Monthly Archives: November 2017

1 December, Friday – The Power of His Word

1 December 2017

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Daniel 7:2-14

I, Daniel, have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea; four great beasts emerged from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings; and as I looked its wings were torn off, and it was lifted from the ground and set standing on its feet like a man; and it was given a human heart. The second beast I saw was different, like a bear, raised up on one of its sides, with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth. “Up!” came the command “Eat quantities of flesh!” After this I looked, and saw another beast, like a leopard, and with four bird’s wings on its flanks; it had four heads, and power was given to it. Next I saw another vision in the visions of the night: I saw a fourth beast, fearful, terrifying, very strong; it had great iron teeth, and it ate, crushed and trampled underfoot what remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns.

While I was looking at these horns, I saw another horn sprouting among them, a little one; three of the original horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for it; and in this horn I saw eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that was full of boasts. As I watched:

Thrones were set in place and one of great age took his seat.

His robe was white as snow, the hair of his head as pure as wool.

His throne was a blaze of flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A stream of fire poured out, issuing from his presence.

A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

A court was held and the books were opened.

The great things the horn was saying were still ringing in my ears, and as I watched, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and committed to the flames. The other beasts were deprived of their power, but received a lease of life for a season and a time.

I gazed into the visions of the night.

And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man. He came to the one of great age and was led into his presence.

On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.

His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Luke 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Think of the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you know that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’

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“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

During a community discipleship group fellowship last week, our music ministry was called upon at the last-minute to do a 10-minute session. Naturally, those of us who had been at the worship leader workshop the previous weekend stepped up to volunteer. But instead of the usual practice session we do a few days before, we only had a few hours notice. I literally learnt the song at 4pm and we were due to meet at 7pm for a run through. Even our keyboardist, a classically-trained pianist, had never played in a band before!

As the Lord would have it, the worship that evening, though a little raw, was smooth and many of the ministry members felt the emotion and the spirit flowing. At the feedback session immediately after, our leaders gave constructive criticism and encouraged us to work together to iron out the kinks so that we would sound more ‘together’. This got me thinking about technique and how it truly is a fine line between worship and performing. I am quite sure many worship leaders tread the line very carefully and some even struggle to make the differentiation.

As a ‘newbie’, I am intrigued by how He has led me on this journey and shown me a different avenue with which to express my love for Him. And in having to learn the new song – Met by Love – He truly spoke to me and opened up my heart to appreciate His words rather than to just try and memorize a bunch of words. I think that is what many of us do when we try to ‘learn’ a gospel passage/verse or the lyrics to any song. We don’t search out the deeper meaning in order to appreciate what the author/writer/lyricist is trying to communicate.

Brothers and sisters, we read newspapers, blogs, postings, memos, letters, brochures and all sorts of other material on a daily basis. But when it comes to the word of God, many of us merely glance at or skim through the readings. We need to make an effort to internalise and appreciate the words which have been given to us by our heavenly Father, whether in verse, in song or in a parable. Let us not get too caught up in the form but learn to appreciate the meaning of each and every word so that we can always call upon them to help us know how much He truly loves us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer We pray for the grace of being able to remain still in order to discern the true meaning of your Word for each and every one of us.

Thanksgiving Heavenly Father, we thank you for your words of life that sustain and encourage us to never give up on love.

30 November, Thursday – The Simple Life

Nov 30 – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

Andrew was the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was a fisherman by trade, and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.

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Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

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“…I will make you fishers of men.”

I recently attended a worship leader’s workshop, conducted by a youthful-looking praise and worship leader who had been invited to our centre to share his experiences since he discovered praise and worship when he was only 13 years old.

After spending 37 years travelling the world (and living in Europe for 19 years), he was now focussed on imparting his knowledge in a way which made me feel even more connected with God. Because rather than being anxious and fearful, wondering what songs to choose and how many to sing, he began the first night of sharing with just one song. And he also helped us (there were about 20 present) redefine what worship was while encouraging us to share our own feelings in pairs. At the end of the two hour first session, it dawned on me that worshipping the Lord could be as simple as long as we prayed from the heart. It didn’t have to be complicated!

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls his first four disciples – all fishermen. Not marketeers, lawyers, nor merchants. Just humble fishermen who the Church would eventually be built upon. These were the simple folk who were going to lead their flock to Christ – which is what worship leaders are called to do – to lead the congregation to a Christ-centred experience or encounter.

As I reflected on this idea, I began to realise that as God calls us to mission, all the more we need to be humble and simplify our lives. Because by allowing the complexities of the secular world to cloud our thinking and cripple our hearts, we are not allowing God to work through us effectively. I shared this recently during our discipleship group meeting and some of my brothers echoed the sentiment by recounting how, over the past week or so, they have been amazed by how God has sent them messages of simplicity. Encouraging each one to find his true voice in a simple melody, as opposed to a full-fledged song; by having to step up at the last minute and to lead worship with just a guitar and a voice. It is in those simple moments that we are able to discern the cry from our hearts and to bring God to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Christ’s call to each one of us is a simple one – “Follow me”. Two very simple words with a very profound meaning. Brothers and sisters, amidst the hurly-burly of our lives, are we truly able to hear the call of God and discern in our heart what His mission for us truly is?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Dear God, give us the grace to embrace simplicity so that we can truly discern your voice in our life.

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for sending giving us Jesus Christ, our Shepherd.

29 November, Wednesday – No Need To Be Afraid

29 November 2017

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Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen; a thousand of them attended, and he drank wine in company with this thousand. As he sipped his wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women could drink out of them. The gold and silver vessels looted from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and his singing women drank out of them. They drank their wine and praised their gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared, and began to write on the plaster of the palace wall, directly behind the lamp-stand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote. The king turned pale with alarm: his thigh-joints went slack and his knees began to knock.

Daniel was brought into the king’s presence; the king said to Daniel, ‘Are you the Daniel who was one of the Judaean exiles brought by my father the king from Judah? I am told that the spirit of God Most Holy lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom. As I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, if you can read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be dressed in purple, and have a chain of gold put round your neck, and be third in rank in the kingdom.’

Then Daniel spoke up in the presence of the king. ‘Keep your gifts for yourself,’ he said ‘and give your rewards to others. I will read the writing to the king without them, and tell him what it means. You have defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and your singing women have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which cannot either see, hear or understand; but you have given no glory to the God who holds your breath and all your fortunes in his hands. That is why he has sent the hand which, by itself, has written these words. The writing reads: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin. The meaning of the words is this: Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it; Tekel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; Parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’

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Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said: Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

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…I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom…

We recently came to a decision to split our cell group into two smaller sub-groups, in the hope that it would encourage deeper sharings as well as make organising the fellowships a bit less daunting and more manageable. Naturally, the leaders had a discussion among ourselves before consulting the ministry heads, who offered various suggestions on how it could be done.

The day came when the four of us had agreed to meet to discuss how we would manage the process of informing our fellow brothers and then agreeing on which route to go in terms of how we would split the 14 of us. And because it happened to be a day when most of the members were around, we ended up ‘drawing lots’ and ending up with both groupings within the span of 10 minutes.

That night, I slept fitfully. Something gnawed at me and two days later, I decided to message the other three leaders to inform them that I was not comfortable with the way we had proceeded to hurriedly do what was necessary just because 9 or 10 of us happened to be around. I felt that for such an important decision to be carried out, we had been too focussed on the outcome without really discerning the right process. So I offered to meet with the other members who had been absent during our ballot to get a better sense of how they were feeling about being part of our group and the way forward.

Two weeks later, we all convened again and, to the exasperation of some of the other members, I explained why I felt that we had to reconsider the way we had arrived at the sub groupings. After almost an hour of sharing, where I urged other members to open up and share their thoughts, we ended up settling for the previous decision. However, in speaking out and convening the meeting (at the inconvenience of some), I felt that we had done the right thing, regardless of what the outcome would have been.

Brothers and sisters, I thank God for my discipleship group of 14 spiritually alive and aware brothers. It is rare that frank, open and, at times, heated discussion results in something beneficially for everyone. In daring to speak about my feelings openly (I used to shun confrontation), I had nothing to lose because I was relying on the Spirit to lead us to whatever outcome was going to occur. And thankfully, all my other brothers eventually realised that and we achieved what we intended. I ask for your prayers for Albert, Alfie, Ben, Charles, Clement, Eugene, Gabriel, Gavin, Jason, Lionel, Nick, Philip and Sylvester. That as we embak on our new faith journeys, we are empowered to speak out our true feelings for one another.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer We pray for the gift of Wisdom; that You may always guide us in every thought, word and deed.

Thanksgiving Thank You for never judging us and for being our faithful Father.

28 November, Tuesday – A Time of Disruption

28 November 2017

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Daniel 2:31-45

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, ‘You have had a vision, O king; this is what you saw: a statue, a great statue of extreme brightness, stood before you, terrible to see. The head of this statue was of fine gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron, part earthenware. While you were gazing, a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and earthenware and shattered them. And then, iron and earthenware, bronze, silver, gold all broke into small pieces as fine as chaff on the threshing-floor in summer. The wind blew them away, leaving not a trace behind. And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will explain to the king what it means.

‘You, O king, king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given sovereignty, power, strength and glory – the sons of men, the beasts of the field, the birds of heaven, wherever they live, he has entrusted to your rule, making you king of them all – you are the golden head. And after you another kingdom will rise, not so great as you, and then a third, of bronze, which will rule the whole world. There will be a fourth kingdom, hard as iron, as iron that shatters and crushes all. Like iron that breaks everything to pieces, it will crush and break all the earlier kingdoms. The feet you saw, part earthenware, part iron, are a kingdom which will be split in two, but which will retain something of the strength of iron, just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together. The feet were part iron, part earthenware: the kingdom will be partly strong and partly weak. And just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together, so the two will be mixed together in the seed of man; but they will not hold together any more than iron will blend with earthenware. In the time of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever – just as you saw the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold. The great God has shown the king what is to take place. The dream is true, the interpretation exact.’

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Luke 21:5-11

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’

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“…everything will be destroyed.”

I recently attended a worship leader’s workshop, conducted by a youthful-looking praise and worship leader who had been invited by our spitirual director to devote a weekend to imparting to some of us his experiences on leading worship. Naturally, some of the more ‘seasoned’ leaders were a bit sceptical but I could sense the mood in the room lift almost immediately after the two-hour introductory session held on a Friday evening after work.

For me, this was more than just a ‘wake up’ call because the trainer (let’s call him that) truly lived and breathed his vocation. He explained to us what worship was in no uncertain terms and said that as musicians/vocalists, we had no other choice but to worship God from our hearts because He had given us our talents. Of course, God has a wicked sense of humour and at the closing mass, the gospel of the day was the Parable of the Talents.

I came away thinking ‘Wow, if this is how our worship sessions will be like from now on, things are definitely going to change for the centre’. As for me, I would have to rid myself of the fears and anxieties that I had been harbouring all this while, after one of our worship leaders told me that I was going to be called upon soon to lead worship. Looking back, while I have been obedient in supporting the P&W sessions, I had become ‘comfortable’ taking a back seat and just taking direction from the worship leaders who have been at it for more than a decade.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a time of disruption, where old ways of doing things are being challenged and all our previous playbooks are being torn up. I’d like to suggest that even our faith practices need to be re-examined; that while we have our liturgical norms to anchor our practices on and adhere strictly to, we must be prepared that new forms of praise and worship may be more relevant in today’s context, especially for those of us who wish to evangelise to the youth. It was truly edifying to have been part of a weekend where we shared and mingled with our youth who were passionate, energetic and full of missionary zeal in spite of their troubles and shortcomings.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Abba Father, help us to accept that we are meant to be your instruments of faith and to always rise up to the challenges we face, safe in the knowledge that You are with us.

Thanksgiving We thank you Father, for all the blessings you have given to us and especially for the talents you have blessed us with.

27 November, Monday – Giving Our All

27 November 2017

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Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands, with some of the furnishings of the Temple of God. He took them away to the land of Shinar, and stored the sacred vessels in the treasury of his own gods.

The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to select from the Israelites a certain number of boys of either royal or noble descent; they had to be without any physical defect, of good appearance, trained in every kind of wisdom, well-informed, quick at learning, suitable for service in the palace of the king. Ashpenaz himself was to teach them the language and literature of the Chaldaeans. The king assigned them a daily allowance of food and wine from his own royal table. They were to receive an education lasting for three years, after which they were expected to be fit for the king’s society. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were Judaeans. Daniel, who was most anxious not to defile himself with the food and wine from the royal table, begged the chief eunuch to spare him this defilement; and by the grace of God Daniel met goodwill and sympathy on the part of the chief eunuch. But he warned Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king: he has assigned you food and drink, and if he sees you looking thinner in the face than the other boys of your age, my head will be in danger with the king because of you.’ At this Daniel turned to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He said, ‘Please allow your servants a ten days’ trial, during which we are given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our looks with those of the boys who eat the king’s food; go by what you see, and treat your servants accordingly.’ The man agreed to do what they asked and put them on ten days’ trial. When the ten days were over they looked and were in better health than any of the boys who had eaten their allowance from the royal table; so the guard withdrew their allowance of food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. And God favoured these four boys with knowledge and intelligence in everything connected with literature, and in wisdom; while Daniel had the gift of interpreting every kind of vision and dream. When the period stipulated by the king for the boys’ training was over, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king conversed with them, and among all the boys found none to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they became members of the king’s court, and on whatever point of wisdom or information he might question them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.

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Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’

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“…she has put in all she had to live on.”

I was privileged to have been part of a Christ@Work conference last weekend where several Catholic business leaders were invited to give sharings on how they have managed to deal with spirituality at the workplace. One prominent chairman of two locally-listed entities was posed a question regarding temptation and how he had managed to deal with it during his tenure as CEO in a large local bank, as well as chairman of another well-known bank.

His reply was sincere and honest. He said that temptations abound at various levels in corporate life. Not just monetary but also ‘perks’ associated with travel overseas, as well as opportunities to sabotage other colleagues for personal gain or glory. And while steering clear of such opportunities is one obvious tactic, sometimes, it is inevitable that the opportunities present themselves due to the cultures associated with doing business (especially in certain countries).

He then cited the parable of the widow’s mite, how in spite of her poverty, she gave all she had. So in his mind, giving all he had meant sacrificing personal gain for the greater good of the organisation. Even if it meant he got a smaller bonus at the end of the year. “Easier said than done, especially for those of us who are not in such a lofty position,” would be the reaction.

But consider this, brothers and sisters, God has given us certain talents, some of which lie undiscovered or hidden (for whatever reasons). What will please God is for those of us who have discovered our talents/calling to then fully give back to Him what He has graced us with. For our God is a God of infinite generosity and there is nothing we can give that will surpass what He has given us in order to glorify Him.

So for me, today’s gospel is a clarion call of sorts – for me to truly examine myself and discern what it is that I have which makes me unique in His eyes. And then to live out His calling by giving my all in order to fulfil His plan for me; not to shortchange God by letting fear or ignorance rule my life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have created us and given each of us a purpose in life. Help us to discover our true identity and work towards fulfilling your awesome plan for our life here on earth.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for all that you have given us and for all that awaits us in your heavenly kingdom.

26 November, Sunday – Christ Our King

Nov 21 – Solemnity of Christ The King (falls on 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Christ The King is a title of Jesus based on several passages of scripture and used by all Christians. The name is found in various forms in scripture: King Eternal (1 Timothy 1:17), King of Israel (John 1:49), King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11), King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), King of the Ages (Revelation 15:3), and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth (Revelation 1:5).

Many denominations including Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Lutherans and Methodists celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The ideological movement of Christ’s Kingship was addressed in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas (“In The First”). In it, he quotes with approval St. Cyril of Alexandria, notin ghtat Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence: “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others. The perfect exemplar of that acceptance is the Virgin Mary, he pointed out. Her humble and unconditional acceptance of God’s will in her life, the Pope noted, was the reason that “God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth”.

– Wikipedia

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Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

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Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

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…for everything is to be put under his feet.

Last weekend, I was blessed to have been called to take part in a worship session at a conference organised by the Catholic Business Network. Called Christ@Work, it was a full-day conference featuring a keynote speaker from the US, as well as sharings by various Catholic business leaders here in Singapore.

The keynote presentations were extremely insightful and focussed on spiritual leadership at the workplace. Delivered by a former Jesuit who used to run the offices of a large financial organisation in various countries (including Singapore), I was inspired by his thoughts on what makes a good leader, especially the way he got the audience of around 600 to share their ideas openly.

At the end of the day, as Christians, we are ALL called to lead in one way or another. The fact that we are created means that God already has a plan for us and we are on a mission here on earth. Problem is, most of us let life get in the way and, in many cases, we start attributing the wealth and success with attain along the way to our own self. As one esteemed speaker recalled, the more successes he achieved, the worse his relationship with God became. Until one day, when his business failed and he had lost a huge amount of money, he attended LISS and discovered a small praying community, which helped his get back on his feet.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate Christ the King. If we acknowledge that Christ is indeed our King, then surely we have to acknowledge that we are His servants. Whether we are leaders, business owners, or in positions of authority or power, we are but subjects of an all-powerful, infinitely loving and merciful God. And we have been put here to do His will. What that is for each and every one of us can take a lifetime to discover, or for some of us, we may have already discerned His purpose for us. I believe that He has called me to serve through my music ministry and that He will be calling me again and again to worship Him openly.

I was also encouraged to play the violin for one of the mass songs and this was the first time in nearly 40 years that I was going to be playing on stage again; only this time, I had no score to refer to! But as I played the communion hymn, I felt a strong stirring in my heart to just allow God to flow through me and to cast aside my fears, to put everything into His hands. I think He is leading me on yet another journey, and I ask for your prayers to fully trust in His will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Jesus, our Saviour and King, we acknowledge your mighty and awesome presence in our lives. We trust that you will always know what is best for us and that your infinite graces will always save us from any harm.

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for your loving presence in our lives.

25 November, Saturday – God Alone Knows

Nov 25 – Memorial for St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin, martyr

Catherine (d. 305) was a noble who was learned in science and oratory. After receiving a vision, she converted to Christianity. At the age of 18, during the persecution of Maximus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximus had her scourged and imprisoned.

The empress and the leader of Maximus’ army were amazed by the stories and went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximus ordered her broken on the wheel, but when she touched it, the wheel was destroyed. She was then beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.

Catherine was immensely popular during the Middle Ages, and there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout western Europe. She was reported as one of the divine advisors to St. Joan of Arc. Her reputation for learning and wisdom led to her patronage of libraries, librarians, teachers, archivists, and anyone associated with wisdom or teaching. Her debating skill and persuasive language has led to her patronage of lawyers. And her torture on the wheel has led to those who work with them asking for her intercession. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there may well have been a noble, educated, virginal lady who swayed pagans with her rhetoric during the persecutions, the accretion of legend, romance and poetry has long since buried the real Catherine.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints invoked with special confidence because they have proven themselves efficacious helpers in adversity and difficulties. Though each has a separate feast or memorial day the group was collectively venerated on Aug 8, until the feast was dropped and suppressed in the 1969 reform of the calendar.

They are invoked as a group because of the Black Plague which devastated Europe from 1346-1349. Among its symptoms were the tongue turning black, a parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on the abdomen. It attacked without warning, robbed its victims of reason, and killed within a few hours; many died without the last Sacraments. Brigands roamed the roads, people suspect of contagion were attacked, animals died, people starved, whole villages vanished into the grave, social order and family ties broke down, and the disease appeared incurable. The pious turned to Heaven, begging the intervention of the saints, praying to be spared or cured. This group devotion began in Germany, and the tradition ahs remained strong there.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Maccabees 6:1-13

King Antiochus was making his way across the upper provinces; he had heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, renowned for its riches, its silver and gold, and its very wealthy temple containing golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by Alexander son of Philip, the king of Macedon, the first to reign over the Greeks. He therefore went and attempted to take the city and pillage it, but without success, since the citizens learnt of his intention, and offered him a stiff resistance, whereupon he turned about and retreated, disconsolate, in the direction of Babylon. But while he was still in Persia news reached him that the armies that had invaded the land of Judah had been defeated, and that Lysias in particular had advanced in massive strength, only to be forced to turn and flee before the Jews; these had been strengthened by the acquisition of arms, supplies and abundant spoils from the armies they had cut to pieces; they had overthrown the abomination he had erected over the altar in Jerusalem, and had encircled the sanctuary with high walls as in the past, and had fortified Bethzur, one of his cities. When the king heard this news he was amazed and profoundly shaken; he threw himself on his bed and fell into a lethargy from acute disappointment, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. And there he remained for many days, subject to deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until he understood that he was dying. Then summoning all his Friends, he said to them, ‘Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed by anxiety. I have been asking myself how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as that which now engulfs me – I who was so generous and well-loved in my heyday. But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem when I seized all the vessels of silver and gold there, and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at all. This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.’

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Luke 20:27-40

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.

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“…because things had not turned out for him as planned… ”

In my early twenties and having been just baptised, I spent a lot of time contemplating the Catholic faith. I wondered about what was going on in the Church and in the world. I argued and thought about the things that would happen after I died. I thought about eternal salvation and tried to decipher who would be saved and who would not.

At mass one day, I heard the story about how St Augustine was walking along a beach trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. There he saw a small boy running to and from the water’s edge to a hole in the sand, using a sea shell to carry water. When asked what he was doing, the boy answered, saying, “I am trying to move all the water of the sea into the hole in the sand!”. St Augustine laughed, thinking it was impossible. It was at that point St Augustine recognised that he was just like the little boy; only difference being that he was trying to fill his mind with God’s mysteries.

So many of us try so hard to figure out what will happen when we go to heaven. Despite all our scholarly studies and discourses, the reality is that only God knows. If I argued with someone else about, say, salvation and purgatory, does it mean that my viewpoint is correct if I am able to better argue my point of view?

Similarly, we plan our own paths in life, strategizing and working out ways to achieve what we want. Again, as our life experience shows us time and again, actual events tend not to conform to our plans. Again, only God knows what will happen exactly.

May we learn to be like little children sitting at our Lord’s feet. And like little children, we need to set aside our arrogance and self-importance and learn to be led.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may learn to give up our own egos and our sense of self-importance. Help us Father, to always look to You for guidance.

Thanksgiving : We are grateful, Lord, for showing us that You are the true source of knowledge. Help us to continue to remember that.

24 November, Friday – Perfect Forgiveness

Nov 24 – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and companions, Martyrs of Vietnam

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, nuns, or religious brothers. Some were lay people, some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.

Andrew Dung Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest. He was canonized on 19 Jun 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.

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1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59

Judas and his brothers said, ‘Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings. They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors. There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them. Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.

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Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.

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“My house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.”

The readings of today talk about purity. In the first reading, Judas and his brothers purified the sanctuary and dedicated it to God, while Jesus, in the Gospel of today, drove out the money changers and merchants who had made the Temple their place of commerce. Thereafter, He taught there every day, according the respect that should be accorded the Temple.

In the Letter to Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that our bodies belong to God, and that we were purchased at a price; through Jesus’ crucifixion.

I think about the times that as a child of God, I have not lived my life as one. I have committed sins, spread gossip and behaved in ways unbecoming of a Christian. And yet, God has given us a way back to Him, and the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Just like the sanctuary and the Temple, we need to constantly rededicate ourselves to God, and to do it as often as we need to. Often, we allow the shame of our sins to stop us from doing so, despite the fact that is precisely what we need.

May we constantly keep our eyes on God and remember to return to him in contrition. We are in constant need for renewal and rededication.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please take away our shame and allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us to return to You in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for Your constant love and patience. We praise You and thank You for Your gift of forgiveness.

23 November, Thursday – Tears Of Love

Nov 23 – Memorial for St. Clement I, pope, martyr; Memorial for St. Columban, abbot

Clement (d. 101) was the fourth pope, and an apostolic Father. The Basilica of St. Clement in Rome is one of the earliest parish churches in the city, and is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. He is the author of the ‘Epistle to the Corinthians’. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Origen and St. Jerome identify him as working with St. Paul the Apostle.

– Patron Saint Index

Columban (543–615) was well-born, handsome, and educated. He was torn between a desire for God and easy access to the pleasures of the world. Acting on advice of a holy anchoress, he decided to withdraw from the world. His family opposed the choice, his mother going so far as to block the door. He became a monk at Lough Erne. He studied Scripture extensively, and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He became a monk at Bangor under abbot St. Comgall.

At middle age, Columban felt a calling to missionary life. With 12 companions, he travelled to Scotland, England, and then to France in 585. The area, though nominally Christian, had fallen far from the faith, but were ready for missionaries, and they had some success. They were warmly greeted at the court of Gontram, and the king of Burgundy invited the band to stay. They chose the half-ruined Roman fortress of Annegray in the Vosges Mountains for their new home with Columban as their abbot.

The simple lives and obvious holiness of the group drew disciples to join them, and the sick to be healed by their prayers. Columban, to find solitude for prayer, often lived for long periods in a cave seven miles from the monastery, using a messenger to stay in touch with his brothers. When the number of new monks overcrowded the old fortress, King Gontram gave them the old castle of Luxeuil to found a new house in 590. Soon after, a third house was founded at Fontaines. Columban served as master of them all, and wrote a Rule for them; it incorporated many Celtic practices, and was approved by the Council of Macon in 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine.

Problems arose early in the 7th century. Many Frankish bishops objected to a foreign missionary with so much influence, to the Celtic practices he brought, especially those related to Easter, and his independence from them. In 602, he was summoned to appear before them for judgment; instead of appearing, he sent a letter advising them to hold more synods, and to concern themselves with more important things than which rite he used to celebrate Easter. The dispute over Easter continued for years, with Columban appealing to multiple popes for help, but was only settled when Columban abandoned the Celtic calendar when he moved to Italy.

In addition to his problems with the bishops, Columban spoke out against vice and corruption in the royal household and court, which was in the midst of a series of complex power grabs. Brunehault stirred up the bishops and nobility against the abbot; Thierry ordered him to conform to the local ways, and shut up. Columban refused, and was briefly imprisoned at Besancon, but he escaped and returned to Luxeuil. Thierry and Brunehault sent an armed force to force him and his foreign monks back to Ireland. As soon as his ship set sail, a storm drove them back to shore; the captain took it as a sign, and set the monks free.

They made their way to King Clothaire at Soissons, Neustria and then the court of King Theodebert of Austrasia in 611. He travelled to Metz, France, then Mainz, Germany, Suevi, Alamanni, and finally Lake Zurich. Their evangelisation work there was unsuccessful, and the group passed on to Arbon, then Bregenz, and then Lake Constance. St. Gall, who knew the local language best, took the lead in this region; many were converted to the faith, and the group founded a new monastery as their home and base.

However, a year later, political upheaval caused Columban to cross the Alps into Italy, arriving in Milan in 612. The Christian royal family treated him well, and he preached and wrote against Arianism and Nestorianism. In gratitude, the Lombard king gave him a tract of land call Bobbio between Milan and Genoa in Italy. There he rebuilt a half-ruined church of St. Peter, and around it he founded an abbey that was to be the source for evangelisation throughout northern Italy for centuries to come.

Columban always enjoyed being in the forests and caves, and as he walked through the woods, birds and squirrels would ride on his shoulders. Toward the end of his life came word that his old enemies were dead, and his brothers wanted him to come back north, but he declined. Knowing that his time was almost done, he retired to a cave for solitude, and died as he had predicted. His influence continued for centuries as those he converted handed on the faith, the brothers he taught evangelised untold numbers more, and his brother monks founded over one hundred monasteries to protect learning and spread the faith.

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1 Maccabees 2:15-29

The commissioners of King Antiochus who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them sacrifice. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. The king’s commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, ‘You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king’s decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons shall be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.’ Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, ‘Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances. As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left.’ As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein as the royal edict required. When Mattathias saw this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s commissioner who was there to enforce the sacrifice, and tore down the altar. In his zeal for the Law he acted as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu. Then Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Let everyone who has a fervour for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me.’ Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town.

At this, many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there.

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Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’

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“He shed tears over it”

Growing up, my relationship with my parents was distant. They divorced when I was about 5 and my mother left the home and remarried a few years later. My father left me behind in Singapore and moved to Taiwan when I was 10.

Suffice to say, my grandaunt played the role of both father and mother to me; and much of what I learned about the world, I learned from her. Being uneducated, her only means of earning an income was to look after children when their parents were at work. She was often afraid when dealing with others, seemingly accepting, but privately upset.

I came to view my world in the same way. And when I became a Christian, I felt that God, like my parents, was aloof… despite being part of a Catholic community, I felt… alone.

In the bible, Jesus only ever wept twice. The first occurred when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, and the second, in today’s Gospel, when He wept for Israel for their non-belief. This took me by surprise. In my eyes, I had seen God as the all-mighty, watching us from somewhere beyond.

And yet, I learnt more about God the Father than I ever have by learning about His Son, Jesus, our brother. No God who is aloof and unloving would ever shed tears for His people, whether it was just for one person in the form of Lazarus or a whole nation in Israel.

May we always remember that no matter what happens to us, our God loves us, and that alone is enough to sustain us till we meet Him at Perousia.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, please show us the way. May the Holy Spirit always remind us that of Your everlasting love for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us that You continue to forgive and root for us, despite all the times we turn away from You and make the wrong choices. Thank You Father for never giving up on us.

22 November, Wednesday – Illuminated Faith

Nov 22 – Memorial for St. Cecilia, virgin, martyr

Cecilia (d. 117) was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. She told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized. Returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favour; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.

The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn, they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at their villa on the Appian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods, and when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.

She was suffocated for a while and when that didn’t kill her, she was beheaded. Her grave was discovered in 817, and her body removed to the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. The tomb was opened in 1599 and her body was found to be incorrupt.

The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. But the mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord. Indeed she encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors; filled with noble conviction, she reinforced her womanly argument with manly courage, saying to them, ‘I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.’

Antiochus thought he was being ridiculed, suspecting insult in the tone of her voice; and as the youngest was still alive he appealed to him not with mere words but with promises on oath to make him both rich and happy if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors; he would make him his Friend and entrust him with public office. The young man took no notice at all, and so the king then appealed to the mother, urging her to advise the youth to save his life. After a great deal of urging on his part she agreed to try persuasion on her son. Bending over him, she fooled the cruel tyrant with these words, uttered in the language of their ancestors, ‘My son, have pity on me; I carried you nine months in my womb and suckled you three years, fed you and reared you to the age you are now (and cherished you). I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way. Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.’

She had scarcely ended when the young man said, ‘What are you all waiting for? I will not comply with the king’s ordinance; I obey the ordinance of the Law given to our ancestors through Moses. As for you, sir, who have contrived every kind of evil against the Hebrews, you will certainly not escape the hands of God.’

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Luke 19:11-28

While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”

‘Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities.” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds . . .” “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

‘“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’

When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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“Prove yourself worthy of your brother, and make death welcome.”

My son has been blessed to be an altar boy for the past year and one of the duties he recently started performing was to be one of the torch bearers. Before the gospel is proclaimed by the priest, the torch bearers accompany him on a small procession to the lectern.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) shows that the vocation of humanity is to show forth God’s image and also to be transformed into the image of our Lord Jesus. Observing my son one day, it occurred to me that we are like the torches illuminating the Gospels — our faith (and Church) and our faith community demands it.

One of the initial personal hurdles I faced when I first started going to the Catholic Church was actually identifying as a Catholic. Even when saying grace, I was afraid others might see me making the sign of the Cross!

The change came when I realized that it was the same as being in a close relationship with my spouse. If I truly loved my wife, why would I hide my feelings for her? How would she feel if she knew that I was ashamed of expressing my true feelings? More importantly, what would it say about my true relationship with her?

In the first reading of today, the mother of the seven sons recognises this truth, and the truth of eternal life and encourages him to make the right choice, as she knows that all of them would reunite ultimately in God’s kingdom.

May we, too, learn to understand and remember this truth. We are due to spend eternity in God’s kingdom and our few earthly decades is a miniscule portion of eternity. Let us live our lives as torches and to also be proud to be Christians.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us to always live our lives as a reflection of our faith values. We pray that we may be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thanksgiving: We thank You Father God, for Your gift of faith.