Category Archives: Feastdays

30 November, Thursday – The Simple Life

Nov 30 – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

Andrew was the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was a fisherman by trade, and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

Romans 10:9-18

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound. Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put the question: is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their message to the ends of the world.

___________________

Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

____________________

“…I will make you fishers of men.”

I recently attended a worship leader’s workshop, conducted by a youthful-looking praise and worship leader who had been invited to our centre to share his experiences since he discovered praise and worship when he was only 13 years old.

After spending 37 years travelling the world (and living in Europe for 19 years), he was now focussed on imparting his knowledge in a way which made me feel even more connected with God. Because rather than being anxious and fearful, wondering what songs to choose and how many to sing, he began the first night of sharing with just one song. And he also helped us (there were about 20 present) redefine what worship was while encouraging us to share our own feelings in pairs. At the end of the two hour first session, it dawned on me that worshipping the Lord could be as simple as long as we prayed from the heart. It didn’t have to be complicated!

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls his first four disciples – all fishermen. Not marketeers, lawyers, nor merchants. Just humble fishermen who the Church would eventually be built upon. These were the simple folk who were going to lead their flock to Christ – which is what worship leaders are called to do – to lead the congregation to a Christ-centred experience or encounter.

As I reflected on this idea, I began to realise that as God calls us to mission, all the more we need to be humble and simplify our lives. Because by allowing the complexities of the secular world to cloud our thinking and cripple our hearts, we are not allowing God to work through us effectively. I shared this recently during our discipleship group meeting and some of my brothers echoed the sentiment by recounting how, over the past week or so, they have been amazed by how God has sent them messages of simplicity. Encouraging each one to find his true voice in a simple melody, as opposed to a full-fledged song; by having to step up at the last minute and to lead worship with just a guitar and a voice. It is in those simple moments that we are able to discern the cry from our hearts and to bring God to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Christ’s call to each one of us is a simple one – “Follow me”. Two very simple words with a very profound meaning. Brothers and sisters, amidst the hurly-burly of our lives, are we truly able to hear the call of God and discern in our heart what His mission for us truly is?

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer Dear God, give us the grace to embrace simplicity so that we can truly discern your voice in our life.

Thanksgiving Thank You Father, for sending giving us Jesus Christ, our Shepherd.

9 November, Thursday – Being Me

Nov 9 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It is officially named “Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran”.

It is the oldest and ranks first (being the cathedral of Rome) among the four major basilicas of Rome, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church (mother church of the whole inhabited world). An inscription on the façade, Christo Salvatore, dedicates the Lateran as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, for the cathedrals of all patriarchs are dedicated to Christ Himself. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne, it ranks above all other churches, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

– Wikipedia

____________________

Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

_________________

1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

________________

John 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem and in the Temple, he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

____________________

“Let each man take care how he builds upon it.”

We take many of the gifts that God has bestowed us with for granted. Unawareness, denial, and complacency with regard to our gifts are but some of the ways that we limit our potential to shine. Insiduously, these habits then lead us to (foolishly) desire gifts that could never be ours. These desires are most likely not rooted in the soil of God’s kingdom, but in the desolate desert of our stubborn hearts.

Who and what we are has, and will be shaped by our circumstances and heritage. I do not know enough about developmental psychology and behavioural genetics to understand the ‘nature vs. nurture’ relationship; but I do know that no two people are exactly alike. And once we embrace our uniqueness, we can employ ourselves effectively. You wouldn’t attempt to cut a steak with a ladle, would you?

One measure that I’ve found helpful is to ask friends for their thoughts on what makes me, well, me! Some responses have been affirming, and some have been alarming, to say the least. Synthesising all this information has given me a better understand of how my contributions are valued by the larger community that I interact with. After all, our lives are gifts to be enjoyed by others.

Brothers and sisters, we can either continue the Sysiphean struggle of becoming who we want to be, or we can attune ourselves to what God wants us to be. Discovering my true self will make it a whole lot easier to live with the person whom I spend the most time with. Me.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that your children seek to plumb the depths of their being.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Father, for making us exactly how we are supposed to be right now.

28 October, Saturday – Me too

Oct 28 – Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Simon was an apostle called the Cananean, or Zealot, because of his zeal for the Jewish law. He was not from Cana, nor a member of the Zealot party. Like all the Apostles, he was a convert, and was trained by St. Peter the Apostle. He evangelised in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though there are traditions of him being in several other locations. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom – Abyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

– Patron Saint Index

Jude Thaddeus was the son of Cleopas who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross and who anointed Christ’s body after death. He was the brother of St. James the Lesser, and nephew of Mary and Joseph. He was the blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He may have been a fisherman, and was an apostle.

He was the writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with St. Simon. He was a healer and an exorcist, and could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble. He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia.

His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never prayed for Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause.

– Patron Saint Index

____________________

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.

___________________

Luke 6:12-16

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

____________________

When day came, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose Twelve, whom He also named Apostles.

Today’s Gospel reading talks about Jesus choosing his apostles. The Twelve would function as his champions, his supporters and believers, who would uphold his teachings and ways. Yes, they are helpers in a way, but the definition of ‘apostle’ does not mention ‘help’ anywhere. The Apostles were Jesus’ support system.

Very recently, a whole host of actresses, interns, models and former employees of Harvey Weinstein stepped out to speak of their personal experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr. Weinstein himself. In what I am sure has been a PR nightmare, the Weinstein company sacked Mr. Weinstein. But the nightmare isn’t just confined to the company. In fact, the company will probably be acquired, undergo a name change, have a reshuffle in the board and with some luck, it will continue to exist as though all of this never happened. As for the women… the nightmare has only just begun, or will worsen, and they will live in constant fear of always being judged, gossiped, and scrutinised.

My heart breaks to read of reports of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed and, in what clearly would be a case where they are the victims, the fingers are now pointed at them, the spotlight shining brightly on their ‘so-called’ values, casting shadows on their integrity. And this goes beyond just sexual harassment. This goes beyond gender. Anyone who has ever felt marginalised, bullied, taken advantage of, anyone who has felt depressed, or suicidal – this is for you too.

Why are we, as victims, so afraid to speak up and speak out? I’ll tell you why. Because we are afraid. Afraid that no one will believe us. Afraid that people will look at us and say “we had it coming” or that we’re “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Afraid that people will scrutinise our character and think so much less of us. We are already thinking less of ourselves, undignified and blemished. We have been made to believe, by our self-talk and by others’ talk, that we are somehow crazy, ugly, weak, worthless or ‘damaged goods’. And so we retreat. We build a wall of silence around ourselves, scared to speak, hoping that if we can keep the judgments from coming in, we can keep the problem out.

The Weinstein scandal however, has started a movement on media, a “Me too” movement. Women from everywhere are coming out to speak up about their own experiences. Women are now speaking up to show solidarity — that we aren’t alone, that we don’t have to build walls around us, and we don’t have to be ashamed for we have not done anything wrong. We may be victims, but we don’t have to feel victimised because we are strong. We are not crazy or worthless; we are strong and unique, and we should live our uniqueness. Sometimes though, we have retreated so far into ourselves that we need help to get back out, but we just don’t know how.

We’re not alone. We have to acknowledge that we need help, and we need a support system. We need to be around people who will cheer us on and raise us up. People who will believe in us all the way. And instead of building a wall, we will build a network of supporters who will look out for us, even in the darkest days.

The first reading today says that we are “no longer strangers or sojourners”. We are in this together! More importantly is that with Jesus as our capstone, “the whole structure is held together”. Jesus will send us the help that we need, He is in this together with us too. And He knows the turmoil in our hearts. He will never let our spirit fail, and never let us fall. He will provide us with the support system that we need, and He will be a part of it.

Jesus too needed his own support system. Knowing what he would face, it was imperative that he had his own squad of believers. He turned to God, and prayed the night to Him, and in the morning, he came down the mountain and picked out the Twelve out of all his disciples.

Let us trust God to help us find our support system, by lifting our petition to God. Let us acknowledge that no trial, no matter how big or small it may be, needs to be faced alone. We’re not crazy or weak, we are God’s children, and He will never let us fall.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, in our times of trials where it is hard to even believe ourselves, surround us with people who will love and support us. Help us to believe in ourselves, and keep us secure in the knowledge that Your protective arms are all we need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for our strength, for our families, loved ones and friends, who love us unconditionally, who are here to help us fight another day.

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

____________________

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.

___________________

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.”’

____________________

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

______________________________

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.’

____________________

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.’

____________________

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

_________________________

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.

______________________

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.’

______________________

“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

_________________________

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.

______________________

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.

_____________________

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

_________________________

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.

__________________________

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.’

__________________________

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

______________

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.

______________

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.’

______________

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

_________________

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.

___________________

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.

____________________

“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.