Monthly Archives: August 2019

31 August, Saturday – Am I Afraid?

31 Aug 2019

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1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact this is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia. However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to your own business and earning your living, just as we told you to.

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Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

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So I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground

I used to pay very little attention to the servant who hid the talent in the ground. In my mind, I saw him as a disappointment. I would even say that I had little or no sympathy towards him. Until recent events in my life allowed me to look at the third servant with more compassion.

He said that he was afraid, that’s why he didn’t do anything. Sometimes, people choose not to do something because they are afraid that if they fail, they would end up disappointing the other person. The pain of doing something, not measuring up, and being rejected could be so much. It might even be unbearable that one finds it better not to do anything and be rejected, rather than put an effort and end up being rejected as well. There may be people around us who we were quick to judge as simply being lazy when in fact, they had deeper issues than laziness.

The next point of reflection is that if the servant was afraid of the master, could it be because he did not know the master enough? Sometimes, I feel that I have to put my best foot forward for God. In fact, I only realized that subconsciously, I was trying to be the perfect daughter for God. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be perfect for God, since we have been told to ‘be perfect just as (our) heavenly Father’ is. What was wrong was that in my quest for perfection, I forgot that God has also chosen to love my failures and shortcomings because they are part of me. Perhaps, I do not really know God enough yet to not be afraid.

My last point of reflection was, if the third servant ever asked the first two servants for tips on how to grow his talents. Maybe he did, but I feel that most likely he didn’t. If his first reaction was to bury his talent, I would also think that he would be so afraid to have asked for help. In our journey towards God, we certainly need the help of other people so we can become better.

God has put people around us so we can learn from them as to how we can give greater glory to God, how we can serve him better. Sometimes, we just don’t bother asking for help or guidance. Is it our pride? Or is it because we just can’t be bothered to try? Or is it because we are afraid?

Let us cease to be afraid. Let us seek to get to know God more, to get to know our selves more, let us be brave enough to ask for help.

Let us have faith in God and his love for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help me acknowledge the third servant in me and help me grow to do what will bring you happiness. And let that happiness be my happiness, too.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for including the third servant in the story for me to learn more about myself. 

30 August, Friday – “Delayed”

30 Aug 2019

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1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

What God wants is for you all to be holy. He wants you to keep away from fornication, and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honourable, not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God. He wants nobody at all ever to sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters; the Lord always punishes sins of that sort, as we told you before and assured you. We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral; in other words, anyone who objects is not objecting to a human authority, but to God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

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Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

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The bridegroom was late

In another version of this reading, it was written that the bridegroom was ‘long delayed.’ I personally like this version better (and yes, I have Bibles with both the UK and US versions – all Catholic :)). When you say someone is late, one’s first thought is that the person did not come one time. However, when you say one is delayed, one would first think that something happened for the person’s arrival to happen later. There is a reason for being delayed.

In a Jewish marriage, after the betrothal, the bridegroom prepares the house for the bride before fetching her to live with him. With this in mind, I would think that the bridegroom was delayed because he was trying to put things in order for his bride and something important in that process had to be attended to and completed. If that were the case, I wouldn’t exactly call him late.

As I am writing this reflection, I had to reflect on how many times I would think that God is late in making things happen in my life. To think that God is late means I’m expecting him to complete something at an agreed time. And I realized that God never promised us anything based on an exact time – he didn’t even put a calendar date on His 2nd coming! His promise is based on quality – that we will have eternal life with him, that we will be happy with him, that our joy and redemption will surely come if we wait on him.

It’s so easy to feel frustrated whenever we feel that something is already late. As a bridegroom, God wants what is best for us, not only because that will give Him greater glory, but also because that will make us the best version of ourselves. God’s delay shows us how patient He is, because He is willing to wait to make it the best possible thing to happen. The Israelites had to wander in the desert when there was a shortcut, remember?

So what do we do during this period of delay? We make sure we are ready. We are in the current states of our lives so we can be ready when God calls us to the next phase of our lives. I think it is ok to anticipate and be excited for the future, but we should not let this anticipation and excitement rob us of the disposition of enjoying the present. Unfortunately, some of us live our lives simply not being able to wait for the next phase — we can’t wait to grow up, we can’t wait to settle down, we can’t wait to have kids, we can’t wait for the kids to be out of the house, we can’t wait until we retire.

When God is ‘delayed’, there is a reason for it. Let’s wait patiently and enjoy this season.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, I would really like you to give me what you want me to have soon, but I would rather ask for the grace to wait on you and your promises until the fullness of time.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, the gift of this season. Please help me learn all the lessons and enjoy everything I could enjoy in this season.

29 August, Thursday – The Gift of Constraints

Aug 29 – Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that His chosen ones should suffer for Him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

– from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist

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1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

Brothers, your faith has been a great comfort to us in the middle of our own troubles and sorrows; now we can breathe again, as you are still holding firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account? We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.

May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you. May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

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Mark 6:17-29

Herod sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife whom he had married. For John had told Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.’ As for Herodias, she was furious with him and wanted to kill him; but she was not able to, because Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection. When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

An opportunity came on Herod’s birthday when he gave a banquet for the nobles of his court, for his army officers and for the leading figures in Galilee. When the daughter of this same Herodias came in and danced, she delighted Herod and his guests; so the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’ And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now, on a dish.’ The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her. So the king at once sent one of the bodyguard with orders to bring John’s head. The man went off and beheaded him in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

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Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart

I love watching anime. Besides being entertaining, the genre also tackles deep, philosophical issues. One of the key issues that is discussed is about immortality, or having the capacity to live a long life here on earth. Most of us would dream of long lives, but in the story, these characters are lonely people who would do anything to die.

Without the possibility of death, they have seen many people die. They have lost many loved ones they did not want to love again. Without any possibility of death, they could always postpone a certain experience like travelling or exploring to another day, since they could have any day in the future to do that. As they will not die, they do not need to take care of their health. Many things lose their meaning, their significance, because it will always be available to them in the future.

Some of us are frustrated by the constraints that we experience in life. Of course, we would want to be able to do more. But precisely because there are constraints, that’s why we are able to appreciate what we have. As the saying goes, ‘You never know what you have until you lose it. You never know what you’re missing until you find it.’

The shortness of our lives gives us wisdom of heart. We learn to value every moment as a gift. We learn to appreciate the small miracles of every day. We learn to appreciate people whom God puts in our lives only for a while. We make an effort to be kind every time we have the chance, because the chance may never come again. The shortness of our lives may bring us sadness. And precisely because of this sadness that’s why we are able obtain happiness.

The shortness of our lives also gives us wisdom on who to prioritize. Some of us choose what to prioritize, forgetting that we find the meaning of our lives based on who we prioritize. When we think we have all the time, we forget that it is the relationship with God and with people that makes us most human. Think of the rich man who prioritized making a barn for his bountiful harvest. We are never told if he had people whom he loved, but we were certainly told that he was a fool as he would soon be called to the afterlife.

If today is our last day on earth, who would really matter to me? How will I spend my last day on earth?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please help us be aware that every day is a gift and that we may never take the day for granted. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the shortness of our lives which allows us to be happier in this world.

28 August, Wednesday – Not dramatic, just lukewarm

Aug 28 – Memorial for St. Augustine, bishop, doctor

After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, Augustine (354-430) became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”

Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of St. Ambrose of Milan, who baptised him. Upon the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He founded religious communities and fought heresies. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair. You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom. Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

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Matthew 23:27-32

Jesus said, ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.” So! Your own evidence tells against you! You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets! Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.’

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To live a life worthy of God

I met someone who recently returned to the Catholic faith after a long period of being lapsed. She had really struggled with the feelings of shame and unworthiness after having accumulated a long list of sins, and she did not know how she could accept herself or re-enter the church after having strayed so far. The journey is still an ongoing one for her.

Today is the memorial of St Augustine of Hippo, bishop and doctor of the church. St Augustine is well-known for what I think are two main features of his life and works. One is his seminal book The Confessions of Saint Augustine, which continues to inspire and enlighten believers and non-believers alike. The other is his great conversion and transformation from living a lifestyle of debauchery and sin to one that is largely monastic and devoted to God.

Not every believer would encounter such dramatic transformations and conversions, since admittedly one would need to be in quite a deep state of sin in the first place. Instead of swinging from one extreme to another, prodigal son style, I would think that most of us are comfortably in the middle, not committing very serious sins but perhaps also not fully turning back to God. In that sense, it is not so much hypocrisy that we should be concerned about, but lukewarmness in faith. If the interior is truly transformed, it will naturally flow into the exterior. Lukewarmness makes the entire effort appear half-hearted, and half-heartedness will not get one through the narrow door into heaven.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to develop the discipline for a true transformation of our selves.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always leaving the door open for us.

27 August, Tuesday – True Obedience

27 Aug – Memorial for Saint Monica

Raised in a Christian family, she was given in marriage to a bad-tempered, adulterous pagan named Patricius. Mother of two, one of whom is Saint Augustine of Hippo whose writings about her are the primary source of our information about Monica. She prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted after a wild life). Spiritual student of Saint Ambrose of Milan. Reformed alcoholic.

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.
  We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition. We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts. You know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money; nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with full weight, as apostles of Christ.
  Instead, we were unassuming. Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.

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Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. You blind guides! Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!
  ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.’

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Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

The Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’ time had a long list of rituals and observances that they would religiously carry out to the minutest detail. This included going to the extent of straining their wine with a wine cloth so as to avoid accidental consumption of a gnat, a very small insect considered impure according to their customs. But Jesus said in today’s gospel that in doing so, they are swallowing a camel, also considered an impure creature. They have only purified themselves externally but not internally. They probably also went a little overboard with the number of rules and regulations they gave themselves. With so many of them to abide by and carry out, it is easy to let that commitment become a priority over God.

In our church today, we do have our fair share of rules and observances, but our problem on the surface is not quite the same as that of the Pharisees and scribes. I think I would not be wrong in saying that quite a lot of us are not very committed in observing the rules, regulations and teachings of the church, and might even question their purpose and necessity. We may not be as “fake” as the Pharisees and scribes, but we are similarly lacking in true obedience to God. Our resistance to the teachings of the Church is reflective of our subjection to the worldly ways of thinking, where obedience to authority is something to be derided, and where the desires of the self triumphs any external moral truth.

I have always felt that if we profess ourselves as Catholics, we have the responsibility to obey the teachings of the church. Even if they are the sole voice of opposition (or reason) in this age where relativism is the new norm, it does not mean the teachings are the problem. Rather, it speaks on a lack of effort on our part to learn and appreciate the theology behind those teachings.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that our minds will be freed from the chains of relativistic thinking, and that we will emulate Mother Mary’s virtue of obedience.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, dearest Father, for giving us the deposit of faith in our church.

26 August, Monday – Hypocrites

26 Aug 2019

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1 Thessalonians 1:1-5,8-10

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction. And you observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

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Matthew 23:13-22

Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’

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“someone who swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.”

Today’s Gospel is a bit hard to digest, however I feel that the message that I’m called to share is that of, ‘Do we know who we are following?’, ‘Why do we do what we do?’

I currently work in the parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) and was previously working at Church of the Holy Spirit as the Youth Coordinator. Over the years, I’ve seen many who hold positions in the church and they, most of them are not your best role models or disciples for that matter. Maybe some are even worse off than those who don’t even come to church. Me included, there are countless of times where I look in the mirror and just see a hypocrite. Preaching one thing but not only do I not follow, I do the exact opposite.

We don’t need to hold a position to be considered to be a leader but the nature of our faith, as Catholics, people will already be judging us, our lifestyle and so on. And the reality is many have left the church because of priests, leaders within the church, bad experiences, where the expectations that one has of the church isn’t met.

The truth is we are all broken people and more so a good number of those who go to church. It’s quite easy to understand that people who are doing well, most of the time, wouldn’t exactly need God in their life? So the church is probably more broken than we ever imagine, but the beauty of it is that, God sees all and still chooses us to be His ministers, His disciples.

However, what is really key is that we need to know who we are following, who we are leading people to. And we should lead all to God, to only cling on Christ, to depend/rely on Him and not man, for man will continue to fall. Christ is the perfect role model and one we all should strive towards.

And so I urge all of us, not just to listen, follow blindly or be disappointed by man for man is broken and imperfect but to always have our sight on Christ. If we always hold on to the truths of the Gospel and love as Christ loves, then we won’t be far from being the face of Christ to others. Let us bind ourselves to Christ and we can be sure of a place for us with Christ in heaven. May your kingdom come and your will be done in our lives as it is in heaven. God Bless

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for strength to overcome the temptations that seek to pull us away from you. May our words lead to actions and may we grow to be more and more like you.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Lord for your love, for your constant forgiveness, for accepting us and loving us in all our brokenness, disobedience and rejection of you. Amen.

25 August, Sunday – Stand Corrected

25 Aug 2019

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Isaiah 66:18-21

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations. As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries, from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord, like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord. And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.

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Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons

I would like to base this reflection on a teaching by a priest on growth, which best captures that learning is part of suffering.

Growth encompasses four aspects – Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given. Growth is essential for all Christians and this also brings about blessings. And these blessings come about when you accept all these components.

Taken

As in the parable of the rich young man who was asked to give away his wealth, God will take away the very things that we hold on to. It can mean different things to each of us. God will take our time, demand our effort, even our money. He will remove from us the very thing that stops us from growing.

Blessed

We all crave to be blessed by God but are usually not ready to accept purification and sanctification. And honestly, I am no different, though I know that He wants to sanctify me, as His daughter sometimes, I question His choices in this process of sanctification.

Recently I had a fall out with someone and I was very surprised how God was leading me and this person towards a blessing. Indeed God surprises me when He demands that I be the bigger person despite being very hurt. But I also realised that God cannot choose to bless one of His children at the expense of the other. And that is also when I am embraced — that both me and my trespasser are called by Him — as His own as stated in Isaiah 43:1 – You are mine.

It is no coincidence, that from the very start of my interactions with this person, I would seek counsel through scriptures and found this verse as a reminder that despite this person’s shortcomings, the Lord of all the earth had summoned him as His own. You and I are no exception.

Broken

This is rather self-explanatory, though it is necessary for it to be said so that we all have clarity. Christ will break you, so that you can be holy. He needs us whole so that we can live a complete and fulfilled life, like any good father would want for us. He wants us to live our best lives and for that to happen, He will break us from the whole being that we have created for ourselves, so that we are more of Him and less of ourselves and of the world.

Given

He will make us a holy sacrifice so that we become acceptable to Him. For scripture states: “Be holy as I am holy” – 1 Peter 1:16.

There is really no greater joy that to be a child of this Father who wants to remove all that hurts us and hinders us from the love and life He has created for us.

 (Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, help us to remain holy by having holiness as a goal. Let us wholly accept and embrace holiness as our lifestyle, so that we meet others we truly reflect your image. And when we meet you face to face, we are truly like you.

Thanksgiving: Father thank you for your sanctifying grace. Though it sometimes irritates me, I feel privileged that you are working in and through me so that I am fully feel and know that I am yours.

24 August, Saturday – Supporting Structures

Aug 24 – Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he 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.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.

The bible has many accounts of believers who were thrust into the spotlight, called by God to do great things in his name — Moses, David, and Joseph (both of them!) were directed to be leaders of their flock, much to their chagrin.

Yet in organisations or situations, there can only be one chief. Too many voices cloud decision making and the clarity of vision and purpose is diluted. What the chief needs are trusted and dependable deputies who work behind the scenes, implementing the plan. The deputies and workers may never get the same recognition and rewards as the chief, but they are no less important.

Being a deputy or a follower is not a passive undertaking. Merely following instructions, or doing the bare minimum are not behaviours that facilitate any leader’s job. Active followership involves being aligned to a mission, supporting the leader’s decisions, and being proactive in one’s work. The dynamism of shadowing, and pre-empting what our leaders need trains us for a day when we could possibly be the ones steering the ship.

All too many of us yearn for authority and influence, but God will only entrust us with responsibilities once we are ready. Consider how God is asking you to take the back seat in any aspect of your life; and decide if you want to be merely a passenger, or a trusted companion on the journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord, to bloom where we are planted, and to serve with humility and enthusiasm.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for all the opportunities you present us in life. May we trust in your plan for our lives, as incomprehensible as it can sometimes be.

23 August, Friday – The Greatest Commandment

Aug 23 – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, virgin

A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.

“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”

from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

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Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22

In the days of the Judges famine came to the land and a certain man from Bethlehem of Judah went – he, his wife and his two sons – to live in the country of Moab. Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she and her two sons were left. These married Moabite women: one was named Orpah and the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died and the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband. So she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went back to her people. But Ruth clung to her.

Naomi said to her, ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her god. You must return too; follow your sister-in-law.’

But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you and to turn back from your company, for ‘wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live.

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’

This was how Naomi, she who returned from the country of Moab, came back with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

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Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

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“wherever you go, I shall go, wherever you live, I shall live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

Today, there is an acronym, GOAT, that means, the Greatest Of All Time. We use it for athletes, celebrities, people who shock and surprise us with their skills/knowledge/talents/intelligence, and even for our friends. What does it mean to be great? We seem to always be debating on who’s the greatest, yet, every 5-10 years, it seems that newer names are coming up and some who were mentioned previously, not being heard of anymore. Why do we have such discussions and debates? How does the answer affect us?

Today let us reflect on what is the greatest value to us of all time, we refer to value as a principle or virtue. Which is ours and why? For me, it is a dying to myself, a lowering of my pride, because of love, that I look at the bigger picture rather than who’s at fault. This is something I find extremely hard for me — conflict with my loved ones, conflict at the workplace. Yes, I may be at fault, but why do I need to only be the one accepting responsibility, don’t others know and understand they have a part to play too? A controlling of emotions versus being controlled by your emotions, an understanding of what do you want to achieve. It’s about that greater goal, whether to resolve the conflict or avoid it, whether to forgive, communicate, and be at peace or harbour resentment and hurts?

The choice is ours. Ultimately, we struggle to choose because many times, we do not know yet where we are heading, and we simply prioritise what we need presently as opposed to where we hope to be in the future. The greatest commandment that Christ gives us in the Gospel today is “You must love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.”. Will this ever be considered as the GOAT? Why or why not? What if we knew that for whatever reason we provide, as the answer, God still actually loves us with all His heart, with all His soul and with all His mind?

Many times, we find ourselves asking the word ‘why’. Maybe God has also asked Himself, why should he still continue to love us? Why doesn’t He just severely punish us for all the sins we are committing, the blasphemy, the lack of respect, obedience, reverence and countless others? Why are we still able to make the same mistakes, the same sins over and over again? Then maybe we think that God only says those to scare us, actually He won’t do anything. But just maybe, that’s how much He loves us. The truth is, He doesn’t need our love but He still asks us to love Him because when we do, we will receive much more.

So why not start loving Him today?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: (say your own prayer today, let us receive Him and His love into our hearts)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your Word, your Commandments and putting us first. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for always welcoming us home. Amen.

22 August, Thursday – The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Aug 22 – Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us. – Pope Pius XII

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Isaiah 9:1-7

The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,

as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the bar across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,

these you break as on the day of Midian.

For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
is burnt,
and consumed by fire.
For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said

For some reason, I’ve always found it harder to relate, connect, pray to our Mother. I just have this inclination to pray to God directly. I find it hard to pray the rosary too. I believe I understand Mary’s important role in our faith and I know she will always be praying and interceding for all of us. I’m always amazed at the number of people attending the Novena devotion at Novena Church in Singapore, every Saturday. The amount of people, even non-Catholics, attend in flocks with fervent hearts to ask our Mother to intercede for them. For some reason, I’m not sure why I do not seem to have that desire; or maybe it’s because I haven’t really asked or haven’t reached a stage of desperation or despair.

What really resounds with me when it comes to our Mother, is the Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour…”. This reminder of the beauty of her surrender to God is shown in her glorification of God in all things and through all things. Especially, in the impossible where she will bear a son, and not just an ordinary child but the Son of God. Not by any recognisable medical way but through the grace of the Holy Spirit. All this and still her reply was “let it be done unto me according to your will”. Indeed, the definition of obedience exemplified.

This is also the prayer I hold close to my heart. A prayer when I learn not to seek or ask of what I need, but what God needs of me. To know that as long as I live my life in faith, love, a life in the spirit, then it’s one that will be as close as His plan for me. To know that He will provide not just what I need, but what’s best for me.

Today, as we celebrate your queenship, we celebrate our faith and surrender all the uncertainties in life, all the worries and the impossible to God and we ask for your intercession. “Let not my will but Yours be done.” Amen!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name; And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy – Even as He spoke to our father – to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for our Mother. Thank you for showing us the perfect example of obedience. Thank you, Mother, for your constant intercession for all of us. Amen.