All posts by Nicholas Chia

18 November, Saturday – Expectations of a Christian

Nov 18 – Memorial for the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Basilica of St. Peter is located within the Vatican City. It occupies a unique position as one of the holiest sites and as the greatest of all churches of Christendom. It is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and, according to tradition, was the first Bishop of Antioch and later the first Bishop of Rome, and therefore the first in the line of the papal succession.

Catholic tradition holds that St. Peter’s tomb is below the altar of the basilica, which is why many popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. There has been a church on this site since the fourth century. Construction on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on Apr 18, 1506, and was completed in 1626.

While St. Peter’s is the most famous of Rome’s many churches, it is not the first in rank, an honour held by the Pope’s cathedral church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Contrary to popular misconception, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a basilica.

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside The Walls is one of four churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome. This basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Paul where it was said that after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial over his grave.

In 386 Emperor Theodosius I began the erection of a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept. The work including the mosaics was not completed till the pontificate of Leo I. Under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the basilica was again extensively modified. As it lay outside the Aurelian walls, this basilica was damaged during the Saracen invasions in the ninth century. Consequently, Pope John VIII fortified it, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry forming the town of Joannispolis which existed until 1348 when an earthquake totally destroyed it.

On 15 Jul 1823, the negligence of a workman repairing the roof resulted in a fire which almost totally destroyed the basilica. Alone of all the churches in Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, and the Emperor of Russia sent the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian government, which declared the church a national monument.

The basilica was reopened in 1840 but was reconsecrated only 15 years later at the presence of Pope Pius IX with 50 cardinals. On 31 May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the basilica to come under the control of an archpriest. On the same day, he named Archbishop Andrew Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as its first archpriest.

  • Wikipedia

____________________

Wisdom 18:14-16,19:6-9

When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,
he stood, and filled the universe with death;
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.

For, to keep your children from all harm,
The whole creation, obedient to your commands,
was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.
Overshadowing the camp there was the cloud,
where water had been, dry land was seen to rise,
the Red Sea became an unimpeded way,
the tempestuous flood a green plain;
sheltered by your hand, the whole nation passed across,
gazing at these amazing miracles.
They were like horses at pasture,
they skipped like lambs,
singing your praises, Lord, their deliverer.

_______________________

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?’

________________________

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?

Expectations are created when people make promises and disappointments occur because expectations are not met. Perhaps some of us have experienced deep disappointments in our lives and this could be due to unfulfilled expectations. In the readings of today, Jesus reminds us of the need to remember what our expectations as Christians are so that we can be ready to receive our eternal reward.

We live in a world filled with much sin and discord. The role of the Christian is then to spread God’s love to the people in this world. Perhaps it may not be as easy to do so because of certain limitations on our part but we can certainly in our own little way find a method to reach out to the people around us in the world. This can occur through a kind word which we can say or a small action which we must do so that we can bring the joy of Christ to those around us.

Jesus has a certain expectation of us as Christians and we should be ready to meet it. The actions and words which we must do to achieve this expectation is spelt out clearly in the Gospel – to love God and love our neighbour. Let us now take time to reflect on what we need to do to achieve this outcome.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may carry out what you have called us to do with loving obedience.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have forgiven us.

17 November, Thursday – The Creator

Nov 17 Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Hungary, married woman, religious

Elizabeth (1207-1231) was a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. At the age of 13, she married Prince Louis of Thuringia. She built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood, and tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teachings, not theirs.

Once, when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon Louis death, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine-stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields.

Patron Saint Index

——————-

Wisdom 13:1-9

Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is, or, by studying the works, have failed to recognise the Artificer.

Fire however, or wind, or the swift air,
the sphere of the stars, impetuous water, heaven’s lamps, are what they have held to be the gods who govern the world.

If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken things for gods, let them know how much the Lord of these excels them, since the very Author of beauty has created them.
And if they have been impressed by their power and energy, let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them, since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

Small blame, however, attaches to these men,
for perhaps they only go astray in their search for God and their eagerness to find him; living among his works, they strive to comprehend them and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty.
Even so, they are not to be excused:
if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?

——————

Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to the disciples:
‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.
‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather’

——————-

Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe

The pieces of expensive artwork which often hang in the museums often depict the talent of the artist who could have conceptualised such an idea. Yet sometimes the people remember the artwork and not the artist. Indeed, the readings of today remind us that it is easy to forget God because we like created things.

The things of the earth remind us of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. This is something we must remember because through creation, God wants us to be drawn closer to him. The problem is that we focus too much on the created object and forget that God exists. This is something which we must never forget. God wants us to worship him and the purpose of our whole being is to love him.

The things of this world is temporary but God is eternal and will love us for who we are. When the time comes for us to account to God for all our actions, let us be ready to face him readily and not be like Lot’s wife. We must keep our eyes on the promise of eternal union with God and not turn back to our former way of life.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us always remember the reason for why you created us – which is for us to love and serve you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all parents.

16 November, Thursday – God is in our midst

Nov 16 – Memorial for St. Margaret of Scotland; Memorial for St. Gertrude, virgin

Margaret (1045–1093) was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England, and the great-niece of St. Stephen of Hungary. She was born in Hungary while her family was in exile due to the Danish invasion of England. Even so, she still spent much of her youth in the British Isles.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070, and became Queen of Scotland. They had eight children, one of whom was St. Maud, wife of Henry I. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

  • Patron Saint Index

Gertrude (1256–1302) may have been an orphan. She was raised in the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary of Helfta, Eiselben, Saxony from the age of five. She was an extremely bright and dedicated student, and she excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough, she became a Benedictine nun.

At age 26, when she had become too enamoured of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her. From then on she studied the Bible and the works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by St. Teresa and St. Francis de Sales, and continue in print today.

  • Patron Saint Index

__________________________

Wisdom 7:22-8:1

Within Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
irresistible, beneficent, loving to man,
steadfast, dependable, unperturbed,
almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits;
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
She is a reflection of the eternal light,
untarnished mirror of God’s active power,
image of his goodness.
Although alone, she can do all;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new.
In each generation she passes into holy souls,
she makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.
She is indeed more splendid than the sun,
she outshines all the constellations;
compared with light, she takes first place,
for light must yield to night,
but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.
She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other,
ordering all things for good.

______________________

Luke 17:20-25

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

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

____________________

For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

The depth of the prayer life within a Christian community can be seen in the way in which they demonstrate their love to one another in word and action. To an outsider, the manner in which each member speaks to another person is an indicator of the spiritual life of each member. In such a way, the kingdom of God can be seen within this community on earth.

Some people perceive the kingdom of God to be a very grand place. I have always thought of it as a place where the members are kind to one another with no malice in their heart. This may seem difficult for some to appreciate but we live in a world where there are many attacks from the evil one. Christian communities which have warmth and love demonstrate to others how heaven is on earth.

The Christian community is a visible representation of the love which God has shown to us. This is a love of sacrifice and care; one in which individuals discover that to love is to give and to give up. This means we need to give to each other continually the charity of love and to give up on things which hinder us from becoming closer to God.

This can only be accomplished through inner reflection and constant prayer with God. We will need to discover what are the issues holding us back from being a loving person and then ask God to give us the strength to face these issues head-on.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, let us discover what it means to love you deeply

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors

15 November, Wednesday – Source of all Power

Nov 15 – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, bishop, religious, doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

_____________________

Wisdom 6:1-11

Listen, kings, and understand;
rulers of remotest lands, take warning;
hear this, you who have thousands under your rule,
who boast of your hordes of subjects.
For power is a gift to you from the Lord,
sovereignty is from the Most High;
he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions.

If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly
nor observed the law,
nor behaved as God would have you behave,
he will fall on you swiftly and terribly.
Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty;
the lowly will be compassionately pardoned,
the mighty will be mightily punished.
For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage,
he does not stand in awe of greatness,
since he himself has made small and great
and provides for all alike;
but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.

Yes, despots, my words are for you,
that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress;
for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy,
and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them.
Look forward, therefore, to my words;
yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

______________________

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.’

_______________________

For power is a gift to you from the Lord

Power and authority seems to be the craving of some people. We see this often in the workplace where everybody strives to receive a promotion to the next rung. Perhaps we accept it for what it is because it is the work place. However, what saddens me is that this pursuit of power also occurs in the parish ministries.

Parish ministries are a means by which God’s love is being shown. Through acts of service, people are able to see God in the actions of others. Yet there are some volunteers who yearn to be in a position of power. Sometimes they themselves are not aware of this failing of theirs. When they are informed of this pursuit of power, they are not willing to accept this shortcoming of theirs. What then, would allow an individual to carry out parish ministry with the right intention?

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of today that it is faith which would allow us to be healed of our own shortcomings. Perhaps it is true that we may not have the strongest faith but the desire to deepen our faith is probably what allows us to keep on going on in our faith journey. This awareness of a lack of faith on our part will ensure we maintain a spirit of humility and always willing to learn from others.

As we continue to use the talents we have, may we deepen our faith through prayer and reflection. We ask God the Holy Spirit to grant us the spirit of discernment to use the power we have to help the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to acknowledge our weakness and to serve you in love and joy.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us despite our shortcomings.

1 October, Sunday – Will Do For You

1 October 2017

____________________

Ezekiel 18:25-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘You object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’

________________________

Philippians 2:1-11

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:

His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

____________________

Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

________________________

Thinks of other people’s interest

I recall those years when I was much younger and a teenager who wasn’t too disciplined. Whenever I was asked to help or given some household errands to run, I would feel reluctant. However, because we did not have any domestic helpers at home and since both my parents worked hard to put food on the table, there was no one else to complete the errands but ourselves. As reluctant as I was, it would still be done and surprisingly, I would feel good to have done it. Well, that is because most of those errands involved buying food and ordering takeaways.

As I got older, I continued to have random thoughts about the purpose of the things that I had to do. Was I doing this for my parents, because I respected them and loveed them for the care they had given me? Was I doing this because it showed faith and thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus? Was I doing this just for the sake of money and survival? Was I doing this because I made the other person feel good about themselves at the end of the day? I believe when we grow up to become responsible adults, we begin to be accountable for our own actions, and if we tend to look beyond ourselves, we should be responsible about how our actions can affect others interest.

As with today’s first reading and Gospel, God looks to those who have that change of heart to do good. Our Lord and creator knows us pretty well. The Lord does not look at the surface of who we are, but to look deep into our hearts for our intentions and struggles to renounce sin. It is very comforting to know this in spite of all the difficult decisions we have to make each day just to survive. But if we believe in God and constantly make the effort to actually be the good person God wants us to be, He will see it and reward us. We do not live on Earth alone. Despite the struggles to love a difficult neighbour, we still need the help of others to move forward ourselves. Thus, there is certainly no excuse not to do what pleases the Lord, for He is simple and encouraging for us to always be by his side, renouncing sin and turning towards doing good.

(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)

Prayer: Oh Lord, always be in our thoughts and hearts that we aim to do good wholeheartedly and that our actions bring peace and love to those around us.

Thanksgiving: O Gracious Lord, thank you for watching over us and recognising our efforts to not sin again, forgiving us, filling us with your Holy Spirit.

30 September, Saturday – God’s Full Measure of Mercy

Sep 30 – Memorial for St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Jerome (347-419) led a misspent youth. He later converted in theory, being baptised in 365, and then had a true conversion when he studied theology. Monk. He revised the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. He is a Doctor of the Church and Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloguing, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron – a man who knew their lives and problems.

  • Patron Saints Index

_____________________

Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15

Raising my eyes, I saw a vision. It was this: there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out her breadth and her length.’ And then, while the angel who was talking to me stood still, another angel came forward to meet him. He said to him, ‘Run, and tell that young man this, “Jerusalem is to remain unwalled, because of the great number of men and cattle there will be in her. But I – it is the Lord who speaks – I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”’

Sing, rejoice,
daughter of Zion;
for I am coming
to dwell in the middle of you
– it is the Lord who speaks.

Many nations will join the Lord,
on that day;
they will become his people.

________________________

Luke 9:43-45

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.”’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

______________________

Many nations will join the Lord, on that day; they will become his people. 

Imagine the last days when we are all gathered outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. Yet, as today’s first readings prophesy, it is an unwalled city (Zechariah 2:4-5) and the Lord Himself is dwelling gloriously in the midst of it, casting a mighty ‘wall of fire’ around her where fortress walls should stand. Who will we discover being admitted through the wall of fire around her?

Today’s readings remind me of this hymn:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.
 

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

The man with the measuring line in the first reading today seems to be conducting a vain and futile endeavor – to measure Jerusalem’s breadth and length. I cannot help but think of the best intentions of even the most righteous and self-righteous people I have met, who believe they know just how God will measure us up for the deeds of our lives.

Fraternal correction must be conducted with charity, justice, and mercy. But within this desire to call out a brother or sister to their failings or sins, is ultimately a mirror of reflection for the one who brings this charge against the sinner – how have you truly loved your neighbour in the midst of professing your judgment and correction? How pure is your heart? How humble have you been in acknowledging to God for your own times of failure?

This is not to say that no one is ever righteous enough to correct another with love. But indeed, we should not claim to think we know better whether this present momentary sin of others would be the death knell for the sinner and presume his or her condemnation outside the walls of Jerusalem. One’s present state of life does not convict them to an eternal state of life – but we must commit them to prayer with great love.

We are told that Jerusalem is unwalled. It is only God’s glorious wall of fire – a fire of justice and mercy – that will be the true measurement for the eternal length and breadth of his Heavenly kingdom.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of wisdom and greater love when we exercise our Christian duty of fraternal correction.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the love of my fellow Christians who courageously challenge me to accountability for my actions – even at the expense of risking misunderstandings.

29 September, Friday – Your Invisible Battlelion

Sep 29 – Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages…. So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

  • from a homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great

Michael was the leader of the army of God during the Lucifer uprising. Devotion to him is common to Muslims, Christians and Jews with writings about him in all three cultures. He is considered as the guardian angel of Israel, and the guardian and protector of the Church.

Raphael is one of the seven angels that stand before God’s throne. He is the lead character in the book of Tobit in which he travelled with (and guarded) Tobiah, and cured a man’s blindness; hence his connection with travellers, young people, blindness, healing and healers.

  • Patron Saints Index

______________________________

Apocalypse 12:7-12

Now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him. Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom, because even in the face of death they would not cling to life. Let the heavens rejoice and all who live there.’

____________________

John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael. ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

____________________

Even in the face of death they would not cling to life

Courage, in my life of faith, is a virtue and a quality I often pray for. It isn’t because I am timid by nature – I am quite an assertive person – yet I have come to learn that I am often in need of wisdom to summon courage for the right reasons and in the right situations.

When we are challenged by difficult situations, we can be stubborn and resistant on having our way – bashing through the obstacles like a mull. But that does not imply courage or wisdom in approaching one’s goals. Instead, I have realised that having a courageous heart requires drilling down deep into my soul and clinging on to my faith in the Lord who will, even in my cluelessness or inaction, carry me through with his grace and strength.

At the same time, I recall that I have never been short on receiving help from God’s angels! But how often do I forget, even to call upon their names! Today’s Feast of the Archangels is a timely reminder that we are surrounded by the presence of angels who watch over us and upon whom we can rely on for holy assistance.

Wasn’t it in the Scriptures (Luke 4:10-13) of the Temptation of Jesus where the devil taunted Christ to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’”?

The devil himself knows the duties and might of the angels, having been one himself. He knows that each of us is protected by our own guardian angel, and not least, the fearsome and powerful archangels – Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

Perhaps it is time to be get to know our own guardian angel and to reacquaint ourselves with God’s faithful archangel trio. Our spiritual army battalion is larger than we can ever imagine. If we trust in the glory and majesty of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then surely we must believe in and courageously call upon the help of his heavenly angels who are always battle-ready in the face of evil and danger.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Saints Micheal, Gabriel, Raphael and my Guardian Angel, please come to my aid in my hour of need.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me Jesus. Thank you for giving me your faithful court of angels who stand guard over me at every step of my way, ignorant of their presence as I have been.

28 September, Thursday – Seasonal Wisdom

Sep 28 – Memorial for St. Wenceslaus, martyr; Memorial for St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Wenceslaus (907-929) was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief, who was baptised on her wedding day but apparently never seriously took to the faith. He was the grandson and student of St. Ludmilla.

When his father was killed during a pagan backlash against Christianity, Wenceslaus ascended to power as the Duke of Bohemia and fought the pagans with prayer and patience. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaus at the door of a church. Though he was killed for political reasons, he is normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith. Miracles have been reported at his tomb, and he is the subject of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.

  • Patron Saint Index

Laurence Ruiz (1600–1637) had a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both of whom were Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He was a professional calligrapher and documents transcriptionist. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was a married layman, and the father of two sons and a daughter.

For unknown reasons, Laurence was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board ship with three Dominican priests, St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Mguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St. Vincente Showozuka de la Cruz, and a layman St. Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.

Laurence could have gone to Formosa (modern Taiwan), but feared the Spaniards there would hang him, and so stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured in several ways for days. Laurence and the Japanese priest broke at one point, and were ready to renounce their faith in exchange for release, but after their moment of crisis, they reclaimed their faith and defied their tormentors. He was the first canonised Filipino martyr.

  • Patron Saint Index

________________________

Haggai 1:1-8

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, high commissioner of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, as follows, ‘The Lord of Hosts says this, “This people says: The time has not yet come to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. (And the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai, as follows:) Is this a time for you to live in your panelled houses, when this House lies in ruins? So now, the Lord of Hosts says this: Reflect carefully how things have gone for you. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm. The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes. So go to the hill country, fetch wood, and rebuild the House: I shall then take pleasure in it, and be glorified there, says the Lord.”’

_____________________

Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.

____________________

 Reflect carefully how things have gone for you. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill…

We all move through different seasons in our lives. Having lived in a place where I could observe the changing over of the four seasons, I realized that this natural phenomenon is an immense gift from God. Each season has taught me valuable lessons about my expectations and outlook on life.

The movement from winter into spring reveals the hiddenness and slowness of beauty. Ice and frost takes time to thaw even after the sometimes painfully lethargic crawl out of hibernation. The cold earth seems to stall the unfurling of leaves from stalks and petals from buds. This teaches me that everything happens in its own time.

Spring arrives earlier in some places than others. We hear from friends living in other states about the flowers that have begun to spring up where they are, while my streets are still slushy. This teaches me about longing and even envy.

‘There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity
Under the heavens: 

A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build…’ (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-3)

Thankfully, it only took me one spring to recognise that each plant and flower’s awakening from the frost is beautifully timed by God. As I watched avid gardeners (who clearly knew their stuff) strategise and schedule their floral arrays, I began to understand that the climbing temperatures and subtle seasonal phases meant that specific flowering bushes would blossom in an orchestrated ensemble. Late March to mid-April, crocuses and small bulbs would start peeking their heads out, together with some varieties of early tulips and daffodils. For example, from mid-April to early May, we start to see magnolias and cherry blossoms burst forth alongside tulips and late daffodil varieties. Eventually, rhododendrons, lilacs, peonies, and roses join in the fray. As each flowering bush peaks, others begin to fade. Sometimes these happen in weekly succession – such that garden displays were very much like a visual symphony of colours!

How I miss springtime! Yet, I am thankful for the physical reminder of how it is easy to keep stretching my neck out to watch for the next turn. In doing so I miss the present moment of beauty, which I can behold, appreciate, and savour.

It is perhaps this very virtue that King Herod lacked. He was insecure about his political power and popularity, lived in constant worry of his throne being threatened by the coming of a ‘new king’ whom he desperately tried to suss out and assassinate – resulting in the tragic massacre of the many innocent infants.

Our hearts can indeed give root to the weeds of malice, pride, and envy. We might have the capacity to turn rogue and cruel. But, it is also within our ability to ‘reflect carefully how things have gone for you.’ Perhaps it is time to take stock of our past and present blessings and gifts – recalibrate our hearts to recognize that God orchestrates life’s up-and-down events truly for our good. Nothing moves too fast or slow in His wisdom. We only have to trust, wait, and see.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for the eyes to see beyond the appearance of frost and barren earth, and to trust in God’s timing in all of our comings-and goings.

Thanksgiving: Let us give thanks with a grateful heart and share our gifts with joy and generosity.

27 September, Wednesday – Only by God

Sep 27 – Memorial for St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

Vincent (1581-1660) spent four years with the Franciscan friars getting an education. He was taken captive by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery, then freed when he converted one of his owners to Christianity. He started organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, found jobs for the unemployed, etc. With Louise de Marillac, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. He also instituted the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (Lazarists).

  • Patron Saints Index

_________________________

Ezra 9:5-9

At the evening sacrifice I, Ezra, came out of my stupor and falling on my knees, with my garment and cloak torn, I stretched out my hands to the Lord my God, and said:

‘My God, I am ashamed, I blush to lift my face to you, my God. For our crimes have increased, until they are higher than our heads, and our sin has piled up to heaven. From the days of our ancestors until now our guilt has been great; on account of our crimes we, our kings and our priests, were given into the power of the kings of other countries, given to the sword, to captivity, to pillage and to shame, as is the case today. But now, suddenly, the Lord our God by his favour has left us a remnant and granted us a refuge in his holy place; this is how our God has cheered our eyes and given us a little respite in our slavery. For we are slaves; but God has not forgotten us in our slavery; he has shown us kindness in the eyes of the kings of Persia, obtaining permission for us to rebuild the Temple of our God and restore its ruins, and he has found us safety and shelter in Judah and in Jerusalem.’

_____________________

Luke 9:1-6

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

___________________________

Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.

Every now and then, I slip into a false notion of self-sufficiency. The illusion of self-sufficiency comes surreptitiously, like a thief in the night; it veils my eyes with the cloak of control, bolsters my pride, and steals my peace. My family’s recent move into a rented apartment has been fraught with several problems – one of them is a water-damaged and mouldy row of kitchen cabinets. How I wish things could be solved quickly and at my convenience. Yet I am at the ‘mercy’ of a landlord who is biding time with and shrugging off the delays as the contractor’s fault. We can make no headway on the rectification works, and God knows… I am due to deliver our first child in less than two months!

I have lost sleep and my temper over the incompetence of the landlord and workers. I have fretted about whether the carpenter schedule will clash with the sudden early delivery of our baby. A dozen ‘what ifs’ about the lack of preparedness of our new home has wrecked havoc on my peace and patience. I have lost count of the number of times I have wanted to pick up hammer, screw-driver, or drill, in order to help get things moving along!

Meanwhile, at the back of my mind, I cannot help but be constantly reminded of an image of a pregnant Mother Mary calmly stroking her swollen belly and praying, “Let Your will be done O Lord.” It feels like such a sting to my state of being – making me uncomfortable with how vexed I truly feel. I know I can do better at this point in trusting God.

This is the situation that the disciples probably found themselves in as they moved from town to town, proclaiming the Good News and healing people across villages. Jesus had instructed them to take nothing for their nomadic journey. They were to focus solely on doing the work of God and relying exclusively on the mercy and hospitality of the townsfolk they came to serve. Obviously, the help and hospitality they would receive was by the grace of God.

Frankly, I find it hard to be at the ‘mercy’ of anyone’s choice to help me. Whatever I can do, I’ll do it myself. That has been my life’s motto – and for me, this independence makes me feel good, capable, and in control. But this is not to be in my current state and season in life.

Being heavily pregnant, I no longer can lift a heavy mattress to change the sheets. I can barely complete vacuuming or mopping the floor at home without panting and feeling faint. I have to rely on my husband for some household chores which I quite enjoy doing. And I have to wait upon the tardy lack of urgency of an unsympathetic landlord to repair the kitchen cabinets!

I have been humbled to wait for others to help me, to be patient with another’s timeline, and to also trust and rely on God to pull my family through this difficult housing situation. We have indeed done all we can within our ability – and the rest is truly up to God.

I am learning this age-old truth in new ways these days. I take heart that I am not alone in this journey of rediscovering my persistent weaknesses. It is at this juncture that I realize I am in need of God’s grace and help – because I have neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money, nor tunic.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Lord, please help me to remain patient and humble as I wait upon the resolution of this difficult situation that I face now.

Thanksgiving: We thank God for the gift of hospitality, love, and kindness that we receive from the people we meet. May we not take these instances for granted.

26 September, Tuesday – On behalf of us sinners

Sep 26 – Memorial for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs (not used in 2010)

Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians who accepted no payment. Their charity brought many to Christ. Although they were tortured during the persecutions of Diocletian, the two suffered no injury.

  • Patron Saints Index

______________________

Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20

King Darius wrote to the satrap of Transeuphrates and his colleagues: ‘Leave the high commissioner of Judah and the elders of the Jews to work on this Temple of God; they are to rebuild this Temple of God on its ancient site. This, I decree, is how you must assist the elders of the Jews in the reconstruction of this Temple of God: the expenses of these people are to be paid, promptly and without fail, from the royal revenue – that is, from the tribute of Transeuphrates. May the God who causes his name to live there overthrow any king or people who dares to defy this and destroy the Temple of God in Jerusalem! I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed to the letter!’

The elders of the Jews prospered with their building, inspired by Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished the building in accordance with the order of the God of Israel and the order of Cyrus and of Darius. This Temple was finished on the twenty-third day of the month of Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs and, as a sacrifice for sin for the whole of Israel, twelve he-goats, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.

The exiles celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Levites, as one man, had purified themselves; all were pure, so they sacrificed the passover for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.

___________________

Luke 8:19-21

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

____________________

‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’

 How is it that one man should die for the sins of many in order that they may be saved? How is it that one man could atone for the failures and the iniquities of all of humanity, past and present? Who is capable of representing every man, woman, child? If you or I were guilty of a crime, dare we consider scapegoating one person for the crime or travesty?

Frankly, the first reading today stumbled me. And the gospel passage always makes me wonder why Jesus would sound so distant and disrespectful of Mary his mother. At the same time, it is often this passage that some Protestants use to argue that Jesus had disowned his mother and hints that he had other siblings (brothers). Hence Mary had children other than Jesus, thus it diminishing the importance she plays in Jesus’ life and questions her honored place in the Catholic faith. However, we know that the word ‘brothers’ could mean kinsmen or cousins in its proper historical context. At the same time, we have another account in the Gospel of Mark that relates his family had thought Jesus’ ministry was out of hand and had arrived to take him home (Mk 3:28-35)

As I pondered deeper on these scriptures, I realized that I was challenged by the concept of claiming my brethren, a community, fellow Christians, and my fellow kinsfolk. The point is not that Jesus had disowned his flesh and blood family. Taken together, the first reading and gospel passage reveals that Christ came to unite all of us humanity into a large family of God’s people. It is a truly difficult concept. Because no matter how we slice the pie, we still cannot help but see ourselves as belonging to one particular group of society or church community.

Very naturally, we want to protect our own kind, we desire loyalty, we want to identify with someone or some group. But these are ultimately superficial divisions, and amorphous structures that our life experiences, culture, race, society, and upbringing place upon us. These are not set in stone and the reality is, we are truly one under the love of God.

In the first reading of Ezra, we are told: The Levites, as one man, had purified themselves; all were pure, so they sacrificed the passover for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.

This image prefigures God’s plan for the whole of humanity. That He, Creator of all the world and human race, should fashion from perfect love, one Man, His Only Begotten Son, as a sacrificial lamb to be condemned to death on cruel cross for all of humanity’s sins. No sin too small or great that Christ’s blood could not cleanse and purify. No wound so hidden that God’s love and mercy could not heal and restore. Jesus did not come to serve only his kinsmen, not only the ones who love him or love God and put His Word into practice. He came for all of us, even the ones we deem unworthy of redemption.

Grace is freely given. However, it is true that there are some amongst us who may continue to choose to spurn God’s grace and love. Yet, you and I are challenged today to still think of them as our brethren and our larger family, whom God loves unconditionally.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: We pray for a heart of mercy for our brothers and sisters who have yet to come to know God.

Thanksgiving: I thank God for the many prayers that must have been said for me while I was still a wandering prodigal daughter.