Monthly Archives: September 2016

21 September, Wednesday – Follow Me

21 September – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

– Patron Saints Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Before he became one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthew worked as a tax collector in Capernaum. At the time, tax collectors were viewed negatively by the people, as evidenced in the Bible, particularly in today’s Gospel reading. When people saw Jesus sitting at the table with tax collectors, the Pharisees questioned this, lumping tax collectors with sinners. Because of his prior incarnation as a tax collector, St. Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors, accountants and bankers.

Today’s world hasn’t changed much. Bankers are still viewed negatively: the “fat cats” of Wall Street and other major financial capitals in the world. Not long ago, people were up in arms over bankers who collected huge bonuses while the world experienced a global financial crisis. The Occupy Wall Street movement raised issues of inequality, both socially and economically, greed and corruption, in particular within the financial sector. The bankers’ lives of excess as portrayed in the media also added more fuel to the fire.

So it is with interest that one would question why Jesus called Matthew to follow him. Can a person perceived as greedy and in cahoots with the Romans be deemed worthy enough to follow the Messiah? Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus probably saw the flaws in Matthew, and perhaps Matthew might not have been perfect in character. But he was the perfect canvas for Jesus to paint on, to convert someone so mired in materialism, and that would not be any different from us today. We don’t even have to be a banker, or tax collector or accountant. Perhaps there is a certain sort of life that we are living, that we can’t let go of. Would we be in a position to put it down, leave everything and go when Jesus calls us?

Recall the story of the rich man who did everything that Jesus exhorted, and asked what more he could do. He went away depressed when Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and donate the proceeds to the needy (Mark 10:17-31), for this man was rich indeed. But Jesus has promised us eternal life for those who leave everything to follow him.

If we fear or second guess our ability to come whenever Jesus calls, let us doubt no further but say to ourselves, if St. Matthew could do it, and walk away from it all to a higher calling, then so can we.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: St. Matthew, we pray to you not to let our lives be attached to the material things on earth that will pass in time. Help us train our eyes instead to a greater treasure in heaven, which Jesus has promised us.

Prayer: St. Matthew, thank you for being our shining example of will power and knowing what is worth following. As Jesus comes to call the sinners, pray for us that we will hear when he calls us too.

20 September, Tuesday – Crossroads…again

19 September – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (Martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,
who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,
the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice
is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,
lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;
too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,
such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,
he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,
when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:
he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry
shall himself plead and not be heard.

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Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

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Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases him, he directs it.

I’ve written before about being at crossroads of my life, wondering which way to go. Almost always, my crossroads have required of me to take a leap of faith, they run in two extremes with no middle ground. As a result it takes me a long while of deliberation, accompanied by prayer to figure out what is best for me.

I am once again at these very same crossroads, albeit at a different stage of my life. Again, it is all or nothing, like going down Robert Frost’s roads in the woods: that if I travelled down one, I know I would likely not return again to try the other and see where it would lead. On the one hand, do you stay on the path which seems the most “secure”, or do you relish a little adventure and leave it to faith to see where the other path finds you? I’m not suggesting that we all become adrenaline junkies and go down the path that gives us an adventure “high”. Not at all. I speak of decisions in life which we know could make a difference, and trusting God enough to guide us where He would want us to go.

I have prayed about it and I feel that God is guiding me gently to this road that I have not taken, and while I cannot tell what lies ahead or what will happen in the next 5 or 10 years, I feel like I can trust that God will lead me safely to the shore. I do feel nervous to say the least; my heart is in my hand, but it is also in God’s hand. And I will take this leap of faith because I trust that God has my back.

Are you too about to embark on a new path in your life, maybe a new chapter or career, or move to a different country? Fearing the unknown can be a numbing feeling, paralyzing us from making any decisions. But our lives here on earth are meant to be lived, and God has given us this one life to make that difference. When Gabriel’s trump sounds, and we stand before our Maker to account for ourselves, what do we hope to say to God?

If today you feel that He is calling you to make a change, take the leap of faith. Pray for discernment and wisdom, knowing that whatever the path that God wants you to take and make, He has your back too.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, I won’t lie. I am nervous and scared of making this new journey, but only You know what that path will be for me. I pray that You will reveal it to me as we journey together, and I pray for strength and unwavering faith, even as I can’t yet see the what lies ahead.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for always having my back. Thank you always for guiding my steps and holding on to my hand, one step at a time.

19 September, Monday – Silver Linings

19 September – Memorial for St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

Januarius (d. 305) was arrested on account of his profession of the Christian religion during persecution of Christians. He was cast into the fiery furnace, through which he passed wholly unharmed. On the following day, along with a number of fellow martyrs, he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts, which laid themselves down in tame submission at his feet.

Timotheus, the governor who pronounced the sentence of death upon Januarius, was struck with blindness but was immediately healed by the powerful intercession of the saint, a miracle which converted nearly five thousand men on the spot. The ungrateful judge, only roused to further fury by these occurrences, caused the execution of Januarius by the sword to be forthwith carried out. The body was ultimately removed by the inhabitants of Naples to that city, where the relic became very famous for its miracles.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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To anyone who has, more will be given

There is a saying that happiness shared is doubled, but sorrow shared is halved.

When God touches our lives, a light is switched on inside each and every one of us. That light serves as God’s way of spreading the Word – through our daily thoughts, actions, and words – intimating those that we meet with God’s love and mercy. We are like little lamps to light the way for others.

Of course not all of us are called to be like Moses, guiding thousands of people to the Promised Land. We may even question what kind of abilities we have that can serve God’s purpose. We see ourselves only as “small fry” – not fit for a higher purpose. And so we hide, and we shy away, little lit lamps set under a bed, concealing ourselves with a vessel.

God gives each of us a gift to use for His higher purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Our gifts are all different, “according to the grace given to each of us” according to Romans 12:6. In fact, our gift could be as simple as giving, or showing mercy, or even just simple encouragement (Romans 12: 7:8).

I don’t profess to have many talents, but of late, if I feel that I could make someone’s day by giving a smile, then why not. Our lives here on earth are too short to be lived in such a harried manner. We have no time for each other, even eschewing manners and general consideration for others and what their lives must be. In the scramble of our daily lives, empathy has taken a backseat. Violence and fear face us in the headlines of daily news that we become enveloped by it, gripping us in paranoia and suspicion. These things are the work of the Devil around us, creating vessels to block out the light that God has switched on in us.

Today’s Gospel says “to anyone who has, more will be given”. If we use our abilities for the glory of God, no matter how small our action is, God will not forget us. God will use this as a conduit to start a chain reaction, multiplying our seed of an effort to cause a wave of change. God only asks that we start that reaction, by coming out from under the bed and lighting the way.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord God, I am small and sometimes weak, allowing fear and paranoia to engulf me at times. Rescue me from my abyss that I may break the clouds of doubt, even with just my tiniest effort. I pray that all that I do will be positive, and in turn create positivity for all whom I meet.

Prayer: I thank you God, for blessing me with the ability to make a difference. Let me not doubt anymore what I can do, but embrace the fact that I can indeed make a difference.

18 September, Sunday – Be Still and Know that I am God

18 September

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Amos 8:4-7

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

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1 Timothy 2:1-8

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

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Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

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I urge that entreaties and prayers… be made on behalf of all men… that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

My life is a constant buzz right now. From dawn to dusk, I am constantly on the move. My sleep is not one of peacefulness nor full rest, and most of the time I wake up feeling tired, not energized. The reason for my whirlwind of activity is my role as a new mother; had I been single say ten years ago, I would have said that my job was the reason. Or my social life. Now in the dim glow of my night light while I attend to my infant son, I sometimes call out to God in desperation. And in the quiet of the night, sometimes God answers.

Nothing could have quite prepared me for motherhood. You can read all the books ever written on the subject, but until your child arrives on the scene, you never quite know the extent that your life can be turned around. I used to be a stickler for house chores and having my home in right order and cleanliness. Now I would be lucky if I can get ahead of my ever-piling laundry. In the past, I would dream and cook up elaborate meals; I would be satisfied now to have something that I could whip up or reheat instantly. I tried to do it all. I still try to do it all, the cooking, cleaning, caring of baby. Between work and home and being a mother, I have not even had the time to look for hired help. I confess for an OCD person like me, it was hard to get used to this “new way of life”. Sometimes I feel like a tightly wound up toy let loose, and I can’t stop.

And so something gave in me during that time, and unfortunately it was my time with God. I stopped seeking Him as much as I used to, seeking Him only in my sleep-deprived state of mind, which was when the busy-ness of my life got out of control. My need to be on top of my hectic life not only pushed God out, it also pushed other people out, relationships that matter to me.

Have we ever felt that way before, when we are so busy with life – our work, social commitments, extra -curricular activities, even church activities – that we forget who the Lord of our work is? He made all this possible for us, giving us the responsibilities because He knew we could be trusted with our roles. At the same time, He also hoped that in challenging us to strive to be our best, we would also call out to Him to help us. Or perhaps sit a while with Him to thank Him for the blessings or just to talk about how our day has been, chaotic or otherwise.

It is funny that I am realizing this whilst writing this reflection, that my life has just been so busy that I have not reached out to ask God for the one thing that I crave the most at this point: a quiet and tranquil moment, where I can sit for a while and reflect. I know it is not too late, for God is everywhere. We only have to seek Him, and He will be there.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Thanksgiving: Lord, it has taken me this long to reach out to You for help. I thought I could do it all, but I know I can’t. Help me to take a step back, quieten down, and reflect. Help me to appreciate the small but wonderful moments in life that You have blessed me with. Help me to realize that in peace, shall I find sanity, serenity, and You.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for helping me to realize that I should slow down before I self-destructed. Let me remember always, to “be still and know” that You are God.

17 September, Saturday – The Richness Within

17 September – Memorial for St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert (1542-1621) wrote the most complete work of his day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack. He also wrote a children’s catechism and a catechism for teachers. As cardinal-priest, he gave most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold”.

He was involved in settling various disputes including that of King James I and the Vatican in 1607 and 1609 concerning control of the Church in England, action against Galileo Galilei with whom he established a friendly correspondence, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church, and issues concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 17 September 1931.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 15:35-37,42-49

Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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Embodies the spirit

Today’s first reading is actually a very good reflection written by Saint Paul. It shows that the greatness of the Lord cannot be appreciated and understood without first being understood on earth. We were being created in the image of God, and life is being given to us. Sometimes it makes me wonder if Earth is the transitional world, where we are given the opportunity to go good, to do the best we can in the name of our Lord with the talents and help surrounding us. This is regardless of which country we are born into, or the richness that we have from the start. It has never been about the aesthetics of life, but how we are living it. But if we have been given more and graced with much fortunate events, then I believe we would be expected to give more and make someone else’s life better.

As I reflect further on today’s reading, it points out to me that indeed it is not about the biggest house or most luxurious car one own when your heart is just mediocre. What we perhaps aim to live is about life-giving. As I grew older, and begin to realise what touches us, in our hearts, is truly not about what materials we buy but what relationships we have with others. This may only happen to me, but do try this, when you open your Facebook account and begin to look at the friends and their behaviours and the stories being posted, you will tend to realise that those with more ‘likes’ is a lot about family, love, emotions with loved ones, precious moments with family, post that require encouragement as compared to posts on new cars, new house, food posts, vacation posts and any luxury items. Essentially, as we build our earthly family, we tend to know what is important and what matters to us. We grow from young adults, to being a responsible spouse, to being a parent, to being responsible for the elderly and sometimes, posts that opens up for us to face the death of a loved one.

A lot of successful businessmen says, it is not about what you have or built, but it is very much about how you get there. Thus, the greatness lies in what have we done to touch the lives of others, but not how much have we possessed for ourselves.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Lord, I know we can get busy with work and family and looking out for non-important things, make me put in the time and effort that enrich the life of my family and the lives of others.

Thanksgiving: Praise you O Lord Jesus Christ for a fulfilling week, that it has been peaceful and loving.

16 September, Friday – The Church Ain’t No Lie

15 September – Memorial for St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr; and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr

Cornelius (d. 253) was elected after a year-and-a-half period during which persecutions were so bad that papal ascension was a quick death sentence. He worked to maintain unity in a time of schism and apostasy. He called a synod of bishops to confirm him as rightful pontiff, as opposed to the anti-pope Novatian. Cornelius was eventually exiled by Roman authorities to punish Christians in general, who were said to have provoked the gods to send plague against Rome.

Cyprian (190-258) was baptised when he was 56. By the time he was bishop, he had been a Christian for only 3 years! When the Roman emperor Decius persecuted Christians, Cyprian lived in hiding, covertly ministering to his flock; his enemies condemned him for being a coward and not standing up for his faith. He supported St. Cornelius against the anti-pope Novatian. He too was exiled and martyred when the Decius’ successor continued with persecution of Christians.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

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Luke 8:1-3

Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

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In fact been raised from the dead

Christ rising from the dead is the greatest mystery in our faith. Paul is right that the preaching in the Church is useless if the belief of Christ’s resurrection is not true at all. Our believe in eternal life will not be true and all hopes have perished right at he moment our life in this moment ends. Many people still believes that Christianity as a religion is all a lie, all fabricated to build community of believers out of nothing, making it seem like a worldwide influence that has riches in different parts of the world and promoting false hope and blind faith followers.

However, just by looking at how much the Church has done for the world, it has reached to the rich as well as the very poor. It has reached to all ages, both men and women. What the Church has set up since the beginning of church building by the apostles, has always been bringing Christ to us. Of course, being men, we are not perfect and we are unfortunate to have leaders who have fallen into temptations. Strict rules and old traditions that might not fit this century being put aside, the Church has grown to reach every single one of us. It is not about the riches, but the richness of faith. Support groups being set up to fulfil an obligation for the needy. I do realise that every new building, every new church, every new missionary trip support has always been the people and believers who have come out to get things going. It is indeed difficult to deny that this faith is a hoax when you look into the developments of the Church and what has been done by her across the world.

Jesus Christ is in fact being raised from the dead and sent his Holy Spirit down on us. He is one who have saved us from death, bringing us back to the Father in eternal life. Giving us the hope and love we so often preach about, and by loving God and others just as He command. Praise you Lord Jesus Christ, and to Mother Mary for watching over us.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Your will be done, do not lead us into temptations and deliver us from evil.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Church which is forever evolving, and that leaders who are tempted be strong and repentant, so they may reach to the community with the fullness of heart.

15 September, Thursday – You Are Not Unworthy

15 September – Memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows

Different sorrows of Mary have been honoured in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have come to be regarded as the seven ‘dolors’ (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days
4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb

By commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the sufferings that Mary endured as part of her vocation as the Mother of the Redeemer. No one is closer to Christ than Mary, consequently no one has participated more intimately in the redemptive suffering of Christ than His Mother Mary.

– http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/sorrows.html

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

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John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

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I am the least of the apostles

Every Sunday, after the recessional hymn, I would walk to our Mother Mary, say a short prayer and touch her feet before leaving the church. Someone once asked me, why do you touch her feet? Well, I could have touch her hands, and show love, respect and reverence in another manner. The feet is closest to the ground and and perhaps the body part that has the most contact to uncleaned places when we walk about getting to our destination. By giving reverence at the feet, it shows humility and respect for the other, where the dirt and places that the other has been to does not matter to you because you accept and clean them up as they are.

In today’s first reading, Saint Paul finds himself unworthy of being an apostle as he compared himself to be of least importance, yet Jesus appeared to him. This led to me reflecting again on how important prayers can be. When we face a crossroad in life decisions, or met up with a challenge, we are always told to go with the gut feeling, pray about it, do what God tells you to do. It is just not so straight forward after all, is it? We are always given the freedom to choose, we pray not for an answer in the dreams, but we pray for the peace in our heart that the challenge is right for me, or I will do the alternative that cold be walking away from it. Regardless, Jesus is always there for us. Saint Paul felt the graces of God upon him to achieve his mission for the Lord. Likewise, we are to pray for the courage when taking up a challenge in life, at work, for the family or for the better of society. It is never going to be easy but the constant encouragement and graces we receive from heaven will see us through it.

The most ordinary and lowest of people with great faith will be given more. Therefore, when we do realise the blessings and peace that we have in our lives, we must maintain and continue to deepen our faith and the works of the Lord, so that He sees that and grant us with eternal life. Show great love and your debts will be forgiven.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray that Jesus’ love be felt and experienced in this world and conflicts across all borders be at peace soon so that all will live a faithful and happy life.

Thanksgiving: Thank You O Lord for seeing me through countless of challenges no matter how little they may be.

14 September, Wednesday – Do For Him

14 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

– Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God loved the world so much

We meet with many struggles at the different stages of our lives here on Earth. These struggles are depicted both in the old and new testaments. Up until today, people continue to struggle for their freedom. On a more peaceful and personal level, perhaps from where I come from, we struggle with meeting expectations to be seen as successful. At these tough moments, where we come across an obstacle in our life, we question why we are being led to this stage. We prayed to get out of a sticky situation, and then we blame God again for leading us to the next obstacle. We are hard to please isn’t it?

Today’s reading, we are reminded of God’s mercy towards us. The Lord has given us love, forgiveness, life eternal when we felt like we are too tired for anything else. He gave us Jesus, who died to be the saviour of the world. These are all heavenly things that is given to us because He love us so. He had made this world, created us to be the good people He likes to see us as. The cross and the passion are images and a message for us to be reminded of the world He has created it for. For us to embrace the positivity and yet reality of life with the purpose of being obedient and living fully in His name.

When there are others whom you have difficulty working with, when we reach a very sad and difficult issue to deal with in our everyday lives, when we are not able to meet the expectations of our loved ones, disappointing them, and always hoping not to lose them, we should try to turn to God asking for the heavenly gifts in getting us through. We remind ourselves that we are not doing it for our personal gain, we do it in the name of Jesus, that we are motivated to strive in work that pleases Him. In this way, we are able to know what is of more importance and continue to get motivated for a fulfilling life here on Earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

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Thanksgiving: We lift up our worries and struggles everyday, so that You may guide us to live a more fulfilling life with our loved ones.

Prayer: Let me look beyond the difficulties that I often encounter, but to give thanks and count the blessings of what You have given me.

13 September, Tuesday – Existence

13 September – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27-31

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them? Be ambitious for the higher gifts.

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Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.

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God has visited his people

How do we really see God’s existence in our lives? Is preaching, writing blogs and getting thousands on a Christian social media channel the way to proving that God exists? Sometimes, even by going regularly to mass still bring doubts to parishioners that God exist and some might even say ‘because my parents want me to go to church..’ What will it take to trigger our believe in a God, in our faith, Jesus Christ? For many of us, we still would like to see a miracle in our lives to believe that God is with us, or as a prove that His powers are for us. Most times, we have that hope and good things shall happen to us as we prayed for it. It could take years or even a decade to see something hopeful. Better still, we are able to see a raising of the dead like the people of Nain and began praising that God has come to them.

We live in a community. The world is made up of different societies and groups of people in our surroundings. As in today’s reading, we are reminded of how God has existed among the differences but ultimately in one spirit. When I was young, we always hear people saying ‘God is Everywhere’. Indeed, he is among us existing in spirit in our teachers, our leaders, in helpers, in carers and all those with a loving spirit in working for the love of our Lord. Everyday solutions are miracles as well, times when we are down only to rely on a good news to make our day a little better.

We are only human that sometimes, during moments of difficulty and feeling of hopelessness, we doubt the existence of God. Be reminded that, we shall not let such feelings drag us down. We will keep up the faith through constant prayers and Eucharistic celebrations, an adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will calm down our anxiety and God will speak to us.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: May the Lord not give up on us when we doubt, but make us stronger in spirit and open our hearts for Jesus’ visit.

Thanksgiving: O loving God, we pray for the leaders, the Church and all those non-believers, that the spirit of God work in each one of them

12 September, Monday – Received With Heart

12 September – Memorial for The Most Holy Name of Mary

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters. The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

– Patron Saints Index

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1 Corinthians 11:17-26,33

On the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that do you more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it – since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted. The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk. Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in? Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed? What am I to say to you? Congratulate you? I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, So to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another.

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Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him. ‘He deserves this of you’ they said ‘because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends: ‘Sir,’ he said ‘do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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Not worthy to have you

In today’s reading, we look at the importance and solemnity of Holy Communion. Many people outside of the Catholic Church sees that the invitation to the Lord’s supper is very exclusive. So exclusive that only baptised Catholics can receive the Eucharist and we cannot receive communion in other churches of another denomination. And so I would like to share my experience as a Catholic and own personal views on why I believe that the Church is the most inclusive one that I have even encountered. I may not have gone to churches of every denomination neither is this a comparison. I believe the Eucharist is very Holy and that receiving Jesus is the utmost exclusive act of closeness to Christ in our world. Receiving the Eucharist is not an act, nor is it just a usual banquet. It is Christ, it is community, it is the believe, it is faith, it is serious. There are a lot of emotions when receiving Holy Communion, and it is the centre of our masses.

Today’s first reading writes on the words spoken by Jesus at the last supper. The meaning of community among the faithful, and the believe of His presence in the form of bread and wine shows the seriousness of how intimate Christ is with us through the Eucharist. The inner faith in us has to be strong in order to receive Him, even as a Catholic ourselves. The church may seem exclusive on the surface of this but we invite everyone to celebrate mass with us. There are several occasions where a ‘deranged’ person steps out in front of the altar and shouts, regardless of the church, they are never taken away by anyone, nor does the priest ask the person to leave. Fortunately, the person usually just walk away after awhile. I think we care least about who sits or stand or kneel at the appropriate sections of mass. We may not have pointed visitors out individually on a Sunday mass because we have already included you in the solemnity in celebrating the Eucharist.

Thus communion is for us to dig deep into ourselves, having the deep faith in believing in Jesus as said by the centurion, which is being echoed right before we receive Christ at every mass. ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed’ and that is when we go on to say ‘Amen’ (I Believe).

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O Jesus, let me look into the week with a changed of heart, for the better, may the power of the Eucharist be in me.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the loving people around me, the community that is there to help me and my loved ones deepen and grow in faith.