All posts by Nicholas Chia

23 April, Monday – Living life to the fullest

23 Apr – Memorial for St. George, martyr; Memorial for St. Adalbert, bishop & martyr

St. George (d. 304) was a soldier who was martyred for his faith. That’s all we know for sure.

Several stories have been attached to St. George, the best known of which is the “Golden Legend”. In it, a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, and had gone down in painful defeat. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came St. George. Hearing the story on a day when a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the serpent, and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon, and converted the locals. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it to the poor, then rode away.

Due to his chivalrous behaviour (protecting women, fighting evil, dependence on faith and might of arms, largesse to the poor), devotion to St. George became popular in Europe after the 10th century. In the 15th century, his feast day was as popular and important as Christmas. Many of his areas of patronage have to do with life as a knight on horseback. The celebrated “Knights of the Garter” are actually “Knights of the Order of St. George”. The shrine built for his relics at Lydda, Palestine, was a popular point of pilgrimage for centuries.

He is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

– Patron Saint Index

Adalbert (957–997) was born to the Bohemian nobility. He took the name of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, the archbishop who healed, educated and converted him. He became Bishop of Prague (in the modern Czech Republic) on Feb 10, 982. He was a friend of Emperor Otto III.

Adalbert encouraged the evangelization of the Magyars, and worked on it with St. Astricus. He was opposed by the nobility in Prague and unpopular in the area, so he withdrew to Rome, Italy and became a Benedictine monk, making his vows on Apr 17, 990. But Pope John XV sent him back to Prague anyway.

He founded the monastery of Brevnov, met more opposition from the nobility and returned to Rome. There being no hope of his working in Prague, he was allowed to (unsuccessfully) evangelise in Pomerania, Poland, Prussia, Hungary and Russia. He and his fellow missionaries were martyred by Prussians near Koenigsberg or Danzig at the instigation of a pagan priest. Not long before his death, Adalbert met and was a great inspiration to St. Boniface of Querfurt.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:1-18

The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that the pagans too had accepted the word of God, and when Peter came up to Jerusalem the Jews criticised him and said, ‘So you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them, have you?’ Peter in reply gave them the details point by point: ‘One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa,’ he began ‘I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. This sheet reached the ground quite close to me. I watched it intently and saw all sorts of animals and wild beasts – everything possible that could walk, crawl or fly. Then I heard a voice that said to me, “Now, Peter; kill and eat!” But I answered: Certainly not, Lord; nothing profane or unclean has ever crossed my lips. And a second time the voice spoke from heaven, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” This was repeated three times, before the whole of it was drawn up to heaven again.

‘Just at that moment, three men stopped outside the house where we were staying; they had been sent from Caesarea to fetch me, and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them. The six brothers here came with me as well, and we entered the man’s house. He told us he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, “Send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter; he has a message for you that will save you and your entire household.”

‘I had scarcely begun to speak when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the same way as it came on us at the beginning, and I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?’

This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God. ‘God’ they said ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’

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John 10:1-10

Jesus said:
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’
Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.
So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.’

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“I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”

What does it mean to live life to the full? This question has been attempted to be answered by many philosophers, but I believe that Jesus shows us the way which allows us to find true happiness – one which is lasting and calming for the soul. This requires us to discern what God is calling us to do.

St Peter recounted his vision which God had granted him. This would have been contradictory to the prevailing thought at that point in time, as the Jews felt that Christianity should remain faithful to the norms and regulations of Judaism. St Peter was granted the grace to discern what was needed at that point in time and listened to the promptings of the Spirit. Through that action began a new chapter of the Church where the Gentiles were welcomed to the faith.

For each one of us, God has invited us to live life to the full. We will need to enter the gate — Jesus Christ — by obeying Him. Through  Scripture, spiritual direction and the many people He brings in our lives, we are able to obtain clarity on what it means to live a life in communion with God. However, we need to trust God’s plan and not aspire to take control of it. It is easier said than done but if we do so, God will make a way.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, heal the wounds within us and let us discover the plan you have for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept the challenge of living God’s way of life.

22 April, Sunday – The Voice

22 April 2018

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Acts 4:8-12

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

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1 John 3:1-2

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

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John 10:11-18

Jesus said:

‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.

‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

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They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock

There is a television reality show entitled, “The Voice” where famous singers participate as judges who listen to the voice of the contestants. They will then offer to be the ‘coaches’ to the contestants to groom them to become better singers. Just by listening to their voices, they can decide who has the potential. The readings of today remind us that Jesus himself is always calling us and it is us who have to respond to him.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He will call each one of us by name. We need to respond to Him despite the distractions of the world. This could come in the form of our careers, our pursuit of prestige or pleasure yet Jesus continually calls us. We need to acknowledge the plan which God has for us, ask Him to show us the path He wants us to take and then co-operate with this plan. St John assures us that God will reveal himself in the future and it will be worth the wait.

Belief in Jesus Christ is important because it allows us to have hope. This hope will allow us to continue to spread God’s love in this world through our actions and words. We have hope that God will be with us throughout all the troubles we have. Let us respond generously to His plan for God cannot be outdone in His love for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we pray for the courage to listen to your voice and obey your will

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who are Spiritual Directors

2 March, Saturday – God’s Love and Mercy

3 March

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Micah 7:14-15,18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

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he was lost and is found

Have you ever been lost? Be it in a foreign country as a tourist or as a young child in a shopping mall, the feeling of fear which one may have experienced is certainly not something which you would like anyone to go through. Yet in the Gospel of today, we see how envy can lead one to wish others to remain lost as what the elder brother wished upon his prodigal younger brother.

The elder brother was certainly envious of how his father was very happy to have his younger son return. Perhaps this is a point which we can reflect upon – why was the reason the elder brother remain faithful to his father? It appears that he wanted to just obey all the commandments because of a sense of obligation rather than a genuine desire to love his father. This is something which we need to be aware in our own lives. Do we follow God because we are afraid of him or that we may suffer the consequences of breaking the rules?

The first reading of today reminds us that God is full of mercy and compassion. He wants us all to return to Him and will not hesitate to welcome us back. Indeed, this season of Lent is for us to grow closer to God and to discover what it means to experience the wonderful love which God is waiting to pour out upon us. Let us take time today to ask God to forgive us of all our faults and remove the fear of being lost from His love in exchange for his generous love and mercy.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear Lord, let us remain faithful to you despite all the challenges in life.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all confessors

2 March, Friday – Hidden Treasure

2 March

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Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28

Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.
His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’

But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.

Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.’ His brothers agreed.

Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph up out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.

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Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.

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This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see?

I am always fascinated by the Russian dolls toy where there are always hidden dolls within another. The anticipation of being able to see more dolls within the toy is in itself something which I look forward to. The readings of today remind us of that sometimes what we are going through may not be understandable at first but it is all within God’s plan for us.

Joseph in the first reading was being sold as a slave to Egypt but as we will discover, this was the start of the unfolding of God’s plan to save His people from famine. Yet the heart of Israel would be very broken because Joseph disappeared from his life. There are times where our hearts are broken because of an event in our life or perhaps someone whom we love has left us. These occasions provide us with an opportunity to trust God with our lives and to allow Him to work within us to let us fall on him.

Indeed, Jesus himself was to show us the way which we are to lead our lives. He has shown us what it means to lead a life of total abandonment to God through his actions and prayers. He knew that His purpose on this earth was to die for all of us yet he willingly went to do so. This is in itself an important point for us to remember, we may not like the plans God has for us but we can be assured that He will take care of us. Let us take this season of Lent to stay close to God and to remind ourselves that if we trust God, there can be no regrets.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us surrender our lives to you and may you work your grace in us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who love us.

1 March, Thursday – True Wealth

1 March

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:

‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.

‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.

‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

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Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

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A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord

Would you believe if a dead person whom you know comes to you in a dream? The story which Jesus shared with the Pharisees reflects the obstinacy of heart which they had towards being open to the truth. Even a dead man would not move their hearts to accept the message of God’s love. They were unwilling to accept that Jesus was the Messiah and instead believed that He was a fraud. Perhaps we have the benefit of hindsight to help address this issue but there could be things in our own lives today that prevent us from becoming closer to God.

The world now comes before us with many other attractions which distract us away from God. This could be the use of the various apps within the smartphone, the television or many other things which prevent us from becoming closer to God. Jesus asks that we return to him and depend on him for the various things in our lives. Regardless of whether we are going through sorrows or joys, God wants us to depend on him.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that depending on God is the surest way to obtain a blessing from God. Indeed, our lives will continue to be nourished and grow in the assurance of God’s love for us. As we continue in our Lenten journey, let us discover what it means to put aside all other distractions to remain focused on God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the fortitude to continue with our Lenten journey.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all Spiritual Directors

28 February, Wednesday – Patient Suffering

28 February

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Jeremiah 18:18-20

‘Come on,’ they said, ‘let us concoct a plot against Jeremiah; the priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word. Come on, let us hit at him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says.’

Listen to me, O Lord,
hear what my adversaries are saying.
Should evil be returned for good?
For they are digging a pit for me.
Remember how I stood in your presence
to plead on their behalf,
to turn your wrath away from them.

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Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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[J]ust as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve

The role of the Christian is not to glorify himself but to serve as a witness to the world about the wonderful love of Christ. This means the Christian must be prepared to suffer tremendous amount of persecution. Positions of glory and honour are not to be sought after because they run counter to what the purpose of the role of the Christian.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of today that positions of honour are not the way of the Christian but instead suffering is often the main issue which we must face. The Zebedee brothers never could have imagined that their yes to drink the cup which Jesus was to drink was a cup of suffering. They indeed suffered for Jesus because of their belief in the Christian faith. What then allows us to continue to bear with this suffering?

It is the faith in the Lord that He will be present for us and will care for us. The suffering is tremendous but He will never abandon us. Suffering may involve pain either emotionally or physically but we must learn to channel this suffering towards God. It is difficult because not everyone can understand why any human being should be made to suffer. I would like to the think that this is to remind us of our need to rely on God and not abandon him. As we continue with our Lenten journey, let us not lose sight of what God desires of us but instead remain focused on the Cross of Christ.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to stay close to you despite the troubles which we may face

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who provide relief to those in pain.

26 February, Monday – A Generous God

26 February

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Daniel 9:4-10

O Lord, God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments: we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you. To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong, because we have betrayed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God nor followed the laws he has given us through his servants the prophets.

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Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

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“…because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”

There was one time where someone owed me some money. Usually most people will round up or down to the nearest ten cents or dollar but this person was extraordinary. I received full payment in cash right down to the nearest one cent. I then learnt from other friends that this person is a very calculating person and will not hesitate to go down to the nearest penny in order to ensure that everything is in a proper order. I recount this story because such behaviour may actually reflect my own behaviour. Do I engage in such an approach in life?

The Gospel passage of today reminds me of the need to be generous to all who come pass my life. Indeed, the good Lord has promised us wonderful eternal life and this is something which we can certainly look forward in discovering the plan which God has made for us. I have discovered, through prayer and inner reflection, that the reason why I hanker after such material possessions is because they provide me with certainty in life. Indeed these things are tangible and assure me of a certain lifestyle which I am comfortable with.

The challenge which this season of Lent suggests to us is to therefore let go of all these issues which we face in our lives and instead allow God to take control of our lives. This is certainly not an easy task but something which we can do with patience and trust in the Lord’s generosity. Let us take time to accept the adventure which God has planned for us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please allow me to put aside my desires in life and let me desire only you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have taken the vow of poverty.

25 February, Sunday – Love in Action

25 February 2018

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Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
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Romans 8:31-34
With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.
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Mark 9:2-10
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.
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All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.
One of the traits which makes a military effective is the ability to obey orders. When commanders give instructions, every individual soldier has to obey even if the command was difficult and sometimes fatal. The true test is whether the individual is willing to set aside the self-preservation instinct of every human being for a higher goal. The readings of today remind us of our role as Christians which is to look forward to eternal happiness with the Lord Jesus Christ and to share this joy with the rest of the world.
In the first reading, Abraham demonstrated to us what it means to have faith in the Lord. He was willing to sacrifice his own son who was conceived in his old age because he trusted in the Lord. Sometimes trust in the Lord is very difficult for us because what we want is different from what the Lord has planned for us. The issue is for us to trust in the process which God has for us like how Abraham trusted in the Lord. God provided with the ram for the sacrifice to replace Isaac and Abraham received a promise from God where his descendants would be numerous.
The Transfiguration of our Lord is a preview of the eternal reward which we will receive. His disciples were in a daze when they saw the transfiguration and perhaps it is metaphorical for the effect of the state of sin in our lives. Sin causes us to lose focus of the purpose of our Christian life. It may result in us unable to recognise the Lord when He comes in our lives. It is in times like this that we need to follow the example of the three apostles who obeyed the Lord and kept everything secret until the appropriate time.
As we enter into the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we need to stay close to our faith and obey the Lord in what He has commanded us to do. Let us stay close to the Lord through prayer and be nourished through frequent reception of the Eucharist.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us remain obedient to your Son and not lose faith
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have taken the vow of obedience

25 February, Sunday – Love in Action

25 February 2018

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Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
___________________________
Romans 8:31-34
With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.
____________________________
Mark 9:2-10
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.
______________________________
All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.
One of the traits which makes a military effective is the ability to obey orders. When commanders give instructions, every individual soldier has to obey even if the command was difficult and sometimes fatal. The true test is whether the individual is willing to set aside the self-preservation instinct of every human being for a higher goal. The readings of today remind us of our role as Christians which is to look forward to eternal happiness with the Lord Jesus Christ and to share this joy with the rest of the world.
In the first reading, Abraham demonstrated to us what it means to have faith in the Lord. He was willing to sacrifice his own son who was conceived in his old age because he trusted in the Lord. Sometimes trust in the Lord is very difficult for us because what we want is different from what the Lord has planned for us. The issue is for us to trust in the process which God has for us like how Abraham trusted in the Lord. God provided with the ram for the sacrifice to replace Isaac and Abraham received a promise from God where his descendants would be numerous.
The Transfiguration of our Lord is a preview of the eternal reward which we will receive. His disciples were in a daze when they saw the transfiguration and perhaps it is metaphorical for the effect of the state of sin in our lives. Sin causes us to lose focus of the purpose of our Christian life. It may result in us unable to recognise the Lord when He comes in our lives. It is in times like this that we need to follow the example of the three apostles who obeyed the Lord and kept everything secret until the appropriate time.
As we enter into the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we need to stay close to our faith and obey the Lord in what He has commanded us to do. Let us stay close to the Lord through prayer and be nourished through frequent reception of the Eucharist.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us remain obedient to your Son and not lose faith
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have taken the vow of obedience

25 January, Thursday – Growing Pains

25 Jan – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul (3-65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptised, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. He died a martyr for his faith.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 22:3-16

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

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Mark 16:15-18

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

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“I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.”

St Paul should be the most relatable of the Apostles to most of us, if time of his encounter with Jesus is our yardstick. The Apostle to the Gentiles, he is called, for he reached far and wide and challenged St Peter regarding who the message of Jesus was for, and because of that, the non-circumcised (non Jews), were welcomed to the table.

Therefore, like you and me, St Paul didn’t meet the living Jesus Christ, but was confronted by the Lord after His death and resurrection (of course we meet Him everyday in The Eucharist). From that encounter his life was changed, radically. From the most fervent persecutor of the church, to one of the most zealous evangelists. Today’s readings bring to mind two points I would like to share.

Firstly, that God allows suffering to bring about a greater good. God allowed the church to be persecuted, allowed many evils to happen to His very own body (like growing pains), His people, so that a greater good could come out of it. The distinction to make very clear here is that, God allowed it to happen; He didn’t cause it to happen. This is a common objection that atheists raise when talking about God, why would this all-powerful, all-loving God allow so much evil to take place. It can be said that the martyrs got a pretty good deal if you ask me — they are with God now, the wonder and majesty that we read about in the Book of Revelations is their current experience — not a bad reward for their suffering.

In our own lives too, let us trust that Christ will always bring about a greater glory out of all our sufferings. To people who have lost a loved one, the breadwinner who has lost a job, the outcasts who are constantly shunned and ridiculed, God has a plan and as St John Paul the Great used to say, take courage! God is with us all the way and he will never fail us if we trust in Him.

Secondly, it is significant that Jesus said “why are you persecuting me”. Saul never met Jesus in person. This reinforces for me the point made in St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians saying that we are the body of Christ and individual members of that same body. The analogy is very clear — if the body is hurt, Jesus feels it because we are his body. In our context, have we fallen short in our interactions with fellow members of Christ’s body? I am sure it is difficult to think of that when we are in the situation but let us pray for that grace, to see every person we meet as part of this body, in the way Christ would see them.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Jesus I trust in you. Help me to see that you are walking with me, every single step of the way and my sufferings are part of your plan for your glory and ultimately, my reward will be great when I meet you. Grant us courage and strength in the face of trials so that the scales may fall off our eyes too.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the conversion of St Paul, The Apostle to the Gentiles. Thank you for the faith being brought to us and for calling us your children and joining us to your body now and forever.