Monthly Archives: January 2019

1 February, Friday – Enduring in Faith

1 February 2019

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Hebrews 10:32-39

Remember all the sufferings that you had to meet after you received the light, in earlier days; sometimes by being yourselves publicly exposed to insults and violence, and sometimes as associates of others who were treated in the same way. For you not only shared in the sufferings of those who were in prison, but you happily accepted being stripped of your belongings, knowing that you owned something that was better and lasting. Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Only a little while now, a very little while,
and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay.
The righteous man will live by faith,
but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him.

You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.

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Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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You will need endurance to do God’s will…

Life tends to throw me curve balls just when I think that things are finally settling down. After a challenging year at work and, while planning for another eventful year, I am now being asked to devote more time to my ministry. I somehow feel that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that more is to come. I shared with my spiritual director recently that it is funny how when things appear a lot more organised and in place, I seem to be asked to step out of the boat yet again.

I recognise that under my own strength, I would probably crumble under the weight of expectation and responsibility. So I trust that God’s hand will be there for me, holding me up and carrying me on his massive shoulders. And based on my experiences over the past years, I know that this journey will not be smooth sailing; a certain ‘spiritual fitness’ will be required, much as one trains for a marathon, I will have to start getting fit. It will not be enough to just rely on the little I know and do in terms of my spirituality. Very presciently, my SD suggested after our last session that I make our meet ups more regular – once every 4 to 6 weeks.

And as I trained for my Camino in 2016, I have also begun a new physical regime in order to prepare for the journey ahead. I have always believed that in order to do significant things, one needs to be physically well-prepared so that we are not burdened by injuries nor illnesses. Otherwise, you already begin with a disadvantage; an unnecesary weight around yourself, literally and figuratively.

Because the crosses will come, brothers and sisters. God will place them squarely on our shoulders and we will have to endure the weight of all the responsibilities that we will have to bear. And if we have been irresponsible about our own well-being and health, if we have ignored the warning signs and the aches and pains as a result of our own over indulgence, then we only have ourselves to blame if we collapse in a fit of despair.

Yes, God will never allow us to crumble under our crosses. But it first takes a willingness to get fit and to take our daily vitamins and supplements, in the form of prayers. Whether it is the Lord’s Prayer, the Rosary, our own spontaneous prayer, even the Prayer to St Michael, we must all engage in an active prayer life. Because it is only in being active that we can improve our spiritual fitness so that we can endure the journeys ahead of us.

Brothers and sisters, how fit are you now? When is the last time you did a spiritual health check? The calendar of retreats being conducted at CSC is already out and we ministry members have already been asked to commit our time. I pray that He calls you to spend time away with Him so that you can recharge, renew and rekindle your faith.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We ask for the grace to hear your call, Father. So that we can be renewed in our faith.

Thanksgiving: We thank you dear Lord, for calling us by name and for never abandoning us.

31 January, Thursday – Being in Community

31 Jan – Memorial for St. John Bosco, priest

St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was the son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. His father died when he was just two years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs, and carnivals, practise the tricks he saw the magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.

He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. He was ordained in 1841. He was a teacher, and he worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray. He taught catechism to orphans and apprentices, and was chaplain in a hospice for girls.

He wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. He was a friend of St. Joseph Cafasson, whose biography he wrote. He was confessor to Blessed Joseph Allamano. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, a community of priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and St. Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.

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Hebrews 10:19-25

Through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary, by a new way which he has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, his body. And we have the supreme high priest over all the house of God. So as we go in, let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful. Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works. Do not stay away from the meetings of the community, as some do, but encourage each other to go; the more so as you see the Day drawing near.

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Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

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Do not stay away from the meetings of the community…

I know someone who is struggling to find a community where she can belong so that she can pour out her woes and share all that has happened over the past few years in her life. She seems to have hit rock bottom and, despite meeting with various priests and attending one or two healing sessions, she seems ‘trapped’ in her own fears and anxieties.

Last week, at our regular Friday Growth session, our spiritual director spoke about grace and passed the mike around in one section of the congregation to allow us to specify one moment in the past where we felt blessed by God’s grace. As I was mulling it over, it dawned on me that I was blessed to be a part of the CSC community. That in spite of the challenges, issues and personalities within our own ministry, we seem to be progressing (albeit at a rate that leaves much to be desired – purely from my perspective) and that some sense of renewal is happening.

It gives me the impetus to make it a point to always be there for practice, for meetings (I have been asked to attend other meetings on behalf of our head) and to support as many of the iconic retreats as possible. I also shared with my discipleship group recently that I am certainly more comfortable now bringing in my talents and skills which I use at work to help with establishing some processes and SOPs so that worship leaders can focus on the music and songs, rather than the more operational issues – what I term ‘five cent, ten cent’ matters.

I realised (the mike was still going round) that were it not for this community who has welcomed me with open arms, I would probably be sitting at a bar somewhere downing alcohol and munching on something delicious and fried. And while the community is going through a period of transition, as long as I feel that I have something worthwhile to contribute, and as long as it continues to be life-giving to me, I must not shortchange God by not giving back.

The microphone never came to our section. But after Mass, we walked over to a wake opposite the centre, where we celebrated the life of uncle Andrew, father of one of our ministry heads. The small team that prepared the prayers had asked me to bring my violin along and that night, I played to my heart’s content for him and for our loving Father.

Brothers and sisters, if you are part of a praying community, look past the strife and the issues. They are but unnecessary distractions. Focus on Jesus, and on the talents that God has given you in order to serve that community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for gracing us with such abundant talents and for putting us in our communities where we learn to walk closer to you each and every day.

30 January, Wednesday – What do we Hear?

30 January 2019

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Hebrews 10:11-18

All the priests stand at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices which are quite incapable of taking sins away. He, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him. By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying. The Holy Spirit assures us of this; for he says, first:

This is the covenant I will make with them
when those days arrive;

and the Lord then goes on to say:

I will put my laws into their hearts
and write them on their minds.
I will never call their sins to mind,
or their offences.

When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings.

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Mark 4:1-20

Jesus began to teach by the lakeside, but such a huge crowd gathered round him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there. The people were all along the shore, at the water’s edge. He taught them many things in parables, and in the course of his teaching he said to them, ‘Listen! Imagine a sower going out to sow. Now it happened that, as he sowed, some of the seed fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground where it found little soil and sprang up straightaway, because there was no depth of earth; and when the sun came up it was scorched and, not having any roots, it withered away. Some seed fell into thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it produced no crop. And some seeds fell into rich soil and, growing tall and strong, produced crop; and yielded thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

When he was alone, the Twelve, together with the others who formed his company, asked what the parables meant. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God is given to you, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may see and see again, but not perceive; may hear and hear again, but not understand; otherwise they might be converted and be forgiven.’

He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those on the edge of the path where the word is sown are people who have no sooner heard it than Satan comes and carries away the word that was sown in them. Similarly, those who receive the seed on patches of rock are people who, when first they hear the word, welcome it at once with joy. But they have no root in them, they do not last; should some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, they fall away at once. Then there are others who receive the seed in thorns. These have heard the word, but the worries of this world, the lure of riches and all the other passions come in to choke the word, and so it produces nothing. And there are those who have received the seed in rich soil: they hear the word and accept it and yield a harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’

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“Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!”

We are normally able to hear sounds in the 0 dB (the sound of rustling leaves) to 120 dB (a rock concert). To give some perspective, normal speech is around 60 dB, a lawn mower operates at 90 dB, a jet engine reaches 120 dB and a gunshot goes up to 140 dB. Any sound above 85 dB could cause permanent damage to our ears.

I am pretty sure that when Jesus urged those around him to listen, He would have been referring to the words that he was speaking (at around 60 dB). Or was He?

We all get distracted during homilies and even in the adoration chapel, where it is relatively quiet. We allow random thoughts to creep into our mind as we try to focus on what God is speaking to us. Or we let the cry of a child irritate us as we focus on the homily being preached by our priest. Perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves then is how still are our hearts, in order for us to listen effectively to God’s words being spoken to us?

Do we go away to a quiet place to allow ourselves to be ministered to by God’s voice? Or are we in a constant state of ‘busyness’ that we only hear what we want and are not able to discern what He has for us on a daily basis? Many among us are so caught up with what is happening in the world and on social media that unless something is getting headlines or attracting the attention of so-and-so, it is not worth paying any attention to. After all, it is human nature to be attracted to the spectacular and the ‘headline of the moment’; whatever is attracting buzz and getting hundreds of ‘likes’ or hits.

Inevitably, we tune out the stories of those who are truly struggling — the lonely, the downtrodden, society’s misfits who struggle to make sense of how life has treated them? We miss out on the real comeback stories – of how a single mother has finally reconciled with her son and daughter by staunchly believing in her faith; of a fellow brother or sister who has endured years of ridicule from their family, yet found purpose in ministry.

Brothers and sisters, I believe that as Catholics and as members of a larger faith community, we do come across such inspirational stories on a personal basis. Take time to reflect on what Christ is saying to you through the words spoken by the one who is sharing. Open the ears of your hearts to listen and discern  God’s message for you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: We pray for the grace of humility and the gift of wisdom, to listen patiently and to be attentive to your words, O Lord, in the daily sharings and interactions of those around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for trusting in us and having the faith that we are listening to you in spite of our busy lives.

29 January, Tuesday – Connections

29 January 2019

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Hebrews 10:1-10

Since the Law has no more than a reflection of these realities, and no finished picture of them, it is quite incapable of bringing the worshippers to perfection, with the same sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year. Otherwise, the offering of them would have stopped, because the worshippers, when they had been purified once, would have no awareness of sins. Instead of that, the sins are recalled year after year in the sacrifices. Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what he said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Mark 3:31-35

The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’

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“Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me”

In business, we are familiar with the phrase that it’s all about who you know. Who you know gets you through the door: the interview, the place in school, the job, the meeting, the project, the keys to the executive washroom… all of this whether we are deserving of it or not. All some of us have to say are “I am so and so’s brother’s second cousin twice removed” or “So and so is the sister of my classmate from 20 years ago”. As if these are the magic words that would open doors and make us automatically the best of friends. The sad truth is that actually, sometimes they are. But not for heaven, and not for Jesus.

With Jesus, there is only one person that we need to know and one criteria: to know God and to do His will. The first time I read the verse above, I was astounded. It sounded as though Jesus was denying his own family. But the more I read it, and into it, the more I realised that actually, he isn’t denying his family or relations, he is saying that there is more to life than blood relations. Access to Jesus is not just about being kin, it is available to you and me and all of us. It is based on obedience to God. Jesus isn’t saying that his family aren’t his family, or because they are family they therefore have the right to more time and attention from him; he is saying that everyone gathered there whom he considered as obedient to God, also had the same rights to his time and attention. “No one comes through the Father but through me,” says Jesus (John 14:6). Everyone is hungry to know God, everyone needs God in their lives, to hear His words and live His truths. Not just a select few. To Jesus, everyone is equally important.

The next question is why were they all equally important? My guess is that because they believed in him, as the one sent by God, as the Messiah. For earlier on in the Gospel of John, it is stated that “This is the will of the Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall live with eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40). The will of God is that we believe in Jesus as the Son of God. There are other things that God wills us to do too in the Bible, but one of the main ones is that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the only connection that we need to have, and the only one we need to know and believe in order to know God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in this busy and constantly moving world where we strive to make connections, I pray that I never lose my connection with you. Help me to keep our connection alive, through prayer and quiet reflection.

ThanksgivingThank you Lord for hearing me, even when my “connection” is bad. Thank you for counting me as family. 

28 January, Monday – The War Within

28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

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Hebrews 9:15,24-28

Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant. It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

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Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.

‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’

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“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand”

Following on from the theme of new year and new beginnings, we know that a new year brings new resolutions, usually for the improvement of ourselves and our lives. And it comes to no surprise that before the year is up, most of these resolutions have fizzled out faster than a fuse in rainfall. Why is that?

I believe that the clue lies, to some extent, in today’s reading. We are all creatures of habit, both good and bad. Bad habits are the most obvious ones that we want to break or change come the new year. But bad habits are also the hardest ones to break. According to studies, it takes approximately 66 days to turn a habit into automated practice, i.e. if we want to get fit by say, exercise, it would take us 66 days of constantly integrating exercise into our daily routine before our brains accept it as part of our habitual practice. What does this mean? It means that all those early mornings where we fight our alarm clocks and inner longings to snuggle back under the covers, it becomes easier if we keep at it persistently and consistently. After a while, it becomes second nature for us to jump out of bed and into our exercise gear.

But even that might sound like a long time. It takes a lot of discipline and mental strength. It is so very easy to cave in and slip back into the old (and probably bad) routine that we are familiar with; but, guess what, familiarity breeds contempt. In a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, we go back to the old habit, feel bad about ourselves, then feed that sorry self of ours, and feel worse than we did before! We tell ourselves, “Nah, no point doing it”, or “I tried! But it didn’t work”, or “all those diets/books are a whole lot of quack!” We believe what others say about us, that we were crazy to begin with, that we would never stick to it, or that we are destined to remain in a certain way because we are lazy, our genes say so, or because “that’s just life”. The tragedy then is that we will never become the person that God has made us out to be, never live nor reach that potential that He has blessed us with.

God gives each of us a gift, and He gives us life. It is up to us to use that gift in this duration of our life to the best of our ability – that is our responsibility. So how is all this connected to today’s reading? We are divided within ourselves whenever we want to make a change. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Change is never easy, but it gets wonderful at the end. The Devil will never want us to change for the better, it wants to thwart our dreams and efforts. But God always wants us to progress, to be happy, to live a happy and fulfilled life. God wants what is good for us. And so our respective selves are at war with each other, internally. We are torn between doing what is right for us, and easing back into the ‘comfort’ of our lives, no matter how rotten that may be. I guess that explains why some people never leave jobs that they hate, or stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or remain in a social media frenzy. The addiction to what we know as safe is too great to venture out into the unknown, the difficult. All our lives, we have been telling ourselves certain things, that after a while, that self-talk translates into beliefs, regardless how bad they are for us. But my friend, there really IS a better life and career out there, there really is someone out there who will love and respect you for who you are, there are real friendships out there to be made, real experiences to be truly lived, and not via Instagram or the number of ‘likes’ our posts generate. Let the willing spirit guide us there, and our belief that God truly made us special for a reason, and gave us a life to be lived fully, not just to exist. If we are at war within ourselves, we cannot win, we cannot stand, and we most definitely cannot live.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in my quest to be a better person, to live a better life, I know that I will be faced with my greatest challenge — myself. Help me to quieten that part of me, and help me to listen instead to the love, the guidance, and the wisdom that You have set forth for me.

Thanksgiving: I give you thanks Lord, for the gift of life, a life to be truly lived. I pray that with Your help, I can truly live a fulfilled life, one filled with love and service to others.

27 January, Sunday – Purpose to Serve

27 January 2019

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Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10

Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – and Ezra, priest and scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.
He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’

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1 Corinthians 12:12-30

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it stopped being part of the body? If the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it was not a part of the body? If your whole body was just one eye, how would you hear anything? If it was just one ear, how would you smell anything?

Instead of that, God put all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’

What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. So our more improper parts get decorated in a way that our more proper parts do not need. God has arranged the body so that more dignity is given to the parts which are without it, and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

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Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

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“But God so created the body… that the parts may have the same concern for one another”

We are in a brand new year now – new goals and ambitions, renewed drive for life. However, I wish, as some of you probably will too, that as I begin the new year afresh, I have in hand all the answers for the questions that I had in 2018. Sadly, I don’t. And one of the most pressing questions that I had last year, which I am still asking, is what my purpose here is. What am I made for, because I know I am made for more. And while I ask God to reveal His grand plan to me, the answers I have received so far are like whispers in the wind. I don’t know what shape this plan is going to be, but as I keep searching, one thing has been made clear so far – that whatever it is that God wants me to do, it is for the betterment of people’s lives. To serve, to fill the void of those who have a need, with a generous spirit and a humble heart. For it is in serving, where we find a purpose in life, and fulfilment of spirit.

Today’s reading puts this notion into perspective — we represent different parts of God’s body, the community of Christ. As the reading puts it, on the one hand we have healers, on the other we have those who speak in tongues. Some of us have the gift of compassion, others the ability to preach, others still who are natural leaders. We each have a different talent or gift, but none of which is self-sustainable. None of which operates alone. God created us in such a manner because He knew exactly where He would slot us, to fill the gap where some other part was in need. The body needs each part to be functioning properly to be happy and healthy, so too is it with our community, our church, our families. And because the ‘body’ recognizes the harmony when all parts are working together, it feels it when one part is out of place, and strives to fix itself. Think about our natural antibodies present in our bodies that know when to spring into action to stave off an impending illness. If the body did not care about what goes on elsewhere, it wouldn’t try to fix itself.

Which is why most of us ask the million-dollar question at some point in our mid-lives, “What am I here for? What is my purpose?” We have a sudden urge or realization that we are built for something more, that there is more to life than our sleep-eat-work-repeat cycle. Our restlessness is that desire to serve that has yet to be fulfilled, that feeling that we ‘belong’ somewhere, that we are a missing piece in the puzzle somewhere. For our lives are empty if the work we do has no meaning or brings no joy to others. If we have made a positive difference somewhere, we would feel better for it, as though our contribution and existence mattered no matter how minute the form.

My friend, if you are feeling lost in life, asking the big question, seek God for the answer to present itself. Be comforted in knowing that as you search for the answer, God already knows where you fit in. As Robin Sharma says, “there are no spare humans here on earth”.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, I lift up my gifts that you have given me and pray that you use them as you see fit, and for obedience and patience in carrying out your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for making me a part of your plan, for giving me a role to play. It may not come with awards and recognition, but I pray that I can make a positive difference somewhere.

26 January, Saturday – More than just you and me

26 Jan – Memorial for Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

Timothy (d. 97) was the son of a Greek gentile, his mother Eunice was Jewish. He was converted to Christianity by St. Paul around the year 47. He was a partner, assistant and close friend of Paul. He was a missionary as well, and became head of the Church in Ephesus. He was the recipient of two canonical letters from St. Paul, and was stoned to death for opposing the worship of Dionysius.

Titus (d. 96) was also a disciple of St. Paul and was the recipient of a canonical letter from him. He was the first bishop of the Church in Crete.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 1:1-8

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.

That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

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Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing.

The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

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…fan into a flame the gift

Of those who do not understand Christians, some have the misconception that being a good follower of Christ is having that individual relationship with God. It is just yourself and Him. That it is just all about getting into that little comfortable quiet corner of reflection and leading a pious life, showing Him every day what you have done to make Him happy. That you have carried out actions that perhaps you feel would please God and thus He gives credit when it is due.

In actual fact, it is building that relationship with our neighbours that qualifies us in spreading the love of our Lord Jesus. We are all inter-connected through prayers. The faith of someone who prays for us and influences us in our spiritual guidance and journey gives us the immense grace which we are so privileged to receive. Likewise, we pray for others who are suffering and for those who are in need, it could be for the health of a loved one, or the comfort to those who are emotionally hurt for various reasons. To be called a follower of Christ, we are responsible for being that testament of how God has touched our life, and to build on our own little faith which He has ‘implanted’ in us. We, like Timothy, and Paul have been called to be holy in our actions and in the way we treat others.

It takes a lot of prayer and hard work, including the deep faith of our fellow Christians and the grace of our Lord to fill our lives. For we are the blessed ones who have, and will be given more.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: We pray for the many faithful who are around us. Watch over them and may you shower them with the blessings of peace in their hearts, especially in times of heartache.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the faith which you have planted in us. That it will grow and spread the Good News.

25 January, Friday – Bite Sized

25 January – Feast of The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfilment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

(Source:http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1271)

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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
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I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

Anything worth doing well takes time. Time in the active sense; unlike with the fermentation of wine in unseen caves, but in the fervent nudging and gnawing of our stubbornness. I’m drawn to the idea of conversion, but also quickly realise how plodding the endeavor will be. Will I give up, or stay the course?

How can my conversion begin in the now of today? And will I determine its timeline? Will my conversion ever be complete? With these questions in mind, I have sought to chip away at parts of my life that no longer hold place in my Christian existence. I “eat the frog” every morning, spending time on the most challenging item on my to-do list. I also wear sunblock before I head out, and consume less sugar throughout the day (bye bye random mints). I set aside a block of time each week to take stock of my finances, and learn more about investing. I’m in the process of spring cleaning my house, discarding items that no longer spark joy. I’ve also been getting more sleep, much to the chagrin of my Netflix account.

With innovation and creating capacity being the buzzwords of our connected lives, I’m seeking to reinvent myself for His greater good. In making space for ourselves, we untangle resources that can be invested towards Christian dividends.

I urge all of you to join me in my conversion struggle. Let’s run this race together.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: I pray for the grace to always be present, realising that my struggles are best tackled in the here and now.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord, for unfogging my glasses; you’ve shown me the path towards becoming the best version of myself.

24 January, Thursday – Asking and Taking

25 January 2019

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Hebrews 7:25-8:6

The power of Jesus to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.

To suit us, the ideal high priest would have to be holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners, and raised up above the heavens; one who would not need to offer sacrifices every day, as the other high priests do for their own sins and then for those of the people, because he has done this once and for all by offering himself. The Law appoints high priests who are men subject to weakness; but the promise on oath, which came after the Law, appointed the Son who is made perfect for ever.

The great point of all that we have said is that we have a high priest of exactly this kind. He has his place at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent of Meeting which the Lord, and not any man, set up. It is the duty of every high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices, and so this one too must have something to offer. In fact, if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are others who make the offerings laid down by the Law and these only maintain the service of a model or a reflection of the heavenly realities. For Moses, when he had the Tent to build, was warned by God who said: See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

We have seen that he has been given a ministry of a far higher order, and to the same degree it is a better covenant of which he is the mediator, founded on better promises.

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Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he warned them strongly not to make him known.

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He cured many and as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him

The scene of our gospel reading today is markedly different from yesterday. Today, we see Jesus mobbed by the crowd, pressed in from all sides, by people eager to meet the new miracle worker in town. In Jesus’ time, access to healthcare was a luxury available only to the powerful and the wealthy. Most people did the best they could within their limited means. This included consulting local medicine men, witch doctors and false healers, all who were more than eager to exploit the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. They saw in Jesus, a new kind of hope. No one was really interested in the healing he could bring their soul; everyone was just in it in order to be healed physically, so they could get on with their lives. In a way, the mob was exploiting Jesus too for their means, and he knew it – “he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him”.

Many of us treat our prayer time as an opportunity to rattle off a litany of requests to God. I have often wondered what it must be like to be on the receiving end of this. I know I get annoyed when friends and family just take and take and take, without even thinking of how they might give back. It makes me feel used and taken advantage of. I feel exploited. I get angry and resentful. Wouldn’t God feel the same? Though He is above these negative human impulses that doesn’t mean He won’t recognize our selfishness in the long ‘lists’ we call ‘prayers’. If when we approach God, we just focus on asking and taking instead of giving and serving, why would God listen to us?

Jesus doesn’t want believers who are just interested in taking. He wants to have a relationship with us, and a relationship is a two way street. He called us because he saw in us, a quality that he wanted in a friend. Perhaps we should re-examine our intentions then, rethink our prayers to see if we are in this for what He wants, or whether we are simply here for the asking and the taking.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

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Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness to examine our prayers and our petitions. When we ask, do we ask with the right intentions?

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of God that allows us to become better versions of ourselves.

23 January, Wednesday – Obstinacy in Behaviour

23 January 2019

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Hebrews 7:1-3,15-17

You remember that Melchizedek, king of Salem, a priest of God Most High, went to meet Abraham who was on his way back after defeating the kings, and blessed him; and also that it was to him that Abraham gave a tenth of all that he had. By the interpretation of his name, he is, first, ‘king of righteousness’ and also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’; he has no father, mother or ancestry, and his life has no beginning or ending; he is like the Son of God. He remains a priest for ever.

This becomes even more clearly evident when there appears a second Melchizedek, who is a priest not by virtue of a law about physical descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it was about him that the prophecy was made: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

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Mark 3:1-6

Jesus went into a synagogue, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they were watching him to see if he would cure him on the sabbath day, hoping for something to use against him. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up out in the middle!’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Then, grieved to find them so obstinate, he looked angrily round at them, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was better. The Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.

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Then, grieved to find them so obstinate

Why are people stubborn? Is it because they don’t see the need to bend their will to others or is it they really believe that they are correct?  The readings of today remind us that Jesus is aggrieved to see the Pharisees being obstinate towards him.

The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus and were willing to give up the truth just to get their way. Perhaps this is something we face in our lives. The unwillingness to follow Jesus stems from a desire to live in the old way of life. Yet as Christians we must know what it means to be living with God. Being docile to God’s will requires to submit our will to His plans for us.

This is not something easy but we must continue to do so as remaining faithful to God is the only way we as Christians can remain faithful to our call. Jesus wants us to love Him and to do so, we need to give our hearts to Him. Let us ask God in prayer to melt the hardness of our heart and make us willing to to listen to His will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, melt the cold-heartededness of ours.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to share the faith.