Monthly Archives: May 2019

1 June, Saturday – Ask in His Name

1 June 2019

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Acts 18:23-28

Paul came down to Antioch, where he spent a short time before continuing his journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, encouraging all the followers.

An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.

When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

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John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
I have been telling you all this in metaphors,
the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;
but tell you about the Father in plain words.
When that day comes you will ask in my name;
and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,
because the Father himself loves you for loving me
and believing that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world
and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

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Anything you ask for from the Father He will grant in my name

Last December, I got accepted for a position in a multinational company. I was happy because many candidates were really eyeing that job. It was a huge step for me because I would be shifting to a more technical side of my career. The question is, do I really want it? Did I pray for it? I think what I prayed for was, “Please guide me to the right job…”

I thought it was the job that I asked for because it includes a decent compensation and benefits package. When I prayed for new work, I didn’t mention a ‘specific’ job. I prayed that it would be one that would make me a better person.

I was grateful to God for it. However, when I was about to start, there had been changes with the job description and everything. I asked God, “Why am I facing this challenge?” I wanted to back out. I kept on asking God if it was a test whether I should pursue or not. But I needed that job, because I need to help the family in our finances. I prayed to God to grant me the strength to endure my new work.

I was in a dilemma. Was this God’s way of saying that I can handle this? Or was it God’s way of saying that I should stop?

I kept praying to God about my feelings at work. But it seemed I was unable to find any answers. Or probably maybe because I was not listening. I was so fixated with my feelings that my prayers were one sided and kept on ranting about my problems without prayerfully listening to answers.

The Gospel reminds us that when we pray for our needs, we should also pray to become closer to Jesus. We have this tendency to be prayerful and yet we do not live like Christ.

Why do you think God answers our prayers? There is the saying, “God gives mercy to those who help themselves.” Yes, we have to work hard for our prayers to be answered. But it is not our work alone. It is by the grace of God that we are given so many blessings in this life. And that grace of God is through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If we deeply know Jesus Christ, then our prayers will be Christ-centred. And if our prayers are in union with Jesus, I have faith that anything we are praying for will be granted by God. Whenever we attend mass, our prayers are in union with Jesus Christ. If you notice, our prayers during mass end with “…through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.”

Let us always include these words in our prayers to know more about Christ so that we can live like Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, there are times that we pray for various things we don’t really need. Please teach us how to pray with humility. Teach us to remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can overcome all the struggles and challenges we are facing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Heavenly Father, thank you for all graces that we have received. Though unworthy as we are, you continuously shower us with your blessings.  Amen.

31 May, Friday – His Lowly Servants

May 31 Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This day is called the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary because on it Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, whom, as the angel had told her, God had blessed with a son in her old age.

Patron Saint Index

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Romans 12:9-16

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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My spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid

I recently attended a retreat over the long weekend. It was unlike the few other retreats I had attended before – we were told to come spiritually prepared for it, by praying daily and going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the retreat. At the past few retreats I had attended, confession was usually one of the key components, so this was something new for me. Many of the retreatants also seemed to be very spiritual and prayerful, so I was also somewhat intimidated.

We were encouraged to surrender our phones after lunch on the first day, something I really struggled with. But as it was also a semi-silent retreat, it made sense to try and disconnect with the outside world for those three days. In the end, I was glad that I could do that and grew to appreciate the silence. It also seemed to me that the act of surrendering my phone was akin to surrendering myself to God and his plans, especially considering how the phone is practically a ‘second skin’.

I came to this retreat with expectant faith, but it was not quite the experience I had anticipated. I felt a lot of emptiness and seemed like I was in a state of desolation. I was envious of those who had shared their extraordinary God experiences of having life-visions and hearing God speak to them so clearly; during adoration and the praying over in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I felt so unworthy and distant, and honestly almost felt like God had passed me over because I did not receive any extraordinary spiritual high. The silence was truly golden, as I was unable to share this negativity with others and allow it to magnify and fester.

God never forsakes us; He knows what we need even if it does not feel like it. It was only toward the end of the retreat that my spirits were lifted. During the final testimonies, I no longer felt envious as I did previously, but instead was very edified listening to the testimonies. I was also suddenly triggered by some of the testimonies and remembered hurts that I had been suppressing, which was a sign to me that I needed to address them at a later stage when I was ready. The one that touched me the most, was hearing how she did not receive any visions or tangible gifts, but recognised that God spoke to her through other means. And it hit me that this was just like me, but while I had so much bitterness, this person had so much joy.

I reflected back and sifted through my journal, and realised then that God had indeed been speaking to me all this while, just that I had been too stubborn and close-minded to notice. God was speaking to me through all the scripture verses I picked, quotes from saints that was placed around the retreat centre, the talks, and of course through people. I had almost wanted to go up to testify then about the power of testimonies and how God is always there even when you don’t think he is, but I chickened out. However, it was still quite a huge turnaround from feeling rather down during most of the retreat to wanting to go up and proclaim God’s grace.

It was a reminder for me that we need to be open and patient, and that our God is a creative and powerful God! He comes to us when we least expect it, and he allows all types of experiences because he truly knows each person’s unique needs. God is always inviting us, his lowly and unworthy servants, to grow into deeper prayer and build a deeper relationship with Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to grow in faith. Teach us to pray deeply so that we can be in stronger communion with you. Guide us to walk in your ways with all our heart.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your constant grace and mercy even when we do not deserve it. May we always be grateful and recognise you in both trials and joys. Amen.

30 May, Thursday – Waiting

30 May 2019

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Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

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Hebrews 9:24-28,10:19-23

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.

In other words, brothers, 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.

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Luke 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.
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It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority

We have all been there – waiting to hear back after a job interview, an examination or even a date. Some people are better at weathering the uncertainty, going about their daily lives while occasionally dwelling on what might happen. Some people are crippled by the suspense, ruminating over every possible outcome and expecting the worst. Yet some others try to take control of the situation and their emotions to make the wait more bearable, perhaps by sending polite follow-up emails or text messages or distracting themselves with unrelated tasks or thoughts. Regardless of the coping response, one thing is clear – there is nothing we can do to affect the outcome.

We can imagine the emotional rollercoaster the apostles went through after Jesus’ crucifixion – first, sorrow and despair when their Messiah had fallen, followed by initial disbelief and elation over Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus had appeared to them several times after that, telling them about the kingdom of God. The apostles must have felt like they were on the cusp of something phenomenal and eagerly sought answers as to what lay ahead. Instead, Jesus commanded them to stay in Jerusalem and wait. In light of the recent events, Jesus’ instruction must have been anti-climactic and unsatisfying. True enough, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles ten days later. Receiving gifts and powers beyond their human abilities, the apostles went on to baptise and make disciples of all nations.

If we associate God’s presence with dramatic acts of conversion or transformation, we may feel discouraged when our prayers go seemingly unanswered. This lull may be in fact be an invitation to stillness, to prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit. Let us take heart that just as Jesus walked with his disciples, he continues to journey with, and mould us in our journey of life. In closing, may we remember that “God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and a whole lot of faith…But it’s worth the wait.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for patience and perseverance to live out our calling as children of God. As we entrust ourselves to You, may we surrender our need for control, trusting that You will provide the graces we need for the journey ahead.   

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we may bear witness to Your word.

29 May, Wednesday – Something has to die for something to live

29 May 2019

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Acts 17:15,22-18:1

Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.

So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:
‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.

‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:

“We are all his children.”

‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.

‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’

At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’

After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

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John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’

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I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now

I have often pondered on this. If I had the gift of precognition – how would I have led my life?

We cannot control many events in our lives – for example we don’t get to choose our parents, our siblings, our relatives. However, there are certain events that were fully up to our own choices, like the path we took after graduation, our choice of life partners, whether one chooses a life of debauchery and merrymaking, or one of responsibility.

When I reflect on my own life – 2 events stood out for me.

  1. Marriage – I got married at 25. A year later, the marriage fell apart and we divorced civilly some 5 years later. I was living abroad at the time.
  2. Business – I had a real passion for church vestments and paraments. What started out as passion and love for liturgical vestments lead to a small business, which eventually led to a fallout and breakdown of a relationship.

If I had known the outcome of these life choices, would I have gone down each path? The quick answer will have be ‘no’. Who would want to endure the hurt and pain of betrayal, and the inconvenience of the legal implications of ending relationships? However, now that quite a few years have passed and as I look back, each of these incidences have brought about some rather beautiful outcomes. Something has to die for something to live. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

There is only so much humans can learn at one time — Jesus, so merciful and loving knows this. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples his farewell speech, knowing that His time draws near when He has to leave them. Jesus declares that He does not have enough time to say all that He would like to his followers. Moreover, they would not have the ability to hear it. Jesus, however, promises them the Advocate, who will reveal to them all things which is to come, at the right time.

It is impossible to understand and take in, over a short period of time, all that Jesus has to teach us. As our journey through life continues, the Holy Spirit gradually unfolds God’s message so that it speaks to us at appropriate times in our lives. Our capacity to take in what God has to reveal to us is expandable — when we become more open, the Spirit of Truth will reveal more, and guide us into all the truth. Jesus wants to draw us into the life of God. He knows how anxious we can be, both to let go of the past and to trust what the future will bring. Can we speak to him about our anxieties?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, you are truly magnificent. For by the gift of the Advocate, you have never left us. We pray for open hearts and minds to let the Holy Spirit lead us to the truth about God, about You, and our own lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for understanding how weak and vulnerable we are. Thank you Lord, for sending us the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us as we muddle our way through this life.

28 May, Tuesday – Judge Not

28 May 2019

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Acts 16:22-34

The crowd joined in and showed their hostility to Paul and Silas, so the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be flogged. They were given many lashes and then thrown into prison, and the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’ The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

They told him, ‘Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.’ Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all his family. Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.

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John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Now I am going to the one who sent me.
Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?”
Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.
Still, I must tell you the truth:
it is for your own good that I am going
because unless I go,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I do go,
I will send him to you.
And when he comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin,
and about who was in the right,
and about judgement:
about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me;
about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more;
about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.’

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When the Advocate, the Holy Spirit comes, he will show the world how wrong it was.

Recently, at my uncle’s wake, I met an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in ages. We barely know each other, safe for the fact that she is my aunt’s husband’s niece and she was once the mistress of a married man. That’s all I knew of her. She is 4 years younger than me, was a very pretty girl, always well-dressed and immaculately turned out the few times I met her. My perception of her was of this privileged princess, the only child in the family, doted on by her parents and uncle. She would have been very comfortable materially when her parents and uncle eventually passed on. Only a pity that she chose to be someone’s mistress.

Fast forward to present day and she looked nothing like I remembered of her. I was actually really shocked at how she looked. I commented to my cousin that ‘she didn’t age well.’ She is completely devoid of any make up, dressed simply in a white blouse and beige pants, hair tied up in a simple pony tail. My brother asked me, “Did you hear her story?” I was completely floored, humbled and ashamed of myself. Rita (not her real name), converted to Catholicism as recently as a year (or two) back. Surprising, coming from a family of very staunch Buddhists. In fact, her own mother also converted. She felt a calling to give of her life to our Lord. She sold all her possessions and moved into a one-room HDB flat. At present she is discerning to be a nun.

And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. Indeed I was taught a lesson again never to judge people. Human judgement can be so off target. Ultimately, the ways of our Lord surpass our own understanding and predictions. He is able to use us and our situations to bring things to a happy outcome. Even out of the most threatening situations, good can emerge – as in today’s first reading. Despite being stripped of their clothing, beaten and jailed, Paul and Barnabas, by their courage and faith, were able to win new converts in the Philippi jail.

We need to ask God to show us His perspective. It is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who gives us God’s perspective — to see as God sees, to know as God knows, to be wise as God is wise. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to keep filling the hearts of the faithful.

Today, I offer up my prayers for my sister Rita. That God of wisdom and of counsel, sees in her heart a desire to please Him, to grant her the will and desire to give herself entirely to God’s holy will, in the choice of her state in life and to embrace it lovingly and humbly.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today we offer our prayers for those discerning their vocations, for our priests, religious, lay consecrated and those being called by You to lay down their lives for others. We pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us to see with God’s eyes, to be wise as God is wise and to never judge others, as He is the ultimate judge and story writer of each of our lives.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for using each seemingly unfortunately circumstance in our lives and bringing these things to a happy outcome.

27 May, Monday – Graces

May 27 – Memorial for St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop

Augustine (d. 605) was a monk and abbot of St. Andrew’s abbey in Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great with 40 brother monks, including St. Lawrence of Canterbury, to evangelize the British Isles in 597. Before he reached the islands, terrifying tales of the Celts sent him back to Rome in fear, but Gregory told him he had no choice, so he went. He established and spread the faith throughout England; one of his earliest converts was King AEthelberht who brought 10,000 of his people into the Church.

He was ordained a bishop in Gaul (modern France) by the Archbishop of Arles. He became Bishop of Canterbury, and was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. He helped re-establish contact between the Celtic and Latin churches, though he could not establish his desired uniformity of liturgy and practices between them. He worked with St. Justus of Canterbury. The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury are still referred to as occupying the Chair of Augustine.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:11-15

Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that particular district of Macedonia. After a few days in this city we went along the river outside the gates as it was the sabbath and this was a customary place for prayer. We sat down and preached to the women who had come to the meeting. One of these women was called Lydia, a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.

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John 15:26-16:4

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,

because you have been with me from the outset.

‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken.
They will expel you from the synagogues,
and indeed the hour is coming
when anyone who kills you
will think he is doing a holy duty for God.
They will do these things
because they have never known
either the Father or myself.
But I have told you all this,
so that when the time for it comes
you may remember that I told you.’

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Come and stay at my home.

I have been told that one of my charisms is hospitality, and that I am quite generous. I never think of it as anything noble. I just share what I have, nothing so extraordinary. Recently though, I feel that this ‘gift’ can be a double-edged sword – it can be fulfilling or can suck the life out of a person. When we are spiritually aligned with God’s will – things we do for others can be so life giving. However, when we are not in a great place, little things people ask can be energy sapping. Which was how I was feeling since January. Being in full swing with ministry work and using my ‘professional expertise’ to help in some projects, I became a bit sapped by the time Lent came around. Holy Week this year saw me crashing into new lows. Not because I was doing too much, but simply because I had no capacity to give any more.

I observed 3 things during this time:

  1. When we allow God to work through us, there is nothing we cannot do. But on our own strength, things can get pretty messy.
  2. God never, ever leaves us. He is strong when we are weak.
  3. He sends people to help and journey with us.

In today’s first reading, Lydia from the city of Thyatira touched me. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly. She was open to what the Lord was doing for her and it touched her immensely. God used her to bless those around her. Lydia offered kindly hospitality to Paul and his companions, having received the gift of the gospel and the grace of God. Lydia didn’t just open her heart, she also opened her home. She was not only the first European convert to Christianity, she also created the first church in her own home.

We have all been graced in various ways by the Lord. Having received from the Lord, we give from what we have received. As I look back on my own ministry, I recall the time when I was most joyful, no matter how tired and lacking in sleep, I felt much joy bursting from my heart. But what has happened to me recently? Perhaps I let ‘life’ happen, the burdens and pains of this world took over, and I had forgotten to lean on Him, to derive spiritual sustenance from God, so readily available to me. As I held onto this rope, desperately clinging on to my faith, my mind wondered if the rope was anchored to anything. Then the Lord spoke to me “It’s not you who is holding onto me. But I am holding onto to you.” Wow!!!! Indeed in weakness, He is strong.

Brothers and sisters, have you lost the joy in serving the Lord? Have you been sapped of energy? Perhaps it’s time to go back to basics. Receive the graces so readily available from the Lord. Perhaps Jesus is calling you today. Come and stay at my home.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, we have received so abundantly from you. Please show us concretely how we can give from what we have received. May You use us each day, to re-establish your church.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your fatherly love. Thank you for giving us so abundantly and unreservedly.

26 May, Sunday – Au Revoir

26 May 2019
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Acts 15:1-2,22-29

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.

Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

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Apocalypse 21:10-14,22-23

In the spirit, the angel took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.

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John 14:23-29

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.
Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.’

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I am going away

Goodbyes are complicated. The English language doesn’t do justice to this word. There are several kinds of goodbyes – those everyday types, when you know you will see the person soon. Or the more final separations when you know you are unlikely to see the person again. French and Italian are more precise. For everyday brief separations, Italians say ‘ciao’, ‘buongiorno/buonasera’, ‘Alla prossima’. The French say ‘Au revoir’. For more final departures, Italians say ‘Addio’ and the French say ‘Adieu’.

I hate goodbyes. In recent years, I’ve had to say goodbye to several situations and people – from dysfunctional family relationships, to friendships, to a business I built and also to people who mean a lot to me.  These were not simply ‘au revoirs’ but ‘adieus’. They take a lot out of a person and sometimes I wonder if we ever heal from them. When we invest time and energy in relationships, goodbyes are ever more difficult; it is as if a piece of you died with them.

Jesus, in his ministry, prepared his disciples and friends for his eventual departure from them. While they didn’t know what it meant at the time, when the time came, the disciples were completely lost, discouraged and of course very sad. The text in today’s gospel reading are our Lord’s words at the ‘Last Supper’, uttered in view of His imminent departure. He knew His time had come and he wanted to spend that last evening with his most intimate friends. It was a meal filled with emotions. It would be a meal to remember, not only because this event forms the basis of the Lord’s Supper, but also because Jesus predicts a betrayal, defines true leadership, promises authority to the Eleven, predicts Peter’s failure and warns of coming rejection. Even as he faces death, Jesus serves by preparing others for their tasks. We can only imagine how he felt knowing what was ahead of Him. This time together is clearly bittersweet for Jesus. His destiny requires separation from those he loves. However, Jesus has promised not to leave his disciples orphaned. He has promised to send another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them and continue the work that he has begun.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. These words have been such a source of comfort for me when my world comes crashing down; When I don’t understand what’s going on in my life. People may come into your life and leave — God brought them to us for a reason, for a season. We may be attached to some things in our lives, only to lose them later. Know that God has something better planned for us, but not as the world sees it. We may be stripped of everything that defines us, but Jesus has never ever left us. Because Jesus is present with us through the Holy Spirit, we need not be anxious.  ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ When the kingdom comes, we shall resume celebration.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, so many times we do not understand your ways or see how certain events can be any good in our lives. Help us to persevere in faith, and in prayer. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we begin to see how You might be working for good, even in the midst of terrible and confusing events.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. May we be guided by the Advocate as we navigate through this earthly life.

25 May, Saturday – Persecution and Detachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you.”

Recently, secularism and relativism have been constantly on my mind. In silent observation, I see their effects on Christians and non-Christians alike. Let’s be clear what secularism and relativism mean.  Secularism is the indifference and rejection of religion. It’s a desire to exclude religion from social activities and civic affairs. Relativism is the idea that there are no universal, objective truths, only points of view; and each opinion or judgment is valid only for the person or group holding them.

At first glance, these attitudes seem to be innocuous. Separating church from state and to be open to different opinions, they seem like good ideas. Tolerance of one and all, this is the making of a perfect world. However, you and I know that this is not the case. Current secularism deems religion, particularly Christianity as outdated, unnecessary and ‘mumbo jumbo’ for people who need emotional crutches. To the people who drank from the secular fountain, God is but an imaginary being and should be relegated to the realm of fairy tales and has no place in society and its discussions. Religion, particularly Christianity, has been shunned. You don’t need to look very far for signs of this. Companies like Starbucks, Google, Facebook and many others have succumbed to the demands of secularists and have done away with the words Christmas and Easter in all their promotion materials. Even to the point that the design of the disposable Christmas coffee cup has become a great debate (at least in North America). What are these people so afraid of? A God that loves them so much that He was willing to die for us? That, truly is a threat. Because admitting that would make us see ourselves in a different light and we may not like what we see.

The idea of relativism hides behind the guise of freedom. The freedom of choice, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. Yes, freedom is important, but within the freedom, there are safeguards that do not allow us to hurt others. Like in the case of freedom of the press, we cannot propagate hateful and discriminatory thoughts, speeches or actions against another. Likewise within freedom of will, there are boundaries to protect ourselves and others. Relativism has done away with the safeguards because it does not admit that there are truths that cannot be denied, such as God and His teachings, and that there are boundaries that cannot be crossed (such killing of the unborn child or terminally ill – abortion and euthanasia, which are legal in parts of North America).

Christians, let us persevere in our faith and not fall victims to the pressures of the world. Let’s fashion ourselves like the unbeatable ‘bobo dolls’ that bounce back again and again in the face of adversity and hostility. A daughter of a friend of mine wanted to bring a nativity set for show and tell to school, and was told by the teacher that it is not permitted to bring religious artifacts to school.  However, another child was able to bring a menorah, perhaps the teacher deemed it to be cultural and not religious.

Whatever the case, with the increasing sentiment of secularism and relativism, with the persecution of Christians on the rise, let us stand firm in our believes. May our faith be strengthened like the immovable rock against the tide. If we feel ostracized and criticized, let us remember that the people also rejected our Lord Jesus. But in the end, our Lord triumphed over death and sin. We can share in that glory if we remain faithful and unwavering in our love of God and His Word.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

24 May, Friday – Expressions of Love

24 May 2019

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Acts 15:22-31

The apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

The party left and went down to Antioch, where they summoned the whole community and delivered the letter. The community read it and were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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John 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you is to love one another.’

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What I command you is to love one another

Some time ago, if someone were to ask me, “What is love?” I would simply say it is an emotion, a feeling, and a need. Whenever I heard the commandment from Jesus, “to love one another as we love ourselves”, I secretly thought that it was an impossible task. At the best of times, we are selfish creatures and at other times, we don’t even love ourselves to the best of our abilities. If so, where would bad habits come from?  (I have plenty of them).

It was not until I started to listen to the Catholic podcasts, Word on Fire, that it slowly dawned on me, what Jesus meant. The love that Jesus speaks of is not the emotion and feeling that I thought. For those are transient and often not something that we can choose or control. The love that Jesus speaks of is a choice. A choice of willing the good of others. Think about it for a minute. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this so quickly. Love is a choice that we make, willing the good of the other.

It is not a casual hug and kiss and “I love you”. It is not wanting to spend all your time and attention on the other person. Although these are forms of expressions of love, the love that our Lord talks about is deeper. If you love someone, wouldn’t you want the best for them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the best, for them to achieve the best? Wouldn’t you guide them if they were heading down a wrong path? Wouldn’t you sit with them and share their sorrows and their joys?

If we truly love someone, not only would we want the best for the other, we would pray fervently for them, for their salvation. What is the best thing in this world that is free yet priceless? That is the love of our Lord, the peace and joy that only He can provide. Willing this for others, and expressing this in our hearts, in our words and actions is the true meaning of love. An important note is that we choose to love. Love is not given because the other is deserving or because they are family or related. But because we choose to love as the Lord has loved us.

How do we love others, if not in an emotional way? Simply by not engaging in gossip, not being envious or jealous of the other, and only correcting them justly; these are some of the ways we can love the others. The correcting of another is a tricky one. Beware of the feeling self-righteousness. In correcting others, intentions must come from a place of love and truly wanting the good of the other. It should never come from a place of pride and thinking we are better, smarter and therefore can point out the errors of another. These are but a few suggestions, I am sure you are able to find more ways to love others as you love yourself.

Love, as I understand it now, is not an uncontrollable emotion, but a choice that I make. Even if the other has wronged us or the love is not reciprocated, we can still choose to will the good of the other by praying for them earnestly, by leading them to Christ in everything we do and say. In other words, if Christ truly lives in us, love for others comes naturally.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to follow Your commandment to love others as we love ourselves, to will the good of the other. Let us remember this as we sing “Christians love one another, as we share the true living bread. Jesus is our God and our brother; with His flesh and blood we are fed. Everyone who loves is born of God. Jesus is our life, God is love.”

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us despite our many transgressions.

23 May, Thursday – Saved Through Grace

23 May 2019

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.
‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’

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John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’

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I shall return and rebuild the fallen House of David; I shall rebuild it from its ruins and restore it

It is Easter Sunday that I am writing this. A day of extreme joy at the resurrection of our Lord, that was dampened by the suffering imposed on our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka by the evil that exists in this world. It was on Easter Sunday that terrorists attacked three churches (two of which are Catholic) and three hotels. In total, more than two hundred were killed and even more injured. Many of them were attending Sunday Mass, much like we were.

It has been an observation of mine that the current societal climate is growing in intolerance. We are indeed paying more attention to the marginalized people, which in a really good thing, but in our haste to appear just, we actually become more discriminatory. In advocating for the rights to abortion and homosexuality while disclaiming the rights of the unborn and a meaningful family unit, in advocating the personal choice and relativism (in truth, religion and all else), yet disclaiming the truth that our God has revealed and dismissing it as emotional and fantasy jargon; have we really reduced the amount of marginalized people or have we simply switch groups of people to marginalize?

Catholics and Christians have been taught to promote peace. That is our Lord’s commandment. Therefore, while we weep with our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and pray for their recovery and mend their sorrowful hearts, we will pray for forgiveness for the perpetrators. It is NOT saying what they have done is ok, but to say to them that we acknowledge the evil that they have committed. We are not letting the effect of their sins affect us, their penance will be given by God, who alone has the right to judge. In the meantime, we will stand stronger and firmer in our resolve, in our faith, in our love, by the grace of God. We will not be shaken by the evil in this world, by the marginalization and persecution of our faith, we stand firm and in unity, waiting for our Lord to come and rebuild the fallen house of David. After all, Jesus has conquered death and sin, nothing is impossible for Him.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; and we pray that all unity will one day be restored.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God in our land.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

All praise to the Father, from who all things come;

And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son.

And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, grant us the grace to stand firm in our faith in all the adversity. May we grow stronger and ever more faithful. Our prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka and those affected by the terrorist attacks, may You watch over your children and help rebuild Your holy church.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your abundant Grace, and Your undying love, in our joy and our sorrow.