All posts by Beryl

19 October, Friday – The Value of You

19 October – Memorial for Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs; Memorial for St. Paul of the Cross, Priest

John de Brebeuf (1593–1649) was a French Jesuit. He wanted to enter the priesthood since young, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. His posting as a missionary to frontier Canada at the age of 32 was a literal godsend. He spent the rest of his life there, and the harsh and hearty climate so agreed with him that the Natives, surprised at his endurance, called him “Echon”, which means “load bearer”. His massive size made them think twice about sharing a canoe with him for fear of sinking.

John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.” However, he eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French-Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries.

According to the histories of the game, it was John who named the present-day version of the Indian game “lacrosse” because the stick used reminded him of a bishop’s crosier (la crosse).

He was martyred in 1649, tortured to death by the Iroquois. By 1650, the Huron nation was exterminated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. But it proved to be “one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church’s history”. These martyrdoms created a wave of vocations and missionary fervour in France, and it gave new heart to the missionaries in New France.

– Patron Saint Index

Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) joined the Jesuits at Rouen, France in 1624. He was ordained a priest and taught literature. He became a missionary to New France (Canada) in 1636, starting in Quebec and working among the Hurons and Petuns in the area of the Great Lakes. This was a rough assignment – not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the “Blackrobes” for any disease, ill luck, or other problems that occurred where they were.

He was captured on 3 August 1642 by the Mohawks, enslaved, tortured and mutilated for 13 months, but he taught the Faith to any who would listen. With the help of local Dutch settlers he finally escaped and was sent back to France to recover.

In 1644, he returned to Canada to continue his work with the natives and negotiate peace with the Iroquois. He was martyred with fellow Jesuit priest John de Brebeuf and several lay missionaries when the natives blamed Christian sorcery for an epidemic and crop failure. He is one of the North America Martyrs.

– Patron Saint Index

Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) was the son of a merchant and a pious youth. After receiving a vision and while still a layman, he founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionists) in 1721 to preach about Jesus Crucified. He was a preacher of such power that hardened soldiers and bandits were seen to weep.

The community lived a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. He was ordained in 1727 along with his brother John Baptist by Pope Benedict XIII. After ordination, they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were insufficient priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.

However, the austere life of the Passionists did not encourage large numbers and at one point all the brothers in the Order deserted him. But Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. In 1741 his Rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and the community began to grow again.

During his lifetime, Paul of the Cross was best known as a popular preacher and a spiritual director. More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved. By the time of his death, the congregation had 80 fathers and brothers. He is considered among the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Ephesians 1:11-14

It is in Christ that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
Now you too, in him,
have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation,
and have believed it;
and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise,
the pledge of our inheritance
which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.

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Luke 12:1-7

The people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another. And Jesus began to speak, first of all to his disciples. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.

‘To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

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Everything now covered up will be uncovered and everything now hidden will be made clear

One of my professors in the university commented to me that economists “know the price of everything but the value of nothing”. This remark arose as he realized that they were obsessed with determining the price of a particular good without considering the larger picture of the emotions of the people consuming the good and the honesty of the transaction. The readings of today tell us that it is the value of truth that is sorely lacking in our world today.

Dishonest transactions abound everywhere in today’s world; the realm of business is filled with shady deals and less than true disclosure of facts. Such behaviours have dire consequences for they fail to consider the deeper consequences and implications of one’s actions. As Christians, we are chosen to be Jesus’ ambassadors in a world of darkness and the light we hold is the truth that we have in our hearts which we share through our actions and words. We have been found worthy by Christ to be his representatives in the world and thus we must carry out this task to the best of our ability.

There will be times where we get disheartened and demoralized because we have failed in our mission. In these times of despair, let us not wallow in self-pity but rather lift ourselves out from this misery by casting our attention on the Risen Lord who understood our worries and conquered them by rising from the dead!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, we ask that you help us understand that weight of our cross is a joyful burden.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many times that we recover from our sinfulness.

18 October, Thursday – Accompaniment

18 October – Feast of St Luke; Evangelist

Born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. One of the earliest converts to Christianity. Physician, studying in Antioch and Tarsus. Probably travelled as a ship‘s doctor; many charitable societies of physicians are named for him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them. He met Saint Paul the Apostle at Troas, and evangelized Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul‘s two years of in prison. Wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. Wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika, Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. Get Mark to come and bring him with you; I find him a useful helper in my work. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, and the scrolls, especially the parchment ones. Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself, because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.

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.

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Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”

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“if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.”

 In today’s 1st reading, we see St. Paul talking about being challenged by someone, saying that he has been “bitterly contesting everything that we say”. In the Gospel, Jesus was telling the disciples that if they visit a house where there isn’t a man of peace, their peace will return to them. At the time Jesus was saying this to his disciples, Paul or Saul, as he was called, was on the other side being the persecutor.

I remember a time in my life that I was a persecutor too. Not in the way Saul was advocating stoning but if I might have done just as much damage with harsh words. Therefore, I’ve come to believe that for most of us, Jesus will come along one day and offer to change us from Saul to Paul. It is very much up to us to recognise who it is that is calling, and then to accept the invitation.

Also, much like Saul the persecutor, maybe some of his followers too, God will use people around us, like Ananias to help us. Maybe to help us to get back on our feet, to help us decipher this voice that has been calling out to us? Much in the way Jesus sent his disciples out in two’s. And similarly in the first reading Paul is saying that only Luke was with him at that time and telling Timothy to come to him with Mark.

The journey of Christianity is seldom a journey of solitude. The ascent of the castles of the spiritual life is a journey that probably starts with someone else too, and as the ascent get steeper the path becomes narrower until you find yourself walking in solitude. Unfortunately few are strong enough. I know I’m not ready, I still need fellow pilgrims to support me on this journey even if I do not readily admit it.

Jesus chose to come and walk among us in order to bring us to him for eternity. May we do the same in our respective mission fields, let us be among those we wish to help instead of above them like a supervisor. Maybe if we saw more of the people around us as brother and sister, would we bring more of them to church with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Just like iron sharpens iron and the early Christians spread the faith by word of mouth and friendships, grant us Lord a desire to journey into church with the people you wish us to.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for walking among us so that we may do the same and for not leaving us alone on this journey. Thank you for the person who brought me to know you.

17 October, Wednesday – Of Virtues and Vices

17 October – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (not used in 2010)

Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 5:18-25

If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.

Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.

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Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said to the Pharisees:

‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!

A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’

‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’

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Happy indeed is the man…whose delight is in the law of the Lord

An elderly relative of mine commented to me during a family celebration as we were watching my younger nieces and nephews argue that they bore a striking resemblance to their parents in both aspects of appearance and behaviour. Indeed, this probably was the surest sign that they were really “a chip of the old block”. Today’s first reading reminds us that the same lesson can be applied to our lives as Christians.

The behaviour of a Christian who seeks to follow the way of God closely and sincerely will surely bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit which has been planted in his heart at the Sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation. These stand in stark contrast to the ways of the world which bear awful consequences that bring about much destruction and dissension in society. The world is a chaotic and noisy place because of the many tensions that exist within society brought about by sin.

I believe that all of us possess the ability to live a life of holiness in a world of evil and sin. We will face much persecution and derision for having to embark on a route that is unconventional and different but I believe that the joy of receiving the fruits at the end of our journey far outweigh the criticism that we presently suffer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, we thank you for sending the Holy Spirit down to guide us in our way of life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who remind us of the need to depend on God for all that we do.

16 October, Tuesday – The Whole Package

16 October – Memorial for St. Hedwig, Religious; Memorial for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin

Hedwig (1174–1243) was the daughter of the Duke of Croatia, and aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She married Prince Henry I of Silesia and Poland in 1186 at the age of 12, and became the mother of seven. She cared for the sick both personally and by founding hospitals. Upon her husband’s death, she gave away her fortune and entered the monastery at Trebnitz.

– Patron Saint Index

Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690) was healed from a crippling disorder by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, which prompted her to give her life to God. After receiving a vision of Christ fresh from the Scourging, she was moved to join the Order of the Visitation by Paray-le-Monial in 1671.

She received a revelation from our Lord in 1675, which included 12 promises to her and to those who practiced a true devotion to His Sacred Heart, whose crown of thorns represent his sacrifices. The devotion encountered violent opposition, especially in Jansenist areas, but has become widespread and popular.

The Twelve Promise of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary for those devoted to His Sacred Heart are:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their families.
  3. I will console them in all their troubles.
  4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
  5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
  6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
  9. I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honoured.
  10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
  12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under any displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 5:1-6

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. It is I, Paul, who tell you this: if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all. With all solemnity I repeat my warning: Everyone who accepts circumcision is obliged to keep the whole Law. But if you do look to the Law to make you justified, then you have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen from grace. Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for those rewards that righteousness hopes for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love.

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Luke 11:37-41

Jesus had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at the table. The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, ‘Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.’

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Did not he who make the outside make the inside too?

I once saw a T-shirt that had the following slogan printed on it, ‘You got to take the whole package, including the fat and the waste.” It served to remind me that we must always treat people with true sincerity and view them as a person and not judge them on the externals. Failure to do so will render us to a harsh judgement by God as we read in today’s Gospel.

Jesus was upset at the strict adherence to the religious codes that the Pharisees had when it came to the washing of their hands before meals whilst not bothering about showing mercy to those in need. We might be quick to judge that the Pharisees were true hypocrites but I ask that we take a step back and look at ourselves. We often engage in such behaviour without us knowing it or worst, we think we are actually correct when we try to point out the mistakes of other people.

The context that we correct these people is important; we must not focus on the external signs but rather consider the reasons why we get so upset at such behaviour. Perhaps we do so because we want to cover up a certain inadequacy on our part? I pray that we will always bite our tongue before we seek to correct another person in order for us to realize that he is also another human being.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you help us to remember to live with our brothers and sisters in charity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who point out our faults.

15 October, Monday – The Sign

15 October – Memorial for St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor

Also known as Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582) was born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at “hermit” in the garden.

Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St. Joseph. Her mother died when she was 12, and Teresa prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry into religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including St. Francis Borgia, who pronounced her visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of St. John of Avila. She founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. She was a mystical writer, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is known for ‘holy wit’.

“God, deliver me from sullen saints.” – St. Teresa of Avila

– Patron Saint Index

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Galatians 4:22-24,26-27,31-5:1

The Law says, if you remember, that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave-girl, and one by his free-born wife. The child of the slave-girl was born in the ordinary way; the child of the free woman was born as the result of a promise. This can be regarded as an allegory: the women stand for the two covenants. The first who comes from Mount Sinai, and whose children are slaves, is Hagar – The Jerusalem above, however, is free and is our mother, since scripture says: Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children! Break into shouts of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour. For there are more sons of the forsaken one than sons of the wedded wife. So, my brothers, we are the children, not of the slave-girl, but of the free-born wife.

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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The Lord has made known his salvation

There must always be a witness, in any case that comes before a court of law as an indication of an objective account of the case in question. Sometimes such an insistence on evidence may seem too demanding on what would otherwise be a simple case. However, such a view is necessary because it helps to substantiate the veracity of allegations. This was not the case in the time of Christ. The people asked for a sign not because they truly believed in God but rather they wanted to see miracles in order to believe in Jesus.

They were in fact trying to put the Lord to the test and this was clearly a sign that they were never interested in believing in the message of Christ. Whilst miracles such as raising the dead to life and curing the sick became associated with Jesus’ ministry, these actions were done as part of a bigger mission of bringing the spirit of holiness and grace to the world. We should believe in the message and then let the signs be evidence of the message and not the other way round.

Any belief that is built upon signs and wonders will waver once these signs cannot continue to be performed. Christianity is not about signs but rather it is about the message that Jesus had to carry.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Lord, help us to have a sincere and lively faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

14 October, Sunday – The Look of Love

14 October 2018

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Wisdom 7:7-11

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.

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Hebrews 4:12-13

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

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Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’

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Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him

The young man of the gospel today is often a sharp reminder for me of my state in life, wherever I may be. As I reflected on the scriptures today, I contemplated the image of Jesus and me, encapsulated in a moment of true encounter. How does it feel to have Jesus’ eyes look steadily at me and love me? There is such a beautiful and tender feeling in that picture I hold in my mind. Right now, I am aware of the distance I feel from Jesus’ heart.

Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God, the logos (in Greek), the Infinite Wisdom. The Old Testament scriptures today point to the prophecy of encounter that the young man would experience when face to face with the person of Christ. ‘The word of God is something alive and active… it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit’ (Heb 4:12); and it is this spirit of Wisdom that cut so finely through the secret emotions and thoughts of the young man to unveil such great sorrow within him.

When Jesus looked, it was an active, penetrating, and radiant look of perfect love. And the young man’s desires came undone when Jesus told him, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ (Mk 10:21) In the gospel account, we are not told that the young man beheld the loving gaze of Jesus, instead his face fell and he went away.

There are times when I have looked away from Jesus’ loving gaze, feeling either ashamed, unworthy, or angry and hardened with some kind of bitterness. I realise I have not allowed Jesus to love me, for his love to soften and change my heart. Because honestly, it can be scary – wondering what I will be called to do. Worrying over what I must next give up, whether my ‘riches’ be an assignment, a coveted project, a friendship, a burden. Anything that could stand between my life being united with Christ even more. I fear change and material poverty.

Some of us are not the young man but the apostles. We may have given up much already, yet we are now ‘counting our losses’ and mentally chalking up ‘spiritual credit’. With divine wisdom, Jesus slices through this self-righteous mentality too, and tells us, ‘For men, it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’ (Mk 10:27)

What else is Jesus calling you to relinquish today? Will you let his loving gaze meet yours?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Loving Father, we seek Your wisdom to enlighten our minds and change our hearts, so that we may understand the truths you reveal in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for loving me despite my imperfections and unreadiness to receive your love.

13 October, Saturday – Faith Is A Gift

13 October

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Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus”

When I was in secondary school, someone told me that I was experiencing depression because I had little faith in God, and because of that, I thought that I was unwanted by God and was expected to endure punishment from Him. I was confused by that statement and it made me feel more isolated and alone than I already was. I started to question whether God allowed me to experience depression because I was weak in my faith, and I felt that I was fighting a losing battle with regards to the perception of others and thus left the Church.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote that faith is a gift from God, and because faith is a gift, it cannot be taken back. Despite leaving the church, I knew that I still had faith in God, but I could not bring myself to return to a community where I would be judged for my faith. I met a friend who knew the hurts I experienced from my previous community and she reminded me of the book of James. In the book of James, we are encouraged to be joyful when we experience trials in our lives because trials encourage perseverance and increases our maturity. They also help us to strengthen our faith in and reliance on God. She also directed me towards today’s first reading, and reminded me that because I have faith, I am a child of God and no matter where I go, I will always remain a child of God. This conversation made me reflect on my life and my faith, and it brought me one step closer to returning to the Church. Shortly after that conversation, I was convicted to return to the Church, and to embrace the trials that come my way, and to find that sliver of hope and learning point in each trial. I am also reminded on a daily basis that my faith is a gift from God, and I will always be a child of God because of my faith.

Brothers and sisters, let us remember that we are all children of God, bounded by the gift of faith from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, we pray for the desire to increase our faith in you and to embrace the trials in our lives. We pray that through our trials, we will continue to grow in maturity and perseverance. 

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for your gift of faith to us. Thank you for giving us trials in our lives and reassuring us that you will not give us more than we can handle.

12 October, Friday – Jesus Loves

12 October

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Galatians 3:7-14

Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.

On the other hand, those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: The man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree. This was done so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might include the pagans, and so that through faith we might receive the promised Spirit.

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Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, ‘It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.’ Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then. But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you. So long as a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

‘He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

‘When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, “I will go back to the home I came from.” But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.’

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“Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law…”

As a child, I was exposed to the song “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” and as a child, I could not comprehend how Jesus could love someone like me. Cognitively, I knew that Jesus loves me and he died for me, because it was stated in the Bible, but I could not accept it in my heart. I always felt that Jesus loves everyone but me, and for a long time, I believed that Jesus’ love had exceptions. The circumstances of my childhood shaped my perceptions about Jesus and it took me a long time to finally accept Jesus’ love for me.

It has been 2 months since I started working with children, and I noticed that a number of these children believe that they are unlovable and no one could love them for who they are. Every morning when I go to work, I will remind myself to try and love the children with the love Jesus has for me. It can be very trying with some children, but each time I find myself hitting a roadblock with them, I would silently make a short prayer to God to grant me the grace to not react towards them, and to show them more of Jesus’ love. Sometimes when I am unable to pray as I am attending to the child, I would hold the crucifix pendant that I am wearing, and it would help me to calm down and to remember to love as Jesus loves. I realized that when I give the children the space to explore and to share their feelings without judgment, and to treat them with love regardless of what they have shared, it helps them to be more accepting of themselves. Working with children has allowed me to be constantly reminded of how Jesus sacrificed His life for me because He loves me for who I am, despite my shortcomings.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn to emulate Jesus’ love for our fellow brethren and to accept that in order to love, it sometimes requires sacrifice.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

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Prayer: Dearest loving Father, continue to grace us with the opportunity to know Jesus at a deeper level, and to continue to entrust our lives to you on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving: Dearest loving Father, thank you for your gift of Jesus to us, and thank you for showing us what unconditional love is.

11 October, Thursday – Come Holy Spirit, Come

11 October – Memorial for St. John XXIII, Pope

Also known as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, John XXIII (1881 – 1963) was born to an Italian peasant family. He was educated at Bergamo and later at the Pontifical Roman Seminary in Rome.  He was ordained on 10 August 1904. He was the secretary to the bishop of Bergamo, Italy from 1904 to 1914. During which he wrote the basis for his five-volume biography of Saint Charles Borromeo. He served in World War I in the medical corps, and as a chaplain. From 1921 onwards he served the Holy See directly in various posts, both in Rome and in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, culminating as Apostolic Nuncio to France from 1944 until 1953, when he was created cardinal and made the Patriarch of Venice. He was elected 261st pope on 28 October 1958.

As pope he stressed his own pastoral duties as well as those of other bishops and clergy. Promoted social reforms for workers, poor people, orphans, and the outcast. He advanced cooperation with other faiths and traditions including Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Church of England, and even Shinto. In April 1959 he forbade Catholics to vote for parties supporting Communism. His encyclical, Mater et Magistra of 14 July 1961 advocated social reform, assistance to underdeveloped countries, a living wage for all workers, and support for socialist measures that promised real benefit to society.

He nearly doubled the number of cardinals, making the college the largest in history. On 25 January 1959, he announced his intent to call a council to consider ways to renew the Church in the modern world, promote diversity within the unity of the Church, and consider reforms promoted by ecumenical and liturgical movements. Convening the council, known as Vatican II, on 11 October 1962, was the high point of his reign.

His heartiness, his overflowing love for humanity individually and collectively, and his freshness of approach to ecclesiastical affairs made John one of the best-loved popes of modern times.

Patron Saint Index, Universalis

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Galatians 3:1-5

Are you people in Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you, in spite of the plain explanation you have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Let me ask you one question: was it because you practised the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you? Are you foolish enough to end in outward observances what you began in the Spirit? Have all the favours you received been wasted? And if this were so, they would most certainly have been wasted. Does God give you the Spirit so freely and work miracles among you because you practise Law, or because you believed what was preached to you?

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Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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“how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

When I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in 2016, I came to realize that I am most attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences that I encountered during the CER were largely related to the Holy Spirit as well. It was also during the retreat that I realized how close the Holy Spirit was journeying with me throughout my entire life. Since then, I started to draw closer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has become a constant companion in my life and during moments where I feel alone, I am often consoled that I am not alone because I can talk to the Holy Spirit. I would also break out into conversation with the Holy Spirit when I walk to work, and sometimes I find that I get inspirations that I never would have thought of.

When I was in Rome earlier this year, I visited the famous St. Peter’s Basilica and one of the many pieces that caught my eye was the Dove of the Holy Spirit that is above the Throne of St. Peter. The Dove of the Holy Spirit is an amber stained glass window with a white dove at the center of the window. As I managed to attend mass and spend an extended time at the basilica, I noticed that the intensity of the amber going from light to dark and light again, depending on the time of day and the position of the sun. This light to dark to light depiction of the Holy Spirit reminded me of the times in my life where the promptings of the Spirit were either very gentle or very obvious and intense, depending on how receptive and attuned I was to the Spirit.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the Holy Spirit being a helper in our lives and God’s generosity and willingness to gift the Holy Spirit to all who ask of Him. Brothers and sisters, let us invite the Holy Spirit to journey with us through our everyday lives and to be aware of the promptings of the Spirit at every moment of our lives.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest Father, we pray for the grace to grow closer to the Holy Spirit by being more aware of the Spirit’s presence. Help us to be patient and more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Thank you for providing us with such a wonderful helper in our lives.

10 October, Wednesday – Pray without ceasing

10 October

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Galatians 2:1-2,7-14

It was not till fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again. I went with Barnabas and took Titus with me. I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the Good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised. The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans. So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.

When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision. The other Jews joined him in this pretence, and even Barnabas felt himself obliged to copy their behaviour.

When I saw they were not respecting the true meaning of the Good News, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, ‘In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.’

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Luke 11:1-4

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come;
give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test.”’

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“Father, hallowed be your name…”

When I was younger, I had a lot of difficulty praying because I did not know what to say to God or how to put my thoughts across to Him. To make matters worse, I was in a church group that practiced a lot of spontaneous and verbalized prayers, and I found myself avoiding meet ups and group meetings because I was terrified of being called up to lead in such prayers. This fear was etched deeply within my heart because I was often compared to a peer who had “better” prayers than I did, and since then, I often felt that I would be judged for my prayers and no matter how sincere I was, it was not good enough for God and for those around me. The only prayer that I was confident of verbalizing was the Lord’s Prayer, because it is from the Bible, and I did not receive any negative comparisons when I recited the Lord’s Prayer.

When I was 15, I attended a church retreat and the pastor’s wife encouraged me to pray the Lord’s Prayer and to pray for the desire to be able to pray without fear. Since then, I started praying the Lord’s Prayer during my quiet time, especially when I did not know what else to say to God or when I was so troubled that I could not focus on my time with God. I slowly came to the realization that I had a deep desire to pray spontaneously; however due to my fear, I often stifled this desire and preferred to stay away from such opportunities. I stayed away for many years as I left the church thereafter, and it was only when I returned to the faith did I realize that this desire was still present within me. It was about 6 months after I was received into the Catholic church when I was thrown into the deep end where I was asked to give a closing prayer after a session I attended. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, I felt a comforting reassurance which reminded me that if I froze or ran out of words to say, I could always rely on the Lord’s Prayer. I found that the minute I took the first step, God guided me through the prayer, and I experienced new-found freedom while praying. Since then, whenever I have been tasked to lead in prayer, I find myself experiencing joy, and during my quiet moments, I often return to the Lord’s Prayer as a reminder that this is how my praying journey began.

Brothers and sisters, during moments of tiredness or moments when we find it tough or impossible to pray, let us remember the Lord’s Prayer, and to offer up the feelings we are experiencing to the Lord, and let us always remember the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord through this prayer.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Dearest merciful Father, remind us that we can pray the Lord’s Prayer if we are unable to pray, and continue to grace us with the desire to pray on a daily basis, and to use our prayers to draw closer to you.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, thank you for the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, that we are able to seek your consolation and your love especially through this Prayer.