Monthly Archives: November 2018

1 December, Satursday – Putting in Effort

1 December

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Apocalypse 22:1-7

The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.

The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, ‘All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who gives the spirit to the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place. Very soon now, I shall be with you again.’ Happy are those who treasure the prophetic message of this book.

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Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

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Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with dabauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.

Some of us don’t really enjoy having a nagging mother, or mother-in-law. Well, many of us basically just don’t want to be nagged, or maybe even reminded of what we should do. I realize that really, many of us need someone to nag at us.

Think about it. Very few of us can draw a straight line without the use of a ruler. And even if some of us could, I doubt many could draw a long straight line. It seems as if it is in our nature to swerve, or to veer away from what is straight. I really believe that nagging is our mother’s way of making sure that we always keep to the straight line. Because if we don’t watch out, or if somebody doesn’t watch out for us, very soon we will be off the right path.

Unfortunately, this need for someone to constantly remind us does not go away even in our adulthood. True, we may have better control of ourselves and there are many things we would do right even if there is no one reminding us, but there are still some things we need to be reminded of. And if there is no one to remind us, we need to ask God to give us the grace to watch ourselves.

I’ve heard of how in some religious groups, they cover some unsightly images in newspapers just to protect chastity. This is what they would call not putting themselves in situations where they can be tempted. Because it’s really better to be safe than sorry.

I pray that we all have the humility to accept the fact that no matter how close we are to God, or how faithful we are with our prayers, we are always susceptible to committing sins. Let us continue to ask God, and our guardian angels to nag at us, to remind us to follow a straight line. Even the Saints knew how much of a sinner they were, and how much they were in need of God’s grace not to give in to temptation. So they watched out for themselves, because they knew they could fall any time.

Let’s put in as much effort as we can.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace to flee from occasions of sin. Please feel free to always nag at us, even if we sometimes don’t like it.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for making sure we are surrounded with opportunities to refresh ourselves in our battle against sin and to be always reminded of the good we must do.

30 November, Friday – Full Speed Ahead

30 November – Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 10:9-18

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

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

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Matthew 4:18-22

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

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Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

I recently changed cars, having decided that I would purchase a livelier yet more affordable one than my outgoing ride. I settled on a ten-year old Japanese car with a manual transmission. God really blessed the entire process; the car was in good condition, accident-free, and had just undergone a full engine overhaul. It feels brand new!

Interestingly, it isn’t a pleasant car to drive in traffic or at very slow speeds. There is little sound insulation, and the suspension is very firm. The engine has very little torque in the lower RPM bands and really needs to be worked hard to get the car moving. However, on stretches of winding roads or on the highways, the car comes alive.

The suspension and handling tighten up, the increased aerodynamic forces plant the car firmly on the tarmac, and the engine sonorously and eagerly revs to right up to its limit. It truly is transformed once it is worked hard and pushed aggressively. The car reaches its full potential.

And this is the message that God has been trying to bring across to me. Opting for an easy life, or one where we merely cruise along is not the most satisfying way to live. We shortchange ourselves, and the beneficiaries of our gifts, when we do not fully evolve into the creations that God wants us to be. The process can be arduous and long, with stress and pain along the way. But when we function at our limits, when our bodies, hearts, minds, and consciousness are joyfully aligned, we begin to discover just how unfathomably vast the possibilities of life are.

Dear friends, I invite you to dig a little deeper, push a little harder, and grow a little faster in the days to come. Life is certainly more fun in sixth gear.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, may we become fully alive in the days ahead. Grant us the courage to constantly push our limits.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Jesus, for making us just the way we should be.

29 November, Thursday – Faithful Always

29 November

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Apocalypse 18:1-2,21-23,19:1-3,9

I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth was lit up with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, ‘Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, ‘That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.

Never again in you, Babylon,
will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels,
the music of flute and trumpet;
never again will craftsmen of every skill be found
or the sound of the mill be heard;
never again will shine the light of the lamp,
never again will be heard
the voices of bridegroom and bride.
Your traders were the princes of the earth,
all the nations were under your spell.

After this I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, ‘Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed.’ They sang again, ‘Alleluia! The smoke of her will go up for ever and ever.’ The angel said, ‘Write this: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb’, and he added, ‘All the things you have written are true messages from God.’

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Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.

‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

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He is faithful from age to age.

This is one of the verses that gives me so much comfort during my morning prayer. With one phrase, I am reminded of how God has been so good and loving to me ever since I was young.

Around July this year, I started going for counselling in the hope of unloading myself of the baggages I had since I was a child. You see, I didn’t realize how affected I was after my parents separated when I was seven. The counsellor told me that I was traumatized and I didn’t even know it. During those times, all I could see was how sad it had been for me.

I was blessed that my counsellor was also a Catholic. God was always included in our discussions. She helped me rediscover how God has been so faithful to me even through the brokenness of my childhood. I shared with her how one day, while I was on my bed staring at the ceiling, a beautiful thought crossed my mind. Though many people will abandon me, God will always stay by my side. I think I was 10 then. That one thought really helped me through the many emotional moments in my life.

Recently, I have been fighting a lot with God, too. I guess it’s because I am not getting everything I want, so I just allowed myself to be like a kid and throw tantrums to God. Anyway, at the end of the conversations I have with God, I always felt myself telling God that no matter how frustrated I am with His timing and plans, ‘…where else can I go? You have the message of eternal life.’

I have this confidence in God that he can take my anger and frustration, and I can vent as much as I want to him, because he is always faithful. He will always be beside me, and if I go away, he will always be the father waiting for his prodigal daughter to come back.

We are all in different stages of our lives, but let us always remember that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us less, to make God less faithful to us.

“We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self.”

– 2 Timothy 2:13

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give us the grace we need to be always faithful to you, to always run to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for your love and patience. And for always being there for us.

28 November, Wednesday – Justice — Because We Deserve Something Better

28 November

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Apocalypse 15:1-4

What I, John, saw in heaven was a great and wonderful sign: seven angels were bringing the seven plagues that are the last of all, because they exhaust the anger of God. I seemed to see a glass lake suffused with fire, and standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name. They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:

‘How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are all your ways,
King of nations.
Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord?
You alone are holy,
and all the pagans will come and adore you
for the many acts of justice you have shown.’

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Luke 21:12-19

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

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All the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.

I grew up in a family where many of my relatives are in adulterous or out of wedlock relationships. One of the phrases I usually heard from adults is how God ‘will understand’ why they had to be in such situations. That was their excuse for their choices. And I have wondered for a long time if God really understood as they have claimed.

When my brother, who was then legally married, got another woman pregnant, my grandmother laughed it off much to my disgust. I wished with all my heart that they would have stood up and told him that what he did was wrong. At that time, I wished someone stood up for what was right, rather than telling us that it was ‘ok’. I could not explain why I felt repulsed. Reading today’s first reading helped me understand a bit more.

One priest shared during one of his talks that because God is first just, that’s why he is merciful. You cannot separate the two. We need to understand how just God is first, before we can understand his mercy.

I feel that mercy is God’s way of meeting us where we are. Yes, he understands that we are weak creatures and that we fall short of what is expected of us. I think mercy is God’s way of telling us that he loves us where we are right now, where we were yesterday, and where we will be tomorrow.

Justice is God’s way of reminding us that we could be greater, that we were made for so much more, and that God has so much more he wanted to give us, if only we would do what we were meant to do. Justice is God’s way of making us feel how far we are from the goodness we’re meant to enjoy, and an invitation for us to walk towards that goodness and never settle.

Some of us might think that justice is punishment when it is really a display of tough love. Maybe it is God’s way of making the situation so uncomfortable that we are forced to journey towards the real comfort.

I have recently seen articles which encouraged the Catholic Church to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, despite the cultural pressure. A lot of converts said that because the Church stood firm, they were attracted to convert and join the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was the proclammation of God’s justice that attracted people.

Let us learn to love God’s justice as much as we love his mercy.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes, we hate it when we are corrected and when we receive your justice. Help us see it as an invitation for us to become better versions of ourselves. And give us the strength and courage we need to move forward.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving your tough love. It’s probably tough for you to do so, too.

27 November, Tuesday – Sorry We Are Out Of Seats

27 November

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Apocalypse 14:14-19

In my vision I, John, saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the sanctuary, and shouted aloud to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Put your sickle in and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped.

Another angel, who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the temple in heaven, and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted aloud to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Put your sickle in and cut all the bunches off the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.

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Luke 21:5-11

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

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

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Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name

Many years ago, my friend invited me to accompany her on a short weekend trip to Malaysia. The plan was to take a coach from Singapore and meet up with a local friend who would show us around. We were told of the departure point and time of the coach and so arranged to meet up there to catch our ride. However we arrived at the waiting coach (albeit on the dot and not ten minutes early as advised) both frantic and panting, to the nonchalant announcement by the guide, “Sorry we are out of seats.”

I recall feelings of disappointment and dejection pour down on us, and we were literally left stranded at the driveway as the coach pulled away from us. After settling down somewhere to chat, we both discovered that there was some misinformation between us both, and with the tour organizer. We had each interpreted the ‘Reservation’ of coach seats wrongly and the tour organizer thought that we were not turning up that morning. Even though we finally arrived, it was just too late to sort out the administrative details. It was a good lesson learnt for us and we were more careful next time to make sure we had a common and clear understanding of the terms, conditions, and information needed before we embark on any trip. Check, double-check, triple-confirm. Our next trip turned out with no such glitch!

But we don’t have this luxury for Life itself, to say “Next time I will know better to do this.” Jesus warned those who marvelled at the grandeur of the temple, of this physical world, that “the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be destroyed.” Being human, we have this instinctive need to gather information, to find out exactly the details of such a time hoping we can cleverly prepare ourselves for the time. Yet we lose focus on what is truly important – that Jesus is standing before us this very moment. We are like the temple-goers who stand face to face, speaking with the true Messiah without realising it, but instead rather look to a future event thinking we can successfully plan ahead by recognising the signs and symbols. Not now for me, we think. And so presently, we only want to know those forecast clues.

If today you stand before a decision to choose Christ over something else of this world, would you choose to recognise Him and fall at His feet proclaiming that He is indeed the Lord of your life? Our daily decisions do present to us either the choice to marvel at the fine stonework and gleaming treasures of the present world, or the choice to turn to our Lord and God as the most important relationship we must nurture and depend on in this life.

We do often kid ourselves with this phrase, “but for now…” the part and parcel of surviving in this world, of making a living, or of achieving the physical or material goals I have set for myself, is of paramount importance. And we comfort ourselves that we are sure God would understand. We constantly fear that we would lose out on the chance and opportune time to be set for life, in this world – forgetting that there is nothing more terrifying than to arrive suddenly at the end of our lives frantically clutching a fistful of misinterpretations or wrong priorities – indeed many others and many misplaced goals would have you deceived! Then we are told at the departure gates to our eternal journey that, “I’m sorry you have got the details all wrong. You read the signs wrong.” You thought all these other things were your God. You should have focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not foolishly asked Him for the time and signs so you could get ready to be ‘just in time’.

Choose Christ now; choose now His body which is the Church. Receive the salvation which is offered up at every Eucharistic celebration for you. Choose Jesus as your present guide in life, and abandon the need for superfluous signs. With Jesus as our constant travel companion, the seat will always be saved for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray that I can be brutally honest with myself to examine the heart of my intentions. When I should choose Jesus, let me not bury my intention with layers of excuses that there is still time to spare, when really, I do not know.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the assurance of second chances that I can return to you like the Prodigal Son. May I not be complacent, but approach you with true gratitude and repentance.

26 November, Monday – Real Generosity

26 November

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Apocalypse 14:1-5

In my vision I, John, saw Mount Zion, and standing on it a Lamb who had with him a hundred and forty-four thousand people, all with his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound coming out of the sky like the sound of the ocean or the roar of thunder; it seemed to be the sound of harpists playing their harps. There in front of the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four animals and the elders, a hymn that could only be learnt by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been redeemed from amongst men to be the first-fruits for God and for the Lamb. They never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found in them.

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Luke 21:1-4

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

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She has put in all she has

Some time back, a TV programme featured the life of an old man in Singapore who spends his days doing charitable work. There might not be anything very remarkable about that, but in this particular case, the man had given all his savings to charity, and leads an unusually frugal life. His daily routine includes visiting the nearby coffeeshop at night, where he collects buckets of water gathered from ice used to chill beer bottles. That amount serves as his water supply for the day as he does not turn on any tap at home. The money saved from utility bills goes into charity.

The gospel today has Jesus observing a poor woman giving away all that she has, and contrasting her action with that of the rich people. Like the old man in the previous paragraph, the monetary value of her action is small, but the generosity associated with it is large. For the rich who maintain their affluent status, giving away ‘excess’ money is hardly something that can be considered generous.

There are many ways that one can give of oneself to others. I find that the giving of time and effort is often more reflective of sincerity than the gift itself. As the season of Christmas approaches, we could perhaps give more thought to the preparation of gifts for loved ones or for strangers in need.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that as the season of Advent approaches, we may prepare by opening our hearts to the love of Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the kindness we have received from others.

25 November, Sunday – Jesus as King

25 November 2018 – Solemnity of Christ The King

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

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

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

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

– Wikipedia

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Daniel 7:13-14

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

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Apocalypse 1:5-8

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the First-born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him. This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

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John 18:33-37

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

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Yes, I am a king

Who is Jesus to you? This is a question often posed to the faithful. Common responses tend to go along the lines of “friend”, “helper”, “confidante” and so on. It is unlikely that “king” will pop up as an answer. In modern times, it is difficult to understand the concept of what it means to be a king’s subject, or to be part of a kingdom.

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. In the gospel passage, Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, referring to an earthly king who would lead the Jews in overcoming foreign rule. Saint Augustine of Hippo highlighted that in His reply to Pilate, Jesus did not say “my kingdom is not in this world” but “my kingdom is not of this world”. Therefore, Jesus’ kingdom is in the world now, made up of His followers. For any kingdom to flourish, the subjects must remain loyal to their king, trust in his rule, and do what he says.

If we acknowledge Christ as the king of our hearts and minds, are we abiding by the rules of His kingdom?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace of accepting the lordship of Jesus in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the love that enables us to share in the divinity of Christ.

24 November, Saturday – Sacred Silence

24 November – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs of Vietnam

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 11:4-12

I, John, heard a voice saying: ‘These, my two witnesses, are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the world. Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like. When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them. Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified. Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.’

After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.

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Luke 20:27-40

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

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

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

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“…and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God.”

I am learning to play a new song on the violin for an upcoming Prayer Experience Retreat and cannot help but recall how nervous I was when I first picked up the violin again more than 3 years ago. Since then, I have jumped at the various opportunities to play in my ministry whenever called upon and each time I lay the bow on the steel strings, memories of my father come welling through.

He would have been 77 today and as I write this, his smile continues to remind me of how much he loved our family. And particularly, his children. He never stinged on us and always strove to give his very best, only wanting the very best for us. Now, whenever I play any song, I cannot help but give thanks to him for his generosity in recognizing my talent and giving me the gift of music. At times, especially with more contemplative tunes, I close my eyes and see him sitting back with his eyes closed, enjoying the music. That spurs me on even more to play better and give more of myself.

I had always thought that my talent was forced upon me. But since I discovered the love of playing this amazing instrument and singing (I will be taking my classical vocal exams next week), I have begun to appreciate those with similar gifts and remain in awe of the young toddlers who have a natural inclination towards expressing their God-given talents.

The words that follow the haunting violin intro to ‘Sacred Silence’ are – ‘Sacred silence, Holy ocean, Gentle waters, washing over me. Help me listen, Holy Spirit, Come and speak to me.’ Isn’t it wonderful how our God is so approachable and so filled with love for us that we can call upon Him in our wretched, sinful state and plead for His grace and mercies to cleanse us?

Three years ago, while on his deathbed, God’s grace was indeed overflowing as two shepherds visited to bless him and confirm him as a son of God. While some may say he got an ‘express ticket’ without having to go through all the trials and tribulations that we all go through as Catholics, I would like to think that in his own way, dad bore his crosses and gave of himself as any other good Catholic father would have. So today, as I play my violin, I am proud to acknowledge him as a true son of God in every sense.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you continue to carry us on your shoulders, especially when we struggle to find meaning and are deaf to your words of love. We pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for your steadfast love and for your faith in each and every one of us.

23 November, Friday – Words of Truth

23 November – Memorial for St. Clement I, Pope, Martyr; Memorial for St. Columban, Abbot

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

– Patron Saint Index

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 10:8-11

I, John, heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go,’ it said ‘and take that open scroll out of the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’ I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’ So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and swallowed it; it was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time about many different nations and countries and languages and emperors.’

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Luke 19:45-48

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

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

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“…the people as a whole hung on his words.”

Yesterday, I wrote about how I was recently on a pilgrimage that spanned France, Spain and Portugal. We were truly blessed to have had a tour leader who knew so much about each shrine we visited as well as the stories of the various saints we venerated. Each day, as we were making our way along the road towards our destination, he would regale us with all sorts of stories about where we were going and help us to focus our attention on that particular town or saint.

Truly, if one has a compelling story to tell and speaks from the heart, the audience is certain to be spellbound and will listen to every word that is uttered. Jesus, during his ministry, is certainly the prime example of what ‘speaking from the heart’ means. After all, He was divinely connected with God the Father and the Holy Spirit; what more could one ask for!

During our pilgrimage, we had private masses each day celebrated by our spiritual director. And while his homilies were centred around each day’s readings, I appreciated how he was mindful of the purpose of our pilgrimage and kept reminding us about how God called each of us on this journey. Looking back, I am grateful for the words that were spoken to us each day (there was even a mass before sunrise) and also recall other pilgrims who joined us on two occasions when we were doing our Stations of the Cross. An Irish couple even approached me the next day and asked for the printed text, which I gladly tore out from my book.

Brothers and sisters, when we are ministered to with words spoken from the heart, it is inevitable that they will resonate deep within our own hearts. I am constantly amazed at some of our priests, who can speak so passionately for an hour or more (especially when they come to CSC) without any notes in hand. It is on such occasions that I notice the congregation literally hanging on their every word, unlike at Sunday mass when there just seem to be distractions aplenty. Maybe ‘the people’ are not as engaged or are just there for the sake of fulfilling an obligation.Or perhaps some priests have ‘the gift of the gab’ more than others.

Nevertheless, our anointed brethren face countless challenges each day of their ministry. So let us all keep our brother priests in our prayers.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you always watch over our brother priests and continue to inflame their hearts with your Word.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the gift of our shepherds.

22 November, Thursday – Discerning His Call

22 November – Memorial for St. Cecilia, Virgin, Martyr

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

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

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 5:1-10

I, John, saw that in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne there was a scroll that had writing on back and front and was sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a powerful angel who called with a loud voice, ‘Is there anyone worthy to open the scroll and break the seals of it?’ But there was no one, in heaven or on the earth or under the earth, who was able to open the scroll and read it. I wept bitterly because there was nobody fit to open the scroll and read it, but one of the elders said to me, ‘There is no need to cry: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and he will open the scroll and the seven seals of it.’

Then I saw, standing between the throne with its four animals and the circle of the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been sacrificed; it had seven horns, and it had seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits God has sent out all over the world. The Lamb came forward to take the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, and when he took it, the four animals prostrated themselves before him and with them the twenty-four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense made of the prayers of the saints. They sang a new hymn:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll
and break the seals of it,
because you were sacrificed, and with your blood
you bought men for God
of every race, language, people and nation
and made them a line of kings and priests,
to serve our God and to rule the world.’

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Luke 19:41-44

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

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“…you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it.”

I had originally planned to do another Camino this year before my other half suggested we join a pilgrimage led by one of our parish priests as well as a tour leader whom she had traveled with before. When I asked about the itinerary, I immediately said ‘Yes’ once I heard that Santiago was going to be one of the towns we would be stopping in.

To be honest, being on a bus with 39 other pilgrims is not exactly my idea of a great holiday. However, we had planned to go into Paris earlier and meet up with the group, then extend our stay in Lisbon for another few days. After all, we were already there so we might as well take advantage of the opportunity and take in the sights.

And what a glorious 3 weeks it was. Even for me, the 13 days spent on the road visiting various Marian shrines and paying tribute to a few saints with incorrupt bodies was probably as close as I could get to discovering more about Marian spirituality. And by the time we reached Santarem, the last stop on the pilgrimage where we were honoured to venerate the miraculous bleeding host after mass, I was filled with joy and awe as He welcomed me quietly with three words, “Welcome, my son.” My heart was bursting with joy as we left the group at Lisbon airport and made our way into the city.

Brothers and sisters, more often than not, we try and plan to the very last detail how our holidays should be like. And while my pilgrimage was indeed planned, I learnt to surrender and stop trying too hard to control everything. I believe that the many opportunities I had to get close to our blessed Mother – in Lourdes and, even more so, in Fatima – proved to me that in order to get closer to God, one needs to be docile and be prepared to say ‘Yes’ at any opportunity without any second thought.

Because if we keep trying to second-guess and ask too much, we will end up missing the chance to truly discern what He wants for us. The various encounters I had even after the pilgrimage was over served to remind me that it is our heavenly Father who always wants the best for us; so that we get to bask in His everlasting glory. Indeed, life has a tendency to hurry us on instead of allowing us to sit and soak. Which is why we should always look forward to mass and Holy Hour, for that is when God truly reveals His glory to us gathered around Him. How often do we keep reciting our rosaries or saying our prayers that we lose out on hearing what He truly wants to say to us?

Let us not allow what others deem important to drown out His call to us. Instead, let us always set aside time and the disposition to listen out for Him; so that we do not lose our connection to Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always keeping us close to your heart.