Monthly Archives: October 2019

31 October, Thursday – Pray and Bless

31 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:31-39

With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.

Nothing therefore can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. As scripture promised: For your sake we are being massacred daily, and reckoned as sheep for the slaughter. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us.

For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:

‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’

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Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!

Growing up, I always heard the phrase “God bless you”.  We say it to someone who just sneezed, to someone who is going to work or somewhere, or to someone who will take an examination.  We say our blessings to each other before and after any activity.  Do we say it because it has been our practice ever since? Or do we really mean to say those blessings to others?

When we say “God bless you” or “God bless”, we are already saying a prayer.  Many would say that they don’t know how to pray.  They don’t realize that they are already actually praying.  We have this connotation that praying is only when we ask God for something.  We sometimes forget that whispering, “Praise the Lord” is already a prayer.  When we say “Thanks be to God”, it is already a prayer.  A prayer should not be a complicated thing.  For starters, let us remember ACTS.  I learned this first from my Mom.  A is for Adoration of our Lord.  It is when we say praise to Him.  C is for Contrition.  It is when we seek forgiveness for our sins.  T is for Thanksgiving.  It is when we show how grateful we are.  S is for Supplication.  It is one of my favourite parts because it is when I ask for all the things that I need.

ACTS is just a guide and we should not be anxious when we pray to God.  It is not a required procedure that we must follow, word for word.  Prayer is a communication with God.  We just talk to Him like how we normally talk to our friends.

Quoting our Psalm today: “Loud thanks to the Lord are on my lips. I will praise him in the midst of the throng…”

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, please grant us the Holy Spirit and teach us how to pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you Father God for giving us the capability to bless others through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

30 October, Wednesday – The narrow door

30 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:26-30

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.
We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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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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Try your best to enter by the narrow door

A few years ago, I left a parish ministry on a rather negative note. I was the coordinator of the group, and some negligence on my part caused unhappiness for one of the members. I could have dealt with it if her messages were sent only to me, but she chose to express her disappointment with me in the group chat. That action, to me, crossed a line. I also felt that it had unnecessarily skewed the other members’ impression of me. I had intended to leave out of sheer exhaustion anyway, and that incident marred my years of service. Recently, I was part of the organising team of a parish event, and my disagreement over finances with another member led to this person posting a series of group chat messages that were highly unpleasant, to say the least. When it happened, I could not help but recall its predecessor, and I felt the same degree of weariness. When such antics occur after I have committed so much willpower and effort to a task, the impact is not easy to bear.

Indeed, our brains seem wired to remember bad things with great intensity. For me to get past the weariness and continue to optimistically go forth with the same amount of commitment, I cannot count on my own strength. “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness”, says today’s first reading. If I choose to dwell on my feelings of hurt, disappointment and wounded pride, I risk becoming bitter and resentful. As unwilling as I am, being a Christian means that I need to go where the Lord leads. In the first book of Kings Chapter 19, the prophet Elijah finds himself utterly defeated and broken, asking God to end his life. But God tells him to get up and go on. At his lowest point, the Lord did not allow Elijah to cave in to his despair.

All the above being said, my experience with ministries has been mostly positive and edifying. At the organisation I am currently volunteering at, I face cheery and enthusiastic adult learners every session, and the staff there make me feel truly valued as a volunteer trainer. There is of course also the ministry that is responsible for this reflection. Over the past 17 years or so of my off and on involvement in the Oxygen team, the atmosphere has always been one of mutual respect and God-centredness, cultivated almost wholly in an online environment. To help myself move on, perhaps I should learn to draw strength from such faith-affirming experiences rather than be dragged down by the weight of far less significant blips.

(Today’s Oxygen by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can overcome adversity and sin with humility and trust in the ultimate goodness of the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the grace-filled moments in our service to Him. May we keep the the memories close to our hearts, so that they can help to rescue us in times of distress. 

29 October, Tuesday – Gardening

29 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:18-25

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience.

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Luke 13:18-21

Jesus said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.’

Another thing he said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

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It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches

I’ve recently found an interest in gardening that I never knew I had. Being in Singapore, living space is a premium, let alone gardening space, and while I don’t actually have a garden in the way we know it – with the grass and trees – I have carved out a small little spot on the tarmac that I have gradually populated with various potted plants. It hasn’t been a bed of roses (excuse the pun) but it has been an experience of trial and error, of mixed emotions, and dare I say, even a cathartic one.

I have found a quiet excitement when I see things growing, a tremendous joy when things that I thought dead are revived, dismay when things die or get attacked by bugs and disease. I’ve found curiosity and amusement in understanding the plants’ various needs, patience in waiting for fruition, and sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon their flowering. In the process, I have found myself to be calmer, more patient and caring. I have found healing and takepleasure in nurturing things. And maybe, that isn’t very different from what the Kingdom of God is like.

I don’t profess to know what the Kingdom of God really is. I do believe that it is not a physical place that can be found by man (as alluded to in Luke 17:21), but again in that same line, the “Kingdom of God is in your midst”. Well, what does that really mean? In my humble belief, we are all born with a little mustard seedling of what could be the Kingdom within us. If we nurture it and take care of it, give it the right nutrients and sunshine and water, it may well flourish and if God is in our lives and takes precedenc in all our thoughts and actions, well I truly believe that it would show through in our personality and a presence that other people can perceive for themselves. If you give love – and God is love – those around you will feel love, not enmity. If you project joy, others will partake in your joy as well. If your heart is warm and open, people will feel more drawn to you and welcome your friendship. If all that is godly and good within us shines forth, is that not God’s work at play? Our family and friends and those around us would feel comfortable in our presence and feel us more approachable and loving. Would they not then be like the birds in the sky that come to us and find comfort and safe dwelling in our branches? When all is well with our inner being, our soul rejoices. When we have weeded out the bad in our lives that stunt our growth, allowing us to bloom and flourish to our fullest potential, well… that would most certainly be like watching a dying plant come back to life again with new little green shoots.

All our “garden” needs are a little patience, a little care, a little perseverance when things go awry, and it will flourish for all seasons to come. Not only are we cultivating ourselves, but we are cultivating God’s love that others too can perceive and enjoy.

And to me, when all is good in our spiritual garden, that is the Kingdom of God that dwells in each one of us, a manifestation of God in our midst. A wonderful “garden” that radiates peace, gives joy, and is such a projection of individual beauty that God has marked out for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for patience and perseverance with ourselves as we tend to our spiritual gardens. May we give it time, attention and the right nurturing that we may one day overcome our “weeds” and flower and fruit and become a garden for others too.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God our Father for this seed of love and hope within us, that we are even worthy in the first place for it to be sown in our hearts. For this, we humbly thank you. 

28 October, Monday – Of Hope and Promise

Oct 28 – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean, or Zealot, because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

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You are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household

Today’s readings remind us that as Christians, we are part of God’s family. Fundamental to Christianity is living out our identity as children of God, and spreading the Good News to others who may not yet know Him.

Despite being a Catholic all my life, I usually shy away from talking about my faith. Whether a function of my introvertedness, out of fear of being labelled ‘holy-moly’, or a lack of familiarity with the Gospel, I have been leading my life as an undercover Christian, reasoning that actions speak louder than words.  What use is active service in multiple ministries if it leads to angst and resentment? If I could point people to Christ by doing good and living a moral life, wouldn’t this, in itself, be pleasing to God?

Not much is written about St Simon and St Jude, the saints whose feast we are celebrating today. What we know is that they were called to be apostles of Jesus, preached the faith in Mesopotamia and Persia, and were eventually martyred. As ordinary men, I imagine they would have been daunted by the enormity of their mission. Yet, because they trusted Jesus, they were open to the graces of the Holy Spirit to guide them in their mission of preaching the Good News.

Even in our imperfect selves, we are called to evangelise and bear witness to the faith in today’s increasingly secular world. As for me, I am taking baby steps to grow my prayer life and improve my knowledge of the bible (slowly). I need to remind myself to behave in a fashion that is consistent with the teachings of Christ. Brothers and sisters, we will stumble and face opposition but as long as we trust and stay the course, He will use our lives for His mission.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that, through the intercession of Sts Simon and Jude, we may be faithful witnesses to Your word, trusting that You will send the graces we need to fulfil our mission.  

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the saints and prophets who form the foundations of the Church.  Keep us close to You and so that we may, one day, join the saints in your heavenly household. 

27 October, Sunday – The Final Race

27 Oct 2019

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Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The Lord is a judge
  who is no respecter of personages.
He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
  he listens to the plea of the injured party.
He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
  nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.
The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
  his petitions will carry to the clouds.
The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
  until it arrives he is inconsolable,
And the Lord will not be slow,
  nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.
 

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2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.
The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith

As we approach the final two months in the calendar, most of us are probably caught a little off-guard by how fast the year has passed. Perhaps the inevitable question that comes to the forefront of the mind is — what have we accomplished in the past 12 months? Can we look back at the past year and feel proud of what we have achieved? If yes, then good on you! Sadly, for a fair number of people, the past year would probably look like a grim repeat of the previous year. We might feel like we’ve gone nowhere: still stuck in the same rut, same complaints about the boss/job/colleagues, working long hours but not having much to show for it. We’ve definitely chalked up our dues, but what have we accomplished?

While these are a few questions we may ask ourselves at the close of the year, on a bigger scale, it would also resemble the questions we would ask ourselves if we knew that “the time of [our] departure is at hand”. That is quite a daunting thought, for me at least. We have been given this gift of life here on earth by God. Seventy or eighty years down the line (God willing), we might look back and wonder what we have achieved during that time. Our achievements need not be glorious as what man decrees, they don’t need to be emblazoned across the sky or splashed across the media. Plaques, medals and certificates may all be well but it won’t do us much good on our day of judgment. In God’s eyes, a humble and faithful spirit of service is what He would probably value the most, as illustrated in today’s readings. There is no need to trumpet our own righteousness or deeds, God already knows. Our deeds can be as ‘small’ as feeding the homeless every week, or raising our children to be God-fearing people, or even overcoming negative habits or addictions that don’t serve us well. Or they can be as ‘big’ as being a good and upright leader. The question is, and we ask this in our own conscience, can we, like St Paul, have the right to say, “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”? Can we truly say, hand to heart, that we lived a life that God had called for us, that we made a positive difference in the lives of others or even one person, or done something that was purposeful? Did we have the courage to answer God’s call when we perceived it, or did we run away? Did we keep the faith or did we falter?

Truly, it is not easy to answer the call of God. We will meet our fair share of doubts and hardships, as St Timothy and St Paul did, but we can be encouraged and encourage each other in the grace of God. As St Paul writes, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) And through battling through our hardships and emerging triumphant at the end will we have, and become, a testimony of faith and God’s love for us. Then only can we say that we are deserving of the crown that God has prepared for us in His heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: We pray Lord, for the courage to live the fulfilling lives that God has designed for us, so that we can stand on judgment day and proudly say that we competed well, we finished the race and kept the faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to our Heavenly Father, for the strength and grace that only He can provide to see us through any weather. We give thanks for this one precious life that we have been given. May we live it well in order to deserve it.

26 October, Saturday – Listen to Your Heart

26 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:1-11

The reason why those who are in Christ Jesus are not condemned is that the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. God has done what the Law, because of our unspiritual nature, was unable to do. God dealt with sin by sending his own Son in a body as physical as any sinful body, and in that body God condemned sin. He did this in order that the Law’s just demands might be satisfied in us, who behave not as our unspiritual nature but as the spirit dictates.

The unspiritual are interested only in what is unspiritual, but the spiritual are interested in spiritual things. It is death to limit oneself to what is unspiritual; life and peace can only come with concern for the spiritual. That is because to limit oneself to what is unspiritual is to be at enmity with God: such a limitation never could and never does submit to God’s law. People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

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Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

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Through His spirit that dwells in you

It is certainly difficult to act as Christ does and to give life in situations where people have made mistakes. Yes, the situation at work is still bugging me and I am struggling to find a response to my team that would reassure and encourage, rather than reproach and discourage. I know I need to convene a meeting this coming week but what I tell them and how I do it is going to be crucial so as not to deepen the rift between the new joinees and those who have been with me for the past two to three years.

Like the man in the gospel who wonders if he should cut down the fig tree, I too need to ascertain if I continue letting people make mistakes and learn from them, or ‘lay down the law’ and tell them how I want certain things to be done. My heart is telling me to be like the gardener, who prefers to nurture and encourage growth, rather than to destroy what God has probably ordained. For who are we to interfere with God’s plans? But my head continues to tell me to just solve this problem and move on because there is still much to accomplish, and time is ticking by quickly.

The Lord says, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man…but rather in his conversion that he may live.’ (Ez 33:11) Therein lies the answer for me. Jesus Christ always approached every situation with Love for his fellow man. He gives each and every one of us a choice to make. Over the years, I have made many wrong choices and have had to deal with the various consequences. But as I look back, I can discern the hand of God supporting me and carrying me through the many crises which I brought upon myself. Such is the extent of God’s love for us that no matter what choices we make, He is always there to hold our hand so that the moment we are ready, He sets us free like a soaring eagle.

Brothers and sisters, we are all weighed down by our daily affairs and our individual crosses. And when we come to a major decision point, or a crossroad, many of us automatically rely on our ‘head self’ to weigh the pros and cons, analyse possible scenarios and outcomes, as well as seek the opinion of others before we take a decision. How many of us actually retire to a quiet corner or go to an adoration chapel to listen to what God has to say in the matter? I know of many who do, and I also know that many a time, we don’t have that luxury. But when it concerns the lives of those around us (and oftentimes, a decision will have an impact on others), just lift up a prayer to our heavenly Father and ask for his guidance and to speak to you. I humbly ask for your prayers as well.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for your spirit to speak to us and to prompt us in our daily lives so that we may truly act from our hearts, wherein Christ dwells.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You for the precious gift of free will.  Remind us of the tremendous responsibility we bear when exercising that privilege.

25 October, Friday – Check and balance

25 Oct 2019

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Romans 7:18-25

I know of nothing good living in me – living, that is, in my unspiritual self – for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want. When I act against my will, then, it is not my true self doing it, but sin which lives in me.

In fact, this seems to be the rule, that every single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand. In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Luke 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud looming up in the west you say at once that rain is coming, and so it does. And when the wind is from the south you say it will be hot, and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?

‘Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny.’

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Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord

I read today’s reading with a little wariness on how I should approach this. From the outset, today’s first reading deals with the constant struggle that man has between doing what is right by God, and yielding to sin — “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”.

Sin dwells in us, whether we know it or not. It is a question of how prevalent it is in our lives, how ‘free’ we let it be. When our eyes are opened to it, we may then question it and bit by bit, refrain from doing it in an effort to be a better person. But, as with any effort to kick a habit, it is not easy. Depending on how long we have let this sin rule our lives, such an effort could be Herculean, requiring mental discipline, unwavering commitment and time. So many things call out to distract us — procrastination, temptation from the very thing we are trying to avoid, trying to please other people. The struggle to stick with our intention is an internal one, and it is so easy to succumb. And when we do, we feel so frustrated and disappointed with ourselves, we feel miserable!

The reading today shows us that our ancestors suffered from the same issues as us thousands of years ago, so this is not new! Take comfort that we are not alone! How then, can we overcome our own weakness? “Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” The answer is in Christ Jesus. He will give us strength in our weakness, and enough grace to ride out the tough times, He will deliver us if we lift our problems to Him.

Yet this doesn’t mean that it won’t come back to tempt us again. We have Jesus who will protect us, only if we let Him, but we have to rely wholly upon Him. At any time when we falter, the probability of us falling back into sin is very great. On the flip side however, if there was no sin, then we would not have to rely on God for anything, thinking that we are invincible. Is this a controversial idea? I think not. I’ve always wondered why the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil even existed in the Garden of Eden in the first place. God has given us guidelines to live by, but I don’t think He wants to be a dictator of our lives. He has entrusted us our lives to live it as we see fit, trusting that we will make the right choices based on these guidelines. He has not bound our hands and feet, forcing us down a certain path. In fact, He lets us make our mistakes that we may hopefully learn from them. Sin exists as a check and balance for our lives. We make mistakes when we sin, we stray from the path. It is in these depths when we are scraping the barrel of desperation that we encounter the extent of God’s mercy. We discover the richness of God’s grace and the abundance of His unending love for us. When we find our way back to God, He is there celebrating our return like the Prodigal Son!

Our struggle with sin will be constant in our lives. But we have a powerful weapon and that is prayer. Let us pray to Christ Jesus to deliver us from our sins, to lead fulfilling lives, and to make the right choices.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, help us find the strength for our daily struggle with sin. Deliver us from evil always, and grant us peace.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being there to welcome us home no matter how far we have strayed, and how long and wrong we have gone. Help us to right our lives, and live in God’s ways forever.

24 October, Thursday – On Fire

24 Oct 2019

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Romans 6:19-23

If I may use human terms to help your natural weakness: as once you put your bodies at the service of vice and immorality, so now you must put them at the service of righteousness for your sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you felt no obligation to righteousness, and what did you get from this? Nothing but experiences that now make you blush, since that sort of behaviour ends in death. Now, however, you have been set free from sin, you have been made slaves of God, and you get a reward leading to your sanctification and ending in eternal life. For the wage paid by sin is death; the present given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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I have come to set the earth on fire

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about my purpose in life. I have thought about it before, as a restless 20-something, fresh out of university, wondering what I should do in a world full of possibilities. Almost two decades later, I am still restless, still asking the same question. But while the restless me in my 20s was a more ‘youthful’, go-getter type that couldn’t wait to get started, the restlessness now in my late 30s is more urgent, more pressing.

Perhaps it is the idea of mortality – that we have a finite life here on earth – and to borrow the words of motivational writer Brendon Burchard, at the end of the day, a lot of us ask ourselves “Did we live? Did we love? Did we matter?” Are we all waiting for the ‘ah-hah’ moment, or a near-death experience to jolt us from our stupor before we begin to truly live? Our daily grind and stresses have caused us to live day by day, from one moment to another, not quite really experiencing life and not quite savouring nor appreciating the moment. Tired and depleted, most of us escape into the virtual world of social media and online games and movies, thinking that we need to give our brains a break, but even as we swipe through other peoples’ lives on Facebook and Instagram, the tragedy is that our own lives are passing us by, unfulfilled… unlived.

Life is the most precious gift of all that God has bestowed upon us. And on top of that, we each have been given a talent. It may not be much of a talent to you, but put to use, it can do amazing things. We can make a difference in someone’s lives just by being present. We can help others, starting with something small — a kind word, a greeting, a smile. The silence of a soul that has ceased to live and believe is the saddest sound of all. A smile or kind gesture is like a small spark that, given enough, would soon transform into a raging fire that will burn through our whole being and, as aptly put in today’s first reading, sanctify our souls to be given to God.

We have one life here on earth and we are accountable to this life. God has entrusted us with this life, and given us the creative license to live it as we see fit, only that we account for it at the end of our days. How then do we want to live this life? Believe me when I say that if you make a difference in someone else’s lives, you also make a difference in yours. It won’t matter what station we are at in life – bus driver, waitress, CEO – but making a difference will make us more fulfilled than we have ever been. If we do more of this, we will spread that feeling to others. If we do more of this, we will heal our own souls. We will live with a higher purpose in mind.

How then again, do you want to live your life today?

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: God Almighty, as we live our lives each day, help us to live it with purpose and passion, to help others, even as we help ourselves. Help us to be the spark that will start Your raging fire here on earth.

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for the gift of life, for our second chances, for the kindness that we receive from others. We thank you for giving us the ability to lead a full life, and we pray for Your help and guidance to live it fully.

23 October, Wednesday – Freedom for…

Oct 23 – Memorial for St. John Capistrano, Priest

John (1386–1456) was the son of a former German knight. His father died when John was still young. He studied law at the University of Perugia, and became a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He was the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment, he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but his marriage was never consummated and, with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on 4 October 1416 and was a fellow student with St. James of the Marshes, and a disciple of St. Bernadine of Siena. He was a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420.

He was an itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, preaching to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal, and was reported to heal by making the Sign of the Cross over a sick person. He wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Muslims.

– Patron Saint Index

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Romans 6:12-18

You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.

Does the fact that we are living by grace and not by law mean that we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you agree to serve and obey a master you become his slaves. You cannot be slaves of sin that leads to death and at the same time slaves of obedience that leads to righteousness. You were once slaves of sin, but thank God you submitted without reservation to the creed you were taught. You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

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Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

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You may have been freed from the slavery of sin, but only to become ‘slaves’ of righteousness.

A few years back, I attended a Bible Study on the book of Exodus delivered by Msgr Ambrose Vaz. One of the key phrases that struck me was that the Israelites were freed from Egypt and made free for something.

What am I made free for?

St Pope John Paul II said that “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” In our lives, there are many things that enslave us – our vices, our negative tendencies, our emotions, the activities that fill our days, ministry, past trauma, hurts, pains, relationships, dreams, etc. Sometimes, even prayer, when it’s preventing us from doing what we ought to, enslaves people. And the list goes on.

One of the tips for breaking free from a bad habit is to replace that habit with a good one. Our minds are like a vacuum — if you remove something, it will either fill up with another thing, or cling on to what it was freed from. The same is true with our lives. If we do not do what we were made free for, we will definitely revert back to our old ways. Sometimes, being made free for something causes us anxiety since we may be facing something unfamiliar. It’s all too easy to crave for what we feel is familiar.

One of the things I recently gave up was being active in the ministry. Let me emphasize that I am not asking any of you to leave the ministry but I would encourage you all to discern. You see, I have been active in the ministry for a good 10 years but recently, I have been feeling like I have not been receiving any formation. I was feeling empty. So I left and now, I’m not part of any ministry.

And immediately afterwards, I planned what ministry I should do. I was thinking of creating more Catholic YouTube videos, or writing more in my blog. Then, I realized that I was just filling up my time which God is calling me to dedicate to Him, under His terms. I really feel that this is the time God wants to use to fill me up, and as with all decisions, we’ll know if it’s right if you start seeing fruits. I have never felt truly loved and appreciated until I quit the ministry to work on myself with God. Now that I am no longer contributing to anyone, I could feel how much the people in my Church care about me. I think this is it — God freed me from what I was doing, so I could be free to see and receive the love people are giving me.

When God is freeing us from something, I think we should have that conversation with God as to what He wants us to do. And sometimes, the answer is just to be free to wait on Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Father, help me trust you when you are freeing me from something.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving me the freedom to do what you made me for.

 

22 October, Tuesday – Always Prepared

22 Oct 2019

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Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned; but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. When law came, it was to multiply the opportunities of failing, but however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater; and so, just as sin reigned wherever there was death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life thanks to the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

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See that you are always dressed for action and have your lamps lit

In martial arts, one has to practice a certain move over and over again until one is able to execute it perfectly. Eventually, the movement is committed to what we call ‘muscle memory’. When we need to execute those movements, we execute them instinctively and almost unconsciously.

I’d like to think that we have something similar in our spiritual life. There are actions we can do to prepare ourselves for battle, for our daily struggles – something that when we do over and over again, we could execute them fully with minimal or almost no effort when the time comes. So when God sends us, or when God sends someone to us, we are ready.

How do we dress for action? Firstly, we have to practice saying ‘yes’ to what God wants of us in every moment of our lives. How many times in our day do we get the chance to obey the Ten Commandments? When we do, do we consciously obey them? For example, how many times during the day do we get the chance to stop the spread of gossip once it reaches us? Do we indulge or do we stop? How many chances are we given to tell the truth and what did we do?

Secondly, how often do we spend the time to get to know God’s word? Being dressed for action means knowing what to wear so we are ready to do what we ought to do. If you’re called to be a nurse, you dress as a nurse. If you are called to be a soldier, you dress as a soldier. Knowing God’s words allows us to choose the right dress for the action we are called to do. We do have a ‘generic’ dress (Colosians 3:12) which all of us have to wear.

The second part of the verse talks about having our lamps lit. This is the light of Christ which we use to illuminate our ways in the world. To carry it, we need to have the fuel. This fuel is our regular getting-to-know the heart of God sessions. Reading the bible, reflecting on God’s words, attending formation sessions. This allows us to see things as how God will see things.

And of course, our prayers prepare us for life.

My spiritual director told me that I should have a plan of life. This plan of life is a schedule of my spiritual activities that will allow me to connect with God more. This includes daily prayer, 10-minute reading, and others. Brothers and sisters, perhaps you can try to commit to doing something for God to prepare yourself for the future God wants to bring you to.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, give me the discipline to prepare for what you will call me to.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving me all the means to be prepared.