Monthly Archives: October 2017

1 November, Wednesday – Choice

Nov 1 – 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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And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

When reflecting upon today’s readings, one thing immediately comes to mind, especially when thinking of All Saints. Are we included? Those of us still trying, still struggling, still (hopefully) fighting.

Church militants! That’s what we are supposed to be. Then I think of famous depictions of the supper of the lamb, and it always shows an opening in the ground where there is fire, but it isn’t hell; it represents our brothers and sisters in purgatory. And above or around the altar, these paintings usually show many figures in white robes and angels.

So this is our church, not just the canonised saints but those journeying to heaven, and us. Church Militant, Church Triumphant and Church Suffering. But how do we get from here, to suffering, then to triumphant. I feel like the last line of the first and second readings gives us the decision to make and the Gospel tells us how. The end of the first and second reading says: “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” — Rv 7:14 & “And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” — 1 Jn 3:3

In particular, St John says, “THEY have washed their robes” and “purify THEMSELVES”. Therefore the ball is in our court. If we choose to wash our robes or purify ourselves, then we must live out the Gospel; in particular, the Beatitudes as spelt out in the Gospels, is something we also have a choice in.

It is an oft-repeated cliche in our faith, “God is a gentleman”, he won’t force us to love him. Therein lies our choice, our ability to choose. If we choose the path of Lucifer, follow him we shall; if we choose the path of Christ, then unless we are extremely Holy, we shall enter into the Church Suffering (purgatory) phase, and then to the Church Triumphant for all eternity and, if those depictions of the heavenly banquet are remotely accurate, I can’t wait. I love to recall how St Thomas Aquinas was given a glimpse of Heaven and stopped writing, as good as he was, for, as he said, “all I have written is nothing”. Nothing compared to the beauty he witnessed. Here’s to sainthood!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Pray for us all you Holy men and women of God, they we may persevere in this race to make it to the gates of the kingdom, where we may live forever and ever.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the great cloud of witnesses to show us that holiness is possible.

31 October, Tuesday – Perseverance

31 October 2017

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Romans 8:18-25

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience.

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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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“In hope, we already have salvation; in hope, not visibly present, … But having this hope for what we cannot yet see, we are able to wait for it with persevering confidence.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of Jesus using the parable of the mustard seed and of the yeast. One common thing about the parables is that it involves a waiting before fruition. How something so small and simple becomes so essential in our lives.

I’m reminded of this quote by Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

All the small things we do are indeed very important, in order that the bigger things may happen. And when we realise that, we are able to also appreciate the many small things that others are doing for us, to also see how God is journeying with us every day as opposed to waiting for that big miracle to come. To know that we are making a difference with that one small act of kindness, a small act of love.

Other quotes I’m reminded of are, “You think you are just a drop in the ocean but look at the ripple effect one drop can make”, or “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far reaching effects.”

For myself, it is indeed a challenge to persevere, especially when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. What is the final outcome? Is everything I am doing worth it? What if I’m heading in the wrong direction? So many uncertainties and obstacles that weigh on my shoulders. What more our faith where it’s mostly a mystery, which is why we call it faith — because we need faith.

God, however, assures us in the first reading, that we need to continue to cling on to this faith, this hope for salvation has already been won for us. Our lives aren’t about what happens on earth, but how we are preparing ourselves for the eternal, for eternity. A God who gave His life to us and who still loves us despite our rejection, brokenness and unworthiness; who, time and time again, waits for us to return; who gives us all our share of His property to squander yet rushes out to embrace us, to seek us when we are lost. Who loves us unconditionally.

For those who have not encountered Him, what I’ve just written is probably just words. I ask that you continue to give Him a chance, to allow Him to touch you, to desire His love. To persevere, to hope. It’s the very reason I’m alive and it’s the reason I live and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us strength as we continue to persevere when it seems like the world is against us. That when we feel furthest from you, that’s when we have the strength to run back rather than to let you go.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there, for giving us chance after chance. Thank you Lord, for desiring us and loving us unconditionally.

30 October, Monday – Giving Life

30 October 2017

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Romans 8:12-17

My brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.

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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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“The Spirit Himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God. … provided that we share his suffering, so as to share in his glory”

Building from the Gospel reading yesterday, today we read in the Gospel how Jesus was again put to the ‘test’ of healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath.

I think that many times in our lives, we are so caught up with what we need to do, what we need to plan for — the future, all the possible uncertainties and the need to have a solution/answer for everything — that we overlook why we do it in the first place. Example, could we remember clearly, when was the first time we fell in love with God, that we experienced Him tangibly? How then did respond to Him? Why are we not responding now?

For most of us, even myself, we have experienced many instances where we are simply caught up in a routine. So much so that we lose the passion we once had, the love of Christ that we once had, all being reduced to simply following instructions/rules and keeping to a structure or routine of work. We fail to serve with love. We fail to respond with love. We don’t feel loved or, quite simply, we haven’t opened up our hearts to receive His love.

What Christ is trying to tell us today is not that the commandments/observances of our faith is secondary to love, but rather, they both go hand in hand. In love, we should be able to carry out all those ‘requirements’ or ‘expectations’, which should eventually help us to love better. These too can help us to live our own lives to the fullest and in that, we realise we can also give life to others. While it may be a reverse for some, where in giving life to others, we find that we too are able to live ours to the fullest.

For Christ, it was not just about keeping to the observances of our faith, but really understanding our faith and who God is and who we are all created to be.

Maybe, instead of continuing to struggle with sin, we can also understand our sins and why we fall. Hence, it may be more possible to overcome them when temptations arise again in the future. Let it not be because it is what God says, but may it be because we have chosen to love the people around us, that we have chosen to love God and that we realise how sin prevents us from living our lives to the fullest.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we see our faith as more than a subject or a course but our very nature, your very nature. For our faith not to be reduced to a burden or load, but a blessing, and one that can allow us to live our lives to the full. We pray for perseverance, courage to overcome sin and to love all. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your spirit, our constant empowerment, hope and refuge. Thank you for accepting us and loving us as we are. Thank you for your wisdom and grace.

29 October, Sunday – The Greatest Commandment

29 October 2017

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Exodus 22:20-26

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the sons of Israel this:

‘“You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.

‘“If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.

‘“If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”’

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1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As with the Gospel from the previous week, we read again how Jesus was once again being put to the test. We see how there’s a special connotation when we use the word ‘test’. Sometimes, we simply just want to push our boundaries and make life difficult for others even when the result or outcome may not even be applicable or affect us. Sometimes, we just want to prove people wrong and try to make our lives/rules or, in this context, the commandments, easier to follow.

Sometimes we even make ‘bets’ with God, “If you help me to get through this, I will do something for you”, or “If I’m able to witness a miracle, I’ll convert”, or “If you are real God, ….” and much more.

For me, how I ‘test’ God is, even though I am aware of the sin I’ll be committing, I still choose to willingly commit it, thinking that God will still forgive me after I’ve gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But at the end of the day, Jesus makes it clear that it isn’t about keeping every one of the commandments. For even more than that, for the commandments to be kept, we must first “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself”. We see how, in the New Testament, Jesus helps us to summarise the 10 Commandments into these two simple commandments. The key word being LOVE.

Why is there so much emphasis then on LOVE? To do things with great love, to love our enemies, to look out for the last, the lost and the least. And I guess, deep down, it is because we all want and desire to be loved, not for what we can offer or how we look, but because of who we are.

Should this be what we desire, then this is what we should also give/share with all. God has given us His greatest love in the form of Jesus — where He gave Himself to us, in order that we may all be saved. And in that LOVE, FREEDOM as well, to sometimes choose to go against Him.

We give because we have already been given, we love because we are first loved by Him. Let us treasure this FREEDOM that we are given, not to ‘test’ God, but to allow His face and His glory to shine through all of us, onto everyone around us as we too make a gift of ourselves, so that all may experience His love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the grace to love. To love without condition. To love as you love. To do your will and build your kingdom here on earth, in our homes and in our hearts. Let all that we do be done in love, with love, to love and for love. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love. For giving us this freedom. For being patient and understanding in our journey towards holiness. Thank you for the many graces and blessings that you have already bestowed upon us.

28 October, Saturday – Me too

Oct 28 – 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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When day came, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose Twelve, whom He also named Apostles.

Today’s Gospel reading talks about Jesus choosing his apostles. The Twelve would function as his champions, his supporters and believers, who would uphold his teachings and ways. Yes, they are helpers in a way, but the definition of ‘apostle’ does not mention ‘help’ anywhere. The Apostles were Jesus’ support system.

Very recently, a whole host of actresses, interns, models and former employees of Harvey Weinstein stepped out to speak of their personal experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr. Weinstein himself. In what I am sure has been a PR nightmare, the Weinstein company sacked Mr. Weinstein. But the nightmare isn’t just confined to the company. In fact, the company will probably be acquired, undergo a name change, have a reshuffle in the board and with some luck, it will continue to exist as though all of this never happened. As for the women… the nightmare has only just begun, or will worsen, and they will live in constant fear of always being judged, gossiped, and scrutinised.

My heart breaks to read of reports of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed and, in what clearly would be a case where they are the victims, the fingers are now pointed at them, the spotlight shining brightly on their ‘so-called’ values, casting shadows on their integrity. And this goes beyond just sexual harassment. This goes beyond gender. Anyone who has ever felt marginalised, bullied, taken advantage of, anyone who has felt depressed, or suicidal – this is for you too.

Why are we, as victims, so afraid to speak up and speak out? I’ll tell you why. Because we are afraid. Afraid that no one will believe us. Afraid that people will look at us and say “we had it coming” or that we’re “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Afraid that people will scrutinise our character and think so much less of us. We are already thinking less of ourselves, undignified and blemished. We have been made to believe, by our self-talk and by others’ talk, that we are somehow crazy, ugly, weak, worthless or ‘damaged goods’. And so we retreat. We build a wall of silence around ourselves, scared to speak, hoping that if we can keep the judgments from coming in, we can keep the problem out.

The Weinstein scandal however, has started a movement on media, a “Me too” movement. Women from everywhere are coming out to speak up about their own experiences. Women are now speaking up to show solidarity — that we aren’t alone, that we don’t have to build walls around us, and we don’t have to be ashamed for we have not done anything wrong. We may be victims, but we don’t have to feel victimised because we are strong. We are not crazy or worthless; we are strong and unique, and we should live our uniqueness. Sometimes though, we have retreated so far into ourselves that we need help to get back out, but we just don’t know how.

We’re not alone. We have to acknowledge that we need help, and we need a support system. We need to be around people who will cheer us on and raise us up. People who will believe in us all the way. And instead of building a wall, we will build a network of supporters who will look out for us, even in the darkest days.

The first reading today says that we are “no longer strangers or sojourners”. We are in this together! More importantly is that with Jesus as our capstone, “the whole structure is held together”. Jesus will send us the help that we need, He is in this together with us too. And He knows the turmoil in our hearts. He will never let our spirit fail, and never let us fall. He will provide us with the support system that we need, and He will be a part of it.

Jesus too needed his own support system. Knowing what he would face, it was imperative that he had his own squad of believers. He turned to God, and prayed the night to Him, and in the morning, he came down the mountain and picked out the Twelve out of all his disciples.

Let us trust God to help us find our support system, by lifting our petition to God. Let us acknowledge that no trial, no matter how big or small it may be, needs to be faced alone. We’re not crazy or weak, we are God’s children, and He will never let us fall.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in our times of trials where it is hard to even believe ourselves, surround us with people who will love and support us. Help us to believe in ourselves, and keep us secure in the knowledge that Your protective arms are all we need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for our strength, for our families, loved ones and friends, who love us unconditionally, who are here to help us fight another day.

27 October, Friday – Check and balance

27 October 2017

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Romans 7:18-25

I know of nothing good living in me – living, that is, in my unspiritual self – for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want. When I act against my will, then, it is not my true self doing it, but sin which lives in me.

In fact, this seems to be the rule, that every single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand. In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Luke 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does. And when the wind is from the south you say it will be hot, and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?

‘Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.’

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Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord

I read today’s reading with a little wariness on how I should approach this. From the outset, today’s first reading deals with the constant struggle that man has between doing what is right by God, and yielding to sin — “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”.

Sin dwells in us, whether we know it or not. It is a question of how prevalent it is in our lives, how ‘free’ we let it be. When our eyes are opened to it, we may then question it and bit by bit, refrain from doing it in an effort to be a better person. But, as with any effort to kick a habit, it is not easy. Depending on how long we have let this sin rule our lives, such an effort could be Herculean, requiring mental discipline, unwavering commitment and time. So many things call out to distract us — procrastination, temptation from the very thing we are trying to avoid, trying to please other people. The struggle to stick with our intention is an internal one, and it is so easy to succumb. And when we do, we feel so frustrated and disappointed with ourselves, we feel miserable!

The reading today shows us that our ancestors suffered from the same issues as us thousands of years ago, so this is not new! Take comfort that we are not alone! How then, can we overcome our own weakness? “Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” The answer is in Christ Jesus. He will give us strength in our weakness, and enough grace to ride out the tough times, He will deliver us if we lift our problems to Him.

Yet this doesn’t mean that it won’t come back to tempt us again. We have Jesus who will protect us, only if we let Him, but we have to rely wholly upon Him. At any time when we falter, the probability of us falling back into sin is very great. On the flip side however, if there was no sin, then we would not have to rely on God for anything, thinking that we are invincible. Is this a controversial idea? I think not. I’ve always wondered why the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil even existed in the Garden of Eden in the first place. God has given us guidelines to live by, but I don’t think He wants to be a dictator of our lives. He has entrusted us our lives to live it as we see fit, trusting that we will make the right choices based on these guidelines. He has not bound our hands and feet, forcing us down a certain path. In fact, He lets us make our mistakes that we may hopefully learn from them. Sin exists as a check and balance for our lives. We make mistakes when we sin, we stray from the path. It is in these depths when we are scraping the barrel of desperation that we encounter the extent of God’s mercy. We discover the richness of God’s grace and the abundance of His unending love for us. When we find our way back to God, He is there celebrating our return like the Prodigal Son!

Our struggle with sin will be constant in our lives. But we have a powerful weapon and that is prayer. Let us pray to Christ Jesus to deliver us from our sins, to lead fulfilling lives, and to make the right choices.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us find the strength for our daily struggle with sin. Deliver us from evil always, and grant us peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there to welcome us home no matter how far we have strayed, and how long and wrong we have gone. Help us to right our lives, and live in God’s ways forever.

26 October, Thursday – On Fire

26 October 2017

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Romans 6:19-23

If I may use human terms to help your natural weakness: as once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you felt no obligation to righteousness, and what did you get from this? Nothing but experiences that now make you blush, since that sort of behaviour ends in death. Now, however, you have been set free from sin, you have been made slaves of God, and you get a reward leading to your sanctification and ending in eternal life. For the wage paid by sin is death; the present given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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I have come to set the earth on fire

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about my purpose in life. I have thought about it before, as a restless 20-something, fresh out of university, wondering what I should do in a world full of possibilities. Almost two decades later, I am still restless, still asking the same question. But while the restless me in my 20s was a more ‘youthful’, go-getter type that couldn’t wait to get started, the restlessness now in my late 30s is more urgent, more pressing.

Perhaps it is the idea of mortality – that we have a finite life here on earth – and to borrow the words of motivational writer Brendon Burchard, at the end of the day, a lot of us ask ourselves “Did we live? Did we love? Did we matter?” Are we all waiting for the ‘ah-hah’ moment, or a near-death experience to jolt us from our stupor before we begin to truly live? Our daily grind and stresses have caused us to live day by day, from one moment to another, not quite really experiencing life and not quite savouring nor appreciating the moment. Tired and depleted, most of us escape into the virtual world of social media and online games and movies, thinking that we need to give our brains a break, but even as we swipe through other peoples’ lives on Facebook and Instagram, the tragedy is that our own lives are passing us by, unfulfilled… unlived.

Life is the most precious gift of all that God has bestowed upon us. And on top of that, we each have been given a talent. It may not be much of a talent to you, but put to use, it can do amazing things. We can make a difference in someone’s lives just by being present. We can help others, starting with something small — a kind word, a greeting, a smile. The silence of a soul that has ceased to live and believe is the saddest sound of all. A smile or kind gesture is like a small spark that, given enough, would soon transform into a raging fire that will burn through our whole being and, as aptly put in today’s first reading, sanctify our souls to be given to God.

We have one life here on earth and we are accountable to this life. God has entrusted us with this life, and given us the creative license to live it as we see fit, only that we account for it at the end of our days. How then do we want to live this life? Believe me when I say that if you make a difference in someone else’s lives, you also make a difference in yours. It won’t matter what station we are at in life – bus driver, waitress, CEO – but making a difference will make us more fulfilled than we have ever been. If we do more of this, we will spread that feeling to others. If we do more of this, we will heal our own souls. We will live with a higher purpose in mind.

How then again, do you want to live your life today?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: God Almighty, as we live our lives each day, help us to live it with purpose and passion, to help others, even as we help ourselves. Help us to be the spark that will start Your raging fire here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for the gift of life, for our second chances, for the kindness that we receive from others. We thank you for giving us the ability to lead a full life, and we pray for Your help and guidance to live it fully.

25 October, Wednesday – Readiness

25 October 2017

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Romans 6:12-18

You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.

Does the fact that we are living by grace and not by law mean that we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

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Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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…when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.

I have been struggling of late, with a ‘second in command’ who has not had the benefit of ever being guided in his career/job. As such, he has not learnt how to lead a small team of communications professionals, nor ever budgetted for a small unit, let alone how to ‘let go’ and delegate work to others.

As such, his small team have been struggling to produce work that I deem acceptable because everything has to go through his approval first. Inevitably, because of a lack of in-depth knowledge on his part, and the inability to spot errors, the drafts end up being sent back by me for repeated improvements and clean ups. It got to a point where I started dealing with each of his team, just to determine each one’s strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, after 2 to 3 weeks, I discovered that the weak link was in fact their direct report. Because on their own, the three actually could produce good work.

I have always told them that the true worth of a good team is that they produce in spite of having the odds stacked against them. And that they stand on their own two feet because of the work they produce, not because of who their boss is. So that no matter what happens, they will always be regarded well on their own merits. To get to that level, we must always be prepared and always ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of knowledge and readiness. We must never just accept the easy victories, the ‘low-hanging fruit’. Because that does not build character. It actually encourages complacency.

Brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us yet again to stand watch and be ready. Because the minute God calls us, we must be equipped to spring into action. For He has entrusted each of us with a mission here on earth. Whether as a religious, a lay person, a parent, godparent, brother, sister, cousin, confidant, spouse, teacher, counsellor…the list goes on. Each of us has been given life by God in order to help Him fulfil His plan for humankind. Yes, all of us have a purpose here on earth. And whatever that purpose is, God will take us on a journey that will eventually end.

The question is, once that journey ends, whose lives will we have made a difference to? Can we truly say that we have impacted on someone else’s life and, in so doing, given that person hope? How ready are we to stand up and be counted when the time comes?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray that you always give us the prompting to remain steadfast and ready to serve at a moment’s notice.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being our Truth and our Way.

24 October, Tuesday – Living God’s Call

Oct 24 – 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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Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned; but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. When law came, it was to multiply the opportunities of failing, but however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater; and so, just as sin reigned wherever there was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

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…grace will reign to bring eternal life

Just as Adam brought sin into the world and hence, as humans, we bear in us ‘original sin’ – which is the sin of origin – Jesus came to give us life eternal. He is the second Adam. Who then is the second Eve? For without Eve in the Old Testament, Adam would not have taken a bite from the forbidden fruit.

Mary, having conceived Jesus in her womb, is the second Eve. But unlike Eve, Mary stands firmly with God and conquers the serpent (the Devil) and remains humble and steadfast, in spite of the many trials that come her way. And in giving birth to Jesus, she gives birth to the church. We were recently asked to ponder the question of Jesus’ formation before he began his public ministry. Everyone is aware of how Christ spent 3 years preaching and healing; but what of his first thirty years here on earth? Who took on the responsibility of teaching him, forming him and imparting values to him? It was his earthly parents – Mary and Joseph.

In Mother Mary, we have a living example of how God’s graces can flow through someone who is willing to give up his or her life in faith, truly dedicated to God’s mission. And in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay awake because we never know when God will call us. So how are we to ensure that we will always be ready? Simply by living the life that God has called us to live. Because by living the life God called Mary to live, she helped to mould and prepare Jesus for his ministry on earth. So, just as God called Mary, He too calls us each and every day so that we can slowly shape and mould ourselves more and more to live Christ-centred lives. Thanks to Mary and Jesus, we now have the Sacraments as well as the rosary to help us get through each day as we struggle.

The recent visit of the statue of Fatima to Singapore opened the door for me to better appreciate Mother Mary’s role in our church and also to listen to the preaching of Fr Francis Tiquia, a truly anointed son of God. He exhorted that as Catholics, we needed to practice CARE in our lives. To go for weekly Confession, daily Adoration, say the Rosary (4 to 5 times a day) and to go for daily Eucharist.

Brothers and sisters, we have been saved by Mary and Jesus through their sacrifices in humble obedience to God the Father. Let us honour them by living a life of sacrifice and humility so that others may see through us the living example of what it means to be a child of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of humility as you call us to mission.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord for your patience and everlasting love.

23 October, Monday – The Material Is Immaterial

Oct 23 – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 4:20-25

Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’ Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.

Greed can certainly become an all-consuming ‘passion’ and drive someone to do things that totally do not make any sense from a rational point of view. In fact, I know of many instances where families have been torn apart because of greed and, in some cases, over rather insignificant sums of money.

Fortunately, I have never been in any position to share any wealth I have accumulated over the years as I used to be quite bad at managing my own finances. I had the tendency of spending well outside of my means in my 20s and 30s, even going into quite significant credit card debt. But, having seen the error of my ways, I have also recently discovered the joy of decluttering – getting rid of as many of my ‘useless’ possessions as I can. One item at a time, one bootload of ‘rubbish’ at a time, I have come to realise that we truly do not need much more than a roof over our head and two (or three) hot meals each day.

It has been a year since I came back from my Camino and last month, as a friend of mine was updating me on his 5-day walk, I couldn’t help but wonder how my brother in Christ, Helge, was getting on. As I looked back at my Facebook posts from last year, the tears welled up as I recalled that day we reunited as I was walking into Santiago. I still feel the same emotions hearing him recount what happened to him that week we seemed to have ‘lost each other’ on the road. How he had to resort to selling his things and, eventually, his boots so that he could continue his walk. How he was down to his last Euro when we met up again and how he was planning to spend two nights in the airport because he simply could not afford to stay in Santiago.

And, even though he had been told that his mother had passed away just the day before, he was still as joyful and more in love with Jesus than when he started his walk 5 months earlier from Berlin, with no job and no home. The two days he spent with us were filled with laughter, tears and wonderful meals as we shared freely about our own struggles and our lives at home. As I watched him walk away from my window the day he left for the airport, I couldn’t help but feel in my heart that for those two glorious days, I had been in the presence of Christ himself.

Brothers and sisters, as I have written yesterday, we are merely ‘in transit’ here on earth. Let us not waste our time here caught up by all things material. Because at the end of the day, there is nothing we can take with us when we eventually depart for the next life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are too caught up in greed to see the error of their ways and to be free from this capital sin.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we give thanks for all that you bestow on us.