Category Archives: Feastdays

11 June, Monday – Peacemakers

Jun 11 – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death, he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

When I was younger, I used to attend Sunday school and we were tasked to memorize verses as part of our homework. I used to take pride in being able to memorize the Beatitudes, but I never took the time to really meditate and understand what the Beatitudes were about. I knew that the Latin noun of the word Beatitude was used to describe a state of blessedness, but I never understood these eight Beatitudes using my heart. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and she mentioned that she had a t-shirt with a very cool-looking dog decked in a pair of sunglasses with the phrase “Be attitude”. At that moment, I started to realize that the Beatitudes were more than just blessings spoken by Jesus, but they are the attitudes that He wanted us to have, and although these attitudes are not easy to embrace, through God’s grace, it is possible.

The past month has been extremely rough for me emotionally, because I have decided to leave my first job after close to 7 years; not because I became bored of the nature of the work, but because I started to succumb to the negativity of the office environment. I loved my job, and I still do, which was why the decision to resign was a struggle for me; but for my own mental and emotional well-being, I decided that it was best that I resign. My boss called me silly for leaving right before the bonus month, but my happiness was more important and I knew I could no longer feel happy working in this job. A few days after my resignation, I chanced upon the Beatitudes and the particular Beatitude – Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God – struck a chord in me. I decided to embark on a personal project to connect with people who I was avoiding at work, and to make peace with them before my last day. I guess God knew it was not an easy task for me, and he has been creating opportunities for me to ‘bump’ into these people, and through a brief conversation, make peace with them.

Brothers and sisters, as today is the memorial of Saint Barnabas, the patron saint of peacemakers, let us also take this chance to make peace with someone in our lives who God has been trying to lead us to. We, together with our brethren, are God’s beloved children, and He would want nothing but the best for us. Let us be the peacemakers in the lives of those around us, and with great faith, make an impact in this chaotic and conflicting world.

(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to reflect upon these eight Beatitudes and to give us the grace to emulate them through our daily living.

Thanksgiving: Dearest Father, we thank you for giving us the opportunity and humility to be peacemakers in the lives of those around us. Thank you for reminding us that despite all that we have done, we are Your children, and as Your children, we need to continually love one another.

9 June, Saturday – A Life Of Surrender

June 9 – Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary began as early as the twelfth century. During the seventeenth century in France, St John Eudes popularised this devotion along with that to the Sacred Heart. St Luke’s Gospel twice mentions that Mary ‘kept all these things in her heart’, pondering the word of God. Mary shows us how to listen to the words the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and how to respond in faith.

Source: Universalis

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The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon’s prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favourite formulae and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; “she cooperated through charity”, as St. Augustine says, “in the work of our redemption”.

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior’s Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

Source: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2016-06-04

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2 Timothy 4:1-8

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching. The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.

As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

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Luke 2:41-51

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart.

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Why were you looking for me?

A common struggle of faith is one of letting go and trusting in God. There are many things in life that we want to hang on to, and as described by Bishop Robert Barron, they can be grouped into these four categories – power, wealth, honour and pleasure. Each of us has our ‘favourite’ addictions from one or more of these categories that appeal to our self-indulgent nature, and they are constant barriers in our relationship with God.

In today’s gospel passage, we come across a familiar account, that of the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple. Instead of following his family and relatives on their trip home, Jesus had stayed behind to converse with the religious teachers. Mary, in particular, would likely be feeling extreme anxiety about not being able to locate her son. Imagine her relief when she sees him in the temple, and naturally, there is a tone of reproach in her voice as she speaks to Jesus. His unexpected response would perhaps have caused her to feel taken aback and confused. We do not know if Jesus had made mention of his mission in the years before he turned twelve, but this is likely the first instance since the immaculate conception that Mary is told about her son’s purpose in the world. As before, even though she may not fully understand what is in store, she accepts and trusts in God’s plans for her and her son.

The Old and New Testament is replete with examples of people who made great personal sacrifices in their commitment to a life serving the Lord. They seem to be the exception to the norm, but really, each one of Christ’s followers is called to surrender their lives to the Lord. He must always come first. We struggle, as there is always a tendency to cave in to self-serving desires instead of being obedient to God. As we stumble, fall, and pick ourselves up again in our daily battles with sin, may we draw inspiration from our Blessed Mother in the complete dedication of her life to the Lord.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that Mary continue to intercede for us, and that our weakness may become a source of divine grace.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the times when the Lord shows us His reassuring love when we surrender our lives to Him.

20 May, Sunday – On Gifts

20 May – Pentecost

The Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the 50th day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:15), commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Some Christians believe this event represents the birth of the Catholic Church.

In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Passover through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the “Pentecostarion”. Since its date depends on the date of the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost is a moveable feast.

The holy day is also called “White Sunday” or “Whitsunday”, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (now fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). In Germany Pentecost is called “Pfingsten”, and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations. The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European nations.

– Wikipedia

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

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John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this, He breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different workings but the same God”

When I was a teenager, I used to envy all the ‘cool kids’ in my Christian youth group who could speak in tongues. Sadly, I was never blessed with the gift. When you’re an awkward teenager, trying to fit in is something that fills you with much angst. I remember I was inconsolable! What more proof did I need?! Even God didn’t think I belonged! Imagine what that does to a 15-yr old’s self-esteem? I felt so cast out!

I’ve since come to understand that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts”. Like the proverbial image of the body of Christ having many parts, each of us has a role to play, and He gives us gifts to help us to succeed – “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit”. It’s taken some time for me to figure this out, but I think that mine might be the gift of nurturing. How can I be certain? Well, I can’t be for sure, but a deacon once told me to just ‘look at the fruit and see if it is good’. At the time, he was making a reference to a person’s authenticity. But the same filter can be applied to see if one’s pursuit is worthy of God. What is the fruit of our endeavour? Does it fulfil the conditions of what we know to be the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

I’m glad I can’t speak in tongues. I would have been too self-conscious to do anything meaningful with it; it would have been wasted on me. I’m glad that instead, He gave me the gift of baking, of making wonderful dinners and organizing big family reunions. I’m glad God gave me the gift of patience, for when I have to deal with people who don’t always think of others first. I’m glad God gave me the gift of encouragement, for when people sit around my kitchen table spilling their tears with their wine. I’m glad God gave me the gift of meticulous organization, for those times when I have to multi-task and still stay on top of everything. I’m glad God gave me the time, the means and the inclination to be that person who is there to listen and offer a slice of cake, a mug of hot chocolate and a loving hug just when someone needs it most. Because the joy of being that person – of doing what He meant for me to do – has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve experienced ever, and I am so thankful for it!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in discerning the roles we are meant to play. Not everyone discovers it the first time around, but we pray that we all eventually find our way there.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts He has bestowed on us, that help us to become who we were truly meant to be.

14 May, Monday – God Chose Me

14 May – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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You did not choose me: no, I chose you.

As a cradle Catholic, the phrase above strikes a chord with me. Had I not been baptised as a baby, would I still have chosen to be Catholic? Indeed, it was God who had chosen me. Do I take my God-given faith for granted? Admittedly, despite being a Catholic all my life, having attended Catholic schools and catechism as a child, there’s much I still do not know about my faith. Often, I see those who choose to be baptised as an adult, in spite of them being ‘young’ Catholics, knowing a lot more than I do and are stronger in their faith.

Even as I’ve strayed away from God and the church, God has always found a way to call me back in unexpected ways. I am now part of a ministry for returning Catholics — Landings, a community for those who have been distant from the church and are trying to find a way back home. Through journeying with them, I’ve come to understand that no matter how many times we try to run away from God, He will always welcome us back with open arms. Even as we may be diligently attending mass or actively serving in church, there may be times when we feel empty and totally disconnected from God, but we have to remember that God always loves us and He will lead us back to Him, we just need to say ‘Yes’ to His call.

Brothers and sisters, as God’s chosen people, are we doing our part to ‘go out and bear fruit’? “What is my vocation?”, “Am I living out my life with purpose?”, “How am I making a difference to this world?” I struggle with these questions, especially as I am in the midst of discerning a career change. But I believe that if God chose me for it, He will light the way. More importantly, no matter what we do, we have to try and live out the greatest commandment in our daily lives – ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’.

(Today’s Oxygen by Kristel Wang)

Prayer: Dear God, help us to remember in our daily lives that you first loved us, help us to love one another especially in trying moments. Please continue to guide us in seeking your will and answering your call.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for choosing us as your sons and daughters, and for always loving us.

3 May, Thursday – Heaven Defined

May 3 – Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles

Philip was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and a convert. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and brought St. Nathanael to Christ. He was a confidant of Jesus’. Little is known about him, but scriptural episodes give the impression of a shy, naïve, but practical individual. He preached in Greece and Asia Minor, and died a martyr for the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

James the Lesser was the cousin of Jesus, and brother of St. Jude Thaddeus. He was raised in a Jewish home of the time with all the training in Scripture and Law that was part of that life. He was a convert, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He was one of the first to have visions of the risen Christ.

He was the first bishop of Jerusalem. He met with St. Paul the Apostle to work out Paul’s plans for evangelization. He supported the position that Gentile converts did not have to obey all Jewish religious law, though he continued to observe it himself as part of his heritage. He may have been a vegetarian. He was a just and apostolic man known for his prayer life and devotion to the poor.

He was martyred for his faith in c.62 when he was thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and then stoned and beaten with clubs while praying for his attackers. Having been beaten to death, a club almost immediately became his symbol, leading to his patronage of fullers and pharmacists, both of whom use clubs in their professions.

He is reported to have spent so much time in prayer that his knees thickened, and looked like a camel’s. Soon after the Crucifixion, James said he would fast until Christ returned; the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and fixed a meal for James Himself.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

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John 14:6-14

Jesus said to Thomas:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

No one can come to the Father except through me.

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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Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

During a recent chat with a friend, the topic of our expectations of what Heaven would be like came up. Unsurprisingly, we both had very different hopes for what it would be. I started to reflect on my vision of Heaven and I came to realise that it was focused on the self, and was limited by my beliefs of what I thought God was capable of. Instead of being open to whatever God has planned for us up there (or wherever Heaven may be), I sought to craft a very specific vision of what I wanted my version of Heaven to be like.

My expectations of Heaven centered on revisiting events and realising dreams that had not been achieved in my life. Many past hurts and regrets came to the fore and I discovered that I had not yet gotten the deep healing that I needed to move on with my life. My friend, however, saw Heaven as a place of gathering with departed family and friends; a place of fellowship in God’s communion. Our differences served to highlight what we deem as important in our lives and led to us resolving to delve deeper into what holds meaning for us and how we would live our lives moving forward.

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to take some time, in the stillness of your hearts, to ask yourself what your idea of a perfect Heaven is. How would you feel if it was different, and are you willing to accept that it very well could be? Perhaps if we start to live our life solely for the glory of God, then Heaven may very well even be a place on earth.

(Today’s Oxygen by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dearest God, help us to act in service of you so that others may experience a little bit of Heaven through our words and deeds.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for preparing a place for your people with you. Thank you for never leaving our side.

1 May, Tuesday – In The Father’s Bosom

1 May – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Joseph (d. 1st century) was a descendant of the House of David. He was a layman, a builder by trade; traditionally a carpenter, but may have been a stone worker. He was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster and adoptive father of Jesus Christ. He was a visionary who was visited by angels. He was noted for his willingness to immediately get up and do what God had told him to do. He died of natural causes, prior to the Passion of Christ.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 14:19-28

Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.

Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.
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John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
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“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you…”

I have seen a lot of suffering in the 50-odd years that I have been on this earth. Living with my grandaunt, I remember her words to me; about how difficult things were. I remember her visiting older relatives, and another uncle (her younger brother), who was a drug addict. She was a kind woman, treating those worse-off with love and compassion.

As I got older, I saw friends going through tough times in their finances, marriages and other life struggles. While troubles were aplenty, what was clear to me was that friends and family members tend to go through their personal challenges alone.

A friend once shared with me that he really struggled when he went through a long period of depression some 12 years ago. He would sleep many hours, wake up feeling depressed and then medicate himself. He had no desire to do anything or go anywhere and the biggest feeling was that of overwhelming depression.

My wife and I recently attended an Inner Healing Retreat and I had the most deep and exciting insight, one that will change how I see life’s challenges and my relationship with my God. In one of my reflections, I was feeling extremely lonely and afraid. I was praying during this particularly difficult experience when I felt comforted. While I could not see His face, I became aware that our Lord Jesus was next to me.

It occurred to me then that we never have to go through our challenges by ourselves. Never.

In my subsequent reflections, I went back to the difficult times when I felt most lonely and afraid, only this time, I had the Lord with me. The difference was amazing. All of a sudden, I no longer felt as much pain. I felt that God was there with me, holding me through the tough times.

I know I will never be alone again.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may always turn to You, Father God, in our daily lives. Help us Father to always be sensitive to the presence of Your Spirit around us. Be with us Father and guard and protect us.

Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You for being with us constantly. Thank You for covering with Your protection.

22 February, Thursday – Who Am I To You?

22 Feb – Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Peter 5:1-4

Now I have something to tell your elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

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Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

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You are Christ, the Son of the living God”

When there is a love interest, it is natural to know who you are to that person. You want to know what you mean to them and if you hold this special place in the beloved’s heart. I watched the scene in the Passion of Christ when Jesus asked Peter this question and how he replied so spontaneously. Jesus and Peter seems to have these candid yet ‘expecting-an-honest-response-conversation’, it shows their closeness but also shows how ‘real’ they are with each other. I for one know that I cannot ask everyone such questions, it can be blatantly awkward.

The friendship of Jesus and Peter is also special, they had the same mission and knew each other, only in the way best friends connected.

Peter, despite spending hours with the Lord, did not mistake Him as being his equal. He recognised the Lord because He was attuned with the Holy Spirit. It is the same for us, when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and rule our lives, we will be able to recognise Jesus in each person and situation.

Do you recognise Jesus today? Do you believe that He has formed this Church on the Rock?

I for one, never understand why people leave the Catholic faith and go on to start their own churches? Why are people leaving a banquet of the King to eat a home-cooked meal of their own? Jesus has laid a foundation that no one can topple and destruct, though many have failed.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Lord, create a new heart and a new spirit within us. Help us to find our true selves in you, the Shepherd of our souls.

Thanksgiving: For you are gracious, merciful and you are Love. Receive O Lord, our contrite hearts, which yearns only for you. Thank you for your guiding staff.

2 February, Friday – The Art of Precious Scars

2 Feb – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

This feast celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season.

This feast is also known by other traditional names including Candelmas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Candlemas marked the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season.

The Western term ‘Candlemas’ (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on Feb 2 (forty days after Christmas) blessed beeswax candles with an aspergilium (liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water) for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home.

Since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasized in favour of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.

  • Wikipedia

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

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Hebrews 2:14-18

Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.

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Luke 2:22-40

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

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For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap”

Kintsugi is the Japanese method for repairing broken pottery with coloured laquer. This “golden joinery” creates beautiful artwork melding old with new. If human hands can work such wonders, what more our loving and powerful God?

Most of the time, I struggle to deal with seemingly shattering events. Plans are derailed, new paths are forged, and relationships wane. These arresting moments are sprung upon us all. Yet, God holds us gently; moulding us in incomprehensible ways. Take a moment to thread your life’s journey, and see how all things have worked for His good. We may not have gotten what we once wanted, but here we are, ready and formed to do His work.

Just as Jesus was presented at the temple, we too should open our hearts and minds to fully experience the possibilities of this life. May we always be eager to experience the touch of his guiding hands.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, in your wisdom, blend the craggy pieces of my life into a gift to the world.

 Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s artisanal vision and grace.

25 January, Thursday – Growing Pains

25 Jan – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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Acts 22:3-16

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

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

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

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Mark 16:15-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

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

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

8 January, Monday – Recognising The Truly Important

8 January – The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Christ (or the Baptism of Christ) is the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Originally the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana. Over time in the West, however, the celebration of the baptism of the Lord came to be commemorated as a distinct feast from Epiphany. It is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Anglican and Lutheran Churches on the first Sunday following The Epiphany of Our Lord (6 January).

– Wikipedia

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Isaiah 55:1-11

Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.

With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

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1 John 5:1-9

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
our faith.

Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth –
so that there are three witnesses,
the Spirit, the water and the blood,
and all three of them agree.
We accept the testimony of human witnesses,
but God’s testimony is much greater,
and this is God’s testimony,
given as evidence for his Son.

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Mark 1:7-11

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

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“Here is the servant whom I uphold my chosen one in whom my soul delights”

In the last few months, I have been having conversations with my ex-schoolmates and friends who are in all in their fifties. Strangely, while we have never previously discussed or shared our views, all of us talked of spending more time with our families, time with God, doing charity works or simply relaxing more.

And yet, these are men, who at first worked hard in their studies and later became very successful in their businesses and careers. Somehow over the years, these same men despite having all their ‘successes’, agreed that something was still missing in their lives. The common refrain I hear from them was, “There is more to life than money/career/success/…”

In our later years, my friends and I have realised that the pursuit of riches still leaves us wanting more. In my case, I realised in early 2016, when I attended CER, that the missing ‘something’ was my experience of God’s love. While His love was never lacking and was always there for me, my earthly issues and distractions kept me from noticing it.

Just like John the Baptist, who recognised that Jesus was God, and willingly bowed down to His Godliness, I pray that I may always be able to see God everywhere and in everyone around me. I pray that I may be able to give up my ego and pride and offer myself to our One True God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer: We pray that we may be able to give up everything for our Father and Lord God, that we may be able to always see God around us.

Thanksgiving: Thank You for choosing and creating us to be Your children, Father God. Thank You for being there for us and for sending Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to us.