Monthly Archives: July 2017

1 Aug, Tuesday – Repent And Reconcile

Aug 1 – Memorial for St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop, religious founder, doctor

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. As a lawyer, he had his own practice by age 21, and was a leading lawyer in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first.

As he matured and learned more of the world, he liked it less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He was ordained at age 29. As preacher and home missioner around Naples, St. Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).

As bishop, St. Alphonsus worked to reform the clergy and revitalise the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. The royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 33:7-11, 34:5-9, 28

Moses used to take the Tent and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. He called it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who had to consult the Lord would go out to the Tent of Meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise. Every man would stand at the door of his tent and watch Moses until he reached the Tent; the pillar of cloud would come down and station itself at the entrance to the Tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When they saw the pillar of cloud stationed at the entrance to the Tent, all the people would rise and bow low, each at the door of his tent. The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would turn back to the camp, but the young man who was his servant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the Tent.

And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands he maintains his kindness, forgives faults, transgression, sin; yet he lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father’s fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the third and fourth generation.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, eating and drinking nothing. He inscribed on the tablets the words of the Covenant – the Ten Words.

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Matthew 13:36-43

Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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Forgive us our faults and our sins

It certainly has been a while since my last confession. I feel that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is undervalued and has never been emphasized enough in our faith journey. Perhaps it is just me not being disciplined in fulfilling the Sacrament, only to be reminded of it and going for penitential services a week before Good Friday and Christmas. However, this was not so when I was in primary and secondary school. I may not have gone for reconciliation every Sunday before mass, but I am rather certain that I might have gone at least five times a year.

Our God is one who is kind, compassionate and filled with tenderness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins, giving man the salvation as promised. How have we behaved then, in the manner of our faith? Have we been praying fervently? Do we spend quiet time with our Lord each day, giving thanks at the end of the day? Before we reach out to ask from the Father, do we first ask for mercy for the wrongs that we have committed? Are we the weed? Or the wheat? Our Father allows evil to dwell among the good until the day of judgment. This as I see it, is to allow our sinful hearts to be able to reconcile with Him before that very day, so we become wheat that angels gather for the Kingdom of Heaven.

As we journey through the week, and get into the grind of our work and activities, let us not forget our merciful Father who is always there for us to speak with. He is available to us all the time, and that we are wary of the faults that we make, asking for forgiveness so that we reflect the love of our Lord Jesus to those whom we encounter during the week.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Forgive me Lord for I have sinned. For your merciful heart protects and loves us just like a child, that our sins be forgiven, as we pray deeply, guiding us to be repentant.

Thanksgiving: We are so grateful for your big heart, for embracing us with so much love, O Jesus.

31 July, Monday – Mustard Seed Leader

Jul 31 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

St. Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation, the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery, he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim’s robes. He lived in a cave for a year, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.

– Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34

Moses made his way back down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, tablets inscribed on both sides, inscribed on the front and on the back. These tablets were the work of God, and the writing on them was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.

Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting. ‘There is the sound of battle in the camp’, he told Moses. Moses answered him:

‘No song of victory is this sound, no wailing for defeat this sound; it is the sound of chanting that I hear.’

As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the groups dancing, Moses’ anger blazed. He threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He seized the calf they had made and burned it, grinding it into powder which he scattered on the water; and he made the sons of Israel drink it. To Aaron Moses said, ‘What has this people done to you, for you to bring such a great sin on them?’ ‘Let not my lord’s anger blaze like this’ Aaron answered. ‘You know yourself how prone this people is to evil. They said to me, “Make us a god to go at our head; this Moses, the man who brought us up from Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So I said to them, “Who has gold?,” and they took it off and brought it to me. I threw it into the fire and out came this calf.’

On the following day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a grave sin. But now I shall go up to the Lord: perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ And Moses returned to the Lord. ‘I am grieved,’ he cried ‘this people has committed a grave sin, making themselves a god of gold. And yet, if it pleased you to forgive this sin of theirs…! But if not, then blot me out from the book that you have written.’ The Lord answered Moses, “It is the man who has sinned against me that I shall blot out from my book. Go now, lead the people to the place of which I told you. My angel shall go before you but, on the day of my visitation, I shall punish them for their sin.’

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Matthew 13:31-35

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

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Lead the people to the place

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. I got to know of this religious order a lot more when I studied in Australia. The student club had quite a few activities with the order. We invited priests for sessions, they celebrated masses for us and led us in some of the camps. The seminarians joined us and they saw us graduate from universities while we saw them get ordained. We shared our struggles and temptations with one another. We even came across friends who felt that priesthood was not for them after being in the order for two years. We even have friends who joined the order and are doing amazing work for the community. It is also through this order that I learnt the Ignatian way of reflection and silence. There was, in fact, a moment where if I were to consider a vocation, the Jesuits may not be for me because everyone I know who is in the order is extremely smart and academic. I certainly felt inadequate. But, whatever it is, becoming a priest is a calling from the Lord.

To be a leader of the people requires a lot of courage, and a whole lot of faith in the Almighty. Moses tried to be a leader and worked in the name of God, who had led the people out of Egypt and also constantly had to build trust with his people. When the Israelites carved out a golden calf, Moses got really disappointed and began to doubt his leadership. He looked unto the Lord again for strength, for the assurance to continue the journey and left the judgment to God the Father.

What do we do when we face disappointment these days? Do we give up or lift those difficulties to the Lord and trust to leave the impossible to Him? Never be afraid to cry out to our Father. He watches over us and constantly reminds us that patience will lead us to the situations that we deserve. Be prepared to lead, not as a leader of materialistic earthly pleasures, but one who leads by example in faith and performs the works of the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Let us keep in mind that we are just that little mustard seed that requires faithful nurturing, to grow into the biggest tree.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for leaders who care for our growth, leaders who are not manipulating us for their own advantage.

30 July, Sunday – Buy What Is Valuable

30 July 2017

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1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’

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Romans 8:28-30

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

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One of great value

A luxury branded handbag has great quality and is really expensive to buy. The material is of premium quality, the workmanship requires skilled labour and we all hope it almost lasts forever for the price that we pay. A similar bag, designed and made using machines, with rough stitches and perhaps made of inferior quality is sold at a much cheaper price, but it still doesn’t look too shabby when worn with the right dress. Which is of greater value to you?

In today’s first reading, Solomon is the rightful successor as King — he has the glories and luxuries of being king on an earthly kingdom. However, when he spoke to the Lord in his dream, and when offered the ‘premium’ opportunity to ask freely from the Lord, he humbled himself as a servant to the Lord. The humility to ask for discernment between good and evil so he will be a king that has values, and not to be one who chases the riches and victories of wars.

When we are able to open our hearts to be of one spirit with the Lord, we will begin to see the values in the kingdom of Heaven and will do anything to attain them. What I would like to share is that, we face very different situations in our lives, all kinds of struggles that could put our emotions and spirit down, but we also experience the joys and love of those around us. By being conscious of our Lord’s presence, we always seek for the Kingdom in our everyday lives, and in the Spirit, we are able to point out what is most valuable as we face our issues daily. Do we walk past it and wait for something easier to deal with? Or do we drop everything to achieve what matters most to us? What, and who, do we actually value?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Austin Leong)

Prayer: O loving Lord, open our hearts, humble our minds, so that we pray and ask for valuable gifts that make you proud, so that we are able to discern between good and evil.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Almighty Father, for all the wisdom that you have graced us with. We will continue to use our wisdom to better the lives of those unfortunate ones.

29 July, Saturday – Worry Some

Jul 29 – Memorial for St. Martha

Jesus liked to stay at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany, when he was in Judaea. One of these visits has ever remained dear to Christian memory. On that occasion, Martha, busily serving the Master, asked Him to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained to her that certain souls, called by God, should choose a better part still — the primary duty of listening to Him and contemplating Him.

After His Ascension, she was seized by the Jews, together with many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles. Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew with several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence.

http://www.catholicculture.org/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2006-07-29

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Exodus 24:3-8

Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’ Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he directed certain young Israelites to offer holocausts and to immolate bullocks to the Lord as communion sacrifices. Half of the blood Moses took up and put into basins, the other half he cast on the altar. And taking the Book of the Covenant he read it to the listening people, and they said, ‘We will observe all that the Lord has decreed; we will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’

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Luke 10:38-42

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

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You worry and fret about so many things

As individuals, we think a lot. A father can be preoccupied about how to provide for the family. A mother may have a very long ‘to do’ list for the house — assist husband, take care of the children, take care of the house, feed the pets, go to the store — the list never ends. A student can be very busy and stressed about schoolwork. A worker can be very busy thinking about his/her job, the deadline, the boss, colleagues, and many more.

It is who we are; we are thinking creatures. We think ahead about what we will do next even though we are still yet to complete our current task. It is as if we want to exhaust ourselves and use up all the energy we have. And there are some who will not stop working unless they are totally drained and pass out.

I am somewhat guilty of that. I continue to be a workaholic even I feel really sick. I abuse my body for the sake of accomplishing my work. Most of the time, we want to imitate Martha. We want to do everything and we criticize those who are not as engaged as us. We just have to be moving all the time so that we can accomplish everything.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. And Mary was the one who accommodated and entertained Jesus. As I reflect on it more, if I were to visit someone, it is because I want to be with them, talk to them, and have a fruitful conversation. If we have something to eat, then it is just an accessory. Mary was the one who addressed the more important thing by greeting Jesus. It showed that for Mary, there was no greater thing than to be with Jesus.

The Gospel is telling us that in life, it is proper to work hard so as not to be hungry. But working hard 100% of the time is not healthy. We should set aside time to relax and replenish our energy. Faith and hard work come hand in hand. Our God is a merciful God and He has given us this gift of life. Let us learn to work hard and pray harder.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the ability to choose You above all. May we live our lives in accordance with your will. May we work hard like Martha and have a strong faith like Mary.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for your grace of mercy. We thank you Father God, for our source of income and for this faith.

28 July, Friday – The Soil

28 Jul

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Exodus 20:1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

‘You shall not kill.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

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Matthew 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

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And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it

Gardening is one of my favourite hobbies. I like to plant anything and usually embark on a trial-and-error process to see which plants I can grow in my home. Some are able to grow successfully, while some did not make it along the way. And others made no progress at all.

Today’s Gospel is about the parable of sower. The word of the kingdom is compared to the seed when planted in different kinds of soil. The soil is us. If we are like the edge of a path, we only hear the Word but we cannot understand it. Thus, we are more susceptible to the forces of evil. If we are like patches of rock, we enjoy hearing the Word. But that joy is only shortlived and will not last long; and we succumb easily to any hardship that we eventually encounter. If we are like the thorns, we hear the Word but we have so much earthly baggage that hinders our faith to grow. However, if we are like the rich soil, that is when we understand what we hear and we live our faith and continuously develop it.

The Gospel is telling us that everyone has the opportunity to hear the Word of God. However, living what we hear depends on how rooted our faith is. Sometimes, we may seem to understand what we hear. But there will also be times that we cannot comprehend anything, no matter how easy it may appear. Living our faith is not easy. There have been moments in my life when I thought I had strong faith, and yet I felt that I was encountering more opportunities to sin. For example, when I have the urge to pray and to live out my faith, strong challenges inevitably come my way. The desire to be closer to God gives me this feeling that I am moving away from Him.

To be like rich soil requires hard work and a strong prayer life. It is very challenging and tempting to give in. But our unceasing prayers keep us strong in our faith; and our strong faith is an important tool to cultivate ourselves into becoming rich soil.

How do we live our faith? Are we like the edge of the path? Are we like patches of rock? Are we like thorns? Or do we strive to be like rich soil?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Dearest Lord, we are terribly sorry for all the wrongs that we have done. We pray that we are like rich soil, who hears your word, understands it, and lives it.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Father for loving us. We thank you for always giving us the chance to become better Christians.

27 July, Thursday – Tools in Life

27 Jul

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Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20

Three months after they came out of the land of Egypt, on that day the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sinai. From Rephidim they set out again; and when they reached the wilderness of Sinai, there in the wilderness they pitched their camp; there facing the mountain Israel pitched camp.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am coming to you in a dense cloud so that the people may hear when I speak to you and may trust you always.’ And Moses took the people’s reply back to the Lord.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow. Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.’

Now at daybreak on the third day there were peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the people trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace the smoke went up, and the whole mountain shook violently. Louder and louder grew the sound of the trumpet. Moses spoke, and God answered him with peals of thunder. The Lord came down on the mountain of Sinai, on the mountain top, and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain; and Moses went up.

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Matthew 13:10-17

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

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

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

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The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you…

During my Literature class, we defined parables as stories that have moral lessons. Many of these are taken from the Bible. The characters in the story assist in depicting its moral content.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus why He talked in parables. Jesus explained that there are people who cannot understand even if they listen repeatedly. There are people who cannot perceive even though they see the things repeatedly. It is through the parables that these people were able to understand and perceive. Because of this, the disciples should be glad that they were able to understand even without using parables.

Humans are naturally not contented with what they have. We look for something we do not have without savouring what is before us. We sometimes neglect to see things that are more important. We always ask for more without realizing that what we have is already enough. And this desire for more makes us deaf to what we should hear, blind to what we should see, and numb to what we should feel.

Earthly treasures are our tools for us to live comfortably. However, those are just tools and must not be the main priority in our life. When we earn more, do we share more? Or do we keep more of it and share less? Having many resources does not mean that we have to give everything out. Let’s take a look at ourselves — are we more generous when we have more? Or is it the other way round? This simple use of our wealth contributes to our way of seeing, hearing, and feeling things. Does it make us more empathic to other people’s needs? Or does it make us care less for others?

The Gospel teaches us that if our riches are put into good use, then our blessings will be more. But if these riches stagnate, then they will be taken from us. Having material possessions is not necessarily bad. But if these things make us move away from Christ’s teachings, then these treasures a become hindrance for us to see, hear, and feel God in our lives.

If we truly heard, understood, and felt the word of God, these riches would be very useful as we strive towards the kingdom of heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Father God, please open our ears to hear your words. May You open our eyes to see what You want us to see. And may we also desire the things that you desire for us.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Lord, for all the graces that we receive. Thank you for giving us more than enough to live this life. Thank you for our community who helps us to grow in our faith.

26 July, Wednesday – Navigation Aids

Jul 26 – Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

By tradition, Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=22

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Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15

From Elim they set out, and the whole community of the sons of Israel reached the wilderness of Sin – between Elim and Sinai – on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt. And the whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have brought in, this will be twice as much as the daily gathering.’

Moses said to Aaron, ‘To the whole community of the sons of Israel say this, “Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaints.”’ As Aaron was speaking to the whole community of the sons of Israel, they turned towards the wilderness, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the form of a cloud. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, “Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.”’ And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was. ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’

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Matthew 13:1-9

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

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

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“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

I was privileged to have had a discussion with an atheist about the need for Jesus and religion in our lives.

Among the breadth of opinions shared, one statement gave me particular cause for reflection. He believed in the power of human rationality to craft a convincing, positive narrative for the events that have taken place in our lives. Since Christian life does not immunize us from suffering, he opined that with the right conditioning, anyone could make sense of life’s tumults and could invariably view those seeming coincidences through a generous lens.

If our survival instinct is hard-coded into our DNA, then surely we would overcome the bad, cherish the good, and plod through the rest of life’s banalities with the single-mindedness of a marathon runner heading towards the finish line. Probability and science would be the definite panaceas for dealing with uncertainty and the unknown.

I struggled with my feelings towards this point-of-view. I started off feeling jealous of people who are able to cope with life’s difficulties independently. They seemed strong and resolute; people made of sterner stuff than I was. I then was filled with anger as I thought about the path God had led me on thus far. Why did He allow me to make innumerable poor decisions? Why has there been so much pain?

However, upon deeper reflection on my way home, the malaise faded and gratitude filled my heart. In my times of weakness and failure, God cradled me and walked with me on my journey. By crying out to God and having him as my only crutch, our relationship grew. He has filled me with a deep-seated peace that can only be attained through communion with Him. God isn’t a fad that I will outgrow. He does not have an expiration date or faces obsolescence from a newer model.

I never did ask my friend if he was truly happy. Or if he would entertain the possibility of an infinite being that transcends our human understanding of joy, love, and providence. But it doesn’t really matter for now, because Jesus loves and cares for him too, even though my friend cannot see His footprints.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer — Dear Lord, grant us the humility to always look to you as our North Star.

Thanksgiving — We thank you Father for our moments of weakness. In those moments, you show us your unyielding strength.

25 July, Tuesday – Counter Cultural

Jul 25 – Feast of St. James, Apostle

St. James (died 44) was the first Apostle to be martyred. He preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish.

Like all men of renown, many stories grew up around St. James. In one, he brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy’s father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 20:20-28

The mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;”

Christ is our head and we are the body. Where the head goes, the body follows, naturally. “My chalice you shall indeed drink”(Mt 20:23).

What if we were soldiers under Napoleon Bonaparte or any of those supposedly great military leaders? Sure, their methods are still being studied now, but their legacy or empire didn’t last very long after they lost power. In fact, all these powerful rulers, including the likes of Nero, Caesar & Hitler all lost power.

Christ never ‘lost’. He said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). Christ laid down His life out of His own will as he said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” So here we are, in 2017 still being sustained and protected by the head, who, laid down his life of his own accord. In every other strategy, this makes no sense. In Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’, Satan is depicted as being shocked that he didn’t win.

As followers of Christ, I often liken our journey to that of the salmon, going against the current to lay her eggs, going upstream, struggling, and those that don’t make it, don’t have offspring, they aren’t fruitful. We are called to be exactly as Christ was — counter cultural — to give of ourselves instead of preserving ourselves; to be a servant instead of desiring to be served. We stand as the last institution to not waiver on the dignity of life, on our stance against abortion; absolutely, counter cultural.

A friend recently told me she lost some good friends due to her church commitments and beliefs. I thought to myself, so have I. Of the chalice of the Lord I too desire to drink. But rejoice, I shall, for my reward will be great in heaven. It fills me with great comfort knowing that there are many of us out there who stand against the culture of death and hold firm to the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer — Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12) Jesus, I trust in you and I know you will give me strength and courage to persevere in your name. May I always stand for truth; for love of neighbour & for justice.

Thanksgiving — Thank you Lord, for promising that the gates of the underworld will never prevail. I hold on to that promise and will sing of your great love forever.

24 July, Monday – The Sign

24 Jul – Memorial for St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest

St. Charbel was a Lebanese monk, born in a small mountain village and ordained in 1858. Devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he spent the last twenty three years of his life as a hermit. Despite temptations to wealth and comfort, St. Charbel taught the value of poverty, self-sacrifice and prayer by the way he lived his life.

http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/082002.shtml

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Exodus 14:5-18

When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariot harnessed and gathered his troops about him, taking six hundred of the best chariots and all the other chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team. The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape. So the Egyptians gave chase and came up with them where they lay encamped beside the sea – all the horses, the chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen, his army – near Pi-hahiroth, facing Baal-zephon. And as Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked round – and there were the Egyptians in pursuit of them!

The sons of Israel were terrified and cried out to the Lord. To Moses they said, ‘Were there no graves in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness? What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!’

Moses answered the people, ‘Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.’

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’

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Matthew 12:38-42

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

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We would like to see a sign

We use signs and symbols everyday. In traffic, we stop when it is red. We move on when it is green. We follow the signs or else there will be traffic accidents. We also sometimes rely our luck based on various signs. I remember back when I was in grade school, I enjoyed reading about my future, about my lucky number, and lucky colour for the day. And I saw to it that I had with me any accessory that had that particular ‘lucky’ colour.

It says in our Gospel today that Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that those who ask for a sign are evil and unfaithful. He said that the only sign will be from the prophet Jonah. Wherein, Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, the same with the Son of Man, in the heart of the earth, for three days and three nights.

There are times as we pray, we like to ask God for signs to find out if our prayers have been answered. It seems as if we want some security to know if God really hears us. God is God. Yet, we act like we are mightier than Him. We demand too much; but we are only His children, His followers. We want to have tangible things to hold on to believe in God.

We sometimes get mad at God when we perceive that He does not answer. There must be an answer, but we just do not have the heart to discern it. Or maybe our prayers have been only a one-way communication. It should not be the case. Prayer is our communication with God. It should be two-way. Yes, we want a lot from God. However, we should also have time to pray and listen to what God is telling us. We are so pre-occupied and in a hurry to lift up all our material wants that we neglect to pray and discern God’s plan for us.

A sign is indeed important. But our faith should not be based on what we can sense. It is the state of our heart where we believe that God is with us and answers our prayers, even when we cannot perceive that He does.

Let us keep our faith strong. God does answer our prayers. I believe that God gives us signs and symbols. Sometimes, these are different from what we expect; or there are times when the signs are already evident, it is just we still do not have the grace to realise it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer – Father God, grant that we may always have unwavering faith in You. May we always believe even in times when we feel like giving up.

Thanksgiving – We thank you Lord, for the gift of faith. We thank you for your mercy and continued blessings despite of our unworthiness.

22 July, Saturday – Seeking God Passionately

Jul 22 – Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene

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

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

Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife nor mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.

http://www.carr.org/~meripper/saints/saints-m.htm

– Patron Saint Index

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Song of Songs 3:1-4

All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.

 I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.

The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”

Scarcely had I passed them
when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
to the room of the one who conceived me.

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John 20:1-2, 11-18

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

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

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“Who are you looking for?”

The first reading of today from the Song of Songs speaks of the longing of a bride for her beloved; she seeks him and looks for him all over the city. She asks the watchmen if they have seen him on their rounds, to no avail.

A few years ago, my wife went on a work assignment to New York for a few months. Because of the time difference, we could only speak twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. In spite of the daily conversations, I found myself longing for her return. Having been married for about 16 years then, I found myself missing her dearly. While we do not spend our time together talking all the time, I find comfort and strength being with her.

Similarly, Jesus’ disciples (the women too) felt a loss after His death. While Jesus had just died on the cross, the disciples and the women were distraught when they could not find His body. One could sense their desperation in the Gospel passage of today, and their joy when Mary of Magdala recognised Jesus.

For many years since I had been baptised as a teen, I felt that God was somewhat detached. I had prayed on a more-or-less regular basis, as was taught to me, but I was not sure that my prayers and conversations with God were even heard.

Since then, I have had numerous experiences of God, but it was during the Conversion Experience Retreat that came to the biggest realisation of how God loved me. Over the week at the retreat, I felt the love of God for the first time, and, just like my relationship with my wife, I experienced a longing for His presence in my life.

As we travel along our faith journey, it is important that we develop a strong desire for Jesus, like the bride for her groom and like the disciples for their Teacher. Without this, our faith can only be lukewarm. Let us pray for, and desire for, red-hot faith!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, let us desire to know You more and more each day. Help us always to seek You in our lives.

Thanksgiving Jesus Lord, thank You for teaching us what is truly important; to love You more each day. Thank You for being there no matter what the circumstances in our lives.