Monthly Archives: September 2018

1 October, Monday – Humility

1 October – Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor, Patroness of Missions

Born to a pious middle-class French family of tradesmen, Francoise-Marie Therese Martin (1873–1897) was the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, and all four of her sisters became nuns. Her mother died when Francoise-Marie was only four, and the family moved to Lisieux, Normandy, France to be closer to family.

She was cured from an illness at the age of 8 when a statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her. She was educated by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre, and confirmed there at the age of 11. Just before her 14th birthday, she received a vision of the Child Jesus. She immediately understood the great sacrifice that had been made for her, and developed an unshakeable faith.

She tried to join the Carmelites, but was turned down due to her age. She was a pilgrim to Rome for the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII whom she met and who knew of her desire to become a nun. She joined the Carmelites at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 at the age of 15, taking her final vow on 8 September 1890 at the age of 17.

She is known by all for her complete devotion to spiritual development and to the austerities of the Carmelite Rule. Due to health problems resulting from her ongoing fight with tuberculosis, her superiors ordered her not to fast. She became novice mistress at the age of 20, and at age 22 was ordered by her prioress to begin writing her memories and ideas. The material would turn into the book History of a Soul.

She defined her path to God and holiness at The Little Way, which consisted of child-like love and trust in God. She had an ongoing correspondence with the Carmelite missionaries in China, often stating how much she wanted to come work with them. Many miracles are attributed to her and she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
– Saint Therese of Lisieux

– Patron Saint Index

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Job 1:6-22

One day the Sons of God came to attend on the Lord, and among them was Satan. So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Round the earth,’ he answered ‘roaming about.’ So the Lord asked him, ‘Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Yes,’ Satan said ‘but Job is not God-fearing for nothing, is he? Have you not put a wall round him and his house and all his domain? You have blessed all he undertakes, and his flocks throng the countryside. But stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his possessions: I warrant you, he will curse you to your face.’ ‘Very well,’ the Lord said to Satan ‘all he has is in your power. But keep your hands off his person.’ So Satan left the presence of the Lord.

On the day when Job’s sons and daughters were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job. ‘Your oxen’ he said ‘were at the plough, with the donkeys grazing at their side, when the Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The fire of God’ he said ‘has fallen from the heavens and burnt up all your sheep, and your shepherds too: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘The Chaldaeans,’ he said ‘three bands of them, have raided your camels and made off with them. Your servants they put to the sword: I alone escaped to tell you.’ He had not finished speaking when another messenger arrived. ‘Your sons and daughters’ he said ‘were at their meal and drinking wine at their eldest brother’s house, when suddenly from the wilderness a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone escaped to tell you.’

Job rose and tore his gown and shaved his head. Then falling to the ground he worshipped and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!’

In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.

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Luke 9:46-50

An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’

John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’

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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Two beautiful readings that bring out what really life is about. It’s never about what we have on earth but who we have as our eternal Father. The understanding of our identity, the purpose of our lives, the only one aim we all should have is to return to unity with God, our Father, with the world in love.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of Job, sometimes our lives are so smooth that we simply cannot comprehend why God would want us to suffer after everything we’ve done for Him. But truly there are indeed many times that we need to be reminded of who gave us this life and our possessions. If all these can save us from eternal damnation, maybe it’s good that we all continuously suffer on earth.

Or we can look at it from the point of view of the Gospel where it says, “For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.” Maybe our “sufferings” have much wisdom for us to digest, to see the world in a new light, to appreciate the things/people that we have taken for granted of, to treasure life and to show love. For when we are at our lowest, not only is the way only up, but that’s exactly where we find Christ because that’s where He lives, not in the limelight and the material distractions that we have, but in the simple, in the ordinary, in our hearts, where we can truly be ourselves.

For is it then that we can also see who is with us and who is merely using us. For “anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

Let us invite Christ in our lives in order that we may invite all, to see the Christ in others as well as to be Christ to others. We will be the greatest when we recognise that we have the greatest gift of all, who is Christ Himself, when He gave His life for us. Let us now live for Him, to glorify Him. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, many times we are so caught up with doing and finishing what we have to do, we occupy ourselves with so many things till we leave you out. Help us to drop those in order that we may see you clearer and depend on you, in order that we will lead all to glorify you. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for your example, that you are not a king that is associated with wealth, fame or power. Thank you Lord for your humility, for understanding, for listening and for your love.

30 September, Sunday – Exclusion

30 September 2018

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Numbers 11:25-29

The Lord came down in the Cloud. He spoke with Moses, but took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit came on them they prophesied, but not again.

Two men had stayed back in the camp; one was called Eldad and the other Medad. The spirit came down on them; though they had not gone to the Tent, their names were enrolled among the rest. These began to prophesy in the camp. The young man ran to tell this to Moses, ‘Look,’ he said ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Then said Joshua the son of Nun, who had served Moses from his youth, ‘My Lord Moses, stop them!’ Moses answered him, ‘Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!’

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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 9:38-43,45,47-48

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.

‘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.’

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Anyone who is not against us is for us.

In today’s readings, we have similar situations: in the first, the two elders who had not been gathered at the tent, started prophesying after the spirit of God also descended upon them. In the Gospel reading, Jesus was informed of a man who was casting out devils in his name. In both situations, someone had tried to stop these men from doing what they were doing. But Moses and Jesus respectively, vetoed the decision.

Do we sometimes feel that we have been excluded from certain groups, or perhaps we are the ones who have at some point in our lives excluded other people from joining our group? If we were excluded, then we might have been made to feel that we didn’t belong. We might have questioned what our shortcomings were, or what qualities that others had that we didn’t.

While this might happen in our “human” lives – it being a “human” trait – we can take comfort that this spirit of exclusion is not something that Jesus believes in. With Jesus, we are all considered children of God. He impressed upon us that everyone is welcome into the House of God; as long as we turned to Him for forgiveness and salvation, God’s love is available to everyone – saint, sinner, man, woman, child, rich or poor. Jesus set this example by dining with the tax collectors, speaking with the Samaritans, healing the lepers, forgiving the sinners. Jesus said “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

And so, when we are all united in a common interest, and that is doing God’s work in God’s name, there is no difference between what we are doing compared to what our neighbor is doing, compared to what our friend is doing. God does not rank our work, He sees only our hearts. If our hearts beat for God, then are we not moving together in one unit? Is there a need for exclusion of anyone who is for the same cause as us? That is Jesus’ message to us today.

If we have ever felt excluded, or felt that people should be excluded from something, let us keep in mind that God excludes no one, and no one is left behind. As Pope Francis said in a Penitential Liturgy in Saint Peter’s Basilica in March of year 2015, “No one can be excluded from the mercy of God”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for an open heart that will accept all. Help us to understand in our hearts when you say that anyone who is not against God is for God.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for accepting us for who we are, saint or sinner, and assuring us that the mercy and love of God is not excluded from us. We thank you for counting us as God’s children.

29 September, Saturday – Meeting of Minds

29 September – Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages. So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

– from a homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great

Michael was the leader of the army of God during the Lucifer uprising. Devotion to him is common to Muslims, Christians and Jews with writings about him in all three cultures. He is considered as the guardian angel of Israel, and the guardian and protector of the Church.

Raphael is one of the seven angels that stand before God’s throne. He is the lead character in the book of Tobit in which he travelled with (and guarded) Tobiah, and cured a man’s blindness; hence his connection with travellers, young people, blindness, healing and healers.

– Patron Saints Index

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.

And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Apocalypse 12:7-12

Now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him. Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom, because even in the face of death they would not cling to life. Let the heavens rejoice and all who live there.’

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John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. so You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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“How do you know me?”

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “A thousand cups of wine do not suffice when true friends meet, but half a sentence is too much when there is no meeting of minds.” I think back sometimes when I was working with a colleague, and she was tasked with meeting certain financial targets in her small service line. It was a huge challenge, and she had a small team to assist her. They were already overworked with current engagements when I joined her team, and it seemed to me that they were so busy trying to carry out their engagements that they hardly had time to think about strategy. She had all these ideas in her head about how to expand and how to move things forward, but no time or resources for execution. I recall having a conversation with her once, and we realized that we shared the same ideas, the same enthusiasm, and every time we talked over lunch or a cup of coffee, it was like a light went on and the hours flew by. Those were exciting conversations and, truth be told, I have never met anyone quite like her who could fire you up in a discussion about strategy like that.

When people understand each other, there is very little need for the use of words to explain oneself. There is a chemistry at work, where you just know what the other person is thinking or feeling, or that you get a sense of what they like or don’t like. It’s hard enough sometimes trying to understand ourselves, what more trying to elucidate it to others. So it is a relief when someone operates on the same wavelength as you, and gets you before you can even get the words out.

With Jesus, there is no need to explain ourselves. Jesus knows us intimately. He knows our thoughts, our hearts, our deeds and ambitions, doubts and fears. He knows our character. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”, says Jeremiah 1:5. “Even before they call I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear”, says Isaiah 65:24. What comfort it is to know that Jesus understands us, even in our troubled, most tumultuous times! Times when prayer fails to form on our lips, times when we are confused and conflicted within. Sometimes in these times and in desperation and frustration to find the right words, I say “Lord, you know my troubles, you know what is in my heart and in my mind. Help me find a way.” Even in those times, I feel my load a little lighter for sharing it.

Jesus knew Nathanael before he was even called. He knew the kind of person he was, which surprised Nathanael. He even knew his doubts (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)), and addressed them. For the times when we hesitate in prayer or think that no one will understand our problems, let us not doubt that Jesus will understand and help us, for he knows us intimately. He is our friend — not just any friend — but that friend who is on the same frequency as us, the friend who can finish our sentences and gets us, even before we can finish expressing ourselves. Let us lift our cares to Jesus our friend and brother, and let us be illuminated by his grace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray to break down our pride to share our innermost thoughts and troubles with you, in the faith that you will, and do understand us, and will be a balm to our soul.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the good friends that you bring our way, for those who understand us and not judge us when we share. Thank you for our friends who double our happiness and halve our sorrows.

28 September, Friday – Seedlings

28 September – Memorial for St. Wenceslaus, Martyr; Memorial for St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Wenceslaus (907-929) was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief, who was baptised on her wedding day but apparently never seriously took to the faith. He was the grandson and student of St. Ludmilla.

When his father was killed during a pagan backlash against Christianity, Wenceslaus ascended to power as the Duke of Bohemia and fought the pagans with prayer and patience. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaus at the door of a church. Though he was killed for political reasons, he is normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith. Miracles have been reported at his tomb, and he is the subject of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.

– Patron Saint Index

 Laurence Ruiz (1600–1637) had a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both of whom were Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He was a professional calligrapher and documents transcriptionist. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was a married layman, and the father of two sons and a daughter.

For unknown reasons, Laurence was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests, St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Mguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St. Vincente Showozuka de la Cruz, and a layman St. Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.

Laurence could have gone to Formosa (modern Taiwan), but feared the Spaniards there would hang him, and so stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured in several ways for days. Laurence and the Japanese priest broke at one point, and were ready to renounce their faith in exchange for release, but after their moment of crisis, they reclaimed their faith and defied their tormentors. He was the first canonised Filipino martyr.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.

A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.

A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

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Luke 9:18-22

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

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“He has made everything appropriate to its time, and put timeless into their hearts”

We are familiar with the phrase, “All in good time”, meaning that everything will happen at the appropriate moment. It is easy to believe that for something good which we are waiting for, but how do you use that to explain something negative that has happened? I often wondered as a child, and even now as a grown person, why certain bad things happen, and why God allows them to happen. Recently the church has been mired with the sexual scandals of priests, with some reports that the Catholic faith is in crisis. There have even been calls for the Pope to step down. I admit that reading the details of the scandals (even a summary at that) was enough to sicken me. But more than that, this whole saga has also despaired me, as I am sure other members of the Catholic faith as well. We put our trust in these ordained ‘men of God’, but that trust is now broken. It hurts more because we had seen them as models of upright Christian goodness and beacons of faith, but they were really monsters in our midst. Why God, why our church, and why our faith? Why the children involved, and why in the first place, these men? Why were they put in our midst to begin with? If these are the sort of men who are ‘chosen’ to be shepherds of our faith, what kind of future for the church will we have for our lambs?

I cannot blame the people for not wanting to return to the affected churches, or any church for that matter. There is an anger that seethes in them — anger and disappointment. And what about the victims and their families? The church has let them down, we have felt let down. While the bulk of this scandal has so far been reported in the Americas, the effects and the doubts will reach out worldwide: if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

I don’t have an answer for all the whys, not just for what has happened, but for everything that hasn’t gone right, either in the world or in my own life. However, I hope I can retain in my heart a little seedling of hope, a seedling that one day may burst into fruition and become a tree that I can shelter under and hold onto in times of trouble. I wonder if the current crisis is one that is a test of faith for us all; not just for the church, but for us as individual parishioners, as followers of Christ. In essence, that is what it all boils down to — we are all at church because we follow Christ, we believe in Christ. The message of the Lord was revealed to us and we believe it. The perpetrators will come and go, but the message of eternal life lives forever.

That is not to say that I condone or side these priests and what they have done. If they have done wrong, then let them be judged according to law, both man-made and God. As for us, we cannot know what God’s plan is in the face of such a crisis. Perhaps it is a call by God to come together at this moment, this time that God deems appropriate, to strengthen our faith, so that when another time comes when the world is in crisis, we are more prepared to stand together and more steadfastly. Perhaps it is God’s hope for us to rebuild the church, even as we rebuild our faith. I don’t know. What I do know is that when I see my mother laugh merrily as she sings along with her church choir, or when the children at church look forward to Sunday school, or the pride I feel when my son sings “Jesus loves me this I know”, I know that that seed of faith, though small, is well and alive. There is hope in this seed, and that hope is rooted in more than what I see or don’t see. It is rooted in Jesus.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for our church in this time of crisis and trial. May we collectively come together as God’s children to repair and rebuild the church and our own faith, and remember always that You are what holds us all together.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the strength during our trials and tribulations. We cannot do this without You and we pray for continued guidance and strengthening of faith, even when we fail to see the whole picture.

27 September, Thursday – Legacies

27 September – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

– Patron Saints Index

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.

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Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

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“One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays”

This year marked for me 17 years of being in the workforce, most of which was with the same firm. I don’t know if I have shared this before, but most of the work I did was around companies that were in distress. I used to read a lot about companies that got built up, lasted generations, then collapsed in the blink of an eye. Overnight, lives turned upside down, legacies ended. The sad ones were the companies whose undoing was due to complacency and greed. I know greed seems like a strong word, and maybe for some, exists in a world apart from us or on the silver screen, but it is real. Greed in the form of wanting more money, vanity, popularity, pride.

I recently read a book called “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. The most common regret was wishing that one had lived a life true to one’s self, and not what others expected of one. It’s so easy to be caught up by the present and pursuit of the next thing, that we fail to see the bigger picture of our lives. For most of us, our lives revolve around our inbox, answering emails late into the night. We respond to other people’s deadlines and emergencies, and plan fastidiously for our clients, helping them to achieve their annual targets. Their targets become our targets. But those targets are temporary. The next year, there will be new targets; the old will be forgotten, charted in the annual report for comparison later to the current year, likely as a blip on a line chart or bar graph. Meanwhile, what about our own life targets?

Life passes us by so quickly. I have seen so many contemporaries feeling jaded and restless, feeling the need to do something else more meaningful. That is our soul telling us that we are made for more. But we don’t know what that is, and we sit and hope that some sign comes to tell us what that missing piece is. Few of us will look for it ourselves. Then one day, we find that death knocks on our door. Our complacency has eaten away what time we have here on earth, and we have dreams half fulfilled, if even at all. We write wills and leave our belongings for the next generation, but what else are we leaving our children? What legacies, what other memories? What mark are we leaving here on earth that we can say was for the greater good, even if in the smallest measure? Can we say our souls thirsted to achieve the best of our inherent abilities and we strived to achieve it and satisfied it? Our worldly achievements and belongings are not something we can bring to bear before God on judgment day; our epitaphs will not read “here lies so and so, who always meticulously reconciled every cent/had a million Facebook friends/was the number one salesperson for 10 years consecutively”. No. We would want to be remembered as a dear father, mother, sister, brother, child, friend, and we would want people to mean it.

A dearly beloved priest in the Assumption Church of Petaling Jaya recently passed away. Father Mari Arokiam’s death was sudden and left many people shocked. During his funeral mass, the congregation prayed for the “grace of a well-prepared death”, that when we are called to the Lord, we will be “ready, with our lamp of faith, alight, and our baptismal robe unstained”. Father Mari was a man with a big heart, especially for the poor. Ironically, as we celebrate the Memorial of St Vincent de Paul today, we also remember Father Mari, who had also served in the Society of St Vincent de Paul in his lifetime. As we reflect on our own lives and the legacy that we want to leave behind, let us keep in mind Father Mari’s words at his silver jubilee last year, “One day when I am gone, I want to be remembered as a faithful priest who had compassion”.

How then do we want to be remembered?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and give us the courage to live our lives as You have determined it. We pray to leave behind a lasting legacy that is pleasing to God. We pray as well for the soul of Father Mari, may he rest in peace in the eternal glory of God.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the life of Father Mari, for his contributions and his compassion. May his legacy be remembered by all who knew him.

26 September, Wednesday – Rags and Riches

26 September – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

– Patron Saints Index

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Proverbs 30:5-9

Every word of God is unalloyed,
he is the shield of those who take refuge in him.
To his words make no addition,
lest he reprove you and know you for a fraud.

Two things I beg of you,
do not grudge me them before I die:
keep falsehood and lies far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away
and say, ‘the Lord – who is the Lord?’
or else, in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.

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Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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“Provide me only with the food I need”

As I write this, the book “Billion Dollar Whale” has just been released. It is a book written by two Wall Street Journal reporters detailing the life of excess and scandal surrounding businessman Jho Low. A prominent Malaysian politician shared an excerpt of the book recently, about a circus-themed birthday party that Jho Low threw for himself. The extravagance of the party led it to be dubbed the most expensive private party ever held in Las Vegas.

Over the past few years, details of the scandal surrounding Jho Low and the 1MDB saga have emerged, and the life of excess of certain parties involved using public money have angered the Malaysian people. If the details of the various reports are accurate, this would be the most mind-boggling scandal the world would have ever seen.

Today’s reading encourages a life of balance. When is enough, enough? The following line in the reading caught me: “Lest being full, I deny you… or being in want, I steal and profane the name of my God”. The scandal above has shown both sides of the coin – the alleged parties wanted more and so they stole, and being full, they still lived a life that was against all that God abhors. Like Parkinson’s Law, that states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, so too does money – our lives expand to fill the money available at hand. Where and how do we draw the line? At what point do we reach sufficiency, and what is our definition of sufficiency? Will we be happy when we reach sufficiency, or when we give to others out of our sufficiency? Jesus advised his disciples not to take anything for the journey, trusting instead in God to provide for them for their necessities. In that trust, the Twelve set off.

And so too shall we set off, in our own approach to life, believing that God will see us through. If He waters the trees and clothes the flowers so beautifully, then what more shall He do for us? Perhaps the thing that we should ask ourselves is not how much we have, but out of what we have, how shall we give to others? Perhaps in sharing, we may experience for ourselves a taste of the riches of the Kingdom of God, and therein shall our treasure lie, therein shall our desire be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for the wisdom of discernment, to know where to draw the line between wanting more and needing more. Help us to live our lives in balance, knowing that you will provide for us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the roofs over our heads, the food in our stomachs, the jobs that we have and the ability to sleep soundly at night. We pray for those who are in need, that we may find a way to help them.

25 September, Tuesday – True Intent

25 September

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Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,
who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,
the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice
is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,
lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;
too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,
such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,
he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,
when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:
he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry
shall himself plead and not be heard.

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Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

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A man’s conduct may strike him as upright, the Lord, however, weighs the heart…

If I am honest with myself, there are plenty of times when I am pleasant with others or perform a good deed for them, but my motives are not entirely altruistic. That is not to say that there is a Machiavellian element to my behavior nor am I scheming to harm someone, but I reflect on the pureness of my words and actions.

What do I mean? Well, do my actions and words aim to gain recognition and favor with others, to win in the arena of public opinion, or do they truly manifest the teachings of Christ selflessly? Like the many selfies posted on the internet, do they truly reflect the reality or are they doctored to present an intended image?

We may be judging ourselves and others based on actions and words, and in our eyes, they are just and pure. However, the Lord, who is infinitely wiser, looks at our hearts and intentions. If our intention is to deceive and misguide, then our ‘good’ deeds lack the meaning they deserve. However, if our intention is to live according to what Jesus taught us, even the smallest good deed will carry much more meaning and is so much more pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

When I reflect on what was in my heart in the past, I would say that reputation was a big concern.  Secondly, I was afraid of God’s retribution if I misbehaved. However, as I learn a little more about Catholicism, I come to realize that fear is not the emotion, nor should it be the motivation to do what is right. We want to do what is right and pleasing to God because we love Him above all else. We do not want to hurt anyone we love; at least, not intentionally. When the Lord looks into our hearts, He doesn’t want to see fear but love – love of God and love of neighbors.

We should continue to do good and conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to both God and man; but let’s put God first and be more concern about Jesus’ judgement than man’s. After all, what is earthly, is transient, but what is heavenly, is eternal.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: We pray that our hearts be filled with love of God and neighbors, so that our actions and words follow the full intent of this love.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the unconditional and undying love of the Lord.  For second chances and the opportunity to do the right thing.

24 September, Monday – Loving Selflessly

24 September

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Proverbs 3:27-34

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time!
I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.
Do not plot harm against your neighbour
as he lives unsuspecting next door.
Do not pick a groundless quarrel with a man
who has done you no harm.
Do not emulate the man of violence,
never model your conduct on his;
for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord,
who confides only in honest men.
The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the virtuous.
He mocks those who mock,
but accords his favour to the humble.

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Luke 8:16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light. So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.’

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Do not refuse a kindness to anyone… 

In this technologically-advanced world where the internet has shortened distances in terms of communication and instant gratification has become the norm, patience and tolerance are definitely on the decline. In spite of all the technological advancements that are supposed to help us manage the balance between work and family life, we are far busier than before. We try to fit more into a day and so focussed are we on our own agendas, that we often get irate at the slightest interruption and lose sight of what is truly important – the human connection.

Living in this wired/wireless world, we have come to expect a life of interruptions. When working on a computer, we are so quick to close and dismiss all those pop-up ads that show up on our screen. As a Christian, we need to be concerned about others; sometimes at great inconvenience to ourselves. When I am concentrating on a task at hand, and my children are requesting my attention, I have found myself getting impatient and resentful. Often, I am dismissive with their needs, as I would with the pop-up ads, especially when the task at hand requires a continuum of thought.

Today’s first reading reminds us that we need to tend to our neighbors’ request for help post haste. Our neighbors could be our family member, our spouse, our children, friends or strangers that we meet. If it is within our power to do, we should not delay in lending a helping hand. This seems hard to do, doesn’t it?  But that is what Christ wants us to do. That is the calling of all Christians from all walks of life.

The priest at my previous parish is usually busy and there are endless demands on his attention. Even when he is in a meeting in his office, his phone doesn’t stop ringing and there are constant knocks on his door. Instead of ignoring the calls or getting annoyed, he closes his eyes, breathes deeply (perhaps to say a quick prayer) and answers his door or phone. He is never rude and simply asks the other party politely if it is an emergency and if it could wait until after his current appointment. This is a true example of Christian love. A love that is not only present when convenient for us, but is present even when it causes us discomfort. When I reflect on his reaction to life’s interruptions (in his case, constant disruptions), I am reminded how important it is to treat people in our lives the way that Jesus wants us to – with love and respect. Perhaps when we get interrupted in our busy schedule next time, we can practice reacting with patience and love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the ability to love others as you have loved us.  We pray that we may harbor Christian love towards our neighbors, even when we are under stress and do not feel we are able to give.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the light of Christ, as reflected in the many saints, showing us how to treat others with love and respect.

23 September, Sunday – Wisdom from above, Peace from within

23 September 2018

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Wisdom 2:12,17-20

The godless say to themselves:

‘Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.

‘Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’

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James 3:16-4:3

Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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This wisdom that comes from above makes for peace 

Today’s second reading reminds me of the two homilies at my parish. One homily was about jealousy and envy. One was about praying, in particular, praying for what we want in the right way.

Most people use envy as a synonym for jealousy. However, as explained by Msgr. Charles Pope, in traditional theology, envy is different from jealousy. When I am jealous of you, there is something good about you or something good that you have, and I want to have it for myself. Jealously is sinful when one desires something exceedingly and irrationally.

Envy runs deeper and darker. There is often a sadness and anger at the goodness and excellence of another because it feels like we are reduced by their distinction. The main difference with envy, is that I not only want to possess the good or excellence of yours, but I want to destroy it.

There are different ways that envy can manifest itself. It can blatant or subtle. We can actively seek to destroy the good or excellence in others by ostracizing and ridiculing them. Or the more common and subtle form of envy is gossip and slander, which is just as sinful as the blatant form. I, shamefully, admit to the sin of jealousy and envy – not of other’s possessions of goods, but of their talents and opportunities. Although I do not actively seek to destroy, I harbor ill feelings and secretly revel in their failures. This kind of thinking does not bring me any joy. It brings more anger, sorrow, and discontent. The only way to combat the sin of envy is with the virtue of joy and zeal. What is that, you may ask. The virtue of joy and zeal is the ability to recognize the good in others and celebrate it genuinely, with wholeheartedness, and without hesitation. Easier said than done? Of course it is – for us humans. But not for God. When we suspect that the green-eyed monster is rearing its ugly head, it is then that we need to pray for wisdom, peace with others and within ourselves. Then we must make the conscious decision of listening to the voice and wisdom from above. We must practice rejoicing in the goodness and excellence of others and to see their blessings as blessings to all of us from on high.

This brings me to the other point of prayer and prayer intentions. Our prayers and prayer intentions can be divided into two broad categories. One of which aligns with God’s plan for us and our desire to become more Christ-like. There should be no hesitation in asking the Father for such gifts. The other is simply our wishes and desires, not necessarily bad, but more of this world. It is when we are praying for these intentions, we should pray in such a way that God’s will be done, not ours. When we truly understand and believe that our Heavenly Father has our best interests at heart and will not lead us astray, we learn to trust and then, only then, do we gain the wisdom and the peace that we all seek.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the wisdom that comes from above, to guide us in our thoughts, words, actions and prayers.  Grant us the virtues of joy and zeal so that we do not fall to the sin of envy.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, our Heavenly Father, for granting us wisdom and peace.

22 September, Saturday – A Conversion, Claiming Our Identity

22 September

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1 Corinthians 15:35-37.42-49

Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

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Luke 8:4-15

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’

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“what is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable; what is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; what is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful; what is sown is a natural body and what is raised is a spiritual body.”

Throughout the week, we have been hearing what we can do to claim this identity, but knowing all these is not good enough until we allow Christ to transform us, to accept and to receive this grace, this mercy — that we are all sinners and unworthy but very much perfectly loved by this God.

Many times, we serve or pray, trying to atone or to make up for past sins and trying to be holy in order to be worthy. Yet, we simply can’t, and we find ourselves struggling even more because our strength, motivations, intentions in themselves aren’t perfect to begin with.

In the first reading today, we read about a raising. This raising that can only be done by God — raising the dead to life. Once again, we are called to this dying of self. However, we don’t just ‘die’. As in the Gospel, we need to allow the seed — the Word of God — to take root in our life, to really experience this conversion, to experience God and His love, to internalise, to allow Him to be in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Together with the support of the greater community and our family in Christ, we need to claim our identity and believe in the eternal resurrection — that one day, all that we do here on earth would be to glorify God and His people; because we love God and His people, because we love His creation — His people. That it is no more I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

This is the main goal of our lives, the hardest to reach and sustain. And it is precisely now that we allow God to work, to trust and hope in Him, that as long as we give our very best, He will not be outdone in generosity.

“As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, may there be a conversion in our hearts, in our lives. Help us to realise, see and understand what is important in our lives, what we are living for. Help us not to just focus on what you can do but to focus on you in everything we do. Help us to, one day, say with conviction and love that you are our Father and that we are yours.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your word and this beautiful image of how you will raise us up into your kingdom. That we have the hope of being with you, in unity for eternity.