, to be givers of hope to all, especially those who are suffering.

The problem with us as seen in the Gospel, is that, like the disciples, we tend to judge, “but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem…. ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’”. Often, we find ourselves saying “he/she deserves it.” But our God is one who despite the many times that we have chosen sin over Him, patiently waits for us and continues to be a provider of this hope that we will truly be united with Him because we treasure this life that He has given us.

There will always be sufferings but we are called to also be hope for others in those times of suffering. In that way, we can see the glory of God, to recognise that we are blessed even in our sufferings for it is in the HOPE that God is present, it is in Him that we live. Let us strive to be hope for the hopeless and light for all those in darkness.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, our struggles are real, our load is heavy, our flesh is weak. Be our strength and our courage Lord. Help us to see with your eyes, to see the hope in this world, to be the hope in the world. To know that you are present, have always been and will always be. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for reaching out to us today. Many times we really feel like giving up. The workload isn’t lessening and it seems that we are trapped in a never ending cycle. Thank you for your questions and help us to reflect on, what is the meaning of life? And, where’s God? Amen.

26 September, Monday – Humility

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

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Job 1:6-22

One day the Sons of God came to attend on the Lord, and among them was Satan. So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Round the earth,’ he answered ‘roaming about.’ So the Lord asked him, ‘Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Yes,’ Satan said ‘but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he? Have you not put a wall round him and his house and all his domain? You have blessed all he undertakes, and his flocks throng the countryside. But stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his possessions: I warrant you, he will curse you to your face.’ ‘Very well,’ the Lord said to Satan ‘all he has is in your power. But keep your hands off his person.’ So Satan left the presence of the Lord.
On the day when Job’s sons and daughters were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest

brother’s house, a messenger came to Job. ‘Your oxen’ he said ‘were at the plough, with the donkeys grazing at their side, when the Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The fire of God’ he said ‘has fallen from the heavens and burnt up all your sheep, and your shepherds too: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The Chaldaeans,’ he said ‘three bands of them, have raided your camels and made off with them. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘Your sons and daughters’ he said ‘were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, when suddenly from the wilderness a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone escaped to tell you.’

Job rose and tore his gown and shaved his head. Then falling to the ground he worshipped and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!’

In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.

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Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Two beautiful readings that bring out what really life is about. It’s never about what we have on earth but who we have as our eternal Father. The understanding of our identity, the purpose of our lives, the only one aim we all should have is to return to unity with God, our Father, with the world in love.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of Job, sometimes our lives are so smooth that we simply cannot comprehend why God would want us to suffer after everything we’ve done for Him. But truly there are indeed many times that we need to be reminded of who gave us this life and our possessions. If all these can save us from eternal damnation, maybe it’s good that we all continuously suffer on earth.

Or we can look at it from the point of view of the Gospel where it says, “For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.” Maybe our “sufferings” have much wisdom for us to digest, to see the world in a new light, to appreciate the things/people that we have taken for granted of, to treasure life and to show love. For when we are at our lowest, not only is the way only up, but that’s exactly where we find Christ because that’s where He lives, not in the limelight and the material distractions that we have, but in the simple, in the ordinary, in our hearts, where we can truly be ourselves.

For is it then that we can also see who is with us and who is merely using us. For “anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

Let us invite Christ in our lives in order that we may invite all, to see the Christ in others as well as to be Christ to others. We will be the greatest when we recognise that we have the greatest gift of all, who is Christ Himself, when He gave His life for us. Let us now live for Him, to glorify Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, many times we are so caught up with doing and finishing what we have to do, we occupy ourselves with so many things till we leave you out. Help us to drop those in order that we may see you clearer and depend on you, in order that we will lead all to glorify you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your example, that you are not a king that is associated with wealth, fame or power. Thank you Lord for your humility, for understanding, for listening and for your love.

25 September, Sunday – Mercy & Grace

25 September

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Amos 6:1,4-7

The almighty Lord says this:
Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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“If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

As we begin the new week, we begin with an uncomfortable realisation. What is our faith about? How is our relationship with God? What are we living for? How are we living our lives?

The readings today remind us of the many things we have taken for granted of. Not to say that we must live in poverty, in suffering, pain or shame, but are we aware of the people around us, the people in our lives? Do we live as people of the light, people of love, proclaimers of the Gospel, defenders of the truth?

As in the Gospel today, are we like the rich man that is consumed by his wealth or do we count our blessings?

Many of us fear what’s to come after death, we go for daily mass, say daily prayers, offer much donation in order that we will not suffer eternally. However, our actions usually show otherwise, where we fail to see the “poor” standing right in front of us, whether it’s the “poor” intellectually, physically, emotionally or financially. We criticise, judge, condemn, make fun and abuse them rather than bless them with what God has blessed us with.

It eventually comes down to where we choose to stand, on the side of love and truth or that of selfishness and pride. We see the life of God’s only begotten Son and the side He chose, not just for Himself but also for all of us. It meant, the pain, suffering and death that He had to go through but it also meant the life and the glory that He brought to all of us and to His Father.

What is it we want? What is it we really need? For when the rich man knew that there was no way he could save himself, he finally asked if his brothers could be warned. Do we need to wait till we are in that position for us to realise?

It is this mercy and grace that we need for what God has given, He too can also take away. Our calling is that understanding that we are called also to be givers of this love, mercy and grace to the people around us in order that all may have a share in God’s kingdom here on earth and especially when we all return to Him, as one, for eternity.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

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Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for this mercy and grace that we so often overlook, as we ourselves are consumed by the things of this world. Help us to focus on you, on love, in order that we may live as one and return to our home with you when the day comes.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your love, your Word and the Truth. Thank you for this freedom.

24 September, Saturday – Age of Youth

24 September

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Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8

Rejoice in your youth, you who are young;
let your heart give you joy in your young days.
Follow the promptings of your heart
and the desires of your eyes.

But this you must know: for all these things God will bring you to judgement.

Cast worry from your heart,
shield your flesh from pain.

Yet youth, the age of dark hair, is vanity. And remember your creator in the days of your youth, before evil days come and the years approach when you say, ‘These give me no pleasure’, before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;

the day when those who keep the house tremble
and strong men are bowed;
when the women grind no longer at the mill,
because day is darkening at the windows
and the street doors are shut;
when the sound of the mill is faint,
when the voice of the bird is silenced,
and song notes are stilled,
when to go uphill is an ordeal
and a walk is something to dread.

Yet the almond tree is in flower,
the grasshopper is heavy with food
and the caper bush bears its fruit,

while man goes to his everlasting home. And the mourners are already walking to and fro in the street

before the silver cord has snapped,
or the golden lamp been broken,
or the pitcher shattered at the spring,
or the pulley cracked at the well,

or before the dust returns to the earth as it once came from it, and the breath to God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. All is vanity.

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Luke 9:43-45

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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Remember your Creator in the days of your youth

Sometimes when I look at my little baby boy, I wonder what kind of world he will inherit, what experiences he will have, what kind of environment he will grow up in. He is certainly a spirited little chap as it is, and sometimes when he launches himself out of my lap, I think of how he will launch himself into life the same way: headlong, with total abandon, and with his entire being.

Is this not how we approached life in our youth, and we perhaps still do? Of course, as we grow older and (hopefully) wiser, we launch ourselves with a little less abandon, with more insurance than assurance. Because as we grow older, we realize that we are moving towards the other end of life, and closer to meeting our Maker than we were before. But try telling that to your children, to be careful of life, and chances are you’d be greeted with rolling eyes, and remarks of our “yester-youth”.

Youth is a wonderful phase of life: never are we more energetic, more self-assured, more optimistic than this period. We believe we possess the Midas touch, that whatever we embark on will be met with success. Poised between a period of relative freedom and familial responsibilities, life seems rosy. It is a good thing, though as with all things, too much of a good thing is well, not so good. If we do not check ourselves in our youth, complacency sets in. With complacency, we could become spiritually “lazy”: our God-given spark is not switched on and could well be extinguished in time. In time, we grow old and realize that we are at the other end of life.

Today’s reading reminds us that the “dawn of youth is fleeting”. While we have the energy and the spirit, we should put them to use, not just for our own sakes, but for God’s sake. As Pope Francis said in his World Youth Day address, we need to offer the best of ourselves. We cannot afford to be “couch potatoes” as Pope Francis puts it. We need to “get on our bikes” for there is God’s work out there to be done. As a beloved priest once reminded me, God’s church is out there. Are we equipped to do what needs to be done? Most definitely, for even as God created us, He imbued within us special gifts that we would be able to put to use when He calls us.

It is so easy to take a back seat, thinking that there are other people out there who will carry this mantle. But we would have built nothing with our tools, and nothing is what we will feel if we don’t achieve anything. Nothing is the answer we would give God when He calls us to account for our lives. We are not born in this world for nothing. We are all little seeds of something that God planted, each capable of coming to full bloom. Again, as our Holy Father said, “When He calls us, He is thinking about everything we have to give, all the love we are capable of spreading. His bets are on the future, on tomorrow. Jesus is pointing you to the future.” We are the future, and Jesus is betting on us that we can make a difference.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Holy Lord, we pray that our spirit may not be quietened and complacent, rather let us burn within with the fire of the Holy Spirit, to be called into action to make our mark in this world for the better.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for believing in what we are each capable of. We thank you for the people and experiences that have touched our lives, and we thank you for the ability to touch others in the same way. We pray that they will see You manifested in our actions, as we see You in theirs.

23 September, Friday – In Memoriam

23 September – Memorial for St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), Priest

Pio (1887-1968) was ordained when he was 22. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.

His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo founded by Padre Pio. On the night of 20 June 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy´s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.

That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo´s mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio´s monastery, the child’s condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: “Don´t worry, you will soon be cured.”

– Patron Saints Index

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.

A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.

A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

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Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

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He has made everything appropriate to its time

A dear priest and family friend passed away recently. Reverend Father Phillips Muthu passed away, aged 56, from a heart attack on 10 September 2016. He was at the time, the sole Catholic priest in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia.

Prior to that, Fr. Phillips had been the parish priest of Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya, which is where my parents got acquainted with him. While I cannot claim a close acquaintance with Fr. Phillips, I am well acquainted with his works and gentle temperament. Everyone who knew him loved him, young and old alike. He had a special interest in migrants and the youth, and had just returned from Poland, where he had accompanied a contingent of youth for World Youth Day. Ironically the last thing that he did before going out for a brisk walk that fateful Saturday evening, was to hold a cathecism and youth programme for children at a chapel in the town of Chukai. Being the sole catholic priest in Terengganu meant that Fr. Phillips had to travel between towns to celebrate mass.

Being based in Singapore, I only ever got the chance to attend mass with my parents when I came home to visit. My late father had been critically ill at the time when they first got to know Fr. Phillips, and had talked to him about conversion and baptism. Fr. Phillips was very encouraging and had welcomed my parents to his church with open arms. Open arms would also describe Fr. Phillips’ way with the children of his parish. Children would flock to him after mass, where he would reach out and bless each one of them, give an encouraging pat on the back, or a comforting hug, but each one always had a smile from him. I have a picture burned in my memory of him surrounded by little ones, and it brought to mind Jesus being surrounded by the little children.

He had done so much and was in the pinkest of health, and so it was with great shock and disbelief when the news of his untimely death first broke. Many hearts were broken and tears were shed, for a priest who cared about his congregation, for a friend who cared about your well-being, for a father figure who loved each one like his own. His passing was all too soon, for his time with us felt like just a fleeting breath. In his passing though, we recognize and acknowledge all that he had done for his parishes, and for his people, and we thank God for the blessings bestowed upon us through Fr. Phillips’s presence. God giveth, and God taketh; in Fr. Phillips, God had given us a man after God’s own heart to do His will, and in so doing, perhaps Fr. Phillips’ work on earth here was deemed done by God. Everything happens in God’s time, and though we struggle in our despair to come to grips with his passing, at the end of the day we give thanks to God Almighty and look to celebrate Fr. Phillips through his life.

As with all our loved ones who have gone before us, he is now in a better place with God. May he rest in peace forevermore.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, we pray for the family, parishes and friends of Fr Phillips, that they may find comfort in You, and in knowing that he is with you, watching over us. May he rest in peace.

Prayer: We give you thanks Lord, for the life of Fr. Phillips who devoted himself to Your service and Your people. We pray that he will always be a shining example of Christ’s servant, and that we will be able to continue his good works.

22 September, Thursday – Vanity Of Vanities

22 September

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.

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Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

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For all his toil, what does Man gain by it?

What a question! These existentialist questions have long been written about by philosophers who posited that Man’s very true essence is his individuality, his independent actions and his conscious ‘being’ in the world, through which he creates his own values and determines a meaning to his life. There is a kind of hapless desperation to such a worldly definition of man’s existence. It creates a need in one to ‘make good of life’, or else there is nothing worthy to be talked of about one’s existence at the end of life!

By the world’s standards, we count our gain from the successes of our toils. What is my worth? For some, “I am my paycheck; I am my job description; I am the praises or insults that others accord me; I am the success of my career; I am the beautiful house and property I own.” This we count as our legacy.

“Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go […] What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.” This we are told in today’s first reading. Let us not feel sorry for ourselves that our lives are but the river waters that flow into the same sea, or that our lives and accomplishments are in reality nothing new under the sun. Let us rejoice in this amazing truth that we are all made for eternity – that, our lives having been redeemed by Christ is worth far more than the dollars and cents that we count, scrimp, and save, in this world. We live this life not by taking or keeping, but by giving and sharing.

How does this transform your understanding of your existence today? You are part of God’s great plan of humanity; your search for meaning in this life, in your daily toils is shared by the people who trudge alongside you in this seeming daily drudgery. Your quenchless thirst for significance beyond your economic contribution to this country, your loved ones, is deeply felt by Jesus who came down to earth and lived a life like yours. Do not feel alone. Do not feel helpless. Do not despair. Come to the Father who will give you a true meaning and purpose in life.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

P.S. This reflection is pulled from our Archives of 2012.

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Prayer: Jesus, I ask you to show me the way to eternity. Show me the little simple ways in which I can grow in faith in You and discover my life’s meaning.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord Jesus for walking beside me as I search for the meaning of my life, as I try to grapple with your purpose for me as I am here in this family, this workplace, this world.