All posts by Beryl

14 November, Monday – Light from Light

14 November

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Apocalypse 1:1-4,2:1-5

This is the revelation given by God to Jesus Christ so that he could tell his servants about the things which are now to take place very soon; he sent his angel to make it known to his servant John, and John has written down everything he saw and swears it is the word of God guaranteed by Jesus Christ. Happy the man who reads this prophecy, and happy those who listen to him, if they treasure all that it says, because the Time is close.

From John, to the seven churches of Asia: grace and peace to you from him who is, who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits in his presence before his throne.

I heard the Lord saying to me: ‘Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who lives surrounded by the seven golden lamp-stands: I know all about you: how hard you work and how much you put up with. I know you cannot stand wicked men, and how you tested the impostors who called themselves apostles and proved they were liars. Know, too, that you have patience, and have suffered for my name without growing tired. Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love now than you used to. Think where you were before you fell; repent, and do as you used to at first.”’

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Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.

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Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.

Having grown up and lived in a bustling city almost all my life, and having recently relocated to another major city, I often find myself immersed in the sights and sounds that surround me. It is not a bad thing, especially when you are living alone in a strange new city, to have the company of people around all the time, music streaming out of shops and cafes, and the bright lights of a city alive with all sorts of interactions and possibilities.

Yet, I’ve found that it is also easy to lose yourself in the city, to become distracted by all the activities and communities that present themselves to you. Indeed, as I look out of my apartment window onto the streets below, I see people hustling to the nearby bar or cafe for another night out with friends. Ironically, it is silence that is so hard to find in the city. But it is also in silence that God speaks loudest to us.

Perhaps we are like the blind man in Jericho: we have lost our sight amid the sights and sounds of our lives; we perceive but we do not see. And no matter how much entertainment we are able to absorb, how often have you felt a tugging in the depths of your heart — that there must be more to life than this? How often do we binge on Netflix because having watched one episode of our favourite TV show, we feel dissatisfied and thus have to watch another episode to fill the emptiness? And after that, yet another episode. And it goes on.

And being distracted by the playground of the city, and not forgetting our ‘hard work and perseverance’, we also find  that we have “less love now than formerly”. In my favourite cafe by Harvard Square, I often look out of the windows and see two sets of people. First, there are the students rushing to get to class, or just ambling along answering emails or text messages on their smartphones. But no more than 3 feet from these students, who are all absorbed in their glowing screens, sit the homeless.

Truly, we are often too captivated by the man-made lights of our cities and smartphones to stop and look around us. If we do, we will see a world filled with both desolation and hope. Desolation from the people who are suffering, often right next to us. But hope too, for the Light of Christ is there for us, given freely and given with much love. We must refocus our sight on this Light. We must continue to cling to the Lord, and to see Him in those in need.

When we do that, we can be sure that Jesus is saying to each of us: “Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you”. For He has always been ready to give us His light, a light that makes all the lights of the city pale in comparison, ‘light from Light’. The question is: are we ready to receive our sight from Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

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Prayer: Lord, we pray for the poor, the vulnerable and the sick. May they, in their physical desolation, find spiritual consolation in Your light. May we also find the wisdom to see You in those around us.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His continued guidance, for being the good shepherd that He is to us.  

12 November, Saturday – Unafraid to Ask

12 November – Memorial for St. Josaphat, Bishop, Religious, Martyr

John (1580-1623) had a father who was a municipal counsellor, and a mother who was known for her piety. He was raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 Nov 1595, in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. He was trained as a merchant’s apprentice in Vilna, and was offered partnership in the business and marriage to his partner’s daughter.

Feeling the call to religious life, he declined both and became a monk in the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil in Vilna at the age of 20 in 1604, taking the name Brother Josaphat. He was ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.

His superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given to those who brought about and accepted the union of the churches. Learning of Samuel’s work and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.

He was a famous preacher, worked to bring unity among the faithful and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. He became Bishop of Vitebsk. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church and, by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example, Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat’s Orthodox actions. He became Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.

While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group supported by Cossacks set up anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had “gone Latin” and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and place an usurper on the archbishop’s chair. Despite warnings, Josaphat went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.

Late in 1623, an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict.

“You people of Vitebsk want to put me to death. You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, and in the marketplace. I am here among you as a shepherd, and you ought to know that I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of Saint Peter, and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff.” – St. Josaphat

– Patron Saint Index

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3 John 1:5-8

My friend, you have done faithful work in looking after these brothers, even though they were complete strangers to you. They are a proof to the whole Church of your charity and it would be a very good thing if you could help them on their journey in a way that God would approve. It was entirely for the sake of the name that they set out, without depending on the pagans for anything; it is our duty to welcome men of this sort and contribute our share to their work for the truth.

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Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

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“Pray continually and never lose heart”

My prayer life has experienced extreme highs and lows over the years.  In the past, when I seldom or never prayed, I found myself dropping to my knees only when there was something I needed to ask our Lord for.  Over time, I began to feel that God become somewhat like my ATM — that I would only pray if there was something I needed from Him. I began to feel like a hypocrite and even started to pray even less.

Thanks to various programmes that I attended, and also to a strong Christian community, I began to pray more regularly, having conversations with our Lord. As I spent more time with Him, I began to lose my aversion to prayer, and began to be able to pray and petition Him. More importantly, I began to lose the feeling that I only turned to God only in times of need. God became more like a close confidant.

Jesus exhorts us to pray continually and He tells us about a poor widow who comes before an unjust judge persistently, in order to seek justice against an enemy. Initially rejecting her, the judge finally accedes to her. I have always likened us to be the widow.

However, I heard another interesting view.  What if we were the judge and God was the widow… and that God continually is the one reaching out to us continually?  Will we ever accede to God and allow Him to touch us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to have the desire to always reach out to You. Help us to be unafraid to speak with you and to let you know our deepest thoughts and desires.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always being there for us, whether we are aware of it or not. Thank you for listening to us and touching us in our hearts.

11 November, Friday – Always Be Prepared

11 November – Memorial for St. Martin of Tours, Bishop

Martin (316-397) was born to pagan parents. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. Martin was raised in Pavia, Italy, where he discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperia army at the age of 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acts as the emperor’s bodyguard, and was rarely exposed to combat. He became a cavalry officer and was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul.

Trying to live his faith, he refused to let his servant wait on him. Once, while on horseback in Amiens in Gaul (modern France), he encountered a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, he cut his heavy officer’s cloak in half, and gave it to the beggar. Later, he had a vision of Christ wearing the cloak.

Martin was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. Charged with cowardice, he was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service at Worms.

On a visit to Lombardy to see his parents, he was robbed in the mountains – but managed to convert one of the thieves. At home, he found that his mother had converted, but his father had not. The area was strongly Arian, and openly hostile to Catholics. Martin was badly abused by the heretics, and at one point even by the order of the Arian bishop. Learning that the Arians had gained the upper hand in Gaul and exiled St. Hilary of Poitiers, his spiritual teacher, Martin fled to the island of Gallinaria (modern Isola d’Albenga).

In 361, Martin learned that the emperor had authorized Hilary’s return, and Martin ran to him and became a hermit for ten years in the area now know as Ligugé. A reputation for holiness attracted other monks, and they formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Ligugé. He preached and evangelised through the Gallic countryside. Many locals held strongly to the old beliefs, and tried to intimidate Martin by dressing asthe old Roman gods, and appearing to him at night, but Martin continued to win converts. He destroyed old temples, and built churches on the land.

When the bishop of Tours died in 371, Martin was the immediate choice to replace him. Martin declined, citing unworthiness. Rusticus, a wealthy citizen of Tours, claimed his wife was ill and asked for Martin. When he arrived in the city, he was declared bishop by popular acclamation, and was consecrated on Jul 4, 372.

He moved to a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery, but sometimes went to Trier to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. Once when he went to ask lenience for a condemned prisoner, an angel work the emperor to tell him that Martin was waiting to see him; the prisoner was reprieved.

Martin himself was given to visions, but even his contemporaries sometimes ascribed them to his habit of lengthy fasts. An extensive biography of Martin was written by Sulpicius Severus. When he died, he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor. Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the cultus of saint. His relics rested in the basilica of Tours, a scene of pilgrimages and miracles until 1562 when the cathedral and relics were destroyed by militant Protestants. Some small fragments on his tomb were found during construction excavation in 1860.

St. Martin of Tours is patron against poverty; alcoholism; hotel-keepers; quartermasters; soldiers, among others.

Prayer to Continue to Fight for God

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” – St  Martin of Tours, Italian Soldier, Hermit, Bishop

– Patron Saint Index

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2 John 1:4-9

It has given me great joy to find that your children have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father. I am writing now, dear lady, not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another.

To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.

There are many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves. If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.

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Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

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“They are happy who follow God’s law”

My son has had the wonderful opportunity to learn and play 2 sports: table tennis and judo, although he has played the former for a much longer time. Since he started some 4 years ago, he has gone through so many sessions with coaches to hone his skills.

Last year, in a table tennis competition, my son came face to face with a player who was known for his ‘chopping’ skills.  This involves playing the ball in a defensive way, ‘chopping’ the ball (with a strong backspin).  Because he had never trained to play against such a player, my son’s coach spent a few minutes teaching him the strategy to play against such a player, focusing on the type of strokes to use.  Guess what happened in this match?

Unsurprisingly, my son lost, and by quite a huge margin.

This happened mainly because of the lack of preparation.  Following that competition, a lot more time was spent on preparing and training for future games against ‘choppers’ and while he still finds it challenging, my son is now much more prepared.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of what to expect at perousia, or during the time Christ returns.  We need to be prepared, and not be caught off guard like some of the bridesmaids (Matthew 25).

Like many others, I am guilty of not keeping myself ready as well. In my mind, I somehow think and feel that Perousia would never happen during my lifetime; but this is a dangerous attitude. It is this similar attitude that the bridesmaids had as well, resulting in them missing the bridegroom.

Brothers and sisters, let us all pray that we always remain vigilant for when God calls on us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to keep our eyes upon You. Help us to be prepared for the day of your return, and for the time that we will meet you in heaven.

Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Jesus, for your repeated reminders to us to be always prepared, and for showing us the right things to do in order to do so. Amen!

10 November, Thursday – The Lord is with us

10 November – Memorial for St. Leo the Great, Pope, Doctor

Leo (c.400 – 461) was born of Italian nobility. He was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. As a priest, he was an eloquent writer and homilist.

He was pope from 440-461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to St. Peter, it is generally believed that the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo’s sanctity and eloquence saved the city again.

Pope Leo called the Council of Chalcedon to condemn the heresies of the day, which were Nestorianism (Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son), Monophysitism (Christ’s human nature ceases to exist when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it), Manichaeism (Gnostic system resting on a dualistic concept of the world’s structure), and Pelaianism (no supernatural grace is needed for one to choose good).

He built churches and wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching the flock, many of which survive today. It is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574.

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – Pope St. Leo the Great

– Patron Saint Index

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Philemon 1:7-20

I am so delighted, and comforted, to know of your love; they tell me, brother, how you have put new heart into the saints.

Now, although in Christ I can have no diffidence about telling you to do whatever is your duty, I am appealing to your love instead, reminding you that this is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. He was of no use to you before, but he will be useful to you now, as he has been to me. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me; but if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, then let me pay for it. I am writing this in my own handwriting: I, Paul, shall pay it back – I will not add any mention of your own debt to me, which is yourself. Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; put new heart into me, in Christ.

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Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

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“The Lord will reign forever…”

Growing up, I was brought to live with my grandaunt from the time I was a few months old. At that time in the 1970s, divorce was not common and I had a hard time growing up away from my parents. While I loved my grandaunt and I knew she loved me, I was looking forward and imagining the day I could move back home to live with my dad.

Over the years, I was to get only a few occasions to spend time with my dad and, to be totally honest, I was disappointed on many of these occasions as he did not turn up, or turned up very late.

Ultimately, it came to pass that I never went back to live with him.

The period with my grandaunt, however, allowed me to experience the love that would have been lacking had my desire to live with my father been met. While I could not see it then, not leaving her was the best for me.

So it was in the gospel of today. The Israelites of day were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, when He was already in their midst.  That was the message that Jesus was pointing out to them. Similarly, for us, while we are waiting for our Lord to come back again (or what is known as perousia), we need to be mindful that our God is already present here with us, through the Holy Spirit, and that we need to live our lives as such.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, allow us to have the grace to recognise your presence amongst us. Help us to always be open to the Spirit and for us to always live our faith everyday.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for gifting us to experience you today. We are truly grateful that we are able to journey with you and that you always reach out to us, allowing us to walk closer with you.

9 November, Wednesday – Celebrating Mother Church

9 November – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It is officially named “Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran”.

It is the oldest and ranks first (being the cathedral of Rome) among the four major basilicas of Rome, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church (mother church of the whole inhabited world). An inscription on the façade, Christo Salvatore, dedicates the Lateran as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, for the cathedrals of all patriarchs are dedicated to Christ Himself. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne, it ranks above all other churches, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

– Wikipedia

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Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

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John 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

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The temple of God is sacred

Since I became a Catholic in the 1980s, going to church was both a weekly obligation and an opportunity to catch up with friends for a good meal and some socialising.  I would step into church and find my seat in the pew and wait for mass to begin. Very often, during mass, I would think about what to have for lunch, frequently checking my watch to see when mass would end. Post-mass, I would go off, happy to have done my part as a ‘good Catholic’.

The big change happened when I attended a retreat. I was blessed that we spent a lot of time before the Blessed Sacrament. Before I realized it, I began to experience God’s presence, fully and in a way that I have never before. In my reflections, I felt that I had been chastised, gently, about the cavalier way which I had towards our Lord.

This was what happened in today’s gospel. Over time, the people had forgotten the sacredness of the temple, and increasingly, selfish human nature took over. Jesus, in driving the traders out of the temple, seeks to remind them (and us) that we are to always be reverential towards our God. The irreverence of the traders was so extensive that Jesus literally lashed out in anger, using a cord to physically whip and drive them out of the temple.

Today also celebrates the feast day of the dedication of the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, the only feast day to do so. While St Peter’s Basilica is often thought to be the main church of the Catholic Church, it is not. Instead, the Pope’s official church is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the land of which was given to the Church by the Emperor Constantine in the year 324, although the current Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century. As the official home of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, this structure is truly magnificent.

Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate this special feast today, let us remember that when we step into the house of God, we are there to celebrate the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, who gave himself up for all of us. Let us always maintain a reverence and sense of decorum in His house.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to never keep score about what we are doing; the ‘good things’, thinking that this would help us to secure our place in heaven. Help us Lord, to offer all these to you in love, as a gift to You.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for always loving us and being there for us. Thank you for sending your precious Son, Jesus, to die for us. Thank you for giving us the gift of eternal life.

8 November, Tuesday – Doing Our Duty

8 November

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Titus 2:1-8,11-14

It is for you to preach the behaviour which goes with healthy doctrine. The older men should be reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy. Similarly, the older women should behave as though they were religious, with no scandal-mongering and no habitual wine-drinking – they are to be the teachers of the right behaviour and show the younger women how they should love their husbands and love their children, how they are to be sensible and chaste, and how to work in their homes, and be gentle, and do as their husbands tell them, so that the message of God is never disgraced. In the same way, you have got to persuade the younger men to be moderate and in everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good: when you are teaching, be an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you say so wholesome that nobody can make objections to it; and then any opponent will be at a loss, with no accusation to make against us. You see, God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

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Luke 17:7-10

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

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“We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

Quite some time ago, someone I knew was in emotional difficulty and often reached out to me to vent her anger and frustration. She sent me messages at various times of day or night. I responded to her and listened to her. All this, of course, was done with the knowledge of my wife.

Some time later, I got a call from her, in which she accused me of betraying her and of doing something I did not do. I lost my temper and told her off. All I could think of was: “How could she do this, in spite of everything that I’ve done for her!”

This spell of anger and disappointment took control of me until one day, when I was sharing with my kids in a Home Catechism session. We were talking about how God gave us the grace so we could go to heaven; that no matter what we did to try and ‘earn’ our place in heaven, we could never!  In the course of the session, the children could see that we need to do our ‘good works’ (be it helping others, being the best we can be, being holy…) not to get to heaven, but because of God’s love for us (and our love for Him), which makes it important that we do good.

It became clear to me that no matter what happened, it was important for me to be there for the other person, no matter how she felt or what she thought I did.  It was simply important for me to do so… because it was my job to do so as a child of God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to never keep score about what we are doing; the “good things”, thinking that this would help us to secure our place in heaven. Help us Lord to offer all these to You in love, as a gift to You.

Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for always loving us and being there for us. Thank you for sending your precious Son, Jesus, to die for us. Thank you for giving us the gift of eternal life.

7 November, Monday – Consistency Inwards and Out

7 November

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Titus 1:1-9

From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie and so, at the appointed time, he revealed his decision, and, by the command of God our saviour, I have been commissioned to proclaim it. To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share, wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our saviour.

The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to get everything organised there and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you: that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character; he must not have been married more than once, and his children must be believers and not uncontrollable or liable to be charged with disorderly conduct. Since, as president, he will be God’s representative, he must be irreproachable: never an arrogant or hot-tempered man, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor out to make money; but a man who is hospitable and a friend of all that is good; sensible, moral, devout and self-controlled; and he must have a firm grasp of the unchanging message of the tradition, so that he can be counted on for both expounding the sound doctrine and refuting those who argue against it.

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Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!

If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’

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“Each of them must be a man of irreproachable character”

I am a movie buff and especially enjoy a good action or thriller movie.  One particularly memorable movie I remember was ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’. The movie still sends chills down my spine even after so many years.

In this movie, a poor young man schemes, forges, lies and murders his way to a life of luxury and wealth. Along the way, he assumes the identity of another, making others around him believe that he is extremely wealthy and cultured, while he hatches his various plots to hang on to his ill-gotten wealth.

As the movie progresses, his façade unravels at an increasing pace, and Ripley is forced to take drastic measures to prevent others finding out his falsehoods. Despite having the money he has obtained from his ruses, Ripley remains a poor imitation of the real thing. He is, at the end of the movie, clearly well-off, but destined to live a life of loneliness and continued deceit.

Unlike such a character, the apostle Paul, in the reading today, lists the qualities of the elders he wanted appointed in every town. These qualities required the men to be authentic, that their behavior must reflect their values; so much so that the men would remain steadfast and have a consistent grasp of defending and explaining the message of the Gospel.

Brothers and sisters, in our spiritual lives, we too need to always remain steadfast and firm. The temptations of the world are numerous and sin is literally around every corner. Let us always keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not be swayed by those around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, may we be always mindful that You can truly see us for who we are. We ask that You may give us strength to truly live a truly authentic Christian life.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us how to live our lives Father. We are grateful for the freedom that this truth brings to our lives O God!

6 November, Sunday – The Lord gives us strength!

6 November

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2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’

With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’

After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.

When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’

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2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

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Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

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“I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord”

I used to have a recurring nightmare for years.  In this particular dream, I was brought before a judge, who asked me to make a public statement that I did not believe Jesus was my Lord and Savior.  I remember the anxiety and stress of that moment.  Strangely, I also remember the immense intensity of the temptation to do that in order to save my life.  The words the judge spoke also stuck with me, so much so that I can even remember it today: “Just say that you don’t think that Jesus is your Lord…it’s so easy… you can go home after that!”.

Because of this dream, I have always wondered (actually… it is more like fear) what I would do if I were put in the situation one day.  Would I turn on my Lord?  Would I be able to stand up to torture and death like what happened to the brothers in the first reading of today?

I got my answer one day when I attended a talk by the Archbishop of Singapore, the most reverend William Goh.  He exalted us to not even worry about it or even think about such a thing… because if and when the time comes, God would give us the strength and wisdom to act accordingly! What wonderful faith!  I also realized that my fears came about because I had been looking at this from the angle of my personal strength.  I had forgotten about the strength that God alone could give me!

Another realization I had was that the brothers were also able to stand up for their faith because of their support for each other. I have also experienced this in my own life, as brothers and sisters of the community support each other through all the trials and challenges together.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to always be able to stand up for our faith. Be with us when we face challenges, especially when we are called upon to stand up for You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the gift of community; through which You give us strength to walk our lives in faith. Thank you for not giving us more than what we can bear. Praise you Jesus!

5 November, Saturday – Trust – Big Word

5 November

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Philippians 4:10-19

It is a great joy to me, in the Lord, that at last you have shown some concern for me again; though of course you were concerned before, and only lacked an opportunity. I am not talking about shortage of money: I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed. It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account. Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.

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Luke 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’

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‘And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?’

I used to report to multiple bosses whose instructions were sometimes conflicting with one another.  It was really complicated and confusing because we could move forward unless they were all in agreement. One boss wants to change this part.  Another boss wants to alter another part.  Then there is another, who wants change to the same part with a different content.  Well, it was an adventure.

I definitely agree with “No servant can be the slave of two masters.”  Well, in my case, I experienced more than two masters.  Similar with our spiritual life, we can only serve our one and only God.

“You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” This line reminds us that our love for God and money should not be the same.  We know in our hearts that we must always put God first.  However, we tend to do otherwise sometimes because of our job demands.  There can be instances that we neglect our Sabbath because we have other things to do like work and stuff.  But it does not mean that we should be lazy.  The analogy is that we work in order to earn more so we can serve the Lord more.  Our material wealth will just be supplementary to our spiritual life.

When we give more priority to money, it is a way of isolating ourselves from God.  It makes us more vulnerable to sin and thus wanting more material things.  This expanded desire for earthly things pushes us to be greedy and causes us to do anything for the sake of money. Who does not want money? I agree that it is a necessity to live. But physical need is not the only thing that we need to fill. We also have this spiritual need. And we must fill this need even more.

“If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?”  Money, in itself, is not bad. But things we do for the sake of money like stealing, cheating, corruption, etc…, is not good.  With money, we can have companions and not friends. True friends stay even though we have nothing anymore. Those true friends trust us and we trust them.

We must prepare our life to receive those genuine riches. It is our eternal life. Our eternal gift from God.  Little by little we can do simple things. Simple things like refraining from telling small lies. Those small lies are dangerous because there may come a time that we will think that it is the truth. Let us be sincere with what we can do and not promise anything unrealistic.

We can never know other people’s story.  Hard as it is, let us pray to God to trust and be trusted.  A simple step of honesty goes a long way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

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Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, please help us be honest with ourselves, with others, and with You. Teach our hearts to be always sincere and faithful.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for Your love and mercy. That as sinful as we are, you still love and forgive us.

4 November, Friday – Finding Art in Anything

4 November – Memorial for St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Charles (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family, the third of six children, and the son of Count Giberto II Borromeo and Marghertita de’ Medici. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He suffered from a speech impediment, but studied in Milan and at the University of Pavia, at one point studying under the future Pope Gregory XIII.

He became a civil and canon lawyer at the age of 21, and a cleric at Milan, taking the habit on Oct 13, 1547. He became Abbot of three different abbeys until Jan 13, 1560. He was protonotary apostolic participantium and referendary of the papal court to Pope Pius IV. He was also a member of the counsulta for the administration of the Papal States on Jan 20, 1560. He was appointed abbot commendatario for an abbey in Portugal, and an abbey in Flanders on Jan 27, 1560.

On Jan 31, 1560, he was apostolic administrator of Milan, Italy. On Feb 8, 1560, then a papal legate to Bologna and Romandiola for two years beginning on Apr 26, 1560. He was made a deacon on Dec 21, 1560, and appointed Vatican Secretary of State. He was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Jul 1, 1561, and founded the “Accademia Vaticana” in 1562.

He was finally ordained on Sep 4, 1563, helped reopen the Council of Trent, and participated in its sessions during 1562 and 1563. He was ordained Bishop of Milan on Dec 7, 1563 and was President of the commission of theologians charged by the pope to elaborate the Catechismus Romanus. He also worked on the revision of the Missal and Breviary, and was a member of a commission to reform church music.

He participated in the conclave of cardinals in 1565-66 that chose Pope Pius V, and he asked the new pope to take the name. Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of Oct 26, 1569. He was shot at, but not hit.

He also participated in the conclave in 1572 that chose Pope Gregory XIII. He worked with the sick, and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576. He established the Oblates of St. Ambrose on Apr 26, 1578, and was a teacher, confessor, and parish priest to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, giving him his first communion on Jul 22, 1580.

Charles spent his life and fortune in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and fervently enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children’s Sunday school, did great public and private penance, and worked among the sick and dying, leading his people by example.

He is patron saint for bishops; catechists; catechumens; seminarians; spiritual directors; and spiritual leaders.

Prayer to St. Charles Borromeo

O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.

– Patron Saints Index

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Philippians 3:17-4:1

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.

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Luke 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.’

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‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.’

When I was younger, I learned that it is not good to lie or to cheat. Though I know it is wrong, there are instances where I have cheated to get the job done. I could argue that it was a ‘white lie.’ Still, it is a lie.

Our Gospel today teaches us to apply ingenuity in life. It talks about a master who found out that his servant was wasteful of his property. He called that servant and asked for the account of his management because he was going to be dismissed. That servant had been thinking hard about what he would do next.  He was not strong enough to dig and too ashamed to go begging. Then he thought of something so that people will welcome him in their homes. When he collected the notes from the people who owed his master, he reduced the amount unknown to his master.  It may be right to say that he just slashed off his commission. The indicated amount was the actual sum owed by the debtors. By his actions, the servant and the debtors would have a good relationship.

The master applauded his servant. This is not to condone the dishonesty of the steward. Rather, his being resourceful. He was able to think of what to do to save him.

The Gospel reminds us that our resourcefulness quickly surfaces in times of need. Being creative and resourceful is truly a great quality. They are tools that can lift us in any situation. But it is suggested that the use of our resourcefulness and creativity is not for our own good only. We should extend our capabilities to others who need our help.

Another thing to remember is our responsibilities. As a servant, there is a master. We must remember our status and be obedient to our master. We must always instil in our hearts the faithfulness and trustworthiness, not just as a follower but as a person.  We may face a lot of trials tempting us to shatter our values. But when we completely surrender ourselves to God, we can continue to be faithful and trustworthy servants of the Lord.

Coincidentally, today is the memorial for St. Charles Borromeo. He is an example of a creative person.  His artistic sense contributed to the reformation of the Catholic Church. He initiated the steps for people to have a conversion to a better life. He set an example by living a life with humility and charity. He did a wonderful job as a pastor while entrusting everything to God.

Let us be like St. Charles Borromeo to live a life in conformity to the Divine will.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

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Prayer: Father God, I ask for the grace that my heart always seeks to do Your will. Please guide us as when we encounter our struggles and choices in life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for the gift of wisdom and for the gift of strength, which enables us to face our trials.