Category Archives: Feastdays

10 August, Thursday – Radical Ideas

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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“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”

In Matthew 22:21, Jesus tells us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s”. With Money, it is sometimes difficult to ascertain where the line is drawn between what belongs to God, what belongs to the tax collector and what belongs to us. The more we grab at it, the less of it we seem to have. The higher it is on our list of priorities, the more we find ourselves being corrupted by it. It’s as if a detachment is necessary in order for us to coexist peacefully with Money. That sense of detachment allowed St Lawrence to be a good steward of the Church’s financial wealth. And when push finally came to shove, St Lawrence returned the Church’s financial treasure back to its people in order to safeguard it from the hands of the greedy Romans. Imagine the Vatican giving all of its wealth to the poor in one fell swoop! What a radical idea, even by today’s standards!

Christ once said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24). That’s a universal truth. Money is a difficult thing to square away. Whatever our station in life, we’ve all experienced issues with ownership of it. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he reminds us that ‘’Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”. In short, God promises to multiply our abundance if we maintain a detachment to it. That’s hard to do, unless we change our mindset and, like St Lawrence, think of ourselves more as stewards of our wealth, rather than owners of it. Our responsibility is to preserve its value, grow it if we can, and disseminate it to facilitate His purpose, not our own. If we put on the mindset of the steward, that detachment becomes a little easier. If we don’t think of it as our own, who knows, we might become better managers of it as we acquaint ourselves with the concept of fiduciary duty. We might even be happier as we get off that secular steeplechase.

Yes, it’s a radical idea; but then, today is the feastday of a radical saint!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom, courage and clarity of thought to make good decisions with the wealth and treasure that God has entrusred to us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the blessings that God has accorded to us – both of the material and spiritual kind.

26 July, Wednesday – Navigation Aids

Jul 26 – Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

By tradition, Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. We have no historical evidence, however, of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary’s father and mother come to us through legend and tradition. It was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. Such parents can be examples and models for all parents.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=22

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Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15

From Elim they set out, and the whole community of the sons of Israel reached the wilderness of Sin – between Elim and Sinai – on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt. And the whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, ‘Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have brought in, this will be twice as much as the daily gathering.’

Moses said to Aaron, ‘To the whole community of the sons of Israel say this, “Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaints.”’ As Aaron was speaking to the whole community of the sons of Israel, they turned towards the wilderness, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the form of a cloud. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, “Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.”’ And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was. ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’

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Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

I was privileged to have had a discussion with an atheist about the need for Jesus and religion in our lives.

Among the breadth of opinions shared, one statement gave me particular cause for reflection. He believed in the power of human rationality to craft a convincing, positive narrative for the events that have taken place in our lives. Since Christian life does not immunize us from suffering, he opined that with the right conditioning, anyone could make sense of life’s tumults and could invariably view those seeming coincidences through a generous lens.

If our survival instinct is hard-coded into our DNA, then surely we would overcome the bad, cherish the good, and plod through the rest of life’s banalities with the single-mindedness of a marathon runner heading towards the finish line. Probability and science would be the definite panaceas for dealing with uncertainty and the unknown.

I struggled with my feelings towards this point-of-view. I started off feeling jealous of people who are able to cope with life’s difficulties independently. They seemed strong and resolute; people made of sterner stuff than I was. I then was filled with anger as I thought about the path God had led me on thus far. Why did He allow me to make innumerable poor decisions? Why has there been so much pain?

However, upon deeper reflection on my way home, the malaise faded and gratitude filled my heart. In my times of weakness and failure, God cradled me and walked with me on my journey. By crying out to God and having him as my only crutch, our relationship grew. He has filled me with a deep-seated peace that can only be attained through communion with Him. God isn’t a fad that I will outgrow. He does not have an expiration date or faces obsolescence from a newer model.

I never did ask my friend if he was truly happy. Or if he would entertain the possibility of an infinite being that transcends our human understanding of joy, love, and providence. But it doesn’t really matter for now, because Jesus loves and cares for him too, even though my friend cannot see His footprints.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer — Dear Lord, grant us the humility to always look to you as our North Star.

Thanksgiving — We thank you Father for our moments of weakness. In those moments, you show us your unyielding strength.

25 July, Tuesday – Counter Cultural

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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“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;”

Christ is our head and we are the body. Where the head goes, the body follows, naturally. “My chalice you shall indeed drink”(Mt 20:23).

What if we were soldiers under Napoleon Bonaparte or any of those supposedly great military leaders? Sure, their methods are still being studied now, but their legacy or empire didn’t last very long after they lost power. In fact, all these powerful rulers, including the likes of Nero, Caesar & Hitler all lost power.

Christ never ‘lost’. He said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). Christ laid down His life out of His own will as he said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” So here we are, in 2017 still being sustained and protected by the head, who, laid down his life of his own accord. In every other strategy, this makes no sense. In Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’, Satan is depicted as being shocked that he didn’t win.

As followers of Christ, I often liken our journey to that of the salmon, going against the current to lay her eggs, going upstream, struggling, and those that don’t make it, don’t have offspring, they aren’t fruitful. We are called to be exactly as Christ was — counter cultural — to give of ourselves instead of preserving ourselves; to be a servant instead of desiring to be served. We stand as the last institution to not waiver on the dignity of life, on our stance against abortion; absolutely, counter cultural.

A friend recently told me she lost some good friends due to her church commitments and beliefs. I thought to myself, so have I. Of the chalice of the Lord I too desire to drink. But rejoice, I shall, for my reward will be great in heaven. It fills me with great comfort knowing that there are many of us out there who stand against the culture of death and hold firm to the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer — Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12) Jesus, I trust in you and I know you will give me strength and courage to persevere in your name. May I always stand for truth; for love of neighbour & for justice.

Thanksgiving — Thank you Lord, for promising that the gates of the underworld will never prevail. I hold on to that promise and will sing of your great love forever.

3 July, Monday – Believe yet not seen

3 July – 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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You believe because you can see me

It is interesting that we continue to have faith in the operators of theme parks, sellers of miracle skin care ranges and diet supplements, and even each other. But when it comes to believing God, we can sometimes be sceptical.

While writing this piece, I was trying to find out if the Apostle Thomas ever came to Malaysia, since he was in India. After spending some time researching I wondered why was it so important to me, that one of the apostles of Jesus walked on the same land as I do today. Would I have doubted Jesus’ resurrection like Thomas did?

We are all sinners and yet our perfect God continues to believe in us. We have failed, not kept to His word or ours and yet it is He who chooses to continue believing in us. Why would the Lord of all the earth, whose credibility is spotless and accountability unquestionable, be the object of our doubts? Sometimes it is because we simply lack faith; but sometimes, I think we feel that we are close enough to Jesus that we could ask Him as Thomas did. After journeying with Jesus, Thomas must have really loved Jesus and just as we would sometimes think of our departed loves, Thomas yearned to see His Lord again just once more. In his grief, he could have been disappointed that the others had seen Jesus, but not himself.

If I were in his shoes, I could imagine the pain he would have felt. That the Saviour appears to all his friends except him and the feelings that arose may not be of jealously and envy, but simply because of the deep yearning to see the One he loves. Look at his response, “My Lord and My God.” He did not question Him when they met face to face.

This could be a familiar feeling to some of us when a loved one who lives abroad comes home on a visit. One of my close friends lived abroad for 20 years. We kept in touch, writing letters, phone calls, emails, Skype sessions and sending each other cards for birthdays, Christmas and sometimes just for no occasion at all.  On most of her visits, we got to meet each other at the airport as she stayed at my place. On her more recent visits, it was challenging for us to meet. In her conversations, she would sometimes mention that she met one of our mutual friends and if on her trip home, we had yet to meet, I would yearn just to see her and be in her presence. In anticipation of our face to face meeting we both yearned just to see each other, which is not uncommon among good friends.

In Thomas’ case, he was not just friends with Jesus. He knew that Jesus Christ was his Lord. In that same sense, when we move away from Christ because of our lifestyles or because we stop praying and receiving Holy Communion, there is such a deep longing within us for Him that we feel lost and sometimes we even ache inside.

Today, let us continue to foster this friendship with our Father. Let us ask Him to come and show Himself to us. And when He does (because He surely will) let us embrace His words, His ways and His truth. Let us boldly place our hands in His wounds to address the suffering faced by others around us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Heal our unbelief in You. Lead us to a friendship and total sonship with You that in every situation we would believe, though we have not seen. St Thomas, pray for us.

Thanksgiving: O My Lord and My God, we long for You. Our souls are restless until they rest in You.

18 June, Sunday – Food for Eternal Life

18 Jun 2017 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi), Year A

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Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

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1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.

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John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowd:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

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He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him

People love their food in this country. They spend time planning where they want to go for their lunch and dinner. They post photos and videos of what they have eaten on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. In-depth analysis of the quality and quantity of food together with the service of the staff will be rated. Yet I often wonder if the same effort will be devoted towards understanding the depth of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Today’s Solemnity is an important celebration for each one of us as we enter into the mystery of this wonderful gift of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which we have received from Jesus Christ. Just as food nourishes our bodies, the Holy Eucharist nourishes our spiritual lives and makes grow in deeper communion with the Lord Jesus.

The Eucharist brings us closer towards Jesus Christ and allows us to enter into a deeper communion with the Lord Jesus. This allows us to discover this great mystery of God’s love for us – to want to come down on earth to save us so that we can enter into eternal joy with Him. Moses in the First Reading remind us that we cannot live on bread alone and Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the Jews who ate the manna have all died but those who eat His flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life. This means that we must renounce the ways of the world. The flesh cannot give us eternal life but Jesus’s flesh certainly can do so.

To believe that the Lord Jesus is truly present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist requires faith because Reason is unable to fully explain this great Mystery. The Scriptures and the Eucharist strengthen our souls and our lives are transformed to become examples for the world to follow. St Paul in the Second Reading shares with us that although we respond in a very special way to the vocation God has called us to live in this world, we remain one Christian community. The lives of Christians, in whichever location and occupation we are in, will become a consistent and living example for all to see what being in love with Christ is.

The question is, “Are we ready to accept the plan which God has for us?”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you allow the visible sign of your Body and Blood hidden in the bread and wine to become for us the sustenance to love and serve you in this passing world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all priests who celebrate the Mass every day.

25 April, Tuesday – Proclaiming the Gospel

25 Apr – Feast of St. Mark, evangelist

St. Mark is believed to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the “John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:25). He was a disciple of St. Peter who travelled with him to Rome, and was referred to as “my son Mark” by the first Pope. He was the author of the earliest canonical Gospel. He travelled with his cousin St. Barnabas, and with St. Paul through Cyprus. He evangelized in Alexandria, established the Church there, and founded the first famous Christian school.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Peter 5:5-14

All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you. Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.

I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.

Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

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Mark 16:15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them:
‘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.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

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“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Building on the previous readings, we see in the Gospel today how Jesus asks us to go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel. The truth really is not so much that Jesus asks us to do so, but if we have truly encountered the Risen Lord in our lives, we will want to share Him with all.  When we know who Jesus is, when we know who we are and who we are called to be, there really is nothing to fear when we are speaking the truth, living in the truth, living in light.

Many times, we rely on our own strength and we fear that we are not good enough, that we are not ready, and question who are we to comment/advise or to share our experiences and our lives. Of course, humanly it is very daunting but, when we trust and allow the Holy Spirit to take over, not only do we encounter Christ in His working within us, we allow others to encounter Christ too.

Evangelisation isn’t solely spreading Jesus by word of mouth. It is really allowing Him to live in us, and by our example, enable others to see Christ. So we practice what we preach but very importantly, with humility, recognising and giving thanks for all the blessings that Christ has bestowed on us — the people He has sent in our lives, the opportunities given to us, the graces we’ve received. In other words, to give Him the glory not just with our mouths but also with our lives.

Together with the spirit, nothing is too difficult to overcome. Let us embrace this spirit, our faith, our baptism, to go forth and share our Risen Lord with all.

“You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all graces who called you to eternal glory in Christ will restore you, he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be faithful to you. Help us to embrace our identity, for you created us in your image, with love. Help us share you by our lives with all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your love and your Word. Continue to show yourself to those who do not know you.

25 March, Saturday – “God is with us”

25 Mar – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then he said:
Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means ‘God is with us.’
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Hebrews 10:4-10
Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world:
You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’
Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
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Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
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Every day at 12 noon, my alarm goes off. And as long as I am not urgently occupied I say the Angelus (or my wife reminds me to). Traditionally, it was prayed three times a day, accompanied by church bells. Even the Holy Father makes an event of praying the Angelus when he does it on Sundays at noon and gives a short address. The Church has also attached a partial indulgence to praying the Angelus.

Why does this prayer get so much air time? I think, precisely because it represents the single most significant event in the history of the world. The Annunciation. Mary said ‘Yes’ and the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity was immediately present in her womb and, until now, is present in the world. Literally, God is with us. So every day, millions of people take a bit of time to ponder this great mystery. The one sovereign God loves us so much that he became exactly like one of us, holding on to none of His splendour and grandeur.

What does this mean to us? Do we live like God is among us? Or is He only present in the tabernacle or worse, only 2000 years ago? I have come to realise that once we make ourselves aware of God’s true presence within and around us all the time, then we truly live as His children; like recently, when I visited an old workplace of mine and met with old colleagues, (post reversion to the faith) I could see people for the people they are and not what they can do, how they work or what position they hold. Being more aware of God’s presence makes us less judgmental and more compassionate. It makes us model Mary, just a little bit.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me,” said Mary. And from that moment, the Lord was with her. Let us, in recitation of the Angelus daily, become handmaids too, and do all the Lord asks of us and always be aware that he is truly with us.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for your Mother; Our Mother, for her yes, for her intercession and for her leading us to you.

19 March, Monday – Eeny, Meenie, Miney, Mo

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

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

Prayer to St. Joseph

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

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

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

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

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Romans 4:13,16-18,22

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

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

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Matthew 1:16,18-21,24

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

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“She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus.”

 St. Joseph is never referred to as the guardian, or the father of Jesus. Being more often known as the husband of Mary, he lived a life of humility and service, supporting God’s plan while working tirelessly outside of the limelight. I empathized with him, as he wrestled with the news of how the birth of Jesus would forever change his life, regardless of his response. He could either have stood by Mary’s side and fulfilled his duties as a husband, or he could have walked away and started afresh.

Sometimes God entrusts us with responsibilities that we may not want to undertake. These duties fill us with fear and anxiety, and make us question our worthiness to live up to grand expectations perpetuated by society, and ourselves. In today’s ‘empowered’ world where the ability to make our own choices is held so dearly, we wrestle with the constant dilemma of choosing to live for God wholeheartedly, to live the life that we tweak and adjust so that it seems like we are living in accordance to God’s will, or to dive completely into the mission that God tasks us with.

But is the choice really one between similar outcomes? I’ve been guilty of making ‘good’ choices, only to feel a deep sense of restlessness that only subsides once I tweak my original plan. I have also made choices after much prayer and reflection, only to still have to face God’s silence, as I work through the consequences of my actions while managing the uncertainty that still lingers for a long time after. Choice, it would seem, is just the beginning of a pact we make with God and ourselves.

Our loving God not only grants us the wisdom to make choices out of our own free will, but he also empowers us to follow-through on those choices in spite of the fog of confusion or doubt that is along that path. It is the beauty of the relentless cycle of choices being presented, discerning and praying before choosing, and leaning on God as we work through the consequences of our actions, that make the Christian life so rigorous, and comforting. The simplicity and difficulty of this cycle, help us to plant deep roots into the rich field of our earthly life so that no storm or tempest could ever sway us beyond our limits.

St. Joseph made his choice all those years ago and his legacy is something that we give thanks for everyday. Fellow journeyers in Christ, how will the choices you make today leave a legacy that would be pleasing to God?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask you to reveal your plan for our life’s vocation, and to give us the courage to do whatever it takes to answer your call.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for the quiet workers in our lives. With gratitude, we praise you for the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

22 February, Wednesday – Profession of Faith

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 in Rome, on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

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This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

  • The Weekday Missal

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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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“Who do you say I am? … You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St Peter, the Apostle. Very much in line with the messages from the previous days, about faith, about the example. In today’s Gospel, we focus on the faith of Peter but also His example. Peter didn’t just say those words, he lived those words and Jesus knew. His faith was his life.

We profess our faith weekly but how does it affect us? Or is it simply just words?

Like Peter, we are all human, imperfect. But Peter has chosen to see Christ in His life. Yes, we may say that Christ performed many miracles then and hence it was easier to believe but He is still performing many miracles today, why is it we don’t see?

Maybe because we are waiting for someone to come down from the clouds or a voice from heaven?

I believe Christ lives in each and everyone of us and we are all called to be Christ to one another. The Holy Spirit is working in us, to reach out and minister to others. When we give out of compassion, when we forgive, reconcile, love. When we make sacrifices, when we affirm, when we reach out to the needy. These are the many miracles Christ is working in our lives today.

Today, WE are the church and Christ chooses each one of us to carry on His ministry, to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We are His examples, His witnesses, His light, His love.

Let us not take the people around us, the people who love us and are closest to us for granted. Let us profess our faith with conviction and by example, that we are one church, we have one God and we are the children of the living God. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, empower us in our weaknesses, be our strength and our guide. May we not get caught up with routines and take for granted what is really important. Help us to open our eyes, bless us with wisdom, that we may see your hand continuously in our lives, to be Christ to all.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of community, of the church. Thank you for the Holy Spirit. Continue to live and move and work in us, that we may bring/lead all to you, to glorify your name. Amen.

2 February, Thursday – Ask!

 2 Feb – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord; World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

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.

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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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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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“This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him”

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells us to “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened”.

So often, we find ourselves afraid to ask. We don’t ask because I think on some level, we’re afraid to believe; afraid of being disappointed. We’ve been let down so often by the people around us that subconsciously, we don’t want God to join their ranks. So if we don’t ask, He never gets the chance to say no and remains that distant, perfect being. But then our faith doesn’t get the chance to exercise itself either, and we end up wondering, ‘what if’? Worse than that, our prayer life doesn’t get to mature. We know God only as a distant Sunday school being, and never develop the kind of close relationship that comes from prayerful ‘asking’.

We see different kinds of ‘asking’ in Scripture. There are the requests for assurance like when Gideon needs a sign of God’s plan (Judges 6:33-39). There are the desperate pleas, like when Hannah asks God to bless her with a child (1 Samuel 1:9-28). There are the half-serious requests, like when Moses asks God to choose someone else (Exodus 4:13). And then there are the deep, resonant prayers in Scripture, the ones that silence us with their humility and complete surrender to God’s plan – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). When we pray deeply, devotedly and in full faith, God sends the Holy Spirit to tune our hearts so that our desires align with His. Simeon prayed with devotion that he would see the ‘consolation of Israel’. Through prayer, he was infused by the Holy Spirit so that he discerned things with his heart and correctly identified Christ the child, the moment he walked into the temple. “Seek and you will find”. It is in prayerful asking, in prayerful seeking that the Holy Spirit reveals and aligns us to God’s will for us. He has plans for us that we would not even dream for ourselves. Let’s not let our fears and insecurities stop us from experiencing the richness of a life lived according to His will for us. We might surprise ourselves with what He is able to do if we would just let Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for God to work His will in our lives and to give us hearts tuned in to His plan for us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all those that God sends to guide us onto the path He has set for us. May we recognize them when they show themselves to us.