All posts by Nicholas Chia

15 August, Tuesday – Fulfilment

Aug 15 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI

  • http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050815_assunzione-maria_en.html

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Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.

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.’

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1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.

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Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

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“All generations shall call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”

There is so much to be said about Mary, her life, prophesies about her, her death (or lack of a bodily death as some scholars propose), her assumption and her queenship now.

In my reversion to the Catholic faith, initially I did not have any inclination to Mary, now I have a four foot tall painting of her in my living room. So as my reversion was taking place, the rosary found a place in my heart during a 54 day novena that Pope Francis called for early in his pontificate. When you pray 53 Hail Mary’s for 54 consecutive days, you start to contemplate on the mysteries from every angle.

I started to realise that Mary fulfilled so much of what was written in scripture. What I would like to focus on for today, is the Magnificat, this prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit when she met with her cousin Elizabeth. “ Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty  has done great things for me.”

I see that line being fulfilled in her Assumption and Coronation, the 4th and 5th glorious mysteries of the rosary. We adopted the first half of the Hail Mary from Luke chapter 1, but really it finds it fulfilment after she passed from this world. Whether she was assumed into heaven, or died then was taken up, the point is that we now call her Blessed and full of grace, for she had become Queen of heaven and just like Solomons mother in 1 Kings, where King Solomon had a throne on his right for his mother and when he said to her “make your request my mother for I will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20), sounds a little like the wedding at Cana.

The mother of the King, all throughout history has had a prominent place in the kingdom. Rightly so, Our Blessed Mother has that place too and all her life she sought to do the will of God, The King. We have been called heirs to the Kingdom, and our job is simple, to do the will of the Father, as Jesus said. And in The Queen of Heaven we have an example to follow, humility, obedience & submission will get us there.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1: 46-55)

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for providing a human example of grace and humility and obedience. In your mother we have roadmap to help us join you in heaven.

12 August, Saturday – Faith, Free Weights and Deadlifts

Aug 12 – Memorial for St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Jane married Baron de Chantal. She restored order in the household, which was on the brink of ruin, and brought back prosperity. During her husband’s absence at the court, or with the army, when reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: “The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here.” She found more than once that God blessed with miracles the care she gave the suffering members of Christ.  Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by a harquebus while out shooting. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity.

She founded the Congregation of the Visitation, whose aim was to receive, with a view to their spiritual advancement, young girls and even widows who had not the desire or strength to subject themselves to the austere ascetical practices in force in all the religious orders at that time. The remainder of the saint’s life was spent under the protection of the cloister in the practice of the most admirable virtues. It was firmness and great vigour which prevailed in St. Jane Frances; she did not like to see her daughters giving way to human weakness. Her trials were continuous and borne bravely, and yet she was exceedingly sensitive.

– http://www.wf-f.org/StJaneFdeChantal.html

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Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Moses said to the people:
‘Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart. You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or walking abroad, at your lying down or at your rising; you shall fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet; you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

‘When the Lord has brought you into the land which he swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would give you, with great and prosperous cities not of your building, houses full of good things not furnished by you, wells you did not dig, vineyards and olives you did not plant, when you have eaten these and had your fill, then take care you do not forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must fear the Lord your God, you must serve him, by his name you must swear.’

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Matthew 17:14-20

A man came up to Jesus and went down on his knees before him. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘take pity on my son: he is a lunatic and in a wretched state; he is always falling into the fire or into the water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable to cure him.’ ‘Faithless and perverse generation!’ Jesus said in reply ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ And when Jesus rebuked it the devil came out of the boy who was cured from that moment.

Then the disciples came privately to Jesus. ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ they asked. He answered, ‘Because you have little faith. I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you.’

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“… if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”

3 to 4 times a week, I work out with a personal trainer — Spencer. I do this because I hate to exercise. Since I can’t be disciplined on my own, Spencer gets the unenviable job of being my taskmaster. I’ve been training with Spencer for two years now. In that time, he has worked me so much I actually have muscles that are visible. Spencer likes to use words like ‘striation’, ‘trapezius’ and ‘lattissimus dorsi’. We do endless repetitions of drills and dull things like ‘cardio’ which he says are good for me. Despite my lack of motivation, there have been tangible results. I am stronger. And I have more physical endurance. Hills and elevations don’t bother me any more. Neither does lifting my 50lb dog or using my heavy cast-iron skillet. I actually enjoy going on long hikes with my dog now.

Faith is much like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. When I first started physical training, we would do drills with small free weights at low rep counts. I’d take long breaks between sets to catch my breath. We have since worked up to higher rep counts, heavier weights and shorter breaks. Intuitively, it makes sense. You don’t go straight to 100lb deadlifts at the first get go. You have to work your way to it.

The disciples in today’s gospel reading attempted the faith-equivalent of 100lb deadlifts without first doing drills with small ‘faith-free weights’. They might have succeded, but the odds were stacked against them. We are not all possessed of the same ‘faith strength’ as the centurion in Matthew 8:8, whose famous words have been immortalized at mass – “Lord I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed”. Just as a muscle needs exercise to develop strength, our faith needs to be worked on so that when we are truly tested, when life drops us that 100lb challenge, we know what to do with it. Start with the small stuff, converse with God, no detail is too small for Him. Things will happen if you allow Him to help you develop your faith muscle.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: God, you are the god of things both great and small. Watch over us, guide our hearts, give us wisdom to make good decisions, with even the smallest matters in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His watchfulness, for the comfort and assurance of His presence in our daily lives. We give thanks for good health, for family, for friends, for blue skies, green grass and tall trees. For the clean air we breathe, the fresh water we drink, the small things we take for granted that are made possible because of His grace.

12 July, Wednesday – Authority to be used wisely

12 July 2017

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Genesis 41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24

When the whole country of Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’ There was famine all over the world. Then Joseph opened all the granaries and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in the land of Egypt. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.

Israel’s sons with others making the same journey went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan. It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who sold the grain to all comers. So Joseph’s brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. Then he kept them all in custody for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall keep your lives, for I am a man who fears God. If you are honest men let one of your brothers be kept in the place of your detention; as for you, go and take grain to relieve the famine of your families. You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true, and you will not have to die!’ This they did. They said to one another, ‘Truly we are being called to account for our brother. We saw his misery of soul when he begged our mercy, but we did not listen to him and now this misery has come home to us.’ Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you did not listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, because there was an interpreter between them. He left them and wept.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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He left them and wept.

What is the purpose of power and authority given to us? Is it meant to help us enable others to discover the full potential within themselves? Perhaps it is a chance for us to display the capabilities we often had in ourselves. I believe that the Christian understanding of power and authority requires us to discover that it is our way of evangelising to others all in our midst.

When Jesus appointed his Twelve disciples, He gave them power over the evil spirits. God has shown us that we ourselves possess the ability to overcome all the challenges and issues which has been put before us. The good Lord sometimes put before us people or challenges which make us wonder why they are placed there. Joseph in today’s First Reading would never have known that he would become second in command in Egypt. The very brothers whom caused him to sold into Egypt are now at his mercy.

The typical human reaction is to respond in the same vein as what the other party did. Yet Joseph did not do so. Here was his opportunity to go take revenge at his brothers but yet he chose not to do so. I believe his actions are instructive for us as he shows us that our actions reflect the beliefs in our lives. This means that we need to take time to ask ourselves what are the beliefs which motivate our actions and words. Do these actions and words point towards God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the courage to face with our inner fears and learn how to overcome them.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors.

11 July, Tuesday – Trust in God

Jul 11 – Memorial for St. Benedict, abbot, religious founder

Born to Roman nobility, Benedict (c. 480–547) was the twin brother of St. Scholastica. He studied in Rome, Italy, but was dismayed at the lack of discipline and lackadasical attitude of his fellow students. He fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years. He was reported to have been fed by a raven.

The virtues that St. Benedict (480-547) demonstrated as a hermit prompted an abbey to request that he lead them. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried to poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He destroyed pagan statues and altars, and drove demons from groves sacred to pagans.

At one point there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule that he wrote, which can be summed up as “Pray and work”.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 32:23-33

Jacob rose, and taking his two wives and his two slave-girls and his eleven children he crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream and sent all his possessions over too. And Jacob was left alone.

And there was one that wrestled with him until daybreak who, seeing that he could not master him, struck him in the socket of his hip, and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with him. He said, ‘Let me go, for day is breaking.’ But Jacob answered, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ He then asked, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob’, he replied. He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have been strong against God, you shall prevail against men.’ Jacob then made this request, ‘I beg you, tell me your name’, but he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there.

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘Because I have seen God face to face,’ he said ‘and I have survived.’ The sun rose as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. That is the reason why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the socket of the hip; because he had struck Jacob in the socket of the hip on the sciatic nerve.

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Matthew 9:32-37

A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said. But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

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And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 

Most people appreciate clear direction from leaders. A leader is different from a manager in that the leader allows the people under him to grow into better images of themselves. Jesus the Good Shepherd shows us the example of what it means to be a good Christian: one who goes out to the world to minister and reach out to everyone who is tired and weary.

We live in a world where people are tired from having to face the challenges of the world everyday. Indeed, all of us are called to be examples of faith for those who are weary and tired. Through our actions, words and directions, we allow the people around us to discover the love of God in action.

Christianity is a religion of action. When we choose to struggle against God, we will never be able to win the battle. Jacob in the first reading wrestled throughout the night with the other person and could not win him. God calls us to work with Him and not go against Him. Whenever we choose to go against His will, it usually brings about much unhappiness in our lives.

We are called to be dependent on God for everything in our lives. Let us take the moment now to ask the good Lord to bless our every actions and help us achieve the best in each one of us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to listen to you and co-operate with your will

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for all who have taken the vow of obedience.

10 July, Monday – God is in our midst

10 July 2017

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Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he had reached a certain place he passed the night there, since the sun had set. Taking one of the stones to be found at that place, he made it his pillow and lay down where he was. He had a dream: a ladder was there, standing on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and there were angels of God going up it and coming down. And the Lord was there, standing over him, saying, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants shall be like the specks of dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south, and all the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.

Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you.’ Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Truly, the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than a house of God; this is the gate of heaven!’ Rising early in the morning, Jacob took the stone he had used for his pillow, and set it up as a monument, pouring oil over the top of it. He named the place Bethel, but before that the town was called Luz.

Jacob made this vow, ‘If God goes with me and keeps me safe on this journey I am making, if he gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return home safely to my father, then the Lord shall be my God. This stone I have set up as a monument shall be a house of God.’

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Matthew 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.

When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.

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Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you

My colleague just bought the latest luxury watches and was discussing with another colleague on the various brands which are available and how his budget could not afford him to buy another brand. It made me reflect on whether our life is about the accumulation of all these material goods. The readings of today remind me that the accumulation of all these material goods should not be the end goal of our life but rather the need is for us to keep close to Almighty God so that we may be found ready to be close to Him.

God promised Jacob that He will be with Jacob wherever he goes and keep him safe. I believe that such an assurance extends to all of us. The good Lord wants us to stay close to Him and learn from Him what it means to be totally dependent on Him. This does not mean that we give up whatever we are doing but rather than we continue to work and plan but let God decide what the outcome of these plans are. Human beings love to control the outcome of every thing we have. Perhaps this is what the world has taught us but God’s plans are different.

Jesus went to raise the dead daughter of the official to life. Despite whatever knew, Jesus came to disprove them of their ways. This is also instructive for our lives. Jesus wants us to trust Him with the issues we are struggling with. Despite what others around us say, he would like us to learn that trusting in Him is the best way forward. We live in a very complex world with many changes confronting us yet one thing is certain. Jesus is here to be with us at every step of the way. Are we ready to let Him take control of our lives?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to become closer to you as we continue to carry our cross, knowing that you will always be with us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for the many love which He has blessed us.

9 July, Sunday – Restful bliss

9 July 2017

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Zechariah 9:9-10

The Lord says this:

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!
Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem!
See now, your king comes to you;
he is victorious, he is triumphant,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will banish chariots from Ephraim
and horses from Jerusalem;
the bow of war will be banished.
He will proclaim peace for the nations.
His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the ends of the earth.

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Romans 8:9,11-13

Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him, and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

So then, my brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

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Matthew 11:25-30

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.

‘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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Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. 

Just yesterday, I had a friend complain to me that he was so overwhelmed with work that he had no time to eat. This has caused him to suffer from gastritis and affected his quality of life. When I told him to take a rest, he said that there is too much work to be done. Indeed, we live in a world which is highly stressed and where work seems to follow us all around. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to God and trust in Him with all our issues.

Staying close to God is indeed important and something which we must do in our lives. The danger today is that work creeps into every facet of our lives that we neglect prayer. I once heard someone remark that we should pray as often as we go to a social media / communication app every day. Whilst that may appear to be too extreme for some but if you look at it, we are God’s creatures. We need to stay in touch with the Creator for as often as we can for He gave us life.

St Paul reminds us to live spiritual lives and we should continue to do so despite the challenges we face at work. Prayer helps us to re-orientate ourselves towards God and makes us discover what it means to be in touch with Christ. It allows us to put into perspective what our priorities in life is and how we can continue to live a life worthy of a Christian. As we enter into the Lord’s day, let us never forget the importance of the Sabbath rest to stay close to God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to continue to stay close to you despite all the challenges we face.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have made a decision to stay close to God.

20 June, Tuesday – Rich Man, Poor Man

20 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Now here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches in Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously, begging and begging us for the favour of sharing in this service to the saints and, what was quite unexpected, they offered their own selves first to God and, under God, to us.

Because of this, we have asked Titus, since he has already made a beginning, to bring this work of mercy to the same point of success among you. You always have the most of everything – of faith, of eloquence, of understanding, of keenness for any cause, and the biggest share of our affection – so we expect you to put the most into this work of mercy too. It is not an order that I am giving you; I am just testing the genuineness of your love against the keenness of others. Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.

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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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…so that by his poverty you might become rich.

I have been struggling lately with feelings of anger because of certain lifestyle changes I have had to make, purely for financial reasons. However, after sharing my predicament and struggles with my brothers and also lifting up the situation to Jesus during a recent retreat, I began to understand God’s plan for me and to accept the burden graciously. After all, I have had a pretty comfortable (hmmmm, there’s ‘COM’ again) life all this while.

Admittedly, I am not in a dire situation. And while serving in my ministry, I have witnessed many miracles of salvation and heard countless testimonies from others who have been in much worse situations, yet have been saved by the grace of God. Truly, our God is so generous that He cannot be outdone. What He requires from us is faith — an unwavering belief that He will provide, in spite of how bad we think our situation is.

The verse above assures me that by His sacrifice, Christ has enriched me in a way that is beyond our secular undersatnding. And how ‘rich’ I am or will be is going to be dependent on how open I am to accepting the situations that come my way as I serve in His vineyard. Already, there has been a call from my parish to help and yet, the call from CSC remains ever strong. I shared with my discipleship group recently that God seems to be encouraging me to simplify my life in order for me to serve Him more. It is a fact that if I were not in ministry, I would probably be spending many weekday evenings out with friends, enjoying spirits of a more liquid nature, spending money needlessly.

So brothers and sisters, if I wanted to be extremely practical about it, I could say, “Yes Lord, I will serve because that would mean committing X days a week to you, therefore saving $Y every month.” But I know that wouldn’t get me very far. Rather, I need to listen in the silence of my heart and discern His call and to just say “Yes”. Easier said than done, you might say. But how many times have we been approached by our priests and/or ministry members to serve yet we brush them away with “I don’t have the time” or “I am sure someone else can do a better job”?

Perhaps in such situations, we should just stop and pray silently and ask the Lord, “Lord, what is it that you desire from me? What is your plan for me?” Then listen to the stirring in your heart or the soft voice that prompts a ‘Yes’. Because that simple ‘Yes’ could lead you to a lot more riches than you could ever imagine.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you give us a heart of worship and to surrender to you willingly when you call without counting the cost.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always enriching us and providing for us in our times of need.

19 June, Monday – Christ over me

Jun 19 – Memorial for St. Romuald, abbot

St Romuald (951-1027) had been an Italian noble. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill a man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy where he was abbot from 996–999.

A wanderer by nature, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. He founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion. His body which is enshrined in Italy remains incorrupt till this day.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 6:1-10

As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

We do nothing that people might object to, so as not to bring discredit on our function as God’s servants. Instead, we prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.

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Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’

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…behold, now is the day of salvation.

Just last weekend, I attended a community retreat at CSC conducted by a lay person who is trained in Ignatian spirituality. It was a two day ‘holiday’ for the ministry members who attended as we were treated to silence, a movie and interesting talks which touched on topics such as ‘Known’, ‘Loved’ and ‘Whose Am I’.

As many members shared openly at the end of the retreat, it was truly a time of reflection for us in ministry, who constantly strive to do our best at the various retreats, 4th Saturday healing services and regular Friday sessions. Many who were caught up with the ‘doing’ felt recharged as they enjoyed the quiet time with God, reflecting, journalling and adoring Jesus in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

For me, I took three very clear words from the retreat – Community, Compassion and Come. I shared with my fellow brothers and sisters that as a relative ‘newbie’ to the community (I have been serving there for 6 years), I sometimes felt inadequate and inferior in my service. But what the Lord revealed to me as I journalled were many questions that alluded to issues concerning pride, low self-esteem and anger. My initial surprise slowly gave way to an understanding of why I harboured certain feelings at various times during my ministry.

God also revealed to me the deeper meaning of those 3 words that stuck in my mind. They all begin with ‘COM’ – Christ Over Me. Over the years, and certainly over the past few months, I had been approaching my service from a very ‘human’ perspective. I had to do things a certain way, I arranged discipleship group meetings depending on when I was free (rather than setting a regular day for sharing) and, over the past few months, had never really cared about how my brothers were feeling nor was I concerned about their spirituality. I had been going about ministry work precisely like how I approached work in my office – get it over and done with, with a minimum of fuss. I had not been placing Christ above me and had sidelined Him in my eagerness to fulfil my tasks.

Brothers and sisters, if you are involved in ministry, whether in your parish or at a retreat centre, do remember to take time to listen and ‘chill’. Don’t get caught up in the doing that you forget the ‘being’. Be present and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that whatever burdens you carry are truly ‘light’ and that your soul will find rest in the Lord. God never promised that the load would be easy. But he did invite us to come to Him and to shoulder His yoke in order for our souls to find rest in Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, teach us to remain silent in our hearts so that we can listen to your voice in our lives and to discern your promptings.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord, for giving us feelings in order to express ourselves and to relate with one another in our various communities.

18 June, Sunday – Food for Eternal Life

18 Jun 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi), Year A

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Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

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1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

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John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

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He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him

People love their food in this country. They spend time planning where they want to go for their lunch and dinner. They post photos and videos of what they have eaten on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. In-depth analysis of the quality and quantity of food together with the service of the staff will be rated. Yet I often wonder if the same effort will be devoted towards understanding the depth of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Today’s Solemnity is an important celebration for each one of us as we enter into the mystery of this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which we have received from Jesus Christ. Just as food nourishes our bodies, the Holy Eucharist nourishes our spiritual lives and makes grow in deeper communion with the Lord Jesus.

The Eucharist brings us closer towards Jesus Christ and allows us to enter into a deeper communion with the Lord Jesus. This allows us to discover this great mystery of God’s love for us – to want to come down on earth to save us so that we can enter into eternal joy with Him. Moses in the First Reading remind us that we cannot live on bread alone and Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the Jews who ate the manna have all died but those who eat His flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life. This means that we must renounce the ways of the world. The flesh cannot give us eternal life but Jesus’s flesh certainly can do so.

To believe that the Lord Jesus is truly present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist requires faith because Reason is unable to fully explain this great Mystery. The Scriptures and the Eucharist strengthen our souls and our lives are transformed to become examples for the world to follow. St Paul in the Second Reading shares with us that although we respond in a very special way to the vocation God has called us to live in this world, we remain one Christian community. The lives of Christians, in whichever location and occupation we are in, will become a consistent and living example for all to see what being in love with Christ is.

The question is, “Are we ready to accept the plan which God has for us?”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you allow the visible sign of your Body and Blood hidden in the bread and wine to become for us the sustenance to love and serve you in this passing world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests who celebrate the Mass every day.

17 June, Saturday – Saying Yes to God

17 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 5:14-21

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.

So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No

Many people (myself included) have somehow over the course of our lives acquired a bad habit of using God’s name to swear. And in swearing, I mean both senses of the word, whether in terms of making a promise or an oath, or cursing an inopportune event that has befallen one. So it is common to hear things like “I swear to God, I didn’t do it!” or “Jesus Christ! Did he just cut in front of me?” One of my favourite bands, Jars of Clay, even has a song that addresses this habit of swearing in God’s name. Entitled “Oh My God”, the song plays on secular society’s habit to use the phrase ‘oh my god’ for all sorts of situations.

In today’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that swearing of any form, not just using God’s name, is wrong. Indeed, the Lord teaches us that we need to say what we mean, and mean what we say. For to swear would be to promise more than we can deliver, and hence end up making false oaths. Indeed, “no one knows about the day or hour” (MT 24:36). How can we promise anyone anything when we do not even know if the sun will rise tomorrow, much less whether we will be able or willing to fulfil the promises or oaths that we have this tendency to make.

Jesus even goes so far as to say that anything more than ‘yes’ meaning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ meaning ‘no’ is from the Evil One. Indeed, many of the promises and oaths that we make, even under duress (especially under duress), stem from an overconfidence in our own ability to deliver on promises or even determine our own fates. This excessive belief in ourselves can be seen as an elevation of the ‘self’ as an idol. That is why our Lord said that such promises are from the Evil One.

Rather than swearing oaths and making promises we cannot keep, let us be clear (both to others and to ourselves) what we can/should and can/should not do. In doing so, we say ‘yes’ to God in our obedience to Him and trust in His providence, and we say ‘no’ to the devil and all his empty promises.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, keep us grounded in Your love and our humility, so that we may continue to trust and rely on your never-ending providence.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for providing us with all that we need, for it is in the fulfilment of these needs that we see the emptiness of our wants.