Monthly Archives: May 2018

1 June, Friday – Asking

Jun 1 – Memorial for St. Justin, martyr

He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known and travelled from place to place, proclaiming the gospel. In 151, he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day, and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived: it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.

Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom, and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.

– Universalis

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1 Peter 4:7-13

Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind. Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin. Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

My dear people, you must not think it unaccountable that you should be tested by fire. There is nothing extraordinary in what has happened to you. If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.

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Mark 11:11-26

After he had been acclaimed by the crowds, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked all round him, but as it was now late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.

So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling pigeons. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, ‘Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples? But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city.

Next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered to the roots. Peter remembered. ‘Look, Rabbi,’ he said to Jesus, ‘the fig tree you cursed has withered away.’ Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you solemnly, if anyone says to this mountain, “Get up and throw yourself into the sea,” with no hesitation in his heart but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.’ But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.’

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…everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours.

If only life were so easy. That all we desire, wish for or hope will simply appear before us as long as we ask for it. “Give me a nice house. Give me a good job. Give me a good spouse. Give me a good family.” And ‘poof’, miraculously, we have it all.

Yeah, right.

Because the life we have here is a constant battle to achieve, acquire, attain and then hold on to. We seek happiness in what we have worked hard to acquire all our working life. Then when we ‘retire’ and have to declutter so that we can live more freely, we start to question ourself. We ask whether it was all worth the struggle. Whether at the end of it all, has our life come down to the four walls around us and the three square meals we can afford each day. Whether we will be remembered for what we had, instead of what we gave while we had friends and family to give to.

I want to be remembered for the heart I have, whatever people say it is – generous, giving, joyful, embracing, patient, etc. Mind you, I am still working on just being able to not judge others, so I am extremely far from my goal. Will I ever get there? Not on my own strength but by the grace of God.

Because events of the past few weeks have whittled me down to a blubbering mess at times. The feelings of hopelessness, of letting a loved one down, of not being able to fulfil my promise (especially after discerning His call to be a pillar of support) have left me questioning the very verse that I have been drawn to. Maybe I still cling on to the hope that somehow, during this period of doubt, He will truly provide. But should I dial back my expectations? Surely He will give me all that I ask. But hang on, St Mark writes “believe that you have it already” How do I ask for something that I already have?

I can’t see it. Not right now.

Maybe I need to stop asking and just keep praying in hope.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask you to provide in my hour of need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you will give to us.

31 May, Thursday – Love Is The Answer

May 31 – Corpus Christi

Feast celebrated in honour of the Body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and in commemoration of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. It was established in 1246, at the suggestion of Saint Juliana of Mont Cornillon, by Bishop Robert de Thorete of Liege, where the first celebration was held the following year, and its observance was extended to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. It is a holy day of obligation in England, Ireland, and Scotland. The office for the day, the most beautiful in the Roman Liturgy, was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas and the customary procession was approved and encouraged by Pope Martin V and Pope Eugene IV. The procession dates from c.1275, though originally not directly connected with the celebration of the Feast. It is held either on the feast itself, on the following Sunday, or on the day of the octave of the feast, and is of prescription, unless circumstances are such that it must be omitted. During this procession it is customary to halt at several altars, and from one or two of these Benediction is solemnly given. In many places it is customary to have this procession in the open air, weather permitting. Some country churches that have the cemetery close at hand always have two altars within the confines of the cemetery for the purpose of these stops or halts in the Corpus Christi procession. In city parishes and where it is not advisable to hold the procession outdoors, it is held inside the Church. Then the side-altars are used as stopping or halting places for the procession, and from each Benediction is given. Finally the solemnity is concluded with Benediction given, from the high altar of the church.

– The Patron Saint Index

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Exodus 24:3-8

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

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Hebrews 9:11-15

Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than the one made by men’s hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer are sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement and they restore the holiness of their outward lives; how much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God.

He brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant.

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Mark 14:12-16,22-26

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

  After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.

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Blessed be the name of the Lord

Summarising the Law of the Lord is indeed difficult, but Jesus has shown us today that it is possible for us to do so. The love of God, which we demonstrate through the love of neighbour, is the crux of what the Christian religion is about.

One of the main issues of what we need to know is how we can live out such a life. This life can be lived out not through our own attempt at charting our own direction, but to constantly engage the Lord in prayer. Tobias and Sarah prayed to God for His blessing on their marriage and this is perhaps the most powerful sign for all married couples, as we reflect on how the covenant of marriage is constantly under attack.

The strength of one’s relationships with other human beings (family, friends and colleagues) is reflective of one’s prayer life. Our prayer life can be deepened by spending time with God, who is generous with His love for us. Are we ready to accept this call?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the ability to set aside time to be with you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who point us in the right direction in our spiritual life.

30 May, Wednesday – Ransom Paid In Blood

30 May

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1 Peter 1:18-25

Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.

You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart – your new birth was not from any mortal seed but from the everlasting word of the living and eternal God. All flesh is grass and its glory like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.

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Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive. Once more taking the Twelve aside he began to tell them what was going to happen to him: ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans, who will mock him and spit at him and scourge him and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.’

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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..so that you would have faith and hope in God.

Dealing with loss can be rather traumatic. The death of a loved one, or having to let go of a beloved pet; losing a large business deal or losing one’s job; even having to let go of something that means a lot due to circumstances beyond one’s control. It has been an emotional few weeks for me as we deal with loss and the consequences of it. Never have I felt so helpless, so powerless to do anything except to just be present. Even then, I fear that I am too weak to be of any use or support. If only I had something to give, then everything will be alright. But in spite of our prayers, He has been quiet. At least from our perspective.

Today’s first reading reminds us that ‘the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ’ At times like this I truly wonder if His sacrifice, which was meant to save us from this earthly ‘prison’, was in vain. Surely Christ gave up His life for us so that we could enjoy (note the operative word here) a life that He meant for us to have? We didn’t work so hard for so long in order to have to give up the fruits of our labour.

What gives us hope is revealed later on as Peter writes, ‘The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you.’ So all that we know (the material life) will eventually wither and die, leaving us what Christ has delivered in the form of the Good News. And we cling on to the word of God, by going to daily mass and receiving communion; by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and unburdening ourselves to Him; by recognising that He continues to pour out His graces into our lives and our hearts, in spite of our shortcomings or how we treat Him.

I don’t know for how long we will struggle but at some point, I know that He will take over completely. For now, we plod on in our mortal form, dealing with the gamut of negative emotions that come with loss. Perhaps this is a lesson for us to truly appreciate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, a ransom paid in blood. I am reminded of a line in a song that always brings tears to my eyes – ‘…that a man would give his life for a friend’. Who else can proudly proclaim to another that his God sacrificed himself on a cross in order to save the world?

Brothers and sisters, we have just celebrated Pentecost and acknowledged the coming of the Holy Spirit. Whatever is going on in our lives right now, let us recognise that we are a chosen people, specially anointed to reflect His love and graces to others around us. In spite of all that we go through.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, to learn how to die to ourselves and our desires so that you will be able to use us to build your kingdom. Help us to glorify you in all we say and do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your being the constant help in our lives.

29 May, Tuesday – Our Reward

29 May

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1 Peter 1:10-16

It was this salvation that the prophets were looking and searching so hard for; their prophecies were about the grace which was to come to you. The Spirit of Christ which was in them foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them, and they tried to find out at what time and in what circumstances all this was to be expected. It was revealed to them that the news they brought of all the things which have now been announced to you, by those who preached to you the Good News through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, was for you and not for themselves. Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.

Free your minds, then, of encumbrances; control them, and put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Do not behave in the way that you liked to before you learnt the truth; make a habit of obedience: be holy in all you do, since it is the Holy One who has called you, and scripture says: Be holy, for I am holy.

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Mark 10:28-31

‘What about us?’ Peter asked Jesus. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

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“Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

Many times I’ve come across sayings such as “if Jesus were to appear in front of me…” or “if I’m able to see a miracle, I will change my life…”. I’m not sure if you have heard or said some of these words before. Because many of us think that we have never had a tangible encounter with Christ, we find it hard to ‘give up’ our lives to someone we do not know, to a future that is uncertain, to a reward that may actually be nothing.

As we read in the first reading, many of the prophets in the Old Testament were unable to meet Christ face to face nor see his miracles, yet they preached and sacrificed their lives to prepare the way. They believed, and they hoped.

We also know of the disciples of Jesus, who even though they left their nets and followed Him, witnessed His miracles, ate and drank with Him; when it actually mattered the most, they left Him and even denied Him. But it’s also then that we see the faithfulness of some of the women of Jerusalem, where it was uncertain if Jesus would actually rise from the dead, if He was actually the Christ, yet they still stuck by Him all the way.

Indeed, we do not realise how blessed we are to already know that we have this salvation which has already been won for us by Jesus Christ. We also do not know of how envious many souls and angels are when they see us being able to receive the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist at every mass.

When we think of reward, it is usually linked with doing well in, or for a particular task. But this reward is not just for the first or the last, but really for each and everyone of us, an invitation to His heavenly kingdom, to receive the salvation that has already been won for us.

Let us continue to grow this faith and our trust in the Lord, to be able to surrender our possessions and intellect, to allow Him to lead and guide, to walk in His footsteps. For Christ came to serve, and not to be served. Christ came not to do His will but for His Father’s will to be done. Let it not be ‘I’, but Christ who lives in me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for courage, to learn how to die to ourselves and our desires so that you will be able to use us to build your kingdom. Help us to glorify you in all we say and do.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your messengers in the past and in the present. Bless us with your wisdom for us to make good choices and to be able to listen to your voice.

28 May, Monday – Eternal Life

28 May

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1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.

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Mark 10:17-27

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

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“Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Today, we read of a familiar struggle, which is to follow Christ completely. It is just so hard to wrap our heads around to comprehend the response that Christ requires of us. It seems completely absurd and basically the reverse of most of what we are trying to do each day.

Especially the verse, “Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Who, in their right frame of mind, would ever do such a thing? What about our basic needs then? How are we going to survive?

Well, more than just taking it literally, it is really to know our purpose in life, the meaning of our lives, the reason why we work so hard, all the sacrifices. And I believe it’s deeper than wanting to lead a ‘comfortable’ life. We all long for something. Something possibly the things of the world cannot give. We can neither earn it, nor buy it.

We read in the first reading where it speaks about our inheritance as Christians, an inheritance won for all of us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The inheritance of salvation and eternal life. A place where we all belong, to a Father who awaits us and who will never leave us; a place filled with glory, joy and love; a place we can truly call home.

Christ calls us to live as such, not for us to suffer, but for us to not be distracted and to focus on the ultimate goal of our lives; and in trying to achieve that, to go forth and share this home, this inheritance with the rest of the world. Not to simply keep the commandments, laws and teachings of the church but to allow them to transform our lives so that we may be examples of Christ’s love, joy and peace to all.

Let us not confuse the riches of the world with God, such that we allow it to become the reason why we live. Let us use the riches that we are blessed with to show that God lives. And indeed He is alive, amongst us and within us — “and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for faithfulness. For many times we replace you with many other worldly things and pleasures. Help us to keep our focus on the purpose and meaning of our lives and help us to build your kingdom here on earth, and for your will to be done in our lives. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your inheritance which you have so generously shared with all of us despite our unworthiness. Thank you for helping us to see what really matters.

27 May, Sunday – The Holy Trinity

May 27 – The Most Holy Trinity

Feast of the Holy Trinity, also called Trinity Sunday, feast in honour of the Trinity. It is celebrated in the Christian churches on the Sunday following Pentecost (the 50th day after Easter). It is known that the feast was celebrated on this day from as early as the 10th century. Celebration of the feast gradually spread in the churches of northern Europe, and in 1334 PopeJohn XXII approved it for the entire church. In the liturgical Church Year, – –

  • Brittanica.com

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Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

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Romans 8:14-17

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

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Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

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“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”

The greatest symbol of love is undoubtedly the immense love between God the Father and Christ the Son, coming in the form of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate the Holy Trinity, we celebrate God’s unending love for us. For, more than creating and dying for us, He promises to be with us always, to the end of time.

We read in the first reading about how we are created and how we are chosen by God. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look at myself with all the ‘stains’ and brokenness, I’m not sure if I would even choose myself. And many times, when we choose something/someone, there would probably be the intention of the person/situation also being beneficial to us in some way. But God chooses us in order that we may prosper and live in the land that He has given, only if we follow and keep to His commandments.

Also, in St Paul’s letter to the Romans, it speaks about receiving. Not a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption. That we are God’s children and how it is through the sharing in His suffering that we share His glory.

This overflowing love of God is simply uncontainable — that the fruit of this love is to share it with the world, with everyone we meet. To go forth and to proclaim the Good News, not that we have to suffer as Christians, but that we have the greatest gift already given to us, Christ Himself and now the Holy Spirit.

For God’s desire for each and every one of us is to experience this love that He has for all of us. For us to never be alone. To know that He is always with us. To know that we are called to be one through Him, with Him and in Him for eternity.

Let us take courage then to carry out His Mission, Our Mission to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we may never be discouraged and may the Holy Trinity always be the example for us, teaching us how to live and love. Amen

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your love and assurance that You will always be with us till the end of time.

26 May, Saturday – The Prayer Of The Faithful

May 26 – Memorial for St. Philip Neri, priest

Philip Neri (1515-1595) came from a poor family, though he was related to Italian nobility. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. He was a pious youth, and was taught humanities by the Dominicans.

He moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some family with their business and while there, would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. He received word in a vision that he had an apostolate in Rome. He cut himself off from his family and went there, where he was befriended by Galeotto Caccia, who took him in and paid him to tutor his two sons. He wrote poetry in Latin and Italian, and studied philosophy and theology. When he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor.

He began to visit and care for the sick and impoverished pilgrims. He founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He was a friend of St. Ignatius. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.

With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, with many converts. In 1550, he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later, he considered missionary work in India, but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome.

He entered the priesthood in 1551, and heard confessions by the hour. He could tell penitents their sins before they confessed, and had the gift of conferring visions. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to stay and becoming involved in their lives.

Pope Gregory XIV tried to make him a cardinal, but Philip declined. His popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect, but was cleared of this baseless charge. In 1575, he founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching, but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years, he was beset with several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer.

– Patron Saint Index

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James 5:13-20

If any one of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm. If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully. Elijah was a human being like ourselves – he prayed hard for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three-and-a-half years; then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops.

My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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“Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child, he will not enter it.”

When my father was alive, there was a verse that we often shared around the dinner table, almost like our family’s code of living – “the prayer of faith will save the sick person” (James 5:15). Dad should know because he was always sick. He was no saint in life, but in his final months, his faith was unshakeable. He firmly believed in the power of prayer to heal, to soothe and to deliver. His greatest gift to us was his conviction that nothing was impossible for God. He lived it, and in so doing, passed his fervour along to us kids, and all of the people in his prayer group at church.

It seemed like we were always praying for Dad. He was always vacillating between being critically ill and recovering from episodes of it. Because of him, I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen God’s hand too many times in Dad’s life to doubt His divine presence. I believe that He hears the fervent heart’s longings, that He sees good intentions and listens to the cries of His faithful. I believe that He lifts us up when we’re laid low, that He guides us to right paths, that He calms our distress. I believe it because I’ve felt it, and I’ve seen it.

Looking back now, Dad’s illness helped to build a community of prayer. And that community was strengthened every time those prayers were answered. Towards the end, Dad held on only as long as he needed to – to witness the birth of his grandson. I know Dad prayed fervently for that and God in His great mercy granted Dad’s wish. Dad died a few days after my sister’s son was born. I don’t believe that was a coincidence.

When Jesus said “… whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”, I think he was talking about the kind of faith that my father had, that child-like conviction in God’s deliverance, whatever the odds. Dad engaged God in every aspect of his life, through prayer, thanksgiving and scripture reading. Old age and illness robbed him of his independence and mental faculties but it blessed him with something infinitely more valuable – his faith. Faith truly is the gift that multiplies upon itself, the gift that has been passed down from Dad to us, and now to Josh, his grandson. Some families have precious jewels, beautiful homes, vast tracts of land as heirlooms. Ours? We have Dad’s faith. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of that child-like faith that believes nothing is impossible for God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s great mercy, for His unfailing faithfulness to us, even when we are fearful and doubting.

25 May, Friday – On Marriage

May 25 – Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

– Patron Saint Index

 Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

– Patron Saint Index

 Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

– Patron Saint Index

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James 5:9-12

Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord; remember it is those who had endurance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the patience of Job, and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth, or use any oaths at all. If you mean ‘yes’, you must say ‘yes’; if you mean ‘no’, say ‘no.’ Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgement.

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Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

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“… a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”

I’ve always thought of marriage as a team sport; you’re only going to be as strong as your weakest link. To go the distance, you have to be a united front and this happens first behind closed doors. A friend celebrating his 30th anniversary said to me that the reason they never got divorced was because of timing – neither he nor his wife ever wanted out of the marriage at the same time. One person was always fighting to keep it alive, holding the fort while the other faltered. That’s a powerful statement of love – the willingness to persevere without knowing if your partner was going to hold up their end of the partnership.

We have been married for 4 years now. Enough time has passed for us to have observed the less rosy side of each other’s personalities. My friend was definitely on to something when he offered up that morsel of practical wisdom. There have certainly been times when we have had our differences. I expect that’s the case with most marriages. Which marriage has not endured setbacks and overcome hurdles?

Scripture uses the image of the bride and groom to describe the ideal relationship between God and the Church – loving, forgiving, thoughtful, gentle, persevering. “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. To leave your mother and father means leaving the familiarity of your childhood and all of your selfish, childish bachelor/bachelorette ways behind. From here on, hardship and suffering are to be borne and celebrated together. The easy thing to do when the going gets tough, is to complain and blame. But just like in team sport, we’ll be more successful if we supported and persevered with one another as good team mates do. We can take courage from the fact that we are not alone in all this. God did send us a helper, to encourage, comfort and inspire us. Every good marriage has three parties in it – a husband, a wife, and the Holy Spirit. Now isn’t that a ‘dream team’!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the faithfulness to include God in all of our plans, our hopes, our trials, our successes. We pray that He will be the cornerstone on which our marriages are built, that He be our foundation and our rock.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our husbands and our wives, who endure our shortfalls with grace, love, patience and humor.

24 May, Thursday – On Parenting

24 May

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James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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“You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter”

For a religion that preaches ‘salvation by faith’, Christianity emphasizes acts of charity as much as acts of belief. Engraved on the front of our pulpit at church is the famous verse from the Book of James, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). At different junctures of my life, those words have meant different things to me. When I was in my twenties, I took them to mean that I was to dutifully quell my hot temper and quick tongue, and turn the other cheek instead. In my thirties, they encouraged me to trust in God’s providence, that He would take care of my family and help my father ease into his last years with dignity and grace. Now in my forties, those words have found new meaning again. They serve as a reminder that I am to be a good steward of all His blessings. I’m a stepmother to two highly intelligent young adults. They could talk rings around me if they chose to. I would love to be an example of God’s ‘salt and light’ to them, but I’m not sure how. In my mind, a stepmother’s role only goes so far. I’m extremely careful not to overstep boundaries. And I try to avoid conflict as much as I can. I grew up constantly being chastised by my own parents, often dealing with double standards within our own home, and I remember how counterproductive that used to be. I don’t want the same for them.

I believe that the answer lies somewhere in Scripture. The gospel reading from Mark today reminds us what a great responsibility we have as stewards, not to mislead those who have been put in our charge – “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). When I was their age, I sought role models furtively, looking for authenticity amongst those older than me. I don’t think that has changed. People are always looking for leadership. That doesn’t end even when one becomes an adult. Perhaps the best that I can do for them is to model with my own life what it means to live as God’s ‘salt and light’. I am, by nature, a flawed and angry woman. It will take God’s grace for me to be able to pull that off.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the grace and humility to be good parents and stewards to all the young people that God has put in our lives.    

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who helps us to rise above our flaws, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves for our children.

23 May, Wednesday – Ephemeral

23 May

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James 4:13-17

Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading, and make some money.’

You never know what will happen tomorrow: you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’ But how proud and sure of yourselves you are now! Pride of this kind is always wicked. Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn’t do it commits a sin.

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Mark 9:38-40

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’

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“You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow”

A burglary and assault case happened in my church’s parking lot last week. A 70-yr old parishioner, just done with mid-day mass, walked to her car as she had done so many times before. Unnoticed by her, she was followed by a young man. He made a move on her purse from behind, flung her to the ground and ran to a waiting getaway car. The woman broke her pelvis in three places. She is now in hospital, attempting to regain some form of mobility. Because of her age, there have been complications. Life will never be the same again for her.

Who would’ve thought that one could get mugged in a church parking lot, at 1pm in the afternoon. This is an idyllic neighbourhood, ‘safe’ or so we thought. Crime has never been an issue. It’s a community of soccer moms, loving dog-owners, seniors who have known each other their whole lives, kids who play together in the park. People are conservative, God-fearing and family-oriented. Everyone is in a state of shock from this. It could have been any one of us in the parking lot that day, or any one of our parents. “You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow” (James 4:14).

The circumstances are not ideal, but our whole community has been dealt a lesson in humility and self-awareness. Don’t take things for granted. Cherish your friends and loved ones, because you never know when time is going to get taken from you. Life’s curve balls are that wake-up call we sometimes need, to jolt us out of our complacency. “You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears”. We could be gone tomorrow if the wrong person walked into our neighbourhood and decided to throw us to the ground while snatching our purse or blow our brains out while we’re shopping for milk.

How would we conduct ourselves if we knew that this would be the last day, the last week, the last month of our life as we know it? How would our priorities change? How would our attitudes to our loved ones change? Most importantly, how would our relationship with God change?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are dealing with sudden changes in their circumstances. May the Holy Spirit give them comfort, healing and help them to make good decisions.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who volunteer as first responders, who think of others before they think of themselves. God bless all the men and women who work for the good of others.