Monthly Archives: April 2018

1 May, Tuesday – In The Father’s Bosom

1 May – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Joseph (d. 1st century) was a descendant of the House of David. He was a layman, a builder by trade; traditionally a carpenter, but may have been a stone worker. He was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels. He was noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God had told him to do. He died of natural causes, prior to the Passion of Christ.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.
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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
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“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you…”

I have seen a lot of suffering in the 50-odd years that I have been on this earth. Living with my grandaunt, I remember her words to me; about how difficult things were. I remember her visiting older relatives, and another uncle (her younger brother), who was a drug addict. She was a kind woman, treating those worse-off with love and compassion.

As I got older, I saw friends going through tough times in their finances, marriages and other life struggles. While troubles were aplenty, what was clear to me was that friends and family members tend to go through their personal challenges alone.

A friend once shared with me that he really struggled when he went through a long period of depression some 12 years ago. He would sleep many hours, wake up feeling depressed and then medicate himself. He had no desire to do anything or go anywhere and the biggest feeling was that of overwhelming depression.

My wife and I recently attended an Inner Healing Retreat and I had the most deep and exciting insight, one that will change how I see life’s challenges and my relationship with my God. In one of my reflections, I was feeling extremely lonely and afraid. I was praying during this particularly difficult experience when I felt comforted. While I could not see His face, I became aware that our Lord Jesus was next to me.

It occurred to me then that we never have to go through our challenges by ourselves. Never.

In my subsequent reflections, I went back to the difficult times when I felt most lonely and afraid, only this time, I had the Lord with me. The difference was amazing. All of a sudden, I no longer felt as much pain. I felt that God was there with me, holding me through the tough times.

I know I will never be alone again.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always turn to You, Father God, in our daily lives. Help us Father to always be sensitive to the presence of Your Spirit around us. Be with us Father and guard and protect us.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You for being with us constantly. Thank You for covering with Your protection.

30 April, Monday – The True Reason For Success

30 Apr – Memorial for St. Pius V, pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:5-18

Eventually with the connivance of the authorities a move was made by pagans as well as Jews to make attacks on the apostles and to stone them. When the apostles came to hear of this, they went off for safety to Lycaonia where, in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.

A man sat there who had never walked in his life, because his feet were crippled from birth; and as he listened to Paul preaching, he managed to catch his eye. Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Get to your feet – stand up’, and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the language of Lycaonia, ‘These people are gods who have come down to us disguised as men.’ They addressed Barnabas as Zeus, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him Hermes. The priests of Zeus-outside-the-Gate, proposing that all the people should offer sacrifice with them, brought garlanded oxen to the gates. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening they tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past he allowed each nation to go its own way; but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you: he sends you rain from heaven, he makes your crops grow when they should, he gives you food and makes you happy.’ Even this speech, however, was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.

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John 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’
Judas – this was not Judas Iscariot – said to him, ‘Lord, what is all this about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied:
‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything,
and remind you of all I have said to you.’

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“We are only human beings like you”

My 13-year-old son joined a secondary school this year, leaving behind his primary school life. One of the changes he experienced was that they were required to work on more projects, often having to work in teams.

Recently, we were talking about the ‘right’ things to do when he used an analogy about what not to do, “Oh… you mean like those people who work in your project team, do nothing and then claim credit for all the work done?”.

Despite his youth, my son has become a keen observer of the human condition and is often spot on with his insights!

In the first reading today, Paul and Barnabas were ministering to the people of Lycaonia. There, they cured a crippled man. Excited, the crowds attributed the healing to the both of them and proceeded to call them gods. Both men were horrified and attempted to explain that they were normal human beings, and were sent there as God’s messengers.

In our lives, we would do well to learn from the example set by Paul and Barnabas. Because in my corporate career, I have often found myself praying hard for God’s guidance and protection, especially during challenging times. These situations would resolve themselves and I often found myself being the ‘lazy team player’ that my son talks about!

This temptation to claim personal credit is always present regardless of who we are. When we experience ‘success’, we tend to believe that this success is a result of our own abilities. Yet, when we take the time to analyse these successes, we realise that there are many reasons behind why one does well. It would be folly for us to forget the biggest part that our God plays in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, let us continue to always remember that we are here to serve our God, and that everything we achieve, we can only achieve through Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we may always remain humble in Your love and protection. Help us to remember to always cast our eyes to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for blessing us with the Holy Trinity and for always blessing us. Thank You Father for loving us!

29 April, Sunday – Forgiving Others, Because We Are Forgiven

29 April – 5th Sunday of Easter

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Acts 9:26-31

When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

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1 John 3:18-24

My children,

our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are children of the truth
and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence,
whatever accusations it may raise against us,
because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

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John 15:1-8

Jesus said:
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

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“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active”

I just love ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book talks about how a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is thrown into an adventure against his nature. If he could choose, he would prefer to potter around the house, have his multiple breakfasts (as Hobbits are known to do!), drink his mead and do whatever Hobbits like to do.

While he begins his journey reluctantly, there comes a point when he makes a conscientious decision to continue with it, despite being given an option for him to return home; the home he so desires.

At the end of his exploits, Bilbo returns home, only to realise that he has returned a different Hobbit from when he first began; he can no longer go back to his ‘old self’ after having gone through his experiences.

In the first reading of today, we read about how the converted Paul (formerly known as Saul) tries to join the disciples. They are afraid of him, the great persecutor of the Christians. How can it be that such a hater of the Christians can experience such a conversion and decide to join them? How is it even possible?

In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus tells us that it is possible. He alone is the true vine and if we are truly plugged in to this true vine, we would bear much fruit. We need to have faith in this truth.

I have been guilty of being a skeptic. I once shared with my wife about how I did not like someone (from my past). I related my past experiences about how I had been wronged by that person. Quietly, she would remind me that it is possible that the person may have changed and that I should give them another chance. How right she was. If God continues to give us opportunities to change and become better people, who are we to judge them? If God has forgiven our debt of 10,000 talents, who are we go about demanding our 100 denarii?

Let us learn never to be judgemental. Like Barnabas in the first reading, let us learn to be forgiving.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may learn to forgive those who have wronged us. Let us learn, instead, to be beacons of our faith in You, and draw others to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for loving and forgiving us first. Thank You for sending our Lord Jesus to us to show us how to forgive, and love others.

28 April, Saturday – Trust in God

28 Apr – Memorial for St. Peter Chanel, priest & martyr; Memorial for St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, priest

Peter Chanel (1803-1841) was born to a peasant family and was a shepherd as a boy. He was an excellent student and was ordained at 24. He was assigned to Crozet, a parish in decline; he turned it around, in part because of his ministry to the sick, and brought a spiritual revival. He joined the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) in 1831, and taught in the Belley seminary for five years.

In 1836, he led a band of missionaries to the New Hebrides, an area where cannibalism had only recently been outlawed. He converted many, often as a result of his work with the sick. He learned the local language and taught in the local school. He was killed by order of Niuliki, a native king who was jealous of Peter’s influence. He was the first martyr in Oceania.

“He loves us. He does what he teaches. He forgives his enemies. His teaching is good.”

– one of St. Peter’s catechumens, explaining why he believed Peter’s teachings.

Louis-Marie (1673-1716) was born poor. He studied in Paris, France, and was ordained in 1700. While a seminarian he delighted in researching the writings of Church Fathers, Doctors and Saints as they related to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom he was singularly devoted.

Under Mary’s inspiration, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Wisdom, a religious institute of women devoted to the care of the destitute. During this work, he began his apostolate of preaching the Rosary and authentic Marian devotion. He preached so forcefully and effectively against the errors of Jansenism that he was expelled from several dioceses in France.

In Rome, Pope Clement XI conferred on him the title and authority of ‘Missionary Apostolic’, which enabled him to continue his apostolate after returning to France. He preached Mary everywhere and to everyone.

He was a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, and was one of the greatest apostles of the Rosary in his day and, by means of his miraculously inspiring book, The Secret of the Rosary, he is still so today. The most common manner of reciting the Rosary is the method that originated with St. Louis’ preaching. In 1715, he founded a missionary band known as the Company of Mary.

His greatest contribution to the Church and world is Total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin. He propagated this in his day by preaching and after his own death by his other famous book True Devotion to Mary. Consecration to Mary is for St. Louis the perfect manner of renewing one’s baptismal promises. His spirituality has been espoused by millions, especially Pope John Paul II, who has consecrated not only himself but every place he has visited as pope.

In True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis prophesied that the army of souls consecrated to Mary will be her instrument in defeating the Devil and his Antichrist. As Satan gains power in the world, so much more shall the new Eve triumph over him and crush his head.

The cause for his declaration as a Doctor of the Church is now being pursued.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 13:44-52

The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:

I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’
It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

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John 14:7-14

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’
Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me?
‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.’

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If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it.

I have learnt of the importance of putting everything in God’s hand. This means that we need to abandon all our plans to God. We must plan but we must also let God the Holy Spirit take control of what we want.

St Paul definitely wanted to convert both Jew and Gentile but the situation at that point in time meant that the Gentiles were more receptive. He accepted the challenge of reaching out to that group and then decided to preach it fully. This means that St Paul accepted the change in plans and decided to embrace it wholeheartedly.

The challenge before us today is to discover the plan God has before us and to see if our lives are in alignment with this plan. If there is a divergence, we should take it to prayer and ask God to share with us what his plans are. As we continue in our Easter journey, let us pray for the strength to accept the plan which God has for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer:Father, we pray for the grace to accept the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace to love the people around us.

27 April, Friday – Trust in God

27 April

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Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak: 

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you. What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every sabbath. Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.

‘We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the second psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.

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John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:
‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’

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Trust in God still, and trust in me

What do we mean when we say we trust a person? Do we trust a person to love us and care for us? Do we allow our trust to be violated and if so, what can we do? God wants the best for each one of us and the readings of today remind us of the need to remain faithful to God.

Jesus would like us to realise that He loves us very much. He is the Way which we can follow and He will allow us to walk through the path which He has shown us. The love He has for us will be sufficient for each of us to handle.

In our lives, we go through many struggles and challenges. Sometimes they break us down and make us discover that we have to depend on God for all the things we have. As we continue with our lives, let us remember what it is that God desires of us in our lives and to work with Him knowing that His plan is the best for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, guide us when we go astray.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your love for us and may we all be reunited with you one day.

26 April, Thursday – Happiness with God

26 April

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Acts 13:13-25

Paul and his friends went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the sabbath and took their seats. After the lessons from the Law and the Prophets had been read, the presidents of the synagogue sent them a message: ‘Brothers, if you would like to address some words of encouragement to the congregation, please do so.’ Paul stood up, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out, and for about forty years took care of them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in Canaan, he put them in possession of their land for about four hundred and fifty years. After this he gave them judges, down to the prophet Samuel. Then they demanded a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. After forty years, he deposed him and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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John 13:16-20

After he had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus said to them:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
no servant is greater than his master,
no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.
‘Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly. I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: Someone who shares my table rebels against me.
‘I tell you this now, before it happens,
so that when it does happen
you may believe that I am He.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever welcomes the one I send welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’

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Happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly

The phrase “I told you so” is a statement which some of us may dread hearing because it indicates to us that what we have done is incorrect. It could also suggest to us that another person’s methodology was superior than us. For some of us who do not want to appear to be on the lossing end, this phrase is the last statement we want to hear.

The readings of today instruct us on the need to adhere to what Christ holds for us. This is not something which is difficult but perhaps we are unwilling to do so because it means giving up our old way of working. Jesus knows what is best for us. We need to co-operate with him to discover what it means to be in happiness in his love.

God’s plan takes time to unfold. The whole plan of salvation took hundreds of years to manifest itself as seen in the first reading. Yet God never abandoned his people and He always allowed his people to grow in faith and love for Him. Whatever the challenges we face, God will be with us on every step of our way. Let us work with God to accept the plan He has for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace to accept the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for friends who loves us for who we are.

25 April, Wednesday – Proclaiming Our Faith

25 Apr – Feast of St. Mark, evangelist

St. Mark is believed to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25). He was a disciple of St. Peter who travelled with him to Rome, and was referred to as “my son Mark” by the first Pope. He was the author of the earliest canonical Gospel. He travelled with his cousin St. Barnabas, and with St. Paul through Cyprus. He evangelized in Alexandria, established the Church there, and founded the first famous Christian school.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Peter 5:5-14

All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you. Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.

Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation.”

Having a mentor and someone to pray for you regularly could affect you profoundly. The supporting scripture for us Catholics comes from James 5:16 which says, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”  This supports the Catholic practice of seeking the saints’ intercession.
As I was going through my reversion to the Catholic faith, I became very aware of having a patron saint, and mine just so happens to be Saint Mark. As God-incidence would have it, I’m writing this reflection today as a further testament of the power of being devoted to your patron saint.
Saint Mark the Evangelist wrote the Gospel of Mark, but they weren’t his words. He wasn’t a first hand witness of Jesus’ life and miracles, although most scholars tell us that he did become a follower at some point in Jesus’ public ministry. Some legends tell us that he was the naked man who ran away in the garden of Gethsamany after Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), perhaps referring to himself. Most importantly, Saint Mark was the scribe of Saint Peter, our first Pope. The Gospel according to Mark was Saint Peter’s narration of Jesus’ life and ministry.
So how did this patron Saint impact me? Maybe it started even before my reversion as I was always the happiest when I was writing compositions. After my reversion, the first ministry I joined was communications in my parish, where I was mostly involved with writing the parish bulletin and articles on faith. So here am now 8 years later, writing reflections on this blog. A lot of these writings are representations of other books, articles and websites I read too, much like Saint Mark, not a first-hand witness but re-presenter of a story with some personal anecdotes and musings.
So as Saint Mark has so profoundly impacted my life, I would encourage one and all to get to know the life of your own patron saints and, in your own way, go out into the whole world proclaiming the Gospel. It could be in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, writing, teaching, administration, cleaning or just being present to people. Let us come under someone’s patronage and get some heavenly help in whatever area we are called to.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl de Payva)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of being able to discern the will of our patron Saint.

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for all who have sacrificed so much for us in their own faith journeys.

24 April, Tuesday – Knowing God

24 Apr – Memorial for St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest & martyr

St. Fidelis Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was a lawyer and teacher of philosophy. Disgusted by the greed, corruption, and lack of interest in justice by his fellow lawyers, Mark Rey abandoned the law, became a priest and a Franciscan friar with his brother George. He changed his name to Fidelis and gave away his worldly wealth to poor people in general, and poor seminarians in particular. He served his friary as guardian, and worked in epidemics, especially healing soldiers. He led a group of Capuchins to preach to Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. The success of this work, and lack of violence suffered by mission was attributed to Fidelis spending his nights in prayer. He was, however, eventually martyred for his preaching.

“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.”

  • St. Fidelis

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Acts 11:19-26

Those who had escaped during the persecution that happened because of Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they usually proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching to the Greeks, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them as well. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.
Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

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John 10:22-30

It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied:

‘I have told you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;
but you do not believe,
because you are no sheep of mine.
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’

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I know them and they follow me

How do we know somebody? Is it through the various identification papers which he/she has or even the occupation in which they are engaged in? Such an approach is what the world adopts but it certainly is not what we are called to do. The readings of today remind us that God knows each one of us by name.

The faith we hold is a gift from God. This faith allows us to discover the breadth and depth of God’s love for us as seen in Jesus Christ dying for our sins. This is something which is easy for us to comprehend but we can appreciate the fact that God wants us to know Him as well as He knows us.

God the Holy Spirit is with us in our lives. He will show us the way in which we can know God and He will allow our actions and words to manifest themselves in a way which will be aligned with God’s plan. Being called Christian means we need to become Christlike. Patience, forgiveness and generosity are the fruits of being a Christian. Let us ask God to grant us the grace to share these gifts with the people around us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us the ability to live a life in line with what your son has called us to do so

Thanksgiving:  We give thanks for all who show us what it means to be Christian.

23 April, Monday – Living life to the fullest

23 Apr – Memorial for St. George, martyr; Memorial for St. Adalbert, bishop & martyr

St. George (d. 304) was a soldier who was martyred for his faith. That’s all we know for sure.

Several stories have been attached to St. George, the best known of which is the “Golden Legend”. In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came St. George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon, and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away.

Due to his chivalrous behaviour (protecting women, fighting evil, dependence on faith and might of arms, largesse to the poor), devotion to St. George became popular in Europe after the 10th century. In the 15th century, his feast day was as popular and important as Christmas. Many of his areas of patronage have to do with life as a knight on horseback. The celebrated “Knights of the Garter” are actually “Knights of the Order of St. George”. The shrine built for his relics at Lydda, Palestine, was a popular point of pilgrimage for centuries.

He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

– Patron Saint Index

Adalbert (957–997) was born to the Bohemian nobility. He took the name of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, the archbishop who healed, educated and converted him. He became Bishop of Prague (in the modern Czech Republic) on Feb 10, 982. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III.

Adalbert encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and worked on it with St. Astricus. He was opposed by the nobility in Prague and unpopular in the area, so he withdrew to Rome, Italy and became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on Apr 17, 990. But Pope John XV sent him back to Prague anyway.

He founded the monastery of Brevnov, met more opposition from the nobility and returned to Rome. There being no hope of his working in Prague, he was allowed to (unsuccessfully) evangelise in Pomerania, Poland, Prussia, Hungary and Russia. He and his fellow missionaries were martyred by Prussians near Koenigsberg or Danzig at the instigation of a pagan priest. Not long before his death, Adalbert met and was a great inspiration to St. Boniface of Querfurt.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

____________________

“I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”

What does it mean to live life to the full? This question has been attempted to be answered by many philosophers, but I believe that Jesus shows us the way which allows us to find true happiness – one which is lasting and calming for the soul. This requires us to discern what God is calling us to do.

St Peter recounted his vision which God had granted him. This would have been contradictory to the prevailing thought at that point in time, as the Jews felt that Christianity should remain faithful to the norms and regulations of Judaism. St Peter was granted the grace to discern what was needed at that point in time and listened to the promptings of the Spirit. Through that action began a new chapter of the Church where the Gentiles were welcomed to the faith.

For each one of us, God has invited us to live life to the full. We will need to enter the gate — Jesus Christ — by obeying Him. Through  Scripture, spiritual direction and the many people He brings in our lives, we are able to obtain clarity on what it means to live a life in communion with God. However, we need to trust God’s plan and not aspire to take control of it. It is easier said than done but if we do so, God will make a way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, heal the wounds within us and let us discover the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept the challenge of living God’s way of life.

22 April, Sunday – The Voice

22 April 2018

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Acts 4:8-12

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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1 John 3:1-2

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.

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John 10:11-18

Jesus said:

‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.

‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

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They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock

There is a television reality show entitled, “The Voice” where famous singers participate as judges who listen to the voice of the contestants. They will then offer to be the ‘coaches’ to the contestants to groom them to become better singers. Just by listening to their voices, they can decide who has the potential. The readings of today remind us that Jesus himself is always calling us and it is us who have to respond to him.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He will call each one of us by name. We need to respond to Him despite the distractions of the world. This could come in the form of our careers, our pursuit of prestige or pleasure yet Jesus continually calls us. We need to acknowledge the plan which God has for us, ask Him to show us the path He wants us to take and then co-operate with this plan. St John assures us that God will reveal himself in the future and it will be worth the wait.

Belief in Jesus Christ is important because it allows us to have hope. This hope will allow us to continue to spread God’s love in this world through our actions and words. We have hope that God will be with us throughout all the troubles we have. Let us respond generously to His plan for God cannot be outdone in His love for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the courage to listen to your voice and obey your will

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who are Spiritual Directors