Category Archives: Feastdays

18 October, Friday – Influencers

Oct 18 – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke (d. 74) was born to pagan Greek parents, and possibly a slave. He was one of the earliest converts, and a physician studying in Antioch and Tarsus. He probably travelled as a ship’s doctor, and many charitable societies of physicians are named after him. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and Mary, but none have ever been correctly or definitively attributed to him; this story, and the inspiration his Gospel has always given artists, led to his patronage of them.

He met St. Paul at Troas, and evangelised Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome, and stayed in Rome for Paul’s two years in prison. He wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of Paul, interviews with early Christians, and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely to have been martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika, Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me. Get Mark to come and bring him with you; I find him a useful helper in my work. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, and the scrolls, especially the parchment ones. Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself, because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

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Luke 10:1-9

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’

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But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

What are our personas in the quilt of our lives? At work, home, with friends, and at church, there are nuances in whom we present to the world. While the differences can be subtle, they are nevertheless there. Sometimes we respond unconsciously, and at other times we make a deliberate effort to wear the appropriate mask.

While life’s experiences have shaped who we are, we cannot proceed on autopilot lest we lose sight of our being. The power to influence others is a considerable one, and like the saints before us, our message needs to be pure. We show up as children of God, embodying the life and teachings of Christ.

Influence is not about the spouting of manifestos or treatises. Neither is it heavy-handed. Influence is the ability to shape the behaviours of others through our examples and ways of life. Take a moment to notice people whom you’ve dealt with. Are they following what you do? Are they using terms and phrases that you do? Have they changed their lives to mimic yours?  If that has ever happened, then you are an influencer!

If those changes were good ones, then I would say that you’re on the right path. However there is a polarity to this; if you notice people actively NOT doing what you do, then that gives pause for some introspection. We are always providing others with an opportunity to judge their own lives as they reference ours. In searching for purchase, people savvily absorb what they deem to be good, and the things about you that others draw reference to also speaks volumes about them.

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to rigorously analyse the power you have over others. Specifically, the soft power that is in each and every one of us that makes us who we are. May we never take that for granted.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord to walk in your ways, always gifting others with the joy of our companionship.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for our individuality. There is no greater gift than to be beautiful and complete in you.

21 September, Saturday – Only God Can Judge Me

Sep 21 – Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, and he lived at Capernaum on Lake Genesareth. He was a Roman tax collector, a position equated with collaboration with the enemy by those from whom he collected taxes. Jesus’ contemporaries were surprised to see the Christ with a traitor, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the just, but sinners”.

Matthew’s Gospel is given pride of place in the canon of the New Testament, and was written to convince Jewish readers that their anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. He preached among the Jews for 15 years; his audiences may have included the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Matthew the tax collector, was a sinner in the righteous eyes, yet was chosen and called to be Jesus’ disciple, one of the twelve apostles, and continued to become one of the great evangelists. Today’s Gospel reminds us, “Who are we to judge anyone?” And especially if we call ourselves Christians, should we not show mercy to everyone, just as Jesus did?

Some of the gripes of people who have fallen away from the faith, are that we Christians or Catholics are hypocrites. We claim to be righteous, to be holy and do good, yet often we are quick to judge a fellow brother or sister, just because they do not conform to certain outwardly appearances or practices. Do we take the time to understand someone else’s circumstances, and even if they may truly be at fault, do we exercise compassion?

I serve in a ministry where I have the privilege to hear people’s stories; their willingness to be vulnerable and share deeply always touches me. And often I am shocked by what they have gone through, the phrase ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ always rings true. People are very capable of hiding under a mask, but when there’s trust and mercy, they will dare to be uncovered.

Last month, I shared a personal testimony on my return to the church in front of a bunch of total strangers. With the help of trusted friends, I rewrote my story many times, cautious of the unknown audience I was going to be delivering it to. When the day finally came, I was filled with nervousness and anxiety, but I believed that it was a safe space, and that the people present, strangers as they may be, could possibly identify with me and parts of my story. I got emotional and choked at one point, but I also think that just proved my humanness.

The whole experience was very humbling, and at the same time, edifying. As part of my testimony, I shared that despite all my sins and mistakes, God was still always there. And like Matthew the tax collector, God still chose me. I understand first-hand, what’s it like to be judged without mercy, but I know that it is God who sees me, and I am good enough for Him. I also pray that I can strive to be like Jesus, and be the conduit for grace and love to flow.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to be compassionate and merciful to everyone, especially to those whom we find difficult. Help us not to be judgmental, but to be kind and graceful, just as you are.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always being there, for choosing us, and for always loving us, despite our shortcomings. Amen.

14 September, Saturday – Of Hope and Promise

Sep 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century. Its purpose is to commemorate the recovering of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem on 3 May 629.

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Numbers 21:4-9

On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’

At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

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God sent His Son into the world… so that through Him the world might be saved

Have you heard people complaining about the unfavourable lot that life has dealt them or the difficult circumstances they are going through? I cannot help feeling bemused when they end their lamentations with the statement “but this is a cross I have to carry”.

We encounter many struggles at different stages in our lives, especially as we try to live out our faith. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to carry our crosses and proclaim the Good News to the world. Yet many of us forget the significance of the Cross. Some even begrudge the challenges it brings, so much so that it gets relegated as a sweeping statement to connote a sense of helplessness.

Much like the Israelites from the first reading, we complain when things do not go our way, sometimes to the extent of doubting God’s plans for us. However, God shows His mercy and compassion even after we let Him down time and time again. This is best illustrated when He sent His Son to die an excruciating death on the cross for our redemption.

The Cross represents the sacrifices Jesus made for us to save us from our sins. For us, Jesus on the cross expresses God’s unconditional and faithful love, and how He gave His life so that we might live life to the fullest. There is no sin too great for God to forgive, as long as we believe that we have been forgiven. Once an instrument of torture, the Cross now stands as a symbol of hope and promise.

In embracing the Cross, each of us is challenged to follow Jesus as He leads us to the way of the Cross. We are called to model his obedience and to die to our pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance and prejudices.  On today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us reflect on what the Cross signifies in our lives and how best to live out our identities as Christians.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may obediently abide in you amidst the trials and tribulations in our lives.  We pray for strength to journey on the path of the Cross, trusting that You are ever present with us.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the triumph of the Cross over sin and the promise of eternal life with You. 

24 August, Saturday – Supporting Structures

Aug 24 – Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was probably a close friend of St. Philip, as his name is always mentioned in the gospels in connection with Philip, and it was Philip who brought Bartholomew to Jesus. He may have written a gospel, now lost, as it is mentioned in other writings of the time.

Someone preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia and left behind assorted writings. Local tradition says it was Bartholomew.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

The angel came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’ In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

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John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.

The bible has many accounts of believers who were thrust into the spotlight, called by God to do great things in his name — Moses, David, and Joseph (both of them!) were directed to be leaders of their flock, much to their chagrin.

Yet in organisations or situations, there can only be one chief. Too many voices cloud decision making and the clarity of vision and purpose is diluted. What the chief needs are trusted and dependable deputies who work behind the scenes, implementing the plan. The deputies and workers may never get the same recognition and rewards as the chief, but they are no less important.

Being a deputy or a follower is not a passive undertaking. Merely following instructions, or doing the bare minimum are not behaviours that facilitate any leader’s job. Active followership involves being aligned to a mission, supporting the leader’s decisions, and being proactive in one’s work. The dynamism of shadowing, and pre-empting what our leaders need trains us for a day when we could possibly be the ones steering the ship.

All too many of us yearn for authority and influence, but God will only entrust us with responsibilities once we are ready. Consider how God is asking you to take the back seat in any aspect of your life; and decide if you want to be merely a passenger, or a trusted companion on the journey.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer:  Help us dear Lord, to bloom where we are planted, and to serve with humility and enthusiasm.

Thanksgiving:  We thank you Father, for all the opportunities you present us in life. May we trust in your plan for our lives, as incomprehensible as it can sometimes be.

10 Aug, Saturday – Invitation to say “Yes”

Aug 10 – Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr

Lawrence was a third-century archdeacon of Rome, a distributor of alms, and “keeper of the treasures of the Church” in a time when Christianity was outlawed. On 6 August 258, by decree of Emperor Valerian, Pope St. Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded, leaving Lawrence as the ranking Church official in Rome.

While in prison awaiting execution, Sixtus reassured Lawrence that he was not being left behind; they would be reunited in four days. Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it.

On Aug 10, Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome’s crippled, blind, sick, and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.

Lawrence’s care for the poor, the ill, and the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including the documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron, and to ask for his intercession. And his incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks and those who work in or supply things to the kitchen. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the middle ages as the “burning tears of St. Lawrence” because they appear at the same time as Lawrence’s feast.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.

The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one.

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John 12:24-26

I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.

If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.

If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

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The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Recently, I’ve had to make some hard decisions about church ministry. I was serving’ in two different ministries; I put serving in inverted commas, because truthfully I had become just a member in name for one of the ministries. It had been weighing on my shoulders, the guilt that I was no longer an active member, yet still claimed to be a ministry member and enjoyed the benefits or ‘prestige’ that came with it. A priest advised me that it was not right to have one foot in and one foot out, and it was best to make a firm decision. I knew quite clearly that my call was to serve in the other ministry, but still it was difficult to officially call it quits as I clung onto the familiarity and security of the first one.

However, once I announced my decision to the ministry leaders and made the firm choice, I felt so much lighter. It felt right to focus on just this one ministry, especially when there had been multiple signs that this was my calling. It was just a matter of whether I was accepting and believing of the signs. And in doing so, I found myself being invited to do more in this ministry; I knew that since I had answered the call to serve in this ministry, I ought to say ‘yes’.

The latest ask of me, was to share my personal testimony, in front of a bunch of strangers. This was something I was somewhat willing to do, but not quite yet prepared to; I was unsure if it was the right time, and of course very fearful of a public sharing! I spent a couple of weeks discerning, and again I could not ignore the signs He gave me. But I needed the courage to say ‘yes’, and trust that no matter my readiness or the seemingly imperfect timing, God will make a way.

In today’s first reading, I’m reminded that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” I am also reminded and comforted that even though my gift is small, He will take it all and multiply, just like the five loaves and two fishes that fed the thousands.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to remember to always run to you first, to trust that even though we are broken people, we are worthy of your love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for nothing is possible without Your grace. Thank you for taking what little we have, and multiplying the harvest in abundance.

6 Aug, Tuesday – In His Time

Aug 6 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Today we celebrate the occasion on which Christ revealed Himself in shining splendour to Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were present, and are taken to signify that the Law and the Prophets. They testify to Jesus as the promised Messiah. God the Father also proclaimed him as such, saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him.” For a moment the veil is drawn aside, and men still on earth are permitted a glimpse of the heavenly reality, the glory of the Eternal Triune God.

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Tranfiguration.htm

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Daniel 7:9-10,13-14

As I watched:

Thrones were set in place
and one of great age took his seat.
His robe was white as snow,
the hair of his head as pure as wool.
His throne was a blaze of flames,
its wheels were a burning fire.
A stream of fire poured out,
issuing from his presence.
A thousand thousand waited on him,
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
A court was held
and the books were opened.

I gazed into the visions of the night.

And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one like a son of man.
He came to the one of great age
and was led into his presence.
On him was conferred sovereignty,
glory and kingship,
and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.
His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty
which shall never pass away,
nor will his empire ever be destroyed.

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Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

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a way through the dark until the dawn comes

How many times have we sat in adoration with our souls totally dry, wondering if we are going through a futile exercise in spending time with what we want to believe is our ever-knowing, ever-loving, ever-present God, yet harbouring seeds of doubt in our hearts? Especially when it has been __ number of years since we lost our ________ (you can fill in the blank and keep filling it in until you are satisfied).

How many times have we prayed for a miracle, a cure, to win the lottery, for a solution to magically appear in our lives, telling God that He owes us because of what we have been doing for Him, because we pray 1 rosary a day and go for daily mass and give at least 10% of our earnings back to the church?

How long have we endured the uncertainty of a period of grief, of unemployment, of not knowing when a solution to our predicament is coming, albeit, as we deem suitable for our purposes? Brothers and sisters, when are we going to stop making demands of God, who appears to have His sacred hands full because He seems to be helping others, but neglecting us?

Sometimes, it is only in journeying through the darkness that we begin to discern God’s hand in our lives. It is only in experiencing sorrow that we begin to see the joy that our Lord wants us to experience as part of His grand plan for our lives. Because as the one, true architect of our lives, He knows when we need to have His light shine into the darkened areas, where fear, doubt, insecurity and anxiety reside. And many times, just because we think we have done all the preparation, said our rosaries, served at retreats, ministered to the needy and yes, taught the young at our parishes, we think we are entitled to a seat at the table of plenty.

Pastor Earl McLellan, at the recent Hillsong Conference, exhorted that “just because you are ready, doesn’t mean it is your time.” Conversely, when He says it is your time, you better make sure you’re ready. And I believe in my heart that my time has come in another ministry that I spend much of my time on. I believe I have put in the work and that after 18 months, quite a few retreats, and learning how to deal with a leadership that has its quirks, I am ready to seize an opportunity that has presented itself.

Brothers and sisters, when you are able to discern the light at the end of the tunnel, reach out to it in hope and with prayer. The Lord shows himself in ways that we never expect. But when He chooses to show himself, one thing’s for sure…you can never shy away from His glorious presence.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, continue to shine your light into our lives and to illuminate all those areas that we keep hidden so that we can truly be present as your sons and daughters.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always leading the way and guiding us through our darkest hours.

25 July, Thursday – Speak Now, Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Jul 25 – Feast of St. James, Apostle

St. James (died 44) was the first Apostle to be martyred. He preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish.

Like all men of renown, many stories grew up around St. James. In one, he brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy’s father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 20:20-28

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

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

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Since we have that same spirit of[ faith, we also believe and therefore speak.
Standing up for others is hardly an easy thing to do. The fear of being judged, the uneasiness of having the spotlight then shone on you, and the discomfort of not belonging to the pack, make it much easier for us to let the victim suffer alone.

We’ve all experienced something like this before. A colleague takes medical leave and his timing could not be worse. He may have a big meeting to steer that day, or had been regularly unwell in the recent past. Murmurings then surface about his frailty, or of him taking the easy way out from having to deal with challenges at work. Or, someone is being unfairly treated because of a toxic blend of double standards in a seniority-based workplace.

I struggle with being the voice of Christ in situations like this. No one should be oppressed, but speaking up could put you on the other side. However, not speaking up and preserving the ‘peace’ puts us on the other side of the table from God. Such is the additional burden of the Catholic life, which is characterized by faith-driven actions.

Should you feel trepidation about being God’s mouthpiece, start this transformative process slowly. Do not expect great changes overnight as the general principle of the 10,000 hours rule applies here. Make your thoughts on such unfair treatment known first in private, or have a one-on-one conversation with the offender to state how you feel. Eventually, it will become natural for you to do so in more communal settings. You will grow in strength and confidence, and earn the gratitude of the weak ones who had no one to fight for them before.

Just as St. James was one of the three chosen apostles to bear witness to Jesus’ Transfiguration, we too are chosen as God’s agents in difficult situations. What we choose to do thereafter then defines who we really are.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Help us, dear Lord, to be courageous for ourselves and for others in the face of all adversity.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the gift of our conscience, a compass that always leads to you in our troubled world.

22 July, Monday – One True Love

Jul 22 – Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

There is actually very little solid information about her, and both scholars and traditions differ on the interpretation of what we do know.

She was a friend and follower of Jesus. Filled with sorrow over her sin, she anointed Christ and washed his feet with her hair. He exorcised seven demons from her. She was the first to have been visited by the Risen Christ. While there are several arguments about her life after the Crucifixion, the Greek Church maintains that she retired to Ephesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived there the rest of her life.

Some things we do know for certain – Mary wasn’t Jesus’ wife nor mistress, she wasn’t the mother of His child, and she didn’t found a royal dynasty or separate branch of Christianity.

http://www.carr.org/~meripper/saints/saints-m.htm

– Patron Saint Index

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Song of Songs 3:1-4

All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.

 I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.

The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”

Scarcely had I passed them
when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
to the room of the one who conceived me.

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John 20:1-2, 11-18

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

Meanwhile Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.

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“I found him whom my heart loves.”

There are many people we love in our lives. From parents, to siblings and relatives, to our spouse, to pets and many other things. But do we love God as much as we love all these people in our life? Are we willing to sacrifice our life to do what He wants us to do, instead of what we want to do?

Often, when people betray us or fail to meet our expectations, we become disappointed and disillusioned. Perhaps, we might even lose faith in that person completely.
H

God will never betray nor disappoint us. He loves us more than anyone would do, and He knows us even before we are born. Sometimes, He may not answer our prayers or make our dreams come true, but He does this because He loves us so much and knows what is in our best interests.

So we should always place God as our topmost priority in our life, and everything else will fall into place. And we should love God with all our heart, mind, body and soul.

(Today’s Oxygen by Brenda Khoo)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to remain steadfast to You and love You as wholeheartedly as You love us.

Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, thank you for always loving us and sacrificing for us.

3 July, Wednesday – Believe

3 July 2019 – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way.

He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.

His symbol is the builder’s square. There are several stories that explain it:

  • he built a palace for King Guduphara in India
  • he built the first church in India with his own hands
  • it is representative of building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)
  • he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

    Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 2:19-22

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.

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John 20:24-29

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

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Blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe!

“Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” These words which Jesus said to Thomas have always struck me, because over two thousand years ago, Jesus was talking about us, today! Indeed this is the mystery of our faith.

I am reminded of a homily I heard during the recent Feast of Corpus Christi. The priest shared that the uniqueness of our Catholic faith, is the belief in the true presence of Jesus. The transubstantiation, where the bread and wine offered in the Eucharistic Celebration becomes, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, is one of the greatest mysteries of our faith that cannot be explained easily. But God, from time to time, sends miracles to remind us of the truth so that we may believe. Incidences where the host began to bleed and turn into flesh have been witnessed; scientists have tested samples of the hosts and found that it came from human tissue. These miracles too seem hard to believe, but for those who witnessed it, are able to know with certainty that it is indeed true.

Similarly, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in particular, the gift of tongues. Those who don’t have the gift,may cast doubt on those babbling strangely, whether it truly is from the Holy Spirit, or if it just merely a human act. Only those with the gift  are able to know, with certainty, that the movement of their tongue is not their own, but truly from God. The rest of us who don’t have the gift are only able to just have faith and believe.

Sometimes, God shows himself in these real tangible ways to the hardest of hearts, because without it, they will have difficulty believing, just like a doubting Thomas. And there are those who are able to be contented with simple faith, seeing God in everything.

We can be assured though, God meets us where we are. God knows what we need and He shows himself to us in different and unique ways.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to always hold strong to the faith, especially when it is difficult.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for you are always watching over us. Amen.

18 May, Saturday – Evidence Based Faith

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone but in later life, he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric thought John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 13:44-52

The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:

I have made you a light for the nations,
so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’

It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.
But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

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John 14:7-14

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’
‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.
Whatever you ask for in my name I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask for anything in my name,
I will do it.

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Whatever you ask for in my name I will do…         

We sometimes want all the facts in the world before we believe in something, including the Lord, the God of all. The Bible is our evidence and so is the Sacred tradition, yet we find it hard. All the more reason for us to depend on God to lean on Him, so that we don’t only see and understand, but we believe.

In today’s gospel, we are once again reminded about how powerful yet how personal our God is. He wants to carry out our requests by answering our prayers. Such a sweet Daddy God we have.

So I urge you, sisters and brothers if you are staring at a mountain ahead of you and feel helpless, fret not, we have a God who will bulldoze this mountain in a way only He can, if we just let Him. But sometimes we are guilty of trying to use our man-sized shovel to level out a seemingly large mountain. Surrender your mountains to Him and let Him be God.

Let us praise Him in our joy and our sorrow. Whatever the season of life we are in, let us make it a humble offering onto His throne and unto His feet.

Let us be diligent by remaining in the truth always, regardless of the circumstances we face; because in truth, we constantly face a loving God who fights all our battles.

Also, let us be action-oriented and reach out to others, so that we are able to be a light to others who know Him not.

I have recently been working on my baking skills and am very drawn to bring the fruits of my labour to students at my university who are sitting for exams. One of the main exam halls, is just beside my office and I see these students daily, different ones every day. I pray that my intentions turn to actions too. Please pray for me too as I pray for you all.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer:  Lord, show us to what extent you want us to reach the ends of the earth. Help us to trust you more. Lord, our lives are in your hands.

Thanksgiving: Lord, tune me into your instrument of worship. I lift up my hands in your name.