All posts by Edith Koh

22 October, Tuesday – Always Prepared

22 Oct 2019

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Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21

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

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Luke 12:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, our prayers prepare us for life.

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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

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

21 October, Monday – Faith in God’s Promise

21 Oct 2019

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Romans 4:20-25

Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’ Scripture however does not refer only to him but to us as well when it says that his faith was thus ‘considered’; our faith too will be ‘considered’ if we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Jesus who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us.

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Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

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Since God had made him a promise, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised

Trusting in God’s promise has been one of my struggles ever since I became more serious in my journey of faith. Today, I’ll share with you three of my struggles: maybe they would resonate with you, maybe you have other struggles, too. I hope that in sharing, it will help you see that trusting God can be both easy and difficult at the same time; and just because it is difficult, it doesn’t mean we are not trying to trust God. Perhaps, one of the lessons we need to learn in trusting God is not to be too hard on ourselves.

  • My desire for control of everything – Trusting God means surrendering our control over our lives. This is definitely not that easy. Quoting from the poem Invictus, ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ We have this desire to be in control of all the aspects of our lives.

If we are to trust God, that means there will be times when we don’t do anything, or when we don’t know what to do. If we are to trust God, that we need to believe that the seed that was planted is growing, and taking root, even if we don’t see it. And during these times, we can’t control anything. And this is scary.

  • My fear of not doing what I ought to do – This is the flipside of my desire for control. Even in fulfilling His promise, God desires our participation. We participate in things God allows us to participate in. However, once I surrender the control to God, I tend to go ‘all or nothing’. It’s almost like telling God, ‘You do everything.’ But I know deep down in my heart that this is not what God wants. This is the balance we need to have, and this is the balance I am learning. I need to do my part, and I need to surrender to God His part.
  • My self-doubt if I really heard God correctly – This is related to the first two. I tend to always ask God if I heard Him correctly. Did He really say what I thought He said? Was it just me or my desire? Did I really discern well? Which part is God’s part and which part is mine? Was I in a state of grace to hear God clearly? Am I missing anything?

It’s not always easy trusting in God’s promise, especially if you have been promised something you desire so much. I would always ask myself if it’s God speaking or my desire dictating. I don’t have any answers nor any suggestions now.

The reason why I shared those three points is to invite you all to have a look at your own circumstances and your own struggles with trusting in God. To understand where you are is the first step to being able to do something about it and to allow God to do something about it.

Let’s continue to work on our faith in God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Father, help us know how to have faith in you.    

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Father, for being patient with our struggles in faith.

20 October, Sunday – With the community

20 October 2019

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Exodus 17:8-13

The Amalekites came and attacked Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Pick out men for yourself, and tomorrow morning march out to engage Amalek. I, meanwhile, will stand on the hilltop, the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him and marched out to engage Amalek, while Moses and Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. As long as Moses kept his arms raised, Israel had the advantage; when he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amalek. But Moses’ arms grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and on this he sat, Aaron and Hur supporting his arms, one on one side, one on the other; and his arms remained firm till sunset. With the edge of the sword Joshua cut down Amalek and his people.

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2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures – from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy. This is how the man who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching.

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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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But Moses’ arms grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and on this he sat, Aaron and Hur supporting his arms

In our parish, we have recently started the Neighborhood Christian Communities. There are house visits and gatherings in different households. I’ve never been the ‘community-type’ so I’ve honestly never been to one, but our priest added me to the Whatsapp group so I’ll think I’ll attend the next session.

When asked about what programme is best for Catechism, our parish priest replied that all programmes out there are good, and he wants to focus on building a community between the youths. And during the recent Confirmation Mass, Archbishop William Goh emphasized the need for a community in order to remain in faith (not just grow in faith). He said that if the children leave the faith, that’s because they were not given the community to support the faith.

In today’s reading, God gave Moses the power to ensure the Israelites’ victory – he merely had to raise his arms. Soon, Moses grew tired, and it was through the help of his community members that he was able to fulfill the role he needed to. Without Aaron and Hur, Moses would not have been able to raise his hands until the battle was over.

It is the same in our lives. We need a community in order to do what God has asked us to do. It’s amazing how even though it is our own mission, we need to do it with others. If we reflect about it, we shouldn’t be surprised – God is a trinity, a community, after all.

When we get to heaven, I think we will see all the people who were part of our faith community – those who spent their time with us, those we spent time with, those who inspired us, and those we inspired. We are not going to heaven alone because God wants us to get their with our communities.

Who are the members of your community? Who are your companions in this journey of faith? Let’s ask God to bring us to a community, to make us grow in this community, and to allow us to share our lives in our community.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, please bless the community of believers you have provided me in my life.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for not allowing me to be alone in this faith journey.

19 October, Saturday – Faith in the dark

19 October 2019

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Romans 4:13, 16-18

The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith. That is why what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us. As scripture says: I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.

Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars.

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Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.’

‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.’

‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.’

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If anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels.

How comforting it is to be promised a defense before the court of angels – by Jesus Christ himself! No, this is not a pipe dream, the candy-coated part of our faith that we will never live to see. It is true in the present, in that the heavenly court is an unseen reality right now. But of course, this is invisible to the naked eye. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1).

St Paul tells the Romans that Abraham is their father of faith too, precisely because they have received their faith through Christ Jesus and not by Jewish tradition. “The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law, but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.” (Rm 4:13). This was a very important statement in the time of the early church because there was often strife between the Jews of Abrahamic descent, and the pagans and gentiles who were adopted into the faith. Those who became adopted children of God could sometimes face discrimination or a lower esteem as ‘second-class family members’. I suppose this could be the experience of some of our young brethren in this day and age. St Paul wanted to assure them of their equal sonship through Christ.

The thing about the gift of faith is that the length of reception into the family does not matter. What matters is a deep desire and sincerity in believing in God. “What fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us” who believe in the one God “who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist” (Rm 4:16-17).

A totally new life in Christ is what awaits those amongst us who have yet to come to know God the Heavenly Father, or have yet to be fully received into the Church family. What lies behind them no longer matters in this new life. As St Paul encourages the early Philippian church too, “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi 3:13-14).

And even those of us who struggle to put one foot in front of the other in this dark night of our faith journeys, let us be comforted that: “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised” (Rm 4:18).

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray for a deeper trust in God, in responding to this gift and mystery of faith. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you God, for this gift of knowing you and your Son Jesus Christ who walks with me.

18 October, Friday – Influencers

Oct 18 – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after 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 St. Paul at Troas, and evangelised 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 in prison. He 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. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

– 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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But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

What are our personas in the quilt of our lives? At work, home, with friends, and at church, there are nuances in whom we present to the world. While the differences can be subtle, they are nevertheless there. Sometimes we respond unconsciously, and at other times we make a deliberate effort to wear the appropriate mask.

While life’s experiences have shaped who we are, we cannot proceed on autopilot lest we lose sight of our being. The power to influence others is a considerable one, and like the saints before us, our message needs to be pure. We show up as children of God, embodying the life and teachings of Christ.

Influence is not about the spouting of manifestos or treatises. Neither is it heavy-handed. Influence is the ability to shape the behaviours of others through our examples and ways of life. Take a moment to notice people whom you’ve dealt with. Are they following what you do? Are they using terms and phrases that you do? Have they changed their lives to mimic yours?  If that has ever happened, then you are an influencer!

If those changes were good ones, then I would say that you’re on the right path. However there is a polarity to this; if you notice people actively NOT doing what you do, then that gives pause for some introspection. We are always providing others with an opportunity to judge their own lives as they reference ours. In searching for purchase, people savvily absorb what they deem to be good, and the things about you that others draw reference to also speaks volumes about them.

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to rigorously analyse the power you have over others. Specifically, the soft power that is in each and every one of us that makes us who we are. May we never take that for granted.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord to walk in your ways, always gifting others with the joy of our companionship.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for our individuality. There is no greater gift than to be beautiful and complete in you.

17 October, Thursday – Who can understand God?

Oct 17 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

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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Romans 3:21-30

God’s justice that was made known through the Law and the Prophets has now been revealed outside the Law, since it is the same justice of God that comes through faith to everyone, Jew and pagan alike, who believes in Jesus Christ. Both Jew and pagan sinned and forfeited God’s glory, and both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus who was appointed by God to sacrifice his life so as to win reconciliation through faith. In this way God makes his justice known; first, for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand, then, for the present age, by showing positively that he is just, and that he justifies everyone who believes in Jesus.

So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them. What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do. Is God the God of Jews alone and not of the pagans too? Of the pagans too, most certainly, since there is only one God.

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Luke 11:47-54

Jesus said:

‘Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.

‘And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary.” Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.’

When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say.

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So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:8-9)

The readings today are truly confounding. Let us put aside what we already know, to step into the shoes of all who were present in the scene where Paul preached, or in the presence of Jesus as he denounced the Pharisees and lawyers. How might we feel?

In the letter to the Romans, Paul cautioned them against self-righteousness amongst themselves, whether Jews or pagans. It is not enough just to live within the bounds of the Law, for all have sinned and forfeited God’s glory. We understand this reasoning when we pause long enough to recognise even the minor wrongs we commit against our neighbours through gossip, judgmentalism, lies. It is not enough to be of the same Christian stock or label – for every person’s individual flaws and weaknesses are different. Paul tells us, “…both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus… so as to win reconciliation through faith” (Rm 3:24-25).

We must not be complacent and boast about our salvation simply because we outwardly profess our faith in Christ Jesus. This can become misguided and exclusionary. “What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do…” (Rm 3:27-28)

Only God can look into the hearts of man. Even the holiest of men cannot see into the soul of another, though he may be able to discern it. This is what made Jesus furious as he lambasted the Pharisees and lawyers of the time. He accused them of the same sins as their ancestors, by “taking away the key of knowledge” (Lk 11:52). Jesus was referring to their wrongful gatekeeping of the faith and misrepresentation of the Laws.

Theirs was a love of the law of the Law, and not the the love of Love itself. By their interference, they became the obstacle between their fellow men and God – murdering prophets and apostles ‘between the altar and the sanctuary’. “You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.” (Lk 11:52).

Are there occasions where I have (through my zealousness or judgmentalism) unconsciously interfered in the gift of faith that God was working in someone’s life?

This is a moment for me to pause and contemplate what the words of scripture mean personally for me. It is not only by works; yet, it is not only by faith. Both can be superficial extremes which Jesus denounces. How I am called to act and respond in every moment, to each person, is a unique sensing of God’s Wisdom. God’s grace is always at work within me; may I not neglect the Holy Spirit in my daily life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to deepen our own spiritual sensing and hide our life with Christ; for even narrower is the gate to heaven for those with spiritual pride. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for this gift of faith I have received by your sacrifice

16 October, Wednesday – Judge not, lest you be judged

16 Oct 2019

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Romans 2:1-11

No matter who you are, if you pass judgement you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behaviour impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realising that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance? Your stubborn refusal to repent is only adding to the anger God will have towards you on that day of anger when his just judgements will be made known. He will repay each one as his works deserve. For those who sought renown and honour and immortality by always doing good there will be eternal life; for the unsubmissive who refused to take truth for their guide and took depravity instead, there will be anger and fury. Pain and suffering will come to every human being who employs himself in evil – Jews first, but Greeks as well; renown, honour and peace will come to everyone who does good – Jews first, but Greeks as well. God has no favourites.

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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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And when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

I think today’s readings speak for itself. The saying “judge not, lest ye be judged” runs as a central theme in the readings. The Bible speaks often against judging others. Remember the adulterous woman in John 8:3? The Pharisees were ready to stone her for the charges brought against her, but Jesus dared them to condemn her if they were without sin, and no one did. And in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says not to judge others because we would be measured in the same way. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and not see the plank in your own eye?”

In today’s gospel reading, St Paul was directing his message to those who believed that they were above other races because they were the chosen race. He puts them in their place by reminding them that God will judge us all according to our thoughts and actions. If we are to judge people a certain way, then we too will be judged by God accordingly. Who are we then to condemn others when Jesus chose not to condemn the adulterous woman?

Today’s readings also do more than just telling us not to judge others; it tells us about our place in God’s eyes. Some time ago, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. He said that “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putting aside the circumstances surrounding his opinion which was the Syrian attack, Mr. Putin’s piece is a sobering reminder that though we may be rich or poor, young or old, successful or not, where God is concerned, we are all equal. When we were born, we were all equal, and though we may have lived our lives on Earth very differently, when we die, we will also die as equals. When we stand before God on judgment day, we will be equal, and God will mete out His judgment on us all equally. “Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on him.” (Rm 10:12)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, you made us all equal in your eyes. Just as you have not condemned the adulterous woman, let us too not condemn our brothers and sisters, acknowledging instead that we are all one in God’s name.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for your mercy Lord, that because you have not judged us, that has given us the chance instead to repent. Thank you for the second chances, and may we too give others a chance, as you have given us.

15 October, Tuesday – The Francis Stain-Removal System®

Oct 15 – 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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Romans 1:16-25

I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith – Jews first, but Greeks as well – since this is what reveals the justice of God to us: it shows how faith leads to faith, or as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith.

The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness. For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them since God himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world his everlasting power and deity – however invisible – have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made. That is why such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet refused to honour him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation, for the image of mortal man, of birds, of quadrupeds and reptiles. That is why God left them to their filthy enjoyments and the practices with which they dishonour their own bodies, since they have given up divine truth for a lie and have worshipped and served creatures instead of the creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen!

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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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Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you

I admit — I am not the most delicate of eaters. I tend to rush my meals because of an irrational fear that someone in a bear suit will appear out of nowhere, grab my lunch and run away leaving me hungry. Thus my on-going therapy, and the unnecessary gobbling down of my meals, all of which results in me habitually leaving unfortunate food stains on my shirt. (Ewww!)

Some time ago, while praying through the Office of Readings, I came across something interesting St. Francis of Assisi wrote. He said, “Give alms because they purify our souls from the stain of sin.” I found the expression ‘stain of sin’ to be provoking. Obviously, St. Francis did not mean that forgiveness of sin is earned by doing good works such as almsgiving. Forgiveness comes through grace by the cross, made accessible by the sacrament of reconciliation. However, the ‘stain’ that is left by the sin is another matter.

What are stains? Well, a stain is basically a discoloration that can be seen in contrast to the surface it is on. Stains are caused by a physical or chemical interaction between two dissimilar materials, or in my case, dropping the overly-oily pork belly on my clean white shirt. Despite my frantic removal of the pork belly, a stain ensues, a mark is left — damming evidence of my general motor-skills and paranoia towards imaginary pouncing sports mascots.

I find that to be true in my spiritual life. Sins that I have committed leave stains, a lingering after-effect. The effects of sin are not confined to a singular event; they leave impressions on our souls in ways that leaves us susceptible to future temptations. There seems to be a spiritual-chemical reaction that leaves a discoloration on our moral fabric. Most of the time, even having removed the pork belly of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I find myself returning back to my old patterns. Even though the sin and the guilt of sin is removed, there is often still a lingering blemish on my soul.

Enter the Francis Stain-Removal System® — Alms-giving. The good Saint Francis advises sinners like myself to rub a little almsgiving on the stain of sin and letting it sit overnight before washing.

Why? What is it about the practice of Almsgiving that dissolves the stains of sin? There are at least 4 reasons I discern:

  1. Almsgiving strikes at the root of most sins — self-centeredness.
  2. Almsgiving helps turn our eyes and align our hearts to what is important to God’s heart — the poor.
  3. Almsgiving helps us to appreciate what we have received from God and so share with others out of gratitude.
  4. Almsgiving opens our hearts to experience the fulfilling joy that comes from generosity, at the expanse of the fleeting happiness that comes from sin as well as our selfishness that leaves us empty.

Essentially what Almsgiving does, if done sincerely, is to incline our wills to love — loving God, loving others and loving ourselves. Generosity, spiritual poverty, fulfilling joy and gratefulness are all very effective solvents on our moral fabric and strengthens our conscience against sin by inclining it towards good. The outward act of Almsgiving strengthens our inner will to choose good over evil, generosity over selfishness, others over ourselves, joy over emptiness. This removes the stain of sin and helps restore the true hues of our souls, made in the image of God.

So the next time you face temptations or have given in to it, take the advice of the guy wearing the hooded brown lab coat and rub some Almsgiving on the stain of sin. And please, do yourself a favor and keep your pork on your fork.

(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)

Prayer:  Lord, incline my heart and strengthen my will to choose love over selfishness. May my practice of meeting the needs of the poor align my heart with yours.

Thanksgiving:  That my victory against sin comes from my confidence in the superior happiness in what You promise to be for me in Christ.

13 October, Sunday – The Power of Him

13 October 2019

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2 Kings 5:14-17

Naaman the leper went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

  Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and stood before him. ‘Now I know’ he said ‘that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Now, please, accept a present from your servant.’

  But Elisha replied, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing.’ Naaman pressed him to accept, but he refused.

  Then Naaman said, ‘Since your answer is “No,” allow your servant to be given as much earth as two mules may carry, because your servant will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.’

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2 Timothy 2:8-13

Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.

  Here is a saying that you can rely on:

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.

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Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

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Your faith has healed you

Today, both the first reading and the Gospel are about lepers being healed. How does this parable relate to me and the world of the 21st century?

With the help of Google, I learned that today about 180,000 people worldwide, most in Africa and Asia, are infected with leprosy, a slow growing type of bacteria. This is an infectious disease that can only transferred from close repeated contact with the nose and mouth droplets of someone with untreated leprosy. Leprosy causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin areas around the body and dates back to ancient times, often surrounded by terrifying, negative stigmas with lepers shunned as outcasts. Outbreaks of leprosy have affected, and panicked, people on every continent. The oldest civilizations of China, Egypt, and India feared leprosy was an incurable, mutilating, and contagious disease.

Because leprosy is/was such a visual disease, it is a perfect choice for parables.

When I hear the word leprosy, my thoughts immediately go to biblical and ancient times, and Fr. Damien in the Hawaiian Islands. I remember the movie ‘Ben Hur’ from 1959, and the moving scene when we see that Miriam and Tirzah have been healed of their leprosy as they stand in the rivers of rain streaming down the hill, mixed with the blood of Jesus, after His crucifixion.

In Luke, only one of the 10 returns to thank Jesus – I’ve always thought the other 9 were cured but were so caught up in the happiness of no longer being disfigured that their gratitude wasn’t initially evident. Upon reflection, a few others thoughts crossed my mind. Did only one REALIZE he’d been cured? Was only one cured because he had faith? The lepers asked for pity, not healing – so did only one even think healing was possible?

And — the most personal — where do I have leprosy in my own life? Where have I been healed of internal leprosy and not been thankful, thinking that my self determination, my will power, my intelligence, my… whatever is what ‘fixed’ me, when it fact it was His grace showing me mercy?

When have I been like the other nine and not recognized the grace? Not shown gratitude for His mercy? The answer is evident. Every day. Every single day.

So how does the parable relate to us today, in the 21st century?

In today’s world we are so bombarded with books and podcasts, and even prosperity gospel sermons shouting to us that we have the power, that self-help is the answer. We can ‘fix’ ourselves,  the sky is the limit,  power of the mind, power of habit, power of intention, power of these 6 steps, power of these 11 laws, power of getting out of the boat, power of vision boards, power of self talk…… power of You’re Okay, I’m Okay (a best seller from the 1970s). And therein lies the great lie. All those books and podcasts speak much human truth, we should adhere to the wisdom they contain, but we must stop short of a total buy-in. We cannot predict, nor even truly design our future. We do what we can and see where and how God comes in.

After all, if you and I were actually ‘okay’, then we wouldn’t need a Savior.  But we aren’t, and we do, and we have one!  And THAT, brothers and sisters, is the Good News.

(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)

Prayer: Father God you are the Good Help, the Good Hope, the Only All, True, Loving God. And we are amazed at your perfect and perfecting love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your abounding grace and the mercy that flows from that grace all over us every day. Every single day. We pray that we will give grace and mercy to all those around us.

12 October, Saturday – Being God’s signpost

12 Oct 2019

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Joel 4:12-21

The Lord says this:

‘Let the nations rouse themselves, let them march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for I am going to sit in judgement there on all the nations round.

Put the sickle in: the harvest is ripe; come and tread: the winepress is full, the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!’

Host on host in the Valley of Decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of Decision! Sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brilliance.

The Lord roars from Zion, makes his voice heard from Jerusalem; heaven and earth tremble.

But the Lord will be a shelter for his people, a stronghold for the sons of Israel.

‘You will learn then that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place, no alien will ever pass through it again.’

When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk, and all the river beds of Judah will run with water.

A fountain will spring from the house of the Lord to water the wadi of Acacias. Egypt will become a desolation, Edom a desert waste on account of the violence done to the sons of Judah whose innocent blood they shed in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited for ever, Jerusalem from age to age. ‘I will avenge their blood and let none go unpunished’, and the Lord shall make his home in Zion.

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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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Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it

I have been so hooked on this TV series in the US titled ‘God Friended Me’. Without giving too much away, this series is about how an atheist (Miles) receives a Facebook request from someone calling himself ‘God’. Despite his non-belief, the main protagonist finds himself drawn in and over time, finds he has helped many people, and made many new friends.

Throughout the episodes, Miles draws a lot of gratitude from the people he has helped, but he always makes it a point to say that it is the ‘God’ account that sends him to them.

I love the premise of this show, and how beautiful it is when one surrenders to God, or fails to give God the credit for everything good that happens.

Growing up without my parents, I have often struggled to show, to myself or to those around me, that I was someone of value. As such, whenever I receive praise for anything I do well, I tended to revel in it. I forget that whatever good that I do, or that I receive, it all comes from God.

Brothers and sisters, just like Miles, let us always proclaim to others the fact that it is God that points us in the right direction, prompting us to do the right things.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, help us to be Your signposts. Help us remember that we are not the final destination, but that all ways point to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for showing us the joy of doing Your will!