Daily Archives: January 27, 2017

28 January, Saturday – Keep Calm and Go Forward

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writings were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized Her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

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Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.

It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.

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Mark 4:35-41

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’

And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

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longing for a better homeland

Today, we still see news of asylum seekers trying to find a home, away from all their previous settlements due to war or political instability. They always look forward to a place where they can settle in peace and begin some sort of family life where they do not have to worry about just trying to stay alive each day. For them, there is nothing much to look back to, but seeking salvation in a country where they can start anew, with lots of hope ahead for them.

Someone of my background can never understand the hardships that they are going through, the faith that they have in them keeps them going forward. As with today’s reading, the Lord promises and delivers what is deserved over time. The unwavering faith in Abraham sets a good example of obedience and hope for everyone. We can always look around us and be sensitive to the needs of others, together with the works of the Holy Spirit in us; let us show unto others what faithfulness in God is about.

Despite all the hardships and difficulties that we are experiencing, we can rely on trusting God in calming the nerves. I think it is only very natural for us to feel jittery, anxious all the time and being so frightful of uncertainties ahead of us. Perhaps there is something for us to learn from those tough asylum seekers, that they do not look back but embrace what is ahead, where hope is, where home is, where the Lord is.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for those who are seeking home, who are trying to keep their family together due to violence or hatred, that being forgiving and loving is what Christ has promised us.

Thanksgiving: We truly give many thanks for peaceful surroundings, that we feel protected and encouraged to pass that peace onto others.

27 January, Friday – Telling Life Stories

27 Jan – Memorial for St. Angela Merici, virgin

St. Angela Merici (1474-1540) became a Franciscan tertiary at the age of 15. She received a vision telling her that she would inspire devout women in their vocation.

In Crete, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

In 1535, she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the “Institute of St. Ursula” (the Ursuline Sisters), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics; her first schools were in Desenazno and Brescia.

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Hebrews 10:32-39

Remember all the sufferings that you had to meet after you received the light, in earlier days; sometimes by being yourselves publicly exposed to insults and violence, and sometimes as associates of others who were treated in the same way. For you not only shared in the sufferings of those who were in prison, but you happily accepted being stripped of your belongings, knowing that you owned something that was better and lasting. Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,
and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.
The righteous man will live by faith,
but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

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Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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Not the sort of people who draw back

I am quite sure many of us have heard the phrase ‘It is better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all’. I do not think that any of us would like to fail in any projects or any sort of work that we do. Successful people always share about their failures and wrong decisions, and then where they get to now is all due to the persistence in moving forward at what they do. Isn’t that all too familiar with today’s reading? We are reminded that the reward at the end of it all with God is great and we need endurance in doing God’s work here on earth.

With such a diversified environment, there are many challenges in keeping our faith strong and focused. Even when we are feeling dejected, alone and like a big failure, we do not draw back to hide in the hole. The only worse situation is to never grow from it, to never learn from it, and to let it remain unconquered. The pain and suffering Jesus endured for us, eventually dying on the cross, is pure strength in faith and loyalty to God the Father, to finish the will of the Father whatever and however He is to receive it.

We are to learn to express ourselves to others about our faith and strong belief in the best possible manner. Sometimes the way we understand the faith is not the way others see it. It takes time, focus and patience to bring a message to someone who does not believe in Christ. It is not just music, it is not just talks, it is not only about the Bible and so on. It takes the daily chores of the other person into consideration and to help them live the Bible. Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables because that is how they would be able to relate their lives with the works of our Lord. To convince someone a change of heart for the Lord is no easy task, it also requires a continuing prayer life, sensitive emotions, persistence and acceptance of failure.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Only with your guidance O Lord, bless us with a strong mental and physical health, so that we continue to share Jesus with the world, living the Bible.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for getting me through each day, rejoicing when it is good, and gracing me with persistence and hope when it is bad.

26 January, Thursday – More than Just You and Me

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

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2 Timothy 1:1-8

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

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Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing.

The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

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…fan into a flame the gift

Of those who do not understand Christians, some have the misconception that being a good follower of Christ is having that individual relationship with God. It is just yourself and Him. That it is just all about getting into that little comfortable quiet corner of reflection and leading a pious life, showing Him every day what you have done to make Him happy. That you have carried out actions that perhaps you feel would please God and thus He gives credit when it is due.

In actual fact, it is building that relationship with our neighbours that qualifies us in spreading the love of our Lord Jesus. We are all inter-connected through prayers. The faith of someone who prays for us and influences us in our spiritual guidance and journey gives us the immense grace which we are so privileged to receive. Likewise, we pray for others who are suffering and for those who are in need, it could be for the health of a loved one, or the comfort to those who are emotionally hurt for various reasons. To be called a follower of Christ, we are responsible for being that testament of how God has touched our life, and to build on our own little faith which He has ‘implanted’ in us. We, like Timothy, and Paul have been called to be holy in our actions and in the way we treat others.

It takes a lot of prayer and hard work, including the deep faith of our fellow Christians and the grace of our Lord to fill our lives. For we are the blessed ones who have, and will be given more.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for the many faithful who are around us. Watch over them and may you shower them with the blessings of peace in their hearts, especially in times of heartache.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the faith which you have planted in us. That it will grow and spread the Good News.