Monthly Archives: July 2018

1 Aug, Wednesday – This Valley of Tears

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 15:10,16-21

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.
‘When your words came, I devoured them:
your word was my delight
and the joy of my heart;
for I was called by your name,
the Lord, God of Hosts.
I never took pleasure in sitting in scoffers’ company;
with your hand on me I held myself aloof,
since you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my suffering continual,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Do you mean to be for me a deceptive stream
with inconstant waters?’

To which the Lord replied,
‘If you come back,
I will take you back into my service;
and if you utter noble, not despicable, thoughts,
you shall be as my own mouth.
They will come back to you,
but you must not go back to them.
I will make you
a bronze wall fortified against this people.
They will fight against you
but they will not overcome you,
because I am with you
to save you and to deliver you
– it is the Lord who speaks.
I mean to deliver you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the clutches of the violent.’

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Matthew 13:44-46

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

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

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The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found

Since Sunday, we have read the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah in our first readings… day after day, Jeremiah seems to be ceaseless in his cries out to God.

‘Woe is me, my mother, for you have borne me
to be a man of strife and of dissension for all the land.
I neither lend nor borrow,
yet all of them curse me.’ He wails in this valley of tears.

I am reminded of Job. I am reminded of the many times I have complained against the hand that I feel God has dealt me. Many of us have endured episodes, seasons and circumstances, leaving us utterly helpless and distressed. Where are you, Lord? Compared to others around us who seem to be in greater sorrow, we can sometimes feel lame and weak for our whines. We may not even dare to express our exasperation publicly. But privately, we do – we feel dragged through this valley of tears. So much like Jeremiah, we sometimes find life meaningless because we cannot grasp the purpose for our suffering.

But we also find the repeated mention of Jesus’ parables of the treasure hidden in the fields, the rich man and his pearl of great price spread over these past few days. The consecutive alignment of these liturgical texts by our Church is no unnecessary detail. It is a keen reminder, a salient wake-up call, to us that the woes and weariness of this world is like the field that Jesus describes. Carved into the valley of sorrows is our daily battlefield. Beneath this battlefield that we live in, lies buried the greatest treasure we could ever hope to find – Jesus Christ our Saviour.

God has planted Christ in His plan for humanity’s salvation since the beginning of time. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ (John 1:1) Long before there was sin and suffering, there was this Treasure God had bequeathed us. That is why all religions and spiritualities of the world talk of a Quest, a Search for Meaning.

The bright lights and distractions of this world have buried our greatest Treasure. Christ is this pearl of great price that we have found. Are we ready to embrace this Truth of our hidden Treasure right now like the happy man, turn around and relinquish our attachment to the materiality of our life, to claim Christ as our reason for joyful living?

The Scripture readings today challenge me to cling very tightly to this reality of my relationship with Christ – that even if I face trials and unfairness like Jeremiah, I have a Treasure beyond all measure. It is hidden with Christ and hidden in Eternity. I may not be able to ‘spend’ it now in today’s currency, but I know where my treasures lie – ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Luke 12:34) Today, I am reminded to water the soil of my heart and nurture my love for Christ. I can only be a truly happy man when I recognise that my joy is not dependent on the seasons of the earth but rooted in God’s infinite love and mercy for me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord I desire a deeper relationship with you, to built my house on your foundations that will never change.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for being the Treasure that keeps on giving to us in your Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

31 July, Tuesday – Of Seeds and Weeds

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 14:17-22

The Lord said to me:
Say this word to the people:
‘Tears flood my eyes
night and day, unceasingly,
since a crushing blow falls on the daughter of my people,
a most grievous injury.
If I go into the countryside,
there lie men killed by the sword;
if I go into the city,
I see people sick with hunger;
even prophets and priests
plough the land: they are at their wit’s end.’

‘Have you rejected Judah altogether?
Does your very soul revolt at Zion?
Why have you struck us down without hope of cure?
We were hoping for peace – no good came of it!
For the moment of cure – nothing but terror!
the Lord, we do confess our wickedness
and our fathers’ guilt:
we have indeed sinned against you.
For your name’s sake do not reject us,
do not dishonour the throne of your glory.
Remember us; do not break your covenant with us.
Can any of the pagan Nothings make it rain?
Can the heavens produce showers?
No, it is you, the Lord.
O our God, you are our hope,
since it is you who do all this.’

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Matthew 13:36-43

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

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The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man

I saw a documentary once on hay harvesting, Victorian-style. The farmers first had to cut the hay, before leaving it out to dry. Naturally, they were subjected to the vagaries of the weather. Their efforts to cut the hay were also hampered by weeds whose long roots tangled in the blades of the machinery, causing the machine to jam. The frustrated farmers had to stop each time to dislodge the weeds before carrying on. Sadly, their hay harvesting turned out to be a failure as they were unable to complete it in time.

Our personal struggles with life are similar. God made us perfect and whole in the beginning, providing what is best for us, and in our lives we are given the choice of making our own decisions. Our moral compasses direct us in the way of God that we have been taught, but often we find that our efforts to do good are thwarted by distractions that try to lead us astray. We get tangled up in these distractions and have to disentangle ourselves in order to move on.

Yet, we need not end up like the farmers in the documentary. Our struggles need not be in vain. If we asked God to, He could help us rid the weeds in our lives so that we would never have to encounter problems with our daily ‘machinery’. We would not need to worry about tangled roots of weeds clumping in our lives creating havoc. If we tend to the weeds early, we may just be able to nip them in the bud.

God is the sower of good seed. He only wants what is best for us, and wants us to choose the right paths and make the right decisions. We used to have a saying in the kitchen when we were overwhelmed with orders, that we were “stuck in the weeds”. When our lives are overwhelmed with troubles, let us have faith that God will give us enough grace to get us out, and lift our “weeds” to Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us to prune our lives that we may be able to get rid of the weeds that tangle us in our journey with You.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for the times when You delivered us from our troubles and provided us with the help that we needed.

30 July, Monday – Hidden from View

Jul 30 – Memorial for St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

An adult convert, St. Peter (406-450) fought paganism and heresy, enforced reforms, and built several churches and ornate altars in his see. A preacher with outstanding language skills, he was given the name ‘Chrysologus’, referring to his ‘golden word’. 176 of his sermons have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation, etc., that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

– Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 13:1-11

The Lord said this to me, ‘Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it round your waist. But do not dip it in water.’ And so, as the Lord had ordered, I bought a loincloth and put it round my waist. A second time the word of the Lord was spoken to me, ‘Take the loincloth that you have bought and are wearing round your waist; up! Go to the Euphrates and hide it in a hole in the rock.’ So I went and hid it near the Euphrates as the Lord had ordered me. Many days afterwards the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to the Euphrates and fetch the loincloth I ordered you to hide there.’ So I went to the Euphrates, and I searched, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. The loincloth was spoilt, good for nothing. Then the word of the Lord was addressed to me, Thus says the Lord: In the same way I will spoil the arrogance of Judah and Jerusalem. This evil people who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the dictates of their own hard hearts, who have followed alien gods, and served them and worshipped them, let them become like this loincloth, good for nothing. For just as a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I had intended the whole House of Judah to cling to me – it is the Lord who speaks – to be my people, my glory, my honour and my boast. But they have not listened.’

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Matthew 13:31-35

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

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

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

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

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I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden…

One of the earliest books I remember growing up with was Aesop’s Fables. A Greek storyteller, Aesop imbued his stories of everyday life with moral truths. Perhaps we might recognize some of the titles: The Hare and the Tortoise, The Lion and the Mouse, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. All these stories served to help us understand in simple terms the message behind them.

Jesus taught in parables, keeping things simple and based on rural themes. But even the disciples could not understand everything that was taught, and would ask Jesus to explain. At times, they were also even too afraid to clarify with Jesus. When they asked Jesus why he taught in parables, Jesus said, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand”

There are times when I have read passages in the Bible myself, and not fully understood, despite reading over and over. While writing this reflection, I understand what the disciples must have felt. More importantly, I understand what Jesus meant by seeing and not seeing, hearing but not hearing or understanding. For if I had known from the start what the passages meant, then I would have moved on to the next, and the next, without probably pausing long enough to let the full meaning sink in. If I had understood at the start, I would not have asked the Holy Spirit for the wisdom of discernment. I would instead, have leaned on my own understanding, instead of allowing God to work in me and revealing it to me.

Sometimes things are hidden from us for a reason, but it is in trying to uncover the meaning where the real message truly is.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to open up our hearts and our minds to understand the Word of God.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us that with time, God’s purpose for us will be revealed, and it is in looking for the meaning that we may discover God’s message to us.

26 July, Sunday – Multiplication of Faith

29 July

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2 Kings 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing Elisha, the man of God, bread from the first-fruits, twenty barley loaves and fresh grain in the ear.’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’, Elisha said. But his servant replied, ‘How can I serve this to a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’ he insisted ‘for the Lord says this, “They will eat and have some left over.”’ He served them; they ate and had some left over, as the Lord had said.

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Ephesians 4:1-6

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

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John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

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I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.

We’ve heard of the saying we lead by example. Our children see how we act and mimic our ways, good or bad, to our amazement sometimes. We may not be entirely conscious of this but every day, every moment, someone is observing us, and vice versa, and observers make judgments. We emulate, or criticize, we applaud or abhor.

God wants us to lead lives dedicated to Him, and in unity not just with the Holy Trinity, but with each and every one of us. The values that St Paul exhorts to in his letter to the Ephesians – charity, selflessness, gentleness, patience – are borne out of love… for God and for each other. If our lives reflect love, then people who observe us may be drawn to emulate the love, and in due course, come to know Christ Jesus. In such a way, then is our faith multiplied.

When Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves, he not only wanted to feed his people, he wanted them to understand and believe in the power of God: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:11). He wanted them to have faith that even in such a tight situation with so little at hand, God would provide for the many thousands. He wanted them to look beyond the miracle and look for God in the miracle.

I believe that Jesus escaped into the hills on his own when he realized the people’s intention to crown him as king, because then they would see a figure head and not the Divine God. They would miss the message. Perhaps as well, he wanted them to reflect on the works that he had done and the miracles they had seen, on their own and based on their own understanding. If the people understood and believed in God, then they would live their lives for God, multiplying their faith and others as well.

We may not see miracles such as these, but there are miracles happening around us every day if we look. God is present in each of these miracles. Let us learn to look for God in every miracle that we encounter.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us to live lives of love, worthy to be called children of God, that others may see and learn about You and Your unending love. Help us in our own ways, to multiply our faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God Almighty for the wondrous miracles that He performs every day, from the moment we awake till we close our eyes.

28 Jul, Saturday – God Knows

28 Jul

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Jeremiah 7:1-11

The word that was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘Go and stand at the gate of the Temple of the Lord and there proclaim this message. Say, “Listen to the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who come in by these gates to worship the Lord. The Lord Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Amend your behaviour and your actions and I will stay with you here in this place. Put no trust in delusive words like these: This is the sanctuary of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Lord! But if you do amend your behaviour and your actions, if you treat each other fairly, if you do not exploit the stranger, the orphan and the widow (if you do not shed innocent blood in this place), and if you do not follow alien gods, to your own ruin, then here in this place I will stay with you, in the land that long ago I gave to your fathers for ever. Yet here you are, trusting in delusive words, to no purpose! Steal, would you, murder, commit adultery, perjure yourselves, burn incense to Baal, follow alien gods that you do not know? – and then come presenting yourselves in this Temple that bears my name, saying: Now we are safe – safe to go on committing all these abominations! Do you take this Temple that bears my name for a robbers’ den? I, at any rate, am not blind – it is the Lord who speaks.”’

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Matthew 13:24-30

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

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“Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?”

In today’s Gospel, we read of the parable of the darnel. My friends, our faith, isn’t as simple as saying we are committed to God or that we surrender and that’s it. In fact, it would seem that the commitment is committing to a life of struggles, sacrifices, misunderstandings, ridicule.

But we can also see it as a process, as in the parable, where if we remove the darnel before harvest, we might pull up the wheat with it, and the wheat can’t then be harvested.

God is aware of all our struggles, the evil and temptations in our lives. What is important is to know that God sees all of us as ‘good seeds’ and that He desires to ‘harvest’ and ‘gather’ us into His barn.

While we are aware of our struggles and obstacles, we need to be aware of the times we ourselves allow ‘darnel’ into the harvest or when we ourselves are the ‘darnel’.

Our faith is far more than doing what is required of us. Our faith is that of a transformation and conversion of our lives internally. That we are not called to focus on the ‘darnel’ but focus on the sower, to know and trust that He knows what He is doing. That ultimately, it is for us to grow to our fullest potential and eventually return to Him.

Maybe today, we can also spend some time in prayer of what are some of the ‘darnel’ in our lives that we are always thinking of removing instead of overcoming. Where sometimes we try to resolve an issue or avoid a conflict by not speaking, however not addressing the main issue. We may feel then that the ‘darnel’ has been removed, but what actually happens is that it just simply pulls us along with it because we have not overcome.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for strength to fight not just against the superficial, but to delve deeper into our lives to address the inner hurts and issues, to want to reconcile. So that more than removing a problem or issue, we overcome it instead because it may return again. Help us to trust in You, for You know and understand us even more than we know ourselves.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for breaking down your message for us in parables. We give all glory to you. Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

27 Jul, Friday – Come Back

27 Jul

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Jeremiah 3:14-17

Come back, disloyal children – it is the Lord who speaks – for I alone am your Master. I will take one from a town, two from a clan, and bring you to Zion. I will give you shepherds after my own heart, and these shall feed you on knowledge and discretion. And when you have increased and become many in the land, then – it is the Lord who speaks – no one will ever say again: Where is the ark of the covenant of the Lord? There will be no thought of it, no memory of it, no regret for it, no making of another. When that time comes, Jerusalem shall be called: The Throne of the Lord; all the nations will gather there in the name of the Lord and will no longer follow the dictates of their own stubborn hearts.

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Matthew 13:18-23

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

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“I shall give you shepherds after my own heart, who will pasture you wisely and discreetly.”

In today’s Gospel, we read of a familiar passage, the parable of the sower. Maybe we can use this opportunity to realise how we have been receiving God’s Word.

It’s also quite amazing how God’s Word is compared to a seed that is sown and not a ripe fruit that we can simply digest in order to reap its benefits and goodness.

In our world today where we look for instant gratification, immediate pleasure and resolution, we wonder where is God and what does His Word mean? Many times, it seems that even the priest fails to preach a good homily for us to take back something tangible. “It’s not our fault that we find it difficult to grow in our faith, because it seems that ‘our shepherds’ are not providing us with the platforms for us to receive those seeds and allow them to grow.

The reality is maybe ‘our shepherds’ can be better at pasturing, but we too can be better in desiring the message that God has for each and every one of us. We will know best how to nurture this seed that God has given us. And yes, it is a seed, it will need time and the conditions for it to grow, to bear fruit and thereafter, multiply.

Many times we fall into the trap of finding trees that have grown and matured, just simply eating from the fruit of those trees. Looking at demand and supply, it wouldn’t be long before there just isn’t enough to go around anymore. And while the sower will be able to provide for himself still, those who simply just latch on, or find the easy way out, will suddenly feel deprived and feel like ‘our shepherds’ or God aren’t providing.

Today, we know that we are given this seed and we can choose what we want to do with it. Alternatively, we can always depend on the fruits of others, and truthfully, may not even be the fruit that will satisfy our innermost desires to complete our lives. Today, let us not keep this seed in our pockets but plant it, work on it, protect it, love it so that it can grow, that it can live, that in turn can provide and multiply.

May this seed be the relationships we have with our loved ones, especially with you our Father and eventually, with the whole world. May this seed be a testimony of not just your love for us, but our love for you. “I shall give you shepherds after my own heart, who will pasture you wisely and discreetly.” Help us to grow this seed, to build your kingdom and for your will to be done.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for perseverance, for patience, for commitment, dedication. Above all, we pray for a renewed encounter with you. Help us on this journey where we are bombarded with so many wrong values, interpretations and definitions of what is life and what is love. Help us to always look to you as the one true example and definition.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all the shepherds you have sent our way. Help us to bring out the best in our shepherds and also for us to be shepherds to others.

26 Jul, Thursday – Controlling Control

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

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

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

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Jeremiah 2:1-3,7-8,12-13

The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying, ‘Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem:

‘“The Lord says this:
I remember the affection of your youth,
the love of your bridal days:
you followed me through the wilderness,
through a land unsown.
Israel was sacred to the Lord,
the first-fruits of his harvest;
anyone who ate of this had to pay for it,
misfortune came to them –
it is the Lord who speaks.”

‘I brought you to a fertile country
to enjoy its produce and good things;
but no sooner had you entered than you defiled my land,
and made my heritage detestable.
The priests have never asked, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me.
The shepherds have rebelled against me;
the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal,
following things with no power in them.

‘You heavens, stand aghast at this,
stand stupefied, stand utterly appalled
– it is the Lord who speaks.
Since my people have committed a double crime:
they have abandoned me,
the fountain of living water,
only to dig cisterns for themselves,
leaky cisterns
that hold no water.’

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Matthew 13:10-17

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

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

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

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For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it

“I love going for fitness classes. For that one hour, I release all control and let someone else tell me what to do.” A friend exclaimed this recently, and it struck a chord deep within my heart. She’s an entrepreneur who takes charge of every aspect of her business; making decisions everyday wears her out and saps her mental strength. During the classes, she places her trust in the instructor and follows orders, believing that the exercises she goes through will put her in better condition than before.

Unlike her, it has been difficult for me to give up control. I enjoy the responsibility of charting my own direction, and the risk of getting things either gloriously right, or frighteningly wrong. However, I have come to realise that God is the only one truly in control of everything. He cedes some agency to us as we live our mortal lives, while still orchestrating life’s grand aria.

Desiring control is by no means a bad thing. So much of how we live our lives is deeply connected to our personalities and past experiences. The melange of individuality around us makes life so poignantly dynamic and unpredictable; a perfect opportunity for God to demonstrate his infinite wisom.

Brothers and sisters, what does control mean to you, and how does your attitude towards it influence how you live your life?

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, bless us with the instincts to realise when we should be relinquishing control. Guide our thoughts, words, and actions every step of the way.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for sprinkling your creation with all types of people. May we work together harmoniously in your service.

25 Jul, Wednesday – Life As A Ransom

Jul 25 – Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of Saint John the Apostle, and may have been Jesus’ cousin. He is called “the Greater” simply because he became an Apostle before Saint James the Lesser. Apparent disciple of Saint John the Baptist. Fisherman. He left everything when Christ called him to be a fisher of men. Was present during most of the recorded miracles of Christ. Preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. First Apostle to be martyred.

The pilgrimage to his relics in Compostela became such a popular devotion that the symbols of pilgrims have become his emblems, and he became patron of pilgrims. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish; for centuries, the Spanish army rode to battle with the cry “Santiago!” (“Saint James!”)

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

– The Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

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

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

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Matthew 20:20-28

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

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

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“… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many;”

Personal protection services. In the past I used to wonder if I actually had the mettle to put my body on the line for someone. I often watch it on TV and think to myself, “Yes, that is the absolutely right thing to do, I would have done it myself!”. But a few days later, I wonder if that is really true, after the cinematography effects have worn out. I wonder what fear goes through the mind of a bodyguard in that situation even with all that training which makes them instinctively use their body as a shield.

What about something a little closer to home which could actually happen, for example, standing in front of someone experiencing a knife attack? If you ask me, it actually sounds more scary than taking a bullet. Maybe we might, for someone we love, to prevent their suffering. But Jesus says if we love those who love us, what good is that.

Post-reversion me thinks of this same scenario in a slightly different context, although I don’t think it’s different at all. Would I put my life on the line to prevent desecration to the Body of Christ? (Think immediate martyrdom) Again, I wouldn’t know how crippled by fear I might be. But I suppose if we do know Jesus well enough, it would be an action worth taking and I can think of many saints who would have done it.

So if we truly believe in the true presence of Our Lord and Saviour in the Eucharist, then it would be an act of infinite merit. What was it to Jesus that he should sacrifice His life for ours? Didn’t He give us our life to begin with? I don’t recall ever actually being required to give anything to God, it is my free response that would please him with adding anything to His glory. There was nothing in it for Him to ransom His own life for us and yet He did. And some of those He did it for still turn away from Him today.

So how do we then, willingly and freely, be a slave to others and in doing so reflect the person of Jesus to those we meet? I think we can every single day if we start with the less scary things and not think about giving up our lives just yet.

Can we sacrifice our own opinions and ideas for the greater good of our communities, ministries, organizations, and even families?

Can we give way to the guy trying to cut into the filter lane at the last moment because he was too impatient to get in line?

Can we choose to stand up and defend the person who is being backstabbed in the office while on MC?

Can we lay aside our pride and admit to our spouse that we were in fact wrong and ask for forgiveness?

Can we wash the dishes after dinner, even if it was us who bought or cooked dinner?

The news is very often depressing. How about we show a little bit of Christ and try to put ourselves on the line sometimes and just maybe, when the chance comes to really take one for Jesus, it won’t seem so foreign; because then, we would know so much more, how He feels.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I choose your way, starting from the simplest things so that when the bigger test comes, I will be ready. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving me these chances and choices every single day that I may practice to be more like you.

24 Jul, Tuesday – Brother And Sister

Jul 24 – Memorial for St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest

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

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

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Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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John 20:1-2,11-18

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

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

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For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Are you and I living the will of the Father? To answer that question, we must first understand what is the will of the Father in our lives? I tend to think that His will in my life is personalised, He does not have the same will for your life. So how do we go about finding this perfect will, these plans that will make us prosper? Here are some suggestions:

Walk with Him daily

How do wives know what their husbands prefer to eat daily? For example, do they prefer taste over healthier options? If they are in tune with each other, surely this cannot be hard to know. Also you can simply ask and clarify, even get feedback. The same principle can be applied if we spend time with God; quiet time in prayers and reading the Gospel daily gets us in tune with God. We need to be in tune and the way to do it is to plug in to the right networks, through prayers and the intercession of Saints.

Be open to the prompting of the Spirit

God had promised us an advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere symbol, but is God Himself. As baptised Catholics, we receive the Holy Spirit during baptism. We are the bearer of this sweet spirit, who guides us and protects us. The Holy Spirit though within us, will not act if we do not cooperate. Let us be open, just as we are when we meet a new love interest. We give it time and we let ‘things’ bloom and unfold without having too many preconceived notions.

Spiritual Direction

Everyone should have a spiritual director, someone who journeys with them in their walk of faith. I used to have one some two years ago. It is a misconception that we have it all figured out? Is that even possible, regardless of our age and life experience?

In my walk with my spiritual director, a Jesuit priest, I had someone to confide in and share and learn from. It was a safe space to confide in and to grow and explore my thoughts and hopes, even express my fears. It was also a chance for me to bounce my ideas, to ensure that I was truly listening to the voice of God and not being led by other voices.

Stay close to Mama

The intercession of our Mother Mary has never failed me. She has been holding me close enough so that I will never lose my God. Some 20 years ago, when I felt my world tumbling down, I started praying the rosary daily, and it was She who kept me faithful to my Lord. She will do the same for anyone of Her children.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, please make us your children by showing us your will. Mama, pray for us, and help us your children to never lose our God.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for calling us your brother and your sister, your child and your lover.

23 Jul, Monday – Is This A Sign?

Jul 23 – Memorial for St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious

Coming from a noble yet religious background, St. Bridget (1302-1373) was friend and counsellor to many priests and theologians of her day. As chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur, she counselled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. She was harassed by others at the court for pursuing a religious life.

She eventually renounced her title of princess and became the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines), chastening and counselling kings and Popes Clement VI, Urban VI, and Gregory XI. St. Bridget encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

– Patron Saint Index

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Micah 6:1-4,6-8

Listen to what the Lord is saying:

Stand up and let the case begin in the hearing of the mountains
and let the hills hear what you say.
Listen, you mountains, to the Lord’s accusation,
give ear, you foundations of the earth,
for the Lord is accusing his people,
pleading against Israel:
My people, what have I done to you,
how have I been a burden to you? Answer me.
I brought you out of the land of Egypt,
I rescued you from the house of slavery;
I sent Moses to lead you,
with Aaron and Miriam.

– ‘With what gift shall I come into the Lord’s presence
and bow down before God on high?
Shall I come with holocausts,
with calves one year old?
Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand,
with libations of oil in torrents?
Must I give my first-born for what I have done wrong,
the fruit of my body for my own sin?’

– What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what the Lord asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.

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Matthew 12:38-42

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

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The Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth

It was a religious nun who pointed out to me that the question “Is this is a sign?”, is superstitious in itself. It was during a time in my life that I demanded signs, to affirm my choices and direct my paths. Looking back, I realise that it was so shallow of me to leave important decisions to these so-called signs instead of through proper discernment and guidance.

People continue to live their lives relying on signs; perhaps because they are not open to listening to the voice of God. Though sometimes demanding, the voice of God and the ways of the Lord, are always the right way.

God sent His only Son to earth, to suffer and die for our salvation. On the onset, none of it makes sense. It’s because none of us would allow our children, let alone our only son, to be sacrificed for the sake of others. Sadly, we are sometimes better at seeking the good of only ourselves and our families. Surely we have a responsibility to provide for and protect our families. However as a Christian, it is important that we realise that our family also consists of the poor, needy, the oppressed and the lonely. Have we done our part to serve our family?

When was the last time we encouraged our children and advised them so that they would consider vocations of religious life and mission? Many parishioners advise me to take on roles in ministry and though I never ask them, I always wonder where their children were (some are not even seen at Sunday masses).

Isn’t it beautiful to be the giver? Our Lord and master is a giver, surely as His disciples we can do the same. Can we nurture our children to have the heart that listens to the voice of God and gives glory to His name?

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, help us to have a heart that listens to you and is able to love like you. Divine Master, make us more like you. Help us to have a personal relationship with you till the end of time. Help us to help our families.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we hear your voice in every beat of our hearts. No signs are needed at all.