Category Archives: Feastdays

18 October, Wednesday – Neighbours

Oct 18 – Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 4:10-17

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

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

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Luke 10:1-9

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

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Eat what is set before you

How nice it must have been, how comforting to know that if you knock on a door, as a traveler, that household was obliged to give you shelter and some bread. The Jewish customs valued life, for if they turned a traveler away in the middle of the night, they might find him dead in the morning. So either out of fear or hospitality, it was a time where you should not be sleeping on the streets, unless you were a leper or were short of a limb, then strangely you were an outcast for fear your curse would be inflicted on them.

I myself am not one who opens his door all day long and engages in long conversations in the corridors. Thankfully, I married someone who really sees the person behind the faces she meets, she greets, she asks, she cares, and she’s engaged in a conversation along the corridor, long after I have gone into the house and put my feet up. I have truly learnt the value of being a neighbour — my neighbours have come to our aid many times, as have we in their times of need. From borrowing potatoes, to drills, to watching the baby and even sharing home-cooked meals, it does feel like I have something rare on my floor.

So as the disciples did, as Jesus commanded, I pray we sincerely wish our peace upon our neighbours, and as Jesus said, if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; if not, your peace will return to you. We have nothing to lose in reaching out, being kind, being neighbourly. We have become rather guarded but in opening our gates, I think we will find that most of the time there are bridges to be built. And hopefully, they will know that we are Christians by our love.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)

Prayer: Pray for us St Luke, that we may be evangelists too and not be afraid to give away some of this infinite love that Christ has given us.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the challenge to love outside our comfort zone, and for the promise that we will not lose anything.

29 September, Friday – Your Invisible Battlelion

Sep 29 – Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages…. So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

  • from a homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great

Michael was the leader of the army of God during the Lucifer uprising. Devotion to him is common to Muslims, Christians and Jews with writings about him in all three cultures. He is considered as the guardian angel of Israel, and the guardian and protector of the Church.

Raphael is one of the seven angels that stand before God’s throne. He is the lead character in the book of Tobit in which he travelled with (and guarded) Tobiah, and cured a man’s blindness; hence his connection with travellers, young people, blindness, healing and healers.

  • Patron Saints Index

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Apocalypse 12:7-12

Now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him. Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom, because even in the face of death they would not cling to life. Let the heavens rejoice and all who live there.’

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John 1:47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael. ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’

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Even in the face of death they would not cling to life

Courage, in my life of faith, is a virtue and a quality I often pray for. It isn’t because I am timid by nature – I am quite an assertive person – yet I have come to learn that I am often in need of wisdom to summon courage for the right reasons and in the right situations.

When we are challenged by difficult situations, we can be stubborn and resistant on having our way – bashing through the obstacles like a mull. But that does not imply courage or wisdom in approaching one’s goals. Instead, I have realised that having a courageous heart requires drilling down deep into my soul and clinging on to my faith in the Lord who will, even in my cluelessness or inaction, carry me through with his grace and strength.

At the same time, I recall that I have never been short on receiving help from God’s angels! But how often do I forget, even to call upon their names! Today’s Feast of the Archangels is a timely reminder that we are surrounded by the presence of angels who watch over us and upon whom we can rely on for holy assistance.

Wasn’t it in the Scriptures (Luke 4:10-13) of the Temptation of Jesus where the devil taunted Christ to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’”?

The devil himself knows the duties and might of the angels, having been one himself. He knows that each of us is protected by our own guardian angel, and not least, the fearsome and powerful archangels – Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

Perhaps it is time to be get to know our own guardian angel and to reacquaint ourselves with God’s faithful archangel trio. Our spiritual army battalion is larger than we can ever imagine. If we trust in the glory and majesty of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then surely we must believe in and courageously call upon the help of his heavenly angels who are always battle-ready in the face of evil and danger.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Saints Micheal, Gabriel, Raphael and my Guardian Angel, please come to my aid in my hour of need.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me Jesus. Thank you for giving me your faithful court of angels who stand guard over me at every step of my way, ignorant of their presence as I have been.

21 September, Thursday – Forgiveness, for us and for others

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

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

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

  • Patron Saint Index

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Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

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

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

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Matthew 9:9-13

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

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

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice”

Through my years of education in Catholic schools, there was a running joke about ‘catholic guilt’. Essentially, one cannot be a good Catholic without having a healthy dose of guilt! Because I wasn’t Catholic then, I did not realise how true (or funny!) that saying was!

Ironically, the years in a well-established school for boys gave all of us loads of self-confidence.  I was so well entrenched in this environment that I took it all for granted. We looked at other schools and thought we were much better than them in every aspect.

All that changed when I went to junior college. At that time, students were posted to an interim junior college for the first 3 months. I was not posted to the college of my choice. While I did not realise it then, it was a blessing from God. During the short 3 months, I met many who were much smarter, sportier and funnier. The difference was that these same students were much humbler than my friends, or indeed, myself. I can truly say this experience changed my view of the world.

As humans, we tend to go to extremes; we either think too highly or too lowly of ourselves.  Getting caught up in our situations, we become overly critical of ourselves or others.

The words in today’s gospel “What I want is mercy, not sacrifice” really stuck in my mind when I first reflected on them about a year ago. When I first thought about this, the message I got was that rather than being judgemental towards others, we should choose to exercise mercy.

Following a very emotional confession I had at the Conversion Experience Experience (CER), I remember the priest sharing with me that had Jesus not had the scars from the crucifixion, our redemption would have been different… that there was beauty in His scars; His imperfections.

It was then that I realised that this mercy is not just to be extended to others, but also to ourselves. It is only with this mercy that we can experience true redemption, which allows us to truly love others.

We are a work of progress. We will be guided by the Holy Spirit, but because of our human nature, we will fall.  Our God, however, will not fail us, and all we need to do is to turn back to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We need to learn to be merciful to ourselves.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father, we pray that You may give us the strength and grace to be kind to ourselves.

ThanksgivingThank You Father for loving us first. Thank You for showing us that with Your love and mercy, we can walk through our lives in confidence.

15 September, Friday – Forgiveness

Sep 15 – Memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows

Different sorrows of Mary have been honoured in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have come to be regarded as the seven ‘dolors’ (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon
  2. The Flight into Egypt
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days
  4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
  5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
  6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
  7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb

By commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the sufferings that Mary endured as part of her vocation as the Mother of the Redeemer. No one is closer to Christ than Mary, consequently no one has participated more intimately in the redemptive suffering of Christ than His Mother Mary.

  • http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Faith/1998-03-04/sorrows.html

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1 Timothy 1:1-2,12-14

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

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John 19:25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

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Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance

There are some people whom I know who believe in retribution for others who have caused them much hurt. They believe that every one will get their just punishment proportionate to the amount of harm they have caused. Some go even further and wish upon a greater punishment upon the aggressor. The readings of today remind us that sometimes the individual in question may actually not know what they are doing.

St Paul was very zealous in persecuting the Christians when he was still a Pharisee. He mistakenly believed that they were engaging in heretical behaviour. It was only after the encounter which he had with Christ on the roads in Damascus did he realise the folly of his ways. Sometimes people are not aware of how their actions have an impact on others and sometimes in a bad way.

At the foot of the Cross, Mary stood there looking at her Son slowly die due to a false accusation. She would have heard the words which Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This is the mystery of forgiveness which we are called to reflect on today’s Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Amidst the sorrow of seeing her only Son pass away, she hears Him asking God to forgive his enemies.

If Jesus made an effort to forgive His enemies, I believe we should also do the same. Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do; in fact it may also cause us to re-examine why we are so unwilling to let go of past hurts. Yet we need to trust that the process will allow us to grow in maturity only if we are willing to take the first step to let go.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help others to forgive their enemies.

14 September, Thursday – The Wood of the Cross

Sep 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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

  • Patron Saints Index

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Numbers 21:4-9

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

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

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John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

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

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For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.’

Symbols can carry great significance for human beings. Some of them remind us of a significant event or person in our lives which we want to hold closer to us. Even in the secular world, they have memorials, plaques and statues made so that we commemorate important events which happened in the history of the company or the country. Today’s Feast is more than just a symbolic memory for the Cross represents the central focus of our whole Christian life.

The Cross represents the sacrifice which Jesus Christ made for us because we have fallen into sin. Through the Cross, we have a chance to open the gates of heaven which was closed due to Original Sin. An instrument of torture has now become the sign where all of us can profess our belief in the Lord Jesus.

Sometimes I take the Cross for granted and think that everything will be ok. However, I am always reminded that whilst the war against sin has been won, the daily battle against sin is still present. God has put forth before me various struggles which I have to encounter and in doing so, the growth in my Christian journey is deepened.

Let us take some time today to reflect on the Cross and what it signifies in our own lives. How do we live the message of the Cross, which is one of sacrifice and love and let it triumph over all our sins, weaknesses and temptations?

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: We adore you O Christ and we bless you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to proclaim the Word of God despite facing tremendous difficulty.

24 August, Thursday – Passionate About Passion

Aug 24 – Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

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

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

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 21:9-14

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

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John 1:45-51

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

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You will see greater things than that

Passion. A powerful word that aptly describes the fervour all the Saints had for serving Christ. With passion comes dedication, motivation and purpose; what most would consider as a recipe for success in any chosen endeavor. I suspect that most of us have never truly experienced passion. We may claim to enjoy certain pursuits, but never let them consume all of our being to the point of defining our existence.

About four months ago, I decided to give tennis a try and am utterly smitten. Physical limitations notwithstanding, I have been training and playing as often as I can. As tiring, challenging and frustrating as the game can be, I never find myself wanting to give up. I enjoy the relentless competition, the pain that leaves every sinew in my body sore, and the humiliation of regular defeats. I revel in the satisfaction of a hard won point, the days when every stroke just flows effortlessly, and the friendships forged under the scorching sun. If this is what passion is, then I want more of it in my life and wonder why I have never felt it before.

Is passion a fortunate (or occasionally misguided) coincidence? Can passion for God be developed? Or is it something that only a select few ever get to experience? I surmise that there is a formula for passion and would love to hear your thoughts on this (please leave your comments on our Facebook page or email us at oxygen@thecatholicwriter.com).

I believe that we become passionate about things when 1) we are open to, and actively work at discovering things that are inherently good and worthwhile; 2) the object of passion is aligned with our personality and wholeness as persons; 3) we find it more meaningful to devote our time and energy toward our passion as compared to our previous routines; and 4) the object of passion helps us to grow.

It seems like the Saints were onto something good when they were filled with passion for Jesus. Their efforts seem so phenomenal and barely understandable to those who are unable to understand their motivations. Brothers and sisters, is it time for us to be active in our search for passion? Our relationship with Christ should not and cannot be left to chance.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, your passion on the cross saved us all. Bless us with the gift of passion for you, and the service of mankind.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father, for our capacity to feel and love so deeply. May we never forget how you’ve always cherished your children.

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.