All posts by Nicholas Chia

26 March, Thursday – Self-Quarantine

26 March

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Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

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John 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.

‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’

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They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them

Week 1 of California’s coronavirus ‘self-quarantine’ measures has been a complete joke. For one, there’s been a near-apocalyptic rush for groceries. Makes you wonder why we’re bothering with the travel bans. All you have to do to catch the virus is go to Costco. Hordes of people queue to get in at dawn. They queue for trolleys. They queue to check out. No one is respecting the 6ft rule. People are pushing and shoving to clear products from aisles. Even during the worst days of the Great Financial Crisis in 2008, we never fought over milk and eggs. We are now.

On some level, this rabid behavior is about maintaining control. When you obsessively hoard toilet paper, face masks, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes, what you’re really doing is trying to ‘control’ your life. And perhaps that’s what the Hebrews were doing with their golden calf — trying to preserve a way of life. We’ve all grown accustomed to the years of peace and plenty. We’re now being forced to reckon with what may be years of famine. It will be a shock to a lot of us. Just like the Hebrews in the desert, we’re not ready to give up the lives we led. All that wining, dining, latte drinking, online shopping; we can’t fathom it. I can’t fathom it.

It’s probably no coincidence that all this is happening during the holy season of Lent. As we face the loneliness and isolation of self-quarantine, maybe now is a good time to give up this need for control and hand the reins back to God. What else are we going to do? Lent is a time of repentance, of quiet prayer, of reflection, of conversion. Lent is also a time of self awareness. Did we go too far? Did we become distracted and lose our way?

I haven’t been to confession in a long while. I don’t even know if they’re doing them anymore with all these church closures and bans on public gatherings. I’d really like to tell God, “Wow, I really screwed up this time. I got distracted, forgot Your priorities, forgot your blessings. I lost my way. I’m done with all that noise now. Please find me here. Please.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We ask for God’s forgiveness for our arrogance and complacency during the years of peace and plenty. We pray for His mercy and His guidance during these uncertain times.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our families and loved ones. We give thanks for God’s protection of them and His love for us, even while we are difficult to love.

25 March, Wednesday – Surreal

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Gabriel the archangel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke 1), the Word being made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feast probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c. 431), and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (d. 496).

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.

This feast is celebrated on March 25, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus (Christmas) on Dec 25.

The Annunciation is also mentioned twice in the Quran, the holy book for the Muslims.

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’

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Hebrews 10:4-10

Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

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Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

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Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?

Things have gotten a bit surreal here in America. Schools have closed, grocery stores have been mobbed, and all over, there’s an eerie sense of America hunkering down for what’s shaping up to be a lost year. Who would’ve thought that in the space of a month, the world as I’ve always known it would have upended itself and turned completely on its head? It’s only March but already I feel worn down. I’m tired. Like Ahaz, I’m afraid to hope, afraid of what’s to come, afraid even to pray because I can’t find the words.

When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to let fatigue cloud your judgment. The isolation and loneliness from all this ‘social distancing’ isn’t helping either. I’m trying to hold on to the light. Whether it be turning off the doomsayers on TV or weeding in the garden or listening to a Lenten podcast, I’m trying to stay positive. But positivity takes effort. Holding on to hope takes effort. Happiness takes effort. And some days, I feel like I just haven’t got it. I’ve seen a lot of panics before but not one quite like this. Will life go back to the way it used to be? I really don’t know.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like, for Israel to hold on to the hope of a Savior for so long. I feel like such a wimp by comparison. Some people are just built for the long haul. They’re made of the strong stuff. They find reserves to keep the flame burning. I don’t think that person is me. How did Mary find the nerve to say, “Let it be done unto me”? Did she know the full extent of what she was getting into or did it not matter to her? Is that what it means for the “Holy Spirit to come upon you, and the power of the Most High to overshadow you”? Because I could really do with some of that right now. I don’t think I’ve lost my faith, but I am shaken by what’s happened and the speed at which it’s happening. God be with all of us now.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for faith, for strength, for positivity and patience during this difficult and surreal time in the world. We pray that God sustains us emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, so that we in turn can be strong for our friends and families. And we pray for the wisdom to make good decisions during this difficult time.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the first responders, doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are at the front line of this global health crisis. God keep them safe, give them strength, give them courage. All things are possible through you, Lord! All things!

24 March, Tuesday – What a dumb question!

24 March 2020

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Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross.

He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river.

He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move. One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.

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“Do you want to be well?”

I was in a pensive and reflective mood as I sat quietly by myself in front of Our Blessed Mother’s statue at the Cathedral one morning. For those of you familiar with the place, the statue stands amidst a shallow pool of water surrounding it. A disturbance in the water catches my eye. A beetle (a rather large one actually), had fallen in and was struggling for its life. As I stepped towards it to try to rescue it, something happens, the beetle despite its size, suddenly started walking on the water. It was able to move about with its feet on the surface of the water and eventually got itself to safety. Hmm… it seems that God is not the only one able to walk on water.

Jesus asked the blind man in the Gospel, “Do you want to be well?” Kind of a dumb question, right? (No offence, Lord), given that Jesus knew that he had been ill for a long time – 38 years. That’s a long time. Yet, the crippled man was never able to make it into the pool of Bethesda whenever it was stirred. The crippled man is a representation of humanity – our brokenness, our helplessness, our longing to be whole again. And yet, the crippled also embodied the brokenness of humanity in many other ways —  our ineptitude to save ourselves (38 years and he was not able to find a way to reach the pool), our infidelity (by betraying Jesus to the Pharisees in performing the miracle on a Sabbath), our ingratitude (there was no mention of him thanking Jesus for healing him), unrepentant(he was seemingly unresponsive to Jesus’ rebuke to turn away from his sinful ways). Yes – the cripple was in a really sorry state. Much like humanity. Much like us.

I did a bit of background reading on this passage and it seems that back in the day, the stirring of the water in the pool was done by none other than the Holy Spirit himself. Hence, the point is made that it is only God himself, through His Holy Spirit, that can bring about our healing, restoration and renewal. Not man’s piety nor his dutiful performance of religious rituals nor his wealth, nor his ‘connections’ nor his ‘science’.

You see, God needed to ask the question, “Do you want to be well?”, of all of us. Why? Because He has promised us freedom of our wills. God is faithful to all his promises. He promised we could have our free will and that He would respect that (I do wonder if He ever regretted this). The second reason for asking is because He knows a “yes” from us needs to come with a conscious commitment to allow God to do His work of healing and restoration in us. Often, such healing will come with a willingness on our part to let go, to surrender our will, to trust in Him no matter how demanding, painful and senseless that path can often appear to be, to change from our sinful ways and to die to self, to pride, to unforgiveness, to self-righteousness. Hence, maybe the question Jesus asked was not really that dumb after all? As the saying goes — be careful what you ask for – you might just get it.

In closing, let me get back to the saga of the beetle. You see, a few things needed to happen for it to be saved. Firstly, it needed to stop struggling, which would then allow the water molecules to re-form themselves and to create sufficient surface-tension to hold the weight of the beetle and allow it to ‘walk’. Just as we do. Secondly, it needed to be at the right place at the right time – in this instance, falling not into just any old pool of water but the pool that surrounds Our Blessed Mother’s statue – I can almost hear our dearest Mother, with her infinite love for all of God’s creatures, beetles included, saying “no beetle is ever going to drown – and no child of mine that clings to me and my Son, will ever be lost — not in my pool, not on my watch.”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. The pools of our poor lives are stagnant and fester with sin, hurt, regrets, sorrows. We are all wounded and broken. We have been waiting by the cesspool of our souls for your grace to cleanse and heal and restore us once again to the wholeness that you created us to be. Not because you have abandoned us, but because we have turned away from you.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For never abandoning us, for never forsaking us despite the countless times we have chosen foolishness, arrogance, pride and sin instead of your loving will for us.

23 March, Monday – Fearing the Painted Devil

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Isaiah 65:17-21

Thus says the Lord: Now I create new heavens and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered, and will come no more to men’s minds. Be glad and rejoice for ever and ever for what I am creating, because I now create Jerusalem ‘Joy’ and her people ‘Gladness.’ I shall rejoice over Jerusalem and exult in my people. No more will the sound of weeping or the sound of cries be heard in her; in her, no more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young; not to live to be a hundred will be the sign of a curse. They will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

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John 4:43-54

Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. He himself had declared that there is no respect for a prophet in his own country, but on his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.

He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a court official there whose son was ill at Capernaum and, hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son as he was at the point of death. Jesus said, ‘So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!’ ‘Sir,’ answered the official ‘come down before my child dies.’ ‘Go home,’ said Jesus ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus had said and started on his way; and while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover. ‘The fever left him yesterday’ they said ‘at the seventh hour.’ The father realised that this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’; and he and all his household believed.

This was the second sign given by Jesus, on his return from Judaea to Galilee.

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“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe”

I wondered to myself how I would react if Satan himself one day appeared before me and shouted at the top of his voice into my face, “Jesus Christ is the Son of Almighty God!”. After waking up (from fainting from sheer terror upon seeing Satan), would I then accept his proclamation? Or would I reject it, because it was Satan that said it? On the flip side, if an angelic figure of great light, were to appear and said, “Jesus did not rise from the dead but was carried back by angels and laid to eternal rest in the bosom of God.”  Would I then believe that to be the truth?

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth laments: “It is the mind’s eye that fears the painted devil”. Why is truth of God’s willingness and ability to love and care for us so hard to grapple with? Why are we so fixated with what we can touch, see and feel before we can believe? Why do we usually place the messenger before the message?

And more often than not, evil, pain, sorrow, fear, rejection, injustice, terror (and the list goes on), is ever more present, more visible and more experienced than goodness, justice, plenty, peace, joy and so on.  Wars, poverty, sickness, death, human indifference, when relationships break down and rejection from friends and relatives arise from the most minuscule of reasons. When stability in relationships, in livelihoods, in leadership and even in our values and beliefs are all so transient, fleeting, self-serving and inauthentic. When compassion, understanding, forgiveness, play second-fiddle to anger, judgement, ambition and resentment, how do we see God in all these? Our ‘instincts’ have been conditioned to say, quite literally, “I will believe it when I see it”. We are really telling God, “I will believe in you when I see what you can truly do, and how all that is good that you have come to bring into this world, actually happens”. Till such time, God remains an idea in our heads and the devil it seems, sometimes appears more real, more present.

But perhaps the irony of everything is that even when God gives us clear, undeniable and irrefutable evidence of His presence and graces, of His love and mercy, of His providence and protection, we still find it hard to believe. Consider the countless miracles witnessed by the apostles, yet they cower in fear and cowardice in the upper room. Like the apostles, we too very quickly forget and continue to refuse to believe in God’s love and power in all the difficult circumstances of our lives, despite the times we have seen Him walk on water, multiply the loaves, raise the dead, cast out devils, heal the sick, rebuke the storms, hang on the cross and rise from death. Well, perhaps, it is always that little child in us that says, “well, these things happened to other people, they did not happen to me”. And until and unless it happens to me, God is not real.

When we seek signs to ‘prove’ the existence of God, it simply points to the lack of faith on our part. When God sends us signs and we still choose to doubt, it’s not only a double-whammy for God but more so for us, for it shows even more acutely, the smallness of our minds and how truly pathetic our faith really is. Thank God that God is God, for otherwise, there is no hope for us. I close with this warning of Prophet Jeremiah:

“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” (Jeremiah 5:21)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Forgive our human frailty which makes us unable to trust in that which is unseen and to cling on always to all our deep fears and insecurities. You know how we need your constant assurances and affirmations of your saving presence and sovereignty in our lives. You know how weakly we cling on to our dismal faith in you, if we can even call it that.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your unfailing patience and understanding to us. Thank you for being a Father that looks not on the frailty of His child, but on his need for a Father’s love and saving grace of Almighty God. Help us to see, to know and to trust in Jesus. Send us your Holy Spirit to set us free from the painted devils that torment us, and stops us from experiencing your love for us.

22 March, Sunday – Who sits on YOUR throne?

22 March

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1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’ When Samuel arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands there before him,’ but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him: God does not see as man sees: man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.

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Ephesians 5:8-14

You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:

Wake up from your sleep,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

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John 9:1-41

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’
So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.
Jesus said:

‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’

Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:

‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.’

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“ … so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind…”

There is a particular audio version of the Rosary known as the Healing Rosary. In it, the opening reflection at the start of the 5th Glorious Mystery goes as follows:

“We pray for the wisdom to find healing in doing God’s will. Many are the frustrations of human life, the glittering career that turned to dust, the family that promised so much, the wealth that brought only misery, the poverty that made God into an enemy… teach us again and again and again, how to do God’s will”.

When we choose to treat our colleagues and subordinates as secondary to our ambitions, our self-preservation and our convenience. When we refuse to show patience, understanding and compassion in the midst of their failures and inabilities. When we throw them under the bus in the name of our own good name and worldly success. When keeping our bosses happy and protecting our favour in the boss’ eyes overrides their dignity, justice and humanity — in all these circumstances, who sits on YOUR throne?

In faith, when we use religion to serve our own purposes – for business contacts, for financial gain, for networking. When the church sanctuary is a place not of true worship but a performance stage to show off our Armani suits, or $2000 heels, how well we can sing and dance and dramatize our ‘belief’ in God. Where the prosperity ‘gospel’ comes before the Gospel of mercy, compassion, universal inclusiveness, and of authentic and sincere worship of God, where salvation is premised and ‘guaranteed’ based on worldly manifestations of wealth, success and self-aggrandizing glory. Where the poor are not welcomed to the community because they have nothing of ‘value’ to add to the network of the successful, the powerful, the affluent and the prideful. Where the blood of martyrs, Mary the Mother of God, the grace bestowed upon the Saints, are all ignored and ridiculed in place of man-made philosophy, man-worshipping narcissism and self-anointed leaders with the audacity to claim Divine anointing. Where faith and worship become so inextricably and hopelessly corrupted by worldliness, spiritual arrogance, narcissism and monetization of faith for profit — in these places and circumstances, who sits on YOUR throne?

In our work of ministry, when we despise, ridicule and place the failures of our fellow ministry members ahead of their sacred divine calling by God to serve. When we place our own pride, glory, self-aggrandization, convenience, delusions of power and authority, privilege and reputation, before the glory of God. When our faith is all about what God can do for us and how He ought to ‘reward’ us for our ministry with worldly success and reputation — in such times, who sits on YOUR throne?

When we choose to neglect our loved ones, who have been entrusted to us and placed in our lives by God for our sanctification and sacred vocation, by not choosing to spend time with them, to give of our time, our money, our patience, to love them unconditionally, to understand them more fully, to make sacrifices and die to self for their well-being — in such times, who sits on YOUR throne?

Many times, and in many situations in our lives, we do not know who sits on OUR thrones, but quite likely, again and again and again, the one that sits on that throne is simply, and quite clearly, NOT… God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us, we often find it so difficult to allow you to be our God and to give You sovereignty over our lives, the lives which have come from you in the first place. Often, we have allowed ourselves to be enthroned and in our reign, have caused great suffering, disillusionment, disunity to others and even ourselves.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for showing us the way to true servant leadership. For showing us the power of an Almighty God and King and the unconditional forgiveness, compassion and unfailing love of a Father who loves His own, no matter what, even to allowing us the follow of thinking we could ever be sovereign over you.

21 March, Saturday – Have mercy on me, a sinner

21 March

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Hosea 5:15-6:6

The Lord says this:

They will search for me in their misery.
‘Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds;
after a day or two he will bring us back to life,
on the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence.
Let us set ourselves to know the Lord;
that he will come is as certain as the dawn
his judgement will rise like the light,
he will come to us as showers come,
like spring rains watering the earth.’

What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
What am I to do with you, Judah?
This love of yours is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that quickly disappears.
This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets,
why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth,
since what I want is love, not sacrifice;
knowledge of God, not holocausts.

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Luke 18:9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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God, be merciful to me, a sinner

In this period where we are not able to attend mass and receive the Eucharist, I have been reading articles and listening to podcasts in an attempt to fill the spiritual gap. One of the recommendations I came across is to pray the Jesus prayer. The prayer goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” It originated from the desert fathers, who repeated the prayer continually (akin to reciting the rosary) as part of their ascetic practice. The Jesus prayer is a combination of three bible verses from Philippians 2:6-11, Luke 1:31-35 and the parable in today’s Gospel passage.

In his boastful “prayer” to God, the Pharisee gauged the level of his sinfulness by the sins that he did not commit. There was no mention of his own sins, and he also took the opportunity to take a dig at the tax collector whom he obviously despised. He also seemed to take pride in his “holy” actions of fasting and tithing, as if these would protect him from sin. The tax collector, in contrast, simply opened his heart to God, acknowledged his sins and appealed to God for mercy and forgiveness.

We may think that we are not like the Pharisee, so self-absorbed in his rituals and religious practices. The recent unprecedented absence of mass attendance in my life has led me to realise that I have always relied on my participation at weekly mass as a kind of crutch to assure myself that at least I am in contact with God once a week. Whether I do my daily prayers and reflections may not be that important. Now that my crutch is gone, I am forced to re-look at my own spirituality. I was also struck by an article I read that described how people in the past had little access to priests and would receive the Eucharist only once a year. That really led me to wonder how I take the Eucharist for granted. Mass is always a privilege, and should come on top of daily communion with God through constant prayer and surrender. “What I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts.” (Hosea 6:6)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the opportunity to grow closer to Him, to ponder in silence at His will, while we continue to pray for greater wisdom in dealing with the current pandemic.

20 March, Friday – Love with all our heart

20 March

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Hosea 14:2-10

The Lord says this:

Israel, come back to the Lord your God;
your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.
Provide yourself with words
and come back to the Lord.
Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away
so that we may have happiness again
and offer you our words of praise.
Assyria cannot save us,
we will not ride horses any more,
or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made,
for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’
– I will heal their disloyalty,
I will love them with all my heart,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will fall like dew on Israel.
He shall bloom like the lily,
and thrust out roots like the poplar,
his shoots will spread far;
he will have the beauty of the olive
and the fragrance of Lebanon.
They will come back to live in my shade;
they will grow corn that flourishes,
they will cultivate vines
as renowned as the wine of Helbon.
What has Ephraim to do with idols any more
when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him?
I am like a cypress ever green,
all your fruitfulness comes from me.

Let the wise man understand these words.
Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning.
For the ways of the Lord are straight,
and virtuous men walk in them,
but sinners stumble.

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Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

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To love him with all your heart

Since the middle of last year, I have been experiencing bad anxiety over my various responsibilities. The new challenges that came with PhD research somehow brought about a great deal of worry and an unprecedented sense of desperation. I found myself sinking into despair often, believing that I would not pull through, and was completely unable to place things in God’s hands.

Today’s gospel passage is a well-known one. It sounds straightforward, what Jesus said. But what does it really mean to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength? It means that we abide by all the commandments, even if we are tempted to do otherwise. It means that we prioritise God in the use of our time and when making decisions. It means that we spend a lot of our time in prayer, just to be in regular communion with God. It means that we recognise that everything that we are, that we have, comes from God. Without Him, we are literally nothing.

I think that I have not come to truly see God as the Lord and ruler of my life. There are still many things that I want to hang on to, and my habit is to rely on myself and my own abilities rather than on God. Even though I have pulled through several seemingly insurmountable challenges during the past year, I am still not completely convinced of God’s ability to make the impossible possible. There are moments when I do feel that He is real and has given me so many graces, but there are many more when I cannot see anything except a thick opaque wall of gloom. In such times, I try to fall back on the teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, particularly his advice on what to do during times of desolation. One of his exhortations is to maintain spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. I see this act as being an example of living out the first commandment, because we would be making great effort to resist the desolation. May the Lord help us find the strength to love Him even when we do not feel like it.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will learn to love our Lord even in the most trying circumstances, and truly appreciate that we are nothing without Him. 

Thanksgiving: We thank our loving Father for the abundance of His generosity and mercy.

19 March, Thursday – Can you hear Him?

19 Mar – Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Joseph is a descendant of the house of David. A layman and a carpenter, he was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels, and is noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God told him.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory. Amen.

Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 7:4-5,12-14,16

The word of the Lord came to Nathan:

‘Go and tell my servant David, Thus the Lord speaks: “When your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. (It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does evil, I will punish him with the rod such as men use, with strokes such as mankind gives. Yet I will not withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from your predecessor. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established for ever.”’

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Romans 4:13,16-18,22

The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith. That is why what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the father of all of us. As scripture says: I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.

Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing so he did become the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him.’

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…he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

I am normally quite stubborn when it comes to sticking with a schedule, even on a weekend. On my recent trip to Italy, I did something previously unthinkable — I cancelled my plans to stay in Milan for 3 nights. Not having been there before on my previous trips to the beautiful country, I was quite determined to explore the Duomo, and had even booked 2 walking tours.

However, in the early hours of the very day I was supposed to take the train from Rome, I woke up and decided to remain in Rome (even if the hotel did not have a spare room for us). Providentially, we were given a room and spent 7 special nights in the Eternal City, meeting new people (from Singapore) and sharing various meals with them. Looking back, it was probably the best decision we made because on the day we left Rome (two weeks later, after spending a week in Florence), we had to declare while checking in at the airport if we had ventured northward.

Brothers and sisters, whether we want to believe it or not, our various journeys are inextricably linked to God. From the day we are conceived, to the day we return to Him, our heavenly Father has mapped out our paths on this earth. It is up to us to ‘listen’ to the voices — whether in our hearts, in our minds, or drummed into us by well-meaning friends — and then make our choices. But make no mistake, whatever the choice we make, God is there for us.

One week after arriving back in Singapore, we look at the situation in Europe and find ourselves turning to each other, thanking God for getting us out of Italy just in time. I look back at the many times I have been ‘saved’ over the decades and truly, God has been the one who rescued me on countless occasions. And it was made abundantly clear to me during my Conversion Experience Retreat in 2011 that He has been ever-present in my, up till then, exciting and colourful life.

And today, He makes His presence felt in many ways — the glorious laughter of my life partner as she makes funny faces for the camera; the recent sharings of ministry members during a ‘meet the members’ session; paving the way for me to step up in my service at CSC; the breathtaking landscapes in a foreign land; the old porter struggling to make ends meet in a train station; the kindness of a hotel manager at 5 o’clock in the morning.

There is no question at all that He is real. The question most of us have is whether or not He speaks to us, let alone cares for us. I testify as someone who has witnessed his glory, seen Him in a vision, chatted with Him and heard His tender voice. He IS real. He IS all around us. He IS there for us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, ask you to speak to us clearly so that we can be guided by your wisdom and love. We pray that you remove the blinkers in our lives that prohibit us from discerning your voice so that like St Joseph, we can rise up and do your will.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for being our constant light. Thank you for always being there for us in our times of need.

18 March, Wednesday – Doing the right thing

18 Mar – Memorial for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor

Cyril (315-386) was raised a Christian in Jerusalem. He was well-educated, especially in religion. He was ordained a priest by St. Maximus, and was a great instructor of catechumens. His instructions are still source documents for the Church’s early teachings. He became Bishop of Jerusalem in 348. He was exiled three times by the Arians, usually on some trumped up charge like selling church furniture, but actually on theological grounds. He attended the Council of Seleucia in 359, and the Council of Constantinople in 381. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and a Doctor of the Church.

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Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9

Moses said to the people:
‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you.

‘See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?

‘But take care what you do and be on your guard. Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather, tell them to your children and to your children’s children.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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But take care what you do and be on your guard

Having just made it out of Italy (I did not venture north while I was there for 2 weeks), I can appreciate how Singapore has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, especially since I work in one of the universities. I witnessed first-hand the impact back home when, the evening prior to my departure, we were all summoned back to the office because we had a confirmed case of an infected student (he has fully recovered and been discharged).

Then, I left for my holiday in Italy, which I had planned since October last year. Nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the two weeks I had already planned out, in spite of the possible outbreak there. The day I arrived in Rome, the number spiked dramatically to 100. And I was due to travel to Milan the next day. Thankfully, I decided to heed the advice of a priest friend and cancelled the 3-day Milan leg, staying in Rome. By the time I left Italy 2 weeks later, the northern region had already been in lockdown and it was a matter of a few days before the entire nation was put on lockdown.

While many around the world question Singapore’s freedoms, we have also been lauded for the handling of the crisis, managing to contain the spread and enabling most of us to go about our daily lives, albeit with some restrictions — in my case, twice daily reporting of temperature and working from home with split teams. But as I discussed with friends the differences between how each country has responded and managed its own situations, one thing that struck me was that it is only in nations where the citizens are more ‘obedient’ that measures have proven successful. I cannot imagine how any of the Western countries could issue mandatory stay home notices and quarantine orders.

Now take the ‘laws’ that God handed down to Moses and the ‘laws’ which Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel. I believe many of us have, over the years, put our own interpretations on some of these laws and either ignored some or even adhered to those which suited our ways of thinking. Why? Because while we are on this earth, there are no foreseeable, tangible ‘penalties’ for flouting these laws. On the other hand, try flouting a stay home notice or quarantine order and see what happens to you — 2 students were expelled from their respective universities.

The difference with God is that there is no hiding from Him. We cannot hope that He does not see us missing Sunday Mass (here in Singapore, it has been broadcast online since the suspension of masses last month). We cannot hope that He does not see us judging others, hoarding, gossiping, disobeying our parents…the list goes on. Just because we don’t see Him, we cannot let our guard down. In fact, it is now, in this time of crisis, that we need to be the face of Christ to others. It is now when we need to be compassionate, understanding, patient and forgiving.

Brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of God, we are beholden to a set of laws that have been handed down through the generations. Whether they are archaic or not is not the question. The question is whether we are living our lives according to the laws prescribed. Or whether we have let the countless viruses of modern living infect our spirituality to the point where we have become immune whenever we break the laws. And cause hurt not only to our loved ones, but to Jesus.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray for your merciful blessings upon this world, in spite of our weaknesses and for having forsaken you. We ask for your healing graces to pour forth and shower us with your love, mercy and forgiveness.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for giving us a second chance at life in this time of crisis, Abba Father. Heal our families as we come together and bond during this trying time.

17 March, Tuesday – Forgive, even when it’s the hardest

17 Mar – Memorial for St. Patrick, bishop

St. Patrick (387-390 – 461-464) was kidnapped from the British mainland when he was about 16, and shipped to Ireland as a slave. He was sent to the mountains as a shepherd, and spent his time in prayer. After six years of this life, he had a dream in which he was commanded to return to Britain. Seeing it as a sign, he escaped.

He studied in several monasteries in Europe. He was a priest, then a bishop. He was sent by Pope St. Celestine to evangelize England, then Ireland, during which his chariot driver was St. Odran, and St. Jarlath was one of his spiritual students.

In 33 years, he effectively converted Ireland. In the Middle Ages, Ireland become known as the “Land of Saints”, and during the Dark Ages, its monasteries were the great repositories of learning in Europe, all a consequence of Patrick’s ministry.

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

– Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

  • Patron Saint Index

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Daniel 3:25,34-43

Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:

Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

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Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

‘And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master’s feet. “Give me time” he said “and I will pay the whole sum.” And the servant’s master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. “Pay what you owe me” he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, “Give me time and I will pay you.” But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. “You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.’

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“… forgive your brother from your heart.”

Is it possible to forgive someone who has stepped on your toes for the umpteenth time and never apologised, even though you try to explain to him or her what he or she did wrong to you? Even when he or she apologises, you know that it may not be a sincere apology because he or she may do it again in the future.

Today’s world will tell us that it is important to love ourselves, and since people who are unapologetic are regarded as ‘toxic’ or ‘negative’, therefore, to avoid such ‘negative’ people, we should cut them out of our life. This way, we can protect ourselves and make ourselves happy. After all, there would be no more people stepping on our toes, right?

But, I don’t think that was what Jesus meant when he talked about forgiveness. When the soldiers crucified Him, He did not banish them from sight. Nor did he entirely ignore Pontius Pilate when He was being sentenced to death. I think He was silently praying for their forgiveness from our Father and their conversion from sin as well. This would probably explain why his last words were, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

So, forgiving does not necessarily mean avoiding people who have hurt us. It does not mean that we retaliate against people who have wounded us. Instead, forgiveness is when we continue treating people who have hurt us the same way we treat our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have not hurt us. Forgiveness also means that we pray for them and bless them.

For Paul said in Romans 12:14, “Bless those who hurt you.”

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Lord, please pray for us to be able to forgive those who have hurt us from the bottom of our hearts. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for granting us the ability to forgive others even when we are hurt by them.  Amen.