All posts by Nicholas Chia

20 July, Saturday – Humility at Heart

Jul 20 – Memorial for St. Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr

According to tradition, Apollinaris was a native of Antioch in the Roman Province of Syria. He was made the first Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source).

On his way out of the city, he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to St. Romuald. He was a noted miracle worker, and is considered especially effective against gout and epilepsy.

  • Wikipedia

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Exodus 12:37-42

The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand on the march – all men – not counting their families. People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves. They baked cakes with the dough which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey. The time that the sons of Israel had spent in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And on the very day the four hundred and thirty years ended, all the array of the Lord left the land of Egypt. The night, when the Lord kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, must be kept as a vigil in honour of the Lord for all their generations.

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Matthew 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and began to plot against Jesus, discussing how to destroy him.

Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved, the favourite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit,
and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed,
nor put out the smouldering wick
till he has led the truth to victory:
in his name the nations will put their hope.

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“Here is my servant who I have chosen,…I will endow him with my spirit, and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.”

As a ‘cradle Catholics’ (not ready for the grave yet), we know that our Lord gave us two commandments. One is to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength; and love others as we love ourselves. Within that love, we are to share the treasure that God offers, and we are called to introduce, if not to bring, our fellow travelers to Jesus, our Lord, in this journey called Life. Yes, we are all called to evangelize.

I struggle with wanting to serve but fearing that I do not have anything to offer. Not knowing if I possess any talents, whatever that might be, and how to use them to serve. Feeling frustrated and ineffective, I cannot believe that God would choose me to serve in ministry as there are so many more talented, more eloquent, more knowledgeable people; why would he choose a sinner like me?

Then I came upon a reading in the Divine Mercy reflections with Saint Faustina. We are all called to serve. Some have a ‘bigger’ or more public role, some have a less public role, but we all have a part to play in God’s grand scheme. The role He entrusts to us is not given to anyone else, individually, we are to fulfill the task assigned. But we are NEVER alone.

All that we have, all that we are, is the result of graces given by the Lord. The faith that we have, the achievements that we attain, the good that we do, are all gifts from our God — who is holy and all good.  Of course, it is a choice we make in collaborating with God to do good. But it would be dangerous for us to claim that we alone, achieved the good. Left to our own devices, our fallen human nature would lead us to the wrong path.  It is only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to head in the right direction.

So do not be disheartened if you are like me, undecided as to what talents we possess to serve the Lord.  God has a job and a plan for us. All we need is to love and trust in the Lord. We need to pray and be attentive to His call. We must have a heart that desires His will over ours, and then we need to be patient. Because it is not when we want or how we want to serve. Rather, it is according to God’s will of when, where and how.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to serve, but we don’t have to worry about the ways or methods. God has already figured that out for us and all we need is to let Him take the wheel.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the grace to desire Your will over our own, and the grace of patience in waiting. Help us to be attentive to Your call and recognize Your voice above all else.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for deeming us worthy of Your work and providing us with the tools to serve Your will.

19 July, Friday – Master of the Sabbath

19 July 2019

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

It has come to my realisation that I had a lot of misunderstanding about the Catholic faith and that I needed to learn and study more for better understanding. Take for instance, the matter of sacrifice. It has been ingrained in us that we fast during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain every Friday during Lent. Those are the ‘sacrifices’ that we make in order to prepare us for Easter. There are other instances of ‘sacrifices’ that Catholics do, as a ritual, as a preparation, as a practice. For example, abstaining from food at least one hour before receiving the Holy Eucharist.

I never truly understood why some of these rituals existed. In my mind, God is not so petty to care about whether I ate before receiving Him. Why should I let man’s rules override God’s rules? For surely, it is Jesus himself who gave us the Eucharist, His body for us to eat. He never said to only receive Him one hour after a meal. I struggled with these seemingly innocuous questions.

Upon further reading and speaking with fellow Christians, it dawned on me that it is not so much the ritual that our Lord is after. It is what is in our hearts and minds that truly matters. If I fasted all the while complaining about it, then the fasting is for naught because my heart is not in the right place. I would not be truly reverent about receiving our Lord. For if I did revere Him and worship Him, I would make sure that I was well-prepared to receive Him. I would make sure that I am clean and presentable to be in the presence of a King. Fasting before a meal is a token of that preparedness. But more importantly, is my willingness and intentions of doing so. My intentions should be pure and whatever needs to be done is to be done with joy instead of complaints.

Brothers and sisters, this seems so simple yet, when we are tired, stressed and demoralized, it is so easy to fall into the fray and become disgruntled at the most straightforward task. In my daily life, when I am tight on time and others place additional and unexpected demands on me, I become disgruntled and silently seethe inside, all the while performing the task unwillingly. This is not what our Lord wants. He wants us to be joyful, to be excited and eager to receive Him. When we prepare to receive Him in the Eucharist, we should prepare ourselves as if for a wedding banquet, a most solemn but joyous event. Surely we wouldn’t attend the wedding of a friend ill-prepared and inappropriately dressed; so why would we attend the banquet of a King without being prepared?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to prepare our hearts, our minds and our souls to receive You in the Eucharist. Grant us the grace to be humble, simple and pure in our thoughts, words, and intentions, so that we may be prepared to receive our King.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the Bread of Life, at every Mass.

18 July, Thursday – Burden – Heavy or Light

18 July 2019

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Exodus 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of God coming from the middle of the bush, said to him, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”

This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.

‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and he has said to me: I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you. And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.” They will listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us. Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.” For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go.

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Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

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“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Today’s Gospel reading contains probably one of the most well-known verses amongst Christians. I confess I have heard it many times before and yet have not really pondered over its meaning. Often, I take things at face value, be it Bible verses, people or situations. With this superficial understanding, it is a wonder that I have not made more blunders than I already have.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

When I first read the passage, I naturally interpreted that if I were to follow Jesus, then it will be smooth sailing from then on. He would remove all obstacles from my path, and everything will be easy-peasy. This, I admit, is very naïve, very shallow and very misguided.

Upon learning more about Jesus, His teachings and the Catholic faith, I began to truly understand what the passage means. I still don’t get it perfectly, but I do have a better understanding than before.

It is true that Jesus offers rest for weary souls who are heavily burdened in whichever way — whether we are burdened by the daily amount of work, worries and troubles, we are able to find rest within our Lord. While He offered us rest for our wearied souls, He did not offer to take away our burdens. Instead, He tells us to shed our burden but take upon our shoulders His ‘yoke’. You may ask, why would we want to take on His burden since He is God and His burden would crush us? This is the mystery and wonderment of our Lord. If we all but follow Him and take up His burden, not only is His burden light compared to ours, but we will find rest and peace. For the Lord isn’t leaving His burden upon our shoulders without equipping us. He is doing the heavy lifting and walking beside us every step of the way. His burden is light to us because He is carrying us, supporting us throughout our hardships, our sorrows and our confusions. If we trust in Him, we will find rest and peace for not only our minds, but our souls and our hearts.

Not long ago, there was an occasion where I felt heavily burdened, confused and could not figure out what to do next. Emotionally drained and spiritually tired, I turned to the Lord in desperation and prayed.  I left all my issues at His feet and trusted that He, who is able to achieve the impossible, will be able to guide me through the muddle of confusion. The Lord did not disappoint. Soon after, He granted me the grace and peace to move beyond the obstacle. He did what I could not have done on my own. All I had to do was to believe and trust in Him to obtain the rest for my heart, mind and soul. He gave me a peace that I could not find anywhere else. That is the power of our Lord. If we trust in Him, no matter how insurmountable our burden seems; to Him, it is only a small bump in the road that can easily be overcome. Jesus, I trust in you.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us the courage and faith to let go of our worldly burdens and take Your yoke upon us. Grant us the rest and peace that this world cannot provide. Jesus, I trust in You.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy and for never abandoning us, always ready to pick up the pieces and help us to journey on.

17 July, Wednesday –

17 July 2019

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Exodus 3:1-6,9-12

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’

Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘The cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.’
Moses said to God, ‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you… After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.’

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Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

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(Today’s Oxygen by Debbie Loo)

Prayer:

Thanksgiving:

16 July, Tuesday – Every Turning Point Happens ‘Now’

16 July 2019

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Exodus 2:1-15

There was a man of the tribe of Levi who had taken a woman of Levi as his wife. She conceived and gave birth to a son and, seeing what a fine child he was, she kept him hidden for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him; coating it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child inside and laid it among the reeds at the river’s edge. His sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Now Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the river, and the girls attending her were walking along by the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and looked, and saw a baby boy, crying; and she was sorry for him. ‘This is a child of one of the Hebrews’ she said. Then the child’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and find you a nurse among the Hebrew women to suckle the child for you?’ ‘Yes, go’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her; and the girl went off to find the baby’s own mother. To her the daughter of Pharaoh said, ‘Take this child away and suckle it for me. I will see you are paid.’ So the woman took the child and suckled it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses because, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

Moses, a man by now, set out at this time to visit his countrymen, and he saw what a hard life they were having; and he saw an Egyptian strike a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. Looking round he could see no one in sight, so he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. On the following day he came back, and there were two Hebrews, fighting. He said to the man who was in the wrong, ‘What do you mean by hitting your fellow countryman?’ ‘And who appointed you’ the man retorted, ‘to be prince over us, and judge? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Moses was frightened. ‘Clearly that business has come to light’ he thought. When Pharaoh heard of the matter he would have killed Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.

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Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’

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Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains 

Saying “Sorry” is not an easy thing to do. Saying “Sorry” and meaning it from a deeply contrite heart is an even tougher task. I am someone who needs a ‘cooling off period’ before I can apologise and mean it. I know it sounds strange to admit this, but I’d like to think that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

We apologise for various reasons. Sometimes the word “I’m sorry” rolls off our tongues because we are trying hard to diffuse tense situations. Or sometimes it is merely an approximation for “I am afraid so”, or to express embarrassment, or regret for causing others an inconvenience. Obviously, I am not referring to those situations. Even so, some may already have trouble with that.

I am talking about the gut-wrenching, jaw-gritting, eye-rolling, sideways-glancing kind of apologies. Yep. Those sickening moments where ego is like parasitic worm winding its way in the tummy and Contrition and Justification are like the warring states of your heart and mind.

Jesus warns us of this in the Gospel passage today. He is chastising the towns of Chorazin. Bethsaida, and Capernaum for their stubborn unrepentance. In his wrath, he warns them that even those states that appear most evil (Tyre and Sidon) would sooner repent and be spared on Judgement Day than them! Interestingly, the First Reading today of Exodus relates the story of Moses’ birth and adoption into his Egyptian family. It draws the brief arc of Moses’ life until the point of his grievous sin of killing another Egyptian and burying the dead fella’ in the sand. Yes, Moses’ one of God’s chosen prophets was a murderer. But the reading stops us short with Moses deciding to flee and go into hiding after fearing his crime had been known. We know that Moses repented in the end.

But Moses himself did not know that he would eventually repent and believe in God’s redemption enough to turn around and serve Him.

The truth is, all of us are often at this turning point that Moses was in. This ‘inflexion point’ of our choice to turn away from sin and turn towards our Saviour. This is the purpose of the free will we are given. We are given the space to choose – and choose, we must. God does not accept fence-sitters into His kingdom.

In the daily tussle between Contrition and Justification for the sins and wrongs we have chosen to do in our lives, we need to be aware that in order to turn towards God, we need to turn away from sin and temptation. It can be something so simple (yet gut-twisting) as choosing to turn away from reacting with anger by spouting vicious words at the person triggering us.

Let us seek God in every moment, while we are still poor in spirit and struggling with our imperfections, so that we may draw on His strength to restore our weary and sinful hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, I pray for the grace and resolve to turn away from my human ego in order that I can turn towards your redeeming love and to seek reconciliation.

Thanksgiving: We appreciate all the people who have taught us to withhold from sinning by their humility in conflict.

15 July, Monday – Divisions in the Family

15 July – Memorial for St. Bonaventure, bishop, religious, doctor

St. Bonavenure (1221-1274) entered the Franciscan Order when he was 22. At the age of 35, he was chosen General of his Order and restored a perfect calm where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order and composed The Life of St. Francis. He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=169

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Exodus 1:8-14,22

There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’

Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.
Pharaoh then gave his subjects this command: ‘Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.’

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Matthew 10:34-11:1

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.

Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.

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Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword 

This is a hard verse to read if we do not understand the context in which Christ spoke this to his disciples. I believe that many of us may have the experience of divisions happening within the family. The nature of human relationships is already fraught with differences and mundane annoyances, so why would Jesus mention the obvious that He has “come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…”? Isn’t Jesus’ other name the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6 and John 14:27)? If so, how could he advocate violence and discord?

Firstly, the mention of ‘a sword’ refers to a spiritual sword, in the spiritual sense. Jesus is aware of the resistance and conflict that will come up against those who choose to follow him. He is speaking to his disciples who have already left home, family, and town, to take this winding journey with him across the plains and deserts to preach the Gospel and ministers to all who came to listen to him. By now, they would not only have experienced rejection from new communities, but they would have already been judged by their families for their insanity or disloyalty to their tribes. In this address, Jesus is acknowledging their sacrifice and also reminding them of the cross they would have to constantly pick up.

As I reflect on the misunderstandings I have encountered within my family and friendships of how and why I have chosen to follow God, to be a Christian, I feel that these words of Christ are balm to my soul. I do not see him advocating violence with a physical sword, but I see that He is affirming what I have already known – that the peace He brings to me, is a peace between myself and God. And that choosing Him would entail henceforth a division between the lens I view the world, and the way my ‘tribe’ views it. I have chosen this path to follow Him. And I can only choose for myself – this is absolutely clear.

For those who reject God, and the only way of salvation through Jesus (John 14:6), they will find themselves perpetually at war with God. Jesus acknowledges the earthly implications of such a divergence in spiritual ‘routes’ that we take from our families and loved ones. As the first reading of Exodus relates to us the persecutions the Israelites faced from the Jews, in our time today we may see arguments, aggravations, or abuse and torture, from people who reject all those who choose to follow Christ. It may even devolve to making life very hard for believers to practise their faith, to pray, to worship, etc. I have heard stories of children and typically wives, who face the wrath of their fathers or husbands if they want to attend church services or be baptised. Some even do so in secret to avoid ‘getting in trouble’ – “A  man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

However, those who come to Him in repentance will find themselves at peace with God. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are restored to a relationship of peace with God (Romans 5:1).

Some may reject Christ because they do not yet understand. Ignorance may be their temporary reason. However, we know that some ultimately choose blindness over enlightenment, stubbornness over obedience. These are the ones we, as Christians, ought to pray doubly hard for.

We do not know the hour or the day when they may meet their Maker. Neither do we know the hour or the day when they would believe. I have seen miracles happen in the lives and families of friends, and from anecdotal accounts – I pray the same for the ones in my family who are still wrestling immensely hard with letting God into their lives.

Whom among your family are you called to pray for today?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Jesus our Lord and Saviour, I pray for my earthly family who do not yet know you and the promise of Eternal life and love and restoration and peace that you offer. I seek the mercy from your Sacred Heart to touch them and move them to open their hearts a crack so that your Holy Spirit may enter.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for all the promising and uplifting conversion stories I hear. They shine a light unto my path when I am tempted to lose patience and fervour in your promises.

22 June, Saturday – Thy Will be done

22 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Must I go on boasting, though there is nothing to be gained by it? But I will move on to the visions and revelations I have had from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago, was caught up – whether still in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows – right into the third heaven. I do know, however, that this same person – whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows – was caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into human language. I will boast about a man like that, but not about anything of my own except my weaknesses. If I should decide to boast, I should not be made to look foolish, because I should only be speaking the truth; but I am not going to, in case anyone should begin to think I am better than he can actually see and hear me to be.

In view of the extraordinary nature of these revelations, to stop me from getting too proud I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and stop me from getting too proud! About this thing, I have pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me, but he has said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.

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Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one 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.

‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

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Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In the study of Economics, there is an assumption made that consumers and producers have perfect knowledge. This means that everybody knows the price of a good way in advance in the future and that there can be no secret production methods as everybody will know what it is the moment it is discovered. Unfortunately, I think sometimes we behave in this way – with the desire to have knowledge of all the things in our life.

There is this desire for everyone to be in control of everything – the ability to plan out one’s life according to a plan which is suitable to his wants or desires. This gives the person a sense of autonomy where there can be nobody available to ruin the plan. The readings of today remind us that this is not what we are called to do in our prayer life – we are supposed to trust that God has a plan for us.

Some may then ask – how do we strike a balance between submitting to God’s plan and being in control of our own destiny? This is something that we need to take it to the Lord in prayer. In our prayer, we need to ask God to let us exercise the gift of Prudence well in our daily lives. The situations in our lives are different but the Christian values we apply to them are all the same. These values do not change over time but instead are timeless for they were given by Christ.

We need to accept that the the desire to have perfect knowledge is a desire which we should give up as Christians. It is hard to surrender our will to God as we fear that we are asked to give up the treasured gifts and material possessions we own. However, sometimes God requires us to surrender the little we have so that He can bless us with his abundant gifts. Are we prepared to accept that path?

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Holy Spirit, melt the hardness and coldness in our hearts.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who have given up all they have for the Lord.

21 June, Friday – Priorities in Life

21 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 11:18,21-30

If I am to boast, let me boast of my own feebleness

So many others have been boasting of their worldly achievements, that I will boast myself. But if anyone wants some brazen speaking – I am still talking as a fool – then I can be as brazen as any of them, and about the same things. Hebrews, are they? So am I. Israelites? So am I.

Descendants of Abraham? So am I. The servants of Christ? I must be mad to say this, but so am I, and more than they: more, because I have worked harder, I have been sent to prison more often, and whipped many times more, often almost to death. Five times I had the thirty-nine lashes from the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked and once adrift in the open sea for a night and a day. Constantly travelling, I have been in danger from rivers and in danger from brigands, in danger from my own people and in danger from pagans; in danger in the towns, in danger in the open country, danger at sea and danger from so-called brothers. I have worked and laboured, often without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty and often starving; I have been in the cold without clothes. And, to leave out much more, there is my daily preoccupation: my anxiety for all the churches. When any man has had scruples, I have had scruples with him; when any man is made to fall, I am tortured.

If I am to boast, then let me boast of my own feebleness.

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Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!’

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For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

During my university studies, someone once shared with me that life is about priorities. This statement was made when I made a remark expressing my envy of schoolmates who could seemingly balance everything in their lives. They were able to get good grades, participate actively in non-academic life and also to maintain strong relationships. That statement got me thinking and the Gospel of today reminds me of the need to remain focused on what matters to me.

The time which we have is a gift which God has given to us. Every moment we spend cannot be returned and this is especially important for all of us as we will be called to account for every unit of our time in life when we meet God. As Christians, we are called to radiate God’s love to all the people around us. This is what our primary duty calls us to do – to be an example for the people around us. This is definitely not easy but the fact that we put in the effort is testimony to that we are aware of what we are supposed to do and are learning how to become better. Every fall in our attempt to live as a Christian is another opportunity for us to be a better Christian.

The same person in the first paragraph who shared with me the insight that life is about priorities then continued by saying that, “And I know what your priority is – that of being a good Christian.” Frankly, I was surprised by his observation and naturally asked him why. He shared that he noticed I would always make an effort to go for Mass whenever I could and that I was always trying to listen to the other person’s side of the story and not try to impose my perspective.

God has a plan for us and we will need to co-operate with Him to allow the plan to achieve its completion. We can follow the example of St Paul who shares with us how he suffered greatly for Christ. This was not something which is easy to do especially since St Paul was put through tremendous risk in his life to proclaim the Gospel. I do hope that when the time comes for us to face such trials, we may be able to handle them with grace and patience.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us the grace to bear with the challenges in life with patience and love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who teach us patience.

18 May, Saturday – Evidence Based Faith

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone but in later life, he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric thought John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 13:44-52

The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:

I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’

It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

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John 14:7-14

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.

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Whatever you ask for in my name I will do…         

We sometimes want all the facts in the world before we believe in something, including the Lord, the God of all. The Bible is our evidence and so is the Sacred tradition, yet we find it hard. All the more reason for us to depend on God to lean on Him, so that we don’t only see and understand, but we believe.

In today’s gospel, we are once again reminded about how powerful yet how personal our God is. He wants to carry out our requests by answering our prayers. Such a sweet Daddy God we have.

So I urge you, sisters and brothers if you are staring at a mountain ahead of you and feel helpless, fret not, we have a God who will bulldoze this mountain in a way only He can, if we just let Him. But sometimes we are guilty of trying to use our man-sized shovel to level out a seemingly large mountain. Surrender your mountains to Him and let Him be God.

Let us praise Him in our joy and our sorrow. Whatever the season of life we are in, let us make it a humble offering onto His throne and unto His feet.

Let us be diligent by remaining in the truth always, regardless of the circumstances we face; because in truth, we constantly face a loving God who fights all our battles.

Also, let us be action-oriented and reach out to others, so that we are able to be a light to others who know Him not.

I have recently been working on my baking skills and am very drawn to bring the fruits of my labour to students at my university who are sitting for exams. One of the main exam halls, is just beside my office and I see these students daily, different ones every day. I pray that my intentions turn to actions too. Please pray for me too as I pray for you all.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, show us to what extent you want us to reach the ends of the earth. Help us to trust you more. Lord, our lives are in your hands.

Thanksgiving: Lord, tune me into your instrument of worship. I lift up my hands in your name.

17 May, Friday – You are my Son

17 May 2019

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Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you. What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every sabbath. Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.
‘We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the second psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.’

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John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’

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No one comes to the Father except through me          

No one comes to the Father except through the Son – this is one of the most powerful and true statements, it’s the truth. This truth has many implications and it affects everyone.

I recently attended a seminar on New Evangelisation where one of the speakers, a pastor, pointed out that if on the funeral day of someone we knew, they asked us why did we not tell him/her about our Jesus, what would we say? My eyes and heart welled up immediately as I thought of all my loved ones and acquaintances who have not embraced Christ. Just thinking about it caused me much distress. However, I still do not always tell others who my Lord is; in fact, I even pass on such opportunities.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to look deep inside your life, so that you are able to see and set right everything, so that we are truly one with Him. If there is a sin we need to confess, let us go for confession. Confession is a place of affirmation, not condemnation. If you need to make peace with someone, reach out. Whatever is not right, let us pray that we can set it right through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And let us pray that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit gives us an opportunity to share the Good News and the love of God with everyone we encounter. I can imagine that there are different methods in each situation but this should not be a reason for us not to share our words.

Recently I was at an event, and I was surprised that someone kept talking about her husband, although it seems that reference to him was not relevant. It took me sometime to realise that it was her way of telling us what a great man she married and that singing his praises was only natural to her. Most of us can be like that, when we share even the most mundane of things – the best deals and food in town, the richest person in our society or office, the well-dressed person, the high achiever and even the sweetest person we know. Why is it then do we feel that it is ridiculous to talk about the Lord and His goodness?

Lord, Holy Spirit, lead us, guide us and empower us with your gifts of steadfast spirit and boldness, so that we are your mouthpiece for all our days.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, Holy Spirit, bless us and lead us to your Son, so that we and everyone we know will know the Son.

Thanksgiving: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, love the Lord and know the Lord and share Him with others.