Monthly Archives: October 2016

1 November, Tuesday – A happy future

1 November – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.

The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.

– Wikipedia

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Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

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1 John 3:1-3

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.

Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;

all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

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Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

There are days when I wonder if all the stress I go through now in this world is all worth it. There are many deadlines to meet for various projects and having to manage the expectations of many people around us. The readings of today remind us that our time on this world is meant to be temporary. It does not mean that it is supposed to be meaningless because God has placed us on this world to spread the love He has shown us to all around us. In doing so, we will receive the eternal reward which will belong to us in the future.

The Beatitudes are a beautiful way of instructing us on what actions will receive a blessing from God. It is for us to emulate such behaviour as many before us have already done so. For example, the martyrs who would rather suffer torture and persecution, instead of renouncing the faith, are a good reference point for us. They lived out the Beatitudes with their lives and were willing to use their lives to bring people closer to God. The Gospel reading of today is a blueprint for us to live our lives. Indeed, if all of us could even strive towards this standard, we will definitely be on route to heaven.

St John reminds us that we are God’s children and as God’s children we will definitely become like him in the future. As such, we should look forward to the reward which God is granting us and to always anticipate the future. This world may be tough for some of us but we should not let it hinder us in our final aim, which is to be in union with God. Persecution is indeed something which all of us go through – be it physical, mental, emotional and intellectual, regardless of where we live. What distinguishes us from others is the hope we have in God and the certainty of our eternal reward.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who bring peace to the world.

31 October, Monday – God’s way of love

31 October

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Philippians 2:1-4

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.

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Luke 14:12-14

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

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There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everyone is to be self-effacing.

There is a song which has a verse which goes “Anything you can do, I can do better”. I think this is the driving force for most people whom I meet. Everyone wants to be better than the other party, be it in academic results, appearance, salary, job title and even the type of property they live in. The Gospel of today is inviting us to be radically different; to put aside this approach and instead ask God to be an integral part of our lives. This means putting aside all other worldly pursuits and be united with the Holy Spirit.

The desire to be better than our neighbour stems from a need to be validated. However, God accepts us for who we are, just as we are. With our flaws and weaknesses, this may seem difficult. In fact, some people engage in competition to hide away their imperfections. God the Holy Spirit wants to enter into our lives to heal us from all the pains which we suffer from. All these external pursuits must be oriented towards a purpose — to glorify the name of Jesus in this world, so as to bring people to know and love him.

Jesus shows us how to pursue this interest by instructing the Pharisee to invite the people who cannot pay him back. This is something which is radical. We live in a world guided by the principle of ‘I scratch your back if you scratch mine’. So to move towards an approach where we are expected to help those who have no possibility of repaying back is something which is counter-cultural. Yet, this is what God desires of each one of us today – to be His witness to the world and to show the goodness of His love through our actions.

We should start small. Let us look at one thing in our lives where we can change, which allows us to glorify God’s name. It could be the resolution to say a kind word to the pantry lady, offering a listening ear to the people around us and finally, to perhaps share why we remain so driven to help others – the need to let our actions glorify the name of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to be your witness to the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to spread the Word of God in this world.

30 October, Sunday – A forgiving God

30 October

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Wisdom 11:22-12:2

In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales,
like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.
Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things
and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.
Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence,
for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it.
And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist,
how be conserved if not called forth by you?
You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life,
you whose imperishable spirit is in all.
Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend,
you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned,
so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.

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Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 

We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.

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Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

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Today salvation has come to this house, because the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.

My friend once asked me why God permitted people who were evil to continue to live on in this world. He was praying for God to strike the evil person with cancer but I reminded him that God never intended for people to die in this manner. I don’t think I succeeded in convincing him but I believe the readings of today point to us what God desires of all of us who are his children. There is a common theme throughout the readings, which is the need to forgive others because this world we live in is temporary.

In the First Reading, we learn that the world is considered like dust to the Lord. This verse really struck me because it made me realise that all the work which we do and the actions we take are temporary. The resource of time which we own is sometimes not used wisely to glorify the name of God, but instead, we use it for our own profit. Indeed, this is something which will distract us from the purpose of our lives, which is to stay close to God and to remain faithful to him.

The story of Zacchaeus is a lesson for all of us. There is a prompting within our heart to go closer to God but how we choose to respond is the determining factor on whether Salvation will enter into our lives. Zacchaeus was open to the idea of Jesus coming into his life because he had experienced an inner conversion in his heart – a metanoia — which is Greek for a spiritual conversion of our hearts to be re-oriented towards God. All of us are called today to return to Jesus, to be open to the message he offers us.

The way of life which Jesus invites us to is radical and it will transform our lives. As we continue to serve in the vineyard of the Lord, let us remember the words of St Paul in the second reading — to ask God to complete within us the need what we have been doing in faith. Let our lives glorify Jesus who so loved us that He gave His life for us!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

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Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to forgive our enemies.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who preach repentance.

29 October, Saturday – Self Awareness vs Self Promotion

29 October

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Philippians 1:18-26

Christ is proclaimed; and that makes me happy; and I shall continue being happy, because I know this will help to save me, thanks to your prayers and to the help which will be given to me by the Spirit of Jesus. My one hope and trust is that I shall never have to admit defeat, but that now as always I shall have the courage for Christ to be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results – I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake. This weighs with me so much that I feel sure I shall survive and stay with you all, and help you to progress in the faith and even increase your joy in it; and so you will have another reason to give praise to Christ Jesus on my account when I am with you again.

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Luke 14:1,7-11

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“… that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”

I really hate social media. There are some days when I just want to disconnect my Instagram account. Social media has made vanity into a virtue. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking to you, the #blessed crowd, the #partyafterparty people whose sole purpose is to post the perfect selfie, and shame the rest of us for our mundanity. Whatever happened to quiet servant leadership? I thought that was a great concept, and was certain it would take off. Instead, we seem to be bombarded by #redcarpet posts.

Self-promotion is as old as Scripture it seems. The gospel today actually tells us, in no uncertain terms, to be self-aware when attending dinner parties. Even back then, it was considered a complete social faux pas to presume greatness for one self. With position comes a higher profile. People know about you, or want to know about you. And the greater your profile, the more your actions and words are scrutinized. With position comes responsibility. And for those who have not cultivated the art of self-awareness, it is a long descent downwards. People are more than happy to tear someone down. Paul’s letter to the Philippians shows his self-awareness, this complete understanding of his purpose in life, to be of service to them and the furtherance of their faith. Often when we are tired or feel taken for granted, we start to whine and focus on ourselves. We become insular and complain, “What about me? I just want what’s due to me.” At times like these, a healthy dose of self-awareness goes a long way. We are here to serve at the leisure of God, and where He places us is where we are to strive to make a difference. If that happens to be back in the kitchen, wrist-deep in dish water instead of sitting at the banquet table, well then that’s His lot for us. There has to be a reason for it, we are just supposed to trust Him. Not for us, the glamorous life of being a loud and lauded leader, that’s not what He wants for us.

I’m ashamed to say that often, I too feel frustrated by a lack of acknowledgement, or worse yet, when someone takes what you do for granted and then criticizes and complains about your efforts. In times like that, I feel like taking to Facebook and airing my ills. But what is the point in that? Servant leadership at its core means trusting Him to acknowledge your work at the end after your race is done. If we receive our laurels now, what will we have to show at the gates of reckoning? Food for thought.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for patience with the complainers in our life, and for the self-awareness to know our place in all situations.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, that great comforter of hearts and restorer of hopes.

28 October, Friday – Community

28 October – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean or Zealot because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

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…and, you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

Not much is known about the saints of today’s feast, St. Jude and St. Simon. We know they spent their last years together preaching the gospel in Persia. We know they were both martyred. Yet, there are scant details around what they actually did. God tells us that if we want to know about someone, all we need to do is examine the fruit they produce. That’s the thing about both saints; the fruit of their labours has been enduring. They established whole communities devoted to Christ.

Jesus chose his apostles from a motley band of characters. Left to their own devices, they would surely not have found a common cause to rally behind, nor would they have achieved their feats of ministry. Simon the Zealot and Jude, cousin of Jesus, had no reason to make each other’s acquaintance if not for Christ. Yet they heeded His call to ministry and drew their strength from Our Lord and because of that, they were able to do extraordinary things. “As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and, you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).

When we look at the relationships in our life, especially the ones we forged doing God’s work, it is marvellous to see how our faith is a faith of community. We need each other to reach our full purpose in Christ. God reminds us in Hebrews, to “…consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this is all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Being part of a faith community keeps us on the path to his ‘narrow gate’. Both Simon and Jude were able to do the things they did because they built up communities to support them when they were weak, and to carry on the work they did when they were gone.

Today, reflect upon the motivation of your faith. Are you worshipping alone, or in the fellowship of other believers? God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things – but we have to commit to His cause and be held accountable to our faith communities. Dare we accept His challenge and see what extraordinary things we too could achieve?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all those starting faith communities, may God strengthen their faith and commitment to the cause.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the faith communities that we belong to, that hold us close and keep us safe.

27 October, Thursday – Bye Felicia!

27 October

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Ephesians 6:10-20

Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground.

So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power.

I have found myself becoming very short of patience lately. I guess we all go through cycles like that, when we feel run over by people whose sole putpose in life seems to be to take as much as they can get, without ever giving back. Takers are tiring to be around. Their ‘Dementor-like’ demeanors suck the joy out of any occasion. They’re never happy and they refuse to allow anyone else to be happy when they’re around. Exhausting! Jerusalem in today’s gospel reminds me so much of people like that. The Bible is old as eternity, yet its echoes are as fresh as if they were yesterday. Why? Because people are inherently the same! The one certainty in life is that there will always be ingratitude in our lives. Jesus had to deal with it over and over, and in some sense, gave us the playbook for how to handle ingrates without losing our mind. He died for the ingrates in his life, asking for forgiveness on their behalf with his last breath. Most of us would have just cursed them on the cross. Not him. Yesterday, we touched on the ‘narrow gate’, how to love someone who doesn’t allow you to love them back. You know you’re at the ‘narrow gate’ when you can find in your heart the ability to love the takers and the users in your life.

I’ve been feeling run down lately, and I think part of the reason is that I’ve let the ingrates in my life suck the joy out of me. “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” it seems. I wish sometimes, that my Lord would rescue me, ‘Superman like’, from all the users, the takers, the no-good-backstabbers, the complainers, the Polly-Put-Downs who won’t be happy and refuse to let me be happy as a result. Yes, I am sensitive to barbed words and passive aggressive plays. Who wouldn’t be? I am not so strong that I can just let their arrows bounce off me. Yet I know that in tears and suffering, the cadences of the Holy Spirit are all the clearer. “Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power”. We hear his voice, not with our ears, but with our hearts, and when we are heartbroken, we are most attuned to his voice. I’ve found my Lord in my exhaustion and despair. He has opened his playbook for me to see, and made it clear that as tired as I am, what I feel now is not even a half measure of the suffering he endured on the cross for me. So I have to gird myself up and hold on to my joy, because my joy should come not from the affirmation of people in my life. My joy should come from him. To the rest of the ingrates – bye Felicia!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to draw on the Lord’s mighty power in times of stress.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His great love for us, that while we were unworthy, he died for us on the cross.

26 October, Wednesday – The Narrow Gate

26 October

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Ephesians 6:1-9

Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty. The commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honour your father and mother, and the promise is: and you will prosper and have a long life in the land. And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does.

Slaves, be obedient to the men who are called your masters in this world, with deep respect and sincere loyalty, as you are obedient to Christ: not only when you are under their eye, as if you had only to please men, but because you are slaves of Christ and wholeheartedly do the will of God. Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men. You can be sure that everyone, whether a slave or a free man, will be properly rewarded by the Lord for whatever work he has done well. And those of you who are employers, treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Honour your father and mother …

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). There comes a time in every child’s life when she realizes that she has outgrown her parents and must soon assume the role of their caregiver and steward. Whether through illness, death, divorce or simply the passage of time, it’s an inevitable reversal of roles that happens to all of us. Old age is spiteful. It robs our parents of their human dignity, of their self-respect. It takes their health and their minds, and all we can do is watch them retreat until they’re but a reflection through a glass darkly.

In a reduced state, people say and do things that are hurtful. It’s as if they lose their inhibitions and revert to child-like versions of themselves. The gospel says to us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13:24). Well, the ‘narrow gate’ is when someone you love turns on you despite all your efforts to love them and make things easier for them. Those who most need to be helped are often the ones who refuse it most viciously. The easy thing to do is to walk away, to give up because we feel unappreciated, insulted, unloved. Yet Christ loved us despite our ingratitude, our insults and our attacks on him. And he asked forgiveness for us with his dying breath. The greatest act of love you can perform, that which is most Christ-like, is to love someone and to persevere in your efforts to love them, despite their ingratitude. Christ paved the way for all believers when he did it for us. He was the perfect embodiment of love for us, because despite our efforts to push him away, he remained faithful to us.

One day, we too will lose ourselves – to illness, or dementia, or early on-set Alzheimer’s. We might have a stroke and find that suddenly we’ve lost our motor skills. We could be struck down by cancer, and be so pumped full of morphine that we’re too dazed to realize who or what we’re about. Old age is cruel and it comes for everyone. The narrow gate is to love those who are hard to love because one day, we too will become hard to be around. And then, we pray for the blessing of those who are not afraid to love us despite ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for all caregivers, those who persevere on despite the ingratitude of those whom they love. We pray for them to find strength in His grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are caregivers and stewards, who love us despite ourselves.

25 October, Tuesday – Yeast

25 October

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Ephesians 5:21-33

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything. Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body – and we are its living parts. For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the Church. To sum up; you too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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It is like yeast… mixed in with three measures of wheat flour, until the whole batch of dough was leavened.

When I was a teenager, someone in my bible study group proclaimed with much certainty that as Christians, we were not supposed to date someone ‘outside the faith’, so as not to be ‘unequally yoked’. At the time, it struck me as a strange thing to say. Jesus Christ himself ate in the house of tax collectors and counted prostitutes as friends. So what was wrong with me fraternizing with someone who was not Christian? But this person was adamant in her view, and so, being new to the faith then, I simply went along.

Absolutes are dangerous pronounciations, especially when made carelessly in front of new believers. It is misleading to think of people as absolutely good or absolutely bad. Good and bad are always and everywhere intertwined – in our churches, in our homes, and often even in our hearts. The parable of the yeast in today’s gospel reminds us of this truth about our faith. We need only a little bit of yeast to leaven an entire loaf of bread. The yeast is not of the dough, and yet it has the power to change it. We exist in this world of good and evil; we are not a part of it, but we have the power to affect its conversion. Throughout Scripture, God’s people have existed amongst the non-believing masses. Think of Moses, who spent most of his young adult life as an Egyptian prince. And Joseph, who rose from slave to the highest ranks of Pharoah’s court. And Jesus, who was rejected by the Jewish elders in the synagogues. It is as if God deliberately puts us in the midst of cross-fire. But why?

In John 17:15, Christ prayed for us, “I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one”. God intended for us to live amongst the secular forces of this world, not to be corrupted by it, but to bring about its conversion. We are His change agents, in our workplace, in our schools, in our churches, even in our own homes. We are here, placed by Him in often hostile surroundings, to shine His light on those who have yet to see Him or who have forgotten His goodness. For if there was no darkness, how would we be able to appreciate the Light?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the perseverance to bear patiently with those around us who are non-believers or who have fallen away from God. We pray for their conversion, that they find their way back to Him.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the means and the resources to be His agents of change in the societies we live in.

24 October, Monday – The Rage In Her Heart

24 October – Memorial for St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was a weaver and a seminary student with Blessed Francis Coll. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, and became a missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He directed retreats and founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians). He became Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba on 20 May 1850, and founded the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
Following his work in the Caribbean, Blessed Pope Pius IX ordered him back to Spain where he became confessor to Queen Isabella II and was exiled with her. He had the gift of prophecy and miracles, and was reported to have preached 10,000 sermons, published 200 works. He spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 4:32-5:8

Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.

Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes – all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity – which is worshipping a false god – can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.

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Luke 13:10-17

One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.

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And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit

­My grandmother died with anger in her heart. Hers was a slow deterioration — a long, sad, bewildering goodbye. I feel she lost herself before she left us. Towards the end, she seemed to obsess over things that had happened years ago, old hurts that had been inflicted on her, but she would forget what you said to her ten minutes before. She was like a different person altogether. Who was once a loving, happy force in my life, changed into someone I didn’t recognize. It was as if a black pall came over her. When she finally let go and breathed her last, it felt like she had been set free. Whatever evil had taken hold of her mind, it was gone and she had returned to God.

I’ll never understand why her manner changed towards the end. I read that the dying know their time is up, and as the days pass, they relinquish more of the banalities of life, until what’s left is just the essence of their soul. It hurts me to think it was anger that resided at the core of her heart. Anger and bitterness. Because in life, she wasn’t like that. She was a beautiful person. I still don’t know what could have happened to change her at the end, or how the unresolved conflicts in her life became so large that they consumed her.

In today’s gospel, we read that the woman was gripped by an evil spirit. That’s what anger does to the heart when we hold on to it. Grudges, nurtured by resentment and unforgiveness, become hatred with the passage of time. Caught up in our rage, love dies in our heart. My grandmother pushed everyone away at the end. She didn’t mean to, she just couldn’t help herself. Her anger defined her and she died holding on to it.

I want to believe that she is with Jesus now, that he has freed her from the rage that held her hostage at the end. I pray he frees us too, those of us who loved her but were stung by her sharp words at the end. Those of us she left behind, who are still holding on to the hurt and confusion in our hearts. I want to only remember the loving, devoted woman who was so much a part of my happy childhood. I pray that she is at peace now. I pray she is with God now.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for those who have passed on, may they find the peace that eluded them in life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who calms us during the storms of our life, who saves us from ourselves.

23 October, Sunday – On Prayer

23 October

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Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.

He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
he listens to the plea of the injured party.

He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.

The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
his petitions will carry to the clouds.

The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
until it arrives he is inconsolable,

And the Lord will not be slow,
nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds

Nagging is quite possibly one of the ugliest traits a person can have. The basic premise of nagging is trust, or more accurately, the lack of it. We nag because we don’t trust that things will get done unless we are actively micro-managing it. But when we repeat petitions and prayers to God, isn’t that a little like nagging? And nagging God, no less? I was reflecting on this while at church last Sunday, as I rattled off a litany of petitions to Him. As request number 25 rolled off my tongue, I wondered — how must it feel to be God? To be talked to like some bearded, blue-tinged genie? If I were to weigh out how often I asked of Him, ‘Can you please do this/that…’, versus how often I said ‘Thank you’, or ‘Forgive me’, what would that ratio look like? 2:1? 10:1? 50:1? When it comes down to it, what is the quality of our prayer?

On reading the gospel from Luke today, the image of the Pharisee in ‘self-congratulatory prayer’ struck me. Most of us would probably go, “That’s so not me! Of course I give thanks! Of course I’m grateful for His blessings!” But words are empty unless they’re spoken from the heart. The Pharisee also ‘gave thanks’ but what is thankfulness without humility and self-awareness – “Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” Is it really thanksgiving?

The quality of my prayer has been something I’ve started to think about a lot lately. I tend to ‘list’ things. I list my thanks for all His blessings. I list my requests. I list my sins or what I can think of at least, and ask for His forgiveness. But always, I am checking off lists, making new lists, updating lists, deleting lists. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to be praying. I’d like to have a conversation with God sometimes, a heart-to-heart without the tyranny of all these lists and boxes I need to complete. I know He knows my heart – all the things I want to say, the things I can’t say, the things I’m too afraid to speak. And He has already given me all that I need, all the gifts for this journey called Life. Wouldn’t it be great for once, to be able to just sit with God, and be?

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(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the honesty to engage God in thoughtful, prayerful, mindful conversation.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for The Word, our guide to how to live a prayerful, purposeful life.