Category Archives: Memorials

19 June, Tuesday – Loving your enemies

Jun 19 – Memorial for St. Romuald, abbot

St Romuald (951-1027) had been an Italian noble. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill a man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy where he was abbot from 996–999.

A wanderer by nature, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. He founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion. His body which is enshrined in Italy remains incorrupt till this day.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 21:17-29

After the death of Naboth, the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down to take possession of it. You are to say this to him, “the Lord says this: You have committed murder; now you usurp as well. For this – and the Lord says this – in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too.”’ Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me out, O my enemy!’ Elijah answered, ‘I have found you out. For your double dealing, and since you have done what is displeasing to the Lord, I will now bring disaster down on you; I will sweep away your descendants, and wipe out every male belonging to the family of Ahab, fettered or free in Israel. I will treat your House as I treated the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah, for provoking my anger and leading Israel into sin. (Against Jezebel the Lord spoke these words: The dogs will eat Jezebel in the Field of Jezreel.) Those of Ahab’s family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat.’

And indeed there never was anyone like Ahab for double dealing and for doing what is displeasing to the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the most abominable way, adhering to idols, just as the Amorites used to do whom the Lord had dispossessed for the sons of Israel.

When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put sackcloth next his skin and fasted; he slept in the sackcloth; he walked with slow steps. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; I will bring the disaster down on his House in the days of his son.’
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Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

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Even the pagans do as much, do they not?

The first reading of today reminds us that God does keep track of every action which we do. For Ahab, his behaviour was unbecoming of that of a king and even that of a normal human being. His heart was bent towards evil and yet even in that heart was a source of remorse. This is perhaps the message of today’s Gospel – that God forgives everyone who seeks him with a contrite heart.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the role of the Christian is a supernatural one. We need to discover that God’s essence is that of love. To follow that requires us to love the people around us despite the flaws which they may have. However, this means we also need to know what are some of the weaknesses of the people around us. We have our own flaws which we also need to be aware of. To love others is to first love ourselves. We need to be able to accept our own flaws before we can accept those of others.

As we continue with our journey of love in God, we will need to remind ourselves of the importance of showing love to others in both word and deed. Let us go and approach the Lord in a spirit of humility for Him to heal us in the hurts we possess.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to love our enemies.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the people who conduct spiritual retreats.

16 June, Saturday – Commitment

Jun 16 – Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love for her son Jesus, and her compassionate love for all people.[1]

The Eastern Catholic Churches occasionally utilize the image, devotion, and theology associated with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. However, this is a cause of some controversy, some seeing it as a form of liturgical latinisation. The Roman Catholic view is based on Mariology, as exemplified by Pope John Paul II‘s Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.[2]

Traditionally, the heart is depicted pierced with seven wounds or swords, in homage to the seven dolors of Mary. Also, roses or another type of flower may be wrapped around the heart.

  • Wikipedia

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1 Kings 19:19-21

Leaving Mount Horeb, Elijah came on Elisha son of Shaphat as he was ploughing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself being with the twelfth. Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you’ he said. Elijah answered, ‘Go, go back; for have I done anything to you?’ Elisha turned away, took the pair of oxen and slaughtered them. He used the plough for cooking the oxen, then gave to his men, who ate. He then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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All you need to say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no…

“Yes” and “No” are committal words many of us hesitate to use. While they appear to be on opposite sides, I feel that they actually do the same thing. Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else. Saying “no” to something is indirectly saying “yes” to something else. I guess that’s why we sometimes do not make a decision; perhaps it’s because we fear what we may lose.

Saying “yes” to a wedding proposal means saying “yes” to companionship and at the same time, some people see it as saying “no” to certain types of freedom. Saying “no” to a wedding proposal makes it possible for one to continue enjoying the ‘freedom’ one is enjoying at the moment while it says no to the companionship being offered. At the end of the day, I feel that the actual question is really which one is most important for you?

What, who or which one is most important for you? I think that is the essence of commitment. It’s choosing to prioritize someone or something over other things, and choosing the same when it gets tough. Unfortunately, our world now makes us believe that we can have it all. We can’t. We must choose and we must be committed to what we have chosen.

God said we can’t serve two masters. I feel that it’s the same as saying “yes” to one and “no” to another. There is just no compromise. It’s a commitment. It’s never half-way.

I know it’s really difficult to decide. Choosing God might cost us our jobs, our friends, our ‘happiness’, our family, our reputation and many more. Saying “yes” to God is prioritizing him over and above all these and doing it all the time. It’s a tough call and this is what adds value to our ‘yes’es. If our ‘yes’ to God is always easy, will it have any significance at all?

What is God asking you to commit to right now? Pray over it and, when the time to decide arrives, let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, commitment is such a heavy word and yet, you are asking this of me every single time. Help me to make those commitments and especially help me to live up to those commitments.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for making commitment difficult, because only our choice to struggle through the difficulty is what we can offer to you as gifts.

13 June, Wednesday – Are You Really Catholic?

Jun 13 – Memorial for St. Anthony of Padua, priest, religious, doctor

St. Anthony’s (1195-1231) wealthy family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but for the sake of Christ, he became a poor Franciscan. When the remains of St. Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs, were brought to be buried in his church, Anthony was moved to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor, and go to Morocco to evangelize.

Shipwrecked at Sicily, he joined some other brothers who were going to Portiuncula. One day when a scheduled speaker failed to appear, the brothers pressed him into speaking. He impressed them so much that he was thereafter constantly travelling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France.

A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues. Legend says that even the fish loved to listen. He was a wonder worker. As one of the most beloved saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

  • Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 18:20-39

Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ But the people never said a word. Elijah then said to them, ‘I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given us; let them choose one for themselves, dismember it and lay it on the wood, but not set fire to it. I in my turn will prepare the other bull, but not set fire to it. You must call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of mine; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.’ The people all answered, ‘Agreed!’ Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull and begin, for there are more of you. Call on the name of your god but light no fire.’ They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.’ So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no attention given to them.

Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’, and all the people came closer to him. He repaired the altar of the Lord which had been broken down. Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, ‘Israel shall be your name’, and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Round the altar he dug a trench of a size to hold two measures of seed. He then arranged the wood, dismembered the bull, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the holocaust and on the wood’; this they did. He said, ‘Do it a second time’; they did it a second time. He said, ‘Do it a third time’; they did it a third time. The water flowed round the altar and the trench itself was full of water. At the time when the offering is presented, Elijah the prophet stepped forward. ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,’ he said ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, the Lord, are God and are winning back their hearts.’

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’

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Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’

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I have not come to abolish but to complete them.

Every Sunday Mass, we recite the Creed to remind us of what we profess to adhere to as Catholics. The Creed is the summary of everything the Catholic Church was entrusted to teach. I wish I could say that I always reflect on it whenever I say it during Mass but there were times when I would say it mechanically.

Having grown up in a Catholic household, I used to hear the elders talk about how they disagree with the Catholic Church, and I have seen them live their lives in accordance to what would ‘make them happy’, even though their choices are not aligned with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I know how difficult it is to accept and live by every thing the Catholic Church teaches. Honestly, when I found out that weddings could be so expensive, I really thought cohabiting was more practical.

Jesus’s words today remind me that God is constant and never-changing. He did not come to abolish the law, he came to help us understand the law in its fullness. He didn’t come to remove the yoke, but to show us that we can carry our crosses too. We can’t take just part of the law and choose to live against the rest that do not suit us. We can’t take just part of the cross because it will no longer be a cross.

I honestly think that it is difficult to ‘agree’ on everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I hope we can pray for obedience. Even if we don’t understand, even if it hurts to follow the law to completion, and even though it will cost us a lot, let us still obey and be faithful.

Many things happening around the world, such as Ireland voting to decriminalize abortion and many countries allowing same-sex marriage, had Catholics voting for these changes. I think that we, the Church, are partly to blame, for we have not been able to witness and Catechize well. Even so, I pray that many of us Catholics would first obey our Church’s teachings, and then ask God to help us understand his teachings and his laws. It took me about seven years of struggling with the Church’s doctrines and I can say that I am thankful that I was given the grace to hold on and obey.

Let us be Catholics because we obey what God has entrusted to the Catholic Church for us. And if we disagree with some of these teachings, let not our actions show and let us continue to seek to understand the heart of God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are many conflicting messages around the world and sometimes, I emphatize and agree with those who feel that the Church’s teachings are outdated. Help me, Lord, to be firm in following you, trusting that you know what you are doing.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for allowing me to know your laws, even if I don’t understand all of them yet. I know they are for my own good.

6 June, Wednesday – God Of The Living

Jun 6 – Memorial for St. Norbert, bishop, religious founder

St. Norbert (1080-1134) had been born to the nobility and raised around the royal court. There he developed a very worldly view, taking holy orders as a career move when he joined the Benedictines. A narrow escape from death led him to a conversion experience, and taking his vows seriously.

He founded a community of Augustinian canons, starting a reform movement that swept through European monastic houses. St. Norbert also reformed the clergy in his see, using force when necessary. He worked with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Hugh of Grenoble to heal the schism caused by the death of Pope Honorius II, and for heresy in Cambrai, France with the help of St. Waltmann. He is one of the patron saints of peace.

  • – Patron Saint Index

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2 Timothy 1:1-3,6-12

From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers. That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News; and I have been named its herald, its apostle and its teacher.

It is only on account of this that I am experiencing fresh hardships here now; but I have not lost confidence, because I know who it is that I have put my trust in, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to take care of all that I have entrusted to him until that Day.

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Mark 12:18-27

Some Sadducees – who deny that there is a resurrection – came to him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married a wife and then died leaving no children. The second married the widow, and he too died leaving no children; with the third it was the same, and none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman herself died. Now at the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Is not the reason why you go wrong, that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken.’

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He is God, not of the dead, but of the living

I would think that there is no one question more important to each person than the purpose of his/her existence. Birth, life and death are great mysteries, and, as we journey towards the inevitable end, there will certainly be wonder, fear and contemplation about what awaits. There are some who believe in an afterlife, and there are some who don’t. The latter group might dismiss a belief in the afterlife as something that is invented to ease people’s fear of death, but surely, it is more than a human invention if there is an entire (seemingly impossible to accomplish) body of teachings about how to live life in this world, in preparation for an afterlife with God?

The Sadducees in today’s gospel reading did not believe in an afterlife, nor a resurrection, for that matter. Fully aware that the Sadducees only acknowledged the authority of the first five books of the bible (Genesis to Deuteronomy), Jesus wisely made reference to Exodus in response to their theological challenge to him. He asserts that souls do live on after the death of the physical bodies, and that relationships like marriages are no longer existent in the afterlife.

The gospel reading reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 14:3 – “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Sometimes, when I think about what will happen after death, I am overcome with fear over the uncertainty. But instead of clinging on to that fear which is ultimately, unproductive and crippling, I am instead beginning to recognise that one thing is for certain — we cannot do in the afterlife what we can do on this earth and in this realm of existence. So we have to keep going on, keeping faith in Jesus’ words and trusting that the Spirit will lead us to who we are meant to be.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we will always remember to trust in the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the reassuring love of God, made ever more present in the person of Christ.

5 June, Tuesday – Steering Through Stormy Seas

Jun 5 – Memorial for St. Boniface, bishop and martyr

Educated at the Benedictine monastary at Exeter, England where he became a monk, Boniface (c.673–754) was a missionary to Germany from 719, assisted by St. Albinus, St. Abel, and St. Agatha. They destroyed idols and pagan temples, and then built churches on the sites.

He was ordained a bishop and later became Archbishop of Mainz. He reformed the churches in his see, and built religious houses in Germany. He ordained St. Sola. He founded the dioceses of Bavaria, Thuringia, and Franconia. He evangelized in Holland, but was set upon by a troop of pagans and he and 52 of his new flock, included St. Adaler and St. Eoban were martyred.

Once in Saxony, Boniface encountered a tribe worshipping a Norse deity in the form of a huge oak tree. Boniface walked up to the tree, removed his shirt, took up an axe, and without a word he hacked down the six-foot wide wooden god. Boniface stood on the trunk, and asked, “How stands your mighty god? My God is stronger than he.” The crowd’s reaction was mixed, but some conversions were begun.

One tradition about St. Boniface says that he used the customs of the locals to help convert them. There was a game in which they threw sticks called kegels at smaller sticks called heides. Boniface brought religion to the game, having the heides represent demons, and knocking them down showing the purity of spirit.

He is the patron of many groups, including World Youth Day.

– Patron Saint Index

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2 Peter 3:11-15,17-18

You should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace. Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved. You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground that you are standing on. Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory, in time and in eternity. Amen.

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Mark 12:13-17

The chief priests and the scribes and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to catch him out in what he said. These came and said to him, ‘Master, we know you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in all honesty. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay, yes or no?’ Seeing through their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why do you set this trap for me? Hand me a denarius and let me see it.’ They handed him one and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they told him. Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’ This reply took them completely by surprise.

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“Be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability”

I have been following the developments of the political situation back home in Malaysia, right from the run-up to the elections till the implementation of reforms by the current government. Equivalent to a modern Shakespearean drama, the unfolding of events has also given rise to scenes of “he says, she says”, with politicians and media trying to ensnare one another in a game of words.

I saw one such interview of a young politician (whom I shall not name) whom the interviewer was clearly trying to corner in her line of questioning. The said politician deftly manoeuvered the situation with a series of comebacks and responses which were very admirable.

Experience in the media spotlight has, no doubt, given this politician a trump card; however from the conviction in the responses given, it also seemed clear that a strong set of principles has given this politician a firm foundation from which to fire off these responses without getting caught with one’s foot in one’s mouth.

The Gospel reading today isn’t much different from the politics of present-time. The Pharisees and Herodians were sent to corner Jesus, hoping that he would trip up over his words. But Jesus knew what they were about, and not only deftly answered the question, but point-blank asked them “Why are you testing me?” Life will always be peppered with people and situations meant to trap us and test us, people who want to shake us and expose to the world our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and thus shame us. That could ruin us. It could bring down our morale and ruin our reputation. It could cause us to hide in anger and embarrassment. Or we could maneuver it into a positive experience instead, should we have a firm set of principles to fall back on.

How strong our faith is, and how unshakeable our moral compass is, will determine how well we navigate through the storms of life. One false step and we could smash into the rocks, one wrong turn and we could end up miles off our route. A single moment of giving in to fear could mean the sinking of our lives as we know it, and those who depend on us will go down as well. We do not know when this time will come, when tests will be laid at our feet. But every day is a new day to train our minds and hearts to be ready for when it happens. Every day, we have to learn to don the armour of God through prayer and reconciliation, by living an upright life with the fear of God within us. When that day comes, may we be found blameless and ready to steer safely through the storm.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, many are out there trying to trap us with their words and wiliness. We pray that we may hold steadfast in our faith so as not to fall into their trap.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for guiding us through the rough times in our lives and always being for us a beacon of hope and salvation.

1 June, Friday – Asking

Jun 1 – Memorial for St. Justin, martyr

He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known and travelled from place to place, proclaiming the gospel. In 151, he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day, and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived: it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.

Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom, and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.

– Universalis

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1 Peter 4:7-13

Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind. Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin. Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

My dear people, you must not think it unaccountable that you should be tested by fire. There is nothing extraordinary in what has happened to you. If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.

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Mark 11:11-26

After he had been acclaimed by the crowds, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. He looked all round him, but as it was now late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.

So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling pigeons. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, ‘Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples? But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city.

Next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered to the roots. Peter remembered. ‘Look, Rabbi,’ he said to Jesus, ‘the fig tree you cursed has withered away.’ Jesus answered, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you solemnly, if anyone says to this mountain, “Get up and throw yourself into the sea,” with no hesitation in his heart but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. I tell you therefore: everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.’ But if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your failings either.’

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…everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours.

If only life were so easy. That all we desire, wish for or hope will simply appear before us as long as we ask for it. “Give me a nice house. Give me a good job. Give me a good spouse. Give me a good family.” And ‘poof’, miraculously, we have it all.

Yeah, right.

Because the life we have here is a constant battle to achieve, acquire, attain and then hold on to. We seek happiness in what we have worked hard to acquire all our working life. Then when we ‘retire’ and have to declutter so that we can live more freely, we start to question ourself. We ask whether it was all worth the struggle. Whether at the end of it all, has our life come down to the four walls around us and the three square meals we can afford each day. Whether we will be remembered for what we had, instead of what we gave while we had friends and family to give to.

I want to be remembered for the heart I have, whatever people say it is – generous, giving, joyful, embracing, patient, etc. Mind you, I am still working on just being able to not judge others, so I am extremely far from my goal. Will I ever get there? Not on my own strength but by the grace of God.

Because events of the past few weeks have whittled me down to a blubbering mess at times. The feelings of hopelessness, of letting a loved one down, of not being able to fulfil my promise (especially after discerning His call to be a pillar of support) have left me questioning the very verse that I have been drawn to. Maybe I still cling on to the hope that somehow, during this period of doubt, He will truly provide. But should I dial back my expectations? Surely He will give me all that I ask. But hang on, St Mark writes “believe that you have it already” How do I ask for something that I already have?

I can’t see it. Not right now.

Maybe I need to stop asking and just keep praying in hope.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask you to provide in my hour of need.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for all that you will give to us.

26 May, Saturday – The Prayer Of The Faithful

May 26 – Memorial for St. Philip Neri, priest

Philip Neri (1515-1595) came from a poor family, though he was related to Italian nobility. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. He was a pious youth, and was taught humanities by the Dominicans.

He moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some family with their business and while there, would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. He received word in a vision that he had an apostolate in Rome. He cut himself off from his family and went there, where he was befriended by Galeotto Caccia, who took him in and paid him to tutor his two sons. He wrote poetry in Latin and Italian, and studied philosophy and theology. When he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor.

He began to visit and care for the sick and impoverished pilgrims. He founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He was a friend of St. Ignatius. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.

With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, with many converts. In 1550, he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later, he considered missionary work in India, but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome.

He entered the priesthood in 1551, and heard confessions by the hour. He could tell penitents their sins before they confessed, and had the gift of conferring visions. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to stay and becoming involved in their lives.

Pope Gregory XIV tried to make him a cardinal, but Philip declined. His popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect, but was cleared of this baseless charge. In 1575, he founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching, but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years, he was beset with several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer.

– Patron Saint Index

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James 5:13-20

If any one of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm. If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully. Elijah was a human being like ourselves – he prayed hard for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three-and-a-half years; then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops.

My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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“Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child, he will not enter it.”

When my father was alive, there was a verse that we often shared around the dinner table, almost like our family’s code of living – “the prayer of faith will save the sick person” (James 5:15). Dad should know because he was always sick. He was no saint in life, but in his final months, his faith was unshakeable. He firmly believed in the power of prayer to heal, to soothe and to deliver. His greatest gift to us was his conviction that nothing was impossible for God. He lived it, and in so doing, passed his fervour along to us kids, and all of the people in his prayer group at church.

It seemed like we were always praying for Dad. He was always vacillating between being critically ill and recovering from episodes of it. Because of him, I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen God’s hand too many times in Dad’s life to doubt His divine presence. I believe that He hears the fervent heart’s longings, that He sees good intentions and listens to the cries of His faithful. I believe that He lifts us up when we’re laid low, that He guides us to right paths, that He calms our distress. I believe it because I’ve felt it, and I’ve seen it.

Looking back now, Dad’s illness helped to build a community of prayer. And that community was strengthened every time those prayers were answered. Towards the end, Dad held on only as long as he needed to – to witness the birth of his grandson. I know Dad prayed fervently for that and God in His great mercy granted Dad’s wish. Dad died a few days after my sister’s son was born. I don’t believe that was a coincidence.

When Jesus said “… whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”, I think he was talking about the kind of faith that my father had, that child-like conviction in God’s deliverance, whatever the odds. Dad engaged God in every aspect of his life, through prayer, thanksgiving and scripture reading. Old age and illness robbed him of his independence and mental faculties but it blessed him with something infinitely more valuable – his faith. Faith truly is the gift that multiplies upon itself, the gift that has been passed down from Dad to us, and now to Josh, his grandson. Some families have precious jewels, beautiful homes, vast tracts of land as heirlooms. Ours? We have Dad’s faith. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of that child-like faith that believes nothing is impossible for God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s great mercy, for His unfailing faithfulness to us, even when we are fearful and doubting.

22 May, Tuesday – Filial Longings

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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James 4:1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

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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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“You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

I’m in the midst of planning a holiday in London for my Mom and I. I haven’t seen my mother since my father passed away 2 years ago. It is imperative that this trip be perfect. Why? Because Mom is constantly ‘apologizing’ to her relatives and friends for her children’s shortcomings. I know to some of her more ‘high-minded’ friends, we have failed her as dutiful children. According to them, we’re neglectful. We don’t go home to see her enough. We’re indifferent. We’re selfish, too opinionated, too westernized. One even told her that we’re “irresponsible”, something you simply don’t say to a Chinese mother. Mom comes from that generation of women who care about what people think. I know it hurts her when her so-called friends whisper amongst themselves that her children are ‘ng hou sun’ (Cantonese for ‘unfilial’). I want this trip to be a blowout success so that those critics will, once and for all, be silenced.

Reading today’s passage from James, it has also occurred to me that my motivations might be a little… self-serving. “You ask but do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). That is an accurate summation of my situation. I am asking God to let this trip go well because it is not just her pride that is at stake – mine is too. But pride is rarely a good motivator for any kind of crusade. Is trying to redeem family pride wrong? The Chinese part of me emphatically says no; the Catholic part of me isn’t so sure. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:10).

Maybe I should stop focusing on achieving perfection and instead, reframe the conversation. The last time we saw each other, my Dad had just passed away. Mom and I were in the trenches trying to organize his funeral. The trips before that, we were also in the trenches, trying to cope with his illness. This will be the first time we’ll be together without having to worry about Dad’s situation. It’s going to be a strange feeling, not having that shared purpose to connect us. I’m hoping that we’ll let go of all the difficult emotions that arose from dealing with my father’s illness and death. Maybe being on neutral ground, we could learn to be kind to each other, to be kind to ourselves. I have not gotten over his passing. I wonder if she has.

I’m still hoping that God will grant us clement weather, a drama-free journey and peace of mind enough to be able to appreciate this time together. The whole ‘family pride’ thing aside, I want her to have a good time because she has earned it. She’s the lynchpin that has kept this family together. Maybe that would be ok with God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all the complicated relationships in our lives. All things are possible with Him. He can unravel – and simplify – even our most complex emotional webs. We bring all of our baggage and all our burdens to the foot of the Cross and surrender it all to Him.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who are constants in our lives, even if they live several time zones away.

18 May, Friday – Love And Lead

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone, but in later life he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric though John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

  •  Patron Saint Index

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt around you,
and take you where you would not rather go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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‘Follow me.’

What motivates us in doing anything? As I think about it more, I realise that I do things because of another thing. I do not just do things because I want to. I do things because I think it is correct or it is the right thing to do. It is correct based on something that has been formulated by others or by society. I am just merely following what must be followed.

In our Gospel today, we notice that it is three times that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” We can recall that during Christ’s Passion, Peter denied Jesus three times. These scenarios clearly show that though we may turn our back from our Lord more than once, He is always waiting for our return. We sin, yet we are forgiven.

The phrases, ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘Look after my sheep’, and ‘Feed my sheep’ remind us that it is Peter whom Jesus entrusted to lead us. He was the one appointed to guide our nourishment and to live in accordance to God’s will. When Jesus first asked Peter if he loved him before giving him instructions, it implied that Peter’s obedience must be out of love. It is for the love of God that he will obey to feed the lambs, to look after the sheep, and to feed the sheep. In the same way, it is for the love of God that we have our priests, bishops, and the pope.

Saying that we love God is quite easy. But do our actions show that we love our Lord? Do we do things out of love? I myself struggle everyday to do things out of love for God. But with God’s grace, we can.

We are given the gift of free will. As Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked”. When we are still young and able, we can do whatever we want and go wherever we want. It is up to us how we are going to use this freedom. However, we must remember that our end time will come. And we cannot do anything about it. It is a great reminder that while we still can, we should use our free will to follow the will of God.

We are nearing the end of Easter. But let this be not the end of feeling alive. As we continue in our daily life, let us strive harder to do things out of love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we are deeply sorry for all our sins. Please grant us the grace to desire to follow you always.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God, for giving us chances to renew our self, to be a better person.

12 May, Saturday – Ask Your Father

12 May – Memorial for Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs; Memorial for St. Pancras, Martyr

Nereus and Achilleus (d. 98) were soldiers in the imperial Roman army, and members of the Praetorian Guard. They were converts to Christianity and baptized by St. Peter the Apostle. They were exiled for their faith, suffered with St. Flavia Domitilla, and were martyred together by beheading.

– Patron Saint Index

Pancras (c. 290) was a 14-year-old orphan brought to Rome by his uncle St. Dionysius. He was a convert to Christianity, and was martyred with St. Nereus, St. Achilleus, and St. Domitilla for publicly proclaiming his faith.

Pope St. Vitalian sent his relics from the cemetery of Calepodius in Rome to the British Isles as part of the evangelization of England, so they would have the relics of the Church at large, and to install in altars in new churches. St. Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the first church in England to St. Pancras, and subsequent churches throughout England are similarly named after him.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 18:23-28

Paul came down to Antioch, where he spent a short time before continuing his journey through the Galatian country and then through Phrygia, encouraging all the followers.

An Alexandrian Jew named Apollos now arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great spiritual earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak boldly in the synagogue, they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.

When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

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John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
I have been telling you all this in metaphors,
the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;
but tell you about the Father in plain words.
When that day comes you will ask in my name;
and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,
because the Father himself loves you for loving me
and believing that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world
and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

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If you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

When I was a child, I was told that if I wanted something badly enough, I had to work for it myself. Trying to manoeuvre from a teenager to emerging adulthood was hard enough, but having to figure things on my own was harder. Those years were not particularly easy. But somehow, I managed and became the person I am today. I didn’t turn out too badly I thought. From this, I learnt to be independent.

People closest to me tell me that I am too proud and stubborn to accept help from anyone. Well, was I to blame? I had been ‘hard-wired’ to think that I had to do it all myself. I wasn’t born with people around who mollycoddled me. So I learnt never to ask for help; so that I would never be disappointed. For most of my life, I relied on my own strength and ability that, sometimes, became just too overwhelming. I remember several times when I had meltdowns – angry and resentful of my family. Especially my father.

But God that Father never said we had to do everything ourselves. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. I have often come across this line in the scriptures and I knew it in my head, but not from the heart. I didn’t believe that God the Father would do anything for me if I didn’t do something for Him first. I found it so hard to accept His unconditional love. In fact many times, I think that God is punishing me for being an imperfect person. I measure myself by a different yardstick; the bar is set so high, I am just never good enough.

Recently I shared that I had gone for a retreat. During the retreat, I was told by God that I was trying too hard. I was told that, unlike my earthly father, God the Father did not need me to do anything to earn his love. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Asking God for something in Jesus’ name is different from asking it in our own name. We are to include him in our decision making, and try to see things the way He does. Me? I am always pre-empting God and running ahead of Him. He doesn’t want that of us, brothers and sisters. He wants us to give ii to Him, ask Him. When we do this, we transcend ourselves and are open to the will of God. God may not give us exactly what we ask but will never fail to give us what we need. Pray and ask for what you need today, in Jesus’ most mighty name!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: God our Father, for all our needs, we present them to you today. In your most mighty glorious name.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for receiving our gifts – broken hearts, broken lives, tears…. no matter how unworthy they are. Thank you for answering our prayers.