Category Archives: Memorials

27 June, Tuesday – Love

Memorial for St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and Doctor of the Church

Cyril (376–444) was the nephew of Theophilus the Patriarch. He was a monk and a priest who became Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 412, and later the Patriarch of Alexandria. He suppressed the Novatians. He worked at the Council of Ephesus. He fought against Nestorius who taught the heresy that there were two persons in Christ.

He was a catechetical writer, and wrote a book opposing Julian the Apostate. He is a Greek Father of the Church, and is a Doctor of the Church.

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27 June 2017

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: if you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.’

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, ‘Look all round from where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.’

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

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Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

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“So always treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

I believe that all of us, in some way, want to be accepted, to feel belonged, to be loved. But how many of us accept and love others back?

Indeed, where it says, “enter by the narrow gate; since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many of us prefer the easy way out, choosing not to rock the boat and yet we wonder why we are still struggling with problems that are not going away; surrounded by people who don’t change, even wondering why God isn’t hearing our prayers. But I guess, sometimes, God places us in such situations where we are called to effect change.

However, many times, we resort to using either experience, authority or even qualifications as a means to effect change rather than love. How do we hope for others to speak to us? How do we hope for others to treat us? And hence in our Gospel today, we read “so always treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

This is the narrow road we are encouraged to take, for we will always question, why is it we need to love first, forgive first? And sometimes, how many more times do we need to do so for others to realise, for them to finally change. The beauty of our faith is that there is no answer to those questions except to continue to love. Love isn’t about allowing oneself to be used or taken advantage of; love is speaking and living the truth.

For we live our lives not based on what others say about us but what God says. Created with love, from love, we are also called to love. Not as how we know it but as how God has loved us by His example. Let us challenge ourselves to continue to persevere in love not to receive love in return but because we have already received through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us be Christ to others, to all. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for our own conversion, for the many times we have been selfish. We pray also for perseverance as we continue to do your will and build your kingdom, a kingdom of love.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for understanding us, for helping us to see beyond ourselves, to help us see what really matters, what is really important, what is it we actually live for and what gives us life.

22 June, Thursday – Dialogue With God

Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

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John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

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Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

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22 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 11:1-11

I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant towards me. You see, the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these arch-apostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you.

Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the regions of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do.

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Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him

When I first received the Good News, I didn’t know how I should pray. Funny as it may sound, before my acceptance of Christ, I never thought about starting off with acknowledging the presence of a Power that is above all i.e. God, followed by thanksgiving and forgiveness. I am guilty of jumping in head-first and presenting all my petitions from passing exams to world peace. I remember as a child – though my intentions were good – I would pray, and thinking that the Almighty Power wouldn’t know who I was and where I lived, I would even state my name, address, and even my date of birth!

After embracing Christ, I remember coming across today’s Gospel reading and thinking to myself, “That’s it? Are you sure God knows who I am? You sure He will hear?” I was so uncertain. With a mix of apprehension and faith, I decided that if I didn’t know how to pray yet, I would start with the Lord’s Prayer, and trust that God would find me. And so I got down on my knees and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for the first time.

As today’s Gospel rightly puts it, God doesn’t want us to go on this loud and long babble. As the saying goes, less is more – He already knows our hearts and our needs. He created us! As Jeremiah 1:5 puts it, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all”. So, why do we pray then?

We pray because we need to understand and acknowledge that we depend on God for our needs. We pray to have a connection with Him, it is our daily conversation with God. When we tell God our troubles, we are lifting them up to God and telling Him, “I can’t find a way, I’m stuck, I need help.” We acknowledge that we are limited, but through God who delivers us, we are limitless. Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and give Him credit and thanks for it. We learn patience, obedience and faith, that though our requests be many, we understand that God will determine what is best for us in His own time. Through prayer, we understand gratitude, gratitude for God’s help and gratitude for God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness even as we forgive others: God is saying “I want to give you so much more blessings than you think you deserve, but only if you make room for me by letting go of your own resentments”. By forgiving, only then can we receive forgiveness.

Prayer is a two-way process. It is a dialogue even though we may think it is a monologue, wondering if God hears us when we seem to be the only ones ‘talking’. He is listening. All of the above shows us that it is a process of giving and receiving, acknowledging while asking for our needs to be acknowledged. Let us go down on our knees today then, wherever we are, and have our dialogue with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.      

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for showing us how to pray. Even though we may not know how to, You have given us a way.

8 March, Wednesday – Compassion and Love

8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious

Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and North Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.

In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him ‘John of God’. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.

He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitalers of St. John of God.

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Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’

God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.

On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented.

I am always intrigued by the television dramas which feature the lives of the imperial family of the various Chinese dynasties. There is a usual punishment where the entire clan of the offender is killed. It is the way the Emperor exerts his influence and prevents any possible threat of revenge from coming along. Perhaps the readings of today are instructive to us regarding the unnecessary need to begrudge the woes of our enemies and, instead, to focus on the sincere desire to repent.

God the Father loves His children but Prophet Jonah felt that He was too merciful. I sometimes do have this Jonah complex, where I believe in the mercy of God but wish ill upon my enemies. This season of Lent is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon the need to be empathetic to the people around us. All of us are facing tough and difficult challenges at work and in our personal lives. We need to learn from God to be gentle and forgiving to all who hurt us because sometimes, they may not know what they are doing.

Jesus said that this was a wicked generation and sometimes I feel that it is due to the fact that we do not recognise that the kingdom of God is near at hand and, in fact, is amongst us. We look for extraordinary signs for indications of something wonderful which will happen in our lives but perhaps God is acting in our lives now. The gift of health and life, the gift of speech, the opportunity to repent in the midst of the evil before us are all chances that we have to enjoy the mercy of God. We who desire this mercy of God must then, in turn, extend it to the people around us. As we enter into the middle of the first week of Lent, let us take time to pause to encounter the Lord Jesus in the silence of our hearts.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Dear God, we pray for the grace to forgive all who have hurt us.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who help us see the light of forgiveness.

21 February, Tuesday – Faith & Humility

21 Feb – Memorial for St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor

Peter Damian (1007-1072) was the youngest child in a large family. When he was orphaned, he was sent to live with a brother where he was mistreated and forced to work as a swine-herd. He cared for another brother, a priest in Ravenna, Italy. He was well educated in Fienza and Parma and became a professor, but lived a life of strict austerity.

He gave up his teaching to become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He founded a hermitage. He was occasionally called on by the Vatican to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. He was made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, and he fought simony.

He tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more of the world. He was a prolific correspondent, and he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including one of St. Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire being a monk, but was routinely recalled as a papal legate.

He died on Feb 22, 1072 of fever at Ravenna while surrounded by brother monks reciting the Divine Office. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

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Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11

My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for an ordeal.
Be sincere of heart, be steadfast,
and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.
Cling to him and do not leave him,
so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.
Whatever happens to you, accept it,
and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient,
since gold is tested in the fire,
and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.
Trust him and he will uphold you,
follow a straight path and hope in him.
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
do not turn aside in case you fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust him,
and you will not be baulked of your reward.
You who fear the Lord hope for good things,
for everlasting happiness and mercy.
Look at the generations of old and see:
who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?
Or who ever feared him steadfastly and was left forsaken?
Or who ever called out to him, and was ignored?
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful,
he forgives sins, and saves in days of distress.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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“If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all… anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus leads by example. The irony where being first is to be last and servant of all. He came into the world and indeed led the simplest life yet suffered the most, had to be crucified and had to give His life. But He didn’t just do it for himself, He did so for all of us. Jesus came into the world, perfect, the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords yet humiliated, He lowered himself in order to save us.

Amidst all the suffering and pain Christ knew was coming His way, He still obeyed His Father and saw it through as He recognised that He belongs to the Father too. The example is very clear that we should not forget nor take for granted who we are, the blessings that our Father in heaven has bestowed on us. And we should live our lives in the glory of His name.

Indeed, it is His kingdom that we should desire to be first in, instead of the many areas of the world. We can never be the best in the world and nothing is ever enough in the world simply because the world itself is imperfect and we humans are the same.

Hence, we are called, in the first reading, to prepare ourselves, to cling on to Christ, to trust in Him, to hope in Him. The whole of the first reading assures us that God will lead us through the storms of life and we simply need to keep our faith in Him.

Let us allow the first reading to encourage us for at the end of the day, it isn’t about knowing that we are first but to know that we have placed our trust, hope and faith in God. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for humility, that we may not trade you for the things of this world. Help us to see beyond the successes in life, help us to see you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for your example Lord, to help us see beyond ourselves, to help us see what true love is. Thank you for your encouragement and affirmation that you will always be with us. Amen.

14 February, Tuesday – Points of View

14 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop

Cyril (827-869) was the brother of St. Methodius. Born of Greek nobility, his family was connected to the senate of Thessalonica, and his mother Maria may have been Slavic. He studied at the University of Constantinople and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and when he became a monk, he took the name Cyril. He was sent with Methodius by the emperor in 961 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia, a mission that was successful, and which allowed him to learn the Khazar’s language.

In 863, he was sent with Methodius to convert Moravians in their native tongue. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today. After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Cyril may have been bishop, but he may have died before the consecration ceremony.

Methodius (826-885) was the brother of St. Cyril. He studied at the University of Constantinople, and taught philosophy there. He was ordained a priest, and sent with Cyril by the emperor in 861 to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia. Though some western clergy opposed their efforts and refused to ordain their candidates for the priesthood, they did good work. They helped develop an alphabet for the Slavonic language that eventually became what is known as the Cyrillic today.

After initial criticism for their use of it, they achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Methodius was ordained a bishop. He evangelized in Moravia, Bohemia, Pannonia, and Poland. He baptized St. Ludmilla and Duke Boriwoi.

He was Archbishop of Velehred, Czechoslovakia, but deposed and imprisoned in 870 due to the opposition of German clergy with his work. He was often in trouble over his use of Slavonic in liturgy, with some claiming he preached heresy. However, Methodius was repeatedly cleared of charges. He translated the Bible into the Slavonic languages, and pioneered the use of local and vernacular languages in liturgical settings.

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Genesis 6:5-8,7:1-5,10

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that the thoughts in his heart fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long. The Lord regretted having made man on the earth, and his heart grieved. ‘I will rid the earth’s face of man, my own creation,’ the Lord said ‘and of animals also, reptiles too, and the birds of heaven; for I regret having made them.’ But Noah had found favour with the Lord.

The Lord said to Noah, ‘Go aboard the ark, you and all your household, for you alone among this generation do I see as a good man in my judgement. Of all the clean animals you must take seven of each kind, both male and female; of the unclean animals you must take two, a male and its female (and of the birds of heaven also, seven of each kind, both male and female), to propagate their kind over the whole earth. For in seven days’ time I mean to make it rain on the earth for forty days and nights, and I will rid the earth of every living thing that I made.’ Noah did all that the Lord ordered.

Seven days later the waters of the flood appeared on the earth.

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Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

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Do you still not understand?

Serving in our parish over the past year or so has been an interesting journey, fraught with various challenges. Yet through it all, the hand of God has been clearly at work for me.  Take our upcoming ‘final project’ for instance. I had initially been happy to be in the background, just letting the ensemble cast of musicians and worship singers run their journeys. But due to a few last-minute withdrawals, He led me to volunteer to help as one of the singers.

When I attended my first rehearsal last week, I was amazed at how we have been blessed with a truly talented lot of volunteers, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. And even though that was the first practice session for me, it was a quite amazing experience as the various singers and session musicians grappled with the complexities of their parts and I with some new songs. But I felt His spirit moving among us as we practised and as we held our first practice session within the church sanctuary, it all seemed to come together quite well.

Of course, there were the usual kinks and many of us were unsure of our parts but I trust that over the next two weeks, He will bless us mightily and inspire us to lead our congregation in thanksgiving for all He has done for our parish over the many decades it has been around.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that they are to guard against ‘the leaven of the Pharisees’. Brothers and sisters, in whatever we do, it is human nature to have doubts and, in some instances, to pass judgements on others. It is one thing to hold those thoughts, no matter how well-meaning they are, in our hearts; it is another to utter them and, in so doing, perhaps end up sowing discord or dissension within the group of people who have come together for a specific purpose or mission.

Let us always, in ministry, learn to trust our Lord more. That He will always show us the way and give us charitable hearts so that we learn to appreciate our fellow brother and sister who has been generous with his or her time and talent. And in so doing, learn to appreciate God’s hand in all things that we do. For He is the master potter, the one with the plan. And when we decide to surrender all to Him, let us also learn to allow the Lord to shape us and to allow us to rise to our full potential.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you continue to always sustain us in all our work and in everything that we do for your glory.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Lord for all the talents and gifts that you have given to us in order to proclaim your glory.

11 February, Saturday – Wants and Needs

11 Feb – Memorial for Our Lady Of Lourdes; World Day of Prayer for the Sick

Today is an optional memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes. The apparitions concerned began on Feb 11, 1858, when St. Bernadette Soubirous, then a 14-year-old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted, when questioned by her mother, that she had seen a ‘lady’ in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the ‘lady’ took place on 17 further occasions that year. Most Catholics believe that the ‘lady’ concerned is the Virgin Mary.

It was on the ninth appearance on Feb 25 that Bernadette was told by the Lady to dig under a rock and drink the water that she found. A day later, a spring began to flow from it. On Mar 1, the 12th appearance, Catherine Latapie reported that she bathed her paralyzed arm in the spring, and instantaneously regained full movement. This was the first of the scientifically unattributable events to take place.

On the 13th appearance on Mar 2, the Lady commanded Bernadette to tell the priests to “come here in procession and to build a chapel here”. The priests would not do so until they knew who the Lady was. On the 16th appearance on Mar 25, the Lady, with her arms down and eyes raised to heaven, folded her hands over her breast and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

To ensure claims of cures were examined properly and to protect the town from fraudulent claims of miracles, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established. About 7,000 people have sought to have their case confirmed as a ‘miracle’, of which only 68 have been declared a scientifically inexplicable ‘miracle’ by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.

Because the apparitions are private revelation, and not public revelation, Roman Catholics are not required to believe them, nor does it add any additional material to the truths of the Catholic Church as expressed in public revelation. In Roman Catholic belief, God chooses whom He wants cured, and whom He does not, and by what means. Bernadette said, “One must have faith and pray; the water will have no virtue without faith.”

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 3:9-24

The Lord God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.’

To the woman he said:

‘I will multiply your pains in childbearing,
you shall give birth to your children in pain.
Your yearning shall be for your husband,
yet he will lord it over you.’

To the man he said, ‘Because you listened to the voice of your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

‘Accursed be the soil because of you.
With suffering shall you get your food from it
every day of your life.
It shall yield you brambles and thistles,
and you shall eat wild plants.
With sweat on your brow
shall you eat your bread,
until you return to the soil,
as you were taken from it.
For dust you are
and to dust you shall return.’

The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live. The Lord God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the tree of life also, and eat some and live for ever.’ So the Lord God expelled him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Mark 8:1-10

A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them off home hungry they will collapse on the way; some have come a great distance.’

His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’ they said.

Then he instructed the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them among the crowd. They had a few small fish as well, and over these he said a blessing and ordered them to be distributed also. They ate as much as they wanted, and they collected seven basketfuls of the scraps left over. Now there had been about four thousand people. He sent them away and immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Dalmanutha.

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How many loaves do you have?

There is a wonderful symmetry in today’s readings. In the first reading, Adam is exiled from Eden for eating the fruit from the tree of life. He does so despite the fact that God had already provided him with everything that he needed in Eden. Convinced by Eve, who was in turn convinced by the serpent, Adam took the fruit because he wanted to. In contrast, we see Jesus multiplying the bread and fish for the crowd. In other words, he was giving them what they needed. This symmetry is anything but a coincidence.

 Indeed, don’t we see this symmetry played out in our everyday lives? Everyday, we are torn between our needs and our wants. Sometimes, our wants lead us to desire things that we should not. In other words, they lead us to sin. Such wants could be anything at all, from the latest designer clothes to a fancy meal, from a desire for accolades to sexual gratification. It seems that once our appetites are whetted, our wants are almost endless. But should we pare down on these wants, we will find that we need very little to live a good life.

Yes, we need the basic components of food, air, and water. But more than that, we also need purpose in our lives. This purpose cannot be found in material objects, nor can it be bought off the shelves of stores or bartered for online. Like the crowds in our gospel readings today, we can seek out our purpose in life, along with all our other needs, simply by asking the Lord for it. We are told that Jesus was filled with compassion for the people, fearing that they would starve and collapse.

In the same way, Jesus is filled with compassion with us, fearing that we may starve from a lack of spiritual food, or collapse from the existential turmoil that many of us find ourselves embroiled in. It is in these times that we must really get down on our knees to pray, and to ask Him for what we truly need. What we truly need as children of God, and not what the TV advertisements, fashion magazines or social media ‘influencers’ think we need.

Today, as I celebrate 33 years of life, I reflect on how truly little we need (materially), but how abundantly God gives (spiritually). On this day, I also cannot help but reflect on how Jesus celebrated His 33rd year on earth – through His passion. And now, we continue to celebrate with Him at Holy Mass with the Eucharist, for it was on that fateful night that He gave us His love, hope, and salvation.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference – Reinhold Niebuhr

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always giving us what we need, for supplying us with His abundant love and blessings and, most importantly, for breathing life into our souls.

10 February, Friday – Ephphatha!

10 Feb – Memorial for St. Scholastica, virgin

Scholastica (480-543) was the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia. Born to Italian nobility, her mother died in childbirth. She became a nun and led a community of women at Plombariloa near Montecassino.

  • Patron Saint Index

From her earliest years, she had been consecrated to God. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year, and he would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate. One day, she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things.

As night fell, they had supper together. Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “what are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”

When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated.

Sadly, he began to complain, “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well,” she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.

Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.

  • from Dialogues by Pope St. Gregory the Great

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Genesis 3:1-8

The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.” ‘ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’

The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

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Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

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“He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak”

Today’s gospel speaks of deafness in two dimensions. First, there is the reality of the deaf man who simply could not hear, and who needed Jesus to heal him and restore his hearing. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the gospel alludes to a collective and spiritual deafness, whether among the people who disobeyed His orders not to tell anyone about the healing of the deaf man, or among us, living in the world today.

How often have we been deaf to the word of God? How often have we continued to sin, even when we know that we ought not to? How often do we conveniently ignore the voices of our conscience, and tune in to the voice of the world (and social media) instead? All these are signs of spiritual deafness, an unwillingness and/or inability to listen to the word of God or to open ourselves to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says only one word: Ephphatha! Be opened.

Unlike the many self-help books and articles that can be found today (Buzzfeed anyone?) that promises to make us ‘feel good’ about ourselves, one word from Jesus (Ephphatha!) is enough to heal the deaf man. We remind ourselves of this every week at mass, when we say “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed”.

Only say the word. For those of us who are hurting inside, those of us who are spiritually deaf, all we need is to open our hearts and souls to the word of God. In other words, to pray and discern. Let the presence and love of God enter our souls, and to heal us. That is all there is to it. Jesus said: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt. 11:28-30). All we have to do is to go to the Lord, in prayer and humility, pray and ask for His healing touch.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: We pray to the Lord for His merciful love, that He will open all hearts to His word, and heal all souls who are in need of His mercy.  

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for blessing us with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for through His Sacrament, He grants us spiritual and emotional healing.

8 February, Wednesday – Seeking Sanctity

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick, and housed orphans in his own home. At night he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started, and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

  • Patron Saint Index

Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Genesis 2:4-9,15-17

At the time when the Lord God made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, nor was there any man to till the soil. However, a flood was rising from the earth and watering all the surface of the soil. The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Then the Lord God gave the man this admonition, ‘You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden.

Nevertheless of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die.’

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Mark 7:14-23

Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’

When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

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“… but the things that come from within are what defile”

Today’s gospel alludes to a particularly difficult doctrine of the Catholic church — Original Sin. Indeed, the first reading is a precursor of this original sin, since God has already told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (but we know full well that he will). As Jesus tells His disciples, “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly” come from the heart of man.

As a neophyte, this doctrine is particularly difficult to accept. If God made us in His image, how is it possible that we are inherently bad or evil? For many converts, it is a difficult pill to swallow. Indeed, how can God make anything bad, if He is the pinnacle and representation of all that is good? Yet, we continue to get the nagging feeling that somehow, not all is well within us.

St Augustine says as much, when he ruminates on the crying baby, and how if given the ability to, a baby that is throwing a tantrum would wreak havoc and damage on the world around it. Yes, even a new-born baby, unsocialised and untainted by the things of this world, can possess so much anger and resentment, and even worse, a self-centred desire for comfort. Indeed, how does one square this circle?

As with all things, the answer lies in Jesus. Yes, we may be imperfect and filled with imperfect desires, but God loved us enough to send His Son to save us, to die for us. In that singular act, God has reconciled us to Him, but accepting, even assuming, our human form – the very same human form that had rebelled against Him in the Garden of Eden.

Furthermore, He has given us something else — our free will. Even if we are indeed filled with much evil and vileness, we can, through our free will, choose to reject these things and seek out sanctity instead, the very same sanctity that Jesus has taught us to seek out.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: We pray for the strength to resist and reject sin, and for the grace to continue living a good and holy life, even in our fallen state. We pray for God’s forgiveness for the times that we have fallen short of the graces that He has showered us within in abundance.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for always loving us, despite our sinful nature. Let us always give thanks for the God who loves us fully and unconditionally.

6 February, Monday – Hearing God’s Voice

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing Te Deum as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visit Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.

  • Wikipedia

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Genesis 1:1-19

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.
God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

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Mark 6:53-56

Having made the crossing, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up. No sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.

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Let there be light.

Having watched the movie Silence by Martin Scorsese recently, today’s memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions is particularly poignant to me. As those of us who have watched the movie will know, a great part of it focuses on the martyrdom of both priests and laity during the Tokugawa oppression of Catholics in early modern Japan.

I found the scenes of Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) ministering the Sacraments to the villagers particularly touching. Whatever your views on the ending of the movie (and I shall certainly not reveal any spoilers here), there is no denying that the missionaries and the villagers who assisted them played important roles in bringing Christ to the people.

Indeed, today’s Gospel reading focuses on the people’s desire to see Jesus and to be healed by Him. We are told that those who touched the tassel on His cloak were healed. But nowhere does it say (within this particular passage) what Jesus actually did to heal these people. Indeed, it is very often emphasized that it is as much the faith of His followers as it was through His intervention that healing took place. We often hear Jesus telling the healed: “Go, your faith has saved you”.

It is therefore, at the end of the day, our faith that matters in our own physical and spiritual healing. In the movie, Father Rodrigues is tormented by the silence that his prayers fall upon. But we know, through our faith, that God is not silent. Far from it. We can hear Him in the birds and the morning breeze, in waterfalls and city traffic alike. Most importantly, He speaks to us through both scripture and our loved ones.

As today’s first reading makes clear: God has already spoken. And through His words, the world was created. And so as He has commanded — Let there be light. Let us therefore go forth in the confidence of His light and grace.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for ears of faith, so that we can always hear Your voice in our everyday lives.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the blessings and gifts that He has showered upon us, whether in good times or in bad. We also thank Him for the martyrs and saints, through whose courage we are inspired to follow God more closely. 

31 January, Tuesday – Focus!

31 Jan – Memorial for St. John Bosco, priest

St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was the son of Venerable Margaret Bosco. His father died when he was just two years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs, and carnivals, practise the tricks he saw the magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church.

He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. He was ordained in 1841. He was a teacher, and he worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play and pray. He taught catechism to orphans and apprentices, and was chaplain in a hospice for girls.

He wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children, and then taught children how to print them. He was a friend of St. Joseph Cafasson, whose biography he wrote. He was confessor to Blessed Joseph Allamano. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, a community of priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and St. Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Hebrews 12:1-4

With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne.

Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.

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Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.

Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’

While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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“… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” 

I’m learning how to drive at the moment. You get three attempts at the behind-the-wheel exam in America. I’ve failed it all three times now. One of my issues seems to be an inability to decide what to focus on. It terrifies me that I have to watch so many things – the speed gauge, side mirrors, rearview mirror, my blind spots, the road around me, the road signs AND my GPS – all at the same time! I was always rubbish at multi-tasking, never mind doing it at high speed while barreling down the freeway. I’ve also developed the bad habit of obsessing over my rear and side mirrors. Where your focus goes, in that direction, as well as whether the car moves. All this glancing and bobbing my head around makes me veer the car alarmingly. It’s a completely miserable business! If I could, I would just Uber everywhere, all of the time!

‘Focus’ is the key theme in our readings today. How we orientate ourselves, where we look, what we choose to concentrate on, drives all of our actions. The woman who touched Jesus’ cloak was focused on healing. Jairus was focused on getting Jesus to his daughter. Jesus was focused on fulfiling God’s purpose for him. They were all orientated towards doing one thing – just one thing. A singular purpose.

I’ve noticed that while writing this column, I’ve stopped countless of times now to look on Amazon to see what’s new, checked my schedule to see what’s on for tomorrow, ordered dinner online, checked the weather forecast online, scrolled through my Instagram account, scrolled through my Facebook account, browsed my Netflix account – and that’s just been in the last 15 minutes. What have I achieved in these 15 minutes though? Not very much. A lot of restless flitting around, with nothing worthwhile to show for except tired eyes and a tired brain.

A distracted heart is the devil’s way of keeping us from running God’s race for us. Scripture is filled with examples of ordinary people achieving extraordinary things because they set their minds singularly on it and made it their sole purpose. Do one thing, just one thing. What a novel idea in this age of media overload and multi-tasking! And why not? We might be happier and feel more purposeful for it. We might even feel less exhausted all of the time!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the focus to finish what we have been tasked to do without veering off in all directions.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit who brings us back when we wander off.