All posts by Nicholas Chia

23 June, Saturday – Staying close to God

23 June

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2 Chronicles 24:17-25

After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came to pay court to the king, and the king now turned to them for advice. The Judaeans abandoned the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, for the worship of sacred poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God’s anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. He sent them prophets to bring them back to the Lord, but when these gave their message, they would not listen. The spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said, ‘God says this, “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord to no good purpose? You have deserted the Lord, now he deserts you.”’ They then plotted against him and by order of the king stoned him in the court of the Temple of the Lord. King Joash, forgetful of the kindness that Jehoiada, the father of Zechariah, had shown him, killed Jehoiada’s son who cried out as he died, ‘The Lord sees and he will avenge!’

When a year had gone by, the Aramaean army made war on Joash. They reached Judah and Jerusalem, and executed all the officials among the people, sending back to the king at Damascus all that they had plundered from them. Though the Aramaean army had by no means come in force, the Lord delivered into its power an army of great size for having deserted him, the God of their ancestors.

The Aramaeans treated Joash as he had deserved, and when they retired they left him a very sick man; and his officers, plotting against him to avenge the death of the son of Jehoiada the priest, murdered him in his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the Citadel of David, though not in the tombs of the kings.

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Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

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

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Each day has enough trouble of its own

I always wondered why the people coming back from the Central Business District Area always have this stressed look on their faces. This is a constant observation over the years and this has always made me ask if work is really such a drudge that people drag themselves everyday. The readings of today could suggest to us a way to re-orientate our beliefs to focus on God.

The people in Jesus’s time were already struggling with the challenge of wealth accumulation and staying faithful to God. Wealth provides us with the chance to secure the here and present because it is a material good. We can see and touch it which thus gives us security in our lives. Yet this is not the purpose of the Christian. The role of the Christian is to bring the knowledge of Christ to those who do not know Him.

How can we then set our hearts on the kingdom of God and his righteousness first? We can do so by remembering to stay close to God in prayer. Prayer is the way we communicate to God and to allow the Lord to speak to us in the silence of our hearts. To do so, we need to put aside the items which distract us from the God – worries, concerns of the world and our emotions. This requires some effort on our part because it has been ingrained in our system. Let us ask God the Holy Spirit to come into our lives today and discover what it means to stay focused on the Lord.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit into our hearts to melt the coldness within it

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who accept us for our flaws.

22 June, Friday -Batteries not included?

Jun 22 – Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

  • Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

  • Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Kings 11:1-4,9-18,20

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah learned that her son was dead, she promptly did away with all those of royal stock. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly took away Jehoash, her brother’s son, from among the sons of the king who were being murdered, and put him with his nurse in the sleeping quarters; in this way she hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. He stayed with her for six years, hidden in the Temple of the Lord, while Athaliah governed the country.

In the seventh year, Jehoiada sent for the commanders of hundreds of the Carians and of the guards, and had them brought to him in the Temple of the Lord. He made a pact with them and, putting them under oath, showed them the king’s son.

The commanders of hundreds did everything as Jehoiada the priest had ordered. They brought their men, those coming off duty on the sabbath together with those mounting guard on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. The priest equipped the commanders of hundreds with King David’s spears and shields which were in the Temple of the Lord. The guards formed up, each man with his weapon in his hand, from the south corner to the north corner of the Temple, surrounding the altar and the Temple.’ Then Jehoiada brought out the king’s son, put the crown and armlets on him, and he anointed him king. They clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’

Athaliah, on hearing the shouts of the people made for the Temple of the Lord where the people were. When she saw the king standing there beside the pillar, as the custom was, with the captains and trumpeters at the king’s side, and all the country people rejoicing and sounding trumpets, Athaliah tore her garments and shouted, ‘Treason, treason!’ Then Jehoiada the priest gave the order to the army officers: ‘Take her outside the precincts and put to death anyone who follows her.’ ‘For,’ the priest had reasoned, ‘she must not be put to death in the Temple of the Lord.’ They seized her, and when she had reached the palace through the Entry of the Horses, she was put to death there.

Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and king and people, by which the latter undertook to be the people of the Lord; and also between king and people. All the country people then went to the temple of Baal and demolished it; they smashed his altars and his images and killed Mattan, priest of Baal, in front of the altars.

The priest posted sentries to guard the Temple of the Lord. All the country people were delighted, and the city made no move. And they put Athaliah to death in the royal palace.

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Matthew 6:19-23

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

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

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

As a young child, I was often fascinated by how car toys could move on their own at the turn of a button. It was not until I realised that it was this thing called a “battery” which managed to give it power for the whole device to move. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to the Lord and that He is supposed to be the centre of our lives.

Jesus reminds us that the things of this world is temporary and that we need to remain on what drives the Christian towards his daily life – his daily connection with God. This daily connection with God is powered up with prayer on a daily basis. The individual Christian is asked to continue to deepen the connection with God by entering into a deep and sincere relationship. This entails both a genuine desire to know what the good Lord wants for the individual as well as the ability to respond to that call.

The Lord loves each one of us and asks that we love Him back. The world distracts us with fame, prestige, money, position and title but what matters in the end is the treasure of having God in our lives. Unlike toys which have the disclaimer “Batteries not included”, Christians have a never-ending source of power within us, which is the love of God in our lives. We are then called to share this treasure with the people around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, we ask for your forgiveness for the times we have forgotten you.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who accept our flaws

20 June, Wednesday – Prayer in Action

20 June

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2 Kings 2:1,6-14

This is what happened when the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind: Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal, Elijah said, ‘Elisha, please stay here, the Lord is only sending me to the Jordan.’ But he replied, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!’ And they went on together.

Fifty of the brotherhood of prophets followed them, halting some distance away as the two of them stood beside the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water; and the water divided to left and right, and the two of them crossed over dry-shod. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Make your request. What can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ Elisha answered, ‘Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ ‘Your request is a difficult one’ Elijah said. ‘If you see me while I am being taken from you, it shall be as you ask; if not, it will not be so.’ Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire, coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha saw it, and shouted, ‘My father! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!’ Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his clothes he tore them in half. He picked up the cloak of Elijah which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took the cloak of Elijah and struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he cried. He struck the water, and it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over.

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Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

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and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you

I was once very frustrated with the lack of mobile coverage in the train tunnel because I was in the midst of a phone call. My line was disconnected and this resulted in me having to call the other party again. Sometimes I wish I could be in a situation where the mobile phone coverage is strong. In our Christian life, we are also called to be close to God through our faith. This connection is strengthened through prayer which represents our communication with God.

Prayer is important for the Christian because it deepens our connection with God. God wants to talk to us but sometimes we may not be able to stay in touch with him. This could be because of our sinfulness preventing us from being in touch with him or else it could be due to other matters in the world which prevent us from becoming closer to him.

The depth of one’s prayer life is manifested through one’s actions. This is the true mark of what a Christian is supposed to demonstrate to the people around him. This means that he is supposed to be there for people when they need to be comforted and also to provide the much needed listening ear to the people around him. But what makes the Christian different from another good-hearted and generous person whom may not subscribe to the Christian faith?

This comes from one’s connection with God. The objective of one’s good deeds and kind words is to allow the other party to see the love of God in that individual’s life. This means that we will need to continually keep the Lord in the centre of our life. Let us make the effort to do so by taking steps to commit to the Lord in prayer. We could see in our daily lives where we can allocate time for prayer so that we will always remain closer to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Father, let us always approach you in a spirit of prayer and love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people around us who show us how to pray.

19 June, Tuesday – Loving your enemies

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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1 Kings 21:17-29

After the death of Naboth, the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down to take possession of it. You are to say this to him, “the Lord says this: You have committed murder; now you usurp as well. For this – and the Lord says this – in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too.”’ Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me out, O my enemy!’ Elijah answered, ‘I have found you out. For your double dealing, and since you have done what is displeasing to the Lord, I will now bring disaster down on you; I will sweep away your descendants, and wipe out every male belonging to the family of Ahab, fettered or free in Israel. I will treat your House as I treated the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah, for provoking my anger and leading Israel into sin. (Against Jezebel the Lord spoke these words: The dogs will eat Jezebel in the Field of Jezreel.) Those of Ahab’s family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat.’

And indeed there never was anyone like Ahab for double dealing and for doing what is displeasing to the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the most abominable way, adhering to idols, just as the Amorites used to do whom the Lord had dispossessed for the sons of Israel.

When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put sackcloth next his skin and fasted; he slept in the sackcloth; he walked with slow steps. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; I will bring the disaster down on his House in the days of his son.’
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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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Even the pagans do as much, do they not?

The first reading of today reminds us that God does keep track of every action which we do. For Ahab, his behaviour was unbecoming of that of a king and even that of a normal human being. His heart was bent towards evil and yet even in that heart was a source of remorse. This is perhaps the message of today’s Gospel – that God forgives everyone who seeks him with a contrite heart.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the role of the Christian is a supernatural one. We need to discover that God’s essence is that of love. To follow that requires us to love the people around us despite the flaws which they may have. However, this means we also need to know what are some of the weaknesses of the people around us. We have our own flaws which we also need to be aware of. To love others is to first love ourselves. We need to be able to accept our own flaws before we can accept those of others.

As we continue with our journey of love in God, we will need to remind ourselves of the importance of showing love to others in both word and deed. Let us go and approach the Lord in a spirit of humility for Him to heal us in the hurts we possess.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to love our enemies.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who conduct spiritual retreats.

18 June, Monday – Love In The Face Of Evil

18 June 2018

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1 Kings 21:1-16

Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard close by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria, and Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it adjoins my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will give you its worth in money.’ But Naboth answered Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors!’

Ahab went home gloomy and out of temper at the words of Naboth of Jezreel, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ He lay down on his bed and turned his face away and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came to him. ‘Why are you so dispirited’ she said ‘that you will not eat?’ He said, ‘I have been speaking to Naboth of Jezreel; I said: Give me your vineyard either for money or, if you prefer, for another vineyard in exchange. But he said, “I will not give you my vineyard.”’ Then his wife Jezebel said, ‘You make a fine king of Israel, and no mistake! Get up and eat; cheer up, and you will feel better; I will get you the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel myself.’

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, sending them to the elders and nobles who lived where Naboth lived. In the letters she wrote, ‘Proclaim a fast, and put Naboth in the forefront of the people. Confront him with a couple of scoundrels who will accuse him like this, “You have cursed God and the king” Then take him outside and stone him to death.’

The men of Naboth’s town, the elders and nobles who lived in his town, did what Jezebel ordered, what was written in the letters she had sent them. They proclaimed a fast and put Naboth in the forefront of the people. Then the two scoundrels came and stood in front of him and made their accusation, ‘Naboth has cursed God and the king.’ They led him outside the town and stoned him to death. They then sent word to Jezebel, ‘Naboth has been stoned to death.’ When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up! Take possession of the vineyard which Naboth of Jezreel would not give you for money, for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead.’ When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel and take possession of it.

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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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But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance.

Why did Naboth offer no resistance to the false accusations? This is something which some may ask, especially those who feel that he was wronged. It almost seems that the system was engineered to be against him and that he had no recourse against the injustice. I believe that today’s Gospel offers us a possible answer — love in the presence of great evil.

We may not be familiar with the circumstances and background behind Naboth’s choice of response, but we do know why Ahab wanted the land. He was greedy and, in spite of all the material possessions which he already possessed as king, he still wanted more. Jezebel, his wife, made use of her power to try to change the situation by ensuring that Naboth was wrongly accused and eliminated totally from the scene. In the light of such injustice in today’s world, will we respond with the same level of violence?

Does violence displayed deserve a reply of violence? It does have an intuitive appeal, but Jesus reminds us of the need to show love to the people around us. A world of violence will not lead to a better outcome but a downward spiral of unhappiness and despair for future generations. We face tremendous unhappiness and anger in our workplace, homes and relationships. The response of peace is what distinguishes a believer of Christ from a non-believer.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to respond in peace to the people around us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

17 June, Sunday – Walking by Faith and not by sight

17 June

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Ezekiel 17:22-24

The Lord says this:

‘From the top of the cedar,
from the highest branch I will take a shoot
and plant it myself on a very high mountain.
I will plant it on the high mountain of Israel.
It will sprout branches and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Every kind of bird will live beneath it,
every winged creature rest in the shade of its branches.
And every tree of the field will learn that I, the Lord, am the one
who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow,
who withers green trees and makes the withered green.
I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it.’

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2 Corinthians 5:6-10

We are always full of confidence when we remember that to live in the body means to be exiled from the Lord, going as we do by faith and not by sight – we are full of confidence, I say, and actually want to be exiled from the body and make our home with the Lord. Whether we are living in the body or exiled from it, we are intent on pleasing him. For all the truth about us will be brought out in the law court of Christ, and each of us will get what he deserves for the things he did in the body, good or bad.

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Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

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And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come

I have had people ask me why I continue to be a Catholic, in light of what has happened to the Church in recent days. These friends of mine remind me that to stay faithful to God takes an act of faith. Surprisingly, even though they are non-believers, they are actually correct. What keeps me going in light of all these events is my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay faithful to Christ and that the reward will be coming to us, not in this world, but in the next.

St Paul reminds us in the second reading of today that having faith in the Lord Jesus is what keeps him going on earth. Our actions which we do on this earth should be a manifestation of the faith which we have in Christ. This means that we should always take stock of what we are supposed to do in our lives at regular intervals. Focus on the Lord Jesus and ask Him if all our actions and behaviour are directed towards the purpose which He has for us.

Our time on this earth is limited. The first parable in the Gospel reminds us of the finite time we have on this earth, and that we are have to be mindful of how we use the time before us. We will be called for an account of the time which we have and it is at this juncture which we must not be found wanting. As we continue in our journey in life, let us seek God’s guidance to help us make decisions that are prudent and practical.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for your guidance and love to help us in our journey on this earth

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many chances we have received to learn life’s lessons

2 June, Saturday – Trust in the Lord

2 June 2018

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1 Peter 4:7-13

Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind. Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin. Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

My dear people, you must not think it unaccountable that you should be tested by fire. There is nothing extraordinary in what has happened to you. If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.

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Mark 11:11-26

After he had been acclaimed by the crowds, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked all round him, but as it was now late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.

So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling pigeons. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, ‘Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples? But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city.

Next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered to the roots. Peter remembered. ‘Look, Rabbi,’ he said to Jesus, ‘the fig tree you cursed has withered away.’ Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you solemnly, if anyone says to this mountain, “Get up and throw yourself into the sea,” with no hesitation in his heart but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too. But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.’

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I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours.

I remembered playing this game entitled the “Trust Fall” where a friend of ours would stand on a chair and fall backwards whilst a group of friends would link hands and wait as a group at the back to catch hold of him. The trust lies in the individual believing that his friends would catch hold of him. The readings of today remind us of the need to stay close to God and to trust in His plan for us.

St Peter shares with us the need to accept the challenges in our lives. There is a need to believe in God’s plan for us which sometimes may include periods of suffering and pain. It certainly is not easy for us to go through such difficulty but indeed all things are possible if we journey with God. We must realise that God will work with us to ensure we achieve the desired aim He wants for our lives. How then are we able to see this through depends on our response. We must be willing to co-operate with God to discover what His plan for us entails.

Jesus has asked us to believe in the power of prayer. This requires us to first surrender our own will to God. This means we will need to give up our pride and ego. These are the two things which hold us back from becoming closer to God. As we continue with our lives, let us take every day slowly and to continue to communicate to God in prayer and peace.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us acknowledge your power in our lives and that you have a plan for each one of us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those who show us the plan which God has in our lives.

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